Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great week and are looking forward to a lovely weekend of reading and writing and adventures. I have all of those on my schedule, plus a run and maybe a nice nap. Ah, nap… (It’s been a tense week; sleep has been at a premium.)

Thank you to everyone who signed up for or spread the word about my Writer’s Digest webinar, which I held yesterday. It went very well, with the exception of a temporary audio glitch when my phone decided to be a little scratchy and cranky, but that was soon fixed. I had a good-sized crowd and some excellent questions, and I’ve already received some lovely feedback, so I think people found it useful. I hope to have the opportunity to do more webinars in the future, because it was actually kind of fun.

Ah, but it’s Friday, which means links! I’ve a nice assortment this week, a little from column A, a bit from column B, so there should be something for everyone. I hope you find them entertaining and informative. Have a great weekend, and happy writing!

Dystopian Coming-of-Age Stories: A Reading List – Some suggestions from the folks at BookRiot, with more in comments.

What Should I Read on Vacation? A Question I Never Took Lightly Again – Summer’s around the corner. This is an interesting take on how to choose your holiday reads.

Writing Star Wars with Michael Arndt – An amusing little video. Writers will particularly appreciate this.

Writing Excuses: Narrative Rhythm – A great podcast on pacing.

The Young Salinger, Mordant Yet Hopeful – 9 letters by a young J.D. Salinger have turned up.


My Favorite Words

Every writer has them, those words that seem to get used over and over and over again. Sometimes they’re big, shiny words that stick out like a sore thumb, but more typically they’re everyday sorts of words — your workhorse vocabulary — that sneak their way into your prose and make it sound lackluster through repetition.

You don’t need to be writing a novel to face this problem. Any piece of writing can fall victim to favorite-words syndrome, and any type of writer, from bloggers to journalists to short-story authors. The key is to be aware of the problem and, when you’re going through to revise, be sure to check carefully for overuse of those words in particular.

Young adult author Justine Larbalestier blogged recently about her own frequently used words, and she actually made a list of her personal culprits for reference. Looking through her list, I can see a few of my own offenders. I’m constantly going back through my writing and culling out “just” and “suddenly” and a few others. Plus I’ve my own list, of course.

Next time you’re revising, pay attention to your own frequently used words, especially those you could delete entirely. “That” is one you can cut half the time, for instance. If you find yourself shaking your head over your repetition, try making a list of words that show up particularly often and hang it over your desk as a reminder to keep an eye out for them on future projects. It’s amazing how much removing a few words can liven up your writing.

Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! This week’s link list is a bit on the sparse side. I’m afraid most of my internet time was hijacked by things exploding, both literally — Boston, Texas — and figuratively — the U.S. Senate. Still, I do have a few offerings to entertain and inform you, so I hope you enjoy them. Have a wonderful weekend!

By Its Cover – 5 designers on book covers that inspire them.

The Questionable Fates of Famous Authors’ Birthplaces – There’s a disturbing number of Starbucks on this list.

Did Shakespeare Love the Cruellest Month? – Germaine Greer on the Bard and April.

And a quick reminder that I’m teaching a webinar next week through Writer’s Digest: Conquer the Dreaded Synopsis: Construct Your Ultimate Sales Tool. There’s still time to sign up, so head on over to register or pass the word along to your writer friends who might be interested.



Advice from the Trenches

Last week on Booktalk Nation, author John Scalzi interviewed author Joe Hill about writing, genre, and his new book NOS4A2. Between the two of them, these guys have written a number of books, short stories, blog posts, etc. Whether you write genre fiction or something else, you should check out the video of their chat, because much of what they have to say is just plain interesting if you have any sort of curiosity about writing and publishing, and the bulk of their advice applies to any type of writer. They’re also pretty damn amusing to watch.

Just a heads up: the interview is about an hour long, so keep that in mind before you hit the play button. Enjoy!

Friday Links

Friday has rolled around again. I’ve had a weird week in that it seemed to fly by, even as each individual day was a week long all on its own. I’m hoping you all experienced time in a more normal fashion, and that you’ve got a wonderful weekend planned.

At least in this half of the world, spring seems to have finally come to town (with a few snowy exceptions). Don’t let spring fever derail whatever writing goals you’ve set for yourself. Instead, try to combine your goals with a little fresh air. Grab your laptop or a notebook and go write in your yard or at a nearby park. Take a thermos of coffee and a blanket or folding chair and breath deeply while you write. Who knows what inspiration might strike? Just don’t forget your sunscreen.

But it’s Friday and that means links, as I’m sure you all know by now. I’ve actually got quite a few this week. It’ll be good to finally close out all these browser tabs. I hope you find these as interesting, educational, and entertaining as I did. The Will Hindmarch piece is a particularly important read. Enjoy!

This Column Will Change Your Life: Helsinki Bus Station Theory – A theory of creativity. It references photography, but really, this could apply to any artistic endeavor.

I Read Everything Jane Austen Wrote, Several Times – An interesting look at one reader’s impression of Austen’s work and what it meant to her.

Alix Ohlin Recommends – The author gives a couple of tips on how to drum up inspiration.

Forever All The Time Always – Guest blogging for Wil Wheaton, writer Will Hindmarch talks about depression and the lies it tells you about your writing, your skills, and your worth.

Let the Memory Live Again – Did you memorize poetry as a kid? Do you still? The Paris Review blog talks about a new app from Penguin Books that helps you to memorize a few classic poems.

Pablo Neruda’s Grave Is Opened in Inquiry into the Poet’s Death – ¬†Questions have come up as to whether he might have been poisoned by someone in the Pinochet regime.

Wednesday Reads

You might have noticed a theme among book bloggers when Wednesday rolls around. Posts about books — specifically what’s been finished, is in progress, and is up next on the to-read pile — abound. If you were wondering about the origins of this habit, you might want to check out Should Be Reading, home of the theory that mid-week is a great time to share your reading status with the world.

I love reading these posts, but I’ll admit I tend not to participate. Why? Because I’m often painfully slow to finish books once I start, and I would hate anyone to take that snail’s pace as a reflection on the quality of the books. If I’m not enjoying something, I don’t bother to finish anymore. Life is way too short and I am far too busy to keep reading a book that doesn’t interest me. Better to move on to something else from one of the teetering stacks around the apartment. But the reality is that most of my reading time goes to unpublished work; client manuscripts, rewrites, outlines and so on, plus an endless onslaught of submissions. And given I can only talk about those projects in the vaguest of terms, there doesn’t seem much point.

However, I also feel like I don’t discuss actual books enough on this blog. I get excited over my clients’ work, of course, and will occasionally reference other authors I admire — often when linking to an intriguing interview or bit of writing advice from them — but I don’t provide much of a clue regarding my reading tastes. So I’ve decided to start sharing. Probably not every week, because of that snail’s-pace thing, but at least a couple of times a month.

So, what am I reading? On the work front I’m finishing up some early chapters for one client and then I have a rewrite to read from a second client. I’ll probably try to work through some submissions later this afternoon — partials rather than full manuscripts, which I more frequently tackle on the weekend unless I have a breather during the week.

As for books with covers, it’s been a while since I’ve finished anything, mostly because I have a fair number with bookmarks tucked into them and I keep rotating what I’m reading. I’m about a third of the way through WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel, which I’m loving. I am also picking my way through Neil Gaiman’s FRAGILE THINGS, which is short fiction and poetry and allows me a mini sense of accomplishment. On my Kindle I’m reading SOMETHING ABOUT YOU by Julie James, and MIDNIGHT RIOT by Ben Aaronovitch.

What’s next? The to-read pile is actually five or six piles at this point, but I’m itching to read Mary Robinette Kowal’s WITHOUT A SUMMER, and I have Mette Jakobsen’s THE VANISHING ACT right beneath that on the stack. I also just got a copy of HIDDEN CITIES: A MEMOIR OF URBAN EXPLORATION by Moses Gates, which sounds fascinating.

That’s it for my current reading line up. What are you all reading? Have you recently finished something you want to recommend? What are you looking forward to? Please do share — I’d love to hear what books have you excited.


Friday Links

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a good week and are looking forward to a weekend of writing, reading, and maybe some playtime.

As always, I’m offering up a selection of links for your entertainment and edification. Enjoy!

What Does Your Writing Implement Say About You? – A fun look at different types of pens, etc.

Joss Whedon’s Top 10 Writing Tips – Geared toward screenwriting, but mostly applicable across the board.

Fuck the Straight Line: How Story Rebels Against Expectation – Pearls of wisdom from Chuck Wendig.

“House” by Neil Gaiman – In honor of National Poetry Month.

Prepping for the Tax Man

money-hi from clckr.comWhile everyone’s busy playing April Fool’s pranks today, I want to talk about something serious: Writers and taxes.

No one likes thinking about their taxes, let alone actually doing them. But they are a reality of life, and if you’re self-employed, the become even more complicated than they are for the average working person. There are more calculations, more receipts to save, and kiss goodbye using any of the IRS’s simple forms.

This is why I advocate planning early. Please note here, I am not a tax professional. Most agents do not have accounting backgrounds (though likely some do), so it is important that you speak with an actual accountant when it comes down to doing your tax return. However, I can give you a heads up regarding some of the things to keep an eye out for so you have what you need to file.

Start before you publish. Yes, that’s right. Even if you’re still in the early phases of shopping your novel to agents or editors, you should already take a professional outlook when it comes to your finances. There’s no way of knowing how fast your project might sell, and if payment comes in December then suddenly you were a working writer for that year, able to write off far more things than you could when you were unpaid.

Keep everything. All those pesky receipts? Get yourself a nice little accordion file and organize them as you go. You might already be holding onto obvious receipts, like the ones for office supplies or postage, conference registration, and so on. But keep the ones you’re unsure about, also. Magazine subscriptions? Books? The lumbar pillow for your desk chair? Keep them all, and note their purpose on the back. Your accountant will be able to tell you if something is fair game.

Log your mileage. Do you drive to conferences? Or to the airport before you fly to one? To the post office to send out ARCs for review or prizes from giveaways on your blog? You can deduct a certain amount each year based on the miles you drive your car for work purposes if you are filing as a self-employed individual. Even if you use that car for personal use, too. Just pick up one of the small logs they sell at most office supply stores and keep track of your starting and ending miles, and how many of them were for work purposes. Just leave your log in the car so you remember to use it. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll end up with a few hundred dollars more to deduct by year’s end.

Keep your writing area separate. If you can possibly have your own room to designate as your office space, do so, even if it’s not much more than a closet. The rules on what can or cannot be considered a viable working space vary from year to year (and no doubt from country to country — I’m only familiar with U.S. tax laws). Check with your accountant to determine what qualifies. Not only will you be able to deduct a percentage of your rent or mortgage based on the square footage of your office, but of any other cost that goes toward the entire house, such as heat, electricity, etc. It’s worth the deduction if your home layout permits.

Find an accountant who is familiar with writers or at least works with other self-employed individuals. They will be much more in tune with what you can deduct and what to avoid because it might raise red flags with the IRS. Check with local writing groups or online writers’ forums if you need some recommendations, or simply ask local accountants how much experience they have with this area of the tax code.

If you’re not ready for an accountant quite yet, be sure to read one of the many available guidebooks geared toward helping self-employed individuals determine their deductions to make sure you are holding onto all the right paperwork. Better to have too much than to be missing something vital when you’re ready to file.