Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 25, 2018

Defining Writing Success

Here’s a question that you cannot get wrong: what is writing success? Why can’t you get it wrong? Because the answer is different for each person. Success in the arts is personal.

Sure, there are outside measures of success for authors. Number of books sold, author rankings, book rankings, awards, bestseller status, how many unique books published, books turned into movies… There are many external measures of success. Some authors use those to judge their success—and that’s okay, because that’s their measure of success.

What’s yours?

Some authors don’t care about sales, they just want to see their book in print. So a self-published book with no marketing pressure suits them just fine. Some authors want an agent. Some authors want a book contract with a traditional press, either small press or large. Some want to see their series in print.

The answer to what is success varies from author to author—but also from month to month. Success is a moving target. Sure, some people zero in on one thing from the beginning (New York Times bestseller or bust!), but many of us find success incrementally. First we just want to write a publishable story. Then we want to see it in print. Once it’s in print, we want it to sell well. And always the hope of a blockbuster movie hovers in the quiet corners of our minds.

But success is not always an upward trajectory. It can come in waves, rolling in highs and lows with each project. I am experiencing that now. I have a published book, a short story in a published anthology, and a self-published genealogy book. Not bad. But now I am struggling with a major rewrite of a manuscript I have high hopes for, but it’s not quite “there” yet. I thought it was, but it wasn’t quite. So now I am diving in again.

For me, at this moment, success is defined as finishing this book.

What’s your definition of success look like today?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 20, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-20-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! September 25th is National Comic Book Day, so break out your favorite comics and enjoy!

Check out the 2018 Dayton Literary Peace Prize winners.

In a controversial move, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is cutting off access to volunteer-run free books programs.

The TV show The Great American Reads returns.

Catherine Curan examines bookstores finding creative ways to survive and thrive in the age of Amazon.

Libraries are still important and relevant today, as evidenced by the $7.1 million Radnor library renovations, and other suburban library expansions, and Kristen Arnett asks: do you really need a degree to be a librarian?

Want to make your picture book a bestseller? Get a giddy grandma to read it on tape. Here’s the viral video of a Scottish grandmother reading The Wonky Donkey.


So much goes into even the shortest story. Kristen Lamb looks at time as a literary device, Lee McKenzie shares what photographer Annie Lebovitz taught her about writing, and Jami Gold applies TV lessons to chapter hooks.

Characters are the lifeblood of our stories. Janice Hardy asks: are you making this character flaw mistake?, while James Scott Bell reminds us that true character comes out in stressful moments. When your characters talk to each other, Andrea Mitchell guides us through using speaker tags and beats correctly, and Janice Hardy reviews formatting dialogue in fiction.

Writers are always trying to polish our writing after our drafts are finished. Rachelle Gardner has some tips for tightening your writing, and Julie Glover shares 4 easy edits that make your story flow better.

Sometimes stories require more than one book to be told. Jodi Meadows has 13 easy (and brutally truthful) steps to writing a fantastic sequel, Jo Jakeman explores the lasting appeal of fictional vengeance for the marginalized, and Stephanie Greene discusses 3 types of series.

Every writer wants to enhance productivity and trigger our creativity. Dawn Field shows how to use writing snippets to exercise your creative mind, and Melissa Donovan tells us how to break through a fiction writing block.

Writing is an emotional career. Janet Boyer shares 10 books to read when you are discouraged about being a real writer, Jami Gold wonders what you want to write but haven’t yet, and Zoje Stage discusses the reality of the post-publication blues.


Steve Laube asks all authors: have you checked your copyright lately?

Alicia Adamczyk reminds us that you don’t own the music, movies, or ebooks you buy on Amazon or iTunes.

Nonfiction writers, Erica Meltzer has 6 questions to help nonfiction writers find their niche.

For those interested in creating an audiobook, CJ Critt gives us an audiobook narrator’s guide for authors.

Grace Wynters brings us the writer’s edition of taking care of business, and Joanna Penn shares lessons learned from 7 years as an author entrepreneur.

What does success mean to you? Brooke Warner reframes publishing success.

Janet Reid addresses building a co-career with a writing partner, and what to do when life knocks you down during revisions. Kristen Lamb delves into the all-important log-line.

Marketing is how we sell our books. Speaking engagements and reviews are important avenues for selling your books. Jodee Blanco lists the do’s and don’ts of author speaking, while Melissa Bowersock shares her results from using Voracious Readers Only for revues and sales.

Our author platform supports our books, and many platforms incorporate a blog. Lisa Tener has 7 benefits to growing an author platform before writing your book, Darren Rowse discusses using checklists and templates to make your blogging easier, Zoe M. McCarthy gives us less common interview questions for blog author interviews, Jordan Peters asks 10 questions every blogger should ask themselves, and Cristian Mihai tells us how to end your blog posts like a boss.


Author friendships are so important. Imani Perry examines the radical friendship of Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin.

Philip Metres discusses the third most popular poet of all time.

In honor of her birthday, 20 noir-to-the-bone quotes from the queen of crime, Agatha Christie.

Max Booth, III, examines Stephen King as crime writer.

Actress Sally Field talks about her life in her In Pieces memoir.

Stuck on your memoir title? Use this handy chart to title your inspirational memoir.

Your life is a genre. Take the quiz to see what genre it is!

Erin Barnett explores the 10 weirdest places Shakespeare plays have been performed.

Quite a prize! A customer wins his favorite bookshop in a raffle.

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

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | September 19, 2018

writing and other unfinished business

This year has been full of house projects for me. The work includes the search for and hiring of general contractors, electricians, floor and windows replacement company representatives, and overall, a mess around my house. My car even wanted to get in on the act as well by breaking down and giving multiple mechanics a challenge to resolve. There are times it feels that I have too many things cooking at the same time when all I want is for it to be finished. The only project I have any closure for is acquiring art for my house, as my last few posts here attest. Getting any writing done during any of this is, at this time, best accomplished in flashes.

While the subject of flash writing is already established in the world, my version of it is more like my concept of flash reading, something I’ve written about in the past Flash Reading. I think the basic idea of what I’m talking about here is to take a snapshot of your imagination and let it flow onto the page. Reading a paragraph of a novel in a very brief time, say, in an elevator, forces you to quickly create (or recreate) the snapshot of the paragraph’s setting in your mind in order to understand what you’re reading about. For my version of flash writing, I have to do the same with writing in a very short period of time. This is very easy to do, as long as I stay focused on the current scene and not how it fits with the whole novel, etc.

At the very least, it allows me to keep writing during a time when my mind is cluttered with so many other things. A major flaw of mine has always been the distraction of these other things, especially when I walk around my house and see things in an unfinished state. Flash writing allows me to beat the distractions.

The various house projects can also be a possible enhancement to my writing in that the characters may have unfinished projects around their households. I find it easier to write about a character’s frustrations when they echo my own. 😉

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 13, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-13-2018

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, clouds and mountains

Clouds over the mountains in western Virginia


Welcome to Top Picks Thursday on the second Thursday of September. Summer is quickly coming to an end, although hurricane season seems to be ramping up. We hope everyone weathers whatever storms come your way with little damage or loss.

Whatever the weather, Joanna Penn lists 5 reasons this is the best time to be a creator, and Sue Coletta considers writers and dreaming.

For those just setting out on a writing career, George A. Bernstein shares practical advice for beginning fiction writers, and Sharlene Teo gives us the debut novelist’s guide to battling impostor syndrome.

Many writers have cats, but Cameron Shenassa expounds on why every writer should have a dog.

Since most writers will sooner or later need to speak before an audience, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder explains how writers can overcome their fear of public speaking.

If you’re looking for books for children, Maria Russo suggests 5 plucky, charming children’s books for toddlers.


Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash



Debating what to write? Linda Vigen Phillips writes about using free verse to deliver passion, Nellie Hermann contemplates the curious border between fiction and nonfiction, and Rebecca Monterusso sets out 6 things to consider before writing a novel.

For writers wanting to improve their craft, Kethy Steinemann provides 4 tips for better writing by using strong words, and Rochelle Deans gives 3 tips for writing a story that’s better than its flaws.

In two posts, Jami Gold focuses on characters: what it means to create layered characters and character conflict: goals, needs, and false beliefs. In addition, Margot Kinberg considers characters with hypochondria, and Diana Hurwitz discusses characters’ conflicts in communication.

Working on your story? Harrison Demchick presents five crucial tips for convincing action scenes, James Scott Bell goes into how to give your readers unforgettable moments, and BookRiot‘s Katherine Marciniak asks: cliffhangers: is the suspense worth it? Also, Kristen Lamb lays out 5 reasons your story is breaking down.

Donald Maass discusses options for writers feeling stuck.

If it’s time for editing your manuscript, AutoCrit shares a self-editing checklist for fiction writers. For those hiring an editor, Zoe M. McCarthy focuses on tips for cleaning up your manuscript for a hired editor, and Ellie Maas Davis explains how to work with a book editor.

Merilyn Simonds ponders how long it should take to write a book, while Daphne Gray-Grant reminds us why we should resist following the rituals of famous authors.

For those having trouble writing, Edie Melson supplies four tips to distract your internal editor, and Nancy L. Erickson reminds us to finish writing a book, you need to start writing it.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, notebooks

Photo by Beatriz Pérez Moya on Unsplash



Writing can be a hobby or a career. Christopher Jan Benitez explains 5 types of writing you can turn into a profitable career.

Looking for an agent? Jennifer Baker insists that if you know how to date, you know how to find a literary agent. If you’re querying, Janet Reid answers a question about whether you should mention your research in your query and how to query the only book you’ve written in a different genre.

Can you pitch your entire story in one sentence? Kristen Lamb examines the log-line.

Sandra Beckwith delves into traditional publishing or self-publishing.

On book marketing and promotion, Rose Andrews presents free book marketing strategies, part two, and Sophie Masson considers book promotion: what’s hot, what’s not. Anne-Catherine De Fombelle advocates going wide and finding global markets and also gives suggestions on going local and selling self-published books direct, while David Kudler takes a look at a new Amazon algorithm that has him revisiting KDP keywords.

Lizbeth Meredith sets out five ways to maintain book buzz while writing and managing post-pub life, and Lee Wind discusses booktubers and reaching your audience.

With advice on social media, Chris Syme declares it’s time for your fall platform inventory, and Kris Bock takes a look at building and sharing your author brand, while Annie Sullivan lists 10 Instagram tips for writers.

For those who have blogs and websites, Cristian Mihai addresses an often overlooked aspect of blogging that matters a lot and identifies 8 blogging mistakes that waste your readers’ time. Also, Jane Friedman lays out 10 ways to build traffic to your website or blog.

If you are considering crowdfunding to finance self-publishing, Becca Spence Dobias explores 7 essential questions for crowdfunding at Inkshares, and BlueInk Review‘s Madeleine Dodge offers 7 keys to crowdfunding on GoFundMe.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, book

Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Unsplash



Andrea Romano shares the 20 books most often left behind in hotel rooms.

Budget Travel‘s Danielle Bauter names 7 unique bookstores in the U.S.

BuzzFeed‘s Kirby Beaton recommends 31 podcasts for every type of book lover.

Matthew Sherrill tells the story of John Quincy Adams’ forgotten epic poem, written after he lost reelection to the presidency.

Literary Hub‘s Melanie Hobson lists 9 novels in which houses have a life of their own, and Becky Chambers explores how The Left Hand of Darkness changed everything.

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


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, rainbow

Rainbow over I-81, Maryland


Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 6, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-06-2015

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of September! I am at this moment basking in the quiet of my child’s first day back at school. I hope everyone’s life is back to a normal schedule after the summer months.

Speaking of summer, Peter Derk explains why nobody gives a crap about books in the summer.

Today is National Read a Book Day, so if you’re looking for things to read, here are 50 must-read children’s book series.

Or check out the 2018 Rona Jaffe Award winners.

Lizzie Shane examines the often asked question: how important is talent?

Want to know the future? Susie Dumond brings us the September 2018 horoscopes and book recommendations.

Victoria Strauss explores if De Monfort Literature is a career jumpstart or literary sweatshop.

Here’s a listing of fiction writing contests worth your time in Fall of 2018, and Tracy Brody lays out how to choose the right writing contest for you.


We all have our own process for writing. K.M. Weiland urges us to look at sloppy writing habits—and look at 4 things to do about them.

Creating a world from scratch is hard—but it can also be a great deal of fun. Cait Reynolds walks us through dysFUNctional world building.

Writing is so hard because there are a myriad of elements to balance all at once. Jules Horne has 5 ways dramatic techniques can transform your fiction writing, Donna Galanti discusses building suspense, Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker examine writing a good scene, Jami Gold gives us questions to ask to choose the best way for a scene to play out, and Janice Hardy tackles both finding the right balance with your stage direction and 5 common problems with middles.

Characters are integral to every facet of the story. Valerie Allen shows how to create a good character name, Jane Cleland explores how the perception gap can use character perspectives to propel plot. A. Howitt examines the change arc, and James Scott Bell discusses how to write about negative leads.

Once we’ve got a draft, we go back and make every word count. Dawn Field examines words that carry maximum weight—tropes in storytelling, Steven Spatz shares his 5 favorite books on writing, P.J. Parrish takes on killing writing-advice sacred cows, while Melissa Donovan urges us to kill our darlings…but not so fast, says Barbara Linn Probst, giving us some ideas on how to resurrect those un-dead darlings.

Much of writing happens in our heads, but there are some tools to help us get it on paper and get it right. If you are blogging a book, Dan Kenitz has free online tool to make blogging a book easier, Melissa Donovan suggests Grammar Girl, and once you are done writing anything, Melinda Clayton lists free grammar checkers to polish the prose.

Researching is a big part of many genres. Sandra Gulland explains how her love for a certain topic led to success and how she researches her historical teens novels.

Ever been called a geek? Andrew Pettigrew tells us why no writer is a geek. Melissa Chadburn looks at the cost and labor of writing, Linda Lane talks about writing that is trending or enduring, and Greer Macallister gives us 25 truths about the work of writing.


Anne R. Allen kicks this off with 9 pieces of bad publishing advice writers hear all the time.

Editor Carol Hinz explains that success can differ from book to book.

Self-publishers have to decide many things. Dave Chesson examines distribution, if you should go wide or narrow, while Holly Connolly asks: is social media influencing book cover design?

While knowing what books yours is like is most important for traditional authors, self-published authors also need to know this. Damon Suede walks us through Comp Lit: claiming your place on the genre shelf.

Selling books is a goal for all of us. Penny Sansevieri has 12 ways to make sure your website is helping you sell more books, Sandra Beckwith dispels 3 book promotion myths, and Joan Stewart reveals the best free media contacts tool you’re not using.

Book reviews are essential to book marketing.  David Wogahn tells us how to jumpstart book reviews for self-published books, and Joanna Penn shares 10 ways to get reviews for your books.

We connect to our readers via the internet mostly. Darren Rowse has 7 ways to start building an audience for your new blog, Cristian Mihai lists 7 symptoms of the blogger’s curse, and Frances Caballo has 13 steps to improve your Facebook reach.


Like to read in cafés? Vivienne Woodward shares café reading power rankings.

Going old-school is sometimes a philosophical moment. Dan Blank describes what buying a typewriter taught him about writing.

Sometimes re-reading childhood favorites is not the best idea. Alli Hoff Kosik lists messed-up things you missed about your favorite children’s books.

Emily Temple dug out portraits of literary characters by famous artists.

Talking with Alan Lee, the man who redrew Middle-Earth.

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

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 6, 2018

Back to School—for Writers Too!


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, beach, Jersey shore

Long Beach Island, New Jersey, after a fierce thunderstorm, July 27, 2018


Good-bye to summer—to vacations and lazy days and kids at home.

Labor Day weekend has passed. As the laid-back days of summer transition into the goal-driven days of fall, children either already are or are preparing to go back to school. Parents and children regard this transition with mingled eagerness, sadness, anticipation, and anxiety. It’s a time of new opportunities and new directions, as well as a time to refocus and re-energize.

Back-to-school time can also provide an opportunity for writers to refocus and re-energize—and not just for those who will have more writing time when their children return to school. Some of us have taken vacations from writing during the summer or slowed our pace as we enjoyed summer activities. September is a good time to settle back into or change our writing routines … and maybe add something to help us grow in the craft.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, notebook and pencil

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash


If you’re a regular reader of The Author Chronicles, you know that each week we publish Top Picks Thursday, a collection of our favorite recent blog posts about writing and topics related to literature and the arts. While I was searching for blog posts to contribute to last week’s Top Picks Thursday, I came across Emily Temple’s wonderful compilation of Ray Bradbury’s greatest writing advice on the Literary Hub site.

I never tire of reading writing advice and tips from well-known authors. As a long-time fan of Ray Bradbury’s writing, I was excited to see Emily Temple’s article. [There’s a lot of pithy information in the excerpts she’s included, so reading the whole article is worth the time.] As I read Bradbury’s advice—great advice for all writers, no matter what they write—one particular section caught my attention: his recommendation for daily reading.

Now, there’s nothing unusual about successful published authors urging aspiring writers to read. Some advocate reading in general, others suggest reading in your genre or reading outside your genre. Ray Bradbury, however, has a specific recommendation: for 1,000 nights, read one poem, one short story, and one essay before going to bed.

Few of us would argue against the importance of reading, but most of us have to squeeze writing into an already full schedule that leaves little time for reading. Ray Bradbury’s advice has remained in my thoughts over the past week for two reasons: it’s specific and it wouldn’t take much time.

Let’s take a closer look at his recommendation.

Read a poem every night.

I’m not surprised that Ray Bradbury would value reading poetry since his writing is so lyrical and full of beautiful imagery. I especially like this suggestion because most poems are short and can be read in just a few minutes. If you don’t already have books of poetry, libraries have plenty of anthologies of poems by individual poets or by many poets, or you can find poems online.

Reading and analyzing poetry can teach all writers about the use of imagery, the rhythm of language, the economical use of words, and much more. Poetry is a distillation that seeks the essence. It is a paring down to the core of ideas, thoughts, things, emotions. Poetry uses few words to convey much. Paying attention to these things can improve writing in any genre.

Bradbury recommends reading the great poets because he has a poor opinion of modern poetry, which he doesn’t consider poetry at all. I disagree with him there. For a full experience of poetry, you should read a wide range of poems on many topics and written in a variety of poetic forms.

Read a short story (fiction) every night.

Bradbury urges writers to take ten or fifteen minutes each night to read a short story. Telling stories is central to the writer’s craft. Fiction, of course, revolves around stories, but stories can be found in poetry and nonfiction as well. Like books of poetry, short stories can be found in anthologies in libraries or online.

Bradbury doesn’t prefer reading classic short stories to modern ones. Reading a variety obtains the best results: choose classic and modern stories of different lengths from all genres.

Read an essay (nonfiction) every night.

Although Bradbury uses the term “essay,” the examples he cites imply nonfiction in general, not just essays. He advocates reading in every field: sciences (archaeology, zoology, biology, anthropology), philosophy (the great philosophers of all times and comparing them), politics, analysis of literature (which might include writing advice), and other fields of your choice. Nonfiction essays and articles are plentiful online and in magazines (which are also available at the library, where you can sign out older issues).

For poets and fiction writers, reading nonfiction broadens your knowledge base and is a great source of ideas and inspiration.

Some nonfiction articles are long, particularly in the sciences, so you might want to spread reading them over two or three nights.


Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash


If you’re a writer who’s had trouble finding time to read, give Bradbury’s program a try. If you don’t think you can squeeze out the time to read a poem, a short story, and an essay/article every night, you could try a modified version of his plan: read a poem the first night, a short story the next, and an essay/article the night after that. Adjust the program to make it work for you, and you might decide not to limit your reading to 1,000 nights but make it a permanent habit.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, bee and yellow flowers

Bee and wildflowers, September 5, 2018


One more back-to-school tip. Since writers use many of the same tools that students use, take advantage of the back-to-school discounts on items from pens and pencils to notebooks and electronics to get your writing area stocked and ready. Then write!


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, orange flowers


Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 30, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-30-2018

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of summer! I am looking forward to back-to-school, which for me means a return of writing time. Everyone stay safe at your Labor Day celebrations this weekend.

At the 2018 Hugo Awards, women clean up as N.K. Jemisin wins best novel again.

Ryan Holiday explains why everyone should watch less news and read more books instead.

Emily Temple gathers 10 little-known children’s books by famous authors.

Something I never thought much about but makes so much sense: Bonnie Randall warns of “vicarious trauma”—a danger writers need to be aware of.

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss has a contest caution: The Short Story Project’s My Best Story contest looks good at first, but there is cause to be wary.


All of us Chroniclers write novel-length books, but for our picture book writers out there, Jim Averback advises when writing a picture book, focus on the character’s emotional journey.

Interesting trend: Heather Webb examines if collaborative writing is on the rise, and how to make the most of it.

Getting started is sometimes the hardest part. Janice Hardy give us 3 ways to tell if a manuscript is worth going back to and shares an easy tip for developing story ideas, and Laura Drake shows us how to nail that first line.

Characters propel our stories—or they should. Polly Iyer looks at why it’s all about the character, Jim Dempsey focuses on secondary characters who help your hero, and Stavros Halvatzis explores the impact of  value-driven stories.

Revision is where we polish our story to the highest degree. Cait Reynolds gives us a field guide to the North American beta reader, James Scott Bell explains how to put some snap in your style, and Andrea Merrell reminds us don’t forget the basics.

Writers learn from every project they work on and every type of writing they encounter. A.E. Lowan lists 8 things they learned from writing their first sequel, Melissa Donovan has 10 reasons storytellers should dabble in poetry, Piper Bayard clues us in to the realities of hacking in everyday life, and Sara Letourneau discusses the art of writing out of sequence.

Constantly upgrading our writing involves digging ever deeper into the art and into our psyches. Linda Adams shares how she learned to improve her craft, Debbie Burke gives us 8 lessons from digging in the dirt, Kristen Lamb explains that fear is why humans crave stories that disturb them, and Shannon Baker and Jess Lourey flip that idea and say writers should write what we fear.

Writing is a career that takes a great deal of psychological and emotional fortitude—just staying creative can be a chore sometimes. Kristen Lamb highlights the qualities of a “real” writer, Bryn Donovan explores how to break a bad habit or start a good one, Annabel Candy has 6 proven ways to re-ignite your writing motivation, and Barbara O’Neal delves into the mysteries of creativity and meditation.

To encourage us, Emily Temple collates Ray Bradbury’s greatest writing advice, and Jami Gold reminds us all to enjoy the journey.


Big changes are afoot in the Amazon. Amy Collins explains what’s going on with CreateSpace and KDP Print.

Writers today have many paths to publication. Joanna Maciejewska gives an overview in understanding your publishing options, Kathleen Jowitt extols the upsides of being unpublishable, and Heather Havrilesky answers a writer who asks: Should I quit my day job to write a book?

Since writing is an art but publishing is a business, authors should give some thought to the money-making side of their venture. Tim Leffel urges the idea of writing for now, soon, and the future, while Rachelle Gardner walks us through how long different stages of traditional publishing take.

Professional writers have to know how to write much more than just their story. Brian Jud breaks down how to write a press release—the headline and the body copy. Mike Onorato shows us how to write a galley letter and get book reviews, and Mary Kole looks at the novel synopsis.

Marketing may be the bane of many of our existences today, but Ruth Harris uses Ian Fleming to remind us that authors have always had to hustle and look out for themselves in publishing. A few ways in which our marketing differs from Fleming’s time: Erika Liodice lays out how to create an unforgettable author visit, and Frances Caballo updates what’s new to Pinterest for writers.

One huge way authors stay in touch with their readers is through blogs. Cristian Mihai delves into what blogging is all about, Jordan Peters tells us how to find the right words, and Ali Luke tackles the perennial question: how long should your blog posts be?


Christina Lupton asks: have we ever had enough time to read?

You might go to the library to get books, but Ali Velez also has 17 cool things you can do with a library card.

We all have our favorite reading nooks, but how about writing nooks? Roz Morris wonders: where do you write?

John Larison examines where the Western meets crime fiction.

And, appropriately, we wrap up this week with 57 beautiful final lines in books that’ll send chills down your spine.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you in September for more literary links. Have a great Labor Day and stay safe!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 23, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-23-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! I am in the midst of back-to-school craziness, and am seeking refuge in the writerly links we have for you this week

Mary Kole is seeking a part-time social media and web marketing associate.

Research shows that teens today spend less time reading, more time on digital media.

Maybe that’s why Kristen Arnett has this jaw-dropping list of things people have asked for at the library circulation desk.

But teens (and adults) can now get books from Walmart’s ebookstore that launched August 21st.

Because we do live in a digital age, copyright infringement has become rampant. Brett Danaher, Michael D. Smith, and Rahul Telang examine copyright enforcement in the digital age: empirical evidence and policy implications.

In this digital age, the world is shrinking and local cultures are being subsumed in the more dominant cultural trends. Helen Brown explains how every two weeks, an entire language is lost.

Are you looking to revive your writing mojo by communing with other writers? Diana Hurwitz lists writers workshops coming in September and October 2018.


Write How-Tos? Betsy Graziani Fasbinder has 5 steps to writing better how-to books.

If you are thinking about writing a series, J. Kathleen Cheney has some tips on baking a series from scratch.

Many stories start with a single idea. Stavros Halvatzis discusses bringing a big story idea to full realization. Some writers struggle to title their works. Clare Langley-Hawthorne shares how to find the right title for your book.

Most authors know there is no one “right” way to write—there’s only what works for you. Janice Hardy shows how to craft outlines that work for you.

There are many elements that go into making a story sparkle. Jenny Hansen tells us how to focus on your story’s DNA, Janice Hardy asks if you have a story with a twist or a twist that thinks it’s a story, and Louise Candlish explains why structure matters when you are writing a novel.

Every word we use, every choice of POV, every decision on description creates our author voice. Jami Gold shows us how to use senses other than sight to “show” and explains that the real power of “showing” is in the context. Dawn Field explores jewel words, crux and flavor words, and everything in between. Characters have distinct voices, too Lori Freeland discusses the ins and outs of internal dialogue, and September C. Fawkes urges us to create a “body language voice” for our characters.

Editing our book is always the final step. Debbie Young lays out the 10 top writing errors and how to avoid them, Tamela Hancock Murray debunks 4 myths about editors, and Juliana Baggott points out that every novel is wildly different when it comes to revision.

Sometimes we make mistakes that hold us back in our career. Derek Murphy shares 10 mistakes he made as a new indie author, Judith Briles wonders if perfection is an art or author sabotage, and Bill Ferris provides a humorous hack’s guide to buying a writing desk.

A writing career comes with a lot of emotion. Margie Lawson asks us to consider who’s in charge of your writing life, K.M. Weiland has 3 thoughts on what to do about writer’s jealousy, and Lesley Vos examines the hidden risks of emotional burnouts in writing.


Author Richard Russo pens a letter warning of tech giants’ move into content—and the algorithms do not favor the writer.

If you are self-published, Joe Biel discusses when and how indie authors should use book distributors, and Emma Darwin explains why your book is (not) your cover.

If you are searching for an agent, Stephanie Elliot has a roundup of 11 authors discussing the road to getting a literary agent. Agent Janet Reid gets a three-fer today with: Memoir, the category that cannot die; Why I hate personalization with a passion; and What “Send 50 pages” really means.

Marketing can make writers crazy. Roz Morris is staging a quiet rebellion against 3 pieces of conventional marketing wisdom when building readerships. Frances Caballo pitches in with 10 great resources writers need to know to make our jobs easier.

Reviews are vital to book sales. Craig Tuch explains how to optimize your book review process for the best reviews and the most value. Helena Halme shows how to change a book’s title without losing reviews, and Elizabeth S. Craig walks us through keeping your reviews after rights revert to you

Amanda J. Evans reminds us that author branding is more than genre, while Rachelle Gardner talks non-fiction platforms.

Blogging can be a great way to stay connected with your readers. Zoe M. McCarthy explores hosting guests on a subject-specific blog—the benefits and how to do quality control. As you gather emails through your blog, Grove Galligan gives top tips for a clean and healthy blog email list.

Blogs are not the only way to reach readers. Kristen Lamb discusses using Twitter to build a powerful brand, and 8 things to avoid doing on Twitter. Frances Caballo shares 10 tips you need for a successful author podcast.


Think mobile devices are recent inventions? Think again. Writers have always loved mobile devices.

Wendy Moffat explores the slyly subversive writing of E.M. Forster.

Check out the weirdest libraries around the world.

Michelle Regalado explains how bookstores calm her anxiety.

Speaking of anxiety, NPR lists the 100 best horror novels and stories as voted by their readers.

Here’s an infographic of things to use as bookmarks if you must step away from the horror.

Writers love their pets. From Chester Himes to Judy Blume, 10 writers and their cats.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for the final Top Picks of the summer!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 21, 2018

3 Story Uses for a Synopsis

Many writers hate writing a synopsis. It’s hard, distilling an entire book down to a page or three. Many people who write novels, such as myself, are not blessed with the gift of brevity. So trying to get the plot, characters, and emotion of the story down to its essence, and then write it in such a way that the reader feels it, is an epic undertaking.

We all know that the synopsis is a marketing tool. That’s its main purpose (and also, I suspect, why we writers have such trouble with it). But there are other uses for the synopsis—story uses. As counter-intuitive as it seems, painting smaller can help us see the larger canvas. A synopsis can show us problems with:

Plot Holes

Plot holes can get lost in 80,000 words, but in a synopsis, they can jump out. By realizing there is no connective tissue between two plot points, you can save yourself a lot of revision later. Also, it helps you check on the internal logic of the story. If your plot sounds like this : “And then…and then…and then…”, make sure it works if you substitute “because…because…because…” Each point should be grow out of a plot point before it, creating a strong cause-and-effect latticework for your story.

Lost Subplots

Sometimes we have subplots we laid at the beginning of the book that we kind of forget about as the main plot gets going. Although a synopsis usually doesn’t include subplots, one done for story purposes can, and seeing a subplot vanish will force you to revisit it and see if it’s needed. Alternately, if you find that your story sprouted some subplots midway, you can then go back and lay the groundwork for them earlier in the story.

Character Arcs

Condensing the story is a great way to see if your character is growing the way you want them to. Do they end up where you wanted them to, and does the story logically lead them there? Look at the language of your synopsis. Is it passive? That may mean your character is not driving the plot, but being driven by it. For example, in my last synopsis, my character “let” and “allowed” things to happen to her. That passive language showed that she was not making decisions or perhaps she didn’t have clear enough goals in those areas.

So instead of waiting until the book is done and polished, maybe we should write the synopsis after the first or second complete draft. A condensed version of the story (which is for our eyes only), can highlight some large-scale story issues for us at a point in our process when it is not as hard to fix them. And (bonus!) we then have a rough draft synopsis to work with later, when the story is more polished.

Can you think of other story problems synopses can reveal? Do you ever use them this way?

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 16, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-16-2018

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, books, library shelves

Photo by Ugur Akdemir on Unsplash


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Happy middle of August!

Last Thursday, August 9, was National Book Lovers Day, but you can still celebrate with Alex Butler’s literary holiday ideas.

On the topic of reading, Charlotte Ahlin reveals the 15 most popular re-read books (according to Goodreads), and Maggie Lynch delves into what makes readers buy books.

Providing some warnings for writers, Writers Beware‘s Victoria Strauss issues a caution about Fiction War Magazine, and Scott La Counte shares information about bogus websites phishing for books.

Dwight Garner remembers V. S. Naipaul, a writer of many contradictions and obvious greatness, the Nobel laureate who died Saturday at the age of 85.


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Photo by 85Fifteen on Unsplash



Stories start with ideas. Steve Laube considers brainstorming: how and with whom, and Laura Benedict gives her take on the getting and keeping of ideas.

As you’re writing that story, Kathryn Craft advocates creating pockets of story: expand inward, and Jami Gold points out that when showing vs. telling: don’t assume showing is always better.

Something not quite right with your story? Jane Friedman suggests fixing your story by focusing on place, and Ellen Tanner Marsh clarifies the 5 most common mistakes that bog down your narrative.

With tips on improving your story, Janice Hardy explains how dramatic irony can heighten tensions and strengthen plots and how to use hook lines and the dramatic pause to control pace.

For those developing characters, Cait Reynolds shows how characters come alive in death, and Gabriela Pereira examines writing by design (Part 4): contrast, or light versus dark.

If you’re not writing fiction, Anne Janzer cautions nonfiction writers to beware of omitting facts because you assume your readers know what you know, and Melissa Donovan explores communicating with poetry: the search for deeper meaning.

Writing can be stressful. Kathryn Magendie comments on the ups and downs of revision: Gas-X for writers–results may vary, and Dario Ciriello advises writers to breathe–the copyeditor has your back.

Writing not going well? D. G. Kaye lays out how to deal with writer’s block, and Colleen M. Story reveals why writers need confidence and 5 ways to boost yours.

On the other hand, writing can be beneficial. Kristina Adams has found that writing can be the best way to deal with adversity.

Julie Glover reminds writers that your book isn’t for everyone.


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For writers seeking agents, Tamela Hancock Murray clears up four myths about agents, and Janet Reid explains what to do when you get an offer on one manuscript and have others out as well. Also, Cris Freese shares 8 agents’ best tips for getting published today.

Rachelle Gardner answers questions about author platform.

Struggling with writing your author bio? Lee Wind identifies the many kinds of bios you’ll need, and Debbie Young gives pointers on how to write an effective author bio.

If you’re considering self-publishing, Dan Balow explains how to know if self-publishing is for you.

Self-publishers have many decisions to make and may need help. Esther Park takes a look at where to go for author services no longer provided by CreateSpace, Carolyn Howard-Johnson sets out how to use your reviews and excerpts, and Joel Friedlander details bad book design decisions and how to avoid them.

With information on marketing for all writers, K. M. Weiland explains how to market your book when you hate marketing, while Christina Delay claims that marketing can be fun — really. Plus, Rose Andrews lists 3 ways to market your book for free, and Lisa Tener urges nonfiction writers to think creatively and sell your book in bulk with special sales.

Additional ideas for marketing: Melissa Chan explains how to create merchandise for books, and Betsy Graziani Fasbinder suggests 6 things every author can do to capture an event audience.

An online presence is vital. Melissa Donovan details 6 ways to boost your social media presence, and Nate Hoffelder shares 12 new Gmail hacks every writer can use. Also, Ellen L. Buikema shows how to add video to your book’s Amazon sales page, and Frances Caballo discusses author podcasting: 10 tips you need.

Finally, Cristian Mihai tells how to blog despite having a full-time job, and John Burke sets out basic SEO tips every author website needs.


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We all know that reading is beneficial. Maryanne Wolf zeroes in on what immersing yourself in a book does to your brain.

Are you a book nerd? See how you rate by using Farrah Penn’s questions on BuzzFeed.

Literary Hub‘s Peter Hunt claims that Wind in the Willows isn’t really a children’s book, and Emily Temple writes that Shirley Jackson, possible a witch, definitely played the zither — or why all author bios should include likes and dislikes.

R. O. Kwon writes in defense of keeping books spine-in.

We love libraries and librarians. Jessica Leigh Hester spotlights the crack squad of librarians who track down half-forgotten books for the New York Public Library. What a terrific idea! Wonder if they would search for a book from someone outside of New York?

When people think of libraries, we think of peaceful, not dangerous, places. Apparently, this is not always so: Livia Gershon relates how being a Victorian librarian was considered oh-so-dangerous, and ABC News shares the Associated Press story about how snakes in the stacks put a DC library briefly out of circulation.

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


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Rainbow after yesterday’s thunderstorms.


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