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Questions & Quandaries Blog

Online editor Brian A. Klems has been writing for Writer’s Digest since 2003. He covers the most pressing grammatical, ethical, business and writing-related questions—and often does it with a bit of humor.


What is a Poetry Chapbook?

Cindy N. asks writing expert Brian A. Klems “What is a poetry chapbook, and how is it different from a regular book?” Here he gives a detailed explanation. Read more

Which Sample Chapters Should You Send to Agents?

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When agents ask for sample chapters, which chapters should you include? If your strongest chapters fall in the middle, is it OK if I send those? The answer is different for fiction and nonfiction. Read more

How Long Should Novel Chapters Be?

When dividing a manuscript into chapters, how long should each chapter be? Are there any requirements on length? Find out here. Read more

How Do First North American Serial Rights Work?

What are First North American Serial Rights, how do they work and what does it mean for you when trying to get your writing published? Find out here. Read more

Should You Use a Non-AAR Literary Agent (& What Does That Mean)?

There are plenty of things writers should worry about—writer’s block, plagiarism, memoirs by the cast of “Jersey Shore”—but an agent who isn’t a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives shouldn’t be high on the list. Here’s why. Read more

How Many Sample Chapters Are Necessary?

When submitting your work to an agent for consideration, how many sample chapters should you include in your proposal? Writer’s Digest online editor Brian A. Klems explains. Read more

Is it E-mail or Email?

Everywhere I turn I see “email” (or is it “e-mail”?) punctuated differently. Can you tell me which is correct? —Kate T. WD online guru Brian A. Klems says that punctuating “e-mail” with or without a hyphen is … Read more

Should Your Interview Subjects Sign a Release?

When interviewing someone for an article or a book, do I need to have the interviewee sign a release form so I can use his or her quotes? Get the answer here. Read more

Should You Post Your Novel Online for Free?

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Q: Is it a good idea to serialize an unpublished novel in a weekly blog? I have a completed sci-fi novel and was thinking about releasing it online, but I wasn’t sure … Read more

Why “Start Your Novel Is With Action” is Bad Advice

The cliché “start your novel with action” has a flaw—and it’s a major one: What good is the action if it isn’t grounded in context that’s important to the story or draws you to the main character? It’s much, much better to start your story with tension, like a character conflict or a character who’s not getting what he wants. This gives the reader a reason to feel connected. Read more

Is There a Secret Formula to Getting Published?

It stands to reason that the key elements of any publishing formula would include (but would not be limited to) … Read more

Are Serial Commas Necessary?

Q: When writing a sentence that contains a series of something (e.g., a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker), do I need a comma before the “and” connecting the final two … Read more

Plethora Doesn’t Mean “A Lot”

Q: Can you use “plethora” to mean “a lot,” as in, I own a plethora of baseball hats? A: The misuse of “plethora” is a pet peeve of mine. The word “plethora” … Read more

Are Agents Just Looking for an Excuse to Reject Your Work?

Q: Doesn’t it seem like agents are just looking for excuses to reject work? —Anonymous A: Actually, the complete opposite is true. Agents don’t want to reject your work, they want to … Read more

Is "None" Singular or Plural?

Q: The word “none” should always be singular, right? —Anonymous A: This is a major misconception. “None” can be a singular pronoun if it’s referring to “not one” or “no part,” but … Read more

9th "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest: Women's/Upmarket Fiction

Welcome to the ninth (free!) “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog. This will be a recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here’s the deal: With every contest, … Read more

Contests: The Writer’s Fairy Godmother

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With the exception of shoe size and the fact that I don’t do floors, Cinderella and I are basically twins separated at birth. My stepsisters, Query and Rejection, had been hounding me for months and I was starting to lose hope, when one magical day I received a phone call from an editor—suddenly my editor—telling me that I’d won the St. Martin’s Minotaur/ Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition and that my manuscript was going to be published. It was the greatest day of my life—with the possible, though not absolute, exception of the births of my kids (and please don’t tell them I said that).

Guest column by Janice Hamrick, author of Death on Tour (2011, Minotaur), the winner of the 2010 St. Martin’s Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition. Read more

Isle vs. Aisle

Q: It drives me crazy when my friends mistake “isle” for “aisle.” Can you set the record straight so I prove to them once and for all there is a difference? —Elizabeth … Read more

Will Publishers Buy a 200,000-Word Novel?

Q: I am a first-time novelist with an incredible manuscript on my hands. The issue I have is that my work of historical fiction runs about 200,000 words long, and that’s with … Read more

Win a Free Writing Course With Holly Lisle

Chuck says: Here’s the deal. Writer Katharina Gerlach is a writer from Germany who writes fantasy and historical novels for all ages, both in English and German. She previously wrote for me … Read more

Should You Give Editors Your Social Security Number?

Q: I was recently given an assignment with a local magazine and the editor asked me for my Social Security number. I’m uncomfortable handing out that type of information and wonder if … Read more

Agent Irene Goodman Is Holding a Historical Fiction Pitch Contest

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I am looking for brilliant new historical fiction, and am holding a pitch contest to find those hidden pearls. I currently represent historical fiction authors Sharyn McCrumb, Diane Haeger, Carrie Bebris, Amanda Elyot, newcomers Anne Barnhill and Juliet Grey, and many other New York Times bestselling authors. Read more

Are Online Images Fair Game to Use On Your Blog?

Q: Recently someone informed me that I violated copyright [by posting] one of his cartoons on my blog. I apologized and removed the image. Now I’m worried about other images I’ve used. … Read more

What Can You Do if a Publisher Prints Your Work Without Permission?

Q: I submitted a piece on spec to a community newspaper and received no response from the editor. With the next publication, however, the manuscript was published in full without permission and … Read more

More Than vs. Over: Which is Correct?

Q: I have an editor that’s always changing “over” to “more than” in my articles. For example, if I write “The baseball player received an endorsement deal for over $10 million,” she … Read more

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