My growing TBR

Let’s not talk about the fact that I haven’t even read all of the books on my TBR from January.

Moving on! In the past two months, I have managed to acquire two new paperbacks and five audiobooks! I have, however, failed to join my local library and borrow any books, probably because of my already vertiginous to-be-read pile. There’s always next month.

Last night, I went to a local writers’ group. A local, published author, Julie Malone (pen name Jae Malone) who has written a series of middle grade fantasy novels about a boy from Nottingham, The Winterne Series, spoke about creating characters and world building. It was aimed at the fantasy genre, but most of Julie’s points were adaptable to every genre.

It was a really interesting talk, and reiterated the tips and advice I had already read about creating a fantasy world. It was reassuring to hear from a successful, published author that what I’m doing is right! Plus, now I have a huge list of fantasy authors to check out.

Everyone in the group was absolutely lovely, they meet fortnightly, with every other meeting being an informal ‘write-in’ where they are given a prompt and have to write as much as they can in an hour, and then share their work.

Having returned home from the group, I discovered that my lovely dog had decided to destroy my Illumicrate, which had arrived the day before. The box was absolutely shredded, and there were several teeth marks in one of the books. She is now banned from spending any time alone with any of my books, the little demon. Luckily, she didn’t actually eat any pages or damage it beyond reading, or she’d be for dinner tonight. Just kidding, she is my fur baby and any evil actions were probably learnt from me, I do love to devour books.

An unboxing of my Illumicrate (minus the box) will be up soon!

Right, on with the show, here’s what I’ll be reading if I ever get round to it.

 

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Paperbacks

 

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Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

This was the first book I received in February’s Illumicrate, and it’s been on my wishlist since I first heard about it online. Based on the fairy tale about the Goblin King – and the movie, Labyrinth in which David Bowie played the character – it tells the story of Liesl, whose sister has been taken by goblins, and her quest to bring her back home.

The book is inspired by JJ’s love of music, Liesl composes songs with the Goblin King as her muse, having met him in the forest as a child. When the Goblin King refuses to let Kathe go without another maiden taking her place, Liesl volunteers. Captivated by the king, she finds that he still inspires her years later.

How amazing does that sound? I definitely feel the need to watch Labyrinth now!

 

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Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

This was the second book in my Illumicrate, a surprise ARC of Mark Lawrence‘s new book, the first in a new series called Book of the Ancestor.

I’m ashamed to say that I am yet to read a book by Lawrence, but I do have them all on my Audible wish list, ready to download at some point…That point has now been moved infinitely sooner! I get the impression this new series will be set in the same world as The Broken Empire and The Red Queen’s War, so I’ll have to work out if I need to read those series first.

According to the blurb, the Convent of Sweet Mercy trains young girls into lethally-skilled women, spending ten years teaching them to become deadly assassins. Women called Red Sisters. Nona Grey is eight years old and due to hang for a murder she didn’t commit. Saved from execution and taken to the convent, she must learn to become an assassin, but she can’t escape her secret and violent past.

Cannot wait to get to this one, it sounds right up my street. I tend towards YA fantasy, but a bit of adult fantasy will make a nice change and hopefully spark some ideas for my books.

Audiobooks

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King’s Cage (Red Queen #3) by Victoria Aveyard

I’m currently listening to this one, but I have to say I’m struggling with it. This isn’t one of my favourite series, but I’m persevering to the end because I’ve invested so much time and want to see how it ends.

It’s not a bad series, loads of people love it, but it just hasn’t gripped me. I don’t like any of the characters, I’m not rooting for any of them – aside from the obvious division between right and wrong. I’m not a huge fan of the story, it’s heavy on the politics and war strategy, and I prefer stories that focus on the characters. Also, it seems to borrow heavily from a few others series that I have enjoyed a lot more, like The Hunger Games and The Grisha Trilogy.

My feelings on this book are that a lot of it could have been cut or condensed, making it a trilogy instead of a four book series. The bits where Mare is held captive are quite dull and drag on, and I don’t like Cameron’s POV. But that’s just me! You might love this one, don’t let me put you off!

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I’ve heard a lot about this one, and it was on offer on Audible for £1.99, so I had to buy it. I’ve read that it’s similar to Caraval, which is a new book that I’m really keen to read, so I thought I’d check this out first so I can compare.

Le Cirque des Reves appears one day without warning, and is only open at night. It is utterly unique, unlike any circus you have ever seen. But behind the scenes, two young magicians, Celia and Marco, have been raised to compete in a game that can only end one way. Only one will be left standing. Until, they fall in love.

How magical does that sound? I absolutely cannot wait to listen to this one, I bet the audiobook will be fantastic. There are certain books that are just made for audio, they really come to life, and I can imagine this is one of them.

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Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Another one I’ve downloaded thanks to the amazing reviews I’ve seen online, I wasn’t sure whether to get this one on audio or in paperback as I read that it includes footnotes and I wasn’t sure how that would work on audio, but the Audible reviews clinched it for me.

Mia Corvere is the daughter of an executed traitor, a fledgling assassin seeking vengeance against those who destroyed her family. Mia has an ability, she can speak to the shadows, and she is apprenticed to the deadliest group of assassins in the Republic, the Red Church. With a killer on the loose in the halls of the Church, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation going on in the shadows she so loves, will she survive initiation and have her revenge?

I can’t get enough of books about assassins, the Throne of Glass series is one of my absolute faves, and this sounds just like my cup of tea. Plus, apparently, there is a talking shadow cat, so yeah…

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And I Darken by Kiersten White

This is a Dracula retelling where Vlad the Impaler is actually Lada Dragwyla, a brutal Wallachian princess torn between her gentle younger brother, Radu and Mehmed, the heir to the Ottoman throne.

I am really excited about this one, I’ve been desperate to read it for ages and can’t wait to get to it, but as you can see, I’ve got so many amazing books on my TBR!

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

If you read my review of The Scorpio Races, you’ll know I’m a massive Stiefvater fan. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read The Raven Cycle yet, I know it’s most people’s favourite Stiefvater series, and it’s been on my radar for a long, long time, I just never got to it. But, now I have the first book and I think I’m going to listen to it next, despite not having the other three books, and having so many others in my library (that’s my Audible library, sadly I do not have a physical library in my house).

So, The Raven Boys centres around the myth of the Raven King, which is a Welsh legend about Bran the Blessed. It follows Blue and Gansey, the daughter of a clairvoyant who can’t see, and a rich, private school boy who, unhappy with his lot, goes on a strange and dangerous quest, with his three friends. Blue has always known that she will be the cause of her true love’s death, and now she is being drawn to Gansey and starting to worry about what that means.

I have high hopes for this one, thanks to the buzz it gets online, so it better not let me down! Especially, after I adored The Scorpio Races.

 

So, those are the books I have added to my TBR in the last two months! What with the several books from my last update that I still haven’t read, I definitely don’t need to be buying any more books for a while! I wish I could read more quickly, but I’m still editing my novel, and beta reading for a couple of writer friends.

I also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this week, which takes place in April, and I thought was a real life camp, like a writers retreat, but have discovered is all online, like the November version. So, yeah, I’m pretty busy for the next couple of months! If you’re taking part in Camp Nano, add me as a buddy, I’m lyndleloo (same as on Twitter and Instagram!).

 

Lyndsey

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Plotter vs. Pantser

First things first, I finished my first draft this week!! *does a little dance*

It’s around 70k words right now, and I’ve got plenty of notes about scenes I want to add, remove and rewrite, so who knows how long it will be in the end!

On that note, I thought I’d look at the pros and cons of being a plotter vs. a pantser today.

 

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New to the terms? A plotter is someone who plots their novel out before writing it. A pantser is someone who “flies by the seat of their pants”.

I’ll be honest, I’m a card-carrying plotter, so this blog may be slightly biased, but I can definitely appreciate the creativity and freedom afforded by pantsing. It’s just not for me.

And that’s OK!

Both methods have pros and cons, not least because everyone is different. What works for one may not work for another.

That’s the beauty of art, it’s completely subjective.

So, whether you spend longer outlining your novels than you do writing them, or you sit down with a pen and notepad and just start scribbling, you might learn something from your creative counterparts that could help you improve your craft.

Let’s look at plotters…

 

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There are as many different kinds of plotter as there are writers in the world, so don’t worry if you don’t identify with every word here.

Plotters tend to have an idea of what they are going to write before they start. Whether that’s just a broad concept of theme, a few character traits and maybe a general idea of setting, or a Filofax full of notes, character profiles and a scene by scene outline.

I only started writing seriously last year, and I read a lot of blogs and articles about novel writing before I sat down at my laptop to start chapter one. Mainly by Kristen Kieffer of She’s Novel, Faye Kirwin of Writerology and Christine Frazier of Better Novel Project. I learned a lot about writing in general, and picked up some brilliant tips for crafting a novel that readers will love.

I had an idea of what I wanted to write – I love YA fantasy and knew that was going to be the genre for my first novel (I’ve toyed with making it Middle Grade while writing, but decided against it). I also had a setting in mind – Sherwood Forest, or a fictionalised version, as I live nearby – and a vague idea of plot. I wanted my protagonist to be a teenage girl who discovers a hidden, magical world and learns about her true self over the course of the book.

So, with these things in mind, and a Word doc full of notes and snippets of potential scenes, I sat down to write.

I wrote about 15,000 words in September and October, and then I discovered NaNoWriMo. I stumbled upon the term on Twitter and Googled it, and I’m so glad I did. I decided to join in, knowing that I wasn’t exactly speeding through my first draft at this rate.

In preparation for my first NaNo, I read a bunch of blogs on how to get the most out of it. The one that helped me the most was from Better Novel Project – Day-by-day NaNoWriMo outline: your 30 day cheatsheet. Essentially, this is a list of thirty scenes that you need for your novel, a sort of skeleton framework that you then complete with your own ideas and plot points.

This is the single most helpful idea that I have come across since starting writing. I didn’t follow the framework religiously, but creating a list of thirty scenes I knew I needed to write meant that I always had something to write about during November. I never struggled with where to take the story next, and when I wasn’t feeling inspired I could skip ahead to a different scene.

This level of structure and discipline really worked for me. It’s not for everyone, but I intend to do something similar every time I plot a novel, NaNoWriMo or not. Having a spreadsheet of scenes worked better for me than having a list of events for each chapter or act. I need a more detailed plan with key plot points laid out in order – I can always insert subplots and rearrange the order at a later date.


So, what are the pros for plotters?

  • You know where your story is ultimately headed and are less likely to veer off track
  • Your characters are unlikely to behave in unexpected, contradictory ways
  • You won’t struggle for something to write (goodbye, writer’s block!)
  • You know what your next scene/plot point is and you just need to figure out how to get there
  • You’re left with a framework that will allow you to go back and add scenes and subplots with ease
  • You’ll probably finish the book before your pantser friends (not including the time you spent outlining!)

Cons?

  • You’re not as free to make major changes whilst writing, or risk making your whole outline irrelevant
  • When the muse strikes, you might fight it rather than let it flow through you
  • If a new scene or character presents themselves you need to figure out where they fit into your plan
  • Lots of writers start writing without any idea of how the story will conclude, they like the freedom and excitement of seeing where the story takes them – plotting sort of ruins that
  • Plotting can make it difficult to be creative, many writers feel too restricted by a rigid outline

Any other pros or cons for being a plotter? Leave them in the comments!

Now, let’s take a look at pantsers…

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Ah, pantsers. You’re much braver than I!

Pantsers range from those with a vague idea of where they want the story to go, to those who start with only a blank page and an open mind.

The main risk with pantsing is writer’s block. Without an outline, it can be easy to lose momentum and struggle with where to take your characters and their stories.

On the other hand, the freedom to write whatever you want must be fantastic for many creatives. With no rules and no restrictions, some incredible and individual works of art can be created.


What are the pros of being a pantser?

  • Freedom to write whatever, whenever, and wherever you like (within the story that is, please don’t write while driving!)
  • Flexibility – don’t like a character? Kill them. Don’t like where you plot is going? Change it.
  • Some of the best ideas have come out of the random scribblings of a writer just playing around, trying something new or breaking the rules
  • If freewriting or writing sprints help you to get into the right mindset for writing, pantsing may just be for you!

And cons?

  • Writer’s block is every writer’s worst nightmare, and pantsers are more likely to be struck down by it as they don’t have a plan to follow
  • Without an outline, it can be easy to get off track and wind up with a long and rambling middle section that will need a lot of editing to tighten up
  • Your characters may start acting ‘out of character’ if you don’t decide beforehand on their personalities, backgrounds and motivations
  • Writing about ancient Egyptian Gods? Corruption in local flower competitions? You’re going to have a lot of research to do when you get to draft number two! Make one too many mistakes in your assumptions and your entire plot could wind up on the cutting room floor.

 

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or a ‘plantser’? What are the pros and cons of your method? Dish the dirt in the comments!

 

Lyndsey

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Beautiful Books

I’m a little bit late to this particular writers link up, so if you don’t mind I’m going to jump back to the beginning. I’ll be brief and try to answer each question in one sentence (there are thirty of them, after all). Thanks to Cait of Paper Fury and Sky of Further Up and Further In for creating this linkup!

Here we go…

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Part One, October:

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea? 

I got the idea last summer, so about seven or eight months, and it’s inspired by Sherwood Forest where I live and walk my dog every day.

Describe what your novel is about!

It’s a YA Fantasy about 17 year old Aria who discovers she is the daughter of a king from another realm, a realm where magic and monsters are real.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

I actually have a Pinterest board of inspiration for my WIP, you can check out my ideas for the setting and locations, character aesthetics etc.

Introduce us to each of your characters!

I wrote a post introducing all my characters, so you can read that here!

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

I am definitely a planner, I spent weeks just thinking and ruminating on the idea, and then at least a month outlining, creating my characters, plotting etc.

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Just getting it down on the page and finally writing a novel, this will be my first so I’m really excited about the whole experience.

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

It has two settings, the Human Realm, which is loosely based on the village where I live, bordered by Sherwood Forest. The Fair Realm is set deep within the forest and is similar to Idris in the Shadowhunter Chronicles – it’s there but mundanes can’t see it and don’t know it exists. It’s like an undetectable extension charm, there is way more inside than you would know from the outside.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Aria is scared she’s going to be left behind when all her school friends go off to University, she wants excitement and adventure, and she definitely finds it! She also wants to know who she really is, she wants to find her real father, the Salamander King, and learn the truth, but the evil Celeste King has other ideas…

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

She starts off bored and a little bit self-absorbed, as a result she’s reckless and impulsive, but by the end she knows and accepts that she’s got a destiny to fulfil and a responsibility to protect her people from the evil king.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

It’s a coming of age tale with a fantasy twist, so there’s a lot of ‘growing up’, ‘taking responsibility’ and ‘accepting who you are’ themes.

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Part Two, November:

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?

Pretty good, I’m still chipping away at my first draft and almost at the end. I didn’t win NaNoWriMo but I am nearing 65k words now so I’m really proud of myself for sticking it out this far.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

The harsh, fluorescent lights blinked audibly overhead as he slipped unseen into the hospital room.”

That’s the first line of the prologue, which I love and want to keep, even though I know they’re unpopular.

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

It’s so hard to choose! I love Kiefer, he’s a rebel with a heart, but I also really love Rainer, who is my mentor character and really helps Aria to understand her new world, as well as being a good friend.

What do you love about your novel so far?

I love the characters, they’re all so different and fun to write. I also love the magic system I’ve created and the various fantasy creatures. You can read more about them in my previous posts Magic, myth and mystery and Magical monsters and where you may discover them.

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?

I’ve got a whole list of things I need to go back and change in the second draft, but I can’t think of any funny ones…

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?

The middle! The end is coming and I’m still dragging out the middle because I’m worried about how to wrap it up neatly, whilst setting up the sequel. The beginning is definitely going to need the most work in draft two.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

I always make a cup of Earl Grey before I start writing. I started listening to music recently, before that I actually had the TV on in the background, which can be equal parts distracting and inspiring. I definitely write best at night, I actually got up and came downstairs to write one night when I couldn’t sleep because ideas were swirling in my head.

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

I prefer to write alone, if only because my husband keeps trying to speak to me and it’s really distracting, but the dog is always here demanding my attention so I guess I’m never alone!

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?

I know that the sense of achievement when it’s finished will be amazing, and I don’t tend to start things and not finish them so it’s not really a question of giving up. When it’s tough I just take it slow, and if I need to get away from the computer I take a break. I usually figure out my writing problems while walking the dog, so taking time out from writing is really important for me.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

I know a lot of people are pantsers, but I would say plot and outline the major scenes and events before starting, that way you’ll always have a vague road map of your book to follow when you start to get lost around the middle.

One thing I did in preparation for Nano was to bullet point thirty scenes I needed to write, so that I would never be struggling for something write about – that was an absolute lifesaver and I would recommend it whether or not you are taking part in Nano.

Lastly, I’ve gotten stuck a few times and lacked inspiration, but if I just persevered, even just for a few minutes a day, I eventually pushed through the block and got back into the swing of writing. Whatever you do, don’t give up, just keep writing. If it’s terrible, you can just fix it in the second draft.

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Part Three, January:

What were your writing achievements last year?

2016 was the year I actually got an idea that wouldn’t go away, and decided to sit down and write my first novel. I took part in my first every NaNoWriMo, and even though I missed the mark by 15k words, I still see it as a major achievement. I also started this blog and took part in Raimey Gallant’s NaNo Blog Hop, so I’ve made lots of new writing friends online *waves*.

What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017?

To finish draft one, draft two, editing and revising, and hopefully have a finished manuscript by 2018, in time for querying!

Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!

The Fair Queen is my only writing project for this year, but I’ve already started to have ideas for other books, and there’s also the sequel to plot and write.

How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?

I’d love to be at the point of querying literary agents at the end of 2017. I also hope to get the timescales down for all of the stages of writing, I’m taking my time as it’s my first novel but I need to reduce the time it takes me.

Describe your general editing process.

I’m not sure yet, as I’ve never written a book before, but I intend to do a second draft and rewrite, and then give my book to a few trusted beta readers. Then I’ll take their feedback and do a third draft, before sending it to a professional editor probably.

On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?

It’s not quite finished, but I am a bit of a perfectionist so I’m quite happy with how it’s going because I can’t help editing it as I go. I know, cardinal sin of first drafts. But, I feel like my second draft is going to be quite painless because I’ve got most of the scenes down how I want them, so it’s going to be more about adding necessary scenes and little details, and removing extraneous bits, rather than a full rewrite.

What aspect of your draft needs the most work?

Erm, I might need an independent adjudicator to tell me this because I can’t see the wood for the trees, to be honest. I think it needs more foreshadowing and little hints and details woven through, personally.

What do you like the most about your draft?

I think the friendships between my characters are probably my favourite thing, it’s got a much stronger emphasis on friendship than romance, which I think is important. A lot of YA is about falling in love, and whilst I love reading those types of books, I also like the ones that take a different tack and focus on friends instead of lovers, because not all teens are in love or meet the one at that age.

What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

All of the above! Definitely editing, beta readers, more editing and then querying, fingers crossed.

What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?

I have no idea because I’ve never finished a first draft myself! I would say put it away for a few weeks, get some distance, read a couple of books or start on another writing project, and then come back to it with fresh eyes. That’s the advice I’ve absorbed from reading other people’s blogs on editing. I think you need to come back to it as though you are an editor or a reader, if you’re still in writer mode you’ll miss mistakes and you won’t be ruthless enough to polish your manuscript up for publishing.

Phew! Longest blog post ever. That was fun. I wish it was that easy to write 2k words for my novel!

Are you taking part in the Beautiful Books linkup? If so, pop your blog link in the comments and I’ll have a read!

 

Until next time,

 

Lyndsey

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