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9 Mistakes that Authors Make—And How to Fix Them

You’re going too fast Every author needs an editor, but authors need to know how to edit themselves too. Carefully evaluate what you’ve written and then go back to improve it. Are you saying everything you have to say? Is your argument clear? Are your characters...

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Manuscript Evaluations, Critiques, Line Editing

I'm one of those editors who say that you should never change your book based on what an agent or book-buying editor says would be "a good idea," or "just the thing your story needs" . . . unless that agent or editor says he will represent you, or will put your book...

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How Writing Query Letters is Like Dating

It is not as if you and your literary agent are star-crossed lovers, it is that you both seek a similar outcome: the sale of your manuscript, your growth as a writer, a meaningful relationship. Depending on circumstances, any of these scenarios may precede the other....

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The Challenge of Writing Good Fantasy

I read a lot, but it's mostly just for entertainment. It's not often that I tell myself, "Damn, I wish I could write like that!" and start studying someone else's work for pointers. In this essay, I'm going to tell you about someone whose work hit me that way,...

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Writing a Book. The All-Important Opening.

Novels that most of us read while in school probably opened very differently than successful novels of today. In the past, an author was allowed the luxury of giving the reader details right away about the main character's past, sometimes even going back to their...

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Activate Your Prose

Avoid Passive Sentences for More Engaging Stories If you're a serious novelist, then you've likely heard the maxim, "Write active sentences and avoid the passive." It's a popular recommendation from editors for one simple reason: It's true. Let's take a look at a few...

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Writing Historical Fiction that Sells

I'm in a book store perusing the aisles when I run across a novel that takes place during a time period not well-known to me. I slip the novel from the shelf, read the back cover, and realize I've discovered another piece of historical fiction I'm going to buy and...

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Should You Meet Your Editor Before You Sign a Contract?

My publishing house was located in Aurora, Colorado, not exactly a known hub for publishing. I've probably critiqued and/or line-edited somewhere between 300 and 400 manuscripts. Granted, some were repeat authors, but I only remember meeting six before I either signed...

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Revelations of a Ghostwriter

My life is blessed with ghosts. Those of my grandfather, my father and my uncle, specifically, all of whom wanted to be writers. My grandfather snagged the boat over from Ireland and became a Boston shoe salesman instead. My father ended up a stockbroker in New York...

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Prolific Novelists on How It’s Done

Writing one novel is hard enough. But how about 50, 100, even 500—all of them published, and with more to come? We asked six super-prolific writers for their secret and were unsurprised to learn that there is none. It’s all about work and passion. A calling? A...

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Good Indexes Sell Books

Put yourself in the mind of a librarian or professor searching through the year's new crop of nonfiction books, deciding what to purchase for the library or the college. The pile of suspects is overwhelming, there's no time to read each book, and decisions must be...

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Get Readers to Fall in Love with Your Romantic Plotline

How do you write a love story that sweeps people away? Here’s a start: make sure your leads don’t fall in love at first sight (or, if vampires are your thing, “first bite”). While I worked at Random House’s Ballantine Bantam Dell imprint, I read hundreds of romance...

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Editing a Nonfiction Book

I find that many of the nonfiction writers I work with are maybe just a little too smart for their own good. I say this with affection and appreciation for how hard it is to communicate paragraph after paragraph of complex information and insight in a coherent way....

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Editing Fiction

Fiction Editing Fiction is an art, and editors must be respectful of that. Typically, the best fiction engages readers in such a way that they fully embrace the alternate universe created by the writer and immediately "get" this other world. There should be no...

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Do Literary Agents Still Expect Query Letters?

As a developmental editor specializing in fiction, YA fiction, narrative non-fiction and memoir, I find that once a client has decided to begin submitting his or her manuscript, many questions arise. First and foremost, "How do I get an agent?" A query letter to a...

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