Tip of the Day, Creative Writing Tips

Our creative writing tips are short, helpful tidbits of information that you can apply to your writing right away. Use our Tip of the Day for easy-to-apply advice that you can use to improve your writing or help you get published.

I Was Told My Story Is Slow-Paced, Now What?

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book I submitted my manuscript to an editor, and he returned it, saying it was too slow-paced. What is he talking about? If your story is too slow-paced, you’re paying too little attention to action and dialogue that moves the story toward the problem and its resolution. Editors often complain that...

Minding Your Story: Who Wants What?

The Mind of Your Story Examine your story that you know is not yet in its final form. Now, very quickly, answer these three questions: Who wants what? Who are what stands in his/her way? Does s/he get what s/he wants? Are you able to answer these questions? Did you struggle with two or...

What’s the Right Length for a Young Adult Novel?

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book I’m working on a middle-grade novel, and I’m worried that it’s too long. What’s the appropriate length for middle-grade and young adult novels? The are no set-in-stone rules when it comes to the length of middle-grade and young adult novels. It varies from publisher to publisher and project to project....

Get Published With A Blind Query Letter

Writing The Novel Proposal Every writer knows a strong query letter is essential to getting published. Below are quotes from four authors who found publication through an initial blind query, with pointers on how they did it and what they recommend. 1. Offer Benefits To The Agent Or Editor Mark Lee, active playwright and...

Get Through The Pesky Middle

Fundamentals of Fiction Writing Workshop A plot—any plot—breaks down into three basic parts: the beginning, the middle, and the ending. Below is an outline for the middle: Suspense Suspense can be created by showing the audience something in such a way that they know it will become a major factor later (for example, showing a...

Fine-Tuning Your Voice

Creativity & Expression To help you express what may be complex sensory perceptions, it may be useful to become familiar with some special literary techniques:  Alliteration: words beginning with the same vowel (as in "above," "align," "atom") or consonant (as in "cat," "comatose," "cubicle") Assonance: words that may not begin with the same vowel...

The Myth of the Perfect First Draft

Focus on the Short Story For this session, you’ll be composing a complete rough draft of your story, from beginning to end. Don’t panic. Don’t jab that pencil into your palm or bonk your head against the keyboard. A rough draft is exactly that: rough. A work in progress. Nobody expects it to be...

Making a Good Fit

Marketing Your Magazine Articles You’ve already learned how to study magazines for what sort of articles they want. Now it’s time to combine that knowledge with what you want. Some of the places to sell articles include: print magazines, trade journals, newspapers, tabloids, in-house publications (such as for businesses and universities), and online publications....

Developing a Strong Editorial Appeal for Your Book Idea

Writing the Nonfiction Book Proposal You’ve been thinking about and taking notes on a great book idea; perhaps you’ve begun researching the idea, too. But how do you know if the idea will appeal to an editor? In this workshop, you will learn to subject your book idea(s) to the same rigorous examination a...

Nonfiction Books: Sell, Then Write!

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book I have an idea for a nonfiction book I want to write. What should I do first? You don’t have to write the manuscript for a nonfiction book before you query publishers. You can write a book proposal first. The book proposal is a very in-depth analysis of your book...

How to Write a Query for a Novel

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book What does a novel query letter look like? A novel query gives a brief overview of your novel’s protagonist, plot, and setting, while also giving a little bit of information about yourself. A good novel query does not exceed one page. Do not query until you have a completed manuscript!...

Should You Copyright Your Book Before Submitting It?

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book Should I copyright my book before I submit it to editors and agents? There is no need to copyright your book (with the U.S. Copyright Office) before submitting it. Always remember that the moment your work is in tangible form—once you type it, save it, write it, or otherwise commit...

Is Your Manuscript Longer Than 100,000 Words?

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book I’ve heard that it’s impossible to sell a book longer than 100,000 words. Is this true? There’s some truth to the fact that the longer your manuscript, the more challenging it will be to sell it. Publishers often prefer novels that are the 80,000- to 100,000-word range, depending on the...

Are You Receiving Lots of Form Rejections?

Beginning Writer’s Answer Book I get lots of form rejections that have little or no feedback on my individual work. What might be wrong? Reasons for rejection can be incredibly subjective (indefinable issues of taste), or your work may not be polished enough. Aside from the quality and style of your work, consider if...

What Exactly is a Personal Essay?

Essentials of Writing Personal Essays Workshop Perhaps you are a person who loves to laugh at the writing of humorists David Sedaris or Erma Bombeck. Or maybe you love the quiet, thoughtful nature explorations of Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard in her book Pilgrim’s Creek. Maybe you like the no-holds-barred editorials of horror master...

Get Beyond the Obvious!

Creativity And Expression Workshop Clichés that are common in speech ("slow as molasses," "sharp as a tack") are easy to identify and avoid. But cliches exist in literature as well, and these are a little more difficult to ferret out. To avoid derivative or cliched language in your writing, you first need to be...

Finding Your Story’s Premise

Fundamentals Of Writing For Children Workshop "Premise" comes from two Latin words, meaning to put before. The premise is the foundation of your story—that single core statement, says James N. Frey, "of what happens to the characters as a result of the actions of a story." For instance, the premise of The Three Little...

Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On

Creating Dynamic Characters Workshop Here’s a creative exercise to help you craft a dream scene that reveals character and defines conflict. Dream sequences are often used to explain to characters (and readers) something the characters may not understand about themselves. For example, a mother and daughter may constantly fight with each other, yet always...

The Difference Between a First and Second Draft

Focus on the Nonfiction Magazine Article Workshop The first draft is where you put all the pieces in place, based on your outline. You write the anecdotes, flesh out the facts, condense your interview notes down to the best quotes, and tie all the pieces together. The main goal for the first draft is...

Get Published With A Blind Query Letter

Writing The Novel Proposal Workshop Every writer knows a strong query letter is essential to getting published. Below are quotes from four authors who found publication through an initial blind query, with pointers on how they did it and what they recommend. 1. Offer Benefits To The Agent Or Editor Mark Lee, active playwright...

The Myth of the Perfect First Draft

Extended Short Story Writing Workshop In the mid-1970s, twenty-five-year-old wunderkind Ann Beattie burst on the literary scene with stories in The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker. Those publications were quickly followed by Doubleday’s simultaneous release of her debut novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter, and her first story collection, Distortions. The press loved Beattie,...

Your Voice as a Writer

Accelerated Fundamentals of Nonfiction Writing Workshop Take some tips from David Fryxell and the Accelerated Fundamentals of Nonfiction Writing Workshop: Your voice as a writer is the authorial personality you assume. You put on different roles throughout your day, as the occasion demands: parent, boss, employee, friend, lover. Who are you when you’re writing...

A Picture Really Might Be Worth a Thousand Words

Extended Magazine Article Writing Workshop Photographs or slides may improve your article’s chances of publication–if you know how to submit them like a pro. The availability of good quality photos can be a deciding factor when an editor is considering a manuscript. Many publications also offer additional pay for photos accepted with a manuscript....

Beware: Run-On Sentences!

Elements of Effective Writing II: Form and Composition Workshop Run-on sentences are independent clauses that have not been joined correctly. If two independent clauses appear in one sentence, they must be joined either with a comma and coordinating conjunction or with a semicolon (and on rare occasions with a colon or dash). You could...