Practical advice on writing and publishing for aspiring authors.

Dear Author Enablers,
I’m in a band and have been a songwriter for years. Although my songs have never become hits, everyone who hears them says that I’m a natural storyteller and should try my hand at writing a book. I’ve started a novel but am not sure how to apply my songwriting skills to a longer piece. Does being a good songwriter help a fiction writer, or are they two different skills entirely?
Georgetown, Texas

We recently returned from the SXSW music festival, where storytelling through song rules the day. Artists like Jimmy LaFave, Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka have perfected the art of telling a story in three verses, a bridge and a chorus. Songwriters Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell have both written terrific books this year, providing inspiration to others who want to make that leap. That said, we think that while your songwriting skills will help you on many levels (description, narrative and mood), writing a novel is very different. A song is a snapshot of a thought, feeling or moment in time; a successful novel creates a whole world.
Why not join a writing group or take a writing class to work on longer-form fiction? You’ll be able to explore concepts like story arc and character development in a safe and nurturing environment.

Dear Author Enablers,
I am attending my first conference for writers. I’ll be meeting with two agents to discuss my co-authored, nonfiction work (both agents are reviewing a proposal and 40 pages in advance of the date). How should I prepare myself for these encounters?
Karen M. Rider
Cromwell, Connecticut

Working on your 25-word “elevator pitch” can’t hurt. You’ll meet other agents and authors at the conference, and the ability to inspire interest with a short, snappy description of your book idea is always a plus. You might also prepare an arsenal of ammunition in case you are asked questions related to sales and marketing. Who is going to buy this book and why? Why are you the best candidate to write the book? How is your book similar to others that have sold well? How is it unique and different? A little rehearsal (take turns with your co-author, role-playing agent and author) will make you feel more confident and help you refine your pitch. Best of luck!

Your trusty Author Enablers are introducing a new feature in which we ask established authors to share their writing secrets. Our first “Craft of Writing Spotlight” comes from Kim Edwards, author of the new novel The Lake of Dreams and the bestseller The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.

“I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but when I look back, two things stand out as crucial in my development. First, that I went to graduate school at Iowa and spent two years immersed in the art and craft of writing, surrounded by teachers and peers who were passionate about the written word. And second, that I moved from this environment to teach on the rural east coast of Malaysia, where the only literary life that existed was the one I created for myself. This was before email, and since it was almost impossible to submit stories, I didn’t worry about publishing. I just wrote, for the joy of it, with an enormous sense of freedom: stories, letters, essays, journals.

“Over the next six years and two more countries, my perspective changed and grew as well. I was an outsider, with a certain detachment, and I kept that detachment when I returned to the United States. I think of this time in Asia as an essential period of apprenticeship, one I didn’t plan, but am very grateful to have had.”

Email your questions about writing to Please include your name and hometown.

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