My next five reads

Hello fellow book lovers! Hope you’re having a spine-crackingly good 2019 so far. Back in November, I decided to get organised and plan out my next five reads. Having a huge TBR pile is wonderful, but often that means I have no idea what to pick up next, so setting myself a short reading list really helped me hang on to my sanity.

It worked so well, I’m making My Next Five Reads a regular thing, and here’s the second instalment…

Slayer by  Kiersten White
I’ve already read the first four chapters of this series-starter, which is set in the Buffy-verse, and I’m gripped so far. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my first big SFF love, and it’s great to be back in that world, albeit in a different corner of it. I’m loving meeting the relatives of characters from the show (yep, there’s a Wyndam-Price), and Nina is an intriguing heroine. Can’t wait to see where this goes!

The Devouring Grey by Christine Lynn Herman
LOOK AT THAT COVER. I’m a sucker for neon at the best of times, and the UK cover for this spooky mystery gives me heart palpitations every time I look at it – and only partly because it reminds me of my favourite John Carpenter film, The Fog. This is Herman’s literary debut, so I have no idea what to expect, but if this really is (as the PR spiel goes) like Riverdale meets Twin Peaks, I may have found my favourite book of 2019. So excited for this one.

Red Snow by Will Dean
The first book in the Sweden-set Tuva Moodyson crime saga, Dark Pines, was on my previous Next Five Reads, and my copy of this – the second book in the series – turned up just in the nick of time. I’m a huge Swedophile, and I really enjoyed the moody(son) atmosphere of Dark Pines, plus Tuva’s a hugely likeable and realistically flawed heroine who I’m excited to learn more about. I’ve resisted reading the blurb because I want to be surprised, but I’m guessing this one’s going gory…

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas
Confession: I’ve had The Hate U Give for over a year and I still haven’t read it, so I’ll probably do a double whammy and read that, followed by On The Come Up, so that I can finally have an opinion on the phenomenon that is Angie Thomas. It’s been pretty remarkable watching Thomas’ profile soar; she’s clearly become the voice of a generation, and I’m excited to find out what she has to say.

Less Then Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
This was a birthday present from my Torn Stubs co-host (shameless plug: Torn Stubs is my movie podcast, please give us a listen!) and I’m both intrigued and nervous to check it out. I’ve never read anything by Ellis, but I have listened to his excellent podcast (he has opinions and he’s not afraid to share them), and I love the movie adaptation of American Psycho, which bodes well for this, his debut. Apparently it was really controversial when it was published in 1985. This could be wild.

Have you read any of these? What are your #nextfivereads? Drop me a comment below or on Twitter @JoshWinning.

Happy reading!

7 things I learned writing my book during NaNoWriMo 2018

NaNo-2018-Congrats

For the first time ever, I decided that 2018 was my year to tackle National Novel Writing Month . If you’re not familiar with ‘NaNoWriMo’, it’s an annual global event that encourages authors-in-the-making to thrash out the first draft of that novel they keep putting off.

I’ve never seriously attempted NaNo before, so this year I decided to just DO IT, partly because I’m a glutton for punishment, and partly because I had an idea for a witchy novel (oh yes) that I was desperate to try on for size.

In all honesty, 30 days later, I’m a mess. But it ended up being an… interesting challenge. I only just managed to hit that 50k on the final day of NaNo, but I’m so glad I took the plunge because now I have 50k of a new novel. Here are all the things I learned…

1. A little planning goes a long way
There’s that saying, ‘You’re a planner or a panter.’ In reality, I fall somewhere in the middle. I can usually scratch out a few chapters of something before I’m chewing on bricks, but it’s always useful to have a roadmap. There’s nothing more terrifying than a blank page and a blinking cursor.

So I spent the first two days of NaNo writing character profiles, planning plot beats and generally immersing myself in the world of the book. Although it meant that, at first, I was writing zero words towards my word count, those days were invaluable in helping me figure out my story – and then formulate a skeletal outline so I always had some idea what to write.

2. Finding time is difficult – but prioritising writing is worth it
We’re all busy. We all have to food shop and brush our teeth and sometimes even work. We might occasionally think about seeing our friends and family. Those are all things we have to do, but that’s the great thing about NaNo – for once, you have to write. If you don’t, you’re not going to birth that book baby you decided to have.

There’s something special about carving out the time to write. Making it a priority. And then seeing what you’re really capable of.

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3. When in doubt, just write
I’m a perfectionist. A part of me doesn’t want to even think about writing unless I know I’m crafting pure word-gold.

Of course, ‘perfect’ is notoriously hard-won, and at the start of NaNo, I really had to give myself the ‘bullshit talk’. As in, “This is probably going to be bullshit, but that’s OK. You can make it better later.” That really helped me to loosen up on the perfection leash and just write. My motto: Write badly. Edit goodly.

4. It helps you focus
I’m guilty of being a bit of a fair-weather writer. I often get intensely interested in a project, and as soon as it becomes difficult for whatever reason, be that plot or character, I find a new shiny toy to play with.

NaNo cuts that bullshit right to the bone. You choose a project and you stick with it until the bitter end (of the month), and oh how bitter you may be, but that sort of commitment is exactly what I need. No bailing, no getting distracted by something newer. This is your project for the month and you have to battle through no matter what.

5. Don’t compare!
Some people are sprinters, some people are long-distance runners. Others are amblers. It’s all good. Although it’s tempting to check in on how other writers are doing, or begrudge them their rejoicing when they’re all “I wrote 50k in a week!”, you’ll only drive yourself crazy.

Celebrate your milestones (NaNo handily gives you badges every couple of thousand words that you can flash around if you so wish), and celebrate the milestones other people reach, too. We’re in this together!

6. Quitting is oh-so tempting
Writing is exhausting, especially when you’re using all of your normal ‘down time’ to do it. By week three, I was sorely tempted to jack it all in.

Luckily, I have an amazing support network – my boyfriend (hi, Thom!), friends and other writers were all great cheerleaders who encouraged me along the way. So no. Don’t quit. You can do it. It may be painful but it feels SO GOOD when you finally hit 50k.

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7. You don’t have to finish a whole book
THIS IS THE BIGGIE. You’re writing 50k, but most books average out at 80k, so it’s unlikely you’ll have a full first draft by the end of NaNo (unless you set a different target or had different objectives, like redrafting an existing project).

About 20k into my witch book, I knew the first draft was going to be way over 50k. That disheartened me at first because I knew that even if I ‘won’ NaNo, I still wouldn’t have an entire finished draft to work on.

In the end, though, that was sort of freeing. I decided to just write whichever scenes I fancied and fill in the gaps later. So even though I don’t have much of the third act written, I do have the final chapter done. And I have two thirds of a pretty solid draft. WHOOP!

All right, that was me, now what about you?

Did you take part in NaNoWriMo 2018? How did you do? Let me know below!