Friday Links: The Writing Goals Review Edition

Six months down, six months to go. We’re officially halfway through 2017. Have you checked in with your writing goals lately? As we head into the weekend, it’s the perfect time to set aside an hour or so and review the goals you made earlier this year. Figure out if you’re on track, if you’ve veered way off the path, if some of your goals need to be revised because your aspirations have shifted or circumstances make it necessary.

It’s important to have a plan, to know where you want to go with your career. Yes, there’s always room for new ideas and for spontaneous shifts when great opportunities come up, but overall, you should know what you’re aiming to achieve, and the steps you need to take to do so. So look back and see what you’ve done well, and where you’ve fallen down on the job. More than anything, be honest with yourself; don’t beat yourself up for failures, but also acknowledge when you might have worked harder, said no to a few more nights out when you should have been writing, or allowed a shiny idea to lure you away from a work in progress.

Then look forward. Where do you want to be at the end of December? Do you have smaller goals you can finish by summer’s end? By late September? Before the holidays hit? Stagger your self-imposed deadlines and make sure you have some more managable tasks that you can check off your goal list on the road to your more major accomplishments.

As for this week’s links, I like to think everything I dig up has the potential to help you along your path to goal fulfillment. You knw the steps you need to take: read, write, revise, and educate yourself about the writing business. So on the cusp of this long Independence Day weekend here in the U.S., I wish you all the inspiration and motivation you need to meet your goals head-on. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The American Experience in 737 Novels – This resource feels appropriate as we commemorate the birth of our nation.

22 of Your Favorite Writers on What to Read This Summer – Recommendations from some amazing authors.

Deal or No Deal: Why Being a Literary Agent Doesn’t Make it Easier to Write a Book – Some advice from the other side of the desk.

20 Magical Tattoos for 20 Years of Harry Potter – Some fun body art in honor of the Boy Who Lived’s anniversary.

25 Books for Teens Written by Black Women Writers to Rock Your 2017 – A great list to help round out your TBR pile.

M.L. Rio’s 5 Best Novels Inspired by Shakespeare – So many great books take their cues from classics. Here Rio shares some of her favorites based on the works of the Bard.

How to Keep Writing (Even if You Have a Day Job): 5 Tips from Novelist Jennifer Close – Some useful advice to keep the words flowing.

Friday Links: Writing Is Rewriting

This has been a week of distractions, with a million shiny (and not-so-shiny) things popping up at every turn to demand my attention. Not only can that make it difficult to finish whatever tasks were originally on your to-do list, but it’s exhausting. So my current plan for the weekend involves getting this post up, sending out a few emails, and then unplugging for the most part until Monday morning. At least from the internet and its constant bombardment from social media and the like. I think I have a date with the beach, a book, and a big floppy hat. And possibly print outs of a few dozen submissions.

Maybe you plan to unplug as well, but if not, here are this week’s Friday Links to keep you entertained and possibly inspire some creative time. Several of these are particularly useful if you’re in or approaching the rewrite/editing stage. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The Five Bes to Being a Better Beta Buddy – Some great tips for giving feedback to your writing critique partners.

When You’re Ready to Move from Summer Reading to Summer Writing – Some short-term writing retreats to check out on your summer vacation, or to inspire you to check out what else might be out there.

Joseph Kanon: There Is No Better Place to Write than the Library – The author shares his love for writing in the New York Public Library, and why he finds it makes the perfect office.

California Soul: A Literary Guide to SoCal Beach Towns – A list of beachy locales with a bit of an edge, straight from the pages of fiction.

The Legend of an Editor – A look inside the work practices of Robert Silver of The New York Review of Books, and the legend he left behind.

Roxane Gay Is the Hardest Working Woman in Letters – An interview with the author on the release of her new memoir, Hunger.

10 Tips for Becoming a Better Editor – Pretty much what it says on the package.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing into Summer

Happy Friday! I’m in a summer mood today, even though it’s technically a few weeks off yet. Of course, given my natural tendencies, that just means I want to eat more fruit and ice cream and go read in a nice deck chair this weekend. We’ll see if I can manage some of that. Chances are good the ice cream at least will make the to-do list. And possibly a second viewing of Wonder Woman, which I saw last night and was excellent.

This past week has been typically tense, but I really don’t feel like hashing through it, so I’m just going to move right on to the links portion of our program. There’s a bit of an adventure theme going on, though possibly more arm-chair adventure than the actual sort, but it feels appropriate as we kick off this season of travel and summer reads, at least in this hemisphere. Wherever you live, I hope you find some enjoyment and inspiration from today’s collection of links. Enjoy, and happy writing!

John Grisham Is Launching a Podcast – The author plans to record interviews with various authors when he’s on tour for his latest book this summer.

Nomadic Bookseller Travels All Over France with His Tiny Library on Wheels – This is my kind of tiny house! Technically it’s a bookstore, not a library (librairie is bookstore in French).

10 Things I Did Right as a Debut Novelist – Excellent things to keep in mind, even before you have a book deal.

Denis Johnson Reads the Notes from the Margins – A nice remembrance of the author who passed away last week.

Hydrate Yourself with Sweet Bookish Tumblers and Water Bottles – A fun collection of book-themed travel mugs and bottles to get you ready for the beach, that road trip, or just lying out in your backyard with a great read.

How to Copyright a Book: A Comprehensive Guide – A handy, informative review of when, why, and how you need to tackle this issue, with thanks to Yvonne Shiau for sending me the link.

A Modern Gay Take on ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Is Heading Your Way – A reimagining set in Virginia between two men, now streaming through various online vendors.

At a Sword Fight with a Modern-Day Swashbuckler (in a Harlem Basement) – Fun look at a longsword enthusiast in present-day New York City.

Friday Links: Writing Stories from the Trenches

TGIF! We’re kicking off the Memorial Day weekend here, and that can mean travel, backyard cookouts, baseball games, beach time, or just a great excuse to hop in a hammock for some serious reading time. It also means I’ve got a bunch of work to finish up today so I can head out and actually do some of the above. So I’ll just leave this week’s Friday Links here for your entertainment, and wish you all a wonderful weekend, whether you’re celebrating the holiday or not. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Books to Breeze Through this Summer – A rather eclectic collection from The New York Times.

Get That Life: How I Became a Writer, Historian, and Activist – Great interview with Rebecca Solnit where she discusses the trajectory of her writing career.

The Literary World Says Goodbye to Denis Johnson – Short obit including social media clips expressing sadness at Johnson’s sudden death.

From Dark to Dark: Yes, Women Have Always Written Space Opera – Author Judith Tarr on women’s role in the subgenre.

Improve Your Writing: Become a Demanding Self-Editor – Some wonderful advice for any writer, regardless of genre, publishing goals, etc.

Story Structure: The Magic Bullet that Almost Killed Me – Author Matthew Quick shares his plot-point life lessons.

A Crash Course in YA Taught Me How to Write – Author Katherine Heiny talks about how she learned about plot and the discipline required to finish a book.

Friday Links: Looking Back to Write Your Way Forward

Another Friday has crept up on us. It’s been a pretty intense week, filled with political strife and a few bombshells here in the U.S. I, for one, am looking forward to the weekend and stepping away from all forms of media for a bit, even though I know that might lead to a more startling Monday when I tune back in. But for my own sanity, I know I need to take a breather. And so I plan to do some personal reading, go for a run or two, and tomorrow I get to hang out with a client who is down with her family from Northern California for a few of days.

This week’s links are a kind of eclectic bunch, though I feel like some personal nostalgia inadvertently made itself known. I don’t plan these things; it’s just the sorts of links I happened to stumble upon. Nostalgia can be a good writing tool, as long as you don’t allow it to overtake your ability to be critical of your ideas. Regardless, I hope you find something intriguing in this lot and that you’re inspired to take a bit of time to yourself over the weekend to read a great book and/or work on your current writing project. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The True Story Behind Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Her Mixed-Up Files – An interesting look at what was one of my favorite books growing up, and how it came to be.

A 17th-Century Alleged Witch Inspired Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – A look into some of Atwood’s thought process on her famous novel.

On the Horror of Getting It Wrong in Print – One writer shares her reactions to learning her errors have gone to press.

More Thoughts about World Building and Food – Lincoln Michel goes deeper into his thoughts on the notion of world building, with a link to his earlier piece included.

The Political Murakami on Life in a Dark Time – How Murakami views the worlld post-9/11, and how that dark viewpoint influences his writing.

6 Tiny Letters for Readers and Writers – I’m a fan of the Tiny Letters – those subscriptions on a theme (or not) that show up randomly when their author decides to share some thoughts – and this round up offers a few intriguing ones.

5 Things to Include on Your Author Website if You’re Not Yet Published – Handy tips for populating that blank author site.

2017 Writing Goals: First Quarter Check-In

 

With March winding down, it’s a great time to pull out your list of goals for 2017 and see how the reality measures up for this first quarter of the year. Checking in with yourself helps to keep you on track, to remind you of what you want to achieve, to see where your efforts might be falling flat, and also to determine if any part of your goal list needs to be altered. Like many plans, a list of goals works best if you consider it in real time, as a changeable document that can be edited according to how your life shifts, rather than as a rigid to-do list that is set in stone until December 31st.

Start off with just a brief overview of your goals and see where you stand.

  • Which goals have you been working toward as intended?
  • Which goals have you paid less attention to or maybe even not worked on at all?
  • Were there any short-term goals that you’d planned to finish by now that still need work?
  • Are you ahead of your intended progress in any areas?

Sometimes you also need to give yourself a bit of context while assessing your progress toward your goals. It’s possible you’ve fallen behind on one or more of the things you planned to work on this year, but don’t forget to think about why that might be. What’s been going on in your life these first three months of the year, and how has that affected your ability to focus on your goals? Has anything happened that required your attention and shifted your priorities? Time is limited, after all, so if new obligations crop up, you need to find the time to meet them somewhere.

Next, really assess where you want to go with your goals for the rest of the year.

  • Are any of your goals no longer valid? Things you no longer wish to pursue? Cross them off the list.
  • Do you need to restructure any of your larger goals into small, managable parts that you can tackle more easily going forward?
  • Are there any goals you’d like to add on to the list, either to replace things you’ve discarded or because you’ve achieved others?
  • Have you inadvertently set yourself goals that rely too heavily on others and not enough on your own initiative so that you don’t truly have control of the outcome?

That last point is an important thing to consider. The most practical goals rely on you and your efforts — you plan to write at least 5 days a week, you’re going to write and polish your query letter, you’re going to research three potential agents a week. Some goals, however, rely upon the reactions of others for you to achieve them, such as selling a book (an editor needs to make a viable offer), getting representation (an agent you wish to work with needs to sign you on), hitting a best-seller list (a sufficient number of people need to purchase your book). That’s not to say that you shouldn’t want to achieve those things and work toward them, but they aren’t the sort of goals where your efforts are the sole factor. While you know there are steps you can take toward achieving them — sending out query letters, writing the best book you possibly can — those steps by themselves are no guarantee of hitting the goal; a certain amount of luck and timing and the interests of others all come into play.

Regardless of what you discover when you check in with your goals, remember that this is a list you made, of things that you wish to achieve. Don’t beat yourself up over perceived failures or lack of progress. The idea isn’t to serve as your own personal drill sergeant, but rather to provide yourself with a nice roadmap that can help you figure out where you want to take your writing, your career, your life. You’re drawing the map, so feel free to widen the road where there’s a good view, add a couple of small side streets, create a nice open space to make a U-turn if you need to retrench. Then refill your travel mug, grab a snack, and head back out on the road. Happy writing, and enjoy the ride.

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.

Friday Links: St. Paddy’s Day edition

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate, and a very happy Friday, as well. I’ve had a busy week, filled with lots of work and technological challenges, including a weird power outage and a day of spotty internet. You forget sometimes how much we rely on modern conveniences… at least until they go wonky on you. But sometimes the reminder can also be a nudge in a different direction, showing us how much we can accomplish if we unplug a bit and focus on the heart of what we’re trying to accomplish. For those of you wedded to your devices, maybe try taking a notebook and a pen and heading out to get some writing done. And leave the tech at home.

Now to Friday Links! I’ve a nice assortment this week, including a bit of Irish-themed reading for anyone looking for a little something beyond a beer and corned beef to mark the day. Enjoy, and happy writing!

12 Irish-Americans to Read on St. Patrick’s Day – Get a feel for the old country or an Irish take on the new one.

Roxane Gay, Aimee Bender and More on Assault and Harrassment in the Literary World – 11 women writers speak out in conjunction with a recent Tin House essay.

Isaac Asimov Wrote Almost 500 Books in His Lifetime–These Are the Six Ways He Did It – Some great advice on getting the work done, even if you don’t aspire to that level of productivity.

How Working at a Bookstore Changed My Writing Career – Author Jami Attenberg on her time working at Word in Brooklyn, NY.

Why ‘The Outsiders’ Lives On: A Teenage Novel Turns 50 – A look at the perennial top seller and reader favorite.

100 Must-Read Books about the History of Medicine – A really interesting roundup, particularly for anyone doing research or looking for some inspiration.

Friday Links: Pop Culture and the Writer

TGIF! There seems to be a confluence of significant pop culture landmarks today. First, of course, we have the anniversary of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, which premiered on the WB 20 years ago today. There are a ton of great articles and reminiscences floating around — far more than I could have included here — but I did find a particularly writer-specific one to share in today’s links. But do poke around and see what else is out there if Buffy is your kind of gal.

For those of you in a Marvel state of mind, today is the 100th birthday of Sergeant James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, faithful sidekick of Captain America, most recently personified by actor Sebastian Stan. There are a lot of birthday wishes for Bucky appearing on Twitter and Tumblr. He looks damn good for 100.

Finally, for the Harry Potter set, today is Remus Lupin’s birthday as well. I believe per the books he would be somewhere in his late 40s. I’ve seen a few posts celebrating Lupin, also. You really have to love fandoms.

So what does my little outburst of geekdom have to do with writing or publishing? There’s a lot to be said for creating characters that encourage this sort of knowledge and acknowledgement, even celebration. What makes them so beloved? Why do readers and viewers feel so connected to them? How did they become so real? Take a look at the source material for any of the above, or for your own favorite successful works, and figure out what really makes those characters tick.

On that note, I offer up a little more pop culture love, plus a nice assortment of other writerly links to help kick off your weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

10 Famous Writers on Loving Buffy the Vampire Slayer – A good group of authors offering up a variety of reasons why they love the show.

7 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Writing Files – Sometimes it’s procrastination, but sometimes it’s just plain necessary. Some helpful advice on getting organized.

How to Develop Relationships with Other Writers – Some excellent tips for finding your writing tribe.

Margaret Atwood on What “The Handmaid’s Tale” Means in the Age of Trump – The author looks at her own work in regards to the current political climate.

Writing Contests in 2017 – A searchable database compiled by the folks at Reedsy. With thanks to Arielle Contreras for the link.

10 Essential Books to Read from Iran – A nice list to help anyone looking to diversify that TBR stack.

 

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.