Some fictional worlds seem to take permanent root in my heart. Even years after reading 'The End', I can still imagine the landscape...

Some fictional worlds seem to take permanent root in my heart. Even years after reading 'The End', I can still imagine the landscapes that unravel in ink and paper. These worlds' histories feel ingrained in my bones, and I would willingly give every cent I have to be transported to each world for even one minute. 

'The Spiderwick Chronicles' won me over as a child, and now the Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson, Rosaria Munda's 'Fireborne' and Jill Williamson's 'The Kinsman Chronicles' hold a special place in my heart. Besides the fact that three-quarters have 'Chronicles' in their title, how did these stories' worlds resonate with me so deeply? How can we as writers create worlds that can possibly compete?



It all begins with character.

"If it doesn't affect your character, don't mention it." This is the worldbuilding rule I live by when I write and edit, for it helps keep me focused. All worldbuilding junkies (or writers in general!) fall in love with their storyworlds, and might spend weeks or months developing them, so there's this inner urge to share everything.

While knowing there's a war four continents away that's raged half a century might pique the brief interest of a reader, it won't make any world feel totally real. It is through characters, through their experiences, knowledge, and emotions that the magical and unrealistic seems plausible. 

Why? Because the basic point of connection is understanding the characters' emotions. We know what it feels like to be angry, or sad, like we're being underestimated, and so on. If we can cling to characters and their reaction as the familiar in a world that's utterly alien, we'll accept whatever features it bares. And if it influences the character? We'll be enraptured.



For example, your world might have a magic system where magicians can summon flame. If your main character has magic, they won't bring a candle or lantern on their night out: they'll start a personal torch. If they showed up with a matchstick, readers would be thrown, for each touch of worldbuilding should have consequences

Consequences are, by definition, results of an action or ability. Let's take another example: in the storyworld, Group B are talked down on by Group A because Group B worships a different god. The beliefs that stem from this (whether that's hatred, or anger, or caution) eventually boils into a fight: a Group A man slanders Group B's god, and so a Group B man kills the first one. Tensions escalate. Temples are burnt down, those wearing rival religious markers are beaten, and so on. A character, who belongs to Group B and grows up during this time of fear and violence, one day is dared to enter a temple for Group A's god; he's caught and whipped. Now, grown up, this character has an intense hatred for Group A, their religion, and constantly uses their words/god's name as an insult.

A complex (and perhaps overly long) example for sure, but the above paragraph is a chain of consequences. Community social tensions lead to smaller conflicts, which then resulted in the character's actions. As a result, this piece of worldbuilding (the violent relationship between two groups because of religious differences) has affected a character's personality, speech, and beliefs.

If a reader can't experience the storyworld through a character, and who they are and what they believe, I'd argue it won't ever feel truly real. Just as we don't exist in a vaccuum and are influenced by everything and everyone around us, the same applies to our characters. Their world has had a huge hand in shaping them into who they are today.

In the end, it's about depth, not breadth.

If readers love your characters, then they'll be fascinated by the world they exist in, and how they exist in it. Drilling deep into the character's experience of the storyworld will create a social, geographical and cultural landscape so deeply entwined with the character's emotions readers will never want to leave.



What storyworlds feel incredibly real to you? Which would you love to go visit? What are your tips for creating immersive worlds? I'd love to hear them!
Happy writing! <3

"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty... The o...

"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty... The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all." - C.S. Lewis

The very afternoon I wrote this post, I finished reading a short collection of C.S. Lewis's essays on the joys of reading ("The Reading Life"). Not only was it inspiring, thought-provoking and at times downright funny, it confirmed my determination to start re-reading books this year. For a good few months I've considered re-reading my old favourites, and hearing Lewis praising children's stories made me yearn for them even more.



So, over the course of 2020, I'll be re-reading each month one of my childhood favourites, or books that hugely impacted my writing and reading taste. Then I'll report back if, according to Lewis, they're "worth reading" and hold up to the test of time. Am I terrified they won't? You bet. But I'm excited to embark on an experiment to see if they can reignite the same kind passion and love for story in me as they once did!

Here's the schedule of reads planned so far (subject to huge change):

January: The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
February: The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
March: Babysitters' Club by Ann M. Martin
April: Cleopatra (My Royal Story) by Kristiana Gregory
May: Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale
JuneEnna Burning by Shannon Hale
July: Raiders From the Sea (Viking Quest) by Lois Walfrid Johnson
August: A Measure of Disorder by Alan Tucker
September: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
October: The Beyonders by Brandon Mull
November: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
December: Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson



I can't wait to revisit these childhood favourites of mine and re-experience their magic! To sign off, let me leave you with a few more priceless quotes from Lewis:

"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last. A waltz which you can like only when you are waltzing is a bad waltz."

"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childlessness and the desire to be very grown up."

"Those of us who are blamed when old for reading childish books were blamed when children for reading books too old for us. No reader worth his salt trots along in obedience to a time-table."



I'd so love for you in join me in this challenge! 
If you'd be interested in me making this a blog party or link-up, let me know, and I'd be happy to host! 
What are your childhood favourites? Have you ever re-read them, and if so, what was that experience like? Did you fall in love with them all over again? <3 

The beginning of a new year signals change and promises of it; New Year resolutions, monthly plans, organised calendars, and goal upon goal....

The beginning of a new year signals change and promises of it; New Year resolutions, monthly plans, organised calendars, and goal upon goal. Everywhere you turn, each blog you search, is full of proclamations of how 2020 is going to be different. So as I brainstormed the topic of today's post, I couldn't help but feel that I should join in by whipping up yearly goals.

But I have a secret. I've never made a New Year's resolution in my life. I can't even recall a time I made a goal that stretched a whole year! I've always hesitated before making them, so I thought I'd explore why with you today. Is it worth it making writing goals for 2020 and every year following?


Cons:

Restricting Passion

I'm constantly surprised by the writing projects I work on in a year. Half of them tend to appear out of nowhere, grab me by the throat, and demand I write them immediately. If I had planned the stories I would work on to the day in 2019, I would never have written my current WIP and two others. If you're like me and feel compelled to follow goals without a single deviation, goals could mean losing the chance to work on truly inspiring project.

Writing for a Number

It becomes dangerous when writing becomes a chore, a target wordcount to hit every day, without enjoying the act of writing itself. While months like NaNoWriMo are great for building our writing muscles, keeping up that pace for a whole year or months is draining. It's so important to keep our passion for stories thriving! Without it, writing can be a strain and the very love that drew us to craft new worlds and people disappears. 

Inflexible

So much can happen over a year; there are always, always surprises in store. Setting goals in January for all twelve months means there's little room for flexibility and rolling with the inevitable punches. It could be all too easy to fall behind on the goals and exert extra, unhealthy pressure on ourselves in order to reach them in time.


Pros:

Great Motivation

There's nothing like a goal to kick you into action! There's not a single person for whom a looming deadline doesn't prompt into working, and push them further in skill than ever before. Having a set time to finish a project, or a daily wordcount target, can stretch and build our writing muscles. On days we might usually choose to spend that extra hour watching Netflix, a deadline nudges us into finishing that project so much sooner! 

Accountability

There's something to be said for putting goals out there into the world (or the internet). The second you hit 'Publish', people are going to read them. While not all will remember the exact wording and timeline of these goals months down the line, simply having them published holds the writer accountable. As a result, goals are much more likely to be achieved and make us feel accomplished!

Higher Productivity

Pulling the two points above together, writing goals are all tailored to increase our productivity. From my experience, whenever I set small goals of tasks to achieve in one day, I'm far more likely to achieve them all and still have time left over. Goals prompt organisation, and from organisation, productivity!


In Conclusion...

Personally, I won't be making writing goals for the whole of 2020. From experience I find great pleasure in bending with the flow of my inspiration and letting new projects surprise me. But I see the wonderful benefit of goals nonetheless! Instead of yearly goals, I'll be planning what I hope to achieve writing-wise in smaller chunks: by month or week.

What's truly important here is understanding what strikes a balance between productivity and creativity for you! We all respond differently to goals and pressure; we work and create as diversely as the stories in our hearts.



Do you set yearly goals? If you have, what are you hoping to achieve? If not, how do you hold yourself accountable and productive?
Happy New Year! <3

It's that wild time of year where I check my calendar and realize there are only a few days left in 2019. Or, if you'd like to be su...

It's that wild time of year where I check my calendar and realize there are only a few days left in 2019. Or, if you'd like to be suitably alarmed, the last few days in this decade. 2019 has been a year of (slowly) moving into the adult world for me: I've now completed my first year of university, I'm training up for a new work position, and I've nearly finished my teen years. But through all that, I've been writing!

As a way to officially farewell 2019, I thought I might share the most impactful writing lessons this year and all my WIPs taught me. I've felt myself grow in my style and abilities like never before, challenged myself, and navigated the highs and lows of inspiration. But no matter how hard it was to learn these lessons, I'm grateful for every one of them, and hope I can pass them on!




1) Write What You Love


As my amazing and talented critique partner told me over the phone, "There's not enough of ((passion)) going around these days." I'd spent a few minutes explaining that post-NaNo I was in a deep rut; I had several projects I'd attempted to start editing, then began a few new stories, but nothing stuck. I grew frustrated with each project a few days in, and felt dry and uninspired. But my NaNo novel... I couldn't stop thinking about it.

My critique partner gave me permission to toss aside my rule of not editing a project so soon after writing the first draft; she nudged me towards working on my passion project. And I'm so grateful for it. My spark for writing returned, I fell even more deeply in love with my characters, and I looked forward to each and every writing session.

Writing is meant to be enjoyable. It's meant to be our passion; it might be intense and difficult, but it should be ultimately rewarding. So work on the projects that make you smile! Write the stories that bring delight and make your soul sing. 



2) Examining the 'Why' of Writing

While I was listening to an interview with Garth Nix on The Bestseller Experiment podcast, Garth Nix issued a challenge to all writers: "Are you writing to be published, or to write?" It made me reflect on the 'why' of why I write. Am I writing solely to see my name on a book cover, or because I find joy in the act of it?

As writers, we shouldn't just write what we love; we should also write for the sake of loving it. I asked myself whether or not I'd keep writing if I knew I'd never be published and the answer... Yes. I would. Being published is a dream, but dreams are simply a culmination of circumstances and actions coming together. Passion is far deeper.



3) Carving Out Time

Being at university has posed an interesting challenge for a schedule-based fanatic such as myself; I have several months a year of intense, rigorous study, and several months with little to no responsibilities. While the latter makes it easy to plan when I'll have my writing session, the former makes it near impossible. Yet, I still managed to write every day in 2019.

We have so much more time in our day then we realise. I don't mean that we actually have twenty-six hours in a day (if only), but that there are small moments we overlook as writing time. For me, on long university days, I wrote on packed trains at peak hour. Or inbetween classes and lectures. Or in the spare ten minutes before dinner. 

While I love having two hours straight to dig deep into my writing, (which I discovered is my optimal length for focus without becoming exhausted), every second has a possibility. Every minute can count. A handful here and there can turn into a paragraph, a paragraph into a page, and a page into a story. The time is there, ready and waiting to be carved out.



What writing lessons have you learned this year? What was your greatest writing achivement? (Let's celebrate together!) What story are you writing now that you love with your whole heart?
Happy New Year! See you in 2020! <3

Hi everyone! As per Quill Pen Writer tradition, I'll be taking this week off to spend time with family and friends. For Christmas is ne...

Hi everyone! As per Quill Pen Writer tradition, I'll be taking this week off to spend time with family and friends. For Christmas is nearly upon us! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday blessed with relaxation, celebration, and joy. See you next week and Merry Christmas! <3


It's with both joy and sadness that I join the third part of the Know the Novel link-up today. Joy, because there's no more enjoyabl...

It's with both joy and sadness that I join the third part of the Know the Novel link-up today. Joy, because there's no more enjoyable way to spend my birthday than to chat with you all about my passion project, The Masks We Ink! Sadness, because it's the final installment in Christine's wonderful link-up. She's written up some great questions to finish off the series once again, so thank you Christine!

If you're wondering what The Masks We Ink (TMWI) is about, you can read the official blurb here. But for a quick refresher, it's a YA fantasy novel where a spy is forced to discover her country's other spy at court, and end their life before they end hers.

To the questions!



1. Firstly, how did writing this novel go all around?

It was actually a smooth drafting process, if slightly intense! I wrote an average of 2.5K words a day for a month and a half in order to finish it by the end of November. But I did, writing from October 19th to November 24th! (It ended up being 108K long!)

2. Did it turn out like you expected or completely different? And how do you feel about the outcome?

I'm extremely happy with how TMWI turned out! It's quickly become my latest passion project, which may be why I'm already engaging into whipping it into its second draft. There were a number of plot twists that I knew from the beginning (which I love!) but there were still plenty of surprises at the midpoint and climax!

3. What aspect of the story did you love writing about the most? (Characters, plot, setting, prose, etc.)

My characters. <3 By no means are they perfect people (or even very nice ones) but they're extremely raw, complicated and grow so much over the story. There were also plenty of interesting dynamics between them that were enjoyable to explore. The setting comes at a close second, though, as this is a world scarred by asteroids, comets and heavy snowfall.



4. How about your least favorite part?

There were a number of scenes I struggled to write, simply because they dealt with such brutal circumstances. While they were important to include, it was hard to figure out the line between gore and description and keep myself from sinking too deep into the situation at hand.

5. What do you feel like needs the most work?

The climax! The action sequences need to be completely rewritten, and the tension elevated. This means going back and rethinking what the slave rebellion's goals, resources and aims are, which will then need to be reworked into the previous acts.

6. How do you feel about your characters now that the novel is done? Who’s your favorite? Least favorite? Anyone surprise you?

Nex is my unapologetic favourite. He's the illegitimate son of the empire's general, has SSD (single-sided deafness), and keeps his heart of gold a secret. Nex is constantly trying to balance tense situations and people around him (for better or worse) with jokes, but won't waste words on saying sorry. If someone's hurting, he'll take action immediately to make them feel better or fix the problem. Does he make some very, very bad decisions? Oh, you bet he does. But I still love him!

As for my least favourite... Empress Veruca. She's chilling in the way she completely disregards human life, but obsesses over protecting the human-like sculptures she gives autonomy. While she doesn't have a huge role, her indifference to everyone around her makes her even more evil than the other antagonists.



7. What’s your next plan of action with this novel?

Edits edits edits! As I mentioned above, I've already begun the second draft and am sending chapters to my critique partner as I go along.

8. If you could have your greatest dream realized for this novel, what would it be?

I would really, truly love for TMWI to be published one day. I feel as though it's the strongest story I've written so far, and would love for the whole trilogy it starts off to be read by others!

9. Share some of your favorite snippets!

It's so hard to find any without spoilers (all my favourite scenes are quite intense or have large reveals), but I've managed to find a few short ones.


The messenger led his horse into the stables, hands tight over the twisted reins, the horse’s sides lathered in a mixture of snow and sweat. He barely glanced at the stableboy hastening to take the beast off him. In one blue-gloved fist, he clutched a scroll sealed with crude wax.

As always, papers that could destroy empires looked entirely innocent.

***


The moon was failing. Smoke-black clouds banished its light into coughing wisps, barely enough to coat the slanted roofs and sagging gutters of Luasti, let alone outline Nex’s way. He had to tread on the sludgy snow by the scattered glow of windows and cracked doorways. Like bubbling fat, their yellow-orange rays greased the surrounding streets.
Nex had found the potter’s house by the steeple vases posted to a doorway, and now waited at the corner of the nearby alley. Drunken laughter cracked the silence, rearing against the murmur of families settling in to sleep.
Not quite respectable, but it was no Low Edge. Before he’d been taken to Whitebreath, Nex would watch the window-panes rattle with brawls at night. He’d bury himself into his mother’s side. Only her lullabies, of snow foxes and brave soldier boys had lulled him into rest.
Her tunes had never told of the blood soldiers spilled.

***


Blankets were the best invention known to humankind. Livana piled them onto her lap, layers of silky furs, rugs and fluffy wool sheets that whispered warmth and weight across her skin. They kept the frigid cold from seeping in. The fire had gone out on the other side of her chamber an hour past, but Livana didn’t want to wake Ember to start a new one.
So it was with a mountain of blankets, a single candle chewing its wick, and enough paper to write history tomes that Livana curled up with. Her mirscroll lay on a squat bedside table. No ink marred its surface except her latest coded report of progress. The new day had seen the previous report washed away, meaning magic still lived in the parchment’s fibers.
In an hour it would become the latest Cobra had ever replied. When the chimes struck, if there was no reply…
Her breaths staggered. If there was no reply, the spymaster was dead.



***

"Someday, son, you’ll wake up with blood in your mouth and realise that the life you’ve fought skin and bone against, is the life you’ve always been living."


10. Did you glean any new writing and/or life lessons from writing this novel?

I think TMWI more than anything reinforced the writing lesson to take advantage of everything you write. That character who walked into the POV accidentally in the second chapter? Make him important in the third act. Spend more time than you should have describing a room? It can become a battleground later. If you're stuck on figuring out a plot hole or twist, see what loose ends or random events you've written earlier, and make them not random at all!

As for life lessons, it reminded me of the beauty and joy in real, true relationships unmarked by deception or greed. Hold tight to your friends and family. <3 


I'd love to hear about your current wrting projects! Are you editing, drafting, something else? How did NaNoWriMo go for you? Have you participated in Know the Novel? (Drop the link to your post below; I'd love to read it!)
Happy writing! <3

The approaching end of the year calls for a number of things: Christmas celebrations, carols and red ribbons, heatwaves for us Aussies, and ...

The approaching end of the year calls for a number of things: Christmas celebrations, carols and red ribbons, heatwaves for us Aussies, and a vast number of wrap-ups. In honour of the year's close and hitting my Goodreads reading goal, I thought I might share my top ten reads this year. Not all these books were published this year, but they stood out by far in my pile of one hundred and ten books read in 2019!



10) Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

It's no wonder this series became an international bestseller. It is the pinacle example of an intriguing, exciting and intricate magic system set within a rich world. And Elend! His character popped off the page, and the idealistic boy with his head in his books quickly became my favourite character in the series. 

Recommended if you love... deep world-building, outrageous plans and fierce battles.


9) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This was actually a re-read for me, as I listened to it for the first time on audiobook last year. But with the prequel being released soon, I determined to read the whole series physically, and wow, what a ride! While Mockingjay had me in tears by the end, the first book is the strongest structurally and is stunningly crafted. Collins really hit the perfect balance between emotional and physical conflict.

Recommended if you love... tense survival, love triangles done well, tough heroines.

8) The Boy Who Steals Houses by C. G Drews 

This book stole my heart, crushed it, ground it into the dust, then patched the bleeding shards back together (somewhat). Needless to say, it made me feel. The representation in it is amazing, the characters are precious, and the whole story feels incredibly real and raw.

Recommended if you love... heart-wrenching contemporary, sassy family dynamics, your heart being torn out.


7) This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

On the other side of the spectrum, this book was furiously fast-paced with twists that constantly had my jaw dropping. Sometimes I'm in the mood for hard-hitting, action-packed sci-fi and Suvada delivered in spades. On top of this, the characters are incredibly complex and their relationships take unique turns away from common cliches.

Recommended if you love... gasping at every page, gritty futuristic settings with horror elements, sacrificial characters.

6) Sadie by Courtney Summers

Where to begin with 'Sadie'? It's the kind of story that feels utterly real, and breaks you all the more because of it. While the characters are far from perfect, especially Sadie, the slow unwinding of truth about her backstory and relationships makes you want to hug all her pain away. And that ending! I had to go back several pages to make sure I'd read it exactly right. On top of all that, the unique format of a 'podcast' throughout grabbed me as well.

Recommended if you love... raw, imperfect yet lovable characters, books that play with formatting, mystery tangled with truth.

5) Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Interestingly enough, after initially finishing this book I gave it 4.5 stars. But in the following days, I couldn't stop thinking about the characters and feeling so happy when I thought about it. Why? A certain two characters in its pages captured my heart with their relationship, which was both full of banter and fierce, heart-aching love. They've become one of my all-time favourite ships!

Recommended if you love... sassy characters, adorable ships, a world rich in mythology, shocking endings.

4) Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

I put off reading this series for quite a while because of the titles, but I finally picked it up, and am so glad for it! The character dynamics are phenomenal, the characters deep and multi-layered, and plot twists keep on coming inbetween tightly written action sequences. And the worldbuilding! It's equisitively vast and intricate. In addition to all of that, I almost laughed out loud several times reading.

Recommended if you love... complex fantasy worlds full of magic and politics, humour and action combined, swoon-worthy ships (both romantic and naval).

3) Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

The characters absolutely won me here. The way Kememmer weaves their relationship, both the one they have through correspondance (not knowing each other's true identity) and in real life is so at odds, and creates a rich and compelling story. Their romance is sweet, heart-wrenching, and powerful all at once. Kemmerer is truly a master at writing contemporaries that make me both think and feel, and the journeys her characters go on are phenomenal to witness.

Recommended if you love... hate-to-love romance, hurting yet lovable characters, a contemporary that tugs on your heartstrings.

2) Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

This was my first Sanderson book, and wow wow wow. The characters, particularly Spensa, jumped out from the first page with strong voices and complex personalities. It's so incredibly hard for a sci-fi to be loved so much that it makes it this high up on my yearly lists, but Skyward absolutely deserves it! Conflict drives each page, the twists keep coming, and the world-building is beautifully nuanced and thought out. And I couldn't stop laughing! (The second book is also incredible and out now, so go read them!!)

Recommended if you love... witty dialogue, science fiction with a human focus, stories that aren't afraid to see their characters get hurt.

1) Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

Where do I begin? THIS book is exactly the kind I want to write: beautifully complex, rich in characters and their varied relationships that grow and change, a heart-stopping romance, all joined by nail-biting action and intrigue. Jase and Kazi hold a special place in my heart, and I think theirs is the best romance I've ever read. Beyond them, the book's world feels more real than ours, and every piece of it is not merely setting, but intertwines with the plot and characters. It's BRILLIANT. PLEASE GO READ IT AND FALL IN LOVE TOO.

Recommended if you love... lush and intricate worldbuilding, beautiful themes, hate to love romance, complex family dynamics, political intrigue.



Let's chat books! What new favourites have you discovered this year? Have you read any of the books on my list; did you enjoy them too? What books should I add to my TBR straight away?
Happy reading! <3 

Hello friends! As your local representative of the future (thanks to timezones) it is very, very close to the end of November, and with it, ...

Hello friends! As your local representative of the future (thanks to timezones) it is very, very close to the end of November, and with it, the end of NaNoWriMo. There are always vast mixed feelings about this time, often intermingled with whether or not a writer 'won' NaNo. If you're feeling discouraged about your wordcount or the progress you made this month, then I'd like to share something with you:


Dear Writer,
You are not your wordcount.
You are new lines of ink stroking across fresh parchment.
You are the dreams that lie between the wake and the fall.
You are whorls of soul and spirit and deepening heart.
To strip you down into the cramped lines of numbers,
Would be to ignore the person behind your wondrous words.

Just as a moment does not forge a whole hour,
A single month and its rise or fall does not define you.
Your words may be an extension of the creativity
That burns inside, but they are far from being you
You are courageous, brave, and streaked with the
Wildness of a writer who truly dares.

Having written one word or one hundred thousand,
Changes not a piece of your heart.
So write on, dear writer, knowing that you are,
And always have been, far more than your numbers.

Love,
A fellow writer


How has your month been? How did NaNoWriMo go for you? Do you fall into the trap of measuring your worth in your wordcount? (I do!)
Have a wonderful day! <3

If you'd asked me a month ago whether I could write while listening to music, I would have given you a resounding 'no' and said ...

If you'd asked me a month ago whether I could write while listening to music, I would have given you a resounding 'no' and said I needed complete silence. Recently, however, I've discovered I actually can write while listening to music, provided it's instrumental! So over NaNoWriMo I dipped my toe into cinematic soundtracks, whether from movies, TV shows, or games, and discovered some incredible music.

If you're on the hunt for some new music to listen to while writing, I hope you find new favourites in the list below!



1) Prince of Egypt

This movie has one of the best movie soundtracks ever, in my opinion. Every note is raw with emotion, whether it be sadness, joy, desperation or peace. There are a number of songs with words, but also quite a few scores without! My favourites include 'The Burning Bush', 'Chariot Race' and 'Goodbye Brother'. I nearly cry every time I hear the last one!



2) The Crown

In addition to a gripping plotline that portrays recent history through an immersive and humanised perspective, both seasons of The Crown include majestic and tense scores. Hans Zimmer works his magic in the theme, and the rest are just as powerful, my favourites including 'Headlines', 'Your Majesty' and 'Duck Shoot.'



3) Red Sparrow

I've never watched the movie but wow, is the soundtrack steeped in danger and drama. There's a Russian classic influence infused with modern beats that makes a unique listening experience, and with scores on the longer side and so many variations, it's an easy soundtrack to put on repeat and be constantly surprised. The best of the scores include 'Overture' and 'Didn't I Do Well?'



4) Tangled

Easily my favourite Disney movie, with songs that will make you laugh and smile. Besides its well-known musical numbers though, it also boasts an impressive number of instrumental scores! There's an upbeat, adventurous feel to most that's perfect for chase and dance scenes alike. My favourites have to be 'Flynn Wanted' and 'Kingdom Dance'.



5) Gloria Regali

Tommee Proffitt has an incredible assortment of cinematic songs, both lyrical and instrumental, and the man is a genius when it comes to this album collaboration with Fleurie. The landscape of a dangerous, dark and haunting fantasy world comes through each song. While most have words, those without are just as beautiful, such as 'Demolition' and 'Premonition'.





Can you listen to music when you write? What are your favourite soundtracks to listen to? (I'm sure there are so many incredible ones out there!) Do you enjoy any of the ones I've listed?
Have a wonderful day! <3

It's the middle of November, which means we're now officially halfway through NaNoWriMo! I'm feeling surprinsingly positive abou...

It's the middle of November, which means we're now officially halfway through NaNoWriMo! I'm feeling surprinsingly positive about where my WIP is going, so I'm super excited to share with you all today where The Masks We Ink has taken me. To do that, I'm joining the second part of Christine Smith's Know the Novel link-up. If you'd like an introduction to my story, check out the first part here!

Now, to the questions!


1. How’s the writing going overall?

Surprisingly well! As of writing this, I've written 44K for NaNo and am 77K into the story! That means I'm at the home stretch for NaNo and approaching the climax soon!

2. What’s been the most fun aspect about writing this novel so far?

I truly love spy stories, and so this WIP has been fulfilling my deep need to write about an intelligent, ruthless yet also vulnerable spy. Livana is incredibly complex, sometimes frustrating yet always so very human. While on one hand she loves her job and takes pride in the way she's protecting her country, as she goes through the story she begins to feel the weight of all her lies, deceptions, and false relationships. She's been fun to write because of how complex she is!

3. What do you think of your characters at this point? Who’s your favorite to write about?

I've already talked about Livana, so I'll give Nex, my other POV, a shout-out! He's the illegitimate child of the empire's general and a close friend of the crown prince, but he's trying to find his place in the world apart from his relationships. While he makes some bad decisions (read: a lot), he truly has a good heart, and always a well-timed joke on display. Arsin is also a gem! She's a sweetheart and believes berry tea can fix every situation.


4. Has your novel surprised you in any way?

They always do! TMWI especially did so around the midpoint, as I thought the magic system wouldn't come into play, but it certainly did. I always enjoy when my stories take unexpected twists though, so it was more an excited kind of surprise than a frustrating one!

5. Have you come across any problem areas?

My climax is a bit of a blurry haze at the moment, which worries me. At this point in my stories I usually have a clearer idea of the event that the climax centers around, so hopefully I can pull together the threads of different plot lines coherently enough soon.

6. What’s been your biggest victory with writing this novel at this point?

That I've been able to keep to only two POVs! In the past I've had the tendency to gather extra ones as I go along, so it's amazing that I've stuck with my original number.

7. If you were transported into your novel and became any one of the characters, which one do you think you’d be? Would you take any different actions than they have?

Well, most of them are wanted dead by someone, so this poses a tricky question. Perhaps I would be Rheya, Nex's half-sister. She's quite the fierce fighter and is a rising soldier, so I would love to learn how to fight and feel what it's like to be involved in a battle. As for the second part of the question, I can't answer that without giving out spoilers!


8. Give us the first sentence or paragraph then 2 (or 3!) more favorite snippets!

Here's the first sentence: 

As the messenger tore over the frozen road, Artress Livana Glacia wiped her poisoning spoon clean.

And now for two snippets!

Winter made observation near impossible. Despite being moonsheight, clouds heavy with the coming snow drew darkness in folds over Tabula’s Garden. Only thin cracks, like frozen trails of lightning, snuck through. The snow on the ground reflected mere flecks, and cast shadows on others. With the freeze setting in, Livana’s fingers and toes threatened to become icicles if she stayed still, but stay still she must.

For the shadow was arriving.

* * *

Hood casting his face in shadow, bladed gloves on his fingers, Nex waited in a shroud of incense. While the incense sticks his mother had given him for his Assembly day had been a potent herbal mix, the three burning on the table before him let off wisps of smoke and charred bones. Their haze blurred the curtained bed to the left, the gauzy fabric hung from the ceiling, the door now being creaked open.
Nex laced his fingers, full purse a lead ball on his belt.
“Good eve.” His contact from the Second Rising slipped into the chair opposite his. “Don’t you look menacing tonight?"
It was the same joke, everytime. But Nex couldn’t afford to let his hood drop, even wearing a plain wood mask he’d bought in the marketplace. Being his father’s son would win him no mercy if his involvement was betrayed.
“You look grand yourself.” His voice was lower than usual, a rasp they both knew was put on.
“It’s the bruises, isn’t it? Flatterer.” With a laugh, she slid the black-steel mask onto the table. This was how the Second Rising could hide for so long; masks on their faces, gloves to cover the ink on their skin. But despite Nex’s insistence on covering up, she always let him see her face: not a pretty one, more often bruised and cut with lips blue from cold.
She leaned forward with a sharp smile. “What do you have for me tonight, Scarbinder?”


9. Share an interesting tidbit about the writing process so far!

I thought the entire WIP would take place in Luasti and Whitebreath Palace, but my characters have started travelling to another location (without my permission)! 

10. Take us on a tour of what a normal writing day for this novel looks like. Tell all!

Since I'm on uni holidays at the moment, I usually have mornings to myself. So after an hour of walking or gardening, I'll turn on my writing music (recently it's been the Prince of Egypt instrumental soundtrack) and set the timer for two hours. Then I write as much as I can in that time frame! So far I'm averaging around 2700 words per two hours. No wonder my fingers ache!

How is NaNo going for you, if you're participating? Has your story held any surprises? Even if you're not doing NaNo, do you have a snippet to share? I'd love to read them!
Have a wonderful day! <3

The more I read, the more my tastes in books has become fine-tuned. These days I can easily predict which stories will become all-time favou...

The more I read, the more my tastes in books has become fine-tuned. These days I can easily predict which stories will become all-time favourites early on (though some still surprise me!) if they have a certain trope or situation I adore. So I thought it might be fun to chat with you all about them, and to hear what you love in books! We can geek out together over some favourites and chat about all things story.

So what do I gravitate to in books?



1) Excellent Character Dynamics

There is nothing better than a pair or group of characters who complement each other, rile each other up, foil each other, and banter! It makes me feel as though I've joined a pair/group of friends, and all the little interactions build up into teaching me something about each character. Extra bonus points if their conversations are witty or hilarious! Banter makes me go metaphorically weak at the knees.

Books that do this amazingly: 'Spin the Dawn' by Elizabeth Lim, 'Truthwitch' by Susan Dennard, 'The Gilded Wolves' by Roshani Chokshi, 'The Raven Boys' by Maggie Stiefvater 

2) Fascinating World-Building

When I start reading and feel as though I've walked into an entirely different world and way of thinking, and as if I'm steeped in a different galaxy, I cannot help but be swept away. There is something thrilling about exploring a new world and truly escaping this one. When done right, fantastic world-building is etched into the story, and not confusing!

Books that do this amazingly: 'Dance of Thieves' by Mary E. Pearson, 'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber, 'The Fifth Season' by N.K. Jemisin (note that this is adult fantasy and quite a lot of content however)



3) Hate-to-Love Romance

Now I know this isn't for everyone, but I am a sucker for a well-executed hate to love romance. The reason behind this is because I love seeing characters grow and develop, both in themselves, and in their relationships with others. It's special to see how they challenge each other and grow closer because of it. Not to mention the tension and stakes it can lend to a book!

Books that do this amazingly: 'Dance of Thieves' by Mary E. Pearson, 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen, 'Spin the Dawn' by Elizabeth Lim, 'Letters to the Lost' by Brigid Kemmerer. Cait also has a list of recommendations on her blog if you'd like more

4) Multiple Perspectives

Done right, I'm always thrilled when I discover a book is written in several POVs! Particularly when it means we get to see different sides to the plot, world, and characters. It can add great depth, increase the tension dramatically if the POVs oppose each other, and feature a variety of voices and tone!

Books that do this amazingly'Truthwitch' by Susan Dennard, 'Furyborn' by Claire Legrand, 'King's Folly' by Jill Williamson, 'Letters to the Lost' by Brigid Kemmerer, 'There Will Come a Darkness' by Katy Rose Pool



5) Personal High-Stakes

While I enjoy storylines centered around saving the world, I am first and foremost drawn to high stakes that are inherently personal. If the character's goal is to save the world just for the world, I can feel quite detached. Stakes that matter to the character's inner lives are the best! Whether it's friends, family, a desire to prove themselves, a need to be loved, a need to survive, give me all the characters in impossible circumstances!

Books that do this amazingly: 'The Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins, 'This Mortal Coil' by Emily Suvada, 'Poison Study' by Maria V. Synder



What do you love in books? What thrills you when reading, what makes you smile or gasp? Do you share anything on my list? What recommendations do you have for me?
Happy reading! <3