Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 15, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-15-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This Saturday, October 17 is Black Poetry Day, and next week is National Friends of Libraries Week.

The Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Louise Gluck.

Sadly, Holocaust survivor and bestselling author Ruth Kluger has died at age 88.

We create in spite of the challenges we must overcome. The ALA has released its list of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the Past Decade.

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us, so get ready! Jenny Hansen wonders if the coronavirus has changed NaNoWriMo, Samantha Gilbo has the ultimate guide to planning for NaNoWriMo, and Jodi Turchin lists 5 fast-drafting tips to get you through NaNoWriMo.


For those of us who write kid lit, Kathryn Starke reminds us that children’s books never go out of style, Annie Barrows examines Ramona Quimby and the art of writing from a kid’s mind, and Hayley Kirscher asks where the unlikable female characters are in young adult fiction.

Sci-fi writers, Dustin Grinnell analyzes Carl Sagan’s Contact for lessons on how to write science fiction.

Writing memoir? Allison Williams explores 2 methods for structuring your memoir.

Getting started can be hard. Stuart Horwitz proposes using letter writing as a prompt.

Structure lets readers feel that they are in good hands. Janice Hardy reveals what makes a good middle and what makes a good ending, while Donald Maass dissects timeless endings. Kathryn Craft talks mini-structure by giving us 5 ways paragraphing supports story.

There are many craft issues large and small when writing. Becca Puglisi explains how to use a character’s career to support your story’s theme, Katharine Grubb lists 4 defense mechanisms for your character, and James Scott Bell wonders if a fiction writer should use a thesaurus.

Editing can be painful. Hank Phillippi Ryan walks us through surviving your editorial letter, Roz Morris tells us how to critique a friend’s book when it’s not working, and Denise Loock looks at whether you should kill all the adjectives.

Getting the words on the page can be challenging some days, some weeks, some months. Elizabeth S. Craig examines what’s slowing you down as you write, Glen Erik Hamilton suggests writing sprints, and Sherry Howard shows how writing with constraints can boost your writing skills.

For all that we discuss craft elements and try to learn the rules of writing, there is a lot of the art that is a bit mystical and hard to convey. Melissa Donovan discusses originality in storytelling, Shelia Heti maps the geometry of stories, Cristina Rivera Garza delves into the language of pain, Nick Kary talks of the ways in which writing is a material labor, Maeve Maddox looks at cognition and cognitive offshoots, and Jini Reddi reminds us all that nuances matter.


There’s a lot of news from all quarters of the publishing world this week. Jim Milliot reports that a surprisingly strong year of book sales continues.

Contrary to what we are seeing in the US, Norway’s writers are fighting to be on more unlimited subscription platforms.

Led Zeppelin has won their “Stairway to Heaven” copyright battle.

Kate McKean explains what being “optioned” means.

Lots of people are going the self-publishing route, so John Peragine shares 6 self-publishing success considerations. If you are self-publishing but looking to move to traditional publishing, Robert McCaw has 4 tips for transitioning from self-publishing to traditional publishing.

Agent Janet Reid scores a trifecta today with: fictional characters quoting real people, using effective comps in your query, and how to do effective personalization in your query.

No matter what route you take, you will have to do a lot of the marketing for your book. Judith Briles has 6 essential questions for your book marketing success, Victoria Jayne lists 13 fiction book marketing tips, and Dane Low looks at top 10 cover ideas (with examples).

The holiday season can be a great time to sell your book, but is it a great time to launch it? Penny C. Sansevieri has 11 things you need to plan for holiday book sales, and Keri-Rae Barnum gives advice about launching your book during the holidays.

We’re all doing a lot online these days. John Gilstrap has video call tips and tricks, while Cristina Mihai reveals how to write a blockbuster blog article and shares 14 unconventional ideas to help you write a killer article.


So You Want to be a Writer’s Roz Morris and Peter Snell discuss what to call your characters and places.

On the Otherppl podcast with Brad Listi, learn why you won’t catch Dean Koontz being cynical.

From Beyond the Page with Jeffrey Brown, Isabel Allende is writing a novel bookended by pandemics.


Emily Temple looks at Samuel Pepys and parlor games for plague times.

Read the mid-century correspondence between Raymond Chandler and young writer James M. Fox.

Frances Wilson examines the real (and forgotten) D. H. Lawrence found in his essays, not in novels.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you next week for more writerly tricks and treats.

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