Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 16, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-16-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! January 18th is National Thesaurus Day, so lionize, extol, proclaim, and celebrate the wonderful breadth of our English language.

Many of us have been horrified by the devastation in Australia. SCBWI has a way authors can support those impacted by Australian wildfires.

Book Critics Circle announces the finalists for the 2019 NBCC Awards.

Multiple authors have passed away this week: Elizabeth Wurtzel dies at age 52, Charles Sprawson dies at age 78, and Chukwuemeka Ike dies at age 88.

Reading changes the brain and changes lives. The Guardian explores why the books we read as children are the ones that shape our psyche, the visual language of comic books can improve brain function, and the Maryland State Library grant $100,000 to buy books for prison libraries.

New Year, same old scams. Victoria Strauss compiles Writer Beware’s 2019 in review, and Melissa Bowersock warns of the “make my book into a movie” scam.


As we move deeper into the new year, people are still pondering how to writer more, write better, in 2020. Writing and Wellness supports thinking differently about your New Year’s writing goals, Alice Briggs tells us how to set yourself up for success in 2020 and overcome mindset blocks, PJ Parrish shares 8 ways to help you be a smarter writer in 2020, and Lisa Tener has 8 more reasons to write a book this year.

For mystery lovers, Sulari Gentill discusses reviving the traditional mystery for a 21st century audience, and Manuel Betancourt examines how Knives Out turns the whodunit on its head.

Are you thinking of becoming or using a ghostwriter? Roz Morris answers the question: is it cheating to use a ghostwriter?, and John Doppler delves into the ethics of ghostwriting.

Stories have to start with a compelling scene and carry you through all the twists and turns with a deft hand. Jane Friedman lists 5 story openings to avoid, and Nathan Bransford has 5 different openings to avoid, while Kathryn Craft shows us how to bridge temporal story gaps.

Stavroz Halvatzis explains establishing images, while Melissa Donovan brings us to word-level craft involving homophones and Robert Lee Brewer demystifies awhile vs. a while.

Our characters come in all different flavors, but sometimes it’s hard to get them onto the page that way. Kathleen Barber has tips for writing multi-POV novels with distinct voices, Janice Hardy shares 5 ways to develop character voices, Tamar Sloan explores capturing an unhappy relationship, and Julie Glover examines if your character will fight, flee, or freeze. If your character is of the non-human variety, Clea Simon lays out how to write an animal character.

Increasing productivity is always a big goal for writers on New Year’s. Elizabeth S. Craig advocates taking small steps toward a big goal, Paula Munier says the key to a writer’s productivity is saying No, Sarah Bolme lists 6 steps to overcome procrastination, Barbara Linn Probst explores having a place to write, Elaine Viets discusses making time to write, and James Scott Bell shows how to get serious about your writing career.

Authors can learn a lot from other writers. Chuck Palahniuk talks about the importance of not boring your readers, Gregg Millman tells us what authors can learn about writing by teaching others, Katherine Grubb overcomes when you fear what others think, and Orly Konig discusses embracing the women’s fiction genre label.

Nathan Bransford explains why Master & Commander by Patrick O’Brian works, Amy Jones compiles 8 Chuck Palahnuik quotes for writers about writing, Dawn Field lists the absolute best books on writing, and Merry Cari Dubiel reminds us to keep all writing tips in perspective.


Here’s some numbers from the publishing world:  UK Booksellers Association reports third year of gains in stores, Jim Milliot says print unit sales fell 1.3% in 2019, Overdrive reports record digital borrowing in 2019, and Where The Crawdads Sing tops sale lists in print, ebook, and audio.

Shelley Sturgeon rounds up the 10 top posts from The Book Designer in 2019, take a look at The State of Genre Magazines, and Jennifer Prokop walks us through the making of a Harlequin romance cover.

Tracy Marchini explains what it means when an editor or agents says your manuscript is “quiet”, and John Peragine dissects the 3 levels of trust in publishing.

Tetiana Bak lays out how to create a business plan for your indie author business, Brian Jud urges us to sell books through all retailers—not just bookstores, and Sandra Beckwith has fabulous February book promotion opportunities.

Anne R Allen recommends BookBub reviews as an alternative to Goodreads, Cristian Mihai lists 9 tips to help you start your blogging journey like a boss, and Kristen Lamb shares the reasons your book isn’t selling.


Get your reading caps on! Vulture has 32 books they can’t wait to read in 2020, and Liz Moore shares practical ways to find more time to read as a parent.

The Vatican Library goes online and digitizes tens of thousands of manuscripts, books, coins, and more.

Take a peek inside the New York Times Book Review process.

Short stories have power. Daniyal Mueenuddin explores the short stories that inspired a Russian czar to free the serfs.

Janet Todd discusses the restless comedy of Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel, Sanditon.

Now you can see J.M. Barrie’s handwritten manuscript of Peter Pan.

Olivia Rutiggliano reports on the dognapping of the century: Elizabeth Barret Browning’s beloved pup.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more writerly links.

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