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

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 08-18-2016

Library in Biltmore House, NC; Top Picks Thursday: The Author Chronicles

Library in Biltmore House, NC

A warm hello and welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We continue to muddle through a heat wave with so much humidity you can experience a sauna just by walking outside. Good weather to sit in the air conditioning and read a good book, at home or in your local library.

Good news for writers and readers: Erin Blakemore of Smithsonian reports that readers may live longer. So maybe we all ought to get away from the screen more often and pick up a book. Unfortunately, Natasha Onwuemezi reveals that adult library usage has fallen significantly across all age groups. If you haven’t been to your local library in a while, get on over there and see what they have to offer. And then — read, read, read!

If we haven’t yet convinced you that reading is important, Maria Popova presents Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on why we read and what books do for the human experience. Reading is especially important for writers: Emily Harstone looks at why writers need to be readers and author DBC Pierre provides his list of the top 10 books writers should read.


For those getting started on a writing project, C. S. Lakin reveals the secret to generating great ideas for stories, Jami Gold examines story beginnings, and Zoe M. McCarthy details what to put into your story so a great pitch comes out.

The number ten was on the mind of a couple bloggers: Chuck Wendig lists 10 things Stranger Things taught him about storytelling and Roz Morris shares 10 eye-opening tips to add impact to your storytelling.

Do you wonder which genre to choose for your project? Leanne Sowul explains why creativity is essential for all genres and Kate Moretti wonders: does genre dumb it down or make it rain?

To help crime fiction writers, Lucy V. Hay lists 5 crime fiction blunders to avoid and Elaine Viets writes about real vs. fictional justice.

Whatever the genre, the story is built upon characters in conflict. Melissa Donovan discusses creating characters that resonate, Claire Langley-Hawthorne delves into emotional resonance, and Angela the Librarian offers a checklist to help writers make sure your character’s emotions stand out, while Gerald DiPego remind us to create believable characters.

And for more on characters, James Scott Bell illuminates how to describe a character, Janice Hardy warns: don’t let your characters “nod” off, Mary Kole discusses the importance of evolving relationships in a story, and Janice Hardy asks what makes your protagonist heroic?

If you’re stuck on plot, Janice Hardy advises starting at the end and also looks at using internal conflict to create plot.

Another important story element is theme, and blogger K. M. Weiland expounds on the best way to write powerful themes.

Kristen Lamb takes a look at description: the good, the bad, and the just please stop.

For those who have trouble getting to the end, Philip Overby considers how to finish that endless manuscript.

Once your manuscript is finished, you may want to have beta readers and/or critique partners take a look at it. For those using beta readers, Dawn Field lays out how to be a good beta reader, while K. M. Weiland considers how to find the right critique partner and offers a six-step checklist, and Martina Boone zeroes in on how to find and be a good critique partner and mentions guidelines for their critique partner match up, happening this week.

To polish up your manuscript, consider employing an editor. Before sending your manuscript off to the line editor, Rebecca Faith Heyman recommends editorial assessments: finding music in the noise. Maya Rock lists 6 ways to vet freelance editors, and Dario Ciriello discusses copyediting for Indie authors.

Chuck Wendig shares 25 reasons why I stopped reading your book.


The big question: self or traditional publishing? Jami Gold discusses choosing your publishing path. And if you choose to be a hybrid author and use both, Sangeeta Mehta reports on a conversation with Bob Mecoy and Kristin Nelson about literary agents and the hybrid author.

If you’re looking at contracts, Kristine Kathryn Rusch illuminates the agent clause (contracts/dealbreakers) and Susan Spann stresses understanding ebook rights.

Whatever type of publication you choose, publication can be a lengthy process. Sarah Callender contemplates enduring the long road to publication.

Should you take credit for ghost writing or not? Roz Morris considers the ethics of ghost-writing.

For Indie authors, Claire Patel-Campbell provides seven tips to stay (mentally) healthy while you crowdfund your novel and Rochelle Carter sets out five essentials of your author marketing plan.

How’s your social media presence? Caroline Black discusses your online reputation and author brand, John Stevens reveals how to get 10x more blog traffic without spending a dime on advertising, and Anne R. Allen shares 7 tips to help author-bloggers get more blog traffic. Two bloggers feel visuals are vital: Rachel Thompson asserts this is the reason you need to create visuals now and Kimberley Grabas lays out how to build an epic visual strategy for your author brand. Jane Friedman explains why she started using pop-ups on her website and Becca Puglisi illuminates the most neglected resource for reviews: YouTube.


Melissa Donovan ponders Robert Frost’s thoughts about poetry and emotions.

For parents worried about what their children are reading, Kate Milford and Fran Wilde explain how monsters and magic can help kids through tough times.

Jason Daley reports on the Smithsonian’s giant collection of 19th century paper peepshows that allowed children a peep at the past.

Readers pick Scotland’s favorite books. Have you read any of them?

BuzzFeed‘s Jarry Lee has compiled a terrific list of 51 of the most powerful pieces of advice from books.

Although we five chroniclers don’t live close to each other, we do live in the same region — southern and central New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania — and we’re going to show our support for libraries by concluding with a photo of a local library for the next several weeks (until we run out of them!) This week, we’ll give a shout out to the Main Branch of the Burlington County Library, located in Westampton, NJ.

Fiction section of the main branch of the Burlington County Library, NJ

Fiction section of the main branch of the Burlington County Library, NJ

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you next week. And visit your local library!



  1. […] reading whenever we can find them, and I was pleased to include four posts about reading in the August 18th Top Picks Thursday. One of these posts, from, discussed research that indicates that readers may live […]


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