Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 6, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-06-2018

Welcome to our first Top Picks Thursday of December! Saturday is National Brownie Day (yum!), and Monday is a blockbuster with Dewey Decimal System Day (remember that?), Human Rights Day, and Nobel Prize Day.

Are you a translator? SCBWI is opening their Work-In-Progress Grants to translators.

Bookstores are making a comeback. Molly Parent and Stephen Sparks talk about the power of a small town bookstore.

Did you all survive NaNoWriMo? Jess Zafarris did, and gives us 9 lessons learned from a first attempt at NaNoWriMo.

Check out these gifts for the booklovers in your life (or for yourself).

Libraries do so many things for their communities. This library on the US-Canadian border has become a reunion point for separated Iranian families—and the tension that comes with that unexpected role.

Winter is upon us, and Arthur Klepchukov lists fiction writing contests worth your time in winder 2018-19.


We’d all love to see our books released in multiple languages, but their success rests on the skill of the translators used. Emily Temple interviews 10 literary translators on the art of translation.

Novels aren’t the only art form available to authors. Tobias Carroll asks: why doesn’t America love the novella?, while Mary Jaksch gathers 20 tips from the greats on how to write short stories.

Since we can always hone our craft, Joe Garza explores using the comic triple to be funnier, wittier, and hated by complete strangers.

While writing, we need to juggle many elements at once. Nathan Bransford shows how to raise the stakes in a novel, Stavros Halvatzis explains turning points in stories, Dawn Field helps you fill the holes in your story, and Jane Cleland shares 2 strategies for writing great story endings.

Some stories have large casts, some only one character. K.M. Weiland lists 10 rules of writing large casts of characters, Richard Bradburn tells us how to write better dialogue, and Jo Eberhardt stresses the importance of finding the emotional core of your work.

One of your characters is usually the antagonist. Kassandra Lamb breaks down the dos and don’ts when creating your villain, September C. Fawkes suggests brainstorming your antagonist’s plotline earlier, and Erica Sunarjo has 7 tips for making your antagonist more prominent.

Once we have written, we have to go back in and fix everything up from deep revisions to copyediting. Janice Hardy shares 3 ways to add tension to a scene during revision, Zoe M. McCarthy says to look for these 5 common problems when self-editing, Donna Galanti discusses letting go in writing and in life, and Anne R. Allen lays out 7 dos and don’ts when you’ve finished your first novel.

Most writers search for the Holy Grail of more productivity. Lynn Dickinson explores the pros and cons of binge writing, Jane Friedman shows how to focus on a single sentence when feeling stuck, Linda Wasmer Andrews advises that to become a better writer, be a frequent walker; and Ange de Lumiere has 5 ways meditation can help writers.

We all learn from those who have greater  or different experiences than we do. Stephanie Chandler has gathered advice for new authors from the experts, Literary Hub interviews Joyce Carol Oates, Harrison Demchick shows what we can learn from teen writers, and Barbara O’Neal shares 30 things she has learned about the writing life.


We hear about Creative Commons a lot, but how many of us really understand the nuances? Deborah Makarios  shares an author’s guide to Creative Commons.

Want to increase access to your books? Russell Phillips shows how to self-publish large-print books, and Melinda Clayton explains why you want to distribute your ebooks with both Baker & Taylor and Overdrive.

If you are writing a non-fiction proposal, you need to pinpoint your readership. Jane Friedman tells us how to define and describe readership for non-fiction proposals.

Being agented as a writer can have its ups and downs, but always try to be professional. Janet Reid warns against pretending to have an offer when you don’t, and talks about publishing a work on platforms like Wattpad before seeking an agent. Sangeeta Mehta interviews agents Holly Root and John Cusick about what happens when you need to switch agents.

Getting publicity for our books can be difficult, and often involves speaking or interviews. Judith Briles explains why authors need a canned introduction, and Sandra Beckwith shows how to be quoted by the press.

Our author brand lives online these days. Patricia Sands explains how to create an authentic author brand, Cristian Mihai gives us a beginners guide to writing a great blog post and why titles for blog posts matter, and Frances Caballo clues us in on 7 horrible mistakes we’re making on social media.


Alana Mohamed has gathered 13 drafts from famous authors that only writers can appreciate.

Check out these 17 books coming to TV and film in 2019, and Netflix announces plans to adapt Roald Dahl stories.

Adam Vitcavage asks: is Iceland the most literary country in the world?

Matthew Wills explores William Goldman and the mystery of screenwriting.

Here are the biggest fiction bestsellers of the last 100 years—and what everyone read instead.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you all next week!

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | December 4, 2018

If I Have Time to Brush My Teeth, I Have Time to Write

This summer I met an artist who told me that for the last 10 years she’s painted every day. “I decided,” She said, “if I have time to brush my teeth, I have time to paint.”

That’s a great idea, and I’ve tried something like that before, and failed, partly because writing is not the only thing I try to do every day and partly because my life moves in waves. There are calm periods of time where I can keep to a schedule, interspersed with other times where I’m driven only by what has to be done. During those times it seems there’s room for nothing more.

Still it’s a wonderful idea to write every day, no matter how short of a time, and I’m trying it again. For this to work for me, I have to accept that I AM going to fall off the writing horse.  For this to work for me, I can’t kid myself that I will be a hundred percent successful every day for the next 10 years. As things stand now, there’s not a chance.

Here’s how I’ll stack the odds in my favor.

  1. By acknowledging that I won’t be a hundred percent, I remove the shame of failure. I know that painful feelings can derail me further, so I let that go.
  2. I will get back on the horse when I fall off, as soon as I can.
  3. I will plan, even though “pantsing” seems more natural.
  4. I will remember that this time I spend, no matter how short, is a sign that I’m committed to this project. Demonstrating my commitment seems to be key, even when I wonder if five minutes is enough time to accomplish anything.
  5. I will believe that even five minutes a day (most days) creates progress. There are articles out there that show others use similar short spurts of time and energy, and that itself supports this theory and gives me courage when I have doubts.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 29, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-29-2018

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday in November! I cannot believe how fast this year is flying. My friends are crowing about having all their Christmas shopping done, while I’m saying, “Wait, December’s Saturday?!” I may not have my Christmas gifts bought, but I do have our weekly links roundup ready, so enjoy!

Ruth Harris gathers inspiring writing quotes from authors, particularly thankful ones for Thanksgiving.

Also in honor of Thanksgiving, Marlena Gates puts together a reading list of books by Native American writers.

This week, Spongebob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg died at age 57.

SCBWI talks about their 2nd annual Books for Readers Literacy Initiative. Find out how you can get involved in the future.

David Canfield tells us everything we need to know about this literary award season, and 95-year-old Uruguayan poet Ida Vitale wins the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, Spain’s top literary award.

In China, a Chinese novelist is sentenced to 10 years in jail for writing gay sex scenes.

Clare Langley-Hawthorne reveals the value of libraries.


Writing a picture book? Mary Kole has a picture book manuscript template to help you.

John Gilstrap explores the difference between a series, an –ogy, and a stand alone, while P.J. Parrish asks a related question: when should a story end?

Characters draw in the reader. Stavros Halvatzis talks about writing paradoxical characters, Martha Conway examines how to write neurodivergent characters, Kassandra Lamb discusses how to create realistic villains, Renee Roberson shows how to keep your characters busy, and Margie Lawson demystifies subtext.

Every book needs some research, but some more than others. In historical fiction, John Thorndike lays out 5 considerations for writing about historical figures in fiction, while Samantha Harvey explores the bartering that occurs between facts and truth in writing.

But what about writing outside your own experience? Sejal Badani shares 7 research and writing tips for setting a book in another country, and Sylvia Whitman has 7 tips for writing across cultures.

We all need help polishing our stories. Boni Wagner-Stafford gives us 7 mistakes first-time non-fiction writers make, Jim Dempsey talks about the pitfalls of self-editing, and Patricia B. Smith explains how to tell good editing from bad editing.

All we want for Christmas is more time to write. But since most of us will not get a time machine in our stocking, making the most efficient use of the time we have is the best we can do. Dave Chesson offers the Author SWOT Analysis so we can see what we need to focus on most, Jeff Somers details how to write a novel in 9 minutes a day, Drew Chail lists his 10 rules for writing, and James Scott Bell shares what he wished he’d known when he started writing.


Alex Field takes a look at the publishing process for first-time authors.

When you have a publisher, it’s not always smooth sailing. Rachel Kramer Bussel describes what authors should do when their publisher closes, and Victoria Strauss examines if the bankruptcy clause of your contract really protects you.

Alison Ingleby demystifies Blockchain technology and what it means for authors.

In good news, Jill Schlesinger tells us small bookstores are booming after nearly being wiped out.

For those seeking an agent, a query letter and a synopsis are necessary to have on hand. Martine Fournier Watson shares tips for querying, while Romy Sommer finds an easier way to write a synopsis.

There are many ways authors can connect with their audiences. Amy Collins talks about how to find and attract readers, Stephanie Chandler has steps to becoming a professional speaker, Debbie Young lists 15 practical ways to get more book reviews, Frances Caballo gives us an author’s guide to email marketing plus three best practices, and Sharon Bially reveals one important way you can help your book publicist.

An author website is your home base on the internet. Dan Smith shares author website tips, and Lee Foster explains how improving your author website can help sell more books.

Many authors have a blog on their website. Cristian Mihai says if you feel like giving up on blogging, read this, and also offers a concise guide to formatting your blog posts, and Jami Gold shares the best reason to blog.


Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey explores the effects of the War of the Worlds radio play that still haunt us today.

With multiple gift-giving seasons upon us, Sandra Beckwith has 27 of the best gifts ever for authors, and K.M. Weiland has 20 unique gifts for writers.

Arianna Rebolini lists 35 books librarians have recently loved, while Katie Heaney reminds us that reading fiction makes you a little nicer.

Something I did not know: Why Henry David Thoreau was drawn to yoga.

Since writers are sometimes correlated with alcohol, Shaugnessy Bishop-Stall discusses weird hangover cures through the ages.

In an rather amazing stroke of luck, a lost portrait of Charles Dickens turns up at auction in South Africa.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We will see you back here in December!


Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | November 29, 2018


A few weeks ago was the annual film festival I’ve been attending for years.

As I do every year, I scheduled the week off from work so I could give as much time as needed. What was different this year was I finally bought a pass which gave me full access to all movies (instead of having to buy tickets to any of them, scheduling them, etc.). It may be more expensive but I am more than comfortable with donating to the Philadelphia Film Society, the organization that runs the film fest as well as films all year long. I’ve been a member for years and remember the time in the past when the film fest was in financial trouble. I remember them struggling for a year or two, then acquiring a historic Philadelphia film theater and turning it into their headquarters.

Now, they have acquired another theater with the size, location, and presence to positively match up with any other in the city. Formerly named the Prince, it is now named the Philadelphia Film Center and is located at Broad & Chestnut Streets in the heart of Philly’s center-city district. The non-profit, member and volunteer-run organization has come a long way and I’m proud to be a member of it.

Having the pass this year enabled me to just show up every day at the beginning of the movie times, and pick a movie. I usually try to keep it spontaneous by day, since I’m on vacation and don’t like to be so dependent on a schedule. Doing it this way for the past few years has given me a different perspective on what films I’m drawn to and also has opened my eyes to films I may not have seen otherwise.

I set out each day with a trip to a cafe near the theaters in Philadelphia’s Olde City section, an area I’ve always loved to walk around. Writing has surpassed reading as an activity that I immediately associate with being in a cafe sometime in the last ten years. 🙂 As such, I began each day with breakfast in the cafe and writing in my journal (longhand). I write whatever is on my mind and in whatever voice comes to me. I cover the films I’m seeing or are about to see, what I’m looking for from them, the setting around me, what I want to write next, what writing of mine needs revisiting, etc.

During each film, the PFS representatives (film programming, etc.) talk a little (thanking the members, volunteers, turn your phone off, etc.) before introducing each film. A lot of their introduction I’ve heard hundreds of times over the years so I usually tune out until the start of the film. In previous years, I’ve gone over the film program book to read the summaries of other movies. This year, for the first time, I brought out my writing journal and continued where I left off in the cafe. I found this an amazing experience, especially as I occasionally continued to write while the film was on and the theater was dark.

There was one film that I was really starting to dislike, and it turned around for me. I can’t say for certain that my narrating it longhand had this effect, though it is likely that my writing about why I didn’t like it seemed to slow my reaction down. The music for this film was amazing and I needed to note that. Maybe it made me more patient to see what else the film would offer. I ended up loving the film and I think writing about it is worth noting. Reading about it afterward was interesting and should be in the future as well as the lines of my writing wavered on the page during the filming.

I was sorry to see the time come to an end as I had settled into the daily film routine quite comfortably. Going to old city cafes, seeing films, reading, and writing is a routine I can do forever. Now I’m reviewing the filmfest program book to see what movies have made distribution so I can acquire the ones I didn’t get a chance to see in the theater. These movies are unique and in my opinion are better than the mainstream movies. Feel free to visit the site above and look through the movies. I believe you won’t be disappointed.



Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 22, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-22-2018

Welcome to a Thanksgiving Top Picks Thursday! We are thankful for our readers, and for all the bloggers who continue to produce content we can share with our readers. We wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Sadly, novelist and screenwriter William Goldman died this week at age 87. He wrote and/or adapted The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and All the President’s Men, among other works.

In awards news, the National Book Foundation announced the National Book Award winners for 2018, and LitHub announced the 2018 winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.

Libraries were on people minds this week. Arianna Rebolini discusses what it’s actually like to be a librarian, 12 life-changing services you didn’t know your library offers, and 26 people talk about how public libraries make their lives better. Alana Mohamed shares 17 things librarians want you to know about libraries, and Olivia Rana wonders where all the mobile libraries have gone.

Okay, so you’ve bragged about doing NaNoWriMo, but now you know you’re not going to get it done. Many people experience this. Bill Ferris remarks on how to abandon your NaNoWriMo novel without humiliating yourself.


We focus a lot on stand-alone works, but what if you are writing a series? Janice Hardy has 7 tips on writing a series.

Plot is essential in guiding your reader properly through the story, so the story logic needs to hold strong throughout. K.M. Weiland tells us how to choose our story’s plot points, and Lisa Cron discusses the crucial importance of because, but, and therefore.

Many subtle elements must come together to make your story compelling. September C. Fawkes demystifies context, text, and subtext and how they help storytelling, Steve Laube lists popular story tropes in current fiction, and Janice Hardy looks at how to develop your novel’s theme.

Stavros Halvatzis explains how to write the story midpoint, Cait Reynolds examines how money drives drama, and Dawn Field explores truth and narrative: the two timelines of your story.

Our characters draw our readers into the story. David Corbett discusses how to write flawed characters and antiheroes, Donna Levin lists 4 essential steps to making your protagonist real even when they are nothing like you, and Scott H. Andrews describes how to make readers feel and care.

Editing and getting the final details sorted out is the last step in making your story shine. Sarah Kolb-Williams gives us 10 ways to fake a professional edit, Selina J. Eckert explains how to fact check our fiction, and Sue Coletta makes sure we bone up on our knowledge of skeleton forensics.

Writers often discuss the “rules” for process and for craft. Ginger Moran outlines the 4 stages of writing a book from first draft to publication, Jonathan Franzen shares 10 rules for novelists, and Anne R. Allen explores stupid writing rules…because one size does not fit all.

The writer’s voice is found only through writing a great deal. Rachelle Gardner explains the writer’s voice and how to develop one. To write enough to develop your voice, you must keep writer’s block at bay. William Kenower writes on believing in the Muse, and Grant Faulkner has ideas to beat writer’s block.

To be a successful writer, you must master failure. Tyler James Smith explores failure and writing, Maureen Crisp discusses how to become a master writer, and David Smith brings us Dan Brown on how to write a bestseller.


If you self-publish your books, David Kudler examines the new subscription option for PublishDrives.

So what happens when an agent asks for a Revise & Resend, you decide to shelve the project, and then you want to query that agent with a new book? Janet Reid explains the best way to approach an agent who sorta liked you before.

There are many marketing avenues you can take, but you need to make sure they are the best ones for your book. Joel Friedlander has 5 questions on the book production and marketing matrix, Brian Jud shares tips for adding radio to your marketing, and Cathy Lamb advises using props while making live presentations.

Blogging is one of the main ways authors stay in touch with their readers. Nate Hoffelder tells WordPress users how to avoid getting stuck with Gutenberg, the new WordPress editor, Stephanie Chandler has simple steps to guest blogging, and Cristian Mihai lists ideas for beginning bloggers.

Finally, as the new year approaches, Frances Caballo discusses how to update your social media sites for 2019.


Many people are still discussing the death of Stan Lee last week. Carrie V. Mullins examines why Stan Lee’s death is a loss for literature, while LitHub remembers Stan Lee and the world he created.

Frances Yackel takes us inside the annual book sorting competition—the nerdiest sporting event in New York.

Tobias Carroll explores why Ursula K. Le Guin has inspired so many musicians.

Zachary Leader shows how Saul Bellow reckoned with money and fame.

Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter about the fishing trip that inspired his Old Man and the Sea—and it just sold for $28,000.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you next week unless we are all in a turkey stupor.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 15, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-15-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Can you believe we are halfway through November already? Today is America Recycles Day, and Saturday is National Take a Hike Day. Since it will be a high of 48 degrees here on Saturday, I will not be hiking anywhere!

The world lost a great one this week: Stan Lee died at age 95. Writer’s Digest remembers him by reprinting Stan Lee’s 1947 guide to writing and selling comics.

If you are looking for ways to improve your craft or network, Diana Hurwitz has writing conferences in 2019 that require early registration, and Frances Yackel lists 7 free or cheap residencies to apply for in 2019.

BookMarks gives us 10 iconic World War I novels for the Armistice centenary, and Sam Leith explains why we need difficult books.

For those doing NaNo, Gwen Hernandez shows how to use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo.

If you have a CreateSpace account, beware. Nate Hoffelder tells us hackers are targeting CreateSpace author accounts to siphon off royalty payments.


We talk a lot about prose here, but we can learn craft from any form of writing. Jacqueline Goldfinger has a newsletter for playwrights—Page by Page: playwriting tips, tricks, prompts, and inspiration. Check it out.

Poetry can illuminate craft for prose writers, too. Pamela Donison shows how to use tips from poetry to strengthen our prose.

Once we’re ready to write, we need to deal with structure and how to start the story. Swati Teerdhala has 6 questions to help you gut check your story structure, while K.M. Weiland gves us 5 ways to successfully start a book with a dream.

And what about who is telling the story? Or whose story it is in the first place? Stavros Halvatzis discusses how to manage narrative perspective in storytelling, and Janice Hardy finds ways to describe your first person narrator.

Your story will fall flat if it seems disjointed or if some elements feel out of place. Jeanne Cavelos advises unifying your story around a meaningful theme, and Janice Hardy explains why your plot needs goals, conflicts, and stakes to work.

A common issue with writers is knowing when your story is done. We could tinker forever, so how do we know when we are finished? Kathryn Craft tells us how to recognize the finish line, Melissa Donovan clears up misconceptions about i.e. and e.g., and Roz Morris shares 16 ultimate resources to make good decisions about your book when the manuscript is finally done.

James Scott Bell discusses something we have all face: writing about experiences we’ve never had. Nuar Alsadir explores the craft of writing empathy.

Increasing productivity is something of a Holy Grail for writers. Tasha Seegmiller shares how writers can break through being stuck, and Jessie Greengrass says that having no time is the best time to get writing done.

Advice and inspiration can come from many places. Jeremy Klemin explores what Pokémon can teach us about fiction, Karen E. Bender says that if you have these traits you might be a writer, Jess Zafarris has the top 10 online writing communities, and Michelle Medlock Adams examines the noble calling of writing for children.


Many of us writers are un-agented nowadays, so we need to know our way around legally. Scott McCormick answers questions about using lyrics in books, and Stephanie Chandler helps us understand publishing contracts.

Mary Kole talks with author Shelby Wilde about how to successfully self-publish a picture book.

Think Amazon rules all? A group of rare booksellers rallied against an Amazon-owned company and won.

Farrah Penn explores a new book format—flipback or mini pocket books.

Authors spend a lot of time angsting about our queries. Janet Reid tells us what to do when you send a query with the wrong name in the salutation, and how to properly name the manuscript file you send to an agent.

Marketing encompasses a wide variety of activities—and will differ from author to author and sometimes even book to book. Shannon McGuire tells us how to reach readers better by diversifying, Melodie Campbell looks at book launch tactics that work, Reedsy shares 4 marketing tips for any children’s books, and Judith Briles has 8 steps to author success.

For more specific marketing ideas: Sandra Beckwith explains why you should skip Black Friday marketing and focus on Cyber Monday, Stephanie Chandler tells us how to sell your nonfiction book to colleges for use in their courses, Debbie Young shows how to get the most out of your great reviews, and Darren Rowse has 12 tips on how to approach influencers in your niche.

Speaking is another way to market your book. Joan Stewart shares 13 places to speak and meet new readers, while Jodee Blanco gives us things to remember when speaking publicly about your book.

Marketing online is a huge way authors connect with readers. Ohn Mar Win examines Instagram for illustrators with 10 basic tips for gaining great followers, Cristian Mihai explains how to create engaging blog content, and Jordan Peters asks us to consider when we sit down to write a blog post, what’s your purpose?


Here are 13 libraries book lovers need to follow on Instagram.

And 29 hilarious and cute tweets for book lovers.

Check out these 15 brilliant words we got from classic literature.

Writer Haruki Murakami will establish an archive of his work at his alma mater, Waseda University, in Japan.

Examining John Campbell, the man who made science fiction what it is today.

Julie Dobrow looks at how much editing was done to Emily Dickinson’s poems after she died.

Craig Morgan Teicher pinpoints the moment Sylvia Plath found her genius.

Anne Lamott extols the virtues of radical hope and laughter.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Safe travels for anyone going to family for Thanksgiving, and we will see you next week.

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | November 8, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-08-2018



Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Fall foliage is at its peak here in the Delaware Valley. Hope you’re enjoying the season.

NaNoWriMo is well underway. If you’re participating, Greer Macallister shares 16.67 ways to juice your daily word count. Don’t feel bad if you’re not participating. In confessions of a slow writer, Anne R. Allen asserts that NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, while Jo Eberhardt lists five reasons not to do NaNoWriMo. For those married to writers who are participating, Thomas Hardy offers the spouses’ guide to NaNoWriMo: juggling life and writing in November.

Today is National STEM/STEAM Day. These subjects are vital for today’s students, and they all require reading.

While we’re on the subject of students’ reading, CNN’s Katy Scott mulls whether diversity in children’s books can tackle prejudice, and SCBWI’s—the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators—Lee Wind shares Kathy Ishizuka’s article in the School Library Journal: school librarians are on a mission to bring diverse books to their students.

With more on the importance of books and reading, Electric Literature‘s Holly Genovese asserts that restricting books for prisoners harms everyone, even the non-incarcerated.

In The New York Times, Sara Aridi reports that Jorie Graham has won the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry.


Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash




We all value advice from a well-know author. Michael Seidlinger tells us what Shirley Jackson has to say about writing.

Do you think you’re too old to begin a writing career? Joanie Walker claims it’s never too late to write a novel.

Writers’ conferences can provide information and networking for authors. If you’re considering attending one, Rachelle Gardner offers more on writers’ conferences.

Is there ever enough time to write? Cristian Mihai lists 5 tips for finding time to write, and in the 9-minute novelist, Jeff Somers sets out an approach that will lead you from first draft to finished manuscript in minutes a day, while Rose Andrews advocates pushing to the end.

In addition, Pascale Kavanagh suggests meditation to improve writer creativity, and Sarah Cy lists 4 foolproof methods to become a prolific and successful writer.

Cathy Yardley wonders if writers should trust their guts, while Jami Gold reflects on writer confidence: do you self-reject?

Where do you write? Panio Gianopoulos contemplates trains as writing spaces.

For those working on character development, Jordan Dane proposes making your characters memorable. One way to do that is to give your characters flaws. Bonnie Randall shares 8 ways to create character flaws, and Kristen Lamb ponders the difference between flawed characters and those “too dumb to live.” Also, to help you show instead of tell about your characters, Lisa Hall-Wilson digs into the body language of fear.

If you’re working on other elements of fiction, Janice Hardy goes into how to raise tension and conflict in a scene and gives 10 questions to ask when choosing a setting. In addition, Kristen Lamb elaborates on description: fiction without the fillers, while K. M. Weiland considers the question: how do you know when enough is enough?

Do you write a particular genre? Diana Urban examines publishing trends: tropes readers adore across 15 fiction genres. Those who write fantasy or science fiction may want to include a map of their world in their novels. J. L. Gilliland takes a look at how to work with map artists. Hannah Giorgis considers how to write consent in romance novels, and Brunonia Barry reflects on writing what scares us: awakening the monster inside. Finally, for those writing crime fiction or mystery, Sue Coletta debates to lead or not to lead: questioning an eyewitness.

Ready to edit your manuscript? Andrea Merrill shares tricky and confusing words part two, and Melissa Donovan examines what’s wrong with adjectives and adverbs. Dawn Field highlights the “why do I need this?” check, and Zara Altair considers the three stages of manuscript editing. If you’re hiring an editor, Patricia B. Smith reveals how to tell good editing from bad editing.

James Scott Bell tackles how to win friends and influence beta readers.

Although many advise against using anything but your actual name, Sophie Masson lays out the case for pseudonyms.


Photo by 85Fifteen on Unsplash




For writers seeking an agent, Mary Kole clarifies query letter format.

Janet Reid takes on the issue of what to do when you’ve co-created a world and now want to sell your novel set in it.

Whether you travel the traditional publishing route or self-publish, you’ll need an author bio, so Stephanie Chandler addresses writing an effective author bio.

On the subject of publishing, Chris Power suggests that independent publishers have more sway in the industry than ever, and Richard Charkin looks into how commercial success is measured in publishing.

If you’re ready to market your book, Amy Collins takes on book promotion: do this, not that, Dawn Reno Langley explores how to use swag to support your book marketing, and Joel Friedlander asks: have you pre-sold your book? In addition, Penny Sansevieri delves into how to tap the marketing power of street teams, superfans and micro-influencers.

Rachel Amphlett describes how (and why) to create a book catalog of your self-published books.

Lisa Tener advises writers to get on podcasts to reach readers and sell more books, and Penny Sansevieri advocates updating your keywords to sell more books over the holidays, while Sandra Beckwith reveals why readers aren’t reviewing your books.

Sharing social media savvy, Cristian Mihai discusses commenting on other blogs: what works and what doesn’t, and Alee King lays out how to bring your email list back from the dead.

So what do you do when things don’t go the way you’d hoped? Chris Syme takes a look at crisis management for authors.


Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash




We have a special spot in our hearts for booksellers. Evidently, a lot of other people do too. Laurel Wamsley shares how more than 200 people in Southampton, England, formed a human chain to help a bookstore move its stock to a new shop down the street.

It’s heartening to see the opening of a new and unique bookstore: Grub Street‘s Chris Crowley reports that a rare bookseller is opening a cookbook store in Brooklyn.

Taking a glimpse into the past, W. Scott Poole examines how horror changed after World War I, CrimeReads tells about the time Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming got together to talk about thrillers, and Viv Groskop writes about the weirdos of Russian literature., while Hiroaki Sato focuses on the evolution of a strict poetic game: haiku.

To leave you with a smile, BuzzFeed‘s Farrah Penn shares 14 illustrations that’ll make all book lovers laugh.


Don’t forget that Sunday is Veteran’s Day [which was originally called Armistice Day, established to honor the end of World War I, 100 years ago on November 11, 1918]. If you get the chance, thank a veteran—they’ve all sacrificed for the rest of us.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. We’ll see you next Thursday with another collection of writerly links.



Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | November 1, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-01-2018



Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in November. It’s a warm and beautiful day here in the East. Thanks for taking the time to join us.

Not only is today the beginning of NaNoWriMo, it’s also National Author’s Day and National Family Literacy Day, so sit down and write or pick up a book and celebrate!

Best wishes for all writers participating in NaNoWriMo. With some last-minute tips for you, Grant Faulkner writes about NaNoWriMo and finding your creative flow, and Debbie Young explains how to get ready for NaNoWriMo and why.

Crystal Hana Kim thinks worrying about publication kills creativity. Maybe that’s why so many writers love NaNoWriMo, where the focus is on production rather than publication.

One frequently seen piece of advice for writers is to write what you know. On Literary Hub, five writers—Kim Brooks, Rumaan Alam, Sheila Heti, Meaghan O’Connell, and Jessica Friedman—discuss what it means to write about motherhood (part 1) and part 2.

Speaking of children, Emily Hartford wonders why we are still teaching reading the wrong way, and Mary Claire Blanton explains why you should help kids write.

In remembrance of those we have lost: Melville House‘s Christina Cerin announces the death of Todd Bol, the founder of the Little Free Library, at age 62; The New York Times‘ Neil Genzlinger reports that Tony Hoagland, a poet with a wry outlook, died at age 64; and The Washington Post‘s Harrison Smith writes about the death of black feminist poet and playwright Ntozake Shange at age 70.


Photo by David Iskander on Unsplash





Many things can interfere with writing. Kathy Rowe considers writing and real life: juggling your time; Sheree, the Merry Writer, discusses building the writing habit; Christina Delay talks about writing when life is more trick than treat; and Judith Briles shares 9 mental “tools” for writing when the clock is ticking … and beyond.

For those writers are experiencing doubts, Robin E. Mason provides guidance for when you don’t think you’re good enough, and Chad R. Allen lays out how to be absolutely sure your book idea has a market.

Learning is a key part of writing. K. M. Weiland offers 5 lessons from a lost novel, and Gila Green spells out what writing flash fiction can do for novel writers.

With some tips for those who write in a particular genre, E. L. Skip Knox looks at history for fantasy writers: millers, Dustin Grinnell explores plausible scares: blending the real and unreal in horror fiction, and Anne Janzer goes over how to enliven your nonfiction writing. If your genre is mystery and crime fiction, Erica Wright delves into setting in murder mysteries: where to hide the body, and P. J. Parrish wonders if anything is really taboo in today’s crime fiction.

Mark Alpert takes a look at fiction and politics—and urges everyone to vote next week.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty? TD Storm investigates the pitfalls of emotional body language in your writing, Bonnie Randall examines creating story tension: rooms with an unexpected view, and Janice Hardy delves into providing emotional clarity in your writing and warns of the dangers of over plotting your novel.

Several posts focus on storytelling: Jami Gold discusses storytelling: taking readers on a journey, Barbara O’Neal considers the value quotient—your core story and values, and John Gilstrap offers a different twist on storytelling.

Is the end of your story in sight? Jami Gold examines creating satisfying endings without clichés.

For those in the editing and revision process, Ruth Harris considers radical revision: when the going gets tough, writers get radical, and Charles Harrington Elster asks: are you misusing these common words?


Photo by pulkit jain on Unsplash





Nonfiction writers may find it necessary to submit a book proposal for their work. Melanie Votaw offers 8 tips for a marketable nonfiction book proposal.

With advice for writers on the publishing path, Amy Shojai sets out 7 steps to publishing success by an accidental writer, Richard Lowe takes on the topic of how to make a living as a professional self-published author, and James Scott Bell writes about staying afloat in the roiling sea of books.

We found a lot of good tips this week for those pursuing self-publishing, but writers interested in traditional publishing can learn things from these links as well. Renee Lamine gives tips on pricing your self-published book, Stephanie Chandler reveals how Amazon calculates sales rankings for books, Alex Fullerton goes into how to get a foreword for your self-published book, and Steven Spatz feels that your book needs a pre-sale period to be successful.

For all writers, Kristine Kathryn Rusch stresses the importance of having copyright savvy, David Penny advocates putting readers first—an essential ingredient of successful book marketing, and Dana Kaye asks: do bookstore events even matter?

With helpful information for writers who have blogs, Jordan Peters suggests how to get your blog readers to pay attention, Cristian Mihai shares the Fight Club guide to blogging, and Darren Rowse advises what to do when someone steals your blog content.

The Authors Guild reports on a court case considering whether university electronic course packs an be considered fair use.


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash





Here’s a quiz for those who enjoy poetry. Alana Mohamad asks: do you know these famous poems by their first lines?

Sandra Spanier brings us the vulnerable private writings of Ernest Hemingway.

Paul Alexander takes a look at the psychiatrist who tried to save Sylvia Plath.

For those still in a Halloween frame of mind, Nancy Snyder reveals the ghostly residents of the famed literary Hotel Chelsea.


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. For those who’ve been enjoying Daylight Savings Time, it ends this weekend. Enjoy your extra hour of sleep when you “fall” back, and we’ll see you next week with a new roundup of writerly links!




Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 25, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-25-2018

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of October! It’s National Chocolate Day, so celebrate with your favorite form of chocolate.

Anna Burns wins the 2018 Man Booker prize for Milkman.

A review of Milkman made Roz Morris question if we need a new term for literary fiction now.

Good news! Judy Blume has finally agreed to make a movie of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

NaNoWriMo is on many writers’ minds in these days waning days of October. Janice Hardy has tips to prep your novel’s middle and your novel’s end, while Anne R. Allen wonders if NaNo can help heal creativity wounds.

Is a workshop more your style? Diana Hurwitz lists writing workshops for November and December 2018.


No matter what fiction format we write in, the common denominator is that we need a good story. Melissa Donovan goes over the elements of plot and also gives us a storytelling exercise focused on process. Bill Ferris has a humorous look at the hack’s guide to writing an outline, and Lisa Cron tells us how to nail the first three pages.

Research of some kind is needed for almost every story. J. Kathleen Cheney tells us how to start the worldbuilding and research…and when to stop, while Dan Koboldt focuses on how to research your writing to ensure technical accuracy.

Characters populate all our writing. Dorian Cirrone shares 5 stops on your main character’s inner journey, Stavros Halvatzis examines strong character relationships in stories, Lisa Hall-Wilson has 5 tips on writing a trauma backstory, and Sue Coletta delves into psychology while explaining how to use false eyewitness testimony in thrillers.

Editing can be painful. Debbie Burke urges us to throw away scenes that just don’t fit, and Andrea Mitchell reveals tricky and confusing words to look for.

Writers take lessons from everywhere. Amber Mitchell gives us writing lessons from Dungeons & Dragons, Harrison Demchick lists 4 things writers can learn from making a movie, and Jenny Hansen explains the bikini wax theory of writing.

Creativity is a wonderful and elusive thing. Gordon Long pits creativity vs. grammar. Originality is also a sought-after commodity, and Kathryn Craft has some thoughts on “originality” in fiction.

Writing is often done alone, and usually built from an idea on up, but not always. Aria Grace shares the 5 top tips for successful co-writing, and Kim Bullock explores the idea of resurrecting a shelved manuscript.

Writers are forever searching for more productivity. Rachel Thompson tells us how to focus on writing right now, Rachelle Gardner urges us to find a time to write, and Zoe M. McCarthy advises finding worthy rewards for meeting your manuscript word-count goals.


Jane Friedman brings us the best marketing advice of 2018, Gila Green discusses a formula for the writing-marketing balance, and Sherrilyn Kenyon shares tips for long-term author success.

Porter Anderson reports on a study showing that sci-fi and women lead Canadian audiobook consumption.

On Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss highlights the continued decline of Author Solutions.

Publishing has changed drastically over the past few decades. Paul Goat Allen says the future of books is genre-blending fiction, and Alison Morton shows how writing of different lengths offers a book marketing advantage.

Although self-publishing is booming, agents are still vital for those wanting a more traditional deal. Bob Hostetler shares the best parts of being an agent, while Janet Reid answers ALL the questions this week: how to survive the on-sub process, what to do if you need pre-publication permissions, why you do not register copyright before publication, and why NOT to approach a movie agent with your manuscript.

Marketing means getting people to find your book and then enticing them to buy it. Sarah Bolme lists 5 obstacles to overcome to sell more books. Many of them can be overcome with ideas found in BlueInk Review’s 10 tips for hosting a successful book launch party, Sandra Beckwith’s 3 ways to pitch your book as a good holiday gift, and IngramSpark’s how to write a good book description.

Much of our marketing life is spent online these days. Joey Garcia advises us to streamline our online presence and gain more time to write, Frances Caballo says every author needs visual marketing, and Joel Friedlander explains the kinds of traffic that come to your site.

A major connection to your reader is often your blog. Cristian Mihai insists that nobody gives a damn how many blog followers you have, and also asks why should people read your blog? David Hartshorne tells us how to promote our blog, while Cait Reynolds reveals why she hates blogging…but does it anyway.


What makes classic stories classic? Sarah McCoy explores why Anne of Green Gables and Little Women still inspire us today.

S. Yurvati show us the making of a fable.

Jami Gold tells book lovers how to easily search for books at libraries, and Morgan Murrell has a quiz to find out how normal are your reading habits?

Now you can read to your kid with perfect sound effect accompaniment.

Arnold van de Laar diagnoses what mysteries and medicine have in common.

Like to travel? Beatriz Serrano has 4 British author destinations to add to your travel list.

For those of us who have always loved fantasy, Lev Grossman explains why we’ve always needed fantastical maps.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us for the first Top Picks Thursday of November next week!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 18, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers – 10-18-2018

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