Friday Links: Letting the World Influence Your Writing

TGIF! I hope you’re all in the process of checking in with your goals for the year, as I discussed yesterday. The new quarter kicks off tomorrow, so you’ve got a nice low-key weekend in order to ramp up for whatever you plan to tackle next. As for me, I’m excited to be attending BinderCon LA this weekend, where I’ll be taking pitches and attending some of the panels. Give a wave if you see me there!

Meanwhile, I’ve got a great assortment of links for you this week, and I’m just going to dive right in with those. Quite a few of them focus on ways to open up and let the world and its influences into your writing process. I hope they provide some inspiration. Have a terrific weekend, and happy writing!

If Fiction Changes the World, It’s Going to Be YA – A look at how young adult fiction has been addressing politics, culture, and current events.

The Other Side of the Desk: What I Learned as a Writer Editing a Lit Mag – Some outside perspective on writing and submissions from someone straddling two worlds.

7 Tips for Donating Old Books without Being a Jerk – Some good advice for the next time you prune your shelves.

April 2017 Reader (and Volunteer) Sign-Ups! – Sign up now to participate in the next round of Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon on April 29th.

Jami Attenberg: ‘I wanted to see if there were other happy endings for single women’ – The author talks about her new book and her wish to create a different type of independent heroine.

Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest – Guidelines for entering the contest, which has a May 15, 2017 deadline.

Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories – For anyone in or soon to visit the LA area, this new exhibit on Butler and her legacy runs from April 8th to August 7th.

Instead of Writing, I Watched Trains – A writer shares how his form of procrastination actually helped him refill the well and get back to work.

Friday Links: Inspiration to Keep Those Writing Goals on Track

TGIF! I’m actually conference-bound this weekend, so this is a down-and-dirty edition of Friday Links before I hit the road. This week my links are a little bit all over the place, but I have the required reading recommendations and some writing inspiration, so I hope everyone finds a couple of things that interest them or set their brain sparking.

Short as this is, I do want to remind you all that the end of March is coming up, and with it, the end of the first quarter of the year. You might want to take a peek back at the goals you set at the start of 2017 and see how things are going. I’ll be revisiting the subject later next week, but the weekend is an excellent time to get a head start.

On that note, I leave you with this week’s links and wish you a wonderful weekend. Happy writing!

On Persistence: The Lessons of a Middle-Aged Debut Novelist – Because not everyone is a prodigy, and it’s never to late to get started.

Fairy and Folk Tale Collections that Aren’t the Brothers Grimm – A nice assortment of alternate tales that give a broader look at the genre.

Study Identities and Social Issues with Iowa’s International Writing Program – Two new free writing courses offered by Iowa’s International Writing Program will start online in May.

Stump the Bookseller – A service that offers up the chance of locating the title of that long lost childhood favorite based on the scantest details.

71 Thousand Hi-Res Historical Maps Available for Free Download – A great archive for research, reference, or inspiration.

How to Write a Short Story and Improve Your Writing Skills – Reasons why trying your had at this short format might be beneficial, plus some excellent tips.

A Journey into the Merriam-Webster Word Factory – For the word-geeks in the audience, a mini tour behind the scenes of the dictionary publisher.

Conference and Course Update

Greetings, all! I know it’s been on the quiet side here, with the exception of Friday Links, and I’m attempting to pull myself out of my reading/editing cave to remedy that a bit. I’m kicking off with a few small announcements today. First, we’re heading into conference season, so I’ve updated my Conference and Travel page with my schedule for the next few months. You can check in there to see what conferences I will be participating in, as well as any I’m simply attending. Please feel free to say hello if you’re going to be at one of these! I love meeting you all.

Next up, I’m pleased to announce that I once more will be teaching my webinar through Writer’s DigestConquer the Dreaded Synopsis: Construct the Ultimate Sales Tool. The course takes place online on June 1st, 2017, at 1pm ET. Please note that if you register ahead, you will receive an email after the live course with a link to a complete replay for your reference, and information on how to submit your synopsis to me for critique. So even if the time is not convenient for you, you might still consider signing up. I have plenty of students who register and take the class after the fact as best suits their schedule and submit their work for critique.

Friday Links: Forward Motion for Writers

There’s a rumor spring is right around the corner. I, for one, am hoping just to get a bit of time in a puddle of sunshine this weekend. Of course, with spring comes other thoughts. Like spring cleaning. At this moment I’m staring at some really ridiculous piles of books that have no home in my apartment. No shelf space, no table space, no nightstand space; they’re all just stacked up on the floor of my office, with more stacks in the bedroom and the living room. I’m also staring at my goal chart for the year, and thinking that needs a little consideration and revising to get me back on track. Fortunately that’s something I can think about while I’m sorting through my book collection and doing a bit of pruning. Anything to get out of my desk chair and away from the computer screen. It’s time for a bit of movement and a break.

How about you? Anything you’re considering sprucing up this weekend? Something need a fresh coat of paint? Writing goals need a review? Do you have to get some projects off your desk and into someone’s submissions pile? Maybe you just want to head out and refill the well, have fun and generate new ideas. But move. Do something. Get your blood flowing, your brain pumping. All motion is forward motion when it comes to writing. Even a rejection leads you closer to yes.

In the meantime, I’ve some links for you to kick off the weekend. Maybe one of them will spark a great new plan. Enjoy, and hapy writing!

How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Market and Just Write – One writer’s winding journey through the publishing industry.

12 of the Biggest Bookstores in the World – Something to keep in mind next time you plan a vacation.

‘The Poky Little Puppy’ and His Fellow Little Golden Books Are Turning 75 – A charming look at this delightful children’s collection that has served as an excellent reading foundation for many a generation.

The Oxford American Writers Fellowship: Applications Close March 30 – For anyone looking for an entree into the industry.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Creating Black Superheroes – The writer discusses his run writing Marvel’s Black Panther comic.

So You Want to Read Alternate History: Here’s Where to Start – Nice list of alternate history titles to get you going or round out your TBR list.

What Happens Next (Or Doesn’t) – Author Marisa Silver discusses plot versus the idea of character-driven narrative.

Friday Links: Getting Your Writing into the World

Happy Friday! It’s a rainy day here in SoCal, and I’m looking at a long weekend of reading — mostly manuscripts. But last night I took a bit of time out and watched the documentary Finding Vivian Maier (on Netflix), about the nanny whose enormous collection of photography was only discovered after her death. Maier was a talented photographer with a great eye and interesting perspective, and the vast majority of her work consists of street portraits. Fascinating as the documentary was, there was also something sad about seeing such amazing work and knowing that the artist behind it died before receiving any acknowledgement of her talent. Her small efforts at having the work printed up came too late, most everything remained boxed up as negatives, and she never knew the impact her images have had on the public.

All of this is to say, don’t forget to share your writing. Unless you truly have no interest in being read or published, you need to get your work out there. Submit. Join a writing group. Find an open mic night that allows writers to share snippets of their works in progress. Take a workshop. Because doing the work is only part of the equation, and writing needs readers.

And now, on to this week’s Friday Links. It’s a hodgepodge of sorts, but I think there’s something interesting for everyone. Wishing you a wonderful weekend of reading and writing, and I offer you a challenge: Choose one writing-related thing to do next week that will help you get your work out there. Enjoy!

Author Ted Chiang Reveals How Arrival Went from Page to Screen – The author discusses his short story and its road to Hollywood.

Met Museum Makes 375,000 Images Free – Get access to a huge wealth of art and other images now available to use as you see fit.

My Job Writing Custom Erotic Love Letters – How one writer paid the bills after her divorce.

Prairie Schooner Book Prize – Last call — entry deadline March 15th.

7 Tips to Help You Self-Edit Your Novel – From the folks at NaNoWriMo, some advice on how to whip that first (or second or third) draft into shape.

What’s in a Fairytale? 5 Helpful Starting Points – Tips for anyone looking to write their own fairytale-esque work.

100 Must-Read Modern Classics – One person’s list, but it has some great titles on it. Handy reference.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing with a Broader World View

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I’m stepping back and taking a look at the larger scope of the world when it comes to writing and reading. How do recent events affect how we view the world, how we write our stories, how we consider our readers, and how we choose what to read ourselves? We can look back and see clearly how the prevalence of fantasy and darker paranormal seemed to grow up around harder economic times, and that the rise of dystopian literature appears to have been a precursor of the current political climate. So what happens now?

I’m not claiming to be drawing any conclusions with this week’s links, but many do play into this theme and I think it’s something to consider going forward. It’s early days yet, but I’m sure the writings of our time will reflect much of this current turmoil eventually, as well as whatever follows. Food for thought going into the weekend. I wish you lots of excellent time to read and to write, and  hopefully a bit of inspiration. Enjoy!

Fantasy Is about Power: An Interview with Lev Grossman – A talk with the author of The Magicians trilogy, about the books, and about the TV series based on them that just began its second season.

Translation — and Migration — Is the Lifeblood of Culture – A look at how the mix of ideas and cultures from different nations serves to influence and develop imagination everywhere.

On Dracula’s Lost Islandic Sister Text – On this mysterious, altered version of Stoker’s classic work.

“It’s Going to Be Darker. And that’s OK.” Neil Gaiman on Trump, Brexit, and the Death of Social Media – Gaiman discusses the new series based on American Gods and considers what it means to create art in troubled times.

50 Must-Visit Beautiful Bookstores on Six Continents – See the world, buy some books.

Waterstone’s, the UK’s National Bookstore, Came Back from Near-Death by Transforming into Indie, Local Stores – How the new mastermind behind the chain turned the tide, proving it’s still possible to get readers into bookstores.

What’s the Next Big Dystopian Novel? Margaret Atwood Has some Ideas – The author of The Handmaid’s Tale, which has gained new popularity between current politics and the series soon to debut on Hulu, talks dystopian literature and book trends.

How to Escape the Slush Pile: A Self-Editing Checklist for Short Story Writers – Excellent tips, some of which apply to any writing.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing for the Long Winter Haul

Happy Friday, all! Apparently the groundhog saw his shadow yesterday, so we’re looking at six more weeks of winter weather in the northern hemisphere. In homage to that fact, I’ve got a ton of book recommendation links for you all this week, so whatever it looks like outside your window, you have some good reading material to keep you company. I’ll admit I’m doing a lot of reading myself these days, both for work and for pleasure, because I am in need of a good distraction from the insanity of real life, and books have always been that for me.

Of course, I also have some writing opportunities lined up in the links, so do take a look and maybe find yourself a deadline or a new publication to add to your writing goals. It’s always good to stretch your skills; you never know when you might come up with your next brilliant idea. Wishing you all a wonderful, creative weekend. Happy writing!

9 Books by Black Authors You Need on your Black History Month Reading List – Some really great titles, old and newer, to add to your TBR if you haven’t gotten around to them yet.

25 Great Books by Refugees in America – Another timely list of wonderful titles, across a wide range of subjects and genres.

Opportunities for Writers: February and March 2017 – A list of upcoming deadlines for contests, fellowships, publications and so on.

Join the Book Riot February #Riotgrams Instagram Challenge – A fun boookish photo challenge for anyone on Instagram. It kicked off on Feb. 1st, but there’s plenty of time to play catch up as the rules are extremely flexible.

Eimear McBride Is Not Afraid of Cruelty – The author talks about her new book, her thoughts on long descriptions, and her approach to writing.

100 Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy Debuts – A huge collection of debut sff books both recent and classic. Fabulous reference for anyone looking to get a great overview of the genre.

17 Books to Read This February – Some great-sounding new releases due out this month that will help the short days and still-long nights fly by.

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.