Discuss: Your Sounding Boards

http://www.nprberlin.de/
http://www.nprberlin.de/

Yesterday, in our weekly advice post, we discussed the value of talking with someone about your writing. Talking about your writing projects and forcing yourself to say things about your project aloud can have an enormous benefit to your work. On the surface level, it can simply boost your self-esteem to discuss what you’re working on and get validation from someone listening to you. But on a deeper level, discussing your writing may lead you to learn where your plot holes are and figure out solutions to your writing-related problems.

If you’ve already had experience with talking about your writing projects, then you probably have a person or a group of people you typically consult. Maybe you have a trusted family member who has seen your writing grow from when you were young. Or maybe you have a friend who doesn’t do any writing herself, but is a big reader and can always pick out what your story needs. You may even have a writer’s group with whom you regularly meet to discuss projects.

Personally, I have several different sounding boards to discuss my writing with. I often talk to my brother about my various plot ideas, especially when National Novel Writing Month rolls around. I also have some friends who participate in NaNoWriMo with me, so they understand that special brand of insanity. It’s the most fun and the most helpful to discuss matters of writing techniques with them. And my NaNoWriMo group as a whole is a great sounding board for all things plot-related.

So, now it’s your turn. Who do you talk to about your writing? Who in your life can find the cracks in your plot, answer your queries, and support you as you continue to write? Feel free to share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Not Getting Bogged Down

http://on-writing-a-book.com
http://on-writing-a-book.com

Yesterday I wrote about writing while you still have a day job, and how we should all be enjoying the writing process. Unfortunately, you may sometimes have trouble enjoying the writing process or your current project. There will certainly be days when you sit down at your computer or notebook and the words simply won’t come, or you keep feeling like you would rather be doing something else. There will also probably be days when you feel bogged down by the project you’re working on.

Back at the beginning of the summer, I was working on a novel-length project that is still in the editing stage. I had written the first draft as part of National Novel Writing Month in November of 2013, and was working on editing and re-writing. For some reason, when the seasons changed and it was summertime, I felt completely annoyed by my project. I no longer liked the story, I felt I wasn’t using my time very well, and I felt like I was simply going through the motions each evening rather than enjoying the process of working on this story.

In this situation, my solution was to switch writing projects and work on something that had lower stakes. The novel-length project was something I’d put a lot of pressure on myself to finish, and that took some of the fun out of it. I still have a finished first draft waiting for me, and the beginnings of re-writes, but right now I need to work on something else. For now, I’m enjoying working on something that’s a little more “frivolous.”

So, what do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed or uninspired by a project? When you find that you’re no longer enjoying the writing project you’re working on, what do you do? Do you stick with it, trusting that you’ll enjoy it again soon, or do you switch over to something new? Do you have any secret techniques for reawakening that enjoyment? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Your Go-To Reading

http://www.morguefile.com/
http://www.morguefile.com/

Yesterday, the Writing Advice post here focused on the concept of critical reading. Of course, you  can use critical reading with just about any reading material. But we all have favorites that we return to again and again. These are works of fiction or non-fiction that hold a special place in our hearts, and which inspire us to keep creating our own work. These are the books that you return to when you’re feeling uninspired, or feel like you have writer’s block. They’re different for everyone, but I’m sure that we could all name several books — or at least a certain type of book — that can help us with our own writing.

Personally, I tend to write mostly in the fantasy or urban fantasy genre. When I’m looking for inspiration, I like to turn to books that use fantasy settings and creatures in new and interesting ways. Most recently, Mur Lafferty’s book The Shambling Guide to New York City was a great source of inspiration for me. In fact, its plot and urban fantasy setting are very similar to something I tried to write for National Novel Writing Month a few years back. The way that Lafferty is able to easily insert fantastical creatures into a place like New York City is so awesome, and reading her book inspired me to get going on my own urban fantasy ideas.

In addition to books that inspire us, I’m sure we all have a few writing blogs that we enjoy reading when we’re not writing. As you may have gathered, based on just how often I quote him here on the blog, I love Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog. I think he covers important topics for writers and does so in a fun and engaging way. I also love his Flash Fiction Friday posts, which always have great lists of writing prompts or challenges.

So, now it’s your turn. What kinds of books and blogs inspire you the most? When you’re experiencing writer’s block, or are simply feeling uninspired, where do you turn? Share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Writing Non-Fiction

http://lunasuryastudios.wordpress.com
http://lunasuryastudios.wordpress.com

On this blog, we talk mostly about fiction writing. But I know many fiction authors who can stray over to the non-fiction side of the pond from time to time. Recently I’ve been thinking about writing a few short non-fiction pieces to submit to some of my favorite blogs. So I thought I would focus on non-fiction for this week’s discussion post.

Just as with fiction, there are many different directions you could take non-fiction in. Creative non-fiction can include stories about your own life in the style of someone like David Sedaris. I took an entire class on creative non-fiction in college and I really liked the pieces that I created there.

If you’d rather not write about yourself, you could take non-fiction in more of a research direction. Find an issue that you’re passionate about, research it thoroughly, and then write an opinion piece or a piece that examines your findings in a theoretical way.

You could also write a straight opinion piece about something that’s going on in the world today. What makes you happy? What makes you sad? What kind of opinion do you want to express? Where do you think your opinion would fit into the existing discussion?

Once you have your piece written, you should search for the perfect publication where you can submit your work–either online or in print. You should find a publication that fits the tone of the piece that you wrote, as well as the content. Sure, your content may be news-based, but you should find a news-related publication that takes the same tone that you took. Oftentimes, websites will have a submissions page that explains what their tone is and what types of pieces they typically accept. That’s where you should look to determine which publication suits your work best.

All that’s left to do, of course, is to submit and hope for the best. Make sure that you submit your work in the way that the publication has specified, taking care to follow any email-related directions such as subject line.

Have you ever been inspired to try your hand at non-fiction? What is a publication you’d like to submit to? Share your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discussion: Graphic Novels

Image courtesy of Mike Egan
Image courtesy of Mike Egan

Have you read any graphic novels this summer? How about this year? Have you ever read a graphic novel? I think that people tend to think that graphic novels are only for certain people. People might think that graphic novels are only for “nerds,” whatever that means. But I disagree!

I am here today to encourage you to check out a graphic novel. Just try one! I used to read a lot of graphic novels when I was younger, and then I stopped reading them for some reason. Recently, however, I’ve discovered a lot of interesting graphic novels and have been reading a lot of great stories as a result.

BoingBoing had a Summer Reading List of Graphic Novels just a little while ago, and I think they had some great recommendations. Their list includes Saga, which I definitely agree with. I’ve only read the first volume of Saga so far (there are 3 out right now), but it’s a story of cross-species romance and intergalactic conflict. It. Is. Amazing. Also on their list is Hyperbole and a Half, the graphic novel memoir of Allie Brosh, who runs a blog of the same name. I read it earlier this year and enjoyed it immensely! It had a good mix of comedy and tragedy, coupled with Allie Brosh’s signature art style.

To this list, I would like to add some recommendations of my own. My first recommendation is Sex Criminals. Sure, it sounds a bit scandalous–and maybe it is–but it’s a superb idea and has an awesome art style. Basically, two people find that they both have a unique ability–they stop time when they climax, but they remain aware and able to move around. What will they do in that quiet space? You’ll have to read it to find out!

Another great series that I’ve been reading is Manhattan Projects, which is an alternate universe re-imagining of what happened with the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project. There are aliens, robots, and a whole lot of crazy corruption. If you’re ready for a story that’s really out there, I’d recommend this one.

Finally, I want to put in a good word for two oldies-but-goodies. Firstly, Fables, which has been going on for quite some time. It’s all about fairytale characters in modern day Manhattan. Secondly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, there are Buffy graphic novels. They start with a “season 8” run of stories, which continues the seven-season television show. They are so much fun to read if you’re a Buffy fan.

I hope that these recommendations have inspired you to check out some graphic novels this summer, or any time this year!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

Photo credit: Robert Dawson Exterior, Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana, 2011.
Photo credit: Robert Dawson
Willard Library, Evansville, Indiana, 2011

Libraries

Last week we discussed your dream home library, but that can be a difficult thing to attain. You need money and space, and most of us don’t have either of those things on hand. But public libraries are always there for you. Libraries are amazing resources in your community and I think you should utilize them at every chance you get, especially in the summer! To me, the summers were always a time to get involved with libraries’ summer reading programs and stock up on books for weeks of exciting reading. Libraries can be meeting places, sources of adventure, ways to educate yourself, and so much more.

In honor of libraries, I want to link to this Flavorwire article that profiles many interesting libraries across America. There are some really amazing libraries on this list. There is the adorable Willard Library in Evansville, Indiana; there is the Queens Library bookmobile in New York that was in operation following Hurricane Sandy; and there is even a combination Super Bingo, Family Dollar, and Mockingbird Branch Library in Abilene, Texas. If anything, this list shows us how America is keeping the library alive in more and more creative ways.

But what about your library? What was your library like when you were growing up? What is the library that you now hold allegiance to? What role does the library play in your life?

I’ve always had small libraries in my life. Growing up, the public library was not too far from my house and sometimes we would bike there when the weather was nice. It didn’t matter that it was small because I was small, too, and I honestly had so much fun reading through the stacks at that library. After grade school, we moved and I had another small, cozy library to check out. Although it didn’t always have the books I wanted, the library was part of an expansive network and I could have plenty of books transferred in for me to read.

Let us know in the comments what libraries mean to you, and which library you love.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://www.architectureartdesigns.com
http://www.architectureartdesigns.com

Your Dream Home Library

Continuing the trend of fun bookish things we’ve been discussing this summer, let’s take a look at awesome home libraries! It seems like readers these days are rabid about their love of reading. If you take great pride in reading and call yourself a book lover, then you probably want to show off your books! For now, I’m sure those Ikea shelves are serving you well. But you may be dreaming of the majestic home library that you’ll construct once you’re older.

At least, I know that I dream of that ideal home library. There are hidden doors that lead to libraries, there are uniquely configured shelves, there are home libraries that look just like bookstores, and there is the ever-tempting option of using sliding ladders like the Beast’s library. You might think that home libraries have one style — it’s a room full of bookshelves — but there are so many things you can do! This post at the architecture art design website shows you just how much you can customize your home library.

There are home libraries that look like something out of Downton Abbey, with gilded edges on the bookshelves and old-fashioned furniture. There are more rustic looking home libraries, that have wooden shelves and wood panelling along the walls. I like home libraries that incorporate some kind of reading nook into the library, like the picture here.

What are your dreams and plans for your eventual, awesome home library? Share your plans in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://superhypeblog.com
http://superhypeblog.com

That One Awesome Bookstore

If you’re reading this blog, I’m willing to bet that you have a favorite bookstore. That bookstore may be a cozy, independent place in your town or a Barnes & Noble that always has what you need on its shelves. Either way, that bookstore means something to you. It’s a special place where you go to discover new worlds, pick up the latest installment in your favorite book series, or just browse to spend some time around books.

I got to thinking about this topic when I saw a post on the New Yorker blog, in which cartoonist Bob Eckstein drew some famous New York bookstores. I loved looking through these and it made me think about the important bookstores in my own life.

Although it is a chain bookstore, I have called Half Price Books my home-away-from-home. The corner they have filled with bargain books is akin to nirvana for me. A Saturday spent at Half Price Books is a Saturday spent well.

Turning to the more indie side of things, though, I love Anderson’s Bookshop. I went there for the release of the seventh Harry Potter book and I got to see Rachel Maddow speak at an event that they held. Aside from being a really amazing bookstore, Anderson’s brings the authors and the events to the people, which can be so much fun.

I could happily spend hours in just about any bookstore, but these ones hold a special place in my heart. If I had any drawing talent, I would sketch little pictures of them to keep on my walls. As it is, I can only describe them for you in words.

Now it’s your turn! Share in the comments what your favorite bookstore is. Which bookstore holds a special place in your heart, and why?

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://theworkingwardrobe.com
http://theworkingwardrobe.com

Book Soundtracks

Many of us enjoy pairing music with what we are reading or writing. Sure, there are some folks who enjoy reading in complete silence to only focus on the story in front of them. But I think a lot of us prefer to put in our earbuds and add a soundtrack of our own to the story we’re reading. I know of some people who, when beginning a new writing project, take great pains to create a soundtrack especially tailored to their story. They’ll cherry-pick their favorite songs from their favorite artists, which they think are best tailored to their story, and construct a soundtrack.

The topic of soundtracks came to my attention recently when I saw a Galley Cat blog post about book soundtracks. When I saw the post, I initially thought that it would be about what I’ve already mentioned — creating a soundtrack for your writing project. Instead, the post is about a software tool that allows you to add sound effects, ambient noise, and music to e-books that you’re reading. This is an interesting thought, but I think the homemade, DIY versions of book soundtracks are more interesting.

There are times when I’m writing a certain type of scene, and I find a song that gives exactly the right emotional resonance to what I’m writing. Sometimes I just set that song on “repeat” while I’m writing a scene so that I can keep myself in the right mindset. Other times, I’ll create a playlist of songs that I can cycle through as I’m writing. These songs might correspond to certain characters, or might simply match the tone of the piece and the world that I’m writing within.

How about you? Do you ever create soundtracks for your writing projects? Is it something you might be interested in? Share your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Awesome Literary Things

http://www.nprberlin.de/
http://www.nprberlin.de/

Writing Retreats

Even if you are not being paid for your writing, even if you don’t have a publishing deal with your name on it, even if you are just like me — someone typing away in her bedroom — I think that you would probably love a writing retreat. Typically, if you enjoy to write, you would like to be able to do it for many hours each day. There are many daily interruptions, however, that are simply a part of life. Many of us have to go to work, or take care of children, or just have other work that is not writing. So to have a retreat or fellowship that would allow us to write would be quite an amazing thing.

Well, folks. We have a definitive list of the best writing fellowships and retreats in the US. The tumblr blog of Open Road Media — a digital publisher and multimedia content company — has compiled this list. Fellowships are typically grants that allow you to study and work on your writing in a professional capacity. Retreats, on the other hand, offer you a place to stay and draw inspiration from while you work on a project. Either one, I think, would be a great boon to anyone’s career, and a great opportunity to get some real writing done.

There are some great opportunities listed here, and the best part is that this list is nowhere near exhaustive. If you do a Google search for either writing retreats or writing fellowships you come up with an almost endless supply of sites to check out.

What would your ideal writing retreat look like? Personally, I love the United States, but I think it would be amazing to have a writing retreat somewhere in the English countryside. I’ve always wanted to visit anyway, so why not do some writing while I’m there? I can just imagine a retreat in some great English manor, pretending to be either Jane Eyre or someone on Downtown Abbey, and working on a novel.

Where would you most like to have a writing retreat? Would you want other writers to be around, so you could all bounce ideas off each other? Describe your ideal writing retreat in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan