Just a fly-by post to let you all know that I’ve updated my Wish List here on the blog. For anyone who hasn’t visited before, this is a short list of projects I’d love to see more of in my submissions box. It’s not an all-inclusive rundown of what I represent, but a look more specifically at some of the types of stories or characters I’m itching to read these days. It changes with my mood and also the market, so be sure to give it a peek if you’re thinking of querying me or are interested in what has me excited right now.
Happy Friday! And yes, Friday Links are back this week. I actually spent a portion of last Friday feeling like I’d forgotten to do something, so you can see how ingrained these are in my routine.
I hope everyone who celebrated had a lovely July 4th last week, and that everyone else had a good week, too. We’ve got some heat and a bit of weird humidity going here in the Los Angeles area, so I was happy to spend my vacation in the air conditioning, just doing some reading and hanging out with friends. A very summery stay-cation.
This week, of course, has been business as usual, but I do have a fun assortment of links to share, so I’ll get to those now. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend filled with bookish pursuits. Enjoy!
Jo Walton Talks Science Fiction, Research, and Collaborating with Readers – A lovely recording of a recent interview for Between the Covers.
16 Places to Pitch Short Stories – If you’re writing any short pieces, here are some ideas of where you might send them.
12 Fundamentals of Writing the Other (And the Self) – Some great things to keep in mind when creating diverse characters.
The Daily Routines of 26 of History’s Most Creative Minds – A really interesting set of infographics that illustrate how much time different creative types have allocated to sleep, work, leisure, etc.
How Writers Write Fiction: A Free Online Course from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program – A six-week online course starting in September.
Edited to add:
Guest Post: From a Marginalized Young Adult’s Perspective – A 19-year-old aspiring writer speaks out about the limited perspectives in YA fiction today.
Many writers are heavily influenced by their surroundings. Even if they don’t set a book in their own city or town, they’re likely to incorporate things they see or overhear, bits and pieces that can be transposed and repurposed according to their needs. When the town itself becomes the setting, such influences can be even more pronounced.
Some writers think they need to live somewhere exciting to mine their surroundings, but that simply isn’t the case. Even authors who are intimately acquainted with the largest, busiest cities on the planet turn to the less frequented corners of their space for fresh inspiration. Small towns can fascinate readers who live and work in high rises; farms and fields interest residents of concrete jungles. Every place has its own rhythms and pace, secrets to share or to hide away.
Author Geoff Nicholson is a Brit living in Hollywood, but his writing focuses less on the glamour and more on the city itself — the streets, the citizens, the interesting architecture. In the video below, he walks his neighborhood and observes, and those discoveries may or may not make their way into his work.
Try wandering your own town or neighborhood, or else drive somewhere nearby that’s less familiar and give it the same treatment. Don’t get too caught up in writing anything down while you wander. Maybe take a camera, or just use the one on your phone to take a few quick shots for visual cues you can refer to later on. But really look around. See with a writer’s eye. You never know what might come in handy.
As an agent, I look at a lot of different things when I’m reading submissions — strong writing, engaging story, excellent build up of suspense, and compelling characters. These are all important, but that last one in particular can really throw me out of a read if you haven’t managed to create a realistic, believable protagonist, or if your villain comes across as flat. It would be impossible for me to compile a comprehensive list of all the ways I see characterizations go astray, but I will focus on some of the most frequent issues to give you a place to start.
One of the most common problems I see with characters — especially the protagonist — is that they ultimately come across as far too perfect. Because they are often driving the story, they succeed too easily in order to allow the author to move the plot forward. Whatever obstacles pop up, the protagonist miraculously has all the skills required to solve them and keep going. The result is someone who is just a little too smart, a little too action-oriented, and just plain boring. A perfect character is an unbelievable character, and very difficult to identify with because, as much as we’d all love to ignore our own faults, we know that we have them and that everyone else has them, too. Make sure your character needs to struggle; if they’re intellectual give them physical obstacles to overcome; if they’re a loner, force them to work in a team situation. Take your character’s major characteristics and mix them up, making sure that they are better at some things and not good at others. Not only will you have a more believable and interesting character, but you’ll allow room for growth along their character arc. Just be sure they don’t end up perfect at the end, merely ahead of where they started.
Another issue writers have with characters is developing a believable range of emotions for them. Too often, each character seems to represent a certain level of emotion — a happy or sarcastic character who provides quips and comic relief, the grumpy character who dwells on the worse-case scenarios and points out all the problems, the smart character with the dry wit and the quick answer. Even if characters have their roles and their strengths, they should not fall into these sorts of ruts, and their emotional arcs need to be more complex. Particularly with the protagonist, it’s vital to communicate the character’s emotions in a way that the reader can understand them, because often they drive their decisions and actions. Your reader might not always agree with how the character feels and what they do, but if you can put them inside the character’s emotional state, you can allow them to understand those choices and continue along for the ride. In some cases that will mean not showing the emotion itself, but instead focusing on how the character struggles with their feelings. Not everyone is willing to allow their emotions to show in their expressions. In fact, many people work very hard to keep those things to themselves. But something always leaks out and gives them away. Think about how that applies to your characters in your given situations.
The folks at the Writing Excuses podcast have a series of episodes focusing on character development, and I highly recommend you check out Three-Pronged Character Development and Showing Emotion in particular for additional thoughts and a few writing exercises to help address these issues. Happy writing!
Happy Friday! I am officially on vacation starting close of business today through the 6th, and I am anticipating lots of books and beach time and movies, and other things that do not require hours in front of my computer staring at submissions. I might be a little excited. In addition, next Friday is the July 4th holiday here in the U.S., so there will be no Friday Links next week. Because of this, I may, possibly, have thrown a few fun extras in today. Because I love you guys, and I’m nice like that.
However, this will not be a dead zone next week in my absence. I’m pre-loading a few posts to keep you busy, so be sure to stop by and see what’s up. You may just find that inspiration you’re looking for to jump start a new project or kick that misbehaving character into line. If not, you’ll at least find some tips to store away for when they might come in handy.
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. Enjoy!
Pablo Neruda Poems ‘of Extraordinary Quality’ Discovered – More than 20 new poems uncovered in the late poet’s papers.
The Literary Films of Summer 2014 – If your film tastes run toward the bookish, here are a few movies to check out.
10 Things Writers Don’t Know about the Woods – Tips on getting it right.
Joanna Rakoff: A Pivotal Year – An interview with the author where she explains the background of her new book, My Salinger Year.
31 Essential Science Fiction Terms and Where They Came From – Fun look at the history of the genre.
Shonda Rhimes’s Real Talk for Dartmouth Grads: Dreams Are for Losers – The screenwriter/show runner’s recent commencement speech, in which she gives some stellar advice about getting out there and pursuing the things you want out of life.
Happy Friday! This week I’ve got an assortment of links ranging from some bad business news to some venues to send your submissions. That’s the beauty of the publishing industry — never a dull moment. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week and are setting some time aside this weekend to work on your current writing project and maybe to curl up with a good book. I know the latter is certainly on my agenda.
So without further ado, I give you this week’s links. Enjoy!
News About Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A – Angry Robot announced this morning that they’ll be closing down their young adult and crime/mystery imprints.
Women Remember: A Roundtable Interview – Author Mary Robinette Kowal sits down with several well established women in the science fiction genre and discusses what has changed since they first got into the game… and what hasn’t.
9 Literary Magazines for New and Unpublished Writers – These publications welcome material from writers just starting out.
Neil Gaiman Wants to Be Bored – A great interview with the writer for Studio 360. Be sure to scroll down for the longer, uncut version.
‘Every Hour a Glass of Wine’ — the female writers who drank – Author Olivia Laing recently wrote a book following the drinking habits of several well known male authors, and here she turns her attention toward famous women writers with a similar inclination.
Happy Friday, everyone! So what have you got planned for your weekend? I’m very much in reading mode lately, which you might have noticed from the thrust of the blog the last few weeks. Maybe it’s summer, maybe it’s just a run of good books that have reminded me how much I love reading and the places it can take you without you ever leaving the house. Regardless, there is definitely some reading time on my schedule, along with the rest of the typical weekend stuff.
If you haven’t already dropped by yesterday’s post, please do. I’d love to hear the books that set you off on a reading spree. People’s reading choices always fascinate me, plus this way you can share the books that have inspired you with anyone looking for their next great read.
However, today is Friday, which means Friday Links. I’ve got a fun collection this week, including, unsurprisingly, a whole bunch with reading recommendations. Enjoy!
14 Brilliant Pieces of Literature You Can Read in the Time it Takes to Eat Lunch – Great list, including links to where you can read the recommended pieces for free.
9 Classic Novellas by Women You Can Read in a Day – Nice assortment, with something for everyone.
16 Spelling Mistakes You Need to Stop Making — Now – Geared toward business writers, but these words show up everywhere and are commonly misused. (I see this all the time.) Handy reference.
Here Are the 15 Best Books of 2014 (So Far) – A pretty untraditional list from Time reviewer Lev Grossman.
Opportunities for Writers: July and August – The latest in a series of lists with various contests and calls for material.
Two Damn Books: How I Got Here and Where I Want to Go – Author Roxane Gay talks about how she went from nearly giving up on traditional publishing to having two books released by a major publisher (to critical acclaim) virtually simultaneously.
We’ve been taking about diversity in publishing quite a bit, both on the writing end and the reading end of things. This TED talk focuses on what it means to have a voice, and what it means to be heard, as well as the importance of being a good listener. While Andrew Losowsky is talking about the broad scope of publishing, his ideas carry out to all areas of life. His argument really illustrates the importance of developing a publishing industry that includes and respects all types of experiences and points of view. Definitely worth the time to watch. Not only is it an interesting talk, but it might help any of you currently asking yourself how you can include diverse characters in your work-in-progress without trampling on someone else’s culture or story. Enjoy!
Happy Friday! Who has plans to write this weekend? Or maybe hit the beach with a good book? Whatever you have on the agenda, I’m wishing you a wonderful time.
As for me, I’ve a huge stack of reading looking at me — client manuscripts, submissions, and some books with covers that are taunting me with their presence. No question as to what’s on my schedule for the next few days. But first, I bring you this week’s links. Some reading recs, some writing inspiration, and just some general bookish fun. Enjoy!
Dani Shapiro on Vulnerability, the Creative Impulse, the Writing Life, and How to Live with Presence – A mouthful of a title, but worth checking out.
Nailing Your Novel’s First Chapter – Some great advice, whether you’re just starting a new project or going back to revise.
Bookstores of New York – Charming sketches with fun anecdotes to accompany them.
14 Brilliant Pieces of Literature You Can Read in the Time it Takes to Eat Lunch – What it says on the wrapper. Great assortment.
The Muscle-Flexing, Mind-Blowing Book Girls Will Inherit the Earth – Wonderfully upbeat look at one segment of the reading population.