Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 5, 2012

Top Picks Thursday 07-05-2012

We hope everyone had a Happy Fourth of July!

Congrats to our latest Anniversary Giveaway winner: JESSICA COOPER! She’s won video and audio performance of an excerpt from her manuscript by professional actor Keith Strunk.

Thanks to everyone who entered and who have made our first year such a success!

Margaret Atwood shares 10 rules for writing fiction.

The Bucks County Writers’ Group posted a collection of writing contest links, as well as tips from Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files series.

Nora Ephron passed away this week. Writer’s Digest posted an excerpt of an early (pre-fame) interview with Nora Ephron, and O Magazine re-ran Nora Ephron’s Books That Made A Difference interview.


How long does it take to write a book? Ryann Kerekes says 60 days for a first draft, and shares her method.

Before we write, we research. PJ Sharon talks about the crazy things people do for research, and how you can weave your research into your non-writing life.

We know we’re supposed to hook the reader right away. Kristin Nelson explains the difference between action and active opening scenes.

Plotting can be a big struggle for some writers. Mary Kole says that if your plot points do not create permanent changes, your plot is not strong enough, and Darcy Pattison discusses the plot point ending Act I and the 5 functions that determine plot.

Tim Kane shows how to transform information dumps into dialogue and other more digestible bites; Roz Morris details how to use a “Let’s Get It Straight” scene with style; and Gene Lempp talks about why cannibalism is a prevalent theme in literature, and how you can use it, too.

Writing is, naturally, all about the words, so we’d better get the words right. C.S. Lakin discusses adverb deletion, while Jael McHenry flips the script and promotes using adverbs fearlessly. Mignon Fogarty describes the 13 trickiest grammar hang-ups; Tiffany Lawson Inman decries “with a” phrases as worse than a cliché; and Theresa Walsh shows how to use a thesaurus to create a study in opposites to deepen your story.

Getting it right is all about editing. Stina Lindenblatt tells how to polish your writing, and Matthew Salesses lists 20 tips on rewriting your story until it shines.

Characters pull readers into the story. As Diane Kelly says, everybody loves a kick-butt heroine. Julie Glover reminds us that caring about the characters keeps readers reading even when they figure out the ending; and Kristin Lamb discusses why hero flaws are important—to make our heroes relatable to the reader.

Karen Woodward talks about creating conflict through the needs of your characters, while Beth Hill warns against imprisoning your reader in a character’s head.

And what about the bad guy? Benjamin Leroy examines 5 things about bad guys that makes him want to punch their creators in the face.

Midge Raymond shares tips and prompts for how to be an everyday writer; Suzannah Windsor Freeman lists 10 things to do with your “write” hand; Jami Gold asks if you embrace the hardest work of writing—admitting that you still have a lot to learn and then pursuing that knowledge; and Jody Hedlund uncovers 10 traits that are more important than talent.

Shannon Donnelly says not to use fear as an excuse not to write because the fear never goes away—use your fear to fuel your writing instead; Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham’s The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning details the connection between storytelling and human imperfection; and Jane Lebak reminds us that success is a matter of perspective.


Joe Konrath, Jordan and Blake Crouch talk different e-publishing platforms, exclusivity, and free ebooks; Ed Robinson cracks Amazon’s new algorithm’s code for making your book climb the charts; and publishers are putting bold new covers on the classics to lure the YA crowd.

The school library journal reminds us that no matter what format the book is published in, or what cover you slap on it, a book still needs a good story to succeed.

Submitting work is a part of every professional writer’s life. Author Dan O’Brien is also a magazine editor, and gives a writing perspective from the other side of the fence.

Brian A. Klems lists the 8 essential elements of a nonfiction book proposal; agent Rachelle Gardner shares 7 ways you give away your power—and how to avoid it; and QueryShark warns against bogging down your query with too many details.

WorldWide Freelance asks: Why should writers use Twitter? Daniel Vahab has the answer as he explains how literary agents find talent on Twitter.

Mary Beth Mulhall tells us how to create an Author Bio in the community. If you’ve never heard of #amwriting, Johanna Harness explains all.

Chris Robley scored a trifecta this week with his posts about an online Author Press Kit, how to promote your book on a budget, and how a writer should prepare for a literary festival.

Laura Hazard Owen shares 5 news blogging lessons from her favorite non-news blogs; and Kristin Lamb tells us how to survive the Trollosphere with our sanity intact.


What author doesn’t love books? Julian Barnes talks the madness of book collecting and the charm of secondhand bookshops, while Ann Marie Walker suffers from bookstore withdrawal.

Reading can save your life. Teen Librarian Toolbox lists the Top 10 Apocalypse Survival Tips Gleaned from YA.

The Dynamics of the Medieval Manuscript discusses Text Collections from a European Perspective, a project endeavoring to understand the cultural identity of the compiler or commissioner of a manuscript and to investigate how cultural, social and moral heritage is conveyed to new generations.

Robert McCrum complies the 10 best first lines in fiction. See if you agree.

That’s it for us this week!


  1. Thanks for the DOUBLE blog love to our guest bloggers at Writers in the Storm. Shannon got me back in the chair and when I did a find on Tiffany’s “with a” I was surprised. You’ve got some great links here. I particularly enjoyed Kristen’s Lamb’s hero flaws blog.
    -Fae Rowen


    • We love Writers in the Storm – always a great resource. And Krisitin Lamb is another must-read blog for us!


  2. Wow! This is a supremely awesome list – excellent work. Thanks for the link love, much appreciated 🙂


    • Glad you liked the list – and thanks for your interesting post. I never really thought about cannibalism as a theme, but now I get what it represents.


  3. Thanks for including Diane’s post from my blog! Good stuff here as usual in your round up


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