This Week in Links: 10/24/2010 – 10/30/2010

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

I subscribe to quite a few interesting RSS feeds in the book/writing niches. Perhaps you do as well, but in any case, I’d like to share my starred links from this week:

Monday, October 25, 2010:

Friday, October 29, 2010:

There weren’t too many links this week, but I hope you’ll enjoy and maybe even get some use out of the ones that are here.

Happy Writing!

From Gonzaga University

Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University.

Yes, I’ve mustered the courage to walk to Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. The library, pictured above, is gorgeous. I was hoping to take some of my own pictures, but the weather isn’t very cooperative today. Thus, you get a stock photo. Apologies.

Why am I here? Well, I’m here with the boyfriend who is a student here. He’s in class all day. And me? I’m writing in the library. It’s quiet and peaceful and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get something done today. I have a short story to write before next Tuesday and am still struggling with my outline for my NaNoWriMo idea.

I visited the law school for a bit. Sometimes I wonder if things would be different had I decided to attend when I got accepted. The law school library is gorgeous as well. It’s a bit intimidating, though, with all of those case books and things…

Anyway, a writing post will come son, I promise. It’s been a busy couple of days, but since it’s rainy and I haven’t much else to do today, I thought I’d post a little something. Now, back to writing (hopefully!).

Happy Writing!

Theme: A Checklist

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons & karindalziel.

Last spring when I was taking my workshop in novel writing, one of our required books was “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass. As you’d expect, there’s a chapter about theme. Theme building takes work, but it can be done step-by-step. Become passionate about your theme.

At the end of the chapter (at the end of every chapter, actually), Maass has a checklist. Because the theme in your writing is such an important part of the writing process, I wanted to post it here. Not everyone has read the book (I do recommend picking it up), and the checklist is an important one.

BREAKOUT Checklist:

  • Novels are moral.
  • Conflicting ideals or values create tension.
  • Become impassioned about your story.
  • Express convictions through characters.
  • Use the reverse motive exercise to deepen your characters’ convictions.
  • Develop symbols from what is at hand.
  • Strengthen your own passion with the oppression exercise.
  • Map the moral development (or decline) of your protagonist.
  • Universal themes usually are familiar, but in the breakout novel, they are portrayed in depth.
  • If you must go out on a moral limb, anchor your readers in a sympathetic character.
  • Don’t push theme; let it flow.
  • Put your characters to the test.

[Was this post helpful? Would you like to see more of these checklists in the future? How do you raise the stakes in your own writing? Let’s discuss it in the comments!]

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt: What You’re Afraid Of

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons & John Althouse Cohen.

Writers block, defined as “a usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work,” is a plague that we’ve all dealt with at one point or another in our writing careers. Ideas are hard to come by sometimes. Ideas are like fireflies; they flit in and out of mental vision, but they are hard to catch.

Keeping this in mind, a writing prompt will be offered here every Sunday (in different formats, of course). The length of what you write is your decision entirely. It is my hope that these prompts will spark creativity and kickstart the writing process.

This week’s prompt: List 20 things you’re afraid of. Pick one and write about it in any form you’d like.

[How did this prompt help you? Please feel free to let me know in the comments below, or send an email!]

Happy Writing!

This Week in Links: 10/17/2010 – 10/24/2010

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

I subscribe to quite a few interesting RSS feeds in the book/writing niches. Perhaps you do as well, but in any case, I’d like to share my starred links from this week:

Monday, October 18, 2010:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010:

Thursday, October 21, 2010:

Friday, October 22, 2010:

Quotes Corner: Salman Rushdie

Photo courtesy of CooperativeResearch.org.

With such plagues as writers block and lack of motivation constantly lurking around every corner, quotes from other writers (who have most likely dealt with these same problems) can be a saving grace of sorts for the rest of us. Hence the reasoning behind the creation of “Quotes Corner.”Certain weeks may be themed (by author), while others may be random.

Writers need inspiration, and need it often. It is my hope that you’ll find some here.

  • “A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return.”
  • “Be sure that you go to the author to get at his meaning, not to find yours.”
  • “Books choose their authors; the act of creation is not entirely a rational and conscious one.”
  • “Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.”
  • “A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.”
  • “In this world without quiet corners, there can be no easy escapes from history, from hullabaloo, from terrible, unquiet fuss.”
  • “It is very, very easy not to be offended by a book. You just have to shut it.”
  • What distinguishes a great artist from a weak one is first their sensibility and tenderness; second, their imagination, and third, their industry.”
  • “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
  • “What one writer can make in the solitude of one room is something no power can easily destroy.”
  • “The liveliness of literature lies in its exceptionality, in being the individual, idiosyncratic vision of one human being, in which, to our delight and great surprise, we may find our own vision reflected.”

[Were these quotes helpful? Is there anyone you’d like to see here? What inspires you the most? Let me know in the comments.]

Happy Writing!


Work-in-Progress Wednesday: 10/20/2010

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons & blimpy.

Welcome back for another installment of “WiP Wednesday” here at A Novel Pursuit! Today’s post will be a bit random, as I’ve has a busy couple of weeks (and I missed posting this last week). So, without further ado, here we go!

  • Short Story Workshop #1: My first short story workshop went well. The story I used (Midnight Marquee) apparently runs in the fantasy realm. I’ve never written fantasy before, so I found this interesting. I will admit, though, that I didn’t walk away from this workshop as excited as I have the others. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t care about this story as much, or because I’m not interested in revising it (which I have to do as part of my final portfolio for the class). For now, I’m leaving sit for a while. I’ll tackle it again in November sometime.
  • Writing Contests, Etc: As I mentioned in an entry yesterday, I entered a 10,000-word excerpt from my novel “Forward Together” in the William Richey Fiction Contest sponsored by Yemassee Journal at the University of South Carolina. If you’re interested in learning more about it, read the linked entry for details and a link to the website. NaNoWriMo is coming up quickly. This is my first year of participation and I’m really looking forward to it. I wrote a post about this last week, and you can read about my plans for it here.
  • Current Novel Progress: Sadly, I’ve done nothing but a little bit of editing. I’ve been so busy with things for my current classes that I’ve barely had time to sleep, let alone work on my novel. I’m still mulling over chapter seven and whether I want to trash it or not. I know it needs major work, but I’m still struggling with how I can make it stronger. I need to read through all of what I have so far, as I noticed a few days ago that there are a few items that don’t add up. They’re little things, thankfully, but I’d like to get them fixed as soon as possible.
  • Short Story Workshop #2: This is coming up quickly as well. I have two weeks to come up with a new story (or revise an older piece from class). I’ve got a few ideas, and since I’ll be spending a few days in a hotel room in Spokane next week, I’m hoping to get something down on paper then. I’d like to have it started before then, actually, so we’ll see how things go.
  • Author Panel: Tonight I have an author panel to attend at Mt. Mary. It’s required by my advisor/short story workshop professor as part of class. These panels always tend to be pretty interesting, so I’m looking forward to this one.

That pretty much encompasses my last two weeks. My prioritization skills have gotten a bit better, and I even managed to get my entire journalism midterm written in one day (and a week early). Next Tuesday, I’m going to Washington for a week, but no worries—I’ll have my laptop and will still be posting blog entries!

Happy writing!

William Richey Short Fiction Contest

Where: The English Department at the University of South Carolina/Yemassee Journal.

Call: A short story or novel excerpt not to exceed 10,000 words; previously unpublished.

Entry Fee: $10

Submission Deadline: November 15, 2010 (can be done via the Internet or standard mail)

Prizes:$1000 cash prize for the winner; two $100 prizes for runners-up, 10 additional finalists will be listed on the Yemassee website.

More information: William Richey Fiction Contest

What did I enter? Because none of my short stories are anywhere near any kind of publishable quality, I decided to send 10,000 words of my novel. I did a bit of “house cleaning” on it before sending it (I noticed a few blips while reading through some chapters a few days ago). I’m not holding my breath for anything here, but one never knows. We’ll see how things go!

The Fear of Writing Book Reviews & How I Am Overcoming It

Photo courtesty of the EMU English Department website.

I never learned how to write a book review in undergrad at UWM. I still wonder why that is, as I’ve always thought learning to review the books we read in and out of class was an important piece of knowledge. Perhaps it’s just something that isn’t high on the list of things to teach in the English Department of most universities. In any case, I never learned how to write a review and I really wanted to.

I read a lot. I mean, a lot. Many of the people who know this always ask for book recommendations. While I can offer a brief “this-is-how-I-feel” type of explanation about a certain book, I’ve always wanted to be able to point them to a decent review that includes a breakdown and analysis. That kind of review is much more helpful, I think.

Why the Fear?

It’s quite simple: I have no idea what is supposed to go into a book review. I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for guidelines of some sort, so I suppose that has something to do with it. What do I look for when I read a book? What does go into a book review? Info on plot? Characters? The ending? I don’t know if there is some invisible formula to follow when reading a book. I’ve asked others who write reviews. The most common answer? “Write down what you liked and didn’t like.” Helpful, but only a little. When I read the reviews that others write, they seem nothing like what I would come with, which leads me to think I’m already doing something wrong. The truth is, there really isn’t a set formula for how to write a book review. There just isn’t. You sit down and you write it.

I searched for one anyway. I came up with mixed results, some helpful, some not.

I found a fairly decent explanation of how to review a book. It’s from the library at Los Angeles Valley College and you can read it here.

So…What Now?

I’ll be reading through this explanation over the next week or so and will be tailoring to my own needs, etc. I’m not sure which book I’ll review first, but as soon as a review is written, I’ll post it here (as well as on the new Book Reviews page, which can be found up at the top). I’ll cross-post them at GoodReads and BookMesh, too. I’m planning to implement a star-rating system like most other book reviewers do, so I’ll be working on that as well. Once I tailor things to my own needs, I’ll either write a post on how I plan to write my reviews or I’ll make a page about the review process (I haven’t decided which I’ll choose just yet).

And so here we go. Into the world of writing a constructive book review. It’ll be an interesting trek. I hope you’ll hang around for the ride.

[How do you write your own book reviews? Do you use some sort of formula? I’m always interested in how others go about the process. Leave me a comment or two.]

Writing Prompt: Family Secrets

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons & John Althouse Cohen.

Writers block, defined as “a usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work,” is a plague that we’ve all dealt with at one point or another in our writing careers. Ideas are hard to come by sometimes. Ideas are like fireflies; they flit in and out of mental vision, but they are hard to catch.

Keeping this in mind, a writing prompt will be offered here every Sunday (in different formats, of course). The length of what you write is your decision entirely. It is my hope that these prompts will spark creativity and kickstart the writing process.

This week’s prompt: A woman returns to her abandoned childhood home and finds evidence inside that reveals the keys to an unsolved family mystery.

[How did this prompt help you? Please feel free to let me know in the comments below, or send an email!]