2015 Wrap-Up

Ah, 2015. Such a crazy wonderful year, in so many ways. As usual, I’m going to do a wrap-up on this past year. I’m always late with these posts—but not this time.

Writing

I have worked on Soulbound revisions all year long and am still only halfway through the rewrite. Using Susan Dennard’s step-by-step guide to revisions, I ripped the story apart and spent months piecing it back together with index cards and sticky notes. I hauled my revisions folder everywhere.

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I started my rewrite in April and knew right away that it would take me at least the rest of the year. All my other writing goals went out the window. During the summer holidays, I regularly wrote all night long and was hugely productive, despite crippling self-doubt. I pushed through.

Then I fell pregnant and got really sick. I have hyperemesis gravidarum, which is basically extreme morning sickness. I’ve been on sick leave for months and can’t stand to be on the laptop for long. So the rewrite continues in fits and starts, just a few words at a time. But as the saying goes, progress is progress, no matter how small. I’ll get there.

Reading

Again, I didn’t read nearly as many books as I aimed to. I wanted to get through a book a week, but only managed 34. I’ve had reading slumps after finishing incredible books that left me hungover for weeks and other periods where I’ve devoured two books a day.

My favourites for 2015 are:

  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
  • My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tabir

Other Important Life Stuff:

I married my best friend in May. The wedding was gorgeous and totally us—and was, without a doubt, the best day of my life.

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Photography by Ally Byrom

At our big scan earlier this month, we found out we’re expecting a healthy baby boy! My pregnancy has been rough, but knowing our son is perfect makes it all worth it. We’re absolutely over the moon and can’t wait to meet him in May 2016.

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We’re buying a new build. Well, officially it won’t be ours until it’s ready in the springtime, but it’s reserved. Once we’ve exchanged, it’s all ours. We’re so ready to be home-owners. (That sounds so grown-up. You know, because getting married and having a baby isn’t grown-up enough.) We were over renting a long time ago.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2016. <3

What’s Up Wednesday #7

Castle Button (Final)What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s post. We really hope you will take part!

What I’ve Been Reading:

I finished Siege and Storm more than a fortnight ago, and daren’t pick up the sequel. I enjoyed Siege far more than Shadow and Bone, and am scared that I’m going to be disappointed. Has anyone read the last one?

Current reads: The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. There’s a lot of hype around this book, and while I’m only a third of the way in, I can see why. Love Mare’s voice, and a hierarchy dictated by blood. So cool! Fated by Sarah Alderson was pushed onto me by a keen student, who has devoured all but the whole school library—plus most of my personal YA collection. I’m only on chapter five, but definitely enjoying the sassy dialogue.

What I’m Writing:

Still in the revision cave. On with Susan Dennard’s lesson three—Dreaming Up the Perfect Book—and actually wrote a synopsis for Soulbound which came in just under 500 words. I’d imagined myself wading through the quagmire that is the unfamiliar territory of revisions, but I’m actually doing quite well. Yeah, I would be totally lost without Susan’s articles.

What Works For Me:

Keeping the house clean and tidy. I am into moderate minimalism in a big way, and am constantly purging our stuff. To some people our house is kind of bare, but that’s how we like it. However, with the day job, writing, and trying to plan the wedding, I was constantly playing catch up on housework.

A fortnight ago I resolved to make more of an effort to keep on top of things—and even spending just a few extra minutes a day picking up the house and spot cleaning has really helped to maintain the house.

The state of my surroundings is intrinsically connected to my ability to create, and as soon as I got back on top of the house, I was ready to refocus and tackle Soulbound revisions again after stalling for a little while.

What Else Is New:

On Saturday, I tried on my wedding dress for the first time. If possible, this dress was even more beautiful than the sample. My dress isn’t at all what I’d envisioned myself in, but it’s infinitely more stunning. Super cliche, but I feel like a princess in it. Two more fittings to go before the big day!

We scored some free IKEA Expedit shelving that some neighbours from upstairs were tossing. We’d been looking at buying some for our study anyway, so great timing! Grey gloss isn’t what we’d have chosen, but it works for now—and they fit our awkward space beautifully. I’ll share pictures when I do my writing space tour next month.

What’s Up Wednesday #6

What I’ve Been Reading:

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, a wholly original YA historical about sea witches and the magic they use to protect the whaling community of Prince Island. Gorgeous, lyrical writing, fantastic world-building, heart-stopping romance, this book had it all. I’ve pre-ordered the prequel, Drift & Dagger.

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon was choked down in one sitting. Oh my goodness, it was astonishing! The hangover is still holding strong. It will be a long wait until the next one. Oh, Warden. I miss you already.

Right now I’m almost halfway into Siege & Storm by Leigh Bardugo. And I have to say it, Sturmhond is a total legend.

What I’m Writing:

I’m revising Soulbound. Susan Dennard’s Revising Your Novel series is my bible as I trudge through this new territory. I am finishing up with lesson one—finding out the heck I wrote—and actually feel like I can do this. Journaling my way through this is taking a lot of pressure off. Another tip I got from Susan Dennard. She is a genius—and that’s why she won three awards in the “Best Writing Blogs” for 2014.

What Works For Me:

Dragging myself out of bed early to work on my book, before I head off to the day job. I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination—in college, I stayed up until at least 2 a.m. every morning—but changing my sleep schedule to allow me to get out of bed at 5 a.m. and still be able to function at the day job has actually changed my life. I used to think writers who woke up so early were crazy. But I am all but brain dead when I get home from the day job, so writing before work was the only option. I made it work. I relish those early mornings now—it’s when I do my best writing.

What Else Is New:

Neil turned thirty a couple of weeks ago—and bought himself a PS4. I’ve barely seen him since. He’s addicted, and now has no ground to stand on when it comes to mocking my obsession with The Sims 4.

My brother leaves for RAF training next week. I’m so proud of him. I really think this will be the making of him.

My 2015 Writing Plan

Happy 2015, lovelies! I hope you all had a wonderful New Year. Mine was quiet. We drove back the length of the country yesterday from Aberdeen, where we spent ten days with Neil’s family. As lovely as it is to catch up with loved ones, we’re glad to be home. The flu left me bedridden for most of the holiday, and Neil was still recovering from his bout. Not exactly the ideal foundation for festivities, but we tried to make the best of it.

Now we are home, I am ready to get started on all my grand plans for 2015. But first, I want to share my writing plan.

Back in August 2013, I stumbled across Marissa Meyer’s post on Business Plans for Writers. A business plan gives direction and focus, and a chance for writers to challenge themselves. Being goal-orientated, the idea of creating a business plan made so much sense to me, and I started work on mine straight away. I have referred back to the post many times, and really recommend it—this time of year particularly.

And so, my writing plan for 2015:

  • Draft Timekeeper
  • Pu together a revision plan for Soulbound
  • Complete a second draft of Soulbound
  • Write another guest post for Publishing Crawl
  • Read 52 books—one for every week

What are your writing goals for 2015?

2014: A Year in Review

2014 has been a wonderful year. Before ringing in the New Year, I want to take a look back on 2014 and share what made this year so great.

Writing

I finished Soulbound in October. Yes, I wrote a book! Sure, it’s only the first draft, but I actually did it. I’m so proud of myself.

I’ll edit it in 2015, but for now it’s with one of my critique partners. Meanwhile, I’m drafting Timekeeper, a young adult high fantasy standalone. I’m 15k into the draft and having so much fun.

Reading

My goal was to read 52 books in 2014, but I only managed 35. Still, that’s 14 more than I read in 2013, so I’m happy with the progress. My favourite books for 2014 are:

  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (in fact, the whole trilogy)
  • Champion by Marie Lu
  • The Burning Sky and The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas

The Wedding

Back in June, my lovely Neil proposed—and of course, I said YES! And I cried and cried. Such a beautiful moment.

Since then, I have been planning the wedding. We are getting married at the end of May 2015. The church and reception venue are booked, vendors sorted, and I bought my wedding dress in November. Much left to be done, including all the decorations which we’re making by hand, but we have plenty of time. We’ve opted for a low-key, homespun wedding, with family at the centre of it all. I’m really looking forward to it. I can’t wait to marry my best friend and soul mate.

The Day Job

I started my first ‘big girl’ job as a school librarian in January. It took a few weeks to adjust to working full-time and still find enough time to write, but I made it work. I had to; I didn’t have a choice. I tore the library to pieces and am slowly putting it back together. I am paid to encourage kids to read and fangirl about the books I love. If that wasn’t brilliant enough, I get to run a writing club as well to give back to other young writers. I love my job.

Still, it will always be second to my passion for writing, and as soon as I get a book deal, I am out of there.

Other highlights of 2014:

  • We moved to an apartment—and bought out most of IKEA to furnish the place
  • My gorgeous niece, Lilah Grace, was born in October
  • Said bah-bye to Facebook forever. Best decision ever!
  • Went on holiday to Madeira with Neil in August

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy New Year! All the very best!

What’s Up Wednesday #5

KITERUFFLED2What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s post. We really hope you will take part!

What I’m Reading

I finished THE LADY THIEF by A.G. Gaughen over the weekend. It was incredible, of course. Perhaps even more so than SCARLET. I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy, which isn’t due out until next year. How will I survive? That’s always the hardest part about falling in love with a book in a series—waiting for the sequel. I’m halfway through INFINITE by Jodi Meadows and am savouring every word. The writing is so beautiful.

What I’m Writing

Right now I’m a third of the way through the rewrite of the first half of SOULBOUND. Got that? I took a couple of days off to let some new ideas percolate and went back to the draft on Saturday night, adding 2k in a couple of hours. Getting up a bit earlier every morning this week has got me back into the swing of things and I’m working on the draft whenever I’m not at the day job or doing chores. Yes, this is my life.

What Inspires Me Right Now

This…

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Neil proposed on Sunday night and of course, I said yes! We’re engaged! And how utterly beautiful is my ring? I can’t stop staring at it. Oh, I am so happy! Spending the rest of my life with this wonderful man of mine is my inspiration. Also, starting to imagine how our wedding will look next May. Eeeep! So exciting!

What Else Have I Been Up To?

Ah, you know, just the usual. Summer term started on Monday, so I’m back at work, and as busy as ever. Weeding the non-fiction is taking forever, but I’m starting to see progress. I may have just had a break, but I’m already looking forward to the six week summer holidays. Will probably tackle revisions then.

Oh, and we went to see ‘The Edge of Tomorrow’ at the weekend, and wow, it was brilliant! I’d totally recommend it.

What’s Up Wednesday #4

RobotWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s post. We really hope you will take part!

What I’m Reading

In the last week I have devoured ASUNDER by Jodi Meadows and the much talked about THE WINNER’S CURSE by Maria Rutkoski. Both were fantastic reads and highly recommended.

I’m already part way through INFINITE, the sequel to ASUNDER, and finishing up THE LADY THIEF by A.G. Gaughen, which is the sequel to SCARLET, a re-imagining of the legend of Robin Hood with Will Scarlet written as a girl posing as a boy. So, SO good! I can’t recommend SCARLET enough.

Next up is WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart. I brought it for the school library and decided to sample it over half-term. I’ve heard only wonderful things about it, so let’s hope it lives up to the hype as THE WINNER’S CURSE did.

What I’m writing

When I’m not at the day job, I’m holed away in my writing cave rewriting the first half of SOULBOUND. June 30th is my deadline for getting this first draft done, and I’m hopeful that if I keep plugging away, I’ll make it. Already looking forward to revisions – is that weird? I’ve just been working on this draft for SO LONG now – coming up on two years – that sometimes it feels like I’ll never get there. But I will. I know I will.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Reading awesome books – and making more time to do so – keeping a writing journal, and finally being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel with SOULBOUND. Nothing can keep me away from my writing cave right now.

What Else Have I Been Up To?

I have this week off – working in a school means that I get loads of holidays – so have been catching up on all the stuff that gets neglected during term time like visiting family and deep cleaning. Hence why I’m finally updating this blog. We’ve had family staying with us for a month, which was lovely, but we’re glad to finally have the house back to ourselves again – and just have some space, really.

We saw Godzilla on Saturday, and I was hugely disappointed. I expected more… and it just wasn’t there. Oh, well. But we did catch the trailer for Jupiter Ascending, and that looks fantastic! We’ll definitely be seeing that at the pictures soon enough.

Now that the weather is improving (well, when it’s not slinging it down like today), we’re walking almost every day and exploring the overgrown hollow right at the top of our street. We find a new route every time. It’s lovely.