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A Literary Magazine Editor Explains How to Pitch Fiction

slate.com – Saturday October 8, 2022

On this edition of Working Overtime, hosts Isaac Butler and June Thomas reply to a listener who wants some advice on pitching fiction to literary magazines. For help, Isaac and June turn to J. Robert Lennon, a novelist and short story writer who is also the editor of EPOCH, the literary magazine associated with Cornell University. In the interview, Lennon describes the pitching process for EPOCH and explains what he and his colleagues are looking for when they review submissions. He also offers advice to anyone who might be considering pitching their fiction.

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Writing Insights: Is it better to send an agent a full manuscript or a query letter?

authorlink.com – Sunday October 2, 2022

Word of caution. Never send a full manuscript to a literary agent unless that person has asked you to specifically do so. First send a query letter, but there are a number of steps you’ll want to take before you query anybody.

Start with some serious research. Make a list of ten or twenty agents who seem to be a fit for your material. Then study up on each one. Does the target agent(s) handle subjects or categories similar to yours? Visit their website. What titles have they represented? Is your manuscript too similar to a book the agent just recently represented. If so, they probably won’t be interested in your work. Can you find out anything about what the agent likes or doesn’t like, professionally? Has that person done any articles you can read or given any speeches that might give you some clues.

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So you want my arts job: Literary agent

artshub.co.uk – Monday September 26, 2022

Alex Adsett is a literary agent and publishing consultant with over 25 years’ experience working in the publishing and bookselling industry. She has managed Alex Adsett Literary since 2008, and as an agent or consultant has helped thousands of authors review and negotiate their publishing deals.

As an agent she represents more than 50 authors of all ages and genres, including Melissa Lucashenko, Peter Greste, Isobelle Carmody, and many more. As a consultant, she reviews and negotiates publishing contracts for authors without an agent.

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Gemma Arrowsmith: My top tips on writing for the radio

comedy.co.uk – Friday September 23, 2022

I've been writing and script editing radio for quite a while now and it's a medium I really enjoy working in. Here are some thoughts and observations I've had about writing audio. I hope they might be useful to you as you write your next audio masterpiece.

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AI Writing Assistants: A Cure for Writer's Block or Modern-Day Clippy?

uk.pcmag.com – Tuesday September 20, 2022

In recent years, I've watched AI weave its way into our daily lives. It's written and directed movies, acted as a therapist, and visualized alternate realities. But I was curious to learn if AI is now smart enough to be an "intelligent writing assistant."

It's not too far off. As Microsoft points out in its Future of Work report, "AI is good at learning and scaling patterns, meaning for these activities people can instead focus on doing things in new ways and generating novel ideas. For example, someone might write a document by merely listing the ideas it should include. The details can be fleshed out automatically, much like developers use Copilot to flesh out ideas through code.”

But how realistic is that for the average would-be writer? We tried Jasper, Rytr, and HyperWrite to see if artificial intelligence can give our writing an edge.

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What Is Chekhov’s Gun? A Guide to Planting & Paying Off Details in Your Writing

backstage.com – Monday September 19, 2022

Writing a play or screenplay is a complex process that comes with a lot of rules of thumb—some more intuitive than others. One of the most important is Chekhov’s gun. Keep reading to learn about Anton Chekhov, his famed concept, and examples of the technique in film and television.

Anton Chekhov was a famed Russian playwright whose works include “The Seagull” (1895), “Uncle Vanya” (1898), “Three Sisters” (1900), and “The Cherry Orchard” (1903). After his death in 1904, Chekhov’s works went on to inspire countless movies and TV shows, and the concept of his “gun” has influenced screenwriting since the early days of cinema. 

Chekhov corresponded with many other playwrights, offering advice for their careers. One of his primary principles was that playwrights should avoid making false promises to the audience; if you set an early expectation, you must make sure it’s resolved. “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one, it should be fired,” Chekhov wrote. “Otherwise, don’t put it there.”

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Guide on submitting a manuscript

artshub.com.au – Monday September 19, 2022

Dear Emerging Creative,

This is one for the novice authors – because no one tells you how to do some of this stuff.

Submitting a manuscript to a publisher or magazine editor – whether it be short fiction, a non-fiction essay, or a novel – is a bit like writing a job application.

Celebrated New Zealand novelist Catherine Chidgey had this sage and pithy wisdom to offer: ’Make sure your work is typo-free – consider asking someone to proof it for you – and keep your cover letter brief.

‘How is your book similar to other successful books? How does it achieve something new?

‘Under no circumstances include emojis.’

The final sentence goes for most things in life.

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Lucy Foley: ‘I never know the murderer when I start writing my books’

inews.co.uk – Sunday September 18, 2022

Lucy Foley’s hit crime novels are always set in glamorous places – a New Year’s Eve getaway at a highland lodge, a wedding at a remote Irish island, a beautiful Parisian apartment – but she usually writes them from somewhere completely different. “I wrote The Hunting Party in Iran, where it was really hot. I was finishing The Guest List [the Irish island] in an Airbnb in Paris when I came up with the idea for The Paris Apartment.” She likes to travel when she’s writing, and when we speak she has recently returned from six weeks in Northern Spain, where she rented an apartment with her toddler and got to work on a new book. Which is set, naturally, in the West Country.   

Doesn’t it put her off, visiting wonderful new locations and then trying to immerse herself in entirely different ones while she’s writing? “It’s probably a bit w**ky to invoke Hemingway, but he said that to write properly about a place you have to have left it. And I do think there’s an element of that for me. It means you have to imagine somewhere more vividly.”   

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Thomas C. Foster on the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing

lithub.com – Friday September 16, 2022

If you hang around the writing racket long enough, you will see every sort of writing success and failure imaginable—and some you can’t imagine. I spent forty years teaching courses in writing and in literature where writing was a major component. Both during and after that time, I have been writing more or less steadily, sometimes frantically, once in a while ecstatically.

Through all that time, I have seen—and accomplished—all manner of failure. For some reason, students would sometimes come to my office to apologize for their poor (in their estimation) efforts, as if they had let me down personally. Often it turned out that the writing was anything but a failure, but it didn’t strike the student as a winner. Lacking any means of absolving themselves, they were asking me to do so for them. After offering what help I could, I obliged. In one terrible case, a brilliant mature student, although far too young for this fate, closed my door (something I never did on my own) and told me that trying to read and write for my course had revealed a change in her brain, an early-onset, not-yet-specified dementia. We wept together. Usually, such talks were much more mundane, with students seeking help after tying themselves up in knots. Help was one thing I had plenty of, both on my own and in sending them to our excellent writing center where their peers had knowledge and skills under less threatening rubrics than “professor.”

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How Dealing in Facts Helps Fiction Writers Hone Their Craft

lithub.com – Wednesday September 14, 2022

When I left my career in journalism in 2018 to study creative writing, I was worried that my training as a news reporter might make it hard for me to write fiction. After all, if there was one thing my time in newsrooms taught me, it was that I wasn’t allowed to make things up. The facts were the facts. Dates and stats needed to be tripled-checked, statements and names confirmed, timelines cross-referenced, and if I ever got anything wrong, a correction had to be issued as I sulked in embarrassment.

And so, getting started in fiction felt like pulling teeth. I continuously doubted myself, unsure if the characters and events I concocted were believable. For months I wrote while looking over my shoulder, as though the Fact Police were going to tackle me to the ground for daring to do make things up. But as I kept writing, spinning up my novel, All That’s Left Unsaida literary mystery about a young woman who tracks down the witnesses to her brother’s grisly murder, determined to find out what happened and why they each claim to have seen nothing—much of my journalism training, which I’d thought would hold me back from writing fiction, actually helped me draft, revise, and sell my novel.

Below are some of the skills I picked up as a journalist that, rather than being a hindrance, have been an enormous help in writing fiction.

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