Friday Links

Happy Friday to all! What’s on your horizon this weekend? Mine’s filled with words… I’m deep into a serious submissions-pile catch up, as the number of things rattling around in that particular inbox has been making me twitch for a while now. I tend to read queries and partials during the week when I can work them in around other tasks, but full-length manuscripts are on deck for the weekend. I don’t expect anyone will be seeing much of me.

But before I disappear into a dozen different worlds, I bring you this week’s assortment of links. I hope you find them interesting, educational, and entertaining, and that you might find a little inspiration for your own weekend activities. Enjoy!

The Charge to Be Fair: Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay in Conversation – An important talk about Coates’s new book, race in writing, and race relations today.

7 Books to Give You a Taste of Edinburgh (If You Can’t Be There to Soak Up the Culture Yourself) – The annual Edinburgh International Book Festival began last weekend, so this might give yo a little taste.

13 Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Accomplished – Advice from Gretchen Rubin.

11 History Books You Should Read Before Writing Your Military SF – Nice round up, even if you’re not writing in the sub-genre, plus some more suggestions in comments.

Beyond Bond – The New York Public Library offers up a list of spy novels for lovers of Ian Fleming’s famous character.

How “The Girl on the Train” Became a Runaway Success – A look at the role of Goodreads in the marketing of a successful title.

Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! This week flew by. In fact, summer seems to be flying by. A friend cornered me the other evening to let me know about her Labor Day bbq, and all I could think was “September? Already? No!” It’s the same every year, yet it always manages to catch me unawares.

But we have a few more weeks of summer to enjoy, and I hope you intend to get some good reading and writing time in along with your other activities. And of course, if you’re in the southern part of the world, I hope you’re anticipating spring’s arrival by staying inside, keeping warm, and cranking out pages on your WIP before sunny days lure you outside. To mix in with all these activities, I offer this week’s links to check out. Enjoy, and have a fabulous weekend!

World Building 101 – N.K. Jemisin recently taught an online class in world building, and here she offers a downloadable PDF of the steps she takes when creating worlds. Not as complete as taking the course, obviously, but still a great resource.

How Romance Novelists Got Such a Silly, Sappy Rap – In the wake of this year’s national RWA convention, an interesting look at romance writers as business people.

Can’t Get Into It – Artist and writer Danny Gregory talks about attention span and reading — briefly.

How to Access a Million Stunning, Copyright-free Antique Illustrations Released by the British Library – A fabulous resource for bloggers, etc.

World’s Coolest Bookstores – Some amazing photos. You’re going to want to add a few of these to your travel list.

Friday Links

Happy Friday! Are you ready for the weekend? I certainly am. This week has been… trying, in many respects. Not bad, just the sort of week that keeps you scrambling to keep up.

Unsurprisingly, a host of additional things have popped up on my radar for the weekend, which also happens to be the weekend of the 24 in 48 Readathon, so I suspect I’m going to be burning the midnight oil no matter what I do. But there are worse things than staying up late to read, and I certainly have a sizable stack of books  lined up for my reading hours.

Meanwhile, I have links! This week went very quickly and there were fewer things jumping out at me than usual, but I hope you find the assortment enjoyable anyway. Wishing you some excellent reading and writing time, and a wonderful weekend overall.

Kelly Sue DeConnick Is the Future of Women in Comics – Whether or not you’re a comics reader, this is a fabulous profile of a kick-ass woman and inspirational to anyone who has an interest in working creatively. I highly recommend.

Paper Chasing – On book collecting vs. book reading. Interesting, no matter what format you use when accumulating reading material.

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book PreviewThe Millions posts a bi-annual list of the most anticipated books for the coming half year (by their reckoning). Even if it doesn’t cover your own most anticipated titles, it’s a great resource for checking out what’s coming down the pike.

The Writers Who Invented Languages – A look at authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin who have created original languages for their characters.

Writing Excuses: Why Can’t I Just Jump to the Ending? – A really important lesson on writing the middle of the book. Part of the Writing Excuses year-long podcast workshop on writing your book from start to finish, but it works perfectly as a stand-alone look at what can be the most problematic part of a story.

Friday Links

TGIF! We’re having a rainy end to the week here in SoCal, for which I’m truly grateful. Not that I think it made much of a dent in the drought conditions, but there was a genuine downpour for a change last night and every bit helps. It’s also put me in the mind for a reading weekend, which is excellent, since I have a pile of manuscripts looking at me.

But first, links! I’ve got some meaty reading material for you this week, which also seems appropriate given my mindset, but also some great writing opportunities for you to check out. I hope you’re inspired to spend some quality time with a good book and to give a solid chunk of your weekend to your current writing project or maybe start something new. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Oxford’s Influential Inklings – An interesting look at the impact of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and their cohorts.

James Patterson Teaches Writing – An at-your-own-pace online writing class with the prolific thriller writer. Not just for aspiring thriller/mystery writers.

Publication Opportunities for Writers: June and July, 2015 – A round up of places to submit your work.

Lynda Barry: ‘What Is an Image? That Question Has Directed My Entire Life’ – On drawing and storytelling.

The Real World vs. the MFA – An interesting look at the various paths to developing one’s craft from a writer who has combined a number of routes.

Friday Links

Happy Friday! I am in London on vacation right now, so I’m afraid this is rather an abbreviated post. However, I hope you find it entertaining and informative regardless. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filled with books and writing and sunshine. Enjoy!

An Argument for Reading in Chronological Order – A look at what’s to be gained by reading books based on their pub dates.

Eight for Eight: A Literary Reader for Passover – Interesting reading suggestions for the holiday, whatever your religious inclinations.

Randomized Dystopia – Suggestions for those of you having trouble coming up with an original setting/scenario for your sci-fi WIP.

T.S. Eliot’s Old Summer Home May Become Writer’s Retreat – What it says. Beautiful and inspirational location to keep in mind.

On Trusting Your Reader

One of the most difficult things for new writers — and sometimes even for experienced ones — is finding the balance between clarity and condescension. Authors want to paint a picture for their readers, to show them the scene precisely as they’ve imagined it, and the old adage “show, don’t tell” seems to support that inclination. But the truth is that if you “show” every single detail of your story, if you describe each setting and character twitch and moment that passes from beginning to end, your finished manuscript will be far longer than necessary, and you risk insulting your reader and/or boring them to tears. At some point, the writer has to trust the reader to understand what they’re trying to convey.

So how do you determine how much detail to include in your work? Finding a balance between heavy-handed description and repetition of information that implies your reader cannot follow your plot, and holding back so much that you leave your reader confused or lost, takes a certain amount of practice and, often, the reactions of a few carefully chosen beta readers. But here are a few things to consider:

When describing a new setting, keep in mind the importance of that location to your story, how familiar it might be to an average reader, and any key components that your reader will need to recall later in the story. People know what a typical living room looks like, so you only need convey a few key details to set that sort of scene. Pick things that stand out; if you stood in the room with your eye closed, then opened them, what three things would pop out at you first? Are there props that will show up again later? A gun over the mantle? A rip in the carpet where someone could trip? Are there details that might do double-duty to tell your reader about the person who owns that home? A lack of knick-knacks? Framed photos on every surface? An inch of dust on everything? If half your book takes place in this home, you’ll flesh out the room more than you would if your characters visit it for only one scene. But regardless, you don’t need to provide your reader with every detail about that room; their imagination can fill in whatever you leave out.

Unusual settings require more detail than those a reader might reasonably recognize with just a few broad strokes. Fantasy and science fiction novels include more world building on the whole because the author is creating something fresh and needs to provide more detail to place the reader in the scene. But even then, avoid getting bogged down in mundane details that slow the action. Provide the reader with a sketch instead of a photograph.

The same is true of conveying action or emotions or character decisions. Let the reader learn the character’s intentions when the character takes action, and avoid getting bogged down in the character’s head. Trust that your reader will follow your protagonist through their adventures without hearing their thought process ahead of time or every detail of their personal analysis of the situation. First person narratives often face this difficulty. Don’t confuse the ability to go inside your protagonist’s head with an obligation to convey every thought to your reader. Let your character hold onto some of their secrets. Focus instead on their actions and reactions, how what they do and say conveys what’s going on inside their heads. And beware of filler behaviors — deep breaths and smiles and sighs — that tell your reader very little and mean even less when used too often.

But how do you avoid the opposite difficulty? What do you do to make sure your reader doesn’t get lost for lack of detail? There are definitely times when you want to include information that will be important to your plot — clues, foreshadowing, etc. — and in some cases those details will even need to be repeated periodically. Some will be subtle early in the text and gather momentum as you go along, and others will require mentioning without undue emphasis. But most of the time, you will only need to tell the reader things once.

One way to make sure nothing gets left out is to make a list of information that is key to your resolution and go back through your manuscript after the first draft is completed to make sure the puzzle pieces all appear in the text. Another way is to question your beta readers once they’ve finished a read to see if they felt lost or confused about any part of the plot development. Follow up with them on any confusion to see if their questions relate to missing details in descriptions, character motivation, action, or overall story arc. This will allow you to pinpoint what part of your manuscript requires work.

Finding the balance between too much detail and too little can be a process of trial and error, but too much description can bog down a story, ruining the pacing and any sense of suspense. It’s important to remember that, as the author, you know many things about your world and characters that will never find their way into your text, and that is fine. Trust that your readers will bring their own knowledge and experience to your story, and that at the end of the day, they are less interested in the color of the sofa than in what your protagonist says while sitting on it.


Friday Links

It appears 2015 has got off to a galloping start, as it’s already Friday again. I, like many people, spent my week digging out from a stack of holiday e-mail, and reading/editing client manuscripts. And once again, I find myself wishing I could read (effectively) a little faster, as the backlog feels rather more immense than it was before Christmas.

I hope you’ve all had a good first full week back to reality, and that you’ve managed a bit of writing in with your other obligations. Especially those of you who took the December writing challenge! No slacking off; the idea is to maintain your wonderful new writing habit and accomplish great things in 2015.

But today is Friday, which means Friday Links, so I will cease the rambling and get to it. I hope you find them inspiring. Enjoy!

The Great 2015 Book Preview – If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you know I love this wrap up of books due to be released in the coming year. The Millions posts one bi-annually, and I always walk away with a long list of things that sound fascinating.

Joan Didion’s Favorite Books of all Time – A great list, but do scroll down and watch the short teaser video for the upcoming documentary of her life, as well. The video was the promo piece for the Kickstarter to back the film (which was successfully funded several times over), and is a wonderful peek into Didion’s world. I can’t wait to see the completed doc.

Cool Maps of Fictional Literary Places – A round up of imaginary regions from Hogwarts to Narnia and beyond.

Writing Excuses, Season 10 – The gang from the Writing Excuses podcast has decided to change things up, and they are offering a master class to be spread out over the course of the year, completely free and accessible to all.

10 Questions to Ask When You Create a Fictional Culture – Useful reference for anyone doing some world building.

Friday Links

Happy Friday, and welcome to October! It’s the month for fall colors, crisp apples and shiny pumpkins, Halloween costumes, and NaNoWriMo prep (for those of you who go for that sort of thing). Of course in my neck of the woods, it’s supposed to hit 100 degrees again over the weekend, but I’m studiously ignoring that fact and planning a good fall housecleaning; time to haul old electronics out for recycling and to donate books to the library.

What do you have planned for your weekend? A short getaway? A cozy couple of days at home with the family? Some quality time with your WIP? Whatever you’ve got on the schedule, I hope you enjoy. And if you’re looking for a bit of a break, I have a huge list of links this week to offer up some distraction. Happy writing!

12 Essential Essays for Writers – A great roundup with inspiration for all.

First Pages: Tips to Avoid Cliches and Weak Writing – Some good advice on how to craft a strong first page.

10 Lessons from Real-life Revolutions that Fictional Dystopias Ignore – Food for thought if you’re writing a dystopian novel (or considering it).

Fiction Podcast: George Saunders Reads Grace Paley and Barry Hannah – Sit back and enjoy.

How I Forgot to Write – An interesting look at how the business of creating a career can alter your intended trajectory.

For Sale: Gloucester Home, Possibly Haunted by T.S. Eliot – An inspirational location, regardless.

When Science Fiction Grew Up – An intriguing look at the genre from the late 1950s through the mid-1970s, including a long list of titles. Great for anyone looking to brush up on their sf history/reading.

Friday Links

Another tense week here in the U.S. My weekend plans include brunch and books and manuscripts. Er… not in that order. I fully intend to unplug from the internet and the news, however, because it’s mostly just depressing me. Maybe I’ll peek occasionally, so I’m not completely out of the loop, but other than that… just no. It all makes me want to bang people’s heads together. So much irrational cruelty and needless violence. Somewhere on my shelves there must be a book that will remind me that human beings do good things, too. Because the other option, apparently, is to watch celebrities pour ice over their heads (for an admittedly good cause) and that’s getting old.

But first, I have links! There’s a pretty diverse group this week, so I hope there’s something to appeal to everyone. May you be inspired to some creative greatness this weekend, or at the very least find an excellent read. Enjoy!

Finding My Voice in Fantasy – Author and Time magazine book reviewer Lev Grossman discusses how he made the leap from “literary” writing to fantasy.

Why We Must Strive for Diversity in SF/F – Author David Mack talks about his own work and his reaction to readers criticizing his diverse characters.

Practical Art: On Teaching the Business of Creative Writing – A great look at some of the practical aspects of a writing career that should possibly get addressed as part of a writer’s education.

Surreal Worlds Digitally Painted by Gediminas Pranckevicius – Amazing art work that looks like it should serve to inspire some fantastic fiction. (For those of you looking for a prompt.)

Why We Need Independent Bookstores More Than Ever – The director of a smaller publisher weighs in on the book-selling wars.

When to Cut that Scene – Some good tips on how to revise with an eye toward editing out the fluff — no matter how much you might love it.

Mapping Your Territory

Many writers are heavily influenced by their surroundings. Even if they don’t set a book in their own city or town, they’re likely to incorporate things they see or overhear, bits and pieces that can be transposed and repurposed according to their needs. When the town itself becomes the setting, such influences can be even more pronounced.

Some writers think they need to live somewhere exciting to mine their surroundings, but that simply isn’t the case. Even authors who are intimately acquainted with the largest, busiest cities on the planet turn to the less frequented corners of their space for fresh inspiration. Small towns can fascinate readers who live and work in high rises; farms and fields interest residents of concrete jungles. Every place has its own rhythms and pace, secrets to share or to hide away.

Author Geoff Nicholson is a Brit living in Hollywood, but his writing focuses less on the glamour and more on the city itself — the streets, the citizens, the interesting architecture. In the video below, he walks his neighborhood and observes, and those discoveries may or may not make their way into his work.

Try wandering your own town or neighborhood, or else drive somewhere nearby that’s less familiar and give it the same treatment. Don’t get too caught up in writing anything down while you wander. Maybe take a camera, or just use the one on your phone to take a few quick shots for visual cues you can refer to later on. But really look around. See with a writer’s eye. You never know what might come in handy.