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1. 10 Writing Techniques from Bram Stoker’s Dracula

9781599631431_5inch_300dpiOctober conjures up images of crackling fires, shivering leaves, the grinning teeth of a jack-o-lantern … and, if you’re a fan of classic horror, that iconic, fanged master of the night, Count Dracula. We feel there’s no better time than October—National Dracula Month—to share some writing tips and techniques that authors can learn from Dracula and apply to their own horror stories.

As you read this excerpt from chapter one of Dracula, try reading Bram Stoker’s text first, and then go back and read it again, this time pausing to digest the annotations from Mort Castle, in red.

Thirsty for more? Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics: Dracula, by Bram Stoker with annotations by Mort Castle, is available now! More than just an annotated version of the novel, this edition presents sharply focused, valuable techniques for writers who want to learn more about the techniques Bram Stoker used—and why he applied them.

JONATHAN HARKER’S JOURNAL

(Kept in shorthand) [1]

[1] That Harker’s diary is kept in “shorthand” immediately reveals something of the man’s personality: With shorthand, he can record his impressions rapidly. Even a modern, ultra-fast-paced, totally plot-driven thriller has to have some characterization by finding small ways to provide “a bit of character” such as this.

3 May. Bistritz.Left Munich at 8:35 P.M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; [2] should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible. The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule. [3]  

[2] Stoker, had he been writing in our era, might well have launched Dracula far later into the story at a much more dramatic moment, giving us, perhaps, Harker’s escape from Castle Dracula.

Television and films frequently use a technique called in medias res, starting “in the middle of things” (from the Latin) in order to hook the audience. Then, with the hook set, the writer fills in, usually via flashback, what readers need to know to get back to “the middle of things.” (More about flashbacks later.) Modern fiction writers have latched onto this technique. Beginning writers often begin way before the true beginning of the action. It is a typical flaw. What Stoker gives us here is almost in medias res; while there is no great dramatic action, Harker is placed in a physical location at a specific time. We know he is a traveling man, and we sense that he is a man on a mission. After all, he is concerned about the trains running on time. He has, we sense, places to go, people to see, things to do.

The narrative arc of the story has just about commenced.

[3] Observe, writer, an absolutely masterful transition. Transitions get characters (and readers) from “there” to “here,” from “then” to “now.” It is easy to mess up transitions by thinking it necessary to detail every moment/movement between “there” and “here” and “then” and “now.” That is simply not so.

It will keep the story moving to simply write the equivalent of: He took the bus across town. This is Stoker transitioning a la “took the bus across town,” and it offers something more than a movement between locales: It shows Harker’s journey from the familiar Western European locales to the exotic East.

We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem. get recipe for Mina.) [4] I asked the waiter, and he said it was called “paprika hendl,” and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians. I found my smattering of German very useful here, indeed, I don’t know how I should be able to get on without it.

[4] It is with Harker’s little note to self that he begins to really come alive. This little note of domesticity reveals much of just who Husbandly Harker is. We start to like him because we are getting to know him.

A well-developed fictional character is someone who is every bit as alive and just as unique an individual as anyone we know—really well—out here in RealityLand. When a character is well done, we get to know the character so well that we like or dislike, love or hate him.

Having had some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made search among the books and maps in the library regarding Transylvania; [5] it had struck me that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a nobleman of that country. I find that the district he named is in the extreme east of the country, just on the borders of three states, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Bukovina, in the midst of the Carpathian mountains; one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe. I was not able to light on any map or work giving the exact locality of the Castle Dracula, as there are no maps of this country as yet to compare with our own Ordnance Survey Maps; but I found that Bistritz, the post town named by Count Dracula, is a fairly well-known place. I shall enter here some of my notes, as they may refresh my memory when I talk over my travels with Mina.

[5] Time to bring it out, this Ancient Commandment for All Writers: Write what you know.

You might be thinking: But Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania.

And if a writer doesn’t know it, he or she must conduct research. We must therefore assume Stoker, like Harker, did serious research—research on a deeper level than might be provided even by that respected canon of our time, Wikipedia. It’s credibility that is at stake. (At stake … sorry. Can’t help it!) You never want your reader to think that you, the author, do not know what you are writing about.

In the population of Transylvania there are four distinct nationalities: Saxons in the South, and mixed with them the Wallachs, who are the descendants of the Dacians; Magyars in the West, and Szekelys in the East and North. I am going among the latter, who claim to be descended from Attila and the Huns. This may be so, for when the Magyars conquered the country in the eleventh century they found the Huns settled in it. I read that every known superstition [6] in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting. (Mem., I must ask the Count all about them.)

[6] With the derisive word superstition, Harker reveals himself again as a sober and reasonable man. He’s preparing us for his becoming royally unhinged not so long from now. This is foreshadowing, albeit done in a subtle manner.

Effective foreshadowing can give readers the feeling of “uh-oh” long before a character has any such feeling. It can therefore contribute to the mood of a scene and build suspense.

I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams. [7] There was a dog howling all night under my window, which may have had something to do with it; or it may have been the paprika, for I had to drink up all the water in my carafe, and was still thirsty. Towards morning I slept and was wakened by the continuous knocking at my door, so I guess I must have been sleeping soundly then. I had for breakfast more paprika, and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was “mamaliga”, and egg-plant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which they call “impletata”. (Mem., get recipe for this also.) [8] I had to hurry breakfast, for the train started a little before eight, or rather it ought to have done so, for after rushing to the station at 7:30 I had to sit in the carriage for more than an hour before we began to move. It seems to me that the further east you go the more unpunctual are the trains. What ought they to be in China?

[7] Queer dreams = Foreshadowing again. These are unusual dreams, somewhat disconcerting dreams, strange dreams … they are not horrible dreams that bring on sweats and shrieks. Were Harker to be in such an elevated emotional state at this early point in the narrative, it would be nearly impossible to build to the sustained claustrophobically smothering terror that falls upon him when he becomes the Count’s guest/prisoner.

[8] A fundamental writing rule: Show, don’t tell. If your words put a picture on the reader’s mental movie screen, you are following the rule. If you evoke a sensory response in the reader, you engage the reader.

Author David Morrell advises in any significant scene—that is, one meant to be memorable and not just “something happens”—that it’s a good idea to come up with three sensory triggers.

All day long we seemed to dawdle through a country which was full of beauty of every kind. Sometimes we saw little towns or castles on the top of steep hills such as we see in old missals; sometimes we ran by rivers and streams which seemed from the wide stony margin on each side of them to be subject to great floods. It takes a lot of water, and running strong, to sweep the outside edge of a river clear. At every station there were groups of people, sometimes crowds, and in all sorts of attire. Some of them were just like the peasants at home or those I saw coming through France and Germany, with short jackets, and round hats, and home-made trousers; but others were very picturesque. The women looked pretty, except when you got near them, but they were very clumsy about the waist. They had all full white sleeves of some kind or other, and most of them had big belts with a lot of strips of something fluttering from them like the dresses in a ballet, but of course there were petticoats under them. The strangest figures we saw were the Slovaks, who were more barbarian than the rest, with their big cow-boy hats, great baggy dirty-white trousers, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails. They wore high boots, with their trousers tucked into them, and had long black hair and heavy black moustaches. They are very picturesque, but do not look prepossessing. On the stage they would be set down at once as some old Oriental band of brigands. They are, however, I am told, very harmless and rather wanting in natural self-assertion.

It was on the dark side of twilight when we got to Bistritz, which is a very interesting old place. Being practically on the frontier—for the Borgo Pass leads from it into Bukovina—it has had a very stormy existence, and it certainly shows marks of it. Fifty years ago a series of great fires took place, which made terrible havoc on five separate occasions. At the very beginning of the seventeenth century it underwent a siege of three weeks and lost 13,000 people, the casualties of war proper being assisted by famine and disease. [9]

[9] One more splendid transition. There is not a wasted word here, yet Harker and readers travel from 8:30 in the morning until past twilight, from Klausenberg to Bistritz.

Count Dracula had directed me to go to the Golden Krone Hotel, which I found, to my great delight, to be thoroughly old-fashioned, for of course I wanted to see all I could of the ways of the country. I was evidently expected, for when I got near the door I faced a cheery-looking elderly woman in the usual peasant dress—white undergarment with a long double apron, front, and back, of coloured stuff fitting almost too tight for modesty. When I came close she bowed and said, “The Herr Englishman?” “Yes,” I said, “Jonathan Harker.”

She smiled, and gave some message to an elderly man in white shirtsleeves, who had followed her to the door. He went, but immediately returned with a letter—

“My friend.—Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. Sleep well tonight. At three tomorrow the diligence will start for Bukovina; a place on it is kept for you. At the Borgo Pass my carriage will await you and will bring you to me. I trust that your journey from London has been a happy one, and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.

“Your friend,

“Dracula.” [10]  

[10] Here Stoker chooses to use subtle irony. Whatever Dracula is, he is no friend to Harker. As a writer, you can do a lot with irony. For example, how many patients likely heard Hannibal Lecter say he wanted to help them?


Rachel Randall is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest Books. Her favorite holiday is Halloween.

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2. How to Make the Most of Any Writing Conference

If you’re going to invest in attending a writing conference, you’ll want to be sure to make it worth your while. And who knows better how you can do that than the people who make it all possible? Here, coordinators from 10 top events reveal their best insider tips on how to prepare, network, maximize your time and even dress to impress.

*********************************************************************************************************************************
LindaWater1-300x226This guest post is by Linda Formichelli (lindaformichelli.com), co-author of The Renegade Writer. She has been a full-time freelancer since 1997 and has written for more than 150 magazines and websites, including USA Weekend, Inc., Health, Redbook, WebMD, Cleveland Clinic Magazine, Pizza Today, Women’s Health, Family Circle, and Writer’s Digest. She’s also co-authored eight books, has done copywriting and content marketing for companies like OnStar and Pizzeria Uno, and has blogged professionally.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

1. GET IN THE RIGHT MINDSET.
“Writers make two big mistakes at conferences. The first is taking it all too seriously. Some folks are so overwhelmed with being at the conference [that] they forget to enjoy, learn and laugh. On the last day I see some [attendees] close to tears because they missed the trees for the forest. However, the other big mistake is being too laid back and too comfortable and forgetting the goal of getting published. While there are cocktail times and plenty of opportunities to mingle, publishing is a business.”

—CARRIE McCULLOUGH,
South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference
(Myrtle Beach, S.C., myscww.org/conference)

2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
“Google the writers, editors and agents [who will be featured at the conference] and [get] a good sense of what they’ve written, what kind of publications they edit and what kinds of writers they represent. At Book Passage, for example, we have a mix of newspaper, magazine and online editors, so wise students will spend time researching the different publications and websites. That way they can home in on the three or four people they want to be sure to meet and talk to, and they can come up with some questions they really want to get answered. The writers, editors and agents really appreciate it when the students they speak with are already familiar with their work.”

—DON GEORGE,
Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference
(Corte Madera, Calif., bookpassage.com/classes/twc.htm)

3. COME PREPARED.
“If you have a manuscript, bring it! You can’t sell it if it’s sitting at home on your desk. The second thing not to forget is your business card—with your photo on it. A lot of people remember faces and not names, so that’s very helpful. The third thing to bring is a notepad and pen. There are many wonderful workshops, and you’ll want to take lots of notes.”

—DONNA YOUNG,
Society of Southwestern Authors’ Wrangling With Writing
(Tucson, Ariz., ssa-az.org/conference.htm)

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

4. BE PROFESSIONAL.
“Dress should reflect each writer’s own signature style. Professional casual is universal and generally makes a good impression. When meeting editors and agents, remember your manners, and don’t rush them or forget that perhaps they need a little break.
“Finally, attend the opening cere-monies banquet. That way you may sit with other authors and speakers from around the country.”

—ELIZABETH BLAHNIK,
Scribblers’ Retreat Writers’ Conference
(St. Simons Island, Ga., scribblersretreatwritersconference.com)

5. BE REALISTIC.
“The biggest mistake writers make … [is to] have unreasonable expectations. [Don't] count on meeting your agent, signing with them and having them sell your work before the conference is over. That just doesn’t happen. And don’t set your heart on meeting/signing with just one agent or editor—you never know who you’ll meet who will like your work. If you don’t meet up with your heart’s desire, reach out and write to him or her after the conference.”

—ELIZABETH POMADA,
San Francisco Writers Conference

6. SET GOALS UP FRONT.
“When deciding on a conference to attend, research the type of conference that suits your needs and ask trusted friends for recommendations. At the conference, decide where you want to focus—for example, more time to generate work, more mentoring or increased contact with other writers. Once there, open yourself to learning.”

—JOAN HOULIHAN,
The Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference
(Colrain, Mass., colrainpoetry.com)

[Here's a great article on how to structure a killer novel ending.]

7. BE COURTEOUS.
“When approaching editors and agents, ask if they want to be solicited, and then listen to their answers. Don’t try to pitch right there—ask how they like to be approached (e-mail, text, phone) and then do exactly as they say. My pet peeve is someone who asks how they should get in touch with me, I give them my e-mail, and then they send me messages on Facebook or Twitter. Or they ask me to e-mail them! That is so not going to happen.”

—MARTHA FRANKEL,
Woodstock Writers Festival
(Woodstock, N.Y., woodstockwritersfestival.com)

8. MAKE CONNECTIONS.
“Even if you’re an introvert, push yourself to talk to everyone around you. You’ll triple what you learn, make friends and get tips you couldn’t get any other way. When you get home, send a little two- to three-line ‘so glad to have met you’ e-mail, and then stay in touch with the writers you met.

“If you have a writing specialty, and the person you’re talking with has another, midway through the conversation—not right at first, which could be construed as ‘dissing’ [someone]—ask, ‘Do you know anyone here who writes about X, as I do? Will you introduce me, or point them out?’ ”

—SALLEY SHANNON,
American Society of Journalists and Authors Writers Conference
(New York, asja.org/wc)

9. NETWORK NATURALLY.
“Avoid thinking of it as networking. You’re there to meet like-minded folks also struggling to discover what the world means and how to then communicate some form of that back to the world. Networking is a business word from the business world, and it’s essentially empty. During pitch sessions, don’t come off like a desperate freshman pawing at the most popular cheerleader. Sales don’t happen at conferences, either. It might be good to remember that.”

—CHESTON KNAPP,
Tin House Summer Writers Workshop
(Portland, Ore., tinhouse.com/workshop)

10. PERFECT YOUR PITCH.
“If the conference offers editor or agent pitch sessions, have a clean, crisp three-sentence pitch for your project: title, hook, basic premise. Practice the pitch in the mirror and on fellow writers. Do not tell the agent or editor how much money you’ll make for him or her, or compare yourself to famous, bestselling novelists. … Don’t whip out the whole manuscript, but do have a few opening pages handy just in case the agent or editor asks. Allow enough time for the agent or editor to ask you questions!”

—SHARON SHORT,
Antioch Writers’ Workshop
(Yellow Springs, Ohio, antiochwritersworkshop.com)
Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.53.57 AM
Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

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3. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 285

For today’s prompt, write a foundation poem. This could be a poem that reinforces a solid foundation of morals and high ideals. Or it could be about a foundation in the organizational sense (Arthritis Foundation, CDC Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Or heck, write a poem about pouring a concrete foundation.

*****

Write a poem for a chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25 poems.

The deadline is October 31.

Click here to learn more.

*****

Here’s my attempt at a Foundation Poem:

“Fred”

Fred was the first name of my fictional
older brother who when put in the same

unique situations as I was could
never seem to avoid ultimately

dying. Knives killed Fred, so did plastic bags
and even the toilet when it was flushed

too often and now that I have children
it appears Fred has been resurrected

only to come to the same grisly ends
never once learning the lessons we did.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53).

He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He has found that a good acrostic sometimes can be the perfect cure for a case of writer’s block.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetic goodies here:

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4. The 2015 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market Is Out — Here Are 8 Reasons to Buy It (and Naturally I’m Giving Away Books!)

The 2015 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market is out and available in major bookstores! What better way to celebrate its release than a giveaway contest? The CWIM a great resource guide for writers of picture books and novels for kids (young adult, middle grade) as well as illustrators.

The new 2015 edition of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market is updated and packed with info. Now in its 27th year, the newest edition still provides great market and submission/contact information for book publishers, art reps, international publishers, literary agents, contests, magazines, conferences and more. In addition to hundreds of markets for your kids book, this new edition has the following:

  • Interviews with some of today’s most amazing writers and illustrators, such as Lauren DeStefano (Wither series), illustrator Loren Long (Of Thee I Sing with Barack Obama), and Kathy Appelt (The True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp), among many others.
  • Interviews with 13 debut authors, explaining how they came to get their picture books, middle grade, board books, and young adult books published. Hear their stories and learn from them.
  • Interviews with 9 debut book illustrators, explaining how they came to see their work come to life. Hear from their stories and learn from them.
  • Instructional articles on Writing For Boys (and Other “Reluctant Readers”), How to Write a Query Letter, Your Presence on the Web (Connecting With Readers), How to Write & Sell Nonfiction, Middle Grade vs. Young Adult, Tips on Selling Your First Children’s Picture Book, and more.
  • “New Agent Spotlights” that pinpoint new/newer literary reps who are actively seeking submissions and clients NOW.
  • A supplemental webinar all about how to revise & self-edit your own work to make it amazing before you submit. The webinar was recorded by contributing editor Harold Underdown, who runs The Purple Crayon website.
  • And much more.

Buy it here! (It is available wherever books are sold, including Barnes & Noble or on Amazon, but know that when you order any product from our Writer’s Digest shop, you get the same deep discount you find on Amazon.) Need more reasons to buy? How about 8 darn good testimonials below from these very cool people, many of which are bestsellers, and some of which have even had movies made out of their books.

THE GIVEAWAY!!! Comment on this post and just say anything nice about any element of Writer’s Digest you enjoy — from a blog post to a class or a book or anything else. In two weeks, I will pick 3 winners randomly to win a copy of the book! It’s that easy. Note: If you share news of the contest on Twitter, you’re entered into the contest twice instead of once. To do this, simply share this tweet — The 2015 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market is out now! Giveaway contest: http://tinyurl.com/lj72wx9 – via @chucksambuchino — and then comment on this post and leave your Twitter handle in your blog comment.

2015 CWIM bigger

 

 

        

“Whenever anyone asks for publishing advice,
I tell them to grab the latest edition of Children’s
Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market
.”

- JAY ASHER, author of the #1 New York
Times bestseller 13 Reasons Why

and The Future of Us

 

          

CWIM is a great resource for artists and writers
who are ready to share their talent with the world.”

- MEG CABOT, author of multiple #1 New York Times
bestsellers, including the Princess Diaries series

          

CWIM is an invaluable resource for any aspiring
writer hoping to get published. It helped me a lot
and I recommend it to everyone.”

- JAMES DASHNER, New York Times best-selling
author of The Maze Runner series, the first book of which
is soon to be a major motion picture.

 

 

       

Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market is invaluable
for writers of children’s books. Chock-full of publishing
resources, it’s a must-have.”

- BECCA FITZPATRICK, author of Hush-Hush
and Crescendo

 

 

    

“If you’re serious about writing or illustrating for
young people, the information, tools and insights
within the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market
will get you started on the right path.”

- WENDY TOLIVER, author of Lifted

        

Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market has all the things
a new writer needs to know about the business, like who’s
who and how to submit to agents and publishers, but it also
has all the intangibles, like advice and encouragement.
Buy it for the information, keep it for the inspiration.”

- JOSEPHINE ANGELINI, international
bestselling author of Starcrossed.

 

       

“Chuck Sambuchino’s Children’s Writer’s and
Illustrator’s Market has all you need to
master the publishing process.”

- JULIE CANTRELL, New York Times and
USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free

 

          

“In my pre-published days (and there were many), purchasing
and perusing the new edition of the Children’s Writer’s &
Illustrator’s Market
guide was such a hopeful time of year
for me.  I really got my optimistic juices flowing while reading
the articles and highlighting names of editors and agents.
You’re part of a great publication!”

- CLARE VANDERPOOL author of the
young adult novel, NAVIGATING EARLY
(Delacorte, 2013)

 

 

Pick up the 2015 edition of CWIM here!

 

2015 CWIM bigger

 

THE GIVEAWAY!!! Comment on this post and just say anything nice about any element of Writer’s Digest you enjoy — from a blog post to a class or a book or anything else. In two weeks, I will pick 3 winners randomly to win a copy of the book! It’s that easy. Note: If you share news of the contest on Twitter, you’re entered into the contest twice instead of once. To do this, simply share this tweet — The 2015 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market is out now! Giveaway contest: x — via @chucksambuchino — and then comment on this post and leave your Twitter handle in your blog comment.

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5. WD Poetic Form Challenge: Gogyohka

You knew it was coming: another poetic form challenge. And, as you may have guessed, we’ll focus on the concise (but liberated) gogyohka this time around. Click here to read the guidelines on writing the gogyohka.

Since it’s such a short form, I’m expecting a lot of submissions. Plus, I’m hoping I can fit in a runner-up or two this time around. So start writing them and sharing here on the blog (this specific post) for a chance to be published in Writer’s Digest magazine–as part of the Poetic Asides column. (Note: You have to log in to the site to post comments/poems; creating an account is free.)

Here’s how the challenge works:

  • Challenge is free. No entry fee.
  • The winner (and sometimes a runner-up or two) will be featured in a future edition of Writer’s Digest magazine as part of the Poetic Asides column.
  • Deadline 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time) on November 3, 2014.
  • Poets can enter as many gogyohkas as they wish. The more “work” you make for me the better, but remember: I’m judging on quality, not quantity.
  • All poems should be previously unpublished. If you have a specific question about your specific situation, just send me an e-mail at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com. Or just write a new gogyohka.
  • I will only consider gogyohkas shared in the comments below. It gets too confusing for me to check other posts, go to other blogs, etc.
  • Speaking of posting, if this is your first time, your comment may not appear immediately. However, it should appear within a day (or 3–if shared on the weekend). So just hang tight, and it should appear eventually. If not, send me an e-mail at the address above.
  • Please include your name as you would like it to appear in print. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to use your user/screen name, which might be something like HaikuPrincess007 or MrLineBreaker. WD has a healthy circulation, so make it easy for me to get your byline correct.
  • Finally–and most importantly–be sure to have fun!

******

Win $1,000 for Your Poetry!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25.

The deadline is October 31. Enter as often as you’d like; win as much as you can.

Important note: This is separate from the gogyohka challenge. The Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards is open to all forms, styles, subjects, etc. So enter your haiku, free verse, and so on.

Click here to learn more.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53).

He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He loves learning new poetic forms, sharing them with the Poetic Asides poets, and then with the world (through Writer’s Digest magazine).

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Find more poetic treats here:

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6. 3 Ways to Increase Your Daily Word Count While Away From Your Computer

Image by Beliroz, deviantART, courtesy of a Creative Commons License: http://beliroz.deviantart.com/art/Keyboard-in-the-night-183881657

Image by Beliroz, deviantART, courtesy of a Creative Commons License: http://beliroz.deviantart.com/art/Keyboard-in-the-night-183881657

While I’ll be cheering on NaNoWriMo participants from the sidelines this year rather than joining the race, I am forever looking for ways to expand my own daily word count—not just in November, but all 12 months of the year. My goals may be more modest (while they fluctuate depending on my work-in-progress and what stage it’s in, I currently aim for an average of 1,000 words a day, six days a week), but with a full-time job and a family, they’re not easy to meet.

When people find out I’ve got a novel in progress, they inevitably stop to take in my energetic 3-year-old boy, already-almost-walking 9-month-old girl, and full-time job overseeing Writer’s Digest magazine and say the same thing: Wow, you have your hands full.

I do. Literally. If I’m not in the office, you can often find me with a giggling, hair-pulling baby in my arms, a pot on the stove (or, um, the pizza guy on the phone), and a little boy dressed as a superhero tugging on my pant leg.

So for me, pushing my daily word count is about finding ways to write in between the times when I can actually sit uninterrupted at my laptop. Here are three methods that work for me—and may just work for you, too.

1. Ms. Phone, please take a letter …

On TV commercials, people talk to their phones to find out where the nearest Chinese restaurant is or to remind themselves to buy flowers for their anniversary. I talk to my phone to record ideas for fictional scenes that pop into my head at random moments of the day. Snippets of dialogue, emotional descriptions and plot notes all get recorded to be sure they don’t evaporate before I can get to my keyboard.

On my drive home from work, I have about 15 minutes of quiet time alone in the car until I pull into the daycare. Sure, sometimes I listen to music, or NPR news. But especially if I don’t yet know what scene I’m going to tackle after the kids are in bed that night, I like to use this time to brainstorm. Hands-free, I’ll dictate what comes to me into my phone. I once “wrote” 650 words between quitting time at work and pickup time at daycare. Sure, there were lots of misunderstood words and typos to correct—no voice command app is perfect—but when I do get to the computer, cleaning up the copy is far easier than starting from scratch.

2. Go go Gadget keyboard …

There are other times—say, if a baby is napping on my shoulder—that I can get my hands free but not balance a full-sized laptop on my lap. And we’ve all had those moments when we don’t have our computers in reach when inspiration strikes—but we do happen to have a tablet or smartphone with us, so we try to peck out the words on our touch screens as fast as we can, all the while grumbling that our fingers can’t catch up to our brains.

That’s where my Bluetooth keyboard comes in. I got one for my birthday back in August, and my husband is still pretty proud of himself for how much I rave about it. For only about $30, it came with a slim case and slips easily into my purse. No matter where you are, simply pair it with whatever device you have on hand, and voila! You can actually type out a scene or notes at full speed. When I have my Bluetooth keyboard along, I no longer mind if a friend is late to meet me for lunch, or if my dentist leaves me in the waiting room. In fact, sometimes I’m secretly glad.

3. Note to self …

It is one of the stranger side effects of the writing life that I email myself perhaps more than I send messages to anyone else. But every day, no matter how busy I am, whether I’m using one of the methods above or another, I try to at the very least send myself the briefest of notes regarding what my next scene will be.

At worst, when I sit down at my keyboard later, I’ll have some kind of starting point, rather than a blank screen (and a blank brain). At best, if I’ve gotten a little carried away with my note taking, my scene might already be half-written.

What I’ve found is this: Whether you’re a “pantser” or a plotter (or, in my case, a little of both), when you sit down to write with SOME kind of notes in front of you, you’ll spend less time getting in the groove and more time churning out words.

The November/December Writer’s Digest magazine is filled with Tips and Inspiration to Write a Book in a Month, including advice for developing a write-a-thon strategy and keeping the words coming. If you’re looking to increase your productivity or planning for NaNoWriMo, check out a preview in the Writer’s Digest Shop, download it instantly, or find it on a newsstand near you.

What about you? How do you increase your daily word count? From one hands-full writer to another, I invite you to leave your own tips in a comment below—we can all use all the help we can get!

Happy Writing,
Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine
Follow me on Twitter: @jessicastrawser

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7. Creaks and Freaks

Your house always had that spooky charm, what with the old chandeliers, cobwebs everywhere and the occasional knock no one could identify. Well that all came crashing back into your head as you looked down the dark hallway and heard something shuffling towards you in the darkness. Oh and it’s picking up speed. What do you do? What do you see?

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

Order now from our shop.

 

 

 

 

 

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8. Gogyohka: Poetic Form

If only a poetic form existed that could be both concise and free. Oh wait a second, there’s gogyohka!

Gogyohka was a form developed by Enta Kusakabe in Japan and translates literally to “five-line poem.” An off-shoot of the tanka form, the gogyohka has very simple rules: The poem is comprised of five lines with one phrase per line. That’s it.

*****

Write a poem for a chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25 poems.

The deadline is October 31.

Click here to learn more.

*****

What constitutes a phrase in gogyohka?

From the examples I’ve seen of the form, the definition of phrase is in the eye of the beholder. A compound or complex sentence is probably too long, but I’ve seen phrases as short as one word and others more than five words.

So it’s a little loose, which is kind of the theory behind gogyohka. It’s meant to be concise (five lines) but free (variable line length with each phrase). No special seasonal or cutting words. No subject matter constraints. Just five lines of poetic phrases.

Here’s my attempt at a Gogyohka:

“Halloween”

Ghosts hang
from the willow
as the children run
from one door
to the next.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53).

He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He is building a haunted house in his two-car garage with the assistance of his little poets, who are also spooky little creatives when it comes to Halloween decorating.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

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9. New Literary Agent Alert: Alec Shane of Writers House

Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Alec Shane of Writers House) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

 

alec-shane-literary-agent

 

About Alec: Alec majored in English at Brown University, a degree he put to immediate use by moving to Los Angeles after graduation to become a professional stunt man. Realizing that he prefers books to breakaway glass, he moved to New York City in 2008 to pursue a career in publishing. Alec quickly found a home at Writers House Literary Agency, where he worked under Jodi Reamer and Amy Berkower on a large number of YA and Adult titles. Twitter handle: @alecdshane.

(Writing a synopsis for your novel? Here are 5 tips.)

He is seeking: Alec is now aggressively building his own list. On the nonfiction side, Alec would love to see humor, biography, history (particularly military history), true crime, “guy” reads, and all things sports. “What I’m looking for in fiction: mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, historical fiction, literary fiction, and books geared toward young male readers (both YA and MG). What I’m not looking for: Romance (paranormal or otherwise), straight sci-fi, high fantasy, picture books, self-help, women’s fiction, food, travel memoir.”

Submission guidelines:  I accept e-mail and snail-mail queries (although email is preferable), and will usually respond within 4-5 weeks. Please send the first 10 pages of your manuscript, along with your query letter, to ashane [at] writershouse.com with “Query for Alec Shane: TITLE” as your subject heading – no attachments please! If sending via regular mail, please include a SASE with proper postage.

(When building your writer platform and online media, how much growth is enough?)

 

2015-GLA-smallThe biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

 

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10. How I Got My Literary Agent: Rebecca Brooks

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Rebecca Brooks, author of the erotic romance, ABOVE ALL. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Rebecca is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 1.13.07 PM Rebecca Brooks has backpacked alone through India and Brazil, traveled by
cargo boat down the Amazon River, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, explored ice caves
in Peru, trekked to the source of the Ganges, and sunbathed in Burma. Her first
novel, ABOVE ALL, (Ellora’s Cave, July 2014) has been called “a beautifully
powerful story,” “SEXellent,” and “a thinking woman’s romance.” Her books
are about independent women who leave their old lives behind to try something
new. Find her on Facebook, Twitter @BeccaBooks, and Goodreads.

 

 

 

The First Query

When I finished my contemporary erotic romance, Above All, I knew I didn’t want to send a million queries only to realize after a million rejections that there was more I could to do my opening pages and pitch. So I did my research and picked 10 agents that I thought were really top notch. When the first agent I contacted wrote back immediately requesting the full, I thought for sure I was on my way.

I decided to also submit the manuscript directly to 3 romance publishers that accept unagented submissions. There are different schools of thought about this. If a publisher rejects the book, an agent can’t pitch it to them later. But I wanted to explore all my options. What did I have to lose?

(How many agents should you contact at one time?)

One agent I especially had my eye on was Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger. She has a great track record and works in a variety of genres. Above All is steamy, but it also has a strong story component. As more of a crossover between romance and women’s fiction, it seemed like a great fit for her. I waited anxiously for her response. The first agent had been so enthusiastic. Why wasn’t my inbox filled with requests?

You can guess where this is going. I got form rejections or radio silence from every other agent. The one interested agent passed. Andrea didn’t even want to see the full.

I could have continued to query—10 isn’t a very large sampling—but I decided to put the manuscript aside for a while. I hoped that if I came back to it in a few months, I’d be able to see what was missing. I truly believed in Above All, but I needed some distance before deciding what to do next.

The Book Deal

Five months passed and I was hard at work on my second romance, How to Fall. Out of nowhere one evening I got an email from Ellora’s Cave, one of the publishers I’d submitted to and the last I had to hear from. I admit that I barely bothered to read the email. When I saw “Thank you for your submission,” I thought, Oh well. It was worth a try.

But then the next line said “Congratulations.” I was so confused. It took a few more readings for it to sink in. Ellora’s Cave had accepted my novel. I’d completely skipped the agent stage. I was going to be published.

(See a list of literary agents who seek romance.)

The Second Query

I didn’t need an agent anymore. I had an editor at Ellora’s Cave who was great. I’d also connected with another agent who agreed to negotiate the contract even if she didn’t represent me. But I still wanted an agent. I wanted someone to help me build my career and navigate the publishing world beyond my first novel. So I set out to query again.

What a different experience. Thirty minutes after I pressed send, Andrea requested the full. Three days later, she sent me an email that made me cry. (Admittedly I’d been pretty stressed out, but still. It was a really nice email.) Not only did she love Above All, but she really got what my writing is about. I contacted other agents who had the manuscript to let them know, but after two long phone conversations with Andrea, it was an easy decision.

I’m not saying that if you’re looking for an agent, go snag a book deal first. Nor is the idea to bombard the same agents with repeat queries because surely they’ll like the book if they only sit down and read it. My point is that the process from book to agent to publisher—or from book to publisher to agent—can be roundabout, slow, and full of surprises. I can’t say exactly what led Andrea to decline to read Above All the first time around. But I’m glad I tried her again. I like to think she’s happy that she gave it a second look, too.

GIVEAWAY: Rebecca is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

How to Blog a Book by Nina Amir discusses
how to slowly release a novel online to generate
interest in your writing and work.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

 

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11. The Short Leap from Fiction to Copywriting

Editor’s Note: The following content is provided to Writer’s Digest by a writing community partner. This content is sponsored by American Writers & Artists Inc. www.awaionline.com.

Curious how you go from writing fiction to writing copy?

Meet Pat McCord …

A successful published fiction writer who successfully made the leap to well-paid freelance copywriter – and back again!

Rebecca

pat_mccord-150

Pat Mccord

I knew I wanted to write fiction by the time I was twelve. I’d sit out back with my older sister and craft “novels” divided into real chapters, reading each page to her as it came off the end of my yellow pencil. She seemed to love every word I wrote, and that didn’t change when years later I mailed her my first published books.

The assumption that I’d one day make a living as a writer was a given in my family. What they didn’t know, and I didn’t know at the time either, was that the road to that obvious outcome could involve detours when contracts were delayed, ideas shelved, or books went out of print.

I tried working in the corporate world, but that left me almost no time for my fiction. So mid-career I added copywriting to my bank of money-making skills. As a copywriter, I figured I’d be able to fill in the gaps in my income,

but I have to admit I was a little worried. Writing ad copy seemed so different at first. I wondered if I’d have to betray my art to make a living?

But, funniest thing, I’ve found more similarities between fiction writing and copywriting than I ever imagined. In fact, my background in creating fiction helped me make the leap, astonishingly fast, from novice to a well-paid copywriter with plenty of time to focus on my fiction.

With ad copy, nothing sells like a good story, especially if it has an emotional hook. Consider the dog trapped under storm rubble, rescued by The Humane Society. Or the woman who quits smoking for her worried kids by taking Chantix. People who feel the message are much more likely to say yes to a product or service.

By definition, writing stories comes naturally to us fiction writers. We know how to build suspense in a sentence or two, how to create memorable characters with just a few well-chosen details, and how to illicit emotion without relying on flat words like ‘afraid’ or ‘happy.’   The major difference is that with copywriting, the stories are not manufactured, they are true.

I also learned that effective copywriting uses a conversational tone–writing as if the reader is a friend sitting next to us, like chatting but more succinct. In other words dialog, what fiction writers produce every day. In fact, we think in dialog. Not everyone does.

Also, when we write fiction, we may not realize we’re selling, but in fact we are. We must create locations vivid enough that readers can believe they are orbiting Jupiter or in 1865 Appomadox. That’s selling. And we have to sell our characters as good guys, bad guys or something in between.

So the feared betrayal has never happened. In fact, one skill enhances the other, and that recently included producing the rough draft of a mystery novel in 84 days—quick, to the point, with an economy of words. . . like any good copywriter.

To your writing success,

Pat McCord

 

 

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12. Four Tips for Writing for the Romance Market

After writing literary short fiction and then six contemporary novels, my then-agent told me to go henceforth and write a romance. A romance? I thought. Really?

After more discussion, I thought what a lark! What a gas! How fun and surely, how easy. I was under the assumption that I could write a romance in my sleep, no matter I hadn’t read one since 1978, the last being the classic The Flame and the Flower. Yes, of course, I could do that. And wasn’t Jane Austen my favorite writer? And wasn’t Pride and Prejudice just a romance at its core?

*********************************************************************************************************************************
howtobake-5_5x8_5 Jessica-authorphotoThis guest post is by Jessica Barksdale Inclán, author of the new novel, How to Bake a Man (Ghostwood Books/October 2014) as well as twelve critically acclaimed books, including the best-selling Her Daughter’s Eyes (YALSA Award Nominee), The Matter of Grace, and When You Believe. Her work had been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Czech. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Compose, Salt Hill Journal, The Coachella Review, Carve Magazine, Storyacious, Mason’s Road, and So to Speak. She is the recipient of Californian Arts Council Fellowship in Literature and a professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension. For more info, visit www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com.
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Yes, dear reader, you can already sense the conflict in my tale. Writing a romance (just like writing anything other than emails to friends) isn’t easy. In fact, I had to read every romance in my local library, sitting at the tables or slumped in the stacks. During my impromptu self-paced class, I learned a lot about plot and story from the romance writers. While I’m not writing romance these days, the lesson of action, conflict, climax (and then some) are lessons I use to this day.

After discarding my false notions about writing romance, I realized that many writers have assumptions about genres they haven’t even tried to write. Once a romance writer I met at a conference told me, nose up, that she never read literary fiction. “Nothing ever happens,” she said.

At a recent workshop, two literary writers compared romance novel excerpts to literary fiction and nonfiction selections. “How can you compare apples and watermelons?” I asked them. “These writers are doing something else!”

Frankly, I was appalled by all three writers. Literary or romantic, all writing has something to teach us. So when I decided to try my hand at “chick lit,” I knew I would bring all my lessons with me. But then I added to the list. Here’s what I know after finishing How to Bake a Man.

[Here's a great article on how to structure a killer novel ending.]

1. Don’t write down to your audience.

While I might have had about a week’s worth of “romance is so easy,” I was wrong. All audiences are savvy in their preferred genre, and it’s not a good idea to insult them. Take as much time and care as you would with any writing project. Don’t decide that now you can use all the adverbs you want. Now is not the time to slip in your, “Meanwhile, across towns” and “Little did she knows.” Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back isn’t all there is to a love story of any kind. We all respond to good writing, regardless of genre.

 

2. Everything that you are embarrassed about–your failures, your social fax pas–are what we, the audience, want to read about. We relate.

There’s something endearing about main characters who are down-and-out, unlucky in love and life, struggling to figure out how to just keep going. The shame of not succeeding, of having very bad internet dating experiences, of fighting with parents and siblings, of getting fired, again, is what we also know and understand. Don’t bemoan writing what you know if you know all this. We do, too. And we thank you for putting it out there.

 

3. Don’t write expecting your mother to approve (I know, Mom. I know). We’ve all tried to get our mothers to approve of us and that hasn’t worked. Write as if Mom is on an extended vacation.

I understand if you haven’t explained to your mother the vagaries of dating. The slightly seedy one-night stands. Being stood up at Starbucks and spending a half-hour talking to the homeless veteran on crutches (Yes, me. And I used this situation in a short story). But those experiences transformed to fiction can lead you deeper into your character and plot. Maybe not to your mother’s heart. But she really doesn’t have to know about it.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

4. Small ideas (baking cookies, for instance) can lead to bigger ideas.

On Facebook recently, I was playing around with wild, blown up, ridiculous plot synopses. Here’s a bit of one of them:

Young vampire with leftist leanings searches for hope in the underworld. Little does he know, across town in heaven, a werewolf vixen with a penchant for blood pins her hopes on him after a chance sighting in the ether.

Wow. Where to even begin with that one? So start small. I started How to Bake a Man with cookies. My great-grandmother’s recipe, in fact. I thought about all I learned from my mother and what she learned from my grandmother. I thought about all that female power in the act of rolling out dough, just as women have been rolling out door for generations. Then I imagined a young woman just ripe and ready to change her life. Cookies. That was the thing.

So you don’t have to have the topic du jour, the platform of perfection, the weirdest of weird. Try with what is around you and see what happens next.

Writing in many genres has helped me fill my toolbox. Poetry, short stories, fiction of all kinds. I feel lucky to know enough to pull out a metaphor when I need to and a sex scene when necessary. I hope my list helps you, no matter what you’re writing.

On Writing RomanceIn This Book You’ll Learn:

— Detailed descriptions of more than 20 subcategories within the romance genre
— Tips for avoiding clichés
— How to create the perfect romantic couple
— Guidelines for drafting those all-important love scenes
— Submission information for breaking into the genre

CLICK HERE to download ON ROMANCE WRITING Now >>

 

 

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

 

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13. 15 Oscar Wilde Quotes About Reading, Writing and Books

IH001260Poet, playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde was born October 16, 1854 in Dublin. While his most famous works, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, live on, Wilde is most frequently remembered for his wit. Here are 15 of his best quotes for writers, readers and artists in honor of his 160th birthday.

 

1. All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.

2. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

3. If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

4. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.

5. The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.

6. An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

7. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

8. I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.

9. A poet can survive everything but a misprint.

10. Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless.

11. In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.

12. I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

13. With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?

14. The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.

15. A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.

If yours isn’t listed, share your favorite Wilde bon mot in the comments!


headshotWDAdrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.

 

 

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14. Sky Diving

The last thing you remember hearing before your friend thrust you out of the plane was: “Don’t forget your parachute!” That would be nice, though, instead of falling, you immediately begin hurtling upwards. With the stratosphere slowly approaching and your air running out, what do you do?

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

Order now from our shop.

 

 

 

 

 

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15. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 284

Before we get into today’s prompt, two things:

  1. I need to get a hold of Alana Sherman and Cameron Steele for their bios in the Poem Your Heart Out anthology/prompt/workbook. If you know how to contact them (or if you are them), please send me an e-mail at robert.brewer@fwcommunity.com. Thanks!
  2. Walter J. Wojtanik (a former Poetic Asides Poet Laureate and currently awesome poet) just released a collection of poems: Dead Poet… Once Removed. Click here to learn more and grab a copy of your very own.

For today’s prompt, write a pick up poem. In the poem, you could write about picking stuff up–like operating a crane or cleaning a bedroom. Or it could be about picking up someone at a bar. Or picking up the pace. Or whatever else you happen to pick up…on. Have fun!

*****

Write a poem for a chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25 poems.

The deadline is October 31.

Click here to learn more.

*****

Here’s my attempt at a Pick Up Poem:

“Disco Dracula”

Hey, baby, what’s your blood type?
You may be type O negative,
but you look type A to me.

Sorry, I don’t get out much
and when I do I have to
watch the time like Cinderella.

I do like walks in the park,
especially after dark,
but I’m not into watching

the sun rise. Or even set,
though that’s usually when I get
up and do my groove thing.

Yes, burn, baby, burn, that’s
why I avoid sunlight–
so that I can survive

off the village people
who hang near the YMCA
down in the funky town.

I agree; I’m a super freak
who can’t get enough of
your love, babe, please

don’t leave me this way.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53).

He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He is sometimes a little more slap happy than your typical poet and reads his poems in the voice of Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula (just because).

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

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16. 10 Tips for Fiction Writers from the 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market

9781599638416_5inch_300dpiThe 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, now in its 34th year, is hot off the presses, and today I’m sharing ten pieces of advice from the contributors to this year’s edition. NSSWM features articles on fiction craft, getting published, and marketing and promotion, as well as more than 400 pages of listings for novel and short story writers, including literary agents, book publishers, magazines, and contests that are interested in your work. This year’s edition also features access to an exclusive webinar from best-selling author Cheryl St.John, on exploring emotional high points in fiction.

To celebrate the release of the 2015 NSSWM, I’m giving away two copies to two lucky winners who comment in the post below! I’ll announce the winners on October 22. 

10 FICTION-WRITING TIPS FROM NSSWM

1. On writing an exceptional short story:

“Outline, even if it’s the most rudimentary way. It leads to inspired deviations. … [Don’t] think too hard about ticking off [your] boxes in advance. A good story—long or short—will provide them by virtue of its being good.” —Andrew Pyper, in Jennifer D. Foster’s article “Anatomy of a Successful Short Story”

2. On writing dialogue within a scene: 

“Rich dialogue can animate and drive a scene. But good dialogue doesn’t act in isolation. The point of view of the stakeholders in the matter at hand must be provocative or interesting in some way. There must be conflict—conflict important enough to make the reader care. And then, driven by this conflict, the characters must come alive, revealing their needs, desires, flaws—their basic humanity. The dialogue itself must be distinctive and original. When it’s not working, it tends to sound clunky and artificial.” —Jack Smith, “Writing Strong Scenes”

3. On finding ideas for magic realism: 

“Ever since I began writing, I’ve been a collector. Not of things—shells, stamps, figurines, stuffed monkeys, autographs, etc.—but of possibilities. Odd happenings and images from around the world and in my dreams that could—and often do—make their way into my writing. While many might be considered mundane observances, paired with the right character in the right situation, I know they’ll make terrifically fantastic occurrences. —Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, “Making Magic”

4. On getting through the mid-draft slump: 

“A mid-draft slump is a symptom, which calls for a diagnosis before you can effectively treat it. Believing you can write your way out of this mess, that you can rescue the middle with a strong closing act, is a seductive trap, because your reader may never make it that far. When that reader is an agent or an editor, this assumption becomes a fatal one.” —Larry Brooks, “Stuck in the Middle”

5. On developing a distinct point of view and voice: 

“Practice makes perfect, and the best way to practice is by writing short stories. Flash fiction (telling a full story in 1,000 words or less) is a great training tool.” —J.T. Ellison, in Janice Gable Bashman’s interview “Capturing Readers’ Interest”

6. On Twitter “pitch parties”: 

“As informal as social media can be, Brenda Drake emphasizes that writers need to treat pitch parties as professionally as any other submission. ‘Your manuscript should be completely polished. It has to have been through your beta readers and critique partners, and you should have revised it a few times,’ she says.” —Diane Shipley, “It Started With a Hashtag”

7. On what impresses literary journal editors: 

“I’m impressed by a writer who takes our theme, shakes it around, and throws it back at us in a way we were not expecting. Catching us off guard with good writing is rewarding. We all know what we want, but when we come across something we didn’t expect, something that cuts in a new and exciting way, that is a great way to attract attention.” —Todd Simmons, in James Duncan’s roundtable “What Literary Journals Really Look For”

8. On how to choose a small press to submit to: 

“Evaluate the content. If a small press is consistently putting out quality writing, chances are it has a solid editorial team. The amount of time it’s been in existence and its general reputation are helpful indicators, too.” —Robert Lee Brewer, “Sizing Up Small Presses”

9. On hybrid publishing: 

“Diversity means survival. That’s true in agriculture. It’s true in our stock portfolios. It’s true on our dinner plates. And it’s true in publishing. Survival as a writer means embracing diversity from the beginning. And that means thinking of yourself as a “hybrid” author. … The hybrid author takes a varied approach, utilizing the traditional system of publishing and acting as an author-publisher (a term I prefer to self-publisher because it signals the dual nature of the role you now inhabit).”  —Chuck Wendig, “Best of Both Worlds”

10. On organizing a virtual book tour: 

“You may find it helpful to assemble an ‘online media kit,’ a section of your website where you can provide photos and other relevant information, such as a video trailer and press release, in one location. This way, you can give your hosts a single link instead of inundating them with attachments … .” —Erika Dreifus, “10 Tips for Your Virtual Book Tour”

You can find the articles these tips came from, as well as hundreds of listings for book publishers, literary agents, magazines, contests, and writing conferences, inside the 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.

To celebrate the release of the 2015 NSSWM, I’m giving away two copies to two lucky winners who comment in the post below! I’ll announce the winners on October 22. 

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17. Correction: October 2014 Issue, “Find Your Agent Match”

In the annual agent roundup (October 2014 issue), John Willig of Literary Services Inc. was incorrectly listed as accepting a variety of fiction. Willig specializes in nonfiction. His full and accurate listing is as below.


John Willig
Literary Services, Inc.
literaryservicesinc.com
@JohnWillig

He is seeking: He works primarily in nonfiction (narrative and prescriptive): business, finance, personal growth, health, history, science and technology, psychology, politics and current events are of particular interest but certainly open to fresh presentations in other topic zones. He is also beginning to represent historical fiction—literary and crime/thriller.

How to submit: Send a concise e-mail that addresses two questions: 1) What is going to motivate a buyer/reader to spend $20-25 on your new book given all of their information choices? And by choices, address not just competing/related books but also think WebMD, HBR, HuffPo, blogs etc. This is especially relevant today for prescriptive nonfiction. 2) What is it about yourself and all of your professional activities and network that is going to convince an editor/publisher (and their marketing/PR group) that you will be an active promotion partner helping to reach potential buyers and extend the word of mouth buzz about your book in a very crowded and noisy global marketplace?

Recent sales: Speaking Politics: Decoding the Language of Washington, by Chuck McCutheon and David Mark, Speaking (University Press of New England, nonfiction); A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating, by Molly Fletcher (McGraw-Hill, nonfiction); Self-Care for Therapists, by Ashley Bush Davis (Norton, nonfiction).

Tip for writers: “I note at many writers’ conferences that I’m not just evaluating talent, potential and content but also character. Who I am working with and how they conduct themselves is critical and most experienced editors feel the same way. That being said, I always respect a writer who has done their homework—really focusing on what makes their work unique to a target audience vs. just stating that their book will be of broad appeal and is going to sell as well as all the bestsellers.”


Our sincerest apologies to Mr. Willig, our subscribers and readers. Please visit literaryservicesinc.com for more information.

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18. Tips and Inspiration to Write a Book in a Month

http://www.writersdigestshop.com/writers-digest-november-december-2014-groupedOne of the things I love about working at Writer’s Digest is the excitement each time a new issue hits newsstands. And it’s especially true with the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest–because this special guide to Writing a Book in a Month arrives just in time for November’s National Novel Writing Month challenge. Regardless of whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, counting down 30 Days to Your Novel on your own schedule, or simply looking to write your next draft faster, this is an issue you won’t want to miss.

Find Writing Inspiration and Confidence

As a parent of both a baby and a toddler, I am surrounded by constant reminders that a lot can happen in a month. Still, it never fails to astonish me. A reliance on wriggling as a means of transportation turns into a full-speed crawl on all fours. A tearful transition to a new preschool becomes an over-the-shoulder wave in a rush to join new friends around the train table. Skills grow or are replaced by new ones, routines change, habits are formed or dropped.

As I compiled the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest, filled with stories of big triumphs over short periods of time, it occurred to me that as adults, we don’t lose that ability to transform ourselves or our work—but we do tend to forget that we have it. And what a shame that is. Know this: Deep down, we are capable of taking more than baby steps. If we set our minds to it, we can cross major milestones in leaps and bounds. And that goes for our writing, too.

Writing a book in a month might sound a little crazy. In a way, I think that’s part of its allure—because write-a-thon challenges are steadily gaining in popularity. Every November 1, National Novel Writing Month’s online hub at NaNoWriMo.org draws nearly half a million writers worldwide in an attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. As NaNoWriMo director Grant Faulkner shares in this issue’s article “What Makes NaNoWriMo Work,” that solidarity is a big part of what keeps the challenge growing every year. Because no matter how hard you have (or haven’t) trained to prepare for this marathon, once the starting pistol fires everyone is pretty much in the same pack, throwing caution to the wind and cheering one another in one big, messy sprint to the far-away finish.

Of course, you don’t need a worldwide event to take a book-in-a-month challenge. And you don’t need to be writing a novel. Solo writers, partners and groups of all stripes do word count marathons year-round. We reached out to these writers and asked them to share their most profound lessons learned, and you’ll find the best of their firsthand advice in “Plan Your Own Write-a-Thon.” (In fact, we got more great advice than we had space to print! Read more tips and tales from the writing community in our online-exclusive outtakes, Write a Book in a Month: More Writers Share Their Experience & Advice.)

Once all that inspiration has you writing up a frenzy, we wanted to make sure you have some roadside assistance ready to help when you start to run out of gas—and that’s where Elizabeth Sims’ “21 Fast Hacks to Fuel Your Story With Suspense” comes in.

Your book idea might be in its infancy now, but take it from me—with some extra attention on your part, soon it can be surprising and delighting you with its strength, determination and newfound ability to stand on its own two feet, grinning from ear to ear.

Conquer Your Word Count Goals

Are you planning to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Looking to up your daily word counts just a bit in solidarity with those who are? We’d love to hear about your writing goals–leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!

Get your copy of the Write a Book in a Month! issue on your favorite newsstand, or download the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest right now.

Happy Writing,
Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine
Follow me on Twitter @jessicastrawser.

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19. To Text or Not to Text: How Much Should Technology Show Up in Fiction?

It’s obvious that technology in the last ten years or so has changed our daily lives to an extreme. Cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, texting…on and on the list goes, and it’s growing every day.  The way we communicate has been utterly transformed. Face-to-face interactions have decreased, while gadget-to-gadget interactions have increased. What does all this mean for the writer? Especially regarding our characters, and the way they communicate with each other inside our stories?

First, I think writers have to learn to walk the tightrope of not letting technology interfere too greatly with characters or plot, while at the same time being realistic with it.  For instance, it would be unthinkable not to have a single mention of a character using a cell phone in a contemporary story.  But how much technology is too much? Two main points worth considering, when it comes to characters and technology:

(Chapter 1 cliches and overused beginnings — see them all here.)

 

Screen shot 2014-10-12 at 1.10.26 PMColumn by Traci Borum, writing teacher and native Texan who’s an avid reader of
women’s fiction. She also adores all things British and even owns a British dog (Corgi).
She’s also completely addicted to Masterpiece Theater–must be all those dreamy
accents!  Traci’s first novel, a romantic mystery titled PAINTING THE MOON, will be
published by Red Adept Publishing in June of 2014. (See the book trailer here.) It’s
the first book in her “Chilton Crosse” series. Connect with her on FB.

 

1) Character interaction is still better in person.

In real life: Let’s face it. Technology has created a new level of social rudeness. People tapping on phones in movie theaters or libraries, talking as loudly as they please, ignoring the scowls around them. I went out to dinner with an old friend last year, and he spent about eighty percent of the meal texting someone else!  I was too nice to call him out, but honestly, it was just plain rude. He was having at least three different conversations with people.  But I was the last one on the totem pole, even though I was right there in front of him, live, and in person!

In fiction: When I have two characters out to dinner, I’m probably going to forgo the sad reality of people texting at the table and ignoring each other, and instead allow my characters an actual conversation, face-to-face. (The exception, of course, is if I want to show that a character is rude, and therefore, I might have him/her texting the entire time. But unless there’s a purpose to technology being at that table, I’m going to push technology aside, to favor actual character interaction, no matter how old-fashioned it might feel).

2) Technology may hamper your plot choices and suspense.

In real life: Looking up a long-lost friend or sweetheart is as quick and easy as spending two minutes on an internet search or hopping on Facebook. Want to find that old boyfriend? Search for that long lost best friend you quit talking to in 1988? Just get online, do some quick searching, and voila!

In fiction: But what if I want a character’s search for someone to be slow? What if I want to let it simmer over 200 pages, have a character wonder and wait and second-guess herself as she tries—in vain—to find that lost love? It’s not realistic, in a contemporary story, to have her be out of touch with technology to the point that she doesn’t even attempt an internet search. So, I have to get creative. Draw out the search. Have her look for that person online, but come up empty (that still happens, so it’s in the realm of realism). Or, have her try and chicken out altogether.  In order to create tension, to have the reader wonder if/when a reunion will ever occur, I might even have that lost love be untraceable.

(Secrets to querying literary agents: 10 questions answered.)

Funny thing is, the inspiration for this blog post came from an old episode of Seinfeld. I watched an entire episode devoted to a movie theater fiasco. Elaine, Jerry, George, and Kramer were supposed to meet at the movies, but things got in the way. In a comedy of errors, cabs got stuck in traffic, movies sold out, and everyone ended up missing each other (and the movie!).

Of course, it took place in the early 90’s, when cell phones weren’t attached to everyone’s ear. And as I watched the episode, what cracked me up more than the episode itself was that I kept thinking, “If the characters could just whip out a cell phone and call each other, they could’ve all met up at the right time and the episode would be over in about thirty seconds.” In that case, a cell phone would’ve changed the course of the plot entirely!

Bottom line:  Using technology or not using it in your novels is completely up to you. There’s definitely a time and place for it in modern fiction (and, if it’s ignored completely, it can make the story feel unrealistic). Even better, writers can use technology to their advantage, to make a plot more compelling and suspenseful.  But that’s a blog entry for another day…

 

Agent Donald Maass, who is also an author
himself, is one of the top instructors nationwide
on crafting quality fiction. His recent guide,
The Fire in Fiction, shows how to compose
a novel that will get agents/editors to keep reading.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

 

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20. Literary Agent Spotlight: Tina Schwartz of The Purcell Agency

Read below to see an Agent Spotlight on Tina Schwartz of The Purcell Agency. She is actively seeking new clients who write children’s books.

 

tina-schwartz-literary-agent

 

About Tina: Literary Agent Tina P. Schwartz is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), and is the Co-Rep for her local chapter. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College (Chicago) in Marketing Communications. After a long career in Radio Sales and Marketing, she turned to her true passion, selling manuscripts. Schwartz started The Purcell Agency in July of 2012 after spending twelve years writing and marketing her own work, along with helping several others get published. She sold her first book contract in 2004, and sold ten nonfiction titles for one author to traditional publishers in the Teen and Youth markets. Since opening the agency, she has sold several middle grade and young adult novels, along with some nonfiction works for teens. You can read her blog here.

(What does that one word mean? Read definitions of unique & unusual literary words.)

She is seeking: Chapter books (all kinds except fantasy); Middle Grade (contemporary/realistic, sports, mystery, humor, multicultural, issue driven [no fantasy]); Young Adult (edgy, issues, contemporary/realistic, light romance, sports, mystery [no fantasy]). Tina is also seeking nonfiction Chapter books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult – all topics. She is not seeking: Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Paranormal or Picture Books submissions at this time.

How to submit: TPAqueries [at] gmail.com. Mention if you are a member of SCBWI. 

To submit nonfiction for a teen or grade school audience: Table of Contents + Intro and sample chapter, author’s credentials. To submit fiction: Query, 1st three chapters + synopsis. No attachments. Include sample work in body of e-mail.

(What query letter mistakes will sink your submission chances?)

 

2015-CWIM-smallWriting books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
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21. Enter WD’s PopFiciton Competition – 4,000 Words Could Get You $2,500 & a Trip

9182-Popfic-125x125Short story writers, listen up: We’re giving away $2,500, a trip to NYC to attend next year’s Writer’s Digest Conference, a chance to get your name on the cover of WD and more! All you have to do is write a short story of 4,000 words or fewer and enter it into any one of six categories (Thriller, Sci-Fi, Young Adult, Crime, Horror or Romance) in our Writer’s Digest Annual Popular Fiction Awards. One grand-prize winner will receive all the prizes above, though other winners will receive prizes too.

You could write a short story that short this weekend—and still have time to submit!

Here are the details:

Deadline:  October 15, 2014
Wondering what’s in it for you?

  • A chance to win the Popular Fiction Awards Grand Prize including $2,500 and a trip to the 2015 Writer’s Digest Conference
  • An announcement of the winner on the cover of Writer’s Digest*
  • A chance to win the $500 Category First Prize
  • Get your story promoted in Writer’s Digest and on WritersDigest.com
  • Win $100 off a purchase at www.writersdigestshop.com
  • Receive a copy of the 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market

*The cover announcement is being made on subscriber issues only.

How to enter: register and pay online or download a printable entry form. Regular entry fees are $25 per entry.)

enter-button-46.jpg

Deadline: October 15, 2014

One Grand Prize Winner will receive:

One First Place Winner in each category will receive:

Honorable Mentions will:

 

Categories:

 

Writer's Digest Romance CompetitionWriter's Digest Thriller CompetitionWriter's Digest Young AdultWriter's Digest Crime CompetitionWriter's Digest Horror Competition

 

 

 

 

Writer's Digest Science Fiction Competition

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories:

Crime: Crime fiction is a genre of fiction that focuses on the dramatization of crimes, the detective work and procedures in solving said crimes, and the criminal motivations behind them. Mystery and detective fiction may also fit into this genre.

Horror: Horror fiction is a genre which intends, and/or has the capacity, to frighten, scare or startle readers. This genre may induce feelings of creepiness, horror and terror, and is generally unsettling for the audience. Horror can be supernatural or non-supernatural.

Romance: Romance fiction can encompass and draw themes, ideas and premises from other genres and can vary widely in setting, dialogue, characters, etc. Generally, however, romance fiction should include a love story involving two individuals struggling to make their relationship work and an emotionally satisfying ending.

Science Fiction: Science Fiction (and Fantasy) are genres that explore imaginative content, primarily related to science. This can include a variety of elements, often involving futuristic settings, science and technology, as well as space travel, time travel, extraterrestrial life, and parallel universes. Fantasy fiction often crosses over with this category, touching on similar elements such as world building and magical creatures, but it generally does not include the scientific themes.

Thriller: Thriller fiction is a genre of fiction that uses suspense and tension to dramatically affect the reader. A thriller can provide surprise, anxiety, terror, anticipation, etc., in order to provide a rush of emotions and excitement that progress a story. It should generally be based around the strength of the villain and the protagonist, as well as their struggle against each other. This category might encompass several other genres, including horror, science fiction, and crime.

Young Adult: Young Adult fiction is generally fiction meant for readers age 12-18.

Click here to enter now!

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22. New Literary Agent Alert: Cassie Hanjian of Waxman Leavell Literary

Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Cassie Hanjian of Waxman Leavell Literary) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

 

Cassie_Hanijan_literary-agent

 

About Cassie: Prior to joining Waxman Leavell as an acquiring agent this year, Cassie held positions at the Park Literary Group, where she specialized in author support and foreign rights, and at Aram Fox, Inc. as an international literary scout for publishers based outside the United States. She holds a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from the University of South Florida, a Graduate Certificate in Publishing from the University of Denver’s Publishing Institute and an M.S. in Publishing from Pace University. Follow her on Twitter: @Cjhanjian

Cassie is seeking: page-turning New Adult novels, plot-driven commercial and upmarket women’s fiction, historical fiction, psychological suspense, cozy mysteries and contemporary romance. In nonfiction, she’s looking for projects in the categories of parenting, mind/body/spirit, inspirational memoir, narrative nonfiction focusing on food-related topics and a limited number of accessible cookbooks. Cassie does not accept submissions in the following categories: science-fiction, fantasy, paranormal, Young Adult, Middle Grade, Children’s, literary fiction, poetry, and screenplays.

How to submit: Send a query letter only to cassiesubmit [at] waxmanleavell.com. Do not send attachments, though for fiction, you may include five to 10 pages of your manuscript in the body of the email.

2015-GLA-smallThe biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

 

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23. 3 Tips For a Better First Revision

The first revision is probably the most important factor in sculpting your novel. One of my favorite quotes to express this idea is by Shannon Hale who wrote: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” The first revision is the building of those sand castles. There are numerous tips to a successful rewrite, but I’ve found three that I’ve put at the top of my list to make my novel better.

Conflict check.

On my rewrite, I first do a conflict check. Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that every character in a scene should want something, even if it’s only a drink of water. On my first draft, I will usually focus on the main plot point of the scene. In doing so, I miss opportunities to add tension, great and small, to a chapter. On the rewrite, I ask myself: what does every character in that scene want, and what obstacles are standing in his or her way.

(Classifying Your Book: How to Research & Target Literary Agents.)

 

                        — Screen shot 2014-10-10 at 10.50.45 PM      Screen shot 2014-10-10 at 10.56.57 PM

Column by Allen Eskens, author of THE LIFE WE BURY (Seventh Street Books Oct.
2014), a debut thriller that Publishers Weekly called a “masterful debut” in a starred
review. Allen has been a criminal defense attorney for twenty years. He honed his
creative writing skills through the MFA program at Minnesota State University as well
as classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Loft Literary Center in
Minneapolis. He is a member of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime. Find him on Twitter.

 

 

I have an equation taped to my computer; it reads: “The greater the want + the greater the obstacle = greater conflict. Conflict = suspense.”

Suspense is a state of mental uncertainty. Readers have a need to resolve that uncertainty and will forge ahead to find resolution. Adding more tension and conflict creates page-turning prose. Rarely does my first draft take advantage of all of the opportunities for tension and conflict.

Transitions.

Another aspect of a first draft that I skimp on is my transition from one scene to another. In the haste to get the first draft on paper, I tend to jump abruptly from one plot point to the next. During the rewrite, I remind myself that transition paragraphs need to do more than move the reader from plot point to plot point. They should be eloquent and have a weight of their own.

Reading a novel is like kayaking down a river. Sometimes you shoot through rapids, bound up in the excitement of the action. Other times you float along admiring the beauty of the hills and wildlife. The pace of a novel is the balance between those two competing forces (between plot and scene). As I revise, I ask myself, do I want this paragraph to float through the valley or dive over rapids? If I am floating, I spend time on it, maybe go off on a tangent that deepens the character or enriches the scene. If I am heading for rapids, my focus should be on a shorter transition.

This is an opportunity to show your writing skill. The transition doesn’t have to be long, but it should be fresh. Take for example, the opening line from chapter four of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. She writes, “At seven the next morning the telephone rang. Slowly I swam up from the bottom of a black sleep.” A simple transition, beautifully written. In a first draft she might have written: “the phone woke me up at seven the next morning.” The small addition of “I swam up from the bottom of a black sleep” turns it from a standard transition to something enjoyable to read.

(Headed to a conference? Learn how to approach an agent.)

The “was” edit.

The third thing I include in my first revision is what I call my “was” edit. I use my word-find function to locate every time I used the word “was.” On my first draft, I tend to be lazy and describe things using “was.” “He was taller than me.” “She was standing on the porch, waiting for him.” These are passive voice, and they violate the “show, don’t tell” rule. But in the haste of the first draft, I will type “was” and move on.

In the rewrite, I revisit each time I use the word “was” and ask myself if there’s a better way to write the sentence. It could be as simple as changing “he was taller than me” to “he stood three inches taller than me.” Or it could be more elaborate, like changing “She was standing on the porch, waiting for him” to “She found herself pacing back and forth across the same porch planks that her mother walked thirty years earlier, waiting for a man to return from the war.” I could go even further and write a tangent about the mother that gives the reader insight into the daughter’s character. But, then again, sometimes “was” fits just right and no change is needed. At least by doing a “was” edit, I’ve forced myself to examine my choice.

There are so many other considerations to a first revision, and every writer should have their own method, but these three tips have helped me in my writing.

 

 

This guest column is a supplement to the
“Breaking In” (debut authors) feature of this author
in Writer’s Digest magazine. Are you a subscriber
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.

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24. Memoir or Novel? 8 Issues to Think About Before Writing Your Own Story

As the novel consultant, I am often asked how a writer should tell his or her story. I work with clients in both novel and memoir, using similar structural techniques to develop a compelling story. I truly believe that both forms are ideal ways in which to tell your personal story. The choice is up to you.

*********************************************************************************************************************************
Whatamotherknows LEHRauthorphotoThis guest post is by Leslie Lehr who is a manuscript consultant and the prizewinning author of six books, including her literary thriller, What A Mother Knows. She speaks at conferences from New Orleans to Newport Beach and teaches at the Writers Program at UCLA as well as for Truby Writers Studio. Leslie has been subscribing to Writers Digest for 25 years and considers it her go-to source for writing tips. For more, go to www.leslielehr.com.

*********************************************************************************************************************************

Only recently did I realize that my genre jumping work was proof of this. During a conference interview, Mary Manzel, Director of the California Center for the Book, asked what would develop from my NY Times Modern Love essay. She had read all of my books, essays and scripts – my entire ouvre. I hadn’t realized I had one, until she pointed out a pattern. Beginning with Welcome to Club Mom, a nonfiction book, “I Hate Everybody”, an essay for the infamous Mommy Wars, and my recent literary thriller, What A Mother Knows, I’ve been exploring the challenges of modern motherhood for twenty years.

Essentially, she tapped into my method of using creative nonfiction as a springboard for fiction. To be honest, I have written a memoir, but it was painful for family members, so I put it in a drawer. I never regretted it, because I fictionalized some of the important themes in my next novel. In fact, when I faced mortality recently, I could honestly say that I would be satisfied if What A Mother Knows was my last book. Here’s why: all the important ideas I have about love are woven into this literary thriller. Go figure!

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If you are torn between memoir and novel, here are eight advantages of each:

NOVEL

Since every element is designed to express an emotional truth…..

  1. It may be easier emotionally to write.
  2. You don’t have to remember everything that really happened.
  3. You can rewrite history.
  4. You can include events you did not witness.
  5. You can protect yourself and others.
  6. You can create a more vivid story.
  7. You can explore personal issues on a larger framework.
  8. You can create characters and events, expand real ones, and magnify themes.

MEMOIR

Since every event is revealed to express the true emotion…

  1. You can explore the real truth behind what happened.
  2. You may find it easier to tell a real story than to make one up.
  3. The writing can be prompt a profound understanding of your life.
  4. You can frame the story dramatically to focus on a particular theme.
  5. You can shape the story by expanding or compressing time.
  6. You can use more internal narrative to reflect on events.
  7. The story may gain or meaning as time passes.
  8. You can write about one event now and write more memoirs later.

If you’re wondering whether to tell you story in memoir or novel form, there is no wrong answer. The choice is up to you!

Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

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brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

 

 

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25. Tips and Inspiration to Write a Book in a Month

http://www.writersdigestshop.com/writers-digest-november-december-2014-groupedOne of the things I love about working at Writer’s Digest is the excitement each time a new issue hits newsstands. And it’s especially true with the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest–because this special guide to Writing a Book in a Month arrives just in time for November’s National Novel Writing Month challenge. Regardless of whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, counting down 30 Days to Your Novel on your own schedule, or simply looking to write your next draft faster, this is an issue you won’t want to miss.

Find Writing Inspiration and Confidence

As a parent of both a baby and a toddler, I am surrounded by constant reminders that a lot can happen in a month. Still, it never fails to astonish me. A reliance on wriggling as a means of transportation turns into a full-speed crawl on all fours. A tearful transition to a new preschool becomes an over-the-shoulder wave in a rush to join new friends around the train table. Skills grow or are replaced by new ones, routines change, habits are formed or dropped.

As I compiled the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest, filled with stories of big triumphs over short periods of time, it occurred to me that as adults, we don’t lose that ability to transform ourselves or our work—but we do tend to forget that we have it. And what a shame that is. Know this: Deep down, we are capable of taking more than baby steps. If we set our minds to it, we can cross major milestones in leaps and bounds. And that goes for our writing, too.

Writing a book in a month might sound a little crazy. In a way, I think that’s part of its allure—because write-a-thon challenges are steadily gaining in popularity. Every November 1, National Novel Writing Month’s online hub at NaNoWriMo.org draws nearly half a million writers worldwide in an attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. As NaNoWriMo director Grant Faulkner shares in this issue’s article “What Makes NaNoWriMo Work,” that solidarity is a big part of what keeps the challenge growing every year. Because no matter how hard you have (or haven’t) trained to prepare for this marathon, once the starting pistol fires everyone is pretty much in the same pack, throwing caution to the wind and cheering one another in one big, messy sprint to the far-away finish.

Of course, you don’t need a worldwide event to take a book-in-a-month challenge. And you don’t need to be writing a novel. Solo writers, partners and groups of all stripes do word count marathons year-round. We reached out to these writers and asked them to share their most profound lessons learned, and you’ll find the best of their firsthand advice in “Plan Your Own Write-a-Thon.” (In fact, we got more great advice than we had space to print! Read more tips and tales from the writing community in our online-exclusive outtakes, Write a Book in a Month: More Writers Share Their Experience & Advice.)

Once all that inspiration has you writing up a frenzy, we wanted to make sure you have some roadside assistance ready to help when you start to run out of gas—and that’s where Elizabeth Sims’ “21 Fast Hacks to Fuel Your Story With Suspense” comes in.

Your book idea might be in its infancy now, but take it from me—with some extra attention on your part, soon it can be surprising and delighting you with its strength, determination and newfound ability to stand on its own two feet, grinning from ear to ear.

Conquer Your Word Count Goals

Are you planning to participate in this year’s NaNoWriMo? Looking to up your daily word counts just a bit in solidarity with those who are? We’d love to hear about your writing goals–leave a comment below to keep the conversation going!

Get your copy of the Write a Book in a Month! issue on your favorite newsstand, or download the November/December 2014 Writer’s Digest right now.

Happy Writing,
Jessica Strawser
Editor, Writer’s Digest Magazine
Follow me on Twitter @jessicastrawser.

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