Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 11, 2011

Top Picks Thursday 8-11-2011

We’ve been touting the Liars-Club-sponsored Writers’ Bash to benefit L.A. Banks’ family for several weeks now, and here is Marie Lamba’s wrap up (with pictures!) of a poignant and successful event. Author Chronicler Matt Q. McGovern was there, and our Nancy Keim Comley and J. Thomas Ross also shared their memories of the lovely and generous Leslie Banks.


Female protagonists come in many forms, yet many (often contradictory) characters get criticized as being “Mary-Sues.” This week, Zoe Marriott created a firestorm in her post “You Can Stuff Your Mary-Sue Where the Sun Don’t Shine.” Sarah Rees Brennan followed her lead, questioning why female protagonists can’t like themselves and still be liked by society. Holly Black, who liked both blogs, added her point of view in “Ladies, Ladies, Ladies.”

Every character (even the Mary-Sues) needs a name, and here are some good tips on naming characters from Stephanie Ebbert. Difficult characters come in all shapes and sizes, and author Jami Gold shares ideas to get difficult characters back in line—or let them lead you to something even better than you planned! Characters often experience pivotal romances, so J.R. Johansson shares what she learned from Roni Loren about writing effective romantic tension.

The Plot Whisperer discusses a common cause of writer’s block and how to plot your way out of it. Once you’re writing, you need a good first line. A contest at yielded an enlightening analysis of first lines that worked—and why. And Aleks Krotoski explains why first lines might be a thing of the past as digital technology gives rise to crafting multimedia, nonlinear, interactive storytelling.

Dean Wesley Smith explains why “practice” is not a dirty word for writers and how to practice while moving your writing career ahead; T.S. Welti examines poisonous “thought verbs”and gives a handy list of them; and agent Kristin Nelson examines why prologues often don’t pay.

On a more philosophical note, Jeff Goins explores the dangerous individualism that writing promotes, while Advice To Writers asks why writers write—is it to find out who they are?

J.A. Bennett talks about the insidious frustration of comparing yourself against other writers success and how to cope with envy. Angela Scott ruminates on how a WIP is often like a recalcitrant teenager – and how to deal with it (the WIP, not the teenager).


Queries are the starting point for most aspiring authors, and Stacy Green is no exception. She gives a nice round-up of query advice links and summarizes what she has learned about writing a good query so far. Meanwhile, Querytracker gives tips on how to know which characters should make the cut in your query letter. Some agents are only looking for “high concept” books. Agent Rachelle Gardner explains what the term “high concept” means—and if your book has to have it.

Want to know why your agent makes 15%? Read Ginger Clarke’s article on “Contract Headaches: Ten Clauses to Give an Agent Pause.

Marketing can seem nebulous and overwhelming, but Jody Hedlund gives some commonsense marketing tips that any author can accomplish.

The publishing landscape is always changing, and there is actually good news! Apparently the numbers are suggesting that publishing has actually expanded since 2008. Also, the demise of Borders has left room for local bookstores to solidify and expand their niche markets. And the latest big question mark is Amazon Publishing—will Amazon take over traditional publishing, or is there too much bad blood and uncertainty to make it fly?

If you prefer self-publishing, The Independent Publishing Magazine has a POD service rating index, plus a great deal of good information for authors considering (or doing) self-publishing.

Interviews abounded this week, our favorites being author Daisy Whitney’s interview with her agent, the very funny Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary; and two by Donna Galanti—one with fantasy author and gamer (and lawyer) Michael A. Ventrella, the other with memoirist Jim Kristofic about his book Navajos Wear Nikes.

Under the category “everything old is new again” comes word of reprints and reworking a classic. Fans of Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm will be delighted to hear that dozens more of Stella Gibbons’ works are coming back into print. And Romero & Juliet is getting a makeover by Stan Lee in the graphic novel Romero & Juliet: The War.

Finally, here’s Milk and Bookies, a non-profit organization for promoting the love of both books and giving back in children.


  1. Thanks for the link! And that’s a fabulous collection of posts. I’m off to check them out. 🙂


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