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.


Contest Winners Announced: Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance

Judging is complete and here are the winners for the third “Dear Lucky Agent” contest, which focused on paranormal romance and urban fantasy writing. Congratulations to all winners! We had about 300 entries, which was great. The current contest happening as of this week (March 22, 2010) is a contest for the worst storyline...

The (Third) ''Worst Storyline Ever'' Contest!

Have you got a horrible idea for a story? Well I want to hear about it. Welcome to the (third) “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest - a competition that encourages terrible loglines.  This contest happened before, so click on “Contests” at the bottom of this post and scroll down a bit to see previous incarnations....

What is a Hard Copy?

Q: What does a literary agency mean when it requests a “hard copy”? —Ivy A: While many terms in the literary world can be metaphorical or abstract, the phrase “hard copy” means exactly what it says—the agent wants a hard copy, or printed version, of your work. (Thankfully it’s not metaphorical, because that term...

Reminder: Third ''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest Ends Sunday!

Note from Chuck: It’s March 15, 2010, which means this contestis now closed. Thank you for entering. Winners should be announced within 7 days or so.Meanwhile, our next contest should startwithin a week or two, as well.   —————————— The latest “Dear Lucky Agent” contest, for writers of paranormal romance and urban fantasy, is about...

Dashes vs. Parentheses

Q: My friend’s professor says that using dashes to set off something to be emphasized is no longer appropriate. Instead, you should use parentheses to set off words. Is this true? —Mike D. A: Dashes and parentheses play similar roles in sentences, but it’s actually the latter that’s unfashionable—dashes are all the rage. Parentheses...

Kids Contest Winners Announced!

Judging is complete and here are the winners for the second “Dear Lucky Agent” contest, which focused on kids writing. Congratulations to all winners. We had about 400 entries, which was amazing. The current contest (goes till March 14) is for writers of YA and adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy. GRAND-PRIZE WINNER: The...

''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest: Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance (For Both Teens and Adults)

Note from Chuck: It’s March 15, 2010, which means this contestis now closed. Thank you for entering. Winners should be announced within 7 days or so.Meanwhile, our next contest should startwithin a week or two, as well.   —————————— “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest: Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance Welcome to the third “Dear Lucky Agent”...

''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest: Middle Grade and Young Adult

Note from Chuck: It’s Feb. 22, 2010, which means this contestis now closed. Thank you for entering. Winners should be announced on the blog within 7 days or so. Winners will be contacted personally by me beforehand.Meanwhile, our next contest should startwithin a week or two, as well. I believe the nextcontest will be...

How to Improve Your Writing Style

Q: How can I improve my writing style? —Lily S. A: Read, read, read and practice, practice, practice. When taking in a good book or article, home in on what resonates with you and then underline those parts. Ask yourself, What made that such a great read? Our style is generally influenced by our...

goodman

Agent Advice: Irene Goodman of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency (and News About More of Her Auctioned Critiques!)

This installment features Irene Goodman of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. Irene’s clients are regulars on the New York Times, USA Today, Walden, Publishers Weekly, and Bookscan bestseller lists. Together with her dynamic staff, her agency represents over 80 authors. Originally from the Midwest, Irene has a B.A. and a master’s degree from the...

''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest: Memoir and Narrative Nonfiction

Note from Chuck: It’s Feb. 1, 2010, which means this contestis now closed. Thank you for entering. Winners should be announced within 7 days or so.Meanwhile, our next contest should startwithin a week or two, as well.  It’s for writersof kids books! —————————— “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest: Memoir and Narrative Nonfiction Welcome to the...

Which Word Count Do Agents Want?

Q: Traditionally, a novel’s word count was estimated by multiplying the number of pages by 250 words per page (assuming standardized margins, font, double space, etc.) Now, word processors can give exact word counts instantly. When agents ask for a novel’s word count, do they want the “traditional” word count or the “word processor”...

Two Contests for Kids Writers

If anyone prides themselves on having a beat on ongoing writing contests hosted by editors, agents and other professionals, they should contact me. I would love to have a recurring contests update on here. Recently, I got wind of two different contests happening now/soon. Check them out: 1. Kids agent Mary Kole, who I...

Querying About a Trilogy

Q: I’m currently finishing the first book in what I plan to be a trilogy and am getting ready to query agents. When I pitch the book, should I mention that this is the first book of a series or not? Do agents want to know it’s a series? What’s the best way to...

Defining Picture Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult

Q: I’m writing a children’s book and I see that most publishers have different classifications within the genre—picture books, middle grade, young adult, etc. What are the differences? –Kara G. A: Like any genre, there are plenty of subcategories for children’s books. Ultimately, though, there are five main classifications that you should know—toddler books,...

What to Charge for Online Writing

Q: Do you have any suggestions on compensation for writing online? –Jillian L. A: Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for this question. While there is pay for online writing, there isn’t much. Worse yet, it’s often hard to come by unless you are an expert in a field that lacks experts or you’re writing...

Lead, Lead or Led?

Q: What’s the difference between “lead” and “led”?—Jake S. A: “Lead” has two specific meanings. As a noun, lead (pronounced like “bread”) is a metallic element. It’s labeled on the periodic table as “Pb” and sometimes found in really old paint. The U.S. government banned lead paint in 1978. Lead pencils aren’t actually made...

Meet Rick Qualliotine, Co-EP

I’m writing this while sitting in the office of our Co-Executive Producer, Rick Qualliotine—the only person at The Wanda Sykes Show who has actually PAINTED HIS OFFICE… making this easiest the coolest office in the place (one wall is a bright warm orange-yellow).  Rick started his career in theater, producing plays and stage shows,...

What is an M.F.A.?

Q: What exactly is an M.F.A. and how is it beneficial to writers? –Matthew G. A: While the initials M.F.A. sound like an outer-space contraption that the government is trying to hide in the desert, it’s actually a very valuable credential earned by some writers. An M.F.A., or Master of Fine Arts, is one...

Can You Copyright a Title?

Q: I’ve been working on a book and the title is very important—I use it as the URL for my blog, for a weekly column I write, etc., and I want people to identify it with me. Can I copyright a title so others can’t use it? –Anonymous A: Copyrights cover works fixed in...

Can You Start a Sentence with "Because"?

Q: My grammar school teachers always told me that it was wrong to start a sentence with the word “because,” but I commonly see it in books today. What’s the rule?—Roger Allen A: Grammar teachers across the U.S., please don’t hate me, as I’m about to expose the awful truth you’ve been trying to...

Two and a Half Men: Giving Characters Tangible Wants & Conflicts

I often talk in my TV-writing classes about the importance of giving characters TANGIBLE wants, obstacles, conflicts, etc.  In other words, we sometimes give our characters internal objectives and obstacles– like the desire to find love, absolve guilt, give forgiveness, be at peace, etc.– but it’s important to find physical, tangible, or visual ways...