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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/11/08 Permalink
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    Finding Your Pace: National Novel Writing Month Executive Director Grant Faulkner on How to Make Writing a Priority 

    It’s that time of year again—no, not Thanksgiving planning prep, it’s National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo). Every November, thousands of writers at all levels of experience and publishing success challenge themselves to write an entire novel—50,000 words—from start to finish, in just 30 days.

    Far from a stunt, NaNoWriMo has encouraged many writers to complete novels that were eventually professionally published—not to mention countless others who have self-published their work. But even if the end result is only a sense of accomplishment, it’s still a viable way of instilling the habit of writing—and as most any successful writer will tell you, the one way to learn how to be a better writer is to write. Plus, NaNoWriMo provides added incentive in the form of message boards that offer a supportive and encouraging community to burgeoning authors who might otherwise lack one.

    Grant Faulkner has been executive director of NaNoWriMo since taking over from founder Chris Baty in 2012. Faulkner is also the founder of the online literary magazine 100 Word Story and the author of Fissures, a collection of his 100-word short stories; Nothing Short of 100, an anthology of the best stories from 100 Word Story; Pep Talks for Writers and co-author of Brave the Page. He recently took some time from his busy November writing schedule day to chat with us about the power of NaNoWriMo, the advantages of short fiction, and why everyone should probably try to write a novel this year.

    You’re best-known for your books on writing and your flash and micro-fiction, but you just finished a novel (The Letters). Have you ever done NaNoWriMo yourself?
    Yes! I’ve actually been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2009, before I took on my current position. I did NaNoWriMo because I asked myself if I’d decided on my creative process or if it had decided on me. I was in a creative rut, in short, and NaNoWriMo is a great way to get yourself out of a creative rut, to shake things up and push yourself into new creative directions, because it’s a creative experiment by definition. I participate every year, without fail.

    How should writers ideally approach NaNoWriMo in terms of mindset, prep, and expectations?
    One thing I would strongly suggest is that you think about the time factor—how are you going to come up with the time you’ll need to write? Think about whether you need to block off big chunks of time on the weekend or if you have nooks and crannies of time throughout your day to dedicate to your novel. I know I need about two hours a day to write 1,667 words. Again, there’s no right way to do it, but it’s important to have a plan, to think about how you’re going to open up time in your life to write and make creativity a priority for a month. The most frequent reason I hear that people say for why they can’t do NaNoWriMo is that they don’t have enough time, but I think most of us can find the time if we analyze what our priorities are and then make a plan to execute them.

    Beyond a time management strategy, there are various approaches to preparing to write your story. We have Pantsers, who just charge into the story and write by the seat of their pants, and we have Plotters, who like to map out their story first—and then we have what we call Plantsers, who combine a little bit of plotting and pantsing, or switch back and forth. What’s great about NaNoWriMo is that it’s the perfect time to experiment, to try something new—if you’re a Pantser, for example, why not try Plotting? Me, I used to be a dedicated Pantser, but as I’ve progressed in my writing career I’ve become more of a Plotter. Writers are like a basketball player in that sense—they need to learn how to dribble with both hands, shoot different kinds of shots.

    One final bit of advice is to not get lost in your prepping for NaNoWriMo. Don’t focus so much on getting ready that you forget about the story you want to write, or forget to have fun. Also, we have people who sign up for NaNoWriMo just before midnight on October 31st and pants their novel. We also have people who sign up later in November and write furiously to catch up. Honestly, there’s no ‛right’ way to do it. Any way that works for you and your schedule, your writing process, is fine.

    Is it true, the saying that everyone has one novel in them, and a very few have two or more? Should everyone write a novel?
    There’s a theory that many writers only have one great novel in them, and then they write variations of that novel for the rest of their career. Most writers have a lot of ideas for books, though—more than they can ever get to in their lifetime. I do think that everyone should write a book, though. I recently read that 81% of Americans said they wanted to write a book someday. Someday when everything is perfect. Someday tends not to happen, though, which is why NaNoWriMo exists—to make someday today with the help of a goal and a deadline. One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it helps you make your creative dreams a priority.

    One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it helps you make writing a priority. And there are so many benefits to writing a novel. We are meaning making creatures and our stories are the way we make meaning in the world. Writing is our most effective critical thinking tool. It’s a way to explore ourselves, see the world through others’ eyes, and imagine other universes. Writing stories helps us build empathy and tolerance and connect with others. There’s a saying that the world isn’t made of atoms, it’s made of stories, and there’s some truth to that. So don’t wait to write your story—write it today!

    Tell us about 100 Word Story and the Flash Fiction Collective; what does it take to found a lit journal in the modern day?
    I’ve had a passion for 100-word stories for a long time. I think I’m addicted to them, honestly. When I started writing them back in 2010, not many publishers were publishing such short fiction, but I thought there was a market for it, so my friend Lynn Mundell and I launched the journal by recruiting our writer friends to contribute stories. Stories began to flood in, though. I can’t believe how much our submissions and readership grows each year. What’s wonderful about starting a literary journal these days is how the Internet helps on all fronts. For example, back in the old days, an established literary magazine might only have a few thousand readers. Today, with social media, we have a huge readership compared to that. Technology has given a journal like ours reach that was impossible before.

    What’s really been satisfying is hearing from teachers who are using 100 Word Story in the classroom. The form is accessible to all, and it allows teachers to do focused lessons around 100-word stories in ways that other forms don’t allow because they’re longer. I’ve heard from college professors using it to teach MFA writing classes, teachers using 100-word stories to help prisoners earn their GEDs, and teachers teaching 100-word stories in grades K-12 as well. In fact, a teacher and YA author, Kim Cuthbertson is now writing a book about how to teach 100-word stories in high school. It’s incredible.

    Your book Fissures is a collection of 100-word stories. What are the challenges and advantages of extremely short fiction?
    There are so many advantages. I always compare a 100-word story to a Rubik’s Cube; you’re constantly turning things around and adjusting the little cubes (or words in the case of a 100-word story) in order to get them all to line up. A 100-word story is always a puzzle. You’re always shaving away words and then adding words and then massaging those words to get the story to exactly 100 words.

    Writing within constraints, with brevity, is challenging because most people are taught to write more in their writing instruction, not less. Aslo, I think writers like to flex their writerly muscles by writing more, by putting in those like nice lyrical flourishes into their stories. When I was getting my MFA, for instance, people in workshops would often write in the margins, ‛I want to hear more about this.’ What we forget is that that so much of a story is told through what’s left out.

    When writing 100-word stories, I often think of the Hemingway principle of storytelling where he compares a well-crafted story to an iceberg: about 90% of it is under the water and only 10% of it is showing. That’s what you want to do with your short stories—only show the tip. So a story can be told through well-crafted hints that both create suspense and allow the reader to fill in the gaps. As writers, we have to trust the reader’s imagination. It’s their story as much as it is our story. So I think writing 100-word stories is a wonderful exercise to teach you how to write less. It’s as much of an editing exercise as it is a writing exercise, because while you’re writing, you’re always editing at the same time in order to to get the precision that’s required from the form. So just as every writer should do NaNoWriMo to learn how to write with abandon, to write with an improve mindset, every writer should write 100-word stories to learn the art of compression.

    A lot of writers, especially young writers, tend to think in terms of long-form, in novels. But the more constrained you are, the more challenging it can be.
    Yeah, there’s a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain, who said, ‛I would have written it shorter if I’d only had more time.’ Writing shorter definitely takes more time because fewer words have to do more work. The challenge for the writer is to capture the essence of their story. I love the story of Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata’s novel Snow Country, which was cited when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. Years later, he re-wrote Snow Country as a short story titled Gleanings from Snow Country, which was only 13 pages. He didn’t summarize the novel, he just captured the essence. That’s the question every short story writer must ask: what is the essence of this story, and how can you tell it in as few words as possible?

    What tips would you offer to a writer attempting their first novel? Are there different tips for their first short story or piece of flash fiction?
    I think a lot of people hold themselves back from writing because they tell themselves they’re not “real” writers. That’s very unfortunate, because everybody who writes is a real writer in my book. The definition of being a writer is to write, and the way human beings make meaning in the world is through stories, and everyone has stories to tell. So the very fundamental thing is to believe in yourself, believe that you are a creator, believe you’re a writer, and write down your story.

    Another big thing to be a writer is commitment—to not wait for those moments of inspiration to strike in order to write, but to set yourself up with a plan and make writing a daily practice if possible. If you aspire to finish a novel or to publish it, it’s going to take a lot of commitment, and you’re going to go through a lot of moments that will feel dark, when you’ll doubt yourself or your story, so you just have to really believe in yourself, and develop a community that will help you believe in yourself, a network of other writers. We break down the mythology of the solitary author in NaNoWriMo by the various ways we provide community, both in person and online.

    In the end, the advice for writing a novel and writing a short story is very similar: believe in your story, follow your passions, and listen to what the story is telling you. Don’t think about what you should write but what you want to write. Just trust that in the practice of showing up every day, you will make the story better and better, and you’ll become a better and better writer.

    Aside from your own Pep Talks for Writers and Brave the Page (co-authored with Rebecca Stern), what books about writing do you routinely recommend?
    I am usually reading a book about writing, so I’ve read plenty of them. I find that just reading about writing on a regular basis helps feed the creative juices.

    =But there are three that I turn to the most. One is Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, which is almost like a poem. Stephen King’s On Writing is wonderful because it’s one part memoir, one part writing tips and then he’s just a fabulous storyteller and wise about writing. And the small press Graywolf has this wonderful series called The Art of … and they’ve probably published 15 or 20 short books written by authors on different aspects of writing, such as ‛subtext’ or ‛suspense.’ They read like long essays or meditations. I find them wonderfully inspiring, so I oftentimes turn to those. And Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, wrote a book called No Plot, No Problem that’s essentially the bible and the instructional guide to NaNoWriMo.

    There’s a long list of published novels that began life in NaNoWriMo (The Night Circus, Fangirl, Wool, Water for Elephants, Cinder, to name a few). Are there any lessons for aspiring novelists from these success stories?
    There are many lessons. Marissa Meyer has written many of her novels during NaNoWriMo. She told me that now that she has a publishing schedule, she can’t always do NaNoWriMo during November, but what I think is interesting is that she does her own private NaNoWriMo for every one of her novels. She sets aside 30 days and she writes as much as she can, and just gets the rough draft done and then goes on to revise it later. I think that’s a really good lesson—remember that you can make NaNoWriMo your own creative process beyond the events we host.

    Erin Morgenstern participated in NaNoWriMo way back in the early 2000s. And one NaNoWriMo, she took a fanciful detour in her novel, and that detour led her to The Night Circus, which she finished in a couple of the following NaNoWriMos. So be open to the detours.

    And then Gennifer Albin wrote Crewel during NaNoWriMo, after her husband joked that her obituary would read ‛the author of the most first chapters in the history of the world.’ She was an expert in writing first chapters, but she couldn’t go further, and that’s one of the premises of of NaNoWriMo, to write to the end. Don’t worry about making that first chapter perfect. You’ve got to write the whole novel first, and then you can go back and revise.

    On that note, Joyce Carol Oates has this great quote, ‛You can’t know the first sentence until you’ve written the last.’ So it’s not worth spending too much time laboring over the first sentence or the first chapter in the first draft because you’ll go back and change it anyway.

    Are you aware of National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo)? Is it a good next stop for folks who succeed at NaNoWriMo?
    We actually have an initiative ourselves called I Wrote a Novel, Now What? It takes place in January and February, and we provide a lot of the same things that we do for NaNoWriMo, but focused on editing. We actually have tools on our websites so that you can set revision goals. So, say you wanted to spend 50 hours revising in the month of January, you can set that goal and track your progress to build in accountability and motivation. We also provide a number of editing and publishing resources through webcasts, podcasts, blog posts, conversations in our online forums, and more. We are big believers that rewriting and revising are very important,. The magic of NaNoWriMo is the goal and the deadlines—we say that a goal and a deadline is a creative midwife—and that applies for editing as well. Otherwise, editing and revising can go on forever, just as researching a novel can go on forever and prevent you from actually writing the novel. It helps for people to have really tangible, daily goals in order to stay focused on progress.

    What’s next for you in your own writing?
    I’ve got a few books in motion. I have a collection of short stories, All the Comfort that Sin Can Provide, that is with a small press right now. I’m nearly finished with my novel The Letters. And I am working on a nonfiction book on rejection, 13 Stories of Rejection, which will include profiles of different notable authors and their stories of rejection—how they faced the crisis of rejection, how they got over it, how they kept believing in themselves, and how they eventually published a book.

    13 Stories of Rejection sounds like a very useful book—it’s great sometimes to point out that everybody struggles; everybody faces rejection.
    To be an author is to be rejected. And, honestly, the interesting thing is that a lot of those best-selling authors continued to get rejected even after they became successful authors. So you just have to to develop the mindset that rejection is just an ongoing part of being a writer.

    If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo—or if you’re a past winner with a story you’re ready to share with the world—B&N Press is the easiest way for you to get your writing into the hands of readers. With a simple interface and customizable options to fit any project, you can take your writing from a text document to a finished ebook or print edition with ease, even if you have no prior experience with self-publishing tools. And within days, your book can be listed for sale right here on the Barnes & Noble website. To find out more about B&N Press, click here, and happy writing!

    The post Finding Your Pace: National Novel Writing Month Executive Director Grant Faulkner on How to Make Writing a Priority appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Finding Your Pace: National Novel Writing Month Executive Director Grant Faulkner on How to Make Writing a Priority 

    It’s that time of year again—no, not Thanksgiving planning prep, it’s National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo). Every November, thousands of writers at all levels of experience and publishing success challenge themselves to write an entire novel—50,000 words—from start to finish, in just 30 days.

    Far from a stunt, NaNoWriMo has encouraged many writers to complete novels that were eventually professionally published—not to mention countless others who have self-published their work. But even if the end result is only a sense of accomplishment, it’s still a viable way of instilling the habit of writing—and as most any successful writer will tell you, the one way to learn how to be a better writer is to write. Plus, NaNoWriMo provides added incentive in the form of message boards that offer a supportive and encouraging community to burgeoning authors who might otherwise lack one.

    Grant Faulkner has been executive director of NaNoWriMo since taking over from founder Chris Baty in 2012. Faulkner is also the founder of the online literary magazine 100 Word Story and the author of Fissures, a collection of his 100-word short stories; Nothing Short of 100, an anthology of the best stories from 100 Word Story; Pep Talks for Writers and co-author of Brave the Page. He recently took some time from his busy November writing schedule day to chat with us about the power of NaNoWriMo, the advantages of short fiction, and why everyone should probably try to write a novel this year.

    You’re best-known for your books on writing and your flash and micro-fiction, but you just finished a novel (The Letters). Have you ever done NaNoWriMo yourself?
    Yes! I’ve actually been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2009, before I took on my current position. I did NaNoWriMo because I asked myself if I’d decided on my creative process or if it had decided on me. I was in a creative rut, in short, and NaNoWriMo is a great way to get yourself out of a creative rut, to shake things up and push yourself into new creative directions, because it’s a creative experiment by definition. I participate every year, without fail.

    How should writers ideally approach NaNoWriMo in terms of mindset, prep, and expectations?
    One thing I would strongly suggest is that you think about the time factor—how are you going to come up with the time you’ll need to write? Think about whether you need to block off big chunks of time on the weekend or if you have nooks and crannies of time throughout your day to dedicate to your novel. I know I need about two hours a day to write 1,667 words. Again, there’s no right way to do it, but it’s important to have a plan, to think about how you’re going to open up time in your life to write and make creativity a priority for a month. The most frequent reason I hear that people say for why they can’t do NaNoWriMo is that they don’t have enough time, but I think most of us can find the time if we analyze what our priorities are and then make a plan to execute them.

    Beyond a time management strategy, there are various approaches to preparing to write your story. We have Pantsers, who just charge into the story and write by the seat of their pants, and we have Plotters, who like to map out their story first—and then we have what we call Plantsers, who combine a little bit of plotting and pantsing, or switch back and forth. What’s great about NaNoWriMo is that it’s the perfect time to experiment, to try something new—if you’re a Pantser, for example, why not try Plotting? Me, I used to be a dedicated Pantser, but as I’ve progressed in my writing career I’ve become more of a Plotter. Writers are like a basketball player in that sense—they need to learn how to dribble with both hands, shoot different kinds of shots.

    One final bit of advice is to not get lost in your prepping for NaNoWriMo. Don’t focus so much on getting ready that you forget about the story you want to write, or forget to have fun. Also, we have people who sign up for NaNoWriMo just before midnight on October 31st and pants their novel. We also have people who sign up later in November and write furiously to catch up. Honestly, there’s no ‛right’ way to do it. Any way that works for you and your schedule, your writing process, is fine.

    Is it true, the saying that everyone has one novel in them, and a very few have two or more? Should everyone write a novel?
    There’s a theory that many writers only have one great novel in them, and then they write variations of that novel for the rest of their career. Most writers have a lot of ideas for books, though—more than they can ever get to in their lifetime. I do think that everyone should write a book, though. I recently read that 81% of Americans said they wanted to write a book someday. Someday when everything is perfect. Someday tends not to happen, though, which is why NaNoWriMo exists—to make someday today with the help of a goal and a deadline. One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it helps you make your creative dreams a priority.

    One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it helps you make writing a priority. And there are so many benefits to writing a novel. We are meaning making creatures and our stories are the way we make meaning in the world. Writing is our most effective critical thinking tool. It’s a way to explore ourselves, see the world through others’ eyes, and imagine other universes. Writing stories helps us build empathy and tolerance and connect with others. There’s a saying that the world isn’t made of atoms, it’s made of stories, and there’s some truth to that. So don’t wait to write your story—write it today!

    Tell us about 100 Word Story and the Flash Fiction Collective; what does it take to found a lit journal in the modern day?
    I’ve had a passion for 100-word stories for a long time. I think I’m addicted to them, honestly. When I started writing them back in 2010, not many publishers were publishing such short fiction, but I thought there was a market for it, so my friend Lynn Mundell and I launched the journal by recruiting our writer friends to contribute stories. Stories began to flood in, though. I can’t believe how much our submissions and readership grows each year. What’s wonderful about starting a literary journal these days is how the Internet helps on all fronts. For example, back in the old days, an established literary magazine might only have a few thousand readers. Today, with social media, we have a huge readership compared to that. Technology has given a journal like ours reach that was impossible before.

    What’s really been satisfying is hearing from teachers who are using 100 Word Story in the classroom. The form is accessible to all, and it allows teachers to do focused lessons around 100-word stories in ways that other forms don’t allow because they’re longer. I’ve heard from college professors using it to teach MFA writing classes, teachers using 100-word stories to help prisoners earn their GEDs, and teachers teaching 100-word stories in grades K-12 as well. In fact, a teacher and YA author, Kim Cuthbertson is now writing a book about how to teach 100-word stories in high school. It’s incredible.

    Your book Fissures is a collection of 100-word stories. What are the challenges and advantages of extremely short fiction?
    There are so many advantages. I always compare a 100-word story to a Rubik’s Cube; you’re constantly turning things around and adjusting the little cubes (or words in the case of a 100-word story) in order to get them all to line up. A 100-word story is always a puzzle. You’re always shaving away words and then adding words and then massaging those words to get the story to exactly 100 words.

    Writing within constraints, with brevity, is challenging because most people are taught to write more in their writing instruction, not less. Aslo, I think writers like to flex their writerly muscles by writing more, by putting in those like nice lyrical flourishes into their stories. When I was getting my MFA, for instance, people in workshops would often write in the margins, ‛I want to hear more about this.’ What we forget is that that so much of a story is told through what’s left out.

    When writing 100-word stories, I often think of the Hemingway principle of storytelling where he compares a well-crafted story to an iceberg: about 90% of it is under the water and only 10% of it is showing. That’s what you want to do with your short stories—only show the tip. So a story can be told through well-crafted hints that both create suspense and allow the reader to fill in the gaps. As writers, we have to trust the reader’s imagination. It’s their story as much as it is our story. So I think writing 100-word stories is a wonderful exercise to teach you how to write less. It’s as much of an editing exercise as it is a writing exercise, because while you’re writing, you’re always editing at the same time in order to to get the precision that’s required from the form. So just as every writer should do NaNoWriMo to learn how to write with abandon, to write with an improve mindset, every writer should write 100-word stories to learn the art of compression.

    A lot of writers, especially young writers, tend to think in terms of long-form, in novels. But the more constrained you are, the more challenging it can be.
    Yeah, there’s a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain, who said, ‛I would have written it shorter if I’d only had more time.’ Writing shorter definitely takes more time because fewer words have to do more work. The challenge for the writer is to capture the essence of their story. I love the story of Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata’s novel Snow Country, which was cited when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. Years later, he re-wrote Snow Country as a short story titled Gleanings from Snow Country, which was only 13 pages. He didn’t summarize the novel, he just captured the essence. That’s the question every short story writer must ask: what is the essence of this story, and how can you tell it in as few words as possible?

    What tips would you offer to a writer attempting their first novel? Are there different tips for their first short story or piece of flash fiction?
    I think a lot of people hold themselves back from writing because they tell themselves they’re not “real” writers. That’s very unfortunate, because everybody who writes is a real writer in my book. The definition of being a writer is to write, and the way human beings make meaning in the world is through stories, and everyone has stories to tell. So the very fundamental thing is to believe in yourself, believe that you are a creator, believe you’re a writer, and write down your story.

    Another big thing to be a writer is commitment—to not wait for those moments of inspiration to strike in order to write, but to set yourself up with a plan and make writing a daily practice if possible. If you aspire to finish a novel or to publish it, it’s going to take a lot of commitment, and you’re going to go through a lot of moments that will feel dark, when you’ll doubt yourself or your story, so you just have to really believe in yourself, and develop a community that will help you believe in yourself, a network of other writers. We break down the mythology of the solitary author in NaNoWriMo by the various ways we provide community, both in person and online.

    In the end, the advice for writing a novel and writing a short story is very similar: believe in your story, follow your passions, and listen to what the story is telling you. Don’t think about what you should write but what you want to write. Just trust that in the practice of showing up every day, you will make the story better and better, and you’ll become a better and better writer.

    Aside from your own Pep Talks for Writers and Brave the Page (co-authored with Rebecca Stern), what books about writing do you routinely recommend?
    I am usually reading a book about writing, so I’ve read plenty of them. I find that just reading about writing on a regular basis helps feed the creative juices.

    =But there are three that I turn to the most. One is Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, which is almost like a poem. Stephen King’s On Writing is wonderful because it’s one part memoir, one part writing tips and then he’s just a fabulous storyteller and wise about writing. And the small press Graywolf has this wonderful series called The Art of … and they’ve probably published 15 or 20 short books written by authors on different aspects of writing, such as ‛subtext’ or ‛suspense.’ They read like long essays or meditations. I find them wonderfully inspiring, so I oftentimes turn to those. And Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, wrote a book called No Plot, No Problem that’s essentially the bible and the instructional guide to NaNoWriMo.

    There’s a long list of published novels that began life in NaNoWriMo (The Night Circus, Fangirl, Wool, Water for Elephants, Cinder, to name a few). Are there any lessons for aspiring novelists from these success stories?
    There are many lessons. Marissa Meyer has written many of her novels during NaNoWriMo. She told me that now that she has a publishing schedule, she can’t always do NaNoWriMo during November, but what I think is interesting is that she does her own private NaNoWriMo for every one of her novels. She sets aside 30 days and she writes as much as she can, and just gets the rough draft done and then goes on to revise it later. I think that’s a really good lesson—remember that you can make NaNoWriMo your own creative process beyond the events we host.

    Erin Morgenstern participated in NaNoWriMo way back in the early 2000s. And one NaNoWriMo, she took a fanciful detour in her novel, and that detour led her to The Night Circus, which she finished in a couple of the following NaNoWriMos. So be open to the detours.

    And then Gennifer Albin wrote Crewel during NaNoWriMo, after her husband joked that her obituary would read ‛the author of the most first chapters in the history of the world.’ She was an expert in writing first chapters, but she couldn’t go further, and that’s one of the premises of of NaNoWriMo, to write to the end. Don’t worry about making that first chapter perfect. You’ve got to write the whole novel first, and then you can go back and revise.

    On that note, Joyce Carol Oates has this great quote, ‛You can’t know the first sentence until you’ve written the last.’ So it’s not worth spending too much time laboring over the first sentence or the first chapter in the first draft because you’ll go back and change it anyway.

    Are you aware of National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo)? Is it a good next stop for folks who succeed at NaNoWriMo?
    We actually have an initiative ourselves called I Wrote a Novel, Now What? It takes place in January and February, and we provide a lot of the same things that we do for NaNoWriMo, but focused on editing. We actually have tools on our websites so that you can set revision goals. So, say you wanted to spend 50 hours revising in the month of January, you can set that goal and track your progress to build in accountability and motivation. We also provide a number of editing and publishing resources through webcasts, podcasts, blog posts, conversations in our online forums, and more. We are big believers that rewriting and revising are very important,. The magic of NaNoWriMo is the goal and the deadlines—we say that a goal and a deadline is a creative midwife—and that applies for editing as well. Otherwise, editing and revising can go on forever, just as researching a novel can go on forever and prevent you from actually writing the novel. It helps for people to have really tangible, daily goals in order to stay focused on progress.

    What’s next for you in your own writing?
    I’ve got a few books in motion. I have a collection of short stories, All the Comfort that Sin Can Provide, that is with a small press right now. I’m nearly finished with my novel The Letters. And I am working on a nonfiction book on rejection, 13 Stories of Rejection, which will include profiles of different notable authors and their stories of rejection—how they faced the crisis of rejection, how they got over it, how they kept believing in themselves, and how they eventually published a book.

    13 Stories of Rejection sounds like a very useful book—it’s great sometimes to point out that everybody struggles; everybody faces rejection.
    To be an author is to be rejected. And, honestly, the interesting thing is that a lot of those best-selling authors continued to get rejected even after they became successful authors. So you just have to to develop the mindset that rejection is just an ongoing part of being a writer.

    If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo—or if you’re a past winner with a story you’re ready to share with the world—B&N Press is the easiest way for you to get your writing into the hands of readers. With a simple interface and customizable options to fit any project, you can take your writing from a text document to a finished ebook or print edition with ease, even if you have no prior experience with self-publishing tools. And within days, your book can be listed for sale right here on the Barnes & Noble website. To find out more about B&N Press, click here, and happy writing!

    The post Finding Your Pace: National Novel Writing Month Executive Director Grant Faulkner on How to Make Writing a Priority appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2019/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ,   

    The Best Thrillers of November 2019 

    As we crash headlong into the holiday season, it’s time to start proactively planning a little You Time. The end of the year can be stressful and crowded, so making sure you take a few hours to read some good books is essential, and this month’s best thrillers offer the ideal counter-programming. With new books from James Patterson, David Baldacci, Mary Higgins Clark, and many more, you’ll have plenty of books to get you through.

    Criss Cross, by James Patterson
    James Patterson’s 27th Alex Cross thriller sets the bar high, as Cross and partner John Sampson bear witness to the execution of a killer they helped put behind bars. But then they’re called to a crime scene that’s a clearly the work of as copy-cat killer—except there’s a note telling Alex Cross that he ‛messed up big time.’ A spree of killings seeded with subtle references to Cross’ career and family ensues, the work of someone who knows everything there is to know about him As Cross desperately tries to piece the clues together, he realizes that the perpetrator has a horrifying goal in his sights—one that might cost Cross his own life.

    A Minute to Midnight, by David Baldacci
    David Baldacci’s second Atlee Pine novel follows the FBI agent back to her rural Georgia hometown, where she’s retreated from a professional setback to finally investigate the decades-old disappearance of her twin sister, Mercy. But just as she begins to dig into the deeply-buried past, a woman is found dead—murdered ritualistically and dressed in a wedding veil. A second victim follows, and Atlee finds her search for her own truth complicated by the urgent need to stop a serial killer before they strike again. But as she spreads herself thin seeking answers to two mysteries, she finds that digging up the past is dangerous, and possibly deadly.

    The Andromeda Evolution, by Daniel H. Wilson
    Robopocalypse author Daniel H. Wilson capably mimics the Crichton’s style and brings plenty of personal tech cred to this sequel, published fifty years after the classic The Andromeda Strain. Ever since that alien virus threatened humanity, Project Eternal Vigilance has monitored the world for any hint of a similar incident. When an anomaly is found in the Amazon, a team is quickly dispatched, including paraplegic astronaut Sophie Kline and roboticist James Stone, who has an intimate connection to the original encounter. They’re charged with containing the infection, but what they discover is terrifying: the Andromeda Strain has mutated and evolved, and is now something entirely different—and much deadlier.

    The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell
    Twenty-five years ago, a ghastly scene greeted police at a tony London address: Three dead adults, four missing children, and one crying baby. A quarter-century later, Libby Jones has spent her life wondering about her birth parents and the truth of her life. When she finally discovers the truth of her birth parents, she learns that she’s inherited the house, worth millions. As she contemplates how her life is about to change, she has no idea that she’s not the only person who’s been waiting for this day—and that she’s about to meet the other interested parties. This exclusive Barnes and Noble edition includes a discussion guide and an essay by the author.

    Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry, by Mary Higgins Clark
    Journalist Gina Kane receives an email from a woman named Ryan who wants to talk about the ‛terrible experience’ she had working at television news network REL, she smells a story. But her source goes dark, and she learns that Ryan has died in a freak jet ski accident. At REL, corporate counsel Michael Carter has received numerous complaints from women working at the network, alleging sexual harassment and worse. He begins a campaign to buy the women off, trading settlements for their silence. As more bodies turn up, Kane and Carter engage in a chess game as one tries to cover up the story and one tries to expose it—and someone else is willing to kill to stop it cold.

    Tom Clancy: Code of Honor, by Marc Cameron
    Marc Cameron returns to the world and characters created by Tom Clancy in a story where Jack Ryan resumes center stage as President of the United States. When a brilliant computer scientist creates a game-changing artificial intelligence, he’s murdered by agents of the Chinese government who want the technology for themselves. The killing is witnessed by an old friend of Ryan’s, Father Pat West, who manages to get in touch with the president with what he knows. Ryan is concerned, but when West is abducted, Ryan’s rage knows no limits—and he sets out to demonstrate to his enemies that the most powerful man in the world is the wrong person to make into a personal enemy.

    The Siberian Dilemma, by Martin Cruz Smith
    The ninth Arkady Renko book finds the investigator, who works for the Moscow Prosecutor’s office, worried about his girlfriend Tatiana Petrovna. The journalist left for an assignment in Siberia and failed to return. When Renko is ordered there himself—to supervise the prosecution of a terrorist named Aba Makhmud and ensure a long prison sentence, with a threat against his stepson if he fails—he sees an opportunity to look for Tatiana as well. When he arrives in Siberia he stumbles into a murder investigation, the victim a wealthy oligarch and a friend of the reclusive billionaire Tatiana was interviewing. Getting Tatiana—and himself—out alive while following his boss’s orders will take every ounce of Renko’s brains, but as always he’s up for the challenge.

    What thrillers are giving you chills this month?

    The post The Best Thrillers of November 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 2:00 pm on 2019/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , current affair, , rachel maddow, , then and now,   

    This Season’s Best History & Current Events Books 

    As 2019 winds down, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the past—both the events of a momentous year and the more distant history that brought us to where we are today.  The best history and current events books of this season come to us from journalists like Rachel Maddow, Gail Collins, and Ronan Farrow, and historians like Amity Shlaes and S. C. Gwynne, all of them exploring the events that have and will define our lives.

    Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, by Rachel Maddow
    Firebrand journalist Rachel Maddow’s latest argues that the primary corrupting influence disrupting our world today—responsible for eroding democratic norms and making things worse for just about everybody—is the oil and natural gas industry. On one hand, she makes a case that the obscene amounts of money generated by these parts of the energy sector make it easy for corporate interests to pervert good governance for their own short-term interests. On the other, she takes a deep dive into the affairs of modern-day Russia, arguing that Vladimir Putin seized control of his country’s oil and gas industry and made it (and its profits) a tool of his domestic and international policies, while simultaneously running it into the ground. It’s an incendiary take on global politics that might change the way you look at the world.

    Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law, by James B. Stewart
    James B. Stewart analyzes the ongoing collateral damage ensuing from the back-and-forth between the Trump administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, beginning with the simultaneous investigations of both the Trump and Clinton campaigns that dangerously politicized the work of the country’s main investigative body—a situation that only grew more fraught after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. The result of these power struggles will redefine what the term “rule of law” means in a country where the concept is foundational; Stewart makes the case that whatever the result of these conflicts, the chief loser will be American democracy.

    Great Society: A New History, by Amity Shlaes
    Amity Shlaes makes the forceful argument that decisions made fifty years ago under the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations seeking to ameliorate the suffering of the poor have now made it nearly impossible to solve the very problems they were designed to address. The book takes a contrarian view of the Johnson and Nixon administrations, arguing that they were more similar in process than is usually accepted, and that together they doomed both the ambitious agenda of the Great Society and the administration of the Vietnam War. She suggests the spending commitments of the Great Society have not only trapped multiple generations into what she terms “government dependence,” but also now made it impossible for the government to reverse course in any meaningful way to address the issue. It’s a sobering work that reminds us that, in government, there are no easy fixes.

    Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War, by S. C. Gwynne
    The Civil War remains a fascinating area of study, not least because of the contrary nature of the narrative—for long stretches, the worth of each costly skirmish was inconclusive at best, as both sides spent blood and treasure in battles that had little impact on the overall course of the conflict. That all changed in 1864 when Ulysses S. Grant was placed in charge of the federal forces; within a year, the Confederacy surrendered. Gwynne takes a detailed look at this final year of the war to discover what changed, highlighting Grant’s relative ineffectiveness as a field commander, a Robert E. Lee defined more by frustration than brilliance, and a Sherman who was simultaneously a poor general and a brilliant man. There’s still more to discover about this defining American conflict.

    Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, by Ronan Farrow
    Ronan Farrow delivers a book fated to inspire future generations of journalists. While working on a related story, Farrow and his producer stumble on clues that indicate a well-known, powerful Hollywood figure is a serial sexual predator. The ensuing investigation reads like a spy thriller, as Farrow—who doesn’t lack connections and resources—faces a growing army of operatives working to derail the story and intimidate him by any means necessary. Even as Farrow is followed, surveilled, and threatened, the story remains as much about the women who sparked a global movement as it is about careful journalism.

    No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older Women in American History, by Gail Collins
    The perception of age is shifting in today’s society, especially for women, who have historically struggled against prevalent ageism. Gail Collins’s latest offers a clear look back at the contributions made by women over a certain age throughout history, from Martha Washington to Muriel Fox—fascinating tales of overcoming prejudice and other obstacles while simultaneously fighting against the idea that women have a “sell-by” date that renders them voiceless, sexless, and invisible. With deep-dive analysis broken up by briefer vignettes, Collins reveals surprising facts uncovered in her research (for example, doctors once thought sexual activity would literally kill women over the age of 50) while establishing that woman have always been more than capable of handling themselves at any age.

    Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers: The Texas Victory That Changed American History, by Brian Kilmeade
    The conflict that made Sam Houston, David Crockett, and Jim Bowie household names was a pivotal moment for both Texas and the United States. But General Houston, the hero of Texas independence and its president, is often overlooked in popular history, despite his influence on this momentous event. Kilmeade seeks to remedy that with a fast-paced account of Houston’s life and career, culminating in the Battle of San Jacinto, the Texan victory that secured its independence from Mexico and ultimately set it on the path to statehood. Kilmeade brings Houston to life as a bold, flawed hero living in the midst of incredible events and surrounded by personalities large enough to match his own.

    The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, by Eric Foner
    Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Foner takes a deep dive into the lasting repercussions of the Civil War, most notably the so-call Reconstruction Amendments—the 13th, 14th, and 15th—and their enduring impact on our constitution and system of government. Foner notes that these amendments marked the first time equality was specifically extended to all Americans, and challenged tradition by charging the federal government with enforcement of the rule of law they established, rather than the states. Foner sees this change as ushering in a second iteration of the United States—one that floundered almost immediately, but which he sees as still viable; certainly the book is shot-through with optimism, and the belief that America still has a chance to become a country in which all citizens are truly equal.

    Three Days at the Brink: FDR’s Daring Gamble to Win World War II, by Bret Baier with Catherine Whitney
    Co-writers Bret Baier and Catharine Whitney combines a perceptive portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a thriller-esque depiction of the fateful meeting between FDR, Stalin, and Churchill in Tehran in 1943. It was at this meeting that Stalin argued for an invasion of Nazi-held Europe to ease the pressure on the Red Army, a plan that eventually culminated in the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944. Baier details how Roosevelt worked to befriend and “seduce” Stalin, then took lead on the strategy and decision-making when it came time to plan the massive undertaking. Baier isn’t uncritical of the 32nd president, suggesting several decisions in which even the charismatic and brilliant Roosevelt turned out to have been in the wrong. Writing with verve, Baier and Whitney make consequential history come alive.

    What history and current affairs books are you reading this season?

    The post This Season’s Best History & Current Events Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 1:00 pm on 2019/10/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , master of horror, , pet semetary, , , spooky season, ,   

    Stephen King’s Scariest Stories, Ranked 

    Stephen King has evolved into one of literature’s most complex cases: once more or less the only horror writer everyone in the country had read, he’s evolved into a subtle master of letters who moves nimbly between literary, fantasy, mystery, horror, and books that combine all of the above. But to this day, he’s still a master of scaring readers—and even his non-horror books pack in plenty of chilling moments. Below, we rank the ten most frightening King books ever.

    10. Gerald’s Game
    This underrated gem from the 1990s plays a weird trick: initially, the sordid sex game that initiates the plot, wherein a woman named Jessie, caught in a troubled marriage, is stranded in a remote cabin, handcuffed to the bed, after her husband has a fatal heart attack in the middle of a kinky experiment, promises titillation. Soon, the story swerves into what seems like a one of survival and emotional reckoning—and then dives into darker territory involving a seriously frightening encounter with a starving dog and a disturbing entity Jessie calls the Space Cowboy. As Jessie’s mental state deteriorates, King makes her desperation and sense of mounting doom visceral, and her powerlessness makes it almost excruciating.

    Most blood-curdling moment: While the moment Jessie degloves herself (which means just what you think it does) to escape the handcuffs is total body horror, we’d have to vote for the much quieter moment when the dog first enters the house and sees Jessie’s husband’s corpse as a potential feast.

    9The Dark Half
    The Dark Half regularly shows up in lists of King’s most underrated works. The premise—a famous writer finds an evil character of his own creation comes to life and launch a murder spree—doesn’t seem all that terrifying at first blush, but it’s what King does with it that makes this book scary. Exploring themes of sanity, creativity, and the creeping suspicion that we all have a dark half that might enjoy a little bloodletting, The Dark Half is both a creepy-as-heck horror story and an insightful commentary on how little control we have over our subconsciousness. King cleverly makes the evil dude, George Stark, so over-the-top so as to be comical, obscuring the fact that real horror is coming from inside the main character all along.

    Most blood-curdling moment: When author Thad engages in an “automatic writing” experiment and his hand goes rogue and stabs him. The idea of your body being under someone else’s control is terrifying.

    8. 1922 (from Full Dark, No Stars)
    1922 is a truly horrifying story of greed, emotional collapse, and the various ways a person can be punished for their crimes. Willfred, a farmer, manipulates his own son into helping murder his wife in order to gain her land and preserve the value of his own—and begins having seriously disturbing premonitions and run-ins with vicious rats almost immediately afterward. Every step Willfred takes on his way to rock-bottom feels inevitable, and that inevitability is part of the scariness. There’s something uniquely terrifying about being trapped in a fate you chose for yourself, and also something very satisfying in watching Willfred pay and pay and pay for his crimes—with his family, with his own body, then with the land he killed for, and finally with his life.

    Most blood-curdling moment: Since 1922 is all about the slow boil of fear, naturally it’s the ending, when Willfred gets what’s coming to him. Haunted and ruined, he thinks has a plan for when the rats come, but nothing is as it seems.

    7. Salem’s Lot
    King’s love for old-school horror has never been a secret, and in Salem’s Lot he indulges in a classic authorial “what if” experiment, wondering what would happen if Dracula showed up in a small town in 20th-century America. This is one of King’s most straightforward stories, and it’s scary precisely because King doesn’t try to spice up the vampire myth with new twists. Instead, he mines terror by exploring how the vampiric “infection” would race like fire along familial and friend connections, taking advantage of our closest relationships to turn us into literal monsters.

    Most blood-curdling moment: Two words: Infant vampire.

    6. Misery
    Misery proves King can absolutely terrify you without involving any sort of supernatural element. The key to horror in many ways is control—we all labor under the illusion that we’re in charge of our own lives. Shatter that illusion,and horror follows. Obsessive fan Annie Wilkes is terrifying because she’s so unshakably certain of her righteousness when she takes Paul Sheldon, the author of her favorite novels, prisoner after chancing on him in the wake of a terrible car accident—but also because of how completely she establishes complete control over Paul. Completely at her mercy, Paul soon discovers that the only way to survive is to play along with her insanity.

    Most blood-curdling moment: When Paul breaks the rules, Annie decides he has to be punished, so she does something to his body to make sure he can never run away again. Literally.

    5. The Stand
    The Stand is the very definition of literary sprawl, and by the end of the story it’s become a postapocalyptic epic about two groups attempting to rebuild society, one on the side of good and one in thrall to Randall Flagg, a supernatural evil presence. It’s easy to forget that the first part of the mammoth novel, in which the superbug called Captains Trips decimates the world in the most disgusting way possible, is absolutely horrifying. Anyone who can read the first part of The Stand without freaking out every time they hear someone cough in a crowded room has ice water in their veins.

    Most blood-curdling moment: Larry Underwood’s trek through a pitch-black Lincoln Tunnel filled with rotting corpses and… other things is terrifying.

    4. IT
    Clowns.

    Oh, do we need to say more? Clowns are so inherently terrifying it’s difficult to understand how they became linked with children and harmless fun, and King makes serious hay by having his eternal, malignant force of evil in the town of Derry take on the form of Pennywise the Clown in order to lure children into its power. The true horror of the novel is how It turns the innocence and joy of childhood against us, weaponizing the imaginations and goodness of kids. The way It sneaks up on the kids, luring them into situations where they’re isolated and then turning their fears and insecurities against them, just curdles the blood.

    Most blood-curdling moment: When the Losers are going through the history of Derry and find Pennywise in all the photos… and then the photos start to move.

    3. Most of Skeleton Crew
    If there’s a more terrifying collection of short stories in existence, we haven’t read it. Skeleton Crew is Stephen King at 11 on a scale of least to most terrifying. The standout stories are “The Jaunt,” which takes a deceptively simple sci-fi premise and turns it into a white-haired horror that makes sleep almost impossible, and “Survivor Type,” which imagines a premise that’s terrifying in and of itself (being stranded on a deserted island without food) and cranks up the horror bit by bit—horror that’s twice as effective because you can easily imagine yourself in the same situation, and making the same awful mistakes.

    Most blood-curdling moment: “It’s longer than you think, Dad! Longer than you think!

    2. The Shining
    The Shining has been so thoroughly out-shined by Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation the novel’s reputation sometimes suffers as a result—people seem to forget that the original story had a different focus, but one just as scary. King plays with themes of alcoholism, insanity, and the possibility that we all have evil inside us, as well as the idea that all that stands between us and that evil are the restraints placed against us by society. Jack’s descent into madness is frightening because you can see yourself in his enraged, unhappy resentment, and because King does such a good job of making the Overlook Hotel both an evil and an inescapable presence.

    Most blood-curdling moment: The scene where Danny is attacked by the topiary animals shouldn’t work, but it does. It’s a white-knuckle sequence that establishes the Overlook’s malevolence beyond any doubt.

    1. Pet Sematary
    Pretty much everyone names Pet Sematary as King’s scariest (including the author himself). Part of it is the primal nature of the scares, centered on loved ones coming back from death wrong. Part of it is the emotional side—the relatable desire of the characters to bring someone back, no matter the cost. And part of it is King’s choices of victims: a beloved cat and a darling little boy, both of whom come back in the same bodies, but with vastly different spirits. Everyone knows loss, and everyone knows what they’d do to reverse the worst of those losses. And everyone knows the price would be terrible. King plugs into all of that expertly, engineering a truly horrifying novel.

    Most blood-curdling moment: “A cold hand fell on Louis’ shoulder. Rachel’s voice was grating, full of dirt. ‛Darling,’ it said.” It’s the “darling” that gets you.

    What’s on your personal list of King’s scariest books?

    The post Stephen King’s Scariest Stories, Ranked appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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