When to query

Are you wondering whether or not you should send out query letters in December? After all, if this is a busy holiday time for the average person, it is just as busy for agents. This means that they are feeling as stressed, frazzled, and exhausted as the rest of us–and that may not be the best frame of mind for a potential agent who is deciding your future. Then again, maybe your would-be agent is not feeling harried at all because the agency is closed for the holidays. What does this mean for you and your manuscript?

 

Does the holiday spirit extend to writers and agents?

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Healthy tips for computer users

What seems like a lifetime ago, after I finished writing my first novel, I drove to a neighboring city to buy a manuscript box, fussed with the papers, folders, and labels, then took my precious package to the post office, where I was provided with a dilapidated old box that looked like it had been hauled out of a dumpster.

Believe me when I say that I am so grateful for the advances in technology! Gone are the days of callused fingers, ink smears, and snail mail. However, we now have a new litany of concerns and precautions. Whether you are writing a dissertation, a novel, a science article, or a college essay, you’re likely spending a lot of time at the computer. If you are a willing slave to technology, as I am, take some simple steps to ensure that you receive all of the benefits and none of the drawbacks.

Even the most comfortable positions can do more harm than good.

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Tips to improve young children’s stories: The sound

I warned you in my last post, didn’t I? Writing a young children’s story can be more difficult than writing a story for an older audience. The previous post focused on the basics of young children’s story writing. This post concentrates on the musical quality, that is, the sound of the story. Certain literary devices, such as rhyme, alliteration, and rhythm, can make a solid story truly delightful to read aloud.

 

The magic of a young children’s story is often found in its sound.

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Tips to improve your young children’s story: The basics

In many ways, writing a story for young children can be more difficult than writing for an older crowd. Not only do you need to restrict your word count, but you also need to use fairly basic language and find your inner child. If that weren’t enough, you have to make sure that the prose sounds pretty. The task is not insurmountable, though–just challenging! Follow these tips, and you will be on the road to success.

Requirements are high for the discerning audience.

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Submission Tips

The relationship between a writer and an editor is precious; you are trusting us with your thoughts, ideas, and creative style. You are counting on us to find the missteps, improve the structure, and offer a solid evaluation. As with any relationship, incorrect assumptions–from the writer or the editor–can result in disappointment at best, and catastrophe at worst. In contrast, knowing the expectations can lead to a smooth, advantageous relationship.

The right expectations can lead to a satisfying relationship.

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Tips for effective comma use

Commas: we either love them or hate them. Unfortunately, comma use is not a ‘take it or leave it’ issue. Although some people would love to litter their sentences incessantly with commas and others would love to never see a comma again, accurate writers do not usually have the luxury of choice. Commas serve specific purposes; to disregard those grammatical purposes for the pleasure of our personal desires only invites confusion.

The comma battle–it doesn’t have to be like this!  

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Get It Right in 2014—Grammar Tips for Success

Happy New Year! What better way to start the year than to make sure that those nasty little grammar missteps are banished for good? (I suppose that there are some better ways to start the year, such as striking it rich or finding your true love, but this is a close runner-up.) For this special New Year’s Day (or day after…), I wanted to offer something special that could relate to a variety of writing disciplines and be applied throughout the year. So this blog is devoted to the parts of speech—not the boring basics, but the annoying little particulars that plague people who want to get it right.

Defeating your grammatical worries can be cause for celebration.

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Ways to develop strong characters

Whether they love to love them or love to hate them, readers connect to characters. If you want your fiction to shine, your characters must be believable. You can’t accomplish this while you’re writing, though; you have to do some homework first! Before you start writing a novel or short story, you need to know your main characters through and through. I’m not referring to the basics: good guy or bad guy, hair color, best friend, goal in life, and so forth. That’s just fluff. You should know where your character has been, and why he does what he does. If you take the time to know your characters on a very real level, that intimacy and depth will show in your writing.

Get to know your character. Continue Reading

Write what you know — with a twist

Write what you know—we’ve all heard this advice, for good reason. Some people are able to write helpful how-to books that provide needed guidance for readers. Others write memoirs that captivate audiences. What they knew was useful and enticing.
Regarding novels, however, sometimes a writer’s knowledge base, although fascinating to some, does not draw a large audience. In that case, the what you know theory can lead authors down one of two unfortunate paths: the path of failure or the path of fear. The first path is taken by the person who adheres to this advice completely. This person writes a novel filled with information about something she knows. Sadly, that “something” does not interest anyone. When the agencies do not reply or the self-publishing sales are non-existent, this author is baffled. “What happened?” the author might wonder. “I followed the advice; I wrote about what I know.” The other path is taken by the person who is fearful of the failure path. This person is fully aware that writing about what she knows would lead to a boring book that no one would want to buy. So she does nothing at all.


Sometimes what we know seems rather mundane.

It doesn’t have to end this way! With some adjustments, these misguided writers could journey down a new path, the path of a successful storyteller. Continue Reading

How to write good description: Be a show off

This advice is very dear to my heart, for as an editor I find myself suggesting it to nearly every writer I meet. It is age-old wisdom, handed down from teacher to student since the dawn of time (or thereabouts).

“Show, don’t tell.”

The essence of this advice is that, wherever possible, you should focus on creating illuminating description (show) rather than flat-out explaining things (tell). The main reason behind it is that it helps the writer to engage with the story in such a way that encourages realistic moments and characters and a consistent perspective; these cradle the reader inside the story world so that they feel like an essential part of it—almost as if they are living the story.

“Tell” can occur through use of a single word or a series of sentences.
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