Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 21, 2016

Top Picks Thursday: 01-21-2016

Hi! Thanks for joining us for this week’s Top Picks Thursday blog roundup. The big storm sweeping across the country the end of this week should make sitting in front of a screen reading blog posts far more attractive than venturing into the blizzard, so enjoy!

Scientific studies have shown that journal writing can benefit anyone, but it can be especially helpful for writers. Judy Pollard Smith shares her ideas about writing your life in journals.

Are you new to writing? If you’re looking for pointers, Anne R. Allen details 10 things that red-flag a newbie novelist and Patrick Samphire lists the 5 best bits of writing advice he’s ever received.

Are you a published writer? Should published authors attend conferences? Yes, says Rachelle Gardner, and gives 4 good reasons.

Whether you’re a beginning or experienced writer, Daphne Gray-Grant catalogs 26 fantastic no-cost tools for writers and Heather Alexander provides tips on using Microsoft Word. Also, check out Chuck Wendig’s 2016 advice to writers — be the writer you are, not the writer other people want you to be.

Winning a writing competition is a great way to improve your platform. Almond Press presents a curated list of creative writing competitions in 2016.


Many writers naturally gravitate toward writing short fiction; others have lengthy stories to tell. Claire Fuller contemplates the differences between the huge unwieldy beast versus flash fiction.

Not all writers like composing on the keyboard. Some prefer writing with pen and paper. If you are looking for another option, Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas share tips for dictating and editing a first draft.

The story is important, but the reader will miss it if bogged down by grammar and spelling errors. Janice Hardy explains and gives examples of dangling modifiers and Laurisa White Reyes describes 6 common punctuation mistakes and how to avoid them.

Character. Character. Character. Well-rounded, believable characters are essential in fiction. To help us with our characters, David Corbett delves into the broken character arc: what to do when your protagonist can’t find absolution, while C. S. Lakin weighs in on scene structure and character arc. Musing about your character’s feelings? Mary Cole discusses developing character interiority and Raina Schell proposes getting into the head of your antagonist. And since all those characters are bound to talk, Alex Limberg explores how to boost your dialogue’s power with body language.

Another vital element of fiction is setting. Mary Buckham relates how writers can craft an effective setting and Janice Hardy illuminates the difference between setting and world building.

And then there’s the plot. Janice Hardy suggests 5 ways to tell if a subplot is leading you astray and Martina Boone considers the unexpected the key to voice and plot in fiction. Since writers sometimes use real-life events as a basis for their fiction, Drew Chial discusses how writers can remix the past to create compelling stories.

For those whose first drafts are finished, Kristen Kieffer gives pointers on how to find and work with beta readers to improve your book.

Whatever you’re writing, you need to keep your audience in mind, so James Scott Bell wonders if you know who you are trying to delight with your story.

All writers, not just science fiction and fantasy fans, should check out Lauren Sarner’s interview with sci-fi heavyweight John Scalzi.


Editing is vital for both self-published and traditional authors. Lynn Neary considers whether an editor’s role has changed over time, Joe Moore presents editing tips for the Indie author, and Karen Saunders explains the difference between content editing, copy editing, and proofreading.

Regarding the publishing business, Joanna Penn and Jane Friedman discuss 2016 publishing trends and Dave King writes about the perils of self-publishing.

For Indie authors, Joel Friedlander writes about 3 typefaces to consider for your books.

Sales for any author improve with the author’s own efforts in marketing and promotion. A number of bloggers have advice on marketing and social media. Self Publishing Relief identifies 12 easy ways to boost attendance at your book signing, reading, or author seminar. Anne R. Allen offers seven tips on how to succeed at building platform without really trying and Frances Caballo tells how to set up your Goodreads author dashboard. Jami Gold offers 6 tips for creating successful author newsletters, while Janet Reid suggests creating micro-newsletters for those with small email lists and limited news to share. Jeri Walker talks about finding 1000 true fans.

Don’t like using social media? Sandra Beckwith suggests how to promote a book without using social media.

Success can be a double-edged sword. Jami Gold discusses the writer’s dilemma of balancing being a public figure but keeping a private life.


Dissatisfied with the bad rap given procrastination, Adam Grant explains why he taught himself to procrastinate.

Reading informs, enlightens, entertains, passes time, and more. Jaime Herndon gives suggestions for reading through grief.

If you’re looking for something to read on these cold winter nights, BuzzFeed’s Jarry Lee lists the 27 most exciting books coming in 2016.

That wraps up this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you next week!

snow photo at sunset 2015


  1. Thanks so much for the shout outs! Now on to check out the other links. 🙂


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