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.

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