Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 16, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-16-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! The wind where I live is threatening to blow the house off its foundation, but I am cozy inside with this weeks writerly links for you.

Ursula K. Le Guin takes exception to comparisons of “alternative facts” with science fiction.

Kristen Lamb suggests some ways to get paid to write.

Agents put out an open call for Muslim authors.

Lee Wind learned that POC (people of color) does NOT cover Native Americans.

Lindsay Quayle explores why libraries are about more than just books.

Need an image? The Metropolitan Museum just made 375,000 public domain images free.


If you are contemplating historical fiction, Ashley Hope Pérez has tips to create unforgettable historical fiction.

What do you do when a you need a story idea and nothing’s coming to you? Tal Valante shares a 5-step story idea process that works every time.

Once you have the idea, don’t forget the plot. K.M. Weiland tells us how to write a story without a plot (and why you shouldn’t).

Plot is important, but characters will keep your readers intrigued. Emily Morgan has 10 signs of underdeveloped characters in your novel, and Bridget McNulty shares character description examples: 7 lessons from famous books.

You’ve written! Now to edit. Christina Delay lists 5 steps to avoid overwriting, Naomi Hughes focuses on line editing, and Brandon Taylor gives us a self-editing checklist for short story writers.

Rochelle Deans contemplates the circular nature of our writing journey as she advocated working on your worst writing issue, making it your best, then moving on to the next—over and over, and Lara Elena Donnelly shares 5 things she learned writing her latest book.

Marcy Dermansky has words of encouragement for writers who are also the mothers of small children (would apply to fathers who are primary caregivers, too).

Neil Gaiman talks about the journey to his Norse Mythology book.

These days, publishers want companion material to fill in between books. Laurie Forest offers tips for writing companion novellas.


Hayley Cuccinello explores how fanfiction grew from dirty little secret to a money machine.

Janet Reid answers an author who wonders if self-publishing will doom her, Jane Friedman shows how to get your book distributed if self-published, and Reedsy takes a detailed look at the process and cost of cover design.

Anyone with an agent wants one who will be tenacious—but Janet Reid warns that sometimes “I never give up” is NOT a plus in an agent.

Much of a writer’s marketing these days is online. Jane Freidman looks at online education as a pre-marketing tool, and Joel Friedlander shares top 15 tips for webinar wannabes.

Other ways writers can help their marketing effort can include bringing in an outside publicist to work with the publisher’s PR department, and dressing up your author media kit with 5 fun facts about yourself.


Libba Bray has some thoughts about being a woman today: Womanifesto.

Archaeologists might have found another Dead Sea Scroll cave.

The Mark Twain Museum battles mold infecting over 5,000 artifacts.

How do you envision Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy? Meet the historically accurate Mr. Darcy.

King George III’s wife Queen Charlotte is now online.

Clare Holman-Hobbs shares some underrated BookTube channels.

Are you a Dracula fan? You might love Dracula’s lost Icelandic sister text.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week!


Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | February 15, 2017

A writing space from a favorite movie

I was watching the original Salem’s Lot movie recently, an old favorite of mine. The protagonist is a writer, a fact that had never had any bearing on my enjoyment of the story until now. The movie begins with the main character driving back to the hometown of his youth, and he stops his car to stare at the one large house that was always thought to be haunted. Imaginative and frightful memories of the house, and the dares of boyhood friends to see who could go into the abandoned house and come back out, had not dissipated over time. The man had an idea in his head of what made the house haunted and now was returning to his hometown to write about it.

The story aside, which is a great beginning that can go anywhere in people’s minds, I’m interested in the role of the writer in the story. Returning home without any plans or any ties to anything. Presumably no family (or at least none mentioned for the relevance of this story) or obligations to mention, like house payments, bills, etc. I know it’s not important to the story, but I like dwelling on it nonetheless. He just packs a bag and his typewriter into his jeep and drives to his old home town, looking for a place to stay. He didn’t call ahead to see if there was any vacancy, but tells the person in charge of a local boarding house that he plans on staying there five or six months and that he’s a writer.

The concept of just dropping everything and going somewhere to write is fascinating to me, perhaps because it’s something that would be impossible for me. I’m referring to the bindings of life and daily schedules. I often see these types of departures in the stories I read, which are Edgar Allan Poe’s at the moment. These adventures of characters with seemingly unlimited time at their disposal are also found in a lot of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle whose Sherlock Holmes stories I reread from time to time. Lots of characters that can go somewhere for months without the financial obligations to keep them wherever they were previously. It’s a very compelling part of fiction that is fun to ruminate upon. I think the adventure for the character is an escape that can be experienced by the writer as well as the reader. The freedom to just up and go like that is such a great catalyst for creativity.

In Salem’s Lot, the writer went to the place he was going to write about and had a moment to stare at the house that had filled him with fright as a boy, and remained to mystify and haunt him as a man. I love the idea and can easily see the characters I think about in various places around the city I live and work in. If I were free of my job I would undoubtedly do it more, spending more time finding new places to add to my mind’s eye when I write.

If you could snap your fingers and just up and go to a place you’d write about, where would you go?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 9, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-09-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday roundup! The groundhog said 6 more weeks of winter. Can we make it?

Check out The Horn Book reviews of the 2017 Newbery Award winners.

Baileys announces an end to sponsoring the Women’s Prize for Fiction as marketing priorities shift.

In the current political climate, many people are struggling with just how vocal to be on social media. Lee Wind brings us a round up of author’s thoughts on talking politics on social media.

The current administration has libraries on edge, as rumors of cutting programs that fund libraries fly.

If YA is your thing, Adventures in YA Publishing has a YA Sunday Morning News link roundup just for you.

Are you a mystery buff? At Mysterious Bookshop in TriBeCa, it’s a daily hunt for clues and diversions.


All stories begin with an idea, but to be successful, they have to have a hook. K.M. Weiland tells us what a hook is, and how to find exactly the right story hook to capture the reader.

Characters carry the story. Kristen Lamb unpacks the “character-driven” story for us, Angela Ackerman shows how to make each detail count when describing your character, and Jack Woodville London has 12 questions to help you create memorable characters.

After drafting comes revision and editing. Naomi Hughes reveals the top 3 scene issues she encounters, and Kristen Lamb has 6 easy ways to clean up your own manuscript.

Check out the top 10 myths about writing children’s books, explore the surprising ingenuity behind Goodnight Moon, and read an interview with children’s author Stephanie Burgis.

Stephanie Morrill shares 5 things she learned when she switched genres, Jane Friedman discusses writer envy, Ruth Harris describes how resilience will help you reach your writing goals, and Ava Jae reflects on the unpredictable nature of a writing career.


Take a peek into the real world of authorship, as Kameron Hurley shares a breakdown of her writing income from 2016.

If you are looking at the traditional publishing path, you will want an agent. Janet Reid discusses when and how agents represent short stories, and Jane Lebak alerts writers to watch out for when your agent wants to charge you a fee.

Think merchandising is something new? Think again. See how Beatrix Potter invented character merchandising.

Marketing is complicated—figuring out when and how to get the best exposure for your work is tough. Amy Collins has several book marketing tips based on mistakes made by others, and Jane Friedman urges authors to think twice before paying for BEA (Book Expo America).

Much marketing and author-reader connection takes place online. Sabrina has 139 tools and resources for building your author website and/or blog, Jennifer Brown Banks shows how to create a social media marketing plan, Anne R. Allen has 5 bad reasons to blog and 5 good ones, and Shari Stauch reminds us to engage our audience with epic social media images.


Neil Pasricha outlines how to read (a lot) more books this year.

Sharanya Sharma muses over how beloved books change when reading them with new eyes.

Take a look at these striking photos of readers around the world.

Read the strange history of bibliomania, or compulsive book buying.

An alumna gives Dickinson College students a rare behind-the-scenes look at a Charlotte Brontë exhibit.

Christina DesMarais explains 20 embarrassing phrases even smart people misuse.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week!

Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | February 7, 2017

A Good Book

For various and not exclusively political reasons November and December 2016 were tough. There is no need to go into details here but I will say that I ended up with a near permeant eye twitch. I had trouble sleeping, when I did my dreams were chaotic and I woke at 4 am with my brain saying: “Hey, want to think about the state of the world?” Much of my trouble was that I couldn’t turn my brain off.

A sale on audio books was exactly what I needed. I have listened to all of the audio books I own until I could repeat them verbatim and really needed something new. When I saw Kevin Hearn’s HEXED, the second in his IRON DRUID series, I thought it sounded interesting and I knew I’d heard of the author so I decided to give it a try. If I didn’t like it I was out only five bucks, after all.

HEXED was exactly what I needed. Compelling, well plotted, fantastic characters, humor — these books had it all in my personal “Best Ever” category. As soon as that book was finished I feverishly downloaded the next and then the next until, with a quiet scream of anguish I came to the end. No more books. Yet. Waiting with a new twitch, a ‘I need the next book ASAP’ is much more fun than a stress-induced eye twitch.

Books are one of the building blocks of my life. I learn from books, weep with books, laugh so hard at books I fall off the elliptical, and sometimes, when my brain runs in such small circles it all but makes a groove in my skull, books are best at getting me to look outside and see the world.

BESIEGED is the next book and I’m waiting for it with great anticipation. Things are a bit easier now so I no longer need the book so desperately. Instead, I’m just looking forward to a good book.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 2, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-02-2017

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of February! Hard to believe that January is already behind us.

If you are looking for some worthwhile entertainment, check out these two ALA lists: the 2017 ALA Youth Media Awards, and the 2017 Rainbow Books List.


If memoir is your genre, Paul Alan Fahey explores writing short memoirs and personal essays rather than a full-blown book.

All writers want to tell a great story. Roz Morris shares the 5 qualities of a brilliant story, Jami Gold gives us the most important question in storytelling—why?; developmental editor Naomi Hughes explains the top 3 story issues she sees, and Kristen Lamb reveals the single largest problem of most first-time novels.

Good writing is psychological as well as action. Tamar Sloan has 5 things psychology can teach writers, Rae Elliott explores what makes a fantastic villain, and Anna Pitoniak shares what being an editor taught her about writing.

Writers always want to write more, better, faster. R.S. Mollinson lists 3 ways which she inadvertently limited her writing, and Tina Radcliffe tells us how to overcome Goldilocks Syndrome.

Every writer knows how hard it is to balance writing and life—and how hard to keep up with the changes in the publishing world. Clare Edwards and Joanna Penn discuss 3 key strategies for thriving in the ever-changing world of being an author, Dr. Jeffrey Steinbrink talks about the self-compassion of writing, Janalyn Voigt explains why books have margins (and so should you), Mary Kole looks at balancing writing and life, and Lance Rubin shows how to keep a productive writing routine during dark times.


Rick Pullen shares how Kindle Press made his novel a best seller.

Many writers still want a traditional agent, but having an agent can have its own set of issues. Janet Reid tackles two of them this week. First, if your current publisher is imploding, should you mention that in a query? Second, what do you do if your agent won’t tell you where your book has been submitted?

Marketing ourselves and our books is never-ending. Judith Briles looks at creating a sell sheet to help people get to know you and your work, while Keely Brooke Keith lists 7 essentials for your book launch.


Readers share 15 of the greatest lessons they learned from a book.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 26, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 01-26-2017

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of January! It seems like 2017 just began a few days ago.

Kelly Barnhill is “completely gobsmacked” about her 2017 Newbery Medal, and Lee Wind runs down the 2017 SCBWI Spark Award winners.

Liana Brooks discusses writing the disabled.

PEN Center USA writers respond to the election, and Carter Higgins lists 35 picture books for young activists.

Author John Green shows proper pronunciation for often messed-up words.

The Liars Club Philadelphia’s Oddcast features Fran Wilde.


Writing is hard from beginning to end. Reedsy editors share 9 tips on how to start a story, while Janice Hardy examines how to write great endings—and not just the big one.

Rochelle Deans has tips for what to do to revise your NaNo book, and Jami Gold talks about what to do if you can’t find beta readers.

Trying to start a daily writing routine can be rough. Sukhi Jutla discusses using habits, triggers, and rewards to build a daily writing practice, and Jemima Pett explains how to write 52 stories a year.


Pricing and distribution are two issues many authors grapple with. Janet Reid peeks inside book pricing, while Jane Friedman hosts a Q&A with Pronoun Distribution, an up-and-coming distribution hub.

The art of the pitch is vital to every author. Jami Gold discusses pitch writing and why even self-publishers need them.

Once you’ve got that pitch, if you are heading down the traditional path, you’ll use it in your query. But what else to include? Janet Reid tells us when you should include “why I wrote this book” in your query.

Katherine Grubb explores the top 10 ways marketing your book is like exploring a jungle, and Frances Caballo shares apps, tools, and plugins for indie authors in 2017.


This week, take a look at some of Europe’s most beautiful libraries.

Writers read a lot, but what happens when you hit a slump? Beth O’Brien shares 5 things her 6-month-long reading slump taught her.

James Wallace Harris has the opposite issue—he’s a book addict.

Julie Phillips talks to the fantastic Ursula K. Le Guin.

If you are looking for an excellent blog, check out One Great Book.

Mark Twain told his daughters fairy tales all the time, but only one was ever written down. This rediscovered Mark Twain fairy tale will be published soon.

Prim and proper Jane Austen had a racy side.

Who was the Poe Toaster? We still have no idea—but it could be you.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you in February!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 24, 2017

Revising the Revision Process

One of the things I’ve been working on this past year has been revamping my writing process. As most writers know, your writing process is never static. It evolves over time, changing to meet the demands on your time, the book you are writing, and your growth as a person. I’ve streamlined the writing process a bit, and now I am revising the revision process.

I’m a semi-pantser. I go into a story with a very basic outline—usually a beginning and end, the beats in between, and a few other scenes that have come to me strongly. My first draft can be considered a massive detailed outline. By the time I reach the end, I know who my characters are, and I understand the story I am telling—which is not always the story I thought I was telling.

Then comes the massive revision—which is the tradeoff that pantsers make Plotters spend a ton of time planning before they write, and so often don’t have as much to revise, where pansters spend most of their time in the revision process.

Revising a story has so many facets, it’s easy to get revision paralysis and not know where to begin. I decided to start at a basic level and make sure that every chapter in the book was linked into the cause-and-effect chain. Having the causal links established makes the story hang together and keeps the reader turning the pages. Turns out that I did a good job with that, as I only found one chapter that didn’t seem to cause any effect down the road. So I added one to it.

I also needed to check voice, character arc, stakes, scene goals/conflict, and sensory details (I tend to forget the sensory stuff, so it is a major part of my revision process). Wow, so much to keep track of—and I have 3 point of view characters in this book as well. So I turned to my trusty Excel spreadsheet and created the following chart for each character, and filled it in.


I’m still working on this part, but it has been helpful so far.

One thing I now know about this new revision process I am working on is that I am doing it out of order. I need to integrate some of these steps earlier in the overall writing process. I spent a lot of time rewriting my original before I ever looked at the causal chain or the details of the character arc, or the scene-level conflict/goal/stakes. I need to do that earlier, so my rewriting is more focused. I don’t regret the rewriting I did (it made the story much better even on its own), but if I can streamline the writing process more, I can get the books out faster.

Now that I have a handle on my revision process, I think my next book will be written much faster. But first I have to finish this one!

Do you have any revision tips to share? Do you periodically reassess your writing process to see how you can make it better?



Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 19, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 01-19-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are having an erratic January here—snow, then days in the 50s. The weather may be erratic, but the writerly links continue as always!

9 Canadian writers share their writing resolutions for 2017.

Jami Gold reminds us that one writing goal for 2017 should be to find what works for us as writers.

The power of books is universal, whether you are a four-year-old bibliophile Guest Librarian for the Library of Congress, or President Obama of the United States.

In times of political turmoil, writers are often on the front lines. Last weekend, many writers gathered to explore how language is the tool we use to build our political and democratic structures, Rep. John Lewis’s memoir Walking With the Wind and National Book Award-winning graphic novel March sold out on Amazon after Trump attacked him on Twitter, and  Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich and 30 other writers have quit the Russian PEN center to protest the expulsion of journalist Sergey Parkhomenko.


Anne R. Allen says anthologies can be great opportunities, but to beware of scams.

Writers have so many story ideas, sometimes it is hard to pick one. Jeff Elkins shares the Hedgehog Concept as a way to choose a book idea, and Katherine Lampe advises avoiding these 10 tires witch tropes.

Once you’ve got the idea, you need to draw in the reader. Becca Puglisi shows how to craft a powerful set-up that will leave the reader wanting more. Jami Gold tells us how to give the readers that more by making our story feel meaningful, and Jane Friedman talks about when a story ending doesn’t satisfy—sometimes on purpose.

Emily Temple gathers advice from writers on how they revise.

Writing can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Chandler Baker explains how to revive your writer’s soul, Roz Morris reminds us not to neglect our reading, and Roseanne Bane lists 5 reasons to thank your resistance to writing.

Author Holly Bourne answers 7 questions, and Mary Kole addresses what life is like post-publication.


Robert Kroese examines if Amazon exclusivity is right for you, while David Kudler delves into the nuts-and-bolts of ebook mechanics with CSS for ebooks, part 2.

When writers have manuscripts ready to go, should we target agents or editors? And should we query multiple projects to multiple agents? Should you tell about your old agent in a query? And what about querying agents when past books have good reviews but poor sales? Jane Friedman, Mary Kole, and Janet Reid answer those questions.

If you’ve been asked for a full, agent Jennifer Johnson-Blalock talks about when you should follow up. If you’ve ever wondered about what to write in the bio section of your query letter, Chuck Sambuchino has some guidance. These 7 agents are seeking women’s fiction so if that’s your genre, check them out. And an old post but a good post: THE CALL or, What to Ask a Literary Agent When Offered Representation by Casey McCormick.

Marketing is as much art as business. Jane Lebak reminds us not to use tired, broad tropes to pitch your story, Eva Lesko Natiello reveals the pro-bono marketing staff every selfpublished author has at their fingertips, and Jane Friedman compiles her Best Book Marketing Resources of 2016.


Zhou Youguang, the inventor of Pinyin—which is responsible for both boosting literacy rates in China and bridging the divide between the country and the West—died on Saturday.

Lisa Rosman pours us the 6 best cocktails from classic literature.

Chris Weller tracks down the most beautiful library in every US state.

Elizabeth Lilly has 25 amazingly clever ways to display books in your home.

How the speech and Bible from George Washington’s First Inauguration made history many times over.

If you’re looking for inspiration, you can write inside Mark Twain’s library.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week for more writerly links.

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | January 16, 2017

New Year Metamorphosis

My resolution for 2017 is to do things differently, as opposed to doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Crazy, huh? I want better results from my effort. Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint what those habits are, but the results are obvious.

Of course I still can’t control my schedule but I do have a plan that I began implementing back in 2016.

  1. I took a break from writing so that I could start fresh, less likely to repeat old ways of doing things. Of course I’m hoping to throw out the bath water and keep the baby, the things that are the good habits.
  2. I’ve been gathering information and have created a clear picture of what I want to accomplish. Not the fuzzy one with which I started writing.
  3. I’m entering 2017 with more confidence and a resolution not to let the monster fear emotions get a toehold. After all this time I understand I can simply say “no” to the little monsters.
  4. I even have a plan to start interacting with other writers again, although I suspect that first I may have to get my courage up and change my work situation to allow time for living life. We’ll see.
  5. I resolve to create a shrine to those things that are important and let the others fall away.
Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 12, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 01-12-2017

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of 2017! We hope you and yours had a good holiday and a happy New Year!

NPR staff picks their Best Reads from the 2016 Book Concierge Great Reads.

In case you want a sneak peek at Books 2017, here is The Guardian’s 2017 Literary Calendar.

We all are aware that reading fiction encourages empathy and communication. Here are 7 books that teach children about racial and social justice, lists of YA books about POC written by POC, authors R.J. Palacio and Meg Medina discussing diversity and children’s books, and 10 children’s books that celebrate our diverse world.

Awards: SCBWI announces the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author awards for this year, and check out the 2016 CYBILS finalists for elementary/middle grade speculative fiction.

Jane Friedman lists the best literary fiction blogs and websites.

Roni Loren discusses how to create a daily reading habit and tackle your To-Be-Read piles using the 5-page technique.

In an odd story, Florida librarians are accused of creating fake borrowers to save stock.


The New Year brings new writing goals. Jami Gold talks about setting writing goals so you can win (sometimes), and Chuck Wendig lays out his resolution in two words.

Jerome Bruner delves into the psychology of what makes a great story.

Openings are key to any story. However, Emily Ruskovich says the opening paragraphs don’t always have to be exciting, and Anne R. Allen explains the wisdom of writing the first chapter last.

Once you’ve got started, get the little things right to make your story sing. Janet Reid tells us the proper way to do surprise, Jacqueline Hesse advises us to remove filters in your fiction, and Tina Radcliff shows how regional clues and cues can bring your story to life.

After we’ve finished writing, we often need other eyes to help us polish the manuscript. Jam Gold helps us figure out if we need a developmental editor or a writing coach.

Writers often struggle with the huge mental component of writing. Melanie Bishop tells how to make the most of writing retreats, Ayodeji Awosika explains how to keep writing when you feel inadequate, Alyson Schroll shares how to deal with when writing can’t be your life, and Chuck Wendig shows how to finish that book.


It’s a new year, and the ever-changing business of publishing is still in motion. Jane Friedman looks back on 2016 and shares important publishing developments authors should know, while Laurie McLean looks ahead with publishing predictions for 2017. Meanwhile, Publisher’s Weekly is reporting that print book sales rose again in 2016.

Emily Gould posits that women authors don’t have the luxury of being unlikable. Whether you choose to be likeable or not, agent Janet Reid says all authors need to be reachable, lest opportunity miss you for lack of an email address. Meanwhile, Kathryn Craft shares 5 tips to sustain you in the query trenches.

Marketing can make some writers cry in frustration. Chris Syme discusses pain-free book marketing, Judith Briles has tips to make your book soar, and Jefferson Smith introduces PageFight!, a site to allow you to get marketing feedback and let readers discover your books.

Jane Friedman dissects why building a platform to land books sales so often fails, Robert Kroese steps us through using KDP ads to sell books on Amazon, Frances Caballo lists 40 people indie authors should follow on Twitter, and Barb Drozdowich talks blog stats and what they can tell you.


2016 was a brutal year for the creative community, with so many artists lost. It ended with the death of Watership Down author Richard Adams, and now 2017 is beginning with the loss of agent David Miller and author and Jazz writer Nat Hentoff.

A donation to a library reveals a treasure trove of rare literary letters.

Eloise Ruby takes us behind the scenes into cataloging the thousands of Medieval manuscript fragments housed at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek.

Thank you for reading this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you next week!


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