Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 3, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-3-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of December! Hard to believe Thanksgiving is already behind us and the end of the year is just around the bend.

In author news, historian and travel writer Jan Morris has died at age 94, and legendary science fiction author Ben Bova has died at 88 of COVID.

The dictionary world has a moment of unity: the 2020 word of the year—pandemic.

Check out the 2020 National Book Awards winners. In celebration, Book Marks has listed every National Book Award winner of the 21st century for both fiction and nonfiction.

Keep up to date on what’s happening with Audible and the disappearing royalties for authors. David Kudler explains the Audiblegate issue well, Ruth Comerford reports that Audible is changing the controversial return policy, and Victoria Strauss examines whether those changes are enough.

Lots of people are struggling this holiday season, so Sandra Beckwith lists some financial resources for writers impacted by COVID-19.

Arthur Klepchukov gathers fiction writing contests worth your time in winter 2020.


So much of a compelling story is hidden in the large craft elements and the structural choices made by the writer. Angela Ackerman explores what to do when you get stuck in your novel’s middle, Lisa Hall-Wilson investigates why bestsellers don’t use deep point of view, and September C. Fawkes shows how stakes set up expectations.

Everything in your story has to connect in order for it to make emotional sense to the reader. Janice Hardy has 5 ways to find backstory readers want to know, while Barbara Linn Probst discusses writing in spirals to back-seed your story.

Tiffany Yates-Martin reveals how specifics make your story universal. And when you use specifics, be sure to get them right—Dave Chesson gives us what authors need to know about firearms in fiction.

Characters are the heart of our stories. Stavros Halvatzis shows how to write effective characters, Janice Hardy has 3 ways to create character flaws, Katharine Grubb shares 5 ways to get to know your characters, and Becca Puglisi tells us how to determine your character’s emotional range.

Bethany Henry lists 5 dos and don’ts of a good sidekick, Bonnie Randall has 25 questions to ask your characters, and Paula Munier offers the writing prompt: who are your character’s forebears?

Words are our currency, and finding the right ones can elevate our writing to a new level. Debbie Burke lists the 8 qualities to look for in the perfect word, while Mathina Calliope extols the charm of the large word.

There are times when the words just don’t come. Julie Clark explains how to trick yourself into writing, Rochelle Melander explores overcoming the fear to write, and Paula Munier advises using a writer’s gratitude journal.

We can become better writers pursuing many different paths. Katharine Grubb has 50 cheap and easy ways to improve your writing, Shelia Heti reminds us of the importance of finding trusted first readers, and Aytekin Tank investigates the psychological benefits of writing by hand.

The internet allows writers to share what they know with others—no need to reinvent the wheel. David Conrads has a Q&A with author N. Scott Momday, author of Earth Keeper, and Evan Jensen reveals his successful solution to wrist pain from typing.

Many writers are extending their markets into audiobooks. We all know how to proofread a text, but what about when it’s spoken? Maxwell Cantrell details how to proof listen to an audiobook.


The big news this week is that the Big Five is now the Big Four. ViacomCBS sold Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for $2 billion. John Maher has the book business’s reaction to the sale.

Porter Anderson reminds us that 1 in 4 books sold is purchased in November and December.

Nate Hoffelder walks us through Amazon’s new author portal.

If you are going the traditional route and an agent wants a rewrite, Nathan Bransford advises us not to rush a revision just because someone is waiting for it. Also, Rachelle Gardner says there is no rejection, only redirection.

The book is published! Now on to the marketing. Janet Reid has some marketing tips, and Rae Steinbach shares Pinterest marketing strategies to try today.

You can’t judge a book….oh, who are we kidding? People totally judge a book by its cover. Peter Mendelsund and David J. Alworth explore what a book cover can do, while Ruth Harris dives deep into the growing professionalism of DIY book covers.

Sometimes success just lies in knowing the steps to do something to best advantage. Brian Jud lists 7 secrets to selling books as special sales, Anne Janzer describes how nonfiction authors can find the right positioning, and Penny Sansevieri gives us a book launch checklist.

Penny also has an infographic on how to sell self-published books to romance readers, while Leila Hirschfeld shares 14 must-see strategies from authors for virtual book tours.

Get your online marketing in shape for 2021. Adam Connell has 17 high-impact tasks to prepare your blog for the new year, and Sophie Masson urges us to make illustrated video talks part of your author strategy.


The History of Literature podcast has a two-fer this week. Jacke Wilson examines the real golden age of science fiction and what happened to the classic Western.

On The Creative Penn, Joanna Penn and Holly Worton discuss the business mindset and pivoting your author career.


If you are spending lots of time at home, Summer Loomis suggests that now is the time to strengthen your reading habits. You can use the SCBWI 2020 Recommended Reading List as a starting point.

We write what we know. How Woody Guthrie’s mother shaped his music of the downtrodden.

Most of us have heard of flash fiction, but how about flash nonfiction? Dinty W. Moore talks about the power of essayistic compression in flash nonfiction.

Good news for physics buffs! 200 more copies of Newton’s Principia masterpiece have been found in Europe by scholar sleuths.

Book Marks reprinted the first reviews of every Margaret Atwood novel.

Chris Gosden examines why Harry Houdini did not like Arthur Conan Doyle.

’Tis the season: Julie Glover has 40 great holiday gifts for writers.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you next week with more literary links.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: