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

Depending on your time zone, when you read this NaNo may have begun, or your clocks may be teetering on the last hours beforehand. Or you co...

Depending on your time zone, when you read this NaNo may have begun, or your clocks may be teetering on the last hours beforehand. Or you could be several days in! Whatever the case, first off I'd like to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT! 50K seems like a steep mountain to climb, but so long as you sit down and write, I'd consider that a success. NaNo is all about being motivated to work on your WIP and join in with the community!

That being said, I can find it easy to get stuck during NaNo. The pressure of a wordcount can blank out my creativity, and coming up with the next scene to write can become a mental burden. Whatever you might believe about writer's block, every writer experiences struggles for inspiration at one point or another. I hope these questions, both craft-focused and fun, might bring the muse back!



1) What's my protagonist's goal? What step can they take next to try and accomplish it? What stands in their way?

2) What is my antagonist up to? What are they planning and what stands in their way? Do they still need resources to achieve their goal, an ally, or simply time? Why? Is there any way they can achieve it more quickly?

3) What is the worst thing that could happen to my protagonist right now? My antagonist? How would that affect their goal, emotions and relationships?

4) Is my protagonist feeling that their goal is unachievable? Who or what could bolster them? How can their motivation be strengthened or renewed?

5) How can the previous scene(s) lead to the next? Is there a clue that can be investigated, an apology that needs to be made, a problem to be solved, something else? What emotions are my characters carrying into the next?


6) What made me fall in love with this story idea? How can I focus more on exploring that idea or recapture that feeling in my next scene?

7) If this was a book I was reading, what would I want to happen next? Would I want an action scene to take my breath away, a kiss, a spat between characters, my protagonist having to make a hard choice, a cute moment? Something else? Can I write that next?

8) Is it time for my protagonist to face more challenges or tension? Who or what might stand in their way or provide it? How could my characters react?

9) If I have an idea of my climax, what are the steps that could lead up to that point? What needs to be achieved before it?

10) What secrets are my characters hiding? How could they be exposed, and what would they do to protect them? What would be their reaction if their secrets were revealed? The reactions of those around them?

11) What songs do I associate with my characters and my story? When I listen to them, what mood or tone do I feel? How can I reflect that in my setting?

12) What is the most dramatic, heart-wrenching event that could occur? What scene can I write that will make me feel?



I hope these questions will help you overcome writer's block, and inspire you throughout NaNo! How is your writing going? Do you often get writer's block during first drafts? How do you conquer it?
Best wishes with your writing! <3

Hi friends! I have officially finished my first year of university (wohoo!): thank you for all your well wishes over my brief hiatus! Now th...

Hi friends! I have officially finished my first year of university (wohoo!): thank you for all your well wishes over my brief hiatus! Now that I'm back, it's straight into NaNoWriMo prep! And Know the Novel is here to save the day. A link-up across three months, Christine Smith designed these November edition questions to help introduce our NaNo novels. So without further ado, I present to you my latest passion project, The Masks We Ink!



1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

The Masks We Ink (TMWI) is actually a prequel to a prequel! (Or at least, it used to be.) Some of you might remember a story called Splintered Crown I began writing a few years ago. In it, there was a farmer named Thekla, who revealed she was a spy for many years, and for fun I dug deep into her backstory. Eventually I became so enamoured with her story that I knew I had to write it, and she was renamed Livana!

2. Share a blurb!

In the heart of her enemy's court, Livana's mission is simple: infilitrate the crown prince's inner circle and bring down the empire. But when there's sudden silence from her handler, she's left without any way to contact her homeland. Then a message comes in the night: her old spymaster is dead, the new one is her old nemesis, and he's determined to cull any spies disloyal to him. 

Unless Livana can discover the other spy stationed in court and kill them, she'll meet a poisoned blade.


3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

The majority of the story takes place in Luasti, the winter capital of the Vinkantri Empire, and more specifically in Whitebreath Palace! I love the contrast between the frigid landscape and the colour that the Kantri soak the palace in. Here's a quick description of the outside:


The palace spires grew from the frozen ground like stalagmites, white and blue stone ribboning the brutal winter sky. Frost iced its curved awnings and turrets. Red as blood droplets, veith berries shivered off low branches glazed with snow. 

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

I can't tell you too much about Livana, mostly because she herself doesn't know! Before going on mission, Irises (the names for Lynnican spies) have any memories related to family or home removed, so they can fully become their aliases. Though she doesn't remember anything of her past, she does remember training to be an Iris. She put her whole soul into training and was especially close to Spymaster Cobra, who was like a father to her.

Before she walks into any situation, she plays out every possibility in her head to map her path to victory no matter what. She's incredibly driven, clever, and has a fondness for blankets and poetry. Her quick mind can make her a formidable foe, but she feels as though she has a hole inside her, and she can't figure out how to fill it.


5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

Livana's primary antagonist is Parax, the new spymaster. He's determined that the game he's playing with her and the other spy will result in her death, and he drops numerous hints to the other spy about how to find Livana. Only one of them can remain alive and on mission in Vinkantri, and Parax is making sure it's not her.

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

I love spy stories!! And in TMWI Livana is having to outwit and outplay not only her natural enemies (those in the empire) but also those who should be her allies. There's going to be plenty of twists, a good dosing of betrayal, and large swirls of court intrigue. Essentially, this is the kind of book I'm dying to read!

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

I was hoping it might be a standalone, but there are so many threads tangling through this book that it's highly likely that I'll need at least a sequel. So it's highly likely it will be a duology!


8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

In past NaNos, I've focused much more heavily on pantsing, but this year is different! While I don't have an outline, I have several twists planned out in my head and a number of scene sketches. There's a big question mark in the middle, but I really need my beginning fleshed out first to be able to figure out what's happening there!

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.

Spies trying to discover the other's presence in court, a whole ethnicity of masked people, icy castles strangled by snow and colour, scrolls that reflect their message to a sister scroll continents away, twists I can't reveal!

10. Share a fun “extra” of the story.

I've been sneaky and actually started writing TMWI, since it will be around double 50K, so I'll slide in a quick snippet here!

The paper was silent. Livana turned the thin, ragged strip of yellow parchment over once, twice, but no ink formed on its surface. No symbols except the daily report she’d coded onto it last night appeared.
She sunk onto her desk chair, tingles spreading up her arms. Perhaps Cobra had forgotten to respond, perhaps there was urgent palace business, perhaps the fragment of mirscroll was dead.
Livana lit a candle and held the mirscroll up to its small flame. Still no new ink.
Perhaps Cobra was dead.



Are you doing NaNo? If so, tell me about your project! What inspired it? Are you a plotter, a pantser or something inbetween?
Best wishes with all your writing! <3