Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | December 24, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! Holiday Wishes for Writers & Readers 12-24-2020


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Warm season’s greetings from Top Picks Thursday! Whatever your beliefs, we hope you are enjoying the holiday season. Since today is Christmas Eve, we decided to take a break from our regular posting of writerly links to share our holiday wishes for you all.



This has been a difficult year, one we are happy to put behind us … and yet the challenges posed by the pandemic have inspired innovative thinking and experimenting with possibilities we wouldn’t have considered before. We wish you continuing creativity and the courage to keep trying new endeavors.


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We have traveled less and avoided gathering with groups of friends and family, but we have also become reacquainted with the joys of nature and solitude and have seen that a quiet, less hectic holiday celebration can be a refreshing change. We wish you inner peace and time outdoors to recharge and renew your energy.



A storm is moving in tonight, bringing high winds and rain but no snow for the holidays. Odd how we dream of a snowy Christmas year after year, though we rarely see one here. But holidays are a time for dreams … so we wish you many, marvelous dreams to stimulate your creativity.



We all — all over the world — have suffered from the pandemic in numerous ways. Some of us have caught the virus; some have lost loved ones to it; some have exhausted themselves fighting it; some have lost jobs and businesses; some have gone hungry. We send out our love to all who are suffering and wish you the strength to persevere. Minute by minute, hours by hour, day by day, we need to pull together and help one another and we will get through this.



And finally, we wish you a much brighter New Year and an irresistible urge to read, read, read and write, write, write!



Enjoy your holidays and join us next week for a look at our most popular posts from the past year.


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Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 17, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-17-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! A snowstorm is due to hit our area—the first significant snow in almost 3 years. If you, too, are in the snow zone, cuddle up with a hot drink and while away the hours with some literary links.

In a year that has seen the loss of multiple artists, this week we lost two more legends. Espionage writer John le Carré died at age 89, and science fiction author Ben Bova passed at the age of 88.

Many of us are reading more than usual this year. Summer Loomis discusses the benefits of community reading programs, and LitHub lists their 65 favorite books of the year.

When our fiction invades our life, it can be disorienting. Fourteen years after Thomas Mullen wrote a tragic novel about the 1918 flu pandemic, his family got COVID.

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss warn of the attack of the fake literary agencies: West Literary Agency, Stellar Literary Press and Media.


For all our espionage writers: Bayard & Holmes answer 7 questions for an espionage pro.

If your goal is funny, then James Scott Bell has advice on using humor in fiction.

Some writers get hung up on their openings. Roz Morris has tips on how to get going when stuck at the beginning of your novel, and Joe Ponepinto suggests the end may only be the beginning.

Stavros Halvatzis tells how to improve your premise, while Jami Gold ponders story tropes: to avoid or not to avoid?

If you build your story correctly, you will keep your reader turning the pages. Katharine Grubb explains how to make your scenes more cinematic, Janice Hardy lists 5 ways to fix a stalled scene in your novel, Kathryn Craft dissects the art of the chapter break, and Laurence MacNaughton brings it home with 4 essentials of unforgettable endings.

Our characters carry our stories, and they tell the stories in many different ways. Ken Brosky discusses how to effectively manage multiple narrators in your novel, and Melissa Donovan has 5 things your characters need.

The editing and critique process can be grueling. Askold Mewlnyczuk brings us reflections on editing, Bob Hostetler shares 5 easy fixes for frequent faux pas, Nathan Bransford tells us what to expect when working with a freelance editor, and Christine Carron explains how not to take critiques personally.

We all wish we could be more productive at times. Alexander Chee discusses overcoming writer’s block, Dario Ciriello extols the best writing tool you’ve never heard of, Robert Lee Brewer shares 9 lines of writing advice—with cats; and Colleen M. Story shows how to inspire hope for a new year of writing.

Sometimes it feel like our writing doesn’t matter, but you never know. Nick Hubble investigates how sci-fi shaped socialism, while Barbara Linn Probst explores the unexpected and long-tail: you never know the difference your book might make.


Publishing is a complex business, often with conflicting problems. Jim Dempsey tackles diversity in publishing, while Dennis Johnson makes the case that the bigger publishers get, the blander the books they publish.

While we love the craft, if we want to make money writing we need to treat it like a business—and that can lead us down writing paths we don’t want to follow. Nina Amir lays out how to take control of your writing career.

Selling books requires a platform, and even if you are going traditional you need to have one—the publisher can’t do it for you. Rachelle Gardner tells us what is considered a strong author platform these days, and Rachel Mans McKenny examines what she wishes she had known while querying.

There are many marketing paths you could take, but many involve professional reviews. Keri-Rae Barnum discusses getting professional reviews in the time of COVID, and Penny Sansevieri looks at a whole different experience: the best book marketing ideas for poetry authors.

In the end, marketing is about getting people to find your book and then delivering it to them. Andre Calilhanna explores various book discovery services, and the AskALLi Team presents the author’s guide to book distribution.


The Quarantine Tapes podcast with Paul Holdengraber hosts Ngugi wa Thiong’o on the time he met Langston Hughes (and more).

Kendra, Jaclyn, Sachi, and Sumaiyya of the Reading Women podcast announce the winners of the Reading Women’s 2020 award.


The past is prologue. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s 1839 letter to her cousin describing her lonely quarantine is up for sale.

Anyone for literary tourism? Phoebe Hamilton-Jones writes on the particular thrill of visiting a dead writer’s house.

Sometimes old works gain new relevance. Maureen Corrigan asks: does Betty Smith’s follow-up to the classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn warrant reconsideration?

Nicole Broussard’s experiences walking and journaling in Paris and Montreal brought home the impossibility of saying everything.

Edith Vonnegut examines the love letters of Kurt and Jane Vonnegut.

Judith Schalansky investigates what we know of Sappho.

Since it’s that time of year, Jessica Strawser has gift ideas for every writer on your list.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! The next 2 weeks Thursdays are “Eves”. J. Thomas Ross will have something special on Christmas Eve, and we will have our yearly “most popular links of the year” round-up on New Year’s Eve.

Stay safe and warm if you are in the line of the storm, and we will see you next week!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 10, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-10-2020

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 3, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-3-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of December! Hard to believe Thanksgiving is already behind us and the end of the year is just around the bend.

In author news, historian and travel writer Jan Morris has died at age 94, and legendary science fiction author Ben Bova has died at 88 of COVID.

The dictionary world has a moment of unity: the 2020 word of the year—pandemic.

Check out the 2020 National Book Awards winners. In celebration, Book Marks has listed every National Book Award winner of the 21st century for both fiction and nonfiction.

Keep up to date on what’s happening with Audible and the disappearing royalties for authors. David Kudler explains the Audiblegate issue well, Ruth Comerford reports that Audible is changing the controversial return policy, and Victoria Strauss examines whether those changes are enough.

Lots of people are struggling this holiday season, so Sandra Beckwith lists some financial resources for writers impacted by COVID-19.

Arthur Klepchukov gathers fiction writing contests worth your time in winter 2020.


So much of a compelling story is hidden in the large craft elements and the structural choices made by the writer. Angela Ackerman explores what to do when you get stuck in your novel’s middle, Lisa Hall-Wilson investigates why bestsellers don’t use deep point of view, and September C. Fawkes shows how stakes set up expectations.

Everything in your story has to connect in order for it to make emotional sense to the reader. Janice Hardy has 5 ways to find backstory readers want to know, while Barbara Linn Probst discusses writing in spirals to back-seed your story.

Tiffany Yates-Martin reveals how specifics make your story universal. And when you use specifics, be sure to get them right—Dave Chesson gives us what authors need to know about firearms in fiction.

Characters are the heart of our stories. Stavros Halvatzis shows how to write effective characters, Janice Hardy has 3 ways to create character flaws, Katharine Grubb shares 5 ways to get to know your characters, and Becca Puglisi tells us how to determine your character’s emotional range.

Bethany Henry lists 5 dos and don’ts of a good sidekick, Bonnie Randall has 25 questions to ask your characters, and Paula Munier offers the writing prompt: who are your character’s forebears?

Words are our currency, and finding the right ones can elevate our writing to a new level. Debbie Burke lists the 8 qualities to look for in the perfect word, while Mathina Calliope extols the charm of the large word.

There are times when the words just don’t come. Julie Clark explains how to trick yourself into writing, Rochelle Melander explores overcoming the fear to write, and Paula Munier advises using a writer’s gratitude journal.

We can become better writers pursuing many different paths. Katharine Grubb has 50 cheap and easy ways to improve your writing, Shelia Heti reminds us of the importance of finding trusted first readers, and Aytekin Tank investigates the psychological benefits of writing by hand.

The internet allows writers to share what they know with others—no need to reinvent the wheel. David Conrads has a Q&A with author N. Scott Momday, author of Earth Keeper, and Evan Jensen reveals his successful solution to wrist pain from typing.

Many writers are extending their markets into audiobooks. We all know how to proofread a text, but what about when it’s spoken? Maxwell Cantrell details how to proof listen to an audiobook.


The big news this week is that the Big Five is now the Big Four. ViacomCBS sold Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for $2 billion. John Maher has the book business’s reaction to the sale.

Porter Anderson reminds us that 1 in 4 books sold is purchased in November and December.

Nate Hoffelder walks us through Amazon’s new author portal.

If you are going the traditional route and an agent wants a rewrite, Nathan Bransford advises us not to rush a revision just because someone is waiting for it. Also, Rachelle Gardner says there is no rejection, only redirection.

The book is published! Now on to the marketing. Janet Reid has some marketing tips, and Rae Steinbach shares Pinterest marketing strategies to try today.

You can’t judge a book….oh, who are we kidding? People totally judge a book by its cover. Peter Mendelsund and David J. Alworth explore what a book cover can do, while Ruth Harris dives deep into the growing professionalism of DIY book covers.

Sometimes success just lies in knowing the steps to do something to best advantage. Brian Jud lists 7 secrets to selling books as special sales, Anne Janzer describes how nonfiction authors can find the right positioning, and Penny Sansevieri gives us a book launch checklist.

Penny also has an infographic on how to sell self-published books to romance readers, while Leila Hirschfeld shares 14 must-see strategies from authors for virtual book tours.

Get your online marketing in shape for 2021. Adam Connell has 17 high-impact tasks to prepare your blog for the new year, and Sophie Masson urges us to make illustrated video talks part of your author strategy.


The History of Literature podcast has a two-fer this week. Jacke Wilson examines the real golden age of science fiction and what happened to the classic Western.

On The Creative Penn, Joanna Penn and Holly Worton discuss the business mindset and pivoting your author career.


If you are spending lots of time at home, Summer Loomis suggests that now is the time to strengthen your reading habits. You can use the SCBWI 2020 Recommended Reading List as a starting point.

We write what we know. How Woody Guthrie’s mother shaped his music of the downtrodden.

Most of us have heard of flash fiction, but how about flash nonfiction? Dinty W. Moore talks about the power of essayistic compression in flash nonfiction.

Good news for physics buffs! 200 more copies of Newton’s Principia masterpiece have been found in Europe by scholar sleuths.

Book Marks reprinted the first reviews of every Margaret Atwood novel.

Chris Gosden examines why Harry Houdini did not like Arthur Conan Doyle.

’Tis the season: Julie Glover has 40 great holiday gifts for writers.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you next week with more literary links.


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | November 27, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers and Readers 11-26-2020

Happy Thanksgiving!



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Welcome, friends!

We are taking a break from our usual Top Picks Thursday this week. It’s been a rough year, and we decided to have a laid-back week to enjoy our scaled-down Thanksgiving. We hope you enjoyed yours as well.

Have an inspired week, and we’ll return next Thursday with a new list of writerly links. See you then!


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Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 19, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Reader 11-19-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Be safe and enjoy!

Alison Flood reports that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is voted UK Women’s prize “winner of winners”.

BookBaby has an infographic look at the reading habits of five generations. If you have a 10th grader among your demographic, Katherine Packer lists 20 of the best books for 10 graders.

Christine Ro examines what happens when a community loses its newspaper.

The publishing world is always changing. The Authors Guild is participating in 2 lawsuits that may change the writing world, while the U.S. Copyright Office has new rules for mandatory deposit of electronic-only books.

People cope with the pandemic in many different ways. Emily Temple finds pandemic peace in reading old books.


We sometimes hear that fiction writers are professional liars. Robin Farmer discusses emotional truth and storytelling, while Ruth Gilligan writes on the lies we tell in fiction.

There are many subgenres under the crime umbrella. Mike Avery tells us how to write a legal thriller, and Lynne Truss uncovers the most unusual murder weapons in crime fiction.

Plotter or pantser, we all need to have some sort of organization of thought to write a coherent story. Ellen Buikema has ways to organize your thoughts for writing, Jim Dempsey describes how to create the roller coaster of good and bad, John Peragine lists 7 plot structures for pantsers, and Stavros Halvatzis gives us 5 points to consider prior to pantsing a new story.

Every good story takes us on a journey of some kind. Robert Lee Brewer defines narrative arc or story arc, which naturally has a beginning and an end. Chris Eboch discusses the promise of the first chapter, while Samantha Wilcoxson delves into unforgettable endings.

In between the beginning and the end, writers must employ many craft elements to carry the reader along. Laurence MacNaughton shares 8 suspense-boosting techniques, Janice Hardy has an easy tip for avoiding infodumps in dialogue, Debbie Burke has 6 tips to speed up the pace, James Scott Bell dives into deep backstory, and K.M. Weiland answers 5 questions about scene sequences.

Our characters should stay with our readers long after the book is done, if we’ve written them right. Marissa Gruff explains why you should side-write your protagonist’s origin scene, Kristen Lamb reminds us that actions speak louder than words in character transformations and that we need to pile on the conflict for our characters, Janice Hardy tells us why we should have judgmental characters, and Melissa Donovan discusses creating authentic character relationships.

Nothing we write is ever perfect, so editing is essential. Rachelle Gardner addresses the perennial question: should I edit as I go or wait?; Robert Lee Brewer demystifies passed vs. past, Kathryn Craft has 5 random ways to trim your manuscript, and Dave Chesson lists 5 editing services for authors that are worth your time.

Even when you love to write, sometimes it’s hard to finish what you start. Connie B. Dowell shows how to maintain writing motivation even in COVID times, Elaine Viets confronts the writer’s nightmare of being stuck, and Katharine Grubb lists 9 questions t ask yourself if you have writer’s block.

Terry Odell explores what Winnie the Pooh taught her about writing, Sarah Haas investigates what a book can be, and Nicholas Lemann experiences seeing the book biz from both sides.


Writers dread losing their publisher in mid-stream. Virginia Lloyd brings us the story of one established author who got rejected by her publisher and how she found another.

If you are sending queries to agents, Kate McKean answers the question of if it is okay to revise and resend a query.

Once you’ve published, you need to market. Erica Ridley has 9 tips for marketing a new book release, Helene Cue shares 8 marketing strategies, Desiree Villena shows how to use comp authors to market your book, and Hayley Zelda tells us how to promote your book with a shoestring budget.

There are many elements that go into a good book promotion plan. Joshua C. Craig discusses what makes good jacket copy, Penny Sansevieri lays out how to announce a book release to your mailing list, and Cathy Shouse talk to Melissa Storm about maximizing book sales with Facebook and Bookbub ads.

Blogs are a tried-and-true way to connect with your audience. Georgie Smith lists 14 AP Style essentials to level-up your blogging, Robyn Roste gives us freelance blogging for beginners, Sandra Beckwith shares 3 tips for better author blogs, and Sue Coletta reveals how to save time on social media.


Andrew Weatherhead talks about the art (and necessity) of writing collage on the Otherppl podcast with Brad Listi.

The Maris Review podcast with Maris Kreizman hosts Diane Cook on letting her characters loose in the wilderness.

On The Creative Penn’s podcast, Joanna Penn and Meg LaTorre discuss YouTube for authors and multiple streams of income.


It’s that time of year again: Jean Kuo Lee lists 15 gifts for the NaNoWriMo writer in your life.

Maybe buy someone a journal: Mithila Phadke says since the pandemic began, many more people are journaling.

Mary Wollstonecraft is in the news. A statue to honor the “mother of feminism” Mary Wollstonecraft provokes backlash. If you are confused between Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, here’s how to tell the difference.

Kathy O’Shaughnessy explores George Elliot’s uncertain relationship to feminism.

Dive into 100 years of Agatha Christie as Reece Goodall brings us a retrospective of the Queen of Crime.

Can literature tell the future? Megan O’Grady looks at how “The Talented Mr. Ripley” foretold our era of grifting.

Most writers have been surrounded by books their whole lives. Eudora Welty discusses how her parents built a childhood of books.

Book Marks posts the first reviews of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

Just for fun, Danika Ellis has a quiz: how well do you know the parts of a book? (I apparently don’t know them at all!)

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are taking next Thursday off for Thanksgiving, but we will see you in December. Be safe and be smart.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 12, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-12-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Not book related, but Friday is World Kindness Day, and that’s something we all could use more of these days!

Are you eligible? SCBWI has more than 35 awards and grants available, and Sarah Hannah Gomez shares 10 non-ALA YA and children’s book awards.

If you are looking for something to read in the upcoming winter months, Aida Edmariam explains why The Secret Garden is a book for our times, while JR Ramakrishnan profiles 7 literary translators making contemporary world literature accessible to English readers.

We are mid-November. Katharine Grubb guides us to surviving NaNoWriMo in 16 easy steps.


Structure forms the skeleton of your story. Thomas Gessey-Jones, Colm Connaughton, Robin Dunbar, Ralph Kenna, Pádraig MacCarron, Cathal O’Conchobhair, and Joseph Yose show how the narrative structure of A Song of Ice and Fire creates a fictional world with realistic measures of social complexity, while Tiffany Yate Martin reveals 4 story weaknesses that lead to a sagging middle.

Then there is that all-important first chapter, the one writers lose so much sleep over. PJ Parrish lists the dos and don’ts of a great first chapter, while Janice Hardy shares 5 ways you’re smothering your reader in your opening scene.

Your characters have to engage your readers. Kristen Lamb has tips for building a strong protagonist, Mary Kole tackles writing character thoughts, Angela Ackerman explains how to show a character’s emotional wound through behavior, and Janice Hardy looks at how to handle multiple speakers in a scene without confusing the reader.

Getting to “the end” can be difficult. Janice Hardy lists 10 ways to get a stuck story moving again, while Roz Morris introduces the panic document, for when you fear your book has a major flaw and you need to diagnose what’s really wrong.

Writers need lots of inspiration to get us through the process. Stavros Halvatzis discusses how to get started, Brian Andrews gives us 7 tips how to beat writer’s block, Elizabeth S. Craig pulls inspiration from the past, and Katharine Grubb explains why novelists should go to plays.

There are a lot of intangibles in the writing craft. Sandra Ciscernos delves into narrative voice, Kristin Bair has fearless writing advice from fiction’s most fearful protagonist, K.M. Weiland asks if you are growing as a writer, and Julie Carrick Dalton ponders finding truth in story.


The indie book platform Bookshop is making the news. Tufayel Ahmed introduces you to Bookshop, the indie platform taking on Amazon, while Sharmaine Lovegrove celebrates Bookshop expanding to the UK.

If you are self-publishing, Laurisa White Reyes shares a secret to successful self-publishing: invest in your team.

Struggling to find good-paying freelance work? Jen Jones reveals the lucrative discount way to win top clients.

Going traditional? Jessica Faust discusses the key to every successful author-agent relationship, and Jennifer Tucker explains how to craft an effective book pitch.

Marketing comes in all shapes, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Siera London looks at what kind of marketing plan will work for us, Penny Sansevieri infographics how to market a self-published book for the holidays, Laura Drake ruminates over what marketing books and garage sales have in common, and Lisa Tener examines virtual book marketing in a pandemic.

Kate Tilton lays out how to find your target audience, Melinda VanLone covers the bases with book cover 101, Penny Sansevieri reminds you to freshen up your Amazon book promotion, Sandra Beckwith lists 5 book launch prep essentials, and Dena McMurdie has a writer’s formula to get 100% more traffic on your blog.

Social media and the internet are a great way to connect with your readers, when done right. Kim Lochery gives us 21 ways you’re probably violating social media guidelines without realizing, David Hartshorne reviews the SE Ranking tool for your SEO needs, Adam Connell shares the 7 best Hootsuite alternatives, Kris Maze tells how to autopost to Instagram in 3 steps, and Cyn Meyer explores 5 ways to sell your books on your own author website.


On the WMFA podcast with Courtney Balestier, Deesha Philyaw says publishing is not what you want driving your self-worth.

Mitzi Rapkin on the First Draft podcast talks to Bryan Washington about giving his characters the capacity for love even when they don’t have the language for it.

The History of Literature podcast tackles the history of romance novels, a billion-dollar industry.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast discusses networking for authors with Daniel Parsons.


As we approach gift-giving season, Stacey Megally compiles 40 bookish inscription-ready quotes to write in books you give as gifts.

Kelly Jensen explains why she still uses and likes Goodreads.

Tom Comitta supplies a brief history of citational fiction and the literary supercut.

A phenomenon unique in American crime fiction, Christopher Brown looks at running for the border in American noir.

Finding inspiration outside of the book world, Tony Conniff writes in praise of Bob Dylan’s narrative strategies…and his verbs.

A tale of two Oscars. David Lazar examines Oscar Levant and Oscar Wilde: masters of staving off melancholy with wit.

Elisa Wouk Almino meditates on beloved Brazilian poet Ana Cristina Cesar.

Cross-cultural pollination: how Claire Malroux’s translations of Emily Dickinson shaped her own poetry.

Fountain pens are neat but…Stephen Dowling extols the cheap pen that changed writing forever.

James Scott Bell laments the terrible task of weeding out books.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 5, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-05-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of November! Next week is National Young Readers Week, so get some books into some young hands.

In two timely posts, Erica J. Smith lists books to help young readers understand democracy and elections, and Literary Hub reprints Shirley Jackson’s eerily contemporary letter about fear.

Losing a literary light: Booker nominated author Julia O’Faolain has died at age 88.

Leah Rachel von Essen brings us the winners of the 2020 World Fantasy Awards.

We all know reading helps shape the brain, but a new study suggests that reading literary versus popular fiction promotes different socio-cognitive processes. As readers, we are not static—Roni Loren explores the nature of reading evolution.

Opening doors: Dominique Jones helps ease the path for Black book designers.

Warning! Victoria Strauss dissects a scam as crooks impersonate literary scouts.


Doing NaNoWriMo? Katharine Grubb has 8 close-talking, double-dipping tips to succeed at NaNoWriMo, and Jessica Strawser lists 5 tips for NaNoWriMo success.

Unsure about tackling flash fiction? Nancy Stohlman shares 5 reasons to write flash fiction.

Structure supports you story like a skeleton. Kristen Lamb explains why some stories fall apart and fail to hook readers, K.M. Weiland explores the power of chiastic story structure (especially in a series), and Gilbert Bassey has 4 ways to fix a boring story.

Every story has an idea behind it, something the author is exploring. David Pennington suggests cratedigging if your story idea needs a makeover, and Janice Hardy gives us 3 ways to deepen your novel’s premise.

Worldbuilding captures your reader’s imagination. Jami Gold reveals how to worldbuild piecemeal, Stephanie Kane discusses writing about the unfamiliar, Stavros Halvatzis explores how location influences your story, and Terry Odell lists tips for distant settings.

Compelling characters will pull your reader in. Barbara O’Neal looks at using memory vs. backstory to deepen character, while Katharine Grubb reveals why mutually exclusive desires make great conflicts.

There are so many smaller craft elements that a writer has to think about to get a story to work. Bonnie Randall has tips on bringing the scary to your novel, Kassandra Lamb says that writing light doesn’t have to mean writing fluffy, Janet Reid addresses citing science in your work, and Sue Coletta shows how to use color to test your story.

Lee Purcell talks about writing dystopian novels in dystopian times, Garry Rodgers explores how understanding songs benefits novel writers, Jackson Dickert shares a tool that helps him manage his novel writing, and David Farland discusses the difference between learning to write vs. learning to be a writer.


In publishing news, Jim Milliot reports that print unit sales were still solid in late October.

If you want to keep up with the fast-changing publishing industry in 2020, Nathan Bransford has a list of resources for you.

While copyright attaches to a work as soon as it is in tangible form, Liani Kotcher explains why waiting too long to register copyright can hurt you.

Get more revenue streams out of your story: Andrew Neiderman tells us this is the golden age of book adaptations for TV.

Freelancing more your style? Evan Jensen has 13 scary-good tips to unmask freelance success.

Whether self-publishing or going the traditional route, you need to know your genre. Rachelle Gardner talks identifying you novel’s genre, and Jessica Thompson discusses finding your genre.

Queries can make a writer crazy. Nathan Bransford shows how to format a query letter, and how to weave more voice into a query letter, while Janet Reid tells us the protocol for bios in an online portal format.

Nonfiction book marketing can be tough. Jane Friedman shares reasons nonfiction books don’t sell, and Penny Sansevieri explores cookbook marketing for self-published authors.

Selling ourselves does not come easy for many writers. Ev Bishop educates us on Branding 101, Steven Spatz says negative reviews are a part of life and gives us creative inspiration for book selling in quarantine, and Lisa Tener has a guide to nail TV interviews and videos.

Social media is a good way to connect with our readers. Florence Osmund reviews the pros and cons of being on social media, and Barbara Linn Probst explores if using a social media assistant is right for you.


On the WMFA podcast with Courtney Balestier, R.O. Kwon chats about keeping faith in the writing process.

The Just the Right Book podcast with Roxanne Coady features Mark Slater talking about how reading Hemingway shaped John McCain’s honor code.

On The Creative Penn podcast with Joanna Penn, she discusses how to write and market books across multiple genres with Wendy H. Jones.


For early Christmas shoppers, Kelly Jensen has the ultimate guide to book socks for readers.

Writing retreats are popular for a reason. Heather Clark investigates Sylvia Plath’s creative breakthrough at the Yaddo Artists’ Colony.

Sam Lubell looks at the architectural tastes of 6 iconic writers.

For poetry lovers, Nicholas McDowell writes on John Milton, the Gunpowder Plot, and the poet who laughed at purgatory.

The New Yorker prints an excerpt from Barack Obama’s highly anticipated memoir.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more literary links.


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | October 29, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-29-2020

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 22, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers and Readers 10-22-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Halloween inches closer, and at least here, beautiful weather has been the norm. Grab your pumpkin spice fix and enjoy the links

Alison Flood reports that imprisoned Eritrean poet Amanuel Asrat has been named the International Writer of Courage.

Like spooky tales? SCBWI members can submit to their “Haunted States of America” anthology.

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss has a bad contract alert for EMP Entertainment and A&D Entertainment.

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, Roz Morris advises to plan your characters and improvise your plot.

These crazy times might make us question whether our time is best spent writing. Nathan Bransford reminds us that, yes, our writing matters.


We Chroniclers mostly write long fiction, but here Nancy Stohlman extols the benefits of writing flash fiction.

Do you prefer horror? Evie Green talks about writing a horror novel without intending to write horror, and Dustin Grinnell discusses plausible scares, blending the real and unreal in horror fiction.

Even those of us who are pantsers need to have some idea what the story is about and what the next scene will need. Barbara Linn Probst digs into what your story is about, in a word, phrase, sentence, and equation; Laurence MacNaughton walks us through getting ready to write a scene in 10 minutes, Stavros Halvatzis shows how to plot through character, and Zoe M. McCarthy explains why readers leave your story when it doesn’t start in the right place.

How do we create characters readers root for? Janice Hardy explains the reason readers didn’t care about your protagonist and 4 tips on making them care, Jim Dempsey says to ground your characters with all five senses, Alli Sinclair advises asking the right questions with character interviews, Katharine Grubb shares 4 more defense mechanisms for your character, and Janice Hardy reveals an easy way to find your protagonist’s goal.

Every writer has a unique process. Sara Marschand discusses what good writers do, and Gregory Maguire says Wicked wouldn’t have been what it is if he hadn’t written the novel by hand, Cory Doctorow says kids use reason and adults rationalize, Anne Greenwood Brown shows how to use punctuation to communicate without words, and Terry Odell clarifies using apostrophes.

What gets you stuck when you write? It’s often something emotional that’s interfering. Kris Maze has 3 ways to shipwreck your creativity and what to do instead, Elizabeth S. Craig investigates what’s slowing you down as you write, Katharine Grubb lists 5 more things you can do if you are stuck, and Jenny Hansen reveals the 5 fears that spook most writers.


Sometimes it seems like the publishing world changes daily. Paul Dinas tells us how to survive and thrive in the brave new world of publishing.

If freelancing is your thing, Rachel Carrington has the geeky science-fiction method to get freelance writing gigs.

Agent Janet Reid reminds us that clever has its place, but it’s not in a synopsis, and tells us what to do if you really don’t want to be on Twitter for marketing.

Marketing has quite the learning curve. Michelle Melton Cox shares what she learned about author platform from her 12-year-old, Judith Briles highlights a few of her favorite author marketing tools, Diana Urban gives us 20 great examples of author bios, and Diane Brophy tells us how to prepare for our author photo.

Sandra Beckwith debunks 3 Amazon reader review myths, Penny Sansevieri discusses effective social media for your best book marketing campaign, and Sue Coletta shares video marketing and social media tips.

Mailing lists are a vital piece of your marketing plan. Stephanie Chandler suggests offering bonus content throughout your prescriptive nonfiction book to build your mailing list, and Debbie Burke lists 10 tips on how NOT to manage your email list.

Lots of authors blog to interact with their audience. Nina Amir has a beginner’s guide to creating a WordPress blog, Penny Sansevieri says bloggers will help promote your self-published books, and Stefanie Flaxman shares a 5-point blueprint to know when you are done editing.

In this article, Sam Sedam talks ISBNs and book discovery with Bowker’s Beat Barblan. There is also an extended podcast with more information.


On the Newberry Tart podcast, Jenny and Marcie talk with Kathryn Lasky about the character perspective that most interests her.

Mitzi Ripkin of the First Draft podcast hosts Claire Messud on Chekov’s best advice.

Joanna Penn and Pamela Wilson discuss building a creative business brand on the Creative Penn.

Laura Drake shares a video of craft tips to strengthen your writing.


Love Shakespeare? Get all the Shakespeare mugs!

Love Halloween? Treat yourself to some bookish Halloween shirts.

Melissa Baron investigates the most cited poems.

Need some quarantine reading? Check out Time magazine’s 100 best fantasy books of all time.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week for more tricks, tips, and treats.

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