Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 4, 2012

Top Picks Thursday 10-04-2012

First of all, congratulations to Tiffany Schmidt, a fellow member of Jonathan Maberry’s Advanced Writing Workshop, on her debut release this week, SEND ME A SIGN!

This is also Banned Book Week. The HuffPo Book Club wants to know which banned book they should read this month—stop in and vote! Also, Mette Harrison hosts an honest discussion about book banning and book rating systems.

Libraries and local bookstores hold lots of great memories for most of us. Harvard Books posts compelling arguments for supporting your local bookstore. If you live in Kentucky, you can support your libraries by buying “Support Kentucky’s Libraries” license plates. And do you know someone who is making a difference in librarianship? Nominate them for the 2013 Library Journal Movers and Shakers.

Amy Pelman dicusses the next big thing: self-published teen authors writing for teens. And Peg Tyre brings us an in-depth look at how a failing school turned itself around by incorporating writing into every facet of education.


Author Natalie Bahm self-published her debut novel so she could raise money for a family with a sick child. ALL proceeds of this book will go to the family.

Help support talented author Tom Piccirilli as he fights brain cancer.

Little Bird Publishing House has open submissions for a YA dark fairy tale/paranormal/horror anthology. Submission deadline is October 31st.

Miss Snark’s First Victim holds her 3rd annual Baker’s Dozen Agent Auction. Check out how to enter.

Finally, nominate your favorite children’s books of the year for the 2012 Cybils awards!


Are you the type of writer who HAS to have a title for a manuscript before you begin? Or do you wait and let it come as you write? Whenever you name your book, Amanda Patterson has some tips for you.

We all know the opening is everything these days. Steve Vernon shares the secret behind a strong first line with us. Ksenia Ankse takes it even further and explains how to summarize your novel in its first paragraph.

Kristen Lamb brings us two more blog posts on structure—plot problems and introducing the opposition.

So much of the power of writing is in the nuances. Susan Leigh Noble tells us how to create realistic fight scenes, and Ollin Morales lists 5 techniques for adding subtext to your story.

As to nuts-and-bolts writing, Mark Nichol has 7 grammatical errors you can ignore (sometimes), while Susan J. Morris dissects the anatomy of a perfect paragraph and sentence length.

Those nutty characters bring the story to life. Katie Axelson tells us how to let our characters drive the story, while Ken Myers describes 5 character types every writer must master. And we all know the protagonist is essential, right? Jane Lebak shakes our world as she examines when a story has NO protagonist—and why it sometimes works.

After writing comes rewriting. Or  is it editing? Melissa Donovan splits the hairs and defines rewriting, editing, and proofreading for us, while Jo Knowles shares a very specific storyboarding revision process that helps visual writers like herself.

I’m sure it has never occurred to most of us that including someone in your acknowledgments might be a BAD thing. Kate Messner explains how a public thank you might in actuality compromise your helpful friends. On the other side of the Thank You, a librarian tells of her reaction on seeing the names of herself and a student in the acknowledgments of a book.

Kaitlin Ward gives some advice on how we can make life easier for a non-writing spouse. Krissy Brady tells us the #1 reason we should never doubt our ability to succeed as a writer.

Writing advice abounds. Becky Gaylord shares 15 writing tips from a journalist turned PR pro; Nathan Bransford feels that overall productivity is more important than writing every day; and Chris Pavone explains 6 reasons editors will reject you.

It is so hard to sustain creativity. Judy Reeves gives us 10 daily habits that make a good writer. Others offer more specific ways to rev our engines. Roz Morris suggests using the strangers in your own photographs as jumping-off points into new stories and characters. Meredith Jaeger reminds us of the importance of reading for pleasure. Wesley McCraw extols the virtue of a creative a writing workspace. And if all else fails, Chuck Wendig has 25 ways to get your creative groove back.


Publishing is becoming a litigious business. Penguin is suing authors for advances on undelivered books, and Miriam Goderich has an agent’s perspective on the lawsuit. Meanwhile, PublishAmerica avoids another fraud lawsuit based on the gray area of if its authors are consumers or businesses.

Discoverability is on everyone’s mind these days. The Digital Book World Discoverability and  Marketing Conference took on this topic. Bob Mayer has a recap of Day One, and author A.L. Jackson takes away something for the authors to think about.

And with all the throat-cutting going on, Ruth Lauren Steven changes the tone and tells us about some of the nice things going on in the publishing world.

Dina Santorelli discusses the role of the agent in these changing times, while Nathan Bransford encourages us to empathize with literary agents.

Lots of query advice this week: what Sara Megibow wants to see in a query; Krista Van Dozler on what queries must accomplish; Tim Kane’s suggestions on how to catch an agent; QueryShark says sometimes the query is fine, but the writing in the query is the problem; and Jennifer Laughran discusses #10queriesin10tweets.

Do you ever bemoan that the classic writers had it easy because they didn’t have to hook the reader on the first page? Marie Lamba examines what Dickens and Austen might sound like if they pitched today—and if they’d be successful. If you’d rather pitch like two living people, here’s a look at what works for John August and Craig Mazin when they pitch.

J. K. Rowling’s new adult book, THE CASUAL VACANCY, came out this past week, to mixed reviews. Sarah Ditum responds to the critical reaction with a smart and sensible post of her own asking if Rowling’s stellar Potter success is somehow discounted because those books were “for kids.” One way to hype Rowling’s book was to embargo it until the release date. Like most embargoes, it did not hold. The Washington Post explains why the embargo on THE CASUAL VACANCY broke.

If you want to talk female authors and respect of lack thereof, Jeffrey Eugenides set off quite a discussion with his remarks about female authors and Jodi Picoult.

Meanwhile, Rachelle Gardner has been rethinking the need (and wisdom) of authors using pseudonyms in the digital age.

John Self talks book blogging and legitimacy; Zoë Marriot gives writer 5 simple rules about why and how to be on social media. Shannon Hale asks if authors are better off putting themselves out there on social media (and possibly risk losing readers who oppose their view of things) or staying as anonymous as possible. In her words, should writers just shut up already?


Amanda Nelson wonders what would happen if characters from different books could date. Here’s her Top 10 Made-Up Literary Couples.

Keith Staskiewicz brings us Cookie Monster and Grover’s take on ‘The Avengers,’ ‘The Hunger Games,’ and more…in song!

For those of you in love with Middle Age manuscripts, or are in need of research about them, check out the Digital Scriptorium, a database of manuscript descriptions and images. And the British Library showcases the Miroir Historiale: A History of the World in a (Large) Nutshell –an encyclopaedia of world history in French which was a part of Edward IV’s collection of illustrated historical works produced in Bruges in the early 1470s.

Lastly, because we all need to feed our stomachs as well as our souls, Jane Austen’s mother passes on A Receipt for a Pudding—in Verse!

That’s it for us this week!


  1. Thanks for the shout-out. I appreciate all of the support I can get!


    • Always happy to share good info – and the first line is a struggle for most of us!


  2. […] in, so I read through the impressive array of blog posts they’d included in last week’s Top Picks Thursday. One in particular caught my attention: Chuck Wendig’s blog post, “25 Ways To Get Your […]


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