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1. Historical fiction

There is sci-fi and fantasy, but I say why build a new world? Historical fiction offers our world, but in a different time. All the writer has to do is a little research.

Okay. A lot of research.

Stories are about people. There is something I find fascinating about the lives or people in this world, yet of another time. The only problem is that the term itself - historical fiction - is often met with outstretched forefingers in the sign of the cross from wild-eyed agents and editors. 

I find the genre fascinating and don’t understand it’s adverse connotation. Story is story and if you people them with intriguing characters and you place them in perilous situations, what does it matter if they are in a time long ago? Just to get around the negativity, I have to dress my stories up with a modern day time traveler in order to sneak in historical settings.

A while back, Susan Sherman contributed a post for Writer’s Digest entitled “Tackling Historical Fiction.”

Sherman starts her research in the map room of libraries. This is to get a good working knowledge of the geography of the story. The Internet can help in this regard, but the local university may offer more if the city library can’t provide.

Then she researches the big history, the major events going on at the time. That seems obvious. But it is in what she calls the “tiny history” that details emerge that bring the story to life. She asks herself a thousand questions to discover the minutiae of everyday life. She imagines arriving at one of her characters’s house and wonders, how she got there, in a cab a carriage or on horseback, if the road paved with cobblestones or is is mired in mud, if the house is lighted and if so by candle light or gas, if the place is in a good neighborhood or a slum. All these questions provides details of the time and place that give the story a sense of immediacy and reality.

Sherman warns that we must be careful not to let the research show and turn the whole thing into a history lesson info dump. The writer can’t show off the amount of research they’ve done. The trick is to provide enough description to flesh out the character and give life to the world, without burdening the reader with unnecessary details.

The nature of historical fiction, its limits of an earlier time, does allow the writer some advantages. Authors are supposed to create difficulties for their characters. In addition to the conflicts, barriers, and misunderstandings characters in any novel can face, there were no cell phones or Google to provide the quick fixes our modern day characters may employ. Using a smart phone to locate a Starbucks in a foreign part of town is much easier than sailing to the Far East when an unchartered American continent gets in your way.

Whether as a reader or a writer, there is pleasure in seeing real people dealing with day-to-day living in times long ago. 

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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2. Finish your novel

Have you got a NaNoWriMo project mostly done and need a kick in the pants to complete it? Me, too. Brian A. Klems from the Writer’s Digest blog reposted an article that addresses that. Called “5 Things to Stop Doing (If You Really want to Finish Your Novel),” it hits on some of the things distressing me that may be affecting you.

The first is to quit with the excuses. Too busy, kids too demanding, the house needs cleaning, the muse is away, need to research more, Facebook is too accessible, don’t have ideas, too tired, my writing sucks, all the good stories have already been written, too stressed, not much money in it, I’ll write later, too distracted, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Sure, life gets busy, at times more so than at others. But as Klems says, writing goals “don’t die on their own. We suffocate them.”

Stop trying. Just write. Sometimes we try too hard. The best thing to do is back off and don’t think about it so much.

Shut out the internal editor. Man, that thing can be demanding. I seem more able to keep him quiet during NaNoWriMo. For the other eleven months of the year, I’m stymied by the inner critic. Especially for a first draft, just slap it down and know that the self-editor, like a player on the sidelines saying, “Put me in, coach,” will be back in the game. 

Klems’ next tip is don’t overdose on caffeine. Maybe not a problem in Utah, so we’ll leave it at that. 

Lastly, stop thinking writing should be easier. It is what it is - sometimes a breeze, sometimes a gale. If you expect it to be work, then you’ll be delighted when it is not. 

So, go out and finish that novel.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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3. Mg or YA?

My “next” project that I’ve been working on forever has been giving me fits. One of the dilemmas is what age to make the characters, and therefore, who the target audience will.

I’m an MG kind of a guy. I’ve spent a career teaching fifth and sixth graders. I know how they operate, what shenanigans they think they can get away with, and the cocky attitudes they employ to pull it off. And I’m smart enough to realize they probably got away with a few things I wasn’t aware of. They’re as capable as teenagers of scheming wild ideas, just not as aware of when the silly notion won’t work.

Earlier this week, Julie Daines said to listen to your gut, our writer’s intuition that is our friend should we choose to listen. I think my friend is telling me to take it MG. But the first time I did that, I overshot my audience. What to do, what to do?

Then a timely article arrived this month from Writer’s Digest.  In “The Key Differences Between Middle Grade Vs. Young Adult,” agent Marie Lamba of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency helps clarify the two. She sees a lot of queries of manuscripts with “an MG/YA identity crisis.” She rejects many of these simply because the writer did not know the basics of the age group they thought they were writing for.

In a nutshell, the differences boil down to a few areas:
Age of readers
Middle-grade does not mean middle school. MG is for readers ages 8-12 and 13-18 for YA. While there is no “tween” category, middle school libraries tend to have shelves for both. There are upper and lower MG as there is in YA.
Age of protagonists
Kids “read up” so your characters should be on the higher end of the age of the readers. Thus a 10-year old hero would be ideal for a lower MG, 12 or even 13 for upper MG, and 17 or 18 for YA. Your YA character can’t yet be in college.
Manuscript length
30,000-50,000 words is the norm for MG while YA starts at 50,000 and goes up to 75,000. These are not set in stone, but a good length to shoot for. Fantasy novels can exceed that due to the world-building necessary.
YA is usually written in first person while third person is common for MG.
There is a difference in what is allowable in each. While there is no profanity, graphic violence, or sexuality in works for younger readers, they are acceptable for YA,  the exception being erotica. In a recent Writer’s Digest webinar, Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency says a few “Hells” and “damns” are okay for MG, but the harsher curses should be avoided. MG heroes can have romance, but it should be limited to a crush or first kiss. Generally, MG novels end on a hopeful note while that isn’t necessary of YA works. Marie Lamba says there are gatekeepers between you and your middle-grade audience - parents, teachers, librarians - who may discourage the book. That ultimately could affect a publishers’s choice to print it. This isn’t as much an issue for YA, though gratuitous sex, numerous F-bombs, and extensive violence could mean the book may sit in fewer schools.
This is a biggie, the one I missed when I originally wrote the book. MG focuses on friends, family, and the character’s immediate world and their relationship to it; character react to what happens to them, with minimal self-reflection. YA characters discover how they fit in the world beyond their friends and family; they reflect more on what happens and analyze the meaning of things. Jennifer Laughran says that MG kids test boundaries and have adventures “finding their place within a system” whereas YA teens do the same, while “busting out of the system” and find themselves.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Once you have the writing chops of J.K. Rowling, you, too, can write a 200,000 word tale. But even Harry didn’t kiss Ginny until they were teenagers.

So I’m listening, gut, my quiet friend. I do wish you would speak louder sometimes.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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4. Antagonists

The next project is a rescue. This flat story that has sat in writer purgatory for a few years, waiting for motivation to do something about it, longing for the inspiration to remedy it.

I’m there ready to take it on, its finding the cure that is the problem. Thus, it is back to basics. Characters, stories are about characters. Check. Plot, protagonist wants something, antagonist keeps him from it. Wait, that could be it. I don’t have an antagonist, at least not in the traditional sense. 

John Truby (The Anatomy of Story: 22 to Becoming a Master Storyteller) is my go-to guy at a time like this. He says the hero, of course, is important. So, too, is the opponent along with the rest of the cast. Truby focuses not on the main character in isolation, but looks at all the characters as part of an interconnected web. Writer’s Digest this week had a quote by mystery writer Elmore Leonard who says “the main thing I set out to do is tell the point of view of the antagonist as much as the good guy.”

This is all well and fine, but what if your my story doesn’t have a

Hmm. Good points, but I still don’t have a traditional antagonist. There is no detective and no criminal to pursue, my Harry Potter has no Voldemort. My protagonist has only his own shortcomings to trip over. Truby doesn’t directly address such a thing. He does illustrate his points with story examples from movies. The likes of A Streetcar Named Desire, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, andTootsie, don’t have traditional antagonists. 

Another valuable resource, KM Weiland, discusses an “antagonistic force” and says, “nowhere is it written that your story has to have a bad guy (or girl, as the case may be).” She says there are several non-human antagonists. They include:
-Animal - King Kong and Jaws comes to mind
-Self - the age old existential quandary of man as his own worst enemy in which the MC must overcome his own problems before he can deal with the external one
-Setting - survival stories in which the hero goes up against nature. Cast Away is a good example. Weather related tales are an offshoot of this.
-Society - dystopia is the extreme example here, but simpler themes in which the protagonist faces poverty or inequalities of some sort
-Supernatural forces - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button would be of this sort.
-Technology - a lot of sci-fi uses overarching technological forces as antagonists.

Non-human antagonists can be anything that throws obstacles in the way or the hero getting what he or she wants. They could be a thing, an idea, or any inanimate object that the protagonist must overcome to reach the end goal of the story. As long as you have conflict (to have a story is a must) you have an antagonist.

Weiland says one mustn’t limit themselves to just one antagonist and most stories will use a combination of several.

Think Sharnado.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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5. Let it go

As if my writing needs any more diversions, Writer’s Digest lights up my inbox. Daily. Three or four times, daily. Being the distractible type, I click on it, especially when the writing is fighting me. Though a lot of it is stuff they’re trying to sell, they regularly put out informative articles on craft. One such, by Jack Heffron, is titled, “How to Destroy Your Initial Idea (& Make Your Story Better)”

Heffron starts with a Pablo Picasso quote: “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” He readily admits he has no clue what Picasso means, but applies the quote to writing. “The generative idea for a piece,” Heffron says, “is more an avenue to richer ideas than an end in itself. At those times, we must be willing to let go of our initial premise.” We sometimes need to destroy our initial writing idea for the good of the story. 

He cites an example from his own writing to illustrate. He had written a piece and put a lot of time and effort into it. For the first 24 pages, two women converse in a doughnut shop until two men enter, have a brief encounter with them, and all four leave on page 25. Readers looked at it and told him the story starts on page 24. Heffron was frustrated. He had labored for hours perfecting the dialogue, developing each woman character and produced a ton of good lines. Was such an effort to be a mere prelude to the real story?

Sometimes the answer is yes.

He shelved the story for a while and when he came back to it, he realized they were right. (That little writer’s group - there’s a reason we keep them around.) He revised and brought the two men in by page 2 and had the four of them leave by page 7 and his story was better. Yet the weeks he invested initially was not a waste. Heffron spent the time intimately getting to know his characters. His rounded understanding of them allowed the story to surprising turns, twists he wouldn’t have imagined if he didn’t know the characters so well. He says he wouldn’t have achieved the real start of the story if he hadn’t written what came before. His initial premise led him to literary gold, even though it was eventually discarded.

How liberating, yet how unnerving. We’ve all been there before. We’ve put in time and effort honing and crafting paragraphs or pages. Then our finger hovers over the delete key as that inner writer’s voice tells us to let it go.

Im getting better at it. I have a need to save those little nuggets of writing gold in an idea file, but once they are removed, the story is cleaner. 

There are times, in mid-story, I’ll stop and write a note to myself that will get dumped. I do this often with characters, especially when they act in a way contrary to how they should. I’ve written a multi-page backstory on a character, expelling why they would do such and such. It is not germane to the story, but it is vital to me. I need to deeply understand these people. 

Back to Heffron’s premise. Sometimes an initial idea takes off in an unintended direction and it must be discarded. He ends by comparing breaking up with an idea to that in a relationship. You’ve tried different strategies. You’ve sought counseling. But, says Jack Heffron, “at some point, we need to tell the piece to sit down. We need to summon the courage to say, “Honey, we need to talk.”

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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6. Word count

Even though this is a writing blog, let’s do some math.

Fifty K words for the NaNo November works out to 1667 words a day, about 12,500 a week. The daily count means almost 7 pages of double-spaced text.

I’m in trouble. 

The method I’ve been regular with is a daily timed writing session, with no regard to word count. If I had to guess, I couldn’t. I’ll write on the story, then type notes to myself or scribble them in a notebook. I’m sure it wouldn’t be near a thousand, probably less than 500.

With NaNoWriMo looming, there have been some articles floating around on how to ramp up word count. Then I Googled for other ideas.

Jessica Strawser, in a recent Writer’s Digest article, initiated this query. Juggling work and toddlers, she says it is about finding ways to write in between the times she actually sits uninterrupted at her laptop. One thing she does is use a voice recording app on her smart phone to record ideas that randomly floats into her head.  Scene snippets, dialog, plot ideas, etc., can even be recorded with a hands free device on the drive home from work. Sometime during the day, she emails herself notes about the next scene so she doesn’t go into it cold when she sits to write.

Other articles list things like establishing a writing routine and never vary from that schedule. Some swear by writing in the morning, others must wait until the kiddies fall asleep at night. 

There is the Pomodoro Technique (Google it) in which you set a timer for 25 minutes and work interruption free, then take a 5 minute break, the repeat.

Most writing on the subject confirm Stawser’s idea of having a notion of what you will write about before you sit to type. Rachel Aaron devotes the first 5 minutes to jotting down a quick description of the scene she’s going to write. Aaron claims she has gone from two to ten thousand words a day with her three-tier approach. The first and most important is the knowledge phase. She always spends 5 minutes, never less, sometimes more, writing a stripped down version of the scene; no details, she simply notes what she will write when the time comes to actually write it. This step alone increased her daily 5K. 

Aaron took two other steps to increase her writing. She noted the time and places she was most efficient and built her writing time around those periods. Lastly, she says enthusiasm ups word count. The fun scenes fly by faster than the boring scenes that work up to it. Which leads to, if it’s dull for you to write, what expectations do you have of your reader? 

I am not doing the Rachel Aaron justice with this quick recap. The whole article can be reached following the link below and is pretentiously titled “How I Went From 2,000 Words a Day To 10,000 Words A Day.” 

I’m not sure I’m ready to jump in at that pace. I’d settle for 1667 words. 

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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7. Self-Published Book? Get Noticed

21stSelfPub-800px-300x86We have been talking about self-publishing for the last few weeks, so I thought you might be interested in reading about this annual contest.  The entry fee is high, but if you have a self-published book you think is good, entering this premier self-published competition could help get your book noticed. It is exclusively for self-published books.

Writer’s Digest hosts the 21st annual self-published competition — the Annual Self-Published Book Awards. This self-published competition spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.

Early Bird Deadline: April 1, 2013

Wondering what is in it for you?

  • A chance to win $3,000 in cash
  • Get national exposure for your work
  • Catch the attention of prospective editors and publishers
  • A paid trip to the ever-popular Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City!

How to enter: register and pay online or download a printable entry form. (Early Bird Entry fees are $100 for the first entry, and $75 for each additional entry.)

Enter your book into one or more of these categories:

  • Mainstream/Literary Fiction
  • Genre Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Inspirational (Spiritual, New Age)
  • Life Stories (Biographies, Autobiographies, Family Histories, Memoirs)
  • Children’s/Picture books
  • Middle-Grade/Young Adult books
  • Reference Books (Directories, Encyclopedias, Guide Books)
  • Poetry

One Grand Prize Winner will receive:

  • $3,000 cash and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City
  • A priceless endorsement for their book from the Writer’s Digest Editors–10 copies of their book for submission to major publishing review houses.
  • A one-year membership for Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the largest not-for-profit trade association representing more than 3,000 independent book publishers, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • Guaranteed acceptance in a special sales catalog and national representation through 1,800 salespeople who sell to non-bookstore markets, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A one-year membership to Author-U, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A copy of Show Me About Book Publishing and consultation with Book Shepherd Judith Briles (valued at $500), courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.

Nine First-Place Winners will receive:

  • $1,000 cash and promotion in Writer’s Digest
  • A one-year membership to Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN), courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • A one-year membership to Book Central Station where you can find lists of suppliers rated by previous clients, provided by Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
  • An ebook titled Beyond the Bookstore by Brian Jud (with CD).

All Grand Prize and First Place winners will:

  • Be featured on the Writer’s Digest website
  • Receive a copy of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 4th Edition by Tom and Marilyn Ross.
  • $100 worth of Writer’s Digest Books

Honorable Mention Winners will receive $50 worth of Writer’s Digest Books and be promoted on www.writersdigest.com.

All other entrants will receive a brief commentary from the judges along with a link to the entrant’s website (only if the URL is accurate) on writersdigest.com.


1. The competition is open to all English-language self-published books for which the authors have paid the full cost of publication, or the cost of printing has been paid for by a grant or as part of a prize.

2. You may register and pay online for faster service.

3. Entrants must send a printed and bound book. Entries will be evaluated on content, writing quality and overall quality of production and appearance. No handwritten books are accepted.

4. All books published or revised and reprinted between 2008 and 2013 are eligible. (Writer’s Digest may demand proof of eligibility of semifinalists.)

5. All books not registered online must be accompanied by an Official Entry Form. Photocopies of the Official Entry Form are acceptable. You may enter more than one book and/or more than one category; however, you must include a separate book, entry form and the additional fee for each entry.

6. We accept check, money order or credit card payment for the required judging fee. The early bird entry fees are $100 for the first entry, $75 for each additional entry must accompany submissions. For books submitted after the April 1 early bird deadline, the fees are $110 for the first entry, $85 for each additional entry. Payment must accompany submissions.

7. All early bird entries must be postmarked no later than April 1, 2013. Entries submitted for the regular deadline must be postmarked by May 1, 2013. All winners will be notified by October 14, 2013. If you wish to receive confirmation that your entry was received before the deadline, we recommend using certified mail or some other tracking method to send your entry.

8. Judges reserve the right to withhold prizes in any category. Judges reserve the right to re-categorize entries.

9. Books which have previously won awards from Writers Digest are not eligible.

10. Employees of F+W Media, Inc. and Book Marketing Works, LLC and their immediate families are not eligible. Books published by Abbott Press are not eligible to participate.

11. Writer’s Digest is not responsible for the loss, damage or return of any books submitted to the competition.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, awards, Competition, Contest, Marketing a book, opportunity, Publishing Industry, Self-publishing Tagged: Self-Published Book Awards, Writer's Digest

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8. Frist Draft Writing Tips and Book Give-a-way

Kathy-Czepiel-author-writerChuck Sambuchino who writes the Guide to Literary Agents Blog from Writer’s Digest had another good post and is sponsoring a book give-a-way of Kathy Leonard Czepiel, author of A VIOLET SEASON
(Simon & Schuster), named one of the best books of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews.

She is the recipient of a 2012 creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and her short fiction has appeared in Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, CALYX, Confrontation, Brain Child, and elsewhere.

Czepiel teaches writing at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Learn more about Czepiel
and her work at her website.

As an added bonus, Chuck posted five of Kathy’s tips on writing the first draft of your novel. So read and learn, then visit Chuck to leave a comment and maybe win a copy of Kathy Leonard Czepiel’s award winning YA Fantasy Novel.

1. Make an outline. Then be willing to leave it behind. Writing an outline forces me to think through some big questions before I begin. But I follow it the way I travel with my husband sans kids: “Hey, Honey, look at this weird little mountain on the map. Wanna check it out?” And pretty soon the story has taken a turn. Sometimes the side trip changes everything, and I revise my outline. Sometimes it’s a dead end. Then I have my outline to get me back on track.

(Learn how to start your novel.)

2. Think of your first draft as the clay, not the sculpture. Imagine that what you are doing is digging up clay, just a hunk of stuff from which you’ll create something later. Much of it will be messy and unrefined, but that’s not your problem now. Your job is simply to get from the beginning to the end. Keep digging! When it’s time to write a second draft, you will have your raw material.

3. Every time you think about how pedestrian and clumsy and downright awful your first draft is, remind yourself that no one else has to read it. I don’t show my first draft to anyone. I already know it needs a lot more work, and I even know what some of that work will be, so asking someone else to read it would be pointless (and embarrassing). If you don’t know what your first draft needs, then by all means, ask for help. But if you decide not to show it to anyone, it may be best not to tell anyone about it either. Otherwise, your well-meaning friends will keep asking you how it’s going, and you will have to distract them with beer or chocolate or witty conversation on another topic (my personal favorite).

4. Don’t let a lack of research slow you down. I write historical fiction, so I do a lot of research, but I only do a little bit to get started. When I began drafting my debut novel, A Violet Season, I needed to know that violets were grown in the Hudson Valley beginning in the early 1890s, and that wet nurses had become somewhat obsolete by the turn of the century, when infant formula was invented. As for the details—how to pick violets, how much wet nurses were paid—in my first draft, I made them up! If I’d been concerned about research too soon, all those trips to the library (and the violet farm, and the Lower East Side of New York City, and so on) might have prevented me from ever finishing that first draft. Instead, I use CAPS in my first drafts to indicate where details need to be filled in later.

(Read author interviews with debut novelists.)

a violet season5. Set a deadline. A Violet Season was written over four summers—each summer, another draft. This was a crazy schedule, I know, but in some ways it was perfect. There was a clear end to the summers (sadly), and to my drafts. If you don’t have a deadline, you run the risk of one draft spilling into the next, and you may never feel a sense of closure or accomplishment. This is really important in a business in which we often work alone and without recognition. When you finish your draft, celebrate! Then start the next one.

GIVEAWAY: Kathy 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).

Deadline for leaving a comment ends on March 20th, so don’t delay.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, Writing Tips Tagged: A VIOLET SEASON, Chuck Sambuchino, First Draft Tips, Kathy Leonard Czepiel, Writer's Digest

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9. 15 Things to Consider When Writing Description

Word PaintingSome of us try to use description language too much in our writing and others need to start thinking about how to use this literary tool more often.

The dictionary defines “describe” as:

To transmit a mental image or impression
To trace or draw the figure of; to outline
To give a verbal account of; to tell about in detail

Used properly it can take your reader into your fictional dream and that is a good thing.

I just bought Word Painting by Rebecca Mcclanahan and thought I would share some of the things she talks about in the first chapter that should give you food for thought. Like I said I just bought it, but so far I am glad I added it to my “How to” books.

1. Descriptive passages create the illusion of reality, inviting the reader to move in, unpack, and move in for a spell. They provide verisimilitude. What John Gardner (author of The Art of Fiction) calls the “proofs” that support and sustain your fictional dream. It is not a bunch of “flowery stuff.” It is not just something we stitch on top of our writing to make it more presentable.

2. Description composed of sensory detail penetrates layers of consciousness, engaging your reader emotionally as well as intellectually. The success of all fiction depends in part on descriptive image-making power.

3. Carefully selected descriptive details can establish you characters and setting quickly and efficiently. It is not merely describing how something looks with visual detail, but also smells, tastes, textures, and sounds.

4. As a framing device, description establishes the narrator’s, or character’s point of view. Shifts in the description frame (or eye) can signal shifts in point of view or a significant change in the character. Description begins in the eye, ear, mouth, nose, and hand of the beholder. Careful and imaginative observation may well be the most essential task of any writer.

5. Well-placed descriptive passages can move your story along, shape the narrative line and unfold the plot. It is not a way to hide from the truth. The world isn’t always pretty. Describe it honestly and face difficult, even ugly, subjects when necessary.

6. Descriptive passages can act as gearshifts, changing the pace of your story – speeding it up or slowing it down, then increasing the story’s tension.

7. Description can serve as a transitional device, a way of linking scene or changing time and place.

8. Description can orchestrate the dance between scene and summary.

9. Description can serve as a unifying thematic device, what Stanley Kunitz calls the “constellation of images” that appears and reappears in a literary work, suggesting the idea or feeling that lives beneath the story line.

10. Description can provide the palette of gradations in mood and tone. Dip you brush in one description and the darkens; in another, and the sun breaks through.

11. The language of you descriptions, its rhythms and sounds, can provide the equivalent of a muscial score for the fictional dream, a subliminal music that plays beneath the story line.

12. Writing descriptively doesn’t always mean writing gracefully. It won’t necessarily make our writing more refine, lyrical, or poetic. Some descriptions demand uneven syntax and plainspoken, blunt prose. Jagged, even. Fragments, too. Slice of chin. Buzz saw.

13. Description doesn’t always require a bigger vocabulary. House is probably a better choice than domicile, a horse is easier to visualize than an equine mammal, and red blood is brighter than the sanguine flow of bodily fluids.

14. Writing descriptively doesn’t necessitate writing more. Description isn’t a steroid, something to make our language bigger and stronger, nor is it an additive promising more miles to the fictional gallon. Sometimes writing descriptively means writing less or disappear altogether.

15. Description rarely stands alone. It should be woven in and seamlessly intertwined with other literary elements. Description isn’t something we simply insert, block style, into passages of narration or exposition. Yes, sometimes we write passages of description. But the term passage suggests a channel, a movement from one place to another; it implies that we’re going somewhere. That somewhere is the story.

Hope this helps.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Book, demystify, inspiration, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Description in Your Writing, Rebecca Mcclanahan, Word Painting, Writer's Digest

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10. MG contest

I wanted to share with you a contest for MG fiction that Writer's Digest is running in conjunction with Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog. 

The contest is for middle grade works of contemporary fiction, set in our present world and time. The contest closes tomorrow so you need to act fast to enter.

More details can be seen at Chuck's site: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/14th-free-dear-lucky-agent-contest-contemporary-middle-grade-fiction?et_mid=664049&rid=239167764

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11. Get Ready for National Poetry Month in April

April is National Poetry Month, and although it’s not quite April yet, I wanted to post this now so you have enough time to dust off your poetry-writing skills and get started on time with this nation-wide celebration!

To get in the mood, check out the performance poetry by Sarah Kay below, as well as the rest of the performance poetry playlist.

I often get so busy that it is half way through the month (or sometimes half way through May or June) when I realize National Poetry Month has come and gone and I had done nothing to participate.

Although I am a poetry appreciator, and I have about a half-dozen journals full of poetry written in adolescence, I don’t know if I'd consider myself a poet. I fell out of touch with this art form when I steered towards prose and academic writing.

Last April, however, I discovered the Poem-a-Day (PAD) Challenge on the Writer’s Digest website and tried it. I did not quite write 30 poems in 30 days (I may have written 11...), but the experienced tapped into my inner poet and helped me to find ways to write more expressively in my creative fiction and academic writing.

All people – writers/non-writers, poetry enthusiasts/poetry neutralists – can benefit from taking a moment to read, write, and/or think about poetry, whether it is in April...or at a later date.

What Is National Poetry Month?
According to the Academy of American Poets,

“National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.”
Poets.org answers this question and many more on its National Poetry Month FAQ page.

How Can You Participate?
The American Academy of Poets has created a list of 30 ways to celebrate poetry, including:
  • Read a book of poetry
  • Put poetry in unexpected places
  • Put a poem on the pavement
  • Write a letter to a poet
In addition, Writer’s Digest is again hosting its PAD Challenge (which I will be attempting again this year).

And the Poetry Foundation is offering back copies of Poetry Magazine in April, which are free for individuals, classrooms, and reading groups.

A quick Google search may also announce other opportunities in your hometown.

How do you plan to celebrate?

Written by: Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor

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12. Such an honor to be recognized…in Writer’s Digest Magazine!

writers-digest-may-june-2014I’m so thrilled to hear that Writer’s Digest Magazine (in the May/June issue) gave me A+ for social media for teens!(beaming and beaming) What an honor, and such a good feeling!

And Debbie Ohi’s (a fellow Toronto writer, illustrator, and friend) website is in the top 101 websites again (and so well deserved).

Thank you so much to Maureen L McGowan for letting me know!

I get a digital subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine, but I don’t have the May/June issue yet. And I so prefer paper magazines any way; they’re so much easier to read, what with the sidebars and such. I have to go buy myself a print copy! (grinning)

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13. 5 Must-Use Tips on Writing a Powerful Thriller (and most other fiction stories)

In Brian Klems' Writer’s Digest Column on Writing, I read a great article titled, "The 5 C’s of Writing a Great Thriller Novel.” While I’m not a thriller writer, the information in this article is applicable to just about all fiction writing. There are fundamentals elements needed in all fiction to make it reader engaging and friendly. In other words, to make it ‘page turning good.’ The

0 Comments on 5 Must-Use Tips on Writing a Powerful Thriller (and most other fiction stories) as of 6/18/2014 7:57:00 AM
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14. Submitting

A year ago, I had an MS ready to start pushing to agents/editors when the wonderful Carol Lynch Williams offered to look it over. She found issues. Since then, my writer’s group has gone over the thing again, cleaning and tightening. This week I finished it, wrote a query and submitted to an editor. Then appears an article on submitting.

Okay, maybe it came out with it before. It’s been a busy month. The editor at WIFYR gave us until the end of July to get anything sent off to her. I’ve been cramming to get the story in a shape to send off, so emails have not been looked at.

The article, “Submission Tip Checklist: Double-Check These 16 Things Before Sending Your Book Out” was written by Chuck Sambuchino who is somehow associated with Writer’s Digest. I subscribe to his mailings and a link to the article was embedded in another piece.

Fortunately, I’ve managed to follow most of the suggestions Sambuchino offers. I failed with the that says to make a final check on Twitter or their site to make sure they are still open for submissions. Another embedded article caught my attention, “Query Letter Pet Peeves - Agents Speak,” also by Sambuchino.

He says its not just a matter of what to write in the query letter, but what not to write. Among the irritants of agents:
-Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary, Inc., does not like vagueness. If you can’t tell her enough about the novel in the query then she will reject it.
-Shira Hoffman of McIntosh & Otis, Inc., mirrors the same. Some authors spend too much time on their bios without presenting essential story details.
-Linda Epstein of Jennifer De Chiara Literary reminds us that agenting and publishing are businesses and the query should be a business letter that should be professional and taken seriously.
-Nicole Resciniti of Seymour Agency agrees. We should treat the query as a job interview. It should be professional and concise and the writer should know their craft and understand the market.
-Bree Ogden of D4EO Literary wants to easily know what the manuscript is about. “It shouldn’t be an Easter egg hunt for the pot line,” she says.

Not included in the above are things such as glaring grammatical or spelling errors, mass emailings sent to a dozen or so other agents, and misspelling of the agent’s name or agency. Those seem rather obvious. Most of the agents in the article mentioned statements that tell the agent the story is “the greatest,” or a blockbuster or masterpiece. 

At WIFYR, agent Amy Jameson of A + B Works shared some of her treasured queries not to write. They included the above mistake extolling the brilliance of their writing. One simply included a picture of the writer. While stunningly handsome, there was no mention of his story specifics. Amy rejected it.

Dang it. And to think I just blew a bunch of cash on a studio photographer.

(This article also posted at http://writetimeluck.blogspot.com)

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15. http://writersdigest.com/article/productivity-pro

On Tap Today:

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16. Ageless Wisdom

At a recent retreat, several writer friends were waxing nostalgic, longing for the “good old days” of publishing.

Back then it was easier to get published. Back then it was common to have editorial attention and hand-holding. If only we could go back, they lamented.

Well, recently I had a rare chance to time travel back to the “good old days” and see what a writer’s life was like 54 years ago . . .

Writing Circa 1950’s

While sorting donated books and magazines for a library book sale, I came across a real treasure: a 1956 Writer’s Digest. Priced at 35 cents, it was a far cry from the large glossy print magazine or colorful web site of today.

I wondered if any writers in 1956 had envisioned the e-zines and e-publishing of today, the huge publishing conglomerates, writing with computers, or the differences in pay scales. (I found references to one-tenth-cent, quarter-cent, and half-cent-per-word rates!) The rates might sound puny, but a quick glance through the market listings showed that most magazines still paid on acceptance.

Ahhh, I thought, another world. I was eager to read the articles next, to see what “wisdom of the ages” was dispensed for such a different writing world.

The more things change…

As I thumbed through the yellowed magazine pages, however, I was surprised by a number of things. First were the numerous ads for co-operative publishing and subsidy publishing (or vanity presses). For some reason, I had assumed they were a plague of the ‘90’s and early 21st Century writing world, an answer for the age we lived in where it was so difficult to sell a manuscript to a “big name” publisher or even a small press.

My second surprise was a full-page ad on the back of the magazine for a bookdoctor, something else I had believed to be the result of present market realities.The ad read: “Sure, you’re going to be an author. But right now you are having ahard time making folks believe it! Friends and neighbors regard your literary ambitions with a quiet smile, but members of the family are less subtle. Not only are you getting no help from them—you aren’t even being encouraged. One day you’ll show ‘em. But what can you show until you have a published book? And how can a book become publishable in today’s selective market without professional counsel?”

Sound familiar? Every word of this book doctor’s ad is just as true in 2010 as it was in 1956!

A Writer’s Life in the Good Old Days

My biggest surprises came in an article called “Roses and Thorns” by Jim Kjelgaard (a juvenile writer). He reflected on his 25 years of writing, which had begun in the early depression years. It would be hard to find a writer whose experiences were further removed from mine than someone who began writing after the crash on Wall Street. Or would it?

I was shocked to find out how much we had in common. For example, Jim’s thoughts on writing only when inspiration strikes sounded identical to the advice I gave a new writer last month. He wrote of “the grueling discipline, the long hours spent over their typewriters” that was required. He called writing “an exacting job that often requires many more hours of hard work than most jobs. . . All the successful writers I know are successful mainly because they work hard,” not because they only wrote when inspired. Not any different today.

Don’t waste your time looking back to the “good old days.” Each period has its challenges, its ups and its downs. The best time to be a writer is a

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17. A Hands-On Webinar with Mary Kole, My Fab Agent

Looking for critique and craft advice from a pub industry pro?

Are you yearning to improve your writing and get it in the hand’s of a great kidlit/MG/YA agent?

If so, you’ve got to check out this great webinar offered by none other than Mary Kole, my wonderful, wise, crazy cool agent.

You think her blog, Kidlit.com is full of helpful hints? Wait til you enroll in this Writer’s Digest class. You’ll get the inside track on all kinds of topics including:

  • The essential elements of books written for younger children, tweens, and teens
  • How your kid reader thinks about fiction and what they want
  • What agents and editors look for in terms of pitch, writing, and book premise
  • How to make your hook absolutely irresistible
  • What separates an aspiring writer from a contracted author in this field

And here’s the best part. Every single participant gets to submit pages for critique. If you register, Mary will personally dig into your work and give you detailed feedback! (And let me tell you, her crits are solid gold. Take it from me, they are the absolute best.)

What are you waiting for?! Get over there and take your game to the next level!

Hungry for More?

Try this yummo recipe for tiramisu, a Mary Kole approved dessert.

Filed under: Uncategorized, Writing Tagged: agents, Kidlit.com, literary agent, Mary Kole, MG, publishing, Writer's Digest, Writing, writing critique, writing webinar, YA 2 Comments on A Hands-On Webinar with Mary Kole, My Fab Agent, last added: 9/2/2010
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18. Four Key Self-Publishing Categories

Jane Friedman is the former publisher and editorial director of Writer’s Digest, she is an industry authority on commercial, literary, and emerging forms of publishing.   Currently, Jane serves as a visiting professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati, and is a contributing editor to Writer’s Digest.

Since 2008, she’s offered advice for writers at her award-winning blog, There Are No Rules. She is the author of the Beginning Writer’s Answer Book and is working on a new book for writers, forthcoming in 2012.

Here is what Jane has to say on this topic:

It’s becoming more difficult to explain the options available not just because there ARE more options, but because there are subtle shades of differences between the options that aren’t immediately clear or apparent—even to people inside the industry.

With this post, I hope to establish some categories to help us talk about the different options now available.

First, let me emphasize: There is no one-size-fits-all self-publishing option. It all depends on your goals, your skill level, and the audience you’re trying to reach.

I would classify most self-publishing options into these 4 categories:

  1. Print-on-Demand (POD) “Full Service”
  2. Print-on-Demand (POD) “Free Service”
  3. E-Book Single Channel
  4. E-Book Multiple Channel

1. Print-on-Demand (POD) “Full Service”
This is the self-publishing option that became very popular in the early 2000s, because it made self-publishing more affordable than ever. Print-on-demand technology allowed for books to be printed one at a time, only after an order was placed, avoiding the necessity for authors to pay for a traditional print run that would most likely sit in a warehouse somewhere, unsold.

There were many players in this arena at first, but consolidation took hold, and AuthorHouse bought up the key players but retained their branding, including iUniverse, Xlibris, and Trafford.

AuthorHouse is now seeking partnerships with traditional publishers to form branded self-publishing imprints that they service. This has happened so far with Thomas Nelson’s West Bow, Harlequin’s Horizons, Hay House, Writer’s Digest’s Abbott Press, and also, just recently, Berrett-Koehler.

Key characteristics of this option

  • Highest priced option for self-publishing since you’re paying for “full service” publishing, which usually includes solid customer service. For better service (e.g., content editing or copyediting), you have to pay for a higher priced package. It can cost thousands of dollars, or hundreds, depending on the package you choose.
  • You have to do nothing, aside from hand over your Microsoft Word document and write a check.
  • You have very little control over pricing. (The common complaint is that you can’t price to reasonably compete against a traditionally published paperback.)
  • You are responsible for all marketing, though of course you can pay for a marketing package that may or may not be helpfu

    1 Comments on Four Key Self-Publishing Categories, last added: 4/1/2011
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19. Young Adult Fiction – Writing Contest

This competition is open to all ages. You may enter as many manuscripts as you like. All manuscripts must be 4,000  words or fewer.

Deadline: October 1, 2011


  • First Prize: The First Place-Winner receives $1,000 cash, promotion in Writer’s Digest, $100 worth of Writer’s Digest Books and the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.
  • Second Prize: The Second Place-Winner receives $500 cash, promotion in Writer’s Digest, $100 worth of Writer’s Digest Books and the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.
  • Honorable Mention: Honorable Mentions will receive promotion in Writer’s Digest and the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.

Entry Fee:  All entries are $20.00. You may pay with a check or money order, Visa, Mastercard or American Express when you enter online or via regular mail.

Click here to enter the competition

To enter via regular mail, use the printable form, and send it with your manuscript(s) and entry fee to:

WD Young Adult Fiction Competition

4700 East Galbraith Road

Cincinnati, OH 45236

I know many of you write YA novels.  Perhaps you can re-work one into a short story.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Competition, Contests, magazine, opportunity, writing Tagged: Short Storiies, Writer's Digest, Young Adult Fiction contest 0 Comments on Young Adult Fiction – Writing Contest as of 1/1/1900
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20. WRITER’S MARKET Call For Submissions


The 2012 Writer’s Market is now in bookstores, which means it is time for the publication to focus on the 2013 Writer’s Market. They’re always updating and adding new listings, but Robert Lee Brewer from FW Media needs pitches for articles on the business of writing. If you have access to a truly great writer interview, then yes, pitch me on that, but mostly he’s looking for articles on the nuts and bolts of freelancing. For instance, he’s interested in negotiating contracts, handling taxes, and making pitches that never (or almost never) fail.

He won’t be making any assignments until after the submission deadline of August 31, 2011. So, give it some thought and then give it a shot.

No attachments please. Just send your pitch and a little information about yourself (that explains why you’re the person to write the article).

Submit pitches to [email protected] with the subject line: Pitch for 2013 Writer’s Market.

If you’re pitching for Writer’s Market, please use the subject line:
Pitch for 2013 Writer’s Market.

If you’re pitching for Poet’s Market, please use the subject line: Pitch for 2013 Poet’s Market.

For Writer’s Market, we’re looking for business- and submission-related pieces. If you’re in doubt about your topic, go ahead and pitch.

For Poet’s Market, accepting pitches for articles that cover craft and business topics. Also interested in anything that helps poets get their work out to a larger readership.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, earn money, opportunity, poetry, Process, Publishing Industry, reference, writing Tagged: Call for Articles, Poet's Market, Writer's Digest, Writer's market 0 Comments on WRITER’S MARKET Call For Submissions as of 1/1/1900
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21. Don’t Miss Writing Contests

Why enter one Writer’s Digest brand-new and exciting genre competitions?

Well…there’s exposure. You win, you get published. Agents, publishers and future fans will see your work. And, of course, you’ll get the money – $1000 for the first place winners and $500 for second place winners. And, let’s be frank…bona fide bragging rights are a bit of alright.

You’ll get a professional critique of your work, where a professional will tell you what works, what doesn’t and how to fix it.

And finally, you’ll get a pretty impressive addition to your resume if you win.

Now I have read a bunch of manuscript from members that would be a good fit with one of these contests, maybe it is time to try submitting. It would be so much fun to have one of you be a winner.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: children writing, Competition, Contests, earn money, opportunity, publishers, submissions Tagged: Book competition, Writer's Digest
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22. Setting the Scene

Jordan E. Rosenfeld wrote an article yesterday for Writer’s Digest that covers 10 key techniques for launching scenes in three main ways: with action, narrative summary or setting.

When she mentions launching, she is referring to the beginning of a scene in your book.  I thought I would make sure you read numbers, eight, nine and ten, which focus on “Settings”(see bottom for link to 1-7).  Often we over look the setting in order to jump into the action, but if done right, adding details about the setting can draw in the reader into the scene and provide a good hook. 

Sometimes setting details—like a jungle on fire, or moonlight sparkling on a lake—are so important to plot or character development that it’s appropriate to include visual setting at the launch of a scene. This is often the case in books set in unusual, exotic or challenging locations such as snowy Himalayan mountains, lush islands or brutal desert climates. If the setting is going to bear dramatically on the characters and the plot, then there is every reason to let it lead into the scene that will follow.

John Fowles’ novel The Magus is set mostly on a Greek island that leaves an indelible imprint on the main character, Nicholas. He becomes involved with an eccentric man whose isolated villa in the Greek countryside becomes the stage upon which the major drama of the novel unfolds. Therefore, it makes sense for him to launch a scene in this manner:

It was a Sunday in late May, blue as a bird’s wing. I climbed up the goat-paths to the island’s ridge-back, from where the green froth of the pine-tops rolled two miles down to the coast. The sea stretched like a silk carpet across to the shadowy wall of mountains on the mainland to the west. … It was an azure world, stupendously pure, and as always when I stood on the central ridge of the island and saw it before me, I forgot most of my troubles.

The reader needs to be able to see in detail the empty Greek countryside in which Nicholas becomes so isolated. It sets the scene for something beautiful and strange to happen, and Fowles does not disappoint.
These final three methods can create an effective scenic launch:

8. ENGAGE WITH SPECIFIC VISUAL DETAILS. If your character is deserted on an island, the reader needs to know the lay of the land. Any fruit trees in sight? What color sand? Are there rocks, shelter or wild, roaming beasts?

9. USE SCENERY TO SET THE TONE OF THE SCENE. Say your scene opens in a jungle where your character is going to face danger; you can describe the scenery in language that conveys darkness, fear and mystery.

10. REFLECT A CHARACTER’S FEELINGS THROUGH SETTING. Say you have a sad character walking through a residential neighborhood. The descriptions of the homes can reflect that sadness—houses can be in disrepair, with rotting wood and untended yards. You can use weather in the same way. A bright, powerfully sunny day can reflect a mood of great cheer in a character.

Scene launches happen so quickly and are so soon forgotten that it’s easy to rush through them, figuring it doesn’t really matter how you get it started. Don’t fall prey to that thinking. Take your time with each scene launch. Craft it as carefully and strategically as you would any other aspect of your scene. Remember that a scene launch is an invitation to the reader, beckoning him to come further along with you. Make your invitation as alluring as possible.

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23. Get Your Fantasy Story Published: Insider Manuscript Submission Tips From an Editor

Ask anyone. The biggest question when you're a writer is likely "how do you get published?" Some writers start thinking about it way before they should—before they've focused their attention on improving their craft and writing a good story. In my opinion that should always come first and if you're serious about getting published, well, then that's your first step, isn't it? Make sure your writing is good and write something worth reading. That said, when you are ready to get published, what do you do? There's plenty of advice on how to get published out there—volumes and volumes written on the subject. But within all that wealth of information that's available, how do you know which advice is right for you, especially if you write within a specific genre like fantasy (or an even more specialized niche like fantasy YA or say paranormal YA romance)? The key (aside from having a really great manuscript) is in being detail oriented and communicating well. Sounds easy enough, but if you've been writing for any length of time at all, then you know it can be tricky. Here are a few tips that I hope will help you in your search for publication. Continue reading

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24. The Art of Research Avoidance

Sherman Alexie's recent Writer's Digest blog entry has been getting a lot of love on facebook this week.  My personal favorite from his list is #5, but I am here to talk about item #4 -- that dreaded eight-letter word, research.

I teach college English composition, and many of my students are loath to use any resource besides google; to visit the library, to open a book, to take a note, to thoughtfully examine both sides of the issue, and certainly to develop more than the most cursory familiarity with a proposed topic before beginning to write about it.

We all live in an age where research has become exponentially easier than it has ever been.  When I began working as a writers' assistant at Days of Our Lives, our office was Internet-free.  If I needed information about crime, I called the Burbank PD; if I needed to know about brain surgery, I actually bothered a neurosurgeon at USC.  My bookshelf remains stocked with resources such as the writers' friendly guide to poisons and committing the perfect murder.  However, I have not used these in a very long time, as now the information is literally at my fingertips.

Nowadays it is so easy to take a shortcut -- to avoid talking to real-live person when it is truly necessary to talk to a real-live person.  Through the years, I have learned that research is not my forte or really my interest.   I have also gotten used to approaching it from a soap-writer angle -- yes, it is incredibly unlikely, but is there a one-in-a-billion chance that it could happen?  Great, we'll do it! 

I pretty much only write contemporary fiction (partly due to my incorporating-research aversion), but I haven't been able to avoid the exercise entirely.  Lately I've made use of the virtual Walters Art Gallery, codebreaking websites, and Google Maps. In the past, I've ridden roller coasters at Hershey Park and taken ice skating lessons to put myself in Nancy Drew's shoes.  My favorite type of research, though, comes from reading fiction (back to Alexie's item #4) and seeing how other writers have approached similar material or particular writing challenges.

From what I understand, it is fairly common for writers to get mired in the research phase of a story, to use the library or the Internet as an escape from the harder work of filling a blank page with words.  I am perhaps that unique soul who suffers from perhaps an oxymoronic-sounding problem: I can avoid with the best of them, yet I still seem never to do quite enough (or quite the right) research.

In short, I definitely think Alexie has a point.  And I am eager to see what the historical fiction, sci-fi, and non-fiction writers among us have to say on this subject as the week goes on.

Also... Don't forget to enter our Guest Teaching Author Book Giveaway to win an autographed copy of Who’s Faster? Animals on the Move by Eileen Meyer.

Have a great week, and happy writing! --Jeanne Marie

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Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books and finding Success as an Author -- Chuck Sambuchino


I’ve read several books on author platform but have to confess never fully grasping the term until reading Chuck Sambuchino’s CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM. At its simplest level, a platform is an author’s visibility and reach -- the framework an author has and continues to build that let’s others know of his or her work.

Sambuchino describes his book as “a guide for all the hardworking writers out there who want a say in their own destinies.” Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to establishing a platform, Sambuchino says the need for platform cannot be ignored, even for those of us who write fiction. The book is divided into three sections: The Principles of Platform, The Mechanics of Platform, and Author Case Studies. At the end of each chapter, literary agents weigh in on the chapter’s topic, giving readers perspectives outside of the author’s. One of the most helpful aspects of the book is the Case Study section, where twelve different authors from a variety of genres (memoir to self help, fiction to reference) reflect on the choices they made in building their platforms -- what worked, what they wish they’d done differently, what they believe makes them stand out from others in their field.

Sambuchino is also quick to say “this is a resource for those who realize that selling a book is not about blatant self-promotion.” It is more about relationships, the sharing of expertise, and supporting others along the way. Though written for the aspiring author, a lot of things resonated with me, a newly published author, such as the wisdom behind an author newsletter, establishing an “events” page on my blog, and always, that kindness and generosity go a long way.

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