Virtual Writing Cruise Setting Sail, March 28th!

None of us are heading to a writer’s conference any time soon. Spring vacations are canceled. Writers everywhere find it difficult to focus. But your muse is not lost, just in need of a creative boost! Join me, and a faculty of terrific publishing professionals, for a week of virtual cruising and writing inspiration.

The Creative Academy Virtual Writing Cruise presents a full lineup of online workshops and Q&A sessions, plus daily writing sprints to get you back in the groove. All workshop sessions will be recorded and available later as part of the community’s resources, so sign up even if you can’t attend live. Both Academy membership and the cruise itself are free.

We kick off Saturday, March 28th, with a virtual happy hour! Courses over the week range from craft to research to the business side of publishing. I hope to see you in my query workshop, Friday, April 3rd, at 11 am PDT.

Why are you still here? Go sign up!

Friday Links

Happy Friday! It’s a very happy one around here, mostly because the insane heat wave we’ve been experiencing in the Los Angeles area has finally backed off a bit. I’m all for a nice hot day, but triple digits for nearly a week is enough to do me in. Right now it’s 70 and cloudy, with a mid-80s high forecasted, and I’m enjoying having the window open for a change.

But on to the links! I have a fun assortment for you today, which I hope will inspire you to challenge yourself when you sit down to write, or maybe get you to try a book from a genre you don’t normally read. I say fall is a great time to experiment and learn new things; maybe it’s the back-to-school mentally that was drilled into my head over the years. Whatever you’re up to this weekend, try to toss something a little bit different into the mix and see where it takes you. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Class of 2014: MacArthur Foundation – This year’s “Geniuses” have been chosen. Check out these interesting, diverse people and see what they’re up to. One or more of them might spark your own creativity.

The Bookrageous Podcast – This wonderful podcast features a cast of book bloggers, writers, booksellers, and publishing types discussing first what they’re reading, and then books on a theme. There’s a lovely backlog to check out for inspiration, and new podcasts seem to get posted every few weeks to every couple of months.

Opportunities for Writers: October and November, 2014 – A list of places to submit your work, including contests and grants with upcoming deadlines.

Interview: Mary Robinette Kowal – An interesting look at how Kowal addresses different aspects of her Glamourist series, including getting the language right for the historical period and how she ended up writing a “new” Byron poem.

Internet Predators, Vicious Amazon Reviews, and How Mitt Romney’s Smile Inspired a Novel – A group of writers discuss the writing process over at Salon.

 

Friday Links

Welcome to Friday, which this week happens to kick off the long Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S., the unofficial start of summer. That means vacations, BBQs, sand and surf, lazy days, stacks of books to read, and — in the publishing world — summer hours (half-day Fridays). The reality, of course, is that work does not cease simply because we have a bit more daylight (Weekend? What weekend?), but it’s nice to dream.

And on that note, I offer up this week’s selection of Friday links, some of which are a bit dreamy, and all of which I hope you’ll find intriguing/entertaining/educational, etc. Enjoy, and have a fabulous weekend!

The Art of Staying Focused in a Distracting World – Social media, email, DVR queue, etc. There’s always something vying for your attention. How do you get anything done anymore? Interesting article.

Writing Excuses: The Short Story with Mary Robinette Kowal – A great podcast on short story writing, with excellent tips for anyone looking to give them a go or simply improve on their current efforts.

Kindle Worlds: Amazon Rewrites the Rules of Fan Fiction – A look at Amazon’s announcement regarding their new plans to monetize the world of fan fiction.

Amazon’s Kindle Worlds: Instant Thoughts – Author John Scalzi’s first take on why Amazon’s new program may not be the greatest thing for writers.

Neil Gaiman’s A Calendar of Tales – Gaiman’s collaborative short story project with Blackberry is complete. Check out the results, including some very cool art created by Gaiman’s readers.

False Starts and Late Beginnings

Many writers start out on a new project, write for a while, and then look back at what they have and realize they started far too early in the story — that whatever point they are currently writing is, in fact, the beginning, while the chapter or so they’ve already completed (or five pages, or sometimes fifty pages) was just them getting into the swing of the characters/world etc. It serves as interesting backstory for their own edification, but doesn’t really work as a way to draw in readers. This phenomenon occurs with even the most savvy, published author; sometimes you just need to write yourself toward where you need to be.

Those of you who started a new project recently might be facing this issue about now, especially if you’re writing diligently every day and accumulating pages at a steady rate. So I thought I’d offer you some expert advice on all that beginning stuff — balancing character and story, planning where you want to go, and so on. Because if you find yourself kicking out some of your early pages, you might want to take a moment to reassess your overall plan for the project.

Fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss runs a series of storyboard panels on YouTube’s Geek & Sundry channel, and he got together with fellow author Mary Robinette Kowal earlier this year to talk about beginnings. I defer to their interesting and entertaining advice: Begin at the Beginning.

Creative Writing 101: The Letter-Writers’ Edition

It’s February 1st, the first day of the Month of Letters Challenge. Anyone hanging around with me here or on Twitter has probably figured out that I think this is a great idea on many levels. But I’m not here to chat up the wonders of getting personal mail. Instead, I’m here to offer ways in which you can participate in the challenge AND turn it into a writing exercise that flexes your creative muscles.

For as many writers who have embraced this idea, excited about the prospect of writing lovely missives to friends and family, and hearing their reactions to receiving something fun in their mailbox, I suspect there are just as many who have moaned at the idea of trying to write a letter each day in addition to squeezing in time for their work in progress. Yes, you could take the easy way out by sending pre-written cards, sticking to postcards, or simply printing out copies of favorite family recipes and mailing them off to your younger relatives (and hoping they’ll volunteer to cook something for the next holiday gathering). But how about looking at the challenge as something that will help stretch your mind and imagination, either through writing or by restocking your creative well?

A few ideas for writers:

~ Make your end-of-the-week letter a WIP mailing. Send off your week’s worth of writing to one of your readers in hard copy each Friday.

~ Do you write short stories? Are you interested in trying flash fiction? Attempt to write a few stories over the course of the month that are 1,000 words or less, and send them to friends with whom you typically share your work.

~ Any little kids in your life? How many have ever received mail other than a birthday card? Make one or two your pen pal, even if you live in the same household. Send cartoons, drawings, stickers, as well as little notes, and encourage them to respond. Take them shopping for cute note cards and teach them how to address an envelope properly.

~ Another idea for little kids: Be a secret admirer (though fill in their parents that you’re behind the notes, if the kids aren’t your own). Send little surprises and don’t sign them until the end of the month.

~ Children of your own? Write an ongoing bedtime story and send it out in letter format, with each letter ending in a cliffhanger. The segments don’t have to be long.

~ Older kids away at college? Send letters, care packages, things they forgot to pack up after winter break. (Word of warning: Don’t send to your college kid only; you’ll drive them crazy.)

~ Try writing one poem a week and sending it off to a friend or loved one.

~ Remember that Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of February. Send out cards to your mom, siblings, nieces and nephews, instead of just to your significant other. Stagger the cards in the mail and they’ll be good for a few days of the challenge.

~ Use one “letter” per week as an excuse NOT to write. Make it a break and do something creative that does not include words, and put that in the mail instead. Send a photograph, burn a CD for someone, bake cookies and send them off.

~ Consider writing a letter from the point of view of one of your characters. People used to write entire novels in the epistolary fashion. Give it a go on a small scale and see what you learn about your protagonist or your villain. Send the letter to your critique partner and get their feedback as to whether any of the revelations should be included in your plot. (Mary Robinette Kowal has already said she’ll be corresponding with people who wish to write her heroine, Jane.)

These are just a few thoughts to get you started. How else might you participate in the challenge and really exercise your writing chops? I’m curious to hear your ideas, so please share if you’d like. Happy writing!