Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | December 20, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-20-2018


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, gift and gift wrap

Photo by Miroslava on Unsplash


Happy holidays everyone! Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of autumn. This year’s topsy-turvy weather will continue tomorrow: although it’s felt like winter for weeks, the actual first day of winter will be a warm 60+° F. No white Christmas here.

In case you’re one of those last-minute shoppers, Arianna Rebolini shares the ultimate BuzzFeed book gift guide, and Ally Nathaniel offers 10 gift ideas for writers and creative people.

Looking at the year in review, Literary Hub enumerates the top literary stories of 2018: [#1-5: not published as I write this], #6-10, #11-20, #21-30, and #31-40, and Electric Literature summarizes 10 moments that shook the literary world in 2018.

Writer Beware‘s Victoria Strauss warns authors about Amelia Publishing and Amelia Book Company, sons of LitFire Publishing.

Always wanted to be a writer? In an interview by Erin Bartnett, author Michael Chabon cautions young writers: put away your phones, while Janet Clare assures older writers it’s never too late to start (of finally finish) your novel.

Nothing compares to browsing in a bookstore. If you enjoy visiting your local bookstore, The Guardian‘s Elias Greig suggests six ways to be kind to your bookseller this Christmas. One person who practices such kindness is James Patterson, who is again giving holiday bonuses to booksellers.

The Center for Fiction names Tommy Orange the winner of its 2018 First Novel Prize; his book is one of the novels listed in BookMarks’ award winning novels of 2018.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, person writing, pen and paper

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash



Joanna Penn explains why a creative routine is so important for authors, and Roz Morris focuses on how to keep in touch with your book when your writing routine is disrupted. In addition, Anne Marie Gazzolo spells out how to find the discipline and focus to write, and Andrea Judy discusses how to write when the world is overwhelming.

What stimulates your creative juices? Marina Benjamin ponders whether a sleepless night can awaken creativity.

Louise Harnby explains how to write novels for readers, not viewers, while Stavros Halvatzis expounds on great scenes and how to write them, and Janice Hardy considers what to do when you really don’t want to write that scene.

Strong characterization makes a strong novel. Lori Freeland reminds us that characters are people too, while Kathleen McCleary writes about navigating families in fiction. Kristen Lamb advises authors to make life really hard for their characters, and Janice Hardy shares two questions to ask for stronger character goals and motivations.

George A. Bernstein provides tips on becoming a better writer. With more specific advice, Julia Simpson gives the scoop on writing first-person point of view, Kathryn Craft asks writers to zero in on the dark moment in your novel, and Jami Gold cautions writers to gain readers’ trust before breaking writing rules.

Is there such a thing as a new idea? Cassie Lipp shares 6 tips for drawing influence from other writers without plagiarizing, and Anne R. Allen considers what happens if someone steals your high concept book idea.

For those interested in advice from established authors, Jess Zafarris sets out 4 writing techniques to borrow from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and Jenny Hansen adds the top 10 writing success tips from Ray Bradbury.

When you’ve finished that first draft, Jodi Turchin addresses conquering the fear of revision, and Janice Hardy proposes four steps for revising your manuscript.

Including a steamy scene in your story? Lisa Locascio analyzes why men seem to be so much worse at writing sex scenes than women.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, typewriter, woman typing

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash



If you’re seeking an agent, Rachelle Gardner mentions what not to say in a query.

For interested self-publishers, Joel Friedlander shows samples of two-column book layout, and Brian Jud discusses the benefits of selling a book at local events.

Whether you pursue traditional or self-publishing, you may want to have a book trailer. For those with a limited budget, Melissa Bowersock details how authors can make free book trailers with Lumen5.

With advice on social media, Janet Reid explains how to build a Twitter following and not get into trouble doing it, and Sandra Beckwith examines how authors can use Medium.

For those with blogs or thinking of starting a blog, Darren Rowse reveals four realities of blogging every blogger should know about, Cristian Mihai asks you to consider what your blog is really About, and Joan Stewart demystifies using PhotoFunia to create images quickly and easily.

Working on your author website? Kimberley Grabas elaborates on 5 common author website mistakes and how to avoid them.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, face of brown llama

Photo by KP Bodenstein on Unsplash



FastCompany‘s Melissa Locker reports that three dictionaries chose three very different words of the year for 2018, and all three are well-considered choices.

We’ve seen several news stories about children reading to dogs in libraries, but James Tate Hill tells us about the day the llamas came to a North Carolina bookstore.

While most writers need a second job to meet ends meet, this isn’t true for all: Hayley C. Cuccinello presents Forbes‘ list of the world’s highest paid authors of 2018.

Electric Literature‘s Erin Bartnett shares Shirley Jackson’s thoughts on the dead words that haunt her writing.

At, Kat Eschner reveals that Charles Darwin’s grandfather was famous for his poems about plant sex. Hmm…

If you’re wondering what to look forward to next year, check out Emily Temple’s 2019 literary adaptation preview at Literary Hub.

To end our post on a light note: Jessica shares 35 times librarians had people laughing too hard in the library.


This is our last regular post for the year. Next week, look for a special “The 12 [more or less] Links of Christmas” post. Top Picks Thursday will return with a new roundup of writerly links on January 3, 2019. Have a wonderful holiday!


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, snowflake

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


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