Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! In our neck of the woods, the kids are back in school this week, and we parent-writers are rejoicing in a little more writing time.
Author of the Llama Llama books, Anna Dewdney has died after a struggle with brain cancer.
The school year often means spending time at the library for reports, etc. But if you live in this town, watch out—this Alabama library plans to enforce a strict overdue book ordinance. So get those books back on time!
A new survey says that 1 in 4 Americans didn’t read a book last year. This is unfathomable to me. And in case people think books are simply escapist nonsense, Kate Milford solves 100% real problems using books in advice column format.
If you love to read and wish someone would pay you to read, move to Italy. Italian teens receive a “culture bonus” from the government to read and engage in the arts.
Christopher Ingraham uncovers the stunning geographic divide in American creativity.
Even in the science fiction landscape, diversity remains an issue. Nnedi Okorafor wrote her Hugo award winning novella BINTI because she never saw the Africa she knows in books, while Nora Jemisin would love to just write and not have everything turned into a political battle.
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part—whether it be starting a new project, or starting today’s writing on your current project. Erika Lewis has 8 tips to combine research and family for a great working vacation when researching a new project, and Kristen Lamb gives us numerous ways to beat writer’s block when it strikes.
Kassandra Lamb lays out 4 ways to add depth to your stories, even if you don’t write in a dark or gritty style or genre.
The real world often gets entangled in our fictional worlds—which can be great, or it can fall flat. Jami Gold discusses the pros and cons of referencing the real world in your story, and Sophie Masson explores using real-world places to inspire fictional settings.
Our stories ride on our characters. Melanie Conklin discusses creating characters that feel real, Ruth Harris shows how to create memorable characters using details, and James Scott Bell explains why plot is essential to character. Meanwhile, Zoe M. McCarthy warns against character overload in first chapters, and K.M. Weiland tackles the common writing mistake of not using contractions in dialogue.
Once we’ve written, we need to polish and tighten. Merriam-Webster destroys 5 writing rules we are often quoted, Melissa Donovan explores the all-important relationship between grammar and writing, and Diana Hurwitz definitively answers the question: Do you need an editor? Also, Janice Hardy gives excellent advice on how to cut words painlessly, how to stay organized during a revision, and how to flesh out a too-short novel.
When we feel our work is ready for other eyes, we can utilize critique partners, critique groups, or both. Adventures in YA Publishing lists resources for finding critique partners, Anne R. Allen examines 6 ways critique groups may hurt your writing…and 6 ways they can help, and Km English talks about the art of giving and accepting critiques.
Other writers can be a great source of writing advice. Will Van Stone, Jr., discusses what X-Men can teach about storytelling, K.M. Weiland explores 6 reasons we need to make way more writing mistakes, and Chuck Wendig shares 5 things he learned writing Invasive.
Writers often want to use quotations in a book—but can we? Attorney Helen Sedwick explains how to legally use quotations in our book.
Most writers don’t have the luxury of time, so Ali shows how to plan writing time into your week (with downloadable spreadsheet). Planned writing time does have to mean dispassionate writing, however. C.S. Lakin defines 3 identifiers of passionate writing.
Anna Elliott gives us 4 ways to bring back the joy of writing when the spark is gone, and Melissa Donovan ponders if a writer really needs to carry a notebook everywhere.
Fiction fills many needs in our society—from escapism to cultural commentary to defining meaning in our lives. Lisa Levy insists we should not apologize for reading “trash” or “guilty pleasure” books, Paul La Farge explores the enduring afterlife of science fiction in post-Revolutionary Cuba, and Jessica Lourey TED Talks about using fiction to rewrite your life.
Self-published authors often create their own ebooks, so Steven Spatz provides this ebook checklist to make sure you’ve got everything you need together. Meanwhile, BookBaby lists 7 must-read books for the indie author.
Whether indie or traditional, Anne Patchett warns that if writers are to survive, we must take responsibility for ourselves and our industry.
All is not well in the alternate universe of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Author Seth Grahame-Smith is being sued by publisher Hatchette for breach of contract.
John Paul Titlow says that a decade after Amazon’s Kindle, paper books are doing fine.
Kristen Lamb states the obvious-yet-difficult-to-achieve marketing advice that we sell more books when we give consumers what they want. This goes hand-in-hand with Tim Grahl’s advice about what to send to your email list subscribers.
The first connection we usually make with a reader is the cover. K.S. Brooks gives us the top 5 ways to have an awful book cover, while Aimee Coveney explains how the cover of your book influences your brand as an author.
Many people connect on Twitter. Melissa Flickinger tells us how to get started on Twitter chats for writers, while Daniel Parsons shows how to use Twitter to make powerful connections as a creative professional.
Digital marketing is going more and more visual, so Frances Caballo lists 5 apps for boosting your visual book marketing. But is all this time on social media worth it? Roz Morris explains that yes, social media does work for writers.
THE UNIQUE SHELF
Sandra Mendez shares 17 upsetting things book lovers can relate to.
Pottermore shares what jobs Harry Potter characters would have in the Muggle world.
Erin Chack has 21 things that will make sense to writers.
Lots of news from the ancient world: A publisher is set to release exact replicas of the Voynich manuscript, considered the world’s most mysterious manuscript; a scan reveals a rare, 500-year-old Mesoamerican manuscript; and some ancient Egyptian stories will be published in English for the first time.
Writers often wish we could write like the great writers. This algorithm lets you write like the greats—like their handwriting, that is.
Everything old is new again—here’s how to keep a zibaldone, the 14th century’s answer to Tumblr.
Think you know Mary Shelley? Here are 16 surprising facts about the author of Frankenstein.
Does your local bookstore have a pet? Check out these bookstore dogs and cats (and pigs and chickens and chinchillas and ferrets).
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 Mount Laurel Library, in Mount Laurel, NJ.
That’s all for Top Picks Thursday this week! See you next week!