Want to learn how to pitch? Try visiting one of the top movie sites: The Internet Movie Database. Check on any movies, forthcoming or in release, that are similar in any fashion to something you’re writing. Let’s say you want to check out the coming Narnia movie, Prince Caspian. You’ll see a summary of the movie, including its “tagline”: A New Age Has Begun. Everything you know is about to change forever. Or check out the Plot Outline, to see 3 versions, by various writers: “Prince Caspian” finds the Pevensie siblings pulled back into the land of Narnia, where a thousand years have passed sinceRead More →

I gave a recent talk on being a successful writer (craft tips, pitching advice, and a few other helpful hints) to a public library near Milwaukee (Muskego Public Library), a truly wonderful place with a gorgeous, inspired, high vaulted ceiling, lots of local artwork, and happily, plenty of people using it . . . even in the midst of a snowy, slippery January blizzard. One person on her way drove into a ditch, but got pulled out and still made it to my program. It made me want to share good thoughts on writing! Here’s one: A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicateRead More →

A compelling opening for a novel can be an intriguing description of place. Here’s the start of a 2004 fantasy for young readers, The Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer, 3-time winner of a Newbery Honor award. Jack woke before dawn and listened to the cold February wind lash the walls of the house. He sighed. It was going to be another rotten day. He stared up at the rafters, savoring the last minutes of warmth. He was bundled in a cocoon of wool blankets over a bed of dried heather. The floor was deep, below the level of the house. The wind that foundRead More →

A query letter for a novel must be short. Ideally, just one page. It’s what you send as a first contact to a literary agent (sometimes directly to an editor), often as an email. You hope they will open it, scan it, be intrigued very quickly (and impressed by your writing on that one page), and utter the magic words: “Send me more.” To succeed, you must sum up your opus in just a paltry few sentences. Perhaps as few as three. Maybe a few more if they’re good and short and compelling. (Compelling not to you but to the busy agent or editor, sittingRead More →

“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” — Willa Cather I was talking informally with a writer the other day at a book signing I was doing, and she told me she was writing a novel. Tell me about it, I said. So she did, giving me a decent short pitch for a contemporary literary novel. My advice to her: mention the place where the story takes place. A sense of place is often overlooked as an important pitch factor. But if Willa Cather is correct, and there areRead More →