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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.


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 … Read more

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 … Read more

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 … Read more

Do Agents Steal Your Stamps? (The SASE Conundrum)

Q: Do agents steam off the stamps on self-addressed, stamped envelopes (SASEs) and resell them?! The agents demand pages, SASEs, that sort of‑thing, but—and I know this sounds cynical—many of my queries … Read more

Can I Query Before I Finish My Novel?

Q: I’m currently writing my first novel and am about halfway finished, but I have completed an outline and synopsis. Can I start querying agents now? A: Being a first-time novelist, it’s … Read more

UPDATED: Can You Write the Sequel to Someone Else's Book?

NOTE TO READERS: AFTER WRITING THIS Q&Q I READ A COPYRIGHT LAW THAT DIDN’T JIVE WITH MY ANSWER, SO I CONTACTED AN ATTORNEY TO SET THINGS STRAIGHT. GLAD I DID, BECAUSE I … Read more

What is a Kill Fee?

Q: I got a contract for a magazine story that I’m writing, and it makes reference to a “kill fee.” What is a kill fee and why would a publisher and/or writer … Read more

Are Men Writing Romance?

Q: I notice that there are very few male authors or stories written from the male point of view in Romance novels. Could this be because most editors or publishers in this … Read more

How Do You Regain Copyrights to Pieces You've Sold?

Q: About 20 years ago, I sold a short story to a magazine. One line in my contract stated the payment was for “full rights” and another said, “On acceptance of this … Read more

The Difference Between Authorized and Unauthorized Biographies

Q: I’m considering writing a biography about someone relatively famous in my hometown. I’ve noticed that biographies fall into one of two categories: authorized and unauthorized. What’s the difference? A:  The difference … Read more

U.S. vs. Canadian Formatting

Q: I’ve been bouncing some ideas for comedy TV scripts, so I bought a script-formatting book. The book is published in the U.S and I live in Canada. I was wondering if … Read more

Subjunctive vs. Indicative Mood ("If I Was" or "If I Were"?)

Q: Could you explain the difference between the indicative mood and the subjunctive mood, and when to use the subjunctive mood? It’s so seldom used correctly that it leaves me scratching my … Read more

How Do I Track Book Sales?

Q: Is there a way to find out the current sales for a given book that may (or may not) be in print? —Tony P. A: The short answer to this is … Read more

Bi-annual vs. Biennial

Q: What’s the difference between bi-annual and biennial?—Anonymous A: I see these words treated as if they were interchangeable—most often by marketing departments—but they aren’t. And marketing departments should be extra cautious, … Read more

Where Can Authors Find Contract Forms?

Q: My co-author and I have been asked to provide a collaboration agreement to our agent.‑ Where can‑we find a template for creating this document?—Michele A: Templates for author contracts can be … Read more

What Should You Include in Your Bio for Agents?

Q: I’ve recently finished my first novel and have begun searching for an agent to represent me. Some of the agents ask for a writer’s bio. Could you please tell me exactly … Read more

Dos and Don'ts

Q: When writing about a list of “dos and don’ts” do you punctuate it like I just did, or does “do’s” need an apostrophe. I know it’s plural, but it looks odd … Read more

SHARLA'S QUESTION: Are web scripts useful writing samples?

Hey, folks— Today’s reader question comes from Sharla.  First of all, I have to say—Sharla, MAJOR THANKS for your super-nice comments on Small Screen, Big Picture!  I can’t tell you how much … Read more

Can You Use Your Spouse as a Source?

Q: I have a feature idea that includes interviewing an interesting, successful TV/film art director for an architecture or home design magazine. My problem is, he’s my husband. Ethically, does this prevent … Read more

Don't Use "Exact Same"

Q: Is the term “exact same” correct? As in: “The sisters were raised in the exact same environment?”—Judy R. A: No, the term “exact same” isn’t correct. Why? For the same reason … Read more

READER QUESTION: E. Daniels and Peggy's Questions – Good TV-Writing Resources

Today’s reader question—which is long overdue—comes from E. Daniels.  In fact, today’s reader question is DOUBLY long overdue, because I recently found a handful of emails you guys sent over the past … Read more

My Girls

Hey All, No Q this week due to the wonderful birth of my second daughter over the weekend. Mom and baby are doing great, and my oldest daughter couldn’t be more excited … Read more

Spinoff Contest Winners!

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who entered Script Notes‘ first-ever writing contest and sent in their TV spinoff ideas!  There were some hilarious entries… some disturbing entries… and some … Read more

Complement vs. Compliment

Q: I’m always getting the words “complement” and “compliment” confused. Can you set me straight once and for all?—Adam P. A: These two words used to give me a hard time, too, … Read more

Last Chance to Submit for the Spinoff Contest!

Hey, guys– Just wanted to remind you that midnight tonight, March 22, is the cutoff for submissions to the Script Notes Spinoff Contest!  Submissions can be emailed to WDScriptNotes@FWPubs.com, or click HERE … Read more

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