Friday Links: Writing into the Holidays

Happy Friday, everyone! Whether you’re gearing up for holidays or simply motoring through the end of your week, it’s a festive time of year and I hope you’re taking some time out to enjoy a great book or squeeze in a little writing. Those of you participating in the December Writing Challenge are in the home stretch now, with just over a week left until the end of the month. Keep up that daily habit and you’ll find yourself all primed to write your heart out in the new year.

In case you’re looking for a little bit of a break from all the hectic activity this time of year, I’ve got some fun links for you this week. I hope they give you some inspiration or just a nice change of pace from shopping and cooking and getting ready for friends and family. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The Art of Revision: Most of What You Write Should Be Cut – Some handy advice, especially for anyone reworking their NaNo novel.

Farewell to the Reader in Chief – A look back at President Obama’s dedication to reading and literacy.

Stephanie Danler on Having Your First Book Blow Up – The author discusses her experiences with having her debut become a hit.

18 Non-Book Gifts for Literary People – Some last-minute shopping ideas for those bookish types on your list.

The Paris Review Staff Picks: Our Favorite Reads of 2016 – A series of lists from various Paris Review contributors.

The POC Guide to Writing Dialogue in Fiction – Some tips on how to get it right.

 

 

Friday Links: Gearing Up for Next Year’s Writing

Happy Friday, everyone! We’re preparing to head off for the holiday break here at The Knight Agency, so it’s been a particularly busy week. That said, I plan to post through the holidays, if only to keep encouraging everyone who is participating in this year’s December Writing Challenge, so do check in if you have some down time and are looking for some inspiration.

We’re getting into the difficult part of the month, where events and to-do lists collide and it feels even more impossible to carve out a few minutes to write, but you can do it. Take a notebook with you on your coffee or hot chocolate break; put in a little writing time before you start your day; pause before you head to bed at night and make sure you scribble a few paragraphs if the day has gotten away from you. You’ll feel so accomplished, and also continue to build those great writing habits to help you start 2017 on the right foot.

I’m sending you off this weekend with a nice assortment of links, some of which will hopefully give you something to aspire to or plan for in the new year. Enjoy, and happy writing!

One Word Leads to the Next: Unconventional Conjunctive Devices – Some thoughts on pushing boundaries and experimenting with language.

What a Novel Looks Like Before It’s a Novel – Six novelists on their early writing process.

A Guide to Short Story Contests in 2017 – Start planning now and mark your calendar with anything you’d like to enter.

25 Days of Christmas Romances – This list will get you into the mood in more ways than one.

How to Create Art and Make Cool Stuff in a Time of Trouble – Chuck Wendig dishes out some advice for anyone struggling to focus on their writing in the wake of all the really terrible news flooding the air waves, internet, etc.

10 Things You Didn’t Know about How the NY Times Book Review Works – A peek inside the workings of this industry mainstay.

December Writing Challenge 2016: Prompts

We’re nearly halfway through the month of December, so it seems like a good time to check in and see what sort of progress everyone is making with their December Writing Challenge efforts, and to provide a little nudge for anyone who has strayed off track. Have you been making time to write every day? Is your work-in-progress buzzing along? Are you polishing and revising and getting a new draft done? Remember: all those words count, whether you’re writing them or rewriting them.

Not everyone is mid-novel, however, so for anyone looking for things to inspire that daily writing habit, I’ve got a few prompts and ideas that you might use if your own imagination is letting you down. Some might inspire a short story or essay, while others can be used as a simple writing exercise. It’s all practice, and it all helps you flex those creative muscles, even if the thing you write just ends up buried in a dusty folder or languishing on your hard drive. So make a date with yourself to sit down at the keyboard or pull out your notebook, and get to work. Happy writing!

Quick Prompts to Keep the Words Flowing

  • Recount a favorite holiday experience, whether from your childhood or something more recent. Try gearing it toward a specific audience: a child, your significant other, someone you’re just falling in love with… Set the tone (and subject matter) accordingly.
  • Set your iTunes or other mp3 playing software to shuffle, or listen to your favorite radio station, and jot down the titles of the first 5 songs you hear. Use them as prompts for short stories/vignettes.
  • Flip open a dictionary and, with your eyes closed, point to a random word on the page. Do this two more times, with fresh pages, then write something using all three words. Pick more than three random words if you’d like, or if the ones you chose are too mundane for inspiration.
  • Check out the images on the following websites, and choose one (or a combination) as the basis for a short story or vignette:

Striking Portraits of Lonely Cars in 1970s New York

Sparkling City of Moscow Celebrates Orthodox Christmas

Spotted in Tokyo

Weird old car

Girl on cliff

St. Mary’s Church, Norfolk

Budapest bridge

Beauty of perception

Friday Links: Reading-List Wrap Up

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful week and that those of you participating in this year’s December Writing Challenge have lots of new pages accumulating on your projects. Be sure to keep an eye on the blog, because next week I’ll have some fun writing prompts/ideas for anyone struggling to keep the words coming daily and/or anyone interested in some quick writing exercises to get their imaginations pumped up.

But first we have Friday Links! This time of year we see all of the “best of” book lists popping up, from retailers and bloggers and various media outlets, etc. It’s a great reminder of titles that came out earlier in the year but you might have missed or forgotten about, whether you’re looking to replenish your own TBR pile or shopping for gifts. It’s also a perfect time to round out any reading goals you might have made early in the year, whether you wanted to read more diversely or more books in translation or whatever. So while I’ve a couple of writing-related links here, the majority are bookish this week. This is just the tip of the iceberg, obviously, but I think it’s a nice, well-rounded collection of lists that will help anyone with their next bookish shopping expedition. Enjoy, and happy reading!

NPR’s Book Concierge – NPR did this last year, as well, and I just love it. They’ve accumulated a list of more than 300 of the best reads of 2016, and it’s searchable by a variety of categories, from genre to length plus a few more amusing definitions they’ve thrown in. Some amazing titles on this list, several of which I’m itching to read.

The Books We Loved: Australian Writers Nominate Their Favourite Reads of 2016 – For anyone seeking to broaden their range of global reading, some titles that may or may not have caught your attention.

Homicide Detective Roy Grace’s Reading List – A fun list compiled by crime fiction writer Peter James, imagining what his fictional detective hero puts on his nightstand.

Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” as a Parable of Our Time – A look at how this modern classic resonates in today’s world.

Let Down By the Lists – A reaction to some of the “to read” book lists that have come out featuring few female authors or authors of color, this list offers up “The Sixty Best Books by Women Every Man Should Read,” which is a nicely diversified list as well.

Notes from the Resistance: A Column on Language and Power – The rise of the euphemism. Regardless of your politics, any writer concerned with writing strong, truthful work should read this and consider the importance of precise wording.

Best Books of 2016 – The staff of Bookriot.com shares their favorite reads of the year.

Ann Patchett’s Guide for Bookstore Lovers – The author and bookstore proprietor shares a list of spots she considers to be “destination” bookstores — big, small, and quirky — and all well worth a trip.

December Writing Challenge: Tough-Love Pep Talk

Greetings, writers! How goes the challenge? No doubt you’ve had a busy first week of December. Scrambling to get work projects completed by the holidays? Shopping for gifts? Hanging up holiday decorations and planning menus? Maybe you’ve attended a party or school holiday concert. Or you could be prepping to travel — booking those airport shuttles and dusting off your suitcases. But even with all that, you’ve still managed to write each day, haven’t you?

Here’s the thing: only you can decide where your priorities lie. And I’m not telling you writing has to be a top priority. It doesn’t. What I am telling you, however, is that if you want to be a writer who publishes, who shares their work with the world, that takes diligence and practice and a lot of time actually spent writing. No other way around it. Even natural talent only takes you so far. What gets you the rest of the way is writing and rewriting and rewriting some more.

Do you want to write? Not just see your books on shelves somewhere and claim the title of published writer, but do you actually like to sit and put down the words and see your worlds form on the page or screen? Again, only you can tell. But here is a hint: If you need to force yourself repeatedly to sit down at your keyboard, if you get all your chores done rather than write, if you spend lots of time imagining yourself as a published author but don’t actually finish anything — chances are very good you’re only in love with the idea of writing.

Human beings are funny creatures. In most instance, we do the things we want to do, and avoid the things we don’t want to do. Now, as adults we generally suck it up and do a lot of things we’d rather not, like pay our bills and do our tax returns and politely eat that vegetable that smells like dirty feet because we’re a guest in someone else’s home. But writing doesn’t fall into the categories of life’s necessities or good manners. Instead if falls into that category of the things we squeeze into our lives, one way or another.

The typical excuse for not doing something is that you could not “find” the time. Reality, however, tells us that no one ever finds extra time lying around the house. Maybe hiding under the carpet or behind the long drapes in the living room. Out in the yard? No. If there’s something you want to do, you make the time.

December is a truly busy month. There’s lots to do, plenty of demands being made on your time. But ask yourself where your priorities are, and then live that decision. Is writing important to you? Do you love it, even on the days it frustrates you? Then make the time to fit it into your day. Put it on your calendar as an appointment with yourself. Turn off your cell phone. Shut down the internet. Even if it’s just for a half hour, commit to your dream, your goal, your joy. Only you can decide if it’s something you consider worth doing.

Now go write.

Friday Links: Inspiration to Write through the Holidays

Happy Friday! Apologies for the lack of links last week, but between the holiday and my own self-imposed social media blackout, I didn’t have as much as I would need for a full post. And you were all shopping anyway, right? However I am back this week with an all new collection of Friday Links to kick off December and this crazy final month of 2016.

First, a quick reminder that this is Day 2 of the December Writing Challenge. Even if you are just hearing about it now, it’s never too late to start, so make sure you get your writing time in for the day. Now’s also a good time to take a quick look at your weekend plans and figure out when you plan to write tomorrow and Sunday. Don’t risk running out of time; make a writing date with yourself and stick it on your calendar.

All right! Without further ado I give you this week’s Friday Links. There should be something here to inspire all of you to read and write through this busy time of year. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Roxane Gay on the Importance of Storytelling – A short Q&A with the author.

John Scalzi: Writing for Audio Made Me a Better Writer, Period – The author discusses how writing specifically for audio changed his approach.

The Man Who Invented Bookselling as We Know It – The history behind The Temple of Muses, the famous London bookshop that set the standard for book retail in the 18th century.

Putting Penis to Paper: When Sex Writing Goes Terribly Wrong – A humorous look at the art (or lack) of writing sex scenes.

These Women Reporters Went Undercover to Get the Most Important Scoops of Their Day – A look at the girl stunt reporters of the late 19th century.

35 Gifts Under $35 for Writers and Book Lovers – A nice roundup for those of you shopping for the bookish and/or writing set, or who need to nudge your own friends and family toward getting you things you’d like.

The Non-Western Books that Every Student Should Read – Great assortment of titles for anyone looking to diversify their TBR pile.

The History of Female Titles: When ‘Mistress” Meant ‘Mrs.’ and ‘Miss’ Meant ‘Prostitute’ – An interesting account of how women’s titles have changed. Particularly useful for historical fiction authors.

Ready, Set, Write

As I blogged yesterday, today marks the start of this year’s December Writing Challenge, so wipe down your computer screens, sharpen your pencils, and ink those fancy fountain pens. It’s time to get to work.

Whether you are just starting out as a writer and find the idea of writing daily overwhelming, or you have a long-established writing habit and would just like a little added encouragement during this busy season, this challenge is for you. The goal, as stated in my previous post, is to write every day, even if just a little bit. Work on that novel you have in progress or start something brand new. Juggle a few things or focus all your attention on one. Yes, revising counts, though you should make sure that revision time includes some writing of new text and not just crossing out things that aren’t working. The goal is to write.

So, a few tips to get you started:

  • Schedule your writing time ahead if at all possible. Make a date with yourself and put it on the calendar. That way you won’t be washing the dinner dishes and bemoaning the fact that you still need to write.
  • Have at least one backup project to work on. That way if you’re truly stuck on your main writing project one day, you can switch over and get some words in on your other idea rather than not write at all that day.
  • If you have a really hectic day, try breaking up your writing time into a couple of smaller sessions.
  • Tell your friends and family what you’re doing, so they understand that there will be a window of time each day when you really can’t be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. Added bonus: this helps train them for the new year, when you have your daily writing habit established.

Now, a brief word on writing every day. No, it’s not necessary to write every day in order to be a writer. Plenty of writers are successful writing less frequently. But a regular writing habit of any sort is like any other exercise — you’re training your muscles (in this case your brain) to perform on demand. So taking this challenge doesn’t mean you have to write every day for the rest of your career. But it will help warm up that creative muscle of yours and keep you moving forward during a month when it’s easy to let your own needs fall by the wayside. And who knows? You may like what you come up with when you write every day.

Good luck, and happy writing!

December Writing Challenge: 2016

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It’s the last day of November, and the last day of NaNoWriMo for those of you participating. But whether you’ve just finished up tackling 50,000 words in 30 days, you’re falling short of the mark, or you think the idea of trying to churn out that many words in a single month is insane, I have a new challenge for you. Or rather an annual challenge. Tomorrow is the first day of December, and with it comes my December Writing Challenge.

For those of you unfamiliar, the December Writing Challenge is designed to help you keep up your good writing habits through what is arguably the busiest month of the year. With all the holidays, the year-end wrap ups at work, and planning for the year ahead, writing efforts often get short changed. This becomes especially problematic for anyone who has resolutions for the new year that have to do with their writing — writing more, better, finishing a project, getting an agent, etc. Bad habits formed in December take a little bit of time to correct in January, and so writers end up starting off the year on the wrong foot.

The December Writing Challenge aims to help you maintain (or even build) good writing momentum now, at the close of the old year, so you can start the new year off with a bang. It helps you keep writing even if you can only steal a little bit of time. Only you can decide if writing is a real priority in your life, and this challenge can also help you determine how much you want this life.

The challenge is simple: Write every day during the month of December.

  • You can be working on a novel, revising something, tinkering with some short stories, writing personal essays for periodicals, putting together a proposal for a new project… whatever. You can work on one thing or many things.
  • You can write for as little as 15 minutes on a really busy day, though I’d ask you to aim for at least 30, even if you have to break it up into chunks.
  • Because I know this time of year is crazy, you can give yourself up to two days off during the month. You choose the days. Maybe Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Maybe New Year’s Eve. Maybe the day your family all arrives to stay with you. But plan ahead and keep in mind that the goal is to take no more than two days off.

That’s the challenge. No difficult rules to track, no weird stunts to pull. Just write, every day, over the course of the month. Give yourself some quiet time to get those words on paper or pixels on screen. Make writing a priority. Let your family know this is nonnegotiable. Keep your head in the game.

I’ll be posting prompts and pep talks periodically throughout the month to help you keep at it, but ultimately the choice is yours. You can do it. Happy writing!

Friday Links: Inspiration to Keep the Words Flowing

Happy Friday, everyone! This has been an extremely busy week, in part because I looked up and realized suddenly that it’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S. next week, which means a very short week in terms of getting work accomplished. As always, I feel like I’m blindsided by the holidays and the end of the year. Time certainly is flying.

So with that I offer up some varied links for the weekend, including some lovely thoughts on reading because I fully intend to use some of my holiday time off curled up on the couch with a few choice items from the towering TBR pile. I wish you all some quality reading time as well, plus writing time, of course, especially those of you tallying up the words for NaNoWriMo. Hopefully some of these links will keep those ideas flowing. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

2016 National Book Awards Announced – Congrats to the winners!

If You Want to Be a Writer, Neil Gaiman Says You Should “Get Bored” – A brief explanation as to why Gaiman thinks boredom is the key to writing.

Reading Locally When You Travel – How searching out books at your travel destination can add to the experience.

5 Reasons to Keep a Record of What You Read – An argument for chronicling books you’ve finished.

Hundreds of US Children’s Authors Sign Pledge to Tackle Racism and Xenophobia – A look at the movement to use literature to fight fear.

Ten Obsessions that Murder Writing Careers – A list of time sucks and other issues that can detract from the more important aspects of writing.