Questions & Quandaries Blog

Online editor Brian A. Klems has been writing for Writer’s Digest since 2003. He covers the most pressing grammatical, ethical, business and writing-related questions—and often does it with a bit of humor.


Is "Ahold" a Word?

Q: I see people use “ahold” and “a hold,” but I’ve been told that “ahold” isn’t a word.  Can you clear this up for me once and for all? –Nina J. A: Unlike “alot” which isn’t a word, “ahold” is a word recognized by Merriam-Webster, Garner’s Modern American Usage and most other writing authorities....

How Do I Juggle Story Ideas?

Q: I have a hard time staying with my stories. Every time I start one, I think of another story plot and I never get back to the other one. What should I do? —Rachel T. A: Buy some index cards, and keep them next to you while you work on story No. 1....

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Agent Miriam Kriss On: Is There Still Room in Urban Fantasy?

Urban fantasy has become a catchall phrase for contemporary-set fantasy and magical realism. It draws on many traditions of fantasy, horror, hardboiled crime fiction and even romance, blending them together in differing degrees to give us new stories with old tropes. It first really broke out with Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series in...

Can You Submit the Same Piece to Different Contests?

Q: Is it advisable to submit the same work (essay, short story, etc.) to multiple writing contests at the same time? What if the work is accepted simultaneously by two different contests? Is there any obligation to notify both parties? —Dena M. A: Unless the contest guidelines specifically state that you can’t, you can...

Can I Write for Multiple Genres?

Q: I’m interested in writing in many different categories: adult fiction, young adult fiction, picture books, poetry and, possibly, memoir. Do I need to choose just one to be successful? —Laurie B. A: Absolutely not. While there are clearly advantages to focusing on one genre—platform building, audience base, honing your skill set—many authors have...

How Do You Style a Character's Thoughts in Writing?

Q: Writing from the third person, what are the acceptable ways to indicate a character’s thoughts? I’m not excited about italics. Can thoughts be enclosed in quotes or can parentheses work? —Frank A. A: While you’re not excited about italics (and truth be told, I don’t exactly break out the sparklers, either), it is...

What's Considered a "Clip"?

Q: Many times publishers indicate they want “published clips” along with a query letter. What exactly are they? —Diane H. A: Published clips are any articles or stories that have been printed in magazines or newspapers. So, if you wrote “How to Train Your Husband-To-Be” and it was printed in the latest issue of...

Winners Announced: Fifth "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest

The fifth “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest wrapped up last week and agent judge Rosie Wells has chosen her winners (listed below).  Congrats to all three finalists! THE WINNERS (IN NO ORDER) Beyond The Dreams by Stephanie Sauvinet Vicesteed by Abra Staffin-Wiebe Azrael’s Curse by Adam Heine PRIZES! Top 3 winners all get: 1) A...

Is "Alot" a Word?

Q: Why are so many people using “alot” instead of “a lot”? There’s no such word as “alot,” right? I can’t find any source that says it’s an acceptable word, yet it’s in constant use. Can you help me? —Lynn B. A: You are correct: “alot” is not a legitimate word in the English...

What is Co-Publishing?

Q: I’ve been to a few writing conferences and have heard several authors say they “co-published” their books. What does co-published mean? –Charles M. A: A co-publishing agreement is one where the author and the publisher share publication costs to get the book in print. This is more common in poetry and experimental fiction...

''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest: Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Note from Chuck: This contest is now closed. Thank youfor submitting. Winners will be notified by email byaround June 2. Winners announced on the blog thereafter. ——– Welcome to the fifth “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog. This will be a recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here’s the...

Winners Announced! Agent Regina Brooks Names Her Contest Winners

Apologies for the delay in announcing winners, but agent judge Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary recently wrapped up our fourth “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog and has picked her three winners. The winners (listed below) receive a free year of WritersMarket.com access as well as a critique on their first 10...

Eminent vs. Imminent

Q: I’ve seen a word spelled two ways and was wondering which way is correct: “eminent” or “imminent”?—Phillip M. A: Actually, both are correct spellings because both are words in the English language. But they aren’t synonymous with each other and, in fact, have completely unrelated meanings. “Eminent” is used to describe someone (or...

Leave Alone vs. Let Alone

Q: Can you differentiate let and leave (as in, “Let me alone” and “Leave me alone”)? I get confused as to when each should be used. –Jan I.       A: There is a pretty simple difference between let and leave when used in this context, and it’s quite easy to explain. “Leave alone” means to...

Can You Get Published if You're a Teenager?

Q: I’ve been a writer since junior high (not a very good one) but now I’m 16 years old in High School and I feel very strongly that my work and skill has gotten a lot better. So much better that my work might just be publishing material. I was wondering would my age...

'Worst Storyline Contest' Winners Announced

The (third) “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest is now closed and judged. Thank you to all who entered. Here are the winners! “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest GRAND-PRIZE WINNER “When a pack of dingos refuse to eat her baby, psychotic woman Helen Grinkel turns the tables by eating one of their pups, sparking a dingo-human war...

Pronoun Problems: "He/She," "He or She," or Just Plain "He"?

Q: Is there a special rule regarding which pronoun to use when talking about a non-specific gender (“he/she,” “he or she,” “he”) or is it completely the writer’s choice? —Jarrett Z. A: For years, the masculine pronouns (he, his, him) graced most literary work when referring to a non-specific gender. It was an unspoken...

Storyline Contest Closed

The (third) “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest is now closed. Thank you to all who entered. I got a few e-mails saying that blog comment functionality was iffy. This caught me by surprise. Tell you what. I will accept entries via email to literaryagent@fwmedia.com through the end of today, Monday, March 29, 2010. If you...

What To Spec This Year…

Thanks to Sam for spotting Alex Epstein‘s link to Alex Freedman‘s study on what TV specs to write this year… and what not to.  Very interesting– and helpful!  Click HERE to check it out…