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

Hi everyone! I wanted to drop in to let you all know quickly that I'll be on a short hiatus for the next two weeks. My final weeks of th...

Hi everyone! I wanted to drop in to let you all know quickly that I'll be on a short hiatus for the next two weeks. My final weeks of this semester at university are rolling in, meaning there are plenty of assignments! But as soon as they're done I'll be back and posting again!

In the meantime, write freely, edit fiercely, my friends! <3

NaNoWriMo preparation season is upon us! While I'm still undecided whether or not I'll participate this year, I know many of you are...

NaNoWriMo preparation season is upon us! While I'm still undecided whether or not I'll participate this year, I know many of you are surging forward with plotting and brainstorming your NaNo novels. Whenever I try and plot I can grow stressed with trying to think about the whole story, so I thought I might pull together a number of quick and fun prep activities that take the pressure off!

Some of these focus on plot, some on character, some on worldbuilding, and some are just fun! I hope you find them helpful and enjoyable.

1) When, Must, But

This first one is a nod to the formatting of a basic pitch, and can do wonders for giving your story an overall structure to follow. Fill in your story's details into the template below!

When (event) happens to (character), (character) must (achieve this goal) or (consequence). But then (event or reason goal cannot be achieved easily).

2) Five Senses

Your character is in their favourite place. Write a short descriptive paragraph about it, focusing on the five senses. After you're done, have a look at the worldbuilding that you've assumed; for example, your character might have ran their hands down a smooth wooden counter of the local apothecary, and the rest of the shop is also made of wood. Either (a) wood is a common resource of the country and there are forests nearby or (b) they live near such a country or (c) it's incredibly rare and this is no ordinary apothecary!

Ask yourself questions about every detail you introduced, thinking about its history and past. You can focus on worldbuilding, as above, or ask yourself questions about the people who care and cherish for the objects around.

3) Local History

A local historian from your character's home country/town/city is looking to write a book about the local history. Who do they interview and why? What events would they focus on, and what might they try and gloss over or hide? What artifacts might tell them more?

If you're looking for extra credit, write a chapter or introduction from their book!

4) Everything to Lose

Because writers are cruel creatures, we like to torture our characters as much as possible. Focusing on your main character, make a list of everything they prize, like, and love. Then divide your list into three sections: what would hurt them if they lost it (1) a little (2) a lot or (3) would break them.

Come back to this list when you're writing, and as you move through your story, make your character progressively move through the levels of pain! Who said writing wasn't fun?

5) A Trip to the Food Court

Gather your cast of main characters and take them for a trip to the food court (in your local mall or in their world, either one works). There are an overwhelming number of choices: what does each one of your characters choose? Why? Do they make their choice easily, do they make a spreadsheet to evaluate their options, or are they so overwhelmed they give up and have nothing? Write it out as a quick scene if you like!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? How do you prepare (or do you)? What other fun prep activities do you use?
Best wishes with your writing! <3