Below is a list of Meg’s published work in Writer’s Digest, Writers Helping Writers, and Savvy Authors. Her articles and blogs take a deeper dive into book publishing industry topics: querying, how to get a literary agent, how to start writing a book, building your author platform, what to look for when editing your novel, and more.
Articles are organized by publication and date.
Writer’s Digest is a print and digital publication serving writers interested in writing, editing, and publishing novels. In addition to the magazine, Writer’s Digest publishes books and host conferences as well as a number of other opportunities online.
As many of you know, book publishing industry professionals and readers alike have openly expressed their dislike of prologues.
However, prologues aren’t inherently evil or indicative of poor writing. Prologues can—and have been—executed with skill. But are they necessary?
That is the biggest question—not “should I should write a prologue” but “does a prologue improve my story?”
Learn pitfalls to avoid in prologues, when a prologue can strengthen your story, and the types of prologues you can utilize in Meg’s story, featured in Writer’s Digest.
I’m about to say something controversial. Are you ready?
Freelance book editors aren’t necessary to get published.
I know, crazy right? And coming from a freelance book editor, no less.
Here’s the thing: Editors can be helpful in getting a manuscript ready for publication. Think about it—at some point, all writers are new to this strange and intimidating genre of novel writing. Generally, it isn’t something anyone has been formally taught, so you wouldn’t know things like making three-dimensional characters, natural dialogue tricks, three-act structures, and so on. Such things are unique to novels, and that’s where editors come in.
It’s been said that literary agents are the gatekeepers to the (traditional) publishing industry. Every year agents receive thousands of submissions in their respective query boxes—both unsolicited and solicited. Many agents also work full-time jobs separate from their work at an agency. Needless to say, they are incredibly busy people. As a result, the unsolicited slush piles are often left to agent apprentices and interns to sift through as the first readers (though, this isn’t always the case).
In order for your submission to reach the eyes of the agent, it has to really stand out—which begs the question: How can you make your submission (and ultimately your novel) shine with sheer awesomeness?
Writers Helping Writers is a website co-hosted by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression and many more of your favorite thesauruses. Angela and Becca also co-host the website One Stop For Writers, which includes a searchable index for the Writers Helping Writers thesaurus collection. On the Writers Helping Writers website, there are tools for writers, editors, and teachers, including a character arc progression tool, backstory wound profile, setting planner, character pyramid tool, and much more.
Querying writers have quite a few hurdles to jump through to secure literary representation. For those of you who don’t know what a query is or what I mean by literary representation, let’s go over a few of the basics to start.
There are a few ways to publish a book, one of those being traditional publishing. As of early 2019, the big five publishers—whose names you have likely heard of many times before—are Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster. If you want to be published through the big five or through another traditional publisher, you need to have a literary agent.
Many people call literary agents the “gatekeepers” to the traditional publishing industry. Whether or not that’s true, writers have to pitch their unpublished manuscripts to agents via a query letter, which is essentially a professional cover letter all about your book.
Now, imagine you spend years writing and editing a book that an agent (and publisher) doesn’t want.
With so many stories bouncing around in a writer’s mind, it likely comes as no surprise that most writers seek to write more—or to be more efficient in the time they have to write. In the month of November, known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to the writing community, thousands of writers endeavor to write 50,000 words in a single month.
To give you perspective, 50,000 words is roughly 200 manuscript pages (at approximately 250 words per page). For non-writers, that number is probably akin to a month of torture. For writers, it may feel that way, too. Yet, it’s a delightful torture we do to ourselves… every year.
But regardless of the month of the year—whether it’s NaNoWriMo season or any other month—how can writers more efficiently put words onto the page? Read the blog to learn the 16 tips to writing more words.
As time goes on and the genre of novels matures and evolves, so too does reader expectation. For example, if you look at J. R. R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, you will probably note that the action sequences and battles scenes are often paragraphs or pages long. In books such as SIX OF CROWS, we get pages and pages of epic confrontations between characters. Why? That’s what the modern-day reader enjoys: living the details of action scenes.
But that isn’t the only thing modern-day readers want. They also want to see characters with agency.
For years, I heard the phrase “character agency” spoken by industry professionals on Twitter, and it took me a while to get it.
In short, character agency is when a character (usually a protagonist) is more proactive than reactive to situations in a story.
One of the biggest draws to stories—of any medium—are characters. So many of us want to follow the journeys of individual characters whose personalities or situations we find compelling. The biggest disappointment I often have at the end of a book, television show, or movie is a lack of character growth or change at the end of the story. In other words, the protagonist or main cast of characters lack a proper character arc.
A character arc is the inner journey of a character over the course of a story. In this case, we will talk about novels. It isn’t the complete change of a character, but rather their growth. If the principal characters don’t grow and adapt to the changes happening as the plot unfolds, a story can’t develop organically.
Are you looking to hire a freelance developmental editor to work with you on your manuscript?
Whether you intend to self-publish or pursue traditional publication, many writers seek out the assistance of freelance editors to polish their manuscripts.
However, with so many titles flying around of different types of editors, it can be confusing to understand who does what. Today we will discuss what exactly a freelance developmental editor is, who would benefit from working with them, and when is the best time to work with this type of editor.
Although all writers have their own speeds when it comes to their creative process, one desire is prevalent among them—wanting to write a book faster.
The aspiration to write a book more quickly could be due to a variety of reasons or circumstances, such as needing to adhere to deadlines (self-imposed or from a publisher), to provide a constant stream of income (specifically, for self-published authors), and more. In addition, most writers wish to dive into the worlds in their heads and have multiple completed works.
Regardless of the reason, many writers strive for efficiency in order to write more books. There’s no judgement or condemnation if you are satisfied with your pace of writing. But if you would like to increase your writerly output, consider utilizing these fourteen tricks.
All writers want their prose to read smoothly and have the reader fully engaged without being pulled from the story due to an overabundance of unnecessary words that make sentences read clunkier.
These unnecessary words are often referred to as “filler words.” Filler words aren’t necessarily “bad” words, and they have their place in the craft of writing. However, many writers use these words copiously throughout their manuscripts when they aren’t strictly necessary.
Now, sometimes extra filler words can be used in places like dialogue to make it feel more authentic to today’s modern culture, but the narration doesn’t require the same strategy.
Whether you are pursuing traditional- or self-publication, all writers need to be at least moderately aware of the word count of their manuscripts. Cutting back on filler words can often be what writers need to lessen their overarching word count.
Read the blog to learn of filler words you will want to consider using less frequently in your manuscript.
The purpose of a query is to entice a literary agent or editor to read (more of) your manuscript.
Some literary agents will only read the manuscript pages if the query entices them enough, other agents will read both the query and pages for each submission they receive, and yet others will read the pages before they query. But in order to receive a partial or full request, it’s essential for agents to finish reading your submission thinking, “I need more.” And there’s an easy way you can do that within your query: specific conflict.
When I worked as a literary agent and read through the query box or perused the feed of Twitter pitch contests, writers would often over-simplify their stories or plot. This over-simplifying not only doesn’t provide an overview of the story in the plot summary (also called the story blurb), but it doesn’t leave a reader eager for more.
Being an author no longer means only writing.
The publishing industry is competitive. Specifically, traditional publishing is far more difficult to break into than it used to be. Writers not only need to query an agent with a polished, nearly shelf-ready manuscript, but in order to stand out in a query box amongst hundreds of other queries, writers often need to have a standout author platform as well.
While it isn’t necessary to have an author platform to get published, having this tool in your toolkit could mean the difference between getting noticed by agents or editors and a form rejection.
For self-published authors, on the other hand, an author platform is vital to spreading the word about their books, as they do not have the marketing support traditionally-published authors receive. Though, what “support” means can vary from title to title and from publishing house to publishing house in traditional publishing.
In short, it is in a writer’s benefit to establish a strong author platform to either get published or to have success while publishing in today’s modern world.
If you’re a writer trying to get your work published, you’re likely all too familiar with the feeling of rejection—from literary agents, editors, contest hosts, or literary magazines. If your work is published, then you may be used to receiving rejection in the form of bad reviews from readers. Regardless of your publishing status, all writers receive rejections at some point.
But how can we cope with rejection? Like anything else in life, it’s important to shift our mindset.
Whether you’re published or yet-to-be-published, it’s important for writers to build an author platform right away. Author platforms are essential for both traditionally- and self-published authors in today’s modern world. But what social media platforms are the best avenues for your books?
Regardless of whether you are self- or traditionally-published, author platforms are essential. For self-published authors, this is how to spread the word about your books. For traditionally-published authors, it’s an important tool in your toolkit to get scooped up by agents and/or editors at publishing houses.
The purpose of author platform is to establish future readers for your books.
Social media is part of your author platform and does not replace an author website. Both are essential to have. But with so many social media platforms out there, it can be difficult to decide which ones to spend your time and energy on.
Whether you’re a published or aspiring author, all writers need to have an author website. But for aspiring authors, specifically, it can be confusing to know what to have on your author website. One of the most popular questions I receive on iWriterly and Twitter is: “What should I put on my author website?”
Last month, I provided an overview of author platform in my blog titled, Author Platform Basics. If you’re uncertain as to the origins of author platforms and why you need one in today’s publishing marketplace, be sure to check that blog out. Today, we’re going to dive deeper into what you should have on your author website.
Whether you have published books, soon-to-be-published books, or are still in the drafting phase of your manuscript, you should have an author website. This website acts as a home base for you on the internet and allows potential readers to find and interact with you. Social media does not take place of an author website. The two work in tandem to form your author platform.
Once upon a time, authors were able to write books and get them published, so long as they were a decent writer.
That’s no longer the case.
Now, both self-published and traditionally-published writers must establish an author platform to either get published or to have success while publishing in today’s modern world.
Author platform has a sole purpose: to establish future readers for your books.
Learn author platform basics in this guest article in SavvyAuthors.
Do you have ideas for a book but don’t know where to start or how to write a novel? Or maybe you’ve written several manuscripts in the past and are looking to standardize your process. Learn how in these 11 easy steps.
Every writer has their own unique brainstorming, planning, and writing process when it comes to the creation of a novel. No one process is “right,” but if you haven’t yet figured out what works best for you or maybe you’ve tried a few different methods but are looking to expand your understanding of the writing process further, here are a few launching points for your next story.
Voice is an element that can make or break a book.
Even if a book’s premise isn’t fresh or if the story hits on a few overdone scenarios, clichés, and tropes, voice will have readers flipping through the pages, wondering what will become of their beloved characters. On the flipside, if a book has a twisty plot and amazing world building, but the character’s voice falls flat, readers are very likely to go in search of another story.
There are many things publishing professionals look for in your first pages and chapter: voice, storytelling personality, if the story starts in the right place, showing vs. telling, grammar, grasp of the English language, and more.
As a freelance developmental editor and former literary agent, I usually knew after the first few pages or chapter if the manuscript was ready or not.
How is that possible without reading the entire manuscript? Click here to read more!
Writers are a strange group of people. We hole ourselves up in rooms or in the corner of a public area with the sole wish of being left to record our cluttered thoughts. Our minds are a dangerous breeding ground of stories—as though 54 tabs are open on a web browser and all vying for attention. As such, it may come as no surprise that many writers do some of the same weird things.
Let’s break down the 17 writer stereotypes: the myths, rumors, and legends surrounding the story weavers of society.
The phrase “showing vs. telling” has been uttered thousand of times by writers and industry professionals alike. But what does it actually mean? And why, oh why does it so often lead to automatic rejections from literary agents?
Writing a book, like any other skill in life, is one that is honed and perfected through practice. That means not only editing many copies of your first manuscript but also writing new manuscripts—and many new ones at that.
If telling (vs. showing) is something you struggle with, you are not alone. In fact, most new writers struggle with mastering this skill.
But what is showing vs. telling?
Learn what showing vs. telling means, examples on the difference between the two, how to show more in your writing, exceptions to the rule, and where information dumps factor in in Meg’s article.
Getting published in today’s world is a test of a writer’s persistence, patience, and—most importantly—willingness to do a lot of hard work.
When I first started digging into the weird world of book publishing, I remember having a few distinct feelings:
- A craving for cheese and carbs—ideally, both
- An overwhelming desire for a concise(ish) list for how to get a literary agent
While I can’t do too much for the first two if you guys share similar feelings, I can help you on the third.
Learn the twelve steps to getting a literary agent if you are seeking literary representation.
Twitter has become a hub for authors, editors, literary agents, and other book publishing professionals to share industry insiders—not to mention the dozens of (amazing) Twitter contests for authors seeking literary representation for their unpublished manuscripts.
One of the hashtags that continues to increase in popularity is #AskAgent.
As I detailed in the first article in the series, FAAAQ: Frequently Asked #AskAgent Questions, this hashtag is a great resource for writers looking to gain insight into the world of book publishing. Literary agents will periodically announce when they’re hosting an #AskAgent session (and for how long)—during which time writers can use the hashtag to tweet questions and agents will then respond to them, time permitting.
Click here to learn the frequently asked #AskAgent questions and the answers.
As many of you know, Twitter has become a hot spot for book publishing industry professionals to gather, tweet out advice, and host a number of giveaways and #AskAgent sessions.
For those unfamiliar with Twitter, select hashtags can be used while tweeting, which make a certain topic or conversation easy to follow by searching for that hashtag. One of the popular hashtags for literary agents answering live questions is none other than #AskAgent.
Leading up to my query box opening to unsolicited submissions, I hosted a number of these #AskAgent sessions. During this time, I was surprised by how many writers had the same questions… and made the same mistakes.
Click here to learn the most frequently asked #AskAgent questions and the answers.
An inside look at Twitter writing contests and how to make your pitch stand out.
If you’re a writer with a completed manuscript in search of representation, chances are you’ve entered (or at least heard of) Twitter pitch contests.
For those of you who have yet to be immersed in the writing community on Twitter, these pitching events provide writers with an opportunity to showcase their completed/polished manuscripts to literary agents and/or editors—depending on the contest. While not all agents and editors elect to participate in these contests, there are many who do.
But the tricky part is turning that 70,000-word manuscript into a 140-character pitch.
There are few things more rewarding than receiving paralleled excitement about your manuscript from someone who has just read it, hence the sharing addiction that many writers often fall into. Once we as writers have overcome our writerly sensibilities of ‘I don’t want to share my writing with anyone,’ next comes the ‘please read and love this’ phase.
The writers who continue after their publication pursuits must at some point share their writing with other writers and have it ‘workshopped’ (or critiqued by several writers). Sometimes, we as writers get so excited about the story that’s unfurling on the page before us, we want to skip the editing and workshopping step and go straight to submissions. (Trust me, I’ve been there, too.)
However, there is an ideal time to submit your manuscripts for consideration by a literary agent or editor.
When writers begin the querying process, there always seems to be that moment at the beginning of the research process where you find SO MANY RESOURCES. All with great advice. All with advice on different things. And nothing that seems to cover everything or in simplified terms for an overwhelmed writer.
I remember when I first began querying, I tore apart every article, every blog, and every how-to on querying, particularly ones that provided examples of successful queries. But what I really wanted was a (moderately) comprehensive checklist of things to include (or not to include).
Now, I know not everyone thinks in concrete terms and bullets (like my brain always seems to gear towards), but perhaps you think in checklists.
Consider perusing this querying checklist before you click send on your next query.
In an age where time is precious and emails are plenty, grabbing a literary agent’s attention right away is the key to a successful query letter.
There are many ways a query letter can stand out; however, it’s important to remember that the point of a query is to make an agent want to read more of your manuscript.
Many writers often focus on their personal bio and writing credentials, their passion for writing, or why they chose to write this manuscript rather than the story itself. While those are all important elements (and help us get to know you as the author better), be careful that the bulk of your book industry-specific cover letter is geared toward the reason you’re querying: to find representation for your work.
The Corvisiero Literary Agency team’s insight on what makes them request additional pages.
Ah, querying. That dubious part in the writing process when you check your email as often as you use the restroom—perhaps you’ve started checking your email while using the restroom—and wonder if the literary agent has read your query… and if a form rejection is in your near future. Again.
Followed on the heels of a well-earned victory dance for completing and polishing your manuscript, such a time of uncertainty often leaves writers wondering if this is the field for them after all.
Yet, many push through those moments of doubt, propelled by the aid of Mr. Daniels or another friendly face in the wine cabinet, and find themselves with that long-desired email: “Could you please send more pages of your manuscript?”
But how do writers get to that point? What do literary agents see that propels them to ask writers to send additional pages (or the entire manuscript)? How do the first several pages of a manuscript bring out the excited reader (and inner book nerd) in these agents?
Several members of the Corvisiero Literary Agency team have answered this very question.
Storytelling is in the very essence of our nature as humans. From the beginning of time, people have tried to make sense of the world through stories—from naming the stars and the deities behind them, to the causes of natural disasters, to the changing of the seasons.
Nowadays, authors—the equally poor modern equivalent of a bard or chronicler—must navigate the seemingly tricky landscape of book publishing in order to get their manuscripts traditionally published. But, fear not! Follow these 11 easy steps to getting a literary agent and you are well on your way to seeing your book on the shelves.
According to The Huffington Post, 80 percent of Americans want to write a book. Think about that for a moment. That’s eight in every 10 people. (Whoa!) That isn’t to say, however, that all of those people succeed in completing said books. Many (if not most) don’t.
Writing a book is hard. Really hard. But if this is a journey you know you’re destined to make, consider these nine tips before launching into your manuscript.
I don’t know about you guys, but I totally dragged my feet to get on the Twitter boat. It was only after posting to Twitter was mandatory for my job as an editor that I actually make an effort to learn what it was about.
Twitter, I quickly discovered, was the home of not a few writing contests for hopeful writers—particularly ones wanting to get their stories in front of literary agents and editors. Some of the contests, such as #PitMad, #SFFPit, #SonOfAPitch, #DVPit, and others offered writers the opportunity to pitch their book to agents and editors via a specific hashtag, while other contests, such as Pitch Wars and Pitch to Publication, paired writers with mentors and freelance editors prior to the agent round.
For each type of Twitter contest—whether an editorial round is included or if it’s strictly a Twitter pitch event—there are certain rules of etiquette a writer should follow in order to achieve optimal results (which could be anything from connecting socially with other writers to connecting with agents and editors).
Thanks to the Internet and social media, we, as consumers, are constantly inundated with advertisements, opinions, and new platforms. There are so many people to follow, so many newsletters to sign up for, and so much information coursing through the veins of the digital world that writers often feel lost in it (and rightly so).
Book publishing, specifically, has taken a huge turn in how it operates as a result of the digital shift. As many of you know, publishing houses continue to get smaller, e-books increase in popularity, and writers are expected to have a (nearly) perfected manuscript to agents and (ultimately) editors—as there is no longer the time nor the bandwidth to aid writers on their journey as had been done in the past. Along the same line, the marketing of books has changed so that much of the responsibility for marketing now falls on the shoulders of writers.
Whether you are a writer seeking a literary agent, are traditionally published, or are going the self-publishing route, developing your online author platform is essential in today’s market. Readers must not only be able to find you easily online but to want to find you.
What Was I Missing?
Ever wonder why, after only submitting the first few pages of your manuscript to an agent, editor, or a Twitter writing contest, your submission was swiftly rejected? Why, after spending countless hours of editing and perfecting those pages in your life’s blood and drowning your doubts in wine, did it get a quick “thanks but no thanks”? What made them decide so quickly? What do they see, and—more importantly—what did you miss in your rounds of editing?
These are all good questions—and questions I asked myself countless of times after submitting early drafts of my manuscript. What was I missing? And, after hearing feedback from writers who submitted to Pitch to Publication, a Twitter pitch contest for novel writers, this was the question that they were concerned about as well.
Every word on your query should count. You get precious little time in front of an agent, so make those 30 seconds (or less) count (as well as give the best impression you can during that time).
For those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with the term “query letter,” it is a one-page professional letter (300 words or less) where you endeavor to woo a literary agent into falling head over heels for your story. Only… the wooing is ideally done in a very specific, very strict format.
Consider the following dos and don’ts of querying.
For writers beginning their querying career, one of the key questions you will be asked is this: what genre is your book in? However, as you may surmise, that’s a rather loaded question.
Perhaps your tale takes place both on Earth and in another medieval world, features new mythical creatures, and your protagonist is at the wonky age of 19. How on earth do you categorize this? High fantasy? Urban fantasy? New adult? Adult?
First, let’s start with a few definitions.
Whether you are a seasoned writer with published works or are only now starting your journey as a wordsmith, there is one thing you will always need: feedback on your writing. Let’s be honest—after we complete a piece of writing, we may often perceive it as perfection personified and immediately start clicking the send button to various contests or submissions. However, rarely are these first drafts ready for publishing. In fact, they rarely ever are.
There’s a rare breed of writers who can sit down and write a novel that’s both well written and applicable to its intended market in a single shot (plus a moderately painless round of revisions). I’ve heard about these mythical people and perhaps so have you. However, for many of us, there is much more strategy and forethought than that. Consider these five things as you begin your next (or first) novel.