Don’t Read Bad Books in 2018

Imagine that feeling when you finish a book. You get to the last page, then the last paragraph, then the last sentence, and then the last word. You close the book. How do you feel? Satisfied and a little bit sad it’s over? Angry at the ending? Inspired?

Well for me, this year, I mostly felt a sense of relief.

That brings me to my biggest 2018 resolution: No more bad books!

In all of 2017, I only gave one fiction book on Goodreads 5 stars. I’m not saying I read all terrible books last year because I actually did read some pretty good ones. The thing is, I didn’t read any book that I absolutely loved. I can’t pick out a book I read last year and say “this book changed my life.”

Back in high school, I would read what I would call amazing books all the time. I was in high school from 2010 to 2014, and during this time many famous young adult books either just came out or were just being published. I read Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, James Dashner, Rainbow Rowell, Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfeld, John Green and many other great authors that had a way of transporting me to amazing worlds with their words. Their books were what inspired me to want to write my own novels. The stories I read by these authors were something special.

When I became a senior in high school, life got busier and busier. In college, I began reading less for my own pleasure and more for class. Being an English major, many of my classes had a lot of required reading. Don’t get me wrong—I read some fantastic books in my literature courses and I discovered my interest in the nonfiction genre. From time to time I still managed to read for pleasure, but it just wasn’t at the same rate as in high school. Frankly, I wasn’t reading as good of books either. You could pin this on the fact that there just weren’t as many hit franchises at the peak of their popularity anymore, but I’m not so sure. I think there are always amazing books out there that still need to be read. I think why I wasn’t reading as many good books was simply because I wasn’t taking the time to be selective with what I read, and rather just picked up anything that sounded kind of interesting and was available at the library.

Most of the books I read last year were actually for school. In fact, throughout the entire fall semester, I wasn’t able to read one book for pleasure outside of the classroom due to how busy I was. I plan on changing that in 2018. Since it’s been nearly four years since I graduated high school, I think it’s about time to give some of my old favorites a reread. Even though I’m a senior in college going into my last semester, I’m excited to get back into reading some of my old favorites that I haven’t touched in a while like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games. I think rereading these books will give me a renewed spark and help remind me why I love reading and writing in the first place.

I also plan on choosing the new books I do read more selectively. On Goodreads, I gave a lot of books I read this year 3 stars. I don’t want to waste any more time reading books that are mediocre. Rather, I want to go out of my way to read the type of books that got me to fall in love with reading in the first place. I want to read mindblowing books by debut authors, old classics I never got around to, and bestsellers. As long as it’s good, I want to read it.

Tell me some of your absolute favorite books in the comments so I’m never without something amazing to read this year!

-Jenny

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Don’t put off writing anymore

 

For a long time, I used to put off writing until I was inspired. This is pretty ridiculous considering although I love to write, I’m only ever “inspired” about 5% of the time. When you rely on inspiration alone to tell you when it’s time to start writing, you’re not going to finish your project any time soon.

It takes dedication to finish a novel, or short story, or poem, or any writing project. That means working on it even when you’re not inspired; when you’d rather be watching Netflix, browsing social media, or just anything else. Even If you’re passionate about writing, it’s frightening how easy it can be to just…not do it. This, of course, can be for many reasons.

Writing (and editing said writing) can come naturally some days, but many days it’s a very real struggle. You may be having issues with your plot, or trouble writing a character, or even just questioning your ability as a writer. When it gets tough like this, it’s easy to just put it off and say you’ll deal with it another day. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, trust me. However, it’s tough times like these that separate those who actually get things published from those who have a folder full of half-finished stories that will be perpetually finished “another day.”

There’s a quote by Jim Rohn I’ve seen before, but today it popped up on my radar and struck a chord with me enough for me to write it down and stick it above my desk. I’ll leave you to muse on it:

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse” –Jim Rohn

Please don’t put off your dreams and goals. Work hard every day, even if you can only get a little done at a time, so you can make whatever it is you want to do a reality. Progress is progress. Start making time for your passions now, even when it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult.

 

-Jenny

Quarter 3 Wrap up & Quarter 4 Goals

It’s October 15th. Exactly three months ago, I made a list of some of the goals I wanted to accomplish in the third quarter of 2016. Looking back, I actually accomplished quite a lot. A lot has changed in my life. I moved into an apartment, started at a new school and a new job. However, I did not meet as many writing goals as I would have liked to, so that’s something I’m really going to focus on in the next three months going forward! Here are the goals that I wrote down for myself for last quarter and whether I accomplished them or not:

  1. Have new draft of my current project finished and begin editing it- No. I unfortunately did not make much progress on this goal
  2. Go on an hour walk 4 days a week- Yes.  I pretty much walk everywhere now.
  3. Go to the gym at least 3 days a week- No. I got kind of lazy once I started at my new school, but in the last week of September I started going to the gym regularly once again. I’m counting this as a win.
  4. Put $50 towards travel fund every month- No. Haha, this didn’t happen. Living on your own costs a lot! I don’t have any extra money to do this right now.
  5. Write posts on this blog 1-2 times a week- No. I’m lucky if I’ve been able to make a post for this blog once a month.
  6. Begin plotting a new novel- Yes. I have a rough idea for a novel and I’m in the planning phase of this project
  7. Complete first draft of a short story for a literary magazine- No. Although I’ve been drafting a short story on and off, I have not submitted any stories to literary magazines.
  8. Join a club at school- Yes. I’ve joined my school’s literary magazine
  9. Clean out old clothes and donate them to charity- Yes. I did this!
  10. Research and come up with a list of publishing agencies I would be interested in interning at- Yes. I did indeed do this. I even contacted an editor at a local publishing company and interviewed her. It was for a school project, but I learned quite a bit and it was a great experience.
  11. Read at least 5 classic books- No. I did not meet this goal, unfortunately. The only classics I’ve read in the past three months include Jane Eyre, Beowulf and Hamlet

So, I completed 6/11 goals. I don’t think I did a bad job for my first time using this system of keeping track of my goals. Next quarter I hope to do even better, though! Here are my goals for the last quarter of 2016. I’m carrying over some of the goals that I did not complete from the previous quarter (with slight alterations) and I’m adding new ones as well.

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A bit of writing motivation for your evening

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” –Stephen King

Writing is not easy. There’s no getting around it. It’s even harder when you lack the motivation to pick up that pen or open up that blank word document and actually begin the process. The worst is when the lack of motivation is caused not by apathy, but by fear.

There are many doubts that go through writers of all skill levels minds’ after they’ve finished their outline and are ready to begin writing, myself included. Some of the questions I ask myself are these: are the themes that I want to write about too dark? If I’ve never gone through what one of my characters is going through, will I be able to portray it accurately? Is my story too boring? Are the motivations of my characters strong enough? Are the stakes high enough?

“If we wait until we are ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.” – Lemony Snicket

The doubts you may have as a writer are natural, but they shouldn’t keep you from taking the dive and start swimming. The only way to get past these fears and move on is to simply write. It can only get better from there. You’ll soon feel more comfortable with your own writing and before you know it, those fears you had in the beginning won’t seem as important anymore.

If you still have lingering doubts after writing your story, that’s okay too. Take a step back from you writing for a few weeks and come back to it with a different mindset. Revise you writing as much as you need to. The most important thing you need to do, though, is to keep writing no matter what. That’s the only way to grow and improve.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” –Toni Morrison

Being worried about your writing can be a good thing. It means you truly care about your project and you want to be able to make it the best that it can possibly be. Hopefully it holds some place in your heart and you get excited about it when you think about telling the story. For me at least, that’s how I know a story idea is a keeper.

-Jenny

Writing Fictional Towns in the Real World: Pros and Cons

It’s hard to write about places you’ve never been. You can research all you want, explore it through Google Street View, talk to people from those places… but if you’ve never actually had a firsthand account of a location, it’s always going to be difficult to write about it. It’s doable, but takes a lot of time and effort. If you put in the effort, though, it will be worth it; just keep in mind the obstacles you will need to overcome if you choose this route.

So, you could do this…

Or you could make it up.

Yep. That’s what I’m doing. No, not making up details about places I’ve never been to. I’m making up a town.

In the current manuscript I’m working on, a big chunk of the setting takes place in a small town in Maine. Now, I’ve never even been to the northeast of the United States, let alone Maine. I had my heart set on the name of the town and the general layout, but as I got deeper into my story, I realized that the image of the own in my head is completely different from the actual town in real life. Somewhere along the way, I stopped basing the story off of a real place and started to construct one in my imagination. Now as I’m writing a new draft of the same story, I’ve decided it’s best to just create my own town for my characters to live in.

If you are going back on forth on whether you want to set a fictional town in the real world, here are some of the pros and cons to help you decide whether it’s the best option for your story:

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Shiny new ideas…shiny new ideas everywhere!

It seems like it’s been forever since I started my current project. It’s been about seven months since I completed the first draft of it. Since then, I’ve been editing it on and off… and on again… but mostly off. I can spout excuses that, “I got caught up with school and work… blah blah” but I know that’s not true! The truth is, I haven’t dedicated enough time to my plotting/writing/editing mostly because I’m too overwhelmed to tackle the major changes that needed to be implemented in my story.

Instead of devoting all of my attention to trying to work towards making these changes, my mind has been kind of jumping from shiny new idea to shiny new idea. I end up daydreaming and starting preliminary plotting for different shiny new ideas for a couple of days, maybe even a week, and then it fizzles out and I go back to my current project again. The thing is, I’m stuck on this as well. It’s not fun to be at a standstill like this where I want to make progress each day, but I’m not producing anything to show for it.

So… I’m not saying I’m going to abandon this project. I love the spirit of the story and the characters and the settings, but I’m having trouble making the plot compelling and the stakes high enough and I’m intimidated to tackle the themes in it. If I stick with it, I’m going to have to have to figuratively rip up the ‘70s shag carpet and install new wooden flooring. I KNOW it’ll be worth it when it’s finished, but boy will it be a challenge.

I think the reason why I’m not letting this project go so easily is because it’s the idea that I stay up at night thinking about. It’s not like those shiny new ideas that fly in and out of my mind at a moment’s notice. My current project really, truly means a lot of to me. I’ve grown so attached to it. I guess I’m afraid that in writing the next draft of the story and in changing so many things about it, I might mess up the story even more than it is already. I’ve started and quit so many projects in the past and where has it gotten me? Not with a finished book, that’s for sure!

I know the obvious answer is to just stop thinking about all this and just jump in and start plotting. So I better take my own advice!

 

-Jenny

P.S. What do you guys do in situations like this? How do you stay on track to complete your current project if you’re dealing with shiny new idea syndrome?

Prologue

DISCLAIMER: I’m no expert writer. I don’t claim to be. I haven’t published anything, don’t have any credentials to boast about (unless you count winning the young author’s competition at my middle school in 8th grade, heh heh) and I’m only 19. Everything I learned about writing I learned through reading fiction, YouTube videos, podcasts, classes and my own experience I gained through personal writing projects. The information you find on this blog won’t be from a professional, but rather from a young writer who’s still learning the craft of writing, just like I bet many of you are if you’re reading this. Despite that, I hope you stick with me and are willing to learn along side me. It’s going to be a fun adventure…


 

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. For the past year or so, I’ve been an avid watcher of BookTube. If you don’t know what BookTube is, pretty much it’s a term used for people on YouTube who post videos of themselves reviewing books, talking about books in general, and/or discuss writing as well. I enjoy watching these videos because it feels like whenever I go online I’m a part of a book club. It’s just fun to listen to others talk about their opinions about books that I’ve read or books that I may have never heard of but now want to read after watching their video.

I love the concept of BookTube and have wanted to do something similar, but as a writer I of course prefer the medium of writing. Also, I’m just kinda shy. So here I am! That’s why I’ve created this blog; to have an outlet to talk about books and writing. Specifically, though, this blog will serve a few different purposes:

Review books- Both the good and the bad, the old and the new. I’ll talk about my reading habits and what kinds of books I like in a future post, but just know that I will post reviews for a wide variety of books. These will probably range from Jane Eyre to House of Leaves to Into the Wild to Me Before You. Yeah, I like a LOT of different genres… In the upcoming weeks, I also plan to post some reviews for ARCS (Advanced Readers Copies) that I received at Book Con 2016.

Discuss topics in books-  This is something I didn’t even know I was interested in until I started watching BookTube. There’s so many interesting things to just discuss about in books and the book community and this is the place for me to do it (I mean, the average person doesn’t really care about this sort of thing). For example, diversity in books, book to movie adaptations, what kinds of characters I like/dislike and even what kinds of covers draw me in. I love this sort of thing!

Writing- This is kind of a broad stroke of a topic because there’s SO MANY things I’m going to blog about under the topic of writing on here. I’ll keep you all updated on my own writing (and the process of publishing, eventually…hopefully), the nitty gritty stuff that goes into creating a novel like developing characters and worlds,  even the technical side of writing.

I don’t want to completely limit myself, though. If I want to talk about another topic that may be loosely related to reading and writing, I probably will!

To end this, I’m so happy that I finally decided to make this blog because I have a lot of ideas to share with you all! If you read this far, thank you so much. Please continue to check back here for updates. Right now, I don’t have any schedule set for when I’ll be posting, but I’m going to try to post something here every 2-3 days. I’ll see how that goes.

-Jenny