Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 6, 2017

Thanks to Those Whose Work We Take for Granted

Photo by tanner sheltry on Unsplash, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, tools and gloves

Photo by tanner sheltry on Unsplash

Labor Day has passed, and we’re well into September. My husband and I spent the holiday with our children and grandchildren. Our son-in-law is a stellar barbecue chef, so we had a delicious dinner. It was a wonderful day, but our son-in-law’s time with the family was limited because he had to work. Nowadays, holidays aren’t holidays for everyone.

The meaning of many holidays seems to have changed over the years too. The first things many people associate with Memorial Day and Labor Day are the beginning and end of summer, not the reason the holidays were established.

I enjoyed our Labor Day celebration, but I admit I have mixed feelings about the fact that fewer and fewer workers seem to get time off on the day dedicated to them. I feel bad for those who have to work on any holiday. On the other hand, I was really glad that stores were open this past Labor Day Monday.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, open sign

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

You see, on Sunday night the intense itching of an allergic rash on my calf kept me from getting much sleep, despite my slathering cortisone cream on it all night. So I went to the store on Labor Day to get something else that might help. While I waiting in line to pay for the anti-itch gel, I reflected on all those employees in the store (and elsewhere) who had to work on this holiday designed to honor workers and give them a day off. I made sure to thank the cashier as she checked me out.

I have to say that I don’t think it’s wrong to see Labor Day as the end of summer or a day to celebrate with family and friends. However, we also need to take time to remember the reason behind the holiday and appreciate all those workers who make our lives possible — not just our daily, personal lives, but about our professional or avocational lives also.

Think of it like this: imagine yourself standing in the sunlight on the top of a pyramid, a pyramid whose blocks represent the work of many others that allows you to bask in that sunlight.

We writers do a lot of our creative work in solitude. Sometimes we feel totally alone, pounding out words to create a story, sequestered in our writing cubbyholes. We network with other writers and go to events and conferences so we don’t feel so isolated, and our fellow writers are generous in offering their help and support.

It’s not only other writers (and cooperative families) who enable us to do what we do. We rely on the support of hoards of other people, most of whom we’ll never know.

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, computer

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

When I look at my computer, my mind boggles at the thought of how many people’s work made it possible for me to use that magnificent device. People designed the computer, the monitor, the keyboard, the printer, the modem, etc. People crafted the parts; people shipped them. Other people assembled them, tested them, and shipped the final products to wholesalers and retailers. People stocked them on shelves and sold them (not to mention the people who cleaned the stores, and so on). Then people designed the software …

I could go on, but you get the idea. My ability to write my stories on the computer has been made possible by the work of a multitude of other people. If I tried to list all those who make my life and my writing possible and easier, I don’t think I could do it. I’d probably miss as many as I listed.

Too often we take the work and support of others for granted. Let’s take a few moments this Labor Day week to recognize how much we depend on others, to be grateful for their work and, whenever possible, to say thanks.

So, to all those whose work I depend on, thank you! I really do appreciate your efforts.

Photo by Andrew Walton on Unsplash, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, charcoal fire

Photo by Andrew Walton on Unsplash

What do you think about when you think of Labor Day? The end of summer? Barbecues? Picnics? Getting together with friends and family?

Did you work on Labor Day?

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Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 31, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-31-2017

*The Author Chronicles’s hearts go out to everyone in Houston and in the path of Harvey. Wishing all a dry, safe place to stay while they recover.*

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of August! Even though the weather here is cool, the writerly links we have are still hot.

Arthur Klepchukov rounds up fall writing contests worth your time.

Judith Briles discusses the pros and cons of learning online vs. in-person.

Terry Pratchett’s unfinished works are destroyed by a steam roller.

Rachel Deahl examines the latest publishing flap of the New York Times Bestseller that wasn’t.

Tyrese L. Coleman shares her experience of reading Jane Eyre while black.

CRAFT

In the age of technology, T.E. Shepherd has good reasons for writing by hand.

So you wanna write a prologue? James Scott Bell shares a prologue primer with you.

Sometimes we think we have all the elements we need to make a story soar, but it falls flat. Janice Hardy brings us a two-fer today, with how to create meaningful obstacles via conflict, and why you don’t know how to end your scene.

Characters intrigue our readers—and us. Diana Hurwitz examines Wonder Woman vs. Atomic Blonde to dissect what makes a strong female protagonist, the Character Comma lists the 7 key traits of enduring characters, and Jennifer Probst shows how to make secondary characters pop and sell more books.

But not only the protagonists have to be compelling—your antagonists have to carry part of the load, too. Kristen Lamb tells us how to avoid boring villains, The Beginning Writer has some rules for writing dialogue, and K.M. Weiland shares 7 ways to write thematically-pertinent antagonists.

We can learn about writing from other media. MacKenzie Cadenhead discusses writing lessons learned from comics, while Joan Lennon examines how movies can help you become a better writer.

Once you write the manuscript, you need to polish it to (near) perfection. Gabrielle van Welie has 5 quick proofreading tips that have massive payoffs, and Kathryn Craft shares 4 tips for translating critique-speak.

Sometimes we all need a rejuvenation. Ruth Harris directs us where to find ideas when you are blocked, Emily Ruskovich advises ignoring our instincts in order to find the real story, and Helena Fairfax shares how to rediscover your writing mojo.

In other writing advice, Heather Webb shows what a writer’s conference really buys you, Jeff Vandermeer lists the 7 writer types you should avoid becoming, Julie Munro Martin has 7 things she learned from wrecking her novel, and Colleen M. Story demonstrates how to slow time for a more relaxed creative writing sessions.

BUSINESS

Foreign rights can add another revenue stream from your book. Daniella Levy tells us what we need to know about translating our book, and Savvy Book Writer has DIY: translate your book information.

Agent Janet Reid shares 5 reasons you heard “no” and how to avoid them, as well as her opinion on whether participating in #PitchWars is a good or bad thing.

Mary C. Moore answers the question: Do Literary Agents Reject Your Submission After Reading One Line?, while Lucy V. Hay comforts us with what creative icons can teach you about rejections.

Nathan Bransford discusses why author platform matters, Carolyn Howard-Johnson tells how to reinvigorate your book marketing, and Dan Smith gives is the inside secrets of book publicity for indie authors.

One element of marketing is getting reviews, and that can be difficult. Emmanuel Nataf explains how searching for review blogs just got a lot easier, and Barb Drozdowich has how to get your book reviewed now.

The internet reigns as the most effective way to reach readers these days. Ricardo Fayet examines MailChimp alternatives, Chris Syme lists 5 ways to use a Facebook pinned post to hook fans, and on the 10th anniversary of the hashtag, Frances Caballo shares hashtags just for writers.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Get a sneak peek at the newly discovered Mark Twain story coming out in September.

Check out 21 of the best Book Week costumes for kids.

Examine these 17 movies that are cleverly disguised Shakespeare plays.

Travel to distant lands with these iconic books set in countries around the world (infographic).

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you in September!

 

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 29, 2017

Escapism Writing

We all know some people read to escape real life. Sometimes life is rough and hard and bleak, and a few hours where you can find some relief  and leave all your problems behind is priceless. Escapism reading and entertainment rises when economic times are hard, as well (just look at the movies that were popular during the Great Depression). But what about escapism writing?

A couple of weeks ago, my aunt died unexpectedly. While I was in a hotel room in New York for the funeral, I got word that a little boy my daughter went to preschool with is battling a brain tumor. Needless to say, I was staggered emotionally. Sometimes when writers get hit hard emotionally, the writing dries up. I have been there, too, at times. But this time, I turned to my current work in progress and dove into my other world for several hours.

In this case, I needed that time to escape reality and let my subconscious process everything I was going through. Did I “come back” from those two hours of writing feeling healed and whole? Of course not. That’s not how emotions work. But sometimes we need some time to not think too hard about awful things, to not dwell upon the pain we are feeling, especially if, like me, you have an anxiety disorder where your thoughts can easily spiral out of control and drag you into a black hole of panic. Escaping while letting the edge wear off and diverting my mind to break the thought spiral are valuable coping mechanisms.

So how about it, fellow writers? Do you find your writing to be a good escape when things get tough? And if you do, is your escapism writing mostly in the form of personal journaling, or is it in your fiction as well?

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 24, 2017

TopPicks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 08-24-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday!

Although the summer is winding down and the heat is easing off, there’s still time to finish your summer reading list. If you’ve focused on a particular genre, you might be getting tired of the standard tropes. Perhaps you’ll agree with Jamie Canaves’ book tropes we’d like to see die.

Whether in non-fiction or fiction, writers have never shied from addressing important current issues. Alexandra Alter writes that children’s authors take on the refuge crisis.

For writers of all kinds, Sara Letourneau takes a look at struggling with and regaining confidence in your writing.

CRAFT

When beginning a writing project, a writer has decisions to make. Will the work be fiction or non-fiction? Long or short? Several blog posts offer help. Anne R. Allen ponders memoir or fiction: should you novelize your real life experiences? If you choose memoir, Brooke Warner lays out what to share when writing a memoir.

Sometimes what starts out as a short piece keeps growing and growing. April Bradley tells us how to keep a short story short.

Doing research? Kate Moretti explains how to successfully ask “Can I pick your brain?

Tasha Seegmiller presents an easy guide to outlining your novel, and Scott McCormick continues with narrative structure, part two: it’s okay to stray (or, don’t forget your cockroach races).

Mary Kole advises beginning writers to relax and enjoy the process of writing the first draft. Janice Hardy also discusses writing the first draft and has suggestions about how to use your word count to your advantage.

Emmanuel Nataf shares an infographic on themes in fiction, while Janice Hardy asks: is your novel exploring an idea or solving a problem?

Puzzled by point of view? Alida Winterheimer clarifies how to choose the right POV with multiple narrators, and James Scott Bell addresses the challenges of first-person POV.

For those creating their protagonists and antagonists, Laurie Schnebly Campbell asserts that there is no road she (the female protagonist) can’t travel, and Kristen Lamb adds to her series on antagonists with antagonists: the end-all-be-all of our story and antagonists: what’s driving our story.

A story needs conflict. Janice Hardy delves into why conflict isn’t just about fighting, and Vaughn Roycroft discusses the trouble with action.

Good dialogue makes characters and stories come alive. Jordan Dane presents 10 ways to make dialogue real, James Scott Bell explores how to have your characters talk tough, and Cait Reynolds discusses using controversial language and stereotypes in fiction.

Is your character reading an imaginary book you’ve created? Kim Alexander speaks about reading and writing imaginary books within books.

If you’re almost finished your novel, Barbara O’Neal writes about orchestrating the end of your novel.

BUSINESS

For writers seeking traditional publication, agent Wendy Lawton gives her take on the broken query system, Kristen Tsetsi outlines emotional etiquette for the writer seeking an agent, and Janet Reid advises writers to make sure your contact page actually has your contact information.

Whatever publication route you choose, Jim Dempsey reminds us how a professional editor can improve your writing, and Bill Ferris gives us the hack’s guide to dealing with book reviews.

Brian Jud proposes book sales beyond the bookstore, and Courtney Milan wonders if you’re making the most of your digital shelf space, while Nathan Bransford shares the definitive guide to SEO for authors.

Orna Ross asks if we are ready for self-publishing 3.0.

For those needing help with social media, Frances Caballo offers 4 social media productivity tips for authors, and Elna Cain shares 11 powerful tools to monitor your social media presence in 2017. If you’re setting up an author newsletter, Ricardo Fayet explores MailChimp alternatives for authors.

Internet security is an issue for us all. Nate Hoffelder stresses 6 common sense steps to secure a WordPress website.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Charlotte Ahlin sets out the 12 best writing tips and tricks, based on your zodiac sign.

Lucas Maxwell shares his favorite bookstagram locations in the UK.

Science fiction readers might enjoy the Salisbury Museum’s exhibit — Terry  Pratchett: His World, open from September 16th until January 13th.

Smithsonian‘s Jason Daley reports that Medieval manuscripts are a smorgasbord of DNA, Kat Eschner reveals that the author of “Robinson Crusoe” used almost 200 pseudonyms, and Jason Daley relates the results of a study identifying the funniest words in the English language.

Susan Holloway Scott sees emotion in the words of a handwritten letter from Abigail Adams.

That wraps up this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you next week!

 

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | August 22, 2017

WHY AND HOW TO WRITE ON YOUR PHONE

Why? Why?  Why?  Would you do such a thing?

1. Perhaps your computer has broken as mine has and the repairs are not quick ones.  Truthfully,  I’m finding it a little unsettling to do everything  on a small screen but it’s not as hard as I thought it might be.

2. Convenience. Your phone is always with you and five minutes here and five minutes there will add up. Using your phone to write on five minute increments might be a plus if your schedule doesn’t have much down time for writing.
3. Organization. This could be one of my little idiosyncriticites buuuut, I have been discovering, that for me, the more stuff I have on my phone that used to be only on my computer, the more organized I feel, the more in control of my world I am.
Tell Me About the How
1. Choose a program in which to write.
It could be as simple as using an email program. That’s what I’m doing today, sending this blog to myself as an email. I also have Evernote I and like that and there are plenty of other sophisticated apps for writers out there. I’ll let others who’ve done more research than I coach you on those. I have an Android phone, and in my experience, if your phone and Wi-fi connection are not the best you’ll want to choose simpler apps.  Thankfully, my latest phone is handling whatever app I throw at it with aplomb.
2. Experiment with various keyboards to find one that works well for you.
3. Get to it. Write.
Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 17, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-17-2017

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | August 16, 2017

Visiting my muse again

Last week I had a business trip to New York that took place in the Times Square area. While the business at hand was time consuming and kept me very busy, my mind wanted to be involved with anything else.

My favorite muse settings are crowded metropolitan areas, with transportation terminals and coffee shops a major plus. I don’t know why or how I am influenced this way, perhaps it’s something to do with the vibe of people. Or maybe it’s the physical scenery itself, and seeing new imagery pulls me into it like some extremely detailed painting. I am hit with a strong desire to imagine and dream when I’m in New York. I could walk the city streets and let the people I see influence the characters I’ve yet to write about. Or maybe I have already written about them and the passing scenery is just influencing their continuing journey.

Anyone who knows me knows of my love for Chinatown, in whichever city there is one. New York’s Chinatown is larger than others that I’ve been to and it was the first time I’ve ever had the time to truly explore it. I spent two nights in a row there, eating small dinners so I might be able to visit more restaurants.

I told a coworker of mine that while I enjoy exploring different cuisines and knowing the differences between them, there is always a drive towards authenticity that I think has several meanings. There is the authenticity of a country or culture’s cuisine itself, particularly if the cuisine is dependent on food products that must be imported. That can often become mixed with a much higher priced restaurant which isn’t always necessary to express from an authenticity point of view. When I’m in Chinatown, NY, and I see 3 or 4 older guys hanging around a bunch of dirty boxes in a narrow, cobble-stoned alley slurping away at their containers of soup with noodles, I see the biggest display of authenticity I can imagine.

I guess that’s the sort of authenticity you might expect from a writer exploring their muse. I cannot help but to see the stark difference, and value the realism in the folks living their lives and living, eating, and sharing a meal together.

New York’s Little Italy happens to overlap parts of Chinatown. I realized this by accident and was pleasantly surprised by it. These are two intense culture centers and I loved seeing them right next to one another. Of course, back home in South Philly I see various cultures represented in food and shopping all the time, often on the same street. The next thought is to compare the two or imagine some new characters doing it from their point of view.

My point of view was busy enough. 🙂

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 10, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-10-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Mid-August fast approaches, and here are some steaming hot links for you!

Harold Evans staunchly defends the English language.

Love libraries? 10 quotes about libraries, because they’re truly the most magical places on Earth.

Janalyn Voigt tells us how to make the most of your writing retreat.

Jeff Goins advises authors: Learn to love the work, or do something else (and other lessons on enduring greatness).

CRAFT

We all start with an idea. Larry Brooks shows how to elevate your novel by infusing your premise with something conceptual.

There are many overarching elements in a story that writers have to juggle. Dawn Field looks at pace, the engine in your book; Jami Gold examines the subtext of tropes, and Aden Polydoros shares great tools for establishing setting.

Characters walk and talk and power your novel. Janice Hardy explains how to write characters who don’t all feel the same, Hannah Heath has 10 tips for writing socially awkward characters, Kristen Lamb defines an antagonist, Harrison Demchick shows how to write your character’s actions with clarity, and K.M. Weiland lists 5 types of clunky dialogue.

Once we’ve got that first draft in hand, we need to fix it up. M.L. Keller discusses how to evalute writing feedback, Kristen Lamb gives us 6 simple reasons our story sucks and how to fix it, and Janice Hardy lists 7 words that often tell, not show.

We can learn a lot from other writers’ experiences. Jennifer Kitses shares what trying to finish a crime novel taught her about writing, Ali examines how you can keep writing if you work long hours, Tal Valente practices good writing habits with help from Habitica, and James Scott Bell warns us to resist the midstream temptation.

BUSINESS

We all know presentation is important in selling books. Damon Freeman has 4 reasons why a great book cover is essential for sales, and Joel Friedlander discusses design for chapter openers and part openers.

Even before the book is published, presentation matters to agents and publishers. Janet Reid shares some tips to make your requested fulls look professional. In other agenting issues, Tamela Hancock Murray gives us 2 questions agents might ask writers seeking a new agent and why, and Steve Laube asks whether authors should send simultaneous submissions or not.

Marketing is a big piece of the author pie these days, like it or not. Rachel Thompson explains the reasons book marketing is exhausting you and how to fix it, Joan Stewart suggests using a sex angle to flirt with media for book publicity, and Janet Reid tells us what to include if an agent asks for a marketing plan for a novel.

Writers have a ton of different marketing options open to them these days, but there are so many details about marketing to learn. Chris Syme discusses how time zone differences affect book marketing, Richard Dee shows how to use leaflets to market your self-published books, Savvy Book Writers extols the benefits of getting your own ISBN, and Angela Ackerman has 6 smart ways indie authors can collaborate when marketing.

Writers have a lot of options, but many are online. Deanna Cabinian shares a detailed analysis of using Amazon ads to sell her books, Scott La Counte explains how to tweet like a best-selling author, The Passive Voice explores if there is anything better than BookBub out there, and Jane Friedman lists the 4 key elements that belong on an author website homepage.

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

 

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 3, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-03-2017

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of August! For those writer-parents with young children at home for the summer, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Dana Canedy has been named the next administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, the first woman and first person of color to hold the position.

Although not an author, George Romero inspired many writers. Keith DeCandido shares writers’ memories of George A. Romero.

Andrew Mitchell Davenport discusses Jean Toomer’s Cane, and wonders, “How does this 1920s novel hewn from reflections on racial terrorism remain so terribly relevant, and how do those who worship whiteness continue to sow and feed on fear?”

It seems counter-intuitive, but Millennials are the ones keeping libraries alive. And if you’re in Prague, check out the Clementinum, the most beautiful library in the world.

We all know that reading is good for your emotional health, but here are 11 ways being a reader is super useful for your career, and 7 reasons that being a slow reader is actually a good thing.

Helen Sedwick debunks 5 legal myths writers still fall for.

China is known for censorship, but this time they’ve gone too far. See why Chinese censors are targeting…Winnie-the-Pooh.

CRAFT

So you wrote a stand-alone book, but now readers are demanding more. Ellen Kushner has tips on writing a sequel when you didn’t plan to write a sequel.

Laying the groundwork for your novel is important. One thing to consider are story tropes. Jami Gold looks at whether story tropes are lazy or helpful to writers. Openings cue readers into what sort of story they are in for, so Tina Ann Forkner describes how to make a grand opening.

Once we decide on what story we want to tell, we have to decide how to tell it. Janice Hardy give advice on figuring out the plot, while Heather Webb reminds us that every good book is a mystery—even when it’s not.

Description can make or break a story. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi share description checklists and tip sheets to help you get it right, while Phyllis Richardson takes a look at the real buildings behind Pemberley, Manderley, and Howard’s End.

Characters make the whole story gel. K.M. Weiland has 5 tips for writing a likable “righteous” character, while Jeanne Harrell is all about blowing up your point of view.

Fantasy often relies on Medieval norms, but Oren Ashkenazi looks at 6 ways rapid communication changes a fantasy setting.

Professional opinions of your story matter. Getting manuscript feedback from an agent is valuable—if you ask the right questions. Janet Reid gives us questions to ask at a conference manuscript evaluation. And Steve Laube answers the question: should you hire a freelance editor?

Chelsey Pippin shares 18 things every young writer should know, Sarah Moore has 1 simple technique to improve your writing in 10 minutes a day, and Ruth Harris discusses living with the discomfort of being a writer—and succeeding anyway.

Taking a look inside the lives of other authors can be informative. Rebecca Stott talks about growing up in a Christian cult, while Sue Shanahan investigates the world of William Joyce.

BUSINESS

Michele Cobb shares 5 reasons audiobook sales are booming and how you can be a part of this growth, and Angela Quarles tells us how to pick the narrator for your audiobook.

Amazon is able to do its own reader analytics, but most publishers can’t get that information. Enter Jellybooks, who now focuses on reader analytics for their clients.

Ever wonder what it takes to self-publish a literary novel? Nicole Dieker bares all as she crunches the numbers for her self-published literary novel launch.

Beth Bacon pulls back the curtain and gives us an 8-stage ebook project workflow checklist for self-published authors for after the manuscript is done.

Distribution is key to selling books. Amy Collins looks at the pros and cons of going exclusively with a single distribution outlet.

Many people have stories to tell that just aren’t commercially viable. Janet Reid has found outlets and purpose for non-commercial memoirs.

It takes a lot to market successfully. Lisa Tener has 9 keys to clarifying the target market, Carolyn Howard-Johnson lists 15 book publicity commandments, Matt Aird tells us why we should market to grow author platform rather than sell books, and Drew Chial shows how NOT to hold an author event.

Your website/blog is your author focal point online. Jami Gold discusses how to make a reader-friendly website, Ben Steele tells how to pitch a guest post to a blog, and Jim Stewart has 5 essential blog foundations for strong SEO.

Social media is a big way writers connect with readers. Savvy Book Writers describes how we can get the most out of social media, Alycia W. Morales has 10 easy ways to promote others and 5 advanced ways to promote others, and Frances Caballo clues us in on some recent social media changes.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Tracy Shapley looks at 7 literary weddings that will melt your bookish heart.

All Jane Austen, all the time: 5 things to know about Bath, Jane Austen’s home and inspiration; follow Jane Austen’s footsteps with this interactive map, meet people in Jane Austen’s worldwide fan club, and read about the word choices that explain why Jane Austen endures.

Maybe the Austen hoopla is because England is putting Jane Austen on a banknote. Here’s 5 women writers the US could put on our banknotes.

Agatha Christie wrote letters to her editor, and they reveal the author’s outspoken temper.

The tides have turned since the Brontë sisters and George Eliot were publishing under manly names: Men are now adopting androgynous pen names to sell psychological thrillers.

Read Granville Hicks’ 1952 review of Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel.

Meryl Cates investigates Zelda Fitzgerald’s “frequently overlooked” obsession with ballet.

An anonymous artist is Photoshopping kids’ books with NSFW titles.

When a New York rivalry over Shakespeare boiled over into a deadly riot.

We all use makeshift bookmarks from time to time. Margaret Kingsbury shares 5 things you maybe shouldn’t use as bookmarks.

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

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | July 27, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-27-2017

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of July. As always, the summer is speeding by. If you want to take advantage of the warm weather and are a lover of houseplants, you might want to participate in Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day. After all, exercise is good for writers and readers (and everyone else).

Readers already know that reading is good for you too, but it’s gratifying to have that validated by research. Rachel Grate shares the great news science has for people who read actual books.

If you’re still looking for summer reading, on BNTEENblog, Darren Croucher suggests 8 female-penned YA science fiction novels, while Kristen Lamb analyzes why speculative fiction matters. If you prefer something shorter, Louis Menand asks can poetry change your life? What do you think?

To writers, freedom of the press is an important right. Novelist Polly Tyer writes about journalists and the First Amendment.

Writers aren’t the only ones who spend at lot of time at a keyboard. If you are someone who does, you might want to take Grace Wynter’s advice about using ergonomics to design the optimal workstation.

The Author Chronicles, home office, desk and books

Photo by Vadim Sherbakov on Unsplash

CRAFT

Without an idea, there is no story. Janice Reid reassures a writer who discovers someone else had the same brilliant idea, while Annie Neugebauer considers thought triggers: the Chekhov’s gun of writing tricks.

Most writers would love to have more time for writing. With ideas to speed your writing process, Candace Granger shares two semi-no-fail ways to fast drafting, one for pantsers, one for plotters, and Jordan Dane offers key resources and tips for dictating your next book.

Looking for tips on creating characters? The Script Lab considers internal conflict and your characters, Bonnie Randall stresses taking a love inventory of your characters, Janice Hardy explains how to write characters that don’t all feel the same, and Kristen Lamb explores the reason shame is the beating heart of all great stories.

Several bloggers delve into the elements of setting and world building: Janice Hardy explores creating the setting and building the world, K. M. Weiland details 16 ways to make your setting a character in its own right, and Kyla Bagnall lays out 5 ways to incorporate multiple languages into your fantasy novel.

Story structure is important for novelists and narrative non-fiction writers. James Scott Bell reminds us that eventually you have to bring order to the story stuff, and Dario Ciriello discusses plotting for pantsers.

Having trouble pinpointing the problem in your book? Dawn Field advises writers to find the center of your book, while Jodi Hedlund lists three ways authors can keep research details from boring their readers.

Writers who learn the basic grammar rules make the editor’s job a lot easier, but even the best writers can make grammar errors. Christina DesMarais points out 43 embarrassing grammar mistakes even smart people make, and Melissa Donovan offers 10 good grammar resources.

For those experiencing difficulty writing, Anne R. Allen considers writer’s block and depression: why writers need to fill the well, Kathryn Craft considers whether a life detour is an obstacle or opportunity, and Bob Hostetler urges writers to write like baseball.

Interested in trying out a different facet of writing? Janet Reid explains how to break into ghost writing novels in the big leagues.

The Author Chronicles, laptop & glasses

Photo by Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash

BUSINESS

Here are some insights for those trying to interest an agent or publisher in their works: Jennifer Slattery discusses writing queries that get read, Steve Laube explains what happens in the agency after a writer sends in a proposal or query, and Jacob Warwick explains how to make powerful pitches to large publications.

Three bloggers contribute some tips on self-publishing. Beth Bacon explains how to write a creative brief so your graphic designer creates an amazing book cover, and Nicole Dieker relates her experience in self-publishing a debut literary novel: the actions, the costs, the results. You can also put out your own audio book, but Laura Drake asks: SHOULD you create your own audio book?

Whether you chose traditional or self-publishing, author marketing improves book sales. We found a number of posts that address the issue of marketing. Ryan Holiday writes about the marketing rule you can’t forget, Judith Briles discusses authors and marketing fatigue, Drew Chial examines how hard selling can hurt your brand, and Lysa Grant shares the best free book marketing sites.

Melinda Clayton emphasizes the importance of categories and keywords for your books on KDP, and David Gaughran takes a look at when reader targeting goes wrong.

Are visits to book stores in your marketing plan? Debbie Young considers book marketing: how to get your self-published books into bookstores, while Dana Kaye analyzes whether book store events matter: how to benefit from in-person author visits.

For those active on social media, Nadya Lyapunova explains how to promote a young adult novel on social media, and Frances Caballo wonders if you have seen these changes to Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re trying to improve your blog, Jane Friedman shares WordPress plugins she can’t live without, Kathryn Lilley provides tips for crediting photos used in blogs as well as suggesting sources [we used a source she mentions for the terrific photos in this post], and Jami Gold speaks about blog commenting: building a community.

Have you created an author website? Janet Reid has suggestions for your contact page, while Jami Gold focuses on how to create a reader friendly website.

The Author Chronicles, artist at work

Photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash

THE UNIQUE SHELF

The Guardian‘s Alison Flood reports that Jane Austin’s “Great House,” the Chawton House Library, has launched an urgent appeal to stay open.

Sarah Gibbens of National Geographic writes about the discovery of a manuscript written by the Hippocrates in a remote Egyptian monastery.

Tabatha Leggett shares the BuzzFeed community’s 30 feminist children’s books that every child should read.

Open Culture announces that The British Museum has created 3D models of the Rosetta Stone and over 200 other artifacts which can be downloaded or viewed in virtual reality.

BuzzFeed‘s Kimberley Dadds gives us 22 novels that are crying out to be turned into films. Do you have any favorites that you’d like to see made into a film?

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you in August!

 

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