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: Holiday Writing Inspiration

Everyone can use some holiday writing inspiration, and this marks the start of my annual pep talks for the season. We’re heading into Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and from there it’s one occasion after another until New Year’s. I run a December Writing Challenge each year, but I encourage you to schedule your writing all through the holidays.

Check out this week’s links for industry information, ideas on characterization, and ways to drum up that holiday writing inspiration. And keep an eye on this space for more writing challenge information coming soon. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

It Is Okay to Change Paths. – Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen talks about changing her career from doctor to writer.

Paper is a wonderful technology. – Austin Kleon shares how an exhibit at the Ransom Center inspired him to embrace his paper notebook.

Ilana Masad on the Shrinking of the Industry, Literary Social Media, and Hidden Criticism. – The writer and podcast host discusses how social media has changed literary criticism, and other shifts in the industry from a reviewer’s point of view.

50 Noteable Works of Fiction in 2017. – The Washington Post weighs in on some of the best titles of the year.

Inside the Dystopian Visions of Margaret Atwood and Louise Erdrich. – At a time when Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale serves as a sort of feminist dystopian bible, Erdrich adds her own take on the idea of reproductive slavery.

Marvel’s Black Panther Rules. Literally. – A wonderful interview with actor Chadwick Boseman, with excellent thoughts regarding how characters build from the setting and politics of a fictional nation in this installment in the MCU.

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2017. – Another best-of list, with some great titles for your own TBR or gift-buying lists.

A Night at the National Book Awards. – A look into what may by the shiniest event in the U.S. publishing world.

 

Friday Links: Looking Back to Write Your Way Forward

Another Friday has crept up on us. It’s been a pretty intense week, filled with political strife and a few bombshells here in the U.S. I, for one, am looking forward to the weekend and stepping away from all forms of media for a bit, even though I know that might lead to a more startling Monday when I tune back in. But for my own sanity, I know I need to take a breather. And so I plan to do some personal reading, go for a run or two, and tomorrow I get to hang out with a client who is down with her family from Northern California for a few of days.

This week’s links are a kind of eclectic bunch, though I feel like some personal nostalgia inadvertently made itself known. I don’t plan these things; it’s just the sorts of links I happened to stumble upon. Nostalgia can be a good writing tool, as long as you don’t allow it to overtake your ability to be critical of your ideas. Regardless, I hope you find something intriguing in this lot and that you’re inspired to take a bit of time to yourself over the weekend to read a great book and/or work on your current writing project. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The True Story Behind Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Her Mixed-Up Files – An interesting look at what was one of my favorite books growing up, and how it came to be.

A 17th-Century Alleged Witch Inspired Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – A look into some of Atwood’s thought process on her famous novel.

On the Horror of Getting It Wrong in Print – One writer shares her reactions to learning her errors have gone to press.

More Thoughts about World Building and Food – Lincoln Michel goes deeper into his thoughts on the notion of world building, with a link to his earlier piece included.

The Political Murakami on Life in a Dark Time – How Murakami views the worlld post-9/11, and how that dark viewpoint influences his writing.

6 Tiny Letters for Readers and Writers – I’m a fan of the Tiny Letters – those subscriptions on a theme (or not) that show up randomly when their author decides to share some thoughts – and this round up offers a few intriguing ones.

5 Things to Include on Your Author Website if You’re Not Yet Published – Handy tips for populating that blank author site.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing with a Broader World View

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I’m stepping back and taking a look at the larger scope of the world when it comes to writing and reading. How do recent events affect how we view the world, how we write our stories, how we consider our readers, and how we choose what to read ourselves? We can look back and see clearly how the prevalence of fantasy and darker paranormal seemed to grow up around harder economic times, and that the rise of dystopian literature appears to have been a precursor of the current political climate. So what happens now?

I’m not claiming to be drawing any conclusions with this week’s links, but many do play into this theme and I think it’s something to consider going forward. It’s early days yet, but I’m sure the writings of our time will reflect much of this current turmoil eventually, as well as whatever follows. Food for thought going into the weekend. I wish you lots of excellent time to read and to write, and  hopefully a bit of inspiration. Enjoy!

Fantasy Is about Power: An Interview with Lev Grossman – A talk with the author of The Magicians trilogy, about the books, and about the TV series based on them that just began its second season.

Translation — and Migration — Is the Lifeblood of Culture – A look at how the mix of ideas and cultures from different nations serves to influence and develop imagination everywhere.

On Dracula’s Lost Islandic Sister Text – On this mysterious, altered version of Stoker’s classic work.

“It’s Going to Be Darker. And that’s OK.” Neil Gaiman on Trump, Brexit, and the Death of Social Media – Gaiman discusses the new series based on American Gods and considers what it means to create art in troubled times.

50 Must-Visit Beautiful Bookstores on Six Continents – See the world, buy some books.

Waterstone’s, the UK’s National Bookstore, Came Back from Near-Death by Transforming into Indie, Local Stores – How the new mastermind behind the chain turned the tide, proving it’s still possible to get readers into bookstores.

What’s the Next Big Dystopian Novel? Margaret Atwood Has some Ideas – The author of The Handmaid’s Tale, which has gained new popularity between current politics and the series soon to debut on Hulu, talks dystopian literature and book trends.

How to Escape the Slush Pile: A Self-Editing Checklist for Short Story Writers – Excellent tips, some of which apply to any writing.

Friday Links: Creative Outlets for Difficult Days

It’s been a tense week filled with terrible news, here in the U.S. The sort that makes you want to hold your loved ones a little closer and try to be a little kinder to everyone you meet, even as you wonder how there can be so much pointless hatred out there. I hope this week’s links provide a little distraction and maybe some inspiration. Creating something meaningful isn’t the worst way to try to combat the ugliness in the world. Of course, sometimes the world drains you of every creative impulse, in which case escaping into a good book can offer a brief respite, if that’s what you seek.

Wishing you all a safe, sane, enjoyable weekend.

On the Genius of Yuri Herrera’s Character Names – One translator looks at the meaning behind an author’s choices.

12 Bookstores Every Reader Should Visit in Their Lifetime – Some gorgeous photos to inspire your next book-related travel plans.

Why Setting a Historical Romance Outside of England Is Risky Business – The strange reality of sales figures in this particular sub-genre.

Modern Witches Are So Much More Than Just Mothers/Maidens/Crones – A look at more recent roles for this standard archetypal character.

The Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview – A rundown of a huge number of highly anticipated titles due to release during the second half of the year. By no means exhaustive, but it has something to tempt just about everyone.

Life Behind the Stacks: The Secret Apartments of New York Libraries – A peek into the world of the former library caretakers of NYC.

10 Mistakes (Almost) Every Rookie Writer Makes: Part 2 – A continuation from the previous list, with some great tips to keep in mind.

Friday Links: Combatting Cabin Fever

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s been an insanely busy week here, so I apologize for being a bit quiet on the inter-webs. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and plow forward. And of course, with spring in full bloom here in the northern hemisphere, I’m aware that I, like everyone else, am struggling with a certain level of cabin fever. The birds are even now chirping outside my office window and it’s very tempting to just go play outside.

When I’m feeling this sort of pull, I resist it by reminding myself that the nice weather will still be there come the weekend… or whenever things quiet down to normal levels. Or I give myself lines in the sand; do everything on this list and then you can wander down the block to Starbucks for an hour of fresh air and caffeine injections. But it also helps to be engrossed in what I’m working on. The lure of a lovely day feels much less tempting if I’m reading a wonderful manuscript or helping make a project better. It’s all relative.

With this in mind, I’ve got a mishmash of links for you today that I hope help to combat your own cabin fever and allow you to put in a bit of reading and writing time. Plenty of things to think about and get you into gear. Enjoy!

Around the world in 18 science fiction and fantasy novels – A nice roundup for some serious armchair travel.

Interrogating Sentimentality with Leslie Jamison – On the line between writing that’s emotional and writing that’s overly sentimental or saccharine.

Download 67,000 Historic Maps – An open collection of high resolution maps available from Stanford University’s David Rumsey Map Collection. Great for research.

On the Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books – Most of us know this problem. An interesting look at an author’s experience with trying to apply the Marie Kondo tidying method to her bookshelves, proving that not all systems work for all people — or at least not precisely as intended.

Whit Stillman Returns: “Sometimes it’s good to blow through all your deadlines.” – The director of Metropolitan tackles Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship.

Authors, Get Thee to Social Media: Explaining the Rise and Rise of YA Books – Intriguing article with some great points about social media (though this is obviously not the entire driving force behind the success of YA).

Knausgaard in Chicago: “I Don’t Want to Write about Myself Anymore.” – The author known for his mammoth multi-volume work of autobiographical fiction talks about literary ambition and success with Sheila Heti.

 

Friday Links: The Language of Writers

Welcome to April! I must say, April 1st — April Fool’s Day — is one of my least favorite days of the year, because when it comes to pranks, I rarely see them coming, and so I tend to walk through this day with my shoulders hunched around my ears in anticipation of something annoying happening. Today, however, I’ll be wandering the Los Angeles Convention Center with thousands of writers, editors, agents, and other publishing types, and so I’m hoping that everyone will be too preoccupied with the bookish goodness going on to worry about fooling anyone.

So without further ado, I bring you this week’s Friday Links, no jokes or pranks included. May they inspire you on your way to writing greatness. Have a terrific weekend, and happy writing!

From Idea to Novel – Some award-winning novelists share how they deal with the blank page.

First Draft with Sarah Enni: Victoria Schwab – A wonderful podcast interview with the author of A Darker Shade of Magic, Vicious, and much more.

34 Compelling First Lines of Famous Books – Fun graphics highlighting some terrific book openers.

What Literary Discourse Offers in an Age of Extremism – Thoughtful look at why we should talk about writing and books when the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

On the 13 Words that Made Me a Writer – Fantasy author Sofia Samatar talks about making the turn from reader to writer.

The Forgotten Secret Language of Gay Men – In the mid-twentieth century, when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain, gay men apparently spoke a secret language to communicate in safety. Interesting on both linguistic and cultural levels.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Creative Breakthroughs:

Friday Links: Inspiration and Creative Risk-Taking

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve had a terrific week and that your weekend looks equally bright. Spring has truly sprung here in SoCal, and I have the twitchy nose to prove it. Suddenly everything is in bloom. But that’s fine with me, because I always think spring is a highly creative time. Something about all those new things growing and in bloom, plans formulating for summer vacation, stretching muscles that are stiff from curling up in a cozy spot all winter. It’s a great time to brush off your old, neglected ambitions and get moving. So if you’ve found yourself dragging when it comes to getting your writing done, I want you to shake off those cobwebs, flex your fingers, and get to work. Try something new, aim high, and tell that internal voice-of-doom to take a hike.

To inspire some creativity and perhaps a bit of risk-taking, I’ve got a bunch of fun links for you this week. Even if there’s still snow on the ground outside your window, or you’re in the other hemisphere facing down the start of autumn, take a few minutes over the weekend to dive into a different project or take a fresh look at an old one. You never know what kind of inspiration might take hold. Happy writing!

This Is How to Be Creatively Productive – Thoughts from writer and artist Danny Gregory.

Polygon Map Generation Demo – World-building a completely new land for your fantasy novel or story? Use this site to generate an all-new continent to go with your setting.

Readers are willing to follow writers into risky territory: Alexander Chee on Writing and The Queen of the Night – Some terrific observations about how and when it can pay off to write something truly different.

Wit and the Art of Conversation – Thoughts on what wit is, precisely, and observations on what makes it appealing. Great for writers working on improving their dialogue.

6 Ways to Track Down a Magazine Editor – Advice for anyone in the freelance trenches or looking to get into freelance writing. If you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, what are you waiting for? Go for it.

Second Cousins,” “Once Removed,” and More, Explained in Chart Form – Handy relative definitions, very useful for anyone sorting out a big family drama, on paper or in real life.

A Lifelong Lover of Books Breaks Ground Atop the Literary World – Q&A with Lisa Lucas, who recently became the first woman and first African American to head up the National Book Foundation. Proof that there’s always new ground to break.

Friday Links: An Assortment of Building Blocks for Writers

TGIF! I hope you’ve all had a terrific week, and have some equally terrific plans lined up for your weekend. It’s the final weekend in February, so it might be a good time to take a quick peek at your goals for the last month and for the year and see how you’re doing so far. Are you on target? Are there some areas where you might do a little better? Set aside an hour or so to check in with yourself so that you can steer the ship back in the right direction if need be, or by all means treat yourself to a mini celebration if you’re ahead of you’re ahead of the game. But regardless of where you are, it’s important to do these small reviews periodically throughout the year so you won’t be facing big surprises come December.

But of course it wouldn’t be Friday without Friday Links. I have a great assortment for you this week and I hope you’re inspired to do some new writing or work on your current project as a result. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Comma Queen: “Awesome” Is the New “Massive” – A quick, fun video from The New Yorker‘s grammar guru.

An Unparalleled Influence: The Man Who Invented Fiction – The role of Cervantes and Don Quixote in bringing about the modern novel.

Simon & Schuster Creates Imprint for Muslim-Themed Children’s Books – This week’s announcement of Salaam Reads, a new imprint to be headed up by Executive Editor Zareen Jaffery.

Ancient History Resources – A collection of links to some wonderful research material.

The Architecture of Fantasy: How Authors Use Real Places to Build Imaginary Ones – Some helpful tips for world building.

Notes on Record-Keeping – A look at journaling as a means of keeping track of all the bits and pieces of your life and memories.

Why I Became a Travel Writer – On delving into a career that calls to you, despite the risks.