Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 16, 2012

Top Picks Thursday 08-16-2012

Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown died this week at age 90.

Hard on the heels of NPR’s Top 100 YA Books of all time comes the YALSA Teens Top Ten. Vote for your favorites from now until September 15th.

Children’s writers long to become Newbery winners. Lori Joyce brings us the story behind the Newbery Award.

With thousands of writing contests out there, C. Hope Clark shares some red flags on writing contests. If you see them, run!

For the end of summer, the guide every literate beachgoer needs—a website that pairs swimwear with book covers.

For those wanting to ponder deeper philosophy, Keith Ridgway claims that everything is fiction.


In the wake of the Readercon sexual harassment debacle, John Scalzi puts out an incomplete guide to not being a creep at conventions.

James V. Smith examines 21 key traits of best-selling fiction; while psychologist Sarah Fine gets at the root causes of writer’s block.

Janice Hardy tells us how to keep plots fresh; the Jungle Red Writers have a roundtable discussion about using real places as settings in a book; Ava Jae discusses when you should use multiple POVs in your story; and Julie Eshbaugh helps correct problems with pacing.

Warren Adler looks at the title dilemma; Juliette Wade answers the question: Can you begin a book with dialogue?; Ash Krafton gives us the low down on backstory; and Chuck Wendig tells us 25 things we need to know about metaphor.

Kristin Lamb reminds writers that sci-fi and fantasy is more than magic and gadgets, so take it to the next level. Arthur Plotnik shares 12 ways to add force to your writing, while avoiding these 5 mistakes of new fiction writers from Joanna Penn.

Characters are the lifeblood of our writing. Jan Drexler tells us how to create characters that count; Brian A. Klems shows how to strengthen your minor characters; and James J. Murray explains what it takes to make a hero in a murder mystery.

Jami Gold shares tips from Michael Hauge’s RWA workshop: are these characters the perfect match?; and if you want to create a mysterious character, check out The Bookshelf Muse’s character thesaurus entry for “mysterious.”

Speaking of thesauri, M.B. Weston suggests creating a mini-thesaurus tailored to words you use frequently in your writing so you don’t have to look them us every time.

No matter how good an editor we are, we cannot effectively edit our own work. JMC at JMCBKS says if you can’t afford an editor, you shouldn’t be publishing.

There’s never enough time in the day. Sarah A. Hoyt gives a lesson on time management for writers; Shon Bacon shares one way to integrate writing into a busy schedule; and Diana Kightlinger gives us 7 tips pros use to get words on the page.

Sometimes when you’ve finished that rough draft, it’s easy to get discouraged when you look at it. Brian Yansky says there’s no need for being discouraged: all manuscripts start as ugly ducklings. And even if you end up abandoning a project, Archana Bharathan shares the art of failing.

Now for short lists of advice: John van de Ruit lists tips on writing; C.S. Lewis says don’t use words too big for the subject; Judy Blume says finding out is the best part of writing; and Elmore Leonard and others share their dos and don’ts for writing fiction.

Sometimes where you write can profoundly affect what you write. Jeanne Kisacky suggests that experiencing the discomforts of life can mean a more lively manuscript, while Julia Munroe Martin reminds that new settings can inspire new ideas.


The NPR Top 100 YA Books Ever list is making headlines for an odd thing: half the list is comprised of female authors, including the top 3. This has a few people asking: Why do female authors dominate YA fiction? Nathan Bransford suggests an answer.

Cory Doctorow scratches his head over the latest move by Hachette UK. In the wake of Tor (a Macmillan company) going DRM-free, Hachette UK is demanding that authors who publish with both Hachette UK and Tor force Tor to put DRM back on their books.

There are many ways beyond the Big Six to get published these days. Jessica Knauss examines the pros and cons of small presses, while Jill Marsh lists 7 benefits of an author collective.

Rachelle Gardner cuts to the chase: To be successful as a writer, give the people what they want.

Agents are people too, and following their submission guidelines is important. But what about after the query, when (hopefully) several agents are in various stages of reading your manuscript? Agent Mary Kole discusses the nuances of submission/query etiquette.

Janet Reid posts her New Rule for Writers: Be Positive! And in the vein of positivity, check out new agent Emily Gref at Lowenstein Associates to see if she’s the right one for you.

For you flash fiction writers, Bruce Holland Rogers tells how to sell flash fiction via email.

If you’re going to self-publish, check out Lori Devoti’s digital self-publishing checklist. Lori spends a lot of time talking about your book’s cover, which Jonathan Gunson points out is the “billboard” that can make or break your book’s success.

Marketing can be tricky. Tonya Kappes details the difference between shameless vs. shameful self-promotion; Jon Gibbs lists 10 marketing/self-promotion techniques which annoy potential readers; and Stephanie Palmer brings us the most popular pitching formula in Hollywood—and 3 reasons why you shouldn’t use it.

Think it’s safe to use your own pictures on your own blog? Usually it is, but Marcy Kennedy warns to keep these exceptions in mind when posting pictures to your blog.

Connecting with people is what social media is all about. Jane Friedman tells us how to build a better author bio for Twitter, and Rachelle Gardner shows how authors can effectively use Goodreads.


We’re a bit manuscript mad this week. Among other cool stuff, you can see the original manuscript for Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales online (scroll down), and check out new royal manuscripts online with the British Library’s Books of Beasts, adventures and Two from New Minster.

That’s all from us this week!


  1. Great collection of links–as always. 🙂 You all rock! Thanks for including my post!

    I’m going to go check out the post on titles. *sigh* That’s usually a problem for me. 🙂


    • Titles seem to be tough for a lot of writers. It’s even tougher when you find a title you love and then the publisher wants to change it!


      • Ugh. I don’t look forward to that day. 🙂


  2. Hey thank you so much for including us–I’m honored! I’ve been super busy this past week, so this looks like a great catch up for me! 🙂


    • Hey, we love your thesauri! They’re great resources.


  3. Thanks for the pimpage, Kerry 🙂


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