Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 7, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-07-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We hope you are all safe and healthy.

The great debate is over! Microsoft has made it official: two spaces after a period is now flagged as an error.

Check out the 2020 Pulitzer Prize winners.

The world lost some literary lights this week. Children’s book author Robert Kimmel Smith died at age 89, and legendary Irish poet Eaven Boland died at age 75.

Missing your library? You are not the only one. Amy Shearn writes on missing libraries, while Claire Voon brings us 7 spectacular libraries you can explore from your living room.

The Publishers Weekly staff keeps track of COVID-19 impact listings: cancellations, closings, policy changes, and more.


As the pandemic rages, authors who are writing contemporary books are wondering what they should do about it in their manuscripts. Agent Janice Reid gives her opinion on whether to include or exclude a reference to the pandemic.

Write science fiction or fantasy? Alexis Furr tells how to write for an alien when you’ve never been an alien, and Zachary James has a step-by-step guide to creating and publishing your fantasy book.

Getting started is an exciting time, but can be difficult sometimes. Marie Lamba talks about how journaling led her to a book idea, Rachelle Gardner addresses the issue of so many ideas, so little time; Sara Coughlin shares 4 mindfulness steps every freelancer should do before starting their day, and Susan DeFreitas discusses the role neurohacks play in developing a writing practice.

Once you’ve got your idea, you can start. Stavros Halvatzis explains how great plot can come from moral weakness, Janet Reid looks at whether your first pages should set a scene or dive right in, and Dana Isaacson discusses choosing a novel’s point of view.

Characters carry the whole story, and engage your readers—or not. C.S. Lakin explains the 3 Ms of character setup, Janice Hardy explores creating character voices in non-POV characters, Bethany Henry gives us 5 reasons our characters need to fail, and Ellen Buikema discusses loving your hateful antagonist. And if any of your characters work at a morgue, Garry Rodgers tells us what really goes on at the morgue.

There are a lot of details authors need to manage throughout the story. Nathan Bransford looks at weaving in exposition naturally, Sonja Yoerg reminds us to pay attention to the timelines, Jami Gold discusses how we should format non-English words, and Ellie Maas Davis explores editing manuscripts: writing style, writer intuition, and working with an editor.

Lots of great advice for writers on the web. Anne R. Allen lists 4 newbie mistakes that can derail a book idea, Nils Odlund has 3 tips for impressing your readers, and Gwen Hernandez shares a roundup of handy Scrivener features.

Writers are often very sensitive to emotions, and living through this pandemic can feel like an avalanche as we deal with our own emotions and the weight of those around us. This can lead to creative blocks for many. Allie Pleiter gives us 6 ways to write while the world is stressing you out, Richard North Patterson advises write what you care about, Tiffany Yates Martin tells us how to become a better writer during quarantine, Bonni Randall harnesses the power of journaling through difficult times, Terry Odell focuses on how to write in distracting times, and James Scott Bell reminds us that even now (maybe especially now) our imaginations need regular play time.


If you haven’t yet heard of Bookshop, look into it. Sindya N. Bhanoo explores how a coalition of indie stores managed to take a slice of Amazon’s business, and Aaron Robertson reports that Bookshop has raised $1 million for independent bookstores.

If you are a self-publisher, Justine Bylo takes a look at indie publishing in the time of COVID-19.

Stacy Juba gives advice on how to write your first novel and get published, and Verity Bright explains how to double your chance of landing a book deal (before you’ve written a single word).

For those querying agents, Nathan Bransford says you probably don’t need publishing credits. Janet Reid tackles the question of what to do when the publisher backs out of book 3 of a 3 book deal.

With in-person events not feasible for the foreseeable future, authors are relying on virtual events. The AskALLi Team shares the ultimate guide to hosting a successful online event, Diana Urban has 8 ideas from authors on virtual book launch events, and Claie Kirch wonders if, even after this is over, virtual author events are the next big thing.

Marketing is different now, but not so different—it’s still hard! To make it easier, Sandra Beckwith lists 6 ideas for promoting your book while watching TV, Christina Kaye tells us how to market your book in 4 easy steps, and Karen Lock Kolp has 5 tips for building a community of readers.

Online is the way we are connecting nowadays. Rob Eager shares 3 Amazon secrets every author needs to know, Evelyn Maguire brings us 15 ways to use Instagram to overcome distancing challenges, Sean Platt shows how to get good reviews for your books, and Cristian Mihai asks: are you sabotaging your blog by being a perfectionist?


In honor of Harper Lee’s birthday, check out the first reviews of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Vijay Seshadri explores why T.S. Eliot has remained an enigma.

Fake news has been around for as long as there has been news. Dean Jobb investigates the bizarre newspaper hoax that nearly ruined Lizzie Borden.

Gil Hornby examines Cassandra Austen and her influence of Jane’s life and writing.

Emily Temple compiles 20 artists’ visions of Alice in Wonderland over 155 years.

Vincent van Gogh was a reader as well as a painter. Mariella Guzzoni discusses the writers van Gogh loved, from Dickens to Harriet Beecher Stowe.

We can all sympathize with lockdowns now. Julia Webster Ayuso tells the tale of a literary lockdown involving translating a Dan Brown novel, and the thriller plot that grew from it.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay healthy, stay safe, and we will see you next week!


  1. Thanks so much for the mention! What a great list of resources. I am going to share this post in my Facebook group for writers.

    Liked by 1 person

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