July Links

Links a little late this month. I hadn’t collected enough by last weekend!

Writing Query Letters (or, how to be touched with a bargepole)
K.J. Charles on query letters and why you’re probably overthinking them.

Aspiring authors get pretty ground down by this stuff so herewith a few tips.

Firstly, this is honestly not as complicated as people make out. It’s just a basic letter so the agent/editor can see if the book might be appropriate for their list, and also if the author falls into the category Do Not Touch This Person With a Bargepole (‘bargepoles’ for short).

Liam Livings 7 1/2 Productivity Tips for Busy Writers
Does exactly what it says in the tin!

2) Focussing

I don’t have the luxury of great swathes of time, even at the weekends I am usually busy with seeing friends or family. When I have a block of time – anything from 20mins to 2hours, I work out what I need to do in that time, and I do that thing. Nothing else, no just checking email (unless that block of time is for dealing with email) and I work on that one thing until the time is up, and then I put it aside and get on with my life.
There’s this lie we tell ourselves about multitasking, but it isn’t true. Unless you’re doing one thing passively and another thing actively – listening to music and writing an email for example, you can’t actually do two active things at the same time, because 1)you’ve got one pair of hands and 2) you have one brain.

Reader: Do you separate author from their views?
Sure Brown in an Outside the Margins post in Prism Book Alliance, asks about whether an author’s views will affect the way you see their books – or will even buy them at all.

One of the things I did see was a threat that pops up every time there’s some drama. Something along the lines of “I won’t forget who said ‘xyz’, I won’t buy or review their books again.” This makes my feathers ruffle every time, because it’s a kind of threat.

Authors, don’t step out of line, don’t post anything controversial, or we won’t buy or review your books.

Four Classic Writing Techniques That Belong in the Past
Classic books are still read and loved, but Devlin Blake on the Mythcreants blog argues that you don’t want to imitate everything about the way those writers wrote their stories.

If you went to a typical school in the western part of the world, then you grew up studying the classics: books by authors such as Bronte, Shelly, and Dickens, just to name a few. And it’s tempting for today’s unpublished writers to imitate them. After all, classics are supposed to be the best books ever; that’s why they’re taught in school.

However, these writers were masters of their craft in their own time, not ours. Today, writing like the greats is a sure-fire way to NOT get your books published or delight your readers. Let’s look at some writing conventions from the past that should not show up in a modern book.

Where Does Your Story Actually Begin?
Veronica Scott on Romance University blog about how to start your story.

I’ve been judging various contests for unpublished authors recently and while of course I won’t mention any specifics, the main problem I see is that the author begins with one, two, sometimes even three chapters of material which they feel is necessary to the book. Unfortunately, all too often these chapters are solid info dump backstory or history. If I weren’t judging a contest entry for them, I’d be closing the manuscript and moving on. I’d never even get to the actual story! I see this same comment often in my social media feed from agents and editors, regarding submissions they receive.

How To Vividly Describe a Setting That You’ve Never Visited
Whether it’s a made up place, or a real place, how do you convincingly describe a place you’ve never set foot in? Angela Ackerman on Romance University has some suggestions and a great list of useful resources.

Imagine your character is living in a neighborhood that a reader grew up in. Even if you carefully researched the setting, perhaps visited it yourself, people and places still change over time. Stores close, schools are torn down. Streets are renamed. Readers will expect the story world to match what they remember, and this isn’t always the case, causing a ripple in their reading experience.

We’re Building Urban Dystopias on Purpose
Fascinating article about how futurist sci-fi cities influence real cities, and vice versa.

Science fiction cityscapes have awed audiences since Metropolis debuted in Germany in 1927. These amplified skylines provide a visual shorthand for change, depicting a sort of physical and political accretion. The future Los Angeles of Blade Runner (and Blade Runner 2) implies the end of nationalism. The flooded New York of Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence implies climate change and loss. The upper middle class verticality of Spike Jonze’s Her implies the economic and cultural results of widespread automation. These cities aren’t just predictions, they’re caricatures of our culture that eventually inform real world decision making.

How to Build a World for Anthology Stories
Want to build a world you can set stories about a variety of characters in? The how to and the pitfalls. Takeaway message “Terry Pratchett always did it right.” By Oren Ashkenazi on the Mythcreants blog.

Once you’ve gone through all the work of creating a world, setting multiple stories there seems natural. You’re a busy writer after all; you don’t have time to create a new world from scratch every time. If these stories are not directly related, then congratulations, you’re creating an anthology. Readers can get attached to your setting without having to read your stories in a specific order, and you can have cool crossover stories where your best characters team up.

Mythcreants also has a podcast by the way, with episodes about writing sci-fi and fantasy genre and being a writer in a world where fact is sometimes stranger than fiction. Well worth checking out.

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