Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What's the most prescient book you'e ever read?


Given our political climate, there have been all sorts of reevaluations of classic political dystopias, from It Can't Happen Here to 1984 to The Plot Against America

It got me thinking. What's the most prescient book you've ever read? Which book was ahead of its time in predicting where society is going?

There are lots that I can think of, but for a recent example I'd have to go with Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, the novel that blended the commercialization of everything with the concept of "whuffie," social currency that now feels incredibly apt in the social media era.

What about you?

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse






Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Query Critique Tuesday: Character, crispness, clarity


If you would like to nominate your query for a future Query Critique, please enter it in this thread in the Forums!

Also, if you'd like to test your editing chops, keep your eye on this area! I'll post the pages and queries a few days before a critique on the blog so you can see how your redline compares to mine.

Now then. Time for the Query Critique. First I'll present the query without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer your own thoughts, please be polite. We aim to be positive and helpful.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to kbarina113, whose query is below:
Dear [Agent’s name]: 
Two estranged brothers finally meet, only to discover that one must kill the other for the kingdom to survive.  
After years with only swords and tomes as companions, seventeen-year-old Prince Vaeldhei finds his first true friend with the arrival of his surly half-brother, Mordred—a boy even more familiar with rejection and loneliness than Vael. However, an ancient prophecy haunts Mordred’s footsteps―he is destined to kill their father in a battle that will destroy Camelot. And Mordred’s sorceress mother, Morgan LeFay, will do anything to ensure that he fulfills his destiny. 
Unlike the rest of the superstitious kingdom, Vael may not believe in fate’s power, but that means little to Mordred. Despite finding a kindred soul in his brother, Mordred sees no escape from his grim future or his vengeful mother. Though Vael vows to rewrite destiny, he’s not prepared for Morgan’s immense power or Mordred’s hesitancy to defy his mother. Desperate to overcome the sorceress’ manipulations, Vael resorts to enlisting Morgan’s alluring and mysterious former apprentice for aid—a risky move, especially since her loyalties are as conflicted as Mordred’s. If Vael cannot free Mordred from his mother’s twisted grasp, he will have to watch his father and Camelot fall or kill his only friend—his brother. 
THE PENDRAGON’S SON is a standalone young adult Fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 92,000 words. An excerpt from this manuscript received the Superior Award from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) Creative Writing Contest and the ACSI Regional Creative Writing Festival. I was also chosen by Kelly Hopkins as an unofficial mentee in PitchWars 2016 with this novel. I am a Latina currently living in Pennsylvania with my husband, my reptiles, and my books.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
There's a lot to like in this query. The structure is mainly in place, and I liked the idea of two lonely boys coming together to try to escape their destiny. The stakes are very clear and serious.

That said, I had three key concerns with the query:

Characters

While I think the setup is good (we know they were previously lonely and find solace in each other), neither Vael nor Mordred quite stand out for me as central characters. I'm not sure quite enough personality came through to distinguish them. Especially given this novel is operating in a relatively familiar realm (Camelot), it's that much more important that the elements that will separate this novel from other Camelot novels will stand out.

The most important way to make a novel operating in a familiar world or archetype feel unique is for the characters to come across as especially compelling. And a surefire way to show personality is to show how characters choose to act given their circumstances. While I understood the challenge the characters are facing, I wasn't sure that I had the sense of two unique personalities reacting to those circumstances:

Is Vael fiery and loyal? Is he hesitant? Is he serious? Funny? Earnest?

We hear that Mordred is surly, but if he is, why is he then so resigned to his fate? Does he feel defeated?

A few key details around how the characters are dealing with the challenges they're facing will go a long way to bring them to life.

Crispness

Opinions are going to vary on whether to include an opening tag line. Personally I don't love them, others encourage them. But if you're going to have an opening tag line, it should be really crisp and clear so the central plot point you're highlighting can really shine.

In this one, I wasn't totally clear what it meant, especially after reading the rest of the query. Originally I read it like it was a cage match and only one could come out alive, but after reading the rest of the query I think it means that Vael must kill Mordred? And if so, why not focus the tagline on Vael's struggle, since that seems to be the central plot line?

If the tagline were crisper, I'd be much more invested in reading on.

Clarity

As always, one of the most challenging elements is to get the right level of specificity. In this query, I worry there are a few too many places in the plot summary where things are vague where being a bit clearer about what actually happens could go a long way toward adding flavor to the novel.


Queries are tough, and this one is a good start. I've now written way more words about the query than are in the query itself!! It just shows how tricky they can be.

With a few more of the C's (characters, crispness, clarity) I think this one will be good to go.

Here's my redline. As you can see, I have a lot of questions in the second paragraph, which I can't answer because I haven't read the book. But if these vague lines were replaced with specificity, the story would really shine through without bogging down the query.
Dear [Agent’s name]: 
Two estranged brothers finally meet, only to discover that one must kill the other for the kingdom to survive.  A young prince befriends his estranged half-brother, only to discover he must kill him for the kingdom to survive.
After years with only swords and tomes as companions, seventeen-year-old Prince Vaeldhei finds his first true friend with the arrival of his surly half-brother, Mordred—a boy even more familiar with rejection and loneliness than Vael. However, an ancient prophecy haunts Mordred’s footsteps―he is destined to kill their father in a battle that will destroy Camelot. And Mordred’s sorceress mother, Morgan LeFay, will do anything to ensure that he fulfills his destiny. 
Unlike the rest of the superstitious kingdom [not quite sure what it means for a kingdom to be superstitious - what is the literal effect on Vael?] Vael may not believe in fate’s power [Confused by this - if he doesn't believe in it, why does he later vow to stop the murder?], but that means little to Mordred [Why does it mean little to Mordred? More specificity would reveal character]. Despite finding a kindred soul [What do they see in each other? Try to be more specific about what they like about each other] in his brother, Mordred sees no escape from his grim future or his vengeful mother. Though Vael vows to rewrite destiny [What does this mean? Be specific], he’s not prepared for Morgan’s immense power [What's her power?] or Mordred’s hesitancy to defy his mother [Why does he fear her?]. Desperate to overcome the sorceress’ manipulations [What are these?], Vael resorts to enlisting Morgan’s alluring and mysterious former apprentice for aid [What does he literally want the aid to do?] —a risky move, especially since her loyalties are as conflicted as Mordred’s. If Vael cannot free Mordred from his mother’s twisted grasp, he will have to watch his father and Camelot fall or kill his only friend—his brother. 
THE PENDRAGON’S SON is a standalone young adult Fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 92,000 words. An excerpt from this manuscript received the Superior Award from the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) Creative Writing Contest and the ACSI Regional Creative Writing Festival. I was also chosen by Kelly Hopkins as an unofficial mentee in PitchWars 2016 with this novel. I am a Latina currently living in Pennsylvania with my husband, my reptiles, and my books.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Thanks again to kbarina113!

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: Illustration from page 16 of The Boy's King Arthur - Edited by Sidney Lanier






Monday, April 24, 2017

Interview: Brendan Reichs on hitting the NY Times bestseller list and yelling "OBJECTION YOUR HONOR" in courtrooms


Giveaway alert!! Read on to find out how to enter.

Brendan Reichs and I became acquainted on ComicCon panels and at various writing conferences and he is a rather nice and gregarious individual, so I was extremely psyched to see him hit OH HEY THE NY TIMES BESTSELLER LIST NBD for his latest YA novel, NEMESIS, a thriller pitched as "Orphan Black meets Lord of the Flies."

Brendan is also the co-author of the VIRALS series, is a former litigation attorney, lives in Charlotte, NC, and, well, I somehow talked him in to an interview on this blog.

Oh! And check this out: He's going to be appearing next weekend in with James Dashner at YALLWEST in Santa Monica. GET TICKETS HERE.

Here we go!!

NATHAN: Let's cut to the chase. What does it feel like to hit the NY Times bestseller list? Did you do cartwheels? Did you whisper "Everything is going according to my plan" and then cackle maniacally?

BRENDAN: To be honest, it was a feeling of intense, overwhelming relief. I think we as authors put too much pressure on ourselves with the standard of making lists, and sometimes we overvalue what they mean to our work. I’m incredibly gratified that Nemesis made the New York Times list—it was the culmination of two years of hard work on the project—but I’m more interested now in how I can get the book into the hands of the most young readers. I think Nemesis is a fun, twisty, mind-bending tale that teens and adults with both enjoy. I'm just so happy it’s finally out in the world right now.

What do you think is the most important ingredient in your success?

I think my strength as a writer is crafting tightly-plotted, fast-paced books that don’t leave a lot of room for breaks. I won’t claim to be some voice of a generation or anything, but I think my books are quick reads that surprise and (hopefully) leave my audience entertained. That’s ultimately my goal, and I think Nemesis is my most complete work to date. I jammed about five novels worth of surprises and crazy angles into this novel, and it rolls downhill without brakes pretty much from the first sentence. That’s what I love to read, so that’s what I love to write as well.

You used to be a litigation attorney. Do you miss yelling "OBJECTION YOUR HONOR" in a courtroom?? (Also do lawyers actually do this)

We do! Objecting is glorious! I do miss being in the actual courtroom. To me that was always the fun part of the job. What I don’t miss is the endless tedium surrounding legal work, or the punishing hours spent hitting arbitrary billing marks to make money for other people. I was not a good personality fit for the legal profession, which prides itself on being humorless and deadly serious. I never fit in, and I knew it.

But now I’m a YA author, and my inability to be serious even when I'm supposed to be has suddenly become an asset.

You're heavily involved in the fabulous YA conferences YALLFEST and YALLWEST. Can you talk a bit about the importance of community for writers?

I think connecting with the wider writing community is incredibly important for authors, especially novelists. We spend so much of our time alone in a room with only our computers for company. It can be very isolating, but festivals and conferences provide crucial chances to connect.

When I travel I get to see actual friends and colleagues, and not just their online personas. I was incredibly fortunate to be brought into the YALL family early in my career by Margie Stohl, Kami Garcia, and Melissa de la Cruz, and it’s been gratifying to help grow our two upstart festivals into the largest annual YA- and MG-only events in the country.

I’ve gotten to meet so many of the best and brightest writers in our industry, and I’m continually stunned with how pleasant everyone is. YA is truly a wonderful community to be a part of.

If you could go back in time... first of all whoa. Second of all, what would you tell your younger self, besides the scores of important sporting events so you could bet on them like Biff from Back to the Future Part II?

I’d be sure to avoid going to school early one morning in 8th grade to tell everyone that Eddie Vedder had died of an overdose the night before, like I’d heard on the radio, because Eddie Vedder is still very alive and awesome to this day. I’d also avoid shaving my head, and say yes to my senior-year sweetheart when she asked me to the prom junior year, and I pretended to be busy. (Unbelievable, Reichs).

But advice-wise, I’d tell my younger self to worry less about what other people thought of me. So much of high school is spent conforming to what you think your peers expect of you. It’s tragic that you realize, almost immediately upon leaving for college, that none of it was necessary.

Also, I’d also buy a lot of Apple stock.

Everyone has a tweet that they think is the funniest thing they have ever written but then it gets like two faves and one retweet from a bot and you go, "Oh" and your day is a little sadder. What's yours?

THIS: "Crocodile Dundee 2 is easily the second best Crocodile Dundee movie of all time.” That’s comic gold people, and I might as well have farted on a bus for the plaudits it got me.

I've been there, Brendan. I've been there. We'll see what we can do about that. Meanwhile, what's the best writing advice you've ever received?

When people tell you there’s something wrong with a story, they’re almost always right. When they tell what it is that’s wrong and how it can be fixed, they’re almost always wrong. - Neil Gaiman.

Anything else you would like to include here? The floor is yours, my friend.

In Nemesis, I wanted to explore the effect of a person dying not once, but many times, but having those deaths have no effect. And it’s not magical, the afterlife, or anything ghostly or supernatural. It's not fake either. Min and Noah really are murdered on their birthdays, but each time they reset, waking in the woods surrounding their remote Idaho vacation town without a scratch on them. I’ve also always loved conspiracy books and thrillers, where the reader never knows what to expect next and the twists are plentiful. That’s what I try to do in Nemesis. I think that everything comes together in the end, together and the theme of what it means to be alive comes through. I hope my readers agree!

AND NOW THE GIVEAWAY DETAILS: 

For a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Nemesis, let's help Brendan out and do the following:

1) Follow Brendan on Twitter
2) Retweet his VERY EXCELLENT AHEM Crocodile Dundee tweet (if you're reading via email, please click through to see it):
(Please note: do not create multiple accounts to do this and void where prohibited and insert legalese).

Thanks, Brendan!!



Brendan Reichs was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2000 and The George Washington University School of Law in 2006. After three long years working as a litigation attorney, he abandoned the trade to write full time. He is the author of the recent New York Times bestseller Nemesis, and co-author of the Virals series, written with Kathy Reichs. Brendan lives in Charlotte with his wife, son, daughter, and a herd of animals that tear up everything.






Friday, April 21, 2017

This week in books 4/21/17

I grew up in these fields. Follow me on Instagram: @nathanbransford
Hello! How are you doing on this lovely Friday?

Did I mention the discussion Forums are freshly redesigned and awaiting your visit? Well, just in case you need further enticement, please know that I am always looking for fresh content on this blog, and I love to "promote" great Forum posts to the main blog -- with full credit and attribution and all that.

In fact, one of my favorite posts on the blog originated in the Forums! So take to the Forums and prosper.

Now then. I saw some good books and publishing links around the Internet, and here they are:

Forget the smell of paper, I have long awaited the time when we could simply upload books to our brains. So naturally I couldn't click fast enough on this link: What If We Could Upload Books to Our Brains? It me!!! But instead of hearing about how this glorious future is imminent... the author of the article is really skeptical and argues against the whole enterprise. Le sigh.

What do editors do? A LOT.

Writing a memoir? I'm not! But I did really enjoy this very good post over at The Creative Penn on writing memoirs. Good stuff.

Are you a writer on the organized side? You may enjoy these really awesome spreadsheets reader Annie Neugebauer has created to help with all sorts of stages of the publishing process.

Ever wonder what it's like to work with an agent? Author Bethany Neal has 8 unexpected things she learned along the way.

And, of course, a taxonomy of Amazon reviewers.

This week in the Forums...

Soccer!
Nominate Your Query for a Critique on the Blog
Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog
What's the longest you've gone without writing?

Comment! of! the! week! goes to our friend John T. Shea, for his defense of Felix the Cat as the greatest fictional hero of all time:
I like Jim Hawkins too, to the point of naming my WIP's protagonist Jimmy in his honor. But I must point out two things he and all the other nominees for greatest fictional hero lack. None of them are cats, and none of them have magical bags of tricks. Felix alone passes both tests. I rest my case!
And finally, I'm a huge Survivor fan, and it was a seriously, genuinely shocking moment when contestant Zeke Smith was maliciously outed as being transgender by a fellow contestant. His article about the experience is incredible and inspiring and well worth your time.

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.






Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to determine your price point when self-publishing


One of the great things about self-publishing is that you have control over your price point.

Want to experiment? Want to drop the price for a promo? The self-publishing world is your oyster! And, like, the price is the pearl! Do you want to see how far I can go with this metaphor? No? Okay!

Chances are you're going to want to be a little strategic. Here are some tips on how to go about it:

1) Get in touch with your goals

Reflect a little bit on what you're hoping to achieve with your book.

Do you want to build up your name recognition and reach a wide audience? Might want to go for a lower price point.

Do you want to maximize your revenue? Might want to go a little higher.

Do you want to be a symbol of everything that's wrong with the world? Make one copy, charge a million dollars, and see which nefarious cartoon villain buys it!

Your book might even be incidental to your goals, like a speaking career or a building brand, which could mean a lower or higher price point depending on what you're going for.

Just know what you want before you jump in.

2) Research the competition

This is a no-brainer. See what others are charging and know where you'll be in the marketplace. You can either go with the flow, undercut, or aim a little higher, but this is crucial information so you know where you stand.

3) Get some feedback

Bounce around your ideas, and if you have a community, try to talk to them too. I took a poll when I was launching How to Write a Novel, and the community's vote of $4.99 matched my hunch so I went with that.

4) Take an educated guess when you launch

Don't overthink it. You're not locked into a price, you can change as you go.

5) Experiment with price drops and raises

Gauge the impact of price drops and raises on sales until you settle into a sweet spot. These can either be as a specific promo, or you can just quietly change the price and see if it impacts sales.

If you publish via KDP, as you go along Amazon also has a tool that will gauge your optimal price point relative to your subject matter and sales so far. You can use that for further inspiration for experiments.

6) Check your numbers against your goals

Watch your numbers and see how things are going relative to your goal. If you just want your book out there, your KPI is your sales. If you are maximizing for money, your KPI is your revenue. If you are maximizing for reputation, your KPI may be your reviews.


As you can probably tell, this isn't rocket science. Don't agonize. Just know what you want, know what you're measuring, and experiment until you're in the sweet spot.

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: Beim Notar by Josef Wagner-Höhenberg







Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Who is the greatest hero in fiction?


Harry Potter. Alice. James Bond. Frodo Baggins.

There are so many great heroes in literature, fictional characters who inspire us, beguile us, and make us wonder how we'd fare in a fictional realm where everything hinges on our character and courage.

Who's the greatest of them all?

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: Cover of Fantastic Adventures, January 1951






Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Page Critique Tuesday: Anchor the reader


If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique, please enter it in this thread in the Forums!

Also, if you'd like to test your editing chops, keep your eye on this area! I'll post the pages and queries a few days before a page critique so you can see how your redline compares to mine.

Now then. Time for the Page Critique. First I'll present the page without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline. If you choose to offer your own thoughts on the page, please be polite. We aim to be positive and helpful.

Random numbers were generated, and thanks to RKeelan, whose page is below:
Title: Immortal
Genre: Fantasy

"The fate of all Creation pivots about certain moments in time and space. One such moment approaches. It is yet distant to you, but to me it is perilously close. I have devised a plan—a grand plan—to employ this moment. You, Nathaniel, shall be my instrument."
It was a woman's voice, husky and low, a dangerous voice that invited confidence and blotted out doubt.
"And why would I do that?"
I spoke aloud—unnecessary, as the voice was only in my head, but speaking was easier than not. I'd heard her—Celeste—ever since a traumatic incident in my past which I preferred not to dwell on.
"You are my most trusted servant and dearest friend, Nathaniel," she said. "Contemplating personal benefit at a time like this is crass and unseemly, but in consideration of your service I shall grant you wealth and power beyond—"
"Pass."
"Pass?" The voice sounded closer now, standing right next to me. "On wealth and power?"
"I am content as I am."
"You are a slave."
"In the eyes of little men I am a slave. By my own reckoning I am—"
"Bloody Ancestors, Nathan, are you talking to yourself again?" That was Darius. He was real. "You know I hate that."
"I apologize, master. I didn’t realize you were here."
Darius, a bald head on a round torso with no neck in between, stood in the doorway, frowning at me. The folds of his toga hung about him less than
There are some good ingredients in this first page. I like how the ominous voice in Nathaniel/Nathan's head contrasts with the breeziness of his voice (also um are you trying to tell me something), and I liked the physical description of Darius as a bald head on a round torso.

Still, I had a few concerns with the opening. It's so so important to anchor the reader to ease them into the story, and there are two elements here that I think interfered with said anchoring and left me a little unmoored.

First, the opening paragraph of dialogue felt a little overstuffed, and it took a little too long for me to figure out what was going on. I wasn't sure what was gained by waiting for more dialogue to reveal who Celeste was, since the narrator already knew.

Second, I worry this page relies too much on dialogue and doesn't do enough to anchor us in a physical space. We don't need endless detail, but anything you can do to help us imagine the character in a particular place will reduce the amount of work we have to do to figure out what's going on.

Imagine the reader as if they're waking up in a dark room and you, the author, are steadily adding detail to help them see what's around them. If all they hear are voices they're still in the dark.

That said, because there's some good stuff here it wasn't too hard to streamline and round this into shape. With a bit more detail I think the reader will be intrigued to know what happens next.

Here's my redline:
Title: Immortal
Genre: Fantasy

"The fate of all creation pivots about certain moments in time and space. One such moment approaches. It is yet distant to you, but to me it is perilously close. I have devised a plan—a grand plan—to employ this moment. You, Nathaniel, shall be my instrument."
It was a woman's voice, husky and low, a dangerous voice that invited confidence and blotted out doubt. I'd heard her—Celeste—ever since a traumatic incident in my past, which I preferred not to dwell on. [More grounding detail would be helpful here or after the next line to anchor the reader. Where is Nathaniel?]
"And why would I do that?"
I spoke aloud—unnecessary, as the voice was only in my head, but speaking was easier than not. I'd heard her—Celeste—ever since a traumatic incident in my past which I preferred not to dwell on.
"You are my most trusted servant and dearest friend., Nathaniel," she said. "Contemplating personal benefit at a time like this is crass and unseemly, but in consideration of your service I shall grant you wealth and power beyond—"
"Pass."
"Pass?" The voice sounded closer now, standing right next to me. "On wealth and power?"
"I am content as I am."
"You are a slave."
"In the eyes of little men I am a slave. By my own reckoning I am—"
"Bloody Ancestors, Nathan, are you talking to yourself again?" That was Darius. He was real [I like the frankness of this line, shows personality]. "You know I hate that."
"I apologize, master. I didn’t realize you were here."
Darius, a bald head on a round torso with no neck in between, stood in the doorway, frowning at me. The folds of his toga hung about him less than
I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: Aldus Manutius' printer's device






Monday, April 17, 2017

6 writing tips from Hamilton


Hey so I'm not sure if you've heard, but there's the musical called Hamilton and it's pretty good.

I finally had the chance to see this rather incredible blockbuster show a few months back, and it's one of those rare pieces of art that manages to live up to whatever crazy expectations have been established for it. It's really, truly good.

And I was especially pleased to learn that writing is hugely central to the story in Hamilton. In the very first song, about Alexander Hamilton's childhood, James Madison raps that Hamilton "Put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain," and the rest becomes history. (How awesome is it to write the words "James Madison raps.")

Alexander Hamilton lived and ultimately died from his writing. From his early days, to his letters during the American Revolution, to the Federalist Papers, to the editorials that soured his relationship with Aaron Burr, writing was everything to Hamilton.

And within Hamilton and through Lin-Manuel Miranda's experience writing it, I found some inspiration that has helped me think about my own writing. (Mild spoilers below)

Don't throw away your shot 

Let's start with the obvious one.

It's impossible to watch "Hamilton" and not want to immediately run home and start writing. Characters marvel how Hamilton is writing "like he's running out of time," and Hamilton repeatedly vows that he's not going to throw away his shot.

Hamilton, through and through, is a writer, and a massively driven one.

Hamilton raps that "I'm just like my country, I'm young scrappy and hungry" and when he agrees to be George Washington's right hand man he immediately starts cataloguing the letters he needs to write.

Hamilton is hungry, writing is deeply woven into his identity, and the scrappy way he's presented in Hamilton is infectious.

It's all about the story

Lin-Manuel Miranda took copious, at times wild liberties with Hamilton's life and nearly everyone in the musical.

For just one illustrative example, there's a moment where Aaron Burr raps that Martha Washington named her feral tomcat after Hamilton, and Hamilton says, "That's true!"

It's not true. But it's a funny moment!

Would Hamilton be better if Miranda had strictly stuck to historical accuracy? No! He opts for meaning and story over strict accuracy, and Hamilton is better as a result.

Don't neglect your personal life

Hamilton was a rising star, before he was brought down politically by one of the early country's first sex scandals, where he was caught paying hush money to his lover's husband. Which also led to...

Don't be overconfident

Hamilton is so used to solving problems through writing that he catastrophically miscalculates with the Reynolds Pamphlet, where he confesses the affair and self-immolates his political career.

He thinks he can save himself with his writing. He can't. Jefferson, Madison, and Burr cackle that "he's never gon' be president now" and "You ever see somebody ruin their own life?"

Hamilton's pride also led him to accept Aaron Burr's challenge for a duel, which of course led to his untimely death and one of the greatest commercials of all time.

Take the time you need

It took Miranda six years to write Hamilton. It was worth it.

Keep writing

Let's take this one straight from the man himself (if you're reading this via email, please click through to see the tweet):
Got it? Good.

Now don't throw away your shot.

And if you want to hear from Miranda himself, check out this interview with the Nieman Foundation, this summary of some lessons from Hamilton: The Revolution, and this interview with NPR.

Have you seen Hamilton? What did you think, and what inspiration did you take from it?

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.






Friday, April 14, 2017

This week in books 4/14/17

Photo by me. Follow me on Instagram! @nathanbransford
Five posts in five days?

"This week in books" posted actually, ya know, weekly?

Yes.

Guys we're doing this. Lots of fun things afoot. I'm focused on all this full time and I'd love to hear any thoughts and ideas you have for making this place better. Topics? Posting frequency? More cowbell space monkeys?

Now then! I spotted some good links around the Internet and, well, here they are:

Pulitzers were announced! And the big winner for fiction was none other than Colson Whitehead for his much-praised Underground Railroad. Congratulations!!

"Worldbuilding" is a phrase that's tossed around a lot, but what does it really mean? How much is it really necessary? Over at Electric Literature, Lincoln Michel makes the case that the entire concept is overrated.

The Verge had a great interview with John Scalzi about his ten-year book deal, the future of publishing, and his struggles writing in the age of Trump.

The New York Times is broadening its books coverage, with new contributors and columnists. Thumbs up to that one. (via The Millions)

Have you participated in #pitmad? Agent Jessica Faust at BookEnds thinks it's all fine and dandy but don't neglect your actual query time.

Also from BookEnds: The Top 10 reasons your submission got rejected (which actually has twelve reasons).

GEEKING OUT OVER BOOK SPINES

And this is a sponsored post but who cares when it's called 10 great books for booze loving book nerds.

This week in the Forums (redesigned! de-spamified!)...

Have you self-published audio?
How do you get yourself out of a writing rut?
Nominate Your First Page for a Critique on the Blog!
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Comment! of! the! Week! goes to Jennifer Hubbard, who artfully took my "life of the writer" post on rejecting other people's "script" for you and used it for some very good writing advice:
This is also a useful concept for writing, because we can improve our dialogue by not letting it fall into recitations of rote scripts, and seeking where we can cut the scripts of have the characters break them. 
And finally...

What's that you say? Disney is filing a patent for "Westworld"-style soft humanoids?

Yeah everything is fine.

Have a great weekend!

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.






Thursday, April 13, 2017

Unlocking creativity through meditation


I know, I know, I'm like a thousand years late to the party.

I had resisted actively meditating for the longest time.

Why?

Look. I grew up shooting crawdads on a rice farm. I may have all the outward appearance of a hippieish liberal coastal elite but on the inside I'm pretty innately suspicious of things that, in rural California, we call "a little woo-woo."

But my previous employer offered subsidized classes on transcendental meditation (yes, the hedge fund), and I signed on up. The classes were taught by the David Lynch Foundation (yes, the director).

I've meditated almost every day ever since.

In addition to reducing stress and all the other well-catalogued benefits, I've noticed two profound impacts on my creativity:

1) It quiets that buzzing voice in your head

We all have running dialogues in our head with tons and tons of *shoulds* (I should do this, I should do that, you should do this, you shouldn't do that)....

Sometimes that voice in your head can get really, really loud, especially when you should be focusing on things like your writing and that significant other who is moving their mouth in a strange way oh wait they're talking I should probably listen right now.

Meditation quiets all that down. The voice goes from loud and distracting to more like a manageable whisper.

2) You have some pretty great ideas while meditating 

One of the things I like about transcendental meditation is that you don't actually try to force yourself not to have thoughts.

Which is good, because sometimes some pretty good ideas pop into my head.

These ideas can occasionally be harebrained -- much like being inebriated, sometimes things like a REALLY GOOD IDEA while you're meditating but when you're fully conscious they seem a little ludicrous.

Other times, they really do help.


So... just do it. I wish I had started earlier. Whether your idea of meditating is walking through a forest or doing acupuncture or praying or whatever else, just make sure to incorporate some quiet, distraction-free time into your day.

Your creativity will thank you.

Anyone else out there meditate? Any favorite techniques or resources?

I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.

Art: The Philosopher in Meditation by Rembrandt






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