The blog for writers

The Book Deal

Have you ever written something you later regretted?

I sure have. It was 1964 and I was on assignment for The Nation magazine to write a review of the Beatles at Carnegie Hall, their first live appearance in the United States. No Soul in Beatlesville There I was, standing on a shaky balcony seat trying to see the stage over a mob of hysterical, … [Read more...]

Staying connected: You’re not alone

When you're writing in the zone, you feel confident and creative, ready for prime time, readers, agents, and publishers, right? But it doesn’t always come that easily.  When writers get stuck, those good feelings can drop away quickly. A lonely occupation Writing is a solitary business for … [Read more...]

Prequels build buzz!

Have you heard what some savvy authors are doing to build excitement and attract readers to their upcoming books? They’re writing prequels: tantalizing teasers in short story form that preview the key characters and settings of an upcoming novel. Some prequels predate or provide backstories for … [Read more...]

Too much vertical space in your manuscript?

In filmmaking, vertical space is shorthand for script pages with lots of white and not a lot of words. For scriptwriters it’s the rule. A script has dialogue, brief notes for action on the screen and not much else. It makes for quick reading and ensures a kind of textual scarcity that directors … [Read more...]

How to grab, delight or shock your readers right from the start

"Every time mama came down on that shabby floor, the bullet lodged in my stomach felt like a hot poker." Claude Brown and I hunted through his manuscript for two days to find that moment and move it to the opening of his classic Harlem memoir Manchild in the Promised Land. We wanted to detail … [Read more...]

An interview with yours truly about self-publishing

A while ago I sat for an interview with Brian Felsen, CEO of BookBaby, a service provider for self-publishing authors. He asked a lot of good questions for authors about working with an editor, getting published, and effective book promotion. Here’s the video, in which we talk about how the … [Read more...]

How to find a hungry agent

Here’s a literary agent who’s very specific about the kind of book she'd like to see in her inbox: “I love books with some kind of psychological element, like if the MC has a mental illness or if they can't trust their mind.” Working on anything like that? Or something close? Want to know more … [Read more...]

Happy Birthday Tom Robbins! Time to revisit your advice to writers

I’ve never known a great author to be more generous with useful advice about the craft of writing than Tom Robbins. If you’ve yet to discover this fabulous author, Robbins has written many bestselling novels including Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Jitterbug Perfume, Skinny Legs and All and … [Read more...]

Ask the Editor: Memoir or novel for my true story?

Q. I have an amazing true story to tell, but publishing it may step on some toes. Should I write it as a memoir, and tell it exactly like it was? Or should I write it discreetly as a novel, so I can disguise the lurid details and stay out of trouble? If I don’t write this story, the truth will … [Read more...]

How winning a literary prize can change your life

“First, it got my book published,” says Kirstin Scott, whose novel Motherlunge won the 2011 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award. “And with that, the prize gave me readers.” There’s no doubt that winning a well-respected competition can help validate your work with agents and … [Read more...]