Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 13, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-13-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We have plenty of writing advice and news for you, so find a sunny spot and read on.

In an idea inspired by FDR, Ted Lieu of California and Teresa Leger Fernandez of New Mexico introduced the Federal Writers Project bill that would create $60 million in writing jobs.

Nicole Froio examines what happens when #MeToo memoirs meet the marketplace.

Literary Hub brings us this week in literary history: May 9-15.

We are sorry to report that Joel Friedlander, founder of The Book Designer blog, passed away this week. Many of Joel’s posts have been featured here over the years, and his design advice will be missed. His blog continues under other management.


The word on everyone’s lips this week is serialization, brought on by the announcement of Kindle Vella, a new serialized fiction platform from Amazon. Steve Hooley wants to know what you think of serialized fiction and Vella, John Peragine continues his series on serialized storytelling with a close look at Vella, and Sandra Beckwith gathers insight from experts on how to decide if Kindle Vella is a good fit for you.

In other genres and formats, Melodie Campbell shares 5 things a mystery novel must have, and Nathan Bransford dissects the difference between children’s and adult books.

For those who write more personal works, Robert Lee Brewer defines what a personal essay is, and Lisa Cooper Ellison explores 4 voices that can help (or hinder) your memoir.

If your preferred genre is a little more out-of-this-world, A.J. Smith lists 5 ways to develop your writing imagination for fantasy fiction, and Christina Sweeney-Baird has 7 tips for writing a near-future dystopian novel.

Every writer, ideally, develops their own unique style and voice. Melissa Donovan gives tips for developing your voice in writing, C.S. Lakin focuses on the punch at the end of your novel scenes, and Stavros Halvatzis advises pacing your story by writing contrasting scenes.

There are many craft elements to consider when honing your voice and style. Some will be genre-dependent, others will be personal choice. PJ Parrish examines the pros and cons of using profanity in stories, Jesse Q. Sutano shows how to mine humor from family dynamics in your writing, Mark and Connor Sullivan list 8 ways to add suspense to your novel, Carla Hoch explains how people that don’t know how to fight, fight; and KL Burd delves into incorporating social issues into your manuscript.

One craft element that can be particularly tricky is backstory. Mary Kole explores how to work with backstory, Donald Maass says to use it to create a feeling of inevitability, and Jenna Harte shares easy tips to incorporate backstory into your novel.

As Kristen Lamb reminds us, characters are the emotional touchstones for our readers. September Fawkes looks at balancing our cast of characters, Janice Hardy has 5 ways to keep your protagonist active, and Diana Souhami reveals how to inhabit the character you write about. Anne R. Allen explores the unsympathetic character, while K.M. Weiland investigates the Mage’s shadow archetypes.

Writing is a highly psychological undertaking. Roz Morris explains why it is so hard to kill your darlings, Laurie Lisle discusses what changed when she decided to write her own story and not someone else’s, and Hank Phillippi Ryan gives us what you need to know to write a novel.

We can’t be writers without getting words on the page, but sometimes we need a little help getting that done. Angela Ackerman shows how to set yourself up for success before you write a single word, Stacey Swann shares how John Steinbeck’s diaries helped her write her debut novel, Keith Kronin has writing advice from Mike Tyson, and James Scott Bell lists 7 tips for producing more words.


In good news, Publishers Weekly reports that print unit sales had double-digit gains at April’s end.

John B. Thompson reveals the new Holy Grail of traditional publishers: direct-to-reader relationships.

Many authors already have that relationship with their audience. Leila Hirschfeld looks at engaging with readers: 14 ways authors express gratitude.

When trying to sell your book, you need a pitch, comps, and the right way to package it all. Janet Reid explains the best way to query a novel and short stories, Evan Jensen has 4 simple steps to an elevator pitch, Star Wuerdemann shows how to find compelling comps for your book, and Gina Panettieri explores essentials to elevating your pitch: loglines and comps.

Marketing means getting the word out about your project. Patti Thorn tells how to get book reviews to market your self-published book, and Penny Sansevieri exposes the social media mistake that can damage your author platform.

Online, content is king. Sarah Penner shares 100 content ideas for every stage of your writing career, and Christin Nielsen lists 22 sites where you can get paid to blog.


On The Maris Review podcast with Maris Kreizman, Maggie Shipstead speaks in praise of books that aren’t totally satisfying.

Jacke Wilson’s History of Literature podcast explores the longest fallow periods: when Ralph Ellison experienced a forty-year writing block.

Gail Carriger and Joanne Penn discuss the heroine’s journey on The Creative Penn podcast.


Eileen Gonzalez investigates: are comics for kids or aren’t they?

We all have our punctuation quirks. Emily Temple gathers the punctuation marks loved (and hated) by famous writers.

Take the quiz: what classic middle grade character are you?

L.R. Dorn explores Chester Gillette, Theodore Dreiser, and the origins of America’s fascination with true crime.

Veronica Esposito compares the radical similarities of Alice Munro and Pedro Almodovar.

We often read to escape—and it starts early. Elissa Washuta discusses picture books as doors to other worlds.

What could be better than old literary stuff?  Children’s authors show off their literary treasures on Antiques Roadshow.

That’s all for this week! Join us next week for more literary tips and tricks.

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