Writing Corner: On Struggling With Writer’s Block

Hi everyone! I know I’m cutting it a little fine with this month’s Writing Corner, but hey, it’s still August until tomorrow (also is it just me or has August been going on forever?). I was originally going to talk a little bit about TINALS sequel in this post, but I’ve not really had time to work on it over the last month and I’m going to be more focused on editing TINALS than I am on writing the sequel when I do get back to writing because I felt like I was on a roll with that before I started my summer job and I’d really like to continue and try and get my next round of revisions completed relatively soon. But anyway, enough about TINALS, since that is not the writing project that I’m going to be talking about today. No, today I’m talking about my other writing project, Underground Magicians, which I’ve kind of been taking an extended break from, because of the reason in the title: I have writer’s block.

I know a lot of authors that I admire have said that they don’t believe in writer’s block and that it’s just a case of finding your way through and I would love to believe that this is true, but honestly I genuinely feel like I have hit a brick wall with this project and I just don’t seem to be able to work my way out. I thought that taking a break from it might help and that I might feel inspired by something and go back to it, but that hasn’t really happened.

It’s definitely not that I don’t feel passionate about the project, I love my weird little underground tunnels book and the fact that I love this story and these characters so much is making it all the more infuriating that I can’t seem to find my way through this block.

For a little background, I started writing Underground Magicians last year, and it was my NaNoWriMo project. I wrote the first five chapters, then I found myself getting a little stuck. Thankfully I had an idea of where I wanted the story to end, so I left the start of the story where it was, and then jumped to the end and wrote the last 3-4 chapters & the epilogue. This was unusual for me, because I usually write chronologically, I did that with TINALS, with all of my fanfics and with everything I wrote when I was younger but since I knew how I wanted the story to end, I figured I would write the end and work my way back from there.

However, things haven’t quite worked out the way I wanted them to! I didn’t really suffer from any of the problems of not having a detailed outline when I wrote TINALS, because for the most part, the story flowed quite naturally. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone back and made quite a lot of edits since them, some of them quite major, but the base structure of the story was easy enough to get down. With Underground Magicians, for some reason or another though, whilst I know how the story starts and I know how it ends, I have no idea how many characters get from point A to point B.

Since NaNoWriMo last year, I’ve written three more chapters of the story, meaning I have eight chapters for the start and then 3-4 + the epilogue for the end, but now I’ve kind of stalled. I know basic plot points that need to happen in order to get Sophie and Mo where I need them to be at the end, but I don’t know how to string those plot points together!

The basic idea behind Underground Magicians is that Sophie (my main character) gets sucked into this world of Underground tunnels after she discovers that she has magic and then alongside her new friend/later love interest Mo (female character, this story has a f/f romance) she has to figure out why the tunnels keep moving and their friends keep disappearing, so the structure itself is very simple. I think the problem that I’m having, is that because the plot is relatively straightforward, I’m struggling to think of ways to make it exciting and I feel like a lot of what probably needs to happen between now and the ending is filler and maybe that’s why I can’t really think of what to write? Filler has never been my forte, I like the action packed stuff! I also get random ideas of things that I want to happen later on in the story and they will fit, but then I will have the same problem that I’ve been having so far, how to get to those things!

Also because I’ve never really suffered from writer’s block before, I don’t really know how to work my way through it! I thought that taking a step back from my project might help me, but honestly it just feels like I’ve been ignoring the problem. I thought about sitting down and writing out the plot that I have of my story so far and trying to work my way backwards to the point where I’ve got stuck but I’m worried that I’ll just get down what I’ve got so far and not be able to string together the rest of it.

I really don’t want to give up on this story, because I’ve really enjoyed writing what I have written so far and I want to see it completed, but at the moment, I’m not really quite sure how to proceed. I don’t want to force it, because I don’t think that will be helpful, but just waiting for ideas to come hasn’t really been that helpful for me either.

It’s just so frustrating because I was on such a roll with this book and was feeling so good about it and now I just feel like I’ve completely stalled out. I reckon this book could be really great if I ever manage to finish it, it’s just trying to get there that I’m struggling with. I have been doing great on editing TINALS, so it’s not like everything in my writing life is a total loss, but it’s hard not to feel like a bit of a failure when you can’t seem to make your other book work!

So I guess basically what I’m saying is that I need advice! Writers out there, how have you got over writer’s block? Have you ever got stuck with the middle of your book? What have you found to be the best way to work your way through it? Let me know in the comments!

I’m aiming to have another one of these up again next month-the idea is that I will hopefully do one of these a month for the rest of the year, so I should have four more of them before the year is out, though I don’t know what they will be about! If you are a writer and you would like to be featured in this series, then contact me on Twitter, @iloveheartlandX.

I don’t know what I will have for you soon, I am hoping to finish Tower of Dawn in the next few days, though that might be a little overoptimistic of me, but I will definitely have a review of that up sometime in the near future and of course a new Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday.



Jo Talks Books: Updated Tips For YALC Newbies (2018)


Hannah and I at YALC 2017

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry I didn’t get another discussion post for you done in June, with my Writing Corner posts and reviews and everything, I just didn’t have the time to write another one. Since YALC is just around the corner (FRIDAY PEOPLE, I AM SO EXCITED), I decided that my discussion post this month would be less of a discussion and more of a list of tips for people attending the convention this year. I did a tips post back in 2016, but I wanted to update it for you guys, since a couple of things have changed since 2016 and it’s always useful to have a fresh list of tips! Here we go, my top tips for attending YALC for the first time:

  1. Don’t worry about arriving before 10-you can actually avoid the queues if you arrive later

Okay so this one is kind of contrary to my top tip from 2016, but you actually don’t need to be there from ridiculous o’clock queuing to get in. I mean you can arrive at 9 and wait in the queue for an hour if you’re desperate to be the first in, but don’t sweat it if you’re a little late, there will still be people on the doors, there are all day and you might just avoid having to stand there sweating in a long queue-you’ll be doing enough of that inside the con! Also if you need to duck out during the day, you can, they stamp your hand so you can get back in if you leave the building.

2. Wear light and comfy clothes and shoes

It gets SUPER HOT in the convention centre, so please, please wear light and comfy clothes. I know it might seem fun to wear an extravagant and heavy cosplay costume, but you will boil and regret it later, so consider the heat when planning your cosplay. Also, I know this seems obvious, but consider bathroom manoeuvrability when planning your costume-you don’t want to have to be fiddling for hours just to go to the bathroom! Make sure the shoes you wear are comfortable also, there is a lot of walking and standing and not much seating (though I’m hopeful they might have changed that this year) so you don’t want your shoes to be rubbing all day!

3. Bring your own food and plenty of water (stowed separately from your books to avoid accidents though)

Food in the convention centre is super expensive, so you would be wise to bring your own, there is a Tesco Express just across the street from Olympia, so you can get food and water before going in, which I would very much advise! It’s going to be over thirty degrees on Friday and I think just as hot on Saturday and Sunday, so make sure you have plenty of water, you will want it!

4. Get cash out before you go in

Only the Waterstones stall and I think the odd other one take card, most stands are cash only. There is a cash machine just across the street from the building, so you can get cash just before you go in, though if you want to avoid potentially large queues for cash machines on the day, then I suggest getting money out beforehand.

5. Make use of the cloakroom

A lot of people bring suitcases and whilst that’s great, they can be kind of unwieldy, so I suggest bringing a separate bag to use for the books you want to get signed and stowing your suitcase, or any extra bags you have, in the cloakroom for the day. It’s at the far corner of the convention centre, near the agents arena (or at least it was last year, they might have changed where things are this year) and only costs £1 to use.

6. Bring a phone/IPod/Camera to take pictures with AND make sure it is fully charged before you go

You’ll probably want to take pictures with your favourite authors whilst there, so make sure you bring something to take pictures with. Also make sure that whatever device you are using is fully charged, because unless you have a portable charger, there is only one or two plugs in the convention centre, so if you run out, there’s a good chance you may not be able to use it for the rest of the day.

7. Only pick up the proofs you really want, otherwise you’ll end up with a whole load of books you’ll never read and deny other people who really wanted said proof of the opportunity to read it

So in the last couple of years, publishers at YALC have started giving away a load of free proofs-yay for us, free books that we get to read early! But only get the ones that you are really interested in reading, it will save space in your bag for books you want to buy, will make sure that everyone who actually wants the proofs can get them and will save you time because you don’t have to read something you don’t think you’ll like. It can be so easy to get overexcited because FREE BOOKS, but be picky and only get the proofs you are super excited for, not just random ones that you only pick up because they’re free. This kind of goes for books you buy as well, you don’t need to buy every single book you see, tempting as it might be-I have a lot of books from YALC that I’ll probably get rid of without reading because I just picked them up because they’re cheap!

8. Make sure you follow all the publishers and YALC on Twitter and have your notifications turned on

Publishers announce proof drops on Twitter-though I think they’re changing how they do things this year, but they’re still bound to have updates on Twitter, so you want to make sure you are following all the publishers so you can be updated. JennieLy has made a list of publishers on her Twitter account, so follow her and find out the publishers and you’re golden! Also make sure you follow the official YALC twitter account, they have lots of useful tips and bits of information on there that you will want to know.

9. Plan out who you want to see in advance-and take note of any clashes

YALC is a busy few days and it’s much easier to enjoy yourself if you’ve planned out who you want to see, what panels you want to see, what books you want to get signed and everything, in advance. That way, you won’t be rushing around like a headless chicken trying to do everything! If you know what times everyone’s signings and talks are, it is a lot easier to plan your time accordingly and make sure you get to see everyone you want to see.

10. Make sure you bring extra bags

You will be picking up a lot of stuff throughout the day, so it’s important to make sure that you have enough bags, so make sure you have enough places to store them and take advantage of any free tote bags that you get given during the day!

11. Bring a friend, and also make sure you interact with other people

Bookworms are really friendly, but it can be daunting going to these kinds of events alone, so I would definitely recommend going with a friend or a group of people. I’ve been going with my friend Hannah for the last three years and we’re bringing along another friend (also named Hannah) this year, and it’s so much more fun having someone to share your time with. But even if you do take friends, make sure to try and interact with people there, bookworms are so friendly, and you have to do something to pass the time in those long signing queues.

12. Have your money in an easily accessible place

I’ve had problems the last few years having to root around in my bag to find my money, so learn from my mistakes! This year, I’m taking a bumbag instead of my handbag and I think it’s a really great option, because it frees space in your main bag for more books and it means your money is easily accessible throughout the day and so I would definitely recommend!

13. Do take breaks throughout the day

It can be tempting to just rush around from panel to panel, signing to signing and buy all the books and I have definitely done that before, but when you’re getting tired, take some time to have a breather before rushing off to your next thing. Authors sign for several hours and the busy ones are ticketed, so you have time to take a breather, don’t refuse it!

14. Make sure you know if an author’s signing is going to be ticketed and get your ticket!

For really busy authors that are expected to have long queues, YALC has a ticketing system in place. They’ve refined this since the first time I had to use it and it’s a lot better now. If an author’s signing is ticketed, there will be a person standing around giving out tickets. Find them, get your ticket and then relax until your number is held up on the whiteboard (you may have to go back several times). Don’t miss out on the tickets, because if it’s a ticketed signing and you don’t have a ticket? Yeah, you’re not meeting that author. Last year both Alwyn Hamilton and Samantha Shannon had ticketed lines, so I suspect they might again, Tomi Adeyemi I would guess is likely to be ticketed and it’s already been announced that Tom and Giovanna Fletcher will be ticketed. Also take note of any limitations on number of books that can be signed; they usually don’t put a limit in, but check, you don’t want to look like an idiot by having more books than you’re allowed to have signed. Most signings won’t have a limit though!

15. Check the underground route before you go

If you’ve been to YALC before, or live somewhere with a direct link to Olympia, then this won’t be a problem, but if you’re new, getting to YALC via the underground can be a little confusing. You need to get to Earl’s Court underground station on the District Line and then change from there onto the special train for London Olympia (it only goes to Olympia, there are no other stops). If all else fails, follow anyone in cosplay because they are likely going to LFCC and YALC too.

16. Have fun!

YALC is an awesome weekend that only comes around once a year, so have a great time! Make the most of getting to see all these great authors and picking up free proofs and getting all these great books and just have the best time you can-I know I certainly will, there’s a reason Hannah and I go back every year!

So that’s it, that’s all I have; a slightly more comprehensive list of tips than my last one, though I know there are a few repeat tips in there! If anyone who has been to YALC thinks I’ve missed anything and wants to chime in with advice of their own, by all means do. Who else is going to YALC? Who are you all most excited to see? What days are you going? Basically chat to me about all things YALC in the comments-and if any newbies have anymore questions, feel free to ask, I have a fountain of YALC knowledge that’s only useful once a year, so use it!

If you are going to YALC, then by all means, say hi, I don’t bite (at least not often). I don’t know what I’ll be wearing yet, but I bought one of JennieLy’s beautiful lanyards, so if you see someone with a Hufflepuff lanyard, with my name (Jo Elliott), my blog’s name (BookLoversBlog) and my twitter handle (@iloveheartlandX) on it, then congrats, you found me!

I won’t have another discussion post for you this month, as I honestly just won’t have time, but I will be back with another one in August, about an as yet undecided topic! Also, I did an interview with Rachel Coleman over at Bookmark Chronicles which should be on her blog sometime in the next few weeks, so please follow her and give that a read when it comes out. Before then, I will have a new Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that.


Writing Corner: On Writing FanFiction and How It’s A Useful Tool For Aspiring Writers

Hi all! So before I get started on the post today, I have a little something for you guys, as a thank you for following me and supporting my blog. Literary Book Gifts is a company which sells book inspired items, it brings books to life on t-shirts, tote bags and backpacks. You can use the promo code BOOKLOVERSBLOG20 for 20% off anything at Literary Book Gifts (https://literarybookgifts.com), there is no minimum spend and it can be used at unlimited times. You can see an example of their products below:


As you can see, they have really beautiful stuff, so enjoy the discount! Once again, thanks everyone for all your support of my blog over the last four years.

Anyway, today I’m going to be talking about something that I did a lot of as a young writer, which is FanFiction. Fanfiction gets a bad rep sometimes on the internet, but then that’s not surprising since many fandoms are comprised of teen girls and we all know that it’s totally cool to hate on things that teen girls love *massive eyeroll*. But for me at least, fanfic was a great tool to explore and develop my writing within the framework of an existing story, so I’m going to talk a bit about my experiences writing fanfic today and why I think that it can* be helpful for aspiring writers (*obviously you don’t need to start off writing fanfic to make it as a writer, not every writer does and it’s not helpful for all writers, I am merely speaking for my experiences here).

So a little background on my history as a FanFic writer: I was a massive Glee fan back when it was still on (and yes I still enjoy bopping to the tunes on my IPod to this day, I loved the music and I’m not ashamed) and whilst I was watching the show, I came across Fanfiction.net. Now I’ve always been a writer, but when I was in my teens, I was kind of in a rough patch at school and even after I moved away from that school, I still wasn’t feeling very inspired about writing, but I did (and still do) feel very passionately about the TV shows I watched. Finding fanfiction was great for me, because I didn’t feel the pressure to come up with my own ideas, I could take this ready made set of characters and the world they inhabited and make them my own. I was a massive Finchel shipper on Glee, so I started writing stories about them, taking movies that I liked and twisting the story to suit them, twisting things that happened in the canon storyline on Glee and even creating my own characters.

Fanfic really opened up my creativity, I had been feeling a bit creatively blocked at the time in my life that I was writing it and Fanfic gave me an outlet that both allowed me to be really creative (I wrote a Finchel version of Ella Enchanted for instance) but also gave me a framework with which to work in, taking out the hard part of coming up with the original idea and characters. Some may say that’s lazy, but for fifteen year old me, having an existing structure to work in was so helpful, it allowed me to work on character and plot development without having to worry about not having a good enough idea to start writing and it was also super fun! Fanfic was also the first chance I had to get feedback on my writing, before then, anything that I had written I didn’t really share with anyone else, except maybe my family so I didn’t know if it was any good or not. With my fanfic, I got instant feedback on my work and I think it allowed me to improve as a writer. It also gave me practice in writing for an audience, as I would learn the things my readers liked from their comments and do more of that, and also the things they didn’t like, which I would try to improve and that was immensely helpful in my development as a writer.

Fanfic also allowed me to just flex that writing muscle, without having to worry about whether it was good or not, or about preparing something for publication. It gave me a chance to practice my writing and I think anything that allows you to practice your writing is inherently a good thing-it’s something I remind myself of whenever I feel guilty about spending more time on my blog or writing articles for The National Student than I do on my writing-even if I’m not working on my novel right now, doing this is not a waste of time, because I’m practising my writing. The more you flex that writing muscle, the stronger it gets, so it doesn’t matter if you’re writing blog posts, or articles, or fanfic or your novel, whatever you’re writing is helping you become a better writer.

Writing is an inherently solitary activity, but with fanfic, I got a whole community of people who loved writing as much as I did, and having their support and encouragement, knowing that there were people out there who liked my writing was definitely motivation to get back to my own writing, even if it took me over a year after I stopped doing fanfic before I started writing This Is Not A Love Story.

I stopped doing fanfic around the time I was doing my A-Levels because I simply didn’t have the time for it anymore and whilst I always meant to go back to it and I didn’t want to leave half my stories unfinished, once I started Uni, I was too busy to work on them and then I started writing TINALS and I’m now more interested in my original work than I am in fanfic (especially since much as I love Glee, I’m not as obsessed now as I was when it was still airing), but Fanfiction was an amazing tool for me, and I think it served its purpose. It allowed me to keep my creative well filled when I wasn’t sure I had characters of my own to write about, it gave me a community of writers to learn from and most importantly, it gave me a safe space to practice my writing.

So yeah, whilst Fanfiction might not be for everyone, it’s not the silly pastime of writers who just want to piggy back off others ideas’, it’s an outlet for fans to explore different avenues for the characters they love, it’s a way to practice writing, it’s a way to find a community and it’s all in all just a lot of fun. I will be forever grateful to the community of Glee fanfic writers, as they allowed me to discover amazing voices (I seriously hope some of these people do become published writers one days), gave me an audience for my stories and watched as I took more steps on the path to hopefully becoming a published author!

That’s it from me today, I hope this post has perhaps dispelled some of the myths surrounding fanfiction from the sceptics out there, and that it might have encouraged some young fanfic writers that what you’re doing is okay, fanfic is just as much “real” writing as anything else, we all have to start somewhere and Fanfiction can be an incredibly useful tool on the path to telling your own original stories, or if you are a fan who just enjoys playing around with characters in their favourite world and doesn’t have aspirations of being an author someday, that’s great too, having a creative outlet is a wonderful thing and you shouldn’t listen to anyone who scorns you for it!

Fellow writers, anyone else do fanfic when they were younger? What fandoms did you write for? Let me know in the comments!

I will hopefully have another one of these for you next month, I’d like to say talking about the sequel to TINALS, but honestly, I’m going to be so busy with work for the next month, that’s highly unlikely, so I guess you’ll just see what the post will be when I publish it! As always, if you are a writer and you would like to be featured on Writing Corner then get in touch with me, I am @iloveheartlandX on Twitter.

I will have my review of Radio Silence for you guys very soon (which I just realised was what I was meant to be writing instead of this post, whoops!) and also my Top Ten Tuesday post up on Tuesday, so stay tuned for those, lots of content coming your way soon-I do apologise if my posting is a little bit spotty through the rest of July and the first few weeks in August, my summer job is taking up a lot of my time!

Writing Corner: On This Is Not A Love Story, The Writing and Editing Process So Far

Hi all! I’m hoping to get one of these features up every month over the summer, since I’m not sure how busy I will be when I go back to Uni in September, so it will be nice to have some writing content up, in case I have to leave you with a few months without like I did in March and April when I had too much work to post 3 sets of long posts (discussion posts, reviews and these).

Today, I’m going to be talking about the process of writing and editing my first novel, This Is Not A Love Story, as I just sent it off to my critique partner after completing my first proper round of edits, so it seemed like a good time to talk about what the process of writing and editing it has been like so far. Just a fair warning, you may get a fair few of these types of posts, as This Is Not A Love Story is my main writing project at the moment and I’m hoping to get it ready for submission to agents and hopefully publication one day, so there will be a lot of updates here throughout the process.

For a little background, in case you are new to the blog and have no idea what I’m talking about when I talk about This Is Not A Love Story, I first started writing it in 2016, initially after a prompt from my uni’s Creative Writing Society, which was taking a first line from a famous story and writing something of your own based on that. The line I chose was “All stories are love stories”, and I wanted to write something to prove that didn’t necessarily have to be true, at least not in the romantic sense. I’ve written a lot on here about how frustrated I get that all YA stories seem to have to have a primary romance storyline, because although falling in love for the first time is part of a lot of teens lives, not all of us fall in love at 16 and personally when I was a teen, my friends were a lot more important to me than boys; heck they still are! Tiffany’s story is not defined by her relationships to the boys in her life, she’s not looking for romance, she wants the family and friends that she has never had and she finds that in Resistentia, the Resistance group she joins. Tiffany’s story is all about her journey to being able to use her new powers, learning to become a part of her new family and getting her revenge on the people she feels have wronged her.

I did my first draft of This Is Not A Love Story for NaNoWriMo in 2016. It was quite an intense experience, I’ve never written that much over that short a period of time before and I don’t really plan what I write as such, so there were some days where I got a bit stuck and didn’t really know where the characters where meant to go, but luckily, I have great friends and they were quite happy for me to bounce ideas off them. I didn’t actually finish TINALS during NaNoWriMo, but I was basically nearly there.

Then 2017 was kind of a dry spot for me in terms of progressing on TINALS. I’d never really had to edit my work properly before, when I did fanfiction, the most editing I would do is check for typos before I published it, so I’m not really used to looking to the flaws in my own work. I started on my second WIP, Underground Magicians and spent most of the year focusing on that, as all I was really able to do with TINALS was split it in to chapters (as I wrote it all as one long story) and check for typos.

Then this year, thanks to Megan Lally, I found #cpmatch on Twitter, a Critique Partner match up party, when you tweet about your book and people who are happy to work with you on it, will like your pitch and then you exchange chapters to see if you are a good fit. I got a few people liking my tweet about TINALS and sent my work out to them and I did get some decent feedback, but the one who gave me the best advice and has stuck, is my current CP Katie. I sent her over my first chapter and she had some really great insights onto how to make it better, I then sent over my entire MS and have spent the last four months revising TINALS before I finally sent it back to her this week.

Having a critique partner has been amazing for me. I’m not new to writing in the sense that I’ve been writing in one form or another pretty much ever since I learned how to, but editing? Yeah it is definitely something that I’m not used to, so having a second pair of eyes on my story to show where I’ve been going wrong and how I can make it better has been great for me. It was so much easier to see what needed work in my story when I had some outside impartial feedback about it. For me the hardest part about editing was knowing where to start, once I’d sent TINALS off to Katie and she’d read it, I had feedback about the bits that I needed to improve, so I had a starting point and once you have somewhere to work from, editing suddenly becomes a lot easier.

It’s actually kind of amazing how much TINALS has changed just in one revision. The bones of the story are the same, but I’ve gone for dual first person POV now, from both Tiffany and Cam, the main male lead (not romantic lead)’s POV which I think has made for a more well rounded story. People always talk about cutting in editing, but in actual fact, much of this first round of edits for me was adding in scenes to make my story more well rounded and reach the expected 70-80k words for YA fantasy. It was quite interesting for me, adding in Cam’s perspective, because he has quite a different view of the world and a different perspective from Tiffany, so having his POV allowed me to explore both the world I had created, and Tiffany herself through different eyes.

I also rewrote the entire ending, which was quite scary to do as it was the most changing I had to do anywhere in the story in my first round of edits, but after I had written the first draft, I had already decided that I wanted to change certain aspects of the ending (I don’t really want to say what, as it would be spoilers and I am hoping to get this story published one day) before I sent my story off to Katie for feedback and once I got her feedback on the ending, I entirely reworked it. I had originally envisioned this story as a standalone, but with my new ending, I’m definitely going to have at least one sequel, though I don’t know when I’m going to write it!

So that’s where I’m at right now; I’ve made my first significant revisions to TINALS, almost two years after I wrote the first draft. It has been a slow process but now that I have a critique partner, I am feeling a lot more confident about the revision process and I’m hoping that now I’ve passed the first major hurdle of initial revisions, that subsequent revisions will be a lot easier for me because I actually know what I’m doing now! I never really thought about the editing part of writing a book, it was much easier for me to focus on the initial writing part, but it is actually quite rewarding, taking what you originally had and making it better.

To round this all off, I thought I’d share with you a little snippet from TINALS so you guys can see what I’ve been working on for nearly two years. This is just the opening from the first chapter as I don’t want to give away too much! This is the first time I’ve ever shared my original writing on the Internet before, so please be kind!:

My name is Tiffany Sinclair, and this is the story of how I almost died. At this point you’ll probably feel the urge to go “Aww” or something equally sickening, but don’t. Note the almost. I’m very much alive. And I fully intend to take down the person who tried to kill me. No one hurts Tiffany Sinclair and gets away with it. No one. That person took away one of my best friends and for that they will pay.

The tale which led up to this tragic event, began on the day of my seventeenth birthday when I received the worst news of my life.

So there you have it, that has been my writing journey, at least for this story, in a nutshell over the past two years. There is still a LONG way to go before TINALS ever sees the light of day, but for now, I’m really happy to be working on Tiffany’s story, and I hope that one day, it will be on shelves and teens like me will be able to read it and see that not having romance in your life is not the be all, end all and you can still have exciting adventures without it!

Okay, fellow writers! What have you been writing recently? How long have you been working towards getting something publication ready? Any agented writers out there? Let me know in the comments!

I’m hoping to have another one of these for you next month, although I’m not sure what I’m going to be writing about yet. If you are a writer and you would like to be featured on this, then you can contact me on Twitter, @iloveheartlandX.

I will have my latest Top Ten Tuesday post up on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that.

Writing Corner: On My Writing Playlist

Hi everyone! I’m really sorry that it has been so long since I last did one of these, March and April were ridiculously busy for me, what with assignment due dates and exams for Uni, so I didn’t have time to sit down and write any long posts besides my discussion posts and reviews.

Today I’m going to be talking about something that is an integral part of my writing process: music. I know writers have different opinions on this, some can’t live without it, some prefer to work in silence, some like music with lyrics, some prefer scores, there are a wide variety of opinions out there about the role of music in the writing process. But I’m not going to talk about the merits of each option today, I’m going to talk about how music plays a role in my own writing process and give you guys a little inside look into my Writing Playlist.

For me personally, I can’t work without some form of background noise. It’s why I hate exams so much, I find the complete silence weirdly distracting! I do occasionally do my writing whilst watching TV or movies, but for the most part, I use the Writing Playlist that I have set up on my IPod. It gets me into the writing mindset, every time I turn it on, I know that for the next hour or so it’s time to write. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t occasionally flick back to Twitter and get distracted, but for the most part, when I turn on my writing playlist, I know that it’s time to settle down and concentrate on my writing.

When I first started writing This Is Not A Love Story, I used playlists from YouTube whilst I was writing, but I tended to listen to the same songs I had on my IPod anyway, so I decided to draw up a playlist on my IPod that I could just use every time I sat down to write. My writing playlists can be pretty easily broken down into six sections; Musical Soundtracks, Film Soundtracks, TV Soundtracks, Taylor Swift songs, Ed Sheeran songs, and other miscellaneous music, so for this post, I’m going to briefly explore each of these sections. I can’t go into too much depth, I have over 400 songs on my Writing Music playlist!

Musical Soundtracks

Honestly, a lot of these come under film soundtracks as well, but to make it easier, I will include all the ones that were originally musicals in this section (even if it is the film soundtrack that I have) and just put the ones that are only films in the next section.

  • Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

Of course Hamilton is on my Writing Playlist. Honestly, for most of second year after my friend Nicola introduced me to it, Hamilton was my study soundtrack as well! I wrote quite a bit of This Is Not A Love Story whilst listening to Hamilton on YouTube, so now that I have the full cast album, it’s on my Writing Playlist. There’s nothing that can pep you up to write better than listening to songs like “My Shot” and “Right Hand Man”!

  • Wicked: Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

I wrote a very memorable section of my first draft of TINALS whilst listening to Defying Gravity, it really was the perfect song to complement Adrianna and Avery riding a flaming dragon at full speed through underground tunnels. Seriously though, this soundtrack is just awesome and I find it so great to write to!

  • Hairspray: 2007 Movie Cast Soundtrack

Hairspray is one of my favourite musicals, but I only actually got the chance to see it on stage last year, so the movie soundtrack is the one I have grown up on! I love this soundtrack, for the most part, it’s really upbeat and a lot of fun to write to.

  • The Last Five Years Movie Soundtrack

Again, I saw the movie before I even knew that this one was a musical, so that’s the soundtrack that I have. Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan are both great and there’s so much variety in just the one soundtrack, no two songs sound the same and it’s great to have that kind of variety on my writing playlist because it means I can pick a song that suits the scene I’m writing that day.

  • Mamma Mia: Original West End Soundtrack

I added this to my IPod after I went to the show last August, I love Mamma Mia the movie, but the stage show was just amazing, and had the added bonus that I could have the soundtrack a) without having to buy it on ITunes as my family already had the CD and b) without Pierce Brosnan’s singing!

  • Chicago Movie Soundtrack

I only have a couple of the songs, but I am hoping to get more, I feel like my main character Tiffany and Roxie Hart would probably be friends!

Movie Soundtracks

  • Moulin Rouge

Of course I have my favourite movie soundtrack on my writing playlist. I don’t actually own all the songs from the soundtrack yet, but I will, so far I just have my favourite ones.

  • The Greatest Showman

This soundtrack is just AH-MAZING and is so great for getting me pepped up and in the mood to write!

  • Country Strong

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this often before, but I do quite like country music, and so the soundtrack from this country music drama is perfect for me to write to.

  • Assorted Disney music

I don’t really have any one single album from a Disney movie, I have various different songs from various different movies. The Lion King and The Lion King 2 soundtracks are big features, I have several songs from both the live action and animated Beauty and The Beast movies. I have the best songs from Mulan (I’ll Make A Man Out of You, great for fight scenes) and Reflection. I have my favourite song from Hercules (I Won’t Say I’m In Love) and Let It Go from Frozen. That’s all for now, but I’m sure I’ll be adding more Disney songs in the future.

TV soundtracks

  • Nashville Cast soundtrack

Again, I’m not sure how much I’ve mentioned it here, but I’m a big fan of the TV show Nashville, and a lot of their music has made its way onto my Writing playlist. I don’t have any songs from Season 6 yet, they’re not available on UK ITunes (I don’t think) but I have all my favourites from 1-5.

  • Glee Cast soundtrack

I have less of these than I used to, because I’m not as big of a Glee fan as I was a few years ago, but despite the show being over, I do still like to listen to some of their songs from time to time.

Taylor Swift music

  • I have all six of Taylor Swift’s studio albums, plus a couple of songs that she’s done for movie soundtracks and of course they are all on my Writing Playlist, because there’s nothing like listening to one of your favourite artists to get you in the mood for writing.

Ed Sheeran music

  • I have all of the music from his last two albums on my writing playlist, most of Ed Sheeran’s music is quite relaxing which makes it good to write to and the more fast paced ones are good for giving me energy when I’ve been writing for a while!

Other music

  • Lucy Hale’s album Road Between

I was a massive fan of Pretty Little Liars, so naturally when Lucy Hale released an album, I bought it straight away. I wasn’t expecting much, but it’s actually become one of my favourites, I have songs from it on both my Writing Playlist and my Running Playlist.

  • Kelly Clarkson

I love Kelly Clarkson’s music, so of course I have a few of her songs on my Writing Playlist, bangers like Since U Been Gone for more fast paced scenes and emotional ones like Because of You for more sad scenes.

  • McFly

Like many people who were young in the 00’s, I really loved McFly, so for the sake of nostalgia and because they have some really great tunes, I have a few of their songs on my writing playlist.

  • Queen

I have some of Queen’s greatest hits on my Writing Playlist, Bohemian Rhapsody, Don’t Stop Me Now, We Will Rock You, Somebody To Love. I would like to have more when I can afford to buy new music as I love Queen!

  • Colbie Caillat

I really love Colbie Caillat’s music, she has some great tunes and the ones I have are all quite relaxing, which help me get into the right mindset for writing.

  • Christina Aguilera

Fighter was basically made for writing fight scenes!

  • Christina Perri

Human, A Thousand Years, Miles and Jar of Hearts are all lovely songs that I just like to listen to when I’m writing. Say Something, her song with A Great Big World is also beautiful and perfect for emotional scenes.

  • Sara Barielles

Sara Barielles’ music is just beautiful and great for when I need to write a more emotional scene.

I do have various other random songs from different artists on my Writing Playlist, but this is already quite a long post, so I’ll stop there! I hope this has given you at least a little insight into my taste in music and my writing process.

Over to you! Do you use music to help in your writing process? Or do you prefer to write in silence? What kind of music do you like to use? Let me know in the comments!

I don’t know when I’ll next have one of these for you, hopefully next month, I think I’ll be talking in a little more depth about my novel, This Is Not A Love Story, as I’m editing it right now. If you’re a writer and would like to contribute to this feature then you can contact me on Twitter, @iloveheartlandX.

I will have my latest review for you soon and my latest Top Ten Tuesday post up tomorrow, so keep your eyes out for those!


Writing Corner: On My Writing Inspirations and How They Have Changed Over The Years

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while, my first post of these was kind of just to test the waters and see whether it would be worth continuing this series. This year however, I’m hoping to expand this feature even more, to have an outlet to talk about my own writing and also hopefully share writing and writing stories from other writers in the community.

Today’s topic is inspired by a conversation I had on Twitter. I was talking to someone about my favourite books and one of the examples I gave was A Darker Shade of Magic, and I said that when I was younger, my writing inspiration was JK Rowling but right now I said my writing inspiration was VE Schwab. This got me thinking about how I’ve changed as a writer and how my inspirations have changed as I’ve grown up and become more serious and dedicated to my authorial pursuits.

The writing bug was first ignited in me when I read Harry Potter for the first time as a kid. I was so enthralled by the magic and the sense of wonder I got from reading those books and I was determined that when I was older, I was going to be exactly like JK Rowling. I mean we even had the same first name, to my young brain, it seemed perfectly natural that one day I could be like the woman who wrote these stories that I loved so much.

Now obviously, my expectations have grown more realistic as I’ve got older. I know, that realistically, I’m highly unlikely to sell a story that becomes a global and cultural phenomenon. But that initial desire, to write a story that captivates people, that touches people and gives them a sense of wonder and hope and inspiration, that hasn’t gone away.

But the kind of story that is has changed a lot over the years. I’ve tried my hand at writing a lot of different things, zany playscripts, a Cluedo style murder mystery, a Thirteen Reasons Why type contemporary, a secret agent type story involving bears as spies, all sorts of things. However I actually wrote very little, if any fantasy to start off with, despite that being the genre that I loved the most from a very young age. It’s only really in the last few years that I’ve started writing my own fantasies and I think the reason is the authors I’ve been reading. When I was younger, I only really had Harry Potter as a fantasy inspiration, but there have been so many amazing fantasies brought out as I’ve been growing up and I’ve had such a wealth of amazing writers to choose from and so what I’ve written has changed to reflect that.

In terms of writing style, I would say my biggest inspirations are Derek Landy and Rick Riordan, which is unsurprising, considering those two writers series’ were my biggest obsessions during my teen years, it stands to reason that when writing YA, the writers I was obsessed with in my teens have really influenced me. The snappy dialogue and the sarcastic humour were massive draws for me, but also the fact that their writing is fun and engaging and it has a really strong voice, and that’s always been the sort of thing that I love. So naturally, I have tried to incorporate that into my own writing (in my own way of course), because I want to write the things that I love to read. I could try being more descriptive, more flowery, but that’s never been me, and I don’t think it will ever be my characters either. In terms of my books, I want all of them to have some sense of me in them, that only I could have written them and that’s something I’ve got from my favourite authors I think, that no matter what they write, there’s an underlying sense of their personality, their soul, in each of their books.

Victoria Schwab is probably one of my biggest writing inspirations right now, I love how inventive and creative she is, how no two of her books are the same, but like I said above, you can tell they were all written by her because there is this underlying sense of her personality running through all of her books. I was actually talking to a friend, explaining Underground Magicians (having recently told her about the Shades of Magic books) and she was like “oh that sounds like those books you were telling me about!”, which was totally unintentional, but I think it just goes to show how much she has influenced me and my writing. Lila Bard was definitely a huge inspiration for Tiffany in TINALS, not so much Sophie in Underground Magicians, but one of the things I’ve definitely taken from Victoria’s writing is how to write an awesome female MC. The elemental magic system in TINALS was partially inspired by the magic in ADSOM, but also from Skulduggery Pleasant, and various other books that have used that kind of magic. However, much like with JK Rowling, it isn’t necessarily aspects of her writing that have inspired me the most, it’s the feeling that I get from reading her work. Her fantasies are these amazing, totally immersive adventures, and I want my readers to feel like that if I ever actually get a book out into the world. Like they just want to sit there and dive into this world and not come out again until the story is over. I also love how honest Victoria Schwab is about her writing and the difficulties she has with it, it makes me feel a whole lot better on days when I want to bang my head against a wall because a plot point just won’t work!

One of my inspirations for Underground Magicians is one that I didn’t even realise until today, Sophie McKenzie’s The Medusa Project. One of the coolest things about that book (though it’s not a fantasy as such), is that all of the characters have very different psychic powers and it’s something I’ve taken into Underground Magicians, as all of the characters have very different magic powers and it’s not based on one specific system, like the elements in TINALS. I also think the relatively fast pace of my writing is something that I got from reading a lot of Sophie McKenzie when I was younger, she always wrote really snappy, sharp, engaging plots and that’s something that I hope comes across in my work as well!

Sarah J Maas has also been a massive inspiration for me in recent years. You can say whatever you like about the problematic elements to her books, and there are many, I’m not saying I aspire to those, but she has been writing since she was a teen and managed to get a story that she wrote in its first iteration at 16 published, and that to me, as a young writer is really inspiring. Celaena was also definitely a huge influence in the character of Tiffany in TINALS, I loved seeing a character who wasn’t necessarily always the most likeable, but she was determined and feisty and went after what she wanted and has a bit of a flair for the dramatic! She also writes really great female friendships and that’s something that is massively important to me in my own books.

Everything I’ve read has in some way contributed to the writer I am today, but there are certain authors, like the ones I’ve mentioned in this post today, who have a special place in my heart, whose writing I have connected with on such a deep level that you can see their influences in what I write myself. My ideal is that one day, what I write will be published and I’ll be able to influence a younger generation of writers in the same way that these authors have influenced me!

So over to you? What authors have influenced your writing? Have your writing inspirations changed as you’ve grown up? Let me know in the comments!

I don’t know when I’ll next be doing one of these, I’m hoping for maybe once a month, but it will depend on when I have time to sit down and write! I’m really hoping to get other writers to contribute to this feature, so if you’re a writer and you’re interested in being featured on my blog, then holler at me on Twitter, I’m @iloveheartlandX. I have a few people who’ve already noted interested and no, I haven’t forgotten about you, I’ve just been busy!

My next new post will be my newest TTT on Tuesday, but I will also have a very special post next week celebrating four years of blogging (FOUR! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?), so stay tuned for that!



Make Me Read It Read-a-thon Introduction Post

First off, I would like to apologize for the tardiness of my weekend memes, I’ve kind of been a little behind on all things blogging related this week, so I’m hoping to do a big sweep of my Saturday, Sunday and Monday memes tomorrow so that by Tuesday, I will be back on my regular schedule! Second of all I would like to announce that I’m going to be taking part in the Make Me Read It Read-a-thon. This is a Read-a-thon created by Val @ The Innocent Smiley and Ely @ A Book So Fathomless. Basically the idea of this read-a-thon is that you pick out books from your shelf (or e-reader if you are that way inclined), and choose however many you want (more than you know you will be able to read in a week). You then put up a post (like this one) and then get other bloggers, friends, anyone who reads your post, to vote on what you have to read during the week. The Read-a-thon is from 8am on the 20th July to 12am on the 27th July.

I’m going to give you several options for how you vote for what you want me to read:

-You can leave your choices in a comment on this post

-You can DM me through my twitter account (my twitter handle is @iloveheartlandX)

-You can use the read-a-thon hashtag #MakeMeRead and then add the name of the book or books you want me to read (make sure you include my twitter handle in your tweet though, or else I won’t see it).

On to the books you can choose from, I have eight books on this list and I’m allowing you four choices each. The four most popular books will be the books that I will read (although I’m not guaranteeing I will read all four). Please only vote once each (as in only vote for your four choices once and not several times) as it will be much easier for me to keep track of that way. Anyway, I’m rambling now, here are your choices:

IMG_0160 IMG_0161IMG_0163IMG_0164IMG_0165IMG_0166IMG_0167IMG_0168In case any of the pictures are a little blurry, I’ll do a list of the titles as well:

1. A Court of Thorns and Roses

2. Ink and Bone

3. Red Queen

4. The Knife of Never Letting Go

5. Before I Fall

6. Look Who’s Back

7. Code Name Verity

8. Allegiant

So vote for whichever four of those you want, in whichever way you want, whether it be comment, DM on twitter or #MakeMeRead followed by the book (or books) that you want. I reserve the right to switch to another book if I find myself getting stuck during the read-a-thon, after all the point of this is to read as many books as possible right? For those of you wondering why Before I Fall is on there as it was supposed to be my current read, I got a little bored and had to switch to something else, but I am willing to try again. Anyway, have fun and choose some great books for me, please!