February 2016 Progress

Another month has passed with 1000 word days, with my month total of 29732 words being split over two novels. The Eternal’s War was finished on the 23rd, and since then I have written 6891 words of my new young adult novel From the Ashes. I don’t think I really accounted for just how strange it is going straight from one novel to another. It took me a while to get used to writing new characters and a completely different genre and style. I’m still not quite accepting of it, and the idea of having to do it again in a few months is really disconcerting. But I am at the end of the second month of the year and on my second novel of the year, which is insanely amazing. I’m really looking forward to continuing work on From the Ashes, which is actually a fantasy novel with no visual imagery whatsoever and surprisingly easy to do. Writing was overall more challenging this month than last month, with ten days below count and three of those with no writing whatsoever.

I, quite embarrassingly, have not done any editing this month, so am really going to make the time for it for March. I need to finish edits for JJE soon so that I can start fixing up The Eternal’s War before I have to write its sequel later this year. Yet I am at the point where edits require several more hours to be at work on my laptop, which is time I definitely don’t have right now.

I’ve read six books in February, a bit of a step down from last month, but each of them were excellent. Kings Rising by C. S. Pacat takes the lead, with books 2-4 of The Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara, The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas and The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness all being incredible too. I wish I had more time during February to get things done, it has been a very tightly packed month and as such a struggle to fit in everything I wished to do. Overall I am staying afloat in my to do list but not quite much beyond that.

I’m aiming to have a bit more information for you all on my thoughts on finishing The Eternal’s War soon, but I haven’t had the time to adjust to the idea of actually finishing it and so haven’t been able to put forward more than a coherent sentence about it as yet. Hope everyone has had a productive month and is looking forward to the coming of a new month and a new season.

Farewell, Faithful Companion

After several years of always being with me, it is time to say farewell to the most faithful of companions. My writing notebook is filled up, and as it has been with me for several years now I feel it deserves a little tribute. And by that I mean I am going to embarrass myself with excerpts, highlights, and lowlights of the last few years of writing.

I can’t quite pinpoint when I started this notebook but it was in the last two months of 2012. I started it with a short story entitled The Sideshow. My handwriting was the neatest it has ever been, but the writing itself was somewhat less remarkable. Here’s the first two sentences for you.

Roland’s stomach shuddered as he walked towards the podium, just as it always had. Megaphone held loosely in his swinging hand, the mere touch of it making him queasy, it was all he could do to curl a single finger around it to stop it from falling.

I get the feeling I had not quite grasped proper sentence structure at that point. Maybe if I had, it would have been a better story, and I wouldn’t have abandoned it after three pages (a trend you will see a lot in this post I suspect).

A few pages later we have me having a stream of consciousness consideration of the protagonist’s emotions in my YA novel which I have been working on on-and-off for seven or eight years now. That isn’t because I take ages to write by the way, it is because the subject matter is very sensitive so I struggle to write it for long periods of time as I worry I’m trivialising it. I quite like how I worked it out over the next half dozen pages. I took a lot from that stream of consciousness and put it into the second draft last year when I took that up again.

Above those pages there are a myriad of sketches I made in the last few weeks of building a Dalek. My friend and I had a few minute details to work out in that time, so as I was already attached to my notebook I did a lot of my planning for it at the top of each page. Though it isn’t exactly relevant to the notebook, it is a fond reminder of a great time and an amazing project.

Dalek Timmy

Photo by Sarah Campbell, author inside Dalek

Soon after that, in what I assume is March of 2013 I find a spurring motivational monologue of things I wanted to complete that year. A novel, a cosplay, several short stories, and a hand inked map. And I can say with a strange amount of pride in my lack of self-discipline that none of those things happened that year.

2013 was the year that the blog that a friend and I started was born, and so this notebook is littered with the drafts of blog posts that were charmingly ill-conceived. I had no idea what I was doing but I certainly went into it with a lot of gusto. I have pages of plans and drafts and very little of it is in any way good. All of that, by the way, was interspersed with savings plans and griping about my savings plans as I was planning a month long trip at the same time. To be perfectly honest I can’t even read most of what I wrote because it was often so frantic and mostly done on trains so I was shaking from the motions as I worked. Though from what I can discern, I really can’t stand most of what was written.

It takes far too long to get past the awful blog post drafts, and I feel it was several months before I next picked up the notebook. When I returned, it was to rewrite the first two scenes of Judge, Jury, Executioner. The first scene did not make it into the novella draft, but the second is a less eloquent version of the opening of JJE as it is now.

Screams echoed through the house, begging and pleading- a voice searching for help anywhere it could be found. Angie stilled at the sound, muscles clenching in shock until they ached. The shouts grew louder, a deep voice broken in terror. The basement drew her focus, instinctively knowing that this was the source of the screams she bolted down the stairs, half tripping as she went, ungainly in her agitation.

I am torn between cringing and fond affection transcribing that paragraph. The sentence structure was baffling, and incredibly flowery prose fills it, but to be re-reading the story as it first began is kind of sweet to me. And to know I have vastly improved in my writing skills makes me feel a lot better about the whole thing.

Soon after that, the notebook is filled with construction notes again as I started work on designing the set for a uni production of Robert Shearman’s Fool To Yourself. I clearly had a very bad writing year for 2014. Five pages span from January till November of 2014 and that breaks my heart. Then December rolled around, and we have my return to writing. A short story called Cursing the Night Wind, now known as Shaun’s Wake and the story that marked the moment I began sharing my writing with the world again for the first time in several years. Only one paragraph stayed the same between the drafts. As it is currently under submission I am reluctant to add that section to the excerpts of this post.

Soon after we find an absolute treat. My first draft of the blog post that marked the beginning of this blog. Not Good Enough. I stand by that post, and I think writing it really helped me move forward in my writing over the course of 2015. That post also marks the middle of my notebook. I have been using this notebook for several years but it was only in the last one that most of the notebook was filled, and realising that is devastating.

Right after that is the traditional goals monologue for the year. I won’t go into it, but let’s leave it at acknowledging that of the 4 plans I listed only one actually happened. Which to be fair is an improvement from the 2013 one. Looking back at those goals though, none of the others really were plausible.

Then after a while we have the moment I realised JJE was inevitably going to be a novella. The moment I realised I was going to write a world where cancer has become a plague, and a full spiral of political intrigue blended with gruesome medical details emerges to make the horror novella I have become so proud of. Characters were created, ideas were hashed out and crossed out. Even a few chapters were detailed.

On the next page comes the planning for what I consider to be the worst piece of writing I have ever done. I had to write a short script, and the attempt I made was frankly ghastly. I’m glad none of the actual script is in the notebook because I would loathe to share that with anyone. Nobody needs that in their life.

Then we stumble upon another story I abandoned after three pages, I think written in October. I was displeased with it, so decided not to continue it in favour of other work. It opens like so:

His albino form, malnourished but tough, rippled with the repetitive motion. He swung both arms over his head and down with a force that shuddered through him, the pickaxe splitting the rock smoothly. He crouched, a mess of pointy limbs, and prodded the pieces with a finger and a sigh.

That is only about a quarter of the first paragraph, and looking back at it I think it does have potential in terms of the quality, but the story itself was less than engaging. Maybe in a year or two I will find it again and rework it. That has been my method so far with Judge, Jury, Executioner and Shaun’s Wake so why not this untitled story?

It isn’t long after that where we find the one page that I used to plan my current novel The Eternal’s War. That’s right, I have been working from a single A5 page of notes to write my novel. No wonder every time I reach the end of a scene I spend an hour trying to work out what the next scene will entail. I promise though, it reads a lot smoother than I’m making it sound. Those notes are about one third plot and two thirds planned jokes and puns.

Turn the page and we have the final scene of Judge, Jury, Executioner. I wrote it before work one day, unable to wait till the next day to get it done. I get really emotional looking at it in this handwritten form. JJE officially started in the notebook before this one, and to know that it ended in this notebook makes me so happy. Having it typed just isn’t the same as seeing it in my own writing. I think this was perhaps the moment of my writing life so far that I can honestly say I look back upon with pride. Despite years of inability to write, I got a wonderful piece of work finished and it is better than I ever thought it would be.

We then find a short story that I am still working on, albeit infrequently. It follows an immortal who is watching time pass by with a focus on a single person growing up. This part is not quite the beginning, there are a few paragraphs before it, but I do quite like this segment.

A mother pushes a toddler around the grass on a wheeled toy, whilst the father watches on. Short of breath, the mother gestures to her husband to take over. He does a comical lumber towards the waiting daughter, who giggles openly. I haven’t seen a laugh in so long, I can feel the smile on my face before I feel the happiness. She reaches out to her father, and he picks her up and spins her as they embrace. Her orange hair flies out behind her, straight and thin in wisps and tangling strands. I can just spy a brown patch on her arm, a large birthmark of some kind spanning from shoulder to elbow.

He places her back on the toy and pushes her along, feigning strained effort in every moment, which gives the child no end of glee.

I’ve been working on this story whenever not doing novel work, and once it is done I’ll be editing it thoroughly and sending it off as I have done for Shaun’s Wake. It’s been a strange piece to write, I don’t often do work with a drawn out emotional impact. I prefer my emotional pieces to be short and punchy.

Inevitably, we reach the 2016 goals page. I’ve been ambitious for this one, and I can’t say for sure what will be completed, if anything. Some of the goals I’ve already talked about on the blog, but I can tell you that there are about ten more that I haven’t put up here. Hopefully it goes better than the previous goal pages of this notebook.

I still have a few pages left to this notebook, and though they’ll mostly be filled with JJE editing notes and a detailed outline of my next novel, I look forward to packing the pages with some extraordinary things, and starting the next notebook on a high note. Within a week this notebook will take a place of honour on my shelf, next to the one that came before it. It has had a good life. The battered spine and tattered pages can rest easy in a job well done.

January 2016 Progress

I set myself a lot of challenging tasks to endure this year. I decided to write 1000 words per day for the year, spend half an hour editing each day, and reading 60 books in the year. So far, I’m not quite in the swing of it, but miraculously doing quite well.

Over the course of January I wrote 31535 words of The Eternal’s War, bringing my total up to 66780. I struggled a lot in the first half of the month to stay on track, and often tried to convince myself I was too tired or too busy to do the full thousand. It was a shaky start. Somewhere in the middle of the month I started to have trouble accepting that I could actually be consistently productive, as my writing pace for the last, well, lifetime, has been erratic at best. Then the inevitable happened: my laptop sustained tea based injuries and was out of action for a few days, and I was only able to continue working because of a hasty backup I did whilst draining out the keyboard. Despite that, the final week was the smoothest of any in the month. Along with all my writing I was able to do a significant amount of language study and involve myself in some other tasks. During the month there were only two days I did absolutely no writing, and only seven other days where I did under one thousand words.

My editing did not face the same fate of productivity this month. I was able to get a satisfactory amount done, getting up to the adding of new scenes in Judge, Jury, Executioner, and marking off about a dozen things from my checklist. I hope, now that I am adapting to writing every day, it will be easier to become more consistent with my editing from February onwards.

Much to my delight, my reading is on track after January, with nine books finished in the first month of the year. Among those finished were The Last Quarrel by Duncan Lay, The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson, and The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth, all of which are 4 or 5 star ratings in my eyes. I’m really happy with the majority of books I read in the past month, and I hope that trend continues throughout the year.

Overall I’ve learned a lot about what I am capable of this month, and I am excited to push those limits throughout the rest of the year.

How I Edit: Part 1 (Feat. Judge, Jury, Executioner)

This month I started edits on my horror novella (Judge, Jury, Executioner), which has proved itself to be quite a momentous task. There’s at least 10 000 words of content to add, medical research to do, a legal system to construct, and dozens of other tasks to complete. It’s enough to keep me busy, that’s for sure. It’s also the perfect example to explain how I edit my work.

Just so you have an idea of what I am working from, my first drafts are chaotic at best. They’re filled with footnotes of why did X do that? , and research later, and a few insert scene about Y here for good measure. I spend most of the first draft of any fantasy work winging it in terms of any plausibility, and entrust my future self with the task of filling in all the gaps. JJE is no different. For a medical/legal based horror novella there are a lot of question marks where my medical knowledge and legal formations should be. In fact I spent most of the first draft not actually sure of the role of the Jury in this world I created- not the best thing considering they are incredibly prominent. I can acknowledge that I left a lot of gaps in the first draft of this novella. One thing I am grateful for, however, is that it does not need a complete rewrite like my current novel inevitably will.

First step of my editing process is to read through the first draft and write a list of every question I have, every scene to write or rewrite, every discrepancy. Anything that has to be changed goes on the list, essentially. For this one I started with twenty major points to work on, and a few smaller ones. Writing the list took up an entire day’s editing time, and it will inevitably be added to as the editing process goes on so I always leave an extra page to add to the list every time I edit. An example of my list follows

  • Timeline of ages (esp. Angie and Jariel) and events.
  • Consistent descriptions of mains.
  • Finalise legal system.
  • Rewrite Kiya’s court scene.

The second step is to do all the research I missed out on for the first draft. In this case I have the help of a forensic encyclopaedia for my medical research, and a folder of notes on various legal systems to help me create one that suits the novella. There are also some other resources for an aspect of the novella that is pivotal to the plot. Thankfully that is all the research I have to do for JJE. As I research I make notes in my writing notebook of all the key details I need to know, and flag all the pages in my resources that are of any use.

I started the research with the medical side of things, and learned a few more things about the decomposition of a human corpse than I would like to have known, but was able to get most of the information within half an hour. The forensic encyclopaedia is littered with blue post-it notes (the colour I’m using to differentiate for JJE) in any section that I may need to revisit as I get to the rewriting part. The legal research followed in much the same way.

Then it was onwards to the next pressing issue from my list. I had to establish a definite timeline. To do this I did another read through of the novella, putting events down to the precise day they occurred. This included a few backstory moments, unwritten scenes, and unseen segments. This also included more maths than I had bargained for, and it took a few attempts to get the years right. Having the timeline is definitely necessary for this novella to work, and it is a vital tool for the rewrites. I can also say that even though the dates themselves do not and will not appear in JJE there are several dates that crop up a few times over the years for momentous events. It is for my own satisfaction more than anything.

Any other discrepancies or facts are then worked out, like character descriptions, and made note of in my increasingly tagged notebook. Essentially the entire checklist is ticked off aside from new scenes and rewriting scenes. Then it is onto writing the extra scenes. It is strange, I will acknowledge, to be fleshing out characters (if you will pardon the pun) who I killed off only a few months ago. Yet it is nice that ending the first draft does not mean the end of new scenes. For this novella I decided to put in the extra time to write some scenes that won’t feature in the finished product, just so I have a clearer idea of how those events progressed. In time I may share those.

Once I finish the additional scenes I move onto the ones that need the most pressing rewrites, which by some miracle is only three of the ones in JJE. I normally have a strong idea of what needs to change in those rewrites, which makes it easier. To rewrite a scene normally only takes me an hour or so to bring it up to a suitable standard. Sometimes I like to drag it out a bit longer though as once I am done it gets into the nitty-gritty details. That, for JJE, is a problem I’ll worry about in February.

The important thing when editing is to know all the big changes you need to fix before you start. Without my checklist I’d be wandering lost through the paragraphs of my novella, changing things on whims and changing them back the next day. This is not a task you can rely on guesswork or memory. It requires lots of structure and plenty of forethought.

Not Giving Up

A lot of people who would be writers stumble and fall upon the same problem. They start but do not finish their work. I’ve had that problem a lot in the past and, as I’ve mentioned before, it was only last year that I began taking writing seriously enough to fight past the urge to give up. Since then, I’ve worked out a few ways that have helped me become more dedicated to my craft. Hopefully a few of them benefit the other writers out there who are struggling to maintain the pace.

Surround yourself with your novel.

Since starting work on The Eternal’s War (my comedic fantasy novel), I’ve been investing a lot of extra time in making extra things for it. Instead of a basic timeline in my writing notebook I used a large sheet of butcher’s paper to make a detailed outline for the novel. Having something that immense looming over my workspace is a constant reminder that I should be working on it. I also may have acquired an (extremely gaudy) garden gnome to sit on my bedside as a tribute to my gnome main. All my friends and family have heard me talk endlessly about the novel, so every so often they ask me how it is going, which adds a level of incentive to not sound horribly flaky and therefore keep writing.

Mark your progress.

I found whilst slogging through my horror novella (Judge, Jury, Executioner) that it became easier to power through my writing once I had set up a progress bar. I use a whiteboard near my workspace to keep track of my writing. Here’s my preferred format, including my current progress.

Draft Number Title Current Word Count Predicted Word Count
2 Judge, Jury Executioner 25 012 35 000
1 The Eternal’s War 41 007 120 000
3 Shaun’s Wake 2 998 3 000

 

Being able to see the ‘current’ column be updated regularly made me more motivated to keep going. There really is a joy to wiping out one number to replace it with a higher one. That’s why I also recommend doing it on a whiteboard or something similar, because it does bring more satisfaction than pressing the delete button to update your word count.

Write daily.

This is something I have always struggled with. The fact I have managed to write every day this year so far is astounding to me, but I really do feel better about myself for it. Creativity begets creativity, and you are far less likely to be stuck for ideas if you have spent weeks getting to know your characters and plot through encountering them every day. You’ll have a better memory for a little titbit you slipped in the previous chapter that would be perfect for solving the plot point in the next one. You’ll be familiar enough with your main to know how she will take a stance in an argument. Writing daily is a struggle, but once you get used to the tale it does become so much easier. Even after the first few weeks you’ll struggle a bit. But today will be easier. Tomorrow will be easier still. In a few more weeks you will forget it was ever difficult.

Get out of the house.

I would not be writing as much as I am if I didn’t have so much else on. Between work six days a week and seeing friends every second day I get enough time away from my novel to be able to get back to it feeling refreshed. I also find it easier to work between a tight schedule. If I have one hour between one thing and another I can easily hone in on my writing for that hour. Unlimited time leads to unlimited procrastination. It’s also really important to take time to leave the house for no other reason than to take in a bit of fresh air and exercise. When possible I fit in at least half an hour of walking each day to clear my head of all the stress and clutter. It helps me feel less agitated when I return to my laptop once more.

Be flexible.

As much as everyone waxes lyrical about routines and specific workspaces, it is so important to be able to write wherever and whenever, because there will come a time when your routine gets disrupted or your workspace is unable to be accessed. If you feel unable to write outside of your routine, then that will lead to a block that you won’t be able to shift. When writing daily, try to change it up. Head to your favourite café one day, or move rooms to get a different view from your window, or just take your writing outside on a nice day. Get used to working in different spaces and at different times. A morning writer may have to switch to being an evening writer any day, and you have to be comfortable with the change if you’re going to keep up the work. Nobody is exempt from circumstances outside of their control, it’s the people who adapt who are able to move beyond those circumstances.

 

It isn’t easy to write. It takes an immense amount of self discipline, a bucketload of time, and more energy than you would ever expect. It is no wonder so many people give up on their novels. Yet if you really want to make it happen, all you need to do is find ways to make it happen. It has taken me years to gain this much resolve, but in a way that makes it proof that if I can then anyone can.

Change is What You Make It

Now seems like a good time to talk of change. New Year Resolutions are in abundance, and many involve people trying to change their ways. They want to do more exercise, eat less chocolate, finish their degree, write their novel. All of that is absolutely fine, though by February the gym membership is going to waste, the chocolate is back in the cupboard, the assessments are overdue, and the novel is three hundred words long and left to rot for the rest of eternity. People are unwilling to commit to change, especially ones so dramatically and suddenly enforced. Many of the resolutions are things that should be built up progressively instead of cast upon an individual as soon as the new calendar is hung up. This is not the only change of which I speak. Over the last few years I have met many people who wish to improve as writers, but when told how they ignore the feedback completely and dismiss it as irrelevant. They refuse to change.
Over the years that I have been writing I’ve developed a lot. Not only has my writing improved, but my attitude too. I was often of the opinion that I knew what was best for my work, even when the feedback was perfectly rational. That is perhaps what I regret most about my earlier work: the disinclination to learn from others who knew more about the craft than I did. I still have a fair way to go with my writing, but at least now I am happy to take on the advice of others. This year, for instance, I sent out a short story for submission in a journal, and they rejected it with select pieces of feedback. Whilst I did not agree with some of the things they said, I can acknowledge where they are coming from with a lot of it and am happy to modify that story to their suggestions. I also sent out that story to perhaps 20 readers asking for their feedback as well. Ever since, I have been working on rewriting that story to make the best of the advice I got. Something I would not have done five years ago. That story is about a day away from being submitted elsewhere.

On the reverse, I was editing a script early this year, one of about ten that I have edited for in 2015. The script had promise, but there were a lot of issues with the characters and some structural details. When I was going through my edits with the author, they accepted all my structural directions without complaint, but when it came to the critical flaw in their main character’s creation (an unintentionally derogatory individual) the conversation turned to “artistic integrity” and how I was damaging that by explaining how their main character could be extremely insulting to a large group of people. Instead of acknowledging what I was saying and considering the changes, they turned the conversation into an attack on me. None of the edits I suggested were in any way binding, they had a choice with each one. Turning on me for giving advice was a poor choice. I doubt I will edit for that person again until they start making changes to the way they take on criticism.

It is only the individual who can enforce change upon themselves. No pep talk or peer can make change happen. Someone has to really want to make the change to be able to do so. How many resolutions are based on comparison of others instead of comparison of self? To compare oneself to another is not effective or healthy. To look back and decide whether you are happy with what you are doing as an individual is where the change comes into play. Perhaps my past client will change their attitude towards feedback, and anyone who has new year’s resolutions for personal benefit could very well succeed.
The coming of a new year is as good a time as any to make changes. I’ll be taking on less editing work throughout 2016 as I focus on my own projects. I’ll only be taking on a few of my regulars and if I have the chance a few new authors mostly towards the middle of the year. I won’t have the time for much more as I look at my daunting to do list. It’s a big year for me, and the main change I am going to be making is that of forming a habit properly.

I have set myself the task of writing a thousand words per day for a whole year. I hope that by the end of 2016 I will have four novel first drafts as a result, or at least very close to (one of the drafts is already a third of the way through). At my average, I can get through a thousand words in an hour, and that is definitely an achievable amount of time to write each day. I have systems in place to track my progress and to lightly guilt me if I don’t succeed in my target for the day. Starting with a novel already in progress will help me maintain the pace until it becomes a habit. I don’t do very well forming habits from new projects. NaNoWriMo 2015 was also a good stepping stone to this commitment as it helped me gain the discipline of writing for a few hours each day, so really I am just trying to achieve that in more the style of a marathon than a sprint.

On top of that I wish to spend half an hour to an hour each day editing my own work, starting with my horror novella Judge Jury Executioner. I have a plan of attack for reworking that, with a list of scenes to modify, replace, and add. I have about ten thousand words of content to add to JJE, as well as smaller tweaks to make to the existing draft. I will be going into further detail about my edits in future posts, but I am extremely excited about the work I will be doing for it which will ease me into the practice.

Just in case by some miracle I find myself with some free time, I have decided that reading the 50 books in 2015 was not enough of a challenge so I will be bringing it up to reading 60 books for 2016. Or, perhaps more technically, 60 before mid-November, as I know I won’t have time to read past then. For another plan in 2016 is to embark on a three or four month trip starting mid-November. This will impede my reading but by that point I doubt it will slow my writing (I’ll be travelling with my laptop and notebook). To see my reading progress over 2016 you can follow my Goodreads. It is already a habit for me to read a lot, so there aren’t any issues there,

Also as a plan, not a commitment, I am hoping to be able to update my blog more frequently in the coming year, as I will be working at a faster pace than before and should have a lot to talk about. If I can get a few posts up each month I will be extremely happy with that.

I am undertaking a lot of changes that make up the forming of a single habit and to be more committed to the path of writing that I have been on for most of my life. Writing is the one dream I always have had, but I have struggled with any form of regularity. I wish to change that. It is what I see as the main obstacle between me and a writing career at this point.
Change can be pretty scary, especially if it is all at once. What are the changes you are making in terms of improving your craft? What are the ways you are going to ensure these changes stick?

My Favourite Reads in 2015

This year I set myself the challenge of reading 50 books I have never read before. My final count is 67 and in a year of reading these are some of the books that truly stand out. Most of these were not published this year, but all of them deserve the places they hold as some of my favourite books I’ve ever read. So here we have the best five books/series I have read this year, and a few honourable mentions published in 2015 because naming five is nowhere near enough.

Stormlight Archives: Brandon Sanderson

I feel that Brandon Sanderson’s work is one of the core initiations for fantasy readers, and I am baffled it took me this long to start reading the Stormlight Archives. The sheer immensity of the world, and the depth of the characters should be enough for me to praise it till the ends of the earth. Yet I find the thing that really pulls me into Stormlight, and indeed with all his work, is how I can never predict what will occur next. Ancient knights with astonishing powers reborn in strange manifestations, in a world where everyone fights for the artifacts they left behind. A classic fantasy plot brought to life by a master of the genre.

Captive Prince: C. S. Pacat

I cannot in good conscience recommend this book (and series) to everyone. There is a lot of explicit content involved, which is to be expected in a book about a prince given as a pleasure slave to the royals of an opposing nation. The writing is absolutely incredible, and I was hooked from the moment I started. I was crying out in shock and enthusiasm every few pages, and there were moments my eyes were bulging out of their sockets when revelations were made. I can hardly wait for the release of book three (Kings Rising).

Broken Well: Sam Bowring

Honestly, I was not expecting to love Sam Bowring’s work as much as I do. The Broken Well trilogy is absolutely phenomenal. I read it very early on in the year and have spent the rest of 2015 recommending it to as many people as I possibly could. It is a story of a prophecy of a child who will end the war between darkness and light, and how the child split into two entities (one champion for each side). I absolutely fell in love with this trilogy, and much like his duology (Strange Threads) it stays true to the ending that feels best for the tale.

Gentleman Bastard: Scott Lynch

Absolutely the funniest series I have read in a very long time. The Gentleman Bastard series follows a group of thieves who steal from the rich and bite off more than they can chew, led by the legendary Thorn of Camorr. I read the three that are currently out a few months ago and since then they have been ranked in my most frequently loaned books. The first one is slow to start, but once you push through the first few chapters it becomes the start of an incredible journey. I could recommend this series to everyone I meet for the rest of my life and it would not be enough.

Throne of Glass: Sarah J. Maas

Let me be perfectly upfront. I like reading YA books but most of them are disappointingly obvious and filled with more two-dimensional characters than in any other genre. When I picked up Throne of Glass I expected more of the same old YA progression. I have never been so glad to be wrong in my life. This series is incredible. Fantastic characters, surprising plot, realistic progressions. It is everything I could ever hope for. Throne of Glass is about an enslaved assassin who must kill for the king she despises if she ever wishes to be free, and it really brings the magic and wonder back to YA books.

 

Honourable mentions- All Published in 2015

The Road Beneath My Feet: Frank Turner

Frank Turner’s autobiography/tour diary is a must read for anyone who appreciates his music. It really helps connect his life to his music and adds a whole new element to every song. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and once you finish reading it you will wander around listlessly unable to read anything else for a few days because nothing could compare.

Girl Online: Zoe Sugg

In the honourable mentions on a technicality (The sequel was published this year though I am yet to read it), Girl Online is a book that I feel could genuinely help people. The main character has anxiety, and it is so efficiently portrayed that having such an accurate representation could help young people with anxiety or panic attacks be more comfortable in their knowledge that they aren’t alone. Even though it can be quite generic in parts, it has elements that really bring the wow factor.

 The Shepherd’s Crown: Terry Pratchett

From the very beginning of this book it felt like the end. Anyone who has lived their lives reading Discworld and have read the final one will know what I mean by that. I always cite Harry Potter as the series that made me want to write, but Discworld is the series that taught me how. To know that it is over breaks my heart, but The Shepherd’s Crown ended it on a high note.

 The Scarlet Gospels: Clive Barker

Most of my passion for horror stems from Clive Barker’s work. Though his work can be a bit hit and miss, when it is done right it seeps through to the very core. I loved The Scarlet Gospels. Every moment reading it was filled with baited breath, every page brought trepidation for what atrocity Pinhead would commit next. Absolutely phenomenal.

To see more of the books I read in 2015, and my thoughts on each you can find me on my Goodreads .

Have you read any of the books on my list, and if so what were your thoughts? What were some of the highlights of your reading list for 2015? What are some books you’d suggest for me in 2016?

Second Half Recap (Belated NaNoWriMo)

My apologies for this recap coming through so late, I had less time to myself than I thought I would whilst away. I think over the second half of November I got close to 4000 words done. My working holiday really got in the way of my own writing, which I suspected would be the case. Since I’ve been back in Sydney I have been working on the novel a bit, though certainly not at the breakneck speeds I was before. I intend on having the first draft completed (approx. 120 000 words) by the end of January.

Even though I did not succeed at NaNoWriMo, it was not wasted time. I finished the month with 35 596 words of a novel I’m wholeheartedly invested in completing. And for the most part it wasn’t horrendous writing. I regained a sense of discipline to my scheduling and I hope to apply it more consistently from now on. Even if I’m not writing three hours per day it is certainly plausible for me to do so for two for most of next year (I am all too aware of all the things I have to do in the lead up to Christmas so I know chances are slim for a strong pace right now). I also have learned not to expect too much of myself in the weeks when I’m hopping from state to state working conventions. That was a difficult thing to learn. On top of that I discovered the easiest way for me to solve upcoming plot problems is to just write and let it figure itself out. Far better than spending hours consciously worrying about it.

Now that NaNoWriMo is over and my schedule has simmered down I’m taking the time to plot out the rest of this novel a bit more thoroughly so I can launch back into it with a better idea of where it is going. I would say that I am somewhere between a quarter and a third of the way through this novel, and a lot of the ideas I have for the rest of it are all quite strong but I haven’t got the journey to connect them yet. So far most of it has lined up nicely as I work, but I don’t want to rely on that as much because it was quite a stressful approach to writing.

I think the characters of this novel are some of the best I have ever written. All of them are engaging in their own ways, and are clearly defined individuals. The difficult part of a main cast of five characters who each get equal time in a single novel is to have them all work as both a single unit and individual characters. Often the definition between the characters gets weakened or blurred in group scenes, and surprisingly I was able to avoid that problem for the entire part I have done so far. None of my mains are interchangeable and each brings something different to the team. I am exceedingly pleased with that. Perhaps more so than any other aspect of the novel so far. The Eternal’s War is shaping up to be very promising, and I am glad I did NaNoWriMo as it gave me the opportunity to start it without qualms due to the absurd nature of the plot.

I look forward to providing more updates as I continue to work on The Eternal’s War. And I hope that all of you who did NaNoWriMo this year are as pleased with your work.

Week Two Slump- NaNoWriMo 2015

I’m not saying that the week 2 slump will affect everyone. But it certainly affected me. After the manic first week of 3k days it became a struggle to even dedicate myself to ten minutes of writing. Real life started whacking me around the kneecaps with a shovel, and my novel seemed to run out of steam. I was waking up tired and the idea of working at my laptop just seemed revolting. But some days it got easier.

Overall I’m still proud of the progress I’ve made, despite it not being as good as I would have hoped. For the next two weeks though, it shall certainly be even more of an uphill battle.

Day Eight

After a full and intense shift at work I wrote one sentence. I shan’t say any more about it, as it was quite embarrassing for me to drop the pace so drastically.

Day Nine

I’m back in the saddle again, with a bit over 1680 words written in an hour and a half. I didn’t have much time to do further work, but I am pleased with what I did concoct. I’ve started gaining ideas for the next few chapters so hopefully it gets easier from here. I do suspect that my 3k days are over, but perhaps if I can push it to 2k per day I can reach 50 000 by the 18th (I go on holidays on the 19th). We shall see.

Day Ten

I had a full shift again at work, followed by a harrowing two hours searching out a single book at a giant bookstore. I valiantly managed 633 words for the day but could not get through more than that before the temptation to sleep became too strong. I enjoyed what little writing I did do, but I just physically could not take the strain.

Day Eleven

I had a writing day with a friend today, and my daily word count shot up to 2969 at the end of three hours work. My word count now rests at 26 325 and that officially means I’m past the halfway point of NaNoWriMo, a few days early. Though I am still bumbling through the novel, with frankly no idea of what will occur throughout most of it, I am finding a lot of the pieces fit together quite nicely as I write. In a single scene I managed to get three subplots in motion that I knew would need to occur, and made substantial character progress roll into action. It felt good to be back at the same pace I was at in week one, and I hope it can last for the next few days when I need the push in my count most.

Day Twelve

Before work I slammed out a bit over 2000 words, which came quite easily. I’m now at about 57% of the NaNo word count and am so relieved that it is looking to be smooth sailing over the next few days. I have enough content worked out to hold on for a few more days, which gives me plenty of time to work out where I’m taking the novel next. I am pretty confident I can keep up the pace for the next week or so until I go on holidays. The week two slump is definitely easing, and I am glad to be in the rhythm.

Day Thirteen

I got through 1254 words in an hour and a half, hoping to manage another session after work. Alas, it was not possible. This chapter focuses on my gnome main, who if I had favourites would quite likely be top of the list. So it was somewhat easy to write, but I was also getting distracted more often than writing which is where the struggle lay.

Day Fourteen

I only had half an hour to write before work today, due to the fact that my laptop decided to chuck a fit and not work for the first 2 hours I had it on. I managed about 400 words but was too angry at my laptop to concentrate properly. The hour I had after work however, went wonderfully. It brought my daily total to 1944, which meant I worked at a tremendous rate in the hour. At the end of week two I have 31 600 words to my novel, which is incredible to me. That is, perhaps, a third to a quarter of what my novel will be overall. And in two weeks. And yes, this entire second week I wrote half the words I did in the first week, but at over 10 000 in a week I am not willing to complain. NaNoWriMo is a time when incredible things are possible. But the important thing to remember is that it is not the only time when incredible things are possible.

Week One Recap- NaNoWriMo 2015

This November I am embarking on NaNoWriMo, with a comedic fantasy novel called The Eternal’s War. In lieu of regular blog posts, I intend to update each week with a snapshot of the progress I am making. I started with a page of notes on characters and plot, but for the most part am completely winging this novel.

I thought up the original concept in March this year, but have left it on the backburner until now due to the sheer amount of other projects I had to work on. I may not reveal too much of it now, however a few snippets may emerge as I log the days. And I apologise for any strange sentence structure, each entry was written late at night. There is also a point where sentence structure just goes out the window.

Day One

In three and a half hours of writing I churned out 3288 words, which was enough for the prologue and the first few paragraphs of the first chapter. The prologue featured a young man being gifted a lifetime of half an eternity, which he was understandably confused about. In return he must spread the prophecy that will lead to the main events of the novel. The first chapter starts introducing my orc main character (one of five protagonists). My morale is high. If anything I’m disappointed I didn’t spend more of my free time writing, but I didn’t want to burn myself out too much. I already started to get the feeling this novel would turn out to be a lot longer than anticipated, but that’s a problem for December. I always enter the first day of NaNoWriMo in high spirits, and I feel that if I managed that many words I am off to a good start to the month.

Day Two

I did three hours of writing, and emerged with another 3066 words, which despite being less than yesterday was a much faster pace. I finished off the first chapter, and started the second (introducing my minotaur main). I’m still quite stoked with both the idea and my progress. I have written a fair amount of puns over the day, and have got strong ideas for the next few chapters, in which I finish introducing the main characters and join them together for their quest. I’m also enjoying setting aside three hours to write: two in the morning and one in the evening. It really makes the best of my attention levels, and I’m definitely making speedy progress. There definitely is something to be said to the allocating time method of writing, instead of the word count method. With a word count the temptation to stop at that line is very strong, but when you have the time set aside to write it is easier to surpass the word goal.

Day Three

After four and a half hours of writing I finished the day with 3703 words added to my total, meaning I surpassed the first 10 000 words within the first three days. Somehow, I’ve not even finished introducing all my main characters, I still have a chapter and three quarters left of introductions, then maybe a few more until they meet. I have ideas for the trouble a few of them face on their way to the meeting place, but not for all of them just yet. Still, that’s a problem for later this week. I started off today feeling quite unmotivated actually, as it was a day off from work and with nothing to schedule my writing around it was harder to commit the time. But once I decided to strike for the 10 000 mark, I was sold and on my way. I think my actual writing pace was slower, but the end goal was worth it. If I can keep up this sort of pace for the rest of the week, the month of November will definitely go smoother than it has for me in the past. If I can keep up this pace beyond November, I will be a very happy writer indeed.

Day Four

By the end of yesterday I felt like my eyes would fall out of my head so I decided to take it easy today, limiting my writing time back to three hours. The first two hours were slow- only 1665 words. The final hour, however, brought me up to 2931. That was immensely satisfying. I was disappointed not to break the 3000 barrier again, but it was for the best I stop with the timer after yesterday. I’m onto the final introductory chapter, which ought to be finished tomorrow. I’m past the 25% mark of the 50k word count, and that is a very good feeling for day four. I am loving this novel so far, and I am extremely keen to see how it turns out, but there is something I wish to address.

It is incredibly strange to write a novel in a month. Less than a week ago this novel had 0 words to it, and within 4 days it has an incredible 12988. By the end of the month it will have a theoretical full first draft (for me that is looking to be at least 75k), and that is just mind boggling. I don’t mean to freak out anyone else who is doing NaNoWriMo, but it really is weird. It is a good kind of weird, but it just takes a while to wrap the mind around it. Onwards, ever onwards.

Day Five

Today I was sleep deprived and exhausted from a tough shift at work. I spent most of the day doubting I would get even 500 words done, but to my surprise I forced my way to 3202 in three hours. The entire day I kept reminding myself not to push at writing if I was not feeling up to it, and if I hadn’t have picked up halfway through my first writing block for the day I certainly would have been alright to leave it at the end of that block. As is, I don’t have the energy to ramble on about the trials and tribulations of the day. I shall just say that I have passed 15k and have finished introducing all my main characters, plus have completed another chapter beyond that. I do hope tomorrow is easier though.

Day Six

I am honestly surprised I’m not burned out yet. But I think it proves somewhat that creativity begets creativity. Today I started the chapters which I had genuinely no clue what to put into, but I ended up with 2988 words and a strong idea of how to continue tomorrow. I really am taking this day by day. And it seems, as I write and get to know the story more, that each day the theoretical full word count seems to increase (at day 4 it seemed to be around 75k but it is now feeling more natural to be aiming for the 120k mark). Of course, that is a problem for later. This month I just have to focus on building up the draft, and likely most of next month too. My progress baffles me somewhat. But I am truly excited at the same time.

Day Seven

I think I’m finally getting burned out. Despite struggling through for most of the day I only got 1850 words out. Though that does officially mean I wrote 21 000 words in 7 days, it also means I am thoroughly exhausted. I don’t intend on writing much tomorrow, probably just an hour’s work. I need the time to recharge my batteries on this one, but I don’t want to take the full day off. I’m content with the progress I made today, and absolutely stoked about the progress of this week, and truthfully I have darn well earned a break. I’m tired. And yes, it has been a long week externally to the writing, but I possibly have just been pushing myself a bit too.