On Challenging Yourself as a Writer

The weekend is winding down, and with it the month. If you’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo, you might be basking in the glory of having hit your 50,000-word goal, frantically writing to finish up, or drowning your sorrows in hot chocolate because you know you’ll never close your 15,000-word gap by midnight. Regardless of your status, congratulations on your efforts. For those of you not caught up in NaNo frenzy, you might be polishing off the last of your holiday leftovers, plotting for the next holiday on the calendar, or enjoying a good book and ignoring the season entirely.

Whatever you’ve been doing this weekend, or even this past month, I urge you to wake up bright and early tomorrow morning to kick off the new month with my December Writing Challenge. Those of you who frequent this blog know my December challenge bears little resemblance to NaNoWriMo. No lofty word-count goals or frenetic write-ins at the local coffee shop. Instead I ask you to commit — to yourself, to your writing, to your own personal writing goals — as a way to get in shape for the coming new year. Forget waiting around for 2015 to kick off resolutions; December 1, 2014 is the first day of the rest of your writing career. I challenge you to make the most of it.

Details for the challenge will be going up first thing tomorrow, December 1st, so be sure to swing by and check them out. Happy writing!

Friday Links

Happy Friday! I hope everyone celebrating had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that if you’re indulging in the Black Friday shopping madness, you’ve found some good deals. But I’m here with Friday Links, for which I’m taking a break from a lazy day on the couch with my books and the remote control, so let’s get right to those, shall we? Enjoy, and have a terrific weekend!

Never Wait for a Sequel Again: 17 Stand-Alone Fantasy Novels – If you’re like me, you’ve got a dozen series you’re in the middle of reading, so sometimes it’s nice to pick up a book that doesn’t have a sequel waiting in the wings. Good list.

A Better Way to Think about the Genre Debate – I don’t know about better, but it’s an interesting read.

Nominees for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award – A really diverse list of titles, great if you’re searching for your next read or a gift for a fellow bookworm.

How Writers Read (vol. 1) – First installment of an interview with a group of writers on the idea of “reader’s block,” and how they read in general.

Reading Lives Podcast #10: Sarah Maclean – The latest in a series of one-on-one interview podcasts at Book Riot discussing someone’s reading life, influences, early favorites, etc. Historical romance writer Sarah Maclean is on deck for this one, and it’s a really funny, engaging hour of book talk, regardless of whether you’re a romance fan.

Happy Book Day!


A big congratulations to Nalini Singh and Milla Vane (otherwise known as Meljean Brook), both of whom have novellas in the new NIGHT SHIFT anthology, which hits stores today. Both of these ladies write fabulous paranormal fiction, and their contributions to this collection are no exception. Nalini delves into her Psy-Changeling world and gives us Bastien’s story, while Milla introduces us to a warrior princess who must tame The Beast of Blackmoor. Plus novellas make the perfect holiday read; they’re shorter bites you can gobble up while waiting for the turkey to roast or for a store to open early Friday morning. So check it out!


Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! Quite a busy week, here, and I’m looking forward to the weekend with a bit more relish than usual. I’ve been fighting off a cold — no idea where it came from, since I spent last weekend sitting on my couch with a stack of books — and while it hasn’t laid me low yet, it’s made productivity a challenge. Mostly, I want to sleep.

I do hope you all have more exciting weekend plans, however. Everyone seems to be in holiday prep mode. All the evil commercials have hit the air waves. And of course some of you are no doubt mired down by NaNoWriMo still. Whatever you’re up to, I wish you a wonderful weekend, and I’ve got a few links below to get you on your way. Enjoy!

National Book Awards 2014 – A list of winners, plus the short-list nominees, with interviews linked to each of the authors.

“We Will Need Writers Who Can Remember Freedom” – Ursula K. LeGuin’s inspiring speech from the National Book Awards ceremony, including asides to the audience.

Classic Authors’ British Houses on Google Maps – Take a peek at how some of these well-know authors lived.

Scribner Magazine – The book publisher has revived their magazine.

New Orleans Review Is Accepting Submissions for Special Science Fiction Issue – Check it out, sf writers. Deadline is December 31st.

How to Motivate Yourself as a Writer – Some more words of wisdom from Chuck Wendig.

A Readathon Recap

A couple of weeks back, I blogged about the difficulty of finding sufficient time to read, to really sit down and get lost in a book for hours on end the way you might have as a kid, or as an adult on a lazy, beach vacation. Opportunities for more than a snatched half hour seem minimal, between work and family and all the other things populating our lives. And so, this past weekend, November 15-16, I participated in the 24 in 48 Readathon, the goal of which was to spend 24 hours reading over a 48-hour period.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off. Normally I spend part of my weekend working, so it took a bit of midnight oil over the week to get to a place where I felt I could take the time off, and ultimately I did sneak a couple of work tasks in on Saturday afternoon. As a result, I read for about 22 hours instead of 24, but I’m certainly not going to complain.

So how did I do it? First, I decided that despite living in California, I was going to do the challenge “live” on east coast time, since the organizers of the event were in New York. That way I could participate in all the challenges they set up and be more or less in sync with them as they blogged, Tweeted, etc. Also, that meant that I’d finish the challenge at 9pm Sunday my time, rather than midnight, and actually get to bed at a decent time (at least theoretically). Then I gave myself permission to ignore chores. Dishes got rinsed and shoved in the dishwasher, but beyond that I ordered take out instead of cooking, left the Sunday paper sitting outside my door all day, and so on.

Friday night I settled on the couch with a stack of pre-picked books on the coffee table, a glass of iced tea, my laptop (for Tweeting updates and checking challenges), and a notebook for tracking time started and stopped. Then I got down to reading.

Over the course of the weekend, I’m pleased to say I read three complete books, half of a fourth, a short story, and several essays. My “big read” was Tana French’s IN THE WOODS, the first title in her Dublin Murder Squad series, which I’ve had on the TBR list for ages and I knew, based on the recommendations of so many people, I would love. It’s not a hugely long book, but over 400 pages in trade, with smallish print, so I read it in chunks and broke it up with some nonfiction as the weekend progressed. In that way, I also read Peter Ackroyd’s LONDON UNDER: THE SECRET HISTORY BENEATH THE STREETS, a fairly short history of the city’s underpinnings, including relics from Roman times, the water and sewer systems, the building of the Underground, and the tunnels where the government lurked during WWII; and Peter Mendelsund’s WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE READ, which is all about how the words on the page translate to images in our mind, and includes some fabulous graphics and illustrations. My partial read was NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I look forward to finishing, but of course, having returned to the real, non-readathon world, I have not picked up since Sunday night. I also read the title short story in BOBCAT AND OTHER STORIES by Rebecca Lee, and the first several essays in Roxane Gay’s BAD FEMINIST.

The result of my reading binge? I feel human again. Like my truest self. I’ve always loved to read, and this weekend just served to remind me how important it is to my general well-being and happiness that I get some time periodically to read books purely for pleasure, of my own choosing, with absolutely no relation to the books I read for work purposes. It didn’t hurt that I knew a bunch of like-minded folk were busily reading at the same time, all over the globe, coming together periodically to announce they’d finished another book, or to take funny photos for the readathon challenges.

If you’re interested in the details of the readathon, do check out the Tumblr or check the #24in48 tag on Twitter. And I’ll leave you with my contribution to one of the weekend challenges — Spine Poetry. The idea was to choose several books and stack them so their titles read one after another became a short poem.



Friday Links

Happy Friday! Apologies for the rather quiet week. I’ve had my nose to the grind stone and I’m not quite sure where the time went, but here we are at week’s end once more.

This weekend happens to mark the halfway point for the month, and therefore for NaNoWriMo. Participants should be closing in on 25,000 words (or more) by the end of Saturday. I hope those of you playing along are having a wonderful time, and managing to keep those internal editors at bay.

My weekend plans revolve around books, as I intend to actually take the weekend off and give the 24 in 48 Reading Marathon a try. Anyone joining me? I’ll be Tweeting about it (@NepheleTempest) as it occurs to me, so keep an eye out.

But before all of that, we have Friday Links! I think I’ve got a nice batch this week, including some great recommendations for diverse reading. This is something I’ve been touching on periodically over the year, so expect an update soon. Meanwhile, you might want to check a few of these titles out.

Whatever your plans for the next couple of days, enjoy!

How Publishing Works: A Book Designer’s Perspective – An informative look at what happens to turn that manuscript into a physical book.

Pep Talk from Chuck Wendig – Aimed at NaNo participants, but pretty inspiring for anyone working on that first draft.

Read Her Like an Open Book: My Favorite Books of 2014 – This blog focuses entirely on books written by women, and the author has compiled 25 of his favorites from the year.

How to Write Women of Colour and Men of Colour if You Are White – A really thoughtful, intelligent post for any writers seeking for ways to address this concern in their own writing.

And last but not last, this great Book Riot video features titles of South Asian Historical Fiction (a few of which have already made it to my TBR list).

Friday Links

TGIF! I am very much looking forward to my weekend, which includes some catch-up housecleaning, followed by brunch (at my place, in case that wasn’t made obvious by the previous comment) with friends. With some reading and a smudge of work in there, as well, no doubt.

Those of you participating in NaNoWriMo no doubt have some major writing time blocked out over the weekend. As for the rest of you, I hope you still intend to write, and maybe hang out with a great book. Per usual, I have a collection of links for you today to get you through the weekend whatever your plans. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Reading a Poem: 20 Strategies – Great tips for folks who want to get into (or maybe back into) reading poetry and perhaps feel a little out of their depth or unsure how to read it outside an academic setting.

Coming Out and Coming of Age: YA LGBTQ Novels – A round up of diverse young adult books that address a broad range of sexuality and gender identities.

Globe Player – A new site from the Globe Theatre in London, featuring free videos of interviews and more, plus performances available for rent or purchase. They seem to still be getting up to speed, so not all plays are available in all regions yet, but there’s already some wonderful media uploaded.

17 Writers on the Importance of Reading – Wonderful quotes on what reading and books mean to some terrific writers.

12 Literary Magazines for New and Unpublished Writers – Markets open to writers just starting out.

Reading in a Busy World

Most bookworms complain at some point or another that there’s just not enough time to read. Lives are busy, work and home and friends and family all clamor for your attention, and many days it’s hard to find a half hour of personal time to devote to the book on your nightstand. Certainly it’s the rare Sunday afternoon when you can sprawl on the couch with a pile of books and a hot drink and while away the hours.

Of course, reading is like writing, in that if it’s a priority for you, you make the time. The hour before bed, the time spent commuting, a book stashed in your desk for your lunch break — these things become sacred and automatic. But what about scheduling a chunk of time for an all-out reading binge? If writers can devote November to writing a novel, can’t readers devote some quality hours to making a dent in their to-read pile?

Reading marathons seem to be popping up around the internet. I’ve spotted a few where readers pledge to read for 24 hours straight, but in my mind that seems too harsh a goal. After all, if you’re looking forward to reading the books, you want to be awake and alert for all of them, not just those you choose for the first hours of reading. But recently I ran across the 24 in 48 Readathon, and that sounds much more appealing — and reasonable — for someone looking to devote a chunk of time to reading.

The premise is pretty straightforward. You choose a 48-hour time period and pledge to read for 24 of those hours. The official 24 in 48 site is currently gearing up for a group readathon the weekend of November 15th and 16th, with the clock running from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning through 11:59 p.m. Sunday night (essentially midnight to midnight), and some participants are Tweeting or blogging about their reading as they go. However, you could just as easily pick a couple of days of your own based on your schedule and do a personal readathon.

Once you’ve carved out your 48 hours, curate a stack of books to read, allowing for changes in mood and energy, lay in a supply of snacks and drinks, and be sure you have all the extras that you might need over the course of your reading adventure. Extra light bulb for your favorite reading lamp? Box of tissues for the tear-jerker in the TBR? Fuzzy socks and the blanket your grandmother knitted for you to keep warm when the temperature drops? Then have at it.

Work has forced me to slow down my personal reading again the past few weeks, but of course new books keep showing up in my apartment, so the idea of a catch-up reading weekend really appeals. I’m hoping to clear the decks sufficiently so I can join the readathon on the 15th, and if I do, I’ll Tweet my experiences @NepheleTempest. I hope a few of you can join in, as well. Do check out the 24 in 48 site, especially their FAQ page, for all the details and added inspiration. And whether you have two days or twenty minutes to devote to your TBR, happy reading!