Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 18, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-18-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Much of the US is experiencing extreme cold or strong winter weather, so I hope all of you are safe and warm.

Award-winning  science fiction author and scholar James E. Gunn died at age 97.

Is publishing living up to its promise to diversify?  Shelly Romero and Adriana M. Martínez Figueroa check in with The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing, Revisited.

Meet the indie bookstore owner behind National Black Literacy Day.

February is also Library Lovers Month, and Susie Dumond has 6 ways to support your local library.


While most craft tips can apply across the board, sometimes others are genre-specific: Brit Haines has 10 tips for writing true-life stories, Dana Stabenow shares 7 tips for writing crime fiction, Jaclyn Goldis gives us 6 tips for confidently writing historical fiction, and Savannah Cordova lists 5 tips for writing stellar romantic subplots.

Scenes are the building blocks of any story. Marissa Graff examines 3 critical elements of opening scenes, Janice Hardy explores how the inciting incident works in a novel, and Lisa Cooper Ellison shows how to fix your scene shapes to quickly improve your manuscript.

Other craft elements, large and small, work together to make your story unforgettable. Lori Freeland tells us how to dodge the backstory info dump, Kathryn Craft unleashes the power of declaration, James Scott Bell is enamored of the em dash, and Eldred Bird urges us to write locations like charcters.

Characters are the spine of our stories. Stavros Halvatzis does character arc structure at a glance, Dr. Craig Wynne has 4 tropes and cliches to avoid when writing characters who are single, Rebecca Sacks lays out how to keep track of your characters with index cards, string, and a lot of clothes pins, Emily Wenstrom reveals how to get away with murdering a character, Melissa Donovan looks at archetypal characters in storytelling, while K.M. Weiland dives deep into the archetypal Maiden arc.

Done writing? Let the editing commence! Jim Dempsy explains what makes a good editor, Laurence MacNaughton has 6 steps to fast and easy revision, Robert Lee Brewer revisits when to capitalize president, Ellen Buikema shares 10 self-editing tips, and Jose Pablo Iriarte lists 6 ways to fit more story into less space.

Jen Silverman shares a few notes on writing across media, and Kristina Adams explores how building your self-awareness makes you a better writer.


Christine Ro investigates reducing the environmental toll of paper in the publishing industry.

A book’s cover can make or break sales. L.L. Wohlwend examines book cover colors.

Agent Rachell Gardner says every author must answer this question: why should someone want to read your book?

In marketing, Patricia Smiley looks at why you should hire a freelance publicist, Lisa Kusel is in search of the alluring author photo, and Jessica Strawser has 5 reasons you should attend other authors’ events.

Penny Sansevieri lists 13 marketing ideas to consider before you hit publish, Mike O’Mary explains how to get reader reviews now to drive sales later, and Joe Fields gives us 10 tips to boost your LinkedIn presence in 2021.


On The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan, Gabriel Byrne muses on navigating past and present, fact and imagination.

On The Creative Penn podcast, Joanna Penn discusses how to write a non-fiction book proposal with Alison Jones.


Eriq Gardner reports on Paramount’s fight with the Truman Capote Literary Trust to remake Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

For poets and lovers of metaphors, Dick Davis gives a brief history of metaphor in Persian poetry.

Ever meet a character you think would be perfect for you? Rachel Brittain has a quiz: who is your literary soulmate?

We all hate those scam phone callers, and now they’ve moved onto computer hijacking with ransomware. Elaine Viets tells a delicious tale of scamming the scammers.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay warm and safe, everyone, and we’ll see you back here for next week’s tips and tricks.


  1. Thank you very much for including mention of the blog post I wrote for Jane Friedman about how to get more reader reviews. I know it’s a challenge, but it’s doable!


  2. Thanks for sharing the guest post I wrote for Live Write Thrive! If you’re interested, you can find more writing-related tips and resources on my site:


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