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.


When to Use a Semicolon

Q: I would like some help on the use of the semicolon in sentences. —Roger L. A: The semicolon is a tricky beast, but it does serve specific purposes in sentence structure. Before getting to its uses, it’s best to understand what the semicolon really is. The semicolon is a hybrid...

Chatting About TV Writing… Take a Listen!

Hey, everyone– Just wanted to invite you all to listen to a recent podcast interview I did on the Alive! Authors Network… all about TV writing and the TV industry. This is the first of a 3-part interview I did, called Breaking In and Breaking Through the TV Business, with podcast...

PITCH WORKSHOP/READER QUESTION: The Importance of Loglines

Hey, everyone— Just wanted to give a quick follow-up to Tuesday’s episode of the Script Notes Pitch Workshop… and an answer to a question asked by Scott, the author of Tuesday’s Pitch Workshop entries.  Scott writes: “Wow, thank you so much for all your help. You are completely right, I know...

PITCH WORKSHOP: ENTRY 4

Hey, everyone— Today’s submission to the Script Notes Pitch Workshop comes from Scott, who submits loglines for two feature ideas.  So before we dive in… Scott—thank you so much for sending these!  The Pitch Workshop is one of my favorite parts of doing this blog, and I always wish people would...

How to Find Out Who Agented a Book

Q: When an agent isn’t listed in the author’s book acknowledgements, is there a way to search backwards to find that agent from the author, journalistic facilitator or publisher? Thanks for your expertise. —Alice Lazzarini A: Finding out who was the agent of a particular book can certainly be tricky, especially...

READER QUESTION: Where Can I Find Good Script Contests?

Today’s reader question comes from a new reader, Wendy, who writes… “Hi Chad, I just found your blog. IT’S GREAT. Where can I find a list of reputable script contests?” First of all, Wendy—thanks so much for finding the blog and enjoying it!  I hope you stick around! As for a...

When Editors Add Typos

Q: I want to get paid for my writing, so I signed up for a journalism workshop at my community college to attain some clips. I’ve written articles for the school paper, but the “editors”—many just out of high school—have added typos to my articles. Can I still use these as...

WEBSITE OF THE DAY: Amanda the Aspiring TV Writer

Props to my friend Charlie for turning me on to this site, but I wanted to let you all know about a pretty great blog… from Amanda the Aspiring TV Writer.  I don’t know Amanda personally, but if you’re interested in television writing… or how to break in… this is a...

Article Black Holes

Q: I submitted two stories to a nursing magazine after consulting the editor in advance. I was told the stories were accepted, and one would appear in August. So far, no sign of my story, and when I tried to follow-up with e-mails and phone calls, my messages weren’t answered. What...

Palin vs. Clinton: The SNL Match-Up

For those of you haven’t seen last night’s Saturday Night Live sketch starring Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton, I’m posting it here.  I love this not only because Tina Fey does a DEAD-ON Palin impersonation, but because this is some great political sketch producing. I...

Are E-Mails Copyrighted?

Q: I’m working on a book that includes several passages from e-mail messages I’ve received—stories, poems, quotes, etc. What obligations do I have when it comes to using the e-mails? Also, is it OK to get anecdotes (relevant experiences for nonfiction article topics) from people online through chat rooms and bulletin...

READER QUESTION: TV Spec-Writing Advice?

Today’s question comes from Peggy, an aspiring TV writer who lives in Florida.  Peggy writes… “I love Law & Order: SVU, and I am working on a script.  Any suggestions for me?” Well, first of all, Peggy—congratulations on starting your spec!  I’m not sure exactly what stage you’re at, but I...

If I Write in Multiple Genres, Do I Need Multiple Agents?

Q: I’m in the process of authoring books in four different genres. Do I need to enlist four agents?—N. Schad A: You’re writing four books at once? I can’t handle writing two stories at the same time, let alone four, so I’m impressed. But when it’s time to find an agent,...

GUEST PERSPECTIVE: How NOT to Write a Screenplay

Hey, screenwriters– I’m excited to present a special guest today… William M. Akers, author of the new screenwriting book, Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways To Make It Great, from Michael Wiese Productions, and… my former screenwriting teacher at Vanderbilt University! Will was not only a great teacher (and my first screenwriting...

How Do I E-mail Clips?

Q: When a publication requests e-queries and clips, how do you e-mail the clips?—Nannette Croce A: Sending clips via e-mail can be difficult. You can try scanning the images, but that sometimes blurs the words and makes the piece illegible. You can copy text into a word processing document and send...

Can You Use Someone Else's Character in Your Book?

Q: Can I use a minor yet intriguing character from a famous work as the protagonist of my novel? I know it’s been done with novels like Wide Sargasso Sea, using Mrs. Rochester from Jane Eyre, but would a secondary character from a novel published before 1950 (yet still in print)...

PITCH WORKSHOP: RESURRECTED… AND ENTRY #3

Hey, everyone— So, it’s been a while since we’ve visited or talked about the SCRIPT NOTES PITCH WORKSHOP, but I don’t want to let it fall through the cracks.  In fact, I’d like to revamp it a bit.  Originally, I’d proposed doing it in two or three-week stages: for a certain...

Begging The Question: How To Use It Correctly

Q: I’ve been told that I often misuse the phrase “begs the question” in my writing. Can you explain to me how to use this phrase correctly and give me an example? Thanks. —Anonymous A: “Begging the question” is a phrase that’s commonly misused. In fact, even I misused it once...

Allude vs. Elude

Q: What’s the difference between “allude” and “elude”? Are they interchangeable? —Anonymous A: “Allude” and “elude” are frequently misused in place of each other, even though they’re about as different as broccoli and ice cream. “Allude” means to refer to something in a casual or indirect way. Michelle alluded to my...

Quotes Within Quotes

Q: When should I use single quotes instead of double quotes?—John Batson A: Double quotation marks signify the exact words of someone else speaking in your writing. Single quotation marks come into play when the person you’re quoting quotes someone or something else. Look at this example: “I’m irritated with Dad...

A Few Moments with Diablo Cody

Hey, guys– Happy Fourth of July weekend!  I wanted to point you all to my interview with Diablo Cody, the Academy-Award-winning screenwriter of Juno, which appears in this month’s issue of Writers Digest.  Diablo was one of the most fun interviews I’ve done, and she’s got some terrific insights into screenwriting…...

What's Considered Fair Use and What Isn't?

Q: Is it necessary to ask permission to reprint an article if the reprint is used in a strictly academic setting?—Anonymous A: Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107 of the U.S. code states that “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies … for purposes...