Girl reading

What Makes a Blog or a Book Compelling?

Whether we’re talking about blogs, non-fiction books, or novels, one of the most crucial elements in making it compelling to readers is authenticity. When something is written from your deepest truth; when you’ve put your heart and passion into it, the reader can tell. In my mind, this is another way of saying, “Write what…
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When Should You Write Your Memoir?

I just finished reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. This is an incredible book, a bestseller since its release in March, about the author’s 1,100 (that’s eleven hundred) mile solo hike through California and Oregon. She undertook the hike as a way of coping with devastating…
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Farewell to Arms

6 Things To Learn from Hemingway

Over the last year or so, I’ve been re-reading some Ernest Hemingway. The more I read, and the more I learn about his approach to writing and his work habits, the more I’m in awe of his genius. I’ve come to see him as a remarkable example that serious writers would do well to study…
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9 Ways to Outwit Writer’s Block

*Or get out of a rut 1. Read a chapter of your WIP aloud to someone other than your cat. Invite feedback, if you’re brave. But mostly, just listen as you read. Do the words flow easily, roll nicely off the tongue? Do you stumble anywhere? Anything sound awkward? How’s the dialogue? Option: Record yourself…
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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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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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Teen girl reading

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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