Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 20, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-20-2020



Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Our weather in the Mid-Atlantic States has seesawed this month from slightly below normal to well above normal. Although we’ve missed the snow that a lot of you have experienced, we’re still looking forward to spring. Only one month to go.

Next Wednesday is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. If you have young ones around, take the opportunity to read a classic fairy tale. Everyone else might want to consider a literary classic: Daniel Frank shares the most loved and hated classics according to Goodreads users.

Whether you’re a fan of A Game of Thrones or not, you might enjoy Robert Lee Brewer’s collection of 12 George R. R. Martin quotes for writers and about writing.

In memoriam: A. E. Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway, dies at age 102 [reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer by Hillel Italie, Associated Press].


Early birds — they beat the crocuses this year.




Want to improve your writing? Beth van der Pol points out that you can learn how to be creative, while Jessica Strawser looks into how teaching can make you a better writer, and Katie Forrest sets out 9 time management tips for writers.

We all feel doubt and discouragement at times. Julie Glover talks about how to love your writer self, Patti Jo Moore considers the Goldilocks syndrome, and Tasha Seegmiller reminds us writers are separate from their craft.

For those thinking about writing a book with another author, Maryann Miller gives us ten tips for successful collaboration.

If you’re just beginning your manuscript, Gordon Long explains how to create a dynamic four-sentence opening paragraph.

Several bloggers bring us information and tips about the key story elements theme, plot, and tone. Stavros Halvatzis concentrates on story tone and its relationship to theme and plot, September C. Fawkes examines how premise plays into theme, Brandon Cornette delves into when “situational” writing works better than plotting, and Janice Hardy focuses on plotting with the save the cat beat sheet structure.

Other bloggers concentrate on suspense and conflict. K. M. Weiland offers 6 steps to create realistic (and powerful) scene dilemmas, Laurence MacNaughton lists 3 rules to raising the story stakes, Jim Dempsey stresses creating conflict in your characters, and Kris Bock suggests keeping the reader guessing with story questions when writing a page-turner.

Good dialogue brings a story to life. James Scott Bell advocates mastering the basics: point of view and dialogue, Melissa Donovan talks about action and dialogue in storytelling, and Lori Rader-Day reveals the secrets to better dialogue.

For those working in particular genres, Steven K. Smith discusses middle grade novel structure, E. L .Skip Knox relates history for fantasy writers: how time was perceived in ancient and medieval Europe, Andrew Noakes mentions five historical fiction mistakes to avoid, and Saralyn Richard digs into perfecting the police procedural.

Do you need to do research for your story? J. R. Bee explains why everyone should research, and Terry Odell advocates doing your homework.

When it’s time to polish that first draft, Robert Lee Brewer takes a look at metaphor vs. personification, Roni Loren describes 3 pitfalls to avoid so you don’t write boring love scenes, and Kathryn Craft details 7 ways to overcome story implausibility.

Once you’ve polished your work, it’s time to find an editor. Natasa Lekic clarifies different types of editing, and Nathan Bransford suggests when editing, start with the problems before jumping to solutions.

Finally, Janet Reid celebrates editors, the invisible heroes of publishing.


Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash




If you’re seeking an agent, Janet Reid discusses how to deal with a less-than-stellar publishing past in a query.

Hate even thinking about a synopsis? Kristen Lamb explains why you need a synopsis, even if you self-publish.

As much as we desire publication, we need to be careful in the process. Anne R. Allen warns us about 10 new publishing scams to watch out for in 2020, and Janet Reid advises writers what to do if contacted out of the blue by a seeming editor or agent. In addition, Victoria Strauss looks at whether you should pay to display your book at BookExpo.

Providing tips and information about branding, platform, and marketing, Rennie St. James lists three must-haves for effective branding, Stephanie Chandler goes into how to clearly define your target audience so you can build your platform and sell more books, Dave Chesson explores how to use keyword research to sell more books, Sandra Beckwith enumerates 8 ways to make your book’s press release work harder, and Amy Collins updates us with: do this, don’t do that 2020.

For those involved in social media marketing and blogging, Frances Caballo informs us how to create a social media strategy as an author, while Cristian Mihai ponders how to find your blogging muse and reminds us that first impressions matter a lot.

Anything that helps booksellers is good news for writers. Christen Thompson writes that new tools are leveling the playing field for booksellers.


Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash




Finola Austin discusses the Brontë myth: why this literary family continues to inspire writers today.

In 594 ways of reading Jane Eyre, Bonnie Chau considers a study to understand the way a source is transformed by translators and how the translations reflect their culture.

Continuing with the topic of culture, Chi Luu asserts that black English matters.

Writers are urged to read. Craig Fehrman looks into how Obama’s reading shaped his writing.

Sarah Rose Sharp takes us inside a museum and library dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut.



That wraps up this week’s roundup of writerly links. Have a productive week of reading and writing, and join us next week for more Top Picks Thursday.




Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 13, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-13-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Monday, February 17th is National Random Acts of Kindness Day, so go make the world better one small act at a time.

Speaking of good acts, the 2020 PEN America Literary Service Award goes to Patti Smith.

If you celebrate Valentine’s Day (or if you just like love poems), recommends 14 love poems, classic and contemporary.

Mary Kole has a mysterious yet exciting opportunity for writers.

Sadly, Roger Kahn, author of The Boys of Summer, died at age 92.

In diversity news, the American Dirt publisher vows to increase Latinx staff and authors after meeting with concerned Latinx groups.

Storytelling kept early humans alive. Gaia Vince discusses the adaptive urgency of storytelling, shaping our minds, our societies, and our interaction with the environment. Books in prisons have been proven to help reformation, so Arvind Dilawar lays out how to help prisoners get books.

The scammers never stop trying to reel in unsuspecting writers. Melissa Bowersock reveals the Quantum Leap scam, and Victoria Strauss cautions us to beware of these and others playing the impersonation game.


Sometimes it’s hard to develop one of the many story ideas in our heads. Nina Amir discusses how to take a spiritual approach to developing writing ideas. It’s also hard to pick a title. James Scott Bell asks: how do you pick a title? And over all is the fear of your own bad writing. Dean Mayes talks about shedding the fear of writing shit.

Sherry Howard examines what novelists can learn from studying picture books, Jodie Renner says don’t give your readers a reason to reject your novel, Stavros Halvatzis explores structure from Act 1 on, and Janice Hardy pokes dead scenes with a stick.

When creating our characters, we have to dig into every aspect of their lives. K.M. Weiland looks at the 2 different types of the Lie Your Character Believes, J. Kenner instructs how to write romance scenes, B.K. Bass discusses avatars of the divine for fantasy worldbuilding, and Mukoma Wa Ngugi has a concise guide for white writers on writing your other.

Once you’ve written, now you have to clean it up. Pat Stoltey gives tips on getting the best critique group ever, Terry Odell says that sometimes it’s okay to tell, not show, Kris Spisak has 4 problem areas in revision and 5 novel editing question to ask, D. Greg Scott tells us how to avoid writing tech gibberish, and Meg LaTorre tells us how to find critique partners and beta readers. Sometimes, though, no amount of editing is going to help your work right now. Sally Shupe explores when it’s time to let go.

We take our inspiration from everywhere. Sarah Kozloff discusses the cross-pollination of art forms, Martin Dumont examines what shipyards can teach us about the writing process, and John Peragine takes the leap from non-fiction to fiction.

Creativity is our lifeblood, and it can be hard to harness. Melissa Donovan urges us to share our writing, Lisa Tener has 5 ways to get unstuck in writing, creativity, or life; Cathy Yardley reminds us that our subconscious speaks a different language, and Angela Ackerman shares tools to make you a more powerful writer in 2020.

Jennie Nash tells us what makes a good book coach, Sweata Vikram shares why winter is a great time to write, and Jodi Turchin talks about how to persevere when the mountain seems unconquerable.

We’re all passionate about our writing, but sometimes we have to step back and look at the big picture and where we are headed. Jami Gold asks: where do you want your story or career to go?, Sarah Sundin shares 10 things she’s learned in 10 years, and Debra Eckerling looks at rebooting your goals.


Kari Paul warns that Amazon is using your Kindle to collect a lot of data about your reading habits.

In a win for authors, US publishers succeed in the Audible captions case.

Aimee Aristoelous has tips for using partnerships to help land a nonfiction book deal.

In an ideal world, your book’s cover wouldn’t matter. In our world, it does. Jim Milliot reports on survey results on judging a book by its title, Nate Hoffelder pits Canva vs. Book Brush for creating your graphics, and Melinda VanLone has a quick guide to image copyright issues.

Indie authors have to know a lot if they are to take full advantage of all their book rights. Ofer Tirosh tells us what indie authors need to know before translating books, Jordan Dane takes a look at audio books, and Eleanor Pigg gives us the ultimate guide to ISBNs for authors.

Getting a publisher’s attention is hard enough as it is. But when some demand ever-more books per year, it can be crushing. Janet Reid answers the question: is a book a month the new norm?, and Don Bentley shares 4 tips for moving from slush pile to sale.

Marketing is a whole other job than writing, yet we authors must learn how to do it. Sandra Beckwith lists 4 steps to new book marketing habits, Nancy J. Cohen wonders if blog tours are worthwhile, Cristian Mahai has 30 tips to help you become a better blogger and what to do if nobody is reading your best posts, and Penny C. Sansevieri explains Pinterest for authors.


Charles Dickens spun stories his entire adult life, but even in death Charles Dickens left behind a riveting tale of deceit.

Dan Bevacqua wonders what happens when you treat writing like acting?

While high-end editions of classics bring in huge money at auctions today, it was the proliferation of penny editions of Jane Austin’s novels that brought literature to the masses.

Gwen Ihnat tracks the evolution of the “smart girl” trope in pop culture.

A tale of two Dorothys. Francesca Wade peeks into Dorothy L. Sayers and The Detection Club, and Jonathan Goldman examines when Dorothy Parker got fired from Vanity Fair.

That’s all for this week! We will see you back here next week for more literary links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 6, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-06-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of February! The month is short, but our link list is long. Next week, celebrate Freelance Writers Appreciation Week!

The Youth Media Awards are out, and a graphic novel wins the Newbery Medal for the first time. Also awarded were the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, and Michael L. Printz Awards.

SCBWI announces the winners of their Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards.

In non-prose news, the Mellon Foundation grants $4.5 million to the Academy of American Poets.

The end of an era. Suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark dies at age 92.

Diversity is something authors and publishers grapple with all the time these days, as they wrestle with the shortcomings in the industry. Rachel Deahl comments on publishing’s American Dirt problem, Jami Gold ponders what the calls for diversity mean for our writing, and Jason T. Low produces the 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey of the state of publishing last year.


For our non-fiction writers, Tract R. Atkins continues her series on special formatting for non-fiction books in Microsoft Word.

If you write crime fiction (or read it), Paul D. Marks wants to know where else in the world would you like to see a crime fiction novel set and why?

Lots of us enter writing contests. Sarah Loudin Thomas admits to being conflicted about contests—and I’ll be many of us can understand her feelings.

A novel-length story is hefty, and building the structure to support it all can be tough. Janice Hardy has 4 tips on plotting your novel, Bob Hostetler looks at compelling first lines, Jami Gold discusses bridging conflicts from the story beginning to the main conflict, and Colleen M. Story advises how to make it through the middle of your book.

Other than structure, there are plenty of other craft elements writers need to master. Brian Andrews talks about setting—the silent character, Nils Odlund shares three thoughts on timing or pacing your prose, and James Scott Bell warns of the curse of expository dialogue.

Aside from all those other craft elements, we have to deal with characters. William Kenower looks at writing villains in memoir, Stavros Halvatzis shows how to write great characters, Nathan Bransford explains why protagonists need to be active, and Abigail Hing Wen discusses learning character development the brutally hard way.

Writers are often stressed out. Ann Parker explores how to have the best writing year ever but with less stress, Lori Freeland has 12 survival tricks for a creative’s anxiety, and Bethany Henry lists 6 ways to feed your Muse.

The intersection of writing and real life can be bumpy. Jane Freidman tells us how to get the most out of writer’s conferences, both as conferees and presenters, while Ann R. Allen muses over the pitfalls that come when life imitates fiction.


The business end of writing is forever changing. Jim Milliot reports that print unit sales posted a big end of January gain, while Kristen Lamb discusses the growing trend of major retailers and publishers leaving Amazon to go it alone.

Judith Briles talks about why you should self-publish in 2020.

Porter Anderson extols the women newly named to publishing executive positions in Germany and the US.

Janet Reid says don’t tweet your story to attract agents and editors, and K. Maze shares the moment when rejection becomes connection.

Marketing is largely on the author’s plate these days, and it is terrifying for many. Shawn Inmon says you don’t need to suck at marketing, Jane Friedman reminds us that people don’t need to have read your book to support it, and Nina Dafe suggests reaching more readers through guest posting.

Much of marketing is digital these days, and there’s a lot to know about how to navigate online. Laurence O’Bryan explains what Amazon Ads dashboard changes mean for authors, Victor Blasco discusses how to make a book trailer that speaks to readers, Frances Caballo has 8 social media scheduling apps for writers, and Cristian Mihai shares how to become an artist at blogging and 10 tips to becoming a successful blogger.


An interview with  Eoin Colfer as his Artemis Fowl hits the big screen.

Whose your favorite fictional bookseller? Emily Temple ranks the 50 best fictional booksellers.

Libraries and museums are treasure chests for writers. The New York Public Library has acquired a trove of Virginia Woolf’s letters, manuscripts, and postcards, while Paris Musees announces 150,000 works from the museum collections of the city of Paris free to download and use.

The penultimate American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia closes with the lowest attendance in years.

Michael Zapata lists 10 books that were almost lost to history.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us again next week for more literary links.


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 30, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-30-2020



Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, hedgerow sassafras trees, winter trees

Winter hedgerow—sassafras trees


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Can you believe it’s the end of January? It seems like we just celebrated the start of the new year. No complaints, though—we’re one month closer to spring.

We don’t need to wait until spring to find something to celebrate. Porter Anderson tells us about Canada’s Family Literacy Day and next week’s World Read Aloud Day, both of which promote young readers’ literacy at home.

Next week is also International Networking Week, something we writers and other creatives are advised to do. Those looking for chances to network might want to check out Literary Hub‘s 2020 calendar of noteworthy literary events (by Emily Temple).

Have you checked out ebooks at the library? Book Riot‘s Susie Dumond reports that over 70 public libraries made 2019 a record year for digital checkouts.

It makes me shudder to think of it, but Beth Skwarecki claims cutting books in half is a hack.

Human kind’s fascination with stories began long before we invented writing. Meghan Cox Gurdon traces the history of oral storytelling.

For those who’ve served our country, Ericka McIntyre provides information about the Veterans Writing Project.

In memoriam: Jim Lehrer, PBS journalist and author of three memoirs and twenty novels, dies at age 85 [reported by Anne Azzi Davenport and Jeffrey Brown on PBS News Hour].


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, snow geese in a harvested corn field, January

Snow geese in a harvested corn field




If you haven’t gotten back into your writing rhythm after the holidays, Sharon Redmon shares 5 ways to start your writing year, and Jessica Strawser offers 5 ways to invest in your writing this year.

To bring us inspiration, Amy Jones presents 9 Virginia Woolf quotes about writing for writers (and readers).

Need some writing tips? Melony Teague identifies essential skills for writers, and Kim Bullock delves into the benefits of sensory deprivation for writers.

For those who write in particular genres, Raymond Fleishchmann discusses how to make historical fiction true to its time period without being stuffy, Rose Gardner insists tension is necessary in romance fiction, and Toni Šušnjar talks about fantasy fortifications—part 3: design.

With more on worldbuilding, Drew McVittie gives his take on worldbuilding: sowing seeds.

Stavros Halvatzis takes a look at the moral of the story, and Nathan Bransford explains the character arc, while James Scott Bell gives further reflections on the mirror moment, and The Writer’s Ally delves into conflict and tension in your narrative.

Working on your characters? Christina Kaye describes how to write a killer villain, while Jami Gold focuses on how to make the protagonist more proactive. SCBWI looks at layering voice to create more memorable characters, and Nathan Bransford explores the power of competing desires in a story.

To make your characters come alive, Ruth Harris gives us 15 keys to writing great dialogue.

Several bloggers consider point of view: Harry Connolly discusses POV and narrators, Janice Hardy looks at things to consider when adding a point of view character, and Lisa Hall-Wilson offers one quick fix for “telling” in deep point of view.

We’ve all heard that you should “write what you know,” but Kath Boyd Marsh wonders: how do I write what I know if I’m not a dragon?

When you’ve finished that first draft and are ready to revise and edit, Jenny Hansen advocates her favorite editing lifesaver, and Katy Kauffman recommends editing your writing to S-P-A-R-K-L-E.

Before you send out or publish that manuscript, Rachelle Gardner ponders whether you should use sensitivity readers.

Lisa Tener answers 32 of your book writing and publishing questions, and Rada Jones sets out 13 writing tips for non-native English authors.

Lindsay Mayer finds benefits in continuing researching after publishing a book.


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, winter cluds, old silo, January




For those following the traditional route to publication, Jessica Faust considers whether there’s a bad time to query; Janet Reid says you can schedule a call with an agent outside of normal working hours and responds to questions about whether publishers like working with agents; and Emma Lombard shares a system and template for tracking your submissions.

Agent Sara Megibow advises writers to make a list of personal influencers.

Writer Beware‘s Victoria Strauss warns us about junk book marketing: pay-to-play magazines.

For new indie authors, Dave Chesson identifies 4 mistakes amateur self-publishers make that the pros don’t.

Mike Shatzkin looks at what is causing the uptick in independent bookstores. This is good news for authors, in part because independent bookstores are ideal places to hold a book launch. Providing guidance for those launching a new book, Kristan Julius details how to prepare a successful book launch.

Sandra Beckwith reveals what’s even better than a reader review.

With helpful information regarding your online presence, Kim Lochery shares 25 social media marketing statistics & facts to turbo-charge your engagement, Nathan Bransford explains what it means to be your real self online, Beth Barany sets out 5 steps to create the tagline for your author brand, and Orna Ross clarifies SEO for authors: Google Search algorithm changes.

Elizabeth S. Craig looks into using Facebook Notes for promotional book excerpts, and Monique D. Mensah provides an author’s guide to social video marketing, while Debbie Burke reports on LinkedIn’s ties to book piracy.

If you’re an author blogger, Alice Corner looks at how to keep your blog looking fresh: follow these simple graphic design trends, while Cristian Mihai enumerates five super ways to improve your blog posts and tells us how to create engaging content.


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, bare branches




Looking back at some literary greats, Adam Nicolson writes about the friendship between Coleridge and Wordsworth, and Alexandra Samuel wonders if Jane Austen is the antidote to social media overload.

Jan Hennop tells us that Dutch art sleuth Arthur Brand has found a rare stolen copy of a 15th century book by the Persian poet Hafez.

John M. Bowers asks: did Tolkien write The Lord of the Rings because he was avoiding his academic work?

Isaac Bashevis Singer addresses the particular wonders of writing in Yiddish.

Franco Laguna Correa contemplates the continuing relevance of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man.

Finally, Bill DeMain shares 38 wonderful words with no English equivalent. We should definitely add some of these to the English language. Which ones would you like to include?


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, late afternoon sky, dramatic clouds, January

That wraps up Top Picks Thursday for this month. See you next week with another roundup of writerly links!


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, rhododendron buds, January

Future rhododendron flowers.



Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 23, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-23-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Today is National Handwriting Day, for those writers who do their drafts by hand.

In a sad day for Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien, responsible for editing and publishing much of his father’s work, dies at age 95.

In awards news, Sibylle Berg, a Zurich-based author of more than 15 books, wins this year’s Swizz Grand Prix Literature, Switzerland’s top literary Prize. In the US, the National Endowment for the Arts announced a total of $1.2 million in fellowships for translators and creative writers.

The rather astonishing reason why Goodnight Moon is not on the New York Public Library’s list of the 10 most-checked-out books of all time.

Check out these 9 books that celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

For those who write short stories, this is welcome news: The Atlantic has committed itself to publishing more short fiction.

Browse and register for these writing workshops and conferences from January to March 2020.

California has passed—and other states including New Jersey are trying to pass—a law that could severely impact freelance writers. Victoria Strauss has what you need to know about how California’s new law AB-5 affects writers.


Each of us started our writing journey somewhere. Many started writing as children, some started later in life, but at some point we decided to be an author. Louise Brady shares 10 tips for the aspiring author, and Susan DeFrietas examines if you have what it takes to be a writer.

But what happens at the end of your career? If you have a series or character that has dominated your portfolio? Lee Child is letting Jack Reacher go by transferring the series to another author.

Almost everything we write needs some sort of research. Tara East has 7 tips for researching a novel, Janet Reid tells us about the resource, and Nathan Bransford has a list of societal changes and threats to consider when building your world.

Sometimes we have trouble starting to write. Marla Bishop gives us 10 writing prompts to jump start our brain, and Stavros Halvatzis discusses story templates to guide our thoughts.

Writers use craft elements to keep readers from putting down the book. Spencer Ellsworth looks at the core of every novel: the big want and the big fear; Janice Hardy shares a simple trick to keep readers turning pages, and Dana Isaacson urges us to deliver what your readers want.

Characters are wonderful to write, when they are not making us crazy. Wendy Heard examines writing multiple points of view, Nathan Bransford has 9 ways to spice up characters, and Angela Ackerman looks at cause and effect: does your character’s behavior make sense?

Editing is a vital step in finishing your story. Kristina Stanley lays out everything you need to know about fiction editing, RJ Crayton has 4 tips to help you self-edit, Jennie Nash answers why writers hire book coaches, and Jeanne Cavelos examines the compelling, emotional complex sentence.

Writing a book is a long-term project. Paula Munier describes running the novel-writing marathon, TD Storm shows how your attitude and approach toward habits can revitalize your writing practice, Daphne Gray-Grant has 7 ways to make the most of your writing time, and Katharine Grubb tells us how to make time for your writing.

Although writing is mostly done alone, we often depend on our writing community to help get us through the rough patches. A. Howitt discusses writing groups, Victoria Turk examines dealing with “friendship overload” in the age of social media, and Harry Lee Poe shares 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about C.S. Lewis.


Nick Kolakowski warns authors that LinkedIn’s SlideShare is a vast emporium for pirated books.

Sacha Black shares 6 steps to setting yourself up financially as a writer in 2020.

Self-publishing? David Kudler has fun with formats: mobi/Kindle, Rosalind Minett discusses choosing the right audiobook narrator, and David Mackintosh has top 10 illustration and design tips for picture books.

Many writers enter writing contests, and there are many good reasons to do so. Dea Parkin explains why to enter a writing competition and how to win, while Tamela Hancock Murray tells why a contest win might not help get you published.

Pitching and querying is a staple of the author life. Sandi Ward discusses pitching your novel in person and how it differs from the email query, while Anne R. Allen discusses writing a professional query. Barbara Poelle talks about how to choose an agent amid competing offers, while Janet Reid explains why you shouldn’t pay to revert your rights.

Marketing is difficult, but it offers opportunities to be innovative. Sandra Beckwith suggests you let your characters engage with fans online, SCBWI looks at Ellen Meeropol’s ARC tour, and Debbie Burke has 12 tips for new public speakers.

When marketing online, it helps to have tools. David Gaughran lists 12 free graphic design tools for authors, Frances Caballo shares 11 must-have Instagram apps for writers, and Cristian Mihai explains the blogging mindset of reciprocity.

Trying to attract new readers often requires a multi-pronged approach. Jimmy Kindree talks about submitting short stores for publications, Janet Reid offers the best way to post reviews when you’re a writer, and Jordan Dane suggests cultivating new readers by donating your books to worthy causes.

Zoe M. McCarthy has an easy way to write a book cover blurb, Kris Maze gives us 3 reasons to consider “readability” before you publish, and Laurence McNaughton says if you want to get published, read every day.


Read 12 thought-provoking quotes from 1984 by George Orwell.

Juana Summers delves into the fading art of diagramming sentences.

James Woods examines what’s at stake when we write literary criticism.

A rival to Disney? There are plans for a new Russian theme park based on the poems and fairy tales of Alexander Pushkin.

Janine Barchas discusses the obscure editions of Jane Austen’s novels that made her internationally known.

Ben Mazer investigates the enigma of Delmore Schwartz, the luminous poet who fell from grace.

Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for: the backstory you need to understand the movie Cats (2019).

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more literary links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 16, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-16-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! January 18th is National Thesaurus Day, so lionize, extol, proclaim, and celebrate the wonderful breadth of our English language.

Many of us have been horrified by the devastation in Australia. SCBWI has a way authors can support those impacted by Australian wildfires.

Book Critics Circle announces the finalists for the 2019 NBCC Awards.

Multiple authors have passed away this week: Elizabeth Wurtzel dies at age 52, Charles Sprawson dies at age 78, and Chukwuemeka Ike dies at age 88.

Reading changes the brain and changes lives. The Guardian explores why the books we read as children are the ones that shape our psyche, the visual language of comic books can improve brain function, and the Maryland State Library grant $100,000 to buy books for prison libraries.

New Year, same old scams. Victoria Strauss compiles Writer Beware’s 2019 in review, and Melissa Bowersock warns of the “make my book into a movie” scam.


As we move deeper into the new year, people are still pondering how to writer more, write better, in 2020. Writing and Wellness supports thinking differently about your New Year’s writing goals, Alice Briggs tells us how to set yourself up for success in 2020 and overcome mindset blocks, PJ Parrish shares 8 ways to help you be a smarter writer in 2020, and Lisa Tener has 8 more reasons to write a book this year.

For mystery lovers, Sulari Gentill discusses reviving the traditional mystery for a 21st century audience, and Manuel Betancourt examines how Knives Out turns the whodunit on its head.

Are you thinking of becoming or using a ghostwriter? Roz Morris answers the question: is it cheating to use a ghostwriter?, and John Doppler delves into the ethics of ghostwriting.

Stories have to start with a compelling scene and carry you through all the twists and turns with a deft hand. Jane Friedman lists 5 story openings to avoid, and Nathan Bransford has 5 different openings to avoid, while Kathryn Craft shows us how to bridge temporal story gaps.

Stavroz Halvatzis explains establishing images, while Melissa Donovan brings us to word-level craft involving homophones and Robert Lee Brewer demystifies awhile vs. a while.

Our characters come in all different flavors, but sometimes it’s hard to get them onto the page that way. Kathleen Barber has tips for writing multi-POV novels with distinct voices, Janice Hardy shares 5 ways to develop character voices, Tamar Sloan explores capturing an unhappy relationship, and Julie Glover examines if your character will fight, flee, or freeze. If your character is of the non-human variety, Clea Simon lays out how to write an animal character.

Increasing productivity is always a big goal for writers on New Year’s. Elizabeth S. Craig advocates taking small steps toward a big goal, Paula Munier says the key to a writer’s productivity is saying No, Sarah Bolme lists 6 steps to overcome procrastination, Barbara Linn Probst explores having a place to write, Elaine Viets discusses making time to write, and James Scott Bell shows how to get serious about your writing career.

Authors can learn a lot from other writers. Chuck Palahniuk talks about the importance of not boring your readers, Gregg Millman tells us what authors can learn about writing by teaching others, Katherine Grubb overcomes when you fear what others think, and Orly Konig discusses embracing the women’s fiction genre label.

Nathan Bransford explains why Master & Commander by Patrick O’Brian works, Amy Jones compiles 8 Chuck Palahnuik quotes for writers about writing, Dawn Field lists the absolute best books on writing, and Merry Cari Dubiel reminds us to keep all writing tips in perspective.


Here’s some numbers from the publishing world:  UK Booksellers Association reports third year of gains in stores, Jim Milliot says print unit sales fell 1.3% in 2019, Overdrive reports record digital borrowing in 2019, and Where The Crawdads Sing tops sale lists in print, ebook, and audio.

Shelley Sturgeon rounds up the 10 top posts from The Book Designer in 2019, take a look at The State of Genre Magazines, and Jennifer Prokop walks us through the making of a Harlequin romance cover.

Tracy Marchini explains what it means when an editor or agents says your manuscript is “quiet”, and John Peragine dissects the 3 levels of trust in publishing.

Tetiana Bak lays out how to create a business plan for your indie author business, Brian Jud urges us to sell books through all retailers—not just bookstores, and Sandra Beckwith has fabulous February book promotion opportunities.

Anne R Allen recommends BookBub reviews as an alternative to Goodreads, Cristian Mihai lists 9 tips to help you start your blogging journey like a boss, and Kristen Lamb shares the reasons your book isn’t selling.


Get your reading caps on! Vulture has 32 books they can’t wait to read in 2020, and Liz Moore shares practical ways to find more time to read as a parent.

The Vatican Library goes online and digitizes tens of thousands of manuscripts, books, coins, and more.

Take a peek inside the New York Times Book Review process.

Short stories have power. Daniyal Mueenuddin explores the short stories that inspired a Russian czar to free the serfs.

Janet Todd discusses the restless comedy of Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel, Sanditon.

Now you can see J.M. Barrie’s handwritten manuscript of Peter Pan.

Olivia Rutiggliano reports on the dognapping of the century: Elizabeth Barret Browning’s beloved pup.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more writerly links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 9, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-09-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of 2020! We have a lot prediction posts as well as regular craft and business and just-for-fun links. Enjoy and I hope 2020 treats you well!

In case you are a fellow procrastinator and still have presents to buy for people, check out these holiday gift recommendations room the HC Bookfinder staff.

Emily Temple gathers the notable literary deaths in 2019, while Bart Barnes has the obituary for author Ram Dass, who died at age 88.

Katherine J. Wu reminds us that thousands of once-copyrighted works enter the public domain in 2020, so take a look if any spark something in your imagination.

One of the great things about America being a melting pot is that as new immigrants come to our shores, our literature becomes richer. Yogita Goyal explores how African migration to the U.S. has led to a literary Renaissance.

As fallout from the Romance Writers of America upheaval continues, Mikki Kendall explains how the RWA racism row matters because the gatekeepers are watching.

Never underestimate a librarian. Kathy Peiss explores why the U.S. sent librarians undercover to gather intelligence in Europe during World War II.

Looking for critique partners in 2020? Janice Hardy’s Critique Connection is currently open for matching interested parties.

Because there were so many New-Year’s-type posts, we have a couple of extra sections today. A New Year is…


Anne R. Allen reviews a decade of self-publishing revolution, and Big Al traces the evolution of self-publishing.

We have some year-end book lists from TV critic Emily Nussbaum and from the New York Times book critics.

Then there are to Top Books lists for last year, last decade, and the last 100 years! John Milliot brings us 2019 print best sellers, Emily Temple has the 100 books that defined the decade, and the OCLC has the top 100 novels of all time found in libraries around the world.


Laurie McLean has 2020 publishing predictions, Mark Coker brings the Smashwords 2020 publishing predictions, and Orna Ross lists her 2020 self-publishing predictions.

On a more personal note, Sacha Black asks what will you do differently in 2020?; Rachel McCollin shows how to identify your writing goals, and Tasha Seegmillier ponders reflecting and goal setting for writers.

Amy Jones shares Isaac Asimov’s predictions for your future as a writer, Angela Ackerman tells how to build a roadmap to the author future you want, James Scott Bell outlines various paths a writer can take in 2020, and Bill Ferris lightens things up with a hack’s guide to making a fresh start in the new year.


There is something to be learned from every genre and form. Will Willingham discusses serial novel writing, Katherine Grubb explained how studying poetry to be a better writer, E.L. Skip Knox has how time was measured in ancient times for fantasy writers, and Grerr Macallister explores writing a genre that’s new to you.

Characters carry our stories and, if we are lucky, live on in our readers’ hearts long after the story is done. Nathan Bransford tells us how to nail every character’s first impression, K.M. Weiland discusses 6 questions to ask about theme and your supporting characters, Lynda Barry shares a comic exercise to create your characters and build their world in less than an hour, and Kathleen McCleary puts characters in the worst-case scenario.

Eldred “Bob” Bird urges us to let our characters tell the story, C.S. Lakin explains how to effectively “tell” emotions in fiction, and Donald Maass delves into emotional tipping points.

There are many elements writers need to integrate into their story. Stavros Halvatzis looks at obstacles and the foundation of structure, Mary Anna Evans leads us to finding our voice, Laura Drake reminds us to use comparison for power, Kristen Tsetsi defends the exclamation point, Christopher Hoffman diagnoses what your choice of dialogue tags says about you, and Jami Gold tackles story endings and writing a strong resolution.

Once you get to that story ending, the editing and revision begin! Joanna shares her process for after the first draft, Peter Selgin explains the wonderful thing about line edits, and Janice Hardy has 3 things to remember when revising from a critique.

How can we improve as writers? Courtney Maum lists 8 podcasts that will make you a better writer, Lisa Tener converses with the creative muse, Sorina Storia lays out 7 steps to mind map a novel, and Nicole Bross shows how tracking your word count can make you a better writer.

Can we increase productivity and creativity? Nathan Bransford tells us how to be a productive writer, Rochelle Melander gives us a guide to creativity and time, Courtney Maum explains how to kill your inner perfectionist, Ellen Buikema looks at how your workspace affects your writing, and Kris Maze shares 5 tips for a healthy writer’s life.

Writing is an art, so Meg Medina suggests you create an artistic mission statement. Robert Lee Brewer lists 12 E.L. Doctorow quotes for writers and about writing, and Dawn Field explores Edgar Allen Poe’s notion of “unity of effect.

Writing is also a psychological and emotional journey. Yemi Penn discusses overcoming your doubts and finding the power to share your story, while Karen DeBonis talks about harnessing the power of writer karma.

Understanding readers can helps us understand how and what to write. Kristen Lamb explores why humans crave stories that scare them, Bonnie Randall encourages writers to embrace the bleak in their stories, and Helen Taylor delves into why women read fiction.


There are a lot of paths to publishing these days. Sara Rosett discusses the pros and cons of being a hybrid writer. If you self-publish, you need to know formatting. Tracy R. Atkins explains special formatting for nonfiction books in Word (part 2), and Andre Calilhanna lays out what should be on your book’s copyright page.

If you are submitting to agents or editors, you are bound to encounter rejection sometime. Hank Philippi Ryan has a rejection reckoning as to why your book was rejected.

Got a new book? Great! BookBub shares how to launch a new book, Sarah Bolme explores sales techniques to help you sell more books, Martin Cavanaugh brings us 4 nonfiction marketing tools you need to know, and Jane Friedman shows us her favorite digital media tools of 2020.

Online connections are vital to a writer’s success these days. Cristian Mihai tells us how to write blog posts that get you more readers, Adam Connell has 12 powerful WordPress plug-ins to grow your email list 3x faster, and Alythia Brown discusses things that can happen when you stop chasing social media.


Jesse McCarthy explores Toni Morrison’s revolutionary, if lesser known, nonfiction.

Michael Dango dissects meme formalism on Twitter.

What sells? Elisabeth Egan says sex sells—it’s true now and it was true 100 years ago.

Brad Stulberg has 9 self-improvement books actually worth reading.

If you don’t care for self-improvement books, the New York Times has 10 new books they recommend, or you can lose yourself in these 6 long, absorbing books, or ponder the eternal lure of the boarding school mystery genre.

Marisha Pessl lists kids picture books that help children understand death.

Judging a book by its cover, Carina Pereria checks out some artsy, colorful covers.

Encurious lists 20 quotes from children’s books every adult should know, while Adam Gopnik explores storytelling across the ages.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you back here next week for more literary links!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 2, 2020

Happy New Year 2020!

Wishing all our blog followers a safe, happy, and healthy New Year! May 2020 bring you good tidings and satisfaction!

Image by M Harris from Pixabay

See you back here next week as the writing journey continues!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 26, 2019

The 12(ish) Links of Christmas 2019

I hope all of you are having a happy and enjoyable holiday season, no matter what holiday you celebrate! Every year, we look back at the most popular links from our Top Picks Thursday links round-ups. In case you missed them the first time around, here they are again!

15. 5 Essential Things You Need To Know About Writing Habits – Lynn Dickinson

14. Productivity Secrets: Bullet Journals And Planning – L. Penelope

13. Writing Tips: Writing Beyond the 5 Senses – Gila Green

12. How To Write A Page Turner: Mastering the & Rules Of The Cliffhanger – Ruth Harris

11. 12 Tips to Edit A Story Draft Into An Enjoyable Read – Zoe M. McCarthy

10. How To Write Like An Expert—Even When You’re Not – David Tile

9. 19 Ways To Write Better Dialogue – Kristen Kieffer

8. 20 Books TED Speakers Think Everyone Should Read This Summer – Jessica Stillman

7. The Flip Side – Kathleen McCleary

6. One Common Way Writers Weaken Their Descriptions – Janice Hardy

5. The Power Of The Telling Detail – James Scott Bell

4. Intellectual Property: The Big Picture For Authors – Ethan Ellenberg

3. Get Real: 4 Tips For Writing Bestselling Women’s Fiction – Brenda Copeland

2. Bringing The Dead To Life: Why Novelists Should Read Obituaries – Roz Morris

And our most popular link of 2019:

1. Summer 2019 Horoscopes For Writers – Jeanna Kadlec

Thank you all for continuing to read and support The Author Chronicles. Have a safe holiday season and a Happy New Year! We will see you again in 2020.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 19, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-19-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are barreling towards the end of 2019, and holiday season is upon us, but we still have some writerly links to read with you cocoa.

Mary Kole’s Good Story Company is hiring.

Roni Loren posts about the Read Wide Book Challenge for 2020.

Erica Wagner examines how reading has changed in the 2010s, while Maria Popova lists Favorite Children’s Books of 2019.

Libraries often get caught in the middle of publishing disputes, so Guy LeCharles Gonzalez says it’s time to quantify the library’s role in the reading marketplace.

Writer Beware has long been a watchdog for publishing scams, but this week Victoria Strauss warns about vanity radio: why you should think twice before paying for an interview.

With the holidays upon us, Elle Hunt shares the etiquette of gifting books, Lisa Tener has 27 unique, bookish, and beautiful holiday gifts for writers; Colleen M. Story lists 7 ways writers can overcome holiday anxiety, and Erika Liodice has a new approach for the new year: un-resolutions.

Looking past New Year’s, Diana Hurwitz has early registration info for writing workshops and conferences in 2020.


For our poetry writers, Melissa Donovan examines rhythm and meter in poetry.

Are you working on an anthology? Marika Lindholm has 5 goals for making your anthology the best that it can be.

As beginning writers, we are often urged to imitate the greats to learn about style. Sarah Callendar wonders: is imitating the greats harmful or helpful?

Fantasy and science fiction requires creating whole new worlds, but still requires writers to connect with their readers. Gail Carson Levine has tips for writing fantasy, Toni Susnjar talks fantasy fortification technology and materials, and Joshua Rothman tells us how William Gibson, who coined the term cyberspace, keeps his science fiction real.

Writers get many ideas, but how do we develop those into stories? Jordan at NowNovel has 8 exercises to develop your book idea, Stavros Halvatzis discusses story mapping, and Barbara Linn Probst shares visual-spatial tools for mapping and enhancing your story.

You can also help focus and refine your story by examining what Jami Gold calls your core story, and by following Janice Hardy’s advice to plot with Michael Hague’s 6 stage plot structure.

Writers have many craft elements available to them, but in the end the story conveys a meaning to the reader beyond what happens in the plot. Kristen Lamb tackles “voice” and why it is important to storytelling, Jim Dempsey tells us how to manipulate your reader’s point of view, and Kathryn Craft discusses manipulating story time for maximal effect.

Characters are one of the largest elements in our craft arsenal, as compelling characters keep readers turning the pages. Mary Kole has 5 things readers need to know about character in your first pages, Dana Isaacson lays out how to choose the best names for your characters, and Laurence McNaughton gives us a compelling character arc in 4 easy steps.

Rachel McCollin dives into the debate over which comes first, plot or character; Andrea Merrell advises what to do when your characters take over the story, and Yvonne Hertzberger asks: are you in your characters?

Perhaps an even more apt question is: are your characters in you? Christian Jarrett explores how acting changes the brain when actors get lost in a role—and it may apply to writers when writing as well.

There is a lot we need to look for when we edit our manuscripts. Terry Odell has tips for that first editing pass, Geoff Palmer uses zombies to weed out passive voice, Tamela Hancock Murray talks about using dialogue tags, and Daphne Gray-Grant explains what writers can learn from green bean casserole.

Writing as a career takes persistence, strength, and discipline. Heidi Fielder discusses 5 ways to quiet your inner editor when drafting, Krysle tells how viewing her writing as a hobby instead of a job made her more productive, Lucia Tang makes the case why writers, like athletes, should cross train; and Stewart Sinclair explores what it means (and takes) to have a career in writing.

The first book is often hard, but sometimes the second book is the one that is more overwhelming. Beth Kephart shows how to kick the next book blues, and Charity Bradford tells us what to do when you want to quit.

At those times when you want to quit, having a community to support you is helpful. Rachelle Gardner asks: are you a lone ranger writer?, while Carla Spataro discusses finding your tribe.


Porter Anderson interviews Michael Tamblyn on Kobo’s 10th anniversary.

Charlotte Anne Creamore explores the effect of a no-deal Brexit on independent publishers in the UK.

We focus a lot on fiction, but here the ABPA looks at non-fiction trends.

Dominic White peers into the future to discuss changes in the audiobook business in the next 20 years.

Looking to go traditional? Brian Henry tells us why now is not a good time to query an agent.

Marketing is the key to success. Sandra Beckwith has 3 fiction marketing success tips for 2020, and Boni Wagner-Stafford gives us a guide for indie authors of book marketing strategies.

Our books are truly our best marketing tool, so we need to make the most effective use of them. David Kudler revisits the 7 things you should be including in your ebook, while Dan Brotzel discusses review copies, freebies, and author copies.

Internet marketing is tricky to quantify. Sandra Beckwith shares social media tips from the pros, and Rae Steinbach has 4 tips to optimize Facebook ad performance for authors.

If your blog is your reader outreach of choice, Cristian Mihai lists 10 techniques for opening your blog posts like an artist, and Jay Artale gives us 3 proven ways to grow a blog audience.


As the end of the decade looms, Emily Temple and LitHub compiled the 10 best literary TV adaptations of the decade and the 10 best literary film adaptations of the decade.

Jane Austen continues to fascinate. Kathleen Keenan has the best Jane Austen sentences, while Hilary Davidson goes deep on the fashions of Jane Austen’s time.

In Italy, women writers are ascendant thanks to the Ferrante effect, according to Anna Momigliano.

Here’s how to spend a literary long weekend in Chicago.

The dead do speak to us, whether it be a dead author to a reader or a dead loved one to an author. Julie Dubrow muses on the light as she saw it: on sitting in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom, and Gillian Gill discusses how Virginia Woolf’s mother haunted much of her writing.

Pairing a story-telling game with storytellers, McKayla Coyle envisions what famous authors would look like as Dungeons & Dragons characters.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We will have our annual “Best of” links roundup next week, and see you again in the New Year!

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