Bookish & Writerly Recaps: February 2017

Would you look at this?! It’s the last day of February, and I’m actually posting an ON-TIME monthly recap!

Here’s a quick look at the last month in my world of words…

What I’ve written

So in last month’s recap, I mentioned that I’d finally been diving back into my novel. Throughout February, I did more diving; spent a few days frolicking underwater as a graceful mermaid; came back up for air; lost my beautiful mermaid tail; and am now stranded on a desert island, surrounded by shark-infested waters and unable to swim.

If I lost you with that confusing analogy, I apologise. I’m feeling rather lost and confused myself.

I wrote just over 7000 words in Feb, which brings me to about the 12,000 word mark in this redo of my first draft. Things were pretty up and down with writing throughout the month, and I didn’t write as much as I wanted. But I did get into a few good grooves here and there (usually when word-sprinting with Kyra), and for the most part, was enjoying the process.

But then I hit a rough patch. A really rough patch. One that brought home every doubt I’d ever felt about my story, magnified it tenfold, and made it feel impossible to continue.

As February draws to a close, I’m still in that difficult spot. I’ve only written 1400 words in the last two and a half weeks, and I don’t know when I’ll get back into the swing of things again. To be honest, at the moment, I’m actually wondering if I’ll get back into the swing of things at all.

This is a bit of a tricky one to explain, and I don’t want to ramble on and get too negative here. I may write a more detailed post about this stuff later on, but for now, I’m just going to move on and hope I have a more positive update to share with you at the end of next month. Fins and fingers crossed.

So! Steering out of turbulent fictional waters and back towards the real world, I also wrote a few articles for Writer’s Edit in Feb, about Scrivener, plot twists, and what to do when you’ve finished the draft of your novel. Hopefully writerly types may find them useful and/or interesting:

Feb-recap-1Image via Unsplash

What I’ve read

I settled back into a more regular reading groove this month, which was nice. (Goodreads is finally telling me ‘You’re on track!’ – yay!) Once I’d finished the non-fiction book that was my first Feb read, I flew through my next four… And yep, they were all fiction.

I know I vowed to try to read more non-fiction this year, and I will. But I’ve realised that when it comes down to it, fiction is what has my heart. I haven’t read many non-fiction books that had me dying to get back to the story every time I put it down, but I can’t count the times I’ve felt that way about a novel.

So while I will be making more of an effort with my NF reads, I also won’t be denying myself the pure joy of fresh fiction, especially whenever I find myself in a bit of a reading slump and need something to get me back in the game.

Anyway, here’s what I read in February…

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

This one took me a while to get through, but I did enjoy it. I love birds and I’d heard many good things about H is for Hawk, so I made an effort to finally get around to reading it. It details the relationship between the author and the goshawk she purchased and trained shortly after her father died. Goshawks are notoriously difficult to train, and the entire painstaking process is outlined here, woven through with multi-layered meaning and emotional insight.

The book refers extensively to T. H. White and his own hawk-training memoir The Goshawk throughout, but if I’m honest, I thought there was a little too much focus on White. The sections about him were often the ones I found myself struggling to push through, but I do understand why they were included. Overall, it was a good book and I’m glad I read it.

h-is-for-hawk

The Good People by Hannah Kent

I really enjoyed Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites when I read it last year, so I was keen to pick up her newest book The Good People, especially after hearing her talk about the process of writing it on an episode of the So You Want to Be a Writer podcast. Set in 19th century Ireland, The Good People is steeped in rich folklore and based on real historical events, exploring pagan traditions and the superstitions and beliefs of a small Irish county community.

Hannah is a beautiful writer – the prose was often stunning and always graceful. I really liked this story, too; I felt super immersed in the setting, got really invested in what was going to happen to the characters, and loved the Irish folklore that formed the book’s foundation.

the-good-people

Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

I loved Illuminae by this pair, and Gemina was no different – a rollicking sci-fi rollercoaster ride that’s a lot of fun to read. I’ve always been a sucker for interesting typesetting, and this YA series, set out in epistolary format, really has some fun with this. The story is told through IMs and emails, transcripts of conversations and security footage, memos and illustrations, and countless other bits and pieces. While some people might find this a bit gimmicky after a while, I’m not gonna lie – I ate it right up in both volumes.

The story itself is fast-paced, funny and action-packed, with likeable characters, a space-station hostage situation, murderous, parasitic worm things, and even some quantum physics phun. For me, Gemina certainly lived up to its predecessor in terms of enjoyment, and I’m really looking forward to the next instalment.

gemina

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I’d heard a lot about this series but had never actually picked it up – for rather a silly reason. I regularly use Goodreads to find new books, but for a while there, I found myself putting a lot of stock into Goodreads reviews. As in, if a book that I thought looked interesting had a few one-star reviews that had been voted up to the top, I wouldn’t bother adding it to my TBR. But then I read Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight, which I’d previously not bothered with because of a few bad Goodreads reviews – and I loved it. That’s when I realised I was relying way too much on what other people thought, putting far too much stock into what are essentially 100% subjective opinions and not simply reading what wanted to read.

ANYWAY, long story short, I’d held off reading Red Queen for the same reason, but when I picked it up this month, I really did enjoy it. It’s nothing super groundbreaking, and I didn’t find myself liking the main character Mare as much as I wanted to, but it was an enjoyable read, and I’ll probably continue with the series.

red-queen

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (reread)

Oh, how I love Victoria Schwab and the Shades of Magic series. As soon as I picked this book up for the first time last year, I knew it was destined to become one of my all-time favourite series. This is exactly the kind of fantasy I love. It’s set in an amazing world – actually, four worlds, with four parallel Londons; the characters are well-drawn and wonderful; the magic is… well… magical; and Victoria’s writing is seriously excellent. There are some truly cinematic scenes in here, which I can’t wait to see brought to life on the big screen!

I reread this first volume to prepare for the final book in the trilogy, which was released towards the end of Feb. I haven’t reread anything in a long, long time (apart from my two HP rereads last year), because I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new books there are to read, and feel like there isn’t enough time for rereading. But with a series that’s as good as this one, I want to see it off right – and that means making some time to rediscover the magic before it all comes to an end. <3

a-darker-shade-of-magic

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What have you read and written this month? I’d love to hear!

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Bookish & Writerly Recaps: January 2017

So I’m a little late to the party (what else is new?), but here I am with a bookish and writerly recap of January! This year, I plan to write a little something at the end of each month about everything I’ve been reading and writing.

What I’ve written

You guys… As of the 23rd of January, I have been WRITING. ACTUAL WORDS. FOR MY BOOK.

That’s right. I finally bit the bullet, decided it was time to stop plotting and planning and world-building and worrying, and started writing again.

I haven’t been hitting it too hard – mostly just trying my hardest to write something every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. So far I’ve done about 5,250 words, which isn’t a great deal, but it’s been nice to start easing myself back into the story.

What really helped me get back into things was revising my plot outline. Last February, in preparation for getting back into writing (this never actually happened, but that’s another story), I plotted out an outline to guide me through the rest of the book. But after mulling over the story in the back of my mind for nearly a year after that, I realised some changes needed to be made.

So I sat down with pen and paper and completely redid my outline. And I mean completely – as in, from the very beginning of the book. The majority of plot points remained the same, but I changed some things around and added stuff here and there, so overall, it’s a fairly different outline to the one I had last year.

bookish-writerly-jan-17-2Image via Unsplash

I’m much happier with the outline as it looks now, but redoing the whole thing meant one very important thing: I’d essentially be starting from the beginning again when I did get back into writing.

But you know what? I’ve actually enjoyed doing that. Using Scrivener’s handy split-screen mode, I’ve begun writing a brand-new draft from scratch, copying in bits and pieces from the corresponding chapters in my old draft that I like and want to keep. (Those bits and pieces are fairly few and far between.)

I’ve only written a chapter and a half so far, but I’m really enjoying it. I still find myself plagued with doubts and fears, but at those times, I try to remind myself of two things:

  • Every writer feels like this at one stage or another.
  • This is a first draft and it’s allowed to be completely, totally and utterly crap. The most important thing is that it actually gets written.

Anyway, apart from my book, I’ve also written an article for Writer’s Edit about how to work with beta readers, so if that’s something you’re interested in learning more about, check it out.

bookish-writerly-jan-17-3Image via PicJumbo

What I’ve read

At the moment, my Goodreads challenge is telling me I’m one book behind schedule… SHUT UP, GOODREADS, I KNOW, ALRIGHT?

I was a bit up and down with reading through January – I powered through most of the books listed below, but had a few big gaps of not reading anything at all in between.

I think there’s a way to remedy that, though. This year I want to swap my bad habit of mindless social media scrolling for a new habit: picking up a book at ANY spare moment I have. I’ve done pretty badly at that so far, but hopefully throughout February I’ll be a little more mindful of how I spend my time (and get lots more reading done in the process).

Anyway, here’s a quick round-up of everything I read in January…

  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
    I really, really enjoyed this. Nate bought it for me for Christmas and wrapped it up Blind Date with a Book-style (cute, I know). Foolishly, I’d actually held off reading it because I’d seen a few Goodreads reviews that slammed the style of writing, and while I do admit the prose goes a little overboard at times, I still loved the book. The world and the characters were great and the story really sucked me in. Looking forward to the sequel Godsgrave later this year!
  • Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner
    God, Helen Garner is wonderful, isn’t she? I first read her last year in my attempt to read more non-fiction, and I just fell in love with the way she writes. This collection of writings spans the majority of her lengthy career, and it was super inspiring. I often found myself smiling or marvelling aloud at some especially sharp observation or magical turn of phrase.
  • Bad Behaviour by Rebecca Starford
    This was a really interesting memoir about life at a boarding school in the Australian bush. It dealt with some really tricky issues, like bullying and the complicated nature of young female friendship; parts of it hit uncomfortably close to home. I found the way it was written to be really immersive – alternating between the narrator in the present, and a novel-like retelling of her experiences in the past.
  • A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
    Oh, be still, my beating heart. I can’t tell you how much I love this series. I absolutely devoured An Ember in the Ashes late last year, and this sequel was no different – I smashed through it in a few luxurious sittings. Elias, Laia and Helene are some of my favourite characters from recent reads, and I adore the world and the story Sabaa Tahir has created here. Super pleased to learn that there are two more books to come!
  • Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer
    This month I was lucky enough to be a beta reader once more for the wonderful Helen and her wonderful debut fantasy book. I read an early incarnation of Heart of Mist last year, and since then Helen’s worked SO hard to undertake a big structural edit and incorporate feedback. I won’t say too much here, but I LOVED this book even more in this second read, and I can’t wait to continue the journey throughout the whole Oremere Chronicles series! Fantasy fans, definitely stay tuned for the release of Heart of Mist later this year.
bookish-writerly-jan-17Actual image of me trying to deal with my TBR list right now. Just kidding, image via Unsplash.

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That’s all my reading and writing news for now. Hopefully my next recap will be on time, and will feature many more words written and books read!