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Ask the editor: Breaking the “write what you know” rule

Q: I have a terrific story to tell, but it didn’t actually happen to me. Is it possible to write with authenticity about something you haven’t experienced firsthand? A: Many great books are written by authors who seem to have nothing in common with their character’s experiences. Different gender, culture, time in history, geographic location. [...]

Ask the Editor: Memoir or novel for my true story?

Q. I have an amazing true story to tell, but publishing it may step on some toes. Should I write it as a memoir, and tell it exactly like it was? Or should I write it discreetly as a novel, so I can disguise the lurid details and stay out of trouble? If I don’t write [...]

Ask the Editor: Can I become a better writer?

Q: Every rejection letter I get says there’s something wrong with my writing. Can I really get better at this? A: Yes, you can! Having edited hundreds of writers, I know for a fact that even the most seasoned, successful writers read, study, revise and rewrite, use a professional developmental editor, and continue to polish [...]

Ask the editor: An agent said my novel needs emotional glue. Help!

Q. An agent said my novel is missing emotional glue. Like it doesn’t stick together. What is emotional glue and how do I get it into my story? A. Emotional glue reveals a character’s internal reactions, ruminations, and anticipated responses to the dialogue and action of the story. It’s the unspoken ideas and feelings that [...]

What should you expect from a developmental editor?

As a longtime developmental editor, I often get questions from authors about the editor-writer relationship. How exactly do developmental editors work? How can I tell if I’ve found a good one? And will you correct my typos? I can tell you that virtually all successful writers – from Ernest Hemingway to Kathryn Stockett – have [...]

When do you need an editor?

Writers often ask me when they should consult a developmental editor.  The concerns go something like this: I’ve heard that literary agents and commercial publishers don’t want to see a book until it’s already edited and ready for production. And if I decide to self-publish, I’m out on a limb by myself. So when during [...]

Wake up your readers! How to thicken a plot

Here’s a situation that editors encounter frequently: manuscripts with a large cast of potentially interesting characters, sparkling dialogue, and the glimmer of ideas churning just beneath the surface. But after a little while the scenes become repetitious, the characters and their machinations turn formulaic — and reading becomes a chore. Books that keep readers awake [...]

Ask the editor: Trusting the reader

Q: How can i be sure my readers will understand my core message, my purpose for writing the book in the first place – unless I help out with a little commentary or explanation? A: Authors need to respect their readers and allow them their own reactions to the narrative. This issue comes up frequently [...]

Ask the editor: How to untangle a plot

Q: An agent said my novel was “dense, over-plotted and difficult to follow.” I’m not sure what to do. A: You might have too much action and not enough content. If that’s the problem, you need to punctuate any rapid fire twists and turns with dialogue, description, and the kind of pacing that’s easier to [...]

Quick: How many POVs in an “I” narrative?

OK, it’s a trick question. The answer is that every “I” narrative has not one, but two points of view. Think about it: You – the writer – embody the second POV. You stand behind the curtain of literary creativity, directing everything that happens in the story; what to include and what not, what other [...]