Danger of writing groups

The 4 Hidden Dangers of Writing Groups

Writing groups can cause fatal frustration, deep self-doubt, and sometimes years of wasted effort. Learn the most common dangers of writing groups, and find out how to improve your group to give you more of what you need—and less of what you don’t.

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Begin Your Novel with Action: A Good Rule?

You’ve probably heard the adage that you must begin your novel with action—even if it’s not the main action of the book. While this rule is fairly well-accepted in fiction teaching circles, not everyone agrees with it.

How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula

When we talk about plot as separate from the characters, the symbols, the locales, the dialogue, and the philosophical introspection, what we are doing is privileging events over everything else. But nothing exists in a vacuum.

Jane Friedman AWP

Advice for Undergrad Students Pursuing a Creative Writing Degree

Even though I’ve been actively teaching in the university setting for more than 10 years, I’ve nearly always been in front of non-writing majors. (Right now, at the University of Virginia, I teach media studies majors.) However, my undergraduate degree is a BFA in creative writing, and recently the AWP approached me to write an essay […]

Writer's Digest (October 2014)

The Evolving Role of the Literary Agent

In the most recent issue of Writer’s Digest magazine, you’ll find my feature article, “The Evolving Agent.” I discuss how literary agents’ business models and services are changing to fit the needs of their clients, who are increasingly self-publishing or choosing hybrid paths. The article covers: the value of agent-assisted self-publishing what happens when agents use […]

NoiseTrade Books

How to Use NoiseTrade Books as a Strategic Marketing Tool

Note from Jane: I am very grateful to Ed Cyzewski (@edcyzewski) for today’s guest post, where he shares valuable insights about book marketing via NoiseTrade (not to mention email newsletters and ebook giveaways). If you’d like to share insights from your book marketing experiments in a guest post, please contact me. First, a Bit of Background In […]

Jane Eyre Detail

The 4 Different Types of Conflict in Dialogue

Today’s guest post is by author K.M. Weiland (@KMWeiland), author of the newly released Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics. Conflict in dialogue provides authors with one of their best opportunities for jazzing up their stories and powering their plots. Slow scene? No problemo. Just throw in a nice, heated little argument. What could be […]

Both Sides Now: A New York Editor and Author Goes Indie

Today’s guest post is by author Leslie Wells. I’ve been on both sides of the publishing desk—as an acquiring executive editor for several decades, and as an author. The experience has provided insights that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and made me more sympathetic to the nerve-wracking process of trying to get your book published. […]

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5 Mistakes You’ll Make on the Way to Publishing Success

Today’s guest post is by Carmen Amato (@CarmenConnects), author of The Hidden Light of Mexico City and the Emilia Cruz series. You have a polished manuscript in hand, and you’re ready to publish. But the road from finished manuscript to bestseller list is more like a labyrinth rather than a straight path. There are dozens of choices and decisions ahead. Here are […]

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How to Write a Competitive Title Analysis

The following post has been excerpted and adapted from The Author Training Manual by Nina Amir, recently released by Writer’s Digest Books. If you’re embarking on a nonfiction book project, your analysis of the competitive landscape is critical, whether you self-publish or traditionally publish. You need to understand and be able to explain how your […]

Scratch Q2 2014 Faith

The Role of Faith (the Non-Religious Kind) in the Writing Life

The latest issue of my magazine Scratch is now available! The theme is Faith. If you’re not a subscriber, here’s what you can read for free. The Scratch Interview by Cheryl Strayed by Manjula Martin In this revealing interview, New York Times bestseller Cheryl Strayed talks about success, artistic faith, and how to bounce a rent check […]

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6 Ways Micro-Publishing Strengthens Your Author Career

Micro-published books are short, tight, and swift. A meaningful discussion of micro-publishing has been pushed aside during the ongoing tug-of-war between traditional publishing and independent publishing (self-publishing). But we are well beyond “everyone is a writer” at this point. We have progressed into “everyone is a publisher,” if they wish to be—and we have been living in this realm for some time already. Fortunately, micro-publishing benefits the industry as a whole by bringing some much-needed simplicity and directness into a publishing equation that is often weighted down by its own complexity and contracts. And it also benefits you, the writer.

Colleen Gleason covers

The Importance of Your Book Cover: Achieving the Right Fit

Note from Jane: The following post is the first in a series that will offer tips and advice from successful authors about self-publishing, specifically those who use Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press as part of their overall sales, marketing, and distribution strategy. This series is sponsored by Nook Press, which means they have paid for […]

© Salim Photography/

The Power of Understatement in Fiction Writing

One of the most useful and powerful devices for the fiction writer is understatement. You tell the reader less so that the reader knows more. Instead of having everything spelt out, the reader is given, in a very careful way, just enough information for the imagination to go to work. From understatement the reader can derive great pleasure and satisfaction.

A photograph of several bookstore shelves loaded with books.

Why Editors Focus on Page One

Editors can tell within a couple pages if a manuscript will be acceptable to them. How? What makes this decision so clear to an editor and so muddy to an author?

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 […]

Fine-Tuning Fiction by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Your Story Opening: Shock vs. Seduction

A reader is drawn into a story in one of two ways: shocked or seduced. This is called the hook, and it must be in the first three paragraphs of the text, preferably in the first sentence. The hook also sets up the initial pace of the story, which is maintained through the beginning of the tale.

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.

Knocking on doors of traditional publishers

How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published?

Don’t you wish someone could tell you how close you are to getting traditionally published? Don’t you wish someone could say, “If you just keep at it for three more years, you’re certain to make it!” Or, even if it would be heartbreaking, wouldn’t it be nice to be told that you’re wasting your time, so that you can move on, try another tack (like self-publishing), or perhaps even change course entirely to produce some other creative work?