Friday Links: Holiday Writing Inspiration

Everyone can use some holiday writing inspiration, and this marks the start of my annual pep talks for the season. We’re heading into Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and from there it’s one occasion after another until New Year’s. I run a December Writing Challenge each year, but I encourage you to schedule your writing all through the holidays.

Check out this week’s links for industry information, ideas on characterization, and ways to drum up that holiday writing inspiration. And keep an eye on this space for more writing challenge information coming soon. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

It Is Okay to Change Paths. – Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen talks about changing her career from doctor to writer.

Paper is a wonderful technology. – Austin Kleon shares how an exhibit at the Ransom Center inspired him to embrace his paper notebook.

Ilana Masad on the Shrinking of the Industry, Literary Social Media, and Hidden Criticism. – The writer and podcast host discusses how social media has changed literary criticism, and other shifts in the industry from a reviewer’s point of view.

50 Noteable Works of Fiction in 2017. – The Washington Post weighs in on some of the best titles of the year.

Inside the Dystopian Visions of Margaret Atwood and Louise Erdrich. – At a time when Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale serves as a sort of feminist dystopian bible, Erdrich adds her own take on the idea of reproductive slavery.

Marvel’s Black Panther Rules. Literally. – A wonderful interview with actor Chadwick Boseman, with excellent thoughts regarding how characters build from the setting and politics of a fictional nation in this installment in the MCU.

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2017. – Another best-of list, with some great titles for your own TBR or gift-buying lists.

A Night at the National Book Awards. – A look into what may by the shiniest event in the U.S. publishing world.

 

Friday Links: Weekend Writing Inspiration

Are you looking for weekend writing inspiration? The end of the year brings so many challenges for writers. Holidays loom, making you plan and shop and rush to finish projects by December 31st. But you still have that writing project that calls to you. Maybe you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or up against a deadline. Or you simply started a new novel and you’re twitching to work on it. Set aside some time this weekend to write. Fight the start of the holiday chaos, and remember to make your writing a priority. I hope the links below will help give you a bit of a kick in the right direction.

This Week’s Links:

Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. – Strapped for time? Try to write a super short story and enter this Writer’s Digest contest. Or look through finished or drafted projects to see what might work.

13 Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Accomplished. – Author Gretchen Rubin offers some great tips for pushing past your busy calendar and getting words on paper.

Austin Kleon: Pencil vs Computer. – The writer and artist discusses his own process and how different mediums set the mood for stages of his work.

How YA Literature Is Leading the Queer, Disabled Media Revolution. – Looking for ways to be inclusive in your work? Get your weekend writing inspiration from some of these fabulous YA titles.

10 Novels Agents Have Already Seen a Billion Times. – You might want to steer clear of these ideas, or if you have to write one of them, find a great way to turn them on their ear.

Cove Park Literature Residencies: Applications Close 11 December. – Shake up your writing by finding a new place to work, and apply for a writing residency.

Interview with Janet Fitch. – The author discusses research, writing process, and her latest book, The Revolution of Marina M.

Friday Links: The Politics of Reading and Writing

When I talk about the politics of reading and writing, I’m not referring to who won the election. In reading and writing, politics involves being “politically correct.” I put that in quotes for a reason. Because is it really about politics? Or is it about doing what’s right? Social media buzzes with talk about diversity in publishing and books written about lived experiences. Authors debate the dangers of piracy in this digital age. But at the end of the day, everyone deserves a place at the table. Writers should be paid for their efforts. Piracy breaks laws.

Certainly this simplifies things. I won’t argue that there’s no room for discussion on these subjects, or not plenty of shades of gray. But sometimes when we’re writing and thinking about how the results will be received, the most straightforward answer works best. Think about what’s right. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This week’s links offer some thoughts on the politics of reading and writing, along with more general interest articles. I hope you find them thought provoking. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links

Maggie Stiefvater talks about piracy. – The author shares her story about book piracy, and how it has affected her personally.

Should You Throw Away Your Books by Garbage People? – The Reading Glasses podcast discusses what to do when you learn an author you love has a problematic personal life. Includes an interview with Jessa Crispin.

How Long Is Writing Supposed to Take? – A writer/editor wonders how long it actually takes to write a book, and if there’s such a thing as too long.

The 2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. – Mix up your reading list next year! This challege offers some suggestions.

November Is Here, Which Means You Can Add These New Scifi and Fantasy Books to Your Shelves. – Check out these new SFF releases for the month.

The Problem with ‘Problematic.’ – Francine Prose discusses the pros and cons of the discussion around diversifying books. (Note, this is not arguing against the need for diversity, but talking about the ways in which the problem is being discussed and where some lines have been drawn.)

Best Books of 2017. – Publishers Weekly offers their somewhat-early list of the best books for the year.

How Do I Pitch to a Publication? – Good tips for anyone looking to pitch to magazines, etc.

Ready, Set, Write: Turning Off Your Internal Editor

Ready, set, write. It sounds incredibly easy to do. You sit down at your keyboard or a notebook, and get to work. But most writers hear the nagging voice of their internal editor from the first sentence. That voice says you’ve started at the wrong spot. Or it insists your opening sentence is boring. Maybe you should start with a different scene. Are you sure that’s the correct point of view? Your internal editor pokes and whines and insinuates as you write, growing louder with every paragraph. It makes you doubt yourself, and slows your progress.

ready-set-write-woman-writing

Silencing Your Internal Editor

Writers everywhere have their own methods for silencing the nagging voice in their heads. The one that tells them they’re doing it all wrong. Here are a few things to keep in mind when working on your first draft. Post your favorites over your desk or tape them to the edge of your monitor. Maybe create a mantra or two.

  • It’s just a shitty first draft. No one writes a beautiful or perfect first draft. It’s supposed to be a brain dump. Plenty of time to make it pretty when you start to revise.
  • I’m figuring out who the characters are. First drafts help you flesh out your protagonist and the rest of your cast. Get to know them, determine what they want, and how they’re likely to behave while getting it.
  • Only reread the previous day’s output. When you sit down to write, don’t allow yourself to read anything older than what you wrote in your previous session. Out of sight, out of mind. And again, you have plenty of time to revise once you’re done with draft #1.
  • I don’t have to know everything yet. First drafts are for fleshing out the plot just as much as the characters. If you don’t know what happens next, skip ahead to where you do have an idea. Put brackets and come back later to fill in the details.
  • Everything is relative. Remember that the things you write start to build on each other. You may reach a juncture at page 50 or 150 or 250 that gives you wonderful ideas for shoring up earlier scenes. Sometimes you need to build the castle before the foundation.
  • You cannot edit a blank page. There’s no point in trying to perfect what you haven’t written. Write first, edit later. By this I mean the entire book. Editing a single sentence in a void is almost as bad as trying to write one perfect sentence from the start.

If your internal editor becomes particularly persistent, try some other ways of distracting yourself. Put on instrumental music to fill your head with some other sound. Scroll down the page so your screen is blank (or turn to the next page in your notebook), then take a short break to walk around; when you come back, start writing without looking at what you’d been picking over before you left. Change the font color of the last section to white so it’s invisible, then keep writing. Go for a run or hit the gym to get your blood flowing — you’ll feel more creatively inspired.

Every writer must face their internal editor, but only you can determine how much power you’ll give to your nagging voice. Whether you’re piling up words for NaNoWriMo or fighting to meet a contract deadline, there will be days when reaching your writing goal feels impossible. Remember that the internal editor is you — you at your most critical and insecure. Remind yourself that you are not alone in your efforts, and the only way to reach the end is to keep pushing through. Good luck, and happy writing.

Friday Links: Stories Only You Can Tell

This week I’m focused on the idea that there are stories only you can tell. Writers sometimes struggle to find their unique voice. But often the problem lies in trying to tell a story that has no personal connection.

Last weekend, at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I listened to a number of very different keynote speeches. Tetsuro Shigematsu shared tales of family, of his relationships with his sisters, his father, and how they influenced the stories he told. Amal El-Mohtar spoke of belonging, of the sense memory of scent and how a whiff of something familiar and beloved can draw you into a community. Mary Robinette Kowal spoke about mechanics and voice and that something else that draws you in–or rather her charming puppet did. Liza Palmer talked about being real on the page, and the importance of being real in life first. These writers, and many others over the course of the conference, dug deep into themselves to tap into their stories. They shared personal moments, and in doing so, chose specific details to make the narrative relatable.

When writing fiction, writers dig just as deeply into their psyches to make their stories sing. Every story you write is your own story, whether you mine true-life experiences or let your imagination roam. Find the bits that touch your heart, make you laugh or cry. The choices you make will reveal your unique voice, and will result in stories only you can tell.

This week’s collection of links is something of a hodgepodge, but I hope you will consider them in light of the above. Think about it while reading great books, while working on your current project, while going for a run. Enjoy, and happy writing.

This Week’s Links

I Talked to 150 Writers and Here’s the Best Advice They Had. – A great collection of tidbits from a wide selection of authors.

How a kid who didn’t read a book until he was 17 grew up to become a literary star. – Short interview with award-winning YA author Jason Reynolds.

13 new Halloween reads to chill, amuse, inform, and terrify. – Some books to add to your seasonal TBR pile this weekend.

23 Writing Competitions to Enter Before the End of the Year. – A varied list of competitions with upcoming deadlines.

50 Great Narrative Nonfiction Books. – Some wonderful nonfiction to break up that pile of novels you’re working on, inform, inspire, and entertain.

The original synopsis of Harry Potter that J.K. Rowling sent to publishers has been revealed. – A few caveats: Rowling probably sent this (or something similar) to agents, and ultimately her agent sent it to publishers. It’s just the first page, as visible in the new British Library exhibit. Finally, it is definitely the synopsis, not the pitch or query as was declared by BuzzFeed elsewhere. But it gives a great idea of the pacing and level of detail for a synopsis. I’d guess this runs about 2-3 pages total.

Cold War Noir: 10 Novels that Defined an Anxious Era. – Given current politics, these types of novels are once again all the rage.

Necessary Whimsy: Vampire Bunnies and Other Weird-But-Fun Halloween Reads. – For anyone looking for a little humor with their  horror this year.

Prepare for NaNoWriMo: Get Ready to Write

With just two weeks left in October, it’s time to prepare for NaNoWriMo, otherwise knows as National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands and thousands of writers around the world attempt to write a novel in 30 days. No prize awaits them. There’s no guarantee of publication. But writers still churn out hundreds of words each day, hoping to hit the goal of 50,000 by November 30th.

Why do people challenge themselves to write so much in a short period? Some do it for fun. NaNoWriMo has become something of a party over the years. Writers gather with other local participants to write in coffee shops or bookstores. Online forums provide a way to reach out and chat about your work-in-progress. Others use the energy of the event to force themselves to finish a first draft. Professional writers often join in, working on current projects or starting new ones. Writers with thoughts of publication know that 50,000 runs a bit short for a traditional novel, but NaNoWriMo still offers great motivation to get to work.

prepare for NaNoWriMo

Are you a plotter or pantser?

Plenty of writers just open up a new Word doc on November 1st and start typing at random. It can be entertaining to see where your imagination takes you. But if you prefer to plot, or you want to make sure the words flow daily, it’s a good idea to prep for NaNoWriMo. If you have at least some idea of where you’d like your story to go, it will help you build your word count and avoid facing a nasty bout of writer’s block.

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Technically, you’re not supposed to start writing until November 1st, but you can still put together some notes.

  • Determine your major characters. Figure out who your protagonist is and what they want. Name some people. Give them jobs and relationships.
  • Do you at least have an idea for your book? If you do, dream up a few scenes you’re really looking forward to writing and sketch out a few short notes about them. (Not the scenes themselves, of course. That would be cheating.)
  • Get some research done. If you have to do some leg work or reading about your setting, the time period, characters’ careers, etc., now is the time to do it. Plus all that wonderful detail and vocabulary you dig up will help you increase your word count.

There’s nothing wrong with deciding to use NaNoWriMo as a time to play. But if you plan to use it to work, just a little bit of prep will help you make the most of your experience. And don’t forget: the manuscript you finish on November 30th will be a first draft. So don’t waste time editing while you write. Plenty of time for that later.

Good luck to everyone participating this year!

Friday Links: Revisit Writing Basics

What does it mean to revisit writing basics? Simply put, this week I’d like you to peel away some of the technology and bells and whistles and look at the bare bones of your writing habit. If you have writer’s block, this approach may help unmoor your ideas. Otherwise, going back to basics for a day or two can renew your creativity in general. A short hand way to think of this approach is “butt in chair, brain in gear.” You might also want to focus on the building blocks of your craft. Read some of your writing aloud, listening for rhythms and word repetition. Maybe forget your fancy computer program and work for a bit in longhand. Write daily and read good books.

I’ve collected the ususal assortment of links this week, with a fair amount of writing advice included. Keep in mind that the best writing style is the one you develop for yourself. So take a look at these varied ideas about writing and apply the ones that work for you. Not every writing trick inspires every writer. I hope at least a few of these will send you to your desk this weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links

Why Digital Note-Taking Will Never Replace the Physical Journal. – Thoughts on why physical journals survive in this digital age.

An Oubliette of Unconventional Writing Advice. – Chuck Wendig offers some entertaining advice on writing advice as a whole, and some common-sense ways to get your work done.

How I Do It: Anne Rice on Writing Technique. – Some very specific ideas on how to approach the art of writing.

London’s Amazing Underground Infrastructure Revealed in Vintage Cutaway Maps. – Fabulous images to inspire either historical or fantasy fiction set in London – or something completely original.

NaNo Prep: Make a Box for Your Bully. – Some excellent advice on silencing that inner editor so you can just write. (Plenty of time to edit when the draft is done.)

Start It Already: How to Start Your Novel – Great tips on how to actually start writing that book, for those of you staring at a blank page/screen.

Friday Links: Autumn Reading and Other Escapes

autumn book stack with apple

Autumn reading always means fatter books and more serious titles for me. Call it back-to-school syndrome. This year autumn reading also sounds like an excellent way to escape the world’s ills. We could all use something to distract us from politics and terrorism, hurricanes and health insurance, if only for a little while. So among this week’s links, I offer some lists of great books to inspire you, but hopefully also a few to help you get lost.

In addition, I have the usual collection of industry-related reads. I hope you find them interesting and entertaining.

Finally, a quick reminder that I am closing to new submissions as of October 10th. You can find complete details here. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, and some excellent reading and writing time. Enjoy!

Stock Up for Autumn Reading

46 Books We Currently Love Even More than Books in General. – The booksellers at Parnassus Books offer up this wonderful assortment of reads.

2017 National Book Awards. – Check out both the short and long lists of books up for this annual award in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature.

Here Are 51 New Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Choose from in October. – Pretty much as described.

Kazuo Ishiguro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature. – If you haven’t read anything by Ishiguro, now is the time to start. His work both entertains and makes you think.

10 Memoirs by Women in the Culinary World. – Are you a foodie or just intrigued by all things culinary? Check out one of these titles.

More Friday Links

The Ripped Bodice Report on Racial Diversity in Romance. – The ladies behind The Ripped Bodice Bookstore took it upon themselves to look into racial diversity in romance publishing. This report looks at the percentage of romance books written by authors of color at various publishing houses. (Warning: It’s disheartening.)

When You Shouldn’t Hire and Pay for a Professional Editor. – Jane Friedman looks at the increase in writers paying for professional editing work, when and when it isn’t actually necessary, and what “professional” means when it comes to an editor.

Here’s Where Your Favorite Modern Novel Was Written. – Peek at the writing spaces of some modern-day writers.

Closing to New Submissions

Temporarily Closing to New Submissions

I will be closing to new submissions as of October 10th. I need to work my way through an enormous backlog of submitted work right now. Plus a tall pile of client manuscripts threatens to kill me daily. (Or maybe that’s my clients waiting for comments/edits.) Please note that my coworkers at The Knight Agency will still be accepting new material. As always, you can find our agency submission guidelines and other information at The Knight Agency’s site.

If I request or have requested material from you already, either by email or at a conference, please do send it. Previous queries do not count as new submissions, nor do conference pitches. If you are waiting to hear back on a query/partial/manuscript, thank you for your patience. I’ll be getting back to you as soon as possible.

I will reopen to new submissions once I have the current landslide under control. Keep an eye on this blog and/or social media for additional announcements. Thanks!

2017 Writing Goals: 3rd Quarter Check-In

Play Your Writing Goals

Time to review your writing goals for 2017! We’ve entered the final quarter of the year, so grab that list of goals and see where you stand. Or maybe you’re just getting around to making some writing goals. Whatever stage you’re at with your writing, consider where you’d like to go next, and how to get there.

Writing Goals Review

If you set goals for your writing at any point this year, look back and see what you’ve achieved versus where you need to recommit. Maybe you managed to complete some smaller goals, but you’re behind with a big one. Perhaps you focused on a major goal, while some small ones fell by the wayside. Or perhaps circumstances have changed and you need to rework one or more goals to match.

Be honest when you assess your progress, but don’t beat yourself up. Use your goals as a tool, a rudder by which to steer your career as best you can. Sometimes we lose track of what we’re trying to achieve, but sometimes life just gets in the way. Only you know where you should be working harder, and where you have to cut yourself some slack.

Reassess Your Writing Goals

Once you know where you stand, you can determine where you want to go. Maybe you’re on track, and all you need to do is keep working as you have been. Congratulations! But maybe you want to cross a goal off your list as no longer valid, or you need to change the timeline on something you’ve been writing. Don’t hesitate to tweak your goals as necessary. These goals are for you; you get to say what they should be, what’s working and what isn’t.

Writing Goals Going Forward

If you didn’t set goals earlier in the year, do so now. Even with three months left to 2017, you can accomplish plenty to help you move forward with your writing. Commit to writing daily, or consider submitting short work to a contest or for publication. Start researching literary agents, or get your author’s website up and running.

Even if you did set goals for the year, you can certainly add new ones at this stage. Maybe you’ve come up with a new idea for a project that requires some research, or you’re ahead with something and ready for the next step. Goal lists should remain flexible, and not adhere strictly to the calendar year.

Checking in with your writing goals enables you to keep on top of your career and your accomplishments. People typically forget about their new year’s resolutions by March. If you check in on your writing ambitions frequently over the course of the year, you’ll keep them fresh in your mind. So make your list of goals, set some calendar reminders, and go write.