Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | November 19, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 11-19-2015

We’re going to start out this week’s Top Picks Thursday with celebration. The five of us at the Author Chronicles have been learning, writing and revising, and working toward publication since before we initiated the blog in 2011. One of us has finally reached that goal! Matt, Nancy, Gwen, and I would like to give a big shout out to fellow chronicler Kerry Gans, whose first novel [more info below] — a middle grade, steampunk twist on The Wizard of Oz — is now in print from Evil Jester Press. Congratulations, Kerry! We’re all so excited for you.

On a more somber note, we must mention our support for those in France after last Friday’s tragedy in Paris. Two years ago I spent a couple days in Paris at the start of a river cruise to Normandy. One of the things that impressed me most was the strong sense of gratitude and friendship the French people continue to feel toward Americans for driving out the occupying troops during World War II. Those feelings go back even further, of course, and the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of that friendship and dedication to freedom. The people of France shed tears with us after September 11, and now we share their grief. Our thoughts and concern will be with them and with all those dealing with terrorism across the world.

It’s only one week until Thanksgiving, and that means we’ll soon be reaching the end of NaNoWriMo. We hope all who are participating are keeping up with their goals, but even if you aren’t, whatever amount of writing you get done is a win. And so, we present Rachel Graves’ NaNoWriMo anti-rules.

Your NaNoWriMo efforts may not be your best writing, but that’s okay for a first draft because you can polish the manuscript during revision. To give you some help, Janice Hardy speaks about bad writing and how we can avoid it. Additional help comes from Robert Morris, with his list of the finest digital tools that make you a better writer, and James R. Tuck, who suggests small things that will make your writing easier.

Many writers rely on critique groups to help them improve their writing. Kathryn Lilley discusses what a critique group can and cannot do for you.

For writers who have problems deciding which genre their manuscript falls into, Amy Sue Nathan shares an infographic showing the difference between literary, upmarket, and commercial fiction.


Several bloggers offer tips about key story elements this week. Joseph Bates explains the basics of point of view for fiction writers, Joe Moore gives pointers on the technique of flashback, and P. J. Parrish discusses suspense — to be exciting, you need to be a little dull.

To me, characters are at the top of that list of key story elements. A good way to come up with personality traits and mannerisms for your characters is to borrow them from real people. Laurel Garver gives pointers for writers on strengthening observational skills. Kassandra Lamb lists 5 common myths about emotions, and Angela Ackerman discusses the emotional wounds a character might suffer after a home invasion. Susan P. Sipal advocates going where it’s scary — into the abyss of the hero’s journey, while Janice Hardy explains how to reveal a character’s past without falling into backstory. If finding the perfect character’s name is causing you difficulty, Jody Hedlund shares 8 tips for picking meaningful character names.

How about some wisdom from a master? Alanna Bennett reports 5 pieces of advice Stan Lee has for creating a great superhero.

Terrific characters and story don’t do the trick alone; you have to keep the readers interested. K. M. Weiland provides tips on how to write can’t-look-away chapter breaks, and Lisa Cron reveals the inside story — what grabs readers.

For writers researching a story dealing with the legal system, Karen A. Wyle presents information for those writing about the law, lawyers, and the justice system.

At some point, that awesome story has to be finished. Is yours? Rhiannon Thomas asks writers if perfection is getting in their way.


Creating effective titles can be just as challenging as picking appropriate character names. Derek Doepker shares his A-B-C-D formula for irresistible non-fiction book titles (which can apply to blog post titles too). If you’re a blogger, Mridu Khullar Relph suggests 7 ways to turn your old blog posts into cash.

For those who write shorter pieces, Zachary Petit explains how to break into magazine writing at the very top.

Three bloggers share information about agents. Rebecca Faith Heyman explains 3 ways you’re sabotaging your chances with an agent and Janet Reid lists more ways to query badly, while Mary C. Moore writes about self-publishing and getting a literary agent.

Does what you write affect your chances of publication? Kimberley Grabas relates what you need to know if you’re thinking about writing in multiple genres and David King doubts the wisdom of writing to market.

You’ve sent your manuscript to agents and publishers and received multiple rejections. What do you do next? Catherine Ryan Hyde discusses whether rejection of a work requires a rewriting or revision of the work.

If you write non-fiction, Karen A. Wyle offers some pros, cons, and lessons learned from experience about self-publishing non-fiction.

And now for some tips on social media: Frances Caballo shares 20 facts about social media that authors should know, Sandra Beckwith gives pointers on how not to do email list marketing, Hannah Erlich looks at what social media platform best suits your personality/ time availability, and Annie Neugebauer shares 5 more Twitter mistakes writers make and how to avoid them.


Ever wonder what happens after you put a book on hold in the library? Emily S. Rueb relates a book’s odyssey — the path of a book put on hold through the public library system. Heidi Mitchell, on the other hand, wonders if there are critters and germs in library books.

Every writer in the English language has moments of frustration with the language. While Elaine Viets avers that every word is gold, John McWhorter discusses why the English language is so weird. Speaking of the English language, Jemima Skelley reports that people are mad because the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year is an emoji. Does an emoji count as a word? What do you think?

Kelly Jensen suggests “laws” of reading you should feel free to break and Ailbhe Malone notes 16 charming bookshops in the UK that everyone should visit.

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

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For those curious about Kerry Gans’ book:

In The Witch of Zal, the heroine, who lives on the future world Zal, runs away from home to protect her robotic dog from the oppressive Ministry and accidentally becomes trapped in the alternate dimension Oz. A Victorian gentleman Scarecrow, a clockwork Tin Man, a literally yellow-streaked Lion, and an escaped slave boy help her battle zombicorns, killer butterflies, and an alchemist Wicked Witch while overturning Oz society. But she must return home in time to save her mother from Ministry’s menace and perhaps shake up Zal the way she did in Oz.

The paperback version of The Witch of Zal can be ordered from any book seller; at present, the ebook is only available from Amazon.

Witch of Zal cover


  1. Thanks for linking to my Build Book Buzz article on the big email mistake to avoid. I appreciate it!


    • You’re welcome, Sandra. We appreciate the tips!


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