Friday Links: Being Thankful

The importance of being thankful gets a lot of attention this time of year. With Thanksgiving next week here in the U.S., the subject has started coming up. The holiday brings some problematic historical baggage along for the ride, particularly in light of ongoing racial strife and feuding over immigration policies, but I prefer to focus on the sentiment of the word rather than pilgrims and turkeys. In difficult years, I think it’s more important than ever to consider what makes us grateful. Holding on to the good things gives us strength to push through all the rest. Especially when all the rest feels completely overwhelming.

Being Thankful fall image

In daily life, I tend to frame my gratitude as an afterthought. It comes out sort of like, “I gained so much weight this year, I have to stop sitting so much, but at least I can afford new clothes.” This probably isn’t the best approach. Being thankful should be a conscious choice. Taking a step back and considering what you appreciate in that moment. That has impact. When life ramps up and the world feels like it’s spinning faster, it makes a difference if you pause and think, “Hey, I accomplished this,” or “I’m so glad I got the chance to see so-and-so.”

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take a moment before posting this week’s links to list a few things I’m thankful for this year. No disclaimers beyond stating that it’s incomplete and a work in progress. As it should be.

I’m thankful for:

  • My family and friends, the whole crazy bunch.
  • That my parents are still alive and independent into their eighties.
  • My coworkers, who are always ready to chat books and publishing, and to trade information about our work.
  • My clients, with their talent and persistence and willingness to dig in cheerfully to make their wonderful stories even more wonderful.

On the smaller side of things, I’m thankful for a year of delightful books and movies–so many great discoveries. For entertaining writing challenges like NaNoWriMo and 4thewords, that keep ideas and words flowing. I’m grateful for the lovely spaces in my town that allow me to take a break and clear my mind. For houseguests and visitors. For writers conferences and other opportunities to travel and see new things. For relatively good health and a functioning car and an apartment I like.

Being thankful mostly feels like a small, quiet thing. But when you start listing all the things that come to mind–that bring you joy or relief or just allow you to function–it can feel much bigger. What are you thankful for today?

And on that note, I offer up this week’s Friday links. They’re kind of a mishmash, but I hope you find something entertaining. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, because I’m thankful for all of you. Happy writing!

This week’s links:

You Can’t Rely on Inspiration: Essential Writing Advice from J.G. Ballard. – Thoughts on writing and keeping the words flowing.

Writing Excuses on NaNoWriMo 2018. – The podcast offers up a mini episode with advice and encouragement.

7 Free or Cheap Writing Residencies to Apply for in 2019. – Pretty much as stated. For anyone looking to get away to write.

Applications Now Open for the Sesame Street Writers’ Room. – Information on how to apply before the December 3rd deadline.

Anyone Obsessed with British Authors Should Add These 4 Literary Destinations to Your Travel List. – Great spots to visit if you’re a fan of Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf, and/or Agatha Christie.

Having No Time Is the Best Time to Get Writing Done. – An argument for being forced to write when you can squeeze it into the rest of your life.

Tackling NaNoWriMo: Tips for Writing a Novel in a Month

Tackling NaNoWriMo–or National Novel Writing Month–challenges any writer, whether they have participated for years or are new to the event. Each year, I offer advice on how to get the most out of the month, whatever your personal goal. The key to NaNo is to remember to have fun. This challenge aims to help you get words on paper, to push through a long project without overthinking. It’s great for anyone who tends to stop and rewrite repeatedly before moving on. Because that strategy? Doesn’t work for NaNo. If you want to write 50,000 words in November, you need to ignore your mistakes and just go.

Tackling NaNoWriMo header with writing supplies for November

So where do you start? These few days before the November kickoff allow you a chance to prepare. Below, I have some ideas for what you might want to do, both in terms of writing your NaNo project and for maintaining your sanity during the challenge.

Know Your Goal:

The rules state that NaNoWriMo consists of writing a new 50,000-word project between November 1st and November 30th. Reality allows you to adapt this to whatever works for you. If you’re starting a new project, great. (And most of my tips below assume such.) But you can easily finish a novel already in progress, too. Just start a new file for the remainder of the book, to keep track, and write another 50,000 words.

Regardless of your goal, NaNo offers plenty of support for anyone writing in November. Take advantage of it.

Plan What to Write:

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser–someone who prefers to outline ahead or just let the spirit take you–it’s helpful to start NaNoWriMo with at least some idea of what you want to write. That doesn’t mean you need a detailed outline, but a few basics will go a long way to get your creativity flowing.

Think ahead about your characters. Who is your protagonist? What do they want? What sort of obstacles might they face? Do they have a love interest? Arch enemy? Cohorts? Friends and family? Adding these characters and describing them over the course of the story will add to your word count.

Next think about your genre. If you’re writing romance, you know you’re aiming for a happily ever after. For fantasy or science fiction, your characters might not all be human. Do you have special technology in your story? For a historical, you will need background research. And many types of stories rely heavily on setting and/or world building. Don’t hesitate to hit the library or do some online searches regardling locations, tech, history, etc. Take notes, so you’ll have lots of great detail on hand to weave into your writing.

Finally, consider scenes you’ve already envisioned. How do your characters reach those points? What happens after the scenes? Think about repercussions. It’s good to have some key scenes you’re excited to write, especially on days words don’t flow easily.

Organize Your Life:

Let friends and family know you’ll be tackling NaNoWriMo, so they understand your time might be tight for a few weeks.

Stock the fridge with healthy snacks in addition to the fun ones. Fruit, nuts, yogurt, etc. make great brain food when you’re on a writing tear. Also, cook some easy meals ahead and freeze them for quick dinner prep.

Check supplies of important staples: coffee, tea, tissues, toilet paper–anything you’d hate to run out of in November.

Prepare to take care of yourself. Put reminders in your phone so you go for walks or hit the gym during NaNo. The exercise will help keep your mind fresh.

Tackling NaNoWriMo:

Schedule a few smaller writing sessions per day rather than trying to hit your daily goal in one goal.

Do write ahead on days you’re feeling strong. If you have the time, keep going. You’ll stockpile words for days you’re busy or less inspired.

Don’t feel you need to write linearly. Skip around if it helps you keep writing. Just make notes of places where you need to fill in later.

Don’t stop to edit. Don’t fret over sloppy writing or repetition. Just keep getting your ideas down. You’ll have plenty of time to rewrite later.

If a scene isn’t coming, jot it down in note form as a place holder. The words will count and you’ll replace them with even more when you finally tackle that section. Again, flag where you’ve done this so you remember to go back.

Do take advantage of group write-ins or other NaNo community events. It helps to have some cheerleaders who know what you’re up against.

Don’t ignore those reminders you set to get some exercise. And remember to get a good night’s sleep, too.

These are just a few ideas for ways to make tackling NaNoWriMo fun and relatively painless. Be sure to check out the main site, where there are additional tips and forums filled with encouragement. Whatever your goal for November, I wish you good luck and happy writing.

Friday Links: Writing Foundations

Every writer’s work develops from their writing foundations, their earliest impressions as young writers and readers. Although new experiences always add to the writer’s perspective, nothing is so formative as those first encounters. This week’s links focus on the usual range of topics, but several include interviews with authors talking about their writing identity and early influences. Consider your own favorite books that inspired you to write, or life events that might affect your writing themes. Sometimes knowing the questions that fascinate you can help you dig more deeply into the story you wish to tell.

As always, I hope this week’s links leave you feeling excited to write. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, with some time to read, write,  and maybe to investigate your own writing foundations. Enjoy!

This week’s links:

On the 13 Words that Made Me a Writer. – Author Sofia Samatar talks about her youthful obsession with fantasy and how it inspired her.

When Your Imposter Syndrome Is Out of Control. – Everyone feels unsure about themselves at some point. A great reading list to help fight self-doubt.

The Crack Squad of Librarians Who Track Down Half-Forgotten Books. – A look at those talented folks who help find that book you can’t quite remember.

Jason Reynolds: “What’s Unusual about My Story Is that I Became a Writer.” – The multi-published author discusses how his early experiences led him to write books that wouldn’t bore his audience.

Writing Wisdom from Guest Author Maureen Goo. – The YA author talks about her approach to writing.

Five Books about Unconventional Pirates. – Because I have a pirate thing, okay? And everyone’s TBR stack should have a pirate book on it.

Reading Horror Can Arm Us Against a Horrifying World. – NPR looks at horror as a way to make sense of reality.

Friday Links: Dog Days Inspiration

August heat calls for some dog days inspiration to get anything accomplished. When the temperatures climb, it’s hard to self-motivate. It can feel like your brain is melting out your ears. So I hope today’s links provide some distraction from the weather, whether you’re roasting along with me, or freezing with my friends in the southern hemisphere.

Dog Days Inspiration: dogs walking on a sunny beach

It’s nose to the grindstone in my neck of the woods, with fingers crossed that my AC keeps working, too. Today through the weekend I’m in reading mode, with two client projects on my desk and a stack of submissions queued up. I’ll have some status updates next week, along with a couple of exciting announcements. Meanwhile, I offer up some great links for you to check out. I hope they help you put your writing caps on and get down to work. Have a great weekend, and happy writing!

Dog Days Inspiration:

How to Keep Plot Twists Fresh. – Author David Bell offers tips on how to keep your thriller surprising. Helpful even if thrillers aren’t your thing.

Dear Suzanne Brockmann.Last week I linked to Suzanne Brockmann’s RWA speech; this letter from author Nicki Saledo offers a heartfelt response and an important personal take on diversity and inclusion in publishing.

Building a SciFi Future that Matters: Five Authors Share their Worldbuilding Strategies. – Really interesting look at different approaches to building a futurescape.

Radical Writing: Was Angela Carter Ahead of Her Time? – Discussion of the late author and the upcoming documentary on her life and innovative work.

“Write a Sentence as Clean as Bone” and Other Advice from James Baldwin. – Writing tips from the late author, who would have been 94 this week.

John Green Wants You to Read Tiny Books. – An explanation of the small book format (Flipbacks) popular abroad that is finally coming to the U.S., in part thanks to author Green. I’m curious to see if these catch on. Think how many more books will fit on your shelves!

Foreshadow, issue zero. – The launch of the new online anthology featuring YA short fiction by both new and established authors. Great reads by a diverse collection of writers.

Friday Links Return: Jump Start Your Vacation Brain

Friday Links Return feels like an appropriate title for my first blog post in a while. These links should help get your writer’s brain working, whether you’re stuck in summer vacation mode or the winter doldrums. Stir things up, jostle some new ideas around, or tackle that project you set aside months ago.

Likewise, I plan to use this post as a segue back to some regular blogging. Both work and life remain busy, but writing always serves as an excellent distraction from larger concerns. Time for me to remember that and get back on schedule. Friday Links Return is by no means a one-shot deal.

Despite the radio silence, I continued to collect interesting tidbits as if I were blogging the past few months. Today you benefit from my hoarding. I discarded things I considered time sensitive, but plenty of the slightly older links remain. I bring you writing advice and publishing culture. Also, I apologize now for what I’m about to do to your TBR piles. So many book recs. I hope you feel inspired on so many levels. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, and happy writing!

Friday Links Return:

10 Fairy Tale Retellings that Are Deeper, Darker, and Sexier than the Originals. – I love a good fairy tale for grownups just as much as the versions from my childhood. Some great ones on this list.

Read It Forward’s Favorite Reads of July 2018. – A wonderful list of great titles released this month.

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2018 Book Preview. – One of my absolute favorite lists of upcoming releases, this biannual collection from The Millions always leaves me excited about so many new titles on the schedule.

That RWA LTA Speech (News from Suz). – Romance author Suzanne Brockmann received the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s national RWA conference in Denver, and her speech caused quite a stir. It’s an excellent, inspiring read.

How Finland Rebranded Itself as a Literary Country. – Interesting for the literary angle, but also as a lesson in changing up your image.

Our Fiction Addiction: Why Humans Need Stories. – A look into the whys behind our obsession with books, movies, TV series, etc.

On Becoming an American Writer. – Alexander Chee takes an honest and often-difficult look at the realities of being a writer in the U.S., and offers up some advice.

Geniuses Need Not Apply: On Creative Writing Courses. – A brief look at some different approaches to learning how to write, and their potential worth.

How to Write Great Dialogue. – Some quick and dirty tips from editor Kat Brzozowski.

The Novel within the Novel. – A look at some books that have secondary stories nested inside of them. I love this device when it’s done well. Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders is another great example. Intriguing reads, whether or not you intend to give the structure a try in your own project.

Friday Links: With No Theme Beyond Bookish Pursuits

Some weeks there’s just no theme other than bookish pursuits to connect the links I’ve collected to share with you. With a little work, I can generally find one; everything is reading and/or writing related, after all. But I’ll admit this week was long, and I’m likely working straight through the weekend, so I’m just going to throw the links out there and hope that will do. I wish you all a wonderful weekend, and some good writing and reading time along with whatever you have planned. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

Fresh Voices: 50 Writers You Should Read Now. – A great list of suggestions across various genres, both fiction and nonfiction.

The 7 Creepiest Manor Houses in Mystery. – Some great reads for those of you who enjoy mysteries set in creepy old houses.

The Paris Review Names a New Editor: Emily Nemens of The Southern Review. – This week’s announcement regarding the editor set to replace Lorin Stein, who left the journal after allegations of sexual misconduct.

These Writers Are Launching a New Wave of Native American Literature. – An introduction to some talented up-and-coming authors.

First Draft with Tomi Adeyemi. – Great podcast interview with debut YA author Tomi Adeyemi about her recently released CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE and her journey to publication.

Does Having a Day Job Mean Making Better Art? – An interesting look at the life of the artist and what contributes to their creative output.

Here Are the Literary Guggenheim Fellows of 2018.  – Some talented writers on this year’s list. Worth checking them out.

Friday Links: A Reading Avalanche

My reading list seems to have morphed into a reading avalanche of late. I’d make a Hydra reference — read one thing and two more spring up in its place — but it actually feels more like the way the gold at Gringott’s multiplies and tries to crush Harry Potter when he breaks into the vault in the final book. I’ve got submissions, client projects, ARCs that have hit my desk, and of course, regular old books. It’s a fabulous wealth of riches, but I just can’t seem to get ahead of the flow.

So I’m sharing the wealth. I’ve been dutifully collecting links for weeks, many of which offer up lists of amazing sounding books to read. Time to get them out into the world (and close some of these endless tabs). It’s a holiday weekend here, so whether you’re celebrating Easter or Passover or something else or nothing at all, I wish you a bit of excellent reading time. Here are some suggestions for your TBR stacks, as well as the regular writing tips and so on. Happy holidays and here’s to wonderfully word-filled  days. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

7 Books about Different Writing Lives. – An assortment of books revealing varied facets of the writing life.

The Best Classic Novels for Beginners. – A panel shares their thoughts about the most accessible classics for anyone looking to give them a try or maybe get back to reading them.

21 Amazing New Books You Need to Read This Spring. – New releases either already on shelves or on the horizon.

25 Classic Crime Books You Can Read in an Afternoon. – Some shorter classics to curl up with when you have (or need) a few hours to yourself.

Hilary Mantel: “We Still Work to a Man’s Timetable and a Man’s Agenda.” – An interesting look at the author’s experiences coming up as a writer, and the treatment she received as a woman in the field.

How to Hide Exposition through Action. – When you can’t get away from the need to “tell” instead of “show.”

In Naomi Alderman’s Podcast, Listeners Walk into the Story. – NPR interviews the author about her podcast’s unusual, immersive story structure.

Visit London’s Radical Bookstores. – A guide to some great, diverse bookstores in London, whether you’re local or planning your next trip.

On Writing the Comics – and Queer Characters – We Need. – A fabulous conversation between Neil Gaiman and N.K. Jemisin.

21 of the Biggest Debut Books by Women, Winter of 2018. – Some terrific titles on here I’ve already enjoyed, with many more to add to the TBR stack.

Friday Links: Winter Weekend Distractions

I realize winter weekend distractions seem to disregard the southern hemisphere, but I promise that these work for hot summer days as well as snowy ones. Or damp and rainy days, if you’re currently in my neighborhood. This week’s links include some wonderful bookish fare to get you reading, or considering what you read, as well as some writerly food for thought. Whether you’re curling up in front of the fire or the air conditioner, these sites should give you some entertainment.

January can be a difficult month, with its emphasis on fresh starts and resolutions. So I hope these links give you some less-stressful ideas for how to structure your days, as well as some encouragement on the writing front. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

The Keynote. – Author Liza Palmer shares the wonderful closing keynote she presented at the October, 2017, Surrey International Writers Conference. I’m including a hankie warning with this one, but it’s well worth it. Please do check it out.

50 DIY Reading Challenges to Make 2018 the Best Year of Your Reading Life. – Pretty much as described. Includes some fun ideas for customizing your reading year.

A Winter Reading List. – A great list of suggested titles, both new and classic, to provide cozy winter weekend distractions no matter the weather.

What I Learned from Reading 300+ Books in 2017. – An interesting look at one reader’s effort to up her numbers, and the results.

John Jeremiah Sullivan: There’s No Such Thing as Wasted Writing. – The writer shares his experience of the writing process.

Bookish’s 2018 Reading Challenge. – This should really be plural; it’s a different challenge for each week of the year. Pick and choose as you’d like.

Residencies for Writers in 2018. – A great resource for anyone considering applying to a writer’s residency soon.

Repositories of Memory: On the Country House Novel. – This sort of novel has always struck me as a very wintery read. Two writers share their thoughts on the genre.

I Rearranged My Books by Color and Died a Little Inside. – One booklover describes her attempt to organize her shelves in this recent popular fashion.

Year-End Friday Links (on Holiday Delay)

Apologies for posting the year-end Friday links a bit late this week. I spent most of Thursday and the early part of Friday traveling home from visiting my parents. Due to various flight issues, I arrived about the time I should have been waking up. I declared yesterday a nap day.

2017 has been a very odd and difficult year. Despite the distractions, I hope you all got some good writing and reading done over the past months. Even the worst periods in time have their shiny moments. If you haven’t already, take a moment to appreciate your accomplishments this year, and to think about where to go next. Although I’ve written about all the ways to set up next year’s goals, it can be as simple as jotting a few ideas down. Think about what you’d like to achieve, and how you should set out to chase down that goal.

Congratulations to everyone who has been keeping up with the December Writing Challenge. Remember that all the words count, even those you eventually edit. Just keep plugging away, training your mind to be creative on demand. Stretch your imagination and reach for the stars.

Without further ado, I offer up this week’s Friday (Saturday?) Links. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, and an excellent end of a very hard year. Happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

Quartz’s Favorite Africa Books of 2017. – A rundown of some excellent African titles to add to your TBR list.

The Best Books We Missed in 2017. – Some less-discussed books from various genres, plus recs from their authors.

A Year in Books: 2017, vol. 1. – The editors of The Attic on Eighth take turns discussing their year in reading.

The Woman Working to Ensure No Community Is Left without Literature. – Checking in with Lisa Lucas in her second year heading up the National Book Foundation.

Mourning Sue Grafton. – Thoughts on the passing of the talented and prolific mystery writer.

What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Books of the Year. – A different angle on the ever-popular annual “best books” lists.

How to Sanitize a Hateful Troll. – On the dissection of the editorial comments for Milo Yiannopoulos’s canceled book.

Writers and Creators Discuss What It Means to Make Art in the Trump Era. – Talking about the effects on the artists, the art, and the audience.

Writing Goals: Planning for 2018

Writing goals, both making and working toward them, should be a year round process. But at the end of the year, it’s good to look ahead and sketch out a rough plan for where you’d like to go. You should also consider the bigger picture, and how your writing fits into your life.

I’m not a big fan of the term resolutions. Resolutions are things you start ignoring by the middle of February. Instead, I prefer to set goals and then come up with systems to help achieve them. The system becomes the habit, and the goal the result. But how do you make and keep your goals? What makes them different from the forgotten resolutions?

writing-goals-planning-for-2018

If you took time to look over your 2017 goals last week, you may already have a good idea what works and doesn’t work for you. But regardless, I have a few places for you to start.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Focus on goals that are within your control. You may wish to sign with an agent, but whether you do depends on whether your writing is where it needs to be, and you connecting with the right person to represent you. Instead of making “get an agent” your goal, determine what you need to do to make it happen. Maybe you want to send out ten queries by the end of January, or five queries per week. Other goals within your control might be to complete the research for a project you’ve been considering, finish a first draft, or to send a short story out on submission — and keep sending it out if you get rejected.
  • Don’t be afraid to think big. Huge goals can be manageable; you just need to break them down into smaller bites. So if your goal is to write your first novel this year and you haven’t started, don’t shy away from it. Instead consider the typical word count for a novel in your genre and divide that by the number of weeks in your writing year. Now you have a goal of how many words you’d like to write each week to get that first draft done.
  • Consider the calendar when setting your goals. Are you going to travel a lot this year? Take that into account when scheduling your  writing goals. Chances are you won’t get much writing done if you’re touring the capitals of Europe. Also think about busy times at your day job, or commitments to host for the holidays.
  • Create a Balance. If you’ve chosen a major goal for the year, that might be your entire writing focus. You’ll break it into smaller, sub-goals that will keep you occupied all year. But you can also balance your year with several smaller goals, or a mix of larger and smaller ones. Some goals might be for later in the year; you might have one you start in January and aim to complete by late March, and another that starts in April. Wrapping up a few small goals early can be great for keeping you motivated.

Creating Systems for Your Goals:

Once you have your goals in mind, you want to determine what it will take to accomplish each one. Set yourself mini-deadlines to keep things on track. For instance, if you want to get an agent, you might set that goal of sending out a number of queries per month. But before you can do that, you must write the query. You also need to come up with a list of agents you wish to submit to, and decide which ones you want to query first. Your eventual system might include a schedule for researching each batch of agents, including what they rep and their submission guidelines, and personalizing your query slightly when it seems appropriate.

If finishing a first draft of your novel is important, schedule your writing sessions each week on your calendar. Set alerts so you don’t forget. And if you’re concerned about making enough progress, try giving yourself a “catch up” writing day once a month. Maybe make yourself accountable by joining a writing group, or finding a writing buddy, if you haven’t already

Checking in with your goals should become part of your overall system. Again, mark it in your calendar, for the end of the month or once a quarter. Just take a half hour to look over your goals and see how your system has been working. Is everything progressing well? Or do you need to tweak things a bit?

Be Flexible:

At the end of the day, these are your goals. You determine what they are, and how to achieve them. If they are truly important to you, you’ll find a way to get them done. Don’t hesitate to change things up mid-year if your ambitions have shifted. And if things are going better than anticipated, you can always add new goals later in the year. Ultimately, the idea is to keep on writing. Good luck!