Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 2, 2012

Top Picks Thursday 02-02-2012

It is with words as with sunbeams: the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. ~ Robert Southey

Happy February!

Cheryl Klein offer a links roundup from her seminars ar SCBWI.


Ali Luke offers 25 ways to come up with great ideas for your writing. While you’re busy thinking about your book, Tim Kane asks if you ever get lost in your own head?

The basics of a good story are conflict and story structure. Jennifer M. Eaton talks about the art of conflict, and Chuck Wendig offers 25 things you should know about story structure.

The point of every fiction story is to make the reader care—otherwise they likely won’t finish reading. Mary Kole gives advice on how to make readers care, while Roseann Biederman shares tips from James Scott Bell on how to create believable villains. If you can make a reader care about your villian, you’ve got something special!

No matter how hard we try to be unique, clichés can creep into our manuscript. Peter Selgin lists 10 tips to bypass cliché and melodrama. One of the largest clichés is the first person narrator looking at his/herself in the mirror so the writer can describe the character. Kate Newburg advises how to get first person narrator description into your story without being cliché or clunky.

The devil is in the details, as every writer knows. Roz Morris points out the frequent lack of background people in novels—the empty world syndrome. And editor Theresa Stevens shows how minor changes in the line editing phase can deepen and strengthen your scene, using a real sample to show how.

Red Gage offers three ways to write better today; Sweepy Jean lists three writing lessons she learned as a young writer; and Victoria Mixon passes on 11 things her grandmother said about writing.

Lynda R. Young reminds us that “falling” is a normal part of the writing life and teaches us how to fall without hurting ourselves, while Shelli Johnson passes on her favorite writing advice—allowing yourself to fail on the page. Handing your final manuscript over to an editor can be nerve-wracking for any writer, so T.M. Souders shares words of encouragement from her editor to a nervous author.

And since everybody can learn something from the great authors, Dan Coleman compiles writing rules from famous authors Henry Miller, Margaret Atwood, Elmore Leonard, Neil Gaiman and George Orwell.

We found some interesting genre-specific articles this week:

Dottie Enderle on how to write easy readers.

Michael R. Vaillancourt defines “Steampunk.”

For romance writers, if you’re in the UK, come see the original romances: The Bodleian Library’s “The Romance of the Middle Ages” exhibit is open!

Speaking of romance and the whole male-female yin-yang, Patrick Ross explores the question: Do women simply write differently than men?

Writers are stereotyped as being an emotionally fragile bunch. Jami Gold explores whether being a writer is actually a form of mental illness; Matthew Turner brings 100 tips to alleviate self-doubt; and P.W. Creighton looks at author anxiety and when it gets better.

Susan May reveals the big secret to writing success: read, write, repeat. Following that formula is a lot of work, so Jody Hedlund answers the question: Is all that hard work going to pay off? And Michael W. Roberts delves into writer burnout by asking: Do you still enjoy writing? and what to do if you don’t.

Agent Bree Ogden shares how to find inspiration in three easy steps; Marie Lamba tackles 2012 with resolution; and Kathleen Alexander passes on tips from Dr. Eric Maisel, creativity coach.


There are many roads to getting published these days. Alicia Rasley discusses the merits of going with a small press instead of the Big Six; Dystel & Goderich takes a look at going from popular blog to book; and Ginger Knowlton, VP of Curtis Brown, shares the current market for your work.

If you are lucky enough to be able to make a living as a writer, there’s a lot to keep on your plate, much of it marketing and social media related. Michael R. Hicks gives advice on adjusting to being a full-time author (part 4 of a series); Tonya Kappes explains what a brand is and why an author needs one; Tim Kane explains Twitter etiquette for writers; and Publishers Weekly examines how readers are discovering new books these days.

And just in case you’re not at the full-time writer level yet, Jill Corcoran is open for submissions, so give her a shout (but read her sub guidelines first!).


For Tolkein fans, a complete genealogy of Middle Earth is now online.

Emily Temple bring us The 10 most Iconic Accessories of Famous Authors.

And for those of you who love you some Medieval manuscripts: The British Library has digitized manuscripts, including the Cat and Mouse and Hairy Elephants ms.; Rechtsgeschiedenis brings us legal history and heraldic manuscripts; and Gallica presents a gorgeous 14th century illuminated Chronicle of France.

See you next week!


  1. Thanks for linking me in to your list. I appreciate it! This is a great list, and I love when I come across a site like this where I can find more great places to read up on our craft.


    • You’re welcome, Jennifer! It is so hard to get the balance right in conflict vs. pacing vs. description. I’m glad you enjoyed the site. We do this every Thursday, so come on back and tell your friends!


  2. Hi Kerry,
    Thanks for including agent Bree Ogden’s guest post about inspiration for the Whidbey Island Writers Conference blog in your list. We really liked her insights and can’t wait to learn more from her at the conference. Join us on Whidbey March 3 and 4!


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