Saturday, December 16, 2017

Weekly Round-Up: Writing Winners

Every week our editors publish around 10 blog posts—but it can be hard to keep up amidst the busyness of everyday life. To make sure you never miss another post, we’ve created a new weekly round-up series. Each Saturday, find the previous week’s posts all in one place.

wr_iconLatest and Greatest

Happy holidays from Writer’s Digest! Make sure you check out our 12 Days of Books Giveaway—you still have seven chances to win!

Check out the editor’s letter from the January 2018 issue of Writer’s Digest and challenge yourself to Have No Fear in the 2018 writing year.

Stay up to date with the latest GLA News.

Time to Write

You’re finally going to write your memoir in 2018—but how will the real-life people in your story respond? Try out these words: “based on a true story.” Read 4 Advantages to Fictionalizing the Truth and consider writing your story as a novel.

Ready to hit the ground running with your writing? Make sure to pace yourself … or at least pace your plot! Check out Pacing Your Plot: 20 Ways to Rethink Your Narrative Pace.

How to feed your Star Wars obsession and spend time on your writing? Check out Rethinking Protagonists and Antagonists: Parallel and Perpendicular Character Perspectives in Star Wars.

Poetic Asides

Congratulations to the winner of the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for a contrapuntal poem! Find out if you made the top five.

For this week’s Wednesday Poetry Prompt, write a “thaw” poem.


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from Writing Editor Blogs –

Friday, December 15, 2017

What Does It Really Mean to Be a Bestselling Author?

[Join us August 10-12 in New York City for the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference!]

These days, it seems like everyone is calling themselves a “Bestselling Author.” What they don’t tell you is that they achieved bestseller status, however briefly, on some narrowly-niched Amazon subcategory where hitting the top spot is more about promotion and timing than selling lots and lots of books.

So, the question becomes: Does hitting the top of an Amazon subcategory legitimately give an author the right to wear the bestseller mantle, or is that embellishing the truth just a tiny bit?

Should the title of Bestselling Author be reserved only for those authors who hit the top of one of the “Big Lists” like in the good old days before Amazon forced the industry to reconsider what the term Bestselling Author actually means?

In my mind, it all depends on how you define the word “bestseller” or the term “bestselling author.” And understand that bestseller status on any list is open to manipulation. More on that later.

In times gone by, to become a bestselling author with a bestselling book—and thereby earn those precious bragging rights—a book had to hit one of the big lists: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or USA Today.

But there are also lists maintained by the not-so-big boys: Barnes & Noble, Publishers Weekly, The LA Times, even Walmart publishes a bestseller list, though I have never seen anyone put “Walmart Bestselling Author” on the cover of a book.

[One of Us Is Lying: Karen M. McManus on Her Gripping New York Times Bestseller]

Still, I’m from Alabama. Here, that would be something to truly brag about.

To hit a big list like The Wall Street Journal you’d need to sell at least 3,000 books in the first week. To hit the big list, the mother lode, the big kahuna, The New York Times bestseller list, you’d need to sell around 9,000 books the first week.

Most authors would be happy to sell 9,000 books over the course of their lifetime, so the chances of ever hitting a big list are slim to none. Which brings me to the next point.

You probably noticed I did not include Amazon in the “list of big lists” because until a few months ago, Amazon tracked sales ranking by the hour, not by the week. Earlier this year, they launched Amazon Charts, which publishes a list (with buy buttons connected to each book, duh) to top 20 bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction, as well as the 20 most read books in both categories.

Will Amazon Charts ever be taken as seriously of The New York Times Bestseller List?

Or even the Walmart bestseller list?

Probably not, simply because it’s so easy to obtain bestseller status on Amazon.

As bestselling author Patrick Snow now famously said, “Bestseller is a manipulated term. If you want to be a bestselling author, take out a $100,000 loan and buy 15,000 of your own books from Amazon.”

It’s far easier (and exponentially cheaper) than that if you set your sights a little lower. To achieve “bestseller status” within a single Amazon category rather than overall of Amazon, all you have to do is hit the top of any subcategory for a brief moment in time, and chances are you’ll be awarded the prized orange button with the word “Bestseller”, giving you legit bragging rights to say that you are indeed a bestselling author, at least as far as Amazon is concerned.

Becoming a bestseller on the big lists is about selling books, lots of books, lots and lots of books over the course of days, not hours.

Becoming a bestseller on Amazon is about selling books (to a degree), but it’s more about picking a narrow niche, manipulating the algorithm with the title and keywords and description settings, having a jazzy, eye-catching cover, and above all, marketing your butt off to direct buyers to your book en masse so all those sales – all 10 or 12 of them—happen in a brief enough window that causes your book to bubble to the top and stay there for at least one round of the algorithm.

On Amazon, you can be #1 for an hour, and #10 the next. Still, you hit #1 and maybe that’s all that matters to you. Maybe you’re more concerned about the title than the actual sale of books.

So, the question becomes: is an Amazon bestselling book really a bestselling book in the traditional sense of the term? Or just in Amazon’s jungle?

And here’s another question: should you really care how the title was obtained and on what list, so long as it did the trick and earned you the title of bestselling author that you can plaster on your book covers, website, tattoo on your forehead, etc.?

You are an Amazon Bestselling Author. And you can brag about it until the cows come home, even if your next book is in a totally different Amazon category or niche.

Let’s be honest here. For many authors, obtaining the title of Bestselling Author is all about branding and bragging rights, not book sales. Now, with a certain degree of confidence, you can call yourself an Amazon Bestselling Author.

It’s when you drop that word “Amazon” that the waters get murky. Rather than calling yourself a bestselling author who, for a brief moment in time, sold the most books in the Amazon subcategory of health, fitness and dieting / alternative medicine / herbal remedies / essential oils, you drop the caveat and just start calling yourself “Bestselling Author”, which most people associate with one of the big lists. Your cred grows by leaps and bounds.

But are you lying? Are you misrepresenting the truth? Not really, you’re just leaving out a minor detail.

How many books a day must you sell on Amazon to reach such lofty heights? Again, that depends on the genre and the competition within the niche. The narrower the subcategory, the less the competition, therefore the better the odds of hitting the top spot if you do a decent job of marketing.

I know authors who have hit bestseller status on Amazon with less than a few dozen books sold. The title can be earned through algorithm manipulation and clever marketing, not volume of books sold over a long period of time. If you don’t believe me, do a Google search on how to become an Amazon bestseller and look at the results. Nowhere, is great writing and perseverance mentioned.

Maybe that’s why traditionalists think Amazon titles are a load of hooey.

My buddy Larry, who is a bona fide 6-time NYT bestselling author, gets angry when he hears someone refer to themselves as a bestselling author if the title was only earned on Amazon.

He is a traditionalist, meaning that if you didn’t earn the title on one of the big 3 lists (screw you B&N and Walmart), your bragging rights are convoluted at best.

The one thing Larry doesn’t understand is that mere mortals like you and me have about as much chance of hitting the NYT bestseller list as winning the lottery, so we have to take our little victories where we can.

Me, I’m a multiple bestselling author in the Amazon category of Fiction / Mystery / Mystery, thrillers, suspense / Thrillers … Phew. Try putting that on the cover of your next book and see how impressed people are.

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from Writing Editor Blogs –

Kunal’s journey to IELTS Band 8

Today we would like you to meet Kunal – a young man from India, who speaks Marathi. The remarkable thing about him is that he prepared and got Band 8 in just 2 weeks (with a perfect 9 in Listening!). Kunal took the first place in our monthly results competition, and of course we asked him about his preparation.

In his winner’s interview Kunal explained how he did so well, in such a short time. Here is what he said:

Band 8 in IELTSMy Band 8 story

Module – Academic
Preparation Time – 2 weeks.

In my opinion anyone who has two weeks and prior English knowledge since primary school can easily score Band 8 like I did.

Preparation Material

To make the most of my time I read all I needed from, ‘Target Band 7‘ is the recommended book. I used Cambridge IELTS 12 book for practice as well.


I read ‘Target Band 7‘ start to end in 4 days. I highlighted the tips given for each section. They help a lot, especially for Reading & Writing sections.

Then I started with the tests. I solved 4 full Length Tests within given time limit. Listening won’t be an issue as such, if you can understand English movies easily. Reading has few tricky questions. But those highlighted tips in the book can help here.

For writing you should be a good reader. I, for instance, sometimes read articles, newspaper, blogs, etc. It helps you write well and also the tips tell you how to cover all the points.

Speaking seems easy, but it isn’t. Many factors are considered in evaluation, so the more you practice the better chances you have – that’s all I can say.

Overall, I planned on scoring the most in listening & reading to balance the score in writing & speaking, which I knew would be tough to score.

Related posts:

  1. Tejashree got IELTS Band 7.5 despite working 10-hour shifts and studying only at weekends – here’s how Today we are delighted to introduce to you Tejashree Bhat…
  2. What did they do differently to achieve Band 8+? Today’s post is about two IELTS test takers who aren’t…
  3. IELTS tips from Band 8.5 candidate: “Practice, analyse your mistakes and don’t get nervous” Sai Bhargavi Satti is a lovely young lady from India,…
  4. A clever way to prepare and get Band 8 in IELTS (even if you work full time!) Today’s post is dedicated to the smashing success of Chetan,…
  5. How Hanson went from 6.5 to IELTS Band 8 in 3 weeks This post is dedicated to the success of a bright…

from IELTS-Blog

Thursday, December 14, 2017

GLA News

Hi there writer friends!

Cris Freese, long-time editor for Guide to Literary Agents, is no longer with Writer’s Digest. Never fear, though: The great content you’ve come to expect from GLA will continue, and we’re excited to deliver brand-new agent information, query letter and proposal tips and much more. Stay tuned for news on a new GLA editor and agent expert, coming soon. And, as always, thanks for reading the GLA blog.

If you’re an agent looking to update your information or an author interested in contributing to the GLA blog or the next edition of the book, contact Jess Zafarris at

Also, if you don’t own it already, be sure to grab your copy of the newest edition of The Guide to Literary Agents!


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from Writing Editor Blogs –

IELTS Speaking test in the UK – December 2017

Our friend M took the IELTS Speaking test in the UK and remembered the following questions:

Speaking testIELTS test in the UK


– What is your full name?
– Can I see your ID?
– Where are you from?
– Do you work or study?
– What subject are you studying?
– Why did you choose it?
– What do you like the most about this course?
– What do you remember about your secondary school? Why?
– Who was your favourite teacher? Why?
– Are you in contact with your school friends?
– How often do you use public transport?
– How much time do you usually spend on your trips to work?
– How did you come to this test venue today?

Cue Card

Describe an occasion when someone said positive words because you did something accurately. Please say

– Where and when was it?
– What did you do?
– How did you feel about it? Why?


– Let’s talk about courage.
– How can parents motivate their children?
– On what occasions should they do it?
– Is it a good idea to give too much encouragement to children? Why?
– Do you think adults need to be encouraged as well? Why?
– Let’s talk about celebrities.
– Would most people like to be celebrities? Why?
– Is it good or bad to be in public view all the time?
– Do you think different media outlets magnify celebrities’ events? Why?
– How do famous people affect our society?

Related posts:

  1. IELTS Speaking test in India – September 2017 When M took the IELTS Speaking test in India, she…
  2. IELTS Speaking test in Uzbekistan – February 2017 When A took the IELTS Speaking test in Uzbekistan he…
  3. IELTS test in Iran – December 2017 (General Training) When A took the IELTS test in Iran, they got…
  4. IELTS Speaking test in Iran – July 2017 Below are the Speaking questions that P remembered after a…
  5. IELTS Speaking test in India – March 2017 Our friend C took IELTS in India and remembered the…

from IELTS-Blog

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pacing Your Plot: 20 Ways to Rethink Your Narrative Pace

[Don’t miss your chance to enter the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition! Impress us with your best story in 1500 words or fewer. Deadline Dec. 15.]

Illustration from “” by Beatrix Potter. | Image Source

By Jodell Sadler, founder of
Editorial Agent, Jill Corcoran Literary Agency, JCLA

This year, when the bells toll that shift to a new year, the study I’ve been exploring hits its tenth year. It will be ten years of studying the craft of PACING. Ten whole years. It’s not a little thing. It’s been a constant rethinking and challenging what works to stop, speed, slow, pause, or halt or flip to art within a narrative. For me, it’s the careful unfolding of story that thinks as much about what appears on the page as youdo what does not. It’s about honing the negative space of good writing. From 2007 to today, the trifecta of good pacing, the 10 P’s, and 20 tools and 10 key considerations editors and agents need in order to take on a piece of writing. This study includes over 200 moves a writer may use to enahance your narrrative pacing: using the trifecta to connect to readers, supporting the story’s theme, enhancing emotional resonance, improving your effeciveness on a word-level, adding tension, suspense, and unexpected surprise—and so much more.

Pacing Your Plot: 200 Techniques & Insider Advice for Pacing Your Fiction, forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books (2018-9), will serve up a true insider view on pacing and its importance to the writing craft.

20 Ways to Rethink Your Narrative Pace

  • Pacing is action, movement, energy—and making the stars align in your writing.
  • It means paying attention to how you pause, speed, slow, and halt story as you unfold your plot in order to enhance the emotional arc.
  • Pacing is pause and cradling your reader in a clause, at times and considering all the benefits of diction, tone, and prosody as a means to so a more.
  • Pacing moves beyond that converstation of long and short sentences to consider syllables, syntax, sentence structure and all the poetic devices we can employ at any time within our narratives.
  • It’s about challenging each word and activating verbs, ousting adverbs, and infusing your story with specificity while keeping your direction and controlling and knowing the whys behind your editing decisions.
  • Pacing helps your connect to plot in a way that emotes the meaning and adds depth to your story, scenes, and characters.
  • It’s about “authenticity” and staying true to your narrative worldbuilding and really focusing in on interiority of your characters.
  • It’s about comedic pause, breath, and white space and what we call texture and a whole lot of voice because diction matters.
  • Pacing explores sharing that joke or conversation in an opening that flips and gets re-cast at the end in a way the reader needs no insight in order to appreciate it fully— because now they know these characters well and feel like family.
  • It’s about identifying key tools that allow you more control over the moments of your story—like seeing the use of a list as a pacing tool and understanding why it works and why parenthetical asides will add to it’s effectiveness.
  • Pacing reaches ever forward, and inward, adding interiority, to the spirit of your main character, celebrating his or her worldview, and about imaginings and creativityand play—that sense of letting go.
  • Pacing invites writers to get out of their own way and do more—dare more—and perform better.
  • It’s that ever upward, getting-ever-closer, of good writing that taps into what a story demands.
  • Pacing is that subtle shifts not-so-sure-what-to-edit moments into allowing your own playful engagement to craft because you have an insider view on why you are making certain moves.
  • It’s seeing more possibilities in every move on a word level, adding rhythm and repetition at key times, and really bringing more joy to our process.
  • Pacing beckons magic and remains the best part of writing—the icing on our proverbial publication pie. It’s truly delicious.
  • Pacing offers the potential to impact your work in the best, most postive way you can imagine.
  • When we pace, we incorporated tools, challenges and play with words.
  • It’s about really see pacing as that performance quality we bringto the page of good writing when really mess with your readers’ and present them with an unforgettable experience.
  • Pacing improve scenes and moments—halts or shifts them to allow the art and visual imagery—to rise off the page; it’s that interplay of art and words.

I’ve taken my pacing material into conferences and writing events and writer’s workshops at schools and presented as an agent, secondary educator, and professor. I’ve taken my pacing study through so many different scenerios. Tested it. Challenged it. K12 writer’s workshops, high school advanced placement, dual credit courses, collegiate open campus, first-year students on up to graduate-level learners and professional writers and writer-illustrators with unbelieveable results.

I’ve shared my pacing study as I launched KidLit College, which became my way of sharing craft and paying it forward to editors and agents while helping writers and illustrators make the connections needed to publish strong, so I know this material will rock your edits. It will rock it off the charts.

Today, in honor of my ten years of studying pacing, I am offering mentorship for the first-place winners in our KidLit College Writing Contest 2017. We are on the search for well-paced manuscripts in many genre categories: fiction picture books, nonfiction picture books, chapter books, middle grades, graphic novels, young adult novels, and nonfiction proposals. Every entry receives the following: 1) Submission feedback, 2) A FREE pass to our first KidLit College webinar of 2018 ($30 value), and You can take 10% off until our Entry Deadline of December 31st at Midnight CST using the check out code: KLC-2017 (actually, you can use this code on everything on our website). First place winnners receive a free Crit-N-Chat (editor or agent chat of their choice: $125 value), Pace-Writing mentoring from me (a $1050 value), and submission to five publishers. To learn more, log in to

Writer’s Digest Digital Archive Collection: Iconic Women Writers

For nearly 100 years, Writer’s Digest magazine has been the leading authority for writers of all genres and career levels. And now, for the first time ever, we’ve digitized decades of issues from our prestigious archives to share with the world. In this, the first of our series of archive collections, discover exclusive historic interviews with classic women authors including Maya Angelou, Pearl S. Buck, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates and Joan Didion—and much, much more. Featuring five stunning issues spanning more than 60 years, this collection is perfect for writers, literary enthusiasts, educators and historians. Explore what’s inside.

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from Writing Editor Blogs –

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 418

For today’s prompt, write a thaw poem. The term thaw can be used in relation to food and the weather. But it can also relate to people and relationships as well.


Order the Poet’s Market!

The 2018 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer, includes hundreds of poetry markets, including listings for poetry publications, publishers, contests, and more! With names, contact information, and submission tips, poets can find the right markets for their poetry and achieve more publication success than ever before.

In addition to the listings, there are articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry–so that poets can learn the ins and outs of writing poetry and seeking publication. Plus, it includes a one-year subscription to the poetry-related information on All in all, it’s the best resource for poets looking to secure publication.

Click to continue.


Here’s my attempt at a Thaw Poem:

“He Still Stands”

He still stands–or leans
upon the stick that made
his arms–even as most
other patches melted
the day before. His hat
sits in the grass beside
him next to his rock eyes
and carrot nose. No more
smile. No more mouth.
But he still stands
for now.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He lives just north of Atlanta, where at least one snowman still stands from last Friday’s snow.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


Find more poetic posts here:

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