Friday Links: Still Breathing Edition

For those of you wondering, I’m still breathing. I know things have been a bit quiet here lately. Apologies for the radio silence, but I’ve been snowed under — by paperwork and reading, not actual snow. I hope to have some wonderful things to share with you soon. In the meantime, I’ve a collection of links that are past due posting. My browser will be so happy when I close out these tabs.

These links are a bit all over the place, mostly because I’ve been gathering them for weeks. A couple are February-centric, but they certainly won’t expire, so I hope you’ll excuse them sneaking in here at month’s end. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filled with books and good writing time. Enjoy!

This Week’s Links:

2017 Locus Recommended Reading List. – A roundup of the best SFF from 2017, according to Locus magazine.

Should You Write What You Know? 31 Authors Weigh In. – Writers discuss the age-old advice and how true it is.

#ReadingBlackout: 28 Days of Books By and About African Americans for Black History Month. – A terrific selection, and certainly worth reading all year long.

I’m National Book Foundation Executive Director Lisa Lucas, and This Is How I Work. – LifeHacker focuses on Lisa Lucas in their “How I Work” series.

Applications Now Open for the $35,000 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting 2018. – Details posted for how to submit for the fellowships run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Let’s Talk about the Fantasy of the Writer’s Lifestyle. – A look at the glamorous ideal of the writer’s life in comparison to reality.

15 Banned Books and Their Reasons for Censorship. – A look at how and why various books have been banned and the route from challenge to actual censorship of a title.

Nick Harkaway Tells Strange, Chilling Tales — and Has Devoted Fans. – An interview with the author discussing the secretive nature of his stories and how that limits the conversation about his work.

On Imitation. – An intriguing look at one writer’s experiences growing up and learning about influence and imitation and where the line gets drawn to make something your own.

Flyby Friday Links

I have flyby Friday Links for you this week because my to-do list is out of control. I wanted to give you all a heads up that this weekend is the 24 in 48 Readathon. For anyone seeking an excuse to carve out a chunk of reading time, this event takes the prize. Fun social media interaction, prizes, and lots of fellow bookworms with whom you can compare book lists. It kicks off at midnight EST, so you can still go sign up. If you’re unfamiliar with the event, the idea is to read for 24 hours out of 48. If that sounds like a lot, it can be, but unlike some other readathons, this leaves you time to sleep and get fresh air and do non-bookish things. And since it’s all for fun, no sweat if you read less than 24 hours. Plenty of people just join in when they can. Here’s my current readathon TBR. Well, most of it. I’ve got e-books and an audiobook or two lined up as well. I like options, what can I say? And no, there’s no hope that I’ll finish all of these. Though a girl can dream…

Other than the readathon announcement, I have a handful of links to inspire you, whatever your weekend plans. Enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

Ursula K. Le Guin, by Margaret Atwood. – A lovely tribute to a great author, by another great, on the occasion of Le Guin’s passing.

Where to Start: The ‘Legendary’ Books of Ursula K. Le Guin. – Whether you’re a fan or picking up your first of her works, this is a handy guide to some of the author’s most notable books.

During World War II, Literature Reigned Supreme. – An intriguing look at the importance of books during WWII, and the type of work that garnered the most attention.

9 Stories about Different Kinds of Prisons. – Looking at the term loosely, as any place that we can be trapped.

Why Is Pop Culture Obsessed with Battles between Good and Evil? – One writer’s examination of how the conflict in our stories has changed through the ages.

 

 

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.

Submissions Update and the State of My Inbox

Submissions Update

I have a quick submissions update for all of you before I come back later with this week’s Friday Links. As you might have gleaned from the state of this blog, this year has gotten off to a busy start. But I will be opening to new submissions again starting Monday, January 22nd. As always, I ask you to check out and follow our agency submission guidelines, available here.

The State of My Inbox

Regarding outstanding submissions, I am in the process of sending out responses to a huge pile of work I read over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been under the weather, including some stubborn headaches, which means I’m reading offline to minimize eye strain. Normally, I read and reply, so this system has put me a bit off my game. Thank you all for your patience as I get these emails written and sent.

On Monday, I will post a more thorough update on previous submissions, so you’ll know if you should have heard back regarding your material.

Friday Links: A New-Year Writer’s Jump Start

Welcome to 2018, and a writer’s jump start to kick things off right. Whatever your goals for the new year, I hope you’ve included plans to stretch your writing. Maybe you want to submit more stories, search for an agent, or finish a work-in-progress. Or perhaps you’re a published writer intent on taking your work to the next level. Whatever your goals, I aim to help, with Friday Links to inspire and entertain, future posts looking at craft and the publishing world, and some surprises I have in the works.

The first week of the year always feels a bit slow, as everyone gets back into the swing following the holidays. Next week, I’ll have some announcements regarding submissions and more, so be sure to check back. But first, I bring you some links to get your creativity flowing and maybe help move forward with your goals. There’s a little something for everyone, so enjoy, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

A Few Things to Consider before Submitting Your Work to a Literary Magazine. – Great tips to help you put your best foot forward.

How to Take Great Bookish Selfies. – For anyone whose new year’s goals include becoming more active on social media.

Making British Characters Realistic as an American Writer… and Vice Versa. – Advice for how to make your characters ring true.

A Guide to Short Story Contests in 2018. – Places to submit your short fiction in the coming year. Mark your calendars!

Words to Add to Your Vocabulary, Especially if You’re a Book Lover. – Some terrific words for the bookworms among us.

15 Books You Should Read This January. – A rundown of some of the month’s hot new titles, several of which have gone directly onto my TBR list.

Literary Hub’s Favorite Books of 2017. – In case you might have missed anything…

 

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.

Friday Links: Holiday Cheer for Writers

As this is the last Friday before Christmas, I thought I’d try and whip up a bit of holiday cheer. I’m afraid I can’t offer a festive cocktail or share my Christmas baking, but these links have a nice holiday bend. They still include some writing advice, and a few reading recs, but I tried to keep the spirit of the season in mind.

This weekend promises to be busy, but I hope you all manage to carve a little personal time. Whether you want to read your favorite Christmas story, get some writing in, or just find a quiet moment, it’s important to take a break in the middle of the chaos. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, whatever you celebrate. Enjoy!

holiday-cheer-christmas-ornaments

This Week’s Links:

What the LitHub Staff Is Reading, Watching, and Listening to This Holiday Season. – A fun round up to inspire your own holiday entertainment.

Ghosts on the Nog. – Five forgotten Christmas ghost stories. Charles Dickens isn’t the only author who liked a ghostly tale for Christmas. Note: the link for one story in the original post is broken, but you can find it here: A Strange Christmas Game.

How to Write: 10 Tips from David Ogilvy. – Some advice from the original Man Man of advertising. Not all of it applies if you’re writing a novel, but the basics are sound. Plus it’s entertaining, regardless.

Why I Hate Christmas (But Love Songs about Hating Christmas). – A slightly different take on the holiday.

Overflowing with Magical Shoes: The Elves and the Shoemaker. – A look at one of the few stories by the Brothers Grimm to mention a holiday.

9 Books about Faith that Even Atheists Can Believe In. – Some reading for the less religiously minded.

 

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!

Friday Links: Writing Diversions for a Crazy Weekend

After piling on the book lists and recommendations, I’m offering you some writing diversions this week for a change of pace. This weekend marks the midpoint of the month, which means the middle of the holiday crazies. So if you need a bit of a break from shopping and such, check out a few of these links. And if you’re not caught in the holiday bustle, congratulations! You’ll have even more time to visit a few of these sites.

For those of you participating in the December Writing Challenge, you’re just about halfway there! Check your calendar and schedule your writing time for next week. The busier it gets, the more you need to plan ahead. And don’t forget to think about what you’d like to accomplish in the new year. 2018 looms around the corner.

Enjoy the writing diversions below, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

The 26th International Radio Playwriting Competition. – Entries close January 31st for this annual competition. Try your hand at writing a radio play for this contest sponsored by the BBC World Service.

9 Essayists of Color You Should Know About. – Take a break to read something short and engaging while diversifying your reading list.

Literary Holidays You Should Add to Your Calendar. – A fun roundup of dates to note for a more bookish 2018.

Why Write Fiction in 2017? – A look at the disengagement required this year to ignore the real world and focus on a fictional one.

Nova Ren Suma and Emily X.R. Pan Launch a Platform for YA Short Stories. – A quick look at plans to develop a montly offering of short YA fiction in all genres.

Bookstores Escape from Jaws of Irrelevance. – More proof that indie bookstores are back on the rise, and some of the ways they’ve drawn in shoppers.

These Imaginary Islands Only Existed on Maps. – Literary locations that fire the imagination, from stories to myths to hoaxes.

A Daily Writing Habit: Do You Need to Write Every Day?

The idea of a daily writing habit prompts frequent discussion in writerly circles. Do you need to write every day to become a good writer? The short answer is no, of course not. Many successful writers do not write every day, for whatever reason. Their day jobs make it impossible, they prefer to write for long blocks of time on the weekend, etc. If writing daily rubs you the wrong way, or simply is not feasible, do not panic. But if you can manage a daily writing habit, I encourage you to try, because writing daily has its advantages.

daily-writing-habit

What Can Writing Daily Do for You?

  • Creativity is like a muscle; the more you work it, the stronger it becomes. A daily writing habit helps you train your brain. When you sit down at your computer or pick up your notebook on a very regular basis, your brain understands it’s time to create. If you write every day, even just for a little while, you will see a change in how ideas flow. Everyone knows that feeling of being “rusty” from not writing for a while. The opposite is true, as well. Writing daily helps prime the pump and keeps your creative mind nimble.
  • A daily writing habit helps you fight a tendency to procrastinate. If you plan to write three days per week, it is easier to put off that day’s writing. Whereas, if you write every day, you don’t have to decide whether to fit a writing session into your schedule. There is no questioning “Is this a writing day?” because the answer is always yes.
  • Writing daily can also help lessen the pressure of deadlines. It’s no guarantee that you won’t need an all-nighter or two to finish a manuscript, but it certainly makes it less likely than if you’ve been procrastinating for weeks.

No rule of writing says that you must write every day. Even writers who do write daily will take time off here and there. Writers are human beings, and all human beings need to take breaks from their work, no matter how much they love it. Nor is writing daily a cure-all for every writing issue. Everyone faces a block now and then. But if you’re serious about writing, or trying to improve, or looking to build up new habits for the new year, give writing daily a try. Join my December Writing Challenge, or just promise yourself to write every day. You might find that writing daily works for you.