Friday Links: Reading Your Way into Summer

TGIF! It’s been a long and not-so-terrific week for me, filled with insurance talk: car insurance to handle the repairs to my new car after it was rear-ended on Sunday, and the health insurance machinations in Washington, D.C. all over the news and social media. My reaction? I really just want to go hide and read a good book.

Reading has always been my reaction to stress. Sometimes I reach for a feel-good favorite, while other times I want to read about people solving their problems so I know there’s hope that things will turn around. Books really are my answer to most everything. So this week’s links come down heavy on the book talk and recommendations. It’s officially summer, so let the great seasonal book binge commence. (And if you’re in the southern hemisphere, well, curling up with a book is still a good idea.) Wishing you all a wonderful weekend filled with productive writing time and lots of excellent stories. Enjoy!

10 Famous Book Hoarders – Check out these enormous book collections and the people who own them.

The 17 Best Young Adult Novels of 2017 – Some terrific sounding titles to add to your TBR pile, or your kids’.

Now Is the Time to Read These 11 Novels about Female Artists – Delve into the worlds of these fascinating and talented women.

24 in 48 July Readathon Sign-Ups – The 24 in 48 readathon has been set for July 22-23, and sign-ups are officially open. For the uninitiated, this readathon involves trying to spend 24 hours reading over the course of two days (so, 24 out of 48). There’s lots of chatter on social media during the readathon about what everyone’s reading and loving (or not), snacking on, using for a quick break, and so on, plus fun challenges to keep things interesting for anyone who feels like playing along. I highly recommend, even if you can only join in for a few hours.

Speaking from the Shadows: 5 Books that Tell the Monster’s Story – One obvious choice, but this is still a great list if this perspective interests you, or you just want a change of pace.

A Brief History of Pen Names – An interesting look at some of the reasons writers have used pen names through the years.

The Story Museum – If you live near or are visiting Oxford, England, this museum sounds like a must-see for anyone with a literary bent, young or old.

Leading Ladies in Lit: 16 Books with Fierce Female Protagonists – Pretty much what it says on the box. Some terrific sounding titles here.

Science Fiction Short Story Collections by Authors of Color – Book Riot compiled these recommendations as part of a celebration of what would have been Octavia Butler’s 70th birthday.

Friday Links: Writing Is Rewriting

This has been a week of distractions, with a million shiny (and not-so-shiny) things popping up at every turn to demand my attention. Not only can that make it difficult to finish whatever tasks were originally on your to-do list, but it’s exhausting. So my current plan for the weekend involves getting this post up, sending out a few emails, and then unplugging for the most part until Monday morning. At least from the internet and its constant bombardment from social media and the like. I think I have a date with the beach, a book, and a big floppy hat. And possibly print outs of a few dozen submissions.

Maybe you plan to unplug as well, but if not, here are this week’s Friday Links to keep you entertained and possibly inspire some creative time. Several of these are particularly useful if you’re in or approaching the rewrite/editing stage. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The Five Bes to Being a Better Beta Buddy – Some great tips for giving feedback to your writing critique partners.

When You’re Ready to Move from Summer Reading to Summer Writing – Some short-term writing retreats to check out on your summer vacation, or to inspire you to check out what else might be out there.

Joseph Kanon: There Is No Better Place to Write than the Library – The author shares his love for writing in the New York Public Library, and why he finds it makes the perfect office.

California Soul: A Literary Guide to SoCal Beach Towns – A list of beachy locales with a bit of an edge, straight from the pages of fiction.

The Legend of an Editor – A look inside the work practices of Robert Silver of The New York Review of Books, and the legend he left behind.

Roxane Gay Is the Hardest Working Woman in Letters – An interview with the author on the release of her new memoir, Hunger.

10 Tips for Becoming a Better Editor – Pretty much what it says on the package.

Happy Book Day, Nalini Singh!

Wishing a very happy book-release day to Nalini Singh, whose latest work, SILVER SILENCE, hits stores today. This title kicks off a new story arc in Nalini’s New York Times bestselling Psy/Changeling series, so if you’ve been wanting to pick up one of these books, now is the time.

Control. Precision. Family. These are the principles that drive Silver Mercant. At a time when the fledgling Trinity Accord seeks to unite a divided world, with Silver playing a crucial role as director of a worldwide emergency response network, wildness and chaos are the last things she needs in her life. But that’s exactly what Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater bears, brings with him.

Valentin has never met a more fascinating woman. Though Silver is ruled by Silence—her mind clear of all emotion—Valentin senses a whisper of fire around her. That’s what keeps him climbing apartment buildings to be near her. But when a shadow assassin almost succeeds in poisoning Silver, the stakes become deadly serious…and Silver finds herself in the heart of a powerful bear clan.

Her would-be assassin has no idea what their poison has unleashed…

Find SILVER SILENCE at your favorite bookstore or e-retailer today.

Friday Links: Summer Reads to Inspire Your Writing

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great week and that you have some time set aside this weekend for reading and writerly things. With all the end-of-school and graduation talk the last few weeks, plus the chatter of summer vacation plans, it’s easy to slack off on your writing goals. But remember, by the end of this month we’ll be halfway through 2017, so if you had some grand aspirations for the year — things you wanted to accomplish or milestones to hit — be sure to schedule a little work time along with the fun.

That said, I do have some great reading recs in this week’s Friday Links, along with everything else, so I hope you find something inspiring and/or informative that will keep your own creativity pumping along. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Our Story – There’s a brand new app on the way to help you find diverse books to read. It launches online on June 15th, with mobile apps on the way as well.

Jennifer Weiner: From Small-Town Beat Reporter to Big-City Columnist – A peek at the author’s journalistic background and how she got her start.

These Are the Essential Comics to Read after You’ve Watched Wonder Woman – A great roundup of both classics and newer runs to help you get your Wonder Woman fix.

New York Today: A City Library on the Subway – Learn how to access free ebooks from the New York Public Library for the next six weeks on a special New York subway car (and also in the stations).

100 Must-Read Novels Set in London – You may not be able to zip off to London to show your support for the city in the wake of the latest terrorist attack, but you can always grab one of these great titles to visit in spirit.

Amita Trasi and Cecilia Galante on Writing Young Characters – Two authors share their thoughts on the importance of writing from a younger perspective.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing into Summer

Happy Friday! I’m in a summer mood today, even though it’s technically a few weeks off yet. Of course, given my natural tendencies, that just means I want to eat more fruit and ice cream and go read in a nice deck chair this weekend. We’ll see if I can manage some of that. Chances are good the ice cream at least will make the to-do list. And possibly a second viewing of Wonder Woman, which I saw last night and was excellent.

This past week has been typically tense, but I really don’t feel like hashing through it, so I’m just going to move right on to the links portion of our program. There’s a bit of an adventure theme going on, though possibly more arm-chair adventure than the actual sort, but it feels appropriate as we kick off this season of travel and summer reads, at least in this hemisphere. Wherever you live, I hope you find some enjoyment and inspiration from today’s collection of links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

John Grisham Is Launching a Podcast – The author plans to record interviews with various authors when he’s on tour for his latest book this summer.

Nomadic Bookseller Travels All Over France with His Tiny Library on Wheels – This is my kind of tiny house! Technically it’s a bookstore, not a library (librairie is bookstore in French).

10 Things I Did Right as a Debut Novelist – Excellent things to keep in mind, even before you have a book deal.

Denis Johnson Reads the Notes from the Margins – A nice remembrance of the author who passed away last week.

Hydrate Yourself with Sweet Bookish Tumblers and Water Bottles – A fun collection of book-themed travel mugs and bottles to get you ready for the beach, that road trip, or just lying out in your backyard with a great read.

How to Copyright a Book: A Comprehensive Guide – A handy, informative review of when, why, and how you need to tackle this issue, with thanks to Yvonne Shiau for sending me the link.

A Modern Gay Take on ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Is Heading Your Way – A reimagining set in Virginia between two men, now streaming through various online vendors.

At a Sword Fight with a Modern-Day Swashbuckler (in a Harlem Basement) – Fun look at a longsword enthusiast in present-day New York City.

Friday Links: Writing Stories from the Trenches

TGIF! We’re kicking off the Memorial Day weekend here, and that can mean travel, backyard cookouts, baseball games, beach time, or just a great excuse to hop in a hammock for some serious reading time. It also means I’ve got a bunch of work to finish up today so I can head out and actually do some of the above. So I’ll just leave this week’s Friday Links here for your entertainment, and wish you all a wonderful weekend, whether you’re celebrating the holiday or not. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Books to Breeze Through this Summer – A rather eclectic collection from The New York Times.

Get That Life: How I Became a Writer, Historian, and Activist – Great interview with Rebecca Solnit where she discusses the trajectory of her writing career.

The Literary World Says Goodbye to Denis Johnson – Short obit including social media clips expressing sadness at Johnson’s sudden death.

From Dark to Dark: Yes, Women Have Always Written Space Opera – Author Judith Tarr on women’s role in the subgenre.

Improve Your Writing: Become a Demanding Self-Editor – Some wonderful advice for any writer, regardless of genre, publishing goals, etc.

Story Structure: The Magic Bullet that Almost Killed Me – Author Matthew Quick shares his plot-point life lessons.

A Crash Course in YA Taught Me How to Write – Author Katherine Heiny talks about how she learned about plot and the discipline required to finish a book.

Friday Links: Looking Back to Write Your Way Forward

Another Friday has crept up on us. It’s been a pretty intense week, filled with political strife and a few bombshells here in the U.S. I, for one, am looking forward to the weekend and stepping away from all forms of media for a bit, even though I know that might lead to a more startling Monday when I tune back in. But for my own sanity, I know I need to take a breather. And so I plan to do some personal reading, go for a run or two, and tomorrow I get to hang out with a client who is down with her family from Northern California for a few of days.

This week’s links are a kind of eclectic bunch, though I feel like some personal nostalgia inadvertently made itself known. I don’t plan these things; it’s just the sorts of links I happened to stumble upon. Nostalgia can be a good writing tool, as long as you don’t allow it to overtake your ability to be critical of your ideas. Regardless, I hope you find something intriguing in this lot and that you’re inspired to take a bit of time to yourself over the weekend to read a great book and/or work on your current writing project. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The True Story Behind Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Her Mixed-Up Files – An interesting look at what was one of my favorite books growing up, and how it came to be.

A 17th-Century Alleged Witch Inspired Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – A look into some of Atwood’s thought process on her famous novel.

On the Horror of Getting It Wrong in Print – One writer shares her reactions to learning her errors have gone to press.

More Thoughts about World Building and Food – Lincoln Michel goes deeper into his thoughts on the notion of world building, with a link to his earlier piece included.

The Political Murakami on Life in a Dark Time – How Murakami views the worlld post-9/11, and how that dark viewpoint influences his writing.

6 Tiny Letters for Readers and Writers – I’m a fan of the Tiny Letters – those subscriptions on a theme (or not) that show up randomly when their author decides to share some thoughts – and this round up offers a few intriguing ones.

5 Things to Include on Your Author Website if You’re Not Yet Published – Handy tips for populating that blank author site.

Friday Links: Write What You Want to Know

Happy Friday, all! I hope everyone’s had a wonderful week and is ready to kick off a creative weekend, because I’m here to talk to you about research and inspiration. The old adage “Write what you know” has long been criticized as being too limiting, and in a sense it is. If writers only took on topics familiar to them, we would soon find ourselves with a rather narrow field of stories. So I propose a small tweak: Write What You Want to Know.

Writing is about inspiration, imagination, and research. Whether you need to fill in a few facts or thoroughly immerse yourself in an entirely new industry or location, you’re going to need to put in some time to make sure your story is accurate and believable. Even fantasy writers, who may seem to have permission to invent entire worlds purely out of their heads, are subject to the rigors of research, because those fantasy worlds come across much more believable if they have their roots in at least a small measure of reality.

So today’s links offer up a wealth of inspiration and topics that I hope will spark your interest, whether with a topic to research or some writerly advice that sends you off in a fresh direction. Open your eyes wide and let yourself absorb some amazing new things this weekend. Check out the links, but then go to the library and explore a section you haven’t read from or hit a local museum or art exhibit. Find a cultural celebration within driving distance and go try some interesting new-to-you foods and listen to music. And no, this isn’t an invitation to appropriate someone else’s culture; but open yourself up to all the different facets of our world and see what ideas you cultivate. At the very least, the people you write about will feel more real.

Photographs Document Early Chinese Immigration – An interesting collection from the Library of Congress.

Why I Founded an Interdisciplinary Retreat for Artists and Writers – A great argument for cross-pollination of creative ideas.

Discovering Literature: Shakespeare and the Renaissance Writers – A useful resource for historical projects.

Jeff VanderMeer & Cory Doctorow Discuss the Future of Sci-Fi & the World – A great conversation between two smart, interesting writers who contribute greatly to the current sff landscape.

Stephanie Powell Watts on Writing Hard Times in Small Towns – This perspective might be especially interesting for anyone from a densely populated area.

The Masks We Wear: The Millions Interviews Edan Lepucki – A discussion of Lepucki’s new book and character identity.

Women Were Pirates, Too – While the men got most of the press (for good or ill), there were a number of female pirates sailing the seas as well.

25 of Your Favorite Nonfiction Books about Women’s History – An intriguing list. No descriptions included, but many of the titles will draw you in even so.

Maurice Sendak on Art and Art-Making – Five years after his death, the author/illustrator’s words of wisdom still offer up some great advice.

Why I Read: Ursula K. LeGuin – HarperCollins pulled together a collection of authors’ responses to the simple question of why they read, and LeGuin’s answer feels like it works very well with the theme of today’s links.

Friday Link: A Mish-Mash of Writing Inspiration

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m currently winging my way to Seattle for a conference, but as always, I’ve made sure to leave you with this week’s assortment of links for your enjoyment. It’s something of a hodgepodge — pretty much how things go when I’m on one of these conference runs — but I still think there’s some great stuff for everyone. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Five Writing Retreats to Attend This Summer – Interested in doing a retreat? Think it’s too late? Here are a few places with late deadlines or rolling admissions that might fit the bill.

Colson Whitehead Leads the Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist – An interesting profile, plus the rest of the list so you can catch up on your reading.

As Jane Austen a “Secret Radical”? – A peek at the new, somewhat controversial book offering a fresh (mostly) take on the author.

Why Doesn’t Ancient Literature Talk About Feelings? – A look at changes in our expectations of what we read.

How the Federal Government Saved Literature in Tennessee – Why the NEH and NEA are important.

Warner Bros. Is Seeking New Writers – Worth checking out if screenwriting is  your thing.

9 Signs You May Have Over-Edited Your Work – It’s possible to overdo it.

Want to Be an Author? Finish Something

Writers write, but authors publish. If you want to go from writer to author, the first step is to finish something, then go back and rewrite it until it is ready for submission. But finishing that first draft really is key. It’s impossible to edit a blank page, and equally impossible to sell something without an ending.

Most writers starting out have written plenty of beginnings. They get an idea and sit down to write. They rush through those first pages filled with excitement, developing cool characters and describing the setting and sending everyone off on their adventure brimming with conflict. But then something happens around page fifty. Maybe page 100 if they are lucky and have plenty of momentum. The writing starts to slow down. That initial idea is no longer sufficient to carry the action forward. More is required, and the beginning writer isn’t sure just what that more entails.

And then comes the shiny new idea.

Everyone’s had them, sometimes even while staring at the computer screen, willing the current idea to shape up and get marching. That niggling thought — a weird new hero, a fantastic scenario, a compelling situation, a snippet of dialogue in the back of the brain — that sounds like the answer to everything. Because this new shiny idea feels so much better than the work in progress. It’s new! It’s shiny! It’s so much more exciting! And it lures you away from the current project that hasn’t been behaving and into its shiny clutches.

Before you knows what’s happened, you have a stockpile of beginnings. Partial novels that have never even made it to the half-way point. Because there is always a shiny new idea lurking around the corner, looking to distract you. The more ideas you have, the more ideas you get. It’s the way creativity seems to work. But there are several problems with this.

  • Shiny new ideas are not actually always good ideas. Sometimes they’re just plain ordinary ideas that, if given time, will fade completely from your mind and go unmissed.
  • Chasing shiny new ideas means setting aside current projects and never finishing anything. And you can’t sell something that’s not finished.
  • Writing the middle and the end of a story requires different skills than writing beginnings, and you can’t get better at writing middles and ends if you never actually write them. You want to hone all your skills as a writer, not just some of them.

Shiny new ideas will always pop up and wave at you, but it is vital that you set them aside and continue with whatever project is currently on your plate. That doesn’t mean forget them entirely. Jot down notes in your journal, start a computer file for the potential new project, and then get back to business. Consider that shiny idea on the to-do pile. Maybe you’ll get back to it in a year and find it’s percolated into something wonderful, or maybe you’ll wonder what the hell you where thinking. Either way, it gets its due eventually, and you get to push through and finish the project at hand.

But what about the argument that the new idea is better or more interesting than the one you’re writing? Of course it seems that way. The new idea is a mystery. You’ve spent virtually no time thinking about it, which leaves it wide open to play with. The current idea, on the other hand, is starting to come together. You understand the characters more than you did at the beginning, you’ve begun to piece together the plot, and things have moved forward. The easy thinking has been accomplished, and you need to dig deeper. Further the conflict, ask tough questions, maybe backtrack on a couple of points. You are past all the surface material and mining for treasure, and that’s work. Hard work. Of course the idea of something new and shiny appeals. That doesn’t make it better.

Writers write, and if all you want to do is write, you can play with as many ideas as you wish. But published authors commit to finishing their projects and resist the distraction of every new idea that catches the light. Of course, occasionally there are projects you find just aren’t working and you decide to abandon them, but that’s a question of the project’s merit, not the distraction of a shiny new idea. So when the next little tidbit flits along and catches your eye, tuck it into a folder for future thought and get back to work.