The Bleak Soul of America: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

3 stars

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Where do I even begin to start with this one? American Gods is a book that I’ve wanted to read for quite some time now. If you’ve seen the novel, you’ll know that it’s definitely not a short read (640 pages!) so after experiencing a sudden burst of motivation to tackle something chunky, I grabbed it off the shelf and got down to it.

Just as American Gods isn’t a short read, it’s also not a simple book. If you’re looking for a fun story in which a bunch of gods engage in humorous hijinks in modern day America, this isn’t the story for you. What it is, is a highly ambitious novel which tackles some very significant and complex themes, and in doing so Gaiman doesn’t hesitate in discussing the uglier sides of them. Love, redemption, sacrifice, religion/belief, people’s relationship with technology, death, American culture, power, I could go on, and on and still wouldn’t be able to cover everything captured by the scope of this novel. In essence, it’s a literature student or book club’s dream – you could spend forever analysing and discussing its various components and still not have scratched the surface. If you enjoy reading things that have deeper philosophical undertones and force you to question things about the world, this will likely be a winner for you.

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PLOT

The plot of American Gods can be a little hard to narrow down, especially since, as I said, it’s not really about the plot or the characters. The story centres around Shadow Moon, who at the novel’s start has just been released from prison early for good behaviour. This just happens to be the same day that he finds out his wife has been tragically killed in a car accident. On the plane trip home he meets a man who introduces himself only as ‘Mr Wednesday’ and offers Shadow a job. As I’m sure you already know, Wednesday is a god, one of the old gods (*spoiler* Odin, in fact), who believes the time has come for those of his kind to rise up against the new gods (e.g. television, technology, media) to avoid being rendered powerless entirely – I think. Shadow is to come along and perform tasks as Wednesday requires them in order to convince various gods to join his cause.

For the first two hundred pages, I was really engaged by the story and tore through it, excited to see which gods would show up and how they would be represented. Most importantly I wanted to find out where this was all heading (hopefully toward an epic battle). However, somewhere around the middle my mind started to wander…a lot, and this is largely because there were more and more scenes which didn’t seem to obviously contribute to the broader plot. For example, Shadow’s time in the town of Lakeside increasingly bored me with its monotony (almost freezes to death, buys a car, has a conversation with some towns person…blah, blah) and only served to introduce some minor subplots which weren’t given any resolution until after the main storyline was over.

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The novel has a couple of other rough patches but it does manage to get back on track somewhat toward the end.

The end is satisfying to a degree and does involve a plot twist however I can’t seem to shake several large questions. The biggest one is what the gods hoped to achieve by killing each other in the first place. Does killing a god erase them from the minds of human believers? Does the belief that was fuelling that god then redirect to other gods? Was there any guarantee that by getting rid of the opposing class of gods people would believe more in the winning side? If not, the whole reason this war actually comes about makes absolutely zero sense.

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Then again, large parts of the plot are a bit on the weird and muddled side, which often gives the impression that it’s very much secondary to the themes and ideas that Gaiman wanted to address. It’s probably why the book didn’t successfully manage to float my boat.

Characters

Character wise, American Gods is full of diverse and interesting individuals – god, human and everything in between. Shadow himself is a reasonably likeable central character with his sense of loyalty and desire to do right by people. Yet, I do have to say that even after over 600 pages I didn’t feel particularly attached to any of the major characters in the novel. Surprisingly, the characters I enjoyed the most were found in the small interlude chapters scattered throughout the book, detailing events largely separate from what’s going on in the main story.

Writing

This was my first experience with Neil Gaiman and going in, I was definitely curious considering how highly he’s regarded in fantasy circles. If there’s one thing I can say about him with complete certainty, it’s that he’s an extremely creative and intelligent author. However, I get the feeling that his writing style may not be suited to me. His descriptions are extensive and the product of clearly immense amounts of research. Consequently I found myself skimming a great many paragraphs devoted to describing bars, landmarks, and other environments. His dialogue can also be a little on the clunky side sometimes, although I will admit that he does have some good moments. For a great example, look up Sam Black Crow’s speech about what she believes and doesn’t believe in. Personally I believe in the power of cake and that pixies steal one of my socks every time the laundry gets done, but that’s just me…

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American Gods is the kind of novel that will definitely appeal to a particular kind of reader but it’s also one that will just as easily turn off someone else. In my case, it’s a book that I can admire for what it seeks to discuss and achieve, and although I did enjoy particular sections it’s not something I would ever seek to re-read or rave about.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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Let’s Talk: Bookish Merchandise

One of the best (and possibly worst financial wise) things bookstagram has introduced to me is bookish merchandise. Who knew there was an even greater way for me to prove just how big a nerd I am? Now that I’ve started, it’s almost impossible to stop! If I’m being honest, I really don’t need any of the stuff I’ve bought under this heading and yet, to sound like an angry two year old at Toys R Us, I WANT it. So, for fun, here are some of my favourite kinds of bookish merch.

Bookmarks

This one’s kind of obvious and at the very least they serve an actual, functional purpose. Do I need millions to choose from? Probably not. Do I collect them anyway and then proceed to stare at them adoringly, why yes, yes I do.

One of my fave types of late are the magnetic character ones. They’re just so damn cute. I don’t even actually use them. Firstly, because I’d want to use all of the main characters at once and who has the time to move six bookmarks at a time, and second, because I’m terrified of tearing my pages . I just stick them on a string across my book case and once I run out of room on that string, I’ll start another one. There’s so many different sizes and designs, and they’re really fun to collect. Plus they don’t take up too much room. Two of my favourite sources at the moment are Nerdygrldesigns and Designs by Theia, both of which can be found on etsy.

The other category of bookmarks that I’m super in love with are wood marks. To be brief – they’re like bookmarks…but made of wood. Whoa. Out there man, I know. They’re gorgeous designs printed onto thin, lovely slices of wood and because of this, every bookmark is unique. They’re light, don’t get turned up at the corners and fit nicely inside the book itself. My supplier is Ink and Wonder Designs. The shipping is super fast and also ridiculously cheap (free in Aus!).

Bookish Candles

I don’t understand my fascination with candles. They burn. That’s it. And yet, they’re just so pretty…(there’s clearly a repressed arsonist buried deep down somewhere). I especially love scented candles. There are so many companies out there now that make scents inspired by different characters, locations and events from popular books. Want something that reminds you of Outlander’s Scottish highlands or The Raven Boys’ Cabeswater? There’s a candle. Always wondered how the mix of smells Feyre attributes to Rhysand comes together? There’s a candle for that. Want to make your room smell like HP’s The Three Broomsticks? Well, you get the point. My go to shop is Burning Page Candles. The products are great but honestly, it’s one of the few bookish candle shops in Aus. Want to see something scarier than a horror movie? Check out shipping rates for candles from the US to Australia. Absolutely terrifying.

Candles

For other Aussie bookworms, there’s also Kool and Co in Perth. US & UK book lovers, the world is your oyster – there are HEAPS of companies – Reverie Library, Meraki Candles, Flickering Tales, Novelly Yours, A Court of Candles, and so on…

Art Prints

Another fairly obvious one. There are some absolutely amazing and talented artists out there that manage to bring life to fictional locations and characters in ways you can’t even imagine. I discover new artists on instagram all the time. The problem is holding myself back from going shopping crazy. You have only so much wall space, Ashley. Society6 is my go to place for prints. You can get them in a number of different sizes and the site often has promotions with free shipping. WIN! So if you’re keen for a couple of Kaz and Inej pics or maybe some fabulous A Darker Shade of Magic quotes, this is the go to.

Tote Bags

I bought a bookish tote a few months back and it’s become one of my favourite buys. There’s nothing better than popping it in my handbag, knowing I’ll be bringing it home full of brand new books. Looks awesome AND I’m helping the environment. Woo! A lot of designers will translate their art print designs onto things like tote bags so places like Red Bubble and Society6 are great for finding these but there’s also individual designers’ etsy pages. I thank EvieBookish for my gorgeous tote! However I’ll continue to sit here patiently until Charlie Bowater’s fabulous Six of Crows tote is available for general purchase… *twiddles thumbs*

Jewellery

I absolutely adore my golden snitch and Arwen Everstar necklaces. I really should branch out and find some more bookish jewellery – people on Insta keep making me jealous! You’ve got your direct examples like Hunger Games Mockingjay pins or Mortal Instruments angel necklaces but across Etsy you can also find some more subtle examples like pendants and earrings. A popular style I’ve noticed lately is those with cut outs from book pages to highlight a few words or a phrase. Desperate for a pair of earrings which show off your true love of Sherlock Holmes or the fact that you’ll never ship anyone as hard as Elizabeth and Darcy? Well, Etsy is the destination for you.

Pop Vinyls

Custom pop figurines for book characters have seemingly become a massive thing all of a sudden. The quality varies from site to site and they’re usually not cheap (understandably of course) but some of them are absolutely awesomely done. I don’t own any custom pops – I own a lot of regular ones (especially Harry Potter ones) but I have been tempted in the past by the occasional well put together one.

And that’s quite enough for now I think! Before you ask, no I don’t rep for any of these companies – just thought I’d share some bookish merch love.

Do you collect any bookish merchandise? If so, what’s your weakness? Shirts, mugs, perhaps tea (yes, it does exist)?

What are some of your favourite online stores? Air hugs and rainbows if they have good Aussie shipping rates *winks*. 

The Stranger Things Book Tag

I love Stranger Things and haven’t done a book tag in a while. I’ve seen this one pop up a few times over the last few months so I thought I’d give it a whirl.


EPIC INTRO

THE OPENING SEQUENCE OF STRANGER THINGS IS AMAZING AND REALLY GRABS YOUR ATTENTION. NAME A BOOK THAT GRABBED YOUR ATTENTION FROM THE FIRST PAGE.

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie doesn’t start off with a bang, it’s actually quite a subtle and slow build up to the action, but because you know where the story is going, you hang off every detail and word.

Illuminae by Amie Kauffman & Jay Kristoff – I can’t explain why, but I was hooked from the start. There’s a break up, a planet gets attacked and evacuated, and then the fleeing ships are being chased down by a villainous corporation. Pretty good start if you ask me.


DUNGEONS & DRAGONS

NAME A FANTASY WORLD YOU WOULD LIKE TO EXPERIENCE YOURSELF.

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I wish I could be unpredictable, I really, really do but…I’m not. So let’s just say I want to go to Hogwarts and move right along (I’d also take Diagon Alley or Hogsmead too if they’re up for grabs).


 SQUAD GOALS

WHEN ELEVEN MET MIKE, DUSTIN AND LUCAS IT WAS A *MOSTLY* PERFECT TEAM. NAME YOUR FAVOURITE BOOKISH GROUP OF FRIENDS.

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To go for something other than Six of Crows or ACOTAR, I’m going to pick the shadowhunters of the London Institute in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series. Tessa, Will, Jem, Charlotte, Henry and Jessamine each have their own quirky personalities but they work really well together and never fail to make me smile.


ABC’S & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

JOYCE BYERS GOES MAD WITH GRIEF AFTER WILL GOES MISSING. NAME YOUR FAVOURITE MENTALLY UNHINGED CHARACTER

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Let’s go with Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs for this one. He’s nuts, a cannibal, and yet also intelligent and charming. Hmmm….


THE UPSIDE DOWN

NAME A BOOK THAT WAS THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU EXPECTED.

Geekerella

I’m actually going to pick Geekerella by Ashley Posten for this one. Not because it was different from what I expected story wise but because I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. As you guys know, I don’t read much YA contemporary and I read this after being disappointed by When Dimple Met Rishi, expecting another bleh book. To my surprise it wasn’t, it was fun!


MAD SCIENTISTS

BRENNER LIKES TO GET FREAKY WITH HUMANITY. NAME THE FREAKIEST DYSTOPIAN GOVERNMENT YOU CAN THINK OF.

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Gilead of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Hands down. There are a lot of crazy governments in dystopian books that I’ve read but this one actually terrifies me. It’s because it’s so much more believable as Atwood drew only on practices that have actually happened at some point in some part of our world to create it.


DEMOGORGON

NAME A SCARY BOOKISH CREATURE THAT YOU WOULD NOT WANT TO COME THROUGH YOUR WALLS.

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So, I forget entirely what it’s called but there’s a giant worm in Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff which vomits up its own stomach to trap people before sucking it back in. I vaguely remember there being some kind of acid involved too.  In other words, no thanks…


CLIFFHANGER ENDING

NAME A BOOK THAT LEFT YOU WANTING MORE.

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Everything definitely went to crap at the end of A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab (for the characters that is, not in terms of story quality). So I was definitely super keen to get my hands on book three but unfortunately had to wait several months.


As always, if you feel like engaging in a little book tag/Stranger Things fun, go for it and tag me so I can see your answers!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books already on my 2018 TBR

Happy New Year!

A new year means a new Goodreads reading goal and more chances to reduce my ever growing TBR pile. Technically this is next week’s TTT topic but eh, going to do it this week instead (TTT is a weekly meme courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish). So here are ten (already released) books that I’m looking forward to tackling this year. Yes, just ten. Trust me, it was hard narrowing it down.

Top 10 TBR 2018

There are so many I want to read and there’ll be even more as new things are released over the year (Did someone say Obsidio or a A Court of Frost and Starlight?), but that’s a list for another time.

What books are on your TBR for this year? Have you read any of these and if so what did you think?

Music, Monsters, and Friendship: This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab

4 stars

TSS

What if the worst deeds of humanity somehow created something living, breathing and equally monstrous?

It’s a simple concept, but it’s one that Victoria Schwab takes and, unsurprisingly, manages to turn into an engaging story full of shocking twists and interesting characters. Schwab herself describes TSS as: Sin City + Romeo & Juliet – Romance + Monsters, and to be honest, this is a pretty much perfect explanation of the book. The story is set in the troubled city of Verity, plagued by the existence of terrifying monsters which are formed by violent acts. The province is split down the middle between two very different controlling powers (or houses, if you want to use the R+J analogy). In the north, there’s Callum Harker, the powerful crime lord who has devised a way to control the monsters whilst demanding payment from citizens for continued “protection”. In the south lies the Flynn family, set on simply exterminating the monsters and who possess a zero tolerance for the individuals who create them. For some time there’s been a truce between the two families which has continued to grow increasingly rocky over the years, with a break down expected to be imminent. And so, when Harker’s teenage daughter Kate returns to the city, the Flynns send their youngest family member, August, to school with her to gather intel. As you can expect, this all gets very messy when an attempt is made on Kate’s life and blamed on the Flynns. But who’s behind it and is it as simple as it seems? If you guessed no, you’d be right.

Plot

I’m not sure what I expected going into TSS but it wasn’t what I got. I have a feeling I didn’t read the blurb properly, (probably too busy jumping for joy at the idea of having another Schwab series to read). The first part of the novel sets up our two main characters and establishes the flip sides of the pretty dystopian world they live in. From here, to my surprise, it moves into an almost typical high school setting involving classroom learning, social politics, and friendly banter over lunch. It’s a little odd to get used to at first amongst all the broader fear of getting brutally murdered. Yet, this section of the book provides essential scenes for the development of August and Kate’s relationship as well as their individual characters. We also never forget about the broader implications of what is happening inside the high-school ‘bubble’ as these scenes are balanced out by each character’s experiences outside of school hours. The last third of the book is a The Fugitive like section in which we see our two-some on the run. It’s during this part that we get some great action packed scenes, emotional conversations between Kate and August, and entertaining twists which kept me entertained as well as drove me to pick up book two pretty quickly.

Characters

One of the best parts of the book is the sense of duality between August and Kate. Schwab has said that her inspiration for this story came from a line she wrote in Vicious:

“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.” 

It’s very easy to see how this was utilised to create her two main characters here. As the daughter of quite a monstrous person, Kate goes through a large part of TSS determined to live up to the reputation of her father. To not only survive, but rule, a place like Verity, Kate believes that she needs to be cruel, cold, and dangerous. In other words,  that she, too, needs to be a monster. Her father is the only family she has left and for reasons even she doesn’t fully understand, she desperately craves his approval and acceptance. The only problem is that Kate is a far better person than her father and he’s not in any way someone she should aspire to be. It’s something she comes to realise eventually but it takes time. The slowness of this development may come across annoying and unlikeable for some people, but looking at the underlying reasoning for her actions, I quite liked Kate and found her to be a good, strong character in the moments that mattered.

August, on the other hand, is a monster. A Sunai, August is driven to reap the souls of the impure which he achieves through the enchanting melodies of his violin. This is something he takes very little pleasure in, unlike that of his older ‘brother’, Leo, but it’s a process necessary to his existence. It’s a well-used trope, the monster who wishes he were anything but, and yet August never felt cliché to me. Instead of spending all his time moping about the nature of his existence, August simply tries to live his life as if he were the person he wants to be. It’s a serious case of denial, yes, which gets him into trouble later on, but it’s both sweet and endearing.

The friendship between Kate and August works so well because of their differences. They bring out the best in one another whilst also forcing each other to deal with the parts of themselves that they’d rather not. I read so many YA novels with underdeveloped romances which seem like they’re there just for the sake of ticking off a box. It was a wonderful change to read something that focused on building a solid and balanced, platonic relationship without any romantic elements. Yep, that’s right. You heard me. NO ROMANCE. None. Nada. Zip. And it’s a choice that works perfectly for this particular story.

Monsters

There are three forms of monsters in Verity – Corsai, Malchai and Sunai. Corsai, animalistic in nature, are born from non-lethal forms of violence and live off human flesh. Malchai, closely resembling vampires, are the result of murder and bare some of the warped characteristics of their creators. Last are the Sunai. Much more human like in nature, Sunai are products of crimes involving the large scale murder of innocents – massacres, bombings, and so on. They are akin to avenging angels who use music to reap the souls of those who have committed violent acts.

Despite the general similarities of each type of ‘monster’, there’s a great degree of variation within the classes which provides for some interesting character contrasts. This is particularly so for August and his adoptive Sunai siblings, Leo and Ilsa, who each have their own vastly different personalities and attitudes towards their role in the greater scheme of things. The differences among the Malchai don’t become prominent until book two, however Callum Harker’s right-hand man (or monster, rather), Sloan, is still an interesting and frightening figure in this story.

To put it simply, the monster elements of the story are definitely some of the most interesting, and I absorbed every little detail like a dry sponge.

Writing

If you’ve read Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic series, you’ll be satisfied with her still excellent writing here. However, do keep in mind that unlike ADSoM, this series fits solidly within the YA classification and as a result the descriptions are briefer, language is more to the point, and the plot speeds along far quicker.  It’s not a bad thing, nor is it unfulfilling, just different. Her worlds are still well constructed, characters distinct, and concepts sound. If you’ve loved her other work, you’ll at the very least like this.

This Savage Song was an enjoyable read with an engaging concept and interesting characters. Did I adore it as much as the ADSoM books? No. Did I speed through it, set on reading the sequel to find out what happened next?  Very much so. I have no hesitation recommending it to anyone looking for an entertaining YA fantasy read.

4/5 Stars

 

Have you read This Savage Song? What did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books of 2017

And it’s time to get back into good old Top Ten Tuesday. This week is a nice, easy topic – my favourite reads of this year. So far, I’ve read 40 books in 2017 which is pretty decent for me – I watch far too much TV and play a lot of video games. I marvel at all you amazing people who reach over 100. Teach me your ways! Anyway, here were the books I enjoyed most this year (plus links to the reviews I actually got my lazy butt to write). There’s nothing surprising or niche here, but hey, just means these books deserve the hype they get which is a great thing.

1. Nevernight (Jay Kristoff) – 5 STARS

Pure amazingness. It was the book I didn’t even know I needed in my life until I read it. The sequel was just as fab and probably should have been on this list too. Can’t wait for the next one.

 2. A Conjuring of Light (V. E. Schwab) – 4.5 STARS

A fantastic conclusion to one of my now favourite series, from one of my now favourite authors. Victoria Schwab, you are amazing. Your characters, writing, and world building completely stole my heart.

3.  A Court of Mist and Fury (Sarah J. Maas) – 5 STARS

The book that helped me understand the craze that is SJM and made me fall in love with the series. Such a fantastic novel and it flew by like it was nothing. Thank god I pushed myself to give this sequel a go.

4. Strange the Dreamer (Laini Taylor) – 4 STARS

 In one word – gorgeous. The writing, the characters, the world building. Much love.

5. Gemina (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff) – 4 STARS

Non-stop action, humour, great characters, and a lot of fun. I love this series and I can’t wait for Obsidio to come out next year!

 6. An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaar Tahir) – 4 STARS

Another book that managed to take me by surprise. I had a great time reading this one and have already bought the sequel ready to go.

7. Cinder (Marissa Meyer) – 4 STARS

I majorly underestimated this book and it ended up being really enjoyable. I’ve heard amazing things about this series for ages and I’m glad I finally decided to give it a go.

8. Geekerella (Ashley Poston) – 4 STARS

My second attempt at reading YA contemporary for 2017. Such a fun, light book that ended up being so much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Plus, it appeased my inner geek girl.

9. This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab) – 4 STARS

The concept for this one alone makes it a standout. Schwab once again creates great characters and surrounds them with a really engaging concept.

10. The Bone Season (Samantha Shannon) – 4 STARS

Yes, it was a re-read but it counts because it was just as awesome as before. Heavy world building, yes, but very enjoyable.

8 NaNoWriMo Takeaways from a First Timer

You guys may or may not have noticed that I haven’t posted anything for a good long while. Fear not, I’m not dead. Well, only slightly. Of exhaustion. And that’s because I’ve been doing the crazy feat that is national novel writing month. Why, you ask? 1) I’m insane and 2) I have a tendency towards masochism.

Just kidding. Mostly, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years but never managed to find the courage to attempt, and also because I’ve had an idea for a particular story rumbling around inside my head since I was about fifteen years old (get out already). Now, November is over and I hear you asking, did I actually manage to do it? Did I write 50,000 words in the space of one month?

You bet I did.

But holy hell batman, was it HARD.

There were days when I managed 5,000 words, I was on top of the world, and it felt as easy as pie. Then there were others, the ones where I’d look at the word count thinking, ‘sweet Jesus, I’ve definitely hit 600 words,’ only to realise I actually had 200.

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It was a month of ups and downs, and a major learning experience. So for posterity’s sake, and anyone who’s interested, here are 7 random things I learnt from my first Nanowrimo experience.

Back Up that Novel

You know how everyone’s always says, if it’s something important you should back it up? Yeah, about that…Let me start by saying that on at least six occasions before all this went down, I heard a nagging voice inside my head tell me to save a copy of my work somewhere other than my laptop. In hindsight, the universe was trying to tell me something. Did I listen to it? Of course not. Next thing you know, one ordinary Wednesday night, just over a week before the end of nano, I open my word document, type two words and…

BLACK SCREEN.

Dead. Actually dead.

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And that boys and girls is how I ended up having to spend more money than I’d like to admit buying a new laptop and tracking down methods to get files off the hard drive of a dead computer. I managed it, but let’s just say that there were several points in which I wanted to collapse into a puddle on the ground. So kiddies, learn from my failures. Back it the hell up.

Create Achievable Goals

The average word count if you write the same number of words every day over the course of the month is 1,667. In my case, I knew right from the beginning this wasn’t going to be the best method for me. I work full time but as I work in real estate, my hours are a little odd sometimes – late some days, early others. In order to determine achievable word count goals for myself I worked out how many words I had to write each week of the month to finish on time. I then determined how many hours I would have available to write during the week by looking at my schedule for each day. From here, I was able to work out how many words I needed to write per hour and thus my word goal for each day of the week to reach the weekly target. This ended up being a perfect way to keep me on track. Especially since I often ended up writing much more on my days off than the word counts I allocated.

Life Will Get in the Way

No matter what you do, it’ll happen. So make sure you can adapt. In my case it was the realisation that I had only two weeks left to complete the course work for a certificate I had to do for work. And let me tell you, there was A LOT of work for it. Suddenly, I had to find time in my evenings to not only work on that but my novel too. On the social side of things, one of my closest friends decided to come and visit me for a weekend, covering two of my biggest writing days, which meant I had to spread those counts across other days. I managed it and got to spend a great weekend with my friend, win-win! Then there was my other friend who also wanted to spend time with me and jokingly claimed I was ditching her for my novel. I hit two birds with one stone by going to dinner with both friends at the same time.

Support is Important

There are days where writing 50,000 words in a month seems impossible but having people who support you and offer advice is such a big help. My friends and sister were wonderful during November. They asked about my word counts, cheered me on, and got me snacks to keep me going (Mars Bar Pods are love, Mars Bar Pods are life).

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There was also the Sydney Nanowrimo community. I really wanted to attend events but with my weirdo schedule, this was made a little hard at times. However, the Facebook group never let me down. We sent words of encouragement, offered advice, shared photos of cats sitting on laptop keyboards, talked about killing off characters, and so much more. There are some days where you just need someone to tell you that they find parts of their story a slump to get through too. I was lucky in that I didn’t really have to deal with any naysayers but to those who do, tell ‘em to shut their faces, because you’ve got this!

Set Yo Scene

In my case, it was scented candles and more snacks that you can count. For some it’s coffee and loud music. Whatever it is that helps you do your best work, go for gold.

Some Planning Necessary

I’ve come to realise that I am a Planster. In other words, I need some pre-planning but with enough room to grow. I only fully committed to doing Nanowrimo in mid-October, meaning I was in full panic mode regarding planning. I write fantasy so there’s a heap of planning involved – magic systems, environments, religions, races, characters, and in my case, time and dimensional travel, timelines, bleh.  You get it. Before November, I had an idea about certain parts of my plot but the middle was bit of a blank void. The problem was I happened to hit this point right when I was struggling to write the last several thousand words and after my schedule had gone to crap following the death of my laptop (RIP). Plus there was the fact that there were some major questions about my novel as a whole that I glossed over answering in October and hoped would just resolve themselves in November (spoiler: they didn’t). I’m now stuck with a partial first draft and some serious things to address before I even think about writing any more. To sum up, if you’re someone who needs some degree of planning to write, do it. Don’t put it off, you’ll regret it later.

Finding the Right Beginning

When you start planning you have a great idea about where your story will start. I know I did. I’ve read so many advice articles concerning opening scenes, advocating for starting right in the middle of the action. So I sat down, thought about my plot and determined exactly where would be the right place to begin. I imagined the scene in my head, quietly confident, and finally sat down to put fingers to keyboard.

Was it the right place to start? Nope, definitely not.

You think you know, but it’s hard to actually know until you start writing. In my case, this means I’ll be deleting about two thousand words already just to get rid of the unnecessary rubbish from the beginning but hey, it’s a learning experience.

Writing Trumps Character Profiles

When I was younger I used to spend ages doing super long character profiles – because clearly all writers need to know if their character is a cat or a dog person. If there’s anything this experience has taught me (and it should have been obvious), it’s that writing is the best way to get to know who your characters are. You learn about their voice, their mannerisms, their sense of humour, their way of thinking – all things that are difficult to grasp until you place them in a situation and write how they act in it.

Image result for understand me gif

There were some characters that were tricky to grasp and others that just clicked into place. What’s even more exciting is that I have so much more still to discover as I keep writing, and I’ll then bring this knowledge to my edits of the beginning.

And that’s about it, my eclectic mess of thoughts to take away from my month long crazy writing fest. Nano was a challenge to be sure, but I certainly learnt a lot from it. If you’re someone who’s been trying to find the motivation and push to sit down and write, I’d definitely recommend it. Whether I’d do it again is still questionable but I guess we’ll just have to see. Never say never.

As for now, it’s editing time.

Did any of you guys do nanowrimo this year? If so, how’d you go? If not, are you thinking about doing it at some point?