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New Edition of The Editor’s Lexicon!

I’m delighted to announce the 2nd edition of THE EDITOR’S LEXICON, a relaunch of my flagship writer’s guide in what will be a series of books aimed at helping writers put editorial feedback to work in their revisions. This one defines and explains the most common language you hear in critique letters and workshops, and it can help you become…

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MFA vs. NYC, by an Editor in a Graduate Writing Program

I’ve had an unusual career progression. When my undergraduate classmates were either collecting their degrees to head straight into MFA writing programs or moving to New York to break into the publishing industry, I already knew what I wanted to do: go to Portland, work for myself. A relationship with books was mandatory, though the means to do it was…

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Infographic: Three Kinds of Writing Success

Writing Success, Defined Every author struggles for writing success on three levels: career success, project success, and process success. I’ve seen writers spend YEARS trying to create writing career success before realizing that it is mostly out of their control. If you don’t find an editor, agent, and publisher who firmly understand your goals and vision, you might be setting yourself up for failure (both real and perceived). In any case,…

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Threepenny Editor Annual Writing Contest: Announcing the Winner!

Congratulations, Christine Evans! This year’s contest entries were, if possible, even stronger than last year’s. It was difficult to choose just one, and I agonized for several days over the four finalists’ writing. What finally captured me was an excerpt of NADIA, Christine Evans’ novel-in-progress. NADIA is a novel of love, terror and redemption set in 1990s London. Nadia is a young refugee…

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Beats: Anatomy of a Scene’s Emotional Development

Editing is full of weird coincidences and fortuitous juxtapositions. When the same issue crops up in two or three unrelated manuscripts in a row, it’s time to take it to the blog. I’d like to deconstruct a scene and talk about beats, interior dialogue, and clarity. First, some working definitions. A beat is a minor emotional turning point in a scene between the…

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What news! I’m teaching a submissions class in Oakland!

Make Your Query Letter and First Pages Pop: All About Voice (Impact Hub Oakland, Sept. 24, 2016) Agents and editors want to discover authors who write with a “fresh voice.” But what does that actually mean, and how do you add that secret ingredient to your query letter and manuscript? Join us for an interactive, high-energy three hours on Saturday,…

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Put Your Manuscript on a Diet: 3 Steps to Reduce Your Word Count

Listen to your instinct, improve your writing, and reduce word count. Debut novels are usually 80,000 to 90,000 words. YA novels are often less than that. Having edited an unusually high number of overlong manuscripts this year, here are some top cuts to reduce word count that I find myself recommending in almost every project.    1. Reduce word count by paring down dialogue and…

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Why Am I Getting Rejected?

Getting rejected is useful feedback. First drafts get written by ignoring the critical voices in your head. Good novels happen when you listen to those voices, weigh the criticism, and plan a revision. But in a competitive market, only the great novels get published.  Getting rejected hurts, but it signals a chance to see your novel with new eyes and make smart…

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Project 2015, Part 7: 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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