Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 22, 2013

Top Picks Thursday 08-22-13

August has been beautiful here in NJ and PA, but we’re experiencing a return of summer today. Which means it’s a perfect day to stay indoors and write … or read the great lineup of posts we’ve found for you this week!

Libraries are close to our hearts here at AC. Laura Sydell brings the welcome news that the digitized historical photos, papers, and records of the nation’s public and academic libraries are being gathered into one place, the Digital Public Library of America, to make it easier for people to find the information they’re seeking. If you believe in the importance of libraries and librarians in schools, NYC librarians would appreciate your signature on their petition to keep librarians in NYC schools.

In important publishing news this week, Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble announced this week that they have settled their differences.

What is your opinion on the topic of The NYTimes Sunday Dialogue: can traditional bookstores survive the digital marketplace?

If you’re stuck for a good book to read, Kirkus reports on the 9 most overlooked books of 2013 (so far).

Kristen Lamb presents her irrefutable law of success #3 — we learn by doing.

In the debate about whether it’s better to write with or without noise, Robbie Cox, who has learned to write in the midst of chaos, says “let there be noise!” and Roz Morris discusses “how music helps me write.”

Every writer’s faced the question: Tamiko Nimura discusses the difficulty in answering when her friends ask how the writing’s going.

Although we’re all looking for helpful tips and advice about writing, Susan K. Perry lists 10 types of writing advice you should avoid following.

Creativity — a given for writers: Patrick Ross discusses the role of structure in creative free thinking.

For those who enjoy using tablets, Josh Ong lists the 10 best writing apps on the iPad.

If you have purchased ebooks, you may have a refund coming: millions qualify for ebook refunds.

My kids grew up watching the video of the classic animated movie The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I admit to watching it (and crying) numerous times myself. After years of battling because he had received no royalties, the movie, now in 2K digital, will be showing in certain theaters across the country and surely gaining a new generation of fans.

Readers and movie buffs alike will miss Elmore Leonard, respected novelist and screenwriter, who died Tuesday.


We all know that we should not use cliches in our writing, but do we always recognize a cliche? To help writers with this problem, Authonomy from Harper Collins lists an A to Z of cliches for writers to avoid like the plague and Suchithra Ravi details the most common cliches in fiction writing.

Need some help writing that book? Jennifer Lesher provides a rough guide to writing a novel.

Here’s some help for those in the editing and revising stage. Kathryn Craft tells us why order of sentences in a paragraph matters, Elaine Viets, a former professional proofreader, insists that proofreading your novel is a life and death proposition, and Terri Herman-Ponce clarifies the “when to use and when not to use an apostrophe before “s.”

A number of bloggers offer helpful tips for writers. Ashley Clark urges writers to know your hook because it’s your secret weapon. Ash Krafton talks about how to keep readers reading by creating magical closing lines of chapters. Patricia Gilliam details 5 tips for creating a must-read fiction series. Donna Galanti reveals 6 things she learned from her editor about writing a children’s book. Kristi Holl lists two tips: gems on the web.

Characters! Characters! Characters! K. M. Weiland mentions 6 must-know tricks for getting to know your characters. Michelle Lim gives us 5 questions to ask to avoid unlikable characters, and in a follow-up to her post (featured in last week’s TPT) about handling a large cast of characters, Liz Bureman provides tips on how to tell a story with just one character. Misha Burnett discusses the 4 motivations of traitors.

Now that you’ve created stellar characters, let’s turn to another prime element of fiction — the plot. Jo Michaels offers 20 ways to plot ideas (Part One of Two).  K. M. Weiland offers 10 ways plot structure influences character arc. Pepper Basham provides some tips for writers who run into knots in their plots. K. M. Weiland reveals that plot is built from characters’ actions and reactions.

For help in crafting those tricky scenes, The Book Shelf Muse gives some very useful tips for writing fight scenes that won’t show you’ve never thrown a punch; Linda S. Clare clarifies how to know when to show not tell; Rayne Hall gives examples of writing snappy dialogue; and Brooklyn Arden offers a straightforward technique to making your writing more immediate and effective.

Pete Hautman urges YA writers not to stick to writing in their comfort zones but to take their writing to the edge and Matt Sinclair poses this question for writers: who do you think you are?


To succeed as a professional writer, Kristen Lamb advises writers to devise a plan and then work that plan. Part of that plan might include Martina Boone’s suggestions about using deeper world-building to create novellas and spin-off stories between books.

For those of you interested in the world of self-publishing, Aimee L. Salter discusses the risks of getting it wrong in self-publishing and Joel Friedlander provides details about proper book layout and formatting page margins for self-published print books, while Steve Piacente offers interview tips from the self-publishing trenches.

If you’re interested in a more traditional publishing route, Delilah S. Dawson details 25 steps to being a traditionally published author. YA Writers blog cautions writers against scammers and details what to avoid when dealing with small publishers. Jennifer L. Armentrout discusses her experiences as a writer published by a small press.

We all know that having an active social media presence is vital for writers. Anne R. Allen gives tips on what an author should blog about. Lisa Toner gives pointers on how to build authority on LinkedIn in 15 minutes a day. Cecilly Kellogg provides information on optimizing your blog content for Google’s new “In Depth” feature. Jami Gold comments on Google’s recent changes. Mimi Barbour reminds writers that to be effective on social media sites, which change frequently, we need to adapt and quickly learn new methods. Nancy Martin adds her own rules of writing and promotion.

Sarah Pinneo discusses, a third-party way to track book sales through Amazon. Porter Anderson suggests writers ask themselves if they are marketing to the right audience or if they need to platform-out. Anne Hill gives the top 3 e-commerce solutions to help writers sell books from their websites.

Now let’s hear from the agents: Rachelle Gardner details the 7 advantages of giving a verbal pitch at a writers’ conference; Marie Lamba answers the question “Should I keep querying?“; Agent Chip MacGregor answers reader’s questions, including one I’ve wondered about myself —  what is a “best-selling” author?; Amy interviews agent Mollie Glick to find out what agents look for in the first five pages of a manuscript; and UK agent Julia Churchill details the type of books she is looking for.

Finally, Joanna Penn brings us James Scott Bell’s reflections on writing, self-publishing, and the business of being a professional writer.


Just for fun — Janet Reid gives us the best airport sign she’s seen in quite some time, and Caroline Lawrence posts the story roller coaster.

Do you like coffee table books? Do you have a table big enough for the biggest book in the world?

All writers should be voracious readers and ought to be able to identify with these 17 problems only book lovers will understand.

Here’s a unique and whacky interview with writers Chuck Wendig and Steven Blackmoore by Lela Gwenn.

And in new mentions of famous authors: Maria Popova celebrates The Bed Book, Sylvia Plath’s lovely book for children illustrated by Quentin Blake and Alison Nastasi lists the writing tools of 20 famous authors. We also found a list of examples of the use of the singular “their” in Jane Austen’s works and a letter from George Orwell in which he responds to the question of why he wrote 1984.

Are you a rap fan? Poetry Genius Editors list 10 great literary references in rap lyrics.

From the archives: choosing your publishing path by Dahlia Adler and a response by John Scalzi to grumblings about “the YA thing.

Wishing you all a productive, enjoyable and inspirational writing week!

Sunset over Barnegat Bay, July 31, 2013

Sunset over Barnegat Bay, July 31, 2013


  1. Thank you for the link! I’m looking forward to reading this blog more often.


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