Bookish & Writerly Recaps: October 2017

It’s November, everybody. Do you know what that means? ONE MONTH UNTIL CHRISTMAS CLAIRE MAKES HER 2017 DEBUT.

As I started putting together this month’s recap, I caught myself thinking, ‘The best thing about October is that it’s nearly Christmas’. Which, of course, it isn’t really. But it’s close enough. *clears space for Christmas tree, dusts off Michael Buble CD*

Despite it being preeeetty scary that another year is almost gone, the last few months of the year are still my absolute favourite time. It’s warm, it’s festive, and I get to eat heaps and buy/make presents for people – two of my most beloved pastimes.

So on the one hand, holycraphowistheyearalmostoverwtf; but on the other… Bring it on.

october-recap

What I’ve written

Well, being November again, it’s NaNoWriMo season… And while I did toy with the idea of prepping throughout October for another NaNo attempt, it didn’t really eventuate.

I did a bit of plot reworking and brainstorming here and there, but it actually ended up making me feel more scared of my book than I had been before (if that’s possible). It had me questioning the very concepts at the centre of my story, wondering if they made sense, if they would ever actually work.

I keep coming back to this post by K. M. Weiland, which asks questions about the concept of your novel such as ‘Are you passionate about this idea?’ and ‘Are you doing this idea justice?’. I keep trying to determine the answers, to work out whether my whole story idea is even worth pursuing at all.

There were some interesting insights about creative ideas in one of my October reads (see below), but ultimately, I can’t answer those kinds of questions – not right now, at least. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that in order to start writing again, the only thing I can do is stop asking those kinds of questions at all.

I REALLY need to get my mind to accept the fact that it’s near impossible to be 100% sure of every aspect of a story before you write it. Plotting and planning is one thing; paralysing yourself with doubt, uncertainty and fear is another.

Anyway. I’ve recently picked up a little more freelance work, which is super wonderful, so at the moment, I’ve decided to give myself permission to focus 100% on that. To allow myself to not have the shadow of ‘what-about-your-book-shouldn’t-you-be-writing’ hanging over me. And I feel a lot better for it.

But it doesn’t mean I’ve given up; not yet.

Anyway! I’ve still been warbling away as usual over at Writer’s Edit – this month with a couple of bits of freelancer advice:

writing-oct

What I’ve read

After last month‘s fun yet unsuccessful experiment in keeping my reviews short and succinct, I’ve decided to revert back to my original ‘What I’ve read’ format.

Apparently I’m still two books behind on my Goodreads challenge even after dropping my end goal (WOT), so I should really use the time I’m saving with these shorter reviews to catch the hell up on some reading…

(Although, let’s be real, between Stranger Things, Mindhunter, OutlanderVictoria, Mr Robot and the upcoming Alias Grace, TV kinda OWNS me at the moment. [Did you guys SEE that new season of Stranger Things? MY HEAAAAART.])

Anyway – here are October’s reads!

reading-oct

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin is a huge name in the SFF world, so I’d had The Fifth Season on my list for quite a while. While I didn’t click with it enormously, in that I don’t feel super compelled to read the next instalment in the series, there was a lot I really enjoyed about it.

The writing was great – refreshing and different, and the use of different perspectives (even one in second person, which is extremely unusual to see) was super effective. When I realised how all the perspectives came together, I was v. impressed, and it added another layer of interest to the whole story.

And the story itself was great too. I enjoyed the world, the magic system, the post-apocalyptic feel (or apocalypse-in-progress, really). It’s one of those books where, when you first start out, there are a whole bunch of new made-up words and names and it feels a bit hard to keep up; but once you get the hang of it, it’s all good.

Actually, you know what? The more I think about it, the more I appreciate it. I think I will read that second book someday – might not be super soon, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it when I do.

The Fifth Season

Now I Rise by Kiersten White

Well, I loooooved Now I Rise, the second book in Kiersten White’s Conqueror’s Saga. When I started reading the first volume And I Darken last year, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. But as I kept reading, I realised there was something about it that kept me compelled and made it hard to put down.

By the end, I was all in for this gender-flipped YA alternative history series, and I’m even more in after Now I Rise. (For those who don’t know, the series recasts historical figure Vlad the Impaler as a teenage girl; as such, it’s dark and angsty and really great.)

I smashed this second volume out over a weekend and it was a joy to read. The political and historical elements are so well-done and intriguing, and the characters are rich and wonderful. Lada is a top-shelf bad bitch (if not a little frustratingly stubborn), Radu is absolutely precious (if not a little frustratingly lovesick), and I just want them both to be happy plz.

Can’t wait for the final instalment next year!

Now I Rise

Godblind by Anna Stephens

I’m not really sure how I felt about this one. On the one hand, it had me interested enough to keep turning pages pretty quickly for the majority; on the other, I don’t think I’ll be reading the next one in the series. And I think there are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, there are soooo many POV characters, each with very short chapters. This means you don’t really get to know any of them super well, or get the chance to get behind any of them particularly strongly – I know I didn’t care about any of them as much as, say, Lada and Radu from Now I Rise.

I also lost enjoyment through the final act of the book, which is made up of multiple action/battle scenes, one after the other, constantly switching perspectives throughout. To be honest, I got a bit bored and weary there, when really it should have been the most page-turning, exciting part of the book.

There are a few other things I could discuss, but that’ll do – suffice to say this series probably isn’t for me, but if you like brutal grimdark fantasy, you should definitely give it a go!

Godblind

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages now, and it fit in well with my new goal of reading at least one non-fiction book per month (a goal I have just devised at this very moment, and at which I expect to fail spectacularly). I saw mentions of Elizabeth Gilbert’s treatise on creative living everywhere when it first came out, and despite the mixed reviews I’ve seen since, I was still keen to get my hands on it.

I’ve never read anything by Gilbert before (no, not even Eat, Pray, Love), so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found this a bit of a mixed bag. To be clear – I really enjoyed Big Magic, and devoured it in a few short sessions. But it didn’t outlay anything particularly groundbreaking, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about a few of her stances on creativity.

However, there was definitely some useful and affirming stuff in here. I particularly enjoyed the concept of paradoxical thinking in regards to creativity:

Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.
What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.

This sort of paradox, along with Gilbert’s motto of persistence, is something that I think would really help me in my own creativity. Despite it getting a little too occult-y at times, there are definitely some helpful and inspiring takeaways in this book, and I’m glad I read it.

Big Magic

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That’s all for the moment, lords and ladies. Wishing you a wonderful November – I hope it’s full of far-too-early festive treats. <3

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Inspiration for Writers

I know Mondays are the most popular day of the week to seek out inspiration – we all need that little something to kick us back into the working week, after all. But poor old Tuesday could do with a healthy dose of creative stimulation, as well… So I thought today was as good a day as any for a little inspiration-related post!

First of all, I have a new article over at Writer’s Edit that wordsmiths might find helpful: 6 Simple Ways To Stay Inspired As A Writer. From time to time, we writers all find ourselves lacking that essential spark of motivation and creativity that’s necessary to our craft. So I’ve looked into some sure-fire ways to help yourself stay inspired, with a few motivational author quotes thrown in as well – ‘cause we’re all suckers for those!

Leonard-Bernstein-Quote-InspirationImage courtesy of Writer’s Edit.

While we’re on the topic of Writer’s Edit, I thought I’d also mention a couple of exciting projects we have happening at the moment, which we’d love all writers and readers to check out and take part in!

Sometimes there’s nothing like the promise of seeing your work published online to get you moving with your writing. For writers of fiction and poetry interested in just such an opportunity, Writer’s Edit has recently begun a new monthly initiative: Short Story and Poem of the Month.

Each month, we invite writers and poets to submit their pieces for consideration, choosing an outstanding entry from each category to be featured on the site. Head over to our Submissions page to read the guidelines and submit your work!

Green Chameleon - StockSnap Creative CommonsImage courtesy of Green Chameleon via StockSnap Creative Commons.

Finally, speaking of publishing – we’re also very excited at the moment about our upcoming anthology, Kindling Volume II. Following on from the success of last year’s Kindling collection, the team has put together another amazing book full of inspiring fiction, non-fiction and poetry from emerging writers, as well as some helpful pieces of publishing industry information and advice. I’ve been lucky enough to read the first proof of the manuscript, so you can trust me when I say that you’ll definitely want to get your hands on Kindling II when it’s published later this year!

If all this inspiration has got you feeling particularly generous, you might like to make a contribution to Writer’s Edit to help cover our production costs for Kindling II. If so, you are truly wonderful, and you can head to our Donations page to contribute.

1528479_384792738362491_6599731009287790857_nImage courtesy of Writer’s Edit.

Happy Tuesday, inspiration-seekers – I hope the rest of your week is full of creativity!

How Very Pinteresting.

It’s happened.

I’ve become a PINTEREST PERSON.

It all started when I finished my postgrad certificate a couple of weeks ago (YAY!). Freedom from uni couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s November, which means the shops are getting ahead of themselves, draping everything with tinsel and obnoxiously playing carols…and I love it.

Christmas is my favourite time of year. As soon as the weather gets warmer, and my calendar fills up with parties and family gatherings, and that beautiful holiday feeling starts to permeate the air…ahhh, it’s heavenly.

FotorCreatedImages via Pinterest

Yep, I’m a Yuletide fiend. So you won’t be surprised to learn that I also love Christmas shopping! But I thought that this year, with all my magical free time, I’d make some little things to fill gift hampers for Nate’s and my families, rather than buying everything. I won’t be going so far as to make ALL my presents – I think I need a few more XP before I unlock that level of DIY goddess-ness – but I’ll be stocking each of my hampers with at least two or three little handmade pressies.

Now, this is where Pinterest comes in. I’d always regarded Pinterest as one of those things I’ve tried but couldn’t really get into, like quinoa or American Horror Story. But it’s obviously the best place to go for all things crafty, so I gave it another try – and hello, new obsession! I found a whole heap of ideas and tutorials for Christmas gifts, but also discovered countless sources of inspiration and imagery that I’ll definitely be using a lot more in the future.

FotorCreated2Images via Pinterest

So in the lead-up to Christmas I’ll be documenting all my creative endeavours here. It may end up becoming more of a how-NOT-to guide…but I’m going to give it a go at least! Stay tuned for adventures in bath salts, lip balm, cupcake kits and festive foods. :)