How to Improve Writing Skills

You have the drive, you have the passion, and you’re more than willing to put in the time it takes to finish a manuscript. But you also want to make sure your work is clean, compelling, and perfectly structured. Help for doing just that can be found right here.

How to Write Better Using Humor

A man walks into a bookstore. “Where’s the self-help section?” he asks the clerk. She shrugs and replies, “If I tell you, won’t that defeat the purpose?” —Anonymous Humor is an integral part of our everyday interactions, whether we’re trying to navigate a bookstore, make conversation with the barista at our favorite coffee shop,...

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How to Take Your Short Stories to the Next Level

Are you writing a short story? The first short story I ever wrote was in the 6th grade. It was about a fictitious solar system of salad toppings. No joke. I remember pacing around the house, dictating ideas, plot and dialogue into my mom's hand-held tape recorder and, eventually, piecing it all together into...

How to Broaden Your Short Story’s Scope

Most short stories illumine a single dark corner, narrowly circumscribed. They follow the time-revered rule: Limit your short story to a specific time, place, event, interaction or character’s evolution. But the short story can be a more versatile genre than your high school English teacher sermonized. If we stick to too narrow a view,...

7 Ways to Structure Your Picture Book

Author and editor L. Rust Hills once said, “The sinister thing about writing is that it starts off seeming so easy and ends up being so hard.” If only this quote weren’t true. But it is. However, we picture book writers are lucky. We have seven wonderful techniques to help us organize our plots...

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7 Grammar Blunders to Avoid

Nothing is worse than getting in the first edition of our new issue, opening it up and finding a giant grammar mistake plain as day. This doesn't happen often, but when it does it blows my mind. "How did that happen? We read the issue 5 times each, hired an extra copy editor and...

One Simple Question All Writers Should Ask Themselves

In this brief exercise, Douglas Preston, co-author of the bestselling Pendergast novels (Relic) and The Monster of Florence, challenges writers to really write what they know to take their thrillers to the next level. Write what you know. Sure, we’ve all heard it time and again, but many writers still swear by it in...

One Simple Way to Sharpen Your Pitch

As anyone who’s ever tried to come up with one of those vital one-sentence pitches for their book knows, getting it right can be maddening. Here, courtesy of bestseller Jon Land, is one particularly sharp strategy to take your elevator pitch to new heights. ThrillerFest’s AgentFest pitch slam took place yesterday, and literary agents...

Selling Short Story Short: An Interview with ZZ Packer

ZZ Packer is the author of the short-story collection Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, a PEN/Faulkner finalist that was selected for the “Today” show book club by John Updike. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Story, Ploughshares, Zoetrope: All-Story and The Best American Short Stories, and have been read on NPR’s Selected Shorts....

Memoir Spotlight: Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls is the author of The Glass Castle, a memoir with more than 3 million copies in print, and Half Broke Horses, a bestselling true-life novel based on her grandmother. She lives in the Virginia piedmont with her husband, John Taylor. Does the type of writing you’re doing (nonfiction, memoir, fiction) alter your...

Women’s Fiction Spotlight: Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah (kristinhannah.com) is The New York Times bestselling author of 18 novels, including the blockbusters Firefly Lane, True Colors and Winter Garden, and, most recently, Night Road. You’ve said the seed of your writing was first planted by your mother, not long before she passed away. Does that still influence the types of...

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Paula McLain

Paula McLain’s latest book is the bestselling The Paris Wife, a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage and upstart years in 1920s Paris, told from the point of view of his wife, Hadley. The author of two poetry collections, a memoir and an earlier novel, McLain holds a Master of Fine Arts in...

Plot Like a Bestseller: 8 Things You Should Know

What’s the key to plotting a hit book? Well, just ask William Bernhardt, who hit The New York Times bestseller list with his Ben Kincaid series. As Bernhardt revealed in his CraftFest session “Plotting the Bestselling Thriller”: 1. Plot is the writer’s choice of events to tell the story of the character’s progression toward...

4 Ways to Make Every Word Count

Getting the full value out of every word you write is especially important when it comes to the short story. Here are four techniques to help you make each word count.

How to Let Plot Guide Your Short Story

In crafting a short story, let’s begin by taking our definition of plot and letting it guide us. This approach can guide you in composing a short story that creates the emotional and intellectual experience your reader hopes for.

By John Dufresne

The Artist

Spotlight author Julia Cameron made her mark on writing workshops everywhere with her ground-breaking guide, The Artist’s Way. Boost your creativity with a peek at a few of her famous techniques. 

Read the grand-prize short story from the sixth annual WD Popular Fiction Awards here.

Get Paid to be a Word Nerd

Writers who leverage their skills as copy editors can earn bigger paychecks, diversify their portfolios and spend more time doing what they love. Learn how you could be one of them.

by Rebecca Smith Hurd

3 Ways to Know When to End Your Chapters

At some point in writing your novel, you have to start thinking about “chaptering,” the process of deciding exactly when and where your chapter breaks will go. Here are three simple, essential techniques that can help you make effective chapter pauses.

by Aaron Elkins