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 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: Out with the Old, In with the New

It’s the last Friday of 2016, so I’ve a selection of forward-looking links for you to help you get started on those new year’s goals. You have been thinking about your goals for 2017, right? If not, check out my tips from Wednesday’s post to help you get started.

I think we call all agree this was an extremely eventful, and in some ways traumatic, year. This past week’s celebrity deaths hit particularly hard; I feel like my childhood is being stripped from me in enormous chunks. But I still plan to kick off 2017 with as much enthusiasm and determination as I can muster. Only we can create a world that helps cushion us from the inevitable heartbreaks of life — one where people can reach for their dreams and live in health, safety, and a measure of achievement. It may feel far off sometimes, but that’s no excuse not to keep pushing in the right direction.

On that note, I offer you some inspiration for the coming year. Best of luck with whatever you strive to accomplish. Happy writing!

Writer’s Digest Shop Sale – There are some great markdowns at the moment on books and webinars to help you with all your writing goals.

Submission Strategies: Advice from a Literary Magazine Editor – Some tips to get your work past those gatekeepers.

67 Best SEO Tips for Bloggers – Strategies for getting more traffic to your blog and website.

The State of Flash Fiction – A look at this very short form of storytelling and how it’s role is developing in the marketplace.

10 Overlooked Books by Women in 2016 – Catch these before the new crop of titles makes your TBR pile fall over.

Anticipated Books of 2017 – Bookriot.com shares the titles they’re looking forward to next year on the All the Books podcast.

Creative Live – Online courses across a wide range of creative fields, including inspiration for writing, marketing and PR, social media, web design, branding, freelancing, and much more. They also have some great sales going on at the moment.

 

Writing Goals: Planning for 2017

The new year is on the horizon, and at this point many people start to draft their new year’s resolutions. If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know I’m not really a fan of the idea of resolutions. The concept brings to mind vague promises to get thin or save more money, usually broken by sometime in February. What I am a huge fan of, however, is goal setting.

What’s the difference between a resolution and a goal, you ask? For me, making goals is all about setting concrete, measurable achievements to aim for in a specific amount of time, complete with a list of tasks needed to hit them as planned. While I don’t always manage to make all my goals, I find this approach to be much more successful overall than the resolution route.

Begin by aiming high. I like to dream up one or two big things I’d like to accomplish over the course of the year. Things that will take all the way until December. These can often be broken down into smaller, mid-point goals that keep me on track. For instance, if the goal is to sign six new clients, I’d aim for one every 6-8 weeks.

Next, outline some smaller goals. Everyone loves a sense of achievement. It encourages you to keep striving. So think of goals that won’t take anywhere near an entire year to accomplish. Maybe you have a few 30-day goals, and three or four that might take 4-6 months.

Determine what each goal will require of you. For each goal, you need a game plan — a list of tasks you need to perform in order to achieve your end result. These might include doing something entirely new, stepping up your productivity in a certain area, etc. If I go back to my hypothetical goal of six new clients, I might dedicate more time to reading submissions, spend time seeking out likely sounding authors by reading shared work on various online forums, agree to judge some writing contests, etc. Some of the tasks on your list might end up small goals you can check off — like researching a topic for a book, purchasing the domain name for a new author website, or making a list of agents to submit to.

Design your Goal Calendar for 2017. Take a look at your schedule and figure out when you want to tackle the short-term goals from your list. Keep in mind that some small goals should get pushed until later in the year. Don’t try to tackle everything at once on January 1st; that just leads to frustration and fatigue. Consider any travel plans you might have or big work projects that you anticipate keeping you especially busy, and work around them. And remember that your long-term goals will also be taking place across the span of the entire year. If you’ve broken them down into smaller chunks, place those goal due dates on your calendar as well.

There you go! You’ve got your plan for the year and a road map for how to achieve your goals. Of course, it’s not quite as easy as that. You’re going to want to put a little time into planning what your goals are. Consider what you’ve achieved this year, where you’ve hit your targets and where you’ve fallen short, and how that might reflect on your choices for 2017. Plus, remember that all of this is yours to design and to alter as you go. The best plans are flexible. Sure, you should strive to achieve the things you’re aiming for, but be honest with yourself and allow those goals to shift and develop as the year progresses, if circumstances call for it. Life happens, and that means what you want to achieve right now might not be what you want to work toward come September.

Whatever your goals — for writing, for improving your health, for spending more time with your family — this approach will allow you to create a concrete plan for achieving them without becoming overwhelmed or losing sight of your targets. Happy planning, and best of luck for a wonderfully productive 2017.

 

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.

Friday Links: The Fly-By Edition

Happy Friday, everyone! This is my last weekend in town for a while, as I’ve got back-to-back conferences coming up, so I’m going to keep this short but sweet. As you might imagine, I’ve a very long to-do list about now. So without further ado, I offer up this week’s links. Enjoy, and don’t forget to put aside some writing time!

26 Maps Reveal a New York City Hiding in Plain Sight – Writing about New York? Pondering the different sides of a city — any city? These might give you some ideas.

Bullet Journaling for Fiction Writers – Ideas for organizing your thoughts, research, writing schedule, and more.

What Makes a Children’s Book Good? – A discussion of pretty much what the title states.

Alexandra Kleeman & Lincoln Michel: On Genre, Influence, and Getting Weird in Fiction – Two writers known for their short fiction discuss the format and their own perspectives on writing.

Why Melissa de la Cruz’s Immigration Story Matters Now – A look at the author’s new book and her experiences as an immigrant to the U.S.

Study Storied Women with Iowa’s International Writing Program – Details on a new, free online writing course offered by the University of Iowa.

The Literature of Creepy Clowns – Fitting, given the approach of Halloween and also the strange clown threats popping up across the country.

Friday Links: Facets of the Writing Life

TGIF! The weekend has arrived, and I hope it’s brought some time off for all of you to read, write, and sneak in a bit of relaxation. People seem to be anxious to acknowledge the end of summer, but officially we still have a few weeks to go, and even unofficially we have another week until the long Labor Day weekend. So I say make the most of it.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit this week of all the facets of the writer’s life. Even the act of writing itself varies enormously from person to person, by what they write, how often, level of commitment, etc. So it’s probably no surprise that several of this week’s links revolve around the lives of writers, including how they live, how they work, where they work, and so on. I think I’ve found a balance of serious, informational, and humorous, and there should be something here for everyone. Enjoy, and happy writing!

N.K. Jemisin on Diversity in Science Fiction and Inspiration from Dreams – Jemisin, the first black writer to win the Hugo Award for a Novel, talks about her experiences writing The Fifth Season and with the award process.

How Instagram Became the New Oprah’s Book Club – An interesting look at the social media platform’s role in book marketing.

Five Reasons Why Writers Should Move to Columbus – Ohio, that is. For writers whose pockets won’t stretch to New York or LA.

In Order to Live: Story Structure on the Horoscopic Scale – An intricate look at all the ways writers attack story structure.

Tin House Is Accepting Unsolicited Submissions for 2017 – Details on the latest open reading period for the literary magazine.

The Spoils of Destruction – The story of Thomas Mann’s Pacific Palisades house, and its current uncertain fate.

On the Barbizon Hotel, and the Women Writers Who Lived There – A look at the famous New York City hotel where young, single women stayed when they came to make their fortune in the big city.

Antarctic Artists & Writers Program – A program that enables writers and other artists to visit Antarctica for creative purposes.

Friday Links: Sending Your Inner Writer Back to School

Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve got a ton of reading recs for you this week in Friday Links, from lists of great books that have released this year to date to suggested reading for writers and a bunch in between. All great grist for the mill. And why is that important? Because September is just a stone’s throw away, and with it comes the downhill race toward the end of the year. We all know how fast those last four months fly, with kids back in school and holidays starting to loom, so now is the time to get your inspiration on and put your writer’s brain in gear. Read things that make you anxious to write, dive into that research you’ve been contemplating, stick some deadlines on your calendar. Get ready to do great things!

So without further ado, I offer up this week’s links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The 25 Best Books of 2016 (So Far) – Pretty much what it says on the label. Some terrific titles on this list.

Hanya Yanagihara: ‘Don’t We Read Fiction Exactly to Be Upset?’ – The writer talks about what it means to be brave as a writer.

Top 10 Books Writers Should Read – Not your typical list, this offers up some fresh ideas for getting that writer’s brain tuned up and ready to roar.

President Obama’s 2016 Summer Reading List – In case you missed it, here’s what President Obama chose to read on his annual summer vacation.

Opportunities for Writers: September and October 2016 – A list of places to submit your work with deadlines in the next two months.

The Dangerous Myth of Authenticity – A look at the tightrope a writer walks when dealing in details that may stretch the reader’s ability to believe in the story.

Brain Drain and the Writer

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Pretty much everyone experiences it once in a while. Call it burn out or fatigue or brain drain (my personal favorite), but you stop running long enough to sit in front of your keyboard and get some writing done and your mind just goes blank. No one home. No ideas, no energy, nothing but the sensation of your brain cells possibly liquifying and draining out through your ears — the origin of my preferred moniker for the situation.

Honestly? That’s me right now. My blogging has been a little sparse in recent weeks, and I feel the self-imposed pressure to come up with an informative, thoughtful post for all of you. Something that’s not a list of links or a general announcement or an embedded video of someone else’s ideas or experience. All of those are wonderful blog content, but I always aim to keep a percentage of posts my own original material and, well… not much of that going on at the moment. Because the instant I clicked on Add New Post (a good 40 minutes ago), I realized that my brain was not going to be cooperative this morning.

What causes brain drain? In my case, I’ve been on a reading jag for work — more so than usual — pushing through a lot of submissions and client material, some of which require editorial notes. I attended a conference, taught a webinar, tackled a whole bunch of behind-the-scenes contract/vendor/distribution details on a number of projects. It’s been brutally hot on and off for weeks and I’m sleeping badly as a result. And I won’t even go into the personal end of things. So, business as usual? Busy life as always? Yes, of course, but it does add up, and my brain has apparently decided I’ve hit the point of maximum density. Time to drain everything and start over. In other words, it’s telling me I need a little break.

Now, brain drain is not the same thing as writer’s block, though they certainly can overlap. But where writer’s block often signals that you need to get a better fix on where your story needs to go (or where it has been in those last pages you wrote), brain drain calls for a letting up — taking time away from the chaos and the hectic schedule to breathe and clear your head. Brain drain demands a day off or a long nap with the phone silenced or an honest-to-goodness vacation. It’s tempting to try to squeeze the life out of every moment of your day, especially for writers who often need to fight so hard just to find the time to focus on their current work in progress. But as important as it is to commit to your writing, it’s also important to maintain your health and well being so you can produce your best work. And sometimes that means giving yourself a break.

So the next time you find yourself staring at the blank page, ask when you last did something completely mindless. You may discover you’re overdue for an afternoon playing hooky or a long weekend at the beach.