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  • There Are No Rules

There Are No Rules Blog by the Editors of Writer’s Digest

Get on the cutting edge of today’s publishing trends and how authors can succeed in a world of fast-paced technological change, guided by the editors of Writer’s Digest. You’ll get an inside look at the work, play, and passion of the publishing business and find practical tools for success.


What It’s Like to Pitch Your Novel to 50 Agents in 3 Hours

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PitchFest is a three-and-a-half hour agent-snagging extravaganza, deep in the conference hall of the Grand Hyatt in New York. Authors with manuscripts to sell line up, awaiting the moment they’re allowed to talk to about their books to any agent in attendance—or every agent, if they use their time wisely. And on the other side of the table, reps from several agencies, big and small, axiously await the flood of hopeful novelists seeking representation. It’s one of the more magical moments of ThrillerFest, and an event that isn’t really rivalled by any other. There’s no time limit for each writer’s pitch to an agent, and many reps stay beyond the allotted time to take more pitches during the PitchFest Power Hour. For everyone here, it’s the highlight of the day, and for many, the sole reason for attending the ThrillerFest conference. Here is what it’s like from the eyes of writers who attended. Read more

Authors Lisa Gardner and M.J. Rose Talk Character, Genre Definitions, Writing Process & More

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On Wednesday, bestselling authors (and recent coauthors) M.J. Rose and Lisa Gardner held a session on creating compelling characters and suspenseful narratives at ITW’s ThillerFest. Here are some takeaways from their advice, and some excellent quotes from the Q&A that followed.

Lisa Gardner on perfect heroes: “A character needs flaws to seem real. Without them, a reader can’t connect.” These don’t have to be faults; weaknesses are just as effective, she explains: “It’s like Indiana Jones … It all seems impossible but somehow he manages to get an edge, [and then there’s] this pit of snakes, and of course Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes.” Read more

The 7 Essential Elements of a Bestselling Novel

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On Wednesday afternoon, legal thriller author and writing instructor William Bernhardt (the Ben Kincaid series) outlined the 7 elements he says make for an unputdownable novel–be it thriller, mystery, suspense or other. Here are his his guidelines for crafting a blockbuster.

1. Readability. All authors should strive for clarity, but bestselling authors go beyond simply getting the point across by creating a narrative that’s “unputdownable.” Extreme readability is the result of writing, rewriting, editing and rewriting again. That hard work and “multiple drafts and revisions … create smooth, engaging novels.” Don’t skimp on the revision process: It may be the one step that separates the hopefuls from the headliners. Read more

Editing Poetry: “Say It or Don’t Say It”

As poet and Pulitzer nominee Clifford Brooks states below, “…just as it is crucial that a writer creates his or her own voice, the way we edit is also a matter of … Read more

How to Write and Sell Great Children’s Books: July 15 Agent One-on-One Boot Camp with Awesome Critique for Attendees

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WD’s July 2014 Agent One-on-One Boot Camp is shaping up to be an awesome opportunity for writers of children’s books. The new topic is “How to Write and Sell Great Children’s Books: From Toddler to Teen,” and this boot camp is for writers of picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels.

It all starts on July 15, 2014, and features the amazing agents at Full Circle Literary offering instruction and critiques to all attendees. Picture book writers get their entire book critiqued while MG & YA writers get a query critique and five-page critique. This is a great opportunity to get a professional’s thoughts on your work, and possibly attract the attention of an agent at the same time. There is a limited number of seats for this event (75, and it reached capacity last time it was done), and WD Boot Camps frequently sell out, so sign up quickly. Read more

Keep it Simple: Keys to Realistic Dialogue (Part II)

The following is the second in a two part, guest blog post from Eleanore D. Trupkiewicz, whose short story, “Poetry by Keats,” took home the grand prize in WD’s 14th Annual Short Short Story Competition. … Read more

Keep it Simple: Keys to Realistic Dialogue (Part I)

The following is a guest blog post from Eleanore D. Trupkiewicz, whose short story, “Poetry by Keats,” took home the grand prize in WD’s 14th Annual Short Short Story Competition. You can … Read more

Revise for Publication: Revision Strategies That Will Improve Any Draft — June 26 Webinar (w/Critique!) by Jordan Rosenfeld

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So you want to be published? It’s been said that after the wild creative outpouring, real writing happens in the art of revision. Your best chance of attracting readers is through strong revision, or “re-seeing” of your work, to appeal to readers of all stripes. Writers who learn to love revision are more likely to write publishable work that wins readers and leads to deeper satisfaction in the writer’s craft. This live webinar, called “Revise for Publication: Revision Strategies That Will Improve Any Draft,” will help any writer with the goal of publication learn to love revision. You can learn to enjoy revision by breaking it down into simple, successful “waves,” and easy-to-use “tools” that you’ll use over and over.

By the end of this webinar you will not only have tackled revision issues within your work but will be able to embrace remaining revision with a positive attitude. The webinar happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, June 26, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes. Read more

Prompt: Write the #WorstTweet Ever

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It’s Friday, and that means everyone is ready for the weekend. It also means that many of you are hanging out on Twitter today instead of filing your TPS reports. (Didn’t you … Read more

On Juggling Time and Ports of Call

The following is a guest blog post from W.R. Parrish, whose horror short story, “The Man in Christopher’s Closet,” took home the grand prize in WD’s 9th Annual Popular Fiction Competition. You can … Read more

“Your Submission Tools: How to Write Excellent Queries, Opening Pages, and Synopses” — June 18 One-on-One Boot Camp With Corvisiero Literary

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During this all-new June 2014 boot camp (starts June 18) called “Your Submission Tools: How to Write Excellent Queries, Opening Pages, and Synopses,” literary agents will show you how to put together the best query letter, opening pages, and synopsis to hook the attention of agents and editors. As you learn what makes up an amazing submission package, 5 literary agents from Corvisiero Literary will tell you what agents look for when reviewing your work.

They will help each and every boot camp attendee draft and perfect your query letter, your book synopsis, and the first two pages of your book. Every participating writer will not only learn how to properly prepare a captivating submission package that will show results, they will also receive a critique with customized tips and suggestions from a literary agent. Seating is limited, and WD boot camps frequently sell out, so sign up today. Read more

A Writer Never Averts Her Eyes: On Killing My Father

BY LAURA PRITCHETT The greatest truth about the greatest writing, if you ask me, is this: The author never, ever averts her eyes. Easier said than done, of course, and I’ve not … Read more

Writing the Breakout Middle Grade Novel — Webinar (w/Critique!) by Agent Carlie Webber on May 29

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Middle grade (MG) books, intended for readers 8-12, aim to capture an audience that appreciates thrilling adventures, stories of everyday kids just like them, and everything in between. Writing an enthralling voice and selling it in just the right place and time to hook this audience, however, can be a challenge. In this live webinar, “Writing the Breakout Middle Grade Novel,” you’ll see what makes a success story in the MG market, through examples of popular books from Percy Jackson to Origami Yoda. By looking at these popular books and seeing what they do-or don’t-have in common, you’ll learn what piques the interests of middle-grade readers and the editors who work on books for them.

Drawing on her experience as both a literary agent and a librarian, Carlie Webber (CK Webber Associates) will take you through a brief history of popular MG fiction, show you where the market stands right now, and how you can build a future for yourself as a writer of MG fiction. It all happens at 1 p.m., Thursday, May 29, 2014, and starts at 1 pm, EST. Read more

What the Marine Corps Taught Me About Writing

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BY WILLIAM BALLARD I remember the day I stepped off the bus at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego California and took those first frightful steps onto those yellow … Read more

Create an e-Anthology to Show Off Your Body of Work

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BY DAVID WOLMAN Bad news first. That page on your website so lovingly curated and carefully updated with links to your published work? No one reads it. OK, maybe your Mom and … Read more

Agent One-on-One Boot Camp: Your First Ten Pages — Starts May 16, and Includes an Agent Critique of Your First 10 Pages

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As many writers know, agents and editors won’t give your work more than ten pages or so to make an impact. If you haven’t got them hooked by then, it’s a safe bet you won’t be asked for more material. Make sure you’ve got the kind of opening they’re looking for! In this invaluable weekend event, you’ll get to work with an agent online to review and refine the first ten pages of your novel. You’ll learn what keeps an agent reading, what are the most common mistakes that make them stop, and the steps you need to take to correct them. The best part is that you’ll be working directly with an agent, who will provide feedback specific to your work. It’s all part of the Agent One-on-One: “Your First Ten Pages” Boot Camp that begins on May 16, 2014. Seating is limited. Read more

How to Write & Sell New Adult: Agent One-on-One Boot Camp (w/Critique) Starts May 8

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In this new boot camp starting May 8, the agents at Foreword Literary will help you understand New Adult fully from all aspects of the business. Whether you need to know the rules of the category, how to pitch it to agents, or how authors are hitting the bestselling lists with modern marketing techniques, Foreword has the answers for you.

Once you register for this May 8 One-on-One Agent Boot Camp, you’ll be assigned your own personal agent for the event. He or she will review the first 1,200 words and 1-page synopsis of your work-in-progress. You’ll get personalized feedback on the quality of your writing, as well as insights into how to generate the most revenue in today’s market. At the end of the boot camp, you’ll have a greater understanding of which publishing options to pursue and how to make the most of them. Read more

Enter Your Self-Published Book and Launch Your Career

Writer’s Digest wants to recognize the hard work that you have been putting into your book. That’s why, every year, we look for the  best from authors in their self-publishing ventures. Whether … Read more

Where Writers Write: The Homes of Jack Kerouac

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The living quarters of authors have always held a weird fascination for me. There’s something strangely intimate about knowing where another writer works and lives, how they arrange the furniture, what artwork … Read more

Live Webinar: Slush Pile Showdown

Nothing in the world of writing can cause anxiety-induced panic attacks quite like waiting on a response from a literary agent. And crafting that perfect query letter is as important as anything … Read more

“Publishing Agnosticism”—What It Is, Why It’s Important, and What It Means for Authors

BY EVE BRIDBURG, Executive Director of GrubStreet The first time I heard the term “publishing agnostic” was in November of 2011 at the Park Plaza hotel in Boston. Barry Eisler used it … Read more

“The High Concept Novel: How to Create a Premise that Sells — Agent One-on-One Boot Camp With Critique Starts April 11

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The idea’s the thing. If you build your story around a unique and compelling idea, your odds of selling it increase dramatically. Often, a perfectly good project will go unsold because the premise on which it is based is too predictable, commonplace, or over-published. Whether you’re writing a novel or a short story, a screenplay or a memoir, you need to find a way to set your story apart from the competition — and the competition is tougher than ever in today’s marketplace.

But in this one-of-a-kind boot camp — “The High Concept Novel: How to Create a Premise that Sells Boot Camp” (starting April 11) — you will learn the ins and outs of high-concept, as literary agent, author, and content strategist Paula Munier reveals how you can transform your story idea from “same old same old” to “high-concept hit.” Read more

10 Lessons Learned: Confessions of a Covert Freelance Writer

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BY ??? – You don’t know my name. You don’t know my face. But it’s now several decades since I earned my first farthings by putting words in some sort of publishable … Read more

7 Things How I Met Your Mother Can Teach Us About Writing

If you’re like us on the WD staff (okay, maybe just Brian and I—internet high five!), then you were enthralled, captivated, and head over heels in love with the television show How I … Read more

I Started a Small Press (and Then Things Got Weird)

BY J DAVID OSBORNE I tried retail for a while, and that was fun, in the way that puking on yourself at a family gathering is fun: you have a story. After … Read more

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