Friday Links

Happy Friday, all! It’s the last day of November — how the heck did that happen? — and therefore the last day of NaNoWriMo. Good luck to those of you in that home stretch, writing feverishly to churn out your 50,000 words.

Whether you’re finishing up your Nano novel or working on something else entirely, be sure to check out my December Writing Challenge, which I posted yesterday. Any sort of writing counts, whether you’re deep in novel mode, starting a new project, working on essays, blog posts, poetry, etc.

Beyond that, I have some fun links to help you kick off the weekend, including thoughts on used books, input versus output, and more. I hope they inspire and entertain you. Happy weekend, and happy writing!

On Input Mode, with Music – Author Erin Morgenstern on refilling the well.

Used Books – Michelle Dean talks used books, and what they mean to her, over at The Rumpus.

17,500 Readers with a Corrupted E-book File – Tale of woe from self-published author Lenore Skomal, who explains what she did wrong and how she tackled correcting her problem.

Dispatch from the Edge of Literary Culture – A look at finding yourself outside the traditional literary scenes.


Writing Challenge for December

Do you dream of writing a book? Have you been writing on and off for a while but never managed to finish a project? Or perhaps you already write pretty regularly but would like to take your craft to the next level? Regardless of your level of dedication and achievement, I have a challenge for you.

December can be a hectic time, perhaps the busiest month of the year, between shopping and holiday gatherings, family commitments and the cooking of feasts. Plus don’t forget all that end-of-year panic surrounding work deadlines and so on. Some writers manage to write every day or nearly every day, no matter their schedules, but most writers — particularly newer writers — find keeping that sort of pace to be difficult.

There’s no rule that says you need to write daily to be a good writer; many successful writers work in bursts with time off in between. However, writing every day is still an excellent practice, particularly for someone just learning the craft. It gets your brain into the habit of being creative on demand, while keeping your work in progress fresh in your thoughts. Exercising your writing muscles is just like any other type of exercise; a little each day keeps you limber.

So, my challenge for you all is to write daily during the month of December. This isn’t like NaNoWriMo, where I issue you a word goal. Instead I challenge you to commit to a daily writing practice. Try to carve out an hour each day, but half an hour or even fifteen minutes will do if that is all the time you can find. But make your writing a priority.

I do understand that there are days when you simply won’t be able to pull this off, so I’m offering you two days leeway, to be taken when you need them. Christmas day and New Year’s Eve? A random crazy shopping day? The day you need to pick up family at the airport? Sick day? Your pick. But beyond that, you get 29 days in December to sit down and commit to your writing.

Why daily? Why December? I believe if you can manage to write through the chaos of the end of the year, you will find it so much easier to face your writing resolutions for 2013. Maybe keep those in mind while you’re working through this challenge. See what sort of good habits you can instill and carry forward.

To help you along, I’ll be cheering you on from here and from Twitter, and I’ll also pop in with a few random writing prompts throughout the month. If you don’t need them, terrific, but if you’re between projects or are looking for a little inspiration for a short, one-day project, they might be useful. There are no rules regarding what you write each day; it can all be the same project, or a series of writing exercises, or a number of rotating pieces. Whatever gets your brain and creativity pumping.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Writing Goals and Reassessment

Five days left in November. If you’re a NaNoWriMo participant, struggling to get to 50,000 words by the end of the month, you’re well aware of the date. But even if you’re not, you might be eyeing the calendar, thinking about the fast-approaching end of the year. Life is only going to get busier in the next few weeks, between holidays and work and family. Now is a good time to take a deep breath and think about your writing. How have you done this year? Have you met any goals you might have set? Are you pleased with your progress? Wishing you’d done something differently? What about 2013? Where do you see yourself taking your writing? What are your goals for the coming year?

Last year I issued a challenge in December. Acknowledging that it might possibly be the busiest month of the year, I asked you all to commit to writing each and every day, even if only for fifteen minutes. If writing is important to you, it needs to be a priority. So think about where you are in your writing, and where you’d like to be this time next year. I’ll post more details for my December writing challenge at the end of the week. In the meantime, happy writing!

Friday Links

Kind of an abbreviated version of Friday links today, given the holiday weekend and my under-caffeinated brain. I hope all of you who celebrated had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that everyone’s weekend is relaxing and enjoyable. If you’re heading out to start your holiday shopping (or were standing in one of those lines in the wee hours this morning), I wish you the best of luck. Don’t forget to squeeze a little writing time in!

Dream Homes Built for Books – Love these. Some of them are so imaginative.

The Daily Routines of Famous Writers – A quick peek at a few writers’ attitudes toward writing.

Spy on Laini Taylor’s Writing Notebook – A writing challenge to get your creative juices flowing.

Happy Thanksgiving

www.theholidayspot.comWishing a joyous holiday to everyone celebrating today. My thoughts especially go out to anyone who suffered storm damage as a result of Super-storm Sandy. Hoping you are all warm and safe and enjoying a good meal with loved ones.

For all you writers out there, whether you’re struggling through NaNoWriMo or just working on your latest project, may you find a wealth of inspiration and productivity.

ARC Giveaway!

I’m happy to announce that it is time for another ARC (advance reading copy) giveaway.  This time around I have an early copy of Shannon K. Butcher‘s next fabulous romantic suspense novel, EDGE OF SANITY, the third title in her EDGE series. The book hits stores on December 4th, but one lucky reader will be getting it ahead of schedule.

Just leave a comment here on the thread between now and 12pm/noon Pacific Time next Monday, November 19th. I’ll select a random winner at that time and announce it here on the blog.


In his years working for the private security firm The Edge, Clay Marshall has seen it all. But the recent blackouts he’s been having are new. So is waking up with blood on his hands and clothes, with no memory of where the blood came from—or who he might have killed. He hates to admit it, but he needs help.
Dr. Leigh Vaughn has treated other Edge employees before, but from the moment she sees him for the first time, Clay strikes her as a special breed of man. She knows he’s dangerous, and distrustful of doctors, but she finds herself drawn to him even as his own steely exterior gives way to his growing desire for her.

Neither knows, however, that Clay is being used as a pawn in a larger experiment, and that his blackouts are only the first step toward a terrifying goal. And both Leigh and Clay will put themselves in harm’s way to stop an unseen enemy—and to save one another.

Good luck!

ETA: Congratulations to Carmen M. for winning a copy of EDGE OF SANITY! Carmen, watch your inbox for information on how to receive your ARC.

Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing. Keep an eye out for future giveaways here on the blog.

Keeping the Mystery Alive

How do you write a page-turner? Keep the reader asking questions. Or, one question, really: What happens next? This does not only apply to a mystery novel. No matter your genre, you want your reader to engage with the story, with your characters. Your reader should be anxious to learn where the next chapter will lead them. Yes, you need to answer those questions occasionally, at least in part, but there should always be a new question or two popping up to keep things interesting. And that big question? The one that drives your protagonist’s story arc? You better hold out on answering that one until the bitter end.

What are the big questions? Which questions are the ones that have a reader staying up late to get those ultimate answers? They might not be the ones you think they are. In the TED Talk below, writer/director J.J. Abrams talks about keeping the mystery going, and about the surprising moments that make a good story that much better. This runs just shy of twenty minutes, so set aside a bit of time to watch.

Pep Talks for Writers

We’re almost halfway through November. Are you frantically trying to catch up with your NaNoWriMo word count? Or are you just trying to get ahead with your work in progress so you can relax and enjoy the holiday season?

Whatever your goals, this time of year can be a difficult one for writers. So many distractions. There’s all the usual ones, of course. Kids, work, housecleaning, parents, in-laws, pets, etc. Plus those virtual ones, like blogging and Twitter and Tumblr. Throw in plans for Thanksgiving dinner, shopping for gifts, holiday parties. You get the picture.

Here’s the catch. Writers write. That’s what you do. Whether you’re multi-published or just slaving away on that first novel, if you self-identify as a writer or wish to, you need to write.

I’m not saying everyone needs to write every single day. Not all writers do. But you need to commit. Sit in the chair, pull out the pad or put your hands on that keyboard, and generate words. Some of the words will be awful, but you can worry about that later. You can’t rewrite or edit or polish until you do the actual writing.

So here is my pep talk for you. Every writer, alive or dead, had to start somewhere. They had a first project with a first sentence on an empty page. The second project started the same way; first sentence on an empty page. They practiced by writing. They became better writers by writing. They acquired new skills, new understanding of plot structure and characterization and setting, of pacing and motivation, by writing. They probably wrote thousands and thousands of words before any of their work saw the light of day or earned them a penny. They wrote.

Life will always try to get in your way. There will always be something or someone crying out for your attention. Sometimes you will need to address that something or someone. But much of the time you will need to be selfish and continue to write. Make the time. Make it your priority. If you don’t put your writing first, no one else will.

If you want to be a writer, write. Yes, you need to do other things. Read every day, good books, books of all kinds. Maybe improve your vocabulary. Work on your grammar skills. But at the end of the day, the one and only must-have to become a writer is the ability to sit down and write. You can do this. Write.

Should you want additional pep talks, you can find some great ones over at the NaNoWriMo pep-talk archive. But don’t use reading them as an excuse not to get cracking on that manuscript.

So? What are you waiting for? Go. Write.

Friday Links

Another week down, and with it the endless political phone calls that have been plaguing us here in the United States for the last month or so. Thank goodness. Time to move forward.

Speaking of forward movement, those of you participating in NaNoWriMo are closing in on the one-third mark, and should have somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 to 16,000 words today. If you haven’t gotten that far, don’t panic; there’s plenty of time to catch up still. Just get those words down, and don’t let your internal editor rear his ugly head. Tell him to wait for December.

Leaving you with a few Friday links to entertain and inform you. Enjoy, and happy writing!

YA Fiction and the End of Boys – An interesting look at the role of boys in today’s YA fiction.

5 Fun Facts about Bram Stoker on His 165th Birthday – Entertaining look at the father of the modern vampire novel.

Why You Should Write By Hand – A look at how writing by hand might affect the quality of your manuscript.

Book Shopping with the Best-Read Man in America – My idea of the best sort of shopping trip.