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.

What kinds of subject matter are most popular in novels for young readers?

from Beginning Writer’s Answer Book, edited by Jane Friedman The interest areas of young readers are limitless. They enjoy contemporary, fantasy, mystery, and historical novels and more—trends in subject matter for children’s books often reflect trends in adult publishing. Realistic treatment of current themes—including conflict with siblings or peers, dating and relationships, and struggles...

What is a story theme? Is it any different from a story problem?

from Beginning Writer’s Answer Book, edited by Jane Friedman Writers disagree on the exact definitions, but here’s one explanation: A theme is the message an author imparts to his readers through the plot and characters in his story. The writer starts with an idea, and as his story develops, it is influenced by his...

Is it crucial for scriptwriters to find an agent?

from Beginning Writer’s Answer Book, edited by Jane Friedman It is not crucial to obtain the services of an agent; you can always try sending query letters directly to producers and ask them if you can submit your script. But you’re likely to have an easier time if you find an agent, especially if...

I published my own nonfiction book, and now I’d like to query commercial publishers about a second edition, but how can I approach them about this idea?

from The Beginning Writer’s Answer Book, edited by Jane Friedman There are two ways you can approach this. One way is to submit a copy of your book to several publishers along with a concise description, its market potential, and the sales record you achieved on your own. Include any other information likely to...

How will I know whether an agent is reputable? Is there a list I can obtain of recommended agents?

from The Beginning Writer’s Answer Book, edited by Jane Friedman In addition to checking agents out through AAR or the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), look for Web sites where writers post information about agents they believe are dishonest or disreputable. If the agent charges an upfront reading fee, that’s the first red flag—it’s against...

Mistake 65: Not Staying Up-to-Date on the Business

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Like any other business, publishing is fluid. Things change. I’ve seen authors and even agents get left behind in the business as the marketplace, technology, and even consumer tastes changed. Too often writers work...

Mistake 61: Staying Home

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Writers tend to be introverts. We like to sit by ourselves and create with words. We’re not fond of crowds and gatherings of people. In a perfect world, we would create our masterpieces, send...

Mistake 63: Not Sharing Your Knowledge and Expertise

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: People have a tendency to be afraid of losing out to others, and they sometimes sense they are competing in the workplace. However, I have not found that to be true in publishing. Yes,...

Mistake 62: Not Learning Patience

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: If you’re a type-A personality, publishing just might beat that out of you. You can’t make anyone do anything faster than they’re going to do it. Trying to push agents or editors to work...

Mistake 64: Not Using Conferences Correctly

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Too many writers view conferences simply as a place to sell their work. They march in with their cards printed up, with a stack of cover letters and synopses, and plan on going home...

Mistake 59: Writing for the Market

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: It’s already too late to write for today’s market. Book-length publishing is a three-year-ahead business for a writer. Even magazine writing requires quite a bit of lead time. So what’s hot now might not...

Mistake 60: Taking Any Deal

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: This is such a hard and crazy business that writers tend to take any deal a publisher offers. This is akin to taking the first marriage proposal you receive from the first stranger you...

Mistake 58: Buying in to the We-They Attitude

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: In any gathering of authors, sooner or later you pick up a we-they attitude, where authors seem to be on one side, and editors and agents and publishers seem to be on the other,...

Mistake 56: Comparing Your Book to a Best-Selling Work

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Some how-to-sell books and articles suggest that you compare your work to something that is easily recognizable and best-selling. I’m not saying that doing so is absolutely wrong, but I am suggesting that it’s...

Mistake 55: Not Using Rejction in a Positive Way

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Nobody likes to be rejected. Rejection is not quite as bad as betrayal, but it’s still not fun. Yet rejection is an integral part of a writer’s life. You can’t take it personally. And...

Mistake 5: Paying an Agent to Read Your Work

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: There are numerous agents who charge reading fees to look at manuscripts and give feedback. And it is understandable why writers would be tempted to go along with this; it is, after all, so...

Mistake 57: Stalking

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Who likes to be stalked? Agents and editors certainly don’t, and neither do authors. Every editor and agent has at least one stalking story to tell. Most are humorous, but some of them are...

Mistake 51: Writing a Bad Synopsis

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: A synopsis is a short summary of a novel, the key word being short. There is some argument whether you even need a synopsis. Agents and editors state in their guidelines whether they require...

Mistake 53: Not Knowing the Magazine Market

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: When it comes to writing for magazines, one of the biggest mistakes is not knowing the market well enough. Editors want a new and fresh story, but they want the story within a context...

Mistake 52: Not Putting Together a Strong Nonfiction Proposal

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Professionalism counts. While fiction writers usually have to have an entire manuscript completed before starting the submission process, nonfiction writers are required to submit a proposal first. The proposal includes the book’s topic, its...

Mistake 50: Writing a Bad Query Letter

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Query letters are sales tools. Plain and simple. To hook an agent or editor into taking a look at your manuscript or article, you have to write a great query letter. If your topic...

Mistake 49: Choosing Bad Titles

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit Why this is a mistake: Novice writers often create titles that won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t read through the piece. First and foremost, the title should invite the reader into the book, article, or essay. The solution:...

Hot Tip for Proposals #19

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen When writing your outline, don’t write about the subject, write about the chapter. Write one line of outline for each page of manuscript you envision.

Hot Tip for Proposals #20

How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen At the beginning of your outline, use a quote, event, revelaton, anecdoe, statistic, idea, surprise, or joke to entice editors to read on.