Poem • Gan Anam (Without Soul)

This poem is inspired by the attempted destruction of the Irish language by colonial oppression and the deep sadness and shame that I believe we feel as a nation. 


This land’s ghosts
step upon our throats
and weep
as we stutter through the words that came before us
and laugh at those with cadent lips

We are a dry tongue
in need of hydration
like a glass awaiting wine

We are a caged bird
clipped of our wings
and stuck beneath the sky

We are concave canvas
on sallow bones
as our land falls beneath our feet
and the voices of our fathers fade
and our birthright dies on our breath.

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.

Timeline Struggles • Writing Thoughts

A few weeks ago I was certain that I’d have a finished draft by the end of February. Well, it’s March now and it’s still not finished, so needless to say I was far too ambitious. I notched my arrow and it flew far past the target. That being said, I’m okay with it. It’s better to do the thing right than do it sloppily in an impressive amount of time.

Although I still have a few scenes to write – tricky ones – the problem for me at the moment is my timeline. I write totally out of order, it’s just something that works best for me. I always endeavour to start out in a linear fashion but to avoid writer’s block I often have to give up on a scene and start a new one to keep my momentum going.

novel timeline

Unfortunately, this tactic leaves me with several different timeline problems.

To give a little information on my book, I have three main characters. Two of them are in totally different social classes but they live in the same country and the other character is a soldier who lives in a neighbouring country. My problem right now is knitting together the different POVs so that they make sense to a reader. The events in the book affect my characters in different ways, but I need to figure out which order the chapters go in before I can call my first draft “finished”.

The timeline is super important, not only to make sure the novel makes sense, but also to create and maintain that all-important page turning tension. It’s a pickle, and it takes a lot more time than you’d think, especially with unfinished scenes.

novel timeline

My plan at the moment is to just finish all the scenes and then summarise them onto cards. Then I’m going to place the cards in a line and move them about as needed. Once I have a narrative I’m happy with, then I’ll put the chapters in the right order. Only then will I consider the first draft finished, so realistically I’m looking at another month of work.

Okay. Plan formulated. Back to writing!

Drawing Maps & Growing As A Writer • Inspiration Wall 02

This was a great week for me in terms of writing. Scenes have been flowing better, I’ve plugged a few plot holes and I’m more confident in the path I’ve put my characters on. It’s a win all round! I don’t like to risk jinxing myself but I think I’ll finish my first draft by the end of next month! I’m definitely feeling very positive.

novel writing

Growing as a writer 

I wrote an article last year on ‘author envy’ – that overwhelming feeling of jealousy when you hear that another writer (especially if they’re the same age or younger than you) has not only finished writing their book, but they’re about to get it published. This exact situation happened in my life in the past year; a girl I know worked hard and finished her book and then she got a publishing deal. I couldn’t bring myself to be happy for her, I just couldn’t. All I felt was my undeniable failure in the face of her success.

novel writing

I think this is just something every writer goes through, and it’s nothing to do with the great achievement of the other writer. It really isn’t. It has everything to do with insecurity and feeling like you’re not good enough, like you’re never going to achieve your dream. It’s odd isn’t it? You’d think seeing someone succeeding – someone who is in the same boat as you – would only serve to motivate you more? For me it didn’t.

I was kind of down for a while afterwards, but I pushed on with my writing anyway. I’m so glad I did as I’m now near the finish line and, as a nice bonus, I can now say that I am truly happy for the girl I know who is soon to be a published author. It really is wonderful because, like me, being an author is her dream. You should keep an eye out for her upcoming book called The Space Between which will be published by Little Island. She’s a fabulous, unique writer so I’m sure it will receive rave reviews!

Map making 

Inkarnate.com is a really fun tool to use if you’re planning out a world and you want to get all your visuals down on paper, so to speak. The software allows you to put a basic map together and you can even add things like castles and different types of trees and land (swampy, desert etc.) to personalise it even more. I had a bit of a tinker with it and came up with a fun visual for me to work off of while I’m writing.

I spent approximately 5 minutes on this so it would be infinitely better if I committed real time to it, but it does what I want it to – it allows me to have a good idea of the sizes of the countries in my book and their proximity to each other.

inkarnate world building

Everything is falling into place 

When I first started writing my novel I was worried about the ending. Mainly because I didn’t have one. This is where the ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ style of writing is inspiring. It can take you to a part of your story that you may never have thought of while carefully planning each scene.

When I was a kid I just wrote any old thing that popped into my head. Planning had absolutely no place in my “process”, so to speak. Now I plan a little and wing it a lot, but one isn’t better than the other. They both have their place, and lots of writers prefer different kind of methods.

I’ve never gotten this far in a story before (65+k), so I’m pretty sure that I’ve found my sweet spot. Here’s to many more thousands of words next week!

novel writing

Using Irish culture 

As I mentioned in my first Inspiration Wall, I’ve been looking into my culture more and taking a few elements that I find really beautiful and fascinating to weave them into my story. Some of these things are really small – just details, really – but it’s not just the big, obvious parts of a tale that make it so memorable to the reader. I want to make my story unique.

One of the things I plan on using are ghillies, which are little black Irish dancing shoes that you lace up under the sole. One of my characters dances in an inn and she’ll mention these in one of the scenes. Another thing I plan on including is a rag tree, which you can find in many areas of Ireland. Rag trees are regular trees (usually near a Holy Well) where people with problems or illnesses tie a piece of their clothing/a rag to the tree. It’s said that the problem or sickness will go as the rag rots.

rag tree novel

I loved that Leigh Bardugo included some elements of Russian culture in her Six of Crows duology, as I looked up a lot of the words she used out of interest. It would be fantastic if someone unfamiliar with Irish culture looked up aspects of it because they read my book!

Also, it’s not surprising but I’ve been listening to a lot of Enya this week (LOVE her, she is a national treasure!) and if you’re writing fantasy scenes featuring elves or witches or magic then this music will inspire you. She’s responsible for helping create the stunning LOTR score so, you know, trust me on this one.

 

What gave you inspiration this week? Let me know in the comments below!

50,060 Words • NaNoWriMo 2016 Recap

50,060 words 

Like many NaNoWriMo participaints, at the start of the month 50k words was my goal. However, I truly didn’t think I’d actually be able to do it, even when I hit 43k words and 45k words and even at 47k when I had so little to go. I really didn’t think I’d do it. I thought I’d lose all motivation and give up on myself like I always do.

Needless to say, I’m immensely proud of myself. The furthest I’ve gotten to that number ever before was 20k words and that was over the course of a few months. I managed 50,060 words – coherent words at that – in just under a month. I finished on day 29.

One of the reasons I think I did this was because, for one thing, I was excited about my story and my characters. And secondly, I paced myself. I wrote a post halfway through November called ‘Slow and Steady Wins the Race’. While other participants on Reddit’s r/nanowrimo and Instagram were boasting about their 20k word counts after just a few days, I took my time.

Even when I was on a roll with a scene, I stopped writing after approx. 2k words because I wanted to be able to start the next day on a good note. I never wanted to create a situation where I was facing a blank document with nothing to write because I used up all my creative energy the day before. There is something to be said for strategic writing.

Something I was surprised at was the fact I didn’t need a rewards system to keep me going. I put a chart on my wall featuring mini word goals with spots for gold stars. I filled the chart in for about 10 days and then stopped doing it. It didn’t feel necessary for me, and I’m quite glad of that. It shows me that I don’t need to bribe myself to keep going which, to me, is a good sign for someone who wants to make a living as an author.

Overall, the experience was a great one. Not only did I learn discipline and the art of writing every day, even if it’s only a little bit, I also wrote half of my first book in what I hope will be a trilogy. I expect the rest of book 1 to be covered in another 40k words or so to round it off at 90k. I know these seem like lofty goals, but after achieving so much in such little time, I feel like I can do anything.

I hope that high lasts.

I Won! • Blog Awards Ireland 2016

I’m so excited to be writing this post, but I’m also very surprised. I attended the Blog Awards Ireland 2016 event last week and found out that I won gold in the Book & Literature Blog category. I was so shocked as I really didn’t expect to win after only blogging for a few short months, and especially because I was up against other talented Irish book bloggers.

I attended the event with my boyfriend and had a great time even before I won. We had a delicious meal and indulged in candy floss and popcorn as well as a few glasses of prosecco, and we really enjoyed the circus performances and seeing the reactions of winners in the other categories. In other words, winning was just the icing on the cake!

Blog Awards Ireland 2016

I don’t want to prattle on, but I am so grateful for anyone who voted for my blog! I really appreciate it so much. Blogging since the start of the year has been so important to me; I’ve rekindled my love of reading, I started writing my novel, I’ve talked about the challenges and self-doubt and envy and passion that comes with writing and I’m so glad that people find some value in what I’m doing here. It’s been a very tough year for me personally, and it’s nice to know that I’m doing something right.

I’d like to take this opportunity to mention the other fantastic blogs that were finalists with me who you should check out for quality book-related content:

746Books

Behind Green Eyes

Claire By Reverie

Gobblefunked

Pretty Purple Polka Dots

Tara Sparling Writes

Word Herding

Thanks again to everyone! This has made my year!

Poem • Trapped In The Dark Of My Mind

The wet dew of the morning

shines by the light of dawn.

The wind ripples through the grass

and the blades bend to its will.

The birds soar and dive and tumble,

swelling with the breath of a new day.

And I roll over.

I blink at the light cracking on my face

and I sleep a dark sleep in sweaty sheets.

And I cry that the light doesn’t flood my skin.

I cry that the wind doesn’t billow and wake me.

I cry that I can’t hear the birds.