Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 1, 2012

Top Picks Thursday 03-01-2012

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. – W. Somerset Maugham

Tomorrow on the Author Chronicles we’ll have J. Thomas Ross’ post on her experience at Mysticon, complete with photos!

For those of us who never really grew up and remember fondly the antics of the Berenstain Bears, it is sad to note that co-creator Jan Berenstain died this week.

Awards are always good news, so here is the list for the 2012 Sydney Taylor Book Awards for Younger and Teen Readers.

And just in case you were wondering how to structure your work day, here is Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of writing and daily creative routine.


Getting started can be the hardest part of a project, so Charlotte Rains Dixon gives tips for prepping for the novel and Amy K. Sorrells reminds us of the joys of research. Once you’ve gotten started, Kristen Lamb tells us what Finding Nemo can teach us about story action; Jill Kemerer talks about how choreography can help a scene move; and Juliette Wade examines how to get readers to “know” a character without getting into his/her POV. Talia Vance explains the Act I turning point, and Aine Greaney gives advice on resurrecting a stalled manuscript.

Underlying everything we talked about above is story structure. Brooke Johnson takes us back to basics with The Hero’s Journey, Stage One; Darcy Pattison examines the story arc—how to write a good novel, not just a good chapter; and K.M. Weiland reveals the Secrets of Story Structure, Part 1.

After writing the book, we start the revision process. James Hanback, Jr. talks about feedback and the value of the sting. Chuck Wendig gives us 25 Ways to [Un-F] Your Novel. And Tony Noland talks about that little-known yet essential writing tool: the ball-peen hammer.

But this all gets easier, right? Listen to Marie Lu on writing Book 3 of her trilogy. Sharon Cullen shares 9 questions every author should ask when writing a synopsis. And if you are struggling to find that perfect title for your first novel, NPR offers their tongue-in-cheek How to Name Your Novel.

Creativity is the heart of what we do as fiction writers—we make stuff up for a living. So it is essential that we be able to keep the creativity flowing so we can get words on the page. Tim Kane advocates finding out when your creative mind naturally does its thing best, while Martha Beck shows how to take control of your creativity and tap into right-brain thinking on command. And Elizabeth Gilbert talks at TED about nurturing your creativity.

Sometimes the thing we most need to hear is not a list of writing tips, but that we are not alone. That other writers struggle as we do—and triumph. Author Aliette de Bodard talks about writing, cooking, alternate history and questions of diversity in science fiction; Christine Lee Zilka shares how she fought to keep writing after a stroke at age 33; and Lindsey Leavitt talks about writing while being a mom of three.

Tonya Kappes reminds us that we all need a life outside our writer’s den; August McLaughlin advises “leaping smart”; and James Scott Bell shares his Aha moment when he “got” writing.

Deborah Henry shares her heartbreak at letting go of her first novel; Stephen Parolini reminds us that we are better than we think; Eric Weinstein shares things he wishes he had always known; and Shelli Johnson reminds us that our time here is limited and we should say what we need to say now instead of waiting for a “later” that might never come.


In a counter to the Amazon-is-a-bully theme this past week, author L.J. Sellers says Amazon may not be the bad guy in the IPG dustup.

Meanwhile, Anthony Horowitz is asking: do we still need publishers? Susan Kaye Quinn studied the sweat equity authors put in when marketing as self-published vs. traditional published, which may help you answer Horowitz’s question. Nathan Bransford talks about how to make DRM work, while Terri Giuliano Long looks at what exclusivity clauses mean to authors. And YA publisher Strange Chemistry spills the secrets on what they’re looking for in a manuscript.

Traditional publishing for the most part requires and agent, so Ciara Ballintyne lists some Dos and Don’ts for getting an agent. And Victoria Strauss reminds us that usually poets should not seek literary agents, and to beware of scams.

If you have an agent, you likely will not be dealing with the following on your own, but it’s still valuable information. David Farland gives the low-down on evaluating the value of your movie option; and Jason Black shares a writer’s guide to working with freelancers. Speaking of freelancers, new company Gemini Wordsmiths uses a unique blend of individual and collaborative editing to get their editing projects to exceed expectation.

Agent Michael Bourret wants to start a conversation based on the question: What’s up with middle grade? If you’ve got an idea, click through and tell him. And check out agent Susan Hawk sharing what she’s looking for in picture books.

We all need an online presence these days. First up, Dos and Don’ts for an effective author website; Robert Lee Brewer gives 25 ways to increase blog traffic; and Jane Friedman shares the 5 keys for writing to an online audience.

C.J. Parmenter takes a look at a writer’s digital life; Ross MacCammon explains how to find your authentic voice on social media; Beth Elisa Harris tells you how to create a cyber persona; and Lynda R. Young gives 7 ways to cut back on social media without losing out.

Meanwhile, Jami Gold asks a thought-provoking question: How can we reliably build a platform on social media services we do not own and cannot control? She asks this in response to the discontinuation of Google Friend Connect service, which many bloggers used to connect with their audience.

Darcy Pattison lists 9 things you must do after signing the book contract, while Arthur Slade serves up odd questions authors get asked (with his own answers).

And in case you hadn’t heard, J.K. Rowling has a new adult book coming out with Little, Brown.


We’re all book lovers here. Ever wanted to know more about the history of the book? Look no further, for Oxford University has a tremendous resource links roundup on the history of the book.
Claire Preston introduces us to hidden libraries and museums of imaginary things.

And a couple of videos for your amusement:

Dave Barry & the Rock Bottom Remainders sing: “I’m in Love w/a Proofreading Woman

James Andrew Wilson explores the 5 stages of writing a novel.

That’s all! Happy first day of March!


  1. What a fantastic compilation. Thanks for including my post!


  2. Great stuff! Enjoyed the conversation on Whats up with Middle Grade, timely for me with a MG novel being edited. Also, I had no idea Google friend connect was going away…was interested in getting into that. Something else to cross off the list!


  3. Wow, so much good info here! I read Anthony Horowitz’s article and chuckled all the way through. he has a dry, but great sense of humor.


  4. Thank you very much for including me! That’s an impressive collection of links.


  5. Love the Somerset Maugham quote. Am familiar with Kristen Lamb and Tonya Kappes (love them!!!). Will be checking out the others. This blog is a keeper!!


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