Friday Links

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a terrific week and that you’ve made some fun plans for the weekend. Maybe a bit of writing? Some time with your nose buried in a great book? My goal for the weekend is to get out from behind my desk and maybe breathe a little fresh air, since it’s been very much a nose-to-grindstone sort of week. There’s rumors of rain in my neck of the woods, however, so I’m crossing my fingers that the weather man is wrong.

This week’s selection of Friday links has, among other things, some great reading ideas, especially for those of you looking to diversify your reading selections. I hope you find a bit of inspiration here, whatever you’re looking to do with your weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Male Cis Authors for One Year – Writer Tempest Bradford comes up with an intriguing challenge to get you reading more diversely.

All the World’s a Page: One Woman’s Year-Long Quest to Read a Book from Every Country – This reader decided to tackle reading something from every UN-recognized country in a single year, a great way to “see” the world.

Authors Share Their Best Writing Tips with NYPL – Short videos from a wonderful selection of authors offering up their tips for good writing.

Why Emotional Excess Is Essential to Writing and Creativity – Thoughts on writing from Anais Nin.

On No, She Didn’t: The Strong Female Character, Deconstructed – An intelligent look at the recent discussion about what makes a “strong” female character, and why we should focus on the larger picture.

On Trusting Your Reader

One of the most difficult things for new writers — and sometimes even for experienced ones — is finding the balance between clarity and condescension. Authors want to paint a picture for their readers, to show them the scene precisely as they’ve imagined it, and the old adage “show, don’t tell” seems to support that inclination. But the truth is that if you “show” every single detail of your story, if you describe each setting and character twitch and moment that passes from beginning to end, your finished manuscript will be far longer than necessary, and you risk insulting your reader and/or boring them to tears. At some point, the writer has to trust the reader to understand what they’re trying to convey.

So how do you determine how much detail to include in your work? Finding a balance between heavy-handed description and repetition of information that implies your reader cannot follow your plot, and holding back so much that you leave your reader confused or lost, takes a certain amount of practice and, often, the reactions of a few carefully chosen beta readers. But here are a few things to consider:

When describing a new setting, keep in mind the importance of that location to your story, how familiar it might be to an average reader, and any key components that your reader will need to recall later in the story. People know what a typical living room looks like, so you only need convey a few key details to set that sort of scene. Pick things that stand out; if you stood in the room with your eye closed, then opened them, what three things would pop out at you first? Are there props that will show up again later? A gun over the mantle? A rip in the carpet where someone could trip? Are there details that might do double-duty to tell your reader about the person who owns that home? A lack of knick-knacks? Framed photos on every surface? An inch of dust on everything? If half your book takes place in this home, you’ll flesh out the room more than you would if your characters visit it for only one scene. But regardless, you don’t need to provide your reader with every detail about that room; their imagination can fill in whatever you leave out.

Unusual settings require more detail than those a reader might reasonably recognize with just a few broad strokes. Fantasy and science fiction novels include more world building on the whole because the author is creating something fresh and needs to provide more detail to place the reader in the scene. But even then, avoid getting bogged down in mundane details that slow the action. Provide the reader with a sketch instead of a photograph.

The same is true of conveying action or emotions or character decisions. Let the reader learn the character’s intentions when the character takes action, and avoid getting bogged down in the character’s head. Trust that your reader will follow your protagonist through their adventures without hearing their thought process ahead of time or every detail of their personal analysis of the situation. First person narratives often face this difficulty. Don’t confuse the ability to go inside your protagonist’s head with an obligation to convey every thought to your reader. Let your character hold onto some of their secrets. Focus instead on their actions and reactions, how what they do and say conveys what’s going on inside their heads. And beware of filler behaviors — deep breaths and smiles and sighs — that tell your reader very little and mean even less when used too often.

But how do you avoid the opposite difficulty? What do you do to make sure your reader doesn’t get lost for lack of detail? There are definitely times when you want to include information that will be important to your plot — clues, foreshadowing, etc. — and in some cases those details will even need to be repeated periodically. Some will be subtle early in the text and gather momentum as you go along, and others will require mentioning without undue emphasis. But most of the time, you will only need to tell the reader things once.

One way to make sure nothing gets left out is to make a list of information that is key to your resolution and go back through your manuscript after the first draft is completed to make sure the puzzle pieces all appear in the text. Another way is to question your beta readers once they’ve finished a read to see if they felt lost or confused about any part of the plot development. Follow up with them on any confusion to see if their questions relate to missing details in descriptions, character motivation, action, or overall story arc. This will allow you to pinpoint what part of your manuscript requires work.

Finding the balance between too much detail and too little can be a process of trial and error, but too much description can bog down a story, ruining the pacing and any sense of suspense. It’s important to remember that, as the author, you know many things about your world and characters that will never find their way into your text, and that is fine. Trust that your readers will bring their own knowledge and experience to your story, and that at the end of the day, they are less interested in the color of the sofa than in what your protagonist says while sitting on it.


Friday Links

Friday rushed right up this week, thanks to the Monday holiday. It feels like I blinked and here we are. But Fridays are always a good thing, especially since I can offer you up a fun new set of links to kick off the weekend.

I have something of an odd collection this week, which seems fitting, given some of my weirder moments the past few days. But I think there’s still a nicely rounded assortment, with something for everyone. Wishing you a great weekend that includes quality writing time. Enjoy!

Publication Opportunities for Writers: March and April 2015 – A nice round up of places to submit your work.

Language Change, Slowly Does It – A look at how quickly we change the way we speak, and when those changes should begin to affect written communication.

7 Non-Writing Activities to Boost Your Creativity – Take time to fill the well.

How to Read Intelligently and Write a Great Essay: Robert Frost’s Letter of Advice to His Young Daughter – Some wonderful tips here.

How Writing Fiction Masters Fear – A writer’s approach to handling her own anxiety.

Friday Links

Here comes the weekend! A holiday weekend, no less, if you’re in the U.S. But any sort of weekend is good, and I hope you all have plans to enjoy yours. I’m in San Francisco through Sunday for the San Francisco Writers Conference, so you know what I’m going to be doing. But I’ve left you a supply of Friday Links to entertain and inspire you. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The History of “Loving” to Read – A look at how reading became a passionate activity.

Lydia Davis: Advice to the Young – Some excellent words of wisdom for writers of all ages.

Legendary Songwriter Carole King on Inspiration vs. Perspiration and How to Overcome Creative Block – Thoughts on innovation and getting the work done.

4 Danger Signs to Search for Before Sending Off Your Novel – Good reminders for that final proofread/round of revisions.

Judging Books by Their Covers 2015: U.S. vs. Netherlands – An intriguing comparison of cover designs for the same titles between two different markets.


ROCK HARD by Nalini Singh: Sneak Peek


ROCK HARD, the next book in Nalini Singh’s sexy Rock Kiss contemporary romance series, comes out March 10th, but you can get a sneak peek now.

In New York Times Bestselling author Nalini Singh’s newest contemporary romance, passion ignites between a gorgeous, sinfully sexy man who built himself up from nothing and a shy woman who has a terrible secret in her past…

Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred.

And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.

Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom.

If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.

Head on over to Nalini’s website to read excerpts from the book, and for links to pre-order from your favorite e-tailer.

Friday Links

Weather seems to have been the cause of quite a few problems this past week, with people not where they’re supposed to be because snow has them stranded elsewhere. I know there’s more snow on the horizon for the middle of the country and the northeast, along with some nasty cold temperatures, so here’s wishing you all a warm and cozy weekend, wherever you are.

If you’re homebound over the next few days, hiding out from Mother Nature, I have links to keep you occupied. I hope you find them entertaining and maybe a bit inspirational. Enjoy!

How to Listen Between the Lines: Anna Deavere Smith on the Art of Listening in a Culture of Speaking – Wonderful piece with some terrific words of wisdom, especially important for writers.

16 Gorgeous Locations from Pride and Prejudice You Can Actually Visit – From the films, obviously, but still beautiful and worth a peek, or a trip.

5 Non-Writerly Apps for Writers – A nice assortment to give a try.

Joan Didion on Writing and Revising – A podcast of an interview held at The New York Public Library. It rambles a little in places, but there are some real gems in there and Didion, as always, is funny and intelligent.

‘Drowned in a Sea of Salt’ Blake Morrison on the Literature of the East Coast – Of Britain, that is. On the relationship between a location and its weather, and the writing of the region.