Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 30, 2014

Top Picks Thursday 01-30-2014

The ground is still snow-covered and we’re still in the deep freeze, but we missed the brunt of Tuesday’s storm, which hit the South so hard. We’re getting so used to the cold that when the temperature reaches 50 on Saturday, it will feel like summer. Our sympathies go out to those in the South dealing with unaccustomed snow and to those in the northern plains states, where it’s so much colder.

Congratulations to  our workshop friend Tiffany Schmidt! We’re so excited that her new novel Bright Before Sunrise has been listed as one of the 15 most exciting YA books of 2014.

Books need readers, but some children don’t have access to books. Here’s the story of Brenda Berg, a mother who took her children on a trip across the country and distributed over 6000 books to children in conjunction with First Book. And more good news for writers — a new study on children’s reading in the digital age reveals that ebook reading has doubled since 2010 and that kids are reading more, especially boys.

Do you consider yourself a writer? Erin Reel discusses what a writer is, and Nathan Bransford discusses the myth of the creative person.

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles first performance in the U.S., Great Writers Steal blog lists 5 things writers can learn from the Fab Four.

Do you belong to a book group? Andrew DeYoung addresses the topic of why we never stop arguing about likable characters.


If you’re looking for writing advice Bryan Hutchinson lists the top 25 writing blogs. And here are some special writing tips for writers who are doubting their gift.

Where do you do your writing? Laura Carlin and Alison Forbes offer 12 steps to creating an inspirational workspace for writing.

To help you get started, Dana Sitar presents the ultimate guide to writing your writing manifesto. If you’ve started but are having trouble continuing, Anna Bell confesses to a bout of lazyitis and reveals her cure.

Becca Puglisi has a method for writing a stellar opening line. Mooderino suggests that you need to know where your story is heading.

For those who need help with basic story elements, K. M. Weiland offers 5 warning signs your character may be acting out of character and 6 reasons the warning signs may be true. Morgan Mandel advises writers to remember the character arc. Jennifer Crusie tells us the difference between premise, central story question, and theme, while L. Z. Marie provides a quick look at body symbolism from head to toe. Molly Greene gives novelists 101 fabulous plot resources. Jodie Renner adds advice on firing up your fiction with foreshadowing, and Julie Eshbaugh suggests 5 ways to use dramatic irony in your writing.

On to the dreaded grammar. Leah McClellan asks if you know whether you make some common grammar mistakes. Take the quiz to find out. C. S. Lakin clarifies the places you should use “long hyphens.” As additional help, Dianna Dilworth suggests 5 apps for copy editing.

When you’re ready to move on to polishing, Janice Hardy discusses what’s wrong with cliches and how to avoid them. Lia Keyes give some pointers on using the “show, don’t tell” of subtext.

Several bloggers furnish a trio of tips: Bethany Barany offers 3 tips to make your writing more interesting; Doron Meir lists 3 tips writers can steal from animators; and Roz Morris gives writers 3 tips for writing watertight fantasy, science fiction and time travel stories.

Kathryn Craft asks if you have what it takes to go the distance, or in other words, to turn whine into gold. A. L. Phillips shows a step-by-step example of how to retell a classic story, and Linda Clare reveals research pitfalls for writers.

For those who write genre, Karen Woodward relates how to write killer crime stories, and Chuck Sambuchino provides 6 tips for young adult horror writers. For fantasy writers, Joseph Malik presents the why of weapons: the great sword of war. Abigail Carter offers some lessons on memoir writing that she picked up at a writing workshop. On the other hand, Cate Russell-Cole asks if you are too attached to your genre.

When the draft is done, Jody Hedlund urges writers to attack their stories so readers don’t have to. After you’ve sent out that finished manuscript, Lynnette Labelle offers suggestions for surviving the requested material waiting game, and Alicia Rades talks about how to deal with rejection and use it to improve your writing.

If you’re having difficulty with writing, Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada suggest dreaming in dialogue as a way to kickstart your writing.  Megan Haskell laments how her writing has slowed and suggests other writers who are not writing as much as they”d like share frustrations and stories on Twitter at #slowwriting.

Troy Farah suggests that journalism can help polish your fiction.


So you have your book almost ready to go. Janet Reid answers a writer’s question about hiring an editor.

In regard to publishing. Chuck Wendig reminds authors that self-publishing is not the minor leagues and urges writers to exercise quality control and publish finished, quality work. Bob Mayer discusses the illusions of traditional and self-publishing and the reality of hybrid publishing, and Christina Katz discusses 6 ways micro-publishing strengthens your writing career.

Chris Robley asserts that your book cover is the most important part of your book., and Susan Leigh Noble cautions us that most authors won’t earn a living as an author (at least right away).

When your book is published, you have to be prepared for interviewers questions. Roz Morris asks writers: is it easy to name your favorite book?

A social media presence is an important part of a writer’s platform. Ben Huberman gives pointers on developing your blogging voice, and Sandra Beckwith urges writers to consider what your author social media persona tells people about you. The Writer’s Relief staff suggests 3 questions your professional writing bio must answer.

New technology can be very helpful, but Victoria Strauss asks whether a proposed new Story Surgeon app may result in copyright infringement rather than fair use.


How big is too big? Johan Oosterman gives an account of the thickest book (over 2000 pages) he’s seen, and John Black reports on the Codex Gigas, the largest manuscript in the world, which is currently displayed at the National Library in Stockholm.

Children’s authors and illustrators speak about how it feels to win an award. Nicole Cohen lists 8 picture books that make us wish we were kids again.

Here’s an info-graphic presenting the DNA of a successful book, and Tim Urban discusses — with illustrations — why procrastinators procrastinate.

S. Alex Martin reveals 20 things people say to writers (and we wish they wouldn’t).

Maria Popova presents information to debunk the 10,000-hour myth and to delve into what it actually takes to achieve excellence.

Here’s a letter Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra days before the publication of Pride and Prejudice.

A possible new resource for writers: the library at Wellcome Collection has made available through the  Creative Commons Attribution license 100,000 high resolution images representing thousands of years of visual culture for personal or commercial use.


  1. Thanks for the shoutout! Great list of articles!


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