What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Comments

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Tag

In the past 30 days

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing Blog: Nathan Bransford, Most Recent at Top
Results 1 - 25 of 1,474
Visit This Blog | Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Blog Banner
Nathan Bransford is the author of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space, break the universe, and have to find their way back home, which will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry. He lives in San Francisco.
Statistics for Nathan Bransford

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 167
1. My blog should now be safe for Outlook


One of the unintended consequences of my switch to MailChimp was that I crashed the poor unsuspecting Outlook users out there.

Sorry! I mean you no harm!

This should now be fixed. If it is not, please let me know and I shall work on another fix ASAP.

And if you don't use Outlook and are wondering why you are reading this post, here is a fantastic cat GIF for you:



Art: Schipbreuk by Henri Adolphe Schaep

0 Comments on My blog should now be safe for Outlook as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
2. What is the future of bookstores?


There was some good news in bookstoreland this week as beloved San Francisco science fiction and fantasy bookstore Borderlands announced that they would be able to stay open at least another year thanks to a successful (and unique) crowdfunding and sponsorship campaign. They had previously planned to close in part due to rising minimum wages in San Francisco.

Is this a harbinger of things to come for bookstores?

I've previously predicted that local, independent bookstores would hang on longer than chains, much as indie record stores have persisted even as Virgin, Borders and Tower megastores bit the dust in the music world.

But it seems like even just relying on book sales may not be enough as e-books continue their inexorable march.

What do you think? Can bookstores hang on, and is crowdfunding the answer? Or will bookstores be saved by another force? Or will they eventually be consigned to the past?

Art: Pariser Büchermarkt by Fritz Westendorp

0 Comments on What is the future of bookstores? as of 2/25/2015 1:41:00 PM
Add a Comment
3. Are "brows" disappearing?



I make no secret of my love for the TV spectacle otherwise known as "The Bachelor." We have had some incredible journeys together. And yes, I'm in it for the right reasons.

What I love about "The Bachelor" is that it manages to transcend its utterly insane premise (man/woman searches for love by dating 25 people simultaneously, publicly breaks up with each one at a "rose ceremony") with a mix of sincerity, self-awareness and psychological spectacle.

"The Bachelor" is widely regarded as the ultimate of lowbrow culture, and yet there's this strange fact: it's the most widely watched show among 18-49 year olds who make more than $150,000 a year.

As Fifty Shades of Grey dominates the box office and critics largely dispense with trashing it in favor of a spirit of, "Whatever, it does what it's supposed to do well," I'm wondering if we're entering a time when there's no such thing as highbrow or middlebrow or lowbrow.

Is this the era of the unibrow?

I'm not the first to wonder this, a few months back the Bookends column at the New York Times debated just this topic (as well as revealing the etymology of "highbrow," which got its start in the eugenic-leaning "science" of phrenology. Yikes!)

Thomas Mallon argues that culture has benefited from the collision of art at all levels, noting for instance, "does anyone believe that the American short story has improved by making its initial appearance in literary quarterlies never seen by any brows but the highest?"

Pankaj Mishra argues that the profit motive has leveled out the brows, forcing auteurs to be crowd-pleasers, and obliterating individuality.

Personally, I think the explosion of voices in the world brought to us by the infinite choice of the Internet means that anyone hoping to be heard must also, by necessity, entertain. Even those aspiring to be highbrow and express complexity of thought and emotion must also bow to the reality that they need to capture eyeballs.

Think of John Oliver, wrapping serious advocacy journalism in comedy, or the recent trend of literary genre fiction like Station Eleven.

What do you make of this? Are we worse off because it's hard to imagine a Proust, or even a David Foster Wallace, gaining cultural ground in 2015? Or is a muddling of brows a sign that culture is democratizing?

Art: Retrato del Cardenal Inquisidor Don Fernando Niño de Guevara by El Greco

0 Comments on Are "brows" disappearing? as of 2/24/2015 1:41:00 PM
Add a Comment
4. New email subscriptions! And more!


After many many lost years not really tending to my blog's e-mail subscriptions, I have finally made the jump to Mailkimp... er... MailChimp, so those of you who subscribe via email should be receiving an email that looks rather better and hopefully does not end up in your spam filters.

If you don't yet subscribe via e-mail and are interested in getting this here blog right in your inbox whenever I post, kindly sign up here.

I also fixed the Facebook sharing, so if you so desire to share any of these posts with your Facebook Friends, you should now be able to choose the art in the past as the thumbnail so it looks prettier.

Lastly, I gave the Forums a long-overdue spam cleanup, so it should once again be safe for your discussions and query critiques.

Basically, I was an Internet Carpenter this weekend.

I'd love to hear your feedback! Anything else you'd like to see that will help you read the blog? (Besides, you know, me actually writing posts).

Art: Russian Empire Postman by Anonymous

0 Comments on New email subscriptions! And more! as of 2/23/2015 1:39:00 PM
Add a Comment
5. 4 tips for handling multiple perspectives in a third person narrative


One of the biggest challenges with third person narratives is how to balance multiple perspectives.

This isn't always something beginning writers give much thought. Third person is third person, right? Can't you just jump from one character to another as you need to? Aren't all-seeing perspectives essentially the same?

Nope.

Head jumping can be really confusing for a reader. It can be wildly disorienting to see three, four, five characters' inner thoughts in succession. You stop feeling anchored in a scene and instead feel like you're swimming through a thought explosion.

There are two main ways to solve this: sticking to third person limited (anchored to one character's perspective) or third person omniscient (Gods-eye). But most novels deviate slightly from these strict categories and cheat from time to time.

Rather than telling you "rules" about omniscient vs. limited vs. hybrid, here are some directional tips that will hopefully help you keep the reader feeling anchored in a scene:

1) Consider separating a shift in perspective with chapter or scene breaks

This is the most straightforward approach to multiple perspectives in a third person limited narrative. Pick a character and stick with their perspective through a cohesive chapter or scene. This is how George R.R. Martin handles the Song of Fire and Ice books (aka Game of Thrones). The novels are anchored by several key characters per novel, and we see what is happening through their eyes.

2) If you're going to break perspective within a scene, think of it as keeping a "camera" in place

Occasionally you might want to remove the narrating character and show something that is happening out of their view, whether in order to show the reader something the main character can't see or because it just makes sense for them to bounce for a second.

If you're going to do this, I compare this to keeping a "camera" in place in the scene. Remove the main character, but keep the narrative going with the other characters who remain. Don't suddenly shift deeply into someone else's thoughts and feelings, but it's okay to linger a bit and show something the anchoring character shouldn't be able to see.

When/if the character returns, you can slide back into showing their thoughts.

3) If you're using a more omniscient third person perspective, imagine the narrator as a fully-fledged character

Third person omniscient allows more head-jumping and more flexibility in showing various thoughts and motivations. But it's tricky to keep things consistent and avoid disorientation.

Rather than thinking of the narrative jumping from one character to the next, imagine that there is an unseen narrator who is observing the action.

This does two crucial things. One, it smooths things out for the reader, because rather than taking into account multiple perspectives and biases, you're seeing things essentially from one point of view. The other is that it stops you from diving so deeply into one character that it's jarring to shift to another character's thoughts.

This omniscient narrator doesn't have to actually be a real, named character, but it's helpful to think of them this way so you tell the narrative through a consistent perspective.

4) The more the perspective is limited, the deeper the inner thoughts. The more omniscient the perspective, the shallower the thoughts

This isn't a hard and fast rule, but generally, if you have tied the perspective very closely to one character you can go as deep as you want into what they're thinking. It won't be jarring for the reader to see inner monologues, straightforward thoughts, etc.

If you have a more omniscient perspective that includes multiple characters, you may want to stick more to observing outside, physical actions and general, apparent emotions rather than diving too deeply into what multiple characters are thinking. This way we're seeing what's happening on the outside rather than having to wonder how it is that we're jumping around to what everyone is thinking.


Have you tried balancing multiple perspectives in a novel? How did you handle it?

Art: Hercules Killing the Hydra by Cornelis Cort

0 Comments on 4 tips for handling multiple perspectives in a third person narrative as of 2/19/2015 12:39:00 PM
Add a Comment
6. When the Internet attacks



New York Times magazine has a fascinating article about people whose lives have been destroyed by ill-considered moments on the Internet and the virtual lynch mobs that descended upon them (something I've posted about in the past).

I find this phenomenon pretty terrifying, especially as someone who has blogged for eight years, written over a thousand posts, and said various things over the years that have either been stupid or completely misperceived or both.

Whatever you make of whether the people in the article "deserved" what they had coming to them, I have a hard time seeing how Internet vigilante justice is something that is any way beneficial.

What do you think? Do you trust that the punishment fits the crime? And once a virtual mob starts, how can you stop it?

Art: The Battle of San Jacinto by Henry Arthur McArdle

0 Comments on When the Internet attacks as of 2/18/2015 1:37:00 PM
Add a Comment
7. The last indeterminate number of weeks in books 2/17/15

Photo by me. I'm on Instagram here.

Hello! Nice to see you again.

After completing several different projects that were consuming a large portion of my time I'm hoping to now return to more normal blogging activities. Famous last words.

Anyway! I've been saving up links for the last million weeks and here is a roundup.

Don't you want to prepare for your inevitable life as a bestselling author? Of course you do. Here are 10 tips for being a bestselling author by Sophie Kinsella.

Exciting news as Jessica Faust from BookEnds has revived one of the best agent blogs out there. She also has some very solid advice, which essentially boils down to when in doubt, send the query.

Amazon released a new version of the Kindle, the Kindle Voyage, which Farhad Manjoo pronounced better than a hardcover.

Benjamin Dreyer, VP Executive Managing Editor & Copy Chief of Random House, has an awesome post explaining some of the very common things that trip up writers, like beside/besides, blond/blonde and much much more.

There were 458,564 self-published books in 2013. Yes, really.

Author Jennifer Hubbard had some interesting thoughts on writerly restraint, and how that can sometimes result in holding back.

There are agents and then there are schmagents. Natalie Lakosil breaks down the differences.

Last spring I attended a writer's conference in Wisconsin, and the director there, Laurie Scheer, recently published new book called The Writer's Advantage: A Toolkit for Mastering Your Genre.

At what age do writers publish their most famous works? Electric Literature has an awesome chart.

Whiskey! Healthy! Or so that article says!

Longtime editor turned journalist Daniel Menaker has an article in defense of editors.

And finally, SNL had a pretty hilarious sendup of recent YA movie tropes:



Have a good weekend!

0 Comments on The last indeterminate number of weeks in books 2/17/15 as of 2/17/2015 12:05:00 PM
Add a Comment
8. Harper Lee to publish a new novel

You guys.

YOU GUYS.


Here's the story. Her new novel, "Go Set a Watchman" is one she wrote in the 50s and put aside.

Wow.

0 Comments on Harper Lee to publish a new novel as of 2/3/2015 12:38:00 PM
Add a Comment
9. Can we talk about "Serial?"


Like many people across America, I was totally captivated by the podcast "Serial," which, if you haven't yet been accosted by a raving fan, is about a 1999 murder and hinges on whether you believe one of the two former teenagers at the heart of the case: Adnan, in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, and Jay, whose (frequently changing) testimony put Adnan there.

One of the most compelling elements of the show is the extent to which its host, "This American Life" vet Sarah Koenig, very transparently wears her biases on her sleeve. She doesn't believe, or doesn't want to believe, that Adnan did it. He's charming, she likes him, and she doesn't seem to be able to fully bring herself to think he committed the crime. But she's up front about those feelings, and her journey in the show is a huge part of what makes it so compelling.

It's been fascinating to discuss this show with friends and coworkers, because to a large degree it's almost a Rorschach Test for the way you view crime, criminals, heck, even life and the truth. You learn a lot about people just by hearing their opinions and what they experienced in the past that contributes to their views.

For instance, I'm heavily influenced by a murder that took place in my hometown, where I knew both the murderers and the victim, and it doesn't surprise me at all, as it seems to surprise Koenig, that it's possible someone could be both charming and a murderer. I also to this day remember so many details of finding out about that murder in my hometown, which happened more than fifteen years ago, that I find it hard to believe that Adnan wouldn't be able to remember what happened on the day the police asked him about his missing ex-girlfriend. It wasn't just some random day.

Many people have written of the biases of the show, but one element of bias that I haven't seen fully addressed is the bias of the good story.

It's not a great story if we found out the guy who is behind bars for committing a crime is the one who committed the crime. If Koenig had discovered conclusive proof around Episode 2 that Adnan committed the crime, there wouldn't have really been a show, and certainly not the most popular podcast of all time. Sure, Koenig likes Adnan and that may have influenced her, but to me what really seemed to drive her was a sense on her part, even a hope, that there was more to the story. Consciously or unconsciously, in the absence of proving Adnan's innocence outright, she had every incentive to leave as many threads dangling as possible.

So while Koenig dove deep into possibly exculpatory inconsistencies in Jay's various testimonies (which, to be fair, were wildly inconsistent) and into things like whether there really was a pay phone at a Best Buy, other things that in Koenig's parlance were "bad for Adnan," like the letter from Hae that told him to back off and which had the words "I will kill" scrawled on it, and the "Mr. B." who pled the fifth at the grand jury, received scant attention. When she did dive deep into "bad for Adnan" threads they felt oddly tangential to the heart of the story, like whether Adnan absconded with mosque funds.

The facts as they have been presented certainly cast doubt on whether Adnan was fairly convicted, and if anything is gained from the popularity of the show, I hope a sober reexamination will take place. But I also lack confidence that the "bad for Adnan" threads were pursued, or treated, with equal vigor.

That's partly why I was equal parts compelled and unnerved when listening to "Serial," and extremely uncomfortable when reading Jay's recent interviews with The Intercept and wondering what Hae's family must think. These are real lives being disrupted and very painful memories being resurrected for a murky purpose. Is this entertainment? Journalism? An uncomfortable mixture?

And sure, let's get this mandatory part out of the way. Based on everything I have heard, I lean toward thinking Adnan committed the crime though am doubtful I would have voted to convict if I were on the jury. But it makes me uncomfortable to even type those words. Who am I to even have an opinion about all of this?

Have you listened to the show? What do you think?

0 Comments on Can we talk about "Serial?" as of 1/6/2015 8:47:00 AM
Add a Comment
10. 6th Annual Heifer International Fundraiser


It's that time of year!

This is the sixth year in a row for this Heifer fundraiser, and while I haven't been the best about posting lately we can still join together to raise money for a great cause, amrite?

Here's how this works. All you have to do is:

1) Leave a comment on this post AND/OR
2) Tweet a link to this post and include the hashtag #NBHeifer. Here's a tweet button for your pleasure:



3) Click over to other participating blogs at the bottom of this post and leave comments there too
4) Make your own per-comment or tweet pledge and I'll link to you/tweet you!

If you want in on the fun and make a per-comment or tweet pledge on your own just leave a comment with a link to your blog post or tweet announcing your pledge or e-mail it to me and I'll feature it in this post. (I recommend Rowfeeder for tracking your hashtag).

Heifer International is an organization that fights hunger by giving families around the world livestock, training, or other assistance that helps improve their livelihood. Heifer has been recognized for its work in Fast Company and Forbes, among other places.

If you have anything to spare this holiday season I hope you'll consider making a donation. And in order to encourage people to spread the word about this worthy cause, there are two ways to help increase the giving love (and feel free to do both):
  1. For every comment someone makes in this post between now and 6PM Pacific time on December 24, I will donate $2.00. 
  2. For every tweet that includes a) the hashtag #NBHeifer and b) a link back to this post (http://bit.ly/1wB6KpE) I will donate another $2.00. (up to $2,000 between the two) 
We can encourage everyone to stop by so we can multiply the giving! Over the past years we have raised over $9,000 together.

Thanks, everyone!

Participating blogs/Twitter handles:

THIS COULD BE YOU

0 Comments on 6th Annual Heifer International Fundraiser as of 12/26/2014 8:47:00 AM
Add a Comment
11. Will you ever buy mostly e-books? The results!

It seems that one-fourth of the population just really, really likes paper books.

For the fourth consecutive year we are seeing a steady number of people willing to risk the displeasure of our future robot overlords by reveling in the pleasures of paper. In fact, there was even a slight uptick in the number of people who say we can pry their paper books out of their cold dead hands (all caveats about different samples, non-scientific poll etc.):

2007: 49%
2008: 45%
2009: 37%
2010: 30%
2011: 25%
2012: 25%
2013: 25%
2014: 28%

And similarly, a slight reversal in the pro-e-book crowd:

2007: 7% (!)
2008: 11%
2009: 19%
2010: 32%
2011: 47%
2012: 47%
2013: 49%
2014: 44%

One thing that's interesting to note is the extent to which this could be a device-driven trend. The first Kindle, of course, was released in 2007 and gathered steam shortly thereafter, and Apple introduced the iPad in 2010. Since then we haven't seen technological innovation when it comes to e-books, and publishers have mostly successfully resisted a decline in e-book prices that could have spurred further e-book adoption.

What do you think is behind these numbers? Are some people just really never going to make the switch? Or is there a technological/economic explanation?

0 Comments on Will you ever buy mostly e-books? The results! as of 12/8/2014 2:11:00 PM
Add a Comment
12. Will you ever buy mostly e-books?

Eighth! Annual! Poll!

I think we need a moment, guys. Eighth. Annual. Some of you probably voted in the first poll, or maybe you missed that one and voted in the second or third, but holy cow! Where did the time go?!

And where in the heck are the flying cars? It's 2014, we should be reading holograms in space or something.

Ahem. Meanwhile, there is a poll that YES WE KNOW is not scientific and is not directly applicable to previous years, but even though I say that every single year there will still be a commenter who insists on pointing out that this poll is not scientific and is not directly applicable to previous years. You may be the commenter who after eight years still insists on pointing this out, and I have to say I kind of begrudgingly love you.

Here are polls past, in case you are curious:

2007
2008 (technically the beginning of '09)
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013

And here is this one. Vote if you dare! Oh, and yes, it's 2014 but you'll still need to click through to the actual post if you're reading this via e-mail or in a feed reader.



0 Comments on Will you ever buy mostly e-books? as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
13. What the cover of "About a Girl" says about today's publishing world


The traditional publishing industry is located in one of the most liberal cities in America. On the whole its employees skew left.

Still, while homosexuality has been explored in YA novels for quite some time, it still says something that the cover for my friend Sarah McCarry's About a Girl felt like something new.

The traditional YA world pushed content boundaries in the '90s and '00s, becoming increasingly comfortable with realistic, even graphic portrayals of teenage sexuality. The industry also started putting racy covers on YA novels where sexuality was barely even a tangential part of the story.

And yet even with those boundaries redrawn, something as simple as two fully-clothed girls kissing on a cover is something that somehow has eluded the industry's norms.

We need diverse books, and one important step is for the publishing industry to get over its squeamishness about putting minorities and non-straight characters on book covers. Hopefully About a Girl is a sign that we're one step closer.

0 Comments on What the cover of "About a Girl" says about today's publishing world as of 11/18/2014 1:13:00 PM
Add a Comment
14. Amazon vs. Hachette: It's over



It's over.

Long story short, Hachette won the ability to set its own prices, and the deal roughly aligns with the one Amazon negotiated with Simon & Schuster.

Here are some of the reactions around the Internet:

NY Times
Mike Shatzkin
GigaOM
Publishers Lunch (subscription required)
Vox

My sources tell me that we haven't read the last blog post about how traditional publishers are the guardians of truth and Amazon is the root of all evil or that traditional publishers are antiquarian luddites and Amazon is saving the world for readers.

Stand by...

Art: Club Night by George Bellows

0 Comments on Amazon vs. Hachette: It's over as of 11/17/2014 2:55:00 PM
Add a Comment
15. Everything you need for NaNoWriMo

Na-No! *Clap Clap*

Wri-Mo! *Clap Clap*

Na-No! *Clap Clap*

Wri-Mo! *Clap Clap*

Yes, it's that time of year! Time for tens of thousands intrepid souls to ignore friends, family and pumpkin spice everything in order to write themselves a novel.

National Novel Writing Month!!

Some of you might be writing your first novel, some of you might be writing your tenth, but it will be a great experience for everybody.

Here are some resources that might help.

First and most importantly, all of my very best writing tips are contained in my guide to writing a novel: How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Ultimate Novel You Will Love Forever. The great James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner, said these kind words:
"In his 47 brilliant rules, Nathan Bransford has nailed everything I've always wanted to tell people about writing a book but never knew how. Wonderfully thought out with lots of practical examples, this is a must-read for anyone brave enough to try their hand at a novel. It's also a great review for experienced writers. Highly recommended."
Check it out!

However, if you prefer your advice for free you have also come to the right place! Here are some posts that will help you along the way:

How to write a novel (overview)
How to choose an idea for a novel
How to get started writing a novel
How to find a writing style that works for you
How to get over writer's block
Make sure your characters have goals and obstacles
All about conflict
Seven keys to writing good dialogue
What makes a great setting
Do you have a plot?
Five ways to stay motivated
The solution to every writing problem that has ever existed
Writing Advice Database

Good luck!!

0 Comments on Everything you need for NaNoWriMo as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
16. In which I took an unplanned but happy break from writing

This happened! I'm on Instagram here.
I didn't intend to take nearly a month off of blogging and writing entirely, but that is exactly what ended up happening. Thank you for your inquiries. The missing person report was perhaps a little excessive, but nonetheless appreciated.

One of the interesting things about being a blogger and writer is that you have to wring your life like a wet towel and see if you can find some spare droplets of time. Lately my life towel has been bone dry. I haven't even been on Twitter!

Things like this can happen to any writer:
  • My day job is going so great that I am throwing my brain into it with reckless abandon and leaving myself with little spare mental energy for side projects.
  • Oh, but I do have side projects! I'm taking a General Assembly class on product management in order to help me develop great websites for my day job. It's been an excellent learning experience.
  • And I've been freelance editing, which has been really fun! It's great to be working directly with authors again.
  • And then I went on vacation (see above photo).
Writing? What's that again? 

Sometimes you can wake up and look around and you haven't written a word for two months. And it can spark a bit of an identity crisis. 

"I'm a writer! I write! I'm not writing! What am I doing?"

And sometimes it feels like you get divided so thin that your passion projects don't receive that laser focus that they need to come to fruition.

Then I try to remind myself that it all comes together in the end. Things are going well. I'm happy. I'm getting things done.

Sometimes the writing can wait.

0 Comments on In which I took an unplanned but happy break from writing as of 10/27/2014 1:49:00 PM
Add a Comment
17. Want a free query critique or copy of How to Write a Novel? Let's chat!


I'm working on a very interesting project for a very interesting General Assembly class on product management, and I would love 10-15 minutes of your time today (Saturday) or tomorrow (Sunday) to ask you a few questions. Yes, you! Let's talk!

In exchange, I will give you a free query critique OR a copy of How to Write a Novel.

We'll chat briefly about your experience having your writing critiqued, in addition to such completely optional topics as bad reality television, the weather in your locale in comparison to the weather in Brooklyn (which is fabulous, thanks for asking), and the iPhone 6 ZOMG the iPhone 6.

If you're interested, please shoot me an e-mail at nathan [at ] nathanbransford.com. Offer is good for the first ten people.

Thank you!

Art: A Conversation by Vladimir Makovsky

0 Comments on Want a free query critique or copy of How to Write a Novel? Let's chat! as of 9/20/2014 11:56:00 AM
Add a Comment
18. The Past Few Week in Books 9/19/14

Photo by me. I'm on Instagram here.
Links!

First up, friend of the blog Stephen Parrish is conducting a fundraiser to establish a fellowship in honor of Christine Eldin, a beloved member of the writing community who passed away a few years ago. Please check out the fellowship page, as well as the fundraising page on Indiegogo, where there are many quality items up for bid.

Now that Amazon has launched Amazon Unlimited, the Netflix-for-books-ish subscription service, should self-published authors opt their books in? David Gaughran investigates.

Speaking of Amazon, they recently launched a new program aimed at making it easier for children's book authors to self-publish, with such features as text pop-ups and easier illustration insertion. Very interesting.

Have independent bookstores improbably weathered the e-book transition better than chain stores and are they even on the rise? Zachary Karabell makes the case in Slate.

Do elite MFA programs have a race problem? NPR took an in-depth look.

Don't forget about the discussion forums, where you can have your query critiqued and talk writing with some great authors!

Why in the world does everyone in dystopian movies wear knitwear? Vulture takes a look at the great moments in Dystopian knitwear.

And finally, today is iPhone 6 release day! My good friends at CNET have all the latest reviews. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an iPhone 6 to play with.

Have a great weekend!

0 Comments on The Past Few Week in Books 9/19/14 as of 9/19/2014 1:50:00 PM
Add a Comment
19. What to write about when it feels like everything has already been written


This unnerving moment happens to every writer:

You finally get the nerve to tell someone your idea for a book. You describe your idea, you brace yourself for whether they think it's good or bad, but instead they say, "Oh yeah, that sounds like [X book]."

You blink a few times as your face flushes. Someone already had the same idea??? And the book is already published??

Are you now completely, colossally screwed?

No! You're not. Deep breaths.

There are hundreds of thousands of books out there. The odds that you will come up with completely original book that does not remind anyone of another book is pretty much zero. At the end of the day, originality is somewhat overrated.

Still, it can be disheartening to feel like you're simply retracing someone else's footsteps, and it may leave you bewildered. What do you do?

Here are some scenarios and what to do about them:

When all of your ideas for novels feel like books you have already read:

Keep thinking. Keep brainstorming.

If you're not feeling impressed or excited by your own idea there's no way you're going to sustain enough momentum to write a whole novel. When the writing gets hard it's only your belief in your idea that will sustain you.

Don't settle for an idea that you feel is vaguely uninspiring. Keep pushing yourself to find something better.

When it feels like you are imitating someone else's voice:

When you are just starting out, you may annoy yourself to death because you know you sound exactly like your favorite writer or the most recent book you read. You can't stop yourself from imitating.

This is totally, perfectly okay. Just go with it. Get the words out there. Don't stop writing.

What will happen over time is that you will gradually start to find your own voice. You'll start sounding less like your favorite writer and more like you.

And when you do, you can go back and rewrite the opening part where you were imitating. It will be much easier to go back and revise the voice than it would have been if you had obsessed over your voice from the start.

When you're writing a novel and then find out someone else already had a similar idea:

This is somewhat inevitable. There are tons of books already out there, we've been telling stories for thousands of years, and there are only so many combinations of events that can be shoehorned into a story.

The important thing to focus on is what makes your story unique. You need a unique setting, unique characters, and a unique style.

If the world of your novel feels very different than the previous similar book, chances are people won't even make the connection.

When you look at your unfinished novel and think, "Why in the world is anyone going to care about this with all the other stories out there?"

Have faith!

If every writer who experienced this feeling stopped writing there wouldn't be any books out there at all.

Everyone wonders why anyone would care about their book. Everyone has moments of self-doubt and feeling of futility.

Don't give into these feelings. If you power through and finish your novel you'll be immensely glad you gave your dreams a shot.


Do you ever have these moments of doubt? How did you get through?

Art: View of the Salon Carré at the Louvre by Alexandre Brun

0 Comments on What to write about when it feels like everything has already been written as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
20. Page Critique: The danger of starting with dialogue


If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique Event, please enter it in this thread in the Forums. Also, I'm offering personal consultations and edits if you're interested in that.

First I'll present the page without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer up your own thoughts, please be exceedingly polite and remember the sandwich rule: Positive, constructive advice, positive.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to ria, whose page is below:
“We have damned the world,” Adriel said. 
“Come again,” Zachery said. 
They stopped at the pond, where Zachery fished some crumbs from his pocket and tossed them towards the ducks. Overhead, the shops and homes of the upper city clung to the walls of Drieh’s three lofty towers. A few rays of morning sunshine dove through chinks between the buildings only to flounder in the gossamer fog among the trees. 
“I’ve felt ripples of energy,” Adriel said. “Here on Altara. And in the netherial. I picked it up a few months ago, and it gets worse every few weeks.” 
He hadn’t felt anything of the sort, and his work relied on the netherial. “And what does this have to do with us damning Altara?” 
“I traced its energy signature back as far as I could and it originates with the Calamity. Something we did back then is building up to... something.” 
He let crumbs fall from his fingers onto the water’s surface. “This makes no sense, Adriel. No one else has felt anything. What you’ve described is impossible.” 
“I only brought this up because I thought you’d care. And I thought you might have felt something in your portals.” 
Zachery looked across the pond. A portal rose between the trees at the far end of the park, two slender pillars of dark rock curving toward each other with an arch of pure magic suspended between them. Anchor and focus, two simple elements that made up one of the most complex constructs on Altara.
There is some great writing here. This: "A few rays of morning sunshine dove through chinks between the buildings only to flounder in the gossamer fog among the trees" is just an awesome and evocative sentence. And the slender pillars of dark rock are also intriguing and mysterious.

I'm afraid I'm a little less sanguine about the dialogue. Here's the challenge of beginning with two people talking to each other: the reader has zero context to understand what they're talking about. They don't know who the characters are, they don't know what world they're in, they probably don't understand the references the characters are making to each other. 

It's sort of like attending a dinner party where everyone makes veiled references so you can't understand what they're really talking about. 

It's not impossible to begin with dialogue, but even if it starts that way it's extremely important to focus on making sure the reader feels very grounded in the story.

With a little more patience and anchoring the story, the dialogue will come alive. 

Here's my redline:
“We have damned the world,” Adriel said. 
“Come again,” Zachery said. 
They Adriel and Zachary stopped at the pond, where Zachery fished some crumbs from his pocket and tossed them towards the ducks. Overhead, the shops and homes of the upper city clung to the walls of Drieh’s three lofty towers. A few rays of morning sunshine dove through chinks between the buildings only to flounder in the gossamer fog among the trees. 
“I’ve felt ripples of energy,” Adriel said. “Here on Altara. And in the netherial. I picked it up a few months ago, and it gets worse every few weeks.” 
He Zachary hadn’t felt anything of the sort, and his work relied on the netherial. [More here on what Zachary is thinking about what Adriel just said in order to help give the reader context, as well as what the netherial is.]  “And what does this have to do with us damning Altara?” “I traced its energy signature back as far as I could and it originates with the Calamity. Something we did back then is building up to... something.”  He let crumbs fall from his fingers onto the water’s surface. 
“This makes no sense, Adriel. No one else has felt anything. What you’ve described is impossible.” 
“I only brought this up because I thought you’d care. And I thought you might have felt something in your portals.” 
Zachery looked across the pond. A portal rose between the trees at the far end of the park, two slender pillars of dark rock curving toward each other with an arch of pure magic suspended between them. Anchor and focus, two simple elements that made up one of the most complex constructs on Altara.
Thanks again, ria!

Art: Reinier Vinkeles by Charles Howard Hodges

0 Comments on Page Critique: The danger of starting with dialogue as of 8/26/2014 12:21:00 PM
Add a Comment
21. How do you name your characters?


This question comes from reader Puneet Agrawal, who is wondering about a seemingly simple and yet quite complicated and important question: How do you name your characters?

Where do you draw your inspiration? What's your process? Do they just come to you or do you spend time brainstorming? Do you draw upon any resources, like baby name books or census data?

I'm personally partial to naming important characters after coffee drinks. What about you?

Art: The Gardener by Paul Cezanne

0 Comments on How do you name your characters? as of 8/27/2014 1:49:00 PM
Add a Comment
22. Guest post (and giveaway!) - How and when to revise your manuscript


Nathan here! I'm very pleased to have a guest post today by David Zelster, whose debut novel LUG is going on sale today!

Better yet, we're giving away three signed copies of LUG! All you have to do is leave a comment asking to be entered (non-anonymously please!), and we'll choose three random winners.

Here's David's post:

At every stage of your writing life—from newbie egg, to agented caterpillar, to published butterfly—you will be asked to revise your work. In this guest post, I’d like to share a few of the edits I’ve taken, and not taken, and my golden rule for revising.

The Newbie Egg Stage

When you’re first starting out, your friends and family will dutifully read whatever your hand them. Then they’ll come back to you with stiff little smiles and say things like “it’s good,” “nice work,” and “great job!” The temptation is to believe these oh-so-sweet big fat lies.

Don’t.

In fact, at this point, your job is to try to pry the truth from their stiff little grinning lips. It may take some convincing but, ultimately, they will reveal all.

And then, when they let loose, it’s your turn to grin and bear it.

Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way. Let’s call it:

The Newbie Egg’s Golden Rule of Revising

Almost all readers’ suggestions have something of value. The key is not so much to take them verbatim as to find the underlying problems that inspired the suggestions--problems that the readers are often not even consciously aware of. If you can detect those issues, you can choose the best way to revise.

Once you’ve dived in and taken a pass at fixing the deeper problems, show a few other people your respect. Put your manuscript away for a while. Keep repeating until you’re happy and your readers are no longer just politely grinning. Then, I hope you’ll find yourself in. . .

The Agented Caterpillar Stage

If your agent is worth her salt, she too will have revisions. My agent is Catherine Drayton of InkWell Management. With her permission, I’d like to share a few key excerpts from her LUG edit letter to me:
The Environmental message
I think that the coming of the Ice Age and the parallels with our current environmental crisis are a strong selling point for this book. Lug’s talent is that he is extremely observant and the subtle way you handle this at the moment is perfect. I do however think that you could use some more funny observations from Lug and evidence his frustration that no one else around him seems to notice what is happening to the world. Kids have an uncanny way of zoning in on what’s really important and feel powerful when they can see something that adults can’t. 
Characters
I do think that the relationship between Lug and his father is important and could use development especially in the context of choosing the next big man and banishment from the tribe. I want to see more interaction between Lug and his family at the beginning of the book, especially Big Lug. If we see, clearly, what Lug has—we understand better what he is forced to leave.   
Language
In terms of the language I think that I would tone down the ‘cave man’ talk. It is always risky to use dialect as it can fall very flat and draw attention to the author. Lug is speaking in perfectly formed English so I’d consider having the others do so as well – even if it is in very clipped, short bursts. 
Once you and your agent are happy with your chrysalis...ur...manuscript, my hope is that you’ll emerge into . . .

The Published Butterfly Stage

Once you have an editor at a publishing house, you book is in the final revision phase! Although I was excited to steal almost all of my editor’s suggestions for LUG, I thought it might be useful to share a rare example when I chose not to take one. Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent to my editor on that topic:
In a few places you've asked for the removal of certain words or concepts because they seemed too sophisticated for the Stone Age. I had thought about doing this quite a bit in my first drafts of LUG, and ultimately decided against it. Basically, I concluded that I would not write this story as hard (or even soft) science fiction, but rather as satirical comic fantasy. 
She quickly took the point, helping me to fine tune the intentionally anachronistic words and concepts I used to satirize our society’s inaction on climate change. I’m grateful to all my editors/readers for their enormous help. I also want to say a big thanks to Nathan Bransford for the opportunity to guest post on a blog I’ve found very useful in my own writing life.

Watch the LUG book trailer and learn more about all the books here.

0 Comments on Guest post (and giveaway!) - How and when to revise your manuscript as of 9/9/2014 1:04:00 PM
Add a Comment
23. Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry


When someone asks me what all the hullaballoo about YA is these days, I don't start by talking about Twilight or The Hunger Games, I talk about how there is Literature, with a capital L, being written for young readers, books that are both accessible and fun to read but full of meaning, beautiful prose and depth. It's an incredibly exciting time to be a reader, and I'm so jealous of all the Kids These Days who .

Case in point are the books by my good friend Sarah McCarry, first her incredible debut All Our Pretty Songs, but even more especially the prequel Dirty Wings.

Dirty Wings is about the deep, intense friendship of the mothers of the main characters in All Our Pretty Songs, when they were teenagers with hopes and dreams and confusions, and it's told with such beauty and precision.

But hey, don't take my word for it, here's what Kirkus had to say (in a starred review, naturally):
The prose is exquisitely crafted, moving effortlessly from dizzying to heartbreaking. Each setting—an exhaustingly filthy punk house, the New York street where Maia’s hermitlike father suddenly comes to life, the Mexican beach town where the girls’ road trip ends—is vibrantly constructed through careful detail and spare but evocative prose.
A breathtaking companion volume, fully readable on its own and devastating in the context of its predecessor.
Looking to see what all the YA hype is about? READ THIS.

0 Comments on Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry as of 9/15/2014 1:04:00 PM
Add a Comment
24. Page Critique: Let actions speak for themselves


Page critique Tuesday!

If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique Event, please enter it in this thread in the Forums. Also, I'm offering personal consultations and edits if you're interested in that.

First I'll present the page without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer up your own thoughts, please be exceedingly polite and remember the sandwich rule: Positive, constructive advice, positive.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to XXX, whose page is below:
Gone, Kitty, Gone: A Brock Rockster Mystery 
Middle-grade mystery/comedy
I smashed my steel-toed loafer through the front door and tumbled in, where I landed face-first on the floor of the large, dark foyer.
“Worst! Day! Ever!” I yelled. I knew everyone in the house was sleeping, but I didn’t care. I was upset, and with good reason.
“Carver!” I picked myself off the ground. “Carver! We need to talk!”
My perfect record had been shattered. When I woke up this morning I had been Brock Rockster, The Boy Who Always Got His Man, the twelve-year-old mustache prodigy and world’s greatest private investigator to the stars. I was untouchable, unstoppable, and undefeated – but not anymore. After today’s calamity, I didn’t know what I was.
I saw a room dimly lit off to the right and stomped toward it, each step echoing through the otherwise silent house. A reading lamp glowed in the room’s far corner over the head of Carver McCarver, who sat at her desk surrounded by stacks of papers and folders.
“Hello, pard,” she said. She finished reading the sheet in front of her before looking up. “Find Mr. Janston’s statue?”
“Janston got his weird little sculpture back just fine, Carver, but it wasn’t me that found it,” I said.
I took my fedora hat off, and Carver tipped her Stetson back in response. Carver was well over ninety years old, but had the energy of someone a third her age, and the wisdom of someone who’d seen the pyramids built.
This is an extremely solid, nay, excellent, nay, nearly flawless first page. The voice is strong, there's some solid wit and humor, the concept is fun, and I enjoyed the descriptions. Very very well done and I want to read more.

I'm going to pick two nits here. The first is a very common mistake, which is over-telling emotion. After Brock stumbles in and yells, "Worst! Day! Ever!” and notes that he doesn't care if he wakes everyone up, it's a bit redundant to then say, "I was upset, and with good reason." It's already apparent.

People often say show-don't-tell, and this is one of those classic cases. Show emotion, don't say what the emotion is. People will get it.

Secondly, people don't generally say each other's names in the middle of a sentence, and it can sometimes break up the flow to include it. I'd remove "Carver" from the second to last paragraph.

But seriously, those are two arguable small changes that are arguable. This is in very good shape. My redline:

Gone, Kitty, Gone: A Brock Rockster Mystery 
Middle-grade mystery/comedy
I smashed my steel-toed loafer through the front door and tumbled in, where I landed face-first on the floor of the large, dark foyer.
“Worst! Day! Ever!” I yelled. I knew everyone in the house was sleeping, but I didn’t care. I had a good reason to be upset.
“Carver!” I picked myself off the ground. “Carver! We need to talk!”
My perfect record had been shattered. When I woke up this morning I had been Brock Rockster, The Boy Who Always Got His Man, the twelve-year-old mustache prodigy and world’s greatest private investigator to the stars. I was untouchable, unstoppable, and undefeated – but not anymore. After today’s calamity, I didn’t know what I was.
I saw a room dimly lit off to the right and stomped toward it, each step echoing through the otherwise silent house. A reading lamp glowed in the room’s far corner over the head of Carver McCarver, who sat at her desk surrounded by stacks of papers and folders.
“Hello, pard,” she said. She finished reading the sheet in front of her before looking up. “Find Mr. Janston’s statue?”
“Janston got his weird little sculpture back just fine, Carver, but it wasn’t me that found it,” I said.
I took my fedora hat off, and Carver tipped her Stetson back in response. Carver was well over ninety years old, but had the energy of someone a third her age, and the wisdom of someone who’d seen the pyramids built.
Nice work!

Art: Sherlock Holmes by Frederic Dorr Steele

0 Comments on Page Critique: Let actions speak for themselves as of 9/16/2014 2:46:00 PM
Add a Comment
25. What is the biggest obstacle you've overcome to be a writer?


Writing can be tough. And that's even without those external obstacles that can get in the way of achieving writerly dreams.

What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome to be a writer?

Mine was failure to believe that I could actually be a creative person who could actually write a novel. I don't know what I thought a "creative person" was per se, but I did think it wasn't me. That is, until I got over that and decided instead to just go for it.

What about you?

Art: The Bullfight by Auguste-Francois Bonheur

0 Comments on What is the biggest obstacle you've overcome to be a writer? as of 9/17/2014 1:26:00 PM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts