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Project 2015: Being mysterious isn’t the same as writing good drama.

What do we mean by “writing good drama?” Recently, a great conversation with a client prompted us both to articulate an important principle of fiction writing: being mysterious isn’t the same thing as writing good drama. In other words, when the narrator deliberately withholds information from the reader for the sake of creating a “compelling” sense of mystery, it usually fails. It…

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Project 2015, Part 6: Earned Emotion

Earn Those Feels If you’re a writer, it should keep you up at night: the knowledge that readers will never lack a good book to read. If your own manuscript starts to go all flat and hollow, the reader can put it down and find something better. Who among us doesn’t have a long to-read list on Goodreads or the Kindle, or a good…

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Project 2015, Part 4: Making a Scene

It’s a writer’s job to make a scene. Drama is our stock in trade, and we’re always plotting something. (Always the quiet ones, right?) Seriously, though, I have spent fifteen, geeky years proselytizing my love for the most basic, beautiful element of story structure: the scene. A novel has between forty and sixty of them. That’s not a lot, considering that you have…

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Project 2015, Part 3: “Strong Protagonists” Remind Us How to Feel

There is a scene in Love Actually (2003) where Emma Thompson’s character turns to her husband and says, “Joni Mitchell is the woman who taught your cold English wife how to feel.” The line stuck in my head–inevitably, because Love Actually has become the de rigueur Christmas movie in our house. Also, I think, was the provocative idea that art could teach a person how to feel. Yet hasn’t every book lover…

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Finding a Literary Agent: An Abridged History of Rejection

I’m excited to announce that after more than fifteen years of dedicated writing, workshops, critique groups, and conferences, of getting the input of a freelance editor, and of doing countless manuscript swaps with writer friends, I have an agent. The amazing Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency is representing my novel, ROOM 100, and we are currently working on revisions….

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The four stages of editing

When I find myself answering a question frequently, it’s time to blog about it. Many writers ask, “What’s the difference between developmental editing and copyediting?” Or, “Does a substantive edit include proofreading?” What these questions have in common is some confusion about the four separate stages of manuscript editing. A manuscript that goes from draft to published book must pass…

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Successes from 2012

To me, being a successful book editor is all about asking myself at the end of every day, “Have I done everything possible to make this book perfect?” And indeed, last year set all kinds of records: in my number of clients, in increasing my efficiency in the administrative side of my business, in attracting new visitors to this site,…

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Quick tip: Fresh writing vs. over-writing

If you’ve read even one book on writing, you’ve heard some contradictory advice. On one hand, you’re supposed to keep your language “fresh” and “original,” “rendering” it through the character’s point of view. On the other hand, you’re told to avoid “purple prose,” “over-writing,” and “heavy-handedness.” Here’s a quick rule of thumb. You don’t need embellished language (or “rendered” language,…

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Holiday gratitude giveaway: win a literary book bundle!

Dear friends, clients, fellow writers, and readers: In honor of this year’s holiday season, I’d like to say thank you for what you add to my life and business, The Threepenny Editor. I count myself lucky beyond reason for the chance to work every day with people who are as committed to books, writing, learning, and ideas as you all…

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