Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | December 17, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 12-17-2015

Hello and welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Hope you are enjoying the holiday season. It doesn’t feel much like December here. While snow is blanketing parts of the West, those of us in the East are basking in a long string of days at above-normal temperatures. The kids who asked for sleds or ice skates will have to wait a while to use them.

Since 2015 is rapidly drawing to a close, this will be our last regular Top Picks Thursday for the year. Next Thursday we’ll present a collection of the most-visited links from Top Picks Thursday, and the following Thursday we’ll list our most-read Tuesday blog posts.

Now for this week’s roundup. We like seeing writers recognized for their achievements, so we’ll start with the announcement of an award: on Yahoo News, Hillel Italie reports that Salman Rushdie received the Mailer Prize for lifetime achievement.

Several bloggers offer tips and advice for prospective and experienced writers. Athena Marie lists 25 things to keep in mind if you want to write a book and Flynn Gray shares great articles to improve your writing. For those who are struggling in their writing journey, Dave King considers reasons why writing is hard and James Scott Bell discusses what to do when writing is like an arranged marriage rather than a love match.

If the holiday season interferes with your writing, Larry Brooks suggests things to do on your holiday writing break.

Books can make wonderful holiday gifts. To help you choose the right book, check out Amanda Nelson’s 10 rules for giving book gifts. If you’re looking for a book to give a child this holiday season, you can refer to BBC’s list of the 11 greatest children’s books and Stephanie Burgis’ favorite middle grade novels of 2015. Chanukah is over for this year, but here are six suggestions of books to give as Chanukah gifts for teens to keep in mind for next year. And those who have a writer on their gift-buying list might want to look at Chuck Wendig’s suggested gifts for writers.


Having trouble sparking your creativity? Angela Christina Archer marvels at how her painting her fictional world and coloring her characters is analogous to her daughters’ creative play, and K. M. Weiland relates 4 ways to reignite the “wonder” in your writing.

Nate Philbrick insists that, since ideas can pop up any time and any place, writers need to keep a notebook.

With your creativity sparking and a notebook full of ideas, it’s time to write the first draft. Janice Hardy advocates the freedom of using placeholder words in the first draft and Athena Marie relates the real problem with your crappy first draft.

If you have doubts about your writing process, Jami Gold explains why there is no one right way to write and how to discover your own unique writing process, while Kate Messner shares 33 rules of writing from some of the most brilliant women in children’s and young adult literature.

We found a number of blog posts with pointers on the important elements in a story. Lisa Cron asserts that what we’ve been taught about backstory is wrong, Sacha Black presents the James Bond of foreshadowing: 6 tricks to the perfect reveal, and two bloggers discuss tension: Nate Philbrick gives tips on writing tense scenes and James R. Tuck writes “Tick — tick — tension: setting the clock.

If you’re working on characterization, Piper Bayard explains the character arc — from fear to greatness. Julia Munroe Martin reflects on ways to recapture long buried feelings and emotions so you can make your characters live. Characters need to be unique individuals, but Kristina McMorris offers some perspective on using stereotypes.

Once you’ve finished the crappy first draft, it’s time for analysis and revision. Jody Hedlund shares the critical importance of crafting a strong opening, and Kristen Kieffer provides 19 ways to write better dialogue. For those writing in the young adult genre, Brianna da Silva proposes 7 young adult cliches that need to stop.

Don’t forget to polish up the language during the revision process. Grammar and punctuation matter. If you make too many mistakes, agents and editors of publications (not to mention readers) won’t make it past the first few pages of your terrific story. If you need help in this area, the My Book Cave team offers 8 tips for punctuating dialogue tags and lots of examples, while James J. Murray elucidates the proper use of commas, em dashes, and ellipses, and Janet Reid considers whether to italicize or not.

And finally, the irrepressible Chuck Wendig asserts that he meant what he said when he said the soup was good.


Your manuscript is finished and polished. Now, what to do with it? To help new writers eager for publication avoid unwise publication options, Anne R. Allen lists 6 more scams that target new writers.

For writers taking the traditional path to publication, Tyrell Johnson lays out how to decide what to include in your synopsis and Janet Reid explains why writing your query like a dust jacket isn’t always sound advice. Sharon Bially gives us the skinny on blurbs and Julie Musil provides tips for writing your author acknowledgements.

Once that book is published, Angela Christina Archer lists the top 5 book events you must attend.

Publication is a business, so published authors need knowledge about contracts, advances, and royalties. Susan Spann discusses royalties in anthology contracts. Jane Friedman takes a look at book advances — do men receive bigger advances than women?

If you prefer self-publication, Leslie Ann Sartor wonders how important deadlines are for the self-published author.

While writing is a solitary craft for many, some prefer to have a partner. Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of author-editor collaboration and Martina Boone asks whether you have what it takes to work collaboratively — can you check your ego at the door?

On the social media front, Lynne Cantwell suggests blogging with Facebook “notes” to improve visibility and Nina Amir provides tips on how to protect your blog from hackers.


The end of the year is a natural time for reflection. Author Natalia Sylvester lists the 15 things she learned in 2015.

Because we at Author Chronicles are strong supporters of libraries, we love finding posts about libraries and librarians. This week we found two: Edwin Maxwell discusses the vital role of libraries in addressing income inequality and Asher Kohn reports on Antti Aarne, the Finnish librarian who decoded the world’s folklore.

Interested in the classics? Timothy McSweeney presents David Sklar’s Shakespeare’s choose-your-own adventure, and on the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austin’s Emma, John Mullan discusses how Emma changed the face of fiction.

For a bit of fun, Alex Alvarez presents 24 things people slightly obsessed with books know to be true. You’re sure to recognize yourself in some of these!

Arianna Rebolini shares 12 painfully beautiful poems that will make you feel things., which includes one of my favorite poems (“Miracles” by Walt Whitman) and some I’d never read before which will become favorites.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Enjoy the season, and we’ll see you next week.



  1. It is an honor to have my post included in this list! Thank you so much! ^_^


    • You’re welcome, Brianna. You made some good points.


  2. Thanks so much for the lovely mention ❤ Merry Xmas to you


    • You’re welcome! Thanks for the wonderful tips. Have a safe and Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great list for authors. Glad to be included. Thank you!


    • You’re welcome! Always glad to have help figuring out that pesky punctuation. Have a safe and Happy New Year!


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