All posts by Cassandra Lipp

Join The Club

Write a scene or story that involves a character being in some sort of club. It could be a dance club, a group of friends that plays Dungeons & Dragons, the local Moose lodge, high school clique, etc.

Photo: Rumman Amin on Unsplash

Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, in which a man who feels powerless finds power through starting a ring of underground clubs, provides interesting fodder for a story. What if he had started a book club, crochet circle, competitive Scrabble league, or just bought a Sam's Club membership? The story might be a little different.

Creative writing prompt: Write a scene or story that involves a character being in some sort of club. It could be a dance club, a group of friends that plays Dungeons & Dragons, the local Moose lodge, high school clique, etc. 

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

Writer’s Digest Top Agent Websites 2020

Here are the top websites by and about agents as identified in the 22nd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2020 issue of Writer's Digest.

Here are the best writing advice websites as identified in the 22nd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2020 issue of Writer's Digest.

* Denotes the website's first appearance on our list.

1. Bookends Literary Agency blog

BookendsLiterary.com

Get insider information on what it’s like to work with an agent, what they look for, and why they reject manuscripts from the blog of this New Jersey-based literary agency. If an agent you want to pitch to contributes to a blog, you need to be reading what they write.

2. Literary Carrie

LiteraryCarrie.Wixsite.com/Blog

Carrie Pestritto of the Laura Dail Literary Agency blogs about being a literary agent, her clients, the books she loves, living in The Big Apple, and more. Each month, one lucky author who enters Carrie’s Query Critique Contest will win a free public critique of their query letter on the blog.

3. Lit Rejections

LitRejections.com

If you’re querying, you’ve got to have thick skin—Lit Rejections shares stories of rejection on the blog to help you cope. The site also publishes interviews with agents and an extensive database of literary agencies and their submission guidelines.

4. Manuscript Wish List

ManuscriptWishList.com

Following Manuscript Wish List religiously is a must to increase your chances of landing an agent. Search the site for agents and editors who represent your genre—most profiles include a bio and submission guidelines as well as spell out exactly what types of books they are looking for. For how-to tips and interviews with agents and authors, listen to “The Manuscript Academy” podcast.

5. Pub Rants

NelsonAgency.com/Pub-Rants

If you want insider information about querying, landing representation, and publishing news from literary agents (sometimes in rant form, but always polite), then visit this blog by literary agents from Nelson Literary Agency.

6. Query Shark

QueryShark.Blogspot.com

Before you send a query letter, it’s a good idea to read this blog to see if you’re making any of the mistakes literary agent Janet Reid has advised against through her public critiques of 300+ query letters (and counting). After her line-by-line critique, authors may submit their revised queries to the shark. Send in your own query for a chance to have it critiqued on the blog—but remember, this shark is brutally honest.

7. Query Tracker

querytracker.net

Query Tracker has been on this list for 11 years now, and with good reason: more than 3,000 authors have found agents here. Search the database of agents to find whom to query. Create a free account to track the agents you’ve researched, whom you want to query or don’t want to query, the date you sent your letters, and the result of your queries.  

For more of our best website selections for 2020, check out the following.

Get feedback on your first ten pages with this Writer's Digest Boot Camp from Talcott Notch Literary Agency.

Write Like Studio Ghibli

Write a scene or story based on one of these premises inspired by Studio Ghibli.

Photo: Matt Popovich on Unsplash

This week's writing prompt will take inspiration from Studio Ghibli films, because they are some of the best films ever made and have been keeping my spirits up during quarantine.

Creative writing prompt: Write a scene or story based on one of these premises inspired by Studio Ghibli.

A child discovers something in the forest. (My Neighbor Totoro)

Pollution by humans turns a forest poisonous. (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind)

A young witch sets off on her own. (Kiki's Delivery Service)

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

Writer’s Digest Best Writing Advice Websites 2020

Here are the top writing advice websites as identified in the 22nd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2020 issue of Writer's Digest.

Here are the best writing advice websites as identified in the 22nd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2020 issue of Writer's Digest.

* Denotes the website's first appearance on our list.

1. The Debutante Ball*

TheDebutanteBall.com

Every year since 2007, five debut authors get together to blog weekly about their experiences as first-time authors. Get to know the Debs as they tell you everything you never knew you needed to know about writing, publishing, and promoting your first book. Tune in on weekends for guest blog posts and news about past Debs.

2. Career Authors

CareerAuthors.com

Career Authors articles offer expert advice on craft, marketing, publishing, and the writing life—straight from the minds of authors who have made a living from being a full-time writer, including Brian Andrews, Dana Isaacson, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jessica Strawser, and Paula Munier. Also tune in to Career Authors for weekly writing prompts.

3. Catapult* 

Catapult.co

If you don’t get distracted by the wonderfully moving personal essays and fiction on Catapult, turn to the On Writing section for first-person pieces from seasoned book authors. But they’re not here just to talk to you about craft—they dig deep into what it means to be a writer in the world, making you think more deeply about the uplifting but often-brutal gig that writing is.

4. DIY MFA

DIYMFA.com

When Gabriela Pereira earned her MFA, she realized the pillars of the degree are writing with focus, reading with purpose, and building a community. While she can’t offer writers an official degree, she offers a customizable, do-it-yourself alternative with thrice-weekly blog posts on the craft and business of writing, worksheets, and a podcast.

5. Helping Writers Become Authors

HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com

Author K.M. Weiland’s website is an annual staple on this list. Her blogs on craft are a can’t-miss. Start with her core specialties: how to outline a novel, how to structure your story, writing character arcs, how to structure scenes, the most common writing mistakes, and storytelling according to Marvel.

6. Hiveword*

Hiveword.com

Hiveword has you covered, from learning to write your novel to completing it. The flagship feature is the novel organizer, which helps track characters, scenes, plotlines, and more. Upgrade a free account for more novel organizer features. For more help, search the Writer’s Knowledge Base for over 40,000 articles on writing curated and indexed by cozy mystery author Elizabeth Spann Craig.

7. Jami Gold*

JamiGold.com

If you work better when guided by a checklist or spreadsheet, then novelist Jami Gold’s Worksheets for Writers are the tool for you. Developed from the wisdom she learned from masters of the craft like Larry Brooks, Michael Hauge, and Martha Alderson, there are dozens of worksheets to choose from in the areas of story planning, story improvement, and career improvement. Gold has also written more than 900 blog articles on writing.

8. Publication Coach*

PublicationCoach.com

Daphne Gray-Grant went from running a weekly newspaper, to a daily newspaper, to corporate communications. The result was a crash course in writing and producing content quicker. To write better and faster, stay organized, find more writing time, be more productive, and say goodbye to writer’s block, turn to her blog and vlog. For regular updates, sign up for the weekly Power Writing newsletter.

9. Save the Cat!*

SaveTheCat.com

Whether you’re a novelist, screenwriter, or both, Save the Cat provides essential writing advice. Learn to write more cinematically by following Save the Cat’s formula: Write your logline, determine the genre, map out your plot with Blake Snyder’s 15 universal story beats, then outline it all in a story board.

10. Storyfix

StoryFix.com

Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves (WD Books) author Larry Brooks is a master of story structure, and Storyfix is a testament to this. Here, Brooks posts articles to guide authors in understanding every facet of storytelling, giving them the knowledge they need to elevate their plots and premise. If you’d rather listen than read, watch his 30-minute video workshop on the home page.

11. Tomi Adeyemi

TomiAdeyemi.com

Before the YA author debuted at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list with Children of Blood and Bone, she was a writing coach. Needless to say, you’re missing out if you don’t sign up to access her free library of content for writers, which includes worksheets, templates, blog posts, and training videos.

12. Writing About Writing (And Occasionally Some Writing)*

ChrisBrecheen.com

There’s a lot of differing writing advice out there—write every day, or don’t write every day, etc. This is one of many burning questions that author Chris Brecheen answers on his blog about craft and the writing life. If I were to promote this blog like a new book, I’d say “For fans of WD contributors Jeff Somers and Barbara Poelle.”

13. Writing Class Radio

WritingClassRadio.com

Writing Class Radio writes about their podcast, “If you love stories and get inspired by hearing other people tell their stories and want to learn a little bit about how to write your own stories, then this podcast is for you.” Other writing education from WCR includes daily writing prompts, a blog, and other resources. Patreons can unlock even more resources from WCR.

14. Writers Helping Writers

WritersHelpingWriters.net

The backbone of WD is helping writers, so this blog written by authors to help other authors is the perfect site to be featured on this list year after year. Check it out to hear the latest discoveries other authors have made and want you to know about—whether it’s a new writing tool or plotting technique, nothing is better advertisement than word-of-mouth (or, word-of-blog).

15. Writers in the Storm

WritersInTheStormblog.com

The writers of this blog write across a variety of genres and each reveal unique perspectives about the ins and outs of writing. Whatever your genre, read this blog for regular posts on sustaining your career as an author and staying strong through the tough parts like rejection.

16. Writer Unboxed

WriterUnboxed.com

Over 50 contributors—which includes bestselling authors and other industry professionals—write about “empowering, positive, and provocative ideas” on writing business and craft here. The site’s robust comment section furthers conversations, along with a Facebook group with over 5,000 active members. 

For more of our best website selections for 2020, check out the following.

Improve the first ten pages of your manuscript with this boot camp and page review with Talcott Notch Literary Agency.

Strange Phenomenon

Describe a normal, everyday object or activity from the perspective of a character who perceives it as a strange phenomenon they are struggling to understand.

Photo: Jonas Verstuyft on Unsplash

Describe a normal, everyday object or activity from the perspective of a character who perceives it as a strange phenomenon they are struggling to understand. For example, your character might be an alien or a person from a different historical era trying to explain a smartphone.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

Writer’s Digest Best Live Streams and YouTube Channels 2020

Here are the top live streams and YouTube channels as identified in the 22nd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2020 issue of Writer's Digest.

Here are the top live streams and YouTube channels as identified in the 22nd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2020 issue of Writer's Digest.

* Denotes the website's first appearance on our list.

1. Bookishpixie

YouTube channel: bookishpixie

In the five years that the Beyond the Red trilogy author Gabe Cole has been blogging as bookishpixie, he has answered all the questions you can think of about writing and publishing your book. The freelance book editor and YA author is pretty knowledgeable about everything related to the craft of writing, plus more on the publishing side and getting unstuck when you’re in a rut. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, Gabe answers questions from fans in Ask Me Anything About Writing videos.

2. iWriterly

YouTube channel: iWriterly

Meg LaTorre pulls from her prior experience as an author and working for a literary agency to produce weekly videos for genre fiction novelists. She covers both traditional and self-publishing with videos on craft, querying, the publishing process, promotion, marketing, and first page critiques by agents.

3. Lessons From the Screenplay

YouTube channel: Lessons From the Screenplay

With new videos every couple of weeks, Lessons From the Screenplay analyzes movie scripts to examine why these films are so effective at telling their stories. Become a better storyteller with an appreciation of today’s best films as well as the classics.

4. Scott Writes Stuff

Twitch.tv/ScottWritesStuff

Sci-fi novelist Scott Wilson used to lead writing workshops in Boston, but thanks to the live-streaming platform Twitch, he can now help writers all around the world. Join the stream every Sunday and Thursday evening—plus a bonus stream on Friday or Saturday—which includes a writing exercise, prompt, and the opportunity to share one page of your work for feedback.  

Check back next week for the next collection of Best Websites--Writing Advice--from the May/June 2020 issue!

View the best creativity websites from our 2020 round-up here.

Enter your personal essay in the Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards competition.