Wednesday, 1 February 2017

January 2017 Reading and Writing Recap

I decided this year I'd try and do a monthly recap of my reading and also my writing, which I haven't talked about as yet. But, as I write this, it's February 11, so I am going to backdate this post to Feb 1 and try to be more prompt in March!


In January I read 20 books, which is pretty standard for me. I'd be happy to keep this rate up for the year, even though I know I probably need to read less if I want to make time for writing. 14 books were physical copies, 3 were audio books, 3 were ebooks. Most of them were YA but a couple were adult fiction, one was a classic, and 3 were travel memoirs.

If you want to check out what I'm reading during February, you can follow my bookish IG account @booksandmanicures. My nail art is over at @TheBookishManicurist.


In May last year I finally decided to start writing a YA novel. It's something I'd thought about on and off but never really thought I'd try. I got an idea and felt compelled to start writing, so I did. I started with planning characters, setting, backstory, and then began writing, not really knowing where I would end up.

This coincided with reading Paper Hearts Vol. 1 by Beth Revis. Beth, a best-selling YA author, released 3 ebooks on writing, publishing, and marketing. I saw Vol 2 available on Netgalley so I requested it and then purchased Vol 1 via the Kindle app. Reading Volume 1 really changed the way I write, but also the way I read. It gave me insight into why authors choose certain styles and I highly recommend it to book bloggers/reviewers, as well as to writers.

So, inspired by Paper Hearts Vol 1, I decided to use one of Beth's suggested plans and plot out the major moments, scenes, and places I thought the MC and story needed to go. Trying to write once I'd done this felt a little restrictive, like I was killing time in between those major plot points, but eventually I got back into the story and I kept up my writing throughout June and July. I wasn't writing every day, probably only every 2-3 days, but I was making progress.

Come August I slowly forgot about my story and, though I would think about it from time to time, and discuss it with a friend who's also writing their first novel, I didn't make time to write. But, when I heard NaNoWriMo was about to begin, I decided to unofficially participate.

Previously I'd been trying to fit my writing in first thing in the morning. I get up early each day, 3.30am to be precise, because I have a set routine I think of as the three Ms: Morning Pages, Movement (yoga, dance or HIIT), and Meditation. I've been meditating daily for over 2 years now, and I've been writing Morning Pages for 1 and a 1/2 years. Both of these tasks are so habitual now, I never miss them.

Despite all that in the morning, I was still trying to make time to quickly sit down with my laptop and get down at least 500 words before leaving for work. But some mornings I'd run late or something would slow down my routine and I would have to skip writing. Later in the day I'd think about doing it but never actually get around to it. Until I realised I needed to use an evening activity as my habit trigger.

I have three cats and two of them are greedy little things. The third one will allow the other two to push her out of the way when eating, so I have to watch them eat in the morning and the evening. Their evening meal takes longer, so I'd sit at the kitchen bench while they would eat. Previously I'd read, but during November I wrote almost every night. But towards the end of the month I let my enthusiasm wane again. Come the end of December I decided January 1st was going to be my day to recommit - I love starting new habits on January one (eg. I started meditating on Jan 1, 2015).

I wrote every night for the month of January, even on a night when I'd been to a book event and got home late. Because I always have to sit and feed the cats, I get my laptop out even if I really don't feel like it. I find once I start, I can easily get down 500 words or more.

I'm not editing as I go, instead I'm just writing. My only goal is to move the story forward. I'm going with the advice that the first draft is where you get it all out, and you can edit once you're done.

Some of the things that have inspired me along the way:
  • Reading - I have always been a voracious reader. I read widely as a child and teen, then over the past 5-6 years I focused on YA, but now I am widening my choices, especially by using audio books to get through large classics and memoirs. 

  • The So You Want to Be a Writer podcast - I can't remember how I discovered this podcast, possibly while googling writing courses, but I think I've been listening to it since April-May 2016. When I discover a podcast I like, I enjoy going back to the beginning and working my way through the old episodes (I've done this with the Rich Roll podcast, another one I highly rec.) With SYWTBaW, I've been listening from both ends - I've worked my way up from 1 to about 70, but I've also listened to the most recent 50, so I should catch up on the middle episodes sometime soon. Each episode has great tips for all sorts of writers, and the interviews are always varied, but often the writing tips are similar (read, write, finish). Sometimes I won't think I'll get anything out of an interview and then I'll be surprised by what I learn. Some great Aussie YA authors have been interviewed, too: Rebecca James, Nicole Hayes, Kate Forsyth, Gabrielle Tozer, and Fleur Ferris.
  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron - I finally picked this up after seeing so many recommendations, particularly in regards to the Morning Pages. I worked my way through about 7 out of the 12 weeks and I do plan on going back and restarting, but even if I don't, I am so glad I finally started writing MPs. I make mine an exercise in speed writing because spending 20 minutes on them was taking up too much time in my morning routine. I can usually get 3 pages of scrawl done in 6 minutes.

  • On Writing by Stephen King - I was given a copy of this back in 2001 and I remember reading most of it, probably stopping when it went from memoir to writing advice. I picked it up again in May last year and read it slowly over the course of a few months. I definitely plan on taking King's advice and putting aside my first draft when I'm finished, and then moving onto something else.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert - I read this in 2015 more because it appealed to the artist side of me, but I think a lot of the writing advice stuck with me. I borrowed this from the library so I plan on buying myself a copy so I can reread and annotate it.

I'm probably forgetting some books but I can always mention them next month. For now I'll say that I really enjoy my writing time each evening. I tend to zone out and before I know it 500+ words are down and the cats have finished dinner. It's also fun watching the word count go up. Over the course of January I went from 22K to 42K and I am thrilled with that progress. I'm aiming for around 60K as the standard length of a YA novel. I should be able to finish it in February if I stick to my writing habit, so I hope I have positive news next month!

If you have any writing book recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

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