Friday Links: A Celebration of Books and Booksellers

Today I wish to celebrate both books and the people who sell them. Independent Bookstore Day is tomorrow, and fall titles start hitting shelves in a few days. Reading good books takes some sting out of this ongoing pandemic, so what better time to praise all things bookish?

Independent Bookstore Day logo of a hand holding an open book.


What have you all been reading during this period of safer-at-home? I know not everyone can focus on books right now, but sometimes that means returning to old favorites or finding joy in poems or shorter books. I’m doing some rereading, myself. Old romantic mysteries by Mary Stewart. Humorous poetry I discovered as a child. But also new romances and women’s fiction. Fantasy as long as it stays well away from dystopian situtations. All mixed in with “homework” reading: how to be a better, more active ally to BIPOC people, and political titles about the state of our democracy. If that sounds like a lot, it hasn’t been. It’s been slow going, spread over months, with more books piling up on my TBR behind them at a rapid rate.

Fall always brings a wealth of new titles. I’m trying to keep my pre-orders at a minimum, simply because there are soooo many new books I want to read. But pre-orders are the way to go in this new pandemic economy. Let publishers know they should print copies of the books you’re looking forward to reading. Supply chains are still moving slowly, so reader interest helps publishers know where to make their best efforts.

Meanwhile, here are a bunch of links to give you ideas of what to read, and where to get your copies. Plus the usual writing/industry chatter. I hope you find something interesting and inspiring. Have a great weekend, filled with wonderful books and maybe a little quality writing time!

This Week’s Links:

Independent Bookstore Day. – A resource of online and in-store events taking place to celebrate independent bookstores across the country.

117 Black-Owned Bookstores. – A great resource if you’re looking to support Black-owned businesses. You can even check for stores in your own state.

The Importance of Bookstores During the Pandemic. – A lovely homage to bookstores and all they do for us, especially in difficult times.

Eight Trends in Book Cover Art, From Busy Botanicals to Women Walking Away. – As it says. Some beautiful examples, attached to some great reads. (I’m personally partial to the botanicals.)

Paris Stories: The Writing of Mavis Gallant. – A short film about the Canadian author and her approach to writing, with interview footage as well as the author reading samples of her work. Inspiring, plus a lovely bit of armchair travel.

Why It’s Not Empowering to Abandon the Male Pseudonyms Used by Female Authors. – A thoughtful look at the recent decision to release a number of books written by women including their birthnames over the pseudonyms they chose, and why this is not a simple situation.

9 Books about Disreputable Women by Women Writers. – Great books featuring the inside stories of women society labels disreputable.

The New California Curriculum. – An interesting look at what it means to be a California writer, and where these writers fit into the literary landscape as we reconsider what types of books should be considered “canon.”

Plotting Your Fantasy with a Bullet Journal. – One writer’s system for organizing their writing, plot, and world building.

We Need People Within Our Publishing Houses Who Reflect What Our Country Looks Like. – A great interview with Lisa Lucas, who will be leaving her post as head of the National Book Foundation at the end of the year to take on the role of publisher at PRH’s Pantheon and Schocken Books.

Prepare for NaNoWriMo: Get Ready to Write

With just two weeks left in October, it’s time to prepare for NaNoWriMo, otherwise knows as National Novel Writing Month. Every November, thousands and thousands of writers around the world attempt to write a novel in 30 days. No prize awaits them. There’s no guarantee of publication. But writers still churn out hundreds of words each day, hoping to hit the goal of 50,000 by November 30th.

Why do people challenge themselves to write so much in a short period? Some do it for fun. NaNoWriMo has become something of a party over the years. Writers gather with other local participants to write in coffee shops or bookstores. Online forums provide a way to reach out and chat about your work-in-progress. Others use the energy of the event to force themselves to finish a first draft. Professional writers often join in, working on current projects or starting new ones. Writers with thoughts of publication know that 50,000 runs a bit short for a traditional novel, but NaNoWriMo still offers great motivation to get to work.

prepare for NaNoWriMo

Are you a plotter or pantser?

Plenty of writers just open up a new Word doc on November 1st and start typing at random. It can be entertaining to see where your imagination takes you. But if you prefer to plot, or you want to make sure the words flow daily, it’s a good idea to prep for NaNoWriMo. If you have at least some idea of where you’d like your story to go, it will help you build your word count and avoid facing a nasty bout of writer’s block.

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

Technically, you’re not supposed to start writing until November 1st, but you can still put together some notes.

  • Determine your major characters. Figure out who your protagonist is and what they want. Name some people. Give them jobs and relationships.
  • Do you at least have an idea for your book? If you do, dream up a few scenes you’re really looking forward to writing and sketch out a few short notes about them. (Not the scenes themselves, of course. That would be cheating.)
  • Get some research done. If you have to do some leg work or reading about your setting, the time period, characters’ careers, etc., now is the time to do it. Plus all that wonderful detail and vocabulary you dig up will help you increase your word count.

There’s nothing wrong with deciding to use NaNoWriMo as a time to play. But if you plan to use it to work, just a little bit of prep will help you make the most of your experience. And don’t forget: the manuscript you finish on November 30th will be a first draft. So don’t waste time editing while you write. Plenty of time for that later.

Good luck to everyone participating this year!

Friday Links

TGIF! I hope you’ve all had a lovely week, and that at least some of you have embraced my December Writing Challenge and are getting words down every day, even if things are busy. Now’s a great time to look ahead to your weekend and determine when you’ll be able to fit in your writing time. Will you carve out an extra half hour before breakfast? Sneak in a mid-afternoon coffee/writing break? Be sure to allocate time ahead. Make it a priority. Your goals are just as important as everyone else’s holiday events.

Of course, today being Friday, I come bearing links. It’s a very bookish assortment this week, likely prompted by the start of the end-of-year best-book list season. These frustrate me sometimes due to their lack of diversity, by which I mean they typically focus on many of the same titles we’ve been hearing about all year. And while i don’t discount the quality of those works, I do wonder sometimes if it’s just a squeaky wheel situation. I suspect a lot of fabulous books just haven’t been mentioned enough for people to discover them. Still, I do sometimes stumble across new titles on the lists, or get reminded of things that I was curious about but somehow forgot in the jumble of new releases.

Whatever your weekend plans, I hope you have some quality reading and writing time on the calendar. Enjoy!

NPR’s Book Concierge: Our Guide to the Best Books of 2014 – A fun, interactive list that has something for everyone, including comics.

How Writers Read (vol. 2) – A continuation of the article I linked to last week.

Ursula K. LeGuin on Where Ideas Come From – Thoughtful look at the early phase of a writing project.

Plotting the Non-Plot-Driven Novel – Donald Maass on quieter reads.

A Reading List for the Month of Storytelling by the Fire РReading suggestions compiled with a winter read in mind.

Are You Ready to NaNo?

Happy October! For those of you in the know, the start of October means commencing a countdown to November and NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo encourages writers to write quickly, turn off their internal editor, and just pour that down-and-dirty draft onto the page. Participants pledge to write 50,000 words (or more) in a month, and receive encouragement in the way of fellow writers with whom to trade stories, plot points, and frustrations; a website where they can track words written, get writing tips from professional authors, gather in forums by area or genre, and purchase t-shirts and other souvenirs proclaiming themselves NaNo writers; local area meet-ups where they can write with other like-minded souls; a colorful badge for their website should they achieve their word count by November 30th and more.

Anyone who has signed up for NaNoWriMo previously is aware of the challenge involved. A prolific writer might feel the word count is easy, but the truth is that it’s hard to show up and write every single day, and the pressure of producing some 1,700-odd words daily can be wearing. It just takes a couple of missed days to get quite a bit behind goal. And for newbie writers, the entire project can sound daunting.

So how can you prepare for NaNoWriMo? What might give you an edge toward completing your task? This month I’m going to offer up some suggestions and tips that will help get you on your way.

There are many ways to start a novel, but I’m going to begin here with character. Who will be your protagonist? Male or female? Young or old? Human or other? Figure out who your main character will be and start learning a bit about them. Background, family, education, relationship status, occupation, etc. You might not use it all; in fact, you probably won’t. But getting to know your character is the first step to following them through the course of your NaNo novel. Happy writing!