Friday Links: Inspiration and Influence

We discuss inspiration a lot when talking about what we write. We want to read, to fill the well, to take in new ideas. Things inspire you to go in a particular direction with your work-in-progress. Sometimes it’s a snippet of conversation or a bit of reading, other times it’s more nebulous. Colors in the trees. A flashy outfit on a woman across the street. A moment of fear when it looks like something terrible might happen.

Girl_on_mountain_stretching_at_sunset

But past influences? I think we mostly discuss those in relation to published writers, asking them to look back at who they’ve read and what they’ve experienced that made them a writer. It’s harder to think about it in the moment, to look at your half-formed manuscript and recognize the pieces of your past that form the roots. It’s something to consider, next time you hit a wall or find your momentum slowing. Think about where you’re going, but also about where you’ve been. Ask what brought you there. It might help you figure out what comes next.

Along those lines, I offer up this week’s Friday Links, with plenty of inspiration and maybe a few looks at influence, too. I hope they give you a push in the right direction. Wishing you a wonderful weekend and productive writing!

This Week’s Links:

Five Books about Artists and the Magic of Creativity. – Maggie Stiefvater discusses the natural melding of art and magic and how that comes across in books.

The Second Shelf. – A peek into the world of A.N. Devers’s wonderful second-hand bookshop, located in London, where books by women get a second life in a market that is traditionally dominated by male writers.

Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of November. – Some great new titles topping the list per Amazon.

How to Unlearn Everything: When it Comes to Writing the ‘Other,’ What Questions Are We not Asking? – Alexander Chee looks at the importance of including diverse characters versus what it means to let a person tell their own story.

Explore the List of 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. – The BBC shares a broad list of titles voted on by a collection of writers, critics, etc., focusing not on what books are “best,” but on what works had the most influence on them and their surroundings.

Philip Pullman On Children’s Literature and the Critics Who Distain It. – The author looks at the what the label “children’s literature” actually means, and why these books are no less worthy of an adult’s attention than any other type of writing.

How to Review a Novel. – Advice on the process, but also something interesting for fiction writers to consider. Reviewers and pleasure readers can have very different perspectives.

A Roundup of 2019’s Major Science Fiction and Fantasy Award Winners. – Pad out your TBR list with some of these amazing award-winning novels.

Friday Links: Inspiration for a Month of Novel Writing

Happy Friday, and welcome to the return of Friday Links! If Halloween wishes felt like a good reentry point for the blog, Friday Links makes the perfect follow up. Especially on a day when so many of you are firing up your computers and other writing instruments to get to work for NaNoWriMo.

Vintage-manual-typewriter

Despite my silence here on the blog, I never quite lost the habit of collecting interesting tidbits to share in these Friday posts. I’d clean the metaphorical house occasionally, but I saved quite a few tabs for my inevitable return to blogging. I’m so happy to share these great pages with you now. Especially since a fair few offer up writing advice that might be useful for NaNo. But whether you’re tackling 50,000 words in the next thirty days or just working away on your current project, I hope you find some inspiration. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

Putting Your Worst Foot Forward: Why You Should Play to Your Weaknesses as an Author. — Some excellent thoughts on why you shouldn’t only write the things you’re good at writing.

25 of the Best Literary and Book Podcasts for Book Lovers. – A nice round-up with something here for every taste.

George Saunders on the Best Writing Advice He’s Ever Received. – A few words of wisdom to keep in mind as you write.

Thank You for Calling the Writer Envy Helpline. – A little bit of humor but also an excellent reminder that you need to focus on your own page and not worry what that other guy is doing.

Who Needs an MFA When You Have This Literary Fiction Trope List? – More humor. I wouldn’t recommend using too many of these, but they make great filler inspiration when you’re having a tough NaNo day. (Just remember to edit, later.)

Is Line Editing a Lost Art? – A look at this important stage of the editorial process (and a good reason why you should hold onto anyone who has a knack for it).

Why Are Writers Particularly Drawn to Tarot? – Interesting as pertains to writers, but also something to think about when your characters are misbehaving on the page.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen? – Several authors discuss their contributions to an anthology of speculative fiction and what it’s like to write stories that look at the ways technologies and social change are affecting our world and near future.

 

Happy Halloween! Back from the Dead Edition

Despite appearances, I did not abandon the blog, and today seemed a good day to emerge from the metaphorical grave. Trick or treat!

Witch on a broom flying in front of a full moon.

When life gets busy, something needs to give a little. I love writing this blog, but it is the thing I’m most able to set aside when my schedule fills up. I do miss it, however, so this flyby marks my attempt to kick things back into gear. Today I simply wish you all a very Happy Halloween, and for those of you gearing up, cheer you on for tomorrow’s start of NaNoWriMo. Keep an eye out for more content-heavy posts coming soon.

Friday Links: New Year Booklists

New year booklists are one of my favorite things about January. If December brings lists of the best books of the previous year, the new year’s lists focus entirely on anticipation. These lists give me something to look forward to, rather than reminding me of what I wish I had a chance to read already. So this week’s Friday Links offer up lists of a ton of great books coming out in the months ahead. Be warned: your to-be-read lists might explode as a result. Mine certainly looks unreasonably long, as there are some fabulous sounding titles on the horizon. I’ve tried to include a good mix of genres and so on, and of course not every link leads to book recommendations. But there are a lot of new year booklists out there. I hope these will be sufficient to inspire you.

New Year Booklists: Piles of books to read in 2019

No Time to Read

I also want to point out that, for those of you hoping to read more books this year, the upcoming 24 in 48 Readathon provides a great chance to get a jump start on that TBR. It takes place the weekend of January 26th and 27th, and the idea is to read for 24 hours out of a 48-hour period. It’s the sort of readathon that encourages you to get some sleep, go for a walk, and live your life, even as you put in some serious reading hours. You’re also free to join in for fewer hours if you’d rather, or if you have a busy weekend. Sign ups are open over at the readathon website, and you can find more complete details there regarding how the event works. It makes for a fun, weirdly social weekend considering that it revolves around reading a lot.

With that, I’ll head right to this week’s Friday Links. Wishing you a fabulous weekend, filled with lots of reading and writing time. Enjoy!

New Year Booklists and More:

Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview. – This bi-annual list features a huge collection of books releasing in the coming months. Always an excellent roundup, filled with titles that might otherwise not be on your radar.

105 Books Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2019. – Pretty much what it sounds like. Tons of great-sounding titles.

The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2019, Pt. 1. – Enormous list of mysteries, thrillers, etc.

2019 Preview: Most Anticipated Romance. – A terrific list of upcoming romance novels, including titles by TKA clients Nalini Singh, Alyssa Cole, Melonie Johnson, and Cat Sebastian.

28 Young Adult Books Coming Out in 2019 that Will Seriously Get You Pumped for the New Year. – Like the title says…

How to Make Your Imagination Work Harder. – Great advice from Danny Gregory for anyone feeling a little overwhelmed, burned out, or possibly even blocked.

What We Gain from Keeping Books–and Why It Doesn’t Need to Be ‘Joy’. – In the midst of the backlash from booklovers against Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning out bookcases, a lovely look at what books do for us.

Yay, Yea, Yeah, or Yes? – A quick look at these often-used, but only sometimes interchangeable, words.

Setting Writing Goals for 2019

Setting writing goals at the end of December helps you get the new year off the a great start. Resolutions get a bad rap. Everyone knows how fast they fall by the wayside. But goals? Those can be set at any time. I just happen to like setting new ones at the beginning of the year.

Setting writing goals for 2019

Before you set your new goals, think about this year’s writing. Maybe you’re coming off of NaNoWriMo and my December Writing Challenge and want to keep that momentum. Maybe you’ve finished drafting a novel and need to revise. Do you feel ready to shop a project to agents? Are you just starting out and hoping to finish a first manuscript? Your recent progress and writing habits help set the stage for your next steps.

Don’t just consider one side of your writing. Some things will be going well, others will have frustrated you. Take in the entire picture. Consider what writing habits need rethinking, and which work for you. Did you set goals for 2018? Be sure to review those. See what you accomplished and take a minute to pat yourself on the back. Are there any goals you didn’t meet? Some may still apply while others may have changed over the year.

Once you’ve got a good idea of where your writing stands now, it’s time to look forward. Goals should challenge you, but you should also be able to achieve them. Overwhelming yourself might result in you giving up, but going easy won’t necessarily help you progress.

Tips for Setting Writing Goals:

Choose several goals of varying size and difficulty. The smaller goals will be easier to achieve and provide a sense of accomplishment, while the larger ones will keep you moving forward all year.

Stagger the dates when you aim to achieve your goals. You might have one or two large goals that you plan to complete by the end of the year. A few medium sized goals might take you only six months, while small goals might need one month or three months, depending on their difficulty. You can stagger the start dates, too, so that one small goal starts when an earlier one has been finished.

Consider goals that escalate. For instance, if you finish goal #1 – Revise your manuscript for submission, you’ll be ready for goal #2 – Research literary agents.

Take on goals that you can control. Some things regarding your career will be at least somewhat out of your hands. You might want to sell your first book to a traditional publishing house in 2019, but part of that relies on editors. Make your goals things that involve your actions only, such as querying a specific number of agents, writing a certain number of words per day or per week, or taking a good class to help you improve your writing.

Keeping Your Goals

Once you’ve set your goals, and the dates you aim to complete them, consider what actions you need to take. Write down a few steps required to achieve each goal. I like to keep a spreadsheet for my goals each year, so I can see my action plan at a glance. You might prefer a chart on your bulletin board or something in your planner. I recommend putting reminders in a few places, so you see something goal-related every day. You might also set some more formal reminders in your calendar app so something pops up periodically. Whatever keeps you focused.

Finally, schedule a quarterly check-in on your goals. Plan to review your goal list at the end of March, June, September, and December. This enables you to see your progress. Maybe you’ve finished something early and can start another goal sooner than planned. Maybe something needs a later date because of unforseen circumstances. You can also adjust your goals if you need to do so. Remember, you set the goals, so you can do what you want with them. Add, subtract, rearrange. Consider them a tool to get you where you wish to go. Good luck setting writing goals and achieving them, and with all you do in the year to come.

Friday Links: Year’s End Review

I’m squeezing my year’s end review in with Friday Links today because, in many ways, I’ve already started to tally up 2018. I discussed book lists for the year, plus some of my own favorites, which leaves some thoughts on the year overall.

year's end review over coffee

It’s been a lovely year for book deals and for reading wonderful new books by my clients. On the submissions front, I fared a little worse, having a hard time getting through all the projects coming across my desk. One of my first goals for 2019 involves catching up there and continuing to work our new query system. But goals call for a different post.

Outside my little book bubble, the world continues to rage and distract, from politics to tragedies to the loss of various public figures whom we’ll miss. Put this way, it sounds much calmer than if I go into specifics, so I won’t. We all know the chaos brewing. May we find a saner middle road in the year ahead. I hope to post a much more positive year’s end review come next December.

On the personal side of things, good and bad news seemed to take turns. This year saw close friends moving away and others coming to visit. My parents continued to get older, as people do. I managed some great travel for work and pleasure, and met a few new people I’m excited to know better. It all seems to balance out.

This week’s links reflect my year’s end review mindset in many ways, some looking back while others look forward. It’s an eclectic mix, so I hope you find them interesting and inspirational. Don’t forget to keep writing daily if you’re participating in the December Writing Challenge. Just a few days left! Have a great weekend.

This Week’s Links:

The World of Nora Ephron: A Reading List. – In honor of the 20-year anniversary of You’ve Got Mail, a lovely look at Ephron’s approach to filmaking and writing. Great suggested reading list, especially if you’ve never read any of her work.

10 Books by Debut Authors to Watch in 2019. – A wonderful list that includes the debut women’s fiction by my client Erin Bartels.

Tired of Series? Try These 10 Standalone Fantasy Novels. – I love a good series, but committing to yet another one can make me twitch. Some great recs for anyone who feels the same.

Megan Abbott’s Work Diary: ‘My Psychiatrist Notes How Tired I Look, Which Is Great’. – A peek inside the busy life of a successful author.

28 Young Adult Books Coming Out in 2019 That Will Seriously Get You Pumped for the New Year. – Pretty much what it says on the wrapper.

12 of the Best Romance Novels, According to the Author of The Proposal. – Jasmine Guillory shares some of her favorite reads from the past year.

From Dragon Riders to Winter Slumberers: Winter’s 10 Hottest Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reads. – A roundup with something for everyone.

A Guide to Short Story Contests in 2019. – Start marking your calendar now.

Holiday Reading Binge: Catching Up on the TBR Pile

I firmly believe in the power of the holiday reading binge. The days following Christmas can be a fabulous time to squeeze in a few good reads before the new year. One year I’d love to visit Iceland, where this post-holiday reading time even has its own word: jólabókaflóð. Icelanders traditionally give a large number of books for Christmas, and then take the time to binge read. Sounds heavenly.

Holiday Reading Binge: Girl reading by the Christmas tree

My holiday reading time shrinks a bit each year, as my parents get older and demand more attention during my visit. But I’ve been known to forgo sleep after they’ve gone to bed to squeeze in a few pages. I’ve also taken to listening to audio books at bedtime. I plug my earbuds into my phone and listen for an hour or so until I start dozing.

This December, I’m trying to finish the Alexandre Dumas classic, The Three Musketeers. It’s long, and I’ve been at it for months in fits and starts, but I’m hoping to finish in the next couple of days. I’ve also got some great audio books on loan from the library, including Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which I’ve had on my TBR list for ages.

All in all, it’s been a great year for reading. The busier I get with work, the fewer books with covers I seem able to read, but it’s quality, not quantity. Or so I tell myself. Though I’m not quite through with my holiday reading binge, I thought I’d share some favorites from 2018. These are in no particular order.

Favorite Reads of the Year:

The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky). – A wonderful alternate history that puts women smack in the middle of the space race.

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook. – A young adult mystery about a teenager using her psychic ability to help the police locate a missing girl.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. – Because I am always trying to catch up with the fun bestsellers I missed when they originally dropped. An epistolary novel about a young woman who travels to Guernsey from London in the wake of World War II, in search of a subject for her latest novel.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw. – A young adult novel about a small Oregon town where three young women were drowned as witches two hundred years ago, and future generations have been forced to pay for the deed.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee. – Part memoir, part writing advice, these essays paint an interesting picture of Chee’s life and experiences so far.

Book-List Extravaganza: Titles to Give or Keep

Come December, there’s a book-list extravaganza, when every vaguely bookish periodical, website, and newsletter starts to post their “best of” lists for the year. I groan when it happens, mostly because I think at least half go up too early. What about all the December books? Don’t those count? It seems premature to announce your favorites before you’ve even taken out the Thanksgiving trash.

book-list-extravaganza

Still, the lists show up, and I take note. Because however early they’re posted, those lists always include some fabulous book I missed when it first published. And I love poring over them, searching for the perfect gift for a friend, or a terrific holiday read for myself. My favorite lists take a more personal approach, including the best reads from various contributors instead of an anonymous editorial board. I also love lists that focus on books read over the year instead of those published in the previous twelve months. I’m more likely to discover something wonderful that way.

With all this in mind, I’m here to share a number of great book lists with you. I’ve tried to post a diverse set of lists, including a variety of genres, age groups, and publication dates. Please note that I most definitely have not read all of these titles, so this is in no way a personal reading recommendation. I’ll be back in a few days with a post more along those lines. These lists simply offer a huge range of book titles their individual compilers found worthy of discussion. I hope you find some great gifts for your friends and family, or some wonderful ideas for ways to treat yourself. Happy reading!

Book-List Extravaganza:

Best Books of 2018. – The editors and contributors to Bookriot share their favorite reads of the year.

World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2018. – A fantastic list, especially for anyone looking to globalize their TBR.

Lit Hub’s Favorite Books of 2018. – Lit Hub‘s contributors offer up 59 of their most recommended reads, including some wonderful sounding small press titles.

The Best Reviewed Books of 2018: Mystery, Crime, and Thriller. – Books to keep you on the edge of your seat.

100 Notable Books of 2018. – The New York Times compiles their annual collection of the year’s best reads across genres.

The 25 Best Young Adult Books of 2018. – Bustle‘s list for younger (or young-at-heart) readers includes a few really important reads. It was a wonderful year for YA.

The Millions Year in Reading 2018. – Each year The Millions invites writers, editors, and contributors to share a snapshot of their year in reading, which results in vastly different posts discussing all types of books, new and old. Always one of my favorite “lists” of December.

Best Books of 2018. – Library Journal features subgenres under both fiction and nonfiction, plus a section on graphic novels. So many great titles here.

The 10 Best Romance Novels of 2018. – A list of really wonderful books from Entertainment Weekly.

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2018. – An assortment of this year’s best science fiction and fantasy, plus one or two outliers, from various Tor.com reviewers.