Archive for April, 2009

Show AND Tell

April 28, 2009

I started my first read through on a new manuscript today–a book by Laurie Alberts (author of three novels, The Price of Land in Shelby, Lost Daughters, and Tempting Fate, as well as short story collection and two memoirs). This new instructive book will cover the importance of scene and summary, and will give writers instruction and advice for finding the right balance between showing and telling.

So often writers are given the advice of “show, don’t tell” and while there is a lot of validity in that old adage, I’m finding I agree with Alberts’ point that what is more important is finding the right balance. There are times when you might overdo the “showing” and you can quickly move the plot along by summarizing some information in order to get to the next big scene. The real trick is knowing when to “gloss over” the more boring details and deliver the sensory material in the places where it will matter most to your reader. 

It’s something to think about when you find your story dragging. Can you work in some way of summarizing information in a subtle way to get to the real emotion or action? Give it a try.

Laurie Alberts’ book on Showing and Telling is scheduled for Spring of 2010. She has an essay on the subject in the collection Words Overflown by Stars, which is currently available.

Learn more about Words Overflown by Stars


Add Fire to Your Fiction

April 21, 2009

z1080-1The advance copies for a book I co-edited (along with WD Executive Editor Kelly Nickell) have arrived, and look fantastic. 

The book is The Fire In Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by well-known literary agent Donald Maass. This is one of those great books that you’ll want to read cover to cover and then keep on your writing bookshelf for continued reference.

I’ve attended a writing workshop by Don, and it was really great. He’s very good at delivering really inspirational, but also accessible advice. The book itself uses passages from popular novels in a wide range of genres to show writers how to get the passion that they feel in imagining their story onto the page. 

To learn more about the book click here

My Kind of Morning

April 17, 2009

So it’s Friday, which calls for a certain kind of work. A fun project–something I can really dive into. I decided to work on editing the forthcoming Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction & Fantasy, which compiles instruction from Orson Scott Card and the editor’s here at WD. 

And I’ve chosen to listen to the entire Misfits box set as the soundtrack, which seemed appropriate for my Sci-Fi theme. The day could only be better if I was outside.


Breakfast for Breakfast’s Sake

April 16, 2009


Today the Writer’s Digest Books team decided to celebrate breakfast. Why? Because breakfast is awesome, that’s why. Was it someone’s birthday? Nope. Just breakfast. Just ’cause.

Here’s a few pics of the remnants of our Thursday breakfast attack:


Ham & cheese biscuits

Ham & cheese biscuits












Brown Betty

Brown Betty












Hot d*** breakfast casserole

Hot d*** breakfast casserole

All Things Considered

April 16, 2009

It’s been a great morning here in the WD office. The WD editors all decided to have a big breakfast this morning and brought all kinds of stuff including breakfast casseroles, blueberry muffins, cheesy biscuits… it’s a spread. I’ve eaten about three breakfasts today. Seriously.

109422But, the real exciting news was finding out that two WD Books were featured in a story on NPR’s All Things Considered. Sharing the spotlight with Stephen King’s On Writing were WD’s offerings Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, and Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.

Check out the story at the NPR site

This Summer’s Writing Events

April 14, 2009

I’m getting geared up for some upcoming writing events (I’m sure I’ve mentioned  them before). I just booked my plane tickets for the Writer’s Digest BEA Conference in NY (May 27, 2009 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center). If you’re attending this conference here are my picks of stuff to check out (there’s great programming every hour covering a wide range of different topics, but here’s what I personally recommend):

  • Keynote address by bestselling thriller author Karin Slaughter
  • 9:30 AM–The Fire in Fiction with literary agent Donald Maass (I’ve personally attended one of Don’s workshops and it was really great instruction)
  • 10:30 AM–Write Like the Masters with William Cane (Learn how you can improve your own writing by studying the techniques of great authors throughout history)
  • 1:30 PM–The Closet Writer’s Workshop with award-wiinning novelist NM Kelby

Also, here’s the tentative lineup of programming for our June 20-21 Editor’s Intensive:

9 a.m. 10 Secrets for Succeeding as a Writer in a Transformational Time 

Jane Friedman, Publisher & Editorial Director, Writer’s Digest
No matter what type of a writer you are, there are certain secrets that can speed your path to publication and make doors open where they wouldn’t before.

10:30 a.m. How to Write Great Queries

Jane Friedman, Publisher & Editorial Director, Writer’s Digest
The principles of approaching and impressing the right people on paper, with step-by-step information on how to write strong queries and e-queries.

11:30 a.m. Open Q&A with Jane
1:00 p.m.  Social Networking Tools

Jane Friedman, Publisher & Editorial Director, Writer’s Digest
Alice Pope, Managing Editor, Writer’s Market series
Learn how to make effective use of sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

2:30 p.m. Website and Blog Tools and Techniques

Jane Friedman, Publisher & Editorial Director, Writer’s Digest
Alice Pope, Managing Editor, Writer’s Market series
How to develop strong sites/blogs that help you develop a readership, get known to a wider audience, and appeal to editors/agents.

3:30 p.m. Why I Stop Reading

A panel of WD’s manuscript critiquers comment on the qualities of the manuscripts they read for the event.

4:30 p.m. Open Q&A with editors

Jane Friedman, Publisher & Editorial Director, Writer’s Digest
Alice Pope, Managing Editor, Writer’s Market series
Scott Francis, Writer’s Digest Books editor
Melissa Hill, Writer’s Digest Books editor

A bit of advice

April 14, 2009

When naming your children, don’t opt for a first name that you’re not going to actually call the kid just because you like the way the whole name sounds together. Calling a kid by their middle name is going to cause them lots of problems and inconveniences down the road in life. (It might even give them a mild identity complex).

Here’s an example. This morning I’m trying to book a flight to our BEA Writer’s Conference using our company travel system and my name is set up incorrectly, which is causing me visions of being stuck in the airport not able to board the plane (in my mind they overlook this on my trip out and only question the fact that my ticket says “Scott” but my ID says “Michael” on my return trip, and as a result I can’t get home).

Yes. I know I’m being dramatic and that a couple of phone calls will take care of the matter. But imagine your kid having to do this over and over in their life. Imagine them being in the seventh grade on the first day of class and having a new teacher call out their first name at rollcall, immediately following that up with “Great name… that’s my name,” and then having all the other kids say “_______? I thought your name was ______…” It’s just awkward.

Don’t doom your child to red tape, paperwork errors, and a life of awkwardness. The simple exchange that occurs when someone asks “What’s your middle name?” may seem mildly amusing at first, but trust me… years later, it’s just tedious.


April 13, 2009

What does Easter make you think of as a writer? Easter is symbolic of rebirth, so maybe you’re thinking of trying to get your writing back on track after an unproductive winter (hey… it happens… cold weather, crock pot meals and TV… you know what I’m sayin’).  Or maybe you start thinking Easter Eggs–what kinds of bits of historical significance, pop culture references or nods to your favorite works are you weaving into your story?

Personally, I didn’t do any of those things. I spent Easter at my mom’s eating carrot cake and playing this weird game called “Tower of Bunnies.”


Like Jenga... only bunnies!

Like Jenga... only bunnies!


Coming of Age

April 10, 2009

z3053c_thistall_lgYesterday I got to work on a PDF download of a book that will release in May (so it will be available in book form or as a download). I’m excited about this book. It’s called You Must Be This Tall to Ride: Contemporary Writers Take You Inside the Story by BJ Hollars.

The book compiles short stories from some really great writers (including Steve Almond, Aimee Bender, Peter Orner and many others) and then gives analysis and instruction for each selection. The stories are all based on the theme of “coming of age.” It’s a departure from the usual writing instruction book, and I think writers will really enjoy the opportunity to read short stories in their entirety and learn from example. Think of it as a “guided tour of the craft.”

Check out a chapter of the book available for free by visiting


April 8, 2009

tiger_clipart_4Last night I had a pre-test for an important upcoming test in my martial arts training. For the past couple of months I’ve been a little worried about my techniques, wondering if they’re good enough… wondering if I’ll be ready in time for my test. I was disappointed in my performance at a previous pre-test and did  lot of over-analyzing of what I felt that I did wrong.

275891But, last night things seemed to come together. I found myself wondering what clicked? What was different about last night than before? Admittedly, anyone can have times when they are “on” or “off” and do something better than another time, but I think the real answer is perseverance. I kept reminding myself of my goal and kept working toward it. I listened to the advice of others and worked to incorporate it in a way that made sense to me. As a result, I’m feeling much better about my test than I did this time last week.

This is one of those lessons that often present themselves and  I try to remind myself of when it comes to other things in life, whether it be writing or anything else. If you have a clear goal and are persistent, then you can succeed.