Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 23, 2012

Top Picks Thursday 02-23-2012

On this final Thursday of February, we bring you a contest from Dear Editor that could win you an editorial review of some of your work, as well as 10 Experiential Writing Prompts to help you mine your own life experiences for material.

Because all writers are readers, bookmark the 100 Greatest Books for Kids list, as well as 10 YA Fantasy books you should read.

And a couple of simple yet true advice doodles: How to Write a Novel and 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer.


In a great one-two punch, here is Penguin editor Jill Santopolo talks about editing the beginning of Shattered Souls, and we get the author Mary Lindsey’s take on the editing process as well.

There are a ton of very specific aspects of writing that we need to deal with every step of the way. Realism is one. Clare Davidson asks: How realistic should fantasy novels be? And we all have heard that voice (particularly in YA and middle grade) is so important these days. Yet Jami Gold ponders: Can we have too much voice? Since voice makes the character, Bernie Mojzes talks about drawing a character.

Betsey Lerner advises how to create dramatic tension, while Ashley Clark gives tips on making your readers giggle. Leigh Michaels weighs in with 5 simple steps for creating suspense in fiction, and Janice Hardy discusses the delicate art of knowing when to insert a scene break.

We all know there are rules in writing. Jonathan Carr shares some screenplay basics. Suzannah Windsor Freeman discusses writing the right story vs. writing the story right. 10 writers tackle the writer’s rulebook—when to follow the rules, and when to break them. Fae Rowan takes on “write what you know”—the granddaddy of all rules—in her rebuttal, write what you don’t know.

Every writer has a particular process that works for him or her. One writer’s process cannot be cut-and-pasted onto another writer—even if they are similar, there will be individual quirks. So we all take bits and pieces from other methods until we build one that suits us. Jo Graham illuminates the process and philosophy of co-writing a novel. Laura Wilkinson muses on her method; Nathan Bransford asks if you can write with noise; and Quick Writing Tips shares how eating and diet hacks can increase your productivity.

In a post sure to make died-in-the-wool plotters cringe, Mark David Gerson argues that you should let your characters evolve and lead you through the first draft, and Carolyn Kaufman discusses beating writer’s block if you’re a pantser.

Daphne Gray-Grant discusses becoming a better writer by incubating, while Scott Eagan argues that letting a project marinate might not be the best use of your time.

So, you’ve written a novel. If it’s your first novel, Joe Moore lists common mistakes found in first novels—any one of which would mean that your novel is nowhere near ready for publication. Once you have eliminated all of the above mistakes and honed your craft, Jody Hedlund reminds us that absolute perfection is not required for publication—a good story is. And once you’ve been accepted for publication and are on the editing roller coaster, Rachel Harris tells us that we should hold on to the core of our books when deciding what edits to accept.

It’s often helpful to hear what inspires other authors, or how they got to where they are. Chuck Wendig has 25 things he wants to say to so-called aspiring writers, while Karen Mahoney talks about the turning points that made her an author. R.S. Guthrie urges us to tap the source and write from the heart, and Kat Howard gives us a wonderful post on Madeline L’Engle and books as tesseracts.


As is often the case, Amazon tops our list of business links today. In a widely-read post, Joe Konrath explains why and how Amazon will destroy traditional publishing. Meanwhile, the empire strikes back as the Authors Guild joins a list of major players to stand up to Amazon’s predatory pricing. Bob Mayer gives a more balanced view of Amazon’s role in the digital publishing world, and Publishing a Book is an Adventure examines the front lines of the publishing war.

In this crazy age, agent Rachelle Gardner lists 6 reasons for writers to be optimistic, and Brian Clark explains why the 21st century author is an internet entrepreneur. Examining what “success” means in this new age of publishing is important, too. Dan Blank describes how you can be a success without being a bestseller. Many people define a successful book as one that earns out its advance, but agent Chip MacGregor argues that books do not have to earn out their advances to be profitable to the publisher. And Deva Fagan reminds us that we can drive ourselves nuts comparing our “success” (or lack thereof) to someone else’s.

Janalyn Voight tells us how to find an audience for our novel; Rachelle Gardner shares 13 ways to impress an agent; Mary Kole gives us questions a prospective agent might ask you when you get “the call”; and Theresa Stevens debunks 10 myths about editors at publishing houses.

Blythe Camenson and Marshal J. Cook list 5 steps to writing a novel that sells; Jenny Geras wonders why chick-lit must be considered a “guilty pleasure”; publisher Strange Chemistry lifts the veil on how reading manuscripts works in their office; and Jon Bard lists 3 things every children’s writer must know.


Marie-Louise Jensen blogs about one of her idols, the first woman in English literature to make her living as a writer – Aphra Behn.

This would be amazing if it is for real! A purported photograph of the Bronte Sisters.

And for you Medieval manuscript buffs, check out the Carolingian Culture at Reichenau & St. Gall website.

That’s all for this week. See you for our next roundup in March!


  1. Thanks for including me in your Top PIcks this week.
    You have so many wonderful sources for great information!
    Fae Rowen


    • Fae – I hope you find some useful stuff! I, too, believe in write what you don’t know, in that it is a great way to stretch your personal horizons and knowledge, no matter what genre you write in.


  2. Thanks for the mention – great selection of ideas & posts!


    • Dan – I loved your article, because sometimes it is so hard to see your own successes if you are focused on someone else’s and on some unreachable definition of success. We all need reminding of that, sometimes!


  3. Thanks for including me. I’d totally forgotten I’d written that.


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