December Writing Challenge: Wrap Up

It’s December 31st, the final day of 2012 and the last day of my Writing Challenge for the month. How did you do? Have you written every day? Did you take your two freebie days off, or did you discover you didn’t need them? Do you feel like you accomplished more than you might have without the structure of this informal challenge? I’d love to hear your reactions, so please share.

Meanwhile, it’s time to gear up for a new year! 2013 is just hours away (for some of you maybe even here already), with all the promise of a fresh start. If you’ve been writing this month, through the challenge or just on your own, you are in a good place to charge into the new year and attack your writing goals.

If you haven’t made a few writing goals for 2013, there’s still time to do so. Where would you like to take your writing in the next twelve months? Do you dream of finishing a manuscript? Getting an agent or a book contract? Trying your hand at a new genre or market? Be sure to challenge yourself, but also make sure you have a few goals you’re pretty sure you can achieve. A nice mix will enable you to feel a sense of accomplishment, even as you strive to reach the next mile marker. Break your goals up by month, so you have something to work for on a daily basis, instead of tackling a single, long-term project over the entire year. You’ll be less likely to get overwhelmed, or discouraged. Every day counts, even if you just write for fifteen minutes. Those words add up fast.

Whatever your dreams for 2013, be they writing related or just for life in general, I wish you all manners of success. Enjoy!

Friday Links

Happy Friday! I hope those of you who celebrated had a lovely Christmas, and that everyone else had a good week as well. We’re creeping up fast on the end of the year, with all the attendant celebrations, resolutions, and renewal. I’ll be back with some thoughts on 2012 — and the incoming 2013 — before we kick off the new year. But in the meantime, some links… Enjoy, and happy writing!

Amazing Stories Opens for Beta Test – A new, online incarnation of the old Amazing Stories magazine.

2013 Reading Resolutions – Authors, bloggers, etc. share their most anticipated big reads for 2013.

5 Tips on How to Write a Novel Synopsis – Chuck Sambuchino’s great advice on Writer Unboxed.

A Cheat Sheet for New Kindle (And Other Ereader) OwnersThe Millions shares a list of the 12 most popular e-books with their readers over the course of 2012, including handy links and price points. Titles include some fun e-originals as well as more mainstream works.

December Writing Challenge: Prompt #4

Have you been writing every single day? Even if just for a few minutes? I hope you’re all discovering that the December Writing Challenge is more doable than you anticipated. I realize it can be difficult to work a bit of writing time into your schedule when life gets busy, but when you can pull it off, the feeling of accomplishment should more than balance out your efforts. If you’ve been missing days here and there, don’t feel bad. Just re-commit to hitting your writing goals. Each day is a new start.

That said, I offer up another writing prompt for anyone who is in need of a little inspiration or something new to distract them from a misbehaving WIP or a wave of writer’s block. Imagine your most disastrous holiday experience. Were you stuck somewhere in an airport, unable to get home? Did a new holiday cook forget the giblet bag in the turkey before popping it into the oven? Was the entire family feuding about something or other? Doesn’t matter what holiday it was, just whichever one goes down in your personal history as the worst, most ridiculous, least enjoyable… your pick. Now write about it, either autobiographically or in a fictional setting. Can you make it poignant? Laugh-out-loud funny? Uncomfortably familiar for your potential readers? Milk that life experience for all it’s worth.

Happy writing!

Friday Links

Last weekend before Christmas, so I’m sure many of you are quite busy. Nevertheless, I hope the writers out there are making an effort to keep up with the December Writing Challenge. Try to get a few minutes of writing in each day. You’ll feel so much better come January when it’s time for you to truly get to work.

I offer up a few Friday links for your reading pleasure, and wish you all the best of weekends. Happy writing, reading, and making merry!

Many-Layered Anger – Tin House interview with writer William Gass.

How to Wrap Books – Some fun suggestions for gift wrapping those wonderful bookish presents.

List of Year-End Lists – A nice selection of best-of-the-year book lists.

Gingerbread Houses – YA author Laini Taylor offers up some of the gingerbread houses that have inspired her own efforts.

Science Books that Caught My Eye This Year – Colleen Mondor gives a great wrap up of science titles, for those of you still shopping…

December Writing Challenge: Post #3

It’s December 17th and we’re just past the halfway mark for the month, and so also with the Writing Challenge. How are you all doing? Is holiday shopping trying to distract you? Have you found yourself mindlessly humming along to carols instead of getting your writing time in? Don’t despair. I’m here with another prompt that will, I hope, inspire you to get back to work.

It’s hard the miss the recent popularity of mashup novels. Books like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, for instance. These books take a common practice to the next level, which is to combine two existing stories, themes, or ideas — preferably popular ones — in order to create something a little bit different.

So, for prompt #3, try coming up with a mashup of your own. It need not be something you intend to write all the way through — though it’s great if you do. Just brainstorm a bunch of twists on some of your favorite stories. A steampunk version of PERSUASION? LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIES OF… PLUTO? (Yes, I realize they’d be fields of ice or something similar, but you see where I’m going.) Either add a major change to a favorite book, or take two very different ideas and see how they might work together. Then write a page or two to see where it goes. Have fun!

Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great week, and that those of you participating in my December Writing Challenge have been working away each day, getting new words down no matter how small your window of time. You’ll feel so accomplished heading into 2013, with all that December writing under your belts, I promise. More prompts coming up soon, but meanwhile, don’t forget to check out the first and second prompts for the month if you need a little inspiration. Good luck!

But Fridays are all about the links, and so of course I have a new batch for you. They’re a little more diversified than usual; I suppose you could say I’ve had a scattered week. But I think they’re still fun and useful, and I hope you agree.

Have a terrific weekend, and happy writing!

10 Books to Help You Recover from a Tense 2012 – A nice list of recommendations from NPR.

A Year in Reading 2012 – This annual feature at The Millions offers a glimpse of the reading lists of numerous writers. Each shares the titles they’ve read over the year that most influenced them — sometimes one or two, sometimes an entire list. Always interesting, as the books don’t have to be recent releases, just whatever the individuals picked up and enjoyed. This links to the main page where all the contributors are listed/linked. New ones get added each day.

EPBOT – A new-to-me blog (Thanks, Cindy!) featuring all things steampunk, from craft ideas to cute stuff. Fun, if you’re a steampunk/sci-fi/Victoriana fan.

Indiana Jones Mystery Package – The University of Chicago (my alma mater) recently received a mysterious package containing a replica of Abner Ravenwood’s field diary and various other items linked to Raiders of the Lost Ark, addressed to Henry Walton Jones, Jr. aka Indiana Jones. For those who may not recall, Jones supposedly taught at U of C. The university is supposedly clueless as to the item’s origins, but regardless, I’m highly amused.

The Biblio-Mat – A short video about a very cool book vending machine at a Toronto-area bookstore.

Gifts for Writers

There are many lists this time of year, recommending that you run out and spend your hard-earned cash on endless items for your friends and loved ones. Some of the lists are helpful, while others feel more like marketing tools. So, I will get the marketing part out of the way right up front. Writers are readers, so I highly recommend you buy the writer in your life something good to read. It can always be thought of as research, with the added bonus of being highly entertaining as well. And what do you know! We at The Knight Agency represent tons of writers who have written wonderful books. We highly recommend them. Some of their more recent releases can be found at The Knight Agency site.

Moving right along, I have some other fun things that you might want to buy the writers in your life, or poke at someone to buy for you. They range from educational to whimsical to hedonistic. I hope they spark some ideas.Writing_Excuses_1to5

Writing Excuses, seasons 1-5 – Some of you might be familiar with the Writing Excuses series of podcasts, featuring writers Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and in recent seasons, Mary Robinette Kowal. In the store on their site, they offer CDs of their first three seasons, individually or as a set, or a DVD-Rom of the first five seasons. Each season is comprised of a series of 15-minute podcasts providing down-and-dirty writing lessons that can help writers get over any difficulties they have with a particular skill. Topics range from writing beginnings to character flaws to editing and the submissions process, and each cast includes a writing prompt and a book recommendation. The podcasts are available free online, but the disks include all sorts of fun extras and unaired material. Prices range from $10 for a single season to $39.95 for five seasons.Ecosystem_Journal

Ecosystem Journals – These great, ecologically conscious journals come in a variety of sizes and colors, both blank and lined, hard- or soft-cover, and include sturdy paper that will stand up to writers who like to use rollerball or fountain pens that sometimes bleed through traditional journal pages. Up to $19.95 for large size.

Write, Rewrite Wall Clock – Bright and fun, keeps normal time, but adds that little push your favorite writer might need. Handy for an office wall. $15.99write_rewrite_wall_clock

Gift Certificate for a Massage – Too many hours in front of a computer means stiff neck, shoulders, back, etc. Gift your writer with a massage at their favorite local spa or health center, and help them relax in the new year. Prices vary by location.

Literary Knits: 30 Patterns Inspired by Favorite Books – For the writer who also knits, this book includes patterns for a number of projects based on characters from famous fiction. Fun and a bit different. Retails for $22.99. Discounts vary per outlet.

Writing Books: Just a few of my favorite titles to inspire, instruct, and help get writers over a block.

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Pricilla Long

Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula Le Guin

Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See



December Writing Challenge: Prompt #2

We’re just about a third through the month of December already. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m am scrambling to get things done before I leave town to visit my family for the holidays. However, there are things that I have put high on my list of priorities, including a few manuscript reads for clients, seeing friends before I go on vacation, and making sure I keep everyone revved up for my Writing Challenge this month.

So, without further ado, I offer up this photo for a bit of inspiration. Where could this be? What happened to this wall, and who is responsible? Was it meant to be artistic, or is it the result of some mysterious event? Let your imaginations roam and see what you come up with.



If you happen to write and post something as a result of this prompt, please feel free to return and link in the comments. Happy writing!

Friday Links

Happy Friday! It’s also Day 7 of my December Writing Challenge, for those of you following along. If you somehow missed the first few days, don’t panic. There’s no minimum word count for the month, so just start writing today and commit to write daily through until the 31st. You can do it!

Be sure to check back and see my week #1 Writing Prompt if you’re looking for a little nudge in your writing. I’ll have another one up in a few days. If you’re looking for additional inspiration, try Sunday Scribblings. They have a nice backlog of prompts up that you can try, and a new one each week around Friday/Saturday. The idea is to use the prompt to write something quickly (or the start of something) for Sunday. Nice way to shake your brain loose and knock out some words.

More links follow below. I hope they keep you engaged and entertained. Happy weekend, and happy writing!

The Bookstore Strikes Back – A wonderful article by Ann Patchett on how she came to help open and run a bookstore in Nashville.

Ironing Out the Wrinkles – The Complexities of Madeleine L’Engle – A review of Leonard Marcus’s new biography of the author.

Gift Ideas for Teens – A nice wrap up of some unusual titles by Colleen Mondor for Bookslut. (And quite a few of these books would be great for grown up readers, too.)

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Coming to the BBC – The BBC is adapting the book for TV; we can only hope that it will hit PBS here in the U.S. soon after it airs in the UK.