Reflections | NaNoWriMo

Coffee, Cup, Table, Drink, Beverage, Espresso, Tea, Mug

It’s officially the end of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and after my first attempt at participating in the challenge, I have some thoughts

Wait. Go back. Refresh my memory on NaNoWriMo?

Sure. NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit that hosts National Novel Writing Month every November, inspiring creatives to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for some time, and this year, I wanted to give it a whirl. I set out to write the first five chapters of a book that I’ve had in my mind for years, and I knew from the start that I would not be able to meet 50K words in 30 days. Between work, pregnancy exhaustion, and other daily tasks, I wanted to be realistic so I wouldn’t be disappointed come November 30. Overall, my goal was just to write more creatively in November.

So. How did I do?

It depends on who you ask. But if you’re asking me, I did the best I could. The first week of November was a HUGE success. I was writing one hour a night and flew through the first three chapters of my book. I was feeling energized, creative, and inspired. I loved writing dialogue and creating a world of my own.

Then, I hit a wall. A big, ol’ pregnancy wall. After work (where I write 8-12 hours a day, mind you…), all I wanted to do was eat, watch a show, read a book, shower, and go to bed. Rinse. Repeat. November was a blur, my friends. I honestly haven’t touched my book since that first week in November.

Instead of writing, I did read 8 books and wrote 9 blog posts. So, while I was not writing for my book, I was still writing, which is what I wanted to do in the first place. I call that a success. I also completed every entry in my gratitude journal for November. Something I never did before!

While I am in high spirits, it’s still really hard to watch people meet their goals. I get a little envy, I do admit. I wonder what may be wrong with me that I can’t find the drive to write my own novel. It’s important that I continue to remind myself that I am not them. They are different people with different schedules and priorities. Could I have prioritized NaNoWriMo? Yes. Did I do things that brought me joy on the weeknights and weekends instead? Yes. I had a great month, so that’s all that matters.

I guess I wouldn’t say that I failed. I still wrote three chapters and got further in this book than ever before. And that’s a victory. I always said that this past month was about the journey, not the final product. I am happy to say that I participated in NaNoWriMo as best as I could, and look forward to trying again next year!

How about you? Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? Did you meet your goals? I want to hear all about it!

An interview with Ruth Ware

Hey, book nerds! I have super exciting news! A few weeks ago, I wrote a post where I ranked Ruth Ware’s novels. For those who don’t know Ruth Ware, she is an incredible British novelist who writes thrilling psychological mysteries. Since I read her first book, The Woman in Cabin 10, I have been hooked! So, I decided to take a risk and reach out and ask for an interview. Why not, right? After a few weeks, I was able to ask her a few questions and learn more about her journey as an author, her characters, and what books she is reading! Check it out!

1) Your books are centered on strong, female protagonists. What made you decide to write about strong, female characters in this specific genre?

I don’t think it’s something I consciously decided to do – and I don’t think my main characters are particularly strong in fact. They are stronger than they know, but they also have all the same fears and anxieties as the rest of us. Like most people, they’re capable of more than they realise when they’re pushed. I think my goal is just to write about realistic people – so far that’s generally been women in the main role, probably because I know more about what it’s like to be a woman.

2) As an aspiring writer, I always ask authors about their writing rituals. Do you have your own “space?” Do you have a prescribed set of practices that you follow?

I have a little study but I’m not particularly precious about where I write – except that I have a bad back, so it has to have a proper, adjustable chair and a desk at the right height. Aside from that, my only routine is to switch the computer on and start typing. I don’t need special music or anything to get me in the right mood.

3) What books are on your nightstand, and why?

A huge stack – everything from Patrick O’Brian, to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, plus a bunch of proofs I’ve been sent in the post. The one on top is What Would Boudicca Do? (Published as What Would Cleopatra Do? in America) which is fun for dipping in and out of as it’s short vignettes about interesting women. I never have less than about ten or twelve books stacked up at any one time. They’re a mix of things I’ve recently read, things I’m in the process of reading, and things I’m intending to get to.

4) What have you learned about being an author after you published your first book? How has that changed your writing style and process?

I suppose the main thing that has changed is that it’s now a job – I have to write whether I want to or not, and I try as far as possible to treat it like a job – I have office hours, and I turn off my writing computer at night and in the evenings. I don’t know if that was something I learned exactly. I had worked around books for years before becoming published so not much about the actual publishing process was a surprise to me.

5) So far, who is your favorite protagonist and why?

I don’t think I can answer this – it’s like being asked which of my kids is my favourite! I love them all for different reasons.

 

A big thanks to Ruth’s publicists (in the UK and US) for making this happen. And, a big thanks to Ruth for not only her insightful answers but for sharing her talent with the world! Hope you all enjoyed reading!

The best of mystery: Ruth Ware

Greetings, Bookworms!

As an adult, my taste in genres has broadened, and I find myself reaching for mystery novels more and more. Lately, my wish list and Goodreads account have consisted of Agatha Christie, the queen of murder and mystery. I also gravitate toward female novelists who are making strides in the genre and write about strong, female protagonists, like Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, Kate Morton, and one of my favorites, Ruth Ware. All of these women have kept me up at night and I couldn’t be any more thankful!

I consumed Ruth Ware’s latest novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, in less than four days. I closed it wanting more and yearning to revisit her books. When it comes to Ruth Ware’s books, I follow the same ritual: I’d get the novel, open the book, and be entranced finishing them in days rather than weeks, loving every minute of the story.

Because I wanted to revisit her novels, I thought it would be fun to rank her novels and give a few reasons why I love them (without giving away too many spoilers). I have never done anything like this before! Excited!

OK, here goes:

 

westaway

 

Left to fend for herself after her mother passes away, twenty-one-year-old Hal Westaway receives a mysterious letter detailing her grandmother’s death and that she is receiving a substantial inheritance. But there’s a mistake: Hester Westaway is not Hal’s grandmother. Broke and desperate, Hal decides to visit the house anyway and deceive the family and claim the money. Hal then journeys to the house, a sprawling, beautiful English estate, and soon discovers that there is something very wrong about the family…and the inheritance.

What I love about this book:

  • The TAROT: After her mother dies, Hal takes over her tarot reading kiosk on the pier. Weaving tarot into the story creates such a magical and spellbinding element, making it even more mysterious and intriguing.
  • The setting: Trepassen House is old and filled with secrets. The sprawling fields, overgrown maze, rickety boathouse, and creepy, unkept qualities add so much to the story. I found myself wishing Hal explored it more—especially the maze!
  • The sisterhood: There are many moments of sisterhood in this novel. From the love between a mother and daughter to the love between two best friends, this novel is about the importance of love and sacrifice. You’ll see!

 

lying game

When remains of a body are found on a beach in a coastal village, Isla receives a group text message from her high school best friend that she needs help. When her two other friends respond “I’m coming,” she finds herself on a train to help Kate. Once inseparable, the four friends—Kate, Fatima, Thea, and Isla, discover that their well-kept secret isn’t as concealed as they thought. The four close friends must take out a page of their old book, and the Lying Game makes a comeback.

What I love about this book:

  • The nostalgia: Although I do not know the characters, what I love about this book is how relatable the nostalgia can be. Have you ever seen a friend from high school or early college years and relived those memories with them, looking back at the old times? That’s what this book is like—although, their past is a little darker than mine.
  • The unreliable narrator. The unreliable everyone: I used to hate the unreliable narrator…until this book. I loved not knowing what was true and even the uncertainty of the truth. You realize, as the reader, that you are part of the Lying Game. Even when you close the book, you still don’t fully know the truth.
  • The outcome: Oh, you just don’t see it coming. The ending of this book is tremendous, filled with action and lots of heartbreak.

 

dark dark wood

Ware’s debut novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, follows the story of Lenora, a reclusive writer who finds herself attending her old best friend’s weekend getaway in a creepy glass house. When Nora wakes up in a hospital bed and learns that she might be responsible for a murder, she tries to put the pieces together, revisiting her dark past and trying to find out the truth.

What I love about this book:

  • Again, that idea of the unreliable narrator: Nora, whose memory is altered after the incident, does not know what is real. As she lies in the hospital and eventually revisits the glass house, Nora puts the pieces together and discovers the truth.
  • The Agatha Christie-esque collection of characters. It reminded me a lot of And Then There Were None or Murder on the Orient Express. All of the characters had their own suspicious qualities about them, and you find yourself unable to trust any of them.
  • The planchette: The characters, drunk and wanting to have fun, use a planchette to “break the ice” among the group, and while it’s all fun and games, some characters find what the planchette writes out is a little too close to the truth. So creepy!

 

cabin 10

In The Woman in Cabin 10, Lo, a writer for a travel magazine, boards a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. One night, Lo wakes up to a loud noise and splash. When she looks outside, she notices blood smeared on the glass of cabin 10’s veranda. There was a murder on the boat, and no one believes her. It becomes her mission, then, to discover who is missing from the boat, and boy, does she get in trouble.

What I love about this book:

  • From the minute you open the book, you’re on edge: A life-changing, dangerous incident happens in Lo’s life that sets the tone for the rest of the novel. The thrill is there right from the start!
  • The most suspenseful and unnerving action happens in this novel: Lo certainly goes through a lot to solve this puzzle. Ware definitely tried something new with what happens to Lo—and she succeeds in that hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-standing-up thing.
  • The odd sense of sisterhood: Lo finds herself making a strong connection with the most unlikely of characters, and you end the novel feeling a little sympathetic towards that character and happy with the outcome.

 

This was fun!

Readers: Have you read any of Ruth Ware’s books? How would you rank them?

And Readers: If you haven’t read any of Ware’s novels, what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

 

 

Happy birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien!

Today is the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien! Admittedly, I read The Hobbit when I was in sixth grade, and loved the book, but did not pick up the Lord of the Rings series until after I was introduced to the movies and found myself obsessed. Since then, I have read the series thrice and have watched the films countless times. In fact, Bilbo Baggins remains to be one of my favorite literary characters of all time (I don’t think that will ever change).

Back in September, we celebrated “Hobbit Day” where I shared some of my favorite quotes from The Hobbit. Today, I thought it might be fun to share my favorite quotes from the Lord of the Rings series:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” 

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish, as my old gaffer used to say.” 

“Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.” 

“If that’s being queer, then we could do with a bit more queerness in these parts.” 

“Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.” 

“Often does hatred hurt itself!” 

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” 

 

Happy 126th birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien!