Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 18, 2016

Top Picks Thursday 02-18-2016

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday, our weekly roundup of writing-related blog posts. Hope you had a great Valentine’s Day. The romantic vibes in our neck of the woods increased the temperature here from a low in the single digits on Sunday to 60 degrees on Tuesday. The warmth outside didn’t last, though. Hope the romance does!

On the topic of romance, Megan Lally discusses writing realistic love stories. Of course, romance isn’t just for women, as noted by Jason Evans, who shares his thoughts on men writing romance.

Romance and relationships encounter difficulties without good communication skills, which can benefit everyone, writers and non-writers alike. Expressing your thoughts clearly is the first part of communication; listening is the second, and more often neglected, part. Darren Rowse explores how to differentiate yourself through the art of listening.

Juggling writing, marketing, paying job, family, home, and all the other things a writer needs to do can make a writers’ life complicated. Allie Larkin considers the myth of balance in a writer’s life. Yet, despite the difficulties, writers must write, as noted by Densie Webb in writing as compulsion.

If writing is a compulsion, it often begins at a young age. Children love reading and making up stories. Nicole Davies explains how nature can inspire creative writing, especially in children.

Also on the topic of children and reading, Alison Flood reports that an 11-year-old New Jersey girl’s drive to find 1000 “black girl books” hits its target with an outpouring of donations. In another inspiring story, Laura Mallonee writes about the subversive women who self-publish novels amid Jihadist war.


Looking for writing tips? We found a number of posts with helpful information. Jennie Nash zeroes in on 3 mistakes most first-time writers make and how to avoid them, P. J. Parrish mentions dumb mistakes that will doom your book, Mary Kubica shares four essential writing tips, and Kathleen McCleary discusses reading to improve your writing.

Kelly Wilson has some suggestions for how to fix your disorganized writing life, while James Scott Bell shares a trick that will tame your crazy writing stress.

Has your work-in-progress stalled? Kate Moretti delves into getting out of the dreaded slump and Jennifer Ellis provides 11 tips for maintaining motivation through the second draft.

Do you insist on strict adherence to the rules of grammar? In answer to a reader’s question, Chuck Wendig considers sentence fragments and other stylistic jibber-jabber.

Getting down to the nuts and bolts of writing, Janice Hardy delineates 5 common problems with beginnings and 5 common problems with middles. Meg Gardiner cautions writers about beginning a novel with a dream sequence and Roz Morris explains what to do if you’ve missed an important scene in your manuscript.

Lisa Cron illuminates where the real drama comes from, while Mary Kole avers that high stakes can be too high and suggests ways to fix that. And if the action involves a fight, Christine Frazier spells out how to write a fight scene in 11 steps.

A great way to learn the art of crafting dialogue is to study its use by a master. Dave King avers that everything he needs to know about dialogue, he’s learned from Alan Sorkin.

Chuck Wendig ponders simplicity and elegance in storytelling.

For those interested in pursuing a joint project, Melodie Campbell talks about how to write with a co-author.

If you’ve finished your manuscript and are seeking feedback, Jami Gold explains how to make beta reading work for us.


Working with a publisher? Susan Spann clarifies what rights a publisher really needs and Victoria Strauss explains why termination fees in contracts are red flags.

Agent Janet Reid relates what questions an agent asks before signing a client, while Rachelle Gardner says that nobody really knows what will sell well and what won’t.

If you’re at the stage of marketing and selling your book, Jane Friedman wonders whether paid reviews are worth it and Mary Kole ponders the importance of writing clips, especially for kid lit authors. Jane Friedman explains how to find and work with a book publicist successfully. Orna Ross and Helen Sedwick discuss how to sell your books internationally.

Considering self-publishing? Judith Briles discusses how to create titles to hook your readers. Jami Gold considers whether writers should work for free and Julie Musil muses about whether the Indie gold rush is over and if that matters.

On the social media front, Frances Caballo asks writers to consider whether you are engaging with your readers. If you’re working on building your platform, Ed Cyzewski explains why writing for print magazines is a platform-building mistake for most writers.

Writers working together can often accomplish more than writers working alone. Ursala Wong discusses writers’ consortiums and co-ops: what they are and how to start one.


Daniel Dalton at BuzzFeed presents 26 gorgeous new covers for classic books. Speaking of the classics, in “The Many Lives of Mr. Darcy,” Lucy Scholes examines what makes Jane Austen’s work so ripe for reinterpretation.

Taking a look back in time, Rebecca Onion describes how an 1830s children’s magazine taught hard truths about slavery and Vanessa-Jane Chapman presents 24 old English terms we should start using again.

Do you prefer ebooks or paper books? Krystie Lee Yandoli reports that a new study shows 92% of college students prefer to read paper books.

As shown in this inspiring story of the creator of a well-known television series and a number of movies (told in comics by the Oatmeal), you never know what life’s going to throw in your direction, but you need to get up and do something anyway. I’m not going to spoil the surprise by mentioning the name of this person, which isn’t revealed until the end, but I’m a long-time fan and am even more impressed after reading this.

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


  1. Thanks so much for the mention of my post on Writer Unboxed this week!


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