Last Day of the Year

Happy New Year’s Eve! I don’t mind saying that 2013 has been a challenging year. I dubbed it bipolar early on and it never proved me wrong; most everything seemed to go either really well or really badly, with no noticeable middle ground. So I’m excited for 2014 and its fresh perspective, and a chance to tackle some new projects.

How has your writing year gone for you? Did you reach any new milestones? Discover your voice? Make a breakthrough? Or did you find this a year of challenges as well? Whatever your answer, today is the perfect time to give the past 364 days a good, hard look and determine what you’d like to do differently going forward. Write more, read more, submit more…. and of course lose that five pounds you picked up courtesy of holiday treats.

For those of you participating in my December Writing Challenge, you should have a month of writing, more or less, under your belts, and a great new daily writing habit. Don’t forget to keep it up going into January! It’s a great feeling, committing to something and making it a priority in your life, and your writing will be all the stronger thanks to your efforts.

I hope you’ve all had a great month and a wonderful year, whatever frustrations you’ve faced, and that 2014 brings you a wealth of new wonders and joys. May it be happy, healthy, and successful. Good luck to you all in whatever you attempt.

Friday Links

Happy holidays and happy Friday! I’m afraid I have a rather short supply of links this week, mostly because I’m visiting my parents and not spending my usual endless hours per day online. But that said, I think this truncated list is a good one, so I hope you enjoy. Best wishes for the weekend. Don’t forget to get some writing done! Just a few days left in December to set all those excellent writing habits for the new year. Happy writing!

Opportunities for Writers: January and February 2014 – Upcoming contests and calls for work.

The Poems (We Think) We Know: “The Night Before Christmas” – A really interesting history of the famous holiday poem.

Write-a-House: Detroit’s Writer Residency Program – Forget devoting a couple of weeks in the summer to nothing but writing. Detroit is giving houses to writers; to keep.

More Writing Inspiration

If you’re participating in the December Writing Challenge, you’ve been going strong for just about three weeks now. How are you doing? Have you managed to write every day, even if it meant just stealing a few minutes here and there? Are the words flowing more easily or are you beginning to struggle? Has life been getting in the way?

Here’s the thing: Even if you miss more days than you’d like, you should continue to strive toward a daily writing session. Make the decision to write and commit to your career. Ultimately, you’ll get far more accomplished than if you throw in the towel simply because you’ve skipped more writing days than the challenge allows. At the end of the day, this is your writing, your ambition, your decision. No one is watching over your shoulder; this all depends on what you want, and how badly you want it.

For anyone finding themselves stalling out on a project, I’ve got another mini writing prompt for you. Go write a short holiday story. Any holiday you wish — doesn’t have to be one taking place in December. Think of all the stories and books you’ve read that revolve around holidays, or the movies or TV specials you’ve viewed. You can tackle a holiday from a kid’s perspective or a family gathering for a feast, one that inspires travel or reflection. There are many holidays to choose from, and even more approaches to take once you’ve picked one. Play around a bit. This prompt could easily keep you going through the end of the month.

Enjoy, and happy writing!

Friday Links

Happy Friday! I’m dropping and dashing today, since I’m actually scheduling this post an hour before leaving for the airport. I hope everyone who’s participating in the December Writing Challenge is roaring full steam ahead, and that all of you have wonderful plans for the weekend. This week’s links are a bit heavy on favorite book lists, in case anyone needs to do some last minute holiday shopping. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Flavorwire: 15 Favorite Novels of 2013 – Just what it says.

How to Write: A Year in Advice – A great collection of interviews with various writers.

Desiderata: Our Favorite Nonfiction of 2013Tin House‘s rundown.

A Million First Steps – More than a million public domain images from 17th-19th century books, now available online from the British Library and Microsoft.


Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve had a wonderful, productive week, and managed to get some writing done each day. Now’s a great time to take a look at your plans for the weekend and determine when you can schedule a couple of blocks of time in front of your computer or notebook. Remember, every little bit counts. Even squeezing in 15 minutes on your current WIP helps keep your creative muscles limber and ready to work on demand.

Meanwhile, I come bearing links! There are some great things floating around the internet, and I’m happy to be able to share them with all of you. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

Isaac Asimov on Curiosity, Taking Risk, and the Value of Space Exploration in Muppet Magazine – Isaac Asimov meets the Muppets. I don’t think I need say anything more.

Alice Munro’s Living-Room Acceptance – The author could not travel to Sweden to accept her Nobel Prize in person due to ill health, so she accepted by video.

The Critics’ Best Books of 2013 – A compilation of the “best books” lists of 2013, distilled down to the 20 most frequently cited.

Are You Absolutely, Positively, and Wholeheartedly Ready to Publish Your Novel? – A fun flowchart.

The Tournament of Books Long List – A great resource if you’re searching for gifts or just a wonderful holiday read for yourself.

More Gifts for Writers

Last year I posted some suggestions for what to buy the writers in your life (or hint at to the people shopping for you). This year I have some supplements to the list — just a few items I’ve come across that might make your favorite writer happy or inspire them or give their weary, creative minds a bit of a break. Happy shopping!


Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks – I stumbled across these a couple of months ago. Not only are they nice sturdy, well made blank books, but they come with page numbers, which I love, sticky notes to help label your notes, and a few perforated pages at the back for when you need to pull out whatever you’ve scribbled. Like the Ecosystem notebooks I mentioned last year, these books have thick paper that stands up to fountain pen ink.

A beautiful fountain pen – There seems to be something of a resurgence in using fountain pens. I’m aware that they’ve never quite gone out of style, but I know several recent “converts,” as well as a few folks who tend to sing the praises of their pens quite enthusiastically, encouraging others to give them a try. They are particularly nice gifts when accompanied by a lovely journal.

Pimsleur language learning software – Learning a foreign language can help a writer gain greater appreciation for their own language, helps improve vocabulary, makes one more conscious of word choice and sentence rhythms, and is just plain fun. I’m a fan of the Pimsleur programs, but there are plenty of other options out there to choose from.

A web site – Newbie writer in your life? Help them get started with an author site by giving them a gift certificate for a year’s web hosting or the domain of their choosing.

Time – Know a writer with small children? Offer to take the kids off their hands for a Saturday afternoon so they can have a nice long writing block to themselves. Gift a homeowner with a few free weeks of a housecleaning service or lawn maintenance to free up their time to write instead.

Bookstore or literary tote bags – More and more people are taking their own reusable tote bags with them when they shop or run errands. Supply your favorite writer with a great washable bag to take to the bookstore, library, or even the grocery store.


Books for Writers: Just a few titles I think are interesting or helpful.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante



A Smidge of Inspiration

How goes the writing? Are you getting in a bit of time every day, per the December Writing Challenge? Are you finding that your brain starts to anticipate your demand for creativity?

Showing up at your desk every day can help send up the smoke signals for inspiration. You’re letting your mind know that you’re ready to write. But even the most diligent writer with the most dedicated habit can find themselves struggling from time to time. When that happens, you might find it helpful to set aside your project for a few minutes, or even for the day, and work through a couple of writing exercises or a fresh prompt just to get the juices flowing.

With that in mind, I offer up a quick suggestion to help you get back on track. Take a look at your current project and imagine what would happen if you pulled your characters out of their present circumstances and dropped them into a different genre. I’m not saying rewrite your entire book —  just play around for a bit. How would your protagonist react in the middle of a Regency romance? A steampunk adventure? A noir mystery? A space opera? Give it a try for a page or two, just as an experiment. You might find yourself learning something crucial about your characters’ personalities that will help you get them moving again back in their own worlds.

If you’re struggling to start a new project, rather than stuck with a work in progress, pick a genre you’ve never written and give that a try. Start with a setting that’s new and write description until you get a feel for the place. What sort of character might inhabit that location? What sort of trouble might they get up to there?

Writing for a career is work, of course, and you need to be professional in your approach. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun, or that you should forget to play. Let your imagination roam and see where it takes you. Happy writing!

Friday Links

TGIF! This holiday season is hectic for everyone. In the publishing world, we’re all scrambling to get things done before people vanish into their vacation fogs — contracts signed, payments issued, and so on. It’s a massive clearing-the-decks mode.

However, everyone needs a bit of a break now and then, and so I’ve got this week’s links to distract you, if just for a few minutes. Beyond that, I hope you’re all getting your daily writing time in for the December Writing Challenge, and that the weekend treats you right. Enjoy!

Snobs Kill Books – An interesting perspective on the ongoing war between literature and everything else.

Personal Penguin – Penguin Books’ little helper to assist you in finding the perfect books for the folks on your shopping list.

The Rise of the Unreliable Narrator in YA Lit – Includes some good examples.

In the Greenwood by Mari Ness –’s latest short fiction offering.

Mandela, My Countryman – Writer Nadine Gordimer on the late leader.