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30 Reasons to Read Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2018 (Plus a Giveaway...

Today, 05:44 PM

Yesterday was the official pub date of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2018, though it’s been available in bookstores and on Amazon beforehand.

The new edition is updated and packed with brand new info. While there are plenty of places you can turn to for information on the children’s publishing industry, CWIM has always prided itself as being the biggest print edition and the most thorough. It’s the Yellow Pages for children’s markets, with interviews, roundups, and informative articles. That’s why it’s in its 30th edition. In honor of this edition, here’s 30 reasons why you should pick up your copy of CWIM—or enter the competition below to win a free one!

Grab the latest edition of Children’s Writer’s
& Illustrator’s Market online at a discount!

A GIVEAWAY: Send me an email at cris.freese@fwmedia.com, with the subject line “What I Love About CWIM” and tell me the thing you enjoy the most about the print edition of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. In three weeks (deadline November 10, 2017), I’ll pick 3 random winners to win a copy of the book! And if you optionally tweet news of this giveaway and the publication date of CWIM, I’ll give you 2 entries into the contest instead of just the one. Just tweet the following, then email me with your Twitter handle: @WritersDigest is giving away 3 copies of the new 2018 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market – http://bit.ly/2hSgVUm via @crisfreese.

1. The Same Great Content. Hundreds of updated listings for book publishers, magazines, conferences, contests, and agents—all with a focus on picture books, middle-grade, and young adult audiences. Plus informative articles and interviews to help you grow as a writer. It’s the same Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market that you’ve come to expect over the years, just with a new editor.

2. More Original Content. I commissioned brand-new articles, interviews, and roundups for this issue—content that hasn’t been seen online, in Writer’s Digest magazine, or in Writer’s Digest Books. This is the only place you can find this content, and it’s entirely tailored for children’s writers.

3. Authors Breaking Out and Leading the Way. Looking for inspiration? This edition features 21 writers who broke out, signed with an agent, and got published. If you’re writing middle-grade fiction, young adult fiction, or crafting a picture book, turn to the Debut Authors Tell All feature to discover how these authors made their way.

4. More Debut Authors! I needed a second point to talk about the Debut Authors Tell All feature, because I love it so much. Seven picture book authors, eight middle-grade authors, and six young adult authors. That includes Mike Malbrough, Alyson Gerber, Jodi Kendall, Corabel Shofner, Ellie Terry, New York Times bestselling author Angie Thomas, Tiffany Jackson, and more. At least one of these awesome authors will motivate you with their story.

5. An Exclusive Webinar. The amazing Jennifer De Chiara—who heads up her own literary agency—provided an exclusive webinar on perfecting your query letter for the children’s market. You can only view it if you pick up a copy of this book.

6. Create Unforgettable Characters. Debbie Dadey, who has authors or co-authored 166 traditionally-published children’s books, shares ways writers can make readers fall in love with their characters.

7. Discover Your Writing Voice. Laurel Snyder, author of six novels for children, shares distinct methods and techniques for developing the writing voice you need to stand out. Consider it your “writing superpower,” with 12 ways to supercharge your voice.

8. Perfect Your Dialogue. Whether you’re crafting a picture book for young readers or working on a novel for the middle-grade and young adult audiences, dialogue is the tool for transporting readers through your story. Veteran teacher Kerrie Flanagan shows off techniques for mastering dialogue in each category.

9. Discover Supporters. If you’re going to succeed, you need people to get behind you. And as a children’s author, teachers and librarians can be a huge proponent for your career. Discover an article for tapping into the world of speaking at libraries and schools, and building relationships with librarians and teachers.

10. Target Your Short Writing. Windy Lynn Harris, author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays, has mastered the art of helping writers target specific markets to sell their short work. I asked her to find ten markets for children’s short fiction. She delivered (making your job easier in searching through the listings!), plus provided tips for writing a cover letter, formatting your manuscript, getting organized, and writing nonfiction articles for kids.









11. Kwame Alexander. The New York Times bestselling author took some time to sit down with CWIM to talk about the importance of always saying yes!

12. Kenneth Oppel. The award-winning author of The Silverwing Trilogy and Airborn, Oppel knows children’s fiction. He’s published more than 20 novels, and is only just getting started. Discover his advice for writers looking to break in, how to hook readers, and discovering your muse.

13. Dandi Daley Mackall. Dandi has written more than 500 children’s and adult’s books. Yet, somehow, she found time for an interview and enough wisdom to inspire anyone. She shares her writing process, how to handle bad first drafts, and dealing with rejection.







14. Mindy McGinnis. Her complex stories and compelling characters put you through the emotional ringer—you’ll fall in love, want to scream at them, root for them during trying times, cry during hardships, and triumph in their success. The author of Not a Drop to Drink, A Madness So Discreet, The Female of the Species, and Given to the Sea shares her story of how it took 10 years to get an agent, handling speaking engagements, and winning the Edgar Allan Poe Award.

15. Kirby Larson. A writer of historical fiction for children, Larson shares her experiences on collaborating with co-workers on fiction and reaching out within the children’s writing community.

16. Carolyn Crimi. Stuck in one genre or category? Read this interview with Crimi to discover how a bestselling picture book author learned to engage young readers with humor and transform her career into a successful novelist.

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
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17. Handle the Change. Publishing is a rapidly evolving world—one that’s intimidating for newcomers and those writers just breaking in. Listen to three accomplished authors—Lisa J. Amstutz, Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton, and Dandi Daley Mackall—discuss the ways that the picture book market has changed, where it’s going, and which authors to really follow.

18. Small Presses. Look, it’s everyone’s dream to land an agent and nab a six-figure deal with one of the Big Five. But don’t discount small presses. Three authors share their stories, and the advantages and disadvantages, of working with small publishers.

19. Hear Directly from Agents! Kelly Sonnack, John Rudolph, Sara Megibow, and Jennifer March Soloway explain exactly what they’re looking for in today’s literary landscape, including what catches their eye, how to write a great query, and the importance of platform.

20. Breaking Into Nonfiction. A roundup of children’s writers, who write primarily nonfiction, talk about breaking into their respective market. Remember: You don’t have to write fiction to break out! This article is for all those looking to focus on nonfiction, or those looking to expand and stretch their own writing skills.







21. Dan Santat, author of Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World): “I began my career using Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market as a resource for getting my foot into the children’s publishing industry. I highly recommend this book for anyone!”

22. Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why: “Whenever anyone asks for publishing advice, I tell them to grab the latest edition of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.”

23. Adam Shaughnessy, author of The Unbelievable FIB series: “CWIM was one of the first books I purchased when I decided to start the journey to get published. It’s a great resource both in terms of the information it provides and its welcoming, accessible tone.”







24. Deborah Marcero, illustrator of the Backyard Witch series: “I found my literary agent/art rep in the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.”

25. Wendy Toliver, author of Lifted: “If you’re serious about writing or illustrating for young people, the information, tools, and insights within the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market will get you started on the right path.”

26. Becca Fitzpatrick, author of Hush, Hush: “Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market is invaluable for writers of children’s books. Chock-full of publishing resources, it’s a must-have!”






27. Suzanne Kamata, author of Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible: “I look forward to Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market every year, and I use it all the time. This book is essential for both pre-published and pros.”

28. Jesse Klausmeier, author of Open This Little Book: “I buy a copy of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market every single year. It’s the definitive, must-have resource for children’s publishing.”

29. Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries: “Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market is a great resource for artists and writers who are ready to share their talent with the world.”

30. James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner: “CWIM is an invaluable resource for any aspiring writer hoping to get published. It helped me a lot and I recommend it to everyone.”

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 Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at cris.freese@fwmedia.com.

The post 30 Reasons to Read Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2018 (Plus a Giveaway!) appeared first on WritersDigest.com.

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a: Concept Check: The Book Doula

Today, 05:01 PM

Doubtful About Doulas?

The Matera Women’s Fiction Festival in Italy includes an international writers conference. The conference was on hiatus last year. A lot of us were glad when the event’s longtime (tireless) driver Elizabeth Jennings and her fine associates including Rebecca Riches and Maria Teresa Cascino were able to get it back onto the calendar this year, in late September.

The conference’s programming was even better filled out than in the past and included its traditional one-on-one sessions with speakers. I enjoy those because they give me a chance to meet attendees. Jennings and her administration provide simultaneous translation in English and Italian (and a translator at the table when I meet with an Italian speaker in a one-on-one).

And while it’s set in the context of the Women’s Fiction Festival, this is a good event for guys to attend, too. Nothing being offered at the conference won’t help male writers as well as women, don’t let that scare you off if you’re a man and thinking about going in the future.

In walking into the Fondazione Le Monacelle with Jennings just before I spoke, she mentioned to me that a topic of interest this year at the event was the concept of the “book doula.”

Part of the interest had been sparked by Olga Mecking’s writeup in London at The Guardian about doulas earlier last month.

And if you’re feeling hesitant about all this, doula Ariane Conrad’s site won’t do a lot to make you feel better. She’s all in. Although she’s doing this for nonfiction, it could just as easily be fiction, and she’s talking “bookbirthing” (one word).

Some of her descriptive copy will put off anyone but your Kumbaya-singing aunt. Such as:

“You will probably make me cry…in a good way. We will probably crack each other up. I will tell you when there is spinach in your teeth. We will probably become lifelong friends.”


“We might plan a week-long retreat to refine the concept, draft an outline, or power through some writing. We might schedule weekly Skype meetings to keep you buoyant and productive. If cajoling doesn’t work, I will be stern about deadlines.”

And here’s a ghostly line:

“You might ask me to write a draft that you can make your own. I might interview you and shape a strong, consistent narrative from the material. I will probably do background research, editing, proofing.”

As much as I do to encourage and promote professionalism in writing–because I want the industry to have to respond with its most professional service and support for its authors–I’m skeptical of this.

For one thing, I worry that there’s an unintended sexism in this metaphoric conflation of childbirth and writing, a suggestion that women might need special help from a literary midwife. Perhaps that’s too strong a reaction. But I can’t see a guy heading out for a retreat with his doula, can you? Am I knee-jerking? Okay, a lot of us are super-sensitized to the sexism ingrained in our culture right now.

But if we put aside the gender question (how about a “book mechanic” for the guys?–shoot me now) what sort of need is being answered here, even ostensibly?

Dialing for Doulas
Provocations graphic by Liam Walsh

My provocation for you today is to offer some potential contexts–rationales, reactions–in which this “book doula” concept has arrived, and I’d be interested to hear from you with reactions of your own. So here are some to start the discussion.

Let’s say you’re Dialing for Doulas. Maybe this is because:

  • You’re totally new to writing and are overwhelmed with what you don’t know. (At least you recognize you don’t know something, right?)
  • You’re trying to get ready for an agent and you’d like to really tighten up your approach from someone who thinks like an agent. (This assumes a doula knows what agents need and how they work. Once you’ve got an agent, would you still want a doula?)
  • You’re self-publishing and you’d rather have somebody guide you than spend the time it takes to cast around for guidance. One stop.
  • You’re wanting to keep your project quiet. Having to dive into chat rooms and forums and expose yourself and your work is too social, too public for you, and you like the privacy–like a good therapist–of this doula approach. (As you may know, I wish more writers felt they could keep their process quiet. I’m aligned with our Heather Webb’s concern that the mystique of the author’s art is blown up by all this social airing of one’s linen. Heather, correct me if I’ve misstated this.)
  • You’re not really writing but you like the hobbyist trappings of the idea. Forgive me, but there are folks who are in that category and here’s yet another way you can keep dabbling. (This time like a bad therapist: many of them do keep you coming and dabbling, you know, and my apologies to the more responsible therapists of the world who are good enough to kick patients out when it’s time.)
  • You’re serious, you’re functioning like a pro, you’re doing everything Porter tells you to, but you think you need a co-conspirator, of sorts, who knows the ropes because insecurity happens.
  • You’d like connections. (Well, is a doula connected? Can she introduce you to that agent? That editor? That cover designer? That venture capitalist?)

Or is this just another “author services” costume for someone to wear while collecting money from aspiring writers?

The UK has a tradition of a “literary consultancy” at which you get edits, design assists, mentoring, and so forth. The best known is called, cleverly enough, The Literary Consultancy (TLC) and you can see that it’s a very knees-up effort with everything from retreats in the Andalucian mountains to conferences, editing of all kinds, manuscript assessment, a lot about mentoring–and maybe that’s what a doula does. TLC will even get to a stage of recommending your work to an agent–their Quality Liaison Officer, mon dieu, handles this–if its personnel decide you’re publishable. So it may be that the UK market is more receptive to the idea of a book doula than the US or other markets might be, based on years of operation by literary consultancies there.

What do you think about this doula concept? IAre you more welcoming to the idea? Can you see other rationales for a writer going for this kind of service? Should I open up a matchmaker service that helps writers find the perfect book doula?

About Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson)

@Porter_Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives, the international publishing industry news magazine of Frankfurt Book Fair New York. He and Jane Friedman produce @The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors. Anderson previously was The Bookseller's Associate Editor for The FutureBook in London. He is also a featured writer with Thought Catalog in New York, doing the #MusicForWriters series, often in association with Q2 Music. More on his consultancy: PorterAndersonMedia.com | Google+

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Feedback Request

Today, 02:46 PM

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1363 would like feedback on the following revision.

Dear Agent[comma]

I had a great childhood, believing I was a girl. I dreamed of being a mom like my own mother in the glamorized media style of housewife in the 50’s. Yet, there were shadows of a different reality. Like the tree of knowledge of good and evil, I’d have to partake of its fruits to understand its secrets. 

Nearing puberty, I was enrolled in a school that separated boys and girls. I encountered a social ordinance that I was a boy, and soon, the harsh realization I was never going to be pregnant. [These opening paragraphs aren't doing it for me. I'd go with something simple:

Growing up, I dreamed of being a 50's-TV-style mom, just like Donna Reed and June Cleaver. Just like my own mother. So imagine my shock and dismay when, nearing puberty, I was placed in the boys' section at my school.]  

A brutal rape in college,[no comma] left me isolated; in denial about fantasies of men that would never be.After a second love interest ended with a violent suicide, I chose to be a man. I discovered the love of another woman and her young child. I became provider in the image of my father, andmother to our three children in the traditional homemaker image of my mom. Fearful of losingthem, [Apparently the words "be./After" "and/mother" and "losing/them" come at the end of a line in your file, so you don't realize you didn't put a space between them. Whether the missing spaces are encountered by the reader depends on the size of the screen she's reading on.] I struggled against growing tension in the marriage, until my two oldest were adults and my youngest was fifteen. I lost my son under allegations a transgender woman was unfit to be a mother.

Despite the overwhelming consensus that no judge would ever give me custody of my son, I was unwilling to abandon him. Forced to become my own attorney, I fought a four-year custody battle.

Isolation and the economic and emotional stress combined with threats from the court drove meinto a near-suicidal depression but the love of my son prevailed. I regained custody while becoming the woman I had once imagined as a young girl.

Whipping Girl took transgender women from the genre of Lesbian non-fiction into the realm of feminism. [My book,] The Transgender Myth, broadens that scope, challenging our perceptions of gender, invoking the complementary notion of gender put forth by The Feminine Mystique [Italicize.] and asserting that men and women do in fact come from the same planet.

The book has a central position in gender studies for its historical context and contemporary view of gender, examining the social, political, economic and legal impact on my life as a transgender woman. It evolves within the context of feminism, gay rights, and today’s transgender movement, while challenging society’s sexual definition of gender. It is not a story about transition. It is a journey from blissful innocence, through fear and isolation, past denial and defeat into acceptance and triumph, examining the best and the worst of living in both genders.

This true autobiography, The Transgender Myth, is complete at 93,000 words. I trust this story will appeal to your interest in LGBTQ narratives. Thanks for your time and consideration.


I think your best bet is to focus the query on your quest to win custody of your son. Presumably that's the main focus of the book, but you call it an autobiography, and devote half your story description to the years before you had any children, suggesting otherwise. Even if you focus on the custody battle, you can (and should) still work the events of your early life into the book, but they may not be needed in the query. The query would begin something like:

In 19__, after __ years of marriage, I lost my 15-year-old son under allegations a transgender woman was unfit to be a mother. Despite the overwhelming consensus that no judge would ever grant me custody, I was unwilling to abandon him. Acting as my own attorney, I fought a four-year custody battle.

The specifics of your 4-year struggle may be the heart of your book, and if so, are more relevant in the query than your childhood. 

Try to limit or eliminate language that suggests this is an academic treatise. It's a memoir. A story. 

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The Great Debate: To Prologue or Not to Prologue?

Yesterday, 12:38 PM

As many of you know, book publishing industry professionals and readers alike have openly expressed their dislike of prologues.

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Let’s lay a quick foundation:

Prologues aren’t inherently evil or indicative of poor writing. Prologues can—and have been—executed with skill. But are they necessary?

That, in my opinion, is the biggest question—not “should I should write a prologue” but “does a prologue improve my story?”

Meg LaTorre-Snyder is a writer, developmental book editor, vlogger/YouTuber, and a literary agent apprentice with a background in magazine and book publishing, medical/technical writing, journalism, and website creation. Most recently, Meg took on the role of literary agent apprentice at the Corvisiero Literary Agency, representing authors who have written fiction manuscripts. On her YouTube channel, iWriterly, Meg geeks out on all things books—from the concept to the bookshelves (and everything in between). In addition, she works as developmental book editor for Advantage Media Group|Forbes Books, assisting professionals in developing nonfiction titles. To learn more about Meg, visit her website, follow her on Twitter/Facebook, and subscribe to her YouTube channel, iWriterly.



What is a Prologue?

Prologues come before chapter one and could be expository/introductory prose, a poem, diary letter, news clipping, or anything in between.

As a reader, when I start reading a prologue, I’m usually impatient to get to chapter one. But by the end of a good prologue, I’m wondering about the subsequent story and excited to see how the event fits into the rest of the plot.

That’s a well-written prologue, mind you. The bad ones I skim over.

If you’ve attended a writing workshop, you may have noticed literary agents voicing their dislike of prologues. Some even go as far as to say that when they see prologue pages in the query box, they are immediately wary of the story and submission.

Why such an immediately negative reaction?

This is largely due to the poorly-executed prologues littering query boxes and submission piles. You’d be surprised how many writers commit the deadly sins of prologues.

Prologue Don’ts

1. Using a prologue as a place for a massive dump… information dump.

Information dumps are one of the easiest ways to make readers’ eyes glaze over. Paragraphs of text that provide dense (albeit important) background information are tough to digest. Without strategically trickling this information throughout a scene or throughout the chapters/book, readers can be immediately turned off to a story.

Not to mention, the opening pages are a make-or-break moment. You have mere seconds to hook a reader (or industry professional—who are also readers!).

Many, many writers use prologues as a means to provide tons of background information to a story (rather than to slowly introduce these elements by weaving them into scenes throughout the book). Take a closer look at your opening pages to see if you have several stretches of paragraphs or sections of text that do this. If you do, it’s time to revise!

2. A boring prologue (that readers want to skip to get to chapter one).

Obviously writers don’t start writing a prologue saying, “What is the driest scene I can write? The more boring, the better!” If your scene lacks action or purpose that propels your story, you may be falling into this danger zone.

Look at your manuscript with the critical eye of a reader and ask: “Would I skip this prologue and go right to chapter one?” If so, consider what you can do to spice things up a bit (while keeping the prologue relevant to your story).

3. A prologue that has nothing to do with the main story.

Prologues need to somehow propel or impact your main plot. Period. If your prologue is filled with action, offers bite-sized pieces of background information, and weaves a compelling scene but is not relevant to your main plot, you probably need to re-think your strategy.

It doesn’t matter if your writing is solid if the scenes aren’t strategically moving toward that pretty plot arc—depicting an emotional journey for your character and exhibiting the stakes for your protagonist and the world at large.

4. Prologues that are too long.

The modern reader (often) prefers shorter chapters—prologues included. If your prologue is longer than most of your chapters (or if both your prologue and chapters are longer), it might be time to reevaluate the structure and pacing of your chapters.

5. Using the prologue to hook the reader as the sole purpose.

For this example, I’m thinking specifically of the prologues that throw the reader into the action—and I mean the middle of the action. Maybe it’s the center of a bloody battlefield or twisted in the sheets of a love affair. Whatever it is, the reader is unceremoniously plunked into the action in a world they’re unfamiliar with and whose characters they don’t yet know (and love).

While action scenes are a gripping way to begin a story, consider whether or not this action is important to the central plot and if this beginning isn’t too overwhelming/confusing for the reader to acclimate to.

6. Using the prologue strictly to provide atmosphere or to do some early-on world building.

World building is one of the things I love most about fantasy and science fiction. These delicious details are… well… delicious! The setting is described with enough detail to have the readers visualizing the character’s surroundings but not too much to bog down the pace of the scene.

Proceed with caution if the prologue is used strictly to set the tone and introduce world-building elements. Often, these details can be weaved into your chapters without the need of a prologue.

However, like anything in this industry—the type of prologue or the inclusion/exclusion of them altogether are subjective. Not to mention, skilled writers have a way of proving the rules wrong.

So, when should prologues be utilized? In other words: when are they an asset to your story?

According to Brian A. Klems, “A prologue is used when material that you want to include in the opening is out of time sequence with the rest of the story.”

Prologues should supply information that is—or will be—important to understanding the plot. Often, the prologue doesn’t include the protagonist and takes place outside of the central plot (though not always).

paula munier, beginnings, how to write beginnings, story ideasIn The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, author and literary agent Paula Munier shows you how to craft flawless beginnings that impress agents, engage editors, and captivate readers. You’ll learn how to develop the big idea of your story and introduce it on page one, structure opening scenes that encompass their own story arc, kickstart your writing with effective brainstorming techniques, and introduce a compelling cast of characters that drive the plot. You’ll also examine best-selling novels from different genres to learn the secrets that experienced writers use to dive straight into a story.

With thorough examinations of voice, point of view, setting, dialogue, and conflict, this book is a must-have tool for luring your readers in with your opening pages—and convincing them to stick around for the ride.

Types of Prologues

Here are a few examples of different types of prologues:

  1. Background/History: This type of prologue provides background to the history of the world and events that previously transpired—such as a major battle or betrayal. These events typically took place before the beginning of your story and somehow significantly impact the events going forward.
  2. Different Point of View (POV): As many of you know, debut authors are encouraged to minimize the number of rotating POVs in their manuscript (capping out at a maximum of six-ish). This type of prologue could be advantageous when diving into another character’s perspective—particularly when that character’s insight is only needed once and provides a foundation for the story.
  3. Protagonist (Past or Future): These prologues are great for showing a pivotal moment for the protagonist—either in the past or in the future (such as a defining moment years ago or after the main plot has taken place).

Strengths of a Prologue

 Fear not, writers. Prologues aren’t all bad. In fact, they come in handy in a number of scenarios:

  1. To provide a “quick-and-dirty” glimpse of important background information without the need of flashbacks, dialogue, or memories that interrupt the action later on in the book.
  2. Hook the reader into the action right away while having the readers asking questions relevant to the central plot—and therefore eager to learn those answers in the opening chapters.
  3. Offer information the reader couldn’t otherwise glean from the plot (such as a break from the point-of-view narration or from a different character’s perspective).
  4. Introduce the antagonist—providing background motives that either humanizes the character or exhibits his/her evil intentions. This angle can be handy if the protagonist doesn’t meet the antagonist until later on in the book.
  5. Introduce a philosophy or religious belief important to the plot/setting.
  6. Foreshadow future events, thereby creating suspense for the reader and get them asking questions (and eagerly reading on).

Do I Need a Prologue?

Trying to decide whether or not you should keep (or even write) a prologue? Consider the following questions:

  1. What information am I providing in the prologue? Why is it important to reveal it up front? Can it be revealed throughout the story in smaller trickles and still be as impactful (or more)?
  2. Does this character’s POV come up again later in the story? If so, would this work as a first chapter instead?

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 Writer’s Digest Books Managing Editor Cris Freese at cris.freese@fwmedia.com.

The post The Great Debate: To Prologue or Not to Prologue? appeared first on WritersDigest.com.

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a: Flog a Pro: would you pay to turn the first page of this bestseller?

Yesterday, 11:00 AM


Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page online or at the bookstore.

Here’s the question:

Would you pay good money to read the rest of the chapter? With 50 chapters in a book that costs $15, each chapter would be “worth” 30 cents.

So, before you read the excerpt, take 30 cents from your pocket or purse. When you’re done, decide what to do with those three dimes or the quarter and a nickel. It’s not much, but think of paying 30 cents for the rest of the chapter every time you sample a book’s first page. In a sense, time is money for a literary agent working her way through a raft of submissions, and she is spending that resource whenever she turns a page.

Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre or content—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good enough reason when the point is to analyze for storytelling strength.

This novel was number three on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for October 22, 2017. How strong is the opening page—would this narrative, all on its own, have hooked an agent if it came in from an unpublished writer? Following are what would be the first 17 manuscript lines of the first chapter.

Ree asked Jeanette if she ever watched the square of light from the window. Jeanette said she didn’t. Ree was in the top bunk, Jeanette in the bottom. They were both waiting for the cells to unlock for breakfast. It was another morning.

It seemed that Jeanette’s cellmate had made a study of the square. Ree explained that the square started on the wall opposite the window, slid down, down, down, then slopped over the surface of their desk, and finally made it out onto the floor. As Jeanette could now see, it was right there in the middle of the floor, bright as anything.

“Ree,” Jeanette said. “I just can’t be bothered with a square of light.”

“I say you can’t not be bothered by a square of light!” Ree made the honking noise that was how she expressed amusement.

Jeanette said, “Okay. Whatever the fuck that means,” and her cellmate just honked some more.

Ree was okay, but she was like a toddler, how silence made her anxious. Ree was in for credit fraud, forgery, and drug possession with intent to sell. She hadn’t been much good at any of them, which had brought her here.

Jeanette was in for manslaughter; on a winter night in 2005 she had stabbed her husband, Damian, in the groin with a clutchhead screwdriver and because he was high he’d just sat in an (snip)

Was this opening page compelling to you? If it was, you can turn the page here. My votes and notes after the fold.

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This is Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King. Was this opening page compelling?

My vote: no.

This story received a less-than-strong review average of 3.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon. Okay, I’m a big fan of Stephen King, so I was pleased to find this on the bestseller list. The writing has that folksy, intimate feel that King Sr. creates that makes the reading easy. The scene is set pretty well. There are good old quirky King characters. But . . . but what about tension?

I just reread the chapter on micro-tension in Donald Maass’s The Fire in Fiction. But I’ll be darned if I see even that on this page. There was a brief flare when Jeanette and Ree seem to disagree about the square of light, but that is quickly resolved and left behind. Bottom line, this page raises no story questions for me, nor does it create a tension in me to read more. I skimmed ahead, but found more of the same. Your thoughts?

Flogging the Indie side: you’re invited to walk a little on the Indie side most every Monday, when I flog an author who has offered their novel free on BookBub. Just visit Flogging the Quill. You get to vote on turning the page and whether or not the author should have hired an editor. I occasionally find a gem that’s free, so it might be worth your time. Hope to see you there.

About Ray Rhamey

Ray Rhamey is the author of four novels and one writing craft book, Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling. He's also an editor of book-length fiction and designs book covers and interiors for Indie authors and small presses. His website, crrreative.com, offers an a la carte menu of creative services for writers and publishers. Learn more about Ray's books at rayrhamey.com.

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