Friday Links: “Literary Borrowing” and Other Writing Inspiration

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve all had a lovely week and you have some terrific plans for the weekend ahead. As always, I encourage you to carve out some time to focus on your writing goals, whether that means working on your current writing project, taking a workshop, doing some creative exercises, or reading for inspiration. With any luck, you’ll manage more than one of these. Don’t let the temptations of summer lure you too far off track.

When it comes to inspiration, a new experience, some time in a museum, or just a rambling walk can do wonders to spark ideas, but historically speaking, writers are well known for taking inspiration from the works that came before them. That’s why it’s so important to read, to know the foundations of your genre and others so you’re aware of what’s new ground versus well-trod territory. There aren’t that many stories to be told, but the way you tell them, the twists that only you can put on familiar themes, are what set your works apart from the ones that inspire you.

So this week’s links include lots of book recs, as well as some thoughts on how writers “recycle” the ideas that inspire them. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Writing in the Shadow of a Masterpiece: On Homage – Margot Livesy on “literary borrowing.”

In Praise of Daphne duMaurier – A look at the English author whose works have inspired a devoted, steady following.

50 Crucial Feminist YA Novels – A terrific round up of titles you might want to add to your TBR list.

8 Book Subscription Boxes Featuring Diverse Authors – A selection of subscriptions at different price points that focus on diversity.

Here Are all the Must-Read Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Arriving in July – Some of the most anticipated titles in the genre releasing this month. (A couple have already made it to my TBR list.)

The Sunday Times Short Story Award 2018 – Details for this year’s round of the lucrative prize, open to writers worldwide.

Fairy Tales Still Inspire Modern Female Writers – I’d argue this wasn’t limited to women writers, but they do seem to use this type of source material more frequently than men do. Still, an interesting piece with some good book recs included.

8 Books that Feature Bisexual Women (and Don’t Focus on their Sex Lives) – Some more great reads to consider for that TBR list.

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: 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.

Want to Be an Author? Finish Something

Writers write, but authors publish. If you want to go from writer to author, the first step is to finish something, then go back and rewrite it until it is ready for submission. But finishing that first draft really is key. It’s impossible to edit a blank page, and equally impossible to sell something without an ending.

Most writers starting out have written plenty of beginnings. They get an idea and sit down to write. They rush through those first pages filled with excitement, developing cool characters and describing the setting and sending everyone off on their adventure brimming with conflict. But then something happens around page fifty. Maybe page 100 if they are lucky and have plenty of momentum. The writing starts to slow down. That initial idea is no longer sufficient to carry the action forward. More is required, and the beginning writer isn’t sure just what that more entails.

And then comes the shiny new idea.

Everyone’s had them, sometimes even while staring at the computer screen, willing the current idea to shape up and get marching. That niggling thought — a weird new hero, a fantastic scenario, a compelling situation, a snippet of dialogue in the back of the brain — that sounds like the answer to everything. Because this new shiny idea feels so much better than the work in progress. It’s new! It’s shiny! It’s so much more exciting! And it lures you away from the current project that hasn’t been behaving and into its shiny clutches.

Before you knows what’s happened, you have a stockpile of beginnings. Partial novels that have never even made it to the half-way point. Because there is always a shiny new idea lurking around the corner, looking to distract you. The more ideas you have, the more ideas you get. It’s the way creativity seems to work. But there are several problems with this.

  • Shiny new ideas are not actually always good ideas. Sometimes they’re just plain ordinary ideas that, if given time, will fade completely from your mind and go unmissed.
  • Chasing shiny new ideas means setting aside current projects and never finishing anything. And you can’t sell something that’s not finished.
  • Writing the middle and the end of a story requires different skills than writing beginnings, and you can’t get better at writing middles and ends if you never actually write them. You want to hone all your skills as a writer, not just some of them.

Shiny new ideas will always pop up and wave at you, but it is vital that you set them aside and continue with whatever project is currently on your plate. That doesn’t mean forget them entirely. Jot down notes in your journal, start a computer file for the potential new project, and then get back to business. Consider that shiny idea on the to-do pile. Maybe you’ll get back to it in a year and find it’s percolated into something wonderful, or maybe you’ll wonder what the hell you where thinking. Either way, it gets its due eventually, and you get to push through and finish the project at hand.

But what about the argument that the new idea is better or more interesting than the one you’re writing? Of course it seems that way. The new idea is a mystery. You’ve spent virtually no time thinking about it, which leaves it wide open to play with. The current idea, on the other hand, is starting to come together. You understand the characters more than you did at the beginning, you’ve begun to piece together the plot, and things have moved forward. The easy thinking has been accomplished, and you need to dig deeper. Further the conflict, ask tough questions, maybe backtrack on a couple of points. You are past all the surface material and mining for treasure, and that’s work. Hard work. Of course the idea of something new and shiny appeals. That doesn’t make it better.

Writers write, and if all you want to do is write, you can play with as many ideas as you wish. But published authors commit to finishing their projects and resist the distraction of every new idea that catches the light. Of course, occasionally there are projects you find just aren’t working and you decide to abandon them, but that’s a question of the project’s merit, not the distraction of a shiny new idea. So when the next little tidbit flits along and catches your eye, tuck it into a folder for future thought and get back to work.

Friday Links: Literary Inspiration for All Genres

Happy Friday! This week just flew by and I’m afraid I am a tad light on the links selection today as a result. But I do have a number of good ones so I hope they will suffice to offer up some encouragement and inspiration to you all. Never can tell what will set your imagination twitching.

This weekend is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which I am sad not to be attending this year. I love this event and try to go whenever I can, but I’m out of the office the beginning of next week for the Futurescapes Workshop (which I’m very excited about), so I’m taking the weekend to get some things done beforehand. If you’re in the LA area, I highly recommend you swing by the USC campus to check out the book festival. It’s always a fabulous event.

With that, I’m going to move on to this week’s links. You’ll note a bit of an old school, literary bend this week, but I firmly believe that all good writing advice and all good reading applies to any type of writing efforts. Quality work is quality work, and you can always learn from it. I hope you find these interesting, and that whatever your plans for the weekend, you get in some good reading and/or writing time. Enjoy!

Ten Breathtaking Nature Poems – A little poetry in honor of National Poetry Month.

The Time I Spent the Night in Hamlet’s Castle – Author M.L. Rio shares how she won a contest, went to Denmark, and partied like it was 1599.

Charles Bock Recommends… – Tips on how to get back into the writing flow when you sit down at your desk each day.

The Notorious Legends and Dubious Stories of 10 Literary Deaths – Fanciful and odd aspects of the deaths of these famous writers.

David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing – Working on a play? Interested in adding dramatic tension to your work? Sign up for Mamet’s online master class.

Secrets of the Slush: An Interview with Editor and Author, Michael Nye – Some advice on how to get your writing to stand apart from the masses.

 

Friday Links for the Holiday Weekend

No great words of wisdom this week. For those who celebrate, we’re at the end of Holy Week, today being Good Friday and Sunday being Easter. So here is a nice assortment of links for anyone who feels like checking them out. Whatever your beliefs, I wish you a wonderful weekend and a bit of whatever makes you smile, whether that’s writing time, a good book, family celebrations, or a bit of everything. Enjoy!

A Brief Literary History of Robots – Mostly because I couldn’t resist the first image, but also for the fun reading list.

George Saunders: What Writers Really Do When They Write – One writer’s take on process.

Don’t Be a Dick: Colum McCann’s Advice for Young Writers – Some great tips, delivered with humor.

Julie Ann Walker: “I’m a Feminist and I Write Romance” – A smart look at why these two things are not mutually exclusive.

NPR on Tumblr – Some great vintage images shared in honor of National Library Week.

Salinger’s Nightmare – An unemployed actor’s attempt to acquire permission to adapt The Catcher in the Rye.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Writing Advice – Tips that still shine, ten years after the author’s death.

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: Get Those Writing Ideas Flowing

This was a short week but a busy one. Between all the rain we’ve had here in SoCal recently (finally!) and all the reading I’ve been doing (all work-related), I feel like I’ve been hibernating like a little bear. But the sun has come out and I have plans to get at least an hour or two of fresh air today before more rain shows up this weekend. But first, I have links for you! Some great book recs, especially if you’re trying to diversify your TBR or get some reads in specifically for Black History Month, some places you might want to submit your work, and even some fun stuff for inspiration. So go read a bit, write a bit, and get those creative juices flowing. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Things Come Together – A wonderful look at some up-and-coming African authors.

Thieves Rappelled into a London Warehouse in Rare Book Heist – Call me crazy, but this had me really excited. Not that I think theft is acceptable, of course, but a tiny piece of me loves the extremes they went to for this job.

The Rumpus Interview with George Saunders – Pretty much as described, on the occasion of the publication of Saunders’s first novel.

8 Highly Unusual Writing Residencies – Not your typical writing getaways.

Opportunities for Writers: March and April 2017 – Upcoming deadlines for writing contests, open submission windows, and so on.

34 Books by Women of Color to Read This Year – A list of some highly anticipated titles you might want to put on your TBR stack.

Storyville: How to Survive a Creative Writing Workshop – Maybe you’re just dipping your toe into this world for the first time, or maybe you’ve had an uncomfortable encounter before. Regardless, these tips will help you maneuver through a workshop so you can get the most possible out of the experience.

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.