Still Here, Still Writing • Writing Thoughts

Whew.

It’s been a while.

I haven’t updated this blog in… what, two months? Maybe two and a half? I haven’t really been keeping track, but it’s always been in the back of my mind. What’s stopped me from posting? A couple of things; stress from working two jobs and a total lack of motivation and creativity, but mainly my failure and the embarrassment that tags along with it.

You see, in my last few posts I joyfully announced that I’d soon be finished my first draft of my first novel, in doing so fulfilling a lifelong dream of being an author. Not being a successful author, or an author who even sells a single copy, but an author who has finished writing a book, because that’s what writing a book makes you; it makes you an author. I wanted to be an author before my momentum and motivation came to a stuttering halt, and I’ll still want to be an author after the next inevitable bout of writers’ block too.

Ultimately, it’s down to me. I haven’t finished my novel yet. I let the pressure I put on myself by setting a deadline completely derail me. I lost faith in my plot, in my characters, in my ability as a writer, and the saddest thing is it’s all so damn predictable. I’ve written several posts about it on this very blog; I’ve posted articles on tips to beat writers’ block, how to stay motivated and persevering even if you and everyone else doubts that you can do it. But in the end, it’s you and the keyboard. And sometimes knowing how to beat something isn’t the problem, it’s making yourself do it in spite of your fear of failing.

I have fear, but fear doesn’t control my dream, it just can’t. Completing this is too important to me. I’ve had two months of excuses and feeling sorry for myself and doubting myself more than I ever have before, but now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get writing again. And the next time this happens, because it probably will, I’ll do the same.

Bottom line: Writing is hard, but nothing worth having ever comes easy.

So Close To The Finish Line • Writing Thoughts

NaNoWriMo finished over two months ago and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (finally!), and in case you were wondering, yes, my novel is filled with cliché, overused phrases just like that one. However, the only reason I’ve even gotten this far is because I’ve put the editor in me firmly on the back burner and allowed myself to just write. 

Many authors agree that the magic of writing is in the re-writing, and I couldn’t agree more. I know there are lots of problems with my draft and there will be plenty of things I’ll have to change, polish or re-write entirely, but for now I’m happy just to finish. That is the goal for this next month, and hard as it is sometimes, I do see myself with a full draft by the end of the month. I’m very excited!

It’s now officially the 5th of February so I have approximately 3 weeks left. In saying this, I’m not going to hold a rope at my own throat. If I don’t finish in the next few weeks I’m not going to make myself feel like a failure. I have a planned deadline that I don’t want to go over (and I don’t think I will unless I come down with dreaded writer’s block), but as long as the draft is mostly done by the end of the month, I’ll be happy enough.

This is just an update as to where I’m at with my NaNo novel (honestly I didn’t think I’d get this far). Once I get the first draft polished, I plan on re-reading it and making more changes, then I’ll approach an agent and publishers. After that, I’m going to go back to my initial story (check out my M.A.D. section to find out more about my first attempt at writing a novel) and create a proper outline for it (I think I’ve finally abandoned the ‘pantser’ life). Then for Camp NaNoWriMo I’m going to try for 50k again!

Phew.

That’s the plan. Fingers crossed for me!

Failure And New Year Goals • #50BOOKSCHALLENGE

I started this year with a promise to myself; that I would read 50 books by the end of 2016 to rekindle my love of reading. I used to read so much as a kid and a teenager but school and college and work got in the way and my books grew dusty on the shelves.

The point of the challenge was to make sure I read regularly. Unfortunately, I didn’t reach my goal of 50 books. Instead, I read 36, with approximately 10 still to be finished. Although I’m usually very hard on myself, and failing a challenge like this could have really held me back and made me feel terrible, I’m actually quite pleased.

Thirty six books is still thirty five books more than I read last year. I read some really fantastic stories and some not so fantastic ones too, but ultimately, I read. Even if I had only read ten books, or twenty books, I still opened books this year and saw them through. That’s what’s important to me.

50bookschallenge

Although sometimes the challenge was stressful (for instance during very busy months), it re-introduced me to the joy of sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea and getting lost in a fantasy world.

I’ve decided that, instead of aiming for 50 books, 30 is a good goal to aim for. The reason I’ve done this is because I’m introducing a new challenge to the mix for 2017 – the #100kWordChallenge. If you’ve been following my writing journey, you’ll know I want to be a novelist. It has always been my dream, and after hitting 50k during 2016’s NaNoWriMo, I’m on my way to finishing my first book.

In 2017, I plan on finishing it with another 40k and to start the second book as well. Overall, I hope to write 100,000 words in 2017. To some, that might seem like a walk in the park, and to others it’s a mountain too steep to climb, but for me, it’s my new personal challenge and I’m determined to do myself proud.

Blessings and Happy New Year to all! Thanks for continuing to read my ramblings on here!

The Writing Curse • Perfectionism

I haven’t written in a while. Here on my blog, in my notebook, on Word, on scraps of paper. Nothing. It’s like my motivation and belief in myself has just deserted me entirely. Where has it gone? Why did it go?

Every now and again I come to this dead end and I’ll write about why I’m not writing rather than just pushing through and writing anyway. I know, logically, that that’s how you fix writer’s block. You push through the writing you think is worse than garbage and you keep pushing until it’s good again.

In theory, it works and it allows you to get on with things and get one step closer to achieving your dream of being an author, but in practice it’s hard as shit. Seriously, writing is HARD. Any writer, no matter how famous they are, has gone through this. The difference between me and them isn’t that they’re better than me, it’s that they had the resolve and the courage to push.

The reason why I’m writing about my failure instead of pushing is because I’m scared. I’m scared of failure. Since I was a child I’ve had these lofty ideas about being a full time writer with trilogies under my belt and a legion of readers waiting with baited breath for my next release. I don’t want to disappoint that little girl who thought she could do that.

I’m so scared that what I’m writing isn’t perfect that it totally inhibits my progress. Perfectionism is a curse. It cripples writers all over the world and it’s not even real! How many books can you think of that were 100% perfect? Books that had nothing – not one single thing – wrong with them? Books that every single person in the entire world loved? I can’t think of one.

I can think of books that came close to perfection, but none of them ever were. They all had their tiny niggling faults, but it didn’t matter. They were beloved and universally praised regardless. So why do we as writers put this impossible goal of perfection in front of us and constantly try in vain to reach it? We’re just setting ourselves up for failure. We’re ensuring that we give up.

How do I solve this? When I’m writing a paragraph or finishing a chapter and re-reading it, it doesn’t scream ‘perfection’ and the quality of it dampens in my mind, and that’s damn hard to forget about. It’s hard to shove that negative, self-deprecating bullshit aside so you can just write.

But all you can do is try. All you can do is remind yourself that perfection isn’t real, that flaws add to a story and to a writer’s journey, that everyone’s first draft is far from the finished product, that the second and third draft are often sub-part as well. The real magic of writing comes in the editing. All you have to do is finish. Finish that story and build upon those bones you’ve created, like adding a picture to an empty frame.

Author Envy • Dealing With Jealousy

This post needs no explanation, really, as the title speaks for itself. I’m talking about author envy, and every aspiring writer has experienced it at some stage. Everyone who has harboured a secret, burning desire to write a book and publish it to rave reviews has come face to face with the green eyed monster. It creeps up on you by riding on the back of your insecurities and self-doubt and catches you so often at your most vulnerable.

I’ve had this experience plenty of times, and although I know it’s not in any way helpful and stems from my own confidence issues and pessimism, it does get the better of me sometimes, and has done so many times in the past. It generally snags me when I come across an article about someone my age who has just published their debut novel, particularly when it’s the same genre as I generally write. It tugs at me and makes my mind run amok with self-deprecating thoughts. It makes me think ‘This person has already done what I want to do. Why haven’t I done it yet? Am I ever going to do it? Maybe I’m not good enough.’

These kind of thoughts can be kryptonite to any writer, particularly one who has just received a rejection letter or particularly harsh criticism or even just a little bit of criticism. Writers have transparent skin when it comes to our work, but there’s a reason for that. This is something that we’ve so desperately desired to achieve, generally from a young age, something that we’ve worked on for years or thought about working on for years. It’s very personal. An attack on your writing very often feels like an attack on you.

I’ve abandoned countless stories and poems and novel plans because of niggling self-doubt that became all-consuming and it’s lead me to stop writing for a long time. Sometimes author envy can be a good thing and it can stimulate a dormant imagination in a ‘hitch up your pants and get on with it’ kind of way. Though I’ve experienced the negative side to that plenty of times; I’ll be writing away, fairly happy with my progress, when I hear about someone about to publish or, god forbid, they’re even younger than me and they’re on their second book. It just gets me down and makes me feel like, even though I am writing and I’m doing the best I can in the time I have, it’s just never going to happen for me.

I haven’t found any ‘cure’ as such to these kind of feelings. They’re just normal for writers. Honestly, if you claim you haven’t felt this at some point I’d find it incredibly hard to believe you. I think this is just a wave you have to ride until it crashes and you can wipe your mind’s slate clean and start again. And I always start again, eventually, though some waves are rougher than others.

Ultimately, I just bear in mind a quote that has stuck with me throughout the year: Dreams don’t work unless you do. So I put envy back in its box, knowing full well it’ll rear its ugly head at some point in the future, and I write.

Books Read in January 2016 • #50bookschallenge

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been a whole month since I started my #50bookschallenge for the year and, to be honest, something insecure in me convinced myself that this would be yet another thing that I’d start and then give up once it got too difficult to prioritise.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab 

I’ve been following a few Bookstagram accounts for a while, mainly because they feature a lot of pretty photographs of books, reading, Funko POP figures and general tranquility, but also because they come with some great book recommendations.

That’s where I first heard of A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s one of the books that readers were raving about, and it sounded like just the book to get me back into reading, so I bought a digital copy on my iPad.

I was absolutely hooked. I included its sequel, A Gathering of Shadows, in my 11 Highly Anticipated Books for 2016 list, and I’m counting down the days until I can get my hands on it. Unlike some fantasy epics I’ve read in the past, like Game of Thrones for instance, this book was incredibly easy to follow, particularly in regards to characters: Kell, Lila, Holland, Rhy and the Danes, who were all so unique and memorable.

It’s a testament to the fact that quantity does not equal quality. I couldn’t recommend this book enough.

Anthem by Ayn Rand 

I’m a big fan of novellas. Not only because they’re easy to read and digest, but because the shortest books are sometimes the ones that stick with you most. George Orwell’s Animal Farm, for instance, is one of my all-time favourite books.

Anthem was a book I came across when I was searching for good books at cheap prices in the iBooks store. I really wanted something dystopian to read and this caught my eye. It turned out to be even better than I thought it would and I read the whole thing in a couple of hours.

Again, this is a book with few characters, but so memorable and relatable all the same. It’s a book about sin and discipline, society and conformity, humanity and what it means to live rather than just being alive.

If you have time to spare some weekend, this is definitely worth the read.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer 

I picked this up on a trip to London last month and read it in bursts throughout train journeys and on the plane back to Ireland. It was the cover that initially attracted me, as you don’t see too many neon pink books around. I then noticed that it was one of three books in a trilogy and the blurb appealed to me, so I bought it.

I’m still unsure, even a couple of weeks after finishing it, what I think about it. It’s definitely stuck with me, that’s for sure, and it was incredibly strange and visual. The characters in the story were a little lacklustre, but the odd surroundings and the mystery of Area X kept me interested.

I’d pick up the second one if only to try and learn more about the area and the story, and what happens to the main character as well. As to whether I’d recommend it to anyone, I don’t think I would. Perhaps if someone asked me to suggest an incredibly creepy book that would leave them mystified and a little frustrated, then yes.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This is another book that I picked up because of pure hype, as I’m not usually a fan of story retellings (I think it’s lazy and usually it’s not very well done so I tend to avoid), but this one seemed interesting as it wasn’t just about a Cinderella story, it was also about a rampant disease with a cyborg for a main character. That, and the fact that it had an Asian setting really appealed to me.

I’m glad I read it because, by the time I finished it, I was really attached to Cinder and to Prince Kai as well, who turned out to be a lot more interesting than the prince in the original story (thankfully!) and I was dying to read the next book.

However, it didn’t start off great and I had trouble figuring out what all the hype was about. I decided to stick with it even though I kept putting it down and forgetting about it but once I got to the halfway point I was properly hooked.

If you read this series, and you should because it’s very good, don’t expect to fall in love with it in the first few chapters, but keep going with it and the payoff will be worth it. One huge negative I have with it, however, is that the “twist” was incredibly obvious and I predicted it within the first two chapters, which is unfortunate.

I’m really excited to read the next instalment, though.

I’m happy that that’s four whole books I’ve read already as it gives me hope that I may just finish this challenge and meet my target. I’m so terrible with giving up on things and abandoning projects and I really hope that this isn’t another typical case. I’m determined to finish.

Right now I’m in between a few different books: The Fifth Wave, which I’m more than halfway through, Ready Player One and Slaughterhouse 5, so hopefully I’ll be talking about all three in February’s post.

Happy reading!

Total book count: 4/50