Recommended Reads for April 15

Hello, dear readers! I’m trying out a new thing on here this week, a link roundup/news post. If it works out, I may step up my posting schedule from one post per week to two.

There are so many amazing creative minds in my social media circles working on cool stuff that I find meaningful and inspiring. I retweet them when I find them on Twitter, and sometimes I find ways to link them in my regular blog posts, but I want to do more to highlight my favorites. Plus, I suspect it will benefit me later when I find myself thinking “I read something awesome on that, now where was it and who posted it?”

My current theory is to collect my favorites over a week or two and share them in a semi-regular wrap-up style post, probably weekly or every other week on Fridays. I’m planning to test it out for a few weeks or months to see whether readers find it useful enough to justify the time spent collating. Content categories may include blog posts I enjoyed (I will make blogging a thing again!) books I loved, weird science stuff, and miscellaneous news of note.

For the record, some folks said they were in fact interested in this. I have the receipts!

Longform Love: Querying, Plot & Structure, Productivity

My Pitch Wars 2020 classmate Rose Black shared thoughts on her querying experience: This is not a Positivity Post. Rose’s queer cozy fantasy has found its champion with Becca Podos (I’m so excited about this matchup!) but Rose gets real in this post about the emotional challenges of querying and what carried her through when she considered giving up.

Write what you want to write. Write messy. Write diverse. Write to spite. Write for you.

Words of Rose Black Blog, This is not a Positivity Post

My smart and hilarious CP Mel Grebing shared their personal take on the three act structure: What Is Plot If Not Structure Persevering? If you find Save the Cat and similar beat sheets frustrating, I think Mel’s beats are more useful, especially in defining the forward motion in Act 2 through the midpoint. Also, they are as pithy and memorable as all of Mel’s writing!

….[O]ver time, I had to learn that story structure as taught does nothing for me but confuse and frustrate me. I am very certain that stories have a structure and that knowing what it is helps you write them. What I am also certain of is that you have to do you here.

Mel Grebing

Septimus Brown of Darling Axe shared an article about Situation Versus Plot that helped me articulate some of my recent experiences with drafting and critique, namely the importance of character motivation and how challenging characters to work through their worst outcomes creates more compelling stories.

Narrative rewards are most satisfying when the protagonist has struggled and sacrificed to get there…. Ask yourself: what’s the worst thing that could happen to my protagonist in this situation, short of complete failure or death?

Septimus Brown for Darling Axe, Situation Versus Plot

I’ve been thinking a lot about healthy productivity lately, and really enjoyed Dave Goodman’s perspective on measuring effort instead of word count. Word count metrics work well for me, but they don’t work for everyone, and Dave is really thoughtful in how he approaches this.

Being kind to yourself turns out to be a far more resilient and effective strategy than beating yourself up. I promise, it’s true.

Dave Goodman, How I Write: Measuring Effort

This post on smooth transitions set my brain wheels a-turning. It’s aimed at scientific article writers, but I feel like much of it is applicable to flow in fiction as well when it comes to the endings and beginnings of scenes, paragraphs, etc. I especially appreciated this yoga metaphor:

Successful transitions are seamless, says Roxanne Khamsi, chief news editor at Nature Medicine. She compares the pleasing flow that good transitions create to the flow of the body during yoga, in which each position requires a move that’s natural for the muscles. “The brain is a muscle too, in a way,” Khamsi says. “The reason that flow is important in writing is so that it doesn’t tax the brain—it doesn’t put the brain in the wrong kind of twist.” When done well, transitions can make sentences and paragraphs unspool as smoothly and (seemingly) effortlessly as a series of Vinyasa yoga poses.

Amanda Mascarelli for The Open Notebook, Good Transitions: A Guide to Cementing Stories Together

Book Brilliance: Bionics and Baristas

I don’t think this blog will ever become a book reviewing platform, but I’m making an effort to review ALL my completed reads on Goodreads and Amazon this year. When my debut came out, I appreciated every single review so much, and I want to make sure I’m paying that love forward to the books that bring me joy. This goes double for my indie favorites.

Here are my thoughts on a couple stand-out reads from the last few weeks:

Cover of I, Bionic by Jess Hardy

I, Bionic by Jess Hardy is a sweet, funny, steamy sci fi romance between a grumpy bionic and a gentle ship’s doctor that stole my heart.

Cover of Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Indie cozy fantasy Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree has gotten a ton of well-deserved buzz and is everything that I wanted it to be and more.

News of Note: Under Fortunate Stars in Buzzfeed!

Stellar debut novel Under Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings is featured in Buzzfeed’s Recommended New SFF list, along with many other exciting new releases on my radar! (Full disclosure, Ren is also my dear friend and Pitch Wars mentor, but my admitted bias aside, this book is objectively great. Do not miss it.)

Despite its far-reaching plot, this time travel space opera debut is deeply character-driven, following four characters back and forth in time as they slowly head toward the day that brought peace between the humans and the Felen. It’s an entertaining, engrossing read.

Margaret Kingsbury for Buzzfeed, 17 Amazing Fantasy And Science Fiction Novels Out This Spring

Weird & Wonderful: Fungi Talk Back

Mushrooms may have an unexpectedly large vocabulary. Also, this lead features a masterful pun. Science journalism note: more study needed on this one, but it sparks the imagination.

Buried in forest litter or sprouting from trees, fungi might give the impression of being silent and relatively self-contained organisms, but a new study suggests they may be champignon communicators. Mathematical analysis of the electrical signals fungi seemingly send to one another has identified patterns that bear a striking structural similarity to human speech.

Linda Geddes, “Mushrooms communicate with each other using up to 50 ‘words’, scientist claims,” The Guardian

Tell me what you think!

Will you check out future posts like this or skip them? Drop me a comment and let me know!

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