Friday Links: Reading and Writing in Tumultuous Times

It’s been a tumultuous week. I try not to get overly political on this blog, especially since I have no such qualms on Twitter, so I will simply say that as we watch our leadership charge forward with a seemingly endless attack on civil and human rights in this country, it’s important to keep an eye on all the reasons we’re standing up and speaking up for ourselves and the people around us. Real lives depend on the rules and regulations being tossed about, whether because they desperately require the safety net of health insurance, they seek asylum from a war-torn nation or an unsafe household, or because their words or art or music bring a bit of joy into our world. Our children deserve to breathe clean air and drink safe water. And we all have the right to speak out and hold our elected officials accountable for their words and deeds. The scope of this week’s insanity means I could easily continue listing off rights that are in jeapordy, but that’s not what you’re here to read. I’m just going to move on to this week’s links, and wish you all a safe, sane week to come. Try to take time for yourself, for some reading and writing, but understand that if it’s a struggle, you’re not alone.

Why “1984” Is a 2017 Must-Read – Orwell’s classic has been flying off shelves this week, and the publisher went back to print. Here’s a quick look at why.

Spine Design: 16 Sexy and Striking Book Spines – A little peek at the world of book design.

Writers’ Residences at Vermont Studio Center: Fellowship Applications Close February 15 – If you’re looking for a chance to get away and write.

75 Books for the Next Four Years – A list that includes politics, but also an excellent range of fiction, philosophy, history, and more.

How Screenwriter and “All Our Wrong Todays” Author Elan Mastai Writes: Part One – First segment of a podcast interview with the writer, looking at his love of science fiction, his early start in screenwriting, and his debut novel. Scroll down past the podcast itself for a transcript.

Roxane Gay Pulls Book, Protesting Breitbart Editor’s “Egregious” Book Deal – A quick look at Gay’s stand against publisher Simon & Schuster’s six-figure book deal with Milo Yiannopoulos.

Bibliomania: The Strange History of Compulsive Book Buying – I can’t help but relate, and I’m sure many of you are right there with me.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing at the End of an Era

It’s an extremely rainy Friday here in my neck of the woods, and we’re looking at more rain right through Monday. I claim gratitude, because even though we’ve made some good headway on canceling out the five-year drought California’s been suffering from, we do still need more rain. However, I will admit to being a little sick of it. My brain feels water-logged. It’s a good thing I mostly intend to stay home and read this weekend.

As for links, I’ve got a little homage to our now-former president, and his obvious love of reading, along with some other good stuff to keep you inspired through the weekend, whatever your weather patterns. I hope you set aside your writing time, and reading time as well, however much or little you can spare, and continue to put your goals high on your priority list. If you happen to be marching somewhere this weekend, good luck and stay safe. Happy weekend, and happy writing.

Considering the Novel in the Age of Obama – An interesting examination of literary trends over the past eight years.

Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books – The result of an interview with President Obama regarding his terms in office, including an internal link to some of his book recommendations.

Finalists for the National Book Award – A nice round up of this year’s titles.

Women Are Writing the Best Crime Novels – A look at the recent bestsellers in the genre, and their authors.

What Being an Editor Taught Me About Writing – Insider tips from an editor at Random House.

The 59-Book Fandom Reading Challenge – Are you a fan of something? Here’s a challenge that suggests a type of book for virtually every type of fan out there. Fun, and a little different.

Publishers Don’t Want Good Books – A tough-love look at why you may be getting rejection letters.

24in48 Readathon – Read for 24 hours total out of 48. This twice yearly challenge runs this weekend, and there’s still time to sign up. Check out other 24in48 blog posts for lists of prizes, reading suggestions, and more.

Friday Links: Send Your Writing into the World

Happy Friday, everyone! Juggling about twenty different things today, trying to get them handled before the weekend, so I’m just going to do a hit and run with this week’s Friday Links. I think it’s a pretty inspirational cross section, and I hope that at least one or two make you feel like getting down with your current work in progress, or maybe submitting something for publication. A number of these are geared toward getting that work out the door. Wishing you lots of excellent writing and reading time. Enjoy!

Short Story Challenge – A fun challenge  in three rounds run by NYC Midnight. The first round is coming up fast, so check it out now.

African Game of Thrones? Marlon James Is On It – An interview with the author about his upcoming fantasy series.

12 Contemporary Writers on How They Revise – Tips from a broad range of working writers.

Opportunities for Writers: January and February 2017 – A list of deadlines for submissions, contests, etc.

The British Books Challenge 2017 – A fun, low-volume book challenge for anyone looking to change things up a (little) bit.

Remembering Octavia Butler – An interview with Juno Diaz about the revered sf writer who passed away last year.

Writing 3rd Person: Maintaining Limited POV

Writing in first person presents the challenge of maintaining a voice that sounds like a distinctive character instead of that of the author, but third person narration comes with its own set of issues and these can be less clear. Writers need to determine whose third person point of view they are going to use. Are they using a single character? Rotating between two or more characters? Or will they zoom way out and use an omniscient narrative style? Once a writer makes their choice, they need to guard against slipping between them.

Omniscient narration has fallen out of style, but when done well it offers the advantage of not keeping secrets from the reader. However, close third-person POV — either of a single character or several — has become much more of the norm for third-person narratives, in part because many writers like the way it puts the reader right into the action. The trick with this point of view is to maintain that strict closeness and not slide into a more omniscient viewpoint. Some aspects of close third are obvious, and simply a matter of keeping track. Who knows what? Who has learned what facts, been present for a given discussion, overheard which secret? When it comes to plot points, it’s not difficult to determine if a character should know about something.

The tricky part of close third-person POV comes with description. There is a tendency to think of third person as the writer setting up their movie camera where the character stands, and writing as if they were filming from that specific spot. It’s logical — the description consists of whatever that camera “sees” from that position. But close third provides more than the view from the character’s eyes — it’s the view from that character’s brain, as well. Descriptions from a character’s POV must be both what they see and what they think about what they see, and here is where things often slip from the character’s POV to the writer’s — or from close third to omniscient.

In close third person, a character should see and observe in a way that makes sense for them, not just as a way to inform the reader of what a room looks like or what is going on in a scene. A wealthy society matron or an interior decorator might walk into a well-appointed living room and recognize the rug as a French Aubusson, but most characters probably would not. An actor who spends a lot of time on the red carpet and with stylists might identify his date’s dress as Armani, but an accountant for a computer company would be much less likely to make the same observation. A writer needs to know their characters, and understand how they see the world. Does the protagonist stick their head out the third story window and see a Porsche coming up the block or a red sports car? The reader must see what the character sees, and nothing more.

This distinction also comes into play in smaller details, such as how other characters are referred to within the text. When the protagonist walks into a room full of strangers, it makes sense to differentiate with physical details, such as the redhead, the woman in the black dress, the taller of the two men. But these vague descriptions should end the minute specifics are assigned. Once the POV character meets the beautiful redhead and knows her name is Susan, they should stop thinking of her as the redhead or the knockout or the beautiful woman, because people don’t reverse their thinking process in that way; she’s Susan.

Similarly, if a male protagonist is speaking to another man, and they are the only characters in the scene, the second character should never be referred to as the other man. Doing so pulls the reader out of the protagonist’s head, out of the room, to a place hovering above the scene where they are aware of two people talking. The protagonist doesn’t think of the person he’s speaking to as the other man — he just thinks of him as Joe or Dad or whoever he is. These sorts of errors often come into play when writers are looking for a way to avoid using a name or a pronoun too often, but it’s much more important to maintain the established POV than to avoid using he or him a few times in a paragraph.

Writing close third person involves really getting into the characters’ heads. When reviewing a scene, a writer needs to consider whether all of the details coming through make sense given the character’s POV. If vital information needs to be relayed, it’s important to determine how the character will know or discover it before it can be presented for the reader, and to keep the author’s voice from sneaking into the narrative.



Friday Links: Committing to Writing in the New Year

Happy 1st Friday of 2017! I hope the new year has kicked off well for all of you, and that you have plans in place to take the rest of the year by storm. In keeping with my goal of helping you realize those plans, I’ve a nice assortment of links this week that should keep you writing and reading well into the coming months.

I know it’s easy to get bogged down in January by your list of goals and that first flush of the year that has you determined to do more, do better, climb those mountains you’ve put in your own path. But remember that all goals are met one step at a time, and you can only do so much in a day. Be dogged and consistent, of course, as much as you’re able, but don’t forget to give yourself a breather every once in a while. It’s important to pace yourself so you keep your energy up and that momentum going. Commit to progress, but also to taking care of yourself. Good luck, and happy writing!

21 of the Biggest Historical Fiction Releases Coming in 2017 – A somewhat diverse list featuring books from some favorite authors as well as newer ones.

96 Books Science Fiction and Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2017 – Huge list of upcoming SFF books, divided by publisher.

The 25 Most Anticipated Books by Women for 2017 – Some really excellent sounding titles here.

How to Start a Story: 9 Tips from Our Editors – The Reedsy blog offers up some wonderful approaches to the start of your story.

7 Writing Resolutions to Finish Your Story This Year – I don’t normally use the word resolution for this type of thing, but these tips will definitely help you hit your goals.

The 27 Best Books on Writing – Not sure if these are actually the 27 best, but there are some fabulous choices here and definitely something to fit every style.

The Great 2017 Book Preview – Every year The Millions kicks off January with a preview of the big books anticipated over the next six months. Some overlap with the above lists, but a huge assortment and well worth checking out (especially if you make use of your local library-hold system).

Residencies for Writers in 2017 – A list of places you can go to immerse yourself in the writing life.

Reading Plans for the New Year

The new year brings its own set of challenges, and for me one is always tackling my goal to read more. Given my job description, “reading more” refers to submissions, comp titles, and books purely for pleasure, and part of the challenge there is finding a good balance between keeping up with work and also discovering what wonderful books have already been let loose on the world.

Last year my personal reading fell a bit short. I had lofty ambitions and got off to an excellent start, but by the end of the year my travel schedule, submission pile, and mood over the turn the country was taking had all joined forces to make it difficult to get really absorbed by a good book. Still, I read a fair number of titles, so I’m not too disappointed with my efforts. Among my favorite reads for the year was Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. I read it early and it remained strongly in my mind throughout the year, even if I didn’t always follow all of its good advice. I’m thinking this is an excellent time for a reread, in fact.

My reading goals for this year are very similar to the ones from last year: Read more works by authors of color, read more works in translation. I’m aiming for 60 titles, which I didn’t quite hit last year, and we’ll see what happens. I kicked off the year with poetry — milk and honey by Rupi Kaur, which I loved — but right now I’ve got my nose back into the submissions pile.

Do you have reading goals for 2017? Anything in particular you’d love to pick up? Maybe a big book you’ve been saving for when things calmed down post-holidays? I’d love to hear what you’re all excited to read.