To Nail Your Book Proposal: Think in Synergies, Not Sections

To Nail Your Book Proposal: Think in Synergies, Not Sections

A successful nonfiction book proposal addresses market demand and cements the writer’s authority throughout the entire document.
Image: a cut diamond rests atop a mound of black rock.

Transforming Coal Into Diamonds: Telling Painful True Stories Through Fiction

Shifting from memoir to fiction allows painful memories to be expressed, while sharing the hard-won wisdom we’ve gained through experience.
Image: a woman hides behind a curtain, only her hands and shoulder visible.

The Art and Purpose of Subtext

Subtext, the real conversation hidden by surface talk, can deepen the story with unpredictable outcomes and emotion.
Image: aerial view of woman in sportswear lying on a gymnasium floor. From this angle, she appears to be hanging from a semi-circular line painted on the floor.

3 Ways That Writerly Grit Leads to Publishing Success

It takes grit to seek and implement qualified feedback, and to keep finding ways to improve a manuscript even after you’ve given it your all.
Image: pegboard on a wall, with hundreds of different ballpoint pens hooked to the surface.

How to Get Published in Modern Love, McSweeney’s or Anywhere Else You Want

If you’d like to see your work in national publications—and get paid—tailor your essay to smoothly fit their voice and mission.
Image: a lone woman walks up an enormous set of stairs which extend off all sides of the frame.

Persistence Pays the Weary Writer

A half-hour’s writing might yield only 500, 300, even a mere 100 words. But a half-hour’s writing over 7 or 8 months: a book’s worth of words.
Image: a man and two women sit with cocktails in hand around a restaurant table.

Want to Build Tension? Encourage the Reader to Ask Questions

Anticipation—“Will it happen or won’t it?”—keeps readers on edge, and we can make use of their need to know by building scenes that cater to it.
Image: a closed notebook emblazoned with a logo that reads "Write ideas" sits on a wooden table alongside a pencil.

Grow Your Writing Business by Stepping Away From Your Computer

Why one freelancer believes that spending too much time at a computer holds writers back from producing their best work.
Image: a green neon sign reading "It's all in your head" is mounted on a metal mesh frame against a brick wall.

Don’t Fall for These 5 Writing Myths That Can Set Back Your Writing

As writers, we often cling to certain myths that suck up emotional energy and reinforce practices that undermine the creative process.
Get in Front of Readers’ Doubts and Objections

Get in Front of Readers’ Doubts and Objections

When writing a prescriptive nonfiction book, anticipating doubts and objections lets your readers feel seen and keeps them on the page.
Image: through a gap between stairs are visible just the feet of a woman and a man on a train platform.

How Suspense and Tension Work Together to Increase Story Impact

Skillful authors weave suspense and tension to draw readers through stories on a taut thread of unanswered questions and constant frictions.
Image: a yellow and white sign reading "work in progress" attached to a wire fence.

7 Questions to Reboot a Nonfiction Book You’ve Been Writing Forever

Focusing on your “just right” reader—instead of trying to convey everything that every reader might need to know—can help combat overwhelm.
Image: close-up photo of mortar between bricks in a wall.

Moving Between Scenes with Summary and Spacers

What’s between scenes is like mortar—necessary for your story’s structure, but not significant—and well handled using summary and spacers.
Image: in a darkened space, a light illuminates a woman's eye gazing intently.

Good Scenes Require Specifics

A little preparation—noting environmental details, character moods and motivations—will make a big difference in the way your scenes unfold.
Image: an antique metal sign with the words For Hire painted in white on a red background.

The Secret Side Careers of Successful Authors

Many successful authors maintain side writing careers, in less glamorous forms such as grant writing, copywriting, and ghostwriting.
Image: a long line of people with shopping carts

The Building Blocks of Scene

“Making a scene” in public often happens spontaneously, but creating emotionally compelling scenes on paper requires considerable planning.
Image: smiling audience members at a live performance

3 Things I’ve Learned About Storytelling (and Life) from Performing Narrative Nonfiction

One author’s tips for performing your stories in front of a live audience.
Image: composite photo of an eclipsing sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.

7 Questions to Design a Better Arc of Change for Your Protagonist

Your novel’s external and internal parts must be intricately woven together to create a work that truly resonates with readers.
Image: a stack of multi-colored Post-It notes

Improve Your Own Storytelling by Analyzing Other People’s

One of the best ways an author can learn their own storytelling craft lies in what we already avidly do: take in other creators’ stories.
Image: close-up photo of a face painted with rainbow colors, the subject's eyes gazing intently at the viewer.

How (and How Not!) to Write Queer Characters: A Primer

Tips for avoiding stereotypes and tokenism, and presenting more interesting, complex, three-dimensional queer characters.
3 Common Pitfalls in Memoir Queries

3 Common Pitfalls in Memoir Queries

Memoirists have a lot of leeway in choosing a pitching strategy. But with freedom comes great responsibility, and it's easier to get into trouble when there isn't a tried-and-true formula to follow.
Why Agents Don’t Give Feedback—And Where to Get It Instead

Why Agents Don’t Give Feedback—And Where to Get It Instead

Providing feedback to every pitch would leave agents no time for their existing clients. Instead, check your own first pages for weak spots.
Image: a woman sitting at a desk, editing a manuscript with a red pen.

Looking for a Beta Reader? Flip That Question Around.

Beta reading for others can be a creative education. Lean into that, and your future books will be all the better for it.
Image: atop a green plate is a slice of white bread from which holes have been cut that spell "I heart Julia".

The Julie & Julia Formula: How to Turn Writing Envy Into Writing Success

Dedicated and even obsessive engagement with another creator’s work can open unexpected doors for your own writing.
Image: a woman sitting against a wall on which is painted a black and white mural and the words "What you do matters."

Nonfiction Writers: Find Your External and Internal Why

Does my story matter? Is it good enough? They’re questions every writer asks, and the way to answer them is to connect to your why.
Image: a mirror covered in condensation, obscuring the reflected image.

How a Little Psychology Can Improve Your Memoir’s Setup

The early part of your memoir should reveal the short list of narrator flaws and problems you’ll resolve by the end of your book.
Image: a lone person stands watching distant smoke rising, silhouetted against a colorful sunrise.

Why Write When the World Is on Fire?

In times of sickness, cultural upheaval, and real existential threats, perhaps stories matter more than ever.
Image: numerous antique brass pocket watches hanging in a row.

Your Journal as Time Machine

The pages of your journal can be a time machine, transporting you from the here and now to snapshots of your internal world, over the years.
Image: close-up photo of the End key on a computer keyboard.

To Nail Your Memoir’s Beginning, Stop Looking in the Wrong Direction

Your book’s ending must reveal the story’s resolution. Once you know what you’re resolving, you can establish a clear path for getting there.
Image: outdoor sculpture of two figures, one showing a smooth exterior and the other showing internal structures.

The Vital Difference Between Plot and Story—and Why You Need Both

By spending as much (or more) time weaving a dynamic Story as you do creating a flashy Plot, readers will walk away feeling satisfied.
Image: a doormat with the words "Come as you are" on it.

Not a Journal Person? Post-Pandemic Might Be the Perfect Time to Start

Here are some of the many ways that a journaling practice can serve as a laboratory for your writing, and your life.
Image: a woman alone at a table, writing in a journal.

Is Journaling a Waste of Writing Time?

Not only can a journaling practice sustain and inspire your writing projects—a commitment to it can inform and improve your entire life.
Image: sign of Frankenstein's monster at the Universal Studios parking facility.

Why Frankenstein Still Sells 40,000 Copies a Year

The more important and perennial a problem that a book addresses, the better the chances it will survive the test of time.
"Bye" written in red lipstick on mirror with XX underneath

How to Gracefully Leave Your Writing Group

Wanting to leave your writing group doesn’t make you a jerk. Departing with grace is an act of kindness that furthers your development and the friendships you cherish.
Why Your Amazing Writing Group Might Be Failing You

Why Your Amazing Writing Group Might Be Failing You

The real reason writing groups sometimes fail us has nothing to do with the lovely people in them. The failure is due to a mismatch between what you need and what the group offers.
University bookstore on campus

Why You Should Consider a University Press for Your Book

University presses are not just for scholars, and many are far more open-minded than you may think.
Image: miniature wooden carvings representing standing figures. At the center is one figure, painted blue, lying down.

The Secret Ingredient of Successful Openings

A story intro that shows internal trouble, signaling the beginning of a character arc, makes agents and editors sit up and take notice.
Image: a playground slide

Weaving Flashbacks Seamlessly into Story

Flashback is a powerful tool for weaving in important backstory—but as with any power tool, using it well requires knowledge and care.
Image: young girl wearing an adult-sized suit, sitting at an office desk and holding a telephone receiver.

Children’s Dialogue: They Don’t Talk Like Adults

Children aren’t miniature grownups. When writing a story with a child character, take time to really listen to how kids of that age talk.
Image: cartoon illustrating halves of the brain. Left brain is represented by a man struggling with a jumble of jigsaw puzzle pieces, and right brain is represented by a woman assembling puzzle pieces in an orderly fashion.

The Value of Percolation

Setting an idea or draft aside for “percolation” allows the brain’s subconscious to arrive at insights while we’re busy with something else.
Image: The Creative's Apprentice guiding principles

What Your Writing Is Training You For

To survive and be happy in a creative career, focus on WHAT you’re doing and WHY—and have faith that everything will work out in due time.
Image: an indistinct figure's hands and face behind a white screen.

13 Ways to Freaking Freak Out Your Horror Readers

For horror writers, here are some ways to frighten a reader so badly that they text someone at midnight saying, “You have to read this!”
Image: a young, redheaded, freckled girl holding a magnifying glass.

What If Your Memoir Is Middle Grade?

What makes a memoir suitable for YA or middle-grade readers isn’t shying away from tough topics but approaching them with a child’s eyes.
Image: a female boxer being punched, sending her protective mouthguard flying into the air.

If You Can’t Stand the Sight of Your Own Blood, Don’t Step Into the Ring

It’s difficult yet important to develop enough confidence in your work that you’re not sunk every time someone dislikes it and says so.
Laura Zats and T.S Ferguson

How Important Is Genre When Pitching and Promoting Your Book?

Two literary agents discuss the usefulness and limits of assigning a genre to writing, and how it’s perceived by publishers and readers.
Image: a stack of old photos and letters.

You Are Not Your Traumas. But Here’s How to Write About Them

Writing sustainably about trauma requires practicing moderation, focusing on meaning, and working in ways that limit your exposure.
Image: five origami boats. Four smaller boats follow a larger one.

How to Write a Thought Leadership Book

Defining your why, who, what, and how is the start of writing a powerful thought leadership book that conveys your vision and impacts lives.
Image: someone deleting the Facebook app from a smartphone.

A Year Without Social Media as a Freelance Writer

For freelancers, forgoing social media can mean giving up crucial visibility. But it can also provide time to focus on being a better writer.
Image: Grid notebook surrounded by crumpled balls of paper and half-full coffee mugs.

3 Shifts You Need to Make to Finish Your Book

If you’ve been seeking external solutions to your writing problems, these internal shifts might have a more profound effect on your progress.
Image: a red heart-shaped piece of foam, torn in two down the middle and held together with a Band-Aid.

3 Things to Ask Yourself Before Writing about Trauma

Writing about trauma isn’t like ripping off a Band-Aid. Here are some strategies for assessing whether you’re ready and proceeding gently.