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!

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo • Review

Although I didn’t reach my goal of 50 books read in 2016, I still read plenty of great novels that I otherwise may not have picked up. One of those books was Six of Crows, which is about a group of ragtag ruffians and thugs on a mission to break into an impenetrable fortress in a foreign land. I absolutely loved it and when I found out there was a sequel, Crooked Kingdom, I knew I had to get my hands on it right away.

It was in this way that I fell head over heels in love with the world and characters created by Leigh Bardugo. I’d go as far as to say she’s now one of my all-time favourite writers. She has such immense talent and a gorgeous flow to her writing that you just don’t see that often anymore.

A friend of mine picked up the first Grisha novel, Shadow and Bone, for me for Christmas and I finally sat and read it yesterday. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a few hours. The story follows an orphan girl called Alina Starkov as she discovers a unique power within her that thrusts her into the world of the magical elite. She must trust the mysterious and dangerous man known as the Darkling in order to destroy the Shadow Fold, an area of darkness that is slowly destroying the war-torn nation of Ravka. Along the way, she must face up to her love for her childhood friend, Mal, the feeling that she doesn’t belong and her attraction to the fearful Darkling.

I loved the character of Alina from the get-go and I especially loved how she was described, her personality and her simple goals. Alina isn’t a stunning beauty like so many other protagonists in fantasy novels, she’s fairly plain but sometimes pretty when she gets enough sleep and uses her power. When she says no, she means no, and she’s complex and insecure and worried about not just herself but her childhood friend and her country. She isn’t self-absorbed and she’s just so likeable. I could see myself being friends with her.

There are plenty of twists in the story and many things I didn’t expect, particularly in relation to Mal and the Darkling. I love being surprised by the direction a story takes. Naturally, this book is still full of the type of clichés us fantasy YA readers are used to at this stage – female protagonist with power she didn’t know she had, two love interests, a palace with an incompetent royal family etc. – but Bardugo takes those clichés and writes about them in such a way that it feels so fresh. Her storytelling is unexpected, surprising and at times completely delightful.

I loved learning more about the Grisha that Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom introduced to me, and I’m eager to re-read the series to see what Easter Eggs I can spot! Alina Starkov actually made an appearance in the book through the eyes of Nina Zenik, the homesick Grisha Heartrender trying to save a man she wronged and her fellow refugees.

Overall, I really loved this book. It really made me visualise what Ravka is like and I’m looking forward to seeing how Bardugo expands her world further in Siege and Storm & Ruin and Rising. Her characters are memorable and complex and full of life and I’d be practically hyperventilating with excitement if someone dropped book 2 and 3 in my lap right now. It’s the start of what I have no doubt is an excellent series, and I heartily recommend you read it if you like stories with magic, war and dangerous love.