Writing Advice

The Mathematics of Revision

I enjoy re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing every few years. Not only is his personal, humorous, accessible prose in the book a pleasure to read, but as I grow older and more experienced in the writing world, I find so much of his advice to be spot on. But there’s one particular tip in his book that seems to have struck a chord in my writing life. In the long run, the piece of advice he offers is very true…but it took me a few drafts of one of my novels to see the light, and to develop my own equation for coming up with a book that, at least to me, is complete and satisfying.

That piece of advice? Put on your mathematician's hat and get out your pencil, because this is one equation you’ll want to write down and remember, and then revise and make your own. 

Read More

The Five W's (and One H) of Soliciting Feedback for Your Novels, Short Stories, Poetry, and More

My newest advice column at Writer's Digest's blog is now live. It examines the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of soliciting feedback for your novels, stories, poems, etc.

On a related note, I also recently wrote about how writers can become publishers by creating DIY literary anthologies in my interview with author/publisher Bud Smith

For all of my articles at the "There Are No Rules" blog, click HERE. Thanks!

My Roundtable Interview in Writer's Digest

The newest issue of Writer's Digest magazine (March/April 2014) contains my roundtable interview with some of the top literary magazine editors who are making great things happen out there in the writing community, including Dave Housley (Barrelhouse), David Lynn (The Kenyon Review), Emily Nemens (The Southern Review), Todd Simmons (Wolverine Farm Publishing/Matter Journal), and Rob Spillman (Tin House). We discuss what editors are looking for, what will make them reject a submission, common misconceptions about literary magazines, and a lot more. It was fun to write, they're all amazingly dedicated and passionate people, and I can't wait for you to read it! 

7 Tips for Revising a Novel

*Previously published at the Writer's Digest blog, There Are No Rules. I blog there once or twice a month. Take a look!*

I spent my December revising a noir/crime novel (I seem to spend most Decembers revising a novel) and I also had a recent discussion with two other writers about the revision process. Both occurrences brought to mind some tips you may find useful. Mind you these are rather simple pieces of advice, and everyone has their own process that works for them, but they might help you feel a little less like you’re swimming upstream during this vital step. I hope they help. Happy revising!

1. Use One File — This is especially true in fiction, but I advise all writers to write the early drafts in one Word file (or whatever software you use). Not only does it help keep a sense of continuity as you progress, but if you make a change that affects an earlier chapter, all you have to do is scroll up. It also makes a key word search much easier without having to open multiple files. I’ve seen novelists use a new Word document per chapter (I did with my first novel way back when) but it can become a confusing jumble of files once you get up to chapter sixty, seventy, eighty…

Read More

6 Writing Lessons From Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window'


It's often said that the book is better than the movie, but sometimes a movie can help you write a book, especially if that movie is directed by cinema legend Alfred Hitchcock! Granted, he was working with some exceptional material, with a dynamite screenplay by John Michael Hayes, based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich - something I forgot to mention in the article I wrote over at the Writer's Digest blog, "There Are No Rules," where I offer six lessons a writer can take away from the classic film Rear Window. Enjoy!

Should I Self-Publish? (A Blog Trilogy)

I recently published a trilogy of blogs at the Writer’s Digest website offering advice on whether or not writers should self-publish (Part One), how to go about doing it if you choose to do so (Part Two), and what to do when you’re done creating your book and you're ready to sell it (Part Three). My general thoughts on whether or not self-publishing is a good idea is YES, you should give it a shot . . . but it does mean a certain amount of responsibility, hard work, and technical skill is needed to do it "right." Hopefully these blogs will help you along the way. 

7 Publishing Tips I Learned at Writer’s Digest Conference East 2013

7 Publishing Tips I Learned at Writer’s Digest Conference East 2013

I recently attended Writer’s Digest Conference East in New York City — my first writing conference in almost five years — and aside from the standard (though invaluable) advice on craft, career, and publishing options for writers, I picked up these seven tidbits of info that I found especially fascinating. You might too, so enjoy!

1. Bookmarks: Every reader needs them. Heck, I have about thirty around my apartment lying in wait and I still take more when I can. So think about creating some with your name and book title on them. They’re easy to make, inexpensive to print, and they can help spread the word about your book, name, website, or twitter handle long after someone has finished your book. It’s a great tip I picked up from Eric DelaBarre (former writer for Law & Order and author of the hit children’s novel Saltwater Taffy).

Read More

The Toughest Crowd in Town: Writing for Children

They say writing for children is harder than writing your typical adult novel, and that never became more evident for me than when I worked on my middle-reader novel The Little Blue Knight vs. The End of the World. As adults, we’ve developed an innate understanding about how to communicate with each other — how our work day went, what happened over the weekend, giving a speech at work, etc. But few of us continually communicate with children on their own level — not just telling them what to do, but actual storytelling for and from their perspective. It’s a skill that slowly goes away as we grow up, so when you decide to take up the challenge of writing a children’s book, there are many things we adults need to understand and re-learn. Here are three things to keep in mind.

Read More