I’d like to highlight two common writing flaws that clutter the manuscripts of many aspiring authors. I call these culprits “hedge words” and “inflation words.”
If people judge books by their covers, then typesetting is the difference between a brief or a lasting impression. The cover may grab a reader’s eye, but what the reader sees when they crack open the book is what will hold their attention.
Memoirists have to write their story, the events of their life, from a future perspective. From NOW. Now brings with it maturity, wisdom, insight, and grace. The mature self speaks from a place of distance but not detachment.
While there are seven deadly first-page sins I commonly encounter, there is one that’s most deadly of all: default omniscience. No point of view = no story.
A step-by-step guide to finding literary agents, plus how to select the right agent for you and your work.
What’s the overriding reason for an author to find an agent and a traditional publishing deal? Is it possible that the reasons may be flawed?
At its core, a query letter is a sales document, and so it’s meant to sell. But opinions differ on the best possible sales approach in a query.
Many people want to be rock stars—and many people want to write books. But there are many ways in which a writing dream can crash and burn. One way is to be unclear about what you want with what you are ready to do.
Each scene in your book requires a beginning, middle, and end. Here are four paths to launching your scene—plus the questions you should ask about each one.
Giving characters painful backstory makes them feel credible to readers. But when it comes to describing what happened, many writers jump headfirst into an info dump, hoping a summary will create a shortcut to empathy and “catch readers up.” Unfortunately, this can have the opposite effect.
Any author can successfully launch their book through crowdfunding if they are willing to put in the effort. However, it may not be the right path for everyone.
Fiction writing, while not closely associated with affecting one’s real-life relationships, can indeed have that power and develop one’s empathy.
Four lessons for YA: Make it real, get rid of parental oversight, feature topics making the headlines, and include hope.
There are many good reasons to hire a professional editor, but also a number of compelling reasons to hold off and save your money.
If you’re pitching your book to agents or editors, the perfect title for your book will define your subject and grab their positive attention. It should be a label they can confidently share with colleagues in editorial board meetings and use to convince the powers-that-be to release money to acquire your book.
Series have become extremely popular, and secondary characters are now in the spotlight. Readers enjoy trying to spot the next potential hero or heroine.
Sometimes guidelines for writers discourage perfectly private, internal envy, anger, indignation, etc., directed toward other writers, or toward agents (or publishers) rejecting work. But that hardly seems realistic, nor is it fair to ask humans to stop being human.
There’s no quicker way to intimacy with a lead character than first-person point of view (POV). But numerous challenges also come with this POV. One of these is the natural limitation of being stuck in one perspective throughout the story.
Word doesn’t export to EPUB, but you can still produce an editable file quickly, without buying software or using a “meatgrinder” conversion.
Pitching agents at a writers conference can be a difficult task for the new writer. Here’s how to make it a little easier on yourself.
Are you getting the most from professional feedback, or are you inadvertently sabotaging your progress? Look for these patterns in your response.
This is an introductory guide to the major self-publishing options available to authors today, and how to choose the right service for you.
If you want to publish your book, here are the steps you should follow to assess your work’s potential, then research and pitch editors and agents.
In my many years of critiquing queries, I see the same weaknesses again and again. Here are the biggest issues that afflict novel queries and how you can fix them.
When submitting your short form literature to a magazine or journal, your cover letter is often the first impression an editor sees. It serves as an introduction to your thoughtfully crafted art. As such, it is significant, but it shouldn’t be intimidating or even take much of your time to write.
Everyone has a meaningful story to tell, but not everyone’s story (or writing) is going to deserve a commercial publishing deal. Here are the most common problems I encounter in memoir pitches and manuscripts.
Writing a nonfiction book proposal—a good one—requires not only sharp clarity about your idea, but also how that idea, in book form, is relevant and unique in today’s market. You’ll have a much easier time writing your proposal if you take time to conduct market research beforehand.
Everything you need to know to start writing a book proposal for your nonfiction book.
Some agents and editors say that personalizing a query letter can backfire. Others say the opposite—that it’s mandatory. What should you do?
A detailed look at how NetGalley’s Stuart Evers and Myfanwy Collins went from manuscript to publication, with marketing and PR advice.
How to Spot Toxic Feedback: 7 Signs That the Writing Advice You’re Getting May Do More Harm Than Good
If you recognize the following characteristics in the critiques of your work, it may not just be inept—it may, in fact, be toxic.
Turns out there is only one universal rule of plot, and it goes back to what Joseph Campbell uncovered: every single story worth telling is about transformation via trials.
Half of writers are plotters, and the other half are pantsers. One is not the right way or the wrong way; there is only the way that works best for you.
How do great authors develop stunning narratives, break from tradition, and advance the form of their fiction? They take whatever basic ideas they’ve got, then move them away from the typical.
Learn the difference between all ready/already, altogether/all together, all right/alright, any time/anytime, anyway/any way.
By far the most common entry-level mistake in the writing game, the thing that can get a perfectly good story rejected by an editor on the first page, is overwriting.
No pressure, but the opening of your book is the gatekeeper in determining whether your novel will sell. If your opening is weak, it won’t matter if chapter two is a masterpiece. Editors and agents and booksellers and librarians and readers will stop reading before they get there.
Misconceptions about getting started often hold new writers back. You may think that to be successful as a freelance writer, you need a J-school degree, an impressive database of editorial contacts, and a truckload of supplies. Not so—read on to learn the most common myths that can sabotage you before you start.
You need to write a memoir—except the mere thought floods you with anxiety. You’ve got decades of memories; where would you even start? Lists to the rescue!
For new writers, throwing in a few combat scenes can seem like an easy way to add some excitement to a novel, but the reality is that violence can be incredibly difficult to pull off effectively.
All three paths to producing emotional responses in readers are valid, but all three have pitfalls and can fail to work. To successfully use each, it’s necessary to understand why each is effective when it is.
If you’ve given up on the self-publishing route and want to try traditional publishing, then there are several approaches you can take to interest agents.
In this post I regularly update the best resources I know of related to learning to publish an ebook, finding the right distributors and services, and staying on top of changes in the industry.
Established writers can’t often—and probably shouldn’t—publish far outside of their area of expertise. It’s a fast way to alienate your existing fan base. But crowdfunding allows you to experiment outside of your genre for a project you want to see out in the world.
In 2015, Kindle Press published about 90 novels. By the end of 2016, it had published a total of 218 books—all chosen through the Kindle Scout program.
Pronoun works with independent authors to distribute their ebooks to the five major online retailers: Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play. Pronoun charges authors nothing upfront, and doesn’t take a cut of ebook sales either.
There are advantages to selling ebooks only through Amazon, and makes most sense for authors who are just starting out or who are relatively unknown.
There is one secret ingredient to crafting a novel that readers will read from beginning to end. All the other elements are important and necessary, but they play supporting roles to this one.
Every reader starts a story cold, and you want to warm the reader up to your story as quickly as possible. Learn proven techniques for story openings.
A round-up of the best and most popular advice on writing craft and technique I’ve featured since 2010.