Novel writing inspiration

Hi guys,

This blog post is a little bit different to usual and aims to inspire those of you who are on the lookout for new and interesting ideas for storylines. As we all know, it can be hard and frustrating to find inspiration especially if you are actively searching for it, so I’ve come up with a list of internet articles I’ve read recently that I believe would make fabulous starting points for those of you who are stuck.

I’ll keep it brief as it’s relatively easy to find said inspiration when you know where to look, and what to look for! The majority of these articles have come from the ‘BBC Futures’ website which I cannot recommend highly enough – its articles are full of thought-provoking ideas and questions which could form the basis of extremely unique storylines. I find the below links so interesting, that it took me a while to decide whether or not to share them on here, or keep them to myself (selfish, I know…).

Have fun exploring, and let me know any other articles you find in the comment box below…

1. An article about a tribe in Thailand, where the children can see underwater almost perfectly.

Ko Surin, Thailand. 11th Oct, 2013. Danong, an indigenous Moken man, hunts for fish using a traditional bamboo spear near his village in Ko Surin National Park, Thailand. Often called sea nomads or sea gypsies, the Moken are a seafaring people who for cen Source

“When the tide came in, these kids started swimming. But not like I had seen before. They were more underwater than above water, they had their eyes wide open – they were like little dolphins.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160229-the-sea-nomad-children-who-see-like-dolphins

2. An article discussing the pros and cons of ‘designer babies’.

desisisi1 Source

“The colloquial term “designer baby” refers to a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with in vitro fertilization to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics.” – wikipedia

http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/10/designer-babies/

3. An article exploring the notion of death, how we define it, and the fate of people whose brains have died but whose bodies continue to live

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“Their hearts are still beating. They urinate. Their bodies don’t decompose and they are warm to the touch; their stomachs rumble, their wounds heal and their guts can digest food. They can have heart attacks, catch a fever and suffer from bedsores. They can blush and sweat – they can even have babies. 

And yet, according to most legal definitions and the vast majority of doctors these patients are thoroughly, indisputably deceased.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20161103-the-macabre-fate-of-beating-heart-corpses

4. A theoretical discussion about what might happen if everyone in the world starting eating as a vegetarian

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“Eliminating meat from our diets would bring a bounty of benefits to both our own health and the planet’s – but it could also harm millions of people.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160926-what-would-happen-if-the-world-suddenly-went-vegetarian

5. An article about a woman who is allergic to water

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“Rachel’s rare condition means that a bath is agony; even her own tears will scorch her face. How can the human body reject life’s most basic necessity?” – Quote from Article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160915-the-woman-who-is-allergic-to-water

6. Doppelgangers

“It’s on your passport. It’s how criminals are identified in a line-up. It’s how you’re recognised by old friends on the street, even after years apart. Your face: it’s so tangled up with your identity, soon it may be all you need to unlock your smartphone, access your office or buy a house.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160712-you-are-surprisingly-likely-to-have-a-living-doppelganger

7. An article about a man whose brain create false memories

p03sdcyh.jpg Source

“Due to an unusual illness, Matthew creates false memories that seem as vivid as the real thing. He’s had to learn to live with a past that is as uncertain as the future.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160428-this-is-how-it-feels-to-learn-your-memories-are-fiction

8. An article exploring how people ‘live on’ after death through social media

p03mkqtx Source

“At some point, there will be more dead Facebook users than living ones – and for those left behind, it is transforming how we experience the death of those around us.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160313-the-unstoppable-rise-of-the-facebook-dead

9. And finally, an article discussing “individualism” and “collectivism” in society

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“Psychologists are uncovering the surprising influence of geography on our reasoning, behaviour, and sense of self.” – Quote from article

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

 

And that’s all for now! Let me know if you come across anything of interest!

Happy creating!

Heather

 

 


Things to avoid when writing your novel: how not to annoy your reader

Hi guys,

So I just want to start this new post off with an apology, as I haven’t posted for ages. I have no excuse other than that I’ve have been slacking, along with the fact that I had my birthday and Christmas in quick succession. My new year’s resolution will definitely be to post on a more regular basis!

Anyway, moving on, today’s post details a few things to avoid when writing your novel, many of which are based on errors I’ve found when reading books. The list has been compiled based on what I, as a reader, dislike, but I imagine that my points accurately reflect many other peoples’ opinions. A lot of these aren’t new or ground-breaking, but I feel they may be useful to bring to the attention of you writers out there.

Contrived character arc

A character arc which feels contrived is a MASSIVE turn off. Yes, arcs are necessary components of well-written and well-rounded books, but they should be subtle, not in-your-face and not written as exposition.

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To further explain this using an example –

Assume your character starts as shy and unable to trust people, but learns how to trust throughout your novel. By the end, she has overcome her fear, thus has transitioned from one to the other. This is her ‘arc’. To show this arc, you should gradually show her behaviour and mindset changing (generally as a result of outside influences and events). The key word here is SHOW, and you can show this transition through her actions and dialogue. Yes, you can also use her inner thoughts, but do so carefully and sparingly, and don’t just end up explaining things. If you start to use inner monologue as a gateway to highlighting the character arc, it will end up feeling insincere. See the below as an example of this, taken from my review of FLAWED by Cecelia Ahern.

This monologue, instead of subtly characterising her and developing the story line, is in fact just used to painstakingly explain and warrant her random and seemingly unfounded behaviour, thus justify the entire plot. It felt contrived and like Ahern was using the inner monologue just to highlight over and over again that she had attempted a character arc.

Celestine is a ‘logical’ person, which we are told numerous times within the first few chapters. Her inner monologue and character arc had a lot of this:

“I’m such a logical person, which is why I’ve just made this entirely logical decision to act in this logical way. This is why this logical thing has happened.”

Sudden character change – introduce it gradually

Characters generally change throughout a novel, and this change should not only be subtle, but should also be gradual. Try to:

  • avoid having a flat character throughout the novel, and then suddenly having them change at the end based on one event.
  • avoid having the character ‘arc’ within the first few chapters and then stay flat for the remainder of the novel
  • introduce the change gradually and believably.
  • ensure the character is reacting in a way that makes sense and is realistic.
  • ensure that you aren’t trying to force a character arc in a way that is unnatural and doesn’t fit with the story.

characterarc.png Source

Creating a story world which doesn’t make sense

Thinking through the exact mechanics of your story world is a must! There’s nothing more annoying than reading a novel, and then coming across an element of the story world which doesn’t make sense. It can be very hard to spot flaws, as you know your story well, so everything makes sense to you – the best thing to do is to ask a trusted friend for feedback. They will be able to point out problems and areas of confusion that you won’t have noticed yourself.

Ensure that the rules in your world are consistent and make sense (even if they only make sense in the context of your world). If the world is inconsistent, you risk other elements of your novel not making sense – your character’s behaviour as an example. Inconsistencies may also annoy your reader as it may look like you’re altering the story world to ‘fit’ your story, as opposed to having a believable story that is set in your world, if that makes sense!

writing-meme.jpg Source

Don’t explain everything

This is a fairly standard rule. Don’t feel the need to explain all aspects of your characters’ thoughts and actions. Sometimes, less is more and it’s better to infer what is happening as opposed to explaining it. Only use inner monologue and explanation if it is necessary to the storyline, otherwise you risk boring your readers, and making your characters seem shallow and your narrative seem amateur.

Bonus point:

Don’t constantly have your characters address one another using their names.
For example:

“Hi, Heather how are you?”

“I’m great thanks, Rebecca, what are you up to today?”

“Nothing really, Heather.”

“That’s great, Rebecca!”

dialogue.jpg  Source

 

This point is self-explanatory.

And that’s a wrap on this week’s blog post. Is there anything we missed out that you hate as a reader? Let me know in the comments.

Heather

 

 

 


Struggling to write? Tips for writing productivity

 

Don’t start watching Netflix before a writing session or during writing breaks

I am the worst for doing this. As soon as I settle in front of my laptop and Netflix, that’s my productivity done for the day. As I work part-time, I try to write for at least an hour when I get home, but like to have a cup of tea as soon as I’m through the door. If I pair that cup of tea with Netflix or television, I quickly lose all writing motivation, and instead start binge-watching.

It’s too late for me, but if you are debating getting Netflix but actually want to finish your novel, don’t buy it! It’s lethal for productivity.

If you tire mid writing session, go for a walk

And I don’t necessarily mean the outside kind. Sitting still for a long period of time is likely to make you feel lethargic or restless, so moving, even if it’s just a short walk to the loo or around your house for five minutes, will wake you up, thus improve concentration.

I will illustrate my point with an experience of mine from a couple of days ago. I made the mistake of cosying up in my new fleece blanket. See fleece blanket:

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It’s the warmest, softest fleece in the history of fleeces. Not only did I waste the next 15 minutes sending smug photos of me in the fleece to my sister who was at work (see fleece collage):

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I was so comfy and sleepy that I ended up wrapped up like a burrito lying horizontally, eyes closed and listening to music. Eventually, I forced myself to walk to the kitchen for a glass of water and was able to re-locate my concentration and launch straight back into writing!

Get any important activities out of the way before you settle down in front of your computer

I get home from work at 2pm, but like to write between the hours of 3:30 and 5pm. I therefore give myself an hour to unwind after work, prepare and eat a late lunch and treat myself to a cup of tea. Making sure you are well fed and watered before sitting down to write will aid concentration, and will ensure that you don’t get up every 15 minutes to get a drink or a snack (plus you won’t be spending the whole time thinking about how hungry/thirsty you are). As well as eating and drinking, go to the loo, get your laptop charger or collect up any equipment or books that you might need as you write. Basically, get anything that might distract from your writing out of the way beforehand! Although it may sound counter-productive to almost ‘procrastinate’ before writing, you will find concentrating easier, as there are less things distracting or interrupting your writing ‘flow’.

Put your phone on charge in another room

This one is self-explanatory. No phones=no distractions. Unless you are awaiting important news or awaiting a phone call, you can be away from your phone for an hour or two. If, like me, you are constantly touching and playing with your phone, putting it out of reach somewhere where you can’t hear it will improve your concentration ten-fold. You can even treat yourself to an Instagram binge afterward, as a reward for upping your word count.

And that’s all for today, although there are countless other ways to improve your writing productivity. Share your favourite tips with me in the comments!

 


Adding conflict into your novel: list post

As we all know, introducing varying levels of conflict throughout your novel is important, and to help you all out, I’ve written a quick list post detailing ways to add it into your novel. Although not all of the below will be relevant to your own writing, hopefully the list will help to highlight the many ways you can ramp up the tension in your novel, and will help you to come up with your own.

As you can see, conflict doesn’t have to come from a catastrophic event, and can be as seemingly insignificant as a stomach virus – perhaps your protagonist passed the virus onto her crush, who in turn, missed the prom.

A secret kiss

A fight

A lost object

An argument

An enemy

A death

A natural disaster

Self doubt

A specific rule or regulation

An injury

A rivalry

Rallying against those in charge

Head vs Heart

An illness

A fire

A bad omen

A breakdown (physical or mental)

A breakdown in communication

An animal attack

An obstacle

A revenge attack

A trip or a fall

A car accident

A robbery

A marriage

A divorce

A parent enforcing the rules

Morality vs desire

A secret

A gunshot

A power cut

A broken down vehicle

An ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/friend

A broken object

A missed train or bus

Feel free to add your own ideas into the comments!

 

 


Book review – Sheltering Rain by JoJo Moyes

 

Sheltering Rain
JoJo Moyes
HarperTorch, 2002
4.5/5

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You (now a major motion picture) comes the touching, unforgettable story of three generations of Irish women faced with the fundamental truths of love, duty, and the unbreakable bond that unites mothers and daughters

Estranged from her mother since she ran away from her rural Irish home as a young woman, Kate swore an oath that she’d always be a friend to her daughter, Sabine. But history has a way of repeating itself, and Kate now faces an ever-widening chasm between herself and her daughter. With Sabine about to make her own journey to Ireland to see her grandmother, Kate is left wondering how they ever made it here, and what she can do to close the gap between them.

For Joy, seeing her granddaughter is a dream come true. After the painful separation from Kate, she’s looking forward to having time with Sabine. Yet almost as soon as the young woman arrives, the lack of common ground between them deflates her enthusiasm. And when Sabine’s impetuous, inquisitive nature forces Joy to face long-buried secrets from her past, she realizes that perhaps it’s time to finally heal old wounds.

Description and blurb taken from Goodreads

The Positives

JoJo Moyes’ debut novel Sheltering Rain has shown me that you can write a fabulous, well-crafted first novel, but you may still have to wait another ten years before acquiring the type of world-wide fame brought by a best-seller like Me Before You. It has become apparent to me that, although her debut book was great, writing well consistently and over a number of years is often the commitment an author must make in order to achieve world-wide domination in the industry. As the saying goes:

Practice makes perfect. 

I came across the book purely by chance. My grandma Sheila had been given the book by a friend, and because she was reading my copy of After You, she knew I was a fan of Moyes. I was excited by the book because I wanted to see how Moyes’ first novel compared to her recent best-sellers. I have read her second novel Forbidden Fruit which I really enjoyed (I really should have written a review for that one…) so I felt optimistic that Sheltering Rain would also not disappoint. I was right.

This book has been added to my list of favourite recent reads, and books that serve to truly inspire me. I thoroughly enjoyed it, believed the characters and was hooked from the first page to the last. If I can write a first novel as good as Moyes (miracles happen, right?) then I will be over the moon.

Characters

The characters are well developed, with backstory, intricate relationships, different personalities, flaws and goals all of their own. There are a lot of characters, and I am impressed with Moyes’ ability to manage them all, without getting herself or the reader lost along the way.

In just about any ‘how to’ on the topic of fiction writing, creating backstory for characters almost always comes with a warning. You do not want to write so much that it detracts from the story, however, the characters need to be believable as having a complex past that has shaped them, and the story. Finding the balance is a key element in writing a successful novel, and I think Moyes’ has done an excellent job of doing just that. The back story in Sheltering Rain exists because it adds to the story – it builds the characters to be who they are, as well as building the narrative tension. I wanted to know more about the secrets Moyes’ hinted at throughout, and I wanted to know why the characters behaved as they did. Moyes revealed it all in good time, which I felt added to – rather than subtracted from – the story.

Narrative point of view

What I think Moyes did really well with this book is her use of three different points of view. The story is told from the perspective of three women, from three different generations of the same family.

Usually, I struggle with head-hopping narratives, as I don’t like to be jerked from one mind to another and I sometimes find it hard to follow. However, Moyes handled it well – each character had a clear and distinct narrative voice and no head-hopping occurred within chapters.

Ultimately, Moyes’ POV choice helped to explore a meaningful and engaging premise – that it is easy to assume how other people are feeling and why they act in a certain way, but unless you walk in their shoes, you couldn’t possibly know. Personally, I enjoy stories that I feel I can learn from, and Sheltering Rain is a story that I feel helped me to engage with and understand aspects of my own life that exist way past the pages of the novel. It was intriguing to see how each narrator perceived the other two woman’s actions, and their assumed motives behind them. I liked to be able to compare the perceived motives with the actual motives, because there was often a great amount of misunderstanding between all three women, resulting in plenty of conflict (and we all know how important conflict is in writing!). 

Writing style

In terms of writing style, I was very much at ease when reading this book. It didn’t seem too much like hard work, and although there was not pages and pages of description getting in the way, I felt there was enough for me to immerse myself in the story. If I were to compare it to her more recent books, I would say that Sheltering Rain has a bit more of an elaborate/ornate style than Me Before You, although both styles worked for me.

I would assume that over time, and with plenty of practice and editing, Moyes has managed to hone the skill of giving vivid description in a succinct, subtle and unobtrusive way. This is a skill that I’d like to develop in my own writing, and one that I know will only come with practice.

Taking a critical view

Cover

Being a designer, I can’t pick up a book without judging the cover, and although I am careful not to let the cover dictate too me whether or not I buy the book, a good cover certainly helps to catch attention. After all, the first step in selling a book is to get readers to notice that it actually exists. We have written more about the importance of cover design here.

The cover for Sheltering Rain was nice, although personally, I feel it was not eye-catching in the slightest. It employs the typical flat illustration style often seen on Romantic Fiction novel covers, and the rather cliche silhouette of a woman. I understand that to some degree it is important that a novel looks clearly as if it sits within a genre, but perhaps even more importantly, is that it should stand out amongst its competition. If I had not been handed the book and had not been expressly told it was written by JoJo Moyes, I would probably not have even noticed it if it were on a shelf surrounded by hundreds of others. To conclude, my verdict is that it is an average cover for a higher than average book. Lesson being (here comes another saying!!):

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Much.

In conclusion

I would recommend this book to friends, and it has been one of my favourite recent reads. It was a strong story, full of emotion, passion and intrigue. It has also spiked my interest to hunt out more debut novels by best-selling authors, as I find it fascinating to see where they started compared to where they are now.


Mini book reviews – Heather’s recent reads

I’ve read so many books recently, and instead of doing extensive reviews of all of them, I thought I would write mini reviews instead. There are a few spoilers here and there so be warned!
I would also love to know your feelings on the below books, so leave your opinions in the comments!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

FangirlWIP

Enjoyable easy reading with well-developed characters and a subtle storyline (not an awful lot actually happens in it). Bonus points because it’s about twins, but subtracting points for the Simon Snow FanFic which the whole novel is based around. I thought it was boring and hard to take seriously (mainly because of the ridiculous names and because it seemed like a joke version of Harry Potter). I skipped the majority of the FanFic excerpts and think that it was a missed opportunity, as the concept is really interesting and could have made the book ten-times more enjoyable than it was. All in all, I liked it but it was a bit of a non-event. Also, I’ve been put off of reading Carry On as I disliked the FanFic so much, which is a shame as I have already bought it.
6/10

Paper Towns by John Green

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Enjoyed reading it as it was funny (especially the road trip element) and intriguing. Liked the mixture of mystery and high-school drama. Also found the concept of ‘Paper Towns’ really interesting, as I’m really into abandoned places. In parts, I felt like Margot’s character wasn’t as developed as I would have liked as she really seemed to change at the end, but I’m aware that this may have been intentional – the whole point was that Quentin didn’t understand her at all and put her on a pedestal. Liked the ‘adventure mystery’ vibe.
8/10

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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Again, I liked reading this (perhaps a little less than Paper Towns), but the amount of similarities between the two is high. Here is a summary of both of their storylines…

‘Fun loving young girl who no one understands goes missing and their male companions (who just happen to be in love with them) try to figure out what happened’.
Still, cool setting (boarding school) and a range of three-dimensional characters. Also, was a little shocked at the end, definitely didn’t expect it and I’m not sure how I feel about it…
7/10

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Quite different from any of the other books I’ve read (which was refreshing) and although I didn’t really understand why the two main characters were attracted to each other (male character exhibited distaste towards female at first, and I didn’t understand what made him change his mind), I did feel emotionally attached to the two and wanted them to have a happy ending. The ending, although not ‘happy’ did give hope, so that’s better than nothing. All the characters were unique, as well as being very well-developed (I wanted Richie to get his comeuppance at the end), so Rowell clearly did a good job regarding characterisation. More of an emotion-led story than an action led one (and I generally prefer the latter).
7.5/10a

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Favourite of all the books I’ve read recently. Probably because I love dystopian YA but also because I loved the concept. Don’t get me wrong it’s a bit silly (why a maze? What’s with the random telepathy? The characters experience memory loss so how can they remember the names of things?) but I’m sure (well I hope) the questions that remain unanswered will be answered by the end of the series. Although there were lots of names and characters to remember, this didn’t put me off (it normally does if I can’t follow who is who) and I just loved the setting – I’m a sucker for a unique story world. One major criticism would be that it is cliché in areas (self-sacrificing hero/unnecessary death just for the emotional gut-punch) but all in all I loved it and read it in two sittings. I have also bought the other three and can’t wait to get cracking with those.
9/10
*Update* The rest of the series was dissapointing to be honest.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

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Interesting concept but the whole novel stressed me out – I wanted to know if there was a happy ending almost after the first two chapters. Like the impatient douche-bag I am, I Googled the ending (so naughty). Funnily enough, I enjoyed the book more after finding out what happened, as I was no longer skipping chapters to figure it out. Good character development but a frustrating concept if you like justice and happy endings. Unique voices from the protagonists (you could really tell the difference between the mother and daughter but sometimes I felt the daughter sounded too grown up for a six-year-old). The blend of real life and the occasional fantastical elements was confusing at times, and I felt there was sometimes too much description, so minus points for that.
7/10

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

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The beautifully designed cover and blurb drew me to this but once I began reading the elaborate detail and description really put me off. Really like the idea behind it but feel it would be stronger if it were less flowery. Didn’t like the mother character as she seemed a little detached, and quite frankly I didn’t like the girl either as she was a bit plain. This isn’t really a fair review though as I didn’t finish the book. I feel like this review isn’t a reflection of the writer’s ability to write, more a reflection of my own personal taste. I might give it another go later…
Based on what I read, 5/10

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

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Started off really enjoying it but the more I thought about the concept behind it the more I thought it was weird. I didn’t really ‘get’ it, but of course, that may just be me being a dumbass. The thought of a silvery wiggly worm as a conscious being was odd and I found it hard to understand because to me, ‘Wanderer’ seemed really human. So I guess it could be argued that the novel is thought-provoking as it brings up themes and questions relating to humanity – What really makes us human? What really is a ‘mind’? How important is a body? being just a few. So I suppose this is good as novels are meant to make you think more in-depth about their themes. Despite my reservations, this novel explores a unique concept and is full of conflict. Bit long for my liking so I didn’t finish it and instead watched the film (awful of me I know, but I felt it would be awesome in visual media).
6.5/10

The Understudy by David Nicholls

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Funny, vibrant, believable and interesting characters who made me laugh. I really wanted the main character to succeed, which is the sign of a well developed and three-dimensional protagonist! Would recommend if you are after a light-hearted read. The protagonists 6-year-old-daughter was hilarious and Nicholls used her to poke fun at the typical London upper-class snob (her love of sushi and her distaste of her Dad’s ‘common’ choice of pizza restaurant), which was amusing.
8/10

Faceless by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

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Although I liked this book, I couldn’t get past the obvious flaw in the concept. The main character had a face transplant but was back at school after several months. I thought this was ridiculous to be honest, as something as awful as losing your face would take YEARS to fully recover from. As well as this, I found the main character made stupid decisions (stopping taking her anti-rejection pills as an example) which also bothered me. Aside from this I did actually enjoy reading it and would recommend. I just felt that the novel was a little shallow and focused too much on the physical trauma of losing a face, and less on the emotional trauma. Just my opinion, though.
7/10

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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I actually didn’t enjoy this as much as Sharp Objects, so I don’t understand why Gone Girl is more popular/well-known. I found it long and dragged out in places, but Flynn did do a good job of throwing suspicion over the male protagonist. I also did not guess the twist, which was good. Characters were well developed and interesting and tension was high throughout but I disliked the ending because it lacked justice. I found it really frustrating and it made me mad, which is probably good as I did actually care about what happened to the characters and the conclusion of the story.
6.5/10

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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One of my other favourites on this list; kept me guessing and I couldn’t put it down. Kind of guessed the twist towards the end but this didn’t put me off. A twisted and somewhat horrifying concept but also really intriguing. Main character was a little bit cliché (emotionally damaged and personally involved with the events) but this didn’t stop me enjoying it. Would highly recommend unless you are sensitive and dislike reading about crime and violence.
8.5/10

Us by David Nicholls

 

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Not much to say about this other than the fact I enjoyed it. It’s funny, original and made me laugh out loud (which I rarely do when I read books). Highly recommended if you want a unique and heart-warming read.
8/10

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

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Only read a few chapters of this before I gave up. I may have given up too easily, but there were just other books that I would have preferred to read at the time. So why did I stop reading? To be honest, the narrative put me off a little. It was clinical (which I understand was intentional) and I failed to warm to it. I also found the narrative far too wordy – think The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon. Fine on screen but super long to read. I also found the character of Rosie to be unlikeable. I haven’t read the first book (The Rosie Project) so maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had. This probably isn’t a fair review as I have seen so many positive reviews of this book (one of the reasons I bought it), I just don’t think it is my cup of tea!
Based on what I read 5/10

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

the-girl-on-the-train

Finished reading this recently and thought it was good but didn’t live up to the hype. Super interesting and such a good choice of narrators (there were three, who were all unreliable in their own way). Lots of twists, all of which I didn’t guess (which is good). Characters were quite well-developed but could have had more distinct narrative voices (sometimes I got confused as to who was narrating). I enjoyed the writing style as it was very to the point (I HATE too much description) but sometimes the author would jump between scenes with no warning – for example, Rachael would often jump from being in bed to being on the train with no real transition, which could be a bit jarring at times. Was a bit disappointed but only because it has been mega-hyped up.
8/10

How to fit writing into your life

Hi guys,

Just a quick list post detailing several different ways of sneaking that little extra bit of writing time into your life! It’s a bit hypocritical of me as I’ve chosen to write this as opposed to actually getting on with my novel or short stories but oh well…here goes!

1. Try to write 500 words a day

Exactly as it sounds, try and write a minimum of 500 words per day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it works! My sister, Becca, has written 70,000 words of her first draft this way. It needn’t be 500 words exactly, just choose a goal that you believe to be attainable and get cracking!

Why this will work:

In his eBook Mastering creativity, James Clear explores the importance of having a schedule and sticking to it – to him, consistency and routine is the difference between being a professional, and being an amateur. 

He says

if you’re serious about creating something compelling, you need to stop waiting for motivation and inspiration to strike you and simply set a schedule for doing work on a consistent basis. Of course, that’s easy to say, but much harder to do in practice…..If you don’t have a time block to write every week, then you’ll find yourself saying things like, “I just need to find the willpower to do it.” Stop waiting for motivation or inspiration to strike you and set a schedule for your habits’.

The entire publication is well worth a read. Find it here. Bottom line is, if you set yourself a schedule and stick to it, it will soon become a habit – as integral to your daily routine as brushing your teeth in the morning.

2. Set a timer for 15 minutes each day and write

Very similar to the above point, but you set a timer instead. This may work better if you have less time, as you know exactly how long you will need so will be easier to stick to and schedule in. Just promise yourself you will write AT LEAST until the timer finishes, and more if you fancy it. You could end up writing for hours. OR you could end up writing for 15 minutes. But hey, at least you’re making progress! I’m very tempted to give this method a go, as I’ve been slacking BIG TIME on my writing recently.

3. Devote one day a week to writing

It doesn’t have to be a whole day, but choose a day where you are free of other commitments and spend a few hours writing. This is what I (try to) do. I’m busy the rest of the week with work (now part-time, woohoo) and then freelancing afterward, so I tend to write on weekends. Sundays generally work for me, so I’ll try and sit down and crack out 3 or 4 hours of writing. Although this can work out really well (I once wrote 10,000 words in a day…) it can also be harder to keep to. Life happens, and sometimes your writing days will end up being filled with other commitments. It’s definitely worth giving it a go though, especially if you’re like me, and like to write in big chunks.

4. Download Evernote and write on the train/in lunch breaks/whilst waiting to pick up the kids etc 

I love Evernote! I downloaded it over a year ago when I first started writing, and I used this method when I was writing my first draft. I was commuting into London every day and would try to add a little bit to my draft every morning (assuming I got a seat on the train). It worked great and, even though the writing was appalling (I absolutely hate typing on phones), I succeeded in outlining the main story-line this way. Evernote also allows you to access all your notes on any computer/iPad with an internet connection, so you can get home and pick up where you left off on your laptop. It is also a good source for note taking. 

Top tip: Split your writing into chapters, or scenes, and have each one in a different ‘note’, otherwise you will find yourself having to scroll for ten minutes just to find the bit of writing you’re looking for. Not ideal. Remember, you can finalise chapter breaks properly once you are in the editing stage – you don’t need to commit to these specific breaks permanently, it is just easier from a usability perspective whilst you are at the drafting stage.  

5. Ignore how bad your writing is

So you’ve found the time to write, which is great, but sometimes the quality of our writing can stop us in our tracks! Don’t sweat it. Sometimes our brains just don’t work (example, I just wrote ‘sometims our bains don’t work’…) but don’t let this put you off. If you’re having one of those days, just dump as much as you can on the page (no actual dumping please…). You never know, 10% of it could be salvageable and at least you’ve made progress. Moral of the story: any writing is better than no writing. Again, James Clear advocates the idea that you should give yourself permission to create junk:

Creative work is no different than training in the gym. You can’t selectively choose your best moments and only work on the days when you have great ideas. The only way to unveil the great ideas inside of you is to go through a volume of work, put in your repetitions, and show up over and over again. Obviously, doing something below average is never the goal. But you have to give yourself permission to grind through the occasional days of below average work because it’s the price you have to pay to get to excellent work.

That’s all for now!