Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, October 31, 2011

Are You Participating in NaNoWriMo?

It’s that time of year! Time for the ambitiously creative and the creatively ambitious to abandon their hobbies, social lives, family members, basic hygiene, and episodes of Modern Family (OK maybe not episodes of Modern Family), in order to pursue the ultimate goal:

Writing a novel.

In a month. In a month with a major holiday. In a month with a major holiday with only thirty days. (Tell me again who picked November?)

The novels that have been spawned by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) are legion, and some have gone on to great success, including Water for Elephants.

Are you going to NaNoWriMo it up? And, hopefully, after you NaNoWriMo it up, will you NaNoEdMo it up in December? (That’s National Novel Editing Month to you).

I’m hard at work on Jacob Wonderbar #3, so while I have a head start and probably won’t finish in November, for all intents and purposes I am participating.

And this week I’m kicking off Year 2 of NaNoWriMo boot camp, including topics on how to start a novel, how to stay motivated, how to find the time, and much more. Stay tuned!

Last year’s boot camp topics:

Choosing the Right Idea
Goals and Obstacles
How Do You Power Through?
Editing As You Go






Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where Is Your Favorite Place You Have Traveled?


There's something about traveling that unlocks the brain. It gets you out of your routine, it shows you a different way of life, the jet lag puts you in a creative fog.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

St. Augustine sad, "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."

I'm traveling now, so posts will be a bit more sporadic than usual, and perhaps arriving at odd hours. But I want to hear what travel means to you - do you like to travel? Are all writers wanderers by nature?

And where is your favorite place?






Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are You Ready for Facebook Timeline?

I wrote my first article for CNET, on Facebook Timeline. Check it out!






Monday, October 17, 2011

Last Week in Books 10/17/11

Last Week! Books!

So in case we need any reminding why I changed the name of the weekly roundup from This Week in Publishing to This Week in Books... well, you need only see that I missed some big publishing industry news from a few weeks back. One that involved my old agency no less. Publisher/distributor Perseus is creating a distribution and marketing service for authors who wish to self-publish, and is only available to authors who are with an agency that has signed on for the service. A premium self-publishing option, if you will. Janklow & Nesbitt and Curtis Brown Ltd. are reported to be close to signing.

Meanwhile, the NY Times had an article about the myriad ways Amazon is competing directly with publishers, including publishing 122 books this fall and apparently offering $800,000 for a memoir by Penny Marshall.

Speaking of which, Amazon is launching a science fiction and horror imprint. Oh, and don't look now, but library e-book checkouts are up 200% this year. Amazing how fast things are changing.

The National Book Awards finalists were announced, congrats to all the nominees!

And in writing and publishing links, Shrinking Violet Promotions had a post I read very carefully on what sells middle grade books, Rachelle Gardner had a post on what not to say in a query, and Natalie Whipple had a really terrific post on writing and hope, and how even though the path is hard, hope is never the problem: losing it is the problem.

Oh, and in technology news, you may have heard that Apple released iOS 5 for the iPhone and iPad. CNET (which, disclosure, is where I work) has a truly fantastic roundup of everything you need to know.

This week in the Forums, the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards, discussing dialogue format, writing race in novels, and of course, NaNoWriMo approacheth! Who's doing it?

And finally, not quite sure why this elicited such apocalyptic reactions on the Internet, but behold... a 1-year-old who thinks a magazine is a broken iPad (via CNET).



Hope you had a great weekend!






Thursday, October 13, 2011

Page Critique Thursday: The Importance of Staying With Your Character

Here's how these critique thingamaboppers work. If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique Event, please enter it in this thread in the Forums.

First I'll present the page without comment, then I'll offer my thoughts and a redline.

As you offer your thoughts, please be exceedingly polite and remember the sandwich rule: positive, constructive polite advice, positive.

Random numbers were generated, and congrats to dios4vida, whose page is below:

Title: No Hill Without Treasure
Genre: Fantasy
(248 words)

Windrunner raked his fingers through his shaggy brown hair. With the other hand he swished his sword back and forth, trying to remember everything he’d been taught. His mind seemed strangely blank. In his nervousness he’d forgotten almost all of his year-long training.

There were others wandering around, most in similar positions. Each had the same look of nervous anticipation in their eyes. They were all there for the same purpose. Today was the annual Wisdom Challenge – the one chance a boy had to prove that he was a man.

A robed man stepped up behind the crowd. “Ksenia Windrunner!”

He cringed. He hated that name. Most people didn’t know his given name was Ksenia, and his mother was the only one to ever call him that.

Windrunner took a deep breath and followed the man into the arena. Gravel crunched under his feet. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach. He resisted the urge to rake a hand through his hair and focused instead on approaching the group of elders waiting for him.

A member of the council stood and addressed the crowd that had gathered. “Today is the first day of spring. We begin a new season and a new year today. Let us hope a new man is born before us as well!”

The man resumed his seat and looked at Windrunner. “Your name, Wisdom-seeker.”

“Ksenia,” he replied, “though I have chosen to be called Windrunner.”

The men of the council nodded. “A strong name. Your age?”

Now then! I like this page and feel like Dios4Vida has a strong character and is on the way to building a strong world. I like the way it feels as if Windrunner is on his way to becoming a new person through this rite of passage.

However, I'm just a tad concerned that the style feels a bit trapped between third person limited and third person omniscient. This sounds very scholarly, but it actually has some important implications.

We start a bit zoomed out from Windrunner since we're seeing his hair color, which is not something a character would think themselves. Then we zoom into his head and see his thoughts, then we're zoomed back out when we get a summary of the Wisdom Challenge.

The result is that this breaks up the flow somewhat and it becomes difficult for a reader to get their bearings. I think the first line is fine in this context because it's okay to start zoomed out and then zoom in, but once we get inside Windrunner's head I think we should have his perspective of what the Wisdom Challenge represents without the omniscient exposition of "the one chance a boy had to prove that he was a man." I feel like this would be more compelling if we had a sense of what Windrunner himself wanted to prove, and to whom, and how he would describe the challenge.

And this dovetails with my second thought, which is that while it feels like something is happening, I don't know that we have a sense of the importance of that moment because the stakes aren't yet clear and it's not clear why Windrunner cares. Leading up to this actual event, if we know why this challenge is so important to Windrunner we'll feel both a stronger connection to him as well as what happens with the challenge.

But still, I think this is a promising start, and with a firmer direction on which way the narrative should go I think this will be in strong shape.

Redline:


Title: No Hill Without Treasure
Genre: Fantasy
(248 words)

Windrunner raked his fingers through his shaggy brown hair. With the other hand he swished his sword back and forth, trying to remember everything he’d been taught. His mind seemed strangely blank. In his nervousness he’d forgotten almost all of his year-long training.

There were others wandering around, most in similar positions. Each had the same look of nervous anticipation in their eyes. They were all there for the same purpose. Today was the annual Wisdom Challenge – the one chance a boy had to prove that he was a man. This part should be from Windrunner's perspective.

A robed man stepped up behind the crowd. “Ksenia Windrunner!”

He cringed. He hated that name. Most people didn’t know his given name was Ksenia, and his mother was the only one to ever call him that.

Windrunner took a deep breath and followed the man into the arena. Gravel crunched under his feet. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach What is he scared of? What does he have to remember and do? We're already in his head so maybe delve a bit more into what he wants to happen and what he fears. He resisted the urge to rake a hand through his hair and focused instead on approaching the group of elders waiting for him.

A member of the council stood and addressed the crowd that had gathered redundant. “Today is the first day of spring. We begin a new season and a new year today. Let us hope a new man is born before us as well!”

The man resumed his seat and looked at Windrunner. “Your name, Wisdom-seeker.”

“Ksenia,” he replied, “though I have chosen to be called Windrunner.”

The men of the council nodded. “A strong name. Your age?”

Thanks again to dios4vida for offering this page for critique!






Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When Do You Let Other People See Your Work?

"The Reading Lesson" - Knut Ekvall
It's always a tricky balancing act for writers and other artists: You want feedback on your work, you want other people to see what you've produced, but you also don't want to get distracted by what other people think too early. You may even want everyone to just see it in its final form.

As reader Tricia writes:
While trying to have your novel published and wading through seemingly endless rejection, do you let people (friends, family...) read the product you are shopping around?  Or, do you tell them they'll have to wait until it's out there for the public as well?  I've had coutnless people ask for my work.  I know they might enjoy it and it's tempting to let them have it knowing, in the back of my mind, it may never be out there for purchase.  
For me, I'm a tight-fisted writer and I tend to not let anyone read what I've written until it's completely done. I have a few people I trust to show scenes to early if I need specific feedback, but otherwise I try to just plow straight through and keep the focus.

What about you? I'd be curious about what other non-writing artistic types think about this as well.






Monday, October 10, 2011

Is Blog Fatigue on the Rise?

"Das Schlaraffenland" - Pieter Bruegel the Elder
It's been over five years since blogs really exploded into the public consciousness, fueled by the rising popularity of WordPress and Blogger, which vastly simplified the process of creating places on the Internet where anyone could easily share their thoughts.

And dare I say people seem to be getting tired?

Natalie Whipple and J.A. Konrath were the latest to express blog fatigue, joining countless others who have gone on temporary or permanent hiatus.

For some it's the negativity that comes with putting yourself out there. Some people have run out of ideas. Some people have taken a look at the cost/benefit and decided it wasn't worth it. And some just forget to post.

I'm sure it hasn't escaped the notice of regular blog readers that the posting on this blog has grown, well, a bit more sporadic. After posting every weekday for nearly five years, I've found it increasingly difficult to keep up that pace.

For me it's not about running out of ideas or the occasional negativity (though that can be a drag), it's just a time crunch.

It's always been a balancing act to juggle busy day jobs, writing books, and blogging, but what's really changed for me is that I made a very conscious decision to get out more. To spend more time with friends and people and exploring and finding a better balance in my life.

So if I'm hanging out with friends Thursday night there's no This Week in Books on Friday. If I have a busy weekend it might be until Tuesday that I get a post up. I've chosen to make that tradeoff

Sorry about that! I care a lot about this blog and all of the readers, and I'm not good at letting some things slide. And this blog isn't going anywhere any time soon. I hope you'll stick around.

What do you think? Are you seeing more blog fatigue? Have you experienced it yourself?






Saturday, October 8, 2011

This Week in Books 10/8/11

This week! Books!

What a week.

Now that I'm the social media manager at CNET rather than a literary agent (Note for emphasis: Not a literary agent. No more queries, pleaaasssseeee!!!), I'm at the whims of the tech news cycle and it doesn't get much bigger than this week. I've had my nose to a screen pretty much nonstop.

The life of Steve Jobs has been endlessly parsed and discussed and debated since his passing (here's a massively comprehensive roundup from CNET), and it's amazing how deep his influence runs. To just take one little corner of the world, the publishing industry, he had a massive impact. For someone who famously said that no one reads anymore, he sure shook up the book world.

The iPad ushered in a completely new way of reading that will transform books forever. Sure, e-ink readers are still popular, but tablets will soon be ubiquitous and we'll increasingly do our reading not on paper but on screens.

And even beyond the reading experience, the app store model is now how the Big 6 publishers sell their e-books, resulting in curiosities like e-books sometimes costing more than hardcovers. His influence is everywhere.

We lost a great innovator way too soon. He'll definitely be missed.

Meanwhile, I managed to snag some links from the past few weeks in between all the frantic tweeting and Facebook posting I've been doing for work, and here they be. Oh, and for all the latest tech news (and to see what I do for my day job, follow CNET on Facebook and Twitter!)

First up, it sure seems that interest in self-publishing is running very high, if the fantastic comments on last Thursday's post are any indication. And agent Sarah LaPolla had a really awesome week of posts on all things self-publishing. First was her own take on the self-publishing landscape (along with three valid worries about it), and then some really great interviews with Marilyn Peake, Tracy Marchini, Karen Amanda Hooper, and Michelle Davidson Argyle. Check it out!

Dare I say blog fatigue is setting in among the bloggerati? Author Natalie Whipple admitted that she's tired of blogging (Internet negativity being a big factor), and none other than J.A. Konrath is taking an indefinite hiatus, saying he's tired of screaming. I'll post more about this on Monday - speaking personally I haven't lost the blogging love, but logistically it's definitely hard to keep up.

In writing advice news, the Children's Literature Network has an amazing collection of thoughts on voice, editor Alan Rinzler has advice on pursuing traditional publication from three amazing editors, Patricia Wrede talks about character development (via Livia Blackburne), and io9 has a great post by Charlie Jane Anders about the ten types of writer's block and how to overcome them.

"Big" books seem obvious in retrospect, but they often start as seemingly small ideas. Agent Betsy Lerner has an amazing post on this phenomenon.

Reader Noreen pointed me to a really fascinating article on the way fiction has influenced our perception of reality, which wraps up with the layered satire of Stephen Colbert. Really interesting stuff.

And Jennifer Hubbard has a great collection of inspiring posts.

This week in the Forums, discussion Steve Jobs' death, your most random writing fodder moment, multimedia e-books, is blogging a bad idea for writers, discussing CreateSpace, and the future of YA. Oh, and Rachel Ventura created a cool blog logo based on Nathan's hot dogs!

Nathan's Famous Writer Blog


Comment! of! the! week! I should probably say weeks! goes to Matthew MacNish, who had a great summary of Stieg Larsson's prose:

The writing is kind of like Swedish architecture and design: austere, yet functional.
And finally, Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford commencement address has been watched over 10 million times, but if you haven't yet watched it please do yourself a favor and do so:



Have a great weekend!






Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs

'Apple co-founder and Chairman Steve Jobs died today, Apple said. He was 56.

"Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives," Apple said in a statement. "The world is immeasurably better because of Steve." ' http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-20116336-37/apple-co-founder-chairman-steve-jobs-dies/









Do You Read Books Straight Through?

"Lesendes Mädchen" - Gustav Adolph Hennig
It has come to my attention that not everyone reads books chronologically. You know, starting on page one and finishing at The End.

Reader Sabrina wrote me to say that she starts at the beginning, then skims and checks out the end to see if she wants to read the whole thing, then keeps going.

What about you. Do you skip around, peek at the ending, or do you go straight through? And as an author/reader, do you think there's something wrong with reading a book out of order or all is fair in love and reading?






Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Don't Be a Jerk

Porträt des Francisco de Goya - Vicente López Y Portaña
The Internet has opened up many new avenues for people to express their opinions. It has empowered the crowd, it has emboldened the masses, it has allowed just about anyone with an Internet connection to fire up their computer and start telling the world what they think.

It also allows people to be a jerk.

We all know that people are willing to say things to others on the Internet they would never, ever say in real life. Especially anonymously. I mean, what is the other person going to do, punch them through the computer screen?

But here's the thing about being a jerk on the Internet. While jerks can say things on the Internet without fear of reprisals and without batting an eyelash, the other person on the end of a barb feels it just as real as if they had heard it in real life. In some ways it hurts even more, because it feels like someone is expressing their real, unvarnished opinions.

Call it the corollary of Internet jerkdom. Every jerk action can have a vastly disproportionate and wounding reaction.

How do you know if you're being a jerk? Let me help.
  • If you call someone a name on the Internet you're not getting something off your chest, you're being a jerk.
  • If you call a book a piece of trash on the Internet, you're not expressing an opinion, you're being a jerk. Someone wrote that book, and there are better ways to express yourself. 
  • If you mock and belittle someone who has done something wrong you're not helping them learn from their mistakes, you're being a jerk.
  • If you're knocking someone down to make yourself feel better you are absolutely being a jerk.
  • If you're knocking someone down period you're being a jerk.
We've all got to live together on this thing called the Internet, and last I heard they're not kicking people off the cyberspace island. Behind every faceless avatar and screenname is a living, breathing human who you can seriously damage with your words.

So don't be a jerk.






Monday, October 3, 2011

Two New Wordplay Podcasts!

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

There are two new episodes of the Wordplay Podcast, which I record with the fabulously talented James Dashner and J. Scott Savage along with some incredible special guests.

In Episode 5 we discuss how to find time to write and how to deal with writer's block, and of course, to outline or not to outline.



And Episode 6 features the fabulous bestselling author Andrea Cremer, author of Wolfsbane and Nightshade, and you can even win a copy of one of her awesome novels! We talk about something every author has to face: how to deal with rejection.



Enjoy!






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