Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, October 28, 2016

This week in books 10/28/16

Photo by me. I'm on Instagram here.
This week! In the books!

First off, it's hard to believe it but we recently passed the three year publication anniversary of my guide to writing a novel: How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel You Will Love Forever. I really had no idea what to expect when I self-published it, and in fact I thought so little of its prospects I didn't even have a print version out on publication day! But in the past three years it's sold over 12,000 copies, (well over half of them in print I might add) and I'm psyched about the 104 reviews on Amazon. Thanks to everyone who has read and recommended it!

Now then. Lots of links to get to.

Emily St. John Mandel, author of the awesome Station Eleven, has a great article out on FiveThirtyEight about the rise of the word "Girl" in titles, what with The Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and of course the best of which is Sarah McCarry's About a Girl, the only one of the books in this list that is actually about a girl. Hope this becomes a running series with "Club" and "Code" up next.

Over at Books and Such, Janet Kobobel Grant has some advice for kicking a mid-career writing slump.

For all you picture book authors out there, Tracy Marchini has some advice on how to make sure your language is appropriate. (Appropriate for the picture book format anyway, not whether it's appropriate for kids. You're on your own there).

The BBC has an awesome article about Iraqi science fiction authors imagining what their country will be like in 100 years.

In NaNoWriMo advice news, here's my roundup of posts, here are some bite-sized tips from Reedsy including one from yours truly, and here are 5 tips from Angela Ackerman on keeping the words flowing.

Carolyn Kellogg makes the case that Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize is the best thing that can happen to the book world.

And I stumbled on this article from 2013 in The Atlantic, about how to build a happier brain through dwelling on the positives.

Comment! of! the! week! goes to John Shea for pointing me to this amazing anecdote, in response to my bucket list item to see someone reading one of my novels in public (unconfirmed by me but still):
C. S. Lewis managed to be best seller for decades without ever seeing anyone reading one of his books in public. He thought it might be a lesson in humility!
There you have it.

And finally, Halloween is just around the corner. Dogs beware of roaming skeletons! (via Mashable)

(*Email subscribers, please click the "read more" button below to see this video, along with anything else I reference that you can't see in these emails).

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What's on your literary bucket list?

Inspired by BookEnds' recent posts on bucket lists, I got to thinking: what's on your literary bucket list? What are you hoping to do by the time you kick the ole' bucket and write query letters in the sky? (Just kidding, there are no query letter in heaven. That's why it's heaven.)

Here's my stab:

1. Finish that novel I've been trying to write in various forms since college.

2. See someone reading one of my books on the subway.

3. Re-read Moby-Dick on the way to whale watching in New Zealand.

4. I will have many leather bound books and my apartment will smell of rich mahogany.

That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure I'll add more.

What about you?

Monday, October 24, 2016

4 tips for extroverted writers

One of the hallmarks of introversion is, seemingly, writing, clicking on, and sharing on articles about introversion.

To wit:

17 Graphs That Are Way Too Real For Introverts
21 Pictures You’ll Only Understand If You’re Introverted
25 Mildly Irritating Things That Drive Introverts Crazy
25 Dating Tips Every Introvert Needs To Know
21 Insanely Useful Skills Every Introvert Has Mastered
15 Travel Tips Every Introvert Needs To Know
11 Talents Introverts Don’t Realize They Have
26 Things Introverts Are Sick And Tired Of Hearing
15 Things Introverts Should Know About Planning A Wedding


Now that I have the introverts all frantically clicking on the above links, gather 'round my fellow extroverts.

Yes, we live in a society that tends to normalize extroversion, and we should be respectful of our introverted compatriots.

But things aren't always easy for extroverts either! Especially when you get your energy from other people and have somehow chosen a hobby that, by definition, is solitary and necessitates time alone in one's own head.

Extroverts, you really can control that stir-craziness and write and finish a novel.

Here are some tips for writing while extroverted:

Find a writing buddy

I get some of my best writing done when sitting across from someone who is also writing. Why? I feel like I'm being social and can take the occasional break to talk to someone, but I can mostly focus on getting some writing done.

This may require some trial and error. You need someone whose distraction-per-hour ratio is similar to yours, and you will need an approved bat-signal for requesting permission to speak.

But a great writing buddy will keep you happy and productive.

Write with noise

If you can't find a writing buddy, you may need some low-level noise to keep the walls from feeling like they're closing in.

I highly recommend soccer. It's the right level of dialogue, and you can always tell by the inflection of the announcers' voice when something exciting is going to happen.

Otherwise, maybe music, news, or what have you.

Get out of your house

Yes, it's temping to embrace what's convenient, and that often means writing on your couch in your pajamas. But if you turn writing into an outing, you'll feel less cooped up, and you may meet some people on top of it.

Go to a cafe, go the park... do it.

Control your schedule

Writing means saying no to plans when you should be writing. This can be very hard for extroverted writers, as we find social engagements highly tempting and distraction. The FOMO is real.

Make sure you have something fun planned for the end of a long writing day so you don't feel as trapped.

What say you, writing extroverts? Any tips that helps you get your quiet work done?

Footnote: I'm available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! More info here.

Art: Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Friday, October 21, 2016

This week in books 10/21/16

Photo by me. I'm on Instagram here.

A Friday roundup! Five posts in one week! We are back!

(Well, assuming the Internet doesn't continue to melt down).

I had my eye out for links, and now I am delivering them to you. Also, quick reminder before I get to them: I'm available for your editing and consulting needs! Feel free to reach out.

First up, you know how you want to *just be a writer* and want your future publisher to handle all the rest? Reminder from BookEnds about that fantasy: Not going to happen.

You may recall that Mr. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature. In Bob Dylan's latest Dylan-esque move, it seems the Nobel committee is having trouble getting a hold of him.

Jonathan Franzen once said, "What is fiction if not purposeful dreaming?" Well, I read a pretty fascinating article on actual dreaming, which has some of the leading theories on what dreams really are.

In the latest salvo in the publishers vs. free guerrilla war, The Atlantic is going to block people who use ad-blockers, offering them a paid ad-free option. Makes sense to me.

Kindle Unlimited authors have you noticed a pages-read drop? Publishers Marketplace reported on complaints from authors (link is subscription only), which Amazon addressed here and here.

Author Frances Mayes reflects 20 years after the publication on Under the Tuscan Sun and what the experience taught her about taking risks. I particularly loved this passage: "When I sprang from my comfortable university career into a new life in a foreign country, I took a big risk. Some of the best decisions we make come from that inner voice that says “Why not?” That says “Andiamo.” So much disappointment arises from what is desired but not chosen."


Freelancers Union pointed me to this hilarious flow chart on whether you should work for free.

Author Curtis Sittenfeld talked about the joys and perils of book reviews (via Jennifer Weiner).

Comment! of! the! week! goes to a very fitting individual now that we're back in the swing of things. In response to my post about the guilt of not-writing, Bryan Russell writes:
I feel like there's a line that you have to tread. You have to decide what is simply excuse-making (i.e., serial procrastination) and what is real. I save the guilt for excuse-making because this is simply my conscience reminding me that the little devil on my shoulder just won a round. But I don't let myself feel guilty about what is real. Sometimes life interferes, and there are things you can't control. You have to be able to forgive yourself. Creation takes energy. This is the physics of the imagination. But sometimes you don't have enough energy left to force those atoms to bounce and collide inside your skull and spark that frisson of energy needed to make something on the page. Be it a day job, be it illness or disease, be it a death in the family, or be it parenthood, sometimes the energy simply isn't there. And this is okay. It's renewable energy, luckily. Wind, water, and sun. So forgive yourself and come back later. Give your head a few knocks and the atoms will start bouncing armours again. 
And finally, Jennifer Hubbard has a fantastic reminder for writers in the throes of doubt: Trust the story.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Your handy NaNoWriMo prep

It is almost upon us!

Yes, your favorite annual torture device writing festival is nearly upon us, where thousands of intrepid novelists will set aside November cheer in favor of tearing up their laptops in an effort to write a novel in just one month. It's called NaNoWriMo, and it's quite something.

Are you ready? You sure?

Here are some links that may help.

First off, all of my best tips are written up all nice and polished-like in my guide to writing a novel, otherwise known as How to Write a Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel You Will Love Forever.  (That link is to Amazon but it's available in All The Usual Places online.)

If you prefer your advice in the free form (as in, it doesn't cost anything), here are some links to get you started:

Getting Started

Style and Voice

Staying Sane


And don't forget, once you're done with that draft, I'm available for edits and consultations.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What's your biggest challenge as a writer?




Writing the damn thing in the first place.

Lord knows the road to a completed and successful project isn't an easy one.

What's the biggest challenge you face?

Footnote: I'm available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! More info here.

Art: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

That uncomfortable feeling when writers don't write

If you have stopped by these parts in the past few months, you'd be forgiven if you imagined scenes of tumbleweeds with Spaghetti western music, dust blowing across a landscape slowly being reclaimed by nature (or, at least, by the occasional spambot comment attack).

For over a year I haven't been blogging or tweeting consistently, and this isn't because I've been busy writing a side project that I'm about to unveil to the world. I haven't been writing consistently either.

The reasons are many. I threw myself into an intense job with an equally intense commute. I gradually realized that after writing and publishing four books in four years while blogging nearly every day, I had reached a point of creative burnout. Mix in some lack of willpower to just force myself to do the thing, and you end up with zero words.

The dominant emotion for a writer who isn't writing is... guilt.

Why is that?

It's such a strange emotion to feel for what can sometimes feel like a self-indulgent hobby. I don't delude myself to think there are vast pockets of humanity who I'm letting down by failing to put my thoughts into pixels. The world will survive without another young adult novel and more musings about the writing process. If there's anything I should feel guilty about, it's that I fail every day to do enough to help others and bend the world toward justice.

And yet guilt I feel, even as a distant part of me knows this was the right thing for me at the time. I don't know what's waiting for me beyond the curve of the horizon, but I know I haven't written my last and am ready to attack things anew. That internal churn whose byproduct is words hasn't abated. It's just reformulating, and I'm trying to trust that it will lead me to the right place.

I'm learning to think in new ways, I'm paying attention to new things. I'm scribbling when I can, even if it's sporadic. And when the dust currently blowing wildly across the landscape starts settling, I'll see the contours of my new world and distill it into words.

Have you gone long periods without writing? What did you feel?

Footnote: I'm available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! More info here.

Art: "The Lookout" by Albert Bierstadt

Monday, October 17, 2016

The past few months in books 10/17/16

Back from the woods. I'm on Instagram here
A Monday post! Yes indeed.

To recap from last week:
In the meantime, while I haven't been blogging I have been keeping an eye on some of the good links out there. Here are some of them (and fair warning, some of these are from wayyyy back).

I'm sure you heard the news that George R.R. Martin's book was delayed from earlier in the year, which meant we watched an entire season of Game of Thrones with some plotlines that jumped ahead of the books. I still love Martin's actual post about it so much. Reasons: 1) HE'S STILL ON LIVE JOURNAL. 2) This line slays me: "You wanted an update. Here's the update. You won't like it." Give it a read, even if you haven't written one of the most popular series in the world, I'm sure you can relate to the sentiment.

A new handy map breaks down all of the imprints in all of the divisions at the Big 5 publishers. It's great! And if you think all of this makes any sense at all you probably work at a publishing house. (My related take here). Link via Seth Fishman.

Regulars around these parts know of my great esteem for Calvin and Hobbes, and Steve Cromwell pointed me to this terrific interview with Bill Watterson's editor, Lee Salem. Some great nuggets in there, including Watterson calling his publishers “money-grubbing bloodsuckers" in a speech.

Meanwhile, in other Calvin and Hobbes news, Gizmodo and Kaptain Kristen dive into what makes Calvin and Hobbes so good.

NASA released some fantastic futuristic "travel posters" for planets and moons in the solar system and beyond. Really cool.

And finally, if you want a quick overview of how the publishing industry works, check out this video from Natasha Hertanto:

Have a great week!

Friday, October 14, 2016

I'm back! (And available for editing and consulting)

Howdy strangers!

A lot has happened in the past few months. I'm no longer working for the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates and now, shorn of my four hours of commuting every day, I am eminently available for:

  • Manuscript editing
  • Query critiques
  • Partial critiques and consultations
  • Developmental editing
  • Brainstorming
  • Social media consulting
  • Random side projects
  • Job offers
  • You name it

Just shoot me a note at and we can discuss further.

This is a super interesting time for me, as I've never had such an extended gift of time. I've always jumped from one job to the next, cramming writing into nooks and crannies. I'm not totally sure what's next, but it's exciting to have some time to figure it all out.

I'm hoping to spend more time around these parts, write more, see where the world takes me, and craft some grand ambitions.

Let's chat!

Art: Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize in Literature

The times they are a-changin'.

In a pretty notable break from tradition, Bob Dylan was just awarded the Noble Prize in Literature. He's the first American to win the award since Toni Morrison in 1993.

What do you think of Dylan's win?

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