Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 24, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-24-2020



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, dawn clouds


Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of fall … and the last one in September! We hope you’re all enjoying the relief from the heat.

During the pandemic, many of us are spending more time online. Steve Laube recommends we check our email ID, which isn’t the same as our email address. This is good advice for everyone, not just writers.

Do you ever read aloud? Sophie Hardach explains why you should read out loud.

The Smithsonian announces that The National Portrait Gallery will be exhibiting “A Century of Women Writers” until January 18, 2021.

In memoriam: fantasy author Terry Goodkind has died at age 72 [reported by Andrew Liptak on].


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, orange nasturtium

Nasturtium flower.



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, woolly bear caterpillar

2020 woolly bear caterpillar.











If you’re having doubts about the importance of writing as a profession, Barbara Linn Probst explains why your book matters, and Jenny Hansen claims storytellers are the most powerful people in the world.

You went to a couple writing conferences last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Do you have a stack of conference notes like I do? Julie Glover lists 5 reasons to review old conference notes.

Looking for writing tips? Elizabeth S. Craig reflects on writing with the door shut, while Paula Munier shares writing lessons from the garden, and Lucy V. Hay gives us awesome writing tips from 6 famous writers.

Susan DeFreitas investigates where novelists get stuck: 3 common issues with early drafts, and Barbara Linn Probst discusses her “road, neighborhood, sky” process of writing, while Shanna Swendson warns us not to fall prey to the dark side of good writing habits.

Have you ever thought about co-writing a book? Christine Ro ponders why there aren’t more jointly authored novels.

Sometimes I feel I repeat this too often, but great characters are crucial to good fiction. A number of bloggers have some thoughts on characters this week: Dan O’Brien ponders character-building: on past traumas and a future for the stage, Nathan Bransford goes into how to use hopes and dreams to make a character come alive, and Angela Ackerman looks at how a character’s job can awaken unmet needs. (Angela also offers us a master list of character-building resources.)

This is something you might not have considered about your characters: Katharine Grubb gives us 16 questions to ask your characters about their body language.

Stavros Halvatzis asks: how many characters do you include in your story? and after you’ve decided that, Dave King describes managing your cast.

With help for those who want to add tension and suspense to their stories, Zoe M. McCarthy reminds us that holding back information doesn’t always create suspense, and Jodie Renner provides concrete tips for adding tension, suspense, and intrigue to any story. Plus, James Scott Bell suggests writing a big moment for all it’s worth.

Erik Klass reveals why you should be excerpting your novel.

For those writing in these genres: Michele Weldon asserts that even your memoir is not all about you, and Sue Coletta offers tips for historical writers.

If it’s time for proofreading or editing, Robert Lee Brewer clarifies using anybody vs. anyone vs. somebody vs. someone, and Dana Isaacson provides a no-stress guide to using italics.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, praying mantis

Praying mantis.

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, yellow and black garden spider

Yellow and black garden spider (from beneath).










Working on your author platform? Carla King sets out 5 steps to build a strong author platform.

If you want to use quotations from other authors, Jane Friedman provides a writer’s guide to fair use and permissions plus a sample permissions letter.

Pandemic restrictions apparently have people reading more and buying more books. Jane Friedman reports that traditional publishing enjoys its best sales in a decade, despite supply chain problems.

With warnings for writers, The Passive Voice‘s PG advises don’t do business with incompetents, and Victoria Strauss dissects a scam: Fact & Fiction Entertainment and Literary Agency.

If you’re self-publishing, Terry Odell looks into the ins and outs of indie publishing: going wide, Garry Rodgers lays out his top ten tips on formatting ebooks from MS Word, David Kudler writes about going against the flow: reflowable vs. fixed-layout ebooks, and Mary Rasenberger explains how to fight e-book piracy.

Time for marketing your book? Diana Hurwitz considers advertising merchandise.

For those concerned about using social media, Leila Hirschfeld looks into how successful authors use social media, and Cristian Mihai debates what is more important — blog post quantity or quality and reveals how to get more comments on your blog posts.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, clouds




On the Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner, Cathy Park Hong speaks about motherhood and turning from poetry to prose.

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton talks about listening to your inner voice on the WMFA podcast with Courtney Balestier.

Roz Morris delves into how to write the difficult second novel and why it’s difficult.

Derek Doepker visits Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn podcast to talk about audiobook narration, production, and marketing.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, tomato hornworm with parasitic wasp eggs

Tomato hornworm with parasitic wasp eggs




Rosa Lyster wonders what was lost when Nadine Gordimer’s personal library accidentally wound up in boxes on the street.

Seth Greenland muses on how, in a family of readers, packing up his late father’s library was hardest of all.

Taking a look back in history, Dan Beachy-Quick writes about the ancient Greek poet who had no time for tragedy, Stefan Buczacki reminds us that Shakespeare’s works are full of gardening wisdom, and Ali Tüfekçi examines who read what in the Ottoman Empire.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, purple wildflowers


That wraps up Top Picks Thursday for this week. Join us next week on October 1st for another collection of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, September sunset



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