Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 4, 2016

Top Picks Thursday 02-04-2016

DSCN2731The first February Top Picks Thursday is upon us! According to the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, spring will come early this year—so hopefully no more blizzards for us!

In every industry, there are giants. Publisher George Weidenfeld’s death marks the end of a publishing era.

For most writers, reading is like breathing—we can’t live without it. Share the love on February 14th—International Book Giving Day! You might consider giving one of the books on The Guardian’s 50 Best Culturally Diverse Books list.

If you are like me, you have waaaaay too many books to read. Wouldn’t you love to speed read them all? Unfortunately, a new report seems to discredit the speed reading claim of speed without loss of comprehension.

For those of us who love brick and mortar stores, it’s great news how independent bookstores are thriving in the digital age. One community bookstore that is trying to restock its shelves and revive its trade is St. Marks Books—and they need your help.

The push-pull between publishers and authors over contracts has always been heavily weighted on the publisher’s side. Victoria Strauss looks at the Authors Guild’s Fair Contract Initiative, which hopes to banish some of the more draconian terms found in many contracts.


Do you want to write funny? How about scary? How about sell in other languages? Mark A. Shatz with Mel Helitzer share the number one comedy writing secret, Drew Chial talks scary stories and X-Files, and Roz Morris has three literary translators give their inside tips and secrets.

No matter what you write, you have to start somewhere. Janice Hardy advises letting that new novel idea simmer for a while before beginning.

After the simmering is complete, you probably have characters waiting to jump onto the page. Chris Winkle discusses choosing a viewpoint character, James M. Jackson tells how to deepen character, K.M. Weiland corrects the common writing mistake of having no conflict between characters, and Christopher Kokoski explains what to do when an unlikely character takes over your story.

With the characters raring to go, we still need to figure out the nuts and bolts of the story itself. Ruth Harris shares 6 steps to hook your reader, K.M. Weiland spotlights the #1 problem with backstory and how to fix it, Janice Hardy shows how to plot through a sticky plot patch, and Tricia Sullivan asks science fiction writers how they balance hard fact and fantasy in their works.

No matter what you write, you’ll likely need to research. Aimie K. Runyan explains how to cook that research into your novel. Once you have that research (and plot notes, and character sketches, etc.) Gwen Hernandez demonstrates how to import your files into your Scrivener project. Dawne Webber advises us to resist showing people your first draft, but after the manuscript is written and revised, Liz Michalski tells us how to find the best beta readers for you.

Writing is a long-haul endeavor and involved the spirit as much as the brain. Anne Marie Becker discusses dealing with writer burnout, Tori Eldridge examines the balancing act of caring for others and self, Judy Pollard Smith tells us why you should keep a journal, Clare Langley-Hawthorne battles digital distraction, and James Scott Bell describes the 10 events of the writing decathlon.

While every writer is unique, we all have similar feelings and experiences. Heather Webb discusses surviving writer envy, Kameron Hurley discusses opening the circle at writers’ conventions, Hugh Howey tells us the one thing you need to be a writer, Chuck Wendig lists 25 more hard truths about writing and publishing, and Rachel Aaron-Bach advises you to pay yourself first.


Amazon has been a game-changer for the publishing industry—and that’s both exhilarating and frustrating. On the good side, K.B. Jensen shows how to use Amazon’s Kindle Scout as part of a book launch campaign. However, we also know how fickle Amazon can be with reviews. K-lytics shows how to stop Amazon from connecting your sales to links you posted, thus endangering your reviews.

Agent Janet Reid answers the question: why don’t big name authors just self-publish and make even more money? For those author who do self-publish, Angela Quarles describes creating a production and marketing Bible to get more organized and Frances Caballo lists author groups to help you write, publish, and promote your books.

If you’re seeking an agent, follow Janet Reid’s advice to make sure your first online impression is a good one, so that you can eventually use agent Jim McCarthy’s suggested questions to ask a prospective agent when you get the call.

Social media takes up a large portion of most writer’s marketing time. D.S. McKnight discusses finding the balance between writing and blogging, and Frances Caballo shares 44 suggestions for authors who aren’t sure what to tweet.


Read Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson’s advice on life and creative integrity.

Maggy van Eijk shares 19 writing tips to help you become the next J.K. Rowling—which would be awesome, because J.K. Rowling’s magic touch sends the Harry Potter book sales booming again.

Want to travel but can’t? Ann Morgan goes around the world in 10 must-read books.

David Shariatmadari examines 8 words that reveal the sexism at the heart of the English language.

Thought writers and math don’t mix? Think again. A study finds mathematical structure in great literature.

We’ve all heard some of these—10 things people say to creative writers but shouldn’t.

Jarry Lee shares 27 hilarious food puns every book nerd will appreciate, while author Robert Jackson Bennett explains how barbecue is like epic fantasy.

Take a peek into classic author’s worlds: Jane Austen’s writing desk and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s financial ledger for 1925.

Everything old is new again: William S. Burroughs reads Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”, and a previously unpublished Beatrix Potter story is discovered.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Thank you for visiting and please come again.

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