Friday Links

Lots of links today, ranging from writing tips to new book releases. I hope you all find something here to entertain you.

But links aside, I want you all to go do something this weekend that you’ve been putting off. Some fun outing or adventure that you think about but are always too busy for. I lost a dear friend recently. He was just 41, and left behind a wife and 17-month-old little boy. Life is so very short, and we have no idea what’s in store for us. I realize people say this all the time, but I’m adding my voice to the chorus. Make time for yourself this weekend. Seize your life.

Broca’s Area Style Guide: The ’10 Mistakes’ List – A great check list of things to work on while polishing your writing.

Fiction Affliction: October’s Releases in Fantasy and in Urban Fantasy – A nice round up of new books in the fantasy/urban fantasy genres, courtesy of Tor.

Drawing Verse – A lovely profile of poet Bianca Stone, who is also an artist producing “poetry comics.”

How to Write a Better About Page for Your Website – Geared toward entrepreneurial sites, but applicable to anyone with an about page who markets themselves and/or their work.

On Cultivating Instinct as an Ink-slinging, Story-spinning Pen-monkey Type – Tips from Chuck Wendig. Just read.

Tapping Your Creative Reserves

Creativity is a habit, one that requires regular practice in order to flow smoothly. But let’s face it. Even the most creative and talented and brilliant individual can hit a dry spell, when inspiration refuses to come. So what do you do when you’re grasping for the right idea? Try mixing things up a little.

Karen Walrond is a blogger, photographer, writer, and inspirational speaker, and she recently gave a talk to the folks at Getty Images for their Power of Innovation series. It’s nearly half an hour, so be sure you set aside some time to watch it. Her ideas are the sort of brilliant, flexible concepts and exercises that will help wake up your brain and get your creativity jumping, whatever your creative endeavor.

The Home Stretch: Setting End-of-Year Goals

I doubt I’m the only one feeling a bit shocked when I glance at the calendar, but like it or not, we’re in the last week of September. Kids are back in school and maybe even back in the swing of things, pumpkin-flavored items have returned to the Starbucks menu, and I’ve heard rumors of Christmas decorations cropping up in the stores right next to the Halloween departments. The end of 2012 is barreling straight at us, so what better time to reassess your writing goals for the year?

Oh. Those, you say. Yeah, those. Remember them? The things you wanted to accomplish this year, the ways you hoped to advance your craft and/or your career? Maybe you set yourself the goal of finishing your first novel. Or a certain word count for the year. Perhaps you decided to step up your effort to find an agent or to get published, or planned to branch out into writing another genre. Whatever your goals, you made them, even if they were just in the back of your head somewhere.

October 1st marks the start of the fourth quarter of the year. If we were looking at a financial statement, you’d have numbers in black on white (or maybe red on white, though I hope not) to show you how far you’d come over the last three quarters, but for writers, measuring achievements can be a bit less concrete. So here are a few ideas:

~ If you set a goal of finishing a specific project, where are you with that effort? Finished? Fabulous! But if not, don’t panic. You still have three months to go. See where you are in the process, how much you’ve written (and rewritten) since the start of the year. How much is left to do? Did you have a revelation that required reworking a huge part of the story? Are you off on a tangent? What do you need to do to get or stay on track and achieve your goal by year’s end?

~ A word-count goal is easier to define, and also easier to track, though editing can make it difficult to be precise, given the tendency to eliminate words you’ve previously added. If you kept track of your daily output, you have a fair idea of where you stand in relationship to your goal. If not, estimate by taking a word count of your ongoing projects and subtracting the portion you wrote (if any) prior to January 1. Don’t forget to add in any blog posts you’ve written over the year, as well. If your total is around 70-75% of your goal, you’re in great shape. If not, there’s still time to catch up.

~ Many goals writers set depend, in part, on other people. Getting an agent, getting published — all you can do is make the effort. If you set this sort of goal, did you pursue it steadily? Did you keep submissions going  out the door? Work toward  revisions that would improve your chance of acceptance? Keep showing up at your desk and writing new work even while submitting completed projects?

If you’re on track with your goals, whatever they may be, congratulations! If not, don’t despair. Now is a great time to look seriously at how you’ve been doing and make plans for the next few months. Were your original goals too ambitious? Did something happen during the year to derail you? Or were you simply not as committed as you needed to be in order to achieve those goals? Be honest with yourself.

Now take a look at the next three months, and determine what you can realistically expect to do between now and the end of the year. Remember that holidays can eat a chunk of time, so take any traveling, preparations, and family activities into consideration. Reassess the goals you had for the year and make mini goals for the next three months that help push those original goals forward, whether to completion or just to the next logical level.

Need to up your word count? Try joining Nanowrimo come November for inspiration and some structure. Looking for fresh ideas? Write a few scenes based on holiday memories, good or bad, and see if they spark your imagination. Ready to go pro? Give yourself an afternoon to research agencies that represent the type of book you’ve written, or literary magazines that publish the kinds of stories you write, and the goal of submitting to a certain number of them.

And if you’ve been a whirlwind of activity this year and actually met your goals early, come up with something new and fun to work toward! Keep challenging yourself to be the best writer you can be.

Friday Links

Autumn is upon us, despite the lingering heat here in Southern California. I find myself itching for time to curl up with a good fall read. Something spooky, maybe, in anticipation of Halloween. Alas, there’s far too much on my plate right now for personal reading, but I have found a few links to share, so I hope these keep you entertained over the weekend. And if you do find time to grab a scary novel off the shelf, well, think of me… Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Stephen King! 8 Fun Fan SitesBook Riot has a list of sites appropriate for fans of King in honor of his special day.

New Twitter Profile Tips for Writers – Take advantage of the latest upgrade of Twitter with these useful tips and ideas.

Join Marley Gibson’s Quest to Bring Cheer to Teen Cancer Patients – TKA author Marley Gibson, herself a cancer survivor, has started a foundation to help bring cheer to teens suffering from cancer. Please see how you can help, even if just by spreading the word.

We’re All Just Lying Machines: A Conversation about Gillian Flynn – A great chat over at The Millions about the author of the recent bestseller, Gone Girl.

Social but Safe

Last week literary agent Pam van Hylckama was allegedly assaulted by a writer whose work she had rejected. She initially thought the attack was a car jacking gone wrong, but police were suspicious and searched through her emails and the assailant was found at his home address — the same address he’d included on his query — sporting a bite mark on his arm from Pam’s helpful little dog. Pam, an active individual in social media, has decided to rethink the way she uses Twitter, FourSquare, and other social media outlets, very aware that it can be easy to accidentally telegraph your location to someone who is paying attention.

We live in a world where many of our activities are shared online. We post pictures of our vacations, review great new restaurants, invite others to join us for a writing session at the local library or coffee shop. And all that’s wonderful and entertaining and makes for a terrific virtual community that can spill over into real life as well.

But we need to be a little bit more careful about what we do. Especially those of us who are social online for our jobs —  writers, agents, editors and so on. Reaching out and getting to know people can be a joy, but it’s important to remember that not every encounter will be positive.

As an agent, I have had some negative experiences. There’s always the disgruntled writer who reacts poorly to a rejection letter, no matter how kind it is. I’ve been called names and told to go play in traffic and a number of other unpleasant things. These reactions are certainly rare, a drop in the bucket compared to the number of normal, polite responses I receive, but they do occur and I do occasionally wonder if there’s more behind them than just a bad day and a person who is too quick to hit the send button.

Here’s the thing I want to stress, because it’s been said elsewhere but definitely bears repeating: This person who takes it to the next level, who goes beyond a rude retort, is not a crazy writer; he or she is an individual with some problems who just happens to write. There are plenty of people out there who have emotional or mental issues. These are the people who become stalkers or who react inappropriately to the least provocation or who show up somewhere and lash out and you may never know why. The key is to take reasonable precautions when it comes to letting people know who and where you are.

Keeping Safe on Social Media:

~ If you want to talk about that great new restaurant, do so after you’ve left the building. Go ahead and post photos of your wonderful meal, praise the wait staff and the atmosphere. Just make sure you’re safely out the door before you broadcast to the world.

~ The same goes for using things like FourSquare. You really want to check in at your local coffee shop, you’re moments away from becoming Mayor? Fine. But do it when you’re leaving, not when you first pull into the parking lot.

~ Avoid talking online about your routine in any specifics. If you pick up your kids from school everyday, jog at the local park, or spend every morning at your neighborhood Starbucks, never give out the location on the internet. Anyone paying attention will notice the pattern and know exactly where to find you.

~ If you work from home, put some distance between your work life and your private life. Invest in a P.O. box for work-related mail, make sure your name and address is masked by the company hosting your URL/website, and refrain from talking about your immediate neighborhood in any detail.

~ Be respectful of giving away other people’s information. Don’t assume your friends are fine with you telling everyone you know that you’re all out to dinner together or at a great concert. Likewise, ask before Tweeting photos of your buddies, especially if the location is identifiable. Not everyone is comfortable having their face on the internet.

Social media and the internet in general have made it far, far easier for us all to connect with each other. This can be fabulous when used as a marketing tool, or just as a means of widening our experiences and meeting new people. But likewise, it can make it just as simple for people to find us, whether or not we’d like them to do so. Take a few basic precautions online, and you’ll go a long way toward staying safe when you step away from your computer.


Friday Links

Happy Friday! Does everyone have plans for the weekend? Mine involve setting up my shiny new computer in the interests of transferring all my files before I get too many more blue screens of death. Ah technology, you make our lives so interesting.

Of course I have a few links for you all, so if you’ve got a spare moment or are just looking for some procrastination inspiration, I hope you’ll check them out. Have a terrific weekend, and don’t forget to get some reading and/or writing time in!

The Do-It-Yourself Lit Degree – Book Riot brings you some ideas on how to catch up on that academic reading.

Writing LIAR with Scrivener – Author Justine Larbalestier gives a great overview on how she wrote her young adult novel, LIAR, using Scrivener software. I’m linking to this because I was discussing the program with some writers in Denver last weekend, so it seemed like a good time to share this for anyone curious about how the program might help them.

How to Write a Manuscript: 5 Key Tips – A few ideas that might help you plow through.

HarperCollins Reaches New Agreements with Amazon and Others on E-Book Prices – An overview of how the DOJ settlement is starting to play out.

William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211 – A great interview from The Paris Review archives.

Happy Book Day!

I’m delighted to announce the release of Helen Keeble‘s debut young adult novel, FANG GIRL, which hits shelves today. This smart, entertaining adventure will have you grinning from the start and laughing out loud throughout. Go grab a copy of this witty read. Congratulations, Helen!!

Sure, the idea of vampires is sexy, but who actually dreams of spending eternity as a pasty, bloodthirsty fifteen-year-old?

Not me.

Unfortunately, the somewhat psychotic vampire who turned me into a bloodsucker didn’t bother to ask first. Now I’m dealing with parents who want me to vamp them, a younger brother who’s convinced I’m a zombie, and a seriously ripped vampire hunter who either wants to stake me or make out with me. Not sure which. Oh and PS, none of my favorite fanfic prepared me to deal with vampire politics—which are looking pretty tricky based on the undead Elder trying to hunt me down.

What’s a vampire-obsessed fangirl turned real-life fanggirl supposed to do?

Friday Links

Greetings from beautiful Denver, Colorado. Yes, I’m off doing the conference thing, this time with the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. It looks to be a fun, busy weekend, but I wanted to leave you with a few links to keep you entertained and inspired. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Disorientation: A Reading List – An intriguing look at some off-beat reads, and the act of creating a new world through writing.

Horror Story – In honor of Stephen King’s impending 65th birthday, and because I’m in Colorado and it seems appropriate.

Emily Dickinson Gets a New Look in Recovered Photograph – Not definite, but intriguing either way.

2012 Hugo Award Winners – Congrats to all!