Good Reads 2016 Challenge


I am doing the Good Reads reading challenge again this year. I love being able to track what I have been reading and it ensures I always have my head in a book when I have some free time.

I did a similar post to this last year, so I have decided again to post my thoughts about my favourite books of the year so far.

The Outsiders by S.E Hinton

The Outsiders

I was always a little curious about this novel. Quotes from this book (and the subsequent film adaptation) seem to come up in pop culture quite a lot. Also, when I lived in New Jersey, I knew a boy who had ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ tattooed across his stomach in huge letters! So I was quite happy to finally order a copy of the Outsiders and see what the fuss was all about.

It’s a fairly short read, and one I wish I had read when I was younger. I feel like it would have been a lot more relevant to me as a teenager. It’s scrappy and raw, a contemporary classic that truly reflects all the layers and pain of being young and misdirected.

The Lola Quartet by Emily St John Mandel

 The Lola Quartet

I have been slowly reading all of this author’s books. I loved Station Eleven, so thought I would check out the rest. I have The Singer’s Gun left to read, which I actually reserved and collected from my local library last week (recently re-discovered – how much fun libraries are!).

Firstly, I adore her writing style. It is detailed and slow burning. All the different strands of the story come together and nothing is forgotten.  I love anything that combines genres – you couldn’t put any of Mandel’s books into a specific box. Her characters are flawed and realistic, with tiny details and quirks, some of them likeable, other distinctly annoying or frustrating. I recommend this one for anyone who loves mystery, drama, and has a yearning for travel in their literature.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

 Me Before You

This isn’t my usual genre at all, but this book really got to me. I couldn’t wait to read the sequel, but I actually gave up on it because I couldn’t get on with the story and a certain main character wasn’t there! Anyway, there was something so lovely and sad about this book I just couldn’t put it down. It is definitely outstanding within its genre, something that I imagine is very difficult to do. The ending DID frustrate me a little, but it also asks a lot of complex questions. We all have a limit, so what would yours be?

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic

I briefly mentioned this book in my last blog post. Having struggled to manage writing and full time work recently, alongside a busy social life, going to the gym AND staving off bouts of anxiety…I’ve not felt at my creative best for a while.

This book made me realise the picture of a writer that I have in my mind is not real or attainable. It takes hard work and persistence, the drive to develop writing skills and be constantly learning all the time. It also made me see that having a full time job is SMART.

I really would recommend this to all creative types. I know of many people who give up completely when they realise that writing or making art is not something they can do all the time. I have learned that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, which is a big, important lesson that everyone should learn.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Reasons To Stay Alive

I really needed this book. As someone who battles depression and, more recently, anxiety, it was a necessary read. It is important to talk about these things in all forms – through reading or writing, or discussions with family and friends.

Reasons to Stay Alive helped contribute towards my perspective on the things that affect me, and it’s nice to remind yourself sometimes that it’s not just you and you’re not alone. Other people feel it too.

Open Submissions and other adventures


June is here and sunny weather with it, at last! It’s definitely time for a 2016 update – the second novel is finished! I do think I could squeeze another edit out of it, but at this stage I feel I need some space away from the manuscript, so I am enjoying taking some time to focus on other things.

One of the main reasons I have been so quiet is that from August last year, to last month, North of the Moon was with Hodderscape for their open submission period. It got down to the last 5%, which is a pretty good achievement, as Hodderscape are a HUGE publisher. I didn’t make it through unfortunately, but I am certainly not disheartened. If anything I am encouraged, as my initial extract was sent last summer and has been edited and polished quite a few times since then. For an early draft to get so far, I feel pretty motivated.

In addition to this, The Poisonwood Shadows is still with Gollancz following their open submission earlier this year. I haven’t heard anything yet, so no news is good news.

At the moment, I am working on sending North of the Moon to agents. It took a really long time for me to get to this stage. Four years ago I starting sending The Poisonwood Shadows to agents waaaaay too early. So now I wouldn’t want to send anything out unless I was completely happy with it, and ready for the full manuscript to be sent out if requested. I think this is one of the most important pieces of advice for fellow writers. I’m not an agent, but I’m fairly confident they would be able to tell when a submission is only half baked. Though it is exciting when you write something, and you want to send it out there…keep hold of it until it is complete. Edit it a few times yourself, or have a friend look at it. Make it the best possible piece of work you can create, and THEN submit it.

I ordered the Writers and Artists Yearbook 2016 late last year, and have been trawling it for information over the last few months. I’d recommend trying to get hold of this, as it contains a lot of useful agent details and pages and pages about the ever changing publishing industry(LOTS of pages – have you seen the size of the thing?).

Now that my second novel is done (at the moment), I have time to move on to my next project. Since I have been reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I have found myself inspired to work HARD. I have a lot of different ideas in my head right now, and am attempting to put down a first draft for three of them. So my aim is to write 500 words per novel, per day, Monday – Friday. I’m not expecting to stick to this strictly. Some days I may write more. Some days I may write less, or nothing at all. But I know that 1500 words a day is doable, so I am going to give it my best shot.

Other things that I have been doing – I completed my AAT Level 2, and am now working on my level 3 qualification. Though writing is my main activity, I believe it is important and smart to have a backup career. A full time job gives me a good and regular wage, funds my lifestyle and enables me to pay my mortgage (oh yes, I bought an apartment as well!). I recommend a backup plan to any aspiring writers!

I’ve had a few trips too – I went to Amsterdam (watch out for the bicycles!), visited the dreamy, beautiful Port Merion in Wales and went camping for the very first time down in Cambridge. I have a few trips planned over the next few months, so cannot wait for long, warm days!