Writing Corner: Finding Your Process

Questions that I see asked frequently are things like… How do you write a novel? Where do you start? How do you plan your books? The simple answer is that there is no one answer of how to write a novel. There are no rules. The only thing you have to do is sit down and write. But of course we know it’s more complicated that just sitting at a desk and bashing out thousands of words then sitting back, satisfied, having completed a novel.

One of the simple ways that types of writing process are defined is planners vs. pantsers.

Planners – Plan their novels extensively before starting to write their novel.

Pantsers – Don’t plan at all, or with loose outlines, and let the story go where it takes them.

Being a pantser doesn’t mean you don’t plan at all, and neither does being a planner mean your novel can’t change direction as you write.

But how do you know which method you use? And which is right for you? When it comes to the process of writing a novel, you have to find what approach works best for you.

When I started writing, I was a pantser. I’d write down vague notes about my ideas but pretty much dived straight into the writing. The problem was I never finished anything. I’d get part way through and not know where to go next, or go off on a complete tangent and not know how to get the novel back on track. So after years of writing this way and getting fed up of never finishing anything, I decided to start planning more. I planned out a novella chapter by chapter before I started writing. I wrote it in a few months. It was the first project I’d actually finished. So I decided to apply this method to a full length novel. I spent quite a while planning and researching before I started writing. And again, I managed to finish it in a few months. I’d found a process that worked for me and having spent years never finishing anything, I’ve now written five novels.

My process goes something like this. I usually have a random spark of inspiration, usually when I’m doing something everyday like having a shower or brushing my teeth. I get those ideas down on paper. Then I wait for further inspiration to strike. As more and more pieces fall into place, the ideas begin to come together in my mind. I have enough of a concept to start actively working on it. I plan out the plot, characters and world building. Often there will be some research involved before I start. For example, the fantasy novel I’m working on now is inspired by Ancient Greece and Rome, so I did some research around that to give me ideas for my own world. Once I’ve built a picture of my story, I make a chapter plan. Some chapters are planned out more than others, but I have an idea of roughly what will happen in each chapter and where I want the book to start and end. Then I begin writing.

Even though I’m a planner, there is room for spontaneity and sometimes as I write my ideas change. There’s room to flesh out characters and world building as I write, as new situations arise for the characters. But if I have an outline down on paper, it helps keep me on track.

This is the process that works for me. But every writer is different. There is no one process to writing a novel. You have to find what works for you. If your process isn’t working for you, experiment with it. Try different methods and tactics until you find a rhythm.

What does your writing process look like? Are you a planner or a pantser? I’d love to hear how other writers approach their writing, so let me know in the comments!

March 2020 Wrap Up

This has been a weird month hasn’t it? I’m now working from home. I’m lucky that I have that option and still have an income. A lot of people and businesses are struggling right now. I’m still kind of in this state of shock almost. It just doesn’t seem real. Things seemed to get bad really quickly. And it almost hasn’t sunk in that this is actually happening.

But on to more positive subject matter – reading!  

Reading

I finished reading The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas at the beginning of March. It’s a collection of prequel novellas for the Throne of Glass series. I enjoyed it and I’m glad I read it, because it did fill in what happened before Throne of Glass. But I am looking forward to getting back to the main plot, the next book in that series for me to read will be the third book, Heir of Fire.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller was Fairyloot’s pick for their February box. As I was on holiday during the readalong, I actually had time to stick to the reading schedule and read the chapters on the scheduled days which was quite fun! Next I read A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer which I loved more than I was expecting to!

I decided I wanted a little break from reading YA, so I read Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. This is the third Agatha Christie novel I’ve read and I liked it, but didn’t love it. I do want to read more of his books though, as I liked the other two books I’ve read better. Her books are quite short, easy reads, and I do love a good mystery!

Book Haul

So, yeah, I bought a few books this month… I ordered some online from Waterstones as I had filled up my stamp card and wanted to spend it while I still could…

King of Scars finally came out in paperback (the hardback was massive and heavy so I decided to wait for the paperback) and I managed to get a copy signed by Leigh Bardugo! Having only just finished A Curse So Dark and Lonely, I ordered A Heart So Fierce and Broken because I just knew I wanted to continue reading this series.

Since I didn’t have any more Agatha Christie on my shelf, I decided to order And Then There Were None so I have one lined up for the next time I fancy a mystery. I remember watching the adaptation BBC did a few years ago and thinking it was very good.

I also bought a book on Arthurian literature and legend as part of research for a new series I’m planning at the moment. It will be a retelling of the legends, so I also bought The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White as I want to read a few retellings as part of that research (plus, you know, I’ve had my eye on this book since it came out…)

Writing

I finished the second draft of the YA fantasy book I finished writing last year. I’ve sent it to a couple of writer friends to read to get some feedback before I do another draft. I’ve also started planning the aforementioned Arthurian legend retelling which I’m really excited for! All the ideas have just grown in my mind over the last few weeks. I’ve got a rough idea for a trilogy in mind, but want to do some more research around the legends themselves before I start making more detailed plans.  

Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Classics I've Studied

How is everyone doing? We’re in lockdown now here in the UK. It’s a bit surreal.

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday is a genre freebie. At first I was going to do something fantasy-related but decided to do something a bit different. This summer it will be three years (three years!) since I graduated from university. I studied English Literature with Creative Writing and had a lot of reading to do over the years I was studying! So here are 10 of my favourite classics I studied during my degree (either they were required reading or additional reading as part of research for the creative writing modules).

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – The history around this book is so interesting. If you know nothing about it except what’s around in popular culture, I’d recommend reading about Mary Shelley (and reading the book of course). It also explores the theme of what it means to be human, which I found really interesting.

Dracula by Bram Stoker – Probably the most famous vampire book, ever. We read this for a Gothic fiction module and I loved it.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – How could I not include a Jane Austen on this list? This is another from the Gothic fiction module. It’s essentially a satire of Gothic novels and thoroughly entertaining.  

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick – This wasn’t required reading, but one I read as part of research for a science fiction piece for one of the creative writing modules. It’s the book the film Blade Runner is based on.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – An interesting module we had was Detective Fiction! This book has a big twist. I won’t spoil it. You won’t see it coming!

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle – Another one from the Detective Fiction module. Got to love a bit of Sherlock Holmes! I do like a classic mystery.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys – I read this one as part of research for my creative writing dissertation. This book is thought-provoking and also heart-breaking. I felt a real connection to it when I read it.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – I’d read this before I went to uni and was happy to see it on the reading list. It’s quite a long book, but I remember really enjoying it. I must read it again sometime.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – I don’t very often read short stories, but I found this one really engaging. It explores attitudes towards women with mental health problems in the 19th Century. It’s incredibly vivid and I found it fascinating reading around the subject and analysing the text.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – For our Children’s Literature in final year we had the option to use books not from the module. The Hunger Games was on the reading list and I chose to compare the trilogy to Ender’s Game. That was a fun and interesting topic.

Book Review: The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance  

Publishing Info: February 2020 by Feiwel and Friends, Fairyloot Edition

Pages: 326

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

The Shadows Between Us is a standalone fantasy novel and my first introduction to Tricia Levenseller’s writing. I wasn’t sure this book would be for me, but it came in February’s Fairyloot box in the most gorgeous edition, so of course I had to give it a go. It’s described as a Slytherin romance, and I’m very much a Hufflepuff, so that selling point didn’t speak to me personally. But I ended up loving it! It also makes a nice change to read a standalone fantasy, as this genre is so often long series.

Alessandra is such a determined character. Right from the start, we get a sense of her personality. She’s not afraid to be herself and she fights for what she wants. Her eyes are set on the throne, and she’s willing to kill the king to get it. Alessandra also designs and makes her own dresses and the descriptions are divine. She bends the rules of what women can do in this world, and uses her power to change things for the other women of the court too. She’s ambitious and scheming and she stands out from other young adult protagonists for that reason. From that perspective she’s quite an unusual protagonist really. This sort of character is often the antagonist, so I loved seeing a story told through the eyes of a different kind of character.

Kallius is an equally interesting character. He’s not a noble hero. We see him kill a guard for failing to keep watch. He wants to conquer more of the surrounding kingdoms. But since Alessandra isn’t your typical protagonist either, they are very well suited. They’re both ambitious and driven.   

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Top 10 Tuesday: Books With Single-Word Titles

There seem to be quite a lot of books with long, elaborate titles (e.g. A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Wrath and the Dawn) rather than short or one-word titles. I’ve decided to pick 10 books where the titles either drew me in and are part of what made me read them, or that I feel work really well with the content of the book.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova – I read this book recently, and although it wasn’t one of my favourites, the title is part of what drew me to it. The word ‘incendiary’ relates to fire and conflict which makes for an exciting-sounding title.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – This word really rolls off the tongue and sounds mysterious and captivating.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – This book is one of the best I’ve ever read. The protagonist struggles with finding her voice and speaking aloud the truth of what happened to her, so ‘speak’ is a very well-chosen title for this book.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – This is quite a metaphorical title, but is also a word used in the book. I can’t remember more, it’s been ages since I read it. But I remember thinking it was very effective.

Gone by Michael Grant – This is an incredibly simple word, but the one-syllable ‘gone’ sounds as harsh and final as what the word means. It’s a very short word but definitely one which caught my attention.

Replica by Lauren Oliver – This is a title that caught my attention, and which was very relevant to the book. Plus I did like the book too.

You by Caroline Kepnes – I read this book a few years ago now, but I remember thinking how appropriate the title is. The book is told in second person, which is really unusual.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – Although I felt the series went downhill, I did love the first book when I read it. Uglies is a very apt name for the book as it encapsulates the concepts explored in the series.

Divergent by Veronica Roth – The idea of being different is one that’s I think quite appealing for a teenage audience of people who are trying to work out who they are.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – The mockingjay is a significant symbol in the Hunger Games trilogy. In order to defeat the Capitol, Katniss has to become the mockingjay, a symbol of the rebellion.

Book Review: Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova (eARC)

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 464

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

An epic tale of revenge and redemption in a world where a memory thief must fight against terrifying monarchs bent on the destruction of her people.

When the royal family of Puerto Leones sets out to destroy magic through a grand and terrible inquisition, spy and memory-thief Renata seeks to kill the prince, leader of the King’s Justice, who plans to use a terrible new weapon to wipe out the magic of the Moria…

For fans who enjoyed the ferocity of Ember in the Ashes, INCENDIARY explores the double-edged sword of memory and the triumph of hope and love in the midst of fear and oppression.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGallery for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Incendiary is set in a fantasy world inspired by Inquisition-era Spain. The concept of having a character who can steal memories intrigued me. But while the world and concept were interesting, this book was in some ways disappointing.

The opening few chapters grabbed my attention, but there was a lot of new information for the reader, some of which could have been explained better. I did feel a bit lost at times with all the new words and concepts. It was never really explained why Ren is occasionally referred to as an Incendiary, and since that’s the title of the book, it’s a shame that doesn’t come across. I like that we were thrown right into the story, but that did mean I found it a bit difficult to get my head around the magic system. There is a lot of exposition which makes the pacing drag. The first section of the book is very exciting and the last section is also very gripping, but the middle was quite slow and didn’t keep me hooked.  

Ren is a good protagonist. While she’s shunned by society because of her magic, she’s also looked upon with mistrust by the Moria because her magic is rare and seen as dangerous. She has the ability to steal people’s memories, and if she steals too many she can leave a person as a Hollow. This creates some great conflict, as Ren doesn’t really fit in anywhere, and it also means she has a lot of internal conflict which is what drives a lot of the story. However, many of the reveals come from memories Ren has stolen. While she is an active rather than passive character, she doesn’t do much to work things out for herself at times, the reveals for the reader are kind of handed to her.

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February 2020 Wrap Up

This has been a bit of a tough month for me. There’s been a lot going on at home and so I’ve not been much in the frame of mind for writing blog posts. Hopefully things will work out but things probably won’t be great for a while.

Reading

There has been so much hype around Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin so I caved and read it. Although I wasn’t sure at first, the story and characters grew on me as I read. I didn’t really realise how much I loved this book until I’d finished it and realised how much I wanted to return to the story again. I can see myself rereading this book and am definitely excited for the sequel which is coming out this year.

I read an advanced copy of Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova – review coming soon! I’ve nearly finished reading The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. If you haven’t read a novel in verse before, I’d really recommend it, even if you don’t think poetry is your thing.

Book Haul

So I had planned on having a bit of a book buying ban this month, but then my life turned upside down. And I always end up buying books when I’m upset or down. It also doesn’t help that I can easily get to a book shop in my lunch break, making buying books easy and tempting… I ended up with Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin and Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson. Having loved Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, it was a bit of a no-brainer to get the sequels Gemina and Obsidio, and I also picked up their new book Aurora Rising.

Writing

Despite everything that’s been going on, I did manage to get some writing done. I’ve started editing my YA fantasy novel. I’ve edited ten chapters so far, so fairly happy with that. I’m planning to get lots more done in March.