Thursday, 1 September 2016

Life In August // Starting Sparks: September

I'm in denial that it's actually September. I'm pretty sure 2016 has only been going for about three months ...

August was a bit of a whirlwind of various things. Work is ... work. Mid-month I was away on a Scripture Union camp in a very beautiful part of the Highlands called Allnatcriche: glorious weather, fun and the Ten Commandments. Since then I've also been blessed to be away on Skye with my family!

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I have swum six times in the past nine days, friends (once in the sea, once in a loch and four times in a river); I'm living the dream. I've also been painting, which is delightful.

Also in my life: prayer journalling. Why oh why has it taken me so long to come round to this idea? Believe it or not, I'd never written a prayer down (at least as an adult) before October last year, when I was encouraged to do so at a youth conference. “Hey!" said I, “this is awesome! I'm going to do this!" I then did what I do with most things in life ... ie put it off for ten months. But at long last this August I started to keep a prayer journal and I'm loving it. Rather than a jumble of phrases in my head, when I jump from one thing to another without even finishing my sentences, praying on paper makes me slow down and think about what I'm saying. 100% recommend.

In Writing

The really and truly exciting thing is that one month ago I started a novel! I am delighted to be back with these beloved characters as their story continues. Words-wise, I'd estimate about 34k, otherwise known as a couple of days ago I finished my first notebook! I am ridiculously excited about this, because back in the dark days of early TCATT I was a) writing stuff straight onscreen and b) doing work in various falling-apart refill pads / random bits of paper / Pukka pads that decided to fall apart on me so the back pages were all coming out ... Now I have resolved to use proper pretty notebooks and proper pretty notebooks only.

[source] // this is me
So, how is the novel going? Honestly, I struggle to answer that question! I mean, it's bringing me great joy in my soul, so that's successful, but is it fair to say I know exactly what I'm doing?

Here's the thing. (More than one thing, actually.) It's been a year (on 1st August, when I started SitC, it was a year to the day!) since I've done this first-draft lark. Since then, I may have slightly idealised it in my head. Perhaps idealised is the wrong word, but I suppose I've been very conscious of all the reasons SitC draft 1 is going to be vastly different to and better than TCATT draft 1. Because a) I'm three years older, b) have learnt masses about writing in the past three years, c) am actually committed to being a writer (as a pose to my fourteen-year-old self wafting around at Camp NaNo), d) know my characters and my world and e) have actually done some plotting rather than going in blind. All these things should be and are making this book easier. But really, friends, a pantser cannot change her spots, and much as I did some outlining prior to starting, I still have basically no clue where I'm going. So that's fun. I use fun slightly sarcastically, but only slightly, because pantsing is fun and I've already had myriad nice surprises this month. But I'm also very conscious that I currently have maximum 15k more planned before I completely lose the plot.

So yeah. Basically I don't know what I'm doing (what's new?) and

Not that I want to devalue the first drafting process! Because I honestly am loving it and I can't tell you my supreme happiness at being reunited with my children. It's just tough to go from working on a fairly polished fourth draft, to being back to:


In Books
August wasn't quite at the dizzy heights of a x3 five-star July, but I still read some great books.

Sunset Song was very beautiful. I love reading about Scotland. I swear I hardly ever read Scottish fiction! Set at the advent of the First World War, it shows the world coming of age in the horrors of the Great War just as Chris Guthrie, our heroine, comes of age in the harsh landscape of the Highlands. The book is bittersweet: love, family, education, life and the land itself are all forces for good and evil. I imagine that Grassic Gibbon himself, a writer but so clearly a lover of the land, felt torn between the worlds of his hands and his mind.
“So that was Chris and her reading and schooling, two Chrisses there were that fought for her heart and tormented her. You hated the land and the coarse speak of the folk and learning was brave and fine one day; and the next you'd waken with the peewits crying across the hills, deep and deep, crying in the heart of you and the smell of the earth in your face, almost you'd cry for that, the beauty of it and the sweetness of the Scottish land and skies."
 I've very long been meaning to read A Room of One's Own and was glad finally to do so. Whether you're a reader, a writer or a woman (or perhaps all three) it is extremely interesting. I believe I shall post about it because I have a lot of thoughts.

Green Hills of Africa was wonderful. Do you know how much I love Hemingway? A LOT, THAT'S HOW MUCH. It was about big game hunting, a subject which I do not enjoy (hence the missing star), but honestly Hemingway could write about sea sponges and I'd still be running around saying, “It's so lyrical and fascinating!" It also contains very interesting discussions on writing and the American novel. I highly recommend.

On the Beach at Night Alone was a bit of a disappointment to me. Some of it was very beautiful, but in many of the poems I could find neither linguistic greatness nor truth. This is a hard thing to say because Whitman is hailed as “the father of American poetry", and I was expecting to love the book, but it didn't. That said, I'd be interested to read more of his work.

Congratulate me because I finally read Cinder! I'm only three years late to the party (ball?). I think it's fair to say it was a little overhyped for me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I know, let's make a list. (Yay lists!)

  I loved the Chinese culture. Traditionally Asia hasn't had much representation in fantasy/sci-fi (and yes it does pain me to lump those genres together but needs must) and so I was extremely into New Beijing.
●    I also loved that Cinder was a mechanic! Most of the SFCs in YA are “strong" because of their fighting skills, so it's nice to see a woman empowered in ways other than being good at knife-throwing. I'm not saying, of course, that Tris, Katniss and Celaena aren't strong women or that their fighting skills are less valid than Cinder's engineering skills, but I think it's important to remember that women can be strong in different ways.
●   Iko! I've got a lotta love.
●   I wasn't that keen on Kai. The way he treated Cinder kind of annoyed me? “I found your pretty new mechanic down in the lobby." SHUT UP, KAI, STOP ASSUMING ALL THE GIRLS WILL JUST FALL AT YOUR FEET. I mean ... they do. All just fall at his feet. But I quite often found myself wanting to punch him. He seemed very immature. And I wasn't really shipping them at all, because they ... didn't talk much? When they weren't flirting, they were just discussing letumosis, which was fine, but I didn't feel they had a connection.
●   I'm very much done with the “I'm-not-pretty-I'm-just-a-regular-girl-oh-look-the-love-interest-is-literally-the-best-looking-guy-ever" trope. We complain about female ideals of perfection, and praise authors when they don't make their female characters conform to societal standards of beauty (eg Cinder) ... and yet we have no problem with making our males physically flawless? Of course I like hot boys in books, who doesn't, but I'm just done with the Indescribably Handsome Prince, you know?
●   I wasn't a massive fan of the writing, word by word.
●   I also wasn't impressed with the ending. I called it from the start -- not because I am wise but because it features in every fantasy ever -- and that trope kinda makes me want to bang my head against a wall?? Not all the time! But ... often. I will say no more because spoilers, but ... yeah. *ahem* 
●   Nonetheless, I found Cinder compelling and enjoyable and I'm very up for continuing the series!

Starting Sparks: September

Next month Starting Sparks will be one year old! Can you believe it?! I certainly can't. Anyway. It's a link-up hosted by Ashley @ [insert title here] and me @ right here. We post prompts, you post stories, we all have a marvellous time. For more info, as well as an archive of previous prompts, go to the Starting Sparks page.

September prompt!

We would adore for you to link up. Everyone loves a sassy character, so go forth! Let the sass run free.


How was your August? I'm very interested to know: what was the best book you read? Do you ever write down prayers? Do you share my controversial opinion that it'd be nice to see fewer cover model boys in books? Tell me everything!


  1. Kai isn't my favorite of the guys from that series - Thorne takes the prize there.

    I like the sound of that prompt....hehehe!

    1. I have heard a lot of chat about Thorne. I look forward to meeting him.

      Me too XD

  2. Yes to switching to pretty notebooks! It sucks when you get some good story ideas only for the back pages of a notepad to start crumbling..

    Alone on the Beach at Night is a bit sat, because I've always wanted to jump right into Walt Whitman, but maybe not if they're not all as good as they're hyped up as. And woooo, we're both three years late to the party in regards to Cinder... but I still haven't read it yet.

    Little Moon Elephant


      I would recommend reading and forming your own opinion. The poems were good but not as good as I was expecting. Cinder is likewise! You should read them both though.

      Thanks for stopping by :*

  3. My August was pretty good. In August? That would probably be the first or second book in the Iron Druid Chronicles, which I actually listened to in audiobook. I've written down a few prayers from preaching, but personally I haven't exactly written any down. I have a notebook with entries that are sometimes partially prayers, but they're also written to myself and to a certain person (though that person will never see them). I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "cover model boys." By the way, if you like Asian cultures in storytelling, they're much more present in short fiction from America/the UK than in novels.

    1. I've heard great great things about IDC ... I'll have to check them out! I suppose my prayer journal could read a bit like a diary, but they are all addressed to God. I don't keep a diary otherwise, it's never a habit I've got into ...

      I mean boys who look like models from the covers of magazines, ie a lot of love interests in YA. I don't read masses of short stories but I'd like to read more ... thanks for the rec, Patrick! :)

  4. writing down prayer sounds like a good idea. Often times, this is me while praying: '...and I think I've forgotten something. Have I forgotten something? What was it?' A prayer journal would keep me on track.

    I remember reading Cinder. I thought that making Cinder a mechanic and cyborg was a nice touch.

    I spent a good portion of my August in Wales and Switzerland, visiting family. Now I've caught the 'travel bug' (to clarify: I picked up a bad cold on the plane).

    1. It's good to keep you focussed while praying. 10/10 recommend.

      The cyborgs and the fact she was a mechanic were two of my favourite aspects.

      Wow! That's so exciting! I have a lot of emotion towards Wales based on Richard Llewellyn's How Green Was My Valley ... I haven't been since I was about six, though. And I've never been to Switzerland. I hope you had a lovely time. The travel bug made me lol ...

  5. Prayer journaling! Thank you for reminding me of what a wonderful thing that is. Some of my journal entries turn into prayers, and I'd like to do more of those. It *does* help keep your mind on track, and it's immensely encouraging to look back on later.

    Love the writing updates! You're drafting this one in notebooks? How perfectly idyllic that sounds. One day I may try writing by hand again too, in tidy notebooks, in pen instead of pencil. (I wrote one and a half novels on loose leaf, in pencil, and stuck them in a binder before buying a laptop and never looking back. XD)

    But ughhh, I hear ya on the going from a polished work to the mess of a first draft. That's tough. I think that's one reason why The Prophet's Key has been a bit difficult--I'm used to my mostly-prettied-up first novel, and now to pen something so raw feels like "Oh my goodness, did I lose that spark? What is wrong with this story?" When in fact, it's just how first drafts are, and the magic of editing will happen yet.

    Anyway. Little ramble is over now.

    It's good to hear your thoughts on Cinder! I'm glad you wound up enjoying the book, despite certain things. (Though I personally love Kai. He's adorable. Which seems to be one reason *you* don't prefer him, and that makes total sense too, and I agree about the handsome guys trope! Anyway, at some parts, Kai reminded me of Hiro from Big Hero 6... Probably just the hair. XD) Scarlet was a letdown for me, but I have high hopes for Cress and Winter!

    Haha, that prompt...

    Glad you had a good month! Here's to a fabulous September!!

    1. I'm loving it!

      I'm so glad. Yes, of course! Loose leaf is the worst ... and I never write in pencil. Ugh. Horrifying. But I really struggle to write onscreen >.<

      Exactly! Editing is magic. For me it's not so much the word by word thing ... Sometimes I reread/type a particularly ugly sentence and wince, but for the most part my real problem is structure and pace. Like, is this boring? What is this scene? Where does it even go? Why do I feel like I keep repeating myself and the story's going nowhere? ALSO I DON'T KNOW THE PLOT HAHAHA//// But yeah, editing will save me!

      I haven't seen Big Hero 6 ... I did not find Kai adorable, in fact, even though he *seems* like my type?? If you described him to me I'd *expect* to like him ... Tis weird. I look forward to more of the books!

      I know XD (Nina/JBH???)

      I hope you did, too! And yes, for you also my friend <3

  6. ... you draft on notebooks? Like, actual paper? I journal in a notebook, but the thought of transferring that 50k+ to the computer just makes me want to become one of those guys who scrape dead animals off the side of the road. But congrats on starting a new book! (When do I get to read yours???)

    I'm glad you had a great August! And what even is a loch? That sounds like a very Scottish thing, for some reason. *shrugs* (Actually, Loch Ness Monster. DUH, VICTORIA.)

    YAY FOR CINDER!!! I'm super glad you liked it. FYI, I wasn't too keen on the ending either. Like duh, who saw that coming? (Although *whispers* I'm totally in love with Kai, and that's coming from someone who doesn't really love love interests. I often plot their deaths, so this was a big deal. (Don't tell anyone, I have a reputation to uphold.)) Also, just a warning, Scarlet is just kinda average but the next two books get really good.

    Ok, so you read a lot of poetry but I've never gotten into it and now I kinda want to because you seem to really enjoy it and yeah. Could you maybe do a post about poetry for dummies? Like which books are good to read and how to actually read poetry? (Because I've done like six units on poetry in high school but for some reason I still don't know how to read it.)

    1. I very much do! I actually really like typing, I do it with music so that I'm slightly distracted and don't want to start editing my story as I type, and that lets me a) enjoy the music and b) enjoy the story ... And it familiarises me with the story, which sounds dumb because, uh, I wrote it, but you'd be surprised how I instantly forget the details of my plot ... However, your dead animal analogy did make me smile!

      I forgot I'd not sent you TCATT yet!!!! SOON VERY SOON!

      It's a Scottish lake, of which Loch Ness is probably the most famous. It's not the biggest loch in Scotland but it's the deepest, a mile deep in its deepest part. Fun fact for you.

      The ending ... >.< But yes, I did like it! I was surprised not to like Kai. Hmm, Tracey said the same about Scarlet ... I'll keep y'all updated with my thoughts!

      You totes should. Hmmm, that's an interesting idea. I would feel like a bit of a ninny presenting myself as an expert, but yeah, I could I guess? I did a post reviewing a few authors and explaining how I got into poetry:
      so yeah, you could read that and see what you think. It has recs.

      Thank you for a lovely comment! <3

  7. Those books seem so interesting! And how come no one ever told me that Cinder was set in Asia? Say whaat? I'm interested in Asian Culture and other cultures of POCs and I've been meaning to read books like those. The name Kai muddles my mind a bit (I used to have a crush on a guy named Kai but he has a girlfriend now, oh well) and that's why my mind is muddled.

    What is life, anyway?

    1. Cinder is pretty good and the Chinese culture is A*. Anyway, Grace, this comment properly made me snort with laughter. What is life, after all?

  8. Prayer journal is awesome! It helps me a lot to write things down instead of letting my brain blather on and eventually wander to that weird conversation I overheard at college. I should probably use my prayer journal more than I do though.

    I agree with the whole pantsing thing. I tried to plot more of Oddball the Sequel, but, the funny thing is that I actually ran into more plot problems than I did for the first book? And I did very little plotting for the first book. Pantsing is enormously fun (although I can't say I'm a 100% through and through pantser).

    That tumblr post thing with the anime character. THE BEST! Yes! That is everything I write for the first time. . . like this paragraph. *wiggles eyebrows*

    And, man, writing is so stinking hard! Why do we put ourselves through this torture? Why do WE LIKE THIS? I don't know. It doesn't make sense. But still. I LOVE IT! (And the world of paradoxes. Paradoxes are my one love and one frustration, and if that just doesn't illustrate a paradox, I don't know what does.)

    Anyhow, I want to say that I hope the writing goes well. But after what you said in this post, and what I said in this comment, that just seems like a pointless thing to say. So-- JUST KEEP WRITING!

    1. Exaaactly. That is why I like it!

      I am definitely a healthy mix of plotter and pantser, but I'm more pantser! Sometimes you need to let your imagination (and pants) run wild and free! Though I am now coming to the end of the (very vague) outline I had for the first part of SitC (I think I'm coming up to 60k) and so I have almost NO CLUE what is going to happen next! Lololol ... !

      Hahaha I love that post so much XD

      Paradoxes! I think this post made it sound harder than it is, or like I was having a worse time than I am ... in fact I'm having a whale of a time. (Yesterday Mel dyed her hair! She and Corrie together properly kill me.

      Jem comes in and as we're starting and forces us to open the window [because of the bleach fumes]. “I don't want you to /die/!" he says, coughing.

      “We are dying!" I say, holding up the dye, “get it, /dying/," and after Mel and I have laughed at this for about five minutes he gives up and leaves.

      ^^Thought you in particular would appreciate this! ;) So yeah anyway I LOVE THEM AND MY BOOK AND AM HAVING A GREAT TIME.)

      AND I WILL KEEP WRITING. (As if we could stop!) Thank you so much!

    2. *hysterical laughing* Oh, gosh! That excerpt is the best! So why is Mel dying her hair? O_o No, don't tell me. I'll find out for myself sometime. But IT SOUNDS GREAT! Come now, Jem. Have a little appreciation for improv puns. ;)

    3. Haha I thought you'd appreciate a pun! She is dyeing it just for lols. You know. Banter.


Thanks for commenting! :)