Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 12, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 03-12-2015

Welcome to this week’s link-fest! Spring is teasing us here—I hope it sticks around!

In sad news, Terry Pratchett has died at age 66.

SCBWI announces the 2015 Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards, and here is the shortlist for the Diagram Prize—an award for the oddest book title of the year.

Hey! HarperCollins is seeking submissions—no agent required.

How many times have we been asked to work for free? For “exposure”? Dan Cassaro made a splash when he publicly shamed Showtime for asking professionals to work for free.

The writing world on the Internet can be scary. Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas discuss plagiarism—what it is and how to combat it, while Becca Mills shares a chilling true story of how a complete stranger managed to get Becca’s books taken down by filing a fraudulent DCMA complaint. It could happen to any of us.

Think short blogs are the only ones to go viral? Michael Grothaus interviews the authors of the WAIT BUT WHY blog, which has found success writing smart, long-form articles that go viral.

Lauren Barak writes about the ongoing concern that boys “can’t” like “girl” books—and the message that sends to boys while Maureen Johnson also explores this disparity in the way female authors are perceived vs. male authors.

Is this censorship, or does it open our books up to a wider audience? Meet the app that sanitizes profanity from ebooks.

While every writer understands the sometimes cathartic nature of writing, you don’t have to be a serious, professional writer to reap the surprising health benefits of writing.


Every novel starts as an idea. C.S. Lakin explains how to build a compelling novel concept with a kicker. Brian A. Klems answers the question: how long should novel chapters be?, Martina Boone lists 7 key elements of pacing your novel, and Diana Hurwitz reminds us to please resist temptation from these 5 ways you might be tempted to tell, not show.

Words are a writer’s bread and butter. What about foreign words? Christine Kohler discusses how to weave foreign words seamlessly into your work. What about breaking grammar rules? Emily Brewster from Merriam-Webster makes the case for ending a sentence with a preposition: An old-fashioned rule we can no longer put up with.

Description is necessary. Nils Odlund shares a beginner’s guide to writing descriptions, while Victoria Schwab takes us deeper by using setting as a major character in her books.

However you use description, make sure you get the details right. Richard Mabry shows us how to infuse medical details into your fiction, while Traci Borum discusses how much technology should show up in fiction.

The research we do is sometimes unusual. Garry Rodgers shares 10 tips on how to write believable crime and murder scenes, James J. Murray discusses cyanide as a classic murder weapon, and Ciara Ballintyne learned how to carry a claymore.

Clumsy dialogue is bad to leave in your final draft, but Roz Morris points out how writing clumsy dialogue early on can actually help you write better.

Characters—they need to grab the reader right away. Sophie Perinot discusses when the author needs to let the characters have their own way, Tamela Hancock Murray explores conflicted characters, K.M. Weiland tells us how to create spectacularly complex characters, and Janice Hardy shows us how to clarify the stakes and consequences early so the reader cares.

For anyone writing about social issues, Lisa Bennett shares what she has learned about writing successfully about social issues.

Ever feel pulled in a thousand directions? Elizabeth S. Craig has productivity tips for the scattered writer, Carolyn Astfalk shares 10 ways to increase your daily word count, and Garrett Moon explores how Pixar’s creative process helps you innovate.

Chuck Wendig reacts to an ex-MFA teacher who got nearly everything about real-world writing wrong, and delves deeper into the idea of toxicity of talent. Chuck thinks work is more important than talent, so check out Benjamin Wallace’s thoughts on work ethic in authors.

Chantelle Atkins tells us how to know if your’re really a writer, Philip Overy wants us to put our novels where our mouths are, while Kristen Lamb explores the 3 acts of a writer’s journey from newbie to master.


If you are going to self-publish, you are starting a business. Melissa Storm shares her 10 biggest mistakes as a self-published author, Ricardo Fayet shows what authors can learn from start-ups, and Alex Reissig weighs the pros and cons of KDP Select.

If you’re treading the traditional path, you’ve got to query (unless you get really lucky). Julie Glover explains how to punch up a blurb or query, Stina Lindenblatt tells us how to set query goals, Adriana Mather breaks down a successful query, and Lynette Labelle shows us how to decipher an agent’s rejection letter.

Authors are the brand now. Christina Katz lays out the 3 bios all professionals need, and Moeen Eshraghi explains what it means to build a platform.

Marketing means many things these days. Jerome McLain talks to Joanna Penn about book trailers and using video for book marketing, Barb Drozdowich explains why Facebook Pages are still useful, and Jami Gold questions if we should change our blogging style once we’re published.


Check out some of today’s most prominent artists on courage, creativity, criticism, success, and what it means to be a great artist.

How about these 27 clever DIYs that all true book lovers will appreciate. (I like the staircase.)

Librarians, teachers, and even regular readers recommend books every day. Kelly Jensen urges all of us to go beyond recommending the obvious “big” books and find the books that pleasantly surprise—the ones out of easy reach.

In that vein, the New York Public Library staff recommends these 10 YA retellings of Cinderella, and Swapna Krishna shares 5 tips for running a Little Free Library.

Once you have a book in hand, where do you go to read it? Juan Vidal explores reading in unlikely places.

Jodi L. Milner shares her Ode to Grammar Day! (In Verse).

Harper Lee rebukes a reporter who asked her if she was being pressured to release Go Set A Watchman, but the state of Alabama is investigating concerns of elder abuse.

Like to play with words? Jeff Sherwood explains how to invent palindromes.

Beware the dangers of reading romance novels (in 1858).

Check out these beautiful letters of the alphabet, as illustrated in Medieval manuscripts.

That’s all for us this week!


  1. Thanks so much for mentioning my post in Jane Friedman’s blog on bio writing. Not only is bio writing indispensable for any professional working online, it’s also a great way for the writer to learn a ton about what she does and how to set what she does apart from everyone else. Thanks again for the mention!


    • You’re welcome! So many writers find it hard to write about themselves, so it’s great to have some help and ideas!


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