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24 38
101 BEST WEBSITES FOR WRITERS Indie authors and bestsellers alike must harness the
WD’s annual roundup of the top reader- and staff-nomi- force of Amazon to maximize sales. Here are 4 covert
success strategies for authors taking on the world’s
nated websites for writers shows where to go to improve
largest bookseller.
all aspects of writing and learn more about the business.


DIGNIFIED DETOURS The right online writing community can push you further
When procrastination beckons, surfing along the path to success. Whether you’re looking for
the world of wordsmithing websites ensures prompts, beta readers, publishing advice or more writer
that your time isn’t truly wasted. friends, here are a few places to find your people.

2 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

M AY/J UNE 2 019 | VOLU ME 9 9 | NO. 4


8 BACK IN THE DAY: Fiction and nonfiction

46 writers alike can glean lessons about writing from

the examples of industry defying, sometimes
outlandish, vintage magazines and comics.

The master fantasy world-builder reveals her secrets

10 PLUS: 5-Minute Memoir: Time to Finish • Shared
to success on Patreon and speculates on how
Writing • Poetic Asides: Rondine • Hook, Line and
imagination might test-drive our future.
Self-Publish • The Art and Craft of Wasting Time •
Worth a Thousand Words


2 0 MEET THE AGENT: Stephanie Hansen

Metamorphosis Literary Agency

21 INDIELAB:The Seven Principles of Self-Publishing


2 2 BREAKING IN: Debut Author Spotlight


5 2 FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK: Agent and Editor

Relationships; Trusting an Agent’s Judgment

FANTASTICAL TRUTHS 5 4 YOUR STORY: First Things First, Contest #94

AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 6 4 TAKE TWO: Formatting Your Screenplay

The winner of the 14th Annual Writer’s Digest Popular
Fiction Awards addresses universal truths—and attempts 6 6 CONFERENCE SCENE: Lakefly Writers
to answer life’s big questions—through fantasy worlds. Conference; Atlanta Writers Conference
BY CASSANDRA LIPP PLUS: That Big Conference: Should You Go?



5 7 Punch Up Your Punctuation
3 5 Tactical Time Wasting
57 FINDING THE NUANCES BEST 3 8 Become an Amazon Bestseller
W BSI E 4 2 Find Your People


MAY/JUNE 2019 writersdigest com 2 4 101 Best Websites for Writers
4 6 The WD Interview: N.K. Jemisin



PLUS: 4 online exclusives 5 editor’s letter 6 contributors

Writer’s Digest (ISSN 0043-9525) is published monthly, except bimonthly issues in March/April, May/June, July/August and November/December, by F+W Media Inc., 10151 Carver Road, Ste. 300,
Blue Ash, OH 45242. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Writer’s Digest, P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235. Subscription rates: one year, $24.96; two years, $49.92; three years, $74.88. Canadian
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WritersDigest.com I 3
Right Now at

App Happy
Are you happier viewing one of our 101 Best Websites
(Page 24) on your tablet or phone than on a laptop?
Check out our favorite apps for writers.

Reading for Meaning

Award-winning fantasy writer N. K. Jemisin, this issue’s
WD interview (Page 46), talks about sensitivity readers,
author interpretation and more in an extended Q&A.

Group Insight

Breaking In (Page 22) author Joanne Ramos
shares secrets on how to find and make the most
of your writing community.

To find all of the above online companions to this issue in

one handy spot, visit writersdigest.com/jun-19.

PLUS: Do some productive web surfing on WritersDigest.com!


Bird Box author and multidisciplinary WRITING GOALS—AND ACCOMPLISH
creative Josh Malerman shares ALL OF THEM
insights into his writing process, what P.S. Hoffman outlines the secrets to
it’s like having a story adapted for successfully accomplishing your big-
the screen, his unique theatrical book gest, hairiest writing goals—including
readings and more. setting them and creating a sustain-
able routine that will enable to you to
realistically attain them.

Many YA authors are adults, which means the generation gap between these
writers and their intended audience can make it easy to miss the mark. Teen
writer (and avid reader) Lorena Koppel lays out four ways to make sure your YA
novel meets young audiences’ expectations and interests.

4 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

MAY/JUNE 2019 | VOLUME 99 | NO. 4

Time to Begin
Ericka McIntyre
Welcome to The Web Issue! Most of us have
SENIOR EDITORS a love/hate relationship with the internet. It’s
Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, a fantastic place to fritter away hours of good
Robert Lee Brewer, Amy Jones writing time obsessing over the latest celeb-
rity breakup, taking quizzes to figure out what
kind of breakfast food best represents us and
Cassandra Lipp
arguing with strangers from across the world
ART DIRECTOR on Twitter.
Jason D. Williams It’s a place where we can be wildly misun-
derstood, but also a place where we can find
common ground. It can be the place where we
Tyler Moss
find connections with others of our sort that
Jessica Strawser
we otherwise might not—fellow parents, science fiction fans, knitters, cat
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS people, oh and, writers.
Jane K. Cleland, David Corbett, For what—to me, at least—is a startling number of years (21!), Writer’s
Bob Eckstein, Jane Friedman, Digest has been compiling the Best Websites for Writers feature. In this year’s
Steven James, Barbara Poelle, edition (Page 24), Jess Zafarris and Cassandra Lipp have assembled 101 sites
Elizabeth Sims, Jeff Somers, that help writers succeed in every way, from finding an agent, to breaking a
Kara Gebhart Uhl, Don Vaughan
writing slump, to writing better fight scenes.
I am particularly fond of this month’s 5-Minute Memoir (Page 10). In a
Jess Zafarris single page, it speaks volumes on the theme of having time enough to finish—
to finish a book, to finish a life. Becoming Editor-in-Chief of Writer’s Digest is
a monumental part of my life’s work. And I’m just getting started!
Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
From this issue forward, I’m hoping to connect with you, our readers, both
online and here in our pages. I don’t plan to “fix” anything here that isn’t bro-
WRITER’S DIGEST ken. But I will not be exactly like any previous editor—I’ll be me. And who
EDITORIAL OFFICES am I? I’m a writer, just like you; an avid reader like you as well. I want the
10151 Carver Road, Ste. 300,
same thing for my writing that you come to Writer’s Digest for: to learn how
Blue Ash, OH 45242
to write better, to discover how the business of publishing really works, to
(513)531-2690, ext. 11241;
master the secrets behind the successes of our most esteemed writers.
writers.digest@fwmedia.com I will work doggedly to learn these things, and to share them with you. I’ll
also be seeking out new voices in the publishing world who can bring more
representation and new ways of thinking about writing to the pages here. As
we look forward to our 100th anniversary in 2020, I will be reflecting on what
Subscription inquiries, orders and makes Writer’s Digest the trusted resource you’ve always loved, and how we
address changes can be made at can best bring it into its second century.

Or call: (800)333-0133 for U.S. orders,

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Both print and digital back issues

are available for purchase at

WritersDigest.com I 5
Gregory J. Osberg


ROB EAGAR (“Operation Amazon,” Page 38) Ray Chelstowski
is a marketing consultant who has coached more than MANAGING DIRECTOR -
600 authors and helped books hit the New York Times F+W INTERNATIONAL
bestseller list in three different categories. He is the creator James Woollam

of The Author’s Guide book series and instructor VP, CONSUMER MARKETING
of the Writer’s Digest University online course Mastering John Phelan

Amazon for Authors. Learn more about Rob at VP, DIGITAL

Jason Revzon

Pat Fitzgerald

JULIE DUFFY (“Pillar of the Community,” Page 42) is Jill Ruesch (800)726-9966, ext. 13223;
founder of StoryADay (storyaday.org), an online com- fax: (715)445-4087;
munity and creativity challenge where she has been writing jill.ruesch@fwmedia.com
about creativity, productivity and short fiction since 2010. ADVERTISING SALES COORDINATOR
Her first experience of a writer’s group was the ironically Julie Dillon (800)726-9966, ext. 13311;
named online Local Writers’ Workshop, back in 1996. fax: (715)445-4087;
After starting a family, she realized how important it was
to maintain connections with other writers and founded
Tony Carrini
StoryADay to create some accountability and fellowship. (646)859-6599

To carry Writer’s Digest in your store,
please contact: Curtis Circulation Co.
JERA BROWN (“The WD Interview: N. K. Jemisin,”
Page 46) has been living her dream to be a full-time free-
lance writer since completing her Master of Fine For Newsstand Distribution, contact:
Arts in creative nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago Scott T. Hill; scott.hill@procirc.com

in 2017. She lives a block from Lake Michigan and finds

inspiration walking the shoreline with her shelter mutt.
Occasionally we make portions of
Jera is most proud of her sex and relationship advice
our customer list available to other
column with Rebellious Magazine and her memoir-in- companies so they may contact you
progress, which depicts how her sexual journey is also about products and services that may
a spiritual one. be of interest to you. If you prefer we
withhold your name, simply send a
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Road, Ste. 300, Cincinnati, OH 45242.
JESS ZAFARRIS (“101 Best Websites for Writers,” Printed in the USA
Page 24) is director of digital content and education for COPYRIGHT © 2018
Writer’s Digest and Script Magazine. Her eight years of ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

experience in digital and print content direction include WRITER’S DIGEST MAGAZINE IS A REGISTERED
such roles as editor-in-chief of HOW design magazine
and online content director of HOW and PRINT maga-
zines, as well as writing for the Denver Business Journal,
ABC News and Memphis’ The Commercial Appeal. Follow
her at @JessZafarris or @uselessety on Twitter, and
sign up for her free weekly Writer’s Digest Newsletter.

6 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

You’ve poured your heart and soul into your
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prompt. Wherever you are, your next poem
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WritersDigest.com I 7
Back in the Day
Fiction and nonfiction writers alike can glean lessons about writing from the
examples of industry defying, sometimes outlandish, vintage magazines and comics.

ver the last century,
an eclectic array of
magazines rose up to
dramatically alter the
publishing landscape. Some were new
in concept, such as comic books, a
truly American art form birthed in
the mid-1930s to immediate success.
Others were new in approach, such as
Esquire in the 1960s, empowered and
eager to take on the establishment as
never before.
Writers today can learn much from
publications of the past—magazines
that defined exciting new trends in Contemporary fiction writers can wears. Start something!”
journalism, embraced innovative writ- learn from pulp magazines the impor- Readers can find pulps aplenty on
tance of a tight, character-driven nar- eBay, as well as in anthologies such as
ing styles and gave voice to some of the
rative; the necessity of imaginative The Pulps, edited by Tony Goodstone,
20th century’s most influential writers.
descriptions and how to immediately and The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps,
grab the reader with an action-filled edited by Otto Penzler.
1. THE PULPS (1890s–1950s)
lead. Jack Byrne, managing editor of
Made from the cheapest paper avail-
the pulp magazine publisher Fiction 2. COMIC BOOKS IN THE 1940s
able, pulp magazines were among the
House, wrote in an August 1929 The comic book as we know it today
bestselling fiction publications of their
Writer’s Digest article detailing the was birthed as a secondary showcase
day, with the most popular titles sell- manuscript needs of Fiction House’s for popular newspaper comic strips.
ing hundreds of thousands of copies 11 magazines: “We must have a good, The medium’s appeal was immedi-

per month at their height. The pulps fast opening. Smack us within the first ate, and by the early 1940s comic
paid just a penny or so a word, so writ- paragraph. Get our interest aroused. books flooded newsstands. The ’40s
ers quickly learned that making a liv- Don’t tell us about the general geo- was arguably the most important era
ing required a nimble imagination and graphic situation or the atmospheric in comic book history because the
remarkable speed, with some working conditions. Don’t describe the hero’s medium invented itself as it went along.
on several stories simultaneously. physique or the kind of pants he Many comic books back then were

8 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

dreck, but there were also gems, such men’s adventure features, edited by
as Bill Finger’s early stories for Batman Pep Pentangeli, are currently available PULP FICTION
and the Green Lantern. for curious contemporary readers. Get more vintage writing tips from
the 1929 article by Jack Byrne, “The
Finger and his colleagues saw in
Way to the Fiction House Market,” at
comics a fertile new market where they 4. ESQUIRE IN THE 1960s writersdigest.com/jun-19.
could play with outlandish characters Audacious best describes Esquire in the
and explore innovative ways to tell a 1960s. During this era, the magazine the psyches of everyone from Stanley
story. Quite a few mainstream authors published its most iconic and con- Kubrick to Ayn Rand.
supplemented their income writing troversial covers (a smiling William Playboy’s editors understood the
for comic books during this period, Calley surrounded by Vietnamese chil- importance of thorough pre-interview
including Mickey Spillane, Alfred dren, an arrow-pierced Muhammad research, well-crafted questions and
Bester, Otto Binder and Edmond Ali as St. Sebastian) and introduced bravery on the part of the interviewer.
Hamilton, who enjoyed a lengthy stint New Journalism. Suddenly, reportage Some of the era’s best interviews can
penning the adventures of Superman. was more than facts and figures—it be found in The Playboy Interview,
Writers today can learn about care- included tropes previously found only edited by G. Barry Golson.
ful plotting and thoughtful character in fiction, and often the writer was
development from comic books of central to the story. 6. 1970s ROLLING STONE
the 1940s. Popular titles from that era, Writers in the early stages of their Launched in November 1967, Jann
such as Superman, Captain America careers will find much to glean from Wenner’s music newspaper really came
and the original Captain Marvel, can the approach, style and structure into its own in the 1970s—a revo-
be found in a variety of readily avail- of ’60s-era Esquire features such as lutionary decade that demanded a
able inexpensive omnibuses. “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” by Gay new approach to covering news. Like
Talese, “M” by John Sack and “There Esquire a decade prior, Rolling Stone
3. MEN’S ADVENTURE Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy- freed its writers from traditional jour-
MAGAZINES (1944–EARLY ’70s) Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline nalistic constraints and encouraged
One of the most interesting publish- Baby” by Tom Wolfe, among others. them to cover stories in new, provoca-
ing trends of the post-World War II Esquire wasn’t alone in this move- tive ways. Perhaps the apex of this
era was the men’s adventure maga- ment, but the remarkable freedom it approach was the publication in two
zine. At the genre’s height, dozens of gave its writers helped make it a cor- parts of Hunter S. Thompson’s hilari-
very manly titles filled newsstands, nerstone in an era when journalism ously radical “Fear and Loathing in Las
enticing readers with lurid headlines was in flux. Esquire's complete archives Vegas,” which likely would have found
such as “We Battled the Man-Starved are available by subscription (classic. a home nowhere else.
Nymphos of Corumba” and even esquire.com). It's worth every penny. Contemporary nonfiction writers
more sensational illustrations. Their looking to hone their craft are encour-
tabloid-y policy of story over facts 5. PLAYBOY IN THE 1960s aged to study the ’70s-era reporting
resulted in over-the-top tales of com- Established on a shoestring in 1953, of Tim Cahill, Howard Kohn, Tom
bat heroics, horrific battles against Playboy took a few years to find its Wolfe, Tom Burke and Joe Eszterhas—
nature (“Weasels Ripped My Flesh”), footing. But by the 1960s, it became a masters at looking past the obvious
lost civilizations and more. publishing powerhouse and household for the real story hidden in the dark.
While these magazines have noth- name. Like Esquire during this period, Rolling Stone has published a number
ing to offer journalists, fiction writers Playboy was turning journalism on its of collections, but the best remains
will find a master class in put-it-all- head, especially when it came to the Reporting: The Rolling Stone Style,
on-the-page storytelling. Most men’s art of the interview. The magazine sent edited by Paul Scanlon. It contains
adventure writers toiled in anonymity, Alex Haley to interview the founder of some of the magazine’s best stories
but a handful of famous names rose the American Nazi Party (Haley also from the “Me Decade.”
to prominence, including playwright conducted groundbreaking interviews
Don Vaughan (donaldvaughan.com) is a
Bruce Jay Friedman and The Godfather with Martin Luther King Jr. and Miles freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C., and founder
author Mario Puzo. Four volumes of Davis) and unhesitatingly explored of Triangle Association of Freelancers.

WritersDigest.com I 9

Time to Finish

was not given time to finish!” the Russian writer Isaac Babel was said to
have shouted as he was whisked away to prison by Stalin’s secret police
in 1939. Babel was executed at age 45, leaving behind short stories, plays
and novellas that would fill a thousand pages.
Eighty years later, you are sitting at your desk in Seattle, writing your ¿rst
novel. You are 58, thirteen years older than Babel when he died. What do
you have to show for it? The answer is laughable: a few essays, short memoir
pieces, a knock-kneed novel stumbling out of the gate.
Then you wonder, How many are given time to finish?
finish it, not even your mother. Nor the
Consider now your 83-year-old uncle, who passed away from liver cancer.
agent who says by all means, send her
He managed to say goodbye to all ¿ve children and 21 grandkids who Àocked
your manuscript.
to his hospital bed. Lucky man. He was given time to finish.
Nobody cares. But one. You. You
But then you remember your friend Isabel. She died suddenly, alone in her
care. Desperately.
apartment, of a massive heart attack at age 64. She had spent the last decade try-
The clock in your room tells
ing to get her screenplay produced. That dream died with her, because her passion
the time, each tick as Àeeting as a
was hers alone, like a fire that can’t leap from one human being to another.
heartbeat. You are not getting up
As a student of Zen, you once believed that each life lived, no matter how
from your chair. You believe Ron
short, was a complete life. But this was before you fell, body and soul, down the
Carlson when he said, “The most
writing well. If death came tomorrow, no way would you be ready! Why? You
important thing a writer can do after
are thinking about all the stories inside you, bubbling in the cauldron of your
completing a sentence is to stay in the
mind, stories waiting to rise to the rim.
room … The writer understands that
When you were a child your mother said you dilly-dallied at just about
to stand up from the desk is to fail.”

everything. Looking back, you are not proud. All those years spent mucking
You no longer have time to fail. So
around. Not reading. Not writing. All the time squandered. Now, you read like a
you remain in the chair, pounding
thirsty dog lapping up all of the craft books about fiction you can get your hands
the keys so you can fuel that late-
on. You read with the eyes of a drunk, guzzling down the great novels of our
blooming fire that is yours and yours
time. You take a flurry of writing classes, unfazed that you are the oldest person
alone. Because it’s nontransferable,
in the room—older, even, than the instructor.
it’s perishable.
In the spring you go ziplining in Hawaii for the first time. You let out a
silent scream as you dangle like a helpless puppet, terrified,
As a writer it is all you ask for.
700 feet above a ravine. You cling like a madwoman to your
Time to finish.
safety harness. No way you want to die. Yet a few months
later, you hear that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain used Reni Roxas’s writing has been published in
a scarf and a bathrobe belt, in that order, to end their lives. Brain, Child magazine, ParentMap and the
upcoming anthology WRITING IN PLACE:
How many even want time to finish? Prose & Poetry from the Pacific Northwest.
Here’s the sorry-ass deal if you are an unknown writer: She is at work on a novel while reading the
The world is not waiting for your novel. Nobody cares if you wonderful short stories of Isaac Babel.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Submit your own 600-word essay reflection on the writing life by emailing it to wdsubmissions@fwmedia.com with
“5-Minute Memoir” in the subject line.

10 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

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Shared Writing
More than just a quiet space to work without distraction, writers can find
connections with other writers and more in coworking spaces created specifically
for them.

lisabeth Eaves and her hus- Type Set is one of the newest
band Joe Ray knew what writer-only shared offices nationwide,
they needed when they offering focus, collaboration, solidar-
opened Type Set in Seattle ity and professional development. This
in March 2017: “A quiet and serene year marks the 40th anniversary of
place to work, away from the dishes the first such destination—New York
and distractions, that also provides City’s nonprofit The Writers Room,
the collegiality of other writers,” where writers have crafted more than
Eaves says. “There’s a real mutual 1,400 books. Over the years, execu-
respect for the need to put our heads tive director Donna Brodie has fielded
down and do our jobs. I just don’t get calls from curious writers in Boston,
that amid the noise and to-ing and Hamburg and Brooklyn, hoping to
fro-ing of a coffee shop.” start their own workspace.
At Type Set, writers can choose Of course, not every space can offer
from nine workstations, two club a view of the Empire State Building. ing press with original ink spills on a
chairs or a long table used for polished concrete floor, while the East
monthly brown-bag lunches with PHYSICAL SPACE Egg is a cozy converted bungalow.
guest speakers, such as a develop- Coworking spaces differ greatly, The Hatchery’s spaces include
mental editor or the Sasquatch Books but all spur the creative process in silent library rooms, 60 desks, a con-
editorial director. A gurgling coffee thoughtful ways and offer free WiFi. ference room’s 12-seat walnut table
pot and the soft clack of keys may be The ADA-compliant Writers Room and a Deadline Room, where cubicles
heard, but the 650-square-foot office is located in a cast-iron, elevator- wall off the world. Corner desks
has a quiet policy; members take calls equipped building. At 4,000 square in quiet, cozy rooms go first, along
outside or in a small phone room. feet, it’s spacious by any standard, with standing desks and desks near
As writers type their next novel or equipped with 45 custom-built parti- windows, co-founder Talia Bolnick
memoir, they’re working side by side— tioned desks and oversized armchairs. says. A favorite desk already snapped
not falling into Facebook. “It’s sort of At Paragraph’s Brooklyn location, up? Head out onto the rooftop patio,
Pavlovian,” Eaves says. “You see you’re overhead skylights brighten a room wraparound porch or ground-level,
in the writing space, so you write.” with 30 desks, while the Union Square grill-equipped patio. The two com-
Fellow coworkers empathize with location’s 38 desks are beneath tin munal kitchens contain typical appli-
the writing life, says Type Set member ceilings. At both locations, desk users ances, panini and waffle makers and
Margot Kahn, and connections led her intentionally can’t see one another; honor-system snacks.
to freelance gigs, a book deal and joint blocked sightlines improve focus. Kitchens are where writers take

ventures. Kahn says the camaraderie In San Francisco, a former law firm breaks and socialize (Hatchery’s is
of connections can be valuable and houses The Writers Grotto, where 32 also known as “The Procrastination
inspiring. “If I’m working from home, individual offices are equipped with Room”) at all coworking offices. Free
it’s possible for the day to go by where doors. Los Angeles’s The Hatchery coffee and tea power the writers’ days.
I don’t see anyone besides my family Press is located in two next-door build- At Toronto Writers’ Centre (TWC),
and the mailman,” Kahn says. ings: the West Egg is in a former print- writers gather in the natural light of

12 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

the lounge and kitchen. “There is a run $35/day and $75/week for visi-
great camaraderie,” director Jocelyn
Hidi says. “The established writ-
tors), and some have reciprocity
agreements. For example, Paragraph’s
ers are open to questions from the members can visit Chicago’s The BROOKLYN WRITERS SPACE

emerging writers. It’s a very coopera- Writers WorkSpace or Toronto’s brooklynwriters.com/wp

tive atmosphere.” And in Paragraph’s Writers’ Centre for free. PARAGRAPH, BROOKLYN
soundproofed kitchen, writers can paragraphny.com
chat or commiserate without disturb- COMMUNITY
ing others. “Nobody needs a desk, you have one THE WRITERS ROOM, NEW YORK

Unlike coworking offices designed in your home,” muses Caroline Paul, CITY

for tech entrepreneurs and solo busi- a longtime member of The Writers writersroom.org
ness owners (which encourage net- Grotto. “What you do need is com- WRITERS' ROOM OF BOSTON
working via deskside chats), writers munity, an energy, a gauge of what’s writersroomofboston.org
need quiet, Bolnick points out. So going on in publishing and how peo-
most writers’ spaces enforce quiet/ ple are doing,” WRITERS WORKSPACE, CHICAGO

silence policies. To that end, most coworking spaces writersworkspace.com

offer social and professional events, TORONTO WRITERS' CENTRE,
MEMBERSHIP readings and workshops. Paragraph TORONTO
Keys, codes or cards open doors—lit- hosts agent and editor roundtables, writerscentre.ca
erally. Some, like TWC, offer 24/7 events such as Pitch Wars (pitch-
access to full-time members. Most ing agents before an audience) and THE WRITERS GROTTO, SAN

offices require a membership for use, evening writing workshops. The FRANCISCO

after approving an application dem- Hatchery’s opportunities include a sfgrotto.org

onstrating professional experience. monthly Grill N’ Chill hangout, a THE HATCHERY PRESS, LOS
But all genres are welcomed, includ- members-only screenwriting critique, ANGELES
ing novelists, poets, journalists, screen- plus bi-weekly poetry workshops. At thehatcherypress.com
writers, playwrights and online blog- TWC’s Tuesday writers’ lunches, mem-
gers, among others. At the Hatchery, bers chat about writing-related ideas TYPE SET, SEATTLE

about 60 percent of members work and challenges, while Writers’ Room of typesetseattle.com
in screenwriting—this is Los Angeles, Boston gives open houses, public read-
after all—alongside academics, young- ings and even a summer picnic.
adult novelists and ghostwriters. Email or online groups enhance bership for LGBTQ+ emerging writers.
Membership numbers range from communication and community; Joy Parisi co-founded Paragraph with a
TWC’s 51 members, The Hatchery’s on The Writers Grotto email list, fellow MFA graduate, hoping to create
130 to The Writers Room’s 200. Yet no members might ask for first readers, a community similar to grad school’s.
fisticuffs break out over desk space. inquire about setting ghostwriting “All of our events are tailored to
Brodie’s formula: “For every desk, rates or share agent names. help writers in all stages of their writ-
you can support six writers over a Encouraging new writers is ing life,” Parisi says. “People have
24-hour period without congestion,” important, too. The Writers Grotto, gained friendships, connections, rep-
due to differing schedules. Paragraph and Writers’ Room of resentation and more from being a
Pricing varies by location and Boston offer fellowship or residency part of the space.”
access options: Type Set’s full-time programs to emerging writers. The
membership is $140/month and part- Writers’ Room of Boston’s annual
time is $85/month; $350/month for fellowships include a year’s full Lora Shinn is a former librarian who now
full time at the Hatchery; $410 for membership and a public reading. writes about general interest topics, travel,
four days per week in a Grotto office. Paragraph’s Jane Hoppen Residency books and the writing life. She’s also
Visitors’ passes are often available Program offers summer residencies for penned articles, interviews and reviews for
Poets & Writers, the Los Angeles Review of
to test-write in a space (Paragraph’s MFA students, plus a six-month mem-
Books, Kirkus Reviews and more.

WritersDigest.com I 13
No matter what you write, a bit of poetic license can be a
valuable asset to any writer’s arsenal.


The rondine is a typical French form. It’s loaded with rhymes and refrains. As a
result, rondines are—like most French forms—lyrical and fun.
Here are the basic rules:
• Twelve lines in two stanzas
• Seven lines in the first stanza, five in the second
• Eight to 10 syllables per line (with the exception of lines seven and 12)
• Lines seven and 12 have the refrain, which is the opening phrase of the
• Rhyme scheme is abbaabR/abbaR
Here’s an example by a Poetic Asides reader.

In this example, Graham

The Memory Store by Taylor Graham
chooses the phrase “it’s all
It’s all swept clean, Main Street seven o’clock. swept clean” to begin the
Nothing’s open yet, as rain turns to snow. poem and use as the refrain.
I’m walking yesterday-town, Antiques Row.
For the first refrain, Graham
A pewter tray, a stoneware pickling crock.
uses it to connect the first and
That grandfather rocker long ceased its rock. second stanzas.
A feather boa from decades ago.
It’s all swept clean,
Since the a and b rhymes are
sidewalk’s ready for morning, key in lock. used five times each, be sure
There’s a sewing basket—no thread to sew. to pick rhymes you can main-
Old portrait—how the eye has lost its glow.
tain throughout the poem.
Surprised by time, age, or memory block,
it’s all swept clean. Graham uses the next to last
line to nail the final refrain
and end the poem.
Take any “(adjective) (noun)” phrase and replace the words with another adjec-
tive and noun. Make this new phrase the title of a new poem. For example, a
new poem could be derived from the phrase “dirty laundry,” using “Unclean
Wearables” as the title.

Robert Lee Brewer is the editor of Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market (both WD Books) and
the author of the poetry collection Solving the World’s Problems.

SHARE YOUR POETIC VOICE: If you’d like to see your own poem in the pages of
Writer’s Digest, check out the Poetic Asides blog (writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/
poetic-asides) and search for the most recent WD Poetic Form Challenge.

14 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

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Awards shows where truly believing in your work can THE LAST CHECKOUT by Peter
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Read Besson’s unabridged interview ($0.99 Kindle; $7.90, paperback), A
and a complete list of winners at about. It’s a collaborative effort.” WD Healthy Relationship Press,
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16 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019


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20 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

New rules. New strategies. New paths to success.


W hether it’s done by a trade pub-

lisher or an author, publishing
has two aims: to make words consum-
books bringing to the world of words
that is unique or remarkable?
Promoter Hat when positioning yourself
as a writer worth reading. This includes
2. YOU’RE GOING INTO BUSINESS knowing your readership, sending
able in reader friendly formats, and to Writing is a craft, but publishing is pitches and setting up partnerships.
get those words read by enough people always business. Many authors find Your success as an indie author will
to make a profit. These aims demand that they’ve ended up in business by reflect how well you wear these hats. As
that seven processes are done well: default, with tasks they never bud- creative director, you integrate writing
editorial, design, production, distri- geted for time-wise or money-wise. and publishing in a way that works
bution, marketing, promotion and Know that the day you first sell a
for you.
rights licensing. Being a good author- book is the day you’ll need to start
publisher means being a good writer keeping records and balancing passion 6. YOU’LL NEED TO INVEST

and being good at running a digital and profit, incomings and outgoings, Publishing requires commercial and
business. both creative and commercial. creative investment. Prepare for this in
Each of these demands dedica- 3. PUBLISHING IS A CREATIVE advance. Create an investment plan and
tion. Too many writers get carried BUSINESS be realistic. The less experienced you
away by the creative process of mak- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking writ- are as a writer, the higher your editorial
ing the book and press the “publish” ing is creative but publishing is toil. The expenses will be. Also be realistic about
button too soon. This can happen more creative you can be in your busi- the number of books you’ll need to sell
when the writing isn’t truly ready. Or, ness as well as your writing, the more to recoup your investment.
authors haven’t set up their mar- successful you will be. And the more
your business will nurture your writing, 7. KNOW WHAT OTHER INDIE
keting and promotion, or business AUTHORS KNOW
and vice versa.
processes are not ready. When self-
There is a lot of opinion and misinfor-
published too soon, a book will likely 4. KNOW YOUR BUSINESS MODEL
mation about self-publishing. It’s diffi-
bomb. However, knowing these core You choose your business model. One
model is high volume book sales, but cult to get real data on this fast-chang-
self-publishing principles can save
that only suits a few authors. You can ing business. Don’t buy into the myths.
you from this fate:
also sell informational products, teach Instead, connect with other successful
online courses, run a membership indie authors who know what’s work-
What kind of writer are you? What website, attract patronage and invest- ing now.
do you offer readers—Inspiration? ment, set up affiliate income streams, Last and most of all, know that you
Education? Entertainment? Why do etc. To maximize your chances of are part of the most dynamic move-
you want to self-publish? Are your success, choose a blended model that ment to hit publishing and media in
motives creative (e.g., control over matches your aspirations.
600 years. The creative choices you

design), or commercial (you value

5. AN AUTHOR-PUBLISHER WEARS make not only frame your author
your publishing rights)?  Your motives THREE HATS
will be a mix of the two, but that mix business but also influence what’s
Wear your Crafter Hat when produc-
is individual to you. Analyze and possible for other authors.
ing: writing the books and the copy of
understand it. Make good choices and you
book descriptions, ads, social media
Knowing yourself as a publisher updates, etc. Wear your Director Hat will thoroughly enjoy the rewards
also means knowing yourself as a when processing: looking after your of self-publishing. WD
writer. What is your genre and niche copyright and IP, your virtual assis- Orna Ross is an author, poet and director
within that genre? What are your tants, your bank balance, etc. Wear your of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

WritersDigest.com I 21
Debut authors: How they did it, what they learned and why you can do it, too. BY CASSANDRA LIPP

Joanne Ramos
The Farm (Literary
fiction, May, Random
House) “Would you
trade nine months of
freedom for a better
life?” WRITES FROM: New York City.
didn’t make it into The Farm informed anymore.” So I looked up the authors
PRE-FARM: My career jumped from
it. WHAT I DID RIGHT: I tried simply to of my favorite collections to see where
investment banking to private-equity focus on writing, on the world I was they had published, what fellowships
investing to journalism. Though I’d creating. Once I began editing, I did and contests they’d won and tried
loved writing stories since I was a think about “next steps.” But I tried to win those. I won second prize in
child, I’d never considered it a career not to let that rush me. I edited the The Atlantic Monthly Student Writing
option. As an immigrant from the book three times—even though this Contest. That gave me the confidence
Philippines, the idea didn’t seem meant missing my personal deadline to keep going. TIME FRAME: 10 years.
“practical.” There were ideas that occu- of sending out the manuscript. NEXT ENTER THE AGENT: Claudia Ballard
UP: I have a few ideas—but nothing found me through a story published
pied me for most of my life. These
ideas ended up suffusing The Farm. I’m ready to talk about yet! in Ploughshares. WHAT I LEARNED: This
TIME FRAME: I spent a year writing being my first book, everything is new
short stories on themes that obsessed Xuan Juliana Wang and I feel constantly underprepared.
me. After 15 months, I happened Home Remedies I am learning to not be so afraid
upon an article about a surrogacy (Literary fiction, May, of doing something wrong, just to
facility in India. This triggered an ava- Hogarth) “Set across focus on writing and not worry about
lanche of what ifs. I wrote The Farm Beijing, New York, Paris everything else. WHAT I DID RIGHT: I
over the next three years. ENTER THE and Los Angeles, sto- broke in by sheer effort. I rented a
AGENT: Anytime anyone mentioned ries of love, family, identity, space studio in a warehouse with my friends
that they knew an agent, I’d add the and time, reflecting the vibrant that was so far from the subway that
name to my list, making sure to note youth of the millennial Chinese.” I knew when I went, I would stay all

who would make the introduction. I WRITES FROM: LA. PRE-REMEDIES: day and I had to write something. For
sent [my manuscript] to the top four When I moved to Beijing after under- a year, nothing seemed to happen. I
agents on my list. Within a couple of grad, I felt like I got to experience the kept getting rejected from maga-
days, I received my first offer of repre- life I would have lived had I never zines but I thought I could at least
sentation. I signed with Jennifer Joel immigrated to the States. There was a make my writing better. Publishing
at ICM. BIGGEST SURPRISE: Writing a boisterous ambiguity about Chinese wasn’t something I could control. But
book is the antithesis of linear. I felt people I felt compelled to capture, and this was something I could. WHAT I
discouraged by what seemed like that got me writing. When I started WOULD’VE DONE DIFFERENTLY: I used
plodding, fitful progress. I believe that Columbia’s MFA program I was told to lose work all the time and rewrite
no work is wasted. Even sections that “nobody buys short story collections things. Then a friend taught me to use

22 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

Scrivener and it has brought me so support system was brutal, so I got
much joy. NEXT UP: I’ve been writing out of the service. With the free time GROUP INSIGHT
a novel for the last five years, a love I had, I worked on my craft. Some of Ramos shares secrets on how to find
and make the most of your writing
story set in Beijing. WEBSITE: the themes in the book come from my
community at bit.ly/WDBreakingIn.
xuanjulianawang.com military background. TIME FRAME: I
started writing this book in May 2016.
DID RIGHT: I wrote a book with a high
Juno Rushdan Before it was finished, I entered the
concept and fast-paced action readers
Every Last Breath manuscript into Romance Writers
can visualize. My literary agent, edi-
(Romantic thriller, of America contests. Once it started
tor and Hollywood agent have said
April, Sourcebooks winning, I queried agents. I signed
the book feels cinematic. ADVICE FOR
Casablanca) “Two with my agent in August. ENTER THE
WRITERS: Tap into micro-influencers
covert operatives AGENT: I queried five agents. I fol-
around you. My college alumni asso-
form a strained alliance to stop an lowed them on social media, which I
ciation and military-affiliated groups
imminent attack, but the former recommend because you can learn a
spread word about my series. The
lovers find themselves on a deadly lot. Sara Megibow was my number-
support has been a big boon. NEXT UP:
collision course with a world-class one choice. WHAT I LEARNED: (1) How
I’m contracted for three books in the
assassin.” WRITES FROM: Northern Va. little control the author has in the tra-

Final Hour series. WEBSITE:

PRE-BREATH: I started writing while I ditional publishing process. The cover,
junorushdan.com WD
was an Intelligence Officer in the Air title, price, metadata, distribution and
Force. My husband had deployments release date are out of my hands. (2)
at the same time we started a family. How important it is to have an editor Cassandra Lipp is associate managing
Handling two kids under two with no that understands your vision. WHAT I editor of Writer’s Digest.

WritersDigest.com I 23





or 21 years, we’ve been compiling our annual 101 ings, markets for your work, a podcast, a Tumblr site, a
Best Websites for Writers. That means this year’s Twitter feed or a YouTube channel.
compendium is officially all grown up. Selected While some of the websites you’ll find on this list are
according to the discerning tastes of WD editors, our recurring classics that have aged like fine wine—like The
annual collection represents the finest digital destina- Market List—we’re always looking for innovative new
tions for writers. These internet sommeliers scour the flavors to serve the palate of today’s author. If a particular
web, sort through hundreds of reader-nominated web- site has never before appeared on this list—like Storium
under “Just for Fun,” for example—you’ll find a black box
sites that pour in all year, revisit fine vintages from the
around its corresponding number.
101 Websites of yesteryear and consider staff favorites in
So pull up a stool, prepare your bookmarks bar and
their quest to compile the ultimate list.
peruse our menu of the finest websites for writers—it’s
Here you’ll find the toast of the internet for novel- on the house.
ists, poets, screenwriters and freelancers of all persua-
sions and skill levels. For your convenience, these free
resources are organized into nine sections: creativ- 101 AT A GLANCE: SYMBOLS KEY
ity, writing advice, everything agents, general resources, Advice for Writers Instagram

publishing/marketing resources, jobs/markets, online Classes/Workshops/ Jobs

writing communities, genres/niches and just for fun. Conferences Markets
Be sure to check the icon key (right) to note the Contests Podcast
features of each website at a glance. Each website may Critiques Tumblr
include: advice for writers, classes/workshops/conferences Newsletters/RSS Twitter
(or links to them), contests, critique forums, newsletters/ Facebook YouTube
For Young Writers # First Appearance on
RSS feeds, a Facebook group or page, resources for young
Forums Our Annual 101 List
writers, discussion forums, an Instagram account, job list-

24 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

focuses on creativity, publishing to The New Yorker, and can even be
trends, inclusivity and storytelling found inside Honest Tea bottle caps.
CREATIVITY secrets as well as more general infor-
mation about arts and culture.
Storybird is a truly unique resource
LANGUAGEISAVIRUS.COM that helps you visualize stories of
On Aliventures, Ali Luke provides
Play, explore and catch infectious all kinds. Uniting prose, poetry
business and craft advice for fiction
inspiration from this cleverly named and art, this website allows you to
and nonfiction writers, as well as
website. In this celebration of exper- almost instantly create visual stories
bloggers and copywriters. Check out
imentation and multimedia cre- using artwork by illustrators and
her free writing e-books and
ativity, you’ll find writing prompts, animators from around the world.
her newsletter.
exercises, text generators and more Participate in challenge prompts
2. BRAIN PICKINGS alongside fascinating experimental for a chance to be featured on the
projects by famous artists and writ- Storybird blog.
BRAINPICKINGS.ORG ers. Don’t miss the text manipula-
Writer and thought leader Maria tion exercises, poetry gizmos and 9-25
Popova’s website may not be just for
writers, but it’s certainly an excellent
word games.
resource for any storysmith. The site 6 REDDIT’S
itself is brimming with articles on
literature, science, art, philosophy
and other outlets intended to inspire CAREERAUTHORS.COM
lateral thinking and out-of-the- Live the dream! Learn to become a
With more than 13 million subscrib-
box ideas, but you can also sign up full-time writer from five publishing
ers who respond to user-submitted
for different newsletters to receive professionals who have done it, offer-
prompts, this subreddit is one of the
recaps and highlights each week. ing advice on every aspect of your
best places to get your work seen and
writing career, including editing,
3. CREATIVITY PORTAL gain feedback. The best submissions
novel writing, building author plat-
(prompts and responses) are upvoted
forms and journalism.
to the top for all to see.
Coming up on its 20th anniversary 7. SIX-WORD MEMOIRS
in 2020, Creativity Portal offers
endless writing prompts, exercises DIYMFA.COM
SIXWORDMEMOIRS.COM A WD author and conference regu-
and productivity guides, as well as
“For sale: baby shoes, never lar, Gabriela Pereira has risen to
imaginative mixed-media inspira-
worn.” Most writers know this writing-world fame through her
tion. Don’t miss the Imagination
six-word story, often attributed to book, website, workshops and pod-
Prompt Generator.
Hemingway. Now it’s your turn cast branded under the moniker
4 ELECTRIC LITERATURE to create a six-word story. Your DIY MFA. Offering the tools and
best and most concise tale will knowledge you’d get from a Master
ELECTRICLITERATURE.COM join the ranks of those written by of Fine Arts program, Pereira’s
Powered by Medium, the non- more than 1 million contributors, blog and podcast in particular are
profit digital publication Electric including Madeleine Albright, Lin- a wealth of inspiration and advice,
Literature provides news and infor- Manuel Miranda and George Takei. with the 200+ episode show guest-
mation of interest to the literary Past excellent contributions have starring legendary writers and pub-
enthusiast and writing world. It appeared in publications from NPR lishing powerhouses.

WritersDigest.com I 25

11 FIGHT WRITE tistics, marketing advice and more, 18. TERRIBLEMINDS

including helpful information for
writers seeking to publish via tradi- TERRIBLEMINDS.COM
tional and indie routes. Chuck Wendig—bestselling author
Martial artist Carla Hoch, author
of Fight Write from WD Books, 15 P.S. HOFFMAN (of fiction and WD books), screen-
breaks down the particulars of writer, game designer and Twitter
writing realistic battles, brawls, provocateur—shares his humorous
duels and more—from fighting in and unabashed insights into tradi-
Writer P.S. Hoffman dissects the
water to vital targets and how vari- tional and indie publishing, the art of
secrets of story structure, charac-
ous types of wounds work in real storytelling, the craft of writing and
ter development and more writing
life. Be sure to check out her pod- more. This blog isn’t for the easily
techniques in blog posts that provide
cast, The Geek Block, part of Along myriad examples from literary staples offended, but if you have the courage,
Came a Writer. and contemporary iconic authors. you’ll find a wealth of valuable insight
told in Chuck’s frank and funny style.
Novelist and acclaimed writing Secrets of Story (and author of This handy site features Scrivener
mentor K.M. Weiland’s goals are to the WD book of the same name), tutorials, workbooks and online
help “show you how to write your is known for his clever, in-depth courses on developing characters,
best story, change your life and analyses of popular films, books plotting and more. Check out the
astound the world.” She does this and tropes. As a screenwriter, his community page to participate on
through hundreds of resources on videos on movie and story tropes social media, and listen to the pod-
her website, including free e-books, are particularly engaging, but don’t cast for quick answers to your press-
a blog, newsletter, vlog, podcast and miss the deep archive of in-depth ing questions.
glossary of writing terms. material on his blog, including story
annotations, posts on structure,
genre conventions, characterization
LIVEWRITETHRIVE.COM Look at writing from a new angle
As a novelist, editor, writing coach MO ST N OM IN AT ED
with the articles on Write It
and fiction track director for the Sideways, a site with a unique cat-
San Francisco Writer’s Conference, 17. SEEKERVILLE egorization system whose easily
C.S. Lakin knows her stuff. On her searchable contents aim to help you
website you’ll find helpful blog posts SEEKERVILLE.BLOGSPOT.COM rethink your writing process,
(which you can get via email if you In 2004, 15 authors met at a writing career and more.
subscribe) with writing advice and conference in Denver. Joining forces
tips. as “The Seekers,” these authors 21. WRITE NONFICTION NOW!
chronicled their journeys to publica-
14. NATHAN BRANSFORD tion on the Seekerville blog. Even WRITENONFICTIONNOW.COM
after they accomplished their goals, Author, blogger and book coach
NATHANBRANSFORD.COM they continued to provide lessons Nina Amir established Write
Author and former literary agent learned and advice for publication Nonfiction Now! to serve the needs
Nathan Bransford has dedicated his and craft—plus plenty of inspira- of nonfiction writers. It’s also home
blog to helping writers achieve their tion—to their followers. to Write Nonfiction in November,
goals and get published. He covers which echoes NaNoWriMo and
craft tips, industry trends and sta- features a popular Facebook group.

26 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

22. WRITERS IN THE STORM cal tagging system for easy search- 29.JANET REID,
ability and features information LITERARY AGENT
WRITERSINTHESTORMBLOG.COM on character development, world-
This group of experienced writers building, structure and more.
from different genres blogs about the Consulting this blog before send-
challenges every writer faces, includ- 26-33 ing your first query is a must. Janet
ing rejection, publishing woes and
writers’ block. It’s all clear skies with EVERYTHING AGENTS Reid answers authors’ most popular
questions about writing and sending
their proactive advice and inspiration. queries. Read real query letters sub-
mitted by authors for commentary
and see the Query Shark’s revision
suggestions. Submit your own query
to the shark if you’re brave.
Founded in 2006, this blog and
101 regular offers craft advice from AARONLINE.ORG 30. LITERARY CARRIE
authors and industry pros who Search through the AAR’s database
speak to writers in all genres and of over 400 members, who have LITERARYCARRIE.BLOGSPOT.COM
career levels. Join their highly active all pledged to adhere to the associa- Carrie Pestritto of the Laura Dail
Facebook group boasting thousands tion’s high standards of professional Literary Agency posts query cri-
of writers. It’s also well known for an conduct in serving their clients. tiques and valuable advice about a
annual UnConference, “part sym- The AAR includes both literary variety of publishing and writing
posium, part networking affair, part and dramatic agents. topics, looping in the opinions of
workshop, part retreat.”
other experts.

Agents Rachelle Gardner, Rachel LITREJECTIONS.COM
As you might expect, Writing Class
Kent, Wendy Lawton, Janet Kobobel The agency database at Lit Rejections
Radio is centered around its pod-
cast, which is quite literally a writing Grant and Cynthia Ruchti of Books includes submission guidelines for
class that you can tune into to listen & Such Literary Management share more than 350 literary agencies
to stories, participate in prompts, their expertise and educate writers around the world. On top of that,
discover writing advice and more. about the publishing process, what the website’s articles and interviews
The website is more than a podcast, agents are looking for and the prac- make it a core resource for authors
though. Find blog posts, videos, tice of writing. looking to get published.
information on where to submit
your own story to the podcast, writ-
ing events and more.
25. WRITING EXCUSES Literary agent and blogger Maria This site makes it easier to find the
Ribas created Cooks & Books as a perfect fit for your manuscript, as
WRITINGEXCUSES.COM hub for writers, readers and cre- agents and editors update their pro-
If you’ve never tuned into the atives focused on the books they files with detailed bios, submission
Writing Excuses podcast, now is the love, what they’re writing and guidelines and in-depth informa-
time. Hosted by three novelists and achieving their goals. Discover prac- tion about exactly what they’re
a web cartoonist, each 15-minute tical publishing advice, book recom- looking for. Learn more about what
episode in the podcast’s 14-season mendations, time management tips agents and editors want with the
library is organized by a handy topi- and fun literary printables. Manuscript Academy podcast.

WritersDigest.com I 27


QUERYTRACKER.NET WD’s hub of free articles, prompts You don’t even have to leave home
Join the ranks of over 2,700 authors and downloads is filled with career to get one-on-one instruction from
(and counting) who have found advice, craft tips, competitions and expert authors and editors: WDU
agents for their books through more. Check out the editor blogs classes are offered year-round for
QueryTracker. The free service for friendly expert advice on writing every genre and experience level.
allows authors to search the data- and publishing, poetry challenges,
base of over 1,600 agents, explore agent updates and more. TUTORIALS.WRITERSDIGEST.COM
agent data and keep track of the More than 300 instructional videos
queries they send out. WRITERSMARKET.COM are available to stream immediately,
Along with 9,000-plus market list- with new videos added weekly. A

34-42 ings updated continually, sub-

scribers receive articles, industry
monthly subscription is $25, while
an annual is $199.
GENERAL RESOURCES updates, submission trackers and
more. Monthly, six-month and
annual paid subscriptions are Script Magazine offers vital script-
BES T O F T H E B ES T writing advice, news and info on
spec scripts, film festivals and more.

36 CANVA for writers. Check out the YouTube

channel for helpful grammar videos.
The Internet Archive is the ulti-
mate research resource. This non- CANVA.COM 38. KIRKUS REVIEWS
profit library includes millions of free Need to design a book cover, but
books, movies, software, music, web- don’t have a strong aesthetic eye? KIRKUSREVIEWS.COM
sites and other media. Whether you Want to make an infographic for A 101 Best Websites staple, Kirkus
want to read the classics for inspira- your blog, lay out your book, cre- Reviews is the resource for keep-
tion, learn more about a specific time ate a presentation or market your ing up with various writing mar-
period or get insights from scholarly work on social media with awesome kets. Featuring book reviews, author
articles and even entire libraries, this graphics? Canva is the resource for interviews and “best of ” genre lists
treasure trove has what you need. you, full of thousands of free, taste- for free, Kirkus also offers indie book
ful design templates for all pur- review services for a small fee, help-
35 BEHIND THE NAME poses. Although you can access paid ing to spotlight self-published works.
elements with a work account, the
majority are free to use. You can 39THE ONLINE ETYMOLOGY
upload your own elements as well. DICTIONARY
Creating names for your characters
can be a challenge, especially if you 37 GRAMMARLY
aim to imbue them with story-rich ETYMONLINE.COM
meaning. Use this search engine to Take a look back into the history
GRAMMARLY.COM of common words and discover
determine the history, location and
Grammarly’s core offering is a free their hidden meanings with this
meaning hidden within names from
web browser extension that catches online etymology dictionary that
cultures around the world, or to
grammar, spelling and punctua- draws from several reliable sources.
find names with specific meanings.
tion errors while you’re typing, but Exploring the dictionary is especially
Check out the surname site and the
the blog, videos and social media helpful for avoiding anachronistic
place name site under “tools” while
accounts all offer different helpful dialogue and understanding how
you’re there.
tips, facts, trends and career advice

28 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

words come to be so you can invent and self-publishing. Check out her
your own words and languages. PUBLISHING/ secondary blog at resources.digi-
MARKETING talpubbing.com for jobs, events and
On this active and highly valuable
and reports on opportunities for The Alliance of Independent ZINE.COM
writers, including hot markets, pub- Authors’ (ALLi) Self-Publishing Launched in 2007 by editor Mick
lishers accepting unagented submis- Advice Center is a one-stop shop Rooney, this online magazine pro-
sions, calls for submissions, agents for indie authors looking for infor- vides self-publishing information
seeking clients, free writing contests, mation about copyright, contracts, and resources, as well as reviews of
ways and places to earn reviews for platform-building, design, produc- self-publishing service providers.
your work and more. tivity and more.
TVTROPES.ORG CREATEIFWRITING.COM Former WD publisher and writing
No story can be written without Looking to establish or develop your world powerhouse Jane Friedman is
a trope, and this wiki attempts to promotion and marketing strate- an absolute wealth of knowledge for
catalog every known storytelling gies? Create If Writing has you cov- writers of all kinds, and you can tap
trope. The entries define which ele- ered. Discover in-depth informa- into that gold mine on both her blog
ments are essential to each com- tion about publishing and selling and in her bi-weekly newsletter “The
mon plot device and lists the cre- on Amazon, as well as social media Hot Sheet,” which she co-founded
ative works where the motifs can be algorithms and essential informa- with Porter Anderson to document
found, including literature, TV, film, tion about building your platform and analyze industry trends.
video games, comic books, anime and expanding your web presence.
and more. Don’t miss the Pitch 49 KIKOLANI
Generator and Story Generator, 45. THE CREATIVE PENN
both built using data from the wiki, KIKOLANI.COM
for inspiration and fun. THECREATIVEPENN.COM Kikolani focuses on marketing,
Bestselling indie author Joanna branding, social strategy, boosting
Penn shares her insider knowledge traffic to your website and more.
of self-publishing, marketing, the While it’s geared toward bloggers,
writing process and more on her the site provides helpful platform-
Get all your questions about copy-
blog and in her weekly podcast, building and blogging tips for writ-
right law answered with legal advice
which boasts over 400 episodes. ers of all kinds.
straight from the source. Learn how
to register your work and what is 46 DIGITAL PUBBING BE ST O F T HE BE ST
protected by copyright, stay up to
date on fair use and understand DIGITALPUBBING.COM 50 PUBCRAWL
your rights as an author. A FAQ sec- Self-publishing guru, writer and
tion makes all the legal information podcaster Sabrina Ricci covers PUBLISHINGCRAWL.COM
easily digestible. publishing startups, highlights A group of authors and industry
indie authors and their books, and professionals who formerly called
43-54 shares her knowledge of e-books themselves Let the Words Flow—

WritersDigest.com I 29

including Patrice Caldwell, Eric The Write Life lives at the intersection Ed2010 for media job listings and
Smith, Julie C. Dao, Julie Eshbaugh of business and writing, including advice from veterans in the industry.
and other thought leaders—write resources and information for free- For $50, submit your resume for cri-
about publishing secrets, craft, revi- lancing, marketing, indie publishing tique by industry professionals.
sion, critiques and more on this blog. and more.
Journalist Tatiana Walk-Morris pens
Find news and trends focused
JOBS/MARKETS this blog and weekly newsletter,
which include calls for pitches, free-
on international book publishing
55. lancing news and more.
written by authors, publishing
professionals and other writers with JOB BOARD
focused experience in worldwide
markets. The newsletter and online ALLFREELANCEWRITING.COM/
content are free, but they also publish
Find everything you need to tur- Editor C. Hope Clark says she writes
several print magazines each year.
bocharge your freelance writing for a living, and she won’t post any
52. REEDSY career, with job postings and regu- opportunity on the website that she
lar updates. The full site includes wouldn’t try herself. You can trust
REEDSY.COM e-books and articles about the that you’ll find only the best paid
There’s a reason WD works with trade and essential free tools like an writing opportunities such as grants,
Reedsy: Dig in with their free book- hourly rate calculator, keyword den- contests, freelance gigs, publish-
editing and typesetting tools on sity analyzer and project templates. ers and agents here. Sign up for the
their website or discover helpful For a one-time fee of $24.95, add newsletter so you won’t miss a beat.
blog posts on self-publishing, work- your profile to the writer directory.
ing with designers and more. While BE ST O F T HE BE ST

you’re there, explore their data- 56 BE A FREELANCE BLOGGER

base of freelance editors, designers,
ghostwriters and other professionals BEAFREELANCEBLOGGER.COM
offering paid services. Blogger Sophie Lizard’s site offers MARKETLIST.COM
up-to-date listings for freelance This is the original electronic writ-
53. WINNING WRITERS blogging opportunities (all of which ers’ market resource, which began
pay at least $0.10 per word or $50 in 1994. Throughout its long his-
WINNINGWRITERS.COM per post), their pay rates and how tory and now, fiction and nonfiction
A regular in our 101 list, Winning to submit. On the blog, she shares writers trust The Market List as a
Writers is dedicated to free writ- what she learned going from home- comprehensive guide to the markets
ing and literary contests spanning lessness to success as a freelance for their work. The markets include
genres and forms. Subscribe to the blogger, and contributors provide agents, magazines, book markets,
free newsletter to get access to their additional advice. small presses and even resources for
database, which is updated monthly. screenwriters.
Don’t miss Winning Writers’ own 57. ED2010
contests and lists of resources rec- 61. MEDIABISTRO
ommended by their editors. ED2010.COM
This community established by a MEDIABISTRO.COM
former Parents editor is dedicated Don’t miss this plethora of free
to helping newbies find their way career advice, tips on interviewing
in the magazine industry. Search and structuring your resume, and of

30 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

course, job listings. For $14.99 per round in all stages of writing—draft-
month, freelancers can also access ing, revising and publishing. WHITHER REDDIT
unlimited online courses, guides Reddit has several communities

and other resources to help them 65. STORYADAY geared toward writers, poets and
screenwriters, from hobbyists to those
pitch to editors and find clients. looking to publish. To learn how to
STORYADAY.ORG navigate various subreddits, visit
62 WHERE TO PITCH Julie Duffy aims to stimulate your writersdigest.com/jun-19.

creativity with this site, because she

WHERETOPITCH.COM says the only way to become a better 68 SWOON READS
This website starts with an idea— writer is to write. Jump right in to
your idea. The homepage features a her challenges to write a short story SWOONREADS.COM
single search bar. Type in an outlet a day for one month straight, or Think “American Idol” for YA
(a magazine, website, etc.) or a gen- look at her weekly writing prompts, manuscripts. Macmillan Children’s
eral topic (fitness, dogs), and you’ll craft-focused articles and podcast. Publishing Group powers
get a list of publications where you Swoonreads, a writing group for
can pitch your idea. Plus, sign up young adult and new adult novelists
for the newsletter and check out the in which readers help determine if
resources page for more. 66. SCRIBOPHILE your book will be traditionally pub-
lished by Macmillan.
Scribophile boasts that it’s the
friendliest and most success-
Find out what you’re getting into WATTPAD.COM
ful online writing workshop, with
before you pitch your work to a Share your work-in-progress one
over 1 million critiques served so
publication. Writers who have been chapter at a time with this com-
far. Writers can join this commu-
there before can anonymously leave munity of over 70 million writers
nity and share their own writing for
tips about how they broke into a and readers. Your writing can gain
critique, in exchange for providing
publication, how easy (or not) edi- attention in this massive community
detailed and helpful critiques on the
tors are to work with and how much through votes and comments. For
work of other community members.
they were paid for their work. some lucky authors, Wattpad success
has led to a book deal.


COMMUNITIES Storywrite is a community specifi- Join WritersCafe for free to post
cally geared toward short story writ- your writing, get feedback, network
ers, but you can also post poems, with writers, join specialized groups
WRITING MONTH journal entries and columns. Gameify and enter contests. Readers can rate
the process with an optional points and review your work and add notes
NANOWRIMO.ORG system. Free access includes writing to it, all of which are compiled in
With a facelift that makes it “Fitbit for groups and private forums that allow handy graphs so you can track your
writers,” according to founder Grant for critiques and feedback, as well as stats and progress.
Faulkner, the upgrade coming in May contests for new and veteran mem-
features new tracking and account- bers. Paid levels start at $5.95 per THE WRITING

ability tools, community features, vir- month and include a variety of fea- COOPERATIVE
tual write-ins, podcast episodes, blog tures and customization options.
posts and pep talks to help you year- WRITINGCOOPERATIVE.COM

WritersDigest.com I 31

Writers using Medium’s The Writing Mary Kole, a former literary agent
Cooperative can get paid for their and author of Writing Irresistible APP HAPPY
work by earning “claps” from paying Kitdlit from WD Books, shares her Are you happier on your tablet or
phone than on a laptop? Check out
readers, whose $5 monthly member best tips for publishing books for our favorite apps for writers at
fees fund the process. Join the Slack children, middle-grade readers writersdigest.com/jun-19.
group to participate in discussions, and young adults. While the con-
writing challenges and critiques. tent is created for authors writing
In 2018, The Writing Cooperative for young readers, her experience
announced its Patreon that added allows her to dig into the nitty-gritty
more incentives for supporters. of the publishing process and pro- FREELANCERSUNION.ORG
vide info valuable to authors writing This union works to influence

72-96 for any age group. policies that govern freelance work-
ers and provides resources to its
GENRE/NICHE Fantasy/Science Fiction 375,000 members. It is free for any
freelance writer to join. The biggest
Children’s/YA 76DAN KOBOLDT – PUTTING victory of the Freelancers Union so
THE SCIENCE IN FICTION far is helping to get the Freelance
Isn’t Free law passed in NYC. Go
DANKOBOLDT.COM online for a full list of benefits and
BARELYHAREBOOKS.COM discounts available.
Curated by Dan Koboldt—a sci-fi
Fantasy author Rae Elliott dedicates
and fantasy author and editor of
her blog and free resources to help- 79 THE FREELANCER’S YEAR
Putting the Science in Fiction from
ing teens write and publish “fan-
WD Books—the “Science in Sci-Fi”
dom-worthy fiction.” The articles THEFREELANCERSYEAR.COM
and “Fact in Fantasy” sections of
mostly focus on technique. Lindy Alexander is a freelance writer
this blog have dozens of articles with
who says she earned more than
73. GO TEEN WRITERS helpful and accessible info on biol-
ogy, chemistry, psychology, physics, $100,000 in her first 11 months of
computers, feudal history, designing freelancing. On her blog, she shares
realistic magic systems and more. tips, strategies and guides on earning
Brimming with inspiration and writ-
a living writing on topics that inter-
ing craft advice, this site is specifi- SCIENCE FICTION &
77. est you.
cally geared toward young writers
who want to get published. Be sure to 80THE INTERNATIONAL
visit the YouTube channel as well.
The website for the Science Fiction THEINTERNATIONALFREELANCER.COM
INKYGIRL.COM & Fantasy Writers of America pro- Founded in 2002 by award-winning
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Debbie Ridpath Ohi started both members and non-members. site features endless articles, down-
InkyGirl as a resource for children’s Resources include writing advice and loads and videos full of advice for
authors looking to write successful the Writer Beware Blog, which warns freelancers all over the world. Since
children’s books. Not only are her authors about “the scams, schemes then, it has spawned a series of
advice and interviews excellent—so and pitfalls” of the literary world. books and courses, but the website
is the art that accompanies them. Published writers can become mem- remains a trove of free resources.
bers of the organization (see eligibility
75. KIDLIT requirements) for an annual fee. History


32 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

ELIZABETHSPANNCRAIG.COM Hirshfield—and filmmakers to create
AWRITEROFHISTORY.COM Find a roundup of the best writing- full seasons of audiovisual poetry.
Historical fiction writer M.K. Tod related links circulating this week in
aims to focus conversations on the Twitterific Writing Links blog posts.
reading, writing and researching of The bestselling cozy mystery author
historical fiction. Find craft-focused POETS.ORG
also blogs about the nuts and bolts
blog posts on writing historical fic- Sign up for the newsletter to receive
of writing as well as tips to keep
tion, author interviews and per- one new, unpublished poem per
writers motivated and organized.
sonal posts about what she’s reading weekday in your inbox, or access the
or researching. One of Tod’s most 85. JUNGLE RED WRITERS site’s database of over 9,000 poems.
insightful resources are her reader Other resources include poetry arti-
survey results, for which she gar- JUNGLEREDWRITERS.COM cles as well as poetry lesson plans
nered thousands of participants. Crime fiction authors Julia Spencer for teachers.
Fleming, Lucy Burdette, Hallie
Horror Romance
Ephron, Rhys Bowen, Hank Phillippi
Ryan, Deborah Crombie, Ingrid
Thoft and Jenn McKinlay share daily
updates on the writing life and sus-
pense. “It’s The View. With bodies.”
Founded in 2011 as a market resource This blog of craft- and publishing-
for horror authors, The Horror Tree MYSTERY WRITERS OF
86. focused articles will help romance
lists anthologies and publications that AMERICA writers get their best stories out
pay for speculative fiction and poetry. to readers. The site also offers free
The handy calendar view shows dead- online “lectures” from established
lines for submissions at a glance, and romance writers.
Free resources from the premier orga-
the weekly newsletter sends updates nization for mystery writers include ROMANCE WRITERS OF
to your inbox. For fun, check out The a list of crime publishers approved
Horror Tree Game in the sidebar. AMERICA
by the membership committee and
updates on new books in the genre. RWA.ORG
ASSOCIATION Members (see eligibility require- Get romance writing news with the
ments online) can access manuscript free blog, or join the organization
critiques, mentorship opportunities,
HORROR.ORG (see eligibility requirements and fees
Stay up to date about everything hor- a bookstore database and other perks online) for Author Survival Guides,
ror writing with the website of the for an annual fee. discounts, subscriptions, courses
official organization for the genre. and the support of an advocacy net-
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Here you’ll find author interviews
and other blog posts related to horror
writing. Paid members (see eligibil-
87 MOTIONPOEMS Scriptwriting
ity requirements online) get access
to more resources for an annual MOTIONPOEMS.ORG 91. GO INTO THE STORY
fee such as mentoring, information This ongoing nonprofit art project
swapping and promotional resources. was created by animator Angella GOINTOTHESTORY.COM
Kassube and poet Todd Boss in 2008. Screenwriter Scott Myers blogs on all
Mystery/Crime Today, they work with a full pro- your questions about the craft and
duction team of other poets—from business of screenwriting. If he hasn’t
84. ELIZABETH SPANN CRAIG amateurs who answer calls for sub- already answered your questions,
missions to Danez Smith and Jane Myers takes questions via email and

WritersDigest.com I 33

of revising, weighing word choices,

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE NEXT 101: Don’t see a favorite site here? Wish evolving a text gradually over a long
we’d add a new category? Send your comments and nominations for next period around changing expecta-
year’s list to writers.digest@fwmedia.com with “101 Websites” in the tions of what it should even be say-
subject line between now and December 1, 2019. ing”—created by interactive fiction
writer Emily Short and produced by
Twitter. He also offers private script The Kill Zone offers free first-page Liza Daly.
workshops on a limited basis for a fee. thriller manuscript critiques. Public
archives of past critiques are also
92 SCRIBE MEETS WORLD available. More insider perspective
of the genre is available with daily SIXACTSTRUCTURE.COM
SCRIBEMEETSWORLD.COM blogs from top thriller writers on This fun, helpful resource features
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ter characters, climaxes and more. WOMEN’S FICTION
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Learn what the agents at The Steve general writing advice, inspiration community of other players. Your
Laube Agency are looking for and and author interviews. skill level isn’t important—in fact, the
get their advice about querying, sub-
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mitting, publishing and coping with
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The official magazine of the draws witty three-panel recaps of honing your vocabulary or just like
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nization has much to offer, includ- works. Warning: Once you start ending vocabulary quiz platform is a
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If you’re interested in experimental
Jess Zafarris is digital content director of
95. THE KILL ZONE storytelling techniques, explore this Writer’s Digest.
interactive epistolary story about Cassandra Lipp is associate managing
KILLZONEBLOG.COM the process of writing—“as a process editor of Writer’s Digest.

34 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019


When procrastination beckons, surfing the world of wordsmithing

websites ensures that your time isn’t truly wasted.

’ve never been more productive than when I was in eos and tons of websites you’ll have to justify visiting to
high school and college. This was due to a combina- the FBI someday (most likely by claiming it was in the
tion of youthful enthusiasm, a misguided conviction interest of “research” for your book), it’s easy to lose all
that I was more or less inventing modern writing1 and your precious writing time in a swirl of clicking because
the extreme amounts of free time I had. The thing about the internet and social media are designed that way. The
that free time, though, was that it was also kind of excru- Algorithm is powerful stuff, and it’s not only designed to
ciatingly boring. Back in those primitive days your only attract your eyeballs, it’s designed to keep them there for
choice for entertaining yourself while taking a 45-min- as long as possible4.
ute bus ride from your dorm to your first class of the day We all waste time—and always have. Wasting time
was listening to music and reading. Nothing is wrong isn’t something to be ashamed of—it’s necessary; forcing
with either, but I lacked the hypertextual ability to skim yourself to grind away at your work without a break is
endless, infinite stuff. If I’d had the internet when I was a quick ticket to a full-on The Shining-level breakdown5.
18, I’d probably still be on that bus, falling down an end- It’s just too easy in the modern age. Wasting time is as
less rabbit hole of dog tippy-tap GIFs2. simple as alt + shifting out of our word processors and
Every writer has had to battle to carve out a few hours into the infinite void of the internet. Then there’s guilt
in order to write—over a weekend, or at night after the and self-reproach because writers are also bombarded
kids have gone to bed—only to snap out of a Facebook with exhortations to focus, turn off the web and live

daze two and a half hours later with nothing accom- some sort of pure artistic life where all you do is crank
plished3. Among social media, news sites, kitten vid- out beautiful prose and have no idea what Kanye West

1 The timeline went something like this: Freshman year: Did I just invent stream of consciousness? Sophomore year: Well, no, but I certainly have
improved upon it. Today: I was paid $25 for my last short story ... I may have miscalculated.
2 Please refrain from searching for “dog tippy-tap GIFs” until you’re done reading this article—I’ve already lost you, haven’t I?
3 Unless rage-blocking your entire family and everyone you went to high school with counts as an accomplishment, which I believe it does.
4 Technically this is what writers aspire to do, but we just can’t compete with the sheer volume of plot twists that real-life social media offers. Who
knew every single person you know is crazy and also terrible?
5 The upside to a Shining-like mental breakdown: The word counts will be off the charts.

WritersDigest.com I 35

is tweeting about today6. That just adds stress to what is

already a pretty challenging existence.
The fact is, you will waste time on the internet, so you
You never know when
might as well just admit it and skip the stress. Instead, understanding a five-speed
try to channel your surfing breaks into reading that will
at least benefit you and your career, with websites that transmission or forced
guarantee your wasted time won’t be so wasted after all
because you’ll be learning stuff, improving your skills perspective might come
and making networking connections. Here are 10 sug-
gestions for pages to surf that will distract and entertain
in handy for a story—
while also benefiting your writing. or when understanding
R/WRITING something like that might
Reddit is a dangerous place for anyone trying to resist
the urge to waste time, but it’s especially dangerous for
inspire a story.
writers. We’re curious people, and when you stumble on
a fascinating Subreddit that happens to engage your pro-
fession, you can fall into that trap where reading about PUBLISHERS LUNCH
writing becomes the closest you get to actually writing. Gossip is one of the most powerful forces in the universe
But the Writing Subreddit has 633,000 members, and as and makes up 45 percent of all internet traffic because
a result it’s a rich resource for ideas, questions about craft, no matter how poorly your life is going, there is some-
writing prompts and exchanges of experience. Whether one else out there experiencing something worse. But if
you’re just starting out or a grizzled, bitter old pro7, you’ll you’re going to read gossip, skip the blind items about
be surprised how many of the questions you have about celebrities behaving badly and check out this treasure
the craft and business of writing have been asked and trove of publishing news8. Keeping up with what’s hap-
answered right there. If you’re going to spend your lunch pening in the business might save you from wasting time,
hour reading the comments, at least here you’ll engage with the added bonus that your small talk at the next
with a worldwide community of fellow travelers. networking event will be on point.
(reddit.com/r/writing) (lunch.publishersmarketplace.com)


Writing is just half the battle. The other half is finding You could do worse than spending your spare time
places to sell your writing. Ralan Conley’s famous site perusing the stories being published here just for the
has a heavy focus on speculative fiction—horror, sci-fi pleasure of reading them. But it’s also a great resource
and fantasy—but it’s a huge resource listing fiction mar- for catching trends and seeing what’s coming, because
kets in great detail, regularly updated. It’s a little hard to Wattpad has evolved into an incubator of sorts—plenty
work with and can be overwhelming at first, but once of people have gone from Wattpad success to IRL
you get the hang of it there are few ways to be more publishing deals, including Beth Reekles (The Kissing
productive with your time. Why not spend your surfing Booth) and Anna Todd, whose novel After began as One
learning about new opportunities? Direction9 fan fiction on Wattpad.
(ralan.com) (wattpad.com)

6 I realize that’s a bad example, because Kanye is always tweeting about Kanye.
7 My grizzled, bitter ears are burning.
8 There are no blind items about writers because (a) we can’t afford the fines and legal fees involved with bad behavior and (b) no one cares.
9 In my very early days as a freelance writer, I ghostwrote One Direction fan blogs. I am not making this up, though I very much wish I were.

36 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

JANET REID’S BLOG your own writing, this is the place to spend those aimless,
frustrated moments when you can’t concentrate on your
Janet10 is one of the smartest people working in the lit- characters’ motivations for one more second, because you
erary world today, and her blog is a treasure trove of can quickly gather a few great ideas for new stories, flash
information about the publishing business, getting and fiction or maybe even your work-in-progress. If nothing
dealing with agents and the business of writing. While else, you’ll come away with some unexpected ideas.
her blog leans toward the specific mechanics of querying
agents, it’s also a resource for general information, advice
and hilarity. You’ll learn more about your writing career
with an hour spent here than you will in most courses.
(jetreidliterary.blogspot.com) Whether you aspire to a freelance writing career or not12,
this is a good place to land whenever you’re inclined to
OMNIVORACIOUS burn a few minutes before diving back into your work-
in-progress. What’s great about this site is that it’s not
When you think about Amazon and book reviews, you just blogging jobs or content mill jobs, but it’s also jour-
think about the endless stream of reviews that people— nalism gigs, copywriting, fiction—just about any kind
typically non-professionals11—leave for the books they of writing gig that will get you paid. A few minutes here
read. But Amazon has a team of pros who curate book might lead you to click on a job that’s exactly what you’re
reviews and news items about books over at the Amazon looking to do with your writing skills.
Book Review, a.k.a. Omnivoracious. It’s an excellent daily
digest of hot books, under-the-radar books and literary
news from one of the biggest players in the modern pub-
lishing world, and well worth your time.
(amazonbookreview.com) How much research is necessary in order to write a great
story continues to be a point of debate among writers at
THE NEW YORKER’S PAGE TURNER all levels. While the amount of research you need to do
in order to gain liftoff for the suspension of disbelief may
Reading this blog curated by The New Yorker is like being vary depending on your audience and the type of story
at a literary cocktail party way, waaaay above your pay you’re telling, there’s no question that knowing how the
grade. As a result, it’s a fantastic use of your time when universe functions is useful, so make your waning atten-
you need a break, offering brief blasts of smart and tion span count by learning how things work. You never
interesting hot takes on books from all genres and in all know when understanding a five-speed transmission or
formats. Knowing what’s being published—and, more forced perspective might come in handy for a story—or
important, what’s being talked about—is critical if you when understanding something like that might inspire a
want to sell your writing. A few minutes here every day story. (howstuffworks.com)
will allow you to feign a New Yorker-y literary omniscience.
(newyorker.com/books/page-turner) Wasting time isn’t a sin or even a flaw—it’s arguable that
it’s baked into us, part of the process our brains employ to
R/WRITINGPROMPTS clear out the cruft and reset themselves. Instead of fighting
it, make it work for you instead of against you by choosing
Another subreddit? You betcha. With 13 million members,
where you waste that time carefully. WD
this subreddit is exactly what it says on the tin: An infinite
supply of writing prompts. If you’re struggling with inspi- Jeff Somers (jeffreysomers.com) is the author of We Are Not
ration, writer’s block or a generally blah attitude toward Good People and eight other novels.

10 Disclaimer: Janet is my agent. Whether she admits this in public is another matter entirely.
11 The best Amazon reviews are the ones giving your book one star because the reviewer thinks all e-books are overpriced, or because they had a
poor customer service experience at a totally unrelated store.
12 A glamorous lifestyle wherein you spend most of your time stalking the postal workers in your life, demanding they stop hiding all the checks
you’ve been waiting for.

WritersDigest.com I 37



Indie authors and bestsellers alike must harness the force

of Amazon to maximize sales. Here are 4 covert success
strategies for authors taking on the world’s largest bookseller.

38 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

mazon is more than a website. It’s the most power-
ful book-selling machine ever invented. The good
news is that Amazon’s power isn’t reserved just for
Amazon sells more
elite bestsellers. Their system was designed to help any
author capture more sales.
books than anyone else.
Jeff Bezos founded the company in 1994 under the Therefore, if you want to
original name, Cadabra, until a lawyer confused it with
“cadaver.” Another name, Relentless, was also floated by sell more books, you must
Bezos, but people thought it sounded too sinister. (Fun
fact: Type “Relentless.com” into your internet browser learn how to sell more
and see where it goes.) The name “Amazon” was even-
tually chosen because it starts with the letter “A” and is
books through Amazon.
the name of the world’s largest river. Who would have
thought the name would come to mean so much more? It doesn’t matter if you’re self-published or tradition-
Today, Amazon completely dominates the publishing ally-published. It doesn’t matter if you write fiction or
industry. Take a moment to consider these mind-blow- nonfiction. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time author
ing statistics: or an experienced bestseller. Today, success for every
• Amazon sells close to 50 percent of all print author hinges on selling more books on Amazon.
books in America. Authors may not be able to control Amazon’s domi-
nance over the publishing industry. But, it’s possible to
• Amazon sells more than 70 percent of all e-books
use Amazon’s power to your advantage if you know these
in America.
four secrets:
• Amazon is the largest sales account for almost every
publisher in America.
• Amazon paid 1,000 indie authors more than
$100,000 each in book royalties in 2017.
• Amazon’s market share continues to increase both Language is the power of the book sale. If your book’s
in America and abroad. marketing description is bland on Amazon’s website,
your sales will be stunted. But if your marketing copy
Note: The term “indie author” in the list above refers
sizzles, your sales can skyrocket. Therefore, it’s impera-
to an independent author who self-publishes using
tive to make your book appear as enticing as possible
Amazon’s KDP service. These authors manage the writing, to shoppers on Amazon. But, many authors mistakenly
formatting and marketing functions for their books, but believe their Amazon copy can’t be changed.
receive a royalty rate of 35–70 percent. For example, if you’re a traditionally published author,
Just as nothing can stop the Amazon river from flood- maybe you’re disappointed with boring or outdated mar-
ing its banks in South America, nothing seems to stop keting text that a publisher put on your book’s Amazon
Amazon from expanding its efforts to sell more books. page. If you self-published, maybe you used a third-party
All the while, their only legitimate competition, Barnes company to get your book listed on Amazon. So, you feel
& Noble, continues to struggle with sluggish sales while blocked from making important changes to your book’s
looking for someone to purchase the company. If these marketing copy.
Here’s a little secret: Amazon offers a hidden “back
facts don’t get your attention, allow me to make things
door” that lets you update your book’s marketing text
very clear:
whenever you desire. Did your book recently receive an
Amazon sells more books than anyone else. amazing endorsement, win an industry award or hit a
Therefore, if you want to sell more books, you must bestseller list? Did you create a brilliant new marketing
learn how to sell more books through Amazon. hook that you’d love for readers to see? You can update

WritersDigest.com I 39

your book’s Amazon description with this information

whenever you want.
The solution to updating your text on Amazon is sim-
Success comes much
ple. You can access any book you’ve written by using the
more easily when you
Author Central account that Amazon provides for free.
Go to authorcentral.amazon.com to create an account. know which marketing
Once your account is active, you receive full con-
trol to adjust your marketing text, editorial reviews and activities cause readers
author bio at any time. You’re also able to separately
manage each edition of your book, including the paper- to purchase. Use your
back, hardcover and e-book formats.
Use this powerful secret to improve the way your
book’s Amazon Best
books are displayed to shoppers on Amazon. Sellers Rank to help
SECRET 2: GROW YOUR AUTHOR EMAIL identify the tactics that
work best. Armed with
Amazon attracts more book readers than any other sell-
ers on the planet. Did you know those readers can be that knowledge, you can
converted into followers on your author email list? There
are multiple ways to do this for free. transform a mediocre
First, add a page to the front and back of your book
manuscript promoting an exclusive incentive for read-
book launch into a
ers to join your author email list. Then, provide a web-
site link to a landing page on your website for people to
bestselling campaign.
claim your offer. This simple trick by itself can add a lot
of new subscribers each month.
Second, you can self-publish a permanently free SECRET 3: AMAZON WILL REVEAL HOW
e-book on Amazon using their Kindle Direct Publishing TO TARGET NEW POTENTIAL READERS.
(KDP) service. The content could be a novella, short
Wouldn’t it be great if Amazon told you who bought and
story or concise nonfiction teaching guide. Within the
read your book? Obviously, they don’t share their cus-
free e-book, add a page at the front and back promot-
tomer data with anyone. But, they do offer a secret way
ing an exclusive incentive to join your email list. I call to identify your target audience.
this tactic a “bait book,” because the free item serves as Go to your book detail page on Amazon and look
appealing bait to attract new readers. at the section that says, “Customers who bought this
Technically, Amazon doesn’t allow authors to sell per- item also bought …” This data reveals similar titles and
manently free books on their site. But, they have a per- authors to you and your book. Why is this data helpful?
manent price-matching policy against all other retailers. It explains where to find potential readers who would
So, you can sell an e-book at other retailers for free, such like your book.
as Barnes & Noble, and ask Amazon to match the price For instance, if you see “Author X” frequently dis-
of zero. played in your “Customers Also Bought” list, then you
Once you set up a “bait book,” it will remain a con- know that fans of Author X may also be fans of your
stant tool on Amazon’s website to help build your email book. Here’s the logic behind this approach: Amazon’s
list while writing your next book. You can even purchase system verified that people who bought a copy of your
Amazon ads to drive additional traffic to your e-book book also bought a book by Author X. So, if some fans
and generate more email signups. The best part is that of Author X liked your book, then there might be more
everything can be created for free. fans of Author X who would like your book as well.

40 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

How do you put this data to good use? Buy inexpen- ous morning. Then, he added, “I think they also posted
sive online advertising for your book that targets fans my interview on their YouTube channel.”
of Author X. Amazon, Facebook and BookBub allow I quickly searched YouTube, found my client’s inter-
authors to buy advertising that targets fans of other view and noticed that the video had already been viewed
authors. In other words, you can make an educated guess over 100,000 times. Bingo! That interview was the cata-
using Amazon’s purchase history that fans of Author X lyst driving an immediate surge of book sales. Based on
will also like your book. this discovery, I urged my client to drive more attention
In a short amount of time and on a small budget, you to that persuasive video interview. Since then, that video
can test your hypothesis to see if it’s true. Sometimes, has been viewed over 293,000 times and still helps drive
this approach will work, and you’ll immediately generate book sales today.
But, here’s the key point: We might not have identified
new book sales from your advertising campaigns. Other
that powerful marketing video if we hadn’t noticed the
times, the results may not pan out. But, it’s better than
dramatic change in the Best Sellers Rank for my client’s
shooting in the dark. Using the “Also Boughts” tech-
book. The sudden spike gave us a clue to find the video
nique is like letting Amazon shine a bright light on new
and use it to propel more book sales.
marketing opportunities.
Likewise, you can benefit by monitoring (not obsess-
ing over) your book’s Best Seller Rank and watching for
SECRET 4: THE AMAZON “SALES RANKING” sudden spikes. If you see a dramatic improvement, then
CAN IDENTIFY PIVOTAL MARKETING EFFORTS. quickly analyze what activities you conducted in the past
Amazon is famous among authors for creating the “Best 24–48 hours. The analysis can help define which market-
Sellers Rank,” which is a number assigned to each book ing activities best motivate readers to take action and buy
on their website that represents recent sales on an hourly your book. Those are the activities you want to duplicate
basis. (You can find the ranking for your book under and repeat on a frequent basis.
Success comes more easily when you know which
the “Product details” section midway down the Amazon
marketing activities cause readers to purchase. Use your
product page.) Some authors, including me, have been
book’s Amazon Best Sellers Rank to help identify the
known to obsess over their book’s ranking by continually
tactics that work best. Armed with that knowledge, you
checking the number several times a day.
can transform a mediocre book launch into a bestselling
In reality, the Best Sellers Rank is an unreliable number
book campaign.
that doesn’t accurately account for book sales. However,
the Amazon ranking does have a secret ability to reveal Amazon has always been a secretive organization. For
when specific marketing activities are working well. example, they never reveal how many books or Kindle
Since Amazon provides one of the few pieces of real- devices they actually sell. But, there are several market-
time sales data, authors can observe their book’s Best ing secrets any author can utilize on Amazon to boost
Sellers Rank to notice any aberrations. If you see your book sales. Use the “hidden door” within your Author
book’s ranking dramatically improve within a 24-hour Central account to improve your book’s marketing copy.
Grow your author email list by promoting free incentives
period, you can deduce that a specific marketing activity
to Amazon customers. Use the Also Boughts informa-
had a positive impact.
tion to help target potential new readers. Then, monitor
For example, I recently worked on a major book
your book’s Best Sellers Rank to identify marketing tac-
launch for an author client. As I monitored the Best
tics that produce real-time results.
Sellers Rank for my client’s book during the launch week,
It’s no secret that Amazon dominates the publish-
I noticed one day that the number quickly shot up from
ing industry. But, the secret to selling more books on
#2,500 to #141. This dramatic change signaled that a lot Amazon doesn’t need to remain a mystery. WD
of new sales had recently occurred.
When I noticed this change, I contacted the author
and asked, “What marketing activities did you conduct
Rob Eagar is a marketing consultant who has coached over 600
in the past 24 hours?” He replied that a national radio authors and helped both fiction and nonfiction books hit the New
station in New York City had interviewed him the previ- York Times bestseller list. (RobEagar.com)

WritersDigest.com I 41

of the


The right online writing community can push you further along the path
to success. Whether you’re looking for prompts, beta readers, publishing
advice or more writer friends, here are a few places to find your people.

he writing life involves spending a lot of time This article will help you find, assess and join the right
alone with imaginary friends, but writers still need community for your needs now and in the future.
a little non-imaginary support from time to time.
As Therese Walsh, editorial director of the website
of Writer Unboxed, puts it, “Writers who’ve been striv-
ing for a while understand that it can take a long time to Broadly, online communities can be divided into places

write and perfect a novel. That’s when having a commu- where you can
nity comes in handy; you’ll see that you are not alone.”
• chat about the writing life
Luckily, it’s no longer necessary to live in a bohemian
• focus on creativity, challenges and craft-based
city with access to funky coffee shops or the bar at the
Algonquin Hotel to find your tribe. Instead, you can find articles
them online. • share material and find critique partners
But how do you find the right community? And how • share information about (self-)publishing, finding an
best to use it and still have time for your actual writing? agent and the all-important question of marketing

42 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

To find the right online community, first think about CREATIVITY & PRODUCTIVITY COMMUNITIES
your needs, right now. Second, think about how you like Wanting to write is one thing. Sticking to your commit-
to interact online and what technology you are willing to ments is another. If you live up to commitments to oth-
embrace, from written forums to live video hangouts. ers more easily than to promises you make to yourself,
find a community that focuses on creativity and produc-
WHAT KIND OF COMMUNITY DO YOU NEED? tivity goals. These groups create spaces for writers to turn
What do you need most at this moment? Do you need up and write in the moment, along with other writers.
people who will support the idea that you are a writer? Some are permanent communities where you can get
To hold you accountable for getting work done? Do you to know people well, in forums or blog comments. In
need to learn more about your craft or the business of other cases, such as following along with a hashtag on a
writing? Do you need to learn more about your genre? social media site, you can dip in and out whenever you
If your answer is “all of the above,” pick one, for now. need a quick hit of creativity or accountability.
Let’s say you already have a decent writing routine,
Some examples of creativity/productivity-based commu-
but your stories or novel queries aren’t being accepted
by editors. You don’t need a community that encour- nities include:
ages creativity. You need one where people share practi- • StoryADay.org—with two monthly challenges,
cal information on improving your dialogue or pacing, and weekly prompts for short story writers.
structuring writing queries and understanding what • NaNoWriMo.org—write a novel in a month along
agents and editors are looking for. with hundreds of thousands of your peers.
Narrow your focus to quickly rule out communities • Instagram and Twitter—follow hashtags like
that don’t fit your current needs. #amwriting, #writersofinstagram #writingprompts
and #writingsprints to find sparks for your writing
TYPES OF COMMUNITIES and people to play along.
Some online communities, like Absolute Write,
Scribophile and even Reddit, are big, sprawling places LEARNING COMMUNITIES
where you may be able to find small corners that Inspiration and encouragement can only take you so far.
address your exact needs. Other communities focus on There may come a point when you want to learn from
a single aspect of the writing life—like CritiqueCircle. someone who is further along in the journey. Plenty of
com, where you can get feedback—or StoryADay.org online communities offer classes and workshops. Some
and NaNoWriMo.org, where you can find support for of your favorite published writers supplement their fic-
month-long creativity jags in a particular style of writing. tion income by running classes and communities.
SUPPORT & WRITING CHAT COMMUNITIES To find the right one for you, ask around. What
In Motivation for Creative People (Lateral Action Books, classes have other writing friends enjoyed and why? If
2015), Mark McGuinness wrote, “It is energizing to be you’re not sure exactly what you need, a general class
around people who share your passion.” McGuinness such as “how to write a novel” might work. If you’re on
points out that writers often grow up feeling like misfits your fourth novel and aware that plotting is a prob-
around “the normal crowd.” Finding your own crowd can lem, you’ll need a more focused class. Or perhaps you’re
be a powerful way to stay motivated through tough spots. approaching publication and need to find out more
about agents and the publishing business.
Some examples of support communities include:
Some examples of craft-based communities include:
• Writer Unboxed Private Facebook Group
(facebook.com/groups/writerunboxed—ask to • WriterUnboxed.com
be added) • Absolute Write; She Writes (shewrites.com)
• AbsoluteWrite.com • WritersHelpingWriters.net
• Reddit (reddit.com/r/write)
• InsecureWritersSupportGroup.com Examples of writers who teach:

WritersDigest.com I 43

• Jerry Jenkins (jerrysguild.com). The focus is on

traditional publishing and Christian writers.
• Mary Robinette Kowal offers courses and classes
Writers often grow
through her Patreon (maryrobinettekowal.com).
The focus is on science fiction and fantasy, short and
up feeling like misfits
• Holly Lisle offers classes through her community around “the normal
(hollylisle.com). The focus is on novel-writing and
short fiction and is self-publishing friendly. crowd.” Finding your
CRITIQUE & FEEDBACK own crowd can be a
powerful way to stay
Critique communities are where I issue my strongest
caution. A bad fit here can be crippling to your creativity

motivated through
and your craft. It’s also an area where our needs change
over time.
At first we just want to be told our writing is worth-
while. Gradually, we learn we need to know what’s not tough spots.
working in our stories. Eventually we need skilled writ-
ers, writing at or above our level, preferably in similar
genres, to get great feedback. A big enough community will contain published
Knowing which stage you’re at and what you need authors who can share information about what is sell-
is essential when looking for a critique group. I advise ing nowadays. You can find out about new and popular
lurking in the community to see how the members cri- sub-genres.
tique and interact. If their feedback on someone else’s Of course, you may also run across the occasional
work makes you excited to get back to work on your own envious writer who sees you as the competition, but
story, it may be a good group for you. If it makes you feel don’t let that put you off. Most writers understand that
queasy or defeated, keep looking. it’s a good thing when their writing friends do well.
Expect to join and leave a lot of critique groups over To find these, check to see if your genre has a profes-
your writing career. sional organization. They often have forums to help writ-
Examples of critique communities: ers connect.

• Scribophile.com Some examples include:

• AbsoluteWrite.com • Romance Writers of America (rwa.org)
• CritiqueCircle.com • Mystery Writers of America (mysterywriters.org)
• Former agent Nathan Bransford’s forums • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
(Forums.NathanBransford.com) (scbwi.org)
• Reddit’s Destructive Readers group • Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America
(reddit.com/r/DestructiveReaders) (sfwa.org)
Notoriously “brutal.” Approach with caution!
GENRE-SPECIFIC Mainstream publishers go through phases of trying to
The advantages of joining a genre-specific community launch communities of writers and readers. Some, like
should be pretty clear: Everyone in the group under- Figment, Authonomy and Book Country, thrived for a
stands the norms of your genre. No one will ever accuse while before being shut down. These communities are
your romance of being too sentimental or refuse to read particularly subject to the fragile economics of the book
your gore-soaked horror novel because “it’s too icky.” publishing industry. While volunteer-run communities

44 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

face similar catastrophic ends if their founder loses inter- pay hard cash for something you tend to take it more
est, they are often more stable because they are run on seriously. Also, it feels good to support the communities
shoestring budgets and community members can swoop you love.
in and save them.
Sites like Wattpad and Swoon Reads offer places to REASSESSING YOUR CHOICES
post work and potentially build an audience. They hint Once you’ve plunged into the world of online communi-
that, with enough of a buzz, your book might get a pub- ties, don’t be afraid to reassess your choice. Sometimes
lishing contact from them. These communities can be the community changes. Sometimes you change. It’s
worthwhile if you put in the time to learn their rules and perfectly OK to “graduate” from a community if it’s not
do the networking, but don’t expect to be “discovered” longer serving you.
there without a hefty dose of luck.
Some ways to know if it’s time to move on:
FINDING A TECHNOLOGY FIT • DO A GUT CHECK: When you step away from the
The next thing to consider when assessing a community community at the end of the day, do you feel uplifted
is how people interact technology-wise. Think about or depressed? If it’s not getting you excited to write, it
how you’re most comfortable using technology online might be time to find a new group.
now and how much you’re willing to stretch. Look for a • ASSESS THE TIME COMMITMENT: Are you spending
writing community that fits within your technological more time commenting and reading than actually
writing? Is the personal drama getting in the way of
comfort zone.
your productivity? Being of service to your com-
For example, if you hate the idea of being on video,
munity is a wonderful thing, but if it’s keeping you
don’t join a group where they hang out on Marco Polo or
from your main goal of writing, it might be time to
Zoom and talk live on air. You could perhaps stretch to a
scale back your commitments. Of course, you might
course from an author who pre-records video or gives live
discover that you’re happy being a cheerleader and
webinars and invites written questions in the chat box.
occasional writer, in which case you can revel in your
If old-style bulletin boards drive you crazy because
role, knowing you’re helping others.
you use your phone to go online, don’t expect to love a
• ASSESS YOUR PROGRESS: Are you writing more and
community like CritiqueCircle.com.
better because of the time you spend with your
If you hate being lost in a sea of people, Reddit might
online community? If not, no matter how much you
not be the place for you. love your buddies in your current community, you
However, if you spend all day refreshing Facebook may need to find a new group, where the participants
and hate having to remember to go to a separate website, are writing at a higher level than you.
then a community like Writer Unboxed with its private
Facebook group might be perfect. It’s always sad to move on from a comfortable group.
Chances are, though, some of your best writing friends
SHOULD YOU PAY MONEY? will be moving forward with you. You’ll create an organic
peer group as you progress, and that group will share
Some communities charge for premium membership and opportunities, tips and perhaps even agents and editors
courses, or offer opportunities for Patreon-like donations. as your careers build. And that small (very likely, online)
I can’t tell you what to do with your money. I will say community of writers you build as you travel will be the
that if you were a golfer, painter or a football fan, you’d very best one of all. WD
definitely be investing some cash in your pastime. Even if
you never intend to make money from your writing, it’s
perfectly justifiable to spend some disposable income on
pursuing your passion. While there are plenty of excel-
Julie Duffy is the founder and host of the StoryADay community
lent free advice and volunteer-based communities online,
(storyaday.org), which features month-long short story challenges
if you find a community or course that costs money and in May and September, year-round prompts and support
you value it, consider making the investment. When you for creative writers.

WritersDigest.com I 45
K. Jemisin wants to be a “storyteller of a It was not my decision 100 percent. I liked my day job [as a
writer.” It’s an ambition she claims not to career counselor and academic advisor], and I really didn’t
have mastered, but many who have lost want to give the job up. But at the time, my mother was
themselves in Jemisin’s tales of captive gods ill and deteriorating. And my writing career had become
and stone eaters are sure to disagree. more than full time. The Fifth Season came out and sold
Through her three epic fantasy series (the Inheritance like gangbusters, which is great. But it meant that I imme-
trilogy, the Dreamblood duology and the Broken Earth diately started getting a deluge of interview requests, and
trilogy) as well as dozens of short stories and a novella, when you have a nine-to-five job, you can only do inter-
Jemisin has become known as a master world creator, views between 5:30 and 7:00 and you’ve got to eat some-
each world brought to life through their detailed histo- where in there, and write on top of that.
ries and unique mythology. Even though Jemisin’s stories Some things had started to give, and the things that
are set in universes where magic is common, Jemisin’s had started to give were my health and my sanity. It was
writing feels pressingly relevant to our own world. Her to the point where the only reason I hadn’t quit already
stories are based on flawed power structures and deeply was because I was afraid of the finances of the writer’s life,
held prejudices with devastating consequences. There’s because I had done that before. Back at the beginning of
also hope—a constant theme through Jemisin’s lat-
my career, I had taken about a year-and-a-half off after I
est book, How Long ‘til Black Future Month? The short
got the contract for the Inheritance trilogy. I discovered
story collection, published in November 2018, imagines
that I did not function well not having structure, not hav-
futures for people of color like herself.
ing people to interact with other than family, not having
Storytelling is not just about the tales, but also the con-
a purpose or sense of fulfillment. Because the thing about
nection between the storyteller and their audience. Jemisin
my day job was helping real people in real time and work-
cultivates a bond with her readers through means such as
ing with marginalized kids. So given the stress that I was
her writing groups and outspoken activism in the fantasy
under, either I was going to break or I had to do some-
and science fiction communities. This bond has paid off. In
thing. That was when I decided to try Patreon.
2016, Jemisin quit her day job to focus on writing full time
with the support of her fans through the Patreon platform.
What was that experience like?
Among Jemisin’s accolades, her debut novel, The
Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, was short-listed for the Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to work. There were
James Tiptree Jr. Award, earned the Sense of Gender some popular authors and artists who were making a
Award from the Japanese Association for Gender, Fantasy great deal of money through Patreon, but I was just a
and Science Fiction and a Locus Award for Best First midlist author. At the time, the Dreamblood series was
Novel. In 2018, when The Stone Sky (the final book in the only thing that I had the royalty statement for, and
Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy) won the Hugo Award for I knew the sales of the last book of the series were not
Best Novel, Jemisin became the first author to win three fantastic. So I was like, If I do this, am I going to end up
Hugo Best Novel Awards in a row. The novel also earned a on the street? That was the fear. I launched it on a Friday
Nebula Award for Best Novel and a Locus Award for Best afternoon around 5:00 thinking nobody’s going to pay
Fantasy Novel. any attention and by the end of the weekend, it was fully
Jemisin spoke to WD about her relationship to her funded, and I was quitting my job.

readers and how she creates other worlds. Terror was the feeling that I had beforehand going
into it and shock afterward. I still am making more than
You were able to move into writing full time thanks my initial goal of $3,000 a month, which was just enough
to the support of your fans via Patreon. Can you tell to cover my rent and health insurance (at least before
us about making that decision? Trump, that was enough to cover my health insurance).

46 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

N.K. Jemisin

The master fantasy

world-builder reveals
her secrets to success
on Patreon and speculates
on how imagination
might test-drive our future.

I don’t think that I’ll write a book and it’ll change the world.
But I do tend to think that the things we are capable of
imagining and believing are our future are inƃuenced by all
of the media that we consume.

What advice do you have for other writers consider- In the introduction to your newest book, How Long
ing pursuing fan-based funding? ‘til Black Future Month, you explained that you write
First and foremost, you do have to be a known person. “proof of concept” stories to “test drive poten-
I’ve seen friends who were writers that didn’t have any tial novel worlds.” Once the concept seems viable,
books out attempting it, and it doesn’t usually go well. where do you go from there?
The sense that I get from the people who contribute to If you read “Stone Hunger,” [from How Long ‘til Black
my Patreon is that they do so out of a sense of personal Future Month?] and then read the Broken Earth series,
relationship. They’ve read my books, and they feel like you would see where I did not like the way that “Stone
they know me on some level. And, to a degree, they do, Hunger” depicted the magical form orogeny. In that
because I put a lot of myself into my books. short story, it was very “sense specific.” The character
They want to contribute to the writer that they’ve seen thought of everything in terms of the taste of food, and
already and make sure that writer produces more work. that wasn’t going to work, because I wanted it to be effec-
It’s not just an altruistic thing on their part; it’s a desire tively a science that had gone wrong.
for more of the same. Once I finish the proof-of-concept story and have
So if you are a writer who’s got some stuff out there sent it to people and have seen how they react to it, then
and feel like you’ve built even a small audience, then it I decide from there what I need to change or refine in
can be useful for you. You’re not necessarily going to get order to make the world-building work for a novel. What
rent and insurance money, but you are very likely going that usually means is that I simply start writing. I start
to get enough to cover a few utility bills. Even just $200 a doing test chapters to see what voices work best. I tried
month can make a difference because everybody’s living many voices with the Broken Earth trilogy until the sec-
paycheck to paycheck. People should just manage their ond person thing just kind of clicked and seemed like the
expectations going into it. right voice, and that’s a purely instinctual thing.
Make sure your story doesn’t get too detailed. When And, as I went forward, I realized that the concept of
you’re explaining to people what you need, you don’t want the magic from the short story wasn’t going to work, but
them to start trying to work out your budget for you. I’ve the rest of the world was fine.
seen mostly women feeling uncomfortable asking about
money and so they delineate what they would spend XYZ You took a year off of novel writing to focus on short
on, and because they are working in a patriarchal envi- stories. The process improved your longer fiction by
ronment, men jump in and start nitpicking how they’re teaching you about the “quick hook and the deep
spending the money. When you look at men’s Patreon character” and giving you “space to experiment with
[profiles], they’re not offering their life story. They’re say- unusual plots and story forms.” How did you learn to
ing, “I need X for Y,” and that’s all you need to say. trust whether your experimental forms were working?
Nearly all of the short stories [in How Long ‘til Black
What do your supporters expect in return? Future Month?] were run through one writing group or
You owe your readers whatever you’ve promised them. another. I didn’t do a lot of experimental stuff to begin
Once a month, I post an original vignette or a short story with, because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,
based on the world of the books that I’ve written so far. and because I didn’t even really know how to read exper-
But you do have to deliver on that. imental stuff at first. That was partly what that year was
Now the readers can be reasonable about it; when I about. One of the magazines that I read during that year
tell my readers I am deep in deadline hell and can’t pro- was Strange Horizons, for example, which does a lot of
duce the thing that I told them I was going to try and wide-ranging styles, everything from the very didactic to
produce for a while, for example. slipstream or interstitial, and a lot of new weird stuff. So

48 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

that helped me learn how to read it, and then I finally felt
more willing to try and write it. Jemisin talks about sensitivity readers, author interpretation
and more in an extended Q&A at writersdigest.com/jun-19.
In your blog and when you speak publicly, you fre-
quently mention your readers.
and everybody else too. Certainly that’s not what the
We’re storytellers. Storytellers work with an audience.
creators of those works intended to convey, but that was
That’s normal, isn’t it?
what their work did convey by their exclusion.
People often point out—and I don’t know how true this
I’d hope so. I do think that many writers seem to go
is—but one of the reasons that America became comfort-
off into their own world and are less interested in
able enough with the idea of a black man and the presi-
that dialogue and more interested in just presenting
dency to elect Obama was because, in TV and film, presi-
dents had been black for quite some time. So we pursue in
That’s their personal choice, and not everybody feels reality the things that we’re capable of imagining and those
comfortable with it. I get it. To me, though, I’ve always of us who are in industries or fields that play with imagi-
wanted to be a storyteller. When I was a teenager, I used nation have a responsibility to depict futures that are for
to babysit kids, and I would tell them stories to entertain everyone.
them. I’ve traveled to lots of different places in the world.
I’ve seen storytellers, and I’ve always admired the hell out Is there anything else you’d like to tell other writers?
of them. It’s a different art form from writing. It is an art The industry is changing in some good ways. It’s still got
form that I have nowhere near mastered, but I try to be a a lot of the old blind spots, and it’s still struggling to fully
storyteller of a writer and to me that’s what it’s supposed embrace futures and mythologies other than what it’s
to be. But everyone’s mileage varies, I guess. familiar with, and that’s not entirely surprising. Business
has always been reactive rather than proactive. Artists
In your acceptance speech for your latest Hugo may sometimes have to go outside of traditional chan-
Award, you explain, “As this genre finally, however nels in order to get our vision realized, but I do like the
grudgingly, acknowledges that the dreams of the fact that more people now have the ability to get their
marginalized matter, and that all of us have a future, work out there.
so will the world.” Do you believe that speculative
fiction has the power to change society? People encouraged you to self-publish after the
I didn’t used to think so, and then I started to realize, first Killing Moon—the novel that landed you an agent—
off that I was underestimating it, and then second of all didn’t find a publisher, but you wanted the book to
that other people had already done that calculation and be in libraries ... Is the only channel other than tradi-
were using it for evil. It sounds kind of corny, but I started tional press self-publishing?
to realize it when right-wingers tried to take over fandom There’s small press publishing, but small press publishing
... [when] you suddenly see Nazis in video games and also doesn’t get you in the library. But you decide on the
comic books trying their damnedest to squish out people publishing method that satisfies what it is that you want. A
who are different from young, straight, white boys, and lot of people simply want to make the maximum amount
harassing and trying to dox them, there’s a reason for that. of money possible. For them, self-publishing is perfect
I don’t necessarily think it’s a one-for-one relation- because they can control how much they spend on pro-
ship. I don’t think that I’ll write a book and it’ll change duction and marketing. And there’s no nobody else taking
the world. But I do tend to think that the things we are chunks out of that profit. They’re willing to pay in time for
capable of imagining and believing are our future are that flexibility. I am not willing to pay in time. Time is my
influenced by all of the media that we consume. most precious resource, not money. WD
Growing up, I had a really hard time imagining a
future for myself and for other black people because
when you looked at science fiction, you did not see Jera Brown is a freelance writer and columnist for Rebellious
black people in the future. There had been some kind of Magazine. Selections from her memoir-in-progress have been
unspoken apocalypse that wiped us all out, and Asians, published in The Rumpus and Big Muddy.

WritersDigest.com I 49
14th Annual Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction
Awards addresses universal truths—and attempts to answer
life’s big questions—through fantasy worlds.

D avid Burns says the reason why fantasy is such an

old but thriving literary genre is that fantasy stories
speak to emotional truths.
“A good fantasy story is going to make you feel some-
thing and resonate about subjects such as love, family
judge to call his case or before his kids get up for school.
“The only way to keep that ball in the air consistently is to
give yourself deadlines to force writing to be a priority,”
he says. “If it’s something that you’re passionate about,
you’ll find the time to do it.”
and the nature of good and evil—these very fundamental As in his day-to-day life, Burns says that the secret to
questions that people have,” he says. “Think about what getting the right pacing during a short story is a pro-
things matter to you that you are working through in cess of trial and error. A writer must use the pacing of
your own mind. What issues do you ponder at three a.m., the story to ensure that the reader feels the conclusion is
and how can you put them on paper?” earned, rather than rushed or unexpected. Writers can
These emotional truths, in addition to characters that learn how to do this through being open to constructive
act believably even in unbelievable circumstances and criticism from others as well as themselves.
pacing that’s just right, make for a great fantasy story. It “I will read a story after I’ve left it alone for a while,” he
was this combination of elements that helped Burns’s says. “You’ve got to be your own first critic, where you
short story “Night Surf ” beat over 1,200 other entries look at your work as if it was written by someone else
to win the 14th Annual Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction and ask ‘Did that satisfy me?’”
Awards. His winnings include $2,500 and a trip to the Now that he has won the Writer’s Digest award, Burns
2019 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. plans to continue searching for an agent to take on the
“Night Surf ” deals with the pain of loss as well as the fantasy novel he wrote about a modern-day gorgon who
power of guilt and fear. In the story, an old man returns works as a contract killer. WD

to the beach his 7-year-old daughter disappeared at

years earlier in order to search for answers to the tragedy.
Despite his loss, the man clings to the hope that there is
Read “Night Surf” as well as the First Place winner in each
some chance of redemption. Popular Fiction category and an extended Q&A with Burns at
By day Burns is a trial attorney, squeezing writing in writersdigest.com/jun-19.
during whatever downtime he gets, such as waiting for a

50 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

“NIGHT SURF” Michelle Lindsey
David Burns
DIAMONDS” Emily M. Dietrich
“EXODUS” John Biggs
What are some places you look for writing Jillian Shoichet “LIVING THE DREAM ON
ideas? Jeff Siebold Daniel Elliot
I get ideas from the strangest places. Once I was sitting “THE BET” “SOAR”
William Mueller Michele Roberts-Bonn
in the doctor’s office. There’s a magazine with an entirely
black cover and very thin letters on it in gray, and I think Ruth Simon
Carol Kohn
it says “The Last Village.” By the time I go in to see the THRILLER/SUSPENSE
doctor, I’ve got an entire story about what the last village FIRST PLACE
might mean. On my way out, I got a chance to look at “SOME PIG”
Thomas Gutierrez
the magazine cover and it said “The East Village.” I had GUEST”
gotten the title wrong, but it gave me a really good story
idea. I also get a lot of ideas listening to music, particu- Peter Figur
larly movie soundtracks, trying to imagine what scene Mackenzie Hurlbert “HEARTS BEAT”
Lynsley Grady
might go with them. “NEEDLE AND KNIFE”
L.J. Longo
What are the challenges of writing fantasy, ELEPHANT EARS”
and how do you overcome them? Shevon Porter
Julie Anton
The challenge is one and the same with the benefit of
Erin Chavis Y O U N G A D U LT
writing fantasy. There are no limits to where you can go. FIRST PLACE
I find the world-building aspect of fantasy and science “EIGHTEEN”
fiction very challenging.
In any story, you want your characters to be believ- Kevin Hogg
able, but in fantasy you also have to build a world that HONORABLE MENTIONS JoAnna Rowe
is believable and has to function according to some
Richard Leist Charlie S. Quinn
internal logic. You either have to do a lot of pre-planning, “LETTING GO” “HERSELF”
or be very willing to re-write your work as the world that Raquel Levitt Laura Todd Carns

you’re creating organically changes and develops as “SOME KINDA HAT” “RED, RIGHT…”
Margaret (Rita) Smith Lara Morello
you’re writing it.
You can do that sometimes without a lot of exposition.
World-building can be a matter of many intricate details, Submit your genre story of 4,000 words or fewer to WD’s 15th
or it can be a matter of just placing the right archetype Annual Popular Fiction Awards for a chance to win $2,500 and
a trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York.
language in at the right moment and letting the reader
First-place winners in each category (crime, horror, romance, sci-
do the rest. ence fiction/fantasy, thriller and YA) will receive $500 and men-
tion in WD. For more info, visit writersdigest.com/competitions.

WritersDigest.com I 51
A literary agent’s mostly serious answers to your mostly serious questions.

Dear FYSA, notch manuscript when it arrived, can thank me laaaaater.” [Hangs up
How do agents form rela- which then led to establishing my and sips her breakfast.]
tionships with editors and publishing viability and my relationships as an
houses? Do they query them in the agent. Dear FYSA,
same way a writer queries an agent? (Awww, picture it: Barbara Recently I copied the first
Just Wondering Poelle. On the phone. In her 20s. pages of a very famous classic novel
Introducing herself. Giving a and queried a few agents with it and
Dear Wondering, detailed pitch. She’s so earnest! was soundly rejected by all of them. If
Not exactly … but kinda? Swore on rare occasions. Didn’t agents aren’t even able to recognize
I had the luxury of starting out at consider vodka a food group. Those a classic which has sold hundreds of
a very established agency, so once I were simpler times.) thousands of copies worldwide, how
signed a client, I would practice my When you have editors read- can we trust their judgment?
pitch to Irene Goodman in order to ing your projects, even if they pass, Fooled You
refine it and make sure it contained oftentimes they will ask you to grab
up-to-date and viable comp titles lunch/coffee/drinks to discuss what Dear Fooled You,
and a hook-y logline, just like you else you both might be looking to Ha! While I can appreciate the
do in your initial query. Then Irene acquire. You start to learn not only abundance of chortles you had
and I would discuss imprints and what the imprint is looking for, but receiving those pass letters, a few
editors and I would make a sublist. also about the editors themselves. scenarios come to mind:
After that? I grabbed my desk phone With time, you become adept at not Agents are a bunch of charlatans,
and just started Willy Loman-ing it. only saying, “Hmmm, this is a St. passing the office hours prank call-
I would call, pitch the book and Martin’s book, NOT a Scribner book ing each other and playing handball
when requested (in those days) …” but also at saying “Ooh this is a with manuscript pages, oftentimes
package a hard copy and send a Monique Patterson book more than crashing into the potted ficus in the
cover letter (my “query” so to speak) an Alexandra Sehulster book.” And corner.
and the manuscript. Because I had thus you build your own maps and OR the very famous classic novel
the credibility of calling from a pathways for submissions. you queried with began “Call me
known agency, even if the editor Nowadays? I have the luxury of Ishmael” or “It was the best of times,
had never heard of me, he or she doing all of this in a more … trun- it was the worst of times” or some
was likely to request my manuscript cated style. And my cover letters other familiar-sounding bell, and
if it felt right for the imprint based and manuscripts are submitted the agents miiiiight have eye rolled
on the assumption that Irene prob- through email. and moved on.
ably knew what she was doing. So it Picture it: Barbara Poelle. In her OR the very famous classic novel
was a combination of calling from 40s. Talking a blue streak. Tapping was touted as an adult book but fea-
an established entity, doing an evoc- her wireless headset. “Hiiiiii! It’s me, tured a teenage protagonist calling
ative verbal pitch and having a top- check your inbox! [sing-songs] You folks “crumby” and “phony.” (This

ASK FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK! Submit your own questions on the writing life, publishing or anything in between to writers.digest@
fwmedia.com with “Funny You Should Ask” in the subject line. Select questions (which may be edited for space or clarity) will be
answered in future columns, and may appear on WritersDigest.com and in other WD publications.

52 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

time in your pursuit of a writing
What readers want changes over time, • Get 500 solid words done today.
and what is culturally acceptable within • Find a trusted critique partner
that literature has definitely evolved (with or group to get beta reads and
revise to your best ability.
some ways to go still!) and agents • Determine whether you would
keep up to date with these changes. like to self-publish or be tradi-
tionally published.
• Research the next steps and
hold yourself accountable for
following them to your ultimate
would be in the wrong genre and among those touted as classic works path to publication.
also read quite out of touch with of literature, what readers want Now pardon me! I am off to
actual teen speak.) changes over time, and what is straighten the ficus. Again. WD
OR the very famous classic novel culturally acceptable within that lit-
leaned heavily into appropriation, erature has definitely evolved (with
thus it wouldn’t garner an enthusias- some ways to go still!) and agents
Barbara Poelle is vice president at Irene
tic response. keep up to date with these changes.
Goodman Literary Agency (irenegoodman.
So in short, even though the Either way, for my own chortles, I com), where she specializes in adult and
book you queried with would be thought of a few other uses for your young adult fiction.

Improve AGENT
Your Writing
One Course at a Time.
Whether you’re writing for publication, May 10-11, 2019
extra money or to tell personal stories,
Writer’s Digest University has courses
that can help get your writing career
underway. Our expert instructors Our Agent Fest is designed to squeeze as much into two
provide advice, specific instruction, days of learning as possible. You can ask any questions
real-world experience, expertise, and you like during the sessions, and get your specific concerns
the motivation and drive to enable you addressed. The literary agents will give feedback and take
to achieve your goals. pitches from writers. Our faculty includes:
Our workshops cover a wide range of Noah Ballard (Curtis Brown, Ltd.)
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WritersDigest.com I 53

First Things First

THE CHALLENGE: Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below.

(Tie) Tara leaned into her sister’s

car and, remembering her rejected
plea not to replace the spare tire with
Jacob’s body, held back a smirk.
—Rob Rangel

Kicking up dust didn’t drown

out mama’s voice in my head as
she said, “When life gives you sand
instead of soil, build castles.”
—Ciara O’Neal

(Tie) I don’t believe in God until

something terrible happens, and
this road trip was the Holy Spirit of
terrible happenings.
—Mike VanMassenhove

(Tie) When we panicked, always-

calm-Cara was able to charm the
Out of nearly 500 entries, Writer’s Digest editors and readers selected the following snake out of the car and send it back
10 winners. to its desert home.
—Maureen Cogan

Sandra kicked the dirt in fake It became our custom to bap- (Tie) All I know is that four
fury, distracting the others as Emory tize our feet in the soil of each new
hours later, Darien was dead, Laura
wriggled out of the rooftop suitcase state we crossed into without being
was on the run, and I became con-
to make her escape. captured.
scripted into the Australian army.
—Valerie Acres —John Lundquist
—David Minor

If they’d known the Good (Tie) The dirt road to Chicago

Samaritan that changed their Àat seemed a poor place for our “From here on out, we take direc-
was the same man who’d shot the time-travelers group to learn the tions from MapQuest,” Julie said and
tire, they wouldn’t have invited him Charleston, but we’d need it where kicked the protesting, know-it-all
to the cabin. we were going. toad high into the air and out of view.
—Linda Juliano —Sharon Addy —Kevin McCarthy

54 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

THE CHALLENGE: Write the first line (one sentence only, 25 words or fewer) to a story based on the prompt below. You can be funny,
poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

TO ENTER: Send your story via the online

submission form at writersdigest.com/

CONTEST #98 your-story-competition or via email to
yourstorycontest@fwmedia.com with the
subject line Your Story #98 (entries must be
pasted directly into the body of the email;
attachments will not be opened).

NOTE: WD editors select the top

entries and post them on our website

Join us online in early June, when readers

will vote for their favorite to help rank the
top 10 winners!

The winners will be published in a future issue of Writer’s Digest.

DON’T FORGET: Your name and mailing address. One entry per person.
DEADLINE: May 27, 2019.

Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference Returns


October 25–27, 2019 | PASADENA, CA


WritersDigest.com I 55
May 1, 2019


Are You Ready For Your Close-up?
Win $8,000 in cash, national acclaim, and a trip to New York City!


• $8,000 in cash
• Early Readers/Children’s Picture Books
• A feature article in the March/April 2020 issue
• Genre Fiction
of Writer’s Digest
• Inspirational
• A paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference
• Mainstream/Literary Fiction
in New York City!
• Memoirs/Life Stories
EIGHT CATEGORY WINNERS • Middle-Grade/Young Adult Books
WILL RECEIVE: • Nonfiction/Reference Books
• $1,000 in cash • Poetry

• Promotion in the March/April 2020 issue of

Writer’s Digest

It’s your turn to be in the spotlight. Submit your book today!






G  P о

GRAMMAR Concentrate more on communicating clear ideas than on

When my daughter was in eighth grade, her teacher told writing complete sentences. Sometimes you might pur-
her that a sentence needed a noun and a verb. “Really?” posely opt for fragments in order to convey the energy or
she asked skeptically. urgency of the scene, like in the passage below:
“Yes,” the teacher responded. As Daniel tried to thread through the gap, his tires spun
“Huh,” my daughter replied. on the ice and the car whipped around.
“That’s an exception.”
Everything outside the window was whirling. Turning. A
“Oh. OK.”
smear of white. And then.
All of my daughter’s replies were sentences.
Grammar isn’t about rules—it’s about allowing the story
A sentence doesn’t always have a noun and a verb.
Instead, a sentence is a word or unit of words that con- to do its job.
veys a complete thought within that specific context: Fixing Grammar Issues
“Pass the salt.” While a basic grasp of grammar is essential for getting
“Huh?” your work traditionally published, it is a good idea to
“The salt. Please.” devote more attention to how various parts of speech
“Oh. Here.” serve your story and less attention to following every
“Thanks.” grammar-related “rule” when revising your novel.
“Sure. Pepper?” Typically, you’ll want to use what sounds natural rather
“Naw.” than what is considered “proper.” It might be proper
English to write, “It is I,” rather than “It’s me.” But if you
Using traditional “complete sentences” for this exchange hear a knock on the door and call out, “Who’s there?” and
would make the dialogue sound stilted and unnatural: someone replies, “It is I,” he would sound preposterous.
“Pass the salt.” Also, stop worrying about ending sentences with a
“What did you say?” preposition. It’s not something readers care about. (If
“I would like the salt. Please pass it to me.” that last sentence was written formally, it would have
“I will gladly pass you the salt.” read, “It’s not something about which readers care,” and
“I’m thankful.” that sounds awkward.)
“Being helpful is what I’m here for. Would you like Don’t fret about starting a sentence with the word
some pepper as well?” there. It’s fine to write, “There’s an old saying about that,”
“No, I won’t be needing the pepper.” rather than “An old saying about that exists.”

WritersDigest.com I 57

When proper grammar gets in the way of the story, With so many online writing resources available,
abandon it. Unless it comes down to choosing verbs. It’s there’s no excuse for sloppy punctuation. Some punctua-
best to go with the active voice over the passive voice: tion is subjective, such as commas and colons. Use only
the punctuation that contributes to the flow and pace of
PASSIVE: A great time was had by all.
your story. Strive for readability and consistency, but opt
ACTIVE: Everyone had a great time.
for context over convention every time.
PASSIVE: My foot was the place on which the anvil fell.
ACTIVE: The anvil fell on my foot. Fixing Punctuation Issues
Noticeable mistakes will distract readers. Here are six
The active voice is stronger, more present, more concise. things to keep in mind:
Fine-Tuning Your Manuscript for Grammar • Rules change. What’s common usage today might not
Ask yourself these questions regarding your manuscript: be tomorrow.
• Is the grammar serving the scene? Does it convey the • There’s no “proper” punctuation. Like dialect, there are
right voice and sense of urgency? styles of speaking, but no dialect is “right.” Don’t use
• Have I weeded out extra prepositions, needless punctuation marks that might throw readers off.
adverbs and weak adjectives? • If you invent a convention (such as not using quota-
• Does the writing sound too formal? Where can I tions marks or not including commas in your book,
write in a more natural and less pretentious way? etc.), do it in the service of the story, not out of novelty.
• Every publishing company has its own preferences.
PUNCTUATION • Every choice regarding punctuation should be made in
Punctuation marks are like traffic signs: They differ from the service of your readers.
state to state and no matter what the sign says, it’s better to Pay attention to apostrophes in the wrong place, mis-
break the rules than to run over a pedestrian. If punctua- spelled words and timing that’s off (especially when you
tion gets in the way, change it. If it’s not in the way, leave it. use multiple points-of-view).
Everything that has the potential to mislead readers or Run-on sentences often annoy readers. Carefully cho-
drive them out of the story matters. Punctuation exists to sen sentence fragments usually won’t bother them.
serve them. Incorrect or missing punctuation may con- Check your quotes to make sure they’re all “smart”
fuse them. Obvious errors will also make them lose trust (curly) or all neutral (straight). Often, authors end up
in your writing ability. with a combination of the two in their manuscripts.


Parts of speech What to remember

Nouns Many nouns are mood-neutral, so the context will determine the connotation. Take a careful look at
the adjectives and verbs that refer to your nouns to get a better feel for the scene’s atmosphere.

Verbs Use the right verb and you’ll sustain the atmosphere; use the wrong one and you’ll undermine it.

Adjectives Look for adjectives that point out aspects of something that readers might not have noticed. When
describing a noun, don’t try to tell readers what that thing is like. Try to induce an emotion.

Adverbs If you have an adverb beside a verb, you can improve the writing by choosing a verb that carries the
meaning of both words. Rather than writing, “He looked carefully,” you might write, “He scrutinized.”
Often, the presence of an adverb simply means that you haven’t yet chosen the most appropriate verb.

Prepositions Typically, you won’t use two or more prepositions in a row. So, “She ran back around the cabin,”
becomes, “She ran past the cabin.” For brevity, cut extra prepositions. Also, don’t pile on too many
prepositional phrases, as in “He went behind the barn, into the field, over the hill, through the
woods, to Grandmother’s house.” It disrupts the flow. Slice the action into several sentences.

58 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

G  P о
Punctuation mark What the stylebooks aren’t telling you
Commas Commas are subjective. One editor says this, another says that and you go back and forth; it can be
exhausting. In the end, it’s up to you. Use them to manage the flow of your sentences. Trust your
instinct—but take the time to hone that instinct first. (Be aware that it might need a lot of honing.)
Semicolons Remove them from dialogue. People don’t usually talk in semicolons unless they’re trying to hide
something. Most of the time, a full stop (period) rather than a semicolon will do the trick.
Question Marks These are used to show the upward inflection at the end of a sentence. When someone is coming
to a conclusion rather than asking a question, use a period instead of a question mark.
Exclamation Points Usually, they lower the status of a character who uses them all the time, since they show loss of
control. In a series of commands, because of escalation, the last one might have an exclamation
point, but not the first. So, you might write, “Swim faster. Hurry!” but not “Swim faster! Hurry.”
Italics Use italics to denote thoughts and quotation marks to distinguish the speakers during dialogue. Using
quotation marks for thoughts confuses readers, who won’t know if someone is talking or thinking.
Em Dashes In dialogue, use an em dash to show someone getting cut off:
“Come here.”
“No, I—”
“I said come here!”
Ellipses Use ellipses to show that someone’s thoughts are trailing off:
“Come here.”
“No, I ...”
A pause. “You what?”
“Oh, sorry, I lost my train of thought.”

When a character should be coming to a conclusion, Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliott, PhD is one of the
don’t have her ask a question. It makes her look stupid. most practical resources for writers. Check the publication
Context will determine this. So, you might write: date of any style manual, and use the most recent edition.

“That’s a one-way mirror, so he can’t see us?” Fine-Tuning Your Manuscript for Punctuation
“Correct. All he sees is a mirror.” Consider the following when reviewing your manuscript:
“It’s cracked on his side of the glass.” • If I haven’t followed current punctuation conventions,
“That’s from the chair.” why haven’t I? Is it to remove distractions and serve
“So, he’s been trying to break out.” readers, or is it to be “experimental”?
Clearly the prisoner tried to break out. A question mark • Is my punctuation usage consistent?
wouldn’t be the best choice in this instance. • What mistakes do I keep making? What steps will I
take to address them?
What style manual should I use? • Where does my punctuation undermine the status of
If you work with an established publisher, they’ll have an my characters?
in-house style manual. If you self-publish, you’ll want to • Are my punctuation choices well-informed and
find a contemporary one and stick to it so your punctua- appropriate? Where am I following the rules so much
tion is consistent. that I’m running over my readers in my quest to fol-
Trends constantly change and many style manuals pub- low proper punctuation?
lished over five years ago contain conventions that are no
longer common. Keep an eye on current trends, and check Excerpted from Troubleshooting Your Novel © 2016 by Steven
online grammar sites for the most current information. James with permission from Writer’s Digest Books.

WritersDigest.com I 59

A lthough most writers and editors have received

extensive training in written English, we still make
mistakes—all the time.
People don’t like to be dismissed with a pronoun. Miss
Manners, for example, has said that she doesn’t care to have
The Careful Writer, Words into Type, The Elements of the pronoun nobody applied to her—as in “Nobody cares
Style and other sources offer voluminous instruction and about etiquette.” Likewise, it’s unfair to write women or
examples for writers and editors. This article will address men out of a story through careless use of pronouns.
some problems that editors commonly encounter. “Because language plays a central role in the way human
beings think and behave, we still need to promote language
PARTS OF SPEECH that opens rather than closes possibilities for women and
men,” noted the National Council of Teachers of English.
Distinguishing Nouns and Verbs from Adjectives, “Women should receive the same treatment as men in
Adverbs and Other Modifiers all areas of coverage,” states The Associated Press Stylebook.
Some writers confuse adjectives with verb phrases. “Physical descriptions, sexist references, demeaning ste-
Pickup is an adjective, as in “a pickup game of softball,” or reotypes and condescending phrases should not be used.”
a noun, as in “driving a pickup.” Pick up is a verb phrase, While acknowledging that “valid and acceptable words
or a verb actually made up of two words—a verb and such as mankind or humanity” may be used, the AP guide
an adverb. Typically, the noun and adjective forms are sets forth some examples for its writers.
one word, whereas the verbs are phrases of two or more
• “Copy should not assume maleness when both sexes
words. For example: are involved.”
WRONG: “Pickup the paper off the floor.” • “Copy should not express surprise that an attractive

RIGHT: “Pick up the paper off the floor.” woman can be professionally accomplished.”
• “Copy should not gratuitously mention family rela-
In these cases, pay attention to pronunciation and word tionships when there is no relevance to the subject.”
usage to determine whether it is an adjective or verb • “Use the same standards for men and women in
phrase. When in doubt, check the dictionary. deciding whether to include specific mention of per-
sonal appearance or marital and family situation.”
Change of Person in Pronouns
Take a look at this quotation from The First Salute. “He However, applying these rules causes trouble for many
slips in an interesting admission when he wonders if writers and editors, because common answers to the prob-
such action might make ‘the enemy’s thirst for peace be lem, such as he or she, are not everyday language. “Start
equal to our own,’” Barbara Tuchman wrote. Here, a quo- using ‘he or she’ or ‘his or her’ in a conversation and peo-
tation is being used to complete a thought within a sen- ple give you strange looks,” noted editor Dave Fessenden.
tence. He is third person, but our is first person. “Sprinkling ‘him/her’ and ‘his/her’ through every para-
If the first person is used in a third-person narrative, it graph is awkward and annoying and, consequently, is
should be in a quotation that links it directly to a speaker, favored as a solution only by awkward and annoying writ-
not attached to a third-person pronoun. The problem in ers,” wrote Evan Morris, author of The Word Detective.
the quote could have been avoided by separating the third- The National Council of Teachers of English offered
some practical alternatives.
person statement from the first-person quotation: “He slips
in an interesting admission. Such action might make ‘the Use “the same titles for men and women when naming
enemy’s thirst for peace be equal to our own,’ he states.” jobs that could be held by both.” Instead of “chairman/

1 In 2017, AP style was updated to permit journalists to use “they” as a gender-neutral, singular pronoun.

60 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

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chairwoman,” use “chairperson” or “chair”; use “police Burger and Sandra O’Connor,” or “The class inter-
officer” instead of “policeman/policewoman.” viewed Chief Justice Burger and Justice O’Connor.”
• “Seek alternatives to language that patronizes or trivial-
Noting that “there is no one pronoun in English that can
izes women” or “reinforces stereotyped images,” such as
be effectively substituted for” he or his, the English teach-
“gal Friday,” “career woman,” or “man-sized job.”
ers suggested the following.
• “Drop the possessive form altogether” or “substitute In addition, the teachers suggested ways to handle quota-
an article.” Change “The average student is worried tions in nonfiction that contain sexist language—without
about his grades” to “The average student is worried altering the quotations.
about grades.” • “Avoid the quotation altogether if it is not really
• “Use the plural instead of the singular.” Change “Give necessary.”
the student his grade right away” to “Give the stu- • “Paraphrase the quotation, giving the original author
dents their grades right away.” credit for the idea.”
• Substitute the second or first person for the third per- • “If the quotation is fairly short, recast it as an indirect
son. Change “When a teacher asks his students for quotation, substituting nonsexist words as necessary.”
an evaluation, he is putting himself on the spot” to
“When you ask your students for an evaluation, you Mindless avoidance of certain words will not help com-
are putting yourself on the spot.” munication. Rather, we need to examine the words we
• The pronoun one or one’s can be substituted for he
use to make sure they communicate what we want to say.
or his, though it does change the tone: “He might
well wonder what his response should be” could PARTS OF SENTENCES
be changed to “One might well wonder what one’s Distinguishing Subjects, Predicates and Objects
response should be.” Writers who have trouble distinguishing subjects from
• Recast the sentence “in the passive voice or another objects tend to confuse who and whom, and I and me.
impersonal construction”—for example, change Who does something. Something happens to whom.
“Each student should hand in his paper promptly” to “Who went with you?” (Who went; who did something.)
“Papers should be handed in promptly.” “Whom did you see?” (Whom was seen; something hap-
• “When the subject is an indefinite pronoun,” recast
pened to whom.)
the sentence to avoid it. Change “When everyone Who and whom work in the same way as he and
contributes his own ideas, the discussion will be a him, and hardly anybody mixes them up. You might
success” to “When all the students contribute their write, “He went with you?” but not “Him went with you?”
own ideas, the discussion will be a success.” Likewise you might write, “Him did you see?” but not
• Make sparing use of he or she and his or her. Change
with the words in that order. Instead you would write,
“Each student can select his own topic” to “Each stu- “Did you see him?” but not “Did you see he?” If you’re
dent can select his or her own topic.” not sure whether to use who or whom, think of he and
The English teachers also had a few things to say about him, and change the order of the words if necessary.
occupational stereotyping. The same idea applies to I and me, but people often
say things like “Marlene invited Steve and I to dinner.”
• Avoid “diminutive or special forms to name women”
Wrong! Cancel Steve’s invitation and see what you have:
(or men), such as “stewardess,” “waitress,” or “male
“Marlene invited I to dinner.” Right: “Marlene invited
nurse”; use “flight attendant,” “server,” and “nurse.”
Steve and me to dinner.”
• Do not represent women or men “as occupying only
certain jobs or roles.” Don’t assume that a kindergar- Mistaken Junction
ten teacher is a she. Grammatically speaking, mistaken junction occurs when
• “Treat men and women in a parallel manner.” Instead the reader links the wrong words, usually because the
of “The class interviewed Chief Justice Burger and writer arranged the words ambiguously. (These are all
Mrs. O’Connor,” write “The class interviewed Warren real quotations.)

WritersDigest.com I 61

Extensive negotiation skills are need to meld the various tence isn’t saying that Dr. Jones works to ensure compli-
maintenance activities into a solidified efficient repair ance, etc. (although she does); the sentence is saying she
scheme to ensure disruption to the Government Client works to ensure that these things happen.
are kept to a minimum. Avoid mistaken junction, as it ensures disruption.
“To ensure disruption” sounds like the task of the nego- Misplaced Words
tiator. The reader has to reach the end of the sentence Only is probably the most commonly misplaced word.
before finding out that the object of ensure is a whole Try moving it around in this sentence and catch the
clause, not one word. Inserting that after ensure would changes in meaning: Only I kicked him in the head.
have alerted the reader to the structure of the rest of the Nonrestrictive clauses are another example of com-
sentence: ensure that disruption to the Government client
monly misplaced words: They tend to come loose and land
is kept to a minimum. (Yes, there are other things wrong
in the wrong place: His theories concerned donuts, which
with this sentence.)
were full of holes has a different meaning than His theories,
And what will you find at the Treasury Department—
which were full of holes, concerned donuts.
information or exploited children?
Sometimes the order of words makes comprehension
information related to … exploited children at the U.S. difficult. Here’s an example of too many words between a
Department of the Treasury verb (put) and adverb (online).
The reader might conclude that the Department of the The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of
Treasury violates child labor laws. Rewording it to say the Hazardous Materials Safety has put their publication
Treasury Department’s information related to exploited that offers a shortcut through layers of government that
children would make it clear. regulate the 800,000 daily hazardous shipments in the
More funny business going on at the Treasury United States online.
You have to read a lot before you find out where the
The Secret Service conducts financial crimes and coun-
office put the publication. Also, office is singular, so it
terfeiting investigations
should have been its publication, not their publication.
Until you get to the last word in the clause, you might Here’s an edited version.
think that the Secret Service conducts financial crimes.
The 2004 Emergency Response Guidebook [the title of
Mistaken junction can also occur when a sentence is
the guidebook was given elsewhere] published by the
finished on a following page. What would you make of
U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Hazardous
these words at the end of a page?
Materials Safety is now online. The publication offers a
Execute Radiation Safety Officer shortcut through layers of government that regulate the
800,000 daily hazardous shipments in the United States.
There was a key word at the end of it: Execute Radiation
Safety Officer responsibilities. It would have been clearer
(even if all the words were on one page) if written as STYLE
Execute the responsibilities of the Radiation Safety Officer. Style is a way of doing things. In publishing, it can refer
Here is a fictional example of mistaken junction that to a writer’s style—formal, for example, or breezy. It also
occurs from the false economy of leaving out one word. refers to a system of standardization. Style makes it easier
for editors to achieve consistency. It establishes one way
Dr. Jones works to ensure compliance, cohesion, cat-
of doing things when more than one correct choice
egorization and other tasks beginning with a C are
exists. It is correct to spell out all numbers less than 100.
It is also correct to spell out only numbers less than 10.
Not until you get to the end of the sentence do you find Rather than have to choose one way or the other with
out that everything following to was a clause; the sen- every publication, style defines one way of doing things.

62 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

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Should commas be used before the conjunction in a

series of words? Should traveling be spelled with one l or EXERCISES: I  Yr G
two? Should Congressional always be capitalized? A style
guide answers such questions so that they do not need to A keen grasp on grammar is a marketable skill for all
be answered again and again. writers. Not only are you able to revise and improve
your own writing—which can save you on editors
If fifteen is spelled out in some publications and not
and proofreaders—but also there is almost always
in others, then an extra degree of alertness is required to
freelance work available to copy editors who can put
remember which style applies to the publication in ques-
a final polish on an article or book. Here are some
tion. When editors and proofreaders are used to seeing
tips about how to up your grammar game:
things done a certain way, an alarm bell will go off in
their heads when they see something different.
CMS make changes all the time. Buy the most
The style established by the University of Chicago Press
recent editions of each. (And for daily updates,
is particularly suited to academic books. Associated Press
follow them on Twitter at @ChicagoManual and
style has been developed and refined to suit the needs of
newspapers, and magazines use it as well. • TEST YOURSELF. Think about the last good book
What House Style Is and Why It Exists you read, and then write a short review telling a
House style establishes the publisher’s way of doing specific audience why that book is so good and
things. Although style guides attempt to be compre- why they should take the time to read it. Write
hensive, questions frequently arise that are not specifi- this without paying attention to sentence struc-

cally addressed in the guide, and publishers often find ture. Just write it down or type it into your com-
puter. When you’re done, take a break and then
some aspects of a style guide unsuited to their publica-
get out your red pen.
tions. House style, therefore, often is defined as follow-
• TAKE A WORKSHOP. Our Writer’s Digest
ing an existing style guide, such as The Associated Press
University (WritersOnlineWorkshops.com)
Stylebook, plus any exceptions to that guide. Sometimes a
has several instructor-guided workshops and
publisher will use two different styles—Associated Press
a Copyediting Certification Course that can
style for press releases, for example, and the American
sharpen your grammar skills.
Psychological Association style for scientific books.
You might enjoy this online course: Grammar and
Major news sources, such as The New York Times and
Mechanics writersonlineworkshops.com/courses/
the British Broadcasting Corporation, publish their own grammar-and-mechanics.
style guides, and you can find style guides designed for a
specific industry or other audience as well: The American By Aaron Bauer, instructional designer for Writer’s
Medical Association, the American Chemical Association,
the Council of Science Editors and the Modern Language
Association of America all publish style guides, and “Treatises like Chicago are merely suggestions, guides,
for business writing you might want to use The Gregg if you will, to a method that enhances clarity and consis-
Reference Manual or the Franklin Covey Style Guide. tency,” wrote Rich Adin on his blog, An American Editor.
Proper names, titles and other words peculiar to an “The important thing is not that you use any one style
organization often are listed in the style guide, along over another,” said editor Dave Fessenden, “but that for
with peculiarities of usage, such as whether to use the any particular piece you edit, you choose one style and
pronoun it to describe babies and avoid the clumsy con- stick with it, for the sake of consistency.” WD
struction his or her.
Excerpted from The Editor’s Companion © 2014 by Steve
All these things are matters of style. “It’s not a matter
Dunham with permission from Writer’s Digest Books. Enter the
of being correct or incorrect. It’s only a style,” wrote Carol code “Workbook” at writersdigestshop.com for a 10 percent
Fisher Saller, host of the Subversive Copy Editor blog. discount on this and other books to help you hone your craft.

WritersDigest.com I 63
Lessons from the world of screenwriting to inform, inspire and incite action!


W homever declared not to

judge a book by its cover
clearly wasn’t a screenwriter. The
ers are pulled into the story, a typo
here or there won’t hurt you.

Hollywood script reader passes YOU ARE NOT THE DIRECTOR.

more judgment than Judge Judy. In YOU ARE THE ARCHITECT.
a split second, your hard work could When you write a screenplay that
be flung in the corner waste can. no one paid you to write, it’s called
Before your screenplay will ever a “spec script.” Those are very dif-
be in a director’s hands, it needs to ferent than “shooting scripts.” Most
get past that script reader. When a of the screenplays you read online
script looks professional, the reader are shooting scripts, which include
has confidence you’re not a newbie camera direction and scene num-
screenwriter and keeps turning the bers. Those details are for the direc-
page. Poor formatting distracts the tor, editor and the crew on set, not
reader and immediately takes them the script reader. For example, the following scene
out of your story. Trust me when I Your job is to write a spec script takes place outside a store. The char-
tell you that the script reader holds to grip the reader, making them acter Davis peeks in the window,
the keys to the Hollywood gates. have to turn the page. The director’s allowing us to see what takes place
First, the reader checks the page job is to bring your story to life. Stay inside. For this, you would format
length. With the benchmark of one in your lane. using both master and subheadings.
page being one minute of screen Filmmaking requires dozens of EXT. FRANKLIN’S DRY GOODS
time, your feature shouldn’t exceed people to bring a script to screen, Vendors decorate the side-
110 to 120 pages. Anything over that and that’s just in the development walk as Davis thrusts past
gets an immediate red mark. And if stage. Your screenplay represents and peeks
the first few pages are sloppy, down a blueprint, much like an archi- INSIDE
to the bottom of the slush pile it tect creates, giving every subcon-
Rotund store owner, ROBERT
goes … or right into the trash. tractor direction. How you format FRANKLIN, straddles a
See how judgmental we are? your script gives clues to guide not stool behind the counter,
While screenplay formatting only the director, but also the cast- a SIX-POINTED SILVER STAR
has more rules than Dungeons & pinned to his chest.
ing director, set designer, costume
Dragons, don’t worry. I’ve got your designer and director of photography. In this example, Davis has already
back. Let’s stick to the basics. been established as the protagonist,
For starters, use Courier 12 font. SET THE SCENE. but when you first introduce a new

That’s nonnegotiable. Professional Every scene begins with a slugline character, you must put their name
screenwriters use special formatting in all CAPS. A slugline is the master in CAPS. This detail assists the direc-
software, like Final Draft. If you’re scene heading that lets the reader tor and casting director to determine
just starting out, Celtx has a free plan. know where the scene takes place. the roles they need to fill, as well as
Above all, don’t panic. Your for- We also use subheadings to mark a helps the actors (and their agents),
matting doesn’t have to be flawless, secondary location within the pri- who immediately flip to their char-
but the first 10 pages do. Once read- mary location. acter’s entrance. (If you missed my

64 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

Take Two column on the impor- effortlessly, uses concise, active words your opinion, was he Jon
tance of character introductions, and has a lot of “white on the page.” Davis guilty of theft that
you can find it on Scriptmag.com.) White space keeps the eyes mov-
If a prop or loud noise holds ing quickly. To help, use centered Pace and Turner look at
each other, conºdent.
importance in the story, put those dialogue and short action para-
words in CAPS. In the above exam- graphs. Action descriptions should Kennedy glances toward
ple, the silver star indicates the store the blacks in the back,
be three or four lines, with a new
catches Davis’ eye. A long
owner also holds the power of a sher- paragraph for each action. Since one pause.
iff. The reader now understands he’s can’t see what happens in someone’s
more significant, and the production That reads faster, doesn’t it? Yet, the
mind, use the characters’ actions to
design team makes note that this original meaning stays intact.
convey their thoughts.
character needs a badge. By high- Screenwriting requires concise
The “fast read” evolves during the
lighting those specifics, your words wording and no flowery prose. The
editing process. The final stages of
will organically guide what you want words you choose must only convey
your rewrite involve wordsmithing.
the reader and camera to focus on. what can be seen or heard on screen,
Edit like it’s a word game. Challenge
Some writers only use CAPS for making every word as valuable as a
yourself to hone your sentences until
character introductions, which is piece of real estate. Choose wisely.
they’re lean and mean.
fine, as long as you’re consistent.
Special scene headings, such as
Turner and He»in are dis- FINAL TIPS.
gusted and whisper to each Use formatting to set the scene in
MONTAGE, SERIES OF SHOTS or other. the reader’s mind.
FLASHBACK, are also capitalized.
Reese gloats and steps Examine your choice of verbs. Use
The beginning and end of these
away from the witness only active verbs and avoid passive
sequences need to be clear. stand, nodding to a satis- writing. The more visually you can
write, the quicker the read will be.
Pace numb. Show exposition and character
-- Mayor White on the
LATER emotion in action instead of dialogue.
stand -- Grins at Pace and As new technologies arise, like
Fletcher Turner. An uneasy Kennedy moves
text messaging and video calls, new
his trembling hand from
-- Davis fumes. formatting rules take shape.
the Bible. He sits, peers
-- Pruitt on the witness out at the crowd. Always stay up to date on industry
stand. His body language formatting norms. David Trottier’s
Pace and Turner at the
suggests good-ol-boy Dr. Format Tells All always sits within
table with Bulger and
lawyers. my reach.
-- Davis whispers to
Reese approaches. Formatting properly allows the reader
REESE to fully absorb your story’s world. The
more you can keep the reader turn-
Mr. Kennedy, will you
As a general rule, both MONTAGES ing the page, the better your chance
please restate for the
and FLASHBACKS should only be court, your profession.
of a script sale. Even Judge Judy won’t
used sparingly. argue with that. WD
For more information on screenwriting,
THE FASTER, THE BETTER. I am Justice of the Peace
in Tallapoosa County. browse our sister site, Scriptmag.com.
While proper formatting helps the
reader embrace your story, the best REESE
Jeanne Veillette Bowerman is the
compliment is when a reader declares You testiºed earlier that editor of Script magazine. She wrote the
your script a “fast read.” We use that Jon Davis had committed adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize–winning
expression when a screenplay reads the crime of theft. In nonfiction title Slavery by Another Name.

WritersDigest.com I 65
Events to advance your craft, connections and career. BY DON VAUGHAN

Lakefly Writers
Enjoy some Midwestern hospitality
at this intimate conference known
for its regional flair.

WHEN: May 10–11, 2019. WHERE: Best

Western Premier Waterfront Hotel
& Convention Center, Oshkosh, Wis.
PRICE: $75. Fee includes Saturday
lunch. A special conference rate of pitch to a regional agent/publisher at
$99.99 is available at the adjacent no additional charge. Fun activities
Premier Waterfront Hotel. WHAT include a Friday night open mic at
MAKES THE CONFERENCE UNIQUE: It the nearby Oshkosh Public Library.
offers writers an inspiring, affordable IF YOU GO: Visit the Paine Art Center

guide to publishing success. “Due to and Gardens on Algoma Boulevard.

conference prep critique. Individual
our size and budget, we don’t host The historic estate houses a remark-
pricing: manuscript critique ($170),
many well-known speakers, but all of able collection of art as well as vari-
agent/editor pitch ($70), query cri-
our presenters are passionate about ous display gardens featuring thou-
tique ($70), author brand workshop
their topics and have rich life experi- sands of plant specimens. FOR MORE
($70), acquisitions editors panel
ences,” Conference Director Ruth INFORMATION: lakeflywriters.org.
($50), literary agents panel ($50)

Percey says. “The conference is small and pre-conference prep critique
enough to make lasting connections Atlanta Writers ($75). No charge for waitlists. See
yet large enough to offer a varied Conference website for details. WHAT MAKES THE
selection of session topics.” HOW Take a big step toward publication CONFERENCE UNIQUE: Clear commu-
MANY ATTEND: 120. FACULTY: Novelists at this boutique conference held in nication and conscientious schedul-
Beth Amos (Mattie Winston series), the heart of the Peach State. ing create a relaxed atmosphere for
David Michael Williams (If Souls attendees to talk with and learn from
Can Sleep), Shaun Harris (The WHEN: May 3–4, 2019. WHERE: Westin industry professionals. The confer-
Hemingway Thief), Silvia Acevedo Atlanta Airport Hotel, Atlanta. PRICE: ence strives to ensure that critiques
(God Awful books); Winnebego The AWC is unique in that it offers with agents and editors are held in
County (Wis.) Coroner Barry Busby; á la carte pricing. A required $50 private meeting rooms rather than
others. HIGHLIGHTS: With approxi- registration fee provides attendees loud ballrooms and are closely timed
mately 20 presenters, Lakefly is a with a one-year membership in the for maximum efficiency, Conference
small conference with big ambitions. sponsoring Atlanta Writers Club. Director George Weinstein says.
Topics for 2019 include world-build- The All Activities package is $620 HOW MANY ATTEND: 230. FACULTY:
ing, continuity when writing a series, and includes two manuscript cri- Novelists Jenny Milchman (Cover
creating compelling characters, writ- tiques, two pitches, the query letter of Snow), Christopher Swann
ing through grief, digital forensics, critique, author-brand workshop, the (Shadow of the Lions: A Novel),
poetry and more. Attendees may also editor and agent panels and a pre- Jennifer Springsteen (Wallace

66 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019

A writing conference can be a huge investment of time and money.
Like any investment, you want to make sure you get a good return.
Here are some questions to consider when deciding whether to take
the plunge.

• Can you afford it? In excitement, we sometimes forget the total cost of
attending a conference in another state. Expenditures include registration,
transportation, hotel accommodations, food, activities not included in the
registration price such as agent/editor critiques and more. It all adds up.
• What are your conference goals? This vital question should inform all of
your decisions. Are you looking to hone your writing skills? Fine-tune a
book? Meet with editors and agents? Your answer will help determine if a
conference is right for you.
• Does the conference address those goals? In other words, are there suf-
ficient sessions aimed at the kind of writing you do, or the genre you hope
to pursue? If the answer is no, it may not be the conference for you.
• Do the presenters ring a bell? It’s OK if you don’t recognize the name of
every presenter, but you should be familiar with at least some of them and
know what they have to teach you. Research presenters thoroughly before
putting your money down.
• Is the conference specific or broad? Some conferences explore only
one genre or type of writing, while others offer a little bit of everything.
Beginning writers may get more out of a general conference, which
exposes them to more ideas and concepts, while established writers may
find greater value in a single-topic intensive.

Farm); editors Rebecca Brewer Getting Readers to Turn the Page”

(Ace/Berkley Publishing Group), and “Getting Published is as Easy
Jennifer Gunnels (Tor Books), Emily as 1, 2, 3: Ways to Publish Today”;
Hartley (Ballantine Books), Danielle Christopher Swann will present “The
Marshall (Lake Union Publishing/ Road to Publication” and “Write
Amazon Publishing), Grace What you Know, and Make Up the
Menary-Winefield (Sourcebooks); Rest,” and Jennifer Springsteen will
agents Caroline George (Cyle present “Unearthing the Skeleton:
Young Literary Elite), Natalie Structures that Create Books You
Grazian (Martin Literary & Media Can’t Put Down” and “Take a Page
Management), Julie Gwinn (The from the Poet’s Notebook: Creating
Seymour Agency), Sharon Pelletier Tight and Succinct Prose.” IF YOU GO:
(Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC), Visit A Cappella Books on Haralson
Michelle Richter (Fuse Literary); Avenue. An Atlanta institution since
many others. HIGHLIGHTS: Sixteen 1989, the store is renowned for its
literary agents and acquisition edi- focus on Atlanta and the South,
tors will host pitch and critique music, art, politics, signed books
meetings and participate in panels and more. FOR MORE INFORMATION:
on the business of getting published. atlantawritersconference.com. WD
In addition, Jenny Milchman will
Don Vaughan (donaldvaughan.com)
offer a “Developing Your Author
is a freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C.,
Brand” workshop and two pre work- and founder of Triangle Association
shop talks, “The 4 S’s of Suspense: of Freelancers.

WritersDigest.com I 67

Featuring bestselling authors and publishing promoting the contributions made by women to
CONFERENCE GUIDE professionals delivering insights, inspiration the history, culture and growth of the American
and instruction through 40+ sessions, you can West and administers the WILLA Literary Awards
customize your weekend to learn everything (submissions open November 1). WWW invites
• Keep in mind that there may be
you need to write, edit and publish your novel. all writers to our 25th Anniversary Conference:
more than one workshop in each
Register today for your best price and join us “Writing to Remember, Remembering Why We
at the Westin Pasadena in Pasadena, CA from Write.” Pitch your manuscript to an agent or
• These workshops are listed alpha-
October 25–27, 2019! editor, network with other writers, gain new
betically by state, country or con-
Contact: insights into the art and business of writing
Ph: 877/436-7764, option 2 from panelists and speakers, and enjoy the rich
• Unless otherwise indicated, rates
writersdigestconference@fwmedia.com history of San Antonio. All levels. $159/night
include tuition (T) only. Sometimes
Novel.WritersDigestConference.com conference rate for accommodations.
the rates also include airfare (AF),
some or all meals (M), accommoda-
tions (AC), ground transportation INDIANA Cynthia Massey
(GT), materials (MT) or fees (F).
MWW AGENT FEST, sponsored by Midwest womenwritingthewest.org
• When you find workshops that inter-
est you, be sure to call, email or Writers Workshop, May 10–11, 2019 at Ball
check the website of the instructor State campus, Muncie, IN, Fri 1:30 pm–Sat 5:00
or organization for additional infor- pm. Connect with a dynamic roster of top-tier
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ANNUAL GREATER LOS ANGELES makes an agent stop reading your manuscript, of Dundee in Scotland. Immerse yourself in
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of fiction, nonfiction and screenplays. Topics will midwestwriters.org
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solely to your novel returns to the West Coast! that supports authors and other professionals in

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An aromatic blend of writerly diversions.


1 2

1. Beloved author Toni
4. Coming-of-age novel
5. Writer who’s not a plotter
6. Teen sleuth of iconic series 6

2. Word that signifies a sound
3. Written pitch to a literary agent



Imagine you have been hired as the casting director for a new
movie adaptation of Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. Pick your “Scuttlebutt” was first a nautical
dream list of actors to portray the characters: term for a cask (butt) of drinking
water with a hole (scuttle) for draw-
ing it out. It came to mean “rumor”
Dr. Asa Breed:
or “gossip” because sailors would
Newt Hoenikker: idly chat around the cask. It pre-
Angela Hoenikker: ceded the term “water cooler talk”
Frank Hoenikker: for workplace gossip.
Bokonon: Want more bizarre word origins?
Papa Monzano: Follow @UselessEty on Twitter!
Mona Monzano:

72 I WRITER’S DIGEST I May/June 2019


We all need inspiration. Fortunately, we have it. An almost

infinite surplus of wise words to push you ahead. They’re
everywhere. Check your Instagram and your tweets. The
thousands of hashtags. Listen to your mentors and your
teachers. Your writing idols. Take what you need and
move swiftly forward because there’s a whole other world
of progress post-motivation. Publication. Adaptation. A
life beyond the page. New audiences await the inspired––
and the inspired will find them.

Your story has only begun.