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 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: Make Writing (and Reading) a Priority

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s a crisp fall-like morning here in SoCal (though we’re definitely looking at summer temperatures by lunchtime), and it has me completely energized. Which is a great thing, given my laundry list of to-dos for the weekend. I have serious plans involving work-related reading, a library visit to donate books, a fun run on the calendar for Saturday morning, dust bunnies to battle, and if I’m very good, a bit of time with my personal TBR stack. Depending on the whims of the weather, I will try to spend at least part of my reading time outdoors, because this week was nose-to-grindstone and I’m feeling pale and confined.

So what do you all have plotted out for this weekend? Chores? Family jaunt? Time with a good book? I hope you have at least a little writing time scouted out. Remember that putting it on your official calendar/schedule/day-planner/whatever can be very helpful when it comes to maintaining that commitment to yourself. If it’s important to you, make it a priority. Don’t let the other responsibilities of life throw you off your goals.

While you’re busy scheduling your next couple of days, be sure to leave a little window of time for checking out this week’s links. I’ve got a great lineup and I hope you find them entertaining, edifying, and just plain inspirational. Enjoy, and happy writing!

21 Novels by Women to Add to Your TBR This Fall – Great list. I’m itching to read more than a few of these.

This Ebook Publisher Doesn’t Have Authors. It Has Writers’ Rooms – A peek at the concept and the people behind Serial Box.

Introducing: Bookselling in the 21st Century – A new series from Lithub about independent bookstores.

2016 National Book Awards Longlists – This year’s nominated books, by category. Yes, more things to add to your already topping TBR pile.

Craft Thoughts: Why You Should Edit As You Write – One theory on the writing/editing process from Lincoln Michel.

Roald Dahl: Long-lost poem recovered by Tyrone school – Yet more unknown work by an author of note coming to light after years. This seems to be a weekly occurrence, but I say keep them coming.

My Best Writing Tip by William Boyd, Jeanette Winterson, Amit Chaudhuri, and more – Pretty much as described. Nice round up, followed by a few additional tips from an agent and an editor.

How to Interview a Writer (and How to Be Interviewed) – Some helpful tips for any of you running blogs and/or podcasts, or who have been invited to guest on one by someone else.

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.

Book View Now with Mary Norris at AWP16

All hail the Comma Queen! Anyone who’s spent any time around me knows I have a bit of a grammar thing. I love when people use it properly, and its rampant misuse (as opposed to the occasional typo or error) makes me twitchy. So imagine my delight when The New Yorker‘s delightful Mary Norris turned out to be one of the speakers at AWP16. So for my final bit of love to that conference before I move on to the more recent LA Times Festival of Books, I offer up this excellent interview.

Friday Links: Recommit to Your Writing Goals

Happy Friday, everyone! And a very happy Easter to those of you celebrating this weekend. I suspect anyone dealing with bunnies and eggs and midnight services might not get a whole lot of writing done over the next few days, but that still leaves a few days on the other side of the weekend to address what I’m going to talk about next, which is the end of the month — and therefore the end of the first quarter of 2016.

Ah, snuck up on you, didn’t it? Kind of hard to believe we’re just about three months into the year, but we are. So I challenge you to take an hour or two between now and April 1st to take a peek at your list of goals for this year and see how you’re doing. On track? Need to recommit? Can you cross anything off? Maybe things have changed and you need to rework one or more goal in light of those changes. Only you can say for certain, but now is the perfect time to make those decisions and figure out where you go from here. And for those of you who didn’t make any writing goals for 2016, it’s never too late to start! We still have nine months ahead of us and it’s amazing how much you can do in that amount of time.

As for this week’s links, I hope they inspire you in your commitment to your goals and maybe help you get them done. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Lynn Steger Strong On Writing Characters Too Nuanced to Be Reduced – An interesting article with some thoughts on making characters deep and true.

Opportunities for Writers: April and May 2016 – A list of fellowships, competitions, etc. where you can submit your writing in the next couple of months.

Before You Blow Up Your Life, Do This – Jonathan Fields on knowing when not to quit your day job.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon – Sign-ups are now open for this fun readathon scheduled for April 23rd. A great way to set aside some time specifically for catching up with your reading.

The Life of a Book: An Interview with Editor Brant Rumble, Part 1 – The first in a series from Penguin Random House tracing the book’s journey from manuscript to bookstore.

On Terrible Writing Advice from Famous Writers – A humorous reminder to always think for yourself and filter what you hear.

Want to Write for Book Riot? – The bookish site is currently seeking new contributors.

 

Making Room for the Reader

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As children, we fall in love with books that take us along for the ride, stories where we can close our eyes and easily imagine ourselves into the adventure. Book lovers never really lose that urge to join the story, to fall into the romance between the pages or head out on the dangerous quest. The writer’s job is to craft their tale in such a way as to allow the reader this mental insertion. But how does that work? What makes a novel that accessible?

Writers of otherwise polished, well-paced stories often hear back from agents or editors that they could not “connect” with the protagonist. Or that they weren’t “feeling” the voice. In some instances this is a case of personal taste, but in others it can mean that the writer has held back from really delving into their main character, especially if they are writing a limited third-person narrative. The character might be portrayed in great detail — lots of showing and not too much telling — but what’s lacking is the why behind the actions. If the reader is going to be able to walk in the character’s shoes and feel that connection, the writer must walk there first, and showing the details of that character’s journey includes conveying their thoughts and motivations and making sure they have direct correlation to their actions.

A writer who puts themselves inside their character’s head and asks whywhy are they doing this, why are they saying that — will soon find their story changing. Filler actions, such as smiles and sighs and other character twitches that often serve no purpose, will get deleted. Dialogue might become more meaningful, or more sparse, or more snarky, depending on the character and the point in the story. Emotions such as fear and anxiety get ramped up. Characters might be less likely to faint or cry without true provocation. Complications could arise, making the text richer and more layered. All of these things help pull the reader into the story. The character will no longer be shuttered and closed off, keeping the reader at bay.

First-person narratives might seem like an easy fix to this issue, but the truth is that writers can fail to dig deeply into the character even when writing in first person. The danger with first person can be the temptation to ramble on inside the character’s head, creating overly long monologues that cover every nuance of their thoughts. As with real life dialogue, which features far too much chit-chat to include in character dialogue, a real person’s thoughts include more tangents and fluff than is interesting in a novel. A writer must still crawl quite consciously into their character’s head and sort the important details from the detritus. Again, it’s important to ask why the character thinks these things, how they connect to their actions in the story, and to make these things shine through in the writing so that the reader feels welcome in that character’s head as well.

Knowing the character, drilling down, strengthening motivations, taking it further — all ways of referring to this opening up the details of the story in order to make it accessible for the reader. The goal is to pull that reader in on an emotional level, make them wish they were part of the action on the page. A well-written novel is an invitation to fall in love, to catch the killer, to find the treasure, to slay the monster. A completed novel might be an accomplishment, but it only truly comes to life when someone opens its pages and dives into the world the writer has created.

Practice Makes Perfect: NaNoWriMo as a Writing Exercise

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Practice makes perfect. While the relative perfection of any finished project is up for debate, the reality of writing, as with many creative endeavors, is that you need to work at your craft in order to improve.

When you were a small child, first learning the building blocks of what would eventually become your ability to write – the alphabet, how to fashion individual letters, how to spell short words: cat, hat, bat – no one expected you to get these things right the first time you tried. The adults teaching you understood that it would take time for you to remember all the letters, to comprehend their meaning, to adjust to holding a pencil and forcing it to make recognizable shapes, to memorize what letters represented the words you already knew. They coaxed you through repetitions, assured you of your progress when you grew frustrated, and encouraged you to keep adding new skills to your arsenal.

Writing a novel is no different, and I feel it’s particularly important to stress this now, in the midst of NaNoWriMo, when so many aspiring authors dive into the task of writing a novel in a month. Publishing professionals, and agents in particular, are quick to remind NaNo participants that their completed NaNo novel is in no way ready for submission on November 30th. What you create during this month is a draft, a very early version of what your book might one day be. But more importantly, this month of writing every day, of shaking off your internal editor and sitting down to add more words to your project instead of editing or deleting yesterday’s efforts — this month serves as a fabulous writing exercise.

Whether you are writing for NaNoWriMo or just for yourself on an average day of the year, each time you sit in front of your keyboard or pick up a pen and notebook, you work a sort of alchemy. You are creating a story out of thin air, plucking the idea from your imagination and personal experiences and influences, then fashioning it into something some other person might read. Any given day you might write a string of sentences or pages that never make it past the confines of your writing desk. They might get rewritten later on or you might give up on that particular concept and move on to something else. But never consider those abandoned pages wasted effort, because the act of writing requires practice, and part of any practice is understanding what not to do as much as what you should do.

Producing 50,000 words in a month can be a difficult haul, especially for a new writer, but ignore the naysayers who tell you that you’re crazy to do it. Because at the end of thirty days, you will have a great deal of writing practice under your belt and a good chunk of first draft to play with. Likely you’ll need to add to it, since most novels are a longer than 50,000 words. And you will undoubtedly need to revise it. Parts might get discarded, and others changed until they barely resemble their origins. There are plenty of stories of professional writers who cherry picked through their NaNo drafts, taking only the interesting bits to make a better book. But that’s no different from any first draft of a project. First drafts are meant to be jumping off points, not finished works. And with every first draft you create, your writing skills get more polished, more adept. Each book teaches you something new.

So to those of you participating in NaNoWriMo this month, whether for the first time for the fifteenth, I say good for you and happy writing. The same goes to anyone simply plugging along with their writing practice, because of course you don’t need an organized event to write daily. After all, there are eleven other months in the year, and practice makes perfect.

Friday Links

Everywhere I look, I see signs that fall is coming. Back-to-school sales, fall book lists, the return of pumpkin-themed foods. But despite all that, it’s still full-on summer in my neck of the woods, another heatwave bearing down and the air conditioning on high to combat constant sweaty foreheads. Though we human beings are the ones who imposed the concept of seasons over the way our weather cycles, we seem terribly bad at actually enjoying the seasons as they play out. Life in a commerce-driven world — we are at the mercy of the marketing calendar.

But I’m more concerned with the weekly calendar today. TGIF! I’ve a nice selection of links for you, and I hope you enjoy them, whatever sort of weather or season you’re experiencing. Don’t forget to squeeze in your writing time. Happy weekend!

The End of the Ambitious Summer Reading List – An interesting look at how our collective reading habits have shifted.

The Great Booksellers Fall Preview – A peek at the books booksellers around the country are looking forward to reading and/or selling.

What Happened to O? – Just one more small evolution of language.

The Purpose of Plot: An Argument with Myself – One reader’s relationship with plot summaries.

When the Editor Becomes the Writer – On wearing two hats.