Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 13, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-13-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Mid-August is upon us already and the summer doldrums are here. Break your heat-induced ennui with some cool writerly links.

Check out the 2020 Hugo Award winners.

Lisa Tener brings us good news data about reading. And if you’re looking for something to read, get happier by re-reading your childhood favorites.

Anthony Breznican examines how black storytellers are using horror to battle hate.

Tired of working for “exposure”? William Deresiewicz says we need to treat artists as workers, not decorations.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware warns us of problems cropping up at Filles Vertes Publishing.


Artificial intelligence—friend or foe? Farhad Manjoo examines GPT 3 AI automation and wonders if writers will survive, while J.D. Lasica discusses how artificial intelligence can help authors write a better novel.

Tips for specific genres: Damyanti Biswas tells how to write an international thriller, and Angela Ackerman shows how to put a fresh twist on the office romance.

If you are thinking about writing a series, William L. Hahn delineates 3 types of series to choose from, and if you want to break from the linear writing path, Nathan Bansford shares tips for non-linear narratives.

Every story has a plot arc, and the writing process does, too. Paula Munier dissects the anatomy of a story idea, Larry Brooks reveals how to mine the facets of premise for story gold, Jody Turchin urges us to drive through the muddy middle of our novel, Gabrielle Pollack demonstrates how to write a happy ending that doesn’t seem contrived, and Debbie Burke discusses the power of poignancy to give your ending a lasting punch.

There are many “intangibles” that make a story compelling. Stavros Halvatzis looks at how we make stories feel real, Ronan Hession says the quest for kindness is one of fiction’s greatest challenges, and Donald Maass deals with suspense.

You can’t have a story without characters, so we need to find ways to make them interesting. Katharine Grubb lists 9 things your characters need from you, Stephanie Churchill explores intuitive writing and character formation, and TD Storm shares 2 imperatives for compelling dialogue. Lisa Hall-Wilson tells us how to research mental health and trauma for your characters, and Linda S. Clare discusses writing supporting characters.

When reviewing your draft, there are things large and small to consider. Sean Gray looks at worldbuilding and the role of secret societies in revolutions, while Robert Lee Brewer considers the differences between compliment vs. complement vs. supplement.

Sometimes it’s really hard to get motivated to write. Janice Hardy explains why you should edit that last scene before moving on, Melinda Copp advises what to do if you’re struggling to write your book, Jenny Hansen has 3 writing tips from Nora Roberts, and Jennifer Baker reminds us that Toni Morrison let us know that we are more than the work we do.


Publishing goes on, even in a coronavirus world. Jeva Lange looks at how book publishing has filled the coronavirus entertainment void, Jim Milliot shows how some big publishers are finding ways to cope, and Publishers Weekly reports that print unit sales end July with a 15% increase.

Self-publishing is an entire ecosystem unto itself. Roz Morris answers 4 questions posed at a self-publishing conference (covering editing, cross-genre publishing, and author control), and Meg LeTorre lists the best self-publishing companies for novels in 2020.

Steve Laube has 12 steps to publication, Rachelle Gardner says to get an agents’ attention write another book, and Denise Massar answers the question: are editors responding to submissions during the pandemic?

Marketing covers a lot of ground, and it changes as the times change. Amy Collins discusses changing your perspective on marketing during the pandemic, V.F. Sharp has 7 tips for marketing your book from a fantasy author, and Kristina Olegovna has 6 marketing tips from a 12-year-old author.

Branding and image are central to marketing. Melinda VanLone explores updating your books cover, Sandra Beckwith shares 5 common book press release mistakes, Sherry Howard has suggestions for getting the word out about your book release, and Eldred “Bob” Bird walks us through how to give back to our readers.

Blogging and social media are a prime way to reach people now. Dave Chesson tells us what to write about on our author blogs (with blog topics), Cristian Mihai has a pre-publishing checklist for your blog article and 7 tips from famous authors that will make you a better blogger, while James Scott Bell sends us notes from the social media deportment department.


Roz Morris discusses how to write books for children and young adults, while Joanna Penn interviews Susie K Quinn about how to write a bestseller.


Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton resurrect the weird women: the forgotten female horror writers of the 19th century and beyond.

We can learn how to tell a story from many different sources. Odie Lindsey talks about learning to write from Willie Nelson.

If you’re looking for something to fill your quarantine time, Olivia Rutigliano ranks the 35 most iconic caper movies.

Bob Blaisdell examines Pushkin’s influence on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

Where we write can have a profound influence on what we write. Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle discusses writing in the ancestral Cherokee homeland.

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

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