Writing

cutting snowflakes

How to Cut Thousands of Words Without Shedding a Tear

Strategies for Writers, part 3 of 3 Is your book too long? Does it feel a bit wordy, perhaps slightly bloated? Or . . . does it feel perfect but it’s a little high in word count? There comes a time in every writer’s life when they need to reduce their word count. Ack! Not my…
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Classic books

How Important Is Your Book Title?

I was talking to a writer who mentioned she hadn’t worked too hard to come up with a great title for her book. When I asked her why, she said she’d been to a workshop taught by an editor at a major publishing house, who said, “Don’t get too attached to your title — there’s a good…
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Storyteller or Writer?

Dear Rachelle, I’ve been querying agents, and the responses I’ve received indicate that my novel-writing isn’t up to par. I understand that — I have a full-time career and I’m not a writer by trade. But I’m a storyteller and want to share my stories with others. So…I began wondering if there is another way I could…
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old-books

You Are Not Tolstoy or Dickens

Whenever I talk about the guidelines and conventions that are expected in today’s fiction—for example, don’t go overboard with description, or… show, don’t tell—I always get writers pushing back with the classic “classics” argument. They’ll say things like, “But what about Charlotte Bronte? What about F. Scott Fitzgerald? You’d probably reject THEM if they came…
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Eats Shoots and Leaves

Quotes for Writers

When the humorist James Thurber was writing for New Yorker editor Harold Ross in the 1930s and 1940s, the two men often had very strong words about commas. It is pleasant to picture the scene: two hard-drinking alpha males in trilbies smacking a big desk and barking at each other over the niceties of punctuation.…
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Red editing pen

The Editorial Letter

We’ve discussed editing before, and it can be confusing that the word “edit” can mean so many different things. In publishing, there are three basic types of edit that a book might go through (although the lines can be blurry): The copyedit: Detailed editing including the nitty gritty of grammar, punctuation, typos, word choice, even fact-checking.…
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On Darkness in YA Literature

By now most of you have read the Wall Street Journal article that appeared on June 4th called “Darkness Too Visible” by Meghan Cox Gurdon, which decried the dark themes in today’s YA literature. After it came out, the Internet erupted with responses, including over 15,000 tweets and many blogs posts and articles from YA authors and others in the writing/publishing community. (Nathan Bransford gave some good links.) All of this happened when I was on vacation and blissfully unaware, but now I’ve read the article, dozens of the tweets and a handful of the posts and I do have something to say.

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What’s the Story on Backstory?

I’m taking a blogging break this week. Hope you enjoy this post from my archives. One of the biggest challenges for novelists—new and seasoned alike—is avoiding too much backstory in the opening of the book. A lot of people ask me questions about backstory, and often argue with me about it. So I wanted to…
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Story vs. Craft

I’m taking a blogging break this week. Hope you enjoy this post from my archives. As I go through queries and partials, I’m often thinking about the two elements of a good novel: craft and story. Craft refers to all the mechanics of fiction: plot, characterization, dialogue, pacing, flow, scene-crafting, dramatic structure, point-of-view, etc. Story…
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Write Your Truth

I’m taking a blogging break this week. Hope you enjoy this post from my archives. “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to…
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A Few Good Quotes for Writers

“When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”~Kurt Vonnegut “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. Perfectionism will…
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Vlogging, Anyone?

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Wilkov Society loves moving pictures. Movies and television have been around for a long time, but then along came the Internet—and YouTube is right up there with Google and Facebook as the most visited websites in the world. Vlogging, or video blogging, is a great way for you as an author to…
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What the Fiction Editor Looks For – Part 2

Yesterday we focused on the characters in your novel. Here are a few more things editors look for when reading your novel, this time, about the story itself. The premise needs to be strong enough (as well as interesting enough) to support the entire book. Every book needs suspense…the page-turning factor…a burning story question that the…
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What the Fiction Editor Looks For

Part 1 For the next couple of days I’m going to point out some of the things an editor looks for when reading a manuscript. When you get a content edit (or “developmental edit”) on your novel, you may find these kinds of things pointed out for improvement. Today I’m going to focus on your novel’s characters.…
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