Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 22, 2019

Character Differentiation, Guppies, and The Outsiders

One of the problems writers struggle with is character differentiation. This is especially true when you are writing a group of characters who are very similar to each other. Often they end up sounding and acting like clones of each other—at least in first draft.

I feel this problem is more prevalent in middle grade, because the child protagonist often has siblings who share a home, a culture, and many of her life experiences. Even at school, middle graders often find themselves among a group of friends from their immediate neighborhood, who also often have similar home lives and experiences. So how does one keep from having the protagonist’s group moving in unison like a school of fish?

By careful observation. We have had fish for a little over two years now. Guppies. All male, all orange-gold. At first glance, they look the same, with little to distinguish them. But if you look a little closer, differences emerge. Some have different markings. Some have luxurious fins. Some have narrow bodies.

Their personalities are different, too. We have had 8 fish total. Seashell, an explorer who sought the world outside his tank, with the predictable tragic results. Sparkleshine, a bully of a fish whose aggression eventually led him to an early demise. Flower, a placid, beautiful fish with flowing fins who didn’t want to fight but would. Seashell 2, a scrappy little fish who survived for weeks after his tail fin rotted away. Gem, the peacemaker, who would interpose himself between Sparkleshine and the fish he was attacking. Seashell 3, a solid chunk of a fish who thought he was a 1.5 inch swordfish. Glimmer, self-important and aloof. And our current sole survivor, MiniSeashell (aka Seashell 4), who in the world of social guppies is a raging introvert.

Fish have personalities. Who knew, right?

I wouldn’t have known without careful observation, and that may be the secret of character differentiation for you. Look at your seemingly homogeneous group of characters. Watch them. See how they act. Then sharpen their differences until you have a group of unique people who happen to populate the same space.

A master work of character differentiation is S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. At first glance, her group of boys seems alike—poor white boys from the same part of a distressed Oklahoma town, tough greasers all, and three of them brothers to boot. But look a little closer and she gives you as varied characters as you could wish for. Ponyboy, looking for a better life outside his reality and finding tragedy. Dallas, aggressive and angry and destined to die young. Sodapop, a pretty boy with an edge that came out when required. Darry, toiling for a better life for him and his brothers. And Johnny, the introvert who just wanted to have peace. Even the more minor characters have their own unique selves.

I don’t know if these characters came to Hinton as unique individuals or if she had to work at it. I do know that I have had the experience of having a group appear on my page like a homogeneous school of fish. If you also have that problem, look closer. Look deeper. Sometimes this means putting the characters into different situations outside the story, either on paper or just as a thought experiment, to see how they react. For me, I usually have to write the story to the end before I really know my characters.

However you do it, look closer. The differences are there, waiting to be discovered.

Do you struggle with character differentiation? What tips and tricks do you use to tease out the personalities?



Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 17, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-17-2019

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, winter scene

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Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Can you believe we’re half way through the first month of the year?

Did you make any writerly resolutions for 2019? We hope you’re succeeding in following through with them. If you’ve already slipped up, don’t despair. New resolutions can be made any day of the year. If you need ideas, Olivia Páez shares bookish habits she hopes to maintain through 2019.

Tomorrow is National Thesaurus Day—could any writer get along without one? Tomorrow is also National Winnie the Pooh Day. We’ll be celebrating both!

Genre fiction seems to be gaining more respect. Alex Green writes that genre fiction is finding a place at independent bookstores, and Jason Boog tells us about Red Planet Books & Comics, an independent bookstore in New Mexico dedicated to indigenerds (Native Americans obsessed with comics, games, and pop culture). In a The New York Times article, Alec Nevala-Lee examines how Astounding Science Fiction magazine influenced how we see the future.

Scott Jaschik ponders the challenges for small literary journals, while Writer Beware‘s Victoria Strauss reports that Harper’s Bazaar removed predatory rights language for its 2019 short story competition.

In The Irish Times, Deirdre Falvey reports that Sally Rooney has won the Costa novel award, the youngest recipient ever.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, person writing

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash



Advice from other authors is always worth considering. Sue Coletta shares comments from all The Kill Zone bloggers on writing a series, and Kathryn Craft considers seeking truth in fiction, while Literary Hub‘s Emily Temple brings us writing advice from Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday.

Ready to write? Joel Friedlander provides flex your creativity exercises, and Lisa Tener digs into why you haven’t written your book yet and supplies 5 tips to start writing and finish.

For those having trouble progressing in their manuscripts, Katie Davis asserts that procrastination is a self-perpetuating cycle and offers 9 tips for getting unstuck, while Kathryn Magendie distracts herself from her novel writing by contemplating mathematical equations of perfection in nature, and Kelly deVos focuses on dealing with a writer’s FOMO (fear of missing out).

With tips for those writing memoirs, Jane Binns lays out 5 steps to overcoming fears of writing about the deeply personal in your memoir, and Sarah Chauncey addresses the tricky issue of POV in memoir.

For crime and mystery writers, Bryan Gruley takes a look at how to write small town crime fiction, and Elaine Viets advises writers to know what subgenre you’re writing.

Writing a fantasy or historical novel? Juliet Marillier mulls whether fudging history is ever okay, and Rayne Hall offers four tips for writing about love spells.

Now for information on the basic elements of writing: Paul Buchanan advocates beginning from the middle: how to start your story in media res, and C. S. Lakin reminds us of all-important considerations when crafting a scene, while Janice Hardy shares an easy tip for tightening your novel’s plot and considers how much you need to describe your setting.

Characters are ever-important. Laura Benedict looks into creating characters: you can always start with the car, and Jami Gold suggests making characters unique with layering, while Kristin Lamb says secret-keepers generate page-turning, nerve-shredding tension.

For authors developing their protagonists, Stavros Halvatzis examines the flawed protagonist, and Sacha Black goes over 4 mistakes to avoid when creating your protagonist and delves into creating the perfect hero lens.

Giacomo Giammatteo gives his take on using dialogue tags and Janice Hardy talks about cleaning up your dialogue tags, while James Scott Bell focuses on rendering dialects and accents in dialogue.

Roz Morris asks “Are you bored?” and shares the one writing rule you really need.

When it’s time for revision, we need to pay attention to grammar and punctuation. Zoe M. McCarthy gives us some help in part 2 of her words misused series: incorrect construction of common phrases, but if you’re stressing too much about grammar, Oscar Tay asserts that “whom” is disappearing and everyone needs to chill about it.

When you’re finished making all the revisions you can and it’s time to let other eyes examine your manuscript, Jim Dempsey explains the different types of editing.

For writers who’ve published, Gary McPherson considers how to keep your book relevant after its release, and Janet Reid gives the scoop on the dreaded sophomore novel.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, person reading business section

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash



For those sending out query letters to agents, Janet Reid explains where the personal connection information belongs in your query.

Brad Frazer tackles the question “what is public domain” (and tells us why 2019 is such a big year).

On the subject of author financial matters, Carrie V. Mullins asserts that the disastrous decline in author incomes isn’t just Amazon’s fault, and Maggie Lynch details why indie authors need literary executors and how to appoint one.

Most authors would prefer to spend their time writing rather than marketing, but to sell books, we all need to dedicate time to marketing. Penny Sansevieri asks: exactly when is the best time to begin your book marketing? If you’re wondering about the most effective marketing strategy, in this podcast, Chris Syme explains why word of mouth marketing will sell more books.

Angela Ackerman recommends building a street team to help with your book launch, and Merry Jones looks at book marketing for authors—wearing just the right hat.

Speaking to groups can be an effective marketing tool, but many authors dread public speaking. Nate Hoffelder shares 4 tips for authors in public: how to overcome your fear of being seen.

With social media pointers, Judith Briles discusses how to make the most of your email signature, and Julie Glover gives the scoop on Facebook groups.

For authors with blogs, Cristian Mihai discusses how to write a fantastic “how to” blog post and cautions against 8 blogging mistakes that waste your readers’ time. Since there’s always room for improvement, Jordan Peters identifies 50 ways to become a better blogger.

SCBWI’s Lee Wind shares hashtags for illustrators. For self-publishers who want to create their own book covers, Ray Flynt suggests three things to consider when designing your novel’s cover.

Looking for a writing-related job? Joel Friedlander and Sharon Goldinger are looking for a writer/editorial assistant.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, colorful paint brushes

Photo by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash



A number of writers share their homes with cats, so it’s no surprise that cats would find homes in bookstores. Jo Lou shows us the 20 most Instagrammable bookstore cats.

Looking for a unique read? Electric Literature reports that you can buy a limited-edition, heat-sensitive copy of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for only $451.

Barry Schwabsky analyzes the last great literary painter, Eugène Delacroix.

Did you know the Harlem Renaissance wasn’t limited to Harlem? The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Valerie Russ asks: where’s the historical marker for influential Harlem Renaissance figure Jessie Redmon Fauset? Apparently nobody in Philadelphia knows.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, cat on wood shelf

Photo by Thiago Victal on Unsplash

That wraps up this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Join us next week for another roundup of writerly links!


Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | January 15, 2019


I think New Year’s resolutions are a vital way of setting our intentions, of reminding ourselves of WHAT’S IMPORTANT.

Often in the past, until I learned it didn’t work well for me, New Year’s resolutions involved will power. And long lists of hopeful accomplishments.

This year, my list is:

  1. To learn to type with my thumbs — there’s no will power involved in this, just a remembering that this is something I want to do.
  2. To do the things I feel are important – like writing – on the days I have time to brush my teeth. (Check out my last blog if you think that’s a strange aspiration.}

The rest of my list is:

  1. To do away with judgment of myself, and fear of judgment by others.
  2. To be kind to myself, the way I strive to be kind to others
  3. To trust myself, for instance, that I have all the knowledge and resources that I need when I sit down to write.

That’s it!

I’ve come to believe that every one of these things (except for typing with my thumbs) is essential for good health and creativity and that judgment, distrust, and self cruelty are actually twisted vampires that feed on joy and creativity.

For me these are some of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – to get rid of early conditioning and choose a different path.

Making a New Year’s resolution (usually) means I’m committed no matter how difficult, so now my job is to simply remind myself that these are things I want to do and that the rewards are great.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 10, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-10-2019

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of 2019! I may keep writing 2018 on my checks, but these links are definitely fresh off the presses.

Angela Ackerman suggests clearing the clutter to start your year right, Rachelle Gardner talks New Year’s goals, Anne R. Allen and Ruth Harris suggest we give ourselves the gift of Muse time.

Agent Laurie McLean has her publishing predictions for 2019, Anne R. Allen rounds up the newest 2019 writing scams, and Terry Hart looks into what’s new for copyright law and policy for 2019.

SCBWI lists 30 grants that they offer for writers and illustrators. Are any of them for you?

Want to read more in 2019? Elena Nicolaou complies advice on how to read more, from your favorite authors.

If you are looking for a critique group or partner, Janice Hardy has once more opened her forum for finding a writing mate for you.


A New Year brings new challenges. Jami Gold explores writer flexibility and trying new things, while Jordan Dane gives tips on writing a domestic thriller.

There’s a lot of planning that goes into starting a book. Katrina Byrd has 3 approaches to story planning, Stavros Halvatzis tells how to nail your story logline, Ban discusses world-building on the crossroads, and Kitty the Retro-Writer advises using a crime wall to keep track of a complex story.

Scenes are the building blocks of our story. C.S. Lakin has questions to consider when plotting a scene, and J.E. Martin gives us 5 ways to write cinematic scenes. Dawn Field explains how to engineer a “hook” map, Susan A.J. Lyttek shares lessons for every writer from the Gospels, and Joe Garza explores how to use clichés.

Scenes must be populated by compelling characters. Janet Reid points out that character choices are what engage readers, Lisa Hall-Wilson shares 9 tips for creating successful antagonists in any genre, Donald Maass explores the inner/outer balance, and SCBWI reminds us of the importance of a character through-line when writing biographies.

Revision and polishing are a necessary step in making your story a page-turner. Jami Gold suggests trying a different font for your draft to help find mistakes, Melissa Donovan shows how developmental editing improves your writing, and Zoe McCarthy has tips to improve your story description when using adjectives  and helps clear up some commonly misused words.

Janice Hardy muses: what do you really know about your critique partners?, Reyna Marder Gentin has thoughts on learning when and how to take advice, and K.M. Weiland gives us 4 things you should know before you quit writing your novel.

For the New Year, many writers want to increase their productivity. Lisa Bell tells us what writer’s block really is and how we can beat it, J.J. Hanna has tips on how to write more in the time you have, Tales by the Unexpected advises exercising your writing muscle, and James Scott Bell talks about setting word count goals.

Catharine Bramkamp introduces the idea of transformative journaling and why it is different from regular journaling, Patricia Bradley lists 7 things she would tell her younger writing self, and ProWriting Aid explains why you should write daily—even if you hate writing.

Finding success in writing is difficult. Kristen Lamb advises rest for success, John Gilstrap stresses the importance of networking for writers, and Shaz Kahng has 5 tips for success from an indie author.

Success is a word whose meaning will vary from author to author. Mark Alpert shares 5 ways to become a happier writer, while Lisa Tener gives us 35 superb reasons to write a book now.


In good news, indie booksellers reported a strong holiday finish.

Steven Spatz explains why audiobooks are a bad investment for independent authors, even though it is a hot and growing market.

What is the economic reality for an author these days? Concepción de León examines if it pays to be a writer, while Bonnie Baguley tells why authors should throw out their timelines for success.

Even if we find success, Debbie Young wonders: does an indie author ever really retire? We may not retire, but we will die someday, so Karen Myers investigates estate planning for your indie author business.

If you are a writer looking for literary magazine outlets, Jenn Scheck-Kahn has a list of literary magazine resources, while John Sibley Williams lays out how to balance your submission budget for literary journals.

Trying to break into traditional publishing is a hard slog. Mary Kole discusses breaking in as a picture book illustrator, Janet Reid has more advice on pitching to agents before editors, Sophie Masson examines the book contract “red line”, and Daniella Levy gives us the rejection survival guide.

Marketing encompasses many different avenues. Sandra Beckwith discusses authors and book clubs, R.L. Maizes explores how to write your debut book’s acknowledgements section, Lee Foster lists 12 SEO tips to drive traffic and sell books, and Ann Janzer lays out how to use BookBub ads to support your book marketing.

Blogging is one of the main ways authors connect with readers. Cristian Mihai talks about what to do when you don’t have enough time for your blog and explains how to write a great blog post headline. Darren Rowse gives us 11 ways to start a blog when you’re not an expert.


To Kill A Mockingbird becomes the highest grossing play in Broadway history.

Speaking of birds, what kind of writer-bird are you?

Helen Betya Rubinstein wants to move toward changing the language of creative writing classrooms.

Stephanie Kelley interviews Laura Varnam about Daphne Du Maurier and her influence on Alfred Hitchcock.

If you are interested in making your own fantasy language, Arianna Lemont walks us through how to choose sounds for a fantasy language.

In honor of New Year’s, Frances Caballo shares 20 inspirational quotes to guide you in 2019.

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

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | January 9, 2019

New Year Goals

It’s a new year and the time where resolutions are made. While I’m not as interested in making any hard-core list chock full of ambitions, I’m a big fan of listing multiple goals with the intention of seeing how many stick.

Writing was a new years resolution for me once. I got into a writing workshop to fulfill it, and ended up doing more in the first month than I might have all year because of that choice. I don’t believe I would have made the choice of the workshop if I didn’t make that resolution first.

I have many goals that I can put on this list, but there is one that I’ll mention here since I think it’s one that touches all of us.

Book management, but first a digression:

On top of being a reader, I’m one of those people who creates my very own obstacles in life.

For example, I’ve wanted to bake my own bread, using my own flour (I have my own wheat that I can put in a grinder) and develop a recipe. It’s about the learning and the eating combined that makes me want to do this. However, I have a half-island in my kitchen I constructed years ago that needs work. I say half-island because I took the island in my last apartment that I built and cut it in half to move into my house. The current little island is the perfect height for me without leaning over and too high for the cats to want to jump up to and has a nice marble top…perfect for rolling dough, etc.

I need to do some work to it before I can truly fill the insides completely, and it was one of the many tasks I had after moving in. It happens to also be one of those tasks that I have left over and shamefully unfinished.

I know how to bake and can just get started on the bread but no. I have this…pre-requisite…defined for me that I’ll be happier if I finish the island first then I get to do baking. So here we are I haven’t done any baking and the island still isn’t finished.

I tend to do this a little too much, and it tends to affect other things around the house, like the library. My library is the guest bedroom in my house and currently resembles the back room of a very cluttered book store. This happens to not bother me at all. Somehow, I love any space that is cluttered with books. Old book stores with books in every discernable surface, libraries with books that are not put away in a stairway you stumble upon, or someone’s dusty home with piles of books challenging for floor space after overcrowding the shelves while you can’t find a place to sit….

I realize, of course, that this shouldn’t be the vision for my house to present to others, and honestly mine’s not that bad…I’m just saying it doesn’t bother me as much as the next because there’s a part of me that smiles inside when I see it. I can’t help it, I love the problem of having too many books in a house that’s too small for me. 🙂

I haven’t even gotten to the problem I was planning on talking about here, which is I’m too far behind my book reading because of my kindle, which of course has no problems with clutter. The problem is that I’m not getting to as many paper-printed books because I keep buying books on my kindle. Again, another problem to have which isn’t hurting me, though I must say I rather enjoy my cluttered library situation more.

A resolution for 2019: reorganize my home library so I can keep up with favorite authors and reduce my backlist of books to read.

I have to make internet jacks for that room…


Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 3, 2019

The Best of the Author Chronicles 2018

If you missed our Top Links of 2018, go check them out!

Every year, some of the posts with the most views are not posts written in that year, which raises the question, “Am I highlighting the most read posts written this year, or the posts most read this year?”. My wonderful husband said, “Why don’t you do a This Year list, then add an Other Favorites as a bonus?” So that’s what I’m doing—our top 10 read written this year, plus posts from other years that fell into the overall-read top 10.

Our Top 10 Posts Written in 2018:

10. Writing…or on Holiday Hiatus?

9. The Intuitive Writer

8. The Great Burnout of 2018

7. Free Spirit

6. Writing & Meditation

5. If I Have Time to Brush My Teeth, I Have Time to Write

4. Word Meaning vs. Definition: Denotation, Connotation, and Interpretation

3. The Dark Moment of the Author’s Journey

2. Tracking Your Queries

1. 3 Story Uses for a Synopsis

Plus, Our Top Posts Not Written in 2018:

5. Five Reasons For Agent Rejections of a Manuscript

4. The Myth of the Solitary Writer

3. No Nonsense Allowed: Why Fiction Must Make Sense

2. Launch Etiquette: MUST You Buy The Book?

1. Write Your Character’s Eulogy

We hope you enjoyed our roundup of most popular posts of the year! We’ll be back next week with new posts and Top Picks Thursdays. See you then, and Happy New Year! We wish all our readers a healthy and prosperous 2019!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 27, 2018

The 12(ish) Links of Christmas 2018

As the Author Chronicles takes a much-needed hiatus, we bring you our annual Best Of Top Picks Thursday blog. We post about 2,500 links a year, so it can be hard to keep up with them all. Below are the most popular links of the year. Catch up and enjoy!

  1. Linda Yezak: 2 Simple Pacing Techniques that Grab Readers
    Dawn Field: The Three-Act Structure: Formulaic or Foundational?
  1. Jane Friedman: Start Here: How to Write a Book Proposal
    Diana Hurwitz: Landscaping Your Story World
  1. R.J. Crayton: Tips to Help Pantsers Get Moving Again When The Story Stops
    Rachelle Gardner: Write an Author Bio They’ll Remember
  1. Theresa Stevens: Converting Backstory into Character
    R.N. Morris: Plotting the Perfect Crime (Novel)
  1. Jenny Hansen: To Nano or Not to Nano…
  1. Tiffany Yates Martin: The Efficient Author’s Cheat Sheet for Creating Suspense and Tension
  1. Janice Hardy: How to Use Focused Brainstorming to Develop Our Plot
  1. Melissa Donovan: 12 Character Writing Tips for Fiction Writers
  1. Janice Hardy: 8 Signs You Might be Over-Plotting Your Novel
  1. Arthur Klepchukov: Fiction Writing Contest Worth Your Time in Fall 2018 [Obviously these have passed for this year, but put them on your calendar for next year!]
  1. Kristen Kieffer: The First Act: Nailing Your Novel’s Opening Chapters

And our most popular link this year:

  1. Roz Morris: Bringing the Dead to Life…Why Novelists Should Read Obituaries

I hope you enjoyed these favorites from 2018. We look forward to bringing you more writerly links in 2019! Have a safe and happy New Year, everyone!

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


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | December 19, 2018

Writing … or on Holiday Hiatus?

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, wrapped presents

Photo by on Unsplash


A question for my fellow writers: does anybody else have trouble finding time to write during the holiday season?

I don’t think I’m the only one. While searching for links for Author Chronicles‘ Top Picks Thursday posts, I’ve noticed that a number of bloggers have taken a break from posting this month, so I suspect other writers are also—like everyone else—short on time during the holiday season.

While life may get hectic and make finding a good chunk of time to write difficult at other times of the year, the period from a few weeks before Thanksgiving through Christmas is so busy for me that—although I manage to write blog posts and (usually) notes to include in holiday cards—I can rarely squeeze in time to work on my manuscript. From the moment I wake up, it’s go-go-go, do-do-do. I stay up late and am often too revved up to sleep when I do get to bed. When I do have a few minutes of down time, I’m so tired I can’t focus enough to write. [That’s my time for reading, although sometimes I’m too exhausted to even do that.]


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Christmas cookies

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


I admit that, even without spending time on writing, I rarely (okay—never) get everything done in time for Christmas. Every year, something that I’d hoped to do—maybe baking Christmas cookies or attending a holiday event—invariably gets erased from my list. I just can’t do it all.

I used to feel guilty about that, but I finally recognized that beating myself up over what I couldn’t get done didn’t change anything; it just increased my stress and dimmed my joy in the holidays. I accepted that I’m not superwoman. I can’t get it all done. So, I take a holiday hiatus from writing, knowing I will get back into the rhythm of writing once the holidays are past.

Taking a holiday hiatus reduces my stress. It’s refreshing and freeing. I do what I can now, take joy in the wonder of the season, and look forward to getting back to writing after I’ve recovered from the holidays.

So if you’re a writer who can’t find the time to write every day during this busy season—especially you writers who are also working mothers (How do you even manage time to sleep?)—stop feeling guilty. Accept that you can’t do it all, and take a holiday hiatus. Read when you have the time, and nap when you can. Lighten up on yourself, and you’ll be fresh and ready to write with renewed vigor in the new year.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, holiday joy

Photo by Wout Vanacker on Unsplash


Enjoy your holidays! If you do try a break from writing, let me know how it works out for you.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 13, 2018

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-13-2018

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! The holiday season is in full swing, with all the hectic activity that entails, and we thank you for taking the time to stop by the Author Chronicles.

Patricia Lockwood won the 2018 Thurber Prize for American Humor, and check out the Goodreads Best Books of 2018.

Holiday seasons can be joyful, but they can also be stressful. Jami Gold has the Ultimate Gift Guide for Writers 2018, Angela Ackerman has her top gifts for writers, Lisa Tener shares 12 meaningful holiday gifts for writers, Tara Sparling reveals what writers really want for Christmas, and Roz Morris discusses how to keep in touch with your book when your writing routine is disrupted.

Publishers are striving to support diversity and literacy. Polis Books has launched a diversity-focused crime imprint, while a new publisher wants to promote child literacy by giving one book away for every book sold.

Booksellers in the USA seem to be recovering, but Brazilian booksellers face a wave of closures that have left the sector in crisis.

With all the bleak news in the world today, Rebecca Makkai wonders: the world’s on fire. Can we still talk about books?


Do you love diary-style books? Luna Adler looks at how online confessional columns are reinventing the diary book.

Arguably, the two most important parts of our book are the beginning and the end. James Scott Bell discusses beginnings and backstory, Janice Hardy shares 5 ways to write stronger opening scenes, and Stavros Halvatzis shows us how to create a memorable final image in stories.

We all know how important well-developed characters are to our story’s success. Angela Ackerman shows us how to take character relationships to the next level, Emmanuel Nataf explains how to give your characters unforgettable names, Scott McCormick warns us to avoid the cliché “strong female character”, Jordan Dance talks character conflicts, Donald Maass delves into catastrophe theory and character, and Nancy Johnson discusses critiquing across the color line.

Many writers find revision and editing difficult. Kristen Lamb examines the 5 stages of grief as applied to novel revision, K.M. Weiland has the 10-step checklist to writing an above-average novel, Rachelle Gardner ponders should I hire a freelance editor?, Piper Bayard urges us to get firearms right in our stories, and Fae Rowan discusses subtlety in word choice.

Writing is hard and the learning curve never seems to end, but there are many ways to keep honing your skills. Erin Sturn has 3 reasons why writing is so difficult, Janie Hardy advocates changing your thinking to improve your writing, Melissa Donovan lists 10 ways to learn writing skills, Frances Yackel gives us 14 literary podcasts with diverse hosts and views, and Kristin Wong explains how to finally write your nonfiction book.

Writing community is an often-overlooked piece of authorial success. Helena Halme has 5 places to write when you’re fed up with writing at home, Lauren E. Oakes and Emily Polk gives us a peek inside the scientists’ writing group, where they find community in a burning world, and Janis Cooke Newman discusses what happens when your writers retreat literally burns to the ground?

We’d all like to be more productive, and we all tend to write faster when we are passionate about our subject. P.J. Parrish explores how to increase your daily word count, while Colleen M. Story advises us how to restore our love of writing.


Sam Eichner of the Columbia Journalism Review explores what’s behind a recent rise in books coverage?

Self-publishers need to create and direct everything from cover to blurb to budgets. Chris Payne walks us through book cover design basics, Kerrie Flanagan has a starter guide to DIY audiobooks, Susan Spann has copyright tips, and Jaren Nichols talks money management for authors.

Looking for an agent? Jess Zafarris lists the top 10 websites for writers with literary agent advice and resources, Lisa Tener shows how to employ these powerful verbs in your leadership or author bio, Lara Perkins tells you how to pitch a picture book and Mary Kole explains using comp titles in your query.

Agent Janet Reid answers specific questions: Will publishing a stand-alone novel set in the same world as the manuscript you are querying hurt your chances of landing an agent? and How do you query when a publisher declines Book 4 of your series?

Marketing is a fraught subject for many authors. Joel Friedlander distills Seth Godin’s marketing in 5 steps for authors, Rick Lite has the ultimate book marketing timeline for indie authors (part 1), Belinda Griffin debunks 5 no good reasons authors resist marketing, and Frances Caballo lists 22 book marketing tips.

Don’t know what to put up on social media? Diana Urban gives us 23 content ideas from successful authors on social media, and IngramSpark discusses strategies for connecting with readers via social media.

Blogging can be a great way to connect with your readers. Cristian Mihai explains why being bold is essential for blogging success and the importance of trust (and how to lose it) in blogging, Adam Connell shows us how to prepare for a new year of blogging, and Darren Rowse lists 13 key ways to lower your blog’s bounce rate (and why it matters).


Feeling generous this holiday season? Here is the Book Lover’s Guide to Volunteering.

Jennifer Geddes tells us how to declutter our books (which in my house would be something of a Christmas miracle).

But what if you want to read those books again? Clare Langley-Hawthorne asks: are you a rereader?

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. Evan Nicole Brown explores the little blue books that made French literature mainstream.

Josh Wilbur takes us inside Virginia Woolf’s obsession with astronomy.

Expensive specs. James Joyce’s glasses sold at auction for $19,000.

Catherine Pond examines Willa Cather’s lasting love for the frontier.

Dive into James Baldwin’s dispatches from the heart of the Civil Rights movement.

Actor Jeff Daniels discusses playing the iconic Atticus Finch on Broadway.

Kristen Arnett complies an incomplete list of the non-book things you can get at the library.

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

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