Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 18, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 09-18-2014

Welcome to another week of craft, business, and fun writing-related links!

Speculative fiction author Graham Joyce died in the UK this week.

Also in the UK, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014 shortlist came out—but John Dugdale asks: Has the Man Booker Prize really opened up?

Friend of the blog Jonathan Maberry reveals his key to social media success to Porter Anderson.

Lizzie Skurnick explains why she started an imprint to reprint classic YA novels.

Judith Rosen takes a look at how indie bookstores are faring amid a summer of Amazon/Hachette battles. Across the pond, French bookstores find the fun in failing to stock a bestseller.

Does the fluctuating use of words in English drive you crazy? Ammon Shea makes a plea for linguistic tolerance. And you can comfort yourself with Robert Beard’s 100 most beautiful words in the English language.

CRAFT

Sometimes getting started is the hard part. Many writers do research prior to writing, some do it as they go along. Donna Bowman Bratton compares research to scavenger hunts, while Janalyn Voigt gives us a simple way to research a novel.
Some writers need to outline before they can start. Kiki Sullivan explains why outlining helps and how you can do it, and K.M. Weiland shares a 5-step game plan for outlining your novel.

If you write picture books, Mary Kole suggests that rhythm is more important than rhyme. Whatever you write, pay attention to what Theodor Adorno calls the art of punctuation.

Revision is the bane of many writers, but it is necessary. Jami Gold discusses finding problems vs. fixing problems, Marcy Kennedy shares a simple grammar trick that will clean up your fiction, and Katherine Pickett describes what to expect from a developmental editor.

Characters can give us headaches, but they are the heart of our story. P.J. Parrish advises listening to your characters, K.M. Weiland shows how to use reward and punishment to get your characters to change, C.S. Lakin discusses how setting and locale shape us and our characters, Julie Musil has 4 tips for writing about unfamiliar character issues, and Mary Kole reminds us never to save the villain’s motivation for a “big reveal” at the end.

We all want to be more productive, right? Michelle Krys has 3 tips to increase productivity when working from home, Nalini Singh shares 5 tips for writing faster, George Luke talks about NaNoWriMo skills that might help, and Andrea Merrell reminds us that being ergonomically correct can increase productivity by relieving strain and pain.

We are often advised to “write what you know.” Drew Chial explores the pros and cons of mining life experience for fiction, while Jenny Martin explains how reality inspires science fiction.

Sometimes writers wrestle with doubts: am I a “real” writer? Is what I write “worthy”? Kristen Lamb says that it’s time to stop worrying about defining a “real” writer, while Daphne Shadows dissects the attitude that genre fiction is the scum of the literary world. As Patrick S. Tomlinson reminds us, no one coasts to the top.

Creativity comes in all forms. Zadie Smith describes the micro-manager writer vs. the macro-planner, Marianne Evans finds inspiration in baking bread, and Ingrid Wickelgren proves that brilliance often springs from boredom.

Feeling disheartened because you are over 30 and not published yet? Never fear! Brandi Megan Granett has 6 pieces of writing advice from first-time writers over 40, and Rincey Abraham discusses 8 authors who had their biggest success after 50.

BUSINESS

If you are pursuing traditional publishing, Cindy Jones thinks she might know why the agents aren’t biting.

Marketing includes many, many avenues of publicity. NovelMarketing.com has a podcast with 5 keys to working with bookstores, before and after you’re published, Den Patrick explores whether or not you should display your book when on a book panel, and Neil Gaiman does a clever twist on video and book club promo.

Nina Amir has 4 ways writers can make money from a blog, and Jane Friedman explains what self-hosting is and when and why you should do it.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

What if your favorite author’s next book was slated for release…in 100 years? That’s what’s in store for many authors who have signed on with a Norwegian library that is creating a special collection of books by current authors to be printed in 100 years—when the trees to print them with have matured.

For Harry Potter fans, see the magic behind the new Harry Potter covers.

If you are looking for inspiration for your title page, Joel Friedlander has 500 years of book title pages to stimulate your imagination.

A new Sherlock Holmes adventure by Arthur Conan Doyle will be published. This story was one of the tiny books housed in the Windsor Castle Doll’s House.

Bram Stoker’s handwritten manuscript for the stage version of Dracula will go on display at the British Museum.

Monday, 9/15/2014 was James Fenimore Cooper’s 225 birthday! He was born in Burlington, New Jersey.

And now for some silliness: Taylor Mali’s performance of The The Impotence of Proofreading, and the parody fantasy writing Twitter account Awful Fantasy.

That’s all for this week!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 16, 2014

Tackling Shoes

Mid-September… summer days fade into memory as cooler days drift in and football season swings into high gear. My energy level bumps up a notch and my thoughts switch from summer fun to fall clean-up chores. Topping the chore list is tackling my pile of my long-unused shoes; however, I have a blog post to write first. So, with the Monday night football game on the television in the background, I’m sitting at my keyboard trying to think of a topic.

Yet the image of that pile of shoes haunts me. I’ve waited years to get to the task, and the time has finally come.

As any writer knows, many projects and incidents in daily life can provide inspiration for writing or serve as an analogy to some facet of the writing process. You’ve probably figured out that, with sorting shoes and writing a blog post on my agenda, I looked for similarities between the shoe sorting and the writing process. Can you think of any? I came up with four, but first – the story behind the pile of shoes.

In the winter about four and a half years ago, I began experiencing soreness in the joint at the base of my big toe, the joint where people get bunions. Wearing shoes exacerbated the soreness, which gradually worsened. The joint became red and swollen on the top and side. Once the weather warmed enough, I switched to wearing thong sandals, the only footwear that caused little discomfort. I finally consulted my doctor in the fall. She x-rayed the joint and had me tested for gout; the problem was arthritis. She sent me to a podiatrist, who made me shoe inserts (which insurance did not cover). After I got the inserts, I discovered that they could only be used with athletic shoes or loafers (??). They didn’t help much, so I stopped wearing them. I bought a number of pairs of wide, less-than-stylish shoes but only found a couple I could stand to wear for extended periods without too much pain.

The next spring I switched to thong sandals again, and the pain, redness, and swelling decreased. I made it through the warm weather with little trouble but had to return to the wide, ugly shoes in late fall. Although the redness and swelling did not return, the joint had grown larger on the top and side and the pain lingered.

The next year I mentioned the problem to my doctor again. A new x-ray showed that, even though the redness and swelling had decreased, the arthritis had become much worse, with excess bone growth on the side and top of the joint. The growth on the top caused the most difficulty because it impeded joint movement and (since wider shoes provide more space on the sides but rarely on top) caused the most pain. She suggested I see an orthopedist. Since I had non-refundable vacation plans in the late summer, I put that visit off until fall.

The orthopedist said I had almost no movement left in the joint, gave me a prescription for special athletic shoes to alleviate the pain (more effective and cheaper than the shoe inserts), and recommended joint fusion. I asked about a replacement joint, like those for knees or hips. He said he could do that but, since artificial toe joints lasted only a couple years before requiring replacement, he didn’t recommend it.

The orthopedist warned me I’d be off my feet a couple months, so I put off the surgery until after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I had no idea that full recovery from foot surgery takes much longer, up to two years. While I was off crutches in a couple months, I had to wear a removable boot a lot longer. It’s taken a year and a half for the disturbed tendons, muscles, and ligaments to resettle enough that I rarely feel discomfort.

Now that I’m confident I’ll be able to judge whether or not I can comfortably wear any of the shoes I haven’t worn in so long, it’s time to tackle that pile, which is a more difficult job than it might seem. Some shoes – like those with heels higher than an inch or two – will immediately go in the give-away box. Other shoes will be added to the box as soon as I try them on. The shoes that fit and feel comfortable will have to be worn a while before I make a final decision since some shoes that feel okay at first may cause soreness after several hours on my feet.

Those which cause no discomfort will be keepers unless I just don’t like them anymore. Next, I’ll sort through the shoes which became painful upon longer wearing. Many will go in the give-away box, but I’ll keep a few I can’t bear to part with (for special occasions that only last a few hours). Perhaps I’ll ask someone else’s opinion about some of the maybes, and I may have to have some of the keepers repaired. When I’ve finally weeded out the unwearable shoes, I’ll need to organize and look over the remainder and decide whether my shoe wardrobe is complete. Do I need to add any type (like boots) or a particular color (like brown) to the group?

Yes, I have some work and decisions ahead of me.

[Just to set the record straight – my shoe pile is not as huge as it may sound. I do not collect shoes, and I don't have hundreds. I have more than usual at the moment because I kept buying shoes that I hoped would fit and not cause discomfort upon longer wear. That's something you never find out in the store.]

 

So, how does this task of tackling the pile of shoes relate to any part of the writing process? Here are four correlations between the task and the process of revision.

  1. Just as I had to wait for my foot to heal completely before tackling the pile of shoes, waiting before beginning revision offers advantages. Setting aside a manuscript for a month or two while working on something else gives a writer distance from the story that provides greater objectivity. Fresh eyes that can pick out errors or omissions previously unnoticed.
  2. Both tasks take time and effort — usually more than anticipated — and cause some hand-wringing and angst over what needs to be discarded.
  3. When I sort through my shoes, I’ll find some – like the high heels – which obviously must go. Similarly, during manuscript revision, the writer will find some words, paragraphs, or scenes that obviously must go.
  4. Most of my shoes, however, will have to be tried on before I make decisions. Sometimes the decision is easy. Certain pairs of shoes, like certain parts of a manuscript, just don’t fit any longer and need to be discarded. Other shoes need to be tested and examined carefully; then decisions must be made. What goes? What stays? What needs to be fixed? The same must be done during manuscript revision. After close examination (which may include reading the manuscript aloud, and/or having it edited or read by beta readers), the writer must decide what parts of the manuscript must go, what must stay, what must be changed – and why. Finally, the writer must consider what, if anything, needs to be added to complete, round out, or clarify the narrative.

 

All of this takes time. It’s not easy, but the end result is satisfying and well worth the effort.

Do you have fall chores planned? Can you see a correlation to the writing process in any of them?

text divider - blue & black

To my writer friends: now you know, when you see me in less-than-fashionable shoes, why comfort is more important to me than stylishness. My philosophy is: who cares about shoes?– it’s what’s inside that counts.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 11, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 09-11-2014

Welcome to our links round up. Today, those of us in the USA take a moment to remember the bravery and the loss of 9/11.

Photo: The day the Eagle cried...

Now on to our links.

Enjoy the cover reveal of HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH by friend of the blog Tiffany Schmidt—and today she is having a contest, too, so click on over before it finishes!

If you want to be published, writing is a business as well as a craft. There’s a lot to learn about the business side of things. Anne R. Allen talks about the biggest mistake new writers make and how to avoid it, while Jen Talty discusses how to run the business side of authorship productively.

If you are one of the I-have-to-do-it-all-myself business owners, Melissa Mannozzi has hacks to help your productivity.

Have you recently had your heart broken and want to escape the world? Isabel Gillies has a reading list for the brokenhearted to help you out.

CRAFT

Are you a pantser? Richard Thomas tells us how to write a novel without plotting it out. Mooderino warns against waiting for the story to get going. And however you get there, Stina Lindenblatt reminds us to make the payoff scene count, while K.M. Weiland highlights the common writing mistake of telling instead of showing important scenes.

Bryan Wiggins explains the 3 secret functions of your book’s chapter titles, Marcie Colleen has 3 acting tips for writing with emotion, and Fiona Quinn gives us details of life in the Navy SEALs.

How do you make your characters unforgettable? Denise Drespling has 7 tips for making well-rounded characters, Pam Mingle shares 7 ways to create empathy for your protagonist, and Kristen Lamb shows us how the character wound deepens conflict.

Revision and editing is a craft step that cannot be ignored. Amina Gautier explains why revision rewards mistakes, Katherine Pickett talks about the importance of author-editor compatibility, Heather Webb tells us how to make it through the gazillionth pass of your manuscript, and Mooderino explores what to do when a scene isn’t working.

In genre craft, we’re talking mystery, steampunk, and historical fiction. James J. Murray discusses using allergies as murder weapons, Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris examine the world of steampunk, and Lisa Jardin explains how historical fiction can be more truthful than historical fact.

If you are unsure whether you want to write novels or short stories, Dale Bailey explores the pros and cons of writing short stories vs. novels. If you do write novels, you know there is usually a time when you fall out of love with your work. Martina Boone has 5 quick ways to fall in love with your WIP again. Nicole Lowe reminds us that writing a book is like a triathlon.

Sometimes, instead of writing alone, your best work might come in a collaboration. Maryann Miller shares her experience with a successful collaboration. Or maybe your best work comes at a certain time of year, like Lyra Selene. If your creativity seems AWOL no matter what time of year it is, Leo Babauta explains how creativity works and how to do it.

BUSINESS

If you are pursuing traditional publishing, you know that email queries can cause a lot of formatting headaches. Patrick McDonald shows us how to avoid weirdness in email query formatting.

Sometimes, we get rejected with the phrase “This isn’t right for me.” What that really means and other agent advice, compiled from agents by Chuck Sambuchino. Meanwhile, Sara Megibow comments on the best query letter she has ever received.

Have a self-published book you’re looking to take traditional? Chuck Sambuchino tells you how to pitch your self-published book to an agent.

Want to have a book trailer but have a small budget? Angela Quarles shows us how to create a DIY book trailer. Is a book trailer even right for your marketing push? Colleen Devine Ellis lists 6 questions to ask before publicizing your book.

The rules of social media are simple—you learned them in kindergarten, according to Carmen deSousa.

Do you ever wonder if your tweets are having any impact at all? Kas Thomas takes a look at the life of a tweet and the newly-available Twitter analytics.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Do you ever think that once you’re famous you’ve got it made? Listen to Tennessee Williams’ thoughts on what he calls the catastrophe of success.

Many of us take swimming for pleasure for granted, but in the late 1500s people were new to the idea. Check out illustrations from Everard Digby’s 1587 book THE ART OF SWIMMING

As we all know from the Internet, sometimes the reader comments are much better than the article itself. Eric Kwakkel has the same experience when reading sometimes personal notes from angry Medieval readers and greedy scribes found in the margins of Medieval manuscripts

That’s it for us this week.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 9, 2014

Why Children’s Books Can’t Be All Rainbows and Light

There is an on-going and often heated debate about whether or not dark topics are appropriate in children’s literature. There is of course a need for happy, simple, light stories, but dark topics and themes have their place. I have always contended that dark lit is not only appropriate, but necessary.

Why?

Because darkness finds our children.

The real world is full of darkness, and no matter how hard we try to protect them, at some point in their lives our children will face it. Books give children a safe place to confront, think about, and ultimately vanquish evil, before fighting it in real life.

One day in July, darkness walked through Cassidy Stay’s front door. A crazed ex-family-member shot her, her four younger siblings, and her parents, then left the house to hunt her grandparents. Cassidy survived by playing dead after being shot. When the man left, she called the police and saved her grandparents’ lives.

The rest of her family died.

Just like that, everything she knew was gone.

Darkness had found her.

At the memorial service for her family, Cassidy quoted Albus Dumbledore from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

This is why we need darkness in children’s literature.

Because darkness finds our children.

And, sometimes, it is a book that can help them find their way back to the light.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 4, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 09-04-2014

Welcome to the first links round up in September. Around here, a lot of parents are doing the happy dance as the kids go back to school.

Simin Behbahani, the poet known as the Lioness of Iran, died at age 87.

All over the internet, we speak mostly about craft, but less often about author behavior. Porter Anderson and Jane Steen talk about 8 issues in author ethics. Join the conversation and see if an author ethics guide is needed and if one could realistically be fashioned.

There have been a lot of questions about author collaboration floating on the internet lately. Ruth Harris interviews some successful author collaborators so you can see if it’s the right path for you, and Helen Sedwick gives legal advice and more with 21 tips for creating a successful writing collaboration.

It’s the 50th Anniversary of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! This September you can tour the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre from the comfort of your own home—and Roald Dahl has released a “lost” chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Bookseller Elizabeth Bluemle discusses how to successfully sell diverse books in a bookstore—and what bookstore owners can do to promote diversity within the publishing industry.

CRAFT

Jeff Goins reminds us that our writing topic is not the most important element of our writing. And if you choose to write about crime, here are some crime writer tips from Niall Leonard.

Do you italicize words in another language in your stories? Daniel José Older makes a case for NOT italicizing words in another language.
Backstory can be a wonderful thing—when used correctly. Leila Austin tells us how to avoid the dread “council of Elrond” scene, while Scott Meyers answers the question: can we write a protagonist with no backstory?

We use language to convey emotion to the readers. The language is the tool, the emotion it stirs is the hook. Jack Smith shows us how to sharpen your novel’s language, Jane Meyers Perrine describes how we can write with emotion to draw the readers in, and Kathleen McCleary tells us how to weave personal sorrow (or any emotion) into your story.

As writers, we have so many choices for our characters. Among the choices is whose perspective so we use? We don’t have to choose just one. Adi Alsaid has 5 quick tips for writing in multiple perspectives.

Creating our characters also poses hurdles. Roz Morris tells us how to create characters that are not mere reflections of us, Jade Varden asks: how well do you know your main character?, Barry Knister wants to know why you chose your character’s name, and K.M.Weiland boggles the mind by asking: should all minor characters have character arcs?

Our job as author isn’t easy, as Martina Boone makes clear in her author’s job description. Jami Gold wonders how we stay motivated in the face of all the rejection we see, Chase Jarvis says writing daily journals can make any creative person—not just writers—more creative, and Chuck Wendig reminds us that even masters of the craft had to slog hard to make it look so easy.

Tori Telfer walks us through the 21 stages of writing a novel, while Mia Botha gives 4 tips on making time to write and Chuck Wendig explains why you should write what you love.

BUSINESS

Being an author is being a business person. And it helps to have a plan. Jami Gold has created a business plan for writers worksheet to help us examine our writing goals and create a plan to achieve them.

Thinking about self-publishing? Tiana Warner has 6 reasons to self-publish.

Looking for a literary agent instead? Agent Soumeya Bendimerad of the Susan Golomb Literary Agency is seeking writers of literary fiction, upmarket/book club fiction, select young-adult and middle grade, and nonfiction.

No matter how we publish, we need a blurb for our book. Karen Woodward tells us how to write a kickass blurb.

We market in a digital world. Frances Caballo has 4 ways authors can rock on Twitter, Carole Jelen shares the 12 new digital rules authors need to know, and Jane Friedman explain how to make social media worth your time.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Ever wonder what it feels like to win a major literary award? Mary Robinette Kowal shares her Hugo Award acceptance speech and what it’s like to receive one.

We all know the stereotype of the writer in the coffee shop. E.C. Meyers gives us a lesson in coffee shop etiquette.

And in case you missed it up top, Roald Dahl shares a lost chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

That’s it for us this week!

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | September 1, 2014

Making Friends With Fear

A fair number of the 12,000 folk who attend the Philadelphia Folk Festival are creative in a quirky way. If you want a safe place to dress up like a fairy princess or superman, to experience the freedom of a skirt if you’re a man, or wear that funky hat or cool outfit that you can’t wear anyplace else, the Philly Folk Fest, in Schwenksville, PA. is where you’ll want to be on the third weekend of August. 

Although I was there to hear music, writing is never far from my mind, so I parked my blanket on the side of the hill and went character shopping. Now where could I use a seventy some year old woman who is gutsy enough to wear a backless dress?

 That was entertaining but my writing take-away came from the fabulous songwriter and performer Janis Ian in her workshop, “How to make friends with fear onstage and off”.

I loved her advice for the performer, and that would include the writer who is reading aloud or who giving her elevator pitch.  Instead of the simple but true advice to breathe, she said, “when you’re afraid, you stop breathing, and when you’re not breathing you’re not getting enough oxygen to your brain, and that makes you stupid”. Yes, as a professional performer, I can identify with that observation.

Other valuable advice from Janis that I’ll add to my collection of tricks is to have one thing planned to think of for that moment when fear causes your mind to go entirely blank. She suggested remembering to stand with your best posture.

Her wisdom for the creator is that once you become a writer (or songwriter, singer, whatever it is that you do), you can’t un-become a writer. You can be a writer who isn’t writing, but you’re still a writer.

I found it curiously comforting and strangely motivating to think that I’m a writer even when I’m not writing.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 28, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 08-28-2014

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | August 26, 2014

Why do you write?

I recently came across a site where a publisher asked a number of authors why they write, and I found the responses to be very informative. As wide-ranging as they were, I saw their reasons as falling into three categories.

Some of the reasons were professional, based on financial or project related reasons:

  • For the money.
  • It’s what I do for a living.
  • Because I can.
  • It’s a job.

Other reasons were more artistic based, reminding me of answers a painter, sculptor or musician might make:

  • I like to create, and writing is how I can accomplish that.
  • Invention of new worlds, etc.
  • Make the world a better place.
  • Letting my imagination go wild.
  • Seeing the world in a different light.
  • Writing is challenging and always changing the more I do it.

The last category of reasons I recognized was from the reader’s perspective:

  • I write because I read.
  • Reading wasn’t enough.
  • I love reading so much so I want to give back.
  • I write because I want to find out what happens next.

The last answer has always been my personal favorite, and the one that really made me think about how much preparation to put into a writing project. For me, my reasons to write are in the last category. I wonder if the reasons that authors give change as they get more experienced.

What do you think, and what are your reasons to write?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 21, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 08-21-2014

Welcome to our links roundup!

How many of us read Madeline as children? This year marks Madeline’s 75th birthday, and a new exhibit brings revelations about the books and author Ludwig Bemelmans.

All authors need to read. It’s one of the Golden Rules of authorhood. K.M. Weiland gives us the 10 commandments of reading like a writer.

Teens are not only reading voraciously, they’re writing, too. Julie Drew hopes YA lit can help close the gender gap in education, Kelly Jensen lists who YA fans should follow on Tumblr, and Chelsey Philpot examines the exploding world of teen fan fiction.

After the teen years, Lucy Horner recommends all twenty-somethings should read Tolstoy

Write For Kids explores how books and technology are changing kids’ lives worldwide, and are launching their own “The World Is Now Ours: A Children’s Writing Mission for the21st Century.”

CRAFT

Two pieces of general advice writers often hear are: you need a unique voice and show, don’t tell. Clare Langley-Hawthorne tells us how to find our voice, and Bronwyn Hemus shows why telling is as important as showing.

We talk mostly about novels here, but Neal Abbott gives us 3 reasons you should consider writing a novella right now. No matter what we write, our opening line is key. Jacob M. Appel lists 7 ways to create a killer opening line for your work.

So many bits of craft go into writing a good story. Mary Kole explains the bridging conflict, Jane Lebak focuses on fixing bland narration, and Diana Hurwitz tells us how to jazz up back story.

Getting the details right is important. Jay Korza provides surveillance information for writers, MJ Wright has 3 rules for naming your fantasy world (which works just as well for reality-based fictional worlds), and Perfect Prose Services lists 15 common spelling mistakes and how to avoid them.

Characters are what makes a novel live in the hearts and minds of your readers. Jami Gold asks: can characters be both strong and vulnerable? Anne R. Allen lists 5 protagonists readers hate. K.M. Weiland explains how to writer memorable (but not too memorable) walk-on characters, and Rebecca Lacko explores how to portray teen fears realistically.

Zachariah OHora advises facing fears to create great characters, Susie Rodarme shows us the 5 stages of grief that occur when bad things happen to good characters, and whatever you do, please don’t “fridge” your female characters.

One big fear for many writers: being original. C.S. Lakin explains why tweaking your writing and genre for success is not selling out. Margarita Tartakovsky has 5 creative cures for writer’s block and Bryon Quertermous lists 5 things you can learn from a freelance editor.

Writers are often portrayed as struggling with inner demons (and many do). Kathy Weyer says that writing is her Prozac, Chris Abouzeid gives an amusing 6 habits of highly tormented writers list, and Werner Herzog explains the connection between creativity and self-reliance.

In other writerly advice, Terry Pratchett shares—among other things—what books he would bring to a desert island, Miranda Mellis explores how a lifetime of odd jobs contributed to her creativity, and A.S. King shows us how to separate the writing from the business.

BUSINESS

So, Amazon is still in the news, this time trying to rally indie authors against Hachette. In doing so, they sent an email to indies in which they misquoted George Orwell—to which Bill Hamilton, literary executor for Orwell’s estate, responds (scroll to the last letter in the list). Here’s a roundup of Amazon’s friends and critics over Amazon’s latest moves. Meanwhile, Amazon is finally extending pre-order buttons to its KDP authors.

If you are self-publishing, Janine Savage explains why it takes a village to publish a book, hybrid author Holly Robinson busts some myths, and lawyer Helen Sedwick answers questions about copyright, pen names, and 1099s.

If you are seeking agents, Chuck Sambuchino tells you the best way to query, Jen Malone explains how to format a manuscript, Richard Ellis Preston describes how he got his agent, Susan Gourley/Kelly defines high concept, and Janet Reid explains the difference between writing credentials and platform.

Speaking of platform, Brooke Warner describes the makeup of a successful author platform, while Rachel Thompson explains how to build an audience before you have a product.

A large part of marketing is your book cover. Judy Probus lists the 5 keys to book cover success, and Janet Kobobel Grant judges many books by their covers.

Jason Kong recommends partnering with other authors to market your book, and Joe Bunting tells us the 5 elements of a perfect blog post.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Where’s your favorite writing spot? Check out these 10 stunning writing studios.

Metropolitan Museum of Art head librarian Ken Soehner shares his favorite depictions of books.

The power of social media. Twitter users joined forces to decipher a 1928 overdue book slip

If you think Track Changes is hard to manage, see how Jane Austen used pins to edit one of her manuscripts

A look into the lingo of beggars and thieves: A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew in its Several Tribes, of Gypsies, Beggars, Thieves, Cheats, etc., 1899 edition

Medieval manuscripts can impress with their giant size or with details like this disappearing fore-edge painting

That’s all for us this week!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 14, 2014

Top Picks Thursday, 08-14-2014

How can it be the middle of August already? Here in the U. S. Mid-Atlantic region we’ve had a much-appreciated, milder-than-usual summer, so we wouldn’t complain if it lasted a few extra months. We hope you’re enjoying your own summer relaxation and/or adventures as you check out this week’s collection of blog posts that caught our attention.

First, however, we have to express our sorrow at the deaths of two entertainment greats: Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall. Both were one-of-a-kind and will be sorely missed. RIP, Robin and Lauren.

CRAFT

Many of us have times when life events keep us from writing. Casey Herringshaw suggests reasons you should go to writers conferences even if you are not currently writing.

Ready to start writing? Emily Wenstrom lists 3 things you need to know before drafting a new story, and Joe Bunting presents a quote from Picasso that will make you want to start writing right now — but finish reading this post first!

To help you get started, Tracy Strauss offers suggestions how to harness creativity to empower your writing, and Jordan Dane lists 8 tips to keep your butt in the chair.

Having difficulty creating well-rounded characters? Jennifer Brinkmeyer presents 5 improv lessons for characterization. Matt Bird adds a tip to create a compelling character — the character must feel compelled to let people know about his or her unique perspective. K. M. Weiland discusses how to find your character’s breaking point, and C. S. Lakin stresses the importance of well-constructed secondary characters, the characters in novels who are allies and reflections of the protagonist.

Whether you’re a writer or just an average person typing an email, we’ve all had the experience of having typos which we don’t notice when we proofread. Nick Stockton explains why it’s so hard to catch your own typos. Recognizing that many unpublished writers cannot afford the services of a good editor, The Write Life Team offers 25 editing tips for tightening your copy, and Janine Savage clarifies the correct usage of the words good and well.

Are you a fast writer or a slow writer? If you fall into the latter group, Jami Gold offers some tips to help slow writers that she learned from Courtney Milan at the RWA14 writers conference. Janalyn Voight adds her suggestions on how to make time to write a novel.

For those writing genre fiction, C. S. Lakin discusses nailing your genre by studying successful authors. If your genre is mystery, Nancy J. Cohen details the elements of a mystery plot, and in the Huffington Post, Writer’s Relief presents ideas on writing memoir dialogue that speaks volumes.

James Chartrand discusses how fear of failure keeps writers from producing their best work.

Writers need to be readers too. K. M. Weiland lists the 10 commandments of reading like a writer.

Anne R. Allen relates that writers should ignore most of the advice from critique groups but can still benefit from the group, and she gives a comprehensive overview of what to ignore and what can prove helpful. Jami Gold introduces a helpful beta reader worksheet., while Harrison Demchick offers hope and suggestions for braving your second draft after writing a bad first draft.

BUSINESS

Now that your novel is finished, PJ Parrish offers reasons writing back copy is important, tips for doing it well, and examples of both well-written and uninspired back copy.

A writing conference is a good place for writers to meet and pitch to agents, but how do conferences benefit agents? Karen Dionne asks some literary agents why agents take the time to attend writers conferences.

Here’s Joe Konrath’s wish list for Authors Guild and other legacy publishing pundits.

Tara Sparling presents her survey results on what makes people buy self-published books, while Rowena Wiseman offers authors 14 tips for using Wattpad to attract readers.

Jeremy Greenfield reports that Amazon launches same-day delivery in six major cities, challenging the convenience of shopping at bookstores.

On the social media front, Molly Greene lists 15 must-have website essentials, and Joe Bunting give his 5 elements of a “perfect” blog post.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Citing many famous writers’ assertions that all creative work builds on what has gone before, Maria Popova presents Drew Christie’s short animated video “Allergy to Originality.”

Check out Rab Florence’s tips for writing strong female characters.

Marian Allen advises writers to take joy in writing — good advice for any occupation!

That’s this week’s round-up. See you next week!

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