Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 20, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-20-2020



Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Our weather in the Mid-Atlantic States has seesawed this month from slightly below normal to well above normal. Although we’ve missed the snow that a lot of you have experienced, we’re still looking forward to spring. Only one month to go.

Next Wednesday is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. If you have young ones around, take the opportunity to read a classic fairy tale. Everyone else might want to consider a literary classic: Daniel Frank shares the most loved and hated classics according to Goodreads users.

Whether you’re a fan of A Game of Thrones or not, you might enjoy Robert Lee Brewer’s collection of 12 George R. R. Martin quotes for writers and about writing.

In memoriam: A. E. Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway, dies at age 102 [reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer by Hillel Italie, Associated Press].


Early birds — they beat the crocuses this year.




Want to improve your writing? Beth van der Pol points out that you can learn how to be creative, while Jessica Strawser looks into how teaching can make you a better writer, and Katie Forrest sets out 9 time management tips for writers.

We all feel doubt and discouragement at times. Julie Glover talks about how to love your writer self, Patti Jo Moore considers the Goldilocks syndrome, and Tasha Seegmiller reminds us writers are separate from their craft.

For those thinking about writing a book with another author, Maryann Miller gives us ten tips for successful collaboration.

If you’re just beginning your manuscript, Gordon Long explains how to create a dynamic four-sentence opening paragraph.

Several bloggers bring us information and tips about the key story elements theme, plot, and tone. Stavros Halvatzis concentrates on story tone and its relationship to theme and plot, September C. Fawkes examines how premise plays into theme, Brandon Cornette delves into when “situational” writing works better than plotting, and Janice Hardy focuses on plotting with the save the cat beat sheet structure.

Other bloggers concentrate on suspense and conflict. K. M. Weiland offers 6 steps to create realistic (and powerful) scene dilemmas, Laurence MacNaughton lists 3 rules to raising the story stakes, Jim Dempsey stresses creating conflict in your characters, and Kris Bock suggests keeping the reader guessing with story questions when writing a page-turner.

Good dialogue brings a story to life. James Scott Bell advocates mastering the basics: point of view and dialogue, Melissa Donovan talks about action and dialogue in storytelling, and Lori Rader-Day reveals the secrets to better dialogue.

For those working in particular genres, Steven K. Smith discusses middle grade novel structure, E. L .Skip Knox relates history for fantasy writers: how time was perceived in ancient and medieval Europe, Andrew Noakes mentions five historical fiction mistakes to avoid, and Saralyn Richard digs into perfecting the police procedural.

Do you need to do research for your story? J. R. Bee explains why everyone should research, and Terry Odell advocates doing your homework.

When it’s time to polish that first draft, Robert Lee Brewer takes a look at metaphor vs. personification, Roni Loren describes 3 pitfalls to avoid so you don’t write boring love scenes, and Kathryn Craft details 7 ways to overcome story implausibility.

Once you’ve polished your work, it’s time to find an editor. Natasa Lekic clarifies different types of editing, and Nathan Bransford suggests when editing, start with the problems before jumping to solutions.

Finally, Janet Reid celebrates editors, the invisible heroes of publishing.


Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash




If you’re seeking an agent, Janet Reid discusses how to deal with a less-than-stellar publishing past in a query.

Hate even thinking about a synopsis? Kristen Lamb explains why you need a synopsis, even if you self-publish.

As much as we desire publication, we need to be careful in the process. Anne R. Allen warns us about 10 new publishing scams to watch out for in 2020, and Janet Reid advises writers what to do if contacted out of the blue by a seeming editor or agent. In addition, Victoria Strauss looks at whether you should pay to display your book at BookExpo.

Providing tips and information about branding, platform, and marketing, Rennie St. James lists three must-haves for effective branding, Stephanie Chandler goes into how to clearly define your target audience so you can build your platform and sell more books, Dave Chesson explores how to use keyword research to sell more books, Sandra Beckwith enumerates 8 ways to make your book’s press release work harder, and Amy Collins updates us with: do this, don’t do that 2020.

For those involved in social media marketing and blogging, Frances Caballo informs us how to create a social media strategy as an author, while Cristian Mihai ponders how to find your blogging muse and reminds us that first impressions matter a lot.

Anything that helps booksellers is good news for writers. Christen Thompson writes that new tools are leveling the playing field for booksellers.


Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash




Finola Austin discusses the Brontë myth: why this literary family continues to inspire writers today.

In 594 ways of reading Jane Eyre, Bonnie Chau considers a study to understand the way a source is transformed by translators and how the translations reflect their culture.

Continuing with the topic of culture, Chi Luu asserts that black English matters.

Writers are urged to read. Craig Fehrman looks into how Obama’s reading shaped his writing.

Sarah Rose Sharp takes us inside a museum and library dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut.



That wraps up this week’s roundup of writerly links. Have a productive week of reading and writing, and join us next week for more Top Picks Thursday.




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