John Thornton Williams

How to Reveal Character Emotion Without Venturing Into Cliché

One of the most important goals of any fiction writer is getting the reader to connect on an emotional level with the story’s characters. But how do you accomplish this without being clumsy—without saying, directly, “Joe felt so upset he wanted to die,” which takes you right into the heart of cliché? John Thorton Williams […]

Elizabeth Kadetsky

The Benefits of Procrastination & Distraction

Every month, Glimmer Train releases a bulletin that includes a few brief essays by writers on the writing life. For October, I was happy to find the themes of procrastination and distraction—and how they can be a positive influence in our work lives. Elizabeth Katdetsky discusses how she gives in to the procrastinator in herself, and how […]

Amina Gautier

How Revising Rewards Mistakes

One writing and publishing adage I’ve always believed in: “Writing is rewriting.” Fiction writer Amina Gautier’s approach is similar. For her, revising is the best part. Over at the latest Glimmer Train bulletin, she offers tips on unlocking the joy of revision. She says: Revising encourages and liberates the writer to “make mistakes.” It rewards mistakes; each […]

Josh Weil

Sow Your Characters’ Emotions in Early

In a thought-provoking post over at Glimmer Train, Josh Weil talks about Chekhov’s rule: If you bring a gun into the story, then it must fire by the end. Weil reverses it to produce a new insight: “If you’re going to fire a gun at the end, you’d better bring it in near the beginning.” He goes on to discuss […]

World Domination Summit

3 Takeaways for Writers from the 2014 World Domination Summit

This past weekend, I attended the World Domination Summit (WDS) in Portland, which attracts 3,000 creative people who are concerned with answering the question: “How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” They are guided by three values: Community Service Adventure Speaking personally, I’m really into the first two, as well as […]

Celeste Ng

The Argument for Ambiguity in Your Story

To create a story that feels as if it could leave the page: That’s the dream of many writers. But to pull it off means leaving space for the reader. Celeste Ng, author of the newly released Everything I Never Told You, explains: … you need to leave a few unmapped places so the characters can step beyond […]

Bret Anthony Johnston

Understand Your Character’s Obsession

Fiction writers: How well do you know your protagonist? While you may have learned the basics of point of view, and can tell the story from your protagonist’s perspective, how does your protagonist see the events and details of the world around him? Bret Anthony Johnston suggests, “Point-of-view is defined by obsession.” He writes in […]

Monica Byrne

Let’s Resist the Culture of Idolatry in American Literature

In a bold and insightful piece by writer Monica Byrne, she discusses how, as an emerging writer, she created a list of her favorite authors titled “My Idols.” But she scratched that out, then wrote “My Models.” Then, finally, “My Peers.” Why? … I realized the difference between admiration and idolatry. How I placed the famous writer’s innate […]

David James Poissant

Make Submitting Work Your Superpower

Over at the latest Glimmer Train bulletin, writer David James Poissant discusses a topic very near and dear to my heart: Grit. Or maybe you call it persistence. He calls it relentlessness and tenacity. It goes by a lot of names, but basically it means a few rejections aren’t going to stop you. Or just […]

Beth Ann Fennelly

A Collaborative Novel Is Twice the Work, Not Half the Work

In an essay about writing a novel with her husband, Beth Ann Fennelly discusses that the process did not lead to fighting, but that it was fun, and not as lonely. However, it didn’t mean half the work. It meant twice the work. She writes: That’s when the novel really started cooking—and finally became fun to […]

Photo by Daniel Y. Go / via Flickr

10 Apps to Help You Stay Focused on Your Writing

Today’s guest post is by Frances Caballo (@caballofrances), a social media strategist and manager for writers, and the author of Avoid Social Media Time Suck, among other titles. Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus. Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll. —Helen Hanson As authors, we love to read, write, and talk about […]

Finding a Balance Between Writing and Marketing

Note from Jane: The following post by Joshua Graham (@J0shuaGraham) is the third in a series sponsored by Nook Press, offering tips and advice from authors on writing and publishing. Read earlier sponsored posts from Nook: How to Build a Writing Group in Your Community by Nathaniel Kressen The Importance of Your Book Cover: Finding the Right Fit by Colleen Gleason […]

Celeste Ng

The Challenges and Opportunities of an Omniscient POV

The most prevalent point-of-view used by writers today is the third-person limited POV (sometimes spread across multiple characters), as well as the first-person POV. It’s pretty rare to find a contemporary novel written with an omniscient narrator—which is why Celeste Ng found it a terrifying realization, while writing her first novel, that her story required […]

Carrie Brown

Writers: Look for the Majestic Silence

Inevitably there will come a moment when the writer’s gaze stays somewhere—there’s that “majestic silence”—and at that moment, the writer knows to stand still and listen and look.

Photo by fatllama / Flickr

A Call to Disarm Technology & Hype (And Boost Your Writing Productivity)

The internet and other technology keeps us on insanely high alert, ultimately producing an effect where we attend to everything and we attend to nothing (deeply). This high-alert state is producing a fatigue that’s detrimental not only to our psyches and relationships, but also to the quality of our professional output.

photo by Ian Burnes

Editors Are Usually Really Nice People

If you have Zen or Buddhist inclinations—and you’re also in the profession of writing and publishing—you will love this story and meditation by Gillian Burnes. It begins: In the middle of a Vipassana meditation retreat last summer … I went up to the teacher at the end of the dharma talk and said, as sweetly […]

E.A. Durden

The Problem With Overly Nice Characters

What’s wrong with overly nice characters? To begin with, they’re boring. This is because they can’t abide conflict, and smooth it over every chance they get.

Melissa Sipin

Write What Haunts You

What haunts you? What images or moments have never left you? What do you keep revisiting again and again and again?

Photo by Caro Wallis / Flickr

Submission: 6 Rules of Thumb From an Editor-Turned-Writer

Today’s guest post is by writer and editor Jennifer Niesslein (@jniesslein), who is based in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m experiencing karma. For more than a decade, I co-edited a literary magazine—I was the person who wouldn’t respond regarding your writing for three months, sometimes longer. And now, for the past nine months, I’ve been writing. It […]

You've Got a Book in You by Elizabeth Sims

To Be Great, Strive to Be Ordinary

The following guest post from Elizabeth Sims is adapted from her newest book, You’ve Got a Book in You, from Writer’s Digest. As you plunge into writing your book, here’s the main thing to do: Strive for the ordinary. Because that’s what the greats do. If I were a person who used vulgarities, I would […]

Career Changing Move

What One Small Step Made a Big Impact on Your Writing Career?

The biggest career-changing moves I ever made were a combination of: Signing up for Twitter in 2008 & starting the Best Tweets for Writers series (story here) Buying my own domain name—long before I ever started using it—in 2005, then actually launching this site in December 2009 What have your career-changing moves been? Writer’s Digest […]

Allison Amend

Worry About the Writing, Not About Being a Writer

If you could write a letter to your younger writing self, what would you say? Author Allison Amend has imagined and written such a letter. Here’s how she starts: I see you worrying endlessly about your future, and I just wanted to write you a letter and reassure you that fifteen years from now you […]

Matthew Salesses

The Pros and Cons of Being Agreeable and Saying Yes

As writers, we must often protect our time so that we can get our most important writing done. On the other hand, being agreeable and saying “yes” more often can lead to meaningful opportunities—even publication.

Flickr / Eole

If You Struggle With Plot, Here’s How to Think About It Differently

The notion of “plot” is a misconception that leads too many writers to get confused and focus on all the wrong things. Instead, writers should focus on using the plot-free concept of series. A series is the repetition and variation of a narrative element within a story, the process of improvement or deterioration which creates the narrative arc.

Susan Jackson Rogers

Start Small: Moving From Notebook to Story

In the latest Glimmer Train bulletin, Susan Jackson Rogers has written a brief essay on the writing life: “Closing the Gap: Moving from Notebook to Story.” She discusses how stories get their beginnings and gain traction: Each time, I have to remember: Start small. Why doesn’t “starting small” feel like real writing? Really, there isn’t any […]

Kate Gale

You Need Stakeholders in Your Writing Life

Over at Glimmer Train, author and editor Kate Gale discusses the importance of stakeholders in your writing life—just as a nonprofit organization needs stakeholders. She says: You need a group of people who buy into this idea that you want to be a writer. … You only need a few stakeholders. Five is a nice number. […]

Geoff Wyss

How to Write Characters Who Evoke Reader Compassion

How do you write fiction with characters who are mysteriously human, who evoke empathy and compassion from the reader? Is it by making them understandable? No. Geoff Wyss explains: The better we understand someone, the more fully we should be able to respond to him. But we don’t understand people in real life, not in […]

Creating Space by Ed Cyzewski

Quality Writing Projects Require Safe Places—And Here Are Five

Today’s guest post is by Ed Cyzewski (@EdCyzewski). You may remember him from a previous guest post at this site, Why Self-Publishing Is a Tragic Term. Ed’s latest e-book is available as a free download on Tuesday & Wednesday of this week—visit Amazon to download Creating Space: The Case for Everyday Creativity. After years of doubting that […]

Joshua Henkin

2 Critical Factors for Successful Stories

You can be a beautiful and gifted writer yet fail to craft a compelling narrative. Joshua Henkin, in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin, elucidates, in a memorable and striking way, how to check your work for two critical factors of a successful story: For a story to work, there needs to be both consequence and […]

3 Steps for Using Prompts to Write Better & Get Published

In January of 2007—as a New Year’s resolution—I decided I was a writer. I resolved that I would stop saying that I’d start writing “someday” and instead would sit my backside in the chair and start writing now. No more excuses. I was a writer and I would start acting like one. That was when […]

The Novelist by L.L. Barkat

Steal Your Way to Better Writing

Today’s guest post is by poet and editor L.L. Barkat. You may remember her from an earlier guest post, You Don’t Need a Degree to Find Your Voice. “I can’t write poetry,” she said. And it was true. This girl—who read Macbeth at age twelve and argued with the commentaries, who in the same season […]

What Does It Feel Like to Have Your Book Banned?

Did you know Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg—one of the most popular books on writing of all time—was banned? In honor of Banned Books Week, the good folks at Open Road Media have put together a video featuring authors whose books have been banned—plus celebrating censored favorites. If you don’t see the video appear […]

Josh Swiller

Kitchen Sink That First Draft

Lists of writing tips are always popular (and sometimes overdone), but Josh Swiller’s 12 tips in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin are a delight to read. Two of my favorite tips, directly quoted: Kitchen sink that first draft. Throw every damn thing in there. If you aren’t sure something belongs, if you aren’t even remotely […]

Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up

Drinking, Writing, and Self-Discovery

More than a year ago, I participated in a Q&A over at the Drinking Diaries website, which is a forum for women to share, vent, express, and discuss their drinking stories without judgment. It was a fun experience and many wonderful comments came through, plus a couple people bluntly said they didn’t want to know the […]

Stefani Nellen

How to Distract Yourself From Trying to Impress

Do you find yourself writing descriptive passages meant to “wow” the reader? Later, do you find that such passages amount to nothing more than small talk? Or maybe you’re just tired of your current revision process? Writer Stefani Nellen stumbled on a method that has helped her attain needed distance to see her writing for what […]

Leaving Behind Your Day Job

I worked many jobs in my younger days: Papa John’s pizza delivery driver, Cedar Point amusement park employee, McDonald’s drive-thru worker, and KFC associate, just to name a few. Most writers have worked a number jobs before finding the way or the means to pursue writing full time. Open Road Media has put together a […]

A Year of Writing Dangerously by Barbara Abercrombie

What Does Your Mother Think of Your Writing? Does It Matter?

Today’s post features an item excerpted from A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration & Encouragement (New World Library, 2012) by Barbara Abercrombie. Barbara has published 14 books and numerous essays and articles, and has taught creative writing courses for almost three decades. She lives in Santa Monica, California. Find out more at her […]

The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood

5 Remarkable Writing Prompt & Exercise Books

After working at Writer’s Digest for a decade-plus, I saw more than my fair share of writing exercise/prompt books—plus I also acquired and edited quite a few. Writing prompts have always been an ever-popular topic of discussion (and usefulness) for writers, regardless of stage of career. Here I’d like to share what I found to […]

Danielle Lazarin

Why Write When Others Write So Much Better?

Every writer I know can identify with the following: I was only halfway through Stuart Dybek’s I Sailed with Magellan when I decided I should just give up on writing altogether; that the intimacy he achieves with childhood and adolescence was more than I could ever imagine accomplishing, and I wanted to leave it to […]

How Dads Influenced Some Famous Writers

My dad once told me I could do or be anything I wanted. Apparently that’s the same thing author Patricia Bosworth was told by her dad. Dads seem to enjoy sharing this advice with their daughters. In honor of Father’s Day, the folks at Open Road Media have produced a video where famous writers discuss […]