Friday Links: Creative Outlets for Difficult Days

It’s been a tense week filled with terrible news, here in the U.S. The sort that makes you want to hold your loved ones a little closer and try to be a little kinder to everyone you meet, even as you wonder how there can be so much pointless hatred out there. I hope this week’s links provide a little distraction and maybe some inspiration. Creating something meaningful isn’t the worst way to try to combat the ugliness in the world. Of course, sometimes the world drains you of every creative impulse, in which case escaping into a good book can offer a brief respite, if that’s what you seek.

Wishing you all a safe, sane, enjoyable weekend.

On the Genius of Yuri Herrera’s Character Names – One translator looks at the meaning behind an author’s choices.

12 Bookstores Every Reader Should Visit in Their Lifetime – Some gorgeous photos to inspire your next book-related travel plans.

Why Setting a Historical Romance Outside of England Is Risky Business – The strange reality of sales figures in this particular sub-genre.

Modern Witches Are So Much More Than Just Mothers/Maidens/Crones – A look at more recent roles for this standard archetypal character.

The Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview – A rundown of a huge number of highly anticipated titles due to release during the second half of the year. By no means exhaustive, but it has something to tempt just about everyone.

Life Behind the Stacks: The Secret Apartments of New York Libraries – A peek into the world of the former library caretakers of NYC.

10 Mistakes (Almost) Every Rookie Writer Makes: Part 2 – A continuation from the previous list, with some great tips to keep in mind.

Friday Links: Sparking Creative Whimsy

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s a holiday weekend here in the U.S., coming on the heels of another busy week. Thanks to everyone who came out and pitched during the Twitter Pitch Fest on Wednesday, and to everyone else who spread the word, cheered on the writers who were pitching, or was just generally excited during the event. We had a fabulous time and saw so many amazing pitches over the 8-hour window. I know we’re going to be busy reading for quite a while.

For those of you who didn’t hear about the pitch fest until too late, weren’t quite ready to pitch your manuscript, or couldn’t quite imagine pitching in 140 characters or less, please remember that The Knight Agency is open to general submissions, and we’re always happy to read your queries. Please check out our submission guidelines for complete details.

Now on to this week’s links! I’ve got a pretty broad assortment, including some whimsy in honor of the holiday. Whether you’re hanging out at the beach or poolside, picnicking or kicking back at home, I hope you all have a lovely time this weekend and manage to squeeze in a bit of personal creative time. Even if you set aside your writing project, take some photos or try your hand at sketching, bake something delicious or play in your garden. You’ll be surprised at what sorts of inspiration pop up when you’re occupied with other things. You might even generate some fresh ideas to help push your goals forward in this second half of the year. Enjoy!

All Stories Are the Same – On the constants of dramatic storytelling.

5 Writing Tips to Creating a Page Turner – Author Eileen Cook offers a great checklist for making sure you keep your reader hooked.

Habitually Chic: A Little Life – Bookshelf envy, which I share with you all. Scroll down to see author Hanya Yanagihara’s amazing book collection.

The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips – Fun for planning a summer road trip, even if it’s just of the armchair variety.

10 Lessons Learned from My First Grown-Up Writing Job – One writer shares some hard-earned knowledge.

OED Birthday Word Generator – Find out what word originated around the year you were born.

Putting Borges’ Infinite Library on the Internet – A look at how the concept behind Borges’ story about the Library of Babel translates to the web.

Friday Links: Techniques and Toys for the Writer’s Toolbox

TGIF! Welcome to the end of yet another very weird week. My brain keeps turning over that old blessing/curse from Confucius: May you live in interesting times. For better or worse, I’d say recent weeks/months/years certainly count. But it’s Friday and I feel bruised and beaten up after a long few days of too much desk time, way too much coffee, and far too little sleep, so that’s about as much as I’m going to say on the social/political front today.

What I do have for you is a great collection of links for the week. Like last week, there’s a bit of a mishmash, but I feel many of them will help you load up your writer’s toolbox — both literally and figuratively — and to tackle your writing goals. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of reading goodness to distract you, too, if that’s where your mood is. Wishing you a wonderful weekend filled with all things word related. Enjoy!

The Mental Health Benefits of Writing, Backed by Science – In case you were worried that writing was driving you crazy.

Novels Bring World War II to Life for a New Generation – A look at the recent uptick in popularity of WWII-era novels for young adults.

Laptop Buying Guide for Writers – K. Tempest Bradford pulls together a few of her podcasts that talk laptop features and her recommendations specifically for writers.

Faerie-led: Thoughts on Writing Meaningful Fantasy – A thoughtful look at the genre.

Apple Begins Paying Out on Ebook Settlement – In case you haven’t heard, you might have some extra book money floating around.

Think You Couldn’t Possibly Lose Your Amazon Publishing Account? – Important read for self-pub/hybrid folks, but interesting for all.

A Map to Get Out of Writer’s Block – A very handy, helpful graphic, worth saving for future emergencies even if you always feel inspired and ready to write.

49 Underrated Books You Really Need to Read – Have read and loved a number of these, but better believe my TBR list just got longer.

New York Taught Me to Be a Better Listener – Interesting read. Note that this didn’t have to take place in New York, the author just happened to have her learning experience there.

Serial Reader app – Looking to squeeze some classics reading into your life? This free app sends you classics in short installments, a new 10-15 minutes’ worth of reading each day. Huge and growing collection of titles. So far just for iOS, but an Android version is in the works.

Friday Links: On Reading (and Writing) All the Books

Whenever I get really busy, I start to have this panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach that says I’m falling behind with reading all the books I want to read. It’s irrational, of course. As a diehard bookworm, I know there isn’t any way I’ll live long enough to read all those stories. First of all, it’s a moving target, more great-sounding titles hitting the shelves every year. And second, I just don’t read that fast. But it’s still there. The anxiety over missing out. It’s the sensation that inspires me to indulge in weekend readathons, and that makes me particularly sympathetic to people with limited access to books. It probably helped steer me toward a career in publishing, because after all, getting paid to read books means you spend more time with your nose between the covers (or hovering in front of the computer screen).

This week’s Friday Links feature the usual assortment of reading-and-writing information and oddities, but I think my itch to spend some quality time reading shines through. Whether you’re planning a quick getaway, chasing after the kids, or spending the weekend in the yard doing chores, I hope you find a bit of time to devote to your own reading and/or writing. Maybe one or two of these with give you a push in the right direction. Enjoy, and have a wonderful weekend!

12 New Books We’re Excited to Read on Vacation this Summer – A great list; a few of these are already on my TBR pile.

How Young Adult Authors Can Use Tumblr to Reach Their Readers – Excellent tips for all writers, not just those working in YA.

How to Write a Fight Scene in 11 Steps – Nice breakdown of various fight scenes and how to approach writing your own.

Infiltrating Literature’s Secret Societies – A look inside a very particular type of novel, including some great examples to add to your reading list.

The Inspiration for Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti is a Muslim Scientist from the 10th Century – A fascinating and inspirational peek at the real history behind Okorafor’s wonderful book.

Just. One. Book. – A compelling blog post about a small, rural school in California that is trying to restock their hopelessly out-of-date library with new, diverse titles. Please consider sending along a book and/or boosting the signal. Starting Monday they plan to have an Amazon wish list up, but they’d love to get a copy of your favorite middle grade/young adult title.

The Delicate Art of Character Folding – On the writer’s dilemma of having to eliminate characters they’ve grown to love.

Books I Wish I Wrote: On Writerly Jealousy – Pretty much what the title says, with some great books mentioned.

Friday Links: Beginnings and Endings

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m hoping this will be my last very quiet week on the blog, as I’m back from my travels and I’m plowing through an enormous backlog of work, but by the end of the long weekend everything should be all caught up and properly on track. Which gives you something of a hint as to my plans for the Memorial Day holiday. May you all have something a little more beach and/or BBQ on your calendar.

This past week I spent much of my time away handling some ongoing family matters, which means I was not on the internet very much. As a result, this week’s links are a bit sparser than usual. This does nothing to diminish their quality, however, so I hope you find a bit of inspiration or great things to read when you click through. Wishing those of you celebrating a wonderful long weekend, and a lovely regular weekend to everyone else. Enjoy!

Taking Your Notebook for a Walk: An A to K of Places to Write – A fun list of suggestions to get you out of the house and noticing the world around you.

How the Writer Edits: Julian Barnes – The author discusses his editorial process and how his approach changes from book to book.

Celebrate Short Story Month with These 17 Stellar Short Stories by Contemporary Writers – A great collection of titles available online.

8 Books (and Advice) to Give a Recent Graduate – Some less-obvious choices for the new grad in your life.

Dear Novel: On Breaking Up with Your Manuscript – A funny look at making the decision to set aside a project that’s not working.

Friday Links: Combatting Cabin Fever

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s been an insanely busy week here, so I apologize for being a bit quiet on the inter-webs. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and plow forward. And of course, with spring in full bloom here in the northern hemisphere, I’m aware that I, like everyone else, am struggling with a certain level of cabin fever. The birds are even now chirping outside my office window and it’s very tempting to just go play outside.

When I’m feeling this sort of pull, I resist it by reminding myself that the nice weather will still be there come the weekend… or whenever things quiet down to normal levels. Or I give myself lines in the sand; do everything on this list and then you can wander down the block to Starbucks for an hour of fresh air and caffeine injections. But it also helps to be engrossed in what I’m working on. The lure of a lovely day feels much less tempting if I’m reading a wonderful manuscript or helping make a project better. It’s all relative.

With this in mind, I’ve got a mishmash of links for you today that I hope help to combat your own cabin fever and allow you to put in a bit of reading and writing time. Plenty of things to think about and get you into gear. Enjoy!

Around the world in 18 science fiction and fantasy novels – A nice roundup for some serious armchair travel.

Interrogating Sentimentality with Leslie Jamison – On the line between writing that’s emotional and writing that’s overly sentimental or saccharine.

Download 67,000 Historic Maps – An open collection of high resolution maps available from Stanford University’s David Rumsey Map Collection. Great for research.

On the Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books – Most of us know this problem. An interesting look at an author’s experience with trying to apply the Marie Kondo tidying method to her bookshelves, proving that not all systems work for all people — or at least not precisely as intended.

Whit Stillman Returns: “Sometimes it’s good to blow through all your deadlines.” – The director of Metropolitan tackles Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship.

Authors, Get Thee to Social Media: Explaining the Rise and Rise of YA Books – Intriguing article with some great points about social media (though this is obviously not the entire driving force behind the success of YA).

Knausgaard in Chicago: “I Don’t Want to Write about Myself Anymore.” – The author known for his mammoth multi-volume work of autobiographical fiction talks about literary ambition and success with Sheila Heti.

 

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.

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.