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1. They’re So Good, It’s Scary: 13 Quotes From Horror, Thriller and Suspense Writers

432054-wrote-1916With Halloween just one week away, we’re getting into the spirit of the season with these 13 quotes on the writing life from famous authors of horror, thriller and suspense:

1. “So where do the ideas—the salable ideas—come from? They come from my nightmares. Not the night-time variety, as a rule, but the ones that hide just beyond the doorway that separates the conscious from the unconscious.”
—Stephen King, “The Horror Writer Market and the Ten Bears,” November 1973, WD

2. “The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do everyday. There are two reasons for this rule: Getting the work done and connecting with your unconscious mind.”
—Walter Mosley

3. “I hope people are reading my work in the future. I hope I have done more than frightened a couple of generations. I hope I’ve inspired a few people one way or another.”
—Richard Matheson

4. “When one is writing a novel in the first person, one must be that person.”
—Daphne du Maurier

5. “When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me, and try to put those feelings into books.”
R.L. Stine

6. “[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.”
—Clive Barker

7. “Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem.”
Edgar Allan Poe

8. “I have always loved to use fear, to take it and comprehend it and make it work and consolidate a situation where I was afraid and take it whole and work from there.”
Shirley Jackson

9. “Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and nonfiction. And even there, who can be sure?”
—Tanith Lee

10. “I always wanted to be in the world of entertainment. I just love the idea of an audience being happy with what I am doing. Writing is showbusiness for shy people. That’s how I see it.”
—Lee Child

11. I don’t think there is enough respect in general for the time it takes to write consistently good fiction. Too many people think they will master writing overnight, or that they are as good as they will ever be.”
—Tananarive Due

12. “What I love about the thriller form is that it makes you write a story. You can’t get lost in your own genius, which is a dangerous place for writers. You don’t want to ever get complacent. If a book starts going too well, I usually know there’s a problem. I need to struggle. I need that self-doubt. I need to think it’s not the best thing ever.”
—Harlan Coben, WD Interview, January 2011

13. “My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature.”
—H.P. Lovecraft 

Want to write your own horror, thriller or suspense novel? Then learn from a master with The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic: Dracula.

___________

Headshot_Tiffany LuckeyTiffany Luckey is the associate editor of Writer’s Digest. She also writes about TV and pop culture at AnotherTVBlog.com. Follow Tiffany on Twitter @TiffanyElle.

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2. The Art and Craft of Wasting Time in 20 Quotes

CC license Flickr user Earls37aWriters are notorious procrastinators, and the trend is not limited to hobbyists or young, aspiring authors. We talk a lot about procrastination indirectly—setting personal deadlines, how to schedule writing time around life and family, how to write a draft—and fast!, how to write an outline for anything.

We also discuss wasting time rather frankly in our forum, and occasionally offer assistance to writers who don’t want to work, necessarily, but in a productive way. Sometimes we give direct examples of how to not procrastinate.

Famous time-wasters tend to fall into two camps: There’s the hedonistic band of enthusiastic lollygaggers, and there’s the anti-dillydallying brigade of outputters. The logic follows that non-famous writers follow the same pattern. For both sides, here are some thoughts and advice from the greats on the art and craft of wasting time—or not.

Pro-Procrastination

Mark Twain: “Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”

Marthe Troly-Curtain: “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Rita Mae Brown: “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”

Herodotus: “Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal, while others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.”

Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by.”

Ellen Degeneres: “Procrastination isn’t the problem. It’s the solution. It’s the universe’s way of saying stop, slow down, you move too fast.”

Dorothy Parker: “Live, drink, be merry, love the reeling midnight through, For tomorrow ye may die, but alas we never do.”

Jerome K. Jerome: “Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on it. I take great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do.”

Susan Orlean: I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done.”

Auguste Rodin: “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.”


 

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 10.53.57 AMThe Writer’s Digest Retreat on the Water is your chance to escape the demands of everyday life and immerse yourself in your craft for a few purposeful and peaceful days. Enrollment at this Retreat is limited—you’ll enjoy the close mentorship of the instructors and the attention to your individual manuscript that only an event this small and exclusive can provide.


 

Pro-Productivity

Pablo Picasso: “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

Benjamin Franklin: “You may delay, but time will not.”

Charles Dickens: “Procrastination is the thief of time; collar him.”

Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

George Bernard Shaw: “If you take too long in deciding what to do with your life, you’ll find you’ve done it.”

Oscar Wilde: “Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old.”

Victor Hugo: “Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.”

J.R.R. Tolkien: “It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “How soon ‘not now’ become ‘never.’”

Henry Ford: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”

 

Which camp do you fall into? For myself, I’ll only say that this post was supposed to run yesterday.


headshotWD

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

 

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3. 8 Ways to Prepare to Write Your Nonfiction Book in a Month

As a nonfiction writer, you might feel a bit left out during November. Everyone is talking about NaNoWriMo this and NaNoWriMo that. All the while, you want to write a nonfiction book in a month not a novel.

Well, you can, and you should. I have news for you, though. You don’t have to do it as a NaNoRebel or as part of an event created for novelists. You can write your nonfiction book in 30 days during an event for writers just like you—nonfiction writers.

During National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo) you can start and finish the draft of your nonfiction book in a month. Just take the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge (WNFIN). No need to even restrict your self to a full-length book; you can finish the final draft of a short book, an article, an essay, a series of blog posts, or your manifesto. As long as you embrace the goal of completing a work of nonfiction, this event is for you.

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nina-amir-2014nina-authortrainingmanual500This guest post is by Nina Amir, the bestselling author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual. She is a speaker, a blogger, and an author, book, and blog-to-book coach. Known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach, she helps creative people combine their passion and purpose so they move from idea to inspired action and positively and meaningfully impact the world as writers, bloggers, authorpreneurs, and blogpreneurs. Some of Nina’s clients have sold 300,000+ copies of their books, landed deals with major publishing houses and created thriving businesses around their books. She is the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge, and the Nonfiction Writers’ University. www.ninaamir.com

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Let’s say, however, that you do, indeed, want to write a nonfiction book in a month. There’s nothing like a challenge to get your creative juices flowing and to heighten your sense of commitment to completing your project and doing it fast. To meet that goal, though, you need to be prepared before the month starts.

While there are similarities between how fiction and nonfiction writers prepare for a book-in-a-month event, differences exists as well. What you need to do to be ready to get quickly from first to last page of you manuscript by the end of November also has a lot to do with the type of nonfiction book you choose to write.

Let’s take a look at the eight preparatory steps necessary to successfully write a nonfiction book in a month.

1. Choose your topic.

The first thing you want to do as you prepare for a month-long nonfiction book-writing challenge is choose a topic for your project carefully. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it really isn’t. Remember, you must finish your book in 30 days. (Now, NaNonFiWriMo is not a contest. No one counts your words to see if you won, and you don’t submit anything at the end to prove you finished your project. It’s a personal challenge. Still…you know if you succeed or fail.) Therefore, you don’t want to choose a subject that requires 150,000 words. That would mean you need to complete 5,000 words per day. That’s a tall order to fill for any writer, especially if he or she has a day job.

It’s better to select a topic you can cover in 50,000 words or less. You can write 1,667 words per day over the course of 30 days. If that still feels like a lot, then opt to write a guide, tip book or booklet. Many ebooks sold on Amazon today have only 5,000 to 20,000 words.

Who knows…you might end up with a longer book by month’s end. But don’t start with an unattainable goal. Begin with a topic that lends itself to a word-count that feels doable to you. That gives you a higher chance of success.

2. Create a Content Plan

While you can write a nonfiction book by the seat of your pants, it’s best to have a plan. (Yes, the seatsers vs. planners debate pertains to nonfiction as well as to fiction.) That plan helps you know where you are going so you write in a straight line rather than taking many detours. As you know, the need to make a lot of u-turns takes up a lot of time. When it comes to writing, that means cutting, rewriting and revising. You don’t want to do that if you are going to finish a good first draft or a final draft in a month.

Create an outline or a table of contents for you book. I like to start by brainstorming my topic and then taking all the different topics and organizing them into a book structure. (I use a mind map.) This ends up looking like a table of contents—actually a rather detailed table of contents with chapter titles and subheading titles. You might prefer to just create a simple outline or a bulleted list.

Whatever your method of choice, create something that looks like the structure of a book—a table of contents. And know what content will fill that structure as you create your manuscript. That’s your map.

Then, when you sit down to write each day, you know exactly what to write. In fact, the more detailed you make this plan, the more quickly and easily you will write your book. You will spend little time staring at your computer screen wondering what to write or what comes next. You will know. It will be right there in your writing plan. You’ll just follow the map—your tale of contents—to your destination.

3. Determine What Research You Need

You might think you can write your book “off the top of your head” because you are the expert on the topic. Inevitably, though, you will discover a need to search for something—a URL, a quote, the title of a book. These things can slow down your process. This is where preparation can help keep your fingers on the keyboard typing rather than perusing the Internet.

For each item in your plan—or your detailed table of contents, brainstorm the possible research you need and make note of it.

As you write, if you discover you need more research or interviews, don’t stop writing. Instead, create brackets in your manuscript that say [research here] and highlight them in yellow. Later, do a search for the term “research,” and fill in the gaps. In fact, you can even leave a certain amount of time per week for this activity if you think you will need to do so; this ensures you don’t come to the end of November with a manuscript filled with research holes.

4. Create a To-Do List

Look over your content plan. Take all the research items you listed and put them on a to-do list.

Make a list of URLs, books and articles to find. Look for anything you need to do. For instance, does your research require that you visit a certain location? If so, put “Visit XX” on the to do list.

Don’t forget to put interviews on this list. You want to conduct your interviews now, not during November, if at all possible.

5. Gather and Organize Your Materials

Gather as much of your research and other necessary material as you can prior to the end of October. Purchase the books, copy the articles into Evernote.com, copy and past the URLs into a Word doc, or drag them into Scrivener’s research folder, for instance. Get your interviews transcribed as well—and read through them with a highlighter, marking the quotes you think you want to use.

If you are writing memoir, you might want to gather photos, journals and other memorabilia. If you are repurposing blog posts, or reusing any other previously published or written material, you want to put all of this in one place—an online folder, a Scrivener file or a Word file.

Generally, get as much of what you need to write your book in an easily accessible format and location so you aren’t searching for it when you should be writing. Use piles, boxes, hanging folders, computer folders, cloud storage…whatever works best for you.

6. Determine How Much Time You Need

Each nonfiction book is different and requires a different amount of time to write. A research based book takes longer to write, for example, because you have to study, evaluate and determine your opinion of the studies. You have to read the interviews you conducted, choose appropriate quotes and then work those quotes into your manuscript.

If, on the other hand, you write from your own experiences, this take less time. With the exception of drawing on anecdotes, an occasional quote or bit of information from a book, the material all comes from your head. You need only sit down and write about a process you created, your own life story or your area of expertise.

You might normally write 750 words per hour, but the type of book you’ve chosen to write could slow you down to just 500 per hour. Or you might speed up to 1,000 words per hour. Determine how long it will take you on average to compose the number of words you must compete per day to meet your final word-count goal. Then, figure out how many hours per week you need to set aside during November to finish your manuscript. Allow more hours than you think necessary for “unforeseen circumstances,” slow days and a general need for extra time to complete the project the last week of the month.

7. Create a Writing Schedule

Last, create a writing schedule. You now know how much time you need to write your book. Now find those hours in your calendar and block them off.

Make those hours sacred. Nothing other than an emergency should take you away from writing your book during those scheduled writing blocks.

You’ve heard the advice that goes with this:

  • Find a quite place to write.
  • Limit distractions.
  • Get an accountability partner.
  • Keep your appointments with yourself.

8. Put a Back-Up System in Place.

Yes…this is my last tip, because you just never know what happens. Your computer crashes or dies. You accidentally delete your whole manuscript. Your child dumps milk all over your keyboard.

You want a back up of your NaNonFiWriMo project. Always save it to your computer’s drive and onto a thumb drive or, better yet, into the cloud, for safe keeping! Make these plans in advance as well. You can use Evernote.com, Dropbox.com or Google Drive, for example.

The other thing you need to has little to do with planning. During your 30-day nonfiction writing challenge, you must posses an attitude that supports meeting your goal. You must:

  • Be willing to do what it takes
  • Remain optimistic about meeting your goal.
  • Stay objective about your work.
  • Be tenacious and not let anything get in the way of finishing your project.

Those four qualities—Willingness, Optimism, Objectivity and Tenacity—constitute an Author Attitude. With that you will finish your nonfiction book in a month with no problem. Woot!

To learn more about National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge, or to register, click here.

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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4. The Difference Between Dreamers and Achievers

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.

Bootcamp2014Last week was our annual FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair

Over the last 17 years, it has become THE copywriting event of the year. And this year, 400+ aspiring and professional writers joined us in Delray Beach, Florida to have industry legends teach them how to build successful copywriting businesses — and to meet with over 75 marketers looking to hire AWAI-trained copywriters.

A lot happened in those 4 days … too much to cover in a simple blog. But I do plan to bring you some of the best ideas you can use on your journey to making a very good living as a writer.

Today I want to share with you something my partner Katie Yeakle — one of the Founders of AWAI — shared during her opening remarks …

She started by asking the audience a simple question:

         How do you explain why some people are able to achieve things    that seem impossible — while others only dream about changing    their lives?

And then followed it up with some of the popular examples of AWAI members who have achieved real success …

How does someone like AWAI member Joshua Boswell go from being over $200,000 in debt, with creditors knocking at his door and 7 children to feed — to making $20,000 a month working 20-30 hours a week?

         How does AWAI member Sean McCool go from being a guy who    failed English in both 7th and 10th grades to being a highly-respected writer who contributes directly to the bottom line of multimillion-dollar companies?

         How does AWAI member Starr Daubenmire go from being down-sized at age 60 … to a brand-new career that let her live her dream of spending 3 months in Italy … writing in the mornings, painting and exploring in the afternoons?

         How does AWAI member Cindy Cyr go from being in a job where   she couldn’t take time off to be with her sick sister … to today   where she spends half her time traveling the country with her 14-year old recording artist son, while still earning six-figures?

         Why is that some people succeed at copywriting … yet so many others don’t?

         What accounts for the difference?

         Is it education?

         Sean would deny that. So would million-dollar copywriters Clayton Makepeace and Dan Kennedy. Those guys didn’t go to college.

         Is it a natural talent for copywriting? 

         Cindy liked to write. But she didn’t even know what copywriting was.

         Is it sales experience? Not for Starr. She was a quality control  coordinator in an office. No selling going on there.

Master Copywriter Will Newman was a math teacher for kids with special needs; Krista Jones, AWAI’s very first $10K Challenge winner was an engineer …

         So what is it?

         The real answer to that question is right here in this room …

         The answer is: they took decisive action to change their lives

And then what Katie talked about next is what I’d like to talk to you about now. And, that’s the decisions that need to be made before you can successfully move forward towards living the writer’s life.

Before any of the people Katie mentioned took action, they had to make the very first decision of all … and that was if they truly wanted a change in their lives.

They all answered yes.

Next, they needed to decide how they were going to accomplish it.

Joshua, Sean, Starr, and Cindy all wanted to make a living writing and decided the best way for them to accomplish that was to pursue copywriting.

So they decided how they’d learn the skills …

They decided what support they needed …

And they decided what changes they’d need to make in their current lives to make that happen.

Next, they decided to follow through.

At every stage it was the same — a decision followed by action.

So today, I want you to give some more thought to what your version of the writer’s life looks like … what will your life look like when you’re making a living as a writer?

And then start making decisions and taking action …

If you’re just starting out, the first decision you may need to make is whether or not you want to make a change in your life. Is now the time?

rebecca_matter-150Or it may be deciding which path you want to take … whether it’s copywriting, content writing, web writing, or something else. (Check out my recent post on the top 7 opportunities for writers.)

And then comes the critical (and exciting!) part: taking action.

I’ll help you with that in the coming weeks!

 

Until then …
Rebecca

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5. 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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6. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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.

*****

Find more poetic treats here:

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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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?

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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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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?
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. 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.

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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.

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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!

W7839In the middle of writing your memoir or thinking about writing it?
WD’s Memoir Writing Kit is 6 items rolled into
one bundle at more
than 80% right now. Full of books and webinars,
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Order now from our shop and get the huge discount.

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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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.

*****

Find more poetic goodies here:

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25. 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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