Friday Links

I realize my readership crosses all sorts of weather patterns and seasons, but in my neighborhood we’ve scheduled a heat wave for this weekend. Triple digits right through Sunday, of varying levels of evil. I suspect I’ll be retreating to places like the movies and the library for a good chunk of the next few days, if only to let someone else pay for the air conditioning for part of the time. I will, of course, be taking some reading material along for the ride.

But before I go hide from the heat, I offer up a fun selection of links to kick things off. Wishing you all a lovely weekend, wherever you are. Keep cool, keep warm, and keep writing. Enjoy!

A Day in the Life: Amy Einhorn – An interesting look at one day in the life of the publisher and vp of Einhorn books.

10 Literary Restaurants for Hungry Book Nerds around the World – A fun run down. Anyone planning a vacation to one of these spots?

Kate Atkinson Interview – Learn a bit about the author of Life After Life.

Inside an Illegal Party in an Abandoned Subway Station Deep Under NYC – Cool photos for some potential inspiration.

Cool Bookish Places: Gladstone’s Library – Check out this fabulous library and then check in — they rent rooms to travelers.

Toil vs. Talent: The Myth of the Natural

One of the most frequent debates in the writing world, revolving around workshops and MFA programs, centers on the question “Can writing be taught?” The flip side of this, of course, is can you learn to be a writer? The question implies that writing requires a certain innate talent, something you’re born with rather than something you acquire over time. This also suggests that those without said talent shouldn’t waste their time writing, but should instead go off and figure out where their own true talents lie.

Hogwash. Here’s the thing. I believe in talent, and I believe in genius. I also believe that true genius in any given subject blesses very few people, and that most industries offer far more opportunities than there are geniuses in that field. The true key to success in any given area, writing most definitely included, comes from dedication and hard work. Give me a determined writer with a teaspoon of talent and the willingness to practice their craft — to read and revise and strive to improve — over a lazy genius any day of the week.

Here’s the thing about talent, about being blessed with a natural affinity for a given skill. It can lead to all sorts of problems. Back in elementary school, I was one of those smart kids for whom learning came easily. I could listen to my teacher with one ear and get the lesson down, no problem. Homework required no thought at all; I simply worked my way through the pages and wrote out the answers. My brain organized arguments by rote, so my first attempts at school essays required a single draft. Plus my parents and teachers all told me I was smart, so I didn’t really consider that maybe, possibly, things wouldn’t always work that way. Until the day I hit algebra and couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on. By that point, I had no skills for dealing with a subject that didn’t come automatically. I’d never learned how to learn, how to study. It threw me for a loop, and it took me years to understand what the problem was and how to tackle it. In the meantime, I thought there was something wrong with me. That I couldn’t understand algebra because I didn’t get it from day one.

Similarly, a writer who is consistently praised for their early efforts, for their natural-sounding dialogue or beautiful descriptions, may take years to realize that good, solid writing takes more work than simply transcribing the words that flow from their brain. No matter how good the writer, projects still require thought and revision — clarification, the smoothing of clunky sentences, ratcheted tension, improved character motivation. The most brilliant plot idea requires follow through to do it justice. Talent must be backed up by toil, and every writer needs to learn and apply their craft. The talent might serve as a short cut, but it can never serve as a substitute for the labor that goes into each book or story. A writer needs to be prepared to experiment, to throw out what does not work, and to absorb new skills along the way.

Is writing difficult? Yes. I don’t care who you are or how talented you might be, writing is still a challenge. Plot, setting, character, motivation, pacing, description, theme, tension… a writer must keep them all in the air at once, juggle each and every aspect of a project, never letting a single ball drop. No one is born knowing how to do this. They must learn. And if some aspects of storytelling come more easily, then others will still serve as obstacles.

Writing offers no guarantees. The most talent writers in the world receive rejection slips. But the common ground of the successful writers is that they all work on their craft. They sit at their desks and write; they read the works of other writers and learn from their efforts; they put in their time and refuse to rest on their laurels. The career of the writer is a journey paved with words. Keep writing to get where you want to go.

 

Friday Links

I’m off to Florida for the weekend to attend the Historical Novel Society Conference. The rumor is it’s going to be 90 degrees with thunder showers, so all in all, I’m glad that I’m going to be enjoying the hotel’s AC and chatting with writers and other bookish folk. I hope you all have something equally entertaining (though possibly less humid) planned for your weekends.

Whatever your plans, I have links for you! So squeeze them in between your activities or use them to help kill that last hour before quitting time. Whatever you do, enjoy. Happy weekend, and happy writing!

How to Get Out of Your Own Way When Writing – Some sound advice from author Elizabeth Knox.

Opportunities for Writers: July and August 2013 – A good roundup of contests, awards, etc.

Reading Novels Makes Us Better Thinkers – Not news to some of us, but interesting nevertheless.

A Map Showing the Original Meanings of Place Names in North America – Fun, and rather inspiring for anyone trying to create their own worlds/maps.

The What and Why of a Book Proposal – Primarily for nonfiction writers, but I’d recommend it for anyone looking to become a professional writer. Part of the Pro Series at the Tea and Cookies blog.

A Few Thoughts on Rejection

I am neck deep in submissions these days, which means I’m writing a lot of rejection letters. This is the reality of my job. Even if every single manuscript that crosses my path is fabulous — beautifully written, a compelling story, fresh material — I can’t say yes to everyone. It’s a numbers game; I’m just one person, and there are many talented writers out there, and far too few hours in the day for me to take on every marketable manuscript that captures my imagination.

I hate to say no. This is another truth of my job. I love making people happy. There’s not much better than calling a writer and offering representation, unless it’s calling a client with an offer from an editor. But again, it’s a numbers game. I say no far more frequently than I say yes, and it can make me a little sad.

Some days people make it easier. There’s the occasional rude or ridiculously presumptuous submission, those writers who don’t bother to do any research before sending their material and either don’t follow submissions guidelines or query a genre I don’t represent (or both). But mostly writers are earnest and hardworking and wear their hearts on their sleeves, and I understand that no matter how much I try to impress upon them that I’m not rejecting them, it will still feel like I am just a little bit.

I get rejected, too. Agents hear no from editors all the time. We take out our clients’ projects, sing their praises, play matchmaker with editors, and hope for the best. But each editor has only so much room on their calendar for new projects, and so often they tell us no. And while the manuscripts are not mine in the sense that I did not write them, they are still in my hands, given over to me for safekeeping and matchmaking by their proud authors — my godchildren if not my actual children.

But there is always another opportunity around the bend. Rejection is not a closed door, merely a redirection. As an agent I constantly reassess the market, what editors are looking for, the types of material I’m looking to represent, what my clients are interested in writing. Writers need to take stock in the same way, and not allow themselves to be bogged down by rejection. If your dream agent does not take on this manuscript, they may take your next — or suggest ways of making this one better. Another agent might love the project that this agent turned down. If the genre you’re writing isn’t selling right now, try something else on for size. I’m not saying write solely to the market, but¬†maintain flexibility and allow yourself to experiment. You might surprise yourself and create a new opportunity all at the same time.

Writers write. They don’t pigeon-hole themselves, and they don’t let a few rejections prevent them from pursuing their dreams. Keep writing, keep learning, keep improving, keep dreaming. And in the meantime, count rejections as badges of honor. The only people who never get rejected are the ones who never dare to try.

Friday Links

Apologies for the radio silence. It’s just been that sort of a hectic week. But I do have some links to share with you to kick off the weekend. I hope you all have something fun planned, whether that’s a relaxing couple of days by the pool, some fun family time, field trips, gardening, or a few hours with a good book. Enjoy!

11 Rules of Good Writing that Iain M. Banks Left as His Legacy – A nice roundup in honor of the author who passed away last weekend. Good advice here.

25 Things to Know about Sexism and Misogyny in Writing and Publishing – Excellent piece by Chuck Wendig.

Classic Books Annotated by Famous Authors – Fun look at some writers’ scribbles.

How Can We Feed Our Creativity – Intriguing thoughts on filling the creative well.

Sarah Dessen and Regina Hayes on the Editing Process – A conversation between a writer and her editor.

Friday Links

Another Friday, and with it comes a fresh selection of links. I feel I’ve been falling down on the job a bit, not offering up quite enough writing inspiration, so I’m pleased to say that this week’s list of links includes a couple that should send you off to the keyboard or have you pulling out your notebook. And of course, there are some more general links as well.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, and some quality writing and/or reading time. Enjoy!

30 June Writing Assignments – Everything from prompts to ideas for revising your current project.

Ten Things I Learned from Loving Anne of Green Gables – A charming look at the classic children’s series that had me feeling a bit nostalgic.

Quirk Books “Looking for Love” Fiction Contest – Have a novel-length love story you’re looking to publish? Is it, perhaps, a bit quirky? This contest might be for you.

Green Apple’s Mulvihill Spins “California Bookstore Day” for Indies – A clever idea to help bring traffic into independent bookstores while offering readers something special.

 

Scenes from a Book Tour

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The wonderful staff at Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach
The wonderful staff at Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach

Last night Nalini Singh kicked off her book tour for the latest installment in the Psy/Changeling series, HEART OF OBSIDIAN, which hit stores yesterday. Her inaugural stop was at the wonderful Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in Redondo Beach, CA, where the fabulous staff did a stellar job making everyone feel welcome and setting the scene for a lovely evening. I’ll also add they stayed open far past their normal closing time for the event, including hanging around past 10pm so that everyone had a chance to get their books signed. They have some signed copies of Nalini’s older titles still on hand, as well as a great selection of all sorts of genre titles and fun book-themed gift items, so if you’re local to the LA area (or visiting), be sure to drop by.

Lisa Hoang of The Consummate Reader blog with books for signing.
Lisa Hoang of The Consummate Reader blog with books for signing.

 

Nalini spent about an hour doing a Q&A session for the packed audience and then went on to sign books and take pictures. Everyone was extremely nice and enthusiastic and it was a wonderful way to start the tour. Nalini’s off to New York next, so check out the full tour schedule to see if she’s going to be visiting your area.

Happy Book Day!

HeartofObsid_fcov_finalCongratulations to Nalini Singh, whose latest installment in the Psy/Changeling series, HEART OF OBSIDIAN, hits stores today! This is definitely a dark and broody book, with an incredibly complex hero and a heroine struggling to recall her own strength. Makes for an intense, powerful romance with far-reaching repercussions in this world Nalini has created. Be sure to check it out!