June 2020 Wrap Up

This has not been a very good month unfortunately. A couple of years ago I hurt my back, it took months to recover, and a couple of weeks ago I managed to twinge it again. I’m in pain all the time and had to take a few days off work because I just couldn’t sit at my computer. That also means I’ve not been able to do as much blogging as I had planned and missed several posts that I had planned to write. It’s slowly getting better and I am able to spend some time at my computer now so will be back to blogging a little more regularly again, though I am still in pain.  

At the beginning of the month I finished The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy. I was excited to return to this world and it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. While it was good, I didn’t love it as much as the original trilogy.

I also read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which I have had waiting on my shelf for several months, as I don’t read much contemporary fiction. I’m very glad I finally read it as it’s a very powerful novel. I had no hesitation giving it 5 stars.    

Fear is the fifth book in Michael Grant’s Gone series. I have been working my way through this series quite slowly, though that’s more a reflection on my reading than enjoyment of the books! This book was good but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous ones. I’m still excited to read the final book though.

I just had to read The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White as I love King Arthur legends. This retelling has a really interesting concept that Guinevere is not the real Guinevere, but has taken her place as fiancé to King Arthur so that she can use her magic to protect him. Although I enjoyed it, I only gave it 3 stars. I think perhaps the style was not quite to my taste and there were a lot of unanswered questions still at the end of the book. But I liked it enough that I will definitely be reading the sequel.  

I absolutely adored Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of Emma, so decided to read the book. I’m only a little way in but loving it so far.

This month was quite a quiet book buying month for me, which is probably a good thing as I have many already on my shelf that need reading! I received a Word Cloud Classics edition of Emma for my birthday. And bought The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle as part of my research for my next novel. It’s a lovely leather-bound edition with illustrations.

My back pain also put my novel planning on the back burner for a bit unfortunately. But I am still ready to write my King Arthur retelling for the July edition of CampNaNoWriMo! I’m excited to get writing as I am so excited for these characters and this story.  

What books did you enjoy reading this month? Let me know in the comments!  

Writing Corner: Planning

In my last Writing Corner post I discussed Planners vs Pantsers so today I’m going to focus on planning. There are so many ways to approach planning a novel. You need to find a process that works for you, but in this post I’ll give you some ideas and tips on what and how to plan.  

I’m a planner and do quite a bit of preparation before I’m ready to start writing. How you organise your ideas and plans is up to you. I use Microsoft Office OneNote, but there is other writing and planning software you can use such as Scrivener and Dabble. Do research to find out what’s best for you. You can usually get a free trial too so you can try before you buy. I found Scrivener to be quite daunting, so for now I’m sticking with using OneNote to organise all my notes.

There are five main areas I look at when I approach planning a novel – ideas, research, world building, characters and plot. My ‘Ideas’ tab allows room for splurging ideas and brainstorming my thoughts. I’ll come back to those later and filter them through to my ‘Plot’ tab when I’m ready.

Whatever genre you’re writing, you will inevitably need to do research. Whether that’s into a historical setting, types of weapons or how security cameras work. If you’re writing historical fiction, you’ll need to do a lot of research. But even if you’re writing fantasy, research can help you build your world. I recently wrote a fantasy novel inspired by Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. I did quite a bit of research into the ancient world, and then drew inspiration from that research to build my own world. There’s research you can do in the planning stage and some things you will only need to research as you go.

On the subject of world building, you need to understand your world because setting interacts with plot and character. Your setting (whether that be an invented setting or a historical period) will affect how your characters behave and interact with each other. But there is always room to develop and discover more about your world as you write. If you’re writing fantasy, world building will probably be a big part of your planning. Keep your notes organised into sections (e.g. magic, customs, clothing, religion) so it’s easy to refer back to and find those details when you’re writing.

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Let’s Talk Bookish: Should We Read More Serious Books?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘Should We Read More Serious Books’.

My general feeling is that people should read whatever they enjoy. But does that mean we should never stray from our comfort zone? No, I think it can be good to read a variety of genres and types of books. However I very rarely read nonfiction or biographies. I don’t generally enjoy reading this kind of book. I find they don’t hold my attention. I just can’t get in to them. Fiction is definitely what I enjoy.

One of the questions posed in the prompt is ‘Should we read more serious books as a result of COVID-19?’ Right now, I feel like we’re all just trying to get through this difficult time. Right now, I want to read books I know I’ll enjoy because I need to find an escape from all the stress and anxiety of the situation we find ourselves in. For me, this doesn’t feel like the right time to start looking for ‘serious’ reads. But for people who find themselves with more time on their hands, taking the opportunity to discover something different, whether that be serious books or something else, might be a great thing.

Sometimes I do feel like I should try and read more nonfiction. The problem is I don’t really know what to choose! I’ve yet to read a nonfiction book I have actually liked. So I’m not sure exactly what kind of thing I might enjoy. The only time I read nonfiction is for research for my writing. At the moment I’m reading a book on Arthurian Literature and Legend but it’s for research for a retelling I’m planning more than enjoyment, I’m doing a lot of highlighting and note taking! I’m also reading The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published for when I’m ready to start submitting my book. But I wouldn’t choose to pick up a nonfiction book to read for fun. Maybe I just haven’t found my nonfiction jam yet!

Do you read nonfiction? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to know what you think about this topic so chat with me in the comments!  

Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes A Good Villain

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘What Makes A Good Villain’!

Villains are an important part of any story. Our heroes have to face obstacles to achieving their goal and there is almost always a villain standing in their way. But what makes a good villain? I like to see villains that are just as fleshed out and developed as our protagonists. Cardboard cut-out villains just fall flat. I want an antagonist who has motivations, wants, desires, a back story (be it tragic or not so tragic).

Good villains can fall into different categories. There are the evil for the sake of evil villains, who I find very rarely work effectively. A baddie with an evil cackle is just cliché and boring. I like to see complexity in villains. Yes they might well be evil, but why? Is there something in their history that made them that way? Even the pure evil kind of villains can have layers and complexity to them. For evil villains, I want them to genuinely scare me. I want to be scared for my favourite characters. An example that springs to mind is Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses. She’s evil, twisted and sinister and I found Maas’s depiction of her character utterly chilling.

Alternatively, the villain could believe their actions are justified, genuinely believe that what they’re doing is right or for the greater good in some way, but their choices to achieve their goal are morally wrong or result in the deaths of innocents for example. Or the antagonist could be conflicted, fighting between the dark and the light inside them, and maybe they have a redemption arc. Maybe the antagonist isn’t evil at all, they’ve just fallen in with the wrong crowd in an attempt to fit in or have been blackmailed. Can they be redeemed? Or do they succumb to the darkness growing inside them? An interesting angle is having morally grey antagonists (and even grey protagonists too). When the lines between good and evil are more blurred, that can make for a really captivating story.   

I also enjoy books where we have more than one antagonist. There might be a main villain, the evil person who the hero has to defeat at the end of the book/series, and then other antagonists whom the protagonist comes into contact with more frequently and provides a more direct and personal conflict. For an easy example, I’d categorise Voldemort as the main villain in Harry Potter, but Draco is an antagonist who Harry comes into direct conflict with more often as they have an ongoing rivalry.

But how does the story end for the villain? Many books end with the downfall or death of the villain. In order for the heroes to succeed, they have to vanquish the antagonist. However, sometimes an antagonist gets a redemption arc. I do like a good redemption arc but it has to be done well in order to be a satisfying conclusion to that character’s story.

What do you think about villains? Who are your favourite villains from book or screen? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

April 2020 Wrap Up

April has been a strange month. Adapting the way we live has been a challenge. It’s been strange getting used to working at home all the time and not being able to meet and see people. NHS and key works are all doing such an amazing job right now keeping us alive and keeping the country moving. These are hard times but we will reach the other side eventually.

Since I’ve not been able to go anywhere, I have found more time for doing things I enjoy like reading and writing, which is one plus of this situation. Always look for the positives!

Reading

I finally started Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices series. Lady Midnight was such a good book. I just loved getting to know this new cast of characters. I was one of the lucky people to get an eARC of The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant which was one of my anticipated reads for this year. Unfortunately it wasn’t as good as I was hoping. It was a good read but I didn’t love it. Since I loved Illuminae, I decided to pick up Aurora Rising, the first book in Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s new series. I adored this book so much. It was fast paced and I was hooked all the way through. Finally, I just finished reading Caraval by Stephanie Garber and will be posting my review for that soon. Sadly, this is another book I found a tad disappointing. I think perhaps this book just wasn’t for me.

Book Haul

I’m so missing being able to go into bookshops and browse! I pre-ordered The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman. The Devouring Gray was one of my favourite books from last year, so I had to get my hands on the sequel. More people need to read this book, so if you haven’t picked up The Devouring Gray yet, I’d recommend it! I also received my Fairyloot and Illumicrate copies of Chain of Gold. I won’t post photos of their exclusive editions here as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn’t had their box yet!

Writing

It’s been full steam ahead for my Arthurian legend retelling idea. I’ve been doing lots of research around the legends and also getting to know my characters through making character charts. I’m having lots of fun planning this one!

What have you been getting up to? Are there any books you read this month that you absolutely loved? I hope you’re all managing to stay safe and well!

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!

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.

January 2020 Wrap Up

The start of 2020 could have gone better. I began the new year and the new decade with a cold. The rest of this gloomy month hasn’t been great either, but on the plus side I have managed to do quite a bit of reading.

Reading

I finished reading A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas at the beginning of the month and loved it! Her stories just really manage to draw me in; I’ve totally fallen for her books. I gave my first 5 stars of the year to Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It’s so creative and visual, and I enjoyed reading something that used such different storytelling techniques. Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao came in Illumicrate’s December box. Although I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it as much as other YA fantasy books I’ve read. Finally I finished reading Claudia Gray’s Defy the Fates, the final book in the Constellation trilogy. It wasn’t as good as the first book, but I still loved returning to the characters and seeing how their story ended. Now I’ve just started reading Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin.

Book Haul

I got two books this month from Illumicrate. The first is an exclusive edition of The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag with sprayed edges, which is absolutely gorgeous. The other was a bonus book – Infinity Son by Adam Silvera.

Writing

Having finished the first draft of my YA fantasy book at the end of December, I decided to have a few weeks break from writing so that I could come back to edit it with fresh eyes. Over the last week or so I’ve been making notes of things I need to work on or change, and am now ready to start work on the second draft! I’m excited to return to working on it, as I’ve really loved building this world and being immersed in the story.

December 2019 Wrap Up

It’s the start of a new year and a new decade! And I’m seeing it in with a horrendous cold… I’ve spent most of the last few days in bed and not left the house since Thursday, so I’m feeling a tad fed up at the moment.

I can’t believe it’s the end of a decade. So much has happened in the last ten years, good and bad. In 2009 I had major surgery. I’ve had two flare ups in my Crohn’s disease since then but have been well for the last two and a half years thanks to some new medication. So my health has been very up and down. I finished high school, did A Levels, went to uni, got a degree, passed my driving test and got my first full time job. In this decade I’ve also written five novels and one novella which is absolutely amazing. All I need to do now is get editing so I can start querying and pursue my publishing dreams!

I’m still feeling really rough so I’ll just focus on December 2019 in this post, rather than doing a whole year or decade wrap up!

Reading

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman ended up being one of my favourites from this year. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but the spooky atmosphere and interesting characters really drew me in.

I don’t read short stories very often. I much prefer novels. So I’ve been reading bits of The Bane Chronicles here and there rather than all in one go. I’ve also been reading The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas which is a collection of prequel novellas. I’m about halfway through those.

Currently I’m reading A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas so there’ll be a review of that to come soon!

Book Haul

At the beginning of the month I got a set of 10 stamps on my Waterstones card thanks to buying Christmas presents, so that was a great excuse to buy books for myself! I bought Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick this book up sooner. It looks really unique and totally up my street. I also bought A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. I’ve heard a lot about this book this year so I’m hoping it lives up to the hype.

I got two books for Christmas – the Collector’s Edition of Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas which is absolutely gorgeous, and Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao.

Writing

This month has been a great month for writing! I finished the first draft of the YA fantasy novel I’ve been working on this year! I wasn’t sure I was going to finish it by the end of the year but I just managed to finish it before I got struck down with this horrible cold. The task for 2020 will be to work on editing it. I already have a list of things in mind that I need to go back and develop so I’m actually quite excited to begin working on a second draft.

Thanks to everyone who has read my blog this year. I hope you’ve been enjoying the content I’ve been posting. If there’s anything different you’d like to see, I’m always welcome to suggestions of how I can develop and improve my blog!

Happy New Year!

November 2019 Wrap Up

This month has been fairly quiet so I’ve managed to get a decent amount of reading and writing done, and also wrote several blog posts for this month too. I’ve made a start on Christmas shopping but still have quite a few things left to buy. It’s my choir’s winter concert next weekend so I should probably do some more practicing this weekend!

Reading

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was a little disappointing. I didn’t love it and I just think it wasn’t the right book for me. I finally got round to reading Defy the Worlds, the sequel to Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars, which I absolutely loved. Although I didn’t like it quite as much, the sequel is still thrilling and a great read! I requested one eARC from Netgalley – A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr. The world building is great, but other aspects weren’t so strong, and I ended up being disappointed by this one too.

Book Haul

This month I only bought one book and it’s due to arrive in the post today! When I was looking at Black Friday deals on Amazon I discovered the 10th Anniversary edition of City of Bones by Cassandra Clare at half price so made an impulse purchase. I love Cassandra Clare’s books and City of Bones will always be special as the first of her books that I read.

Writing

I only have a few chapters left to write in my current WIP and I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the year! I’ve been a bit stuck on another novel that I’ve been redrafting for the last couple of years. Something about it just wasn’t gelling, but I randomly had a massive idea last night that would radically change it, but might just make it work. It’s a story I love so I would really like to try and get it published one day once everything clicks into place. It’s nearly there, it just needs something.  

I can’t believe there’s only one month to go in 2019. This year seems to have gone really fast.