Guest Columns

How to get published — read hundreds of helpful Writer’s Digest guest columns from published writers teaching the craft and business of writing.

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5 Keys on Writing a Great Thriller

2. Suspects are the main characters. Not everyone will agree with this idea, but for me it’s quite important. Usually crime novels have a hero-- a main character in charge of the investigation (like a policeman, a journalist, a lawyer or an anonymous person interested in solving the mystery). That hero will probably have...

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What Selling Lemonade Can Teach Us About Writing

My friend’s example spurred me to reconsider my responses when fellow writers asked for my critiques. Recently reading a colleague’s memoir, at the opening pages I reacted like Jon initially—instant dismay. How could my friend write this crap? Then I recalled Jon’s next response: he recognized his daughter’s honest desire and took it seriously. With...

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Stories From an Agency Intern: Michael Mohr Explains

When literary agent Elizabeth Kracht (Kimberley Cameron & Associates) asked me to be her assistant, I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I have been exclusively perusing E’s slush pile; helping with client manuscripts; aiding with editorial pitch letters; and answering a general melee of unique and sometimes challenging questions. Learning about The Industry from...

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Revise Like You Mean It

There is a fairly common misconception about what >b>revision means. That is, if you are a talented writer, you will write an inspired first draft, which you can perfect by making sentences better, fleshing out characters, checking facts, catching continuity problems, and the like. But real revision – in fiction at least – is...

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Author Interview: Steve Duno, Author of LAST DOG ON THE HILL

This dog author interview is with veteran pet behaviorist and author Steve Duno, who has to date authored 19 books and scores of magazine and web articles. He has covered a wide variety of subject matter on both dogs and cats, including basic training, aggression, environmental enrichment, behavior modification, breed profiling, trick training,...

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5 Easy Ways to Publicize and Promote Your Book

1. Email: Long Live the 20th Century! Nothing did more for my book than an email sent on the day of my book launch, which was October 2nd. On my publication day, I emailed every contact I had in my personal account, names and email addresses I’ve held onto over the last decade. In...

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Writing Routines that Work

2. Write when you’re hot. Practice pays off, but if the daily grind really isn’t your thing, then follow your instincts. Write when you’re ready to pour whole chapters/stories/volumes out onto the page. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has spent his career considering the behaviors and thought processes of creative folks: writers, scientists, comedians, mountain climbers, visual...

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How to Write a Novel: 7 Tips Everyone Can Use

2. Begin with character. Make her flawed and believable. Let her live and breathe and give her the freedom to surprise you and take the story in unexpected directions. If she’s not surprising you, you can bet she’ll seem flat to your readers. One exercise I always do when I’m getting to know a...

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5 Ways to Build Solid Relationships in Your Story

2. “The Stalking Test” -- Staring at a boy or girl from a distance is fine, every once in a while. Especially if the staring shows something he/she is doing that helps the reader get to know him vs. telling how attractive he/she is. A few mentions of observation/appearance are plenty. If your main...

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5 Tips for How to Write a Young Adult Crossover Novel

1. While you should certainly feel free to include characters of whatever age you choose, make sure there’s at least one teenager. While young adults often read books without teenaged characters (I was partial to Somerset Maugham stories and Solzhenitsyn, to cite a needlessly bizarre example) those generally aren’t considered part of the YA...

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How to Keep Writing in the Face of Rejection

2. Give yourself permission to keep writing. I've heard writers say, "If I haven't sold something within the next two years, I'll know I should give up." Or, "If I don't make money from writing by January, I'll know I should stop spending so much time trying, because it's disruptive to other areas of...

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7 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

If you're struggling with writer's block, don't get discouraged. This happens to every great writer at some point, and it’s easy to overcome it. I get stuck many times in the middle of a novel. I lose my muse and don't feel like writing. I stare at the computer screen and no words come...

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Subverting Adverbs and Clichés

Writers constantly have rules thrown at them left, right, and center. Show, don’t tell! Stop using so many dialogue tags! More sensory detail! More tension! Speed up the pace! Yada yada yada ... it can become overwhelming, yes? I used to feel overwhelmed by it all too. In fact, I still do sometimes. It’s...

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How to Write in the Face of Rejection

I wrote "unparagraphs", I aimed for imbalance, I stayed in the moment indefinitely, I realized my maximal self on the page. Most importantly, I wrote myself on to the page. And I learned, as all writers must, how to write in the face of rejection. I received a rejection from an editor I admired,...

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Are Blogs The New Journals?

My novel came out in June 2012 — it’s a portrait of two women, including one revealed through her journals after her death. Shortly after it was released, I got an interesting email from a reader. The reader said she hadn’t been sure she would like a book half written in the form of...

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How to Get a Scene from Brain to Paper

Different writers have difficulty with different parts of the writing process. Some hate fiddling with background information. Others despise revising. Others can’t stand outlining. Me? I have the most trouble with drafting. By “drafting,” what I mean is this whole “get the story down on paper” part of writing. It’s not that I have trouble...

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Writer’s Block: 5 Ways to Get Rid of It

2. Write something completely different. A teacher at school gave me this advice. When you’re stuck, don’t just try to think outside of the box. Try a whole other box. If you write YA, try writing a steamy scene. If you write thrillers, try writing a picture book. The change in format and tone...

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5 Tips to Help You Make Your Deadline

1. Do the math. Before you undertake the final throes of a deadline, you should map out how much time you have and how much writing you have to do. It's a terrible SAT math question: if a novelist only has so much time to write x-amount of words, how long before it feels...

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4 Ways to Build Healthy Relationships with Your Readers

I wrote Anne Rice an email. She wrote me back fifteen minutes later. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, a stranger, and she immediately wrote me a kind, friendly note. Having a positive relationship with your readers pays off. Readers are more likely to buy your book if they feel a personal connection...

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The 9 Ingredients of Character Development

1. Communication style: How does your character talk? Does she favor certain words or phrases that make her distinct and interesting? What about the sound of her voice? Much of our personality comes through our speech, so think about the way your character is going to talk. Her style of communication should be distinctive...