Friday Links: Shoring Up Your Writing Foundations

Happy Friday! We’re heading into Mother’s Day weekend, so I hope you have some plans, whether you are a mother or are just celebrating your own or some other mother in your life. Whatever else is going on, it’s always wonderful to take a moment to tell the people we love how much we care.

Should you have some writing time set aside around all the brunch or lunch or other types of activities, I have some links here that I hope will give you a bit of a push. Writing involves some digging deep, some soul searching, some serious thought if you want to get down to its very foundations and figure out what makes a story tick, what makes your characters true. Or even just what makes you commit to the work to begin with. So take a few minutes to check these out, either over the weekend or in the coming week, and see if they give you a fresh outlook. Enjoy!

The Road to Extraordinary – On the pursuit of excellence.

Essential Books for Writers – Some great titles to check out, or revisit if it’s been a while.

How Mapping Alice Munro’s Stories Helped Me as a Writer – Thoughts on how to learn from the work of others.

The Poetic Edda, Game of Thrones, and Ragnarök – A look at what the popular books and HBO series owe to Norse myths.

How to Plot and Outline without Using a Formula – Jane Friedman offers some thoughts on the architecture of books.

The Perpetual Solitude of the Writer – The role of loneliness in creating intimacy with one’s characters.

Write Like a Motherfucker – The classic “Dear Sugar” (Cheryl Strayed) response at The Rumpus. Every writer should read this periodically.

Motivation vs. Discipline: Keeping Your Writing on Track

(c) Can Stock Photo/stevanovicigor
(c) Can Stock Photo/stevanovicigor

Are you a writer? Do you aspire to be one? Whatever your current status and goals, you have a set of motivations that drive you. Perhaps you’ve loved telling stories since childhood and the ideas are piled up inside your brain, pushing you to let them out into the world. Maybe you’re a wordsmith who enjoys crafting sentences and creating a beautiful flow of text. Or maybe your motivations are a combination of things, such as a love for storytelling, a fascination with research, and a  driving need to work a flexible job that you can perform at home or while traveling.

Whatever your reasons for becoming a writer, you likely have a list of things that motivate you — large and small — to sit down at your computer and work on your manuscript. There’s the bigger picture — which includes your desire to be a writer in general — and the smaller one, as well — which might be a combination of a challenging scene you’re dying to write and a deadline looming on the horizon. These things join forces to motivate you, to make you want to get down to the actual work of writing.

But what happens on days you don’t want to write? Days when you don’t feel like it? Maybe you’re not quite sure what comes next in the story, or you had a late night and just the thought of being creative makes your head throb. Or it’s possible your day job requires you to put in some extra hours this week, and the only way you can squeeze in your writing time is to stay up an extra hour before going to bed each night. And you really don’t want to do that.

It happens. No matter how much you love to write, no matter how strong your desire to succeed, you are only human, and it’s impossible for a human being to be highly motivated about something every hour of every day. This is where discipline comes into play.

Discipline gets a bad wrap in terms of the words we use. It tends to have more of a negative connotation these days, bringing to mind parents who believe in spankings, or long prison sentences. But somewhere among those numbered dictionary definitions is the one I need, meaning self-control, or orderly or prescribed conduct. Discipline is the thing that gets you to the keyboard when you’d rather not get out of bed in the morning.

People have two basic modes of conscious behavior: Things they do automatically, and things they think about before deciding whether or not to move forward. The things that come automatically didn’t always do so. Your parents reminded you to brush your teeth for years, most likely, before you truly adopted the habit. It probably took a few years of your childhood for you to get out of bed without prompting and get ready for school, but that habit helped train you for getting ready for work later on.

As an adult, you’ve developed your own set of routines, and it probably took a certain amount of discipline to put them in place. You may not always feel like hitting the gym, but you make yourself go because your health and fitness are important to you and because you understand the dangers of breaking that habit. Likewise, you don’t always wake feeling excited about going to your day job, but you go because you’re a responsible person who needs to pay their bills, and because your coworkers count on you. So where does writing fit on your scale? Is it something you do daily, automatically? Or is it something you think about and then decide to move forward, or not?

If you wish to make writing your career, if you want to be serious and professional about it, you need to treat it as you would any other important, nonnegotiable aspect of your life. Behave like a professional writer from the moment you determine that’s your ultimate goal. You don’t write because you happen to feel like it that day; you commit to writing because it’s important and you set the time to do it. Then you show up and do the work. Don’t wait to feel inspired. Don’t take time off simply because you’re feeling less motivated that day. You need to treat writing as a job if you wish it to become one.

 

Friday Links: Time and the Writer

Happy Friday! I’ll kick off this weekend with a reminder that tomorrow, April 30th, is Indie Bookstore Day. It’s a wonderful excuse to hit your favorite local indie bookstore and browse those shelves. Many stores have events scheduled and assorted special merchandise available for the occasion. It’s also a wonderful way to spend a few hours with the kids in your life, so be sure to take them along.

This weekend is also another good chance to check in with your writing goals for the year. End of April means we’re a third of the way through 2016, as hard as that might be to believe, so take a moment to assess where you are and where you’d like to be. Maybe set some mini goals for May — a task per week — to get yourself back on track or to make a bit of quick progress.

To help you on your way, I have both writerly and bookish links for you today. Several have something to do with time, and timeliness, and though I by no means encourage anyone to wait around for fate to determine their course of action, sometimes it steps in when we least expect it. I hope these links give you some inspiration for your own work, and maybe an idea or two of something to pick up on your bookstore visit. Enjoy, and have a wonderful weekend!

Shakespeare and His Stuff — As part of the ongoing celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, an interesting look into what he know of the man through his things.

Alexander Chee on What Writing Parties Reveals about Characters — How to make those group scenes really work for you.

Ondaatje: Embrace Creativity in Your Writing — The author shares his approach to creating. Please note that this site, rather than requiring registration or a subscription, asks readers to take a very short survey before loading the article.

On Finding the Right Book at the Right Time — An author shares two occasions when a book particularly entwined with her experiences.

Jonathan Coe on the Top 10 Books Written about Books – Pretty much as described.

Paula Hawkins: The Woman Behind The Girl on the Train — A brief background on the author and discussion of her break-out work.

Writing for a Better World — Author Christopher Golden shares his keynote speech from the recent DFW Writers’ Conference.

Readathon Wrap-up

Here’s a quick wrap-up for anyone curious as to the outcome of my readathon experience this weekend. I made it about 18 of the 24 hours, but because things geared up at 5am in my time zone, I was pretty much done by 11pm, without a lot of hope for waking early and reading more before the 5am deadline the following day. So I crashed and just got up briefly to cheer everyone on Twitter, then conked out for a few more hours.

Still, I read two entire books over the course of my readathon, one full comic book trade (about 6 regular-length issues), and made it about 50 pages into a third book, so I call it a win. Sunday, I did very little, and certainly no more reading, but it made for a great weekend, and as always I found the readathon experience to be tons of fun. There’s something about knowing so many other people around the world are settled in with their books and keeping track along with you. The social media aspect makes it even more enjoyable. A different experience for what is normally such a solitary activity.

Books read:

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball (ARC)

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (in progress)

Secret Avengers v. 1: Reverie by Nick Spencer and Luke Ross

Readathon: Six Hours Down

BuriedGiant

We’re just over a quarter of the way through the readathon, and I’m about two-thirds of the way through my book. I always have high hopes for these events, but the reality is I rarely manage more than three books over the course of a readathon, and that’s only if I read pretty steadily for the full 24 hours. Today I will probably grab something short to read in the middle, once I’ve finished the Ishiguro, so I have a bit more sense of accomplishment.

I do realize that reading speed is personal and enjoying your book is the important part of the readathon, but at the same time, I’d love to make more of a dent in my TBR stack, which is enormous. All I can do is keep plugging away, and put down any reading picks that aren’t suiting my mood to move on to something that might engage me more. And on that note, I’m headed back to my book.

Ready, Set, Read!

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon kicks off this morning. It’s an east-coast-centered event, which means for me here in SoCal, the reading starts at 5am. I’d considered delaying a bit and reading slightly later than the rest of the crew, but what’s the fun in that? So I set my alarm and now I’m wide awake and raring to go. This means: coffee is brewing, I’ve pulled out my Jane Austen mug for the occasion, I put an extra pillow on my couch, and the coffee table is weighed down with books. I’ll post here occasionally throughout the day, but will probably be updating on Twitter: @NepheleTempest, so if you’re curious about my progress or what I’m reading, that’s the place to check. Happy reading to anyone else participating!

 

Friday Links: The Spring Fever Edition

Welcome to Friday! I have a readathon this weekend, which has me very excited, although a part of me questions how this is different than just about any other weekend. It’s just a more formal version of my favorite way to spend the weekend, with added on permission to ignore the laundry until the readathon is complete.

So what do you all have planned for your weekend? Spring keeps coming and going in various parts of the country so I find it hard to know who can escape outdoors and who is going to be curling up with a book and hot chocolate. But it still feels like time for spring fever, that twitchiness that makes you want to romp and play.

Whatever you have on your schedule, I hope you pencil in a bit of writing time. Maybe peek at those goals for your year and chip away at something. Regardless, have a good one and enjoy!

Chorus Lines – One writer explains how his experiences in the theater made him a better writer.

The Secret History of Jane Eyre: Charlotte Brontë’s Private Fantasy Stories – In honor of the anniversary of the author’s birth, a look at the fantastical stories she wrote in private before she became published.

Stephen King Used These 8 Writing Strategies to Sell 350 Million Books – A great cheat sheet for the key points King mentions in his book, On Writing. I recommend the entire book, but these are also a wonderful reference for daily use.

Structure: What Writers Can Learn from Visual Artists – An interesting approach to filling in the blanks of your story.

One-Sitting Books Perfect for a Readathon – Or for anyone pressed for time. Some great picks here, and I actually read a couple during previous readathons.

Opportunities for Writers: May and June 2016 – A list of places to submit or enter your work with deadlines coming up in the next couple of months.

2016 Pulitzer Prize Winners – A list of winners in all of this year’s categories. If you haven’t read the Kathryn Schultz piece for The New Yorker, I recommend it.

Modern Retellings of Shakespeare for Every Reader – In honor of the anniversary of the playwright’s death, a fun collection of works inspired by his plays.

Friday Links: A Hodgepodge of Inspiration

TGIF! I’m currently in Las Vegas on the fringes of the RT Book Lovers Convention (meaning I’m not really attending, but I’m there in the background, holding a few meetings), but I cannot leave you without Friday Links! So here are this week’s goodies. Whatever your plans for the weekend, I hope you squeeze in a bit of time to write. After all, every word counts, even those that end up being part of what gets cut in a revision. The most difficult thing to fix is a blank page, so fill your pages with words and go from there. Enjoy!

Why You Should Write Something Pointless – Some helpful tips to take the pressure off.

9 Websites for Readers Who Think about Books All Day, Every Day – You probably know most of these, but just in case…

Shakespeare on a Stamp – In honor of the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard, the Royal Mail has put the man on the stamp. Or at least his words.

We Want to Hear New Voices: Diversity in Sci-fi and Fantasy – An interview with Zen Cho and Andre Carrington on diversity in sff, with some great reading suggestions from both the speakers and the folks calling in.

Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Contest – Deadline approaching May 15th, so check it out.

Ruth Sepetys at LA Times Festival of Books

Interview with YA Author Jason Reynolds

Today I’m sharing this interview with young adult author Jason Reynolds from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Reynolds spoke on a panel I attended and I thought he had some insightful and interesting things to say about young adult fiction and his own work, so I was delighted to find this PBS on-site interview available online.