If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.
Today I’m bringing you some great advice from successful authors, so get ready for that. Open your notes app, or if you’re anything like me, take out a pen and one of your many half-used notebooks.
The bookstore we’re visiting today has a cafe—it’s been a while since we've been to one of those—so let’s head there first for refreshments and to discuss some publishing news, just you and me.
Wanting to create the bookstore she wished existed as a child, owner Lucy Yu opened Yu and Me Books when she was just 27 years old. Located in Chinatown, Manhattan, this one-year-old bookstore’s interior features a mix of red, turquoise, and wood, fairy lights, table lamps, and the occasional plant. They serve coffee, beer, wine, books, and atmosphere. “Yu and Me Books is a bookstore that showcases immigrant stories and creates a home for the community.”
Every month they have can’t-miss author events. Here’s what’s coming up in the next few weeks: January 31st, Maggie Zhu, who writes the Omnivore's Cookbook blog, will be discussing her new cookbook, Chinese Homestyle; February 2nd, Delia Cai in conversation with Chanel Miller to discuss Cai's debut novel, Central Places; and February 4th, Jenny Liao will be there for the launch of her children's book, Everyone Loves Lunchtime but Zia.
Check the show notes for more information about upcoming author events at Yu and Me Books. Now, let’s get a drink before getting into some publishing news.know he was also a writer? In:
Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization determined to expand book access around the world, and their latest initiative, the Indigenous Library Program, will launch this spring. It will provide “book-sharing boxes for installation on tribal lands, as well as in other Indigenous communities throughout the U.S. and in Canada. The LFL boxes will be shipped at no cost to volunteer stewards and come with two starter sets of books.”
I hope you have at least one Little Free Library in your area, and if you don’t, maybe you should start one. Check the show notes for a link to the Little Free Library global map to see if there’s one near you.
Novelist and short story writer Sam Lipsyte recently gave an interview in which he shared how he let go of any hesitation with his writing, and it underscores what we talked about in episode 45: The Biggest Mistake Writers Make. I know you’ve heard it from me before, but I think it’s important to hear it in someone else’s words: “I realized no one cared and I could do what I wanted. I realized, even the people who loved me—they were not waking up in the morning worrying about my relationship to the short story. Whatever I did, it would be just for me.”
He goes on to say that you shouldn’t think about your career when you write, just think about the next sentence in your book. “What I always make sure that I steer away from is to start having big plans like, well, there’s this book and then there’s the next book and the book after that. And this great thing I’m not going to use here, I’m going to save that for the other book. That kind of planning and forecasting, at least for me, has always been detrimental. Just stay where you are, and understand this could be it. Don’t hoard. Just put everything into it.”
Links to all of these news stories can be found in the show notes of this episode and on writingbreak.com.
It’s time to take a stroll around this lovely shop and check out an independent author.tended Beijing University. In:
“From the restaurants of New York’s Chinatown to the retail emporium of Bergdorf Goodman, and from remote Chinese military outposts to the streets of Beijing, these stories open a window into the rapid transformations of an ancient culture. As the characters struggle to find their way, a young girl discovers love amidst a sea of angry Red Guards, émigrés navigate New York’s relentless rat race, and an old man returns to a Beijing he doesn’t recognize on a mission to restore his son-in-law’s flagging honor. In the heartrending finale, the origins of humanity and its reckless dash toward an apocalyptic future are distilled into a love story with far-reaching implications.”
Now, let’s return to our table to get into today’s writing tip.
I’ve said before that every book requires some level of research, but I don’t think I’ve gotten into the dangers of over-researching. I guess this could double as our Overthinking Couch segment, but this time the overthinker is you.
The first problem with doing too much research is that it might be serving as a way to procrastinate the actual writing that needs to be done. You know you want to write a book, but first you have to research every last detail. Maybe you’re scared to start, maybe you just find it all so fascinating. I sympathize with both.
When I encounter an author wallowing in their research, I try to get them to write a few pages before returning to their research. Sometimes it helps, and sometimes it helps so much that they just want to keep writing and not do any more research at all.
You’ll find the right balance between researching and writing eventually, and maybe it changes with each book or story you write.
The second danger of doing too much research is that the author then wants to put it all into the book. That’s . . . that’s not going to work.
But don’t take my word for it. David Baldacci has said the same thing. If you’re not familiar with David Baldacci, he is the author of dozens of national and international bestsellers, several of which have been adapted for film and television. For example, the TV show Bosch starring Titus Welliver and the movie Absolute Power starring and directed by Clint Eastwood. Check the show notes for today’s gift (I hope you didn’t think I forgot about your gift). You’ll find a link to a YouTube video in which Baldacci explains his writing process and the problem with putting all of your research into your book. It’s a quick video; less than 5 minutes long.
All right, it’s time to think about that next sentence. Next week will be a bonus episode of the past ten weeks’ worth of writing tip segments stitched together into one review session for you. The week after that, we’ll be traveling outside the United States of America once again. Thank you for listening, and remember, you deserved this break.
If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at email@example.com.
Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.
Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.