Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! We’re having something of a grey day here in SoCal, and rumor has it we might even get a little rain by this afternoon. Right now I’m pushing through my to-do list so that I can take advantage of my favorite sort of reading weather and curl up later with a good book. Perfect kick off to the weekend!

But first, I have links for you all. If you’re looking for a good read, or some writing inspiration, these should fit the bill. Wishing you a wonderful, creative weekend. Enjoy!

Girl Canon: 50 Essential Books about the Female Experience – Great titles for all ages.

Get a Library Card: Hannah Kent’s Rules for Writing – Some sound advice from the author of Burial Rites.

How to Sell Readers on Your Story’s Main Ideas in 4 Easy Steps – Good writing tips for hooking your readers.

Competitions for Writers: February and March 2015 – Check out these writing competitions and their upcoming deadlines.

Hints about Writing a Story – Writing tips from the late Diana Wynne Jones.


Friday Links

TGIF!! I hope you had a great week and that your plans for the weekend are even better. For those of you who haven’t heard, there’s a “Make Time to Read” Readathon taking place tomorrow, January 24th, in an effort to raise money for various educational programs through the National Book Foundation, encouraging children to read. People have been setting up to fundraise as individuals or teams for the past several weeks, but you can also make a straight-up donation if you wish, and of course all participants are welcome to read from noon to 4pm tomorrow for the official Readathon. It’s a wonderful cause, so please consider donating a few dollars if you can.

Now on to Friday Links! I’ve got a nice assortment this week, so I hope they inspire you to do a little reading and writing of your own. Enjoy!

Words You Didn’t Realize Come from Books – A fun collection of words and their literary origins.

How to Create a Killer Opening for Your Science Fiction Short Story – If you look carefully, you’ll see you can apply much of this to other types of stories as well.

The Bestselling Books of 2014 – By the numbers. Curious as to how many copies some of the most popular books have moved? This rundown will give you some perspective on the industry.

Cleaning the Dust from the Window – An interesting look at the history of poetry in Russia.

What Makes Jo Walton So Great? – In honor of the release of Walton’s latest book, a compilation of her reviews/literary musings from, editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden discusses Walton and her approach to discussing books. A really great analysis of what makes for an intriguing, open ended literary conversation.

10 New Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Read – A good assortment of stand-alone works that won’t hook you into yet another series.

Friday Links

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope 2015 is treating you well so far, and that you’re all back in the swing of your regular schedules. I feel mostly caught up with post-holiday backlog and am preparing to tackle my extremely full submissions box. If I fall in and disappear, never to be heard from again, you’ll know what happened. Smothered by a sea of manuscripts…

I’ve got this week’s assortment of links for you. It turned out fairly reading-centric for whatever reason. Just the nature of what caught my eye. I hope it inspires your reading activities for the week ahead, and that you’re inspired to do a little writing of your own, as well. Enjoy!

They’re Watching You Read – Interesting piece by Francine Prose.

Author Robert Stone, Known for ‘Dog Soldiers’, Dies at 77 – A lovely little remembrance for the author by NPR.

Hearing Is Believing – Fascinating article on the rise of the dramatic podcast as a form of entertainment.

23 Words for Book Lovers that Really Should Exist – Just a bit of fun, but I agree some of these ideas really do need their own words.

Kazuo Ishiguro: How I Wrote ‘The Remains of the Day’ in Four Weeks – NaNoWriMo isn’t the only approach to drafting quickly.

Referrals, or The Art of Giving Yourself Away

I never thought this was something I would need to explain to people, but recent trends in my inbox suggest otherwise. So I am taking a moment here to discuss how referrals work in terms of sending me a query for your project.

If you begin your query letter by stating that so-and-so referred you to me, then I need to actually know that person. And by know, I mean they are my client or an editor I work with or a friend with whom I chat at conferences/online/by phone/in person on a fairly regular basis. Just because I spoke with someone once at a conference eight years ago, does not make them a valid connection. It needs to be a person with whom I’m comfortable confirming that referral, as in, “Hi, did you send such-and-such author my way?” Because I will do that. I will check up on you. So do not name drop if it won’t stand up to my verification.

Also, please understand what a referral actually is. It is when someone who knows both of us specifically suggests that you drop me a line. It is not a referral if someone you know read my name in a round up of agents who represent a specific genre. It is not a referral if your critique partner (who does not know me personally) suggested you add my name to your submissions list. Nor is it a referral if we know someone in common, but they never actually suggest you query me. Referrals are based on real-world connections, and involve a suggestion that we might work well together.

Now, I realize writers talk among themselves and brainstorm and share information, and it’s wonderful if your fellow writers or industry friends give you lists of agents to check out because they represent your kind of book, or represent some author you love. This is how the business works, how you come across people to query. But suggestions and recommendations are not the same as referrals, and it’s important to keep them separated in your mind, and in your query language.

Every writer hopes to find that foot in the door, the trick that will help get them to the next level, and referrals, when genuine, certainly qualify. As an agent, I’m always looking for ways to weed through the material coming my way for a clue as to quality, so if a writer or editor I know and admire suggests that I take a look at something, I trust their judgment and give that writer’s work a chance. That doesn’t mean I’ll sign someone just on someone else’s say so; I still need to love the writing and feel I can sell it. But a true referral definitely serves as a short-cut to my desk.

And that’s the key. It has to be real. Because no agent wants to work with a writer who lies to get a foot in the door, and there’s no quicker way to find yourself with a rejection letter than to pretend a connection that does not exist. I’ve seen a sharp increase in name-dropping in my inbox the last few months, and maybe it’s something I should simply ignore — shake my head and send the rejections and let the writers in question struggle on. But I suspect some of these are honest mistakes, a misunderstanding regarding the terminology that results in some writers giving an incorrect impression, so I’m putting this out there in hopes of setting them straight.

Friday Links

It appears 2015 has got off to a galloping start, as it’s already Friday again. I, like many people, spent my week digging out from a stack of holiday e-mail, and reading/editing client manuscripts. And once again, I find myself wishing I could read (effectively) a little faster, as the backlog feels rather more immense than it was before Christmas.

I hope you’ve all had a good first full week back to reality, and that you’ve managed a bit of writing in with your other obligations. Especially those of you who took the December writing challenge! No slacking off; the idea is to maintain your wonderful new writing habit and accomplish great things in 2015.

But today is Friday, which means Friday Links, so I will cease the rambling and get to it. I hope you find them inspiring. Enjoy!

The Great 2015 Book Preview – If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you know I love this wrap up of books due to be released in the coming year. The Millions posts one bi-annually, and I always walk away with a long list of things that sound fascinating.

Joan Didion’s Favorite Books of all Time – A great list, but do scroll down and watch the short teaser video for the upcoming documentary of her life, as well. The video was the promo piece for the Kickstarter to back the film (which was successfully funded several times over), and is a wonderful peek into Didion’s world. I can’t wait to see the completed doc.

Cool Maps of Fictional Literary Places – A round up of imaginary regions from Hogwarts to Narnia and beyond.

Writing Excuses, Season 10 – The gang from the Writing Excuses podcast has decided to change things up, and they are offering a master class to be spread out over the course of the year, completely free and accessible to all.

10 Questions to Ask When You Create a Fictional Culture – Useful reference for anyone doing some world building.

Polish Your Prose: An Editorial Cheat Sheet

No matter your resolutions for the year, regardless where you stand with your current writing project, the time will come when you need to edit. I don’t mean rework your plot, heighten dramatic tension, or beef up your protagonist’s motivations. Rather I’m referring to that nitty gritty editorial process of looking at your work word by word, sentence by sentence, and examining the language you’ve used. Do your descriptions dance on the page? Have any cliches snuck into the mix? If you had to read aloud in front of an audience, would you find yourself running out of breath?

Sentence-level editing involves more than checking for missing words or making sure your Find-and-Replace changed a character’s name all the way through your manuscript. This is your chance to shape up your prose and show your skills, not just as a storyteller but as a wordsmith. But a manuscript can be a fairly long document, and sometimes it’s hard to remember everything you want to check as you work your way through from first page to last.

Here’s a handy cheat sheet of things you might want to keep in mind while editing:

1.  Cut your adverbs and make your verbs stronger.

2.  Rework any cliches.

3.  Eliminate filler words and phrases, such as “currently”, “that”, and “in order to.”

4.  Refer to people as “who” not “that.”

5.  Cut repetitious words and/or phrases.

6.  Divide long, hard-to-read sentences into two or more shorter sentences.

7.  Fix any inadvertent double negatives in long, complex sentences.

8.  Hyphenate modifying words.

9.  Minimize use of “very” and “really.”

10. Beware of overusing passive voice/passive verb structures (is/was/-ing verbs).

11. Double check the definitions of any words you’re not 100% sure you know.

12. Determine and weed out any words, actions, or punctuation that you personally overuse as filler, such as characters smiling or taking deep breaths, ellipses in the middle or end of dialogue, exclamation points, etc.

13. Replace general words with specific ones, such as “thing(s)” or “stuff.”

14. Cut unnecessary chit-chat from dialogue; limit conversations to substance that moves your story forward.

15. Limit distinctive dialogue quirks or movements to a single character; don’t give “signature” details to more than one person unless there’s a reason (child emulating a parent or older sibling, etc.).

Of course, these are just a sample of common errors you should be checking for at this stage of the editorial process. Depending on your writing style and personal habits, you will add to (or maybe subtract from) the list to customize it for your own use. Likewise, many of these are aspects of usage to keep in mind but not hard-and-fast rules. For instance, I don’t expect you to wipe every single adverb from your work, merely to avoid overusing them. Reliance on adverbs suggests your verbs need to pull more weight, but adverbs on their own are not evil parts of speech.

Clarity should always be your first goal. You wish to tell a story and have your reader understand it. Beyond that, you combine your personal voice and writing style with the style in which you’ve chosen to write this particular work in order to impart everything else to the reader — setting, tone, atmosphere, culture, etc. Use this editorial phase to hone those details for consistency and strength of impression. It’s your last chance to polish your prose, eliminate the ordinary and unnecessary, and make your work sparkle.

Friday Links

Welcome to a new year of Friday Links! It was nice to take a couple of weeks off during the holidays, especially since I wasn’t online that much. Normally I discover fun things to share over the course of the week, and I’ve found going purposefully in search of suitable material just doesn’t work out quite the same way.

I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and that you’re as excited for 2015 as I am. I have great plans for the coming months, some of which might very well include a few of you! So let’s get this party started with the first set of links for the year. Enjoy!

Neil deGrasse Tyson Selects the Eight Books Every Intelligent Person on the Planet Should Read – An interesting collection, most of which aren’t what you might expect.

How the Humanities Will Save the World – Not so sure about that, but I do think it’s important to keep them alive in a world increasingly obsessed with science and technology.

Publication Opportunities for Writers: January and February 2015 – A list of contests and calls for work with deadlines in the next couple of months. Great way to kick off those resolutions if you’ve vowed to submit more!

National Readathon Day – Trying to read more? Looking to support literacy? Spread the word about this national effort to spend a few hours reading on Saturday, January 24th, 2015.

A Year in Reading: 2014 Wrap-Up – The Millions ties up this year’s end-of-year reading series, which included an amazing 74 posts from assorted contributors. The perfect article to check out if you’ve got some bookstore gift cards burning a hole in your pocket.