Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 28, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-28-2020

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of May! May 30th is National Creativity Day, and May 31st is National Speak in Sentences Day.

Check out the finalists for the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature and the 2020 laureates for the European Prize for Literature.

Take a gander at comics for a mobile generation—and another possible outlet for your work.

The pandemic takes a toll in many forms. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre could close permanently due to the coronavirus, and Daniel DeFoe’s account of the 1665-1666 London plague focuses on how plagues always hit workers the hardest.

In spite of the pandemic, writing contests continue. Arthur Klepchukov compiles fiction writing contests worth your time in summer 2020.


We have lots of genre-specific advice today: Leslie Lutz has 6 tips to create suspense in a thriller novel; Natasa Xerri dives into writing a fairy tale and creating the magic behind the story; Lawrence Light shares 5 tips for writing financial thrillers; Sean Gray discusses building systems of tanistry into your fantasy; and Garry Rogers shares a real-life day of a detective.

Structure is the skeleton that holds up the entire story. Christine Hennebury lists 5 perfectly mundane ways to start a story, Katharine Grubb has 10 questions to ask when blueprinting a scene, Kris Brock examines turning points in the three-act structure, J.J. Barnes discusses plot twists, Cristina Delay says to jump into the third act, and Laurie Schnebly Campbell ponders the pros and cons of writing a series (which adds a whole other level of structure).

Some craft-y ways to engage the reader are using tension and subtext. Mary Kole says to avoid limbo with narrative tension, September C. Fawkes tells us how to write subtext, while Ellen Buikema takes a look at body language in writing.

There are plenty of other craft elements to consider while writing. Jami Gold dissects different Points of View and their nuances, Kathy Harris talks making it real, Meghan Ward shows how to improve the action in your story, J.J. Barnes figures out what is a good prose to dialogue ratio, and the AskALLi Team shares the ultimate guide to writing good prose.

And then there’s your characters, who carry your whole story on their shoulders. Barbara Linn Probst discusses creating characters who are fully alive, Stavros Halvatzis explores epiphany and self-realization in story, Jami Gold looks at how a character’s POV affects the story, and Janice Hardy lays out how to discover the front story of your non-point of view characters.

Once you’ve got that first draft, you are ready to fix it all up—and sometimes that means some pretty hefty revision. Nathan Bransford shows how to diagnose big picture problems in your novel, and Orly Konig shares 5 revision tips for pantsers.

Setting up good writing habits can help us find success. Susan DeFreitas reveals how to engrain your writing practice into your life, Katharine Grubb tells us how to make time for writing, Lisa Poisso shares a curated list of craft books about writing, and Kris Maze finds writing inspiration (even during quarantine).

With the world full of uncertainty, Emily Reyolds examines writing, coping, and facing the future, Catherine McKenzie moves forward with writing as collaboration, and Laina Turner lists 10 tips to building a sustainable writing business.


As with every other business, publishing has been hit hard by the coronavirus and changed buying habits. Poter Anderson reports that 72% of France’s publishers plan cutbacks, Jim Milliott says publisher sales fell 8.4% in March, and the PW staff tell us that print unit sales are up 7.7% in mid-May.

What ever happened to the much-anticipated “enhanced” ebook, which would have embedded sound and video, among other bells and whistles? David Kudler revisits the topic by discussing the problem with enhanced ebooks.

If you are a freelance writer, you will meet many different editors at many different magazines. Don Vaughn provides the writer’s field guide to editors to help identify and deal with them.

Agent Janet Reid addresses what to do when requested fulls are met with silence.

Marketing is tricky now. It’s different. It’s possibly even more frustrating that before. Janet Reid suggests going back to basics while marketing in the pandemic, Brian Jud discusses how to reach your book sales goals this year, and Corinne Moulder shares 4 steps to take before publicizing your book.

Marketing is all about making contact with your readers. John Gilstrap talks about platforms, Stephanie Chandler reveals where to send review copies of your book to get more book reviews, clients, media attention, and other opportunities; and David Hartshorne has a beginner’s guide to search engine optimization (SEO).

Even before the pandemic, much of our marketing had moved to the internet. Hank Phillippi Ryan gives us the secret to successful virtual author events, Cristian Mihai explores how blog posts go viral, and Sandra Beckwith has 3 social media mistakes authors must stop making right now.

For those of us uncomfortable with this technological world we live in, Bob Hostetler advises: be a Luddite, not a lunkhead.


We all know writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Maggie Doherty explores the creative communities that changed literature forever.

A writer writes. Benjamin Taylor tells us that even in retirement, Philip Roth wrote thousands of pages.

Olivia Gatwood uncovers the ethos of Edna St. Vincent Millay: defiant and unsinkable.

All fantasy has seeds of reality in it. Vanessa Thorpe explores the English towers and landmarks at inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbit sagas.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! As many parts of the nation reopen, please be smart and stay safe. We’ll see you back here next week for another literary link round-up!


  1. Great resources!


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