Mid Year Check In (2019)

Hi all! We’re over halfway through the year, can you believe that because I can’t. I’ve had such a packed year already with Uni finishing and graduating, that’s it hard to believe we’re this far through 2019 already. Only six months to go till we’re in the 20’s guys! Anyway, at this point in the year, I like to check in on how I’m doing with the goals I made at the start of the year, it’s something I started doing about three years ago, just to help keep me accountable for the goals I’ve made and also it’s quite fun to see how I’ve done with them over the past six months. So here we go, here’s how my goals have been going:

  1. Complete my Goodreads Challenge

This is one of those goals that I have every year, I started off at 24 books at the start of the year, but I’ve already reached that and I put it up to my usual goal of 35 books. I reckon if I keep going at the pace I’m going, I should reach 37 books by the end of the year, but I’d quite like to push it and get to 40 if I can.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge

This one is going really well as well, it’s another annual challenge. I have 12 books on this challenge list, and I’m right on target with them, having finished 6 of them so far and started my seventh. I’ve really enjoyed the books I’ve read for this so far this year (for the most part) and I’m really excited for the ones I have to come going into the second half of the year.

3. Become a 5 star writer for The National Student

I did this one! I actually completed it all the way back in January since I wasn’t far off it by the end of last year. I’ve now written over 100 articles and had over 100,000 views, which I’m really pleased with.

4. Continue working on revisions for This Is Not A Love Story in order to prepare it for querying

I’ve done this! I actually sent This Is Not A Love Story off for querying back in April, and then to more agents in May and although I haven’t had any requests on it yet, only rejections, I’m really proud of myself for actually doing it, I wrote a book and sent it to agents and that is no mean feat. I’ve also made a lot of headway on the sequel as well, which makes me happy.

5. Read more non-fiction

Of the 24 books I’ve read so far this year, 3 of them have been non-fiction, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but since I started at a base of 0 from last year, it’s definitely an improvement, and my shelves are largely fiction, so I only have a handful of non-fic to read anyway. I’ve really enjoyed the ones I have read, so it seems like this is a trend I need to keep up.

6. Catch up on 2018 releases I missed

I have so far this year, read 4 of the 16 2018 releases that I said I wanted to catch up on in a Top Ten Tuesday post at the beginning of the year, which isn’t as many as I would have liked, but it is something, and I plan to read more before the year is out. 16 is quite a lot of books, so I think if I finish half of that list I made, then I’ll be quite happy.

7. Unhaul some of my books in preparation for graduation

Yup, done! I used Marie Kondo’s method to decide which books to unhaul way back in April and then when I was up at Uni for graduation, I finally took them all to Oxfam books, so my book collection, whilst still huge and unwieldy, has been streamlined a little bit.

8. Start my Book/Movie comparison feature

I started this one last month, it’s under the Book Vs Movie tab in the menu bar. So far I’ve only done one, for The Perks of Being A Wallflower but I’m planning on doing another one this month, and every other month for the rest of the year.

9. Focus on backlist books 3 years old or more

Ha ha this was a well meaning goal, but I haven’t done very well on it! I’ve read a couple of books from 2015 & 2017 and even the rest of the Grisha trilogy books which were published in 2013 & 2014 but largely my reads this year have been either new releases or books that were released in 2018.

10. Get my Netgalley ratio up to 80%

I’m not quite there yet, but I’m doing really well, I’m at 75%, so I’m hoping I can get the other 5% before December, I’ve got a couple more books on my shelves to clear and then I probably will reach it.

11. Try more audiobooks

I’ll be honest, I’ve actually only just started with this one, it’s been hard to find the time when I’ve had so many Netgalley books to read throughout the year, but I’m reading Priory of The Orange Tree on Audible at the moment and really enjoying it. They’re really good for reading on the bus, as they’re divided into short 15-40 minute chapters which are quite easy to consume on my morning commute to work.

12. Have more guest posts on the blog

I’ve had a couple of these, author interviews with CG Drews and Amanda Foody, and a guest post from writer Madeline Dyer, but I’d really like more, so if you’re interested in doing a guest post for me, especially if you’re a writer, then please get in touch, either via Twitter (@iloveheartlandX) or via my email, jo.ell.x@hotmail.com.

So that’s how my year has been going so far. I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve done, I’ve done better on some goals than others, and I think I’m on track to complete most of them by the end of the year, which is good. How about you guys? Did you make any goals for your reading/blogging/writing life this year? If so, how are they going so far? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back with a new Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that. I’ve started work, so my posting my be a little more sporadic over the next month or so, so please be patient, I will get around to doing all the posts I want to, it just might take a little longer than usual!

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Writing Corner: A Writing Update

Hi everyone! I know I said that I was going to have another guest post this month, but I’ve been shuffling things around in the schedule a bit, so that guest post is going to come later in the year and I’m talking about something different today. I’m actually quite excited for today’s post, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve shared anything about my writing, mostly because there’s not been all that much to share, other than my frustrations with editing but there’s been quite a bit happening in my writing life at the minute, so I thought I would share it with you all.

Firstly and I guess the most exciting/terrifying news is that my novel is officially out on submission with agents. I started querying back at the end of April and it’s been…..well I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard. It’s scary sending your work out into the world, and disheartening when all that comes back is rejections. Which is it what it has been so far, lots of rejections and I was expecting that of course, but it’s one thing to expect something and another to actually experience the reality of it. It’s also kind of frustrating, because agents are incredibly vague about their reasoning for rejecting your book, which I know is totally fair because they get thousands of submissions, but it’s a constant worry when you’re writing something new and you don’t know exactly why agents aren’t responding to your current work, so you might be unwittingly making the same mistakes. I had to take a step back from writing for a while because getting all those rejections made me feel kind of despondent towards it, especially since I’m working on the sequel to the book I’m querying and it was kind of hard to see the point of working on it when I was getting rejections everywhere for the first book. I know that it’s only going to take one yes to actually get an agent, but waiting for that yes is incredibly stressful!

In happier news, I’m working on a new project! Since This Is Not A Love Story is out on submission, there’s not really anything more I can do with it, so I’m working on the sequel. I didn’t originally intend to have a sequel, I’d envisioned it as a standalone work, but my critique partner Katie suggested that it might have series potential and once I’d reworked the ending, it seemed to quite naturally lead into another book. What can I say, apparently standalones aren’t my style!

I started writing TINALS’ sequel last summer, after I finished my first round of revisions for the first book, but I kind of put it aside to work on more revisions for TINALS, especially as I was getting ready for querying, so I’ve been working on it on and off since last June, mostly when I had any free time from Uni work, which was not often!

I’ve written the first 9 chapters so far and am currently working on the tenth, it’s just under 24,ooo words, so I’ve still got a fair way to go considering that the first book was just over 76,000 words and I think that this one might end up being a bit longer than that. Unlike the first book, I did write an outline for this one, though being me, it was basically just a few bullet points and I’m still pretty much making things up as I go along!

The second book has definitely been a very different beast to write so far than the first one. I’ve got three POVs now as opposed to two, so that’s quite a lot to juggle, and two of the POVs are new ones that I didn’t have in the first book, so though I already knew the characters, learning their voices and their thought processes has been new for me. I’ve loved it though, the two new character POVs are Mia and Adrianna, two major characters from the first book and they’re both quite different to Tiffany, my main character from the first book and extremely different from Cam, who is the other main POV in the first book.

Mia is a particularly interesting character to explore, and though I can’t really go into too much detail as to why (without spoiling stuff from the first book, which I hope will eventually be available for you guys to read one day), she has a complicated past and I’m getting to explore that a lot more in this book which has been super fun to do. Mia is kind of an enigma in the first book, no one really knows all that much about her and in this second book I’ve been able to explore her character and motivations a lot more which I’ve loved doing. Adrianna, my other new POV character has also been a fun new adventure to write, she’s quite a nice contrast to Tiffany, she’s more sensible, she embraces the more traditionally feminine things that Tiffany has been conditioned to despise because her sexist society has wrongly taught her that enjoying those things makes you weak and she’s been part of the Resistance for a lot longer, so she has insight and perspective that Tiffany just doesn’t have after only a year with the group.

I’m not entirely sure whether this series is going to be two books or three, I know roughly where I want this book to end and I think there’s enough storyline to have a third book as well, but I’m not going to know for sure until I finish this book, which could take a while considering I still have at least another 50,000 words to go.

That’s all I really have to share right now, I’m going to be working on the TINALS’ sequel throughout the rest of the year and I’d like to have a full first draft done by December, though that might be a little ambitious! I’m also hoping to finally get more done on Underground Magicians this month, I’ve had over a year away from it now and that doesn’t really seem to have helped my block any, so I want to go back to it and see if the time away has given me a fresh perspective on it.

Fellow writers, how has your writing been going? Anyone else struggling with querying right now? What projects are you working on? Let me know in the comments!

If you are a writer, and would like to do a guest post, or a Q&A or any other kind of post for me then please get in touch, I have spots open for this feature from August-December, so either drop me an email, my email address is jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or a DM on Twitter, my handle is @iloveheartlandX. You can talk about any writing related topic, the sky’s the limit, and it’s not limited to published or agented writers, if you write then I want to hear from you!

I’m hopefully going to have my first post of a new feature for this blog, comparing books to their movie adaptations up over the weekend, which should be the start of a fun new feature for this blog, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime for this feature, I’m going to have a guest post from a friend of mine, Amy McCaw, about her journey to finding an agent next month, so that should hopefully be very insightful and useful to those of us who are embarking on the querying rollercoaster!

Writing Corner: Q&A With Author Amanda Foody

Hi everyone! As you can probably tell from the picture at the top of this post, today is my stop on the blog tour for Amanda Foody’s new book, King of Fools. I’m super excited about this because I love Amanda’s books, and it was so much fun getting to ask questions about King of Fools, plus having another author on my blog is such a cool thing for me, so thank you so much to Amanda, and to her publicist Nina Douglas for setting this up. I hope you guys enjoy it and if you like content like this then please let me know and I will try to see what I can do to hopefully get more authors on here in the future. My questions are largely about King of Fools, with some more general ones about the Shadow Game series as well, but don’t worry if you haven’t read it yet, there are no spoilers here. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Shadow Game series, I’ll give you a quick basic rundown, it’s a trilogy, with King of Fools being the second book, set in a fantasy version of Atlantic City, where the streets are run by gangs. The main characters are Enne Salta, a finishing school dropout who travels to the City of Sin to find her missing mother and Levi Glaisyer, a gang lord who she ropes into help her. There’s a lot more that goes on than that, obviously, but hopefully that gives those of you who are not familiar with the series, a better idea of what Amanda is talking about in this post. Now onto the questions: 

  1. Q: King of Fools is the second book in your Shadow Game trilogy, did you find that the process of writing the second book differed at all from Ace of Shades? What were the major challenges in writing this book?

A: It was, by nature of circumstances, a very different process. I wrote Ace of Shades in high school, with far off aspirations of being published, and I rewrote it many times over the years as I improved as a writer. King of Fools had a publishing deal before it was written. It was drafted over two months on deadline, and I was both a different kind of writer and person than when I wrote the first book. The biggest challenge had to be the book’s length-it’s undoubtedly the longest book in the series, and the complexity of the story made every little change take me forever to implement.

2. Q: One of the things I love so much about the book is the wonderfully wide range of female characters, how important was it to you to show all these different kinds of women within your world?

A: Extremely! Even in a world of violence and crime, it was very important to me to have just as many women in the game as men.

3. Q: On that vein, which one of your female characters is your favourite to write? Who is the most difficult?

A: Vianca is my favourite, she’s so complicated, and so evil. The most difficult is Enne, who is also deeply complicated. Complicated is a lot harder when it’s through their POV, when their thoughts get jumbled among their many desires & contradictions. Enne lost everything in the first book, so she begins King with nothing–not a home, not security, not ambition. It was a lot easier to write characters like Levi and Jac–who did want a very definable thing–than to write the journey of a young woman finding herself.

4. Q: King of Fools introduces a lot of new characters to the world, how do you think these additions change the dynamics between the characters readers remember from Ace of Shades? Who do you think will be readers’ favourites?

A: It changes the dynamics a lot. In fact one of the hardest parts about talking about Ace of Shades was not being able to include so much of the new cast in King of Fools. We originally had this group of four–Enne, Levi, Jac and Lola. And now that’s expanded, and even more, it’s become this very complicated, multi-circled Venn Diagram. You have Enne, Lola, and Grace. Then you throw in Tock, Sophia, Narinder, Poppy. The questionable Bryce-Rebecca-Harvey trio. Not to mention all the new villains. I think Grace will inevitably be a fan favourite. Also Poppy. I’m personally very partial to Tock.

5. Q: There’s a lot of great exploration in King of Fools of women and power, particularly through Vianca and Enne, what interests you most about the relationship between women and power?

A: When women are powerful or successful, they have to prove they deserve it, over and over again. Because women don’t just “get” power. They have to be special in some way–maybe they’re uniquely cunning, uniquely ruthless or just uniquely lucky. Because the second they’re viewed as simply women, they’re dismissible. This is a pressure both Vianca and Enne have struggled with. Vianca was warped by it. She surrounded herself with men and went to constant efforts to prove herself to them through ruthlessness. Enne has surrounded herself with women and has proven herself through loyalty. I loved writing their relationship because these two women did identify with each other…to a point.

6. Q: Your books are wonderfully feminist, how would you say your feminism has influenced your writing in the Shadow Game series?

A: As a young girl, I had a wide variety of interests. I was focused in my academics, but I also loved arts, sport, fashion, books. I didn’t fit neatly into one category, and I quickly learned that the world loves to put women into categories. Hence the development of one of my least favourite phrases, “strong female character”. This label, originally only meant to denote a female character who was developed, not simply a prop, has twisted somehow to throw girls into two categories, strong and weak. Which has low-key deviated further into masculine and feminine. For most of my childhood, I identified with the main characters of books–usually bookish, quiet girls. I also identified with their bubbly best friends who liked clothes. Or the mean popular girl who cared too much about being liked. In fantasy, there were these warrior female characters, who used their strength not to lift other women up, but to diminish them.

I’ve thus made it my raison d’etre to write girls who do not fit into neat categories. Who surround themselves with women. Who cry and are vulnerable and sometimes want silly, useless things. These are the sort of female characters we should be lifting up–female characters who are not internalised models for the patriarchy.

In fact, I loved writing Vianca because I felt like in many ways, she was the epitome of the twisted version of “strong female character”. Ruthless. Oh so different from other women. More terrified of being called “weak” than being called “cruel”.

7. Q: King of Fools added Jac’s POV into the mix, how different was he to write from Levi and Enne?

A: At first I struggled with him. I had spent so many years with Levi, and Enne, of course Jac took some getting used to. But I very quickly fell in love with his voice and the perspective he added to this world and this story. Jac also gets what–in my opinion–is the most action-packed, highest stakes chapter in the book.

8. Q: You first came up for the idea for Ace of Shades when you were 16, did you know that it was going to end up being part of a trilogy? And if you did, how different was your initial conception of King of Fools to what the book ended up being?

A: I did! I usually know when I get my ideas whether they’ll end up as standalones, duologies, trilogies, or otherwise–even if I don’t necessarily know what comes next. Honestly, King of Fools was quite similar to how I always pictured it. Though I didn’t have everything figured out–I’m still figuring out what happens in the third book as I write it–there are some really big reveals that occur down the line that I knew King of Fools needed to build the framework for. So there were really two categories of characters in this book–characters that I knew because they are major players in the overall story, and characters who introduced themselves to me as I wrote and demanded a spot at the table.

9. Q: Are there any characters from the Shadow Game series that you’d love the opportunity to explore more once the series is done?

A: Apart from perhaps the occasional short story, the only story I’d be willing to write any sort of spinoff for is the tragic romance of Enne’s parents during the Great Street War. It’s not off the table, but it depends on so many factors–the success of the series, the willingness of my publisher, the desire from readers. We’ll see!

10. Q: What are you most proud of about King of Fools?

A: I’m most proud of Enne and Vianca! I loved writing their relationship. I’m also pretty proud of the RIDE that is my last four chapters. I held nothing back.

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she lives in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

www.amandafoody.com

Amanda Foody’s third novel, King of Fools, the sequel to 2018’s Ace of Shades is out now, so head to your local bookshop, Amazon, or wherever it is you get your books from and check it out.

I hope you all enjoyed this Q&A with Amanda Foody, and if you are a writer and would love to do a Q&A about your books or your writing with me (you don’t have to be published, I welcome all writers, published/unpublished, agented/unagented, if you write then I want to hear from you!), or do a guest post about your writing, then please get in touch with me via email: jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX. I have spots available from August-December, and the sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIP, writing process, agents/querying, whatever it is you want to talk about! 

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday post will be up later, so make sure to check that out, and I’ve got a few things planned for the next week or so, a review of We Are Blood and Thunder and a Jo Talks post, so you can expect those soon! I’m also going to have another post for this feature before the end of the month, as I told you guys last month, I’ll have a video from my friend Hannah (not my YALC friend Hannah, my other friend Hannah who is an author!), talking about finding a publisher and a publishing route that works for you. I’m going to be on her channel talking about writing as well, so I’ll let you know when that’s up and you can check that out too.

Writing Corner: Q&A With Author C.G. Drews

Hi everyone! I’m back for my Writing Corner post for April and I have a really exciting (well I hope you guys will find it exciting) post for you today! A few weeks ago I contacted C.G. Drews, who you guys will probably know better as PaperFury, one of the YA community’s most beloved and hilarious bloggers & now a brilliant YA author to see if she wanted to do an interview for this feature and very happily for me (and hopefully for you guys as well), she agreed! So I sent her over some questions about her new book The Boy Who Steals Houses (which came out in the UK on Thursday) and her general experience in writing and publishing, and I have her answers here for you guys today, so I hope you enjoy them:

  1. Q: Could you for anyone reading this, who may never have heard of The Boy Who Steals Houses, give a short summary of what the book is about?

A: It’s about a homeless teen named Sam, who breaks into houses when the owners are away on holidays–not to steal, but just to live. He and his autistic brother Avery are actual disasters who make terrible decisions, but they love each other fiercely and Sam protects his brother like nothing else. Then Sam messes up and steals a house that isn’t truly empty and ends up entangled in the lives of a big messy family. He craves this life, but if they find out why he’s homeless and what’s he’s running from, he’ll lose it all.

2. Q: Both of your books have retelling aspects to them, what attracted you to this method of storytelling? Do you have any particular favourite retellings?

A: I love retellings because you already get the bare bones of a structure….then you get to renovate and rebuild and let your imagination go wild! I definitely am fond of Goldilocks, which The Boy Who Steals Houses is based around, but I’d also love to do a Sleeping Beauty retelling one day too. Or the Seven Swans!

3. Q: You are based in Australia, and obviously your agent and publisher are based in the UK, are there any difficulties to having a transcontinental relationship with your publishing team?

A: It’s been great actually! The only downsides are waiting for things to come in the mail (contracts, proof copies, finished copies etc.) and how I end up staying up way too late waiting for emails since my sleeping time is when my agent/editor are working! It’d be nice to go over someday and meet my publishers though.

4. Q: You’ve been on both sides of the author/blogger relationship now, what have you had to change about your blogging, if anything, now that you are an author?

A: It’s definitely been an adjustment moving away from the wild and sparkly blogging life…over to the author life. I made the decision to stop doing negative reviews, because as an author, I felt it was a bit off to be critiquing my peers. I also have less time to blog because of writing and edits. But my blogging family is just the bessst and shout out to the whole blogging community for being masters at reviews and discussions and boosting new authors. I owe so much to their love!

5. Q: Like your characters in TBWSH, you also have autism and anxiety, do you have any recommendations for other books you’ve read with characters who have these conditions that you feel are good representation (from your own experiences)? 

A: I absolutely loved being able to weave things I’ve experienced into this novel! I wanted to write my experiences and feelings, but not put myself on the page, so that was an interesting balance to find. Sam, my narrator, has an anxiety disorder while his brother, Avery, has autism. There are endless ways these neurodiversities can present, but I’m particularly keen to find other books that represent them in non-problematic ways! I definitely recommend the autobiographies of Autism In Heels by Jennifer O’Toole and Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate by Cynthia Kim. And for YA fiction, Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik, Queens of Geek, by Jen Wilde, When My Heart Joins The Thousand by A.J. Steiger and Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare—all have great autism representation!

6. Q: I’ve done a whole post about my writing inspirations, but who were yours? Do you think you can see their influence in their own work?

A: I really look up to authors like Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor and Tahereh Mafi for their gorgeous prose and lush styles. I adore Cassandra Clare’s banter, and Adam Silvera’s wringing of hearts. And I must shout out to the fairy tales of the world for being so fun to rework too haha.

7. Q: We’ve talked writing inspirations, but where also do you look to when you’re needing to refill the creative well?

A: I read! So, so much. If I’m feeling uninspired–it’s time to devour a book, or ten (or one hundred and ten?!). I also love listening to music, anything from epic movie soundtracks to Imagine Dragons or Clean Bandit. And I mean who isn’t inspired by cake? I am. It is a gift.

8. Q: What do you know now about the publishing process that you wish you’d known going into it? 

A: That you need a lot of patience! And it’s not always the magical, glittery journey that you think other authors experience all the time. There’s plenty of downs as well as ups and it pays to have a support network in your life who can distract you with cookies.

9. Q: I know you don’t know what’s coming next for you publishing wise, but what are you working on right now?

A: I’m playing around with a bit of a passion project that involves dark woods and pretty monsters….and I’m always working on another dark contemporary or two!

10. Q: What advice would you give to young writers looking to get into publishing?

A: Definitely: KEEP WRITING. If you don’t feel “good enough” or your project gets rejected—keep writing. You get better the more you write and you have endless chances to get published. My first book that went on submission to editors was rejected, but my second novel was A Thousand Perfect Notes and it landed me a two book deal which changed my world. So always keep going, I believe in you.

Thanks so much for answering all my questions Cait, I’ve loved reading your blog for about two/three years now and it’s so wonderful, I can’t wait to keep following your publishing journey!

C.G. Drews

C.G. Drews lives in Australia with her piano and the goal of reading every book in existence. Consequently, her brain has overflowed with words and she spends her days writing novels to make you laugh or cry (or both). She never sleeps and believes in cake for breakfast.

She blogs at paperfury.com.

C.G. Drews’ second novel The Boy Who Steals Houses is out now, so head to your local bookshop, Amazon or wherever it is you get you books from and check it out!

I hope you all enjoyed this Q&A with C.G. Drews, and if you are writer and would love to do a Q&A about your books or your writing with me, or do a guest post about your writing, then please get in touch with me via email: jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX. I have spots available from August-December and the sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIP, your writing process, agents/querying, whatever it is you want to talk about.

I’m going to have my latest Top Ten Tuesday post up for you guys tomorrow, so stay tuned for that and I’m finally done with my Uni work, so expect a lot more posts from me in the coming weeks! As for this feature, I’m going to be sharing a video from my friend, author H.T. King next month, she’s going to be talking about finding a publisher, and a publishing route that works for you so that should be a really good one. I’m also appearing on her YouTube channel talking about my writing, so I’ll let you know when that’s up & you can go watch that (please support it guys, you have no idea how terrifying filming myself was, I’m very self-conscious about how my voice sounds on video, hence why I’ve never been a BookTuber!).

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Corner: Guest Post-Madeline Dyer on Writing With Chronic Illness

Hi guys! I’m so excited about today’s post, because I actually didn’t write it (except this introduction)! As you can see from the title at the top, this is my first ever guest post for BookLoversBlog, a super exciting step for me and one that I hope can continue because I love getting to connect with other bloggers and writers and have them share their experiences, there is such a wide world of writers out there with different experiences to mine and I want to make sure that is reflected in this feature. 

Which brings me quite nicely onto today’s topic. Madeline Dyer is a YA writer, who has several chronic illnesses, so when she suggested writing a guest post about her experiences of writing with chronic illness, I thought it was a great idea. I hope that any of my followers who are also writers with chronic illness find her advice helpful! So here we go, I hope you enjoy Madeline’s post: 

Being a Writer When You’re Chronically Ill

Ask any writer, and he or she will tell you there are many articles and videos out there, advising us on what we need to do to be a writer. There are checklists you can tick off, schedules you can use to divide up your writing and editing time, and many top tips that other writers swear by. The most popular pieces of advice, in my experience, seem to be ‘write every day’ and ‘treat writing as a job’, as well as ‘don’t give up your day-job’—but when you’re also dealing with a chronic illness, a lot of these tips either don’t apply to your situation or they make you feel like you’re failing because you physically can’t meet the expectations that these articles put on you.

Reading all these articles and lists made me feel as if I could never be considered a proper writer because there were many things on them that I simply couldn’t do as I am chronically ill. The fact of the matter is much of the advice out there assumes that you’re able-bodied and in good health, and when you’re not, it can feel a little bit lonely and discouraging. And, so, I was inspired to write this post, for all the writers out there who are also managing a chronic illness.

Here are my top pieces of advice regarding how to be a writer when you’re chronically ill:

Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t write every day.

 This is the big one, in my opinion. It’s so easy to think that you should be writing at every available opportunity and thus feel like a failure if you haven’t written that day (or week, or month, etc.). But if you’re having a bad time with your illness and you need to rest, then that’s what you need to do: rest. Don’t push yourself and use up that all-important energy. Your health has to come first, and there’s nothing for you to feel bad about for taking a rest-day instead of working on that manuscript. After all, if you push and push yourself, it’ll take longer to recover and you’ll end up writing less overall.

It’s okay not to write.

Similarly, if you’re not well enough to write at all for a period of time, that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer. You are still a writer.

Set Manageable Goals.

On the days when you are well enough to write, set realistic goals that you know you can meet without making your health worse. Before I became chronically ill, I could easily write 5,000 words a day, and often it was closer to 7,000. That was the pace at which I wrote, and I’d feel like I hadn’t done enough if I’d only written 3,000 words.

When I developed chronic illnesses and was diagnosed with ‘invisible’ disabilities and auto-immune disorders, I simply could not keep up that pace without making my health suffer a lot. It was soul-crushing at first, as I could remember how easily I used to write so many words before. I felt like a failure in the one thing (writing) that I thought I could still do (I’d already had to give up many hobbies and activities). But the problem was that I was using my previous goals as a measure of my current success, even though before I was healthy and now I am not. Those word count goals were set before—before the fatigue and the fainting, the brain fog and chronic pain, the headaches and joint dislocations.

I struggle with maintaining an upright posture now, due to dysautonomia, and my fatigue and joint-pain from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome make writing really difficult. Because of these factors, I’ve had to make my goals more manageable. On my good days, I now aim for around 500-1,000 words, and I know that realistically I’ll only manage this a couple of days a week—and that’s if the week is a good week. Many weeks, I’m unable to write at all, and even on my good days, I can’t go on writing for hours on end, like I used to.

The important thing here is acknowledging that your goals have to change to reflect your health. If you don’t change them, not only will you risk harming yourself by pushing yourself too far, but you’ll also feel terrible when you fail to meet your unreasonably-high expectations.

Physically, I’m not expected to do all the things I used to do—for example, doctors have said that horse-riding and athletics are too dangerous for me now—so it’s important to realise that we can’t be expected to write at the same speed as before too. Chronic illness isn’t something that only affects one part of your life; it affects everything, and adjustments have to be made everywhere.

Let others know what you’re dealing with, where possible. Especially those you work with, such as critique partners and editors.

If you’ve been given a tight deadline that you know is going to be difficult to make, then talk to the other people involved. Let them know you have a chronic illness. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. I’m a firm believer that it’s best to be upfront right from the start about having an illness or condition that could affect your work, so that others don’t place unreasonable expectations on you and so adjustments can be made if needed.

Don’t compare yourself to other writers

This applies to healthy writers too. It’s never wise to compare yourself or the state of your career to that of another. It’s just not a good idea. And it’s especially not a good idea to compare your career to that of an author who’s just completed four book tours, had two books launch this year, and is appearing at all the big cons, if you’re unable to do these things—either at all or at that pace—due to factors which are out of your control.

Whatever you’re managing to do for your writing career, whether it’s writing a paragraph or reading through an edit letter is a huge achievement when you’re managing chronic illness, and I feel like we need to celebrate these things more. So be proud of what you can do despite being chronically ill, and know that your worth isn’t dependent on your productivity.

Know that you’re not alone.

There are many other writers out there who are dealing with chronic illness too, and often just finding them and talking with them can help immensely. It’s certainly helped me feel less lonely, and I’ve been able to swap illness-specific tips with many writers who are also facing similar challenges.

 

Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in the southwest of England, where she hangs out with her Shetland ponies and writes young adult books—sometimes, at the same time. She holds a BA Honors degree in English from the University of Exeter, and several presses have published her fiction. Madeline has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and she can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes.

 Discover Madeline’s books at http://madelinedyer.co.uk/fiction/

Madeline’s books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Untamed-Book-1-Madeline-Dyer-ebook/dp/B01MS5264O/

I hope you all enjoyed Madeline’s post, and if you are a writer, I am looking for more guest posts for this feature, so please get in touch with me via email, jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX, if you have an idea that you would like to write about, I want to hear it! The sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIPs, your writing process, things that affect your writing life, basically anything you want. 

I’m going to have a new review up for you tomorrow, it’s finally time to share my review of Firestarter, the last book in the Timekeeper trilogy, as its release date is on Tuesday, so I’m super excited for that. I will also have a new Top Ten Tuesday up on Tuesday, so lots to look forward to in the coming week. As for this feature, I’m hoping to have a post up about how writing for different platforms helps improve my writing before the end of the month, so stay tuned for all of that!

Jo Talks Books: 2019 Reading/Writing/Blogging Goals

Hi all! Happy 2019, I hope you all enjoyed bringing in the New Year, whether you did that curled up in bed at home, or out partying with your friends. I am super excited for a new year on the blog, this is a milestone year for my little blog, as I will have been blogging for 5 years in February, I honestly can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. As always at the beginning of a new year, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my blog over the past year, and the previous ones, and I hope you all continue to enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy writing it!

Anyway, onto the topic of today’s post: since it is a new year, and Top Ten Tuesday doesn’t seem to be doing a goal related topic this year, I thought I would share my 2019 Reading/Writing/Blogging Goals as it’s always something I like to do at the start of a new year, it’s a nice way to set up the year and it gives me something to work towards throughout the year. I’ve done much better on these, since I started framing them as goals rather than resolutions, as I like having things to work towards throughout the year. As with last year, I have a nice mix of blogging, writing and reading goals, hopefully these will keep me busy through 2019:

  1. Complete my Goodreads Challenge

I’ll start off with one of my continuous annual goals, to complete my Goodreads Challenge. I’ve started at 24 books, the same as I did last year, and I ended up at 35 last year, so obviously I’m hoping that I will beat it, but since this year is my dissertation year, I wanted to try and be kind to myself, so if I’m reading more than expected I can put it up, but equally, if I find I have less time than I’d like I can put it down.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge

Another annual one, I’ve once again set my #RockMyTBR Challenge at 12 books, and I’d quite like to actually complete all 12 this year, since I’ve finished at 11 for the past two years! Twitter put together another really great list for me this year, so I’m super excited to read all of them.

3. Become a 5 star writer for The National Student

I’ve been writing for The National Student for over a year now, and I’ve written over 70 articles and had nearly 68,000 views, which is amazing, but I’d like to hit that final, elusive milestone of becoming a 5 star writer before I graduate in June.

4. Continue working on revisions for This Is Not A Love Story in order to prepare it for querying

I had a pretty good year working on This Is Not A Love Story, I completed my first round of revisions on it, which was an achievement in itself since it was my first time editing a novel EVER, but this year I want to really try and make headway on my most recent round of revisions, send them back to my Critique Partner and maybe have more revisions underway by the end of the year. I’m determined to try and get this novel ready for querying in the next few years.

5. Read more non-fiction

This year, I’ve acquired quite a lot of non-fiction, specifically feminist non-fiction, and I’d quite like to try and read more of that this year, since obviously I read mostly fiction but I’m really excited for a lot of the non-fiction I got in 2018 and I’d like to try and read at least some of it this year.

6. Catch up on 2018 releases I missed

Another rolling one-it seems I spend every year trying to catch up with books from the previous year! I did manage to read quite a few of my most anticipated 2018 releases which was great, but there’s still quite a lot for me to catch up on, not least trying to finally finish Kingdom of Ash.

7. Unhaul some of my books in preparation for graduation

I’m graduating this year, so of course that means that I will be moving back home, and whilst I do have somewhere to store my books, I’m trying to take this as an opportunity to get rid of some of the books that I may have lost interest in since the time I bought them, and streamline my collection of unread books down to the ones I’m really excited for. This may be a totally ill fated goal since I’m terrible at getting rid of books, but at least the intention is there!

8. Start my Book/Movie comparison feature

Last year, I had an idea for a new feature for the blog, comparing books to their movie adaptations and the response on Twitter for it was pretty great, so I’m going to attempt to start that this year. I might not start it until after I graduate, but I definitely want to try and get it up and running before the year is out.

9. Focus on backlist books 3 years old or more

I’m very aware that I have a lot of books on my shelf from 2015/2016 that I still haven’t read yet and I really want to make a concerted effort to read some of those this year because I don’t want to leave them languishing on my shelves much longer whilst I read all of the shiny new books in existence!

10. Get my Netgalley ratio up to 80%

I ended 2018 with my Netgalley ratio at 71%, which is really great, but this year, I want to finally get my Netgalley ratio up to that all elusive 80%. It might not stay there very long, but I’d love to at least reach it!

11. Try more audiobooks

I used to love reading audiobooks when I was a kid, but for some reason I kind of went off them and I haven’t read any in years, but seeing so much excitement for audiobooks on Twitter has really made me want to get back into them. I am however going to need your help in finding good ones as I haven’t a clue, so if you have any recommendations for great audiobooks, then please leave them in the comments!

12. Have more guest posts on the blog

I really enjoyed doing a few guest posts and interviews for other people’s blogs this year, and I’d really like to get some guest posts on here, especially for my Writing Corner. So if you’re interested in doing a guest post for me, especially if you’re a writer, then please drop me a message on here, Twitter (@iloveheartlandX) or via email, jo.ell.x@hotmail.com and I’ll sort something out with you!

I think that’s plenty of goals to be getting on with for now! Do you set reading, writing, blogging or life goals for the year? If not, then why not? What are your goals for 2019? Do we share any? Let me know in the comments!

I haven’t planned my Jo Talks schedule for 2019 yet, so I don’t know what or when my next discussion post will be up but it will probably be at some point towards the end of the month. I will be doing at least one discussion post a month through the year, I’d love to do two a month if I have time, but I’m not going to promise that this year, since I’m going to be knee deep in dissertation work until April. If there are any specific topics you’d like to see me talk about this year, then please just let me know and I will do my best to accommodate them! Otherwise, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see what I discuss next. In the meantime, I’m going to have a review of my last read of 2018 up in the next few days and my 2018 #RockMyTBR Challenge wrap up, so stay tuned for those!

End of Year Check In (2018)

We made it everyone! The last day of 2018, honestly I wasn’t entirely sure we’d get here after all the trash-fire things that have been happening in the world this year, but we did, so congrats to all of us. As it’s the last day of 2018, I will be looking back at the goals I made in January (remember January, that month that happened a million years ago, and none of us are quite sure was actually part of 2018?) and see how well I did on them this year. So here we go, this is how my 2018 goals have worked out:

  1. Complete my Goodreads 2018 Challenge-SUCCESS

Yes I did in fact complete my Goodreads challenge this year! I started off with my usual challenge of 24, but I put it up back in July, and ended up on my final challenge of 35 books, which I just met two days ago. I would have liked to one up my 2017 challenge and read 37, but I’m still really proud of 35, especially given how stressful my most recent Uni semester has been.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR 2018 Challenge-SUCCESS

Yes, I completed my #RockMyTBR challenge, though like last year, I ended on 11 books rather than 12 because there was one book on my list that I just couldn’t finish-I’m not going to count it as a failure for the sake of one book, that would just be petty! Hopefully next year I will be able to finish all 12 though 🙂

3. Expand my Writing Corner Feature-Success, but could have done better

I don’t want to count this as an outright failure, because I did write a few more posts about my writing this year, though due to time constraints, I didn’t post as frequently through the end of the year as I would have liked and I didn’t do any collaborations on it. Having said that, I have written 6 posts for the feature this year, and I only had one last year, so in that respect it has been successful and I’m hoping that I will be able to grow it even more next year.

4. Look into querying agents/the first steps of the publishing process-SUCCESS

I’m actually feeling really good about this one. I’ve been bookmarking agents since January, so every time I have seen one on Twitter, I’ve added their agency’s page to the list. I also had to write a query for the #YA4YA competition, I’m pretty sure it was terrible, but hey it was a start! I have a list of tips about querying from a querying talk I went to with agents at YALC. I pitched my book to an agent at YALC as well as part of pitching practice and she said it sounded marketable, so that was also awesome! I’ve also been doing the most important part of getting ready for querying-revising my book. So yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about the preparations I’ve made for the next step in my publishing journey this year.

5. Finish Underground Magicians-FAIL

Yeah, this one was a pretty clear failure. I’ve only written one more chapter of this than I had last year. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, because having writer’s block is not something I can really help and I have made a lot of progress on TINALS this year, so I’m trying to focus more on where I’ve succeeded in my writing than where I haven’t.

6. Start giving a Bechdel Test rating for the books I read-SUCCESS

This went really well, in fact I’m going to continue it next year! The final results turned out to be 24 books passed and 11 books failed, so I was quite pleased with that and I’m hoping that next year, the pass/fail margin will be even narrower.

7. Read more of my YALC books from 2015/2016/2017-SUCCESS

So I did read some of my YALC books this year, I read The Exact Opposite of Okay, Rose Under Fire, The Fandom, Daughter of The Burning City & Days of Blood and Starlight this year, so that’s 6 more YALC books than I had last year. I could have done more, probably, but I have offloaded some of the YALC books that I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to read and my YALC book shelf is down to only 29 books now, so hopefully I should be able to knock off more next year (whilst of course acquiring more!).

8. Read more of my #otspsecretsister books-Success, but could have done better

I only read 3 #otspsecretsister books this year, so I still have 10 that I need to read, but since I didn’t set a number for this challenge, I’m still counting it as a success! Hopefully next year, I will be able to finish all of the books that I have received through the #otspsecretsister project.

9. Reread some of my old favourites-FAIL

Ha ha this one was just too optimistic to start off with! I don’t know why I thought I would have the time to do this, much as I used to love rereading, I do not read fast enough to justify it!

10. Make time to read a little every day-SUCCESS

I actually feel really good about this one! There were I think one or two days in November where I didn’t read, but much like my #RockMyTBR challenge, I’m not going to punish myself for a day or so when I was just too tired or stressed to read. I’m really pleased with how this goal went, because it kept me accountable for making sure reading was always a part of my day.

11. Carry on colloborating with other bloggers-SUCCESS

I did 3 collab posts this year, one with other people on my blog in January, which was super fun, I did my first guest post on This Northern Gal (which you can read here: http://thisnortherngal.co.uk/guest-posts/guest-post-maximising-your-reading-time-at-university/) which was amazing fun to do and something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. I also featured on Rae Coleman’s blog, as part of her Summer Spotlight blogger series, so I did an interview with her, which was also amazing to do and you can read that here: https://bookmarkchronicles.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/summer-spotlight-series-jo/). I also did an interview for Literary Lovers Magazine, but I’m not quite sure when that’s going to be available. I’d love to do some more collaborations next year, so if you’d like to contribute something to my blog (especially if you’re a writer!) or you would like me to contribute to yours, then you can get in touch with me via Twitter @iloveheartlandX or email: jo.ell.x@hotmail.com.

12. Catch up with 2017 releases-Success, but could have done better

I had 12 books on this list and I’ve read 6 of them. So half. I could have done better sure, but I think this was a case of me being overenthusiastic rather than anything else, because thinking I would be able to read 12 missed releases this year was probably a bit optimistic!

So there we go, that’s how I did on my 2018 goals-10 out of 12 completed, I have to admit, I’m pretty satisfied with that, even if I could have done better on two of them, it’s the best I’ve ever done on my yearly resolutions! 2018 may have been a horrible year for the world, but it was a great year for my blog and I’m hoping that 2019 will be ever better. How about you guys? Did you make any goals for 2018? How did you do on them? Do you have any plans for goals for next year? Let me know in the comments!

You won’t have to wait too long to find out my 2019 goals, I think I’ll probably have them up on Wednesday. In the meantime, I will have my Best Books of 2018 up tomorrow as part of the first TTT topic of 2019, so stay tuned for that!