Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 8, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-08-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This week (the first full week of October) is both Mystery Series Week and National Newspaper Week. Enjoy!

South Africa’s SA Book Awards honors author Trevor Noah.

Irish poet Derek Mahon, whose verse assuaged pandemic anxiety, dies at age 78.

James Raven parses what exactly for we mean by a book?

Sometimes you cannot express what you need to in stories set in the real world. Ross Showalter explains how writing fantasy lets him show the whole truth of disability.

Authors are usually sensitive to censorship. Janet Reid answers the question of if cleaning up your social media is actually a form of self-censorship, and Jo Glanville discusses resisting censorship even when it is uncomfortable.

November is bearing down on us. Angela Ackerman tells us why writers should consider NaNoWriMo in 2020.


Writers need to get the big picture elements right before we can work on the smaller story elements. Sharon Bially has a hack for getting to the heart of your story and staying there, Stavos Halvatzis tells us how to conjure story magic, Zaivy Luke-Aleman discusses travel in stories as a worldbuilding device, Jami Gold takes a broad view of story conflict, and Janice Hardy explains what makes a good beginning to your novel and why so many writers get tripped up with the advice to “start with action.”

Once we get started, our characters carry the show. Katharine Grubb has 5 things your character could discover to make them more engaging, Brian Andrews gives us a simple approach to character crafting, Janice Hardy lists 5 ways to fix too-perfect characters, Dr. Miffie Seideman explains how to write believable sensory details for unfamiliar experiences, and Dustin Grinnell explores 8 journeys and motives behind evildoers, antiheroes, and antagonists.

After the drafting comes the editing. Leslie Vedder reveals 3 tips for cutting your word count without giving your whole story the ax, Terry Odell deals with mixed up words, and Laura Drake shares her editing pet peeves.

We can always improve our writing. Carol Tice says to fix these 10 common writing errors, Melissa Donovan has 100 common-sense ways to write better, and Steve Laube shares an infographic with 476 ways to avoid writing “said.

Writers write alone, but we can often use words of encouragement to get us through the rough patches. Colleen M. Story shows how to use your excuses to get more writing done, Marissa Decuir compiles 10 published authors with their best writing advice, Garry Rodger has inspiring quotes from crime thriller writers, Sandra Beckwith lists 27 quotes about persistence to provide motivation, and Lisa Tener talks writing and community.


In publishing news, print units post double-digit gains at the end of September.

For those interested in self-publishing, Kurt Dinan explains how to leave traditional publishing, go indie, and not regret it; and Bad Redhead Media lays out how to write, market, and be mentally healthy.

If you are going the traditional route, Jessica Faust advises “don’t quit your day job”, Rachelle Gardner says to minimize the obstacles to publication, and Nathan Bransford tells us how to format a manuscript for submission.

Marketing can be opaque to a lot of writers. Hank Quense shares free book market tactics, Brian Jud tells us how to write persuasive marketing copy and how to work with a book marketing consultant, and Kimberly Grabas explains how to use fanfiction to build audience brand and platform.

In these pandemic times, online is the go-to way to connect with your readers. Dave Chesson shows us how to get readers onto our mailing list and keep them, Nate Hoffelder reveals how to sell anything via your newsletter, Christian Mihai runs through how to run a SWOT ananlysis of your blog, and Frances Caballo lists 105 hashtags for writers.


The Literary Disco podcast revisits Watership Down, another attempt to stop humans from ruining the planet.

On the Thresholds podcast, Jodan Kisner interviews Natalie Diaz on writing poetry as a body.

Kendra Winchester on the Reading Women podcast talks with Julianne Clancy about how the pandemic is changing book marketing.

The Newberry Tart podcast hosts pediatrician and author Sayantani DasGupta on stories as good medicine.

Jacke Wilson on The History of Literature podcast delves into the haunting remorse of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat.”

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast chats with K.M. Weiland on outlining your novel and filling the creative well.


In a year that could not feel any more surreal, Gregory Ariail discusses reengaging with Franz Kafka’s astonishing worlds.

Alison Flood helps us browse the world’s strangest books.

For Heyer fans (or Regency fans), take this quiz to see which Georgette Heyer Regency novel you should read.

Haley Velasco answers the question: can books compete with Netflix?

Speaking of Netflix, the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle is suing Netflix for giving Sherlock Holmes too many feelings.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you all next week for more writerly links.

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