Writers' Newsletter

Issue #251
February 2024

The Harried Mystery Hero(ine) Or, How to Write a Mystery (Easy)

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach – Monday January 29, 2024

Nothing is so essential to the successful creation of the mystery—from the grittiest work of fiction to the most comedic—as presenting the protagonist’s unrelenting pursuit of the McGuffin* against all possible odds and impossible barriers.

The secret to generating the story’s drama—and, again, even a funny mystery needs plenty of drama—is to never allow your main character a moment’s rest. Even when the hero is relaxing by the pool drinking an expensive wine accompanied by caviar on toast points, he must at the very least, be worrying himself to a veritable frazzle. If he sleeps, he sleeps badly—maybe a sleep interrupted by the ringing of the phone and appalling news (another murder? the suspect has escaped?). If he meets a woman he could love, she’s either a plant working to undermine his investigation, in grave danger herself, or sometimes even the killer (yup).

Though I seem to be making light of your protagonist’s troubles, this is the way the story has to proceed, no matter the subgenre or the tone. Your job is to attach us to the character and then do your best to drive him or her over the edge, literally or figuratively, or both. That, then, is drama.

[Read the full article]

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Some of this month's news for writers from around the web.

Eli Keren to join the Curious Minds Agency as non-fiction agent

Eli Keren to join the Curious Minds Agency as non-fiction agent – Thursday February 15, 2024

Eli Keren is joining the Curious Minds Agency as a non-fiction agent, working mostly with experts, academics and researchers on "ideas-led" books in the fields of smart science and current affairs.

Keren was previously an associate agent at United Agents, where he represented clients for both fiction and non-fiction. “I learned a vast amount from my colleagues at United Agents over these last eight years, and I’m looking forward to focusing on my core interests going forwards," he said. "As a former research scientist, Curious Minds feels like a natural home for me, and I’m excited to join a team I hugely admire."

He will remain in his role as treasurer of the Association of Authors’ Agents.

[Read the full article]

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Bloomsbury boss hails ‘publishing phenomenon’ Sarah J Maas as shares hit record high

Bloomsbury boss hails ‘publishing phenomenon’ Sarah J Maas as shares hit record high – Wednesday February 14, 2024

The boss of Bloomsbury Publishing hailed author Sarah J. Maas as a “publishing phenomenon” as it revealed its revenue and profits are set to be “significantly ahead” of expectations.

Fantasy writer Maas’s popularity on Tik Tok is set to push Bloomsbury’s profits beyond £40 million, and has helped send shares in the Harry Potter publisher to an all-time high. More than half a million videos featuring the hashtag #SarahJMaas have been posted on Tik Tok, attracting a combined 3.3 billion views.

Bloomsbury said it would invest more in fantasy following the success of her books, with the most recent release - House of Flame and Shadow in January - being an especially big hit. 

Boss Nigel Newton, said: "I am overjoyed to report an exceptionally strong period of trading, principally driven by the increasing demand for fantasy fiction.

[Read the full article]

Curtis Brown Creative launches new short story writing course on Zoom, taught by Naomi Wood

Curtis Brown Creative launches new short story writing course on Zoom, taught by Naomi Wood – Monday February 12, 2024

Curtis Brown Creative (CBC) is expanding its Zoom courses, with Writing Short Stories – Advanced, taught by 2023 BBC Short Story Award winner Naomi Wood.  

It will take 15 students and last for nine weeks. Students will also attend two exclusive Zoom masterclasses: one with Deborah Treisman, fiction editor for the New Yorker, and one with Kevin Barry, short story writer and Booker Prize-longlisted author, and his literary agent, C&W’s Lucy Luck. At the end of the course, the CBC team will help students submit their stories formally to the agents at Curtis Brown and C&W.   

The new course is the latest in CBC’s range of online courses with interactive Zoom teaching sessions. CBC said it has increased its online offering four-fold in the past three years and now runs over 40 online courses for writers of all levels of experience, supported by its bespoke learning platform, which was updated and relaunched in 2023.  

[Read the full article]

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A selection of the new listings added to this month.

New Literary Agent Listing: Grace Milusich

New Literary Agent Listing: Grace Milusich – Thursday February 15, 2024

Interested in pursuing both YA and adult pieces (with a particular interest in pieces that narrow the gap between YA and adult). She is passionate about twisty fantasy, thrillers, and contemporary fiction featuring powerful/challenging themes. She would also like to see stories exploring religious trauma, unputdownable pacing, gothic or mysterious narratives, and complex characters. She is also a lover of the found family trope in all its forms. She is hoping to work on romantasy projects that feature BIPOC protagonists, and she is a sucker for morally grey or unlikeable characters too!

[See the full listing]

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New Literary Agency Listing: CAA (London)

New Literary Agency Listing: CAA (London) – Friday February 9, 2024

Represents award-winning and bestselling storytellers across a wide range of disciplines. Our authors include media personalities, musicians, actors, political figures, trendsetters, and more. We take an active role in every step of the book process, from developing the concept to amplifying author platforms and launching industry-leading book tours.

[See the full listing]

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New Literary Agent Listing: Amanda Bernardi

New Literary Agent Listing: Amanda Bernardi – Tuesday February 6, 2024

Actively building her client list and works exclusively with non-fiction. She is interested in platform- or expertise-driven cookbooks, home & design, art, investigative journalism, social justice, pop science, wellness, social science, sports, health, pop history, parenting, nature, environmentalism, pop culture and anything that advances our community dialogue towards a better tomorrow. She is looking for projects that are thoughtful, actionable, and engaging for a general audience.

[See the full listing]

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Click here for more of this month's new listings >


Some of this month's articles for writers from around the web.

Hold That Train! Writing a Sliding-Doors Thriller

Hold That Train! Writing a Sliding-Doors Thriller – Thursday February 15, 2024

I first saw Sliding Doors on VHS in 1999, the year after it released in theaters. I was eighteen and seeking my way back from my first real heartbreak. Mere days after an amicable split with my boyfriend, a slow drifting apart that was more bittersweet than painfully acute, he had called me up to say he was seeing someone new—my best friend. Then the pain rushed in. I slid the tape into my VCR expecting the kind of romantic comedy that would feel bad and good at the same time, like pressing on a bruise. (As it turned out, Sliding Doors was not a typical rom-com, something I’ll return to in a moment.) But it did resonate in unexpected ways.

In the opening sequence of the dual-timeline film, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Helen gets fired from her job, and in one reality, catches the train and comes home to find her boyfriend in bed with another woman. Helen’s experience didn’t precisely mirror my own, but heartbreak has a way of shimmying from a TV screen or leeching from the pages of a novel, finding its way into your soft spots. (In the other reality, Helen misses the train and her boyfriend’s mistress has left by the time she makes it home, a sequence of events that only seems to launch her down a brighter path.) 

[Read the full article]

Why a Writing Ritual Is the Ultimate Creativity Boost—How to Design One for Yourself

Why a Writing Ritual Is the Ultimate Creativity Boost—How to Design One for Yourself – Monday February 5, 2024

I've long believed: a happy, healthy life is built on rituals. From your morning routine to your evening wind-down, our days flow with greater ease when we have supportive habits in place. Decision fatigue is an inevitable truth of our lives (the internet presents us with no shortage of rabbit holes). But rituals allow us to weave more intention into our choices. By committing to what helps us feel our best, we benefit from a level of self-trust that becomes a fixture of our days. And as a writer, that truth shows itself most in my daily writing rituals.

I’m both blessed and cursed with a creative career. Writing, of course, is a skill you develop through education, experience, and exposure to beautiful words and effective style. But it also requires inspiration—a central point from which we can build a story, argument, or even a single thought. And honestly? Some days, I don’t have it. Writing rituals, however, help me conquer the blank page with confidence.

[Read the full article]

You're Asking Too Much From Your Story And Not Enough From Yourself

You're Asking Too Much From Your Story And Not Enough From Yourself – Tuesday January 30, 2024

The only way to get vulnerability and truth into your story is to share parts of yourself.

Last year, I was staring at a blinking cursor on my screen and at a crossroads. I had written a screenplay with a great plot, but the feedback I kept getting was that it didn't have a soul.

I distinctly remember a friend asking me, "What makes this a Jason Hellerman script?"

At the time, I answered, "Because my name is on it."

It was a clever retort, but I was wrong.

Sure, it was on the title page, but the issue I was having was that I was not putting enough of myself into the writing. I thought the plot and the characters would compensate for it. But because I was not imbuing the page with a piece of me, it still felt hollow.

That can only get you so far.

And it wasn't going to get my movie made.

[Read the full article]

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