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