Category: Author Ramblings

Yearly Challenges

So, generally this year I am undertaking two challenges. And now that it’s coming up to halfway through the year, or at least, it will be after this month, I thought I’d take a moment to see where I am with those.

Reading Challenge

Book shelfThe challenge – Read a book a week aka read 52 books in the year.

The last time I updated you on this progress was early March. Since then, there has been barely and reading done. So, this is going worse than poorly. I have read six books this year, and I should be on twenty two. That’s sixteen books difference, which is a lot.

So what’s going wrong? Time mostly. I seem to have a heck of a lot going on, between work, masters, writing, and social/gaming schedules, making time for reading is hard, especially when I do have downtime, I prioritise other things. Like a nap (because anaemia means I want to nap all the time) or writing, and reading is an effort to accomplish some of the time.

So, am I giving up? Of course not. What I plan to do is to read some graphic novels I’ve got on the side, because those take less time than a pure words novel, and hopefully if I just get a couple more books added onto the challenge, then I’ll start picking it up again. It’s not like I don’t have books to read, just haven’t been finding the time.

Writing Challenge

The challenge – Write 1,000 a day aka write 365,000 words in the year.

This is going better. January, February and March were basically on track. April was an immense month of epic words. May…not so good. I wrote about half of what I should have been, only 16,600 words. However, because of all the words I wrote in April, this does mean that overall for the year I’m at 168,000 words and I should be at 157,000. So in the grand scheme of things, I am ahead, however, the last month I only hit 1,000 words on five days, in the first half of the month.

So what went wrong? Scening. In one of the games that I am playing, my character has started a relationship with another character, and we are emailing each other in a back and forth to scene out their dates. It’s awesome, I’m loving it BUT it doesn’t count towards my word count total for the year, because it’s just for the two of it, and it’s connected to a game rather than writing. Which is a shame, because between the two of us, the scenes came to 133,000 words in the month. Yeah, we wrote a lot.

Hence, that’s taken up a lot of my time and energy. I wouldn’t have changed it, because it made me very happy and was awesome character development, however, this month we plan to be a little more relaxed about it, and I’ll be looking at my time management a little more, trying to find the delicate balance between everything I want to do.

It also helps that I have rediscovered enthusiasm for a couple of stories, it does come and go. I backed a kickstarter that will print custom text on a scarf for you (up to 40,000 words) so I’m going to be finished up a short version of Quiet Poison and get that printed up, so I’ve got to write a few more scenes, then tidy it up and send it off. Hopefully, if I get everything back on track, I can do that by the end of the month.


So the general gist of the last couple of months is keep going, don’t give up even if you fall off the rails a little bit. So I hope to come back to you all in another month or so with better reports. That, and I will be examining what I post on this blog and trying to come up with a semi-regular schedule, because I should be posting here more. Hope your projects are going well!

So, now that I’ve finished with the 100 theme challenge, I find myself at a bit of a loss for go to posts when I notice I haven’t posted anything in a while. Bear with me for a little while whilst I work out what kind of things to post up on here and work out some sort of schedule for it all. And yes, I will be trying for more dragons on Thursdays.

What have I been up to with my time? Still trying to get through more books for reading. Slow but steady is how I would describe that, but getting there. Yellow book is now done and finished, so green is next on the list. And after those three, I’ve got several more on the list to read. Deciding what to read next is often as hard as finding the time to sit down and read them!

Mostly, I have been working on two things. 1 – My Master’s degree. This is not what this blog is about, but I am just going to say that I am loving my database module. 2 – Writing


Yes, I have a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are awesome.

At the start of the year I signed up to a 365K club. This means that I have signed up to write 1,000 every day, or, as it more usually goes with these things, 365,000 words in the year because some days you write more, some less, but it all averages out. There are quite a few of us in the club, which is a sub-section of a bigger writing group and is internet based which is highly convenient, and we have chats, motivations, question times, it’s all a big support group for writers, and I have to say, it is excellent.

And signing up for this challenge, to really push myself and get that daily habit of writing, is probably one of my better decisions. If you look on my spreadsheets, you can see that so far I haven’t missed a day. Sure, one day I only wrote 27 words, but that’s still two more sentences than I had at the start of the day. Right now I am approximately a day behind, so less than 1,000 words behind my target. And that is counting today, which means that I still have the rest of this afternoon and this evening to catch up on that. And, overall, I’ve written ~72,000 words since Jan 1st. Some new stuff, some editing stuff, but the point is I am writing. Last year, I basically only wrote when it came around to NaNo, so this? This is a HUGE improvement, and I’m loving it.

What am I working on? I’m the kind of person who likes to have several projects on the go at once, so, currently I am working on:

  • Archmage – This is my epic (Maybe a trilogy? It’s certainly looking long enough for that) fantasy novel that I am currently editing. It’s developing along quite nicely, although part 2 is going to need a major overhaul, and part 3 definitely needs work. It’s probably more like re-working it than it is editing, since there’s tons of plot holes to fill, arcs to develop, characters to delete or add, all the high level stuff. It’s fun, but it is a lot of hard work. The blurb for the book(s?) is that in a world where magic is regulated and structured, an underage girl bursts onto the scene with magic, wild magic, unlike anything that’s ever been seen before. Can Rana prove that her magic is just as valid as the old ways, or will society always treat her as an outcast?
  • Quiet Poison – This is relatively new. I had the idea late Jan/early Feb, and it has been so insistent and prominent in my mind, that I’ve been writing it out. It’s a story about a new guild of assassins, trying to carve out their territory against the bigger, more established guild. Lots of politics, intrigue, assassinations (of course), and all sorts of seedy underground things. Magic is around in the setting, but very much in the background. It’s a break apart from my usual genre, but I am loving the characters and what they are getting up to, and it’s quite nice to write something down and dirty, as it were.


Those two are my active projects. But I certainly have others which may or may not come up:

  • Black Dawn – This is novel I wrote for the first year I ever participated in NaNoWriMo. It is, in a word, terrible. So, I’ve given it a shiny new plot, and it’s sitting there with it’s first chapter salvaged, looking at me, biding it’s time, just waiting until the time is right to spring back into my head and get written. It’s there, I’m not ignoring it, but at the moment other novels are in front of it. Basic premise: Angels and Demons have been warring since time immemorial, with Earth as the battle ground, seeded with their human descendants, the Cambions and the Nephilim. However, a threat is rising, one they wish to stop before it ever happens, and it might just be enough to make them forget about their own war. Unless the threat is already more than just a threat, and she’s been waiting to wage her own war on them.
  • Mechanica Awkaening – This really is a book that just needs editing. I really think it’s the cleanest first draft I’ve ever written, and I was working on it last summer. But, like most ideas, it’s hit a bit of a lull, and whilst it’s still there and I’m not ignoring it, other things are in front. But it really doesn’t need as much as any of my other projects. So maybe it’ll come round soon. this is the one about Rose, who can talk to machine spirits, and her family trying to prevent another civil war.
  • Eidetic – Still working on the first draft. Sad to say, I haven’t actually touched it since NaNo last year. I just, got a bit stuck. I think I can get unstuck, but I do need to sit down and have a think through and work out where it’s going. Still got, I would say, about a third of it to write? Labyrinths and ancient magic and trying to get away from a society that doesn’t let Sage be the person she is because she’s a women. Need to work on it.
  • Other Ideas – There’s a few of them hanging around. Old ones, new ones. ones that still need time to brew whilst they work themselves out. Willow is an old one, actually she’s the MC from the first ever novel I wrote (novel as opposed to short story, fan-fiction, etc) which, again, is terrible, but she’s not. She just needs the right plot and setting, and I’m getting closer to that. Very slowly. Firebird is a new one, lots of aztec/shaman magic crossed with vampire hunters. It’s a good idea, but it need ‘brewing time’ as it were. There’s a fan-fiction in my head as well, which I might write when I really want to indulge myself.

There is never just one project. But that’s how I work. And I do like flitting about, it’s just how my brain works. They’ll all get there in the end, as long as I am working on one of them, then that’s a step towards the goal of being an author.

So, at the beginning of last month I talked about the Reading Ahead Challenge, and how I was planning to read six books in a relaxed time frame of a month.

How’s that going? Poorly.

I mentioned about halfway through the month that February was proving tough for reading and I had only read the red book. Two weeks on from that, and I’ve only read the orange book in addition. True, the yellow book is sitting in my bag, but sitting in my bag is not reading it. So, in the month of Feb, which admittedly is the short month, although not this year because leap year, I have read two books.

Needless to say, this is mildly disappointing to me.

Of course, it’s not because I haven’t been doing things. In fact, I think it is the things that are possibly preventing me from reading. Writing every day, enough to average out at 1,000 words, actually takes up a lot of my time. Then there’s my master’s coursework, which takes a number of hours out of evenings here and there, and most of my Thursdays. I of course, work most days and I can’t read whilst on the job (Sadly the job of the librarian is not sitting around all day reading books, otherwise this challenge would be really easy) and in the evenings I often have a tabletop game, social events, or something. This week my dad also happens to be in town, so I’m going out for dinner and catching up with him a couple of times.

My point is, that finding the time to read is really hard. When I actually sit down to read, it never takes me long to finish a book. I had to take a two hour train over the weekend, and it was glorious, because I could sit down, with my book, and I got 2/3rds of the way through by the end of the train journey. So my reading speed is still as fast as it ever was.

But actually finding that hour or two to sit down and read? That’s hard. But I do want to make myself. I know a lot of people make fifteen minutes at the end of the day, which probably won’t work for me because my partner tends to already be in the bed by the time I amble along, and I prefer to sit down in large chunks rather than ten minutes here or there. For reading anyway, everything else follows the other way around.

rainbow books

So, still going with the rainbow. I’ve got a lunch hour with not much else going on that’s earmarked for starting the yellow book today. And I’ve got the rest of the year to play catch up since I’m a bit behind on my 52 books in the year as well. Well on track with my writing so, which is very pleasing (64K on day 61).

How are the rest of you doing? What’s 2016 shaping up like for you?

So, with the posting of theme 100, that’s the end of that challenge.

It’s been good for writing, I think, and I have certainly liked getting to know some of my less known characters a little better. Have I enjoyed it? Yes and no. As with much of writing, some days the words fly off your fingers, other times it’s torture to get a sentence out. Unfortunately, I seem to have hit a run of torture days, so I’m struggling with my word-smithery at the moment, and it’s dampening other things.

Looking back to the original post I made about the challenge, I had a goal of doing it within a year, and looking back I’ve managed it in 20 months or so. So, you know, not precisely on time, but I have stuck at it and sometimes that’s all you really want.

Month 1 BadgeSpeaking of which, the 365K club is going well. I’m basically on target for my words, although my brain is doing the very helpful thing where a new project will jump in front of other stuff and shout ‘Pick me, pick me’ so I keep chopping and changing what I am working on. This isn’t an entirely bad thing I feel, as long as I am working on something. But as I mentioned above, this week is not going so well at the moment.

Reading wise I have the six book challenge I talked about completing in February. Despite having a week off, I did absolutely no reading, which is a little shocking. I have finished off the badger book, and I read the first of my rainbow books last night, so I can check Red off the list, but really I am surprised by the lack of reading going on at the moment. Hard to put a finger on why, but I’ve just not had the urge to pick up the books. Maybe I’ve been concentrating on writing a little too much.

You can tell from the title, February isn’t going as well as I’d hoped. I mean, it’s by no means a disaster, and I did just have a very lazy week off work. But still, productivity feels low and enthusiasm is down there with it.


Plans for the rest of February include reading the other five books I have pegged, continue with a new story I’ve been developing, and treating myself to something nice this lunchtime, because some days you just need a nice thing. It might even be stationary.

Reading Ahead Challenge

I keep forgetting that this comes early in the year. Reading Ahead (formally known at the six book challenge) is all about getting those people who don’t normally read to get into reading. Being in a library, and a college where we have student of all sorts of reading levels, we get rather involved in this.

Reading_Ahead_posterI talked about it last year, and this year is much the same, between now and June read six things. Newspapers, magazines, books, poem collections, short stories, most things count as long as it gets you reading.

Of course I still have the problem that I did last year, that I am an avid reader and this challenge is not really aimed at me. However, as a librarian, we like to get involved with these things, and it’s good to get my numbers up for the 52 challenge (one book a week, and I’m kind of behind), so I am once again joining in.

Last year I tried to do it in a week, and managed six books in eight days. This year I have a lot more on my plate, and I’m trying not to stress, so I think a month is a pretty good time frame. I’m halfway through a book right now, so if I finish that up by the end of the month, then I can spend February doing this.

What I have set myself, as a sort of little extra on top, is a rainbow reading challenge. Six books, one of each of the prominent colours of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple (Because splitting purple into indigo and violet is a chore for this sort of thing).


So I’m going to read these six, in the order of the rainbow, top to bottom. There are two library books, and the other four are ones that have all been on my shelves for a little while. I’m going to try and read through all those books that I bought but never read last year, and try to not buy so many new books until I do that. Keyword: try.

I’ll be back with an update on how this has gone at the end of February. Hope your 2016 is going well! Any of my lovely readers reading anything good at the moment?

Reading Transition

So, that’s 2015 over with, and 2016 is well underway!

At the start of 2015, I made a few reading resolutions, because I felt like I wasn’t reading enough and I should be doing more. I’m both and a writer and a librarian, so books are kind of a really big thing in my life, and I need to enjoy them as well!


Resolution #1: Read a book every week, or 52 in the year. Predictably, this was more 52 books in the year than one a week, but I am pleased to say, I managed it! If you want to see which books I ended up reading, visit my Goodreads 2015 Challenge page.

Resolution #2: Read a mixture of Fiction and Non-Fiction. Out of the 52 books I read, 7 of those were non-fiction. So I don’t think that’s too bad a number. I’m actually reading two non-fiction books at the moment, but I’m only a couple of chapters in on each, hence they do not count towards the 2015 challenge.

Resolution #3: Read outside of my genre, including romance, mystery, science fiction, literary, comedy and biography. This is probably the one I did worst with. Romance, check (Water for Elephants, also a historic novel, but also romance). Mystery, eh, no (The Night Circus has some elements, but is definitely fantasy). Science Fiction, ah ha! Yes! (The Humans and Robot in the Garden. I also have on one my to read pile). Literary, no. Not unless books about literature count, and they don’t. Comedy, I don’t think so. Again, some books did make me laugh, but nothing counts as comedy. Biography, check (A Street Cat Named Bob, and I’ve found out he has follow up books!). So I hit half of those, which was quite good. I also managed to read some poetry, and some books which I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own, both through a reading scheme and by listening to friend recommendations, so I didn’t do all too badly on this.

All in all, a pretty good year for reading.

But, as soon as the clocks turned midnight, it was a new year, and lots more potential for reading! So, once again, using the very handy challenge tracker that Goodreads provides, I have signed up to read 52 books in 2016! Check out my progress here, although, you know, as of now, January 4th, there really isn’t any progress.

Well, that’s a bit of a lie, I have several books I am currently reading, and more on the to read pile. Two non-fiction books (Badgerlands and From Here to Eternity), a fantasy (Dreamwalker), a science fiction (Seven Eves) and something that I think is alternate history (Conversion).

So reading resolution #1 for 2016 is to once again get to 52 books by the end of the year.

Reading resolution #2 comes from a friend who discovered this and passed it along to me.


It’s a fairly short list, only 12 items, but it’s designed to be very doable, and it means that those who might read less have access to it as well, and you can tick it off an item per month. I of course plan to read more than that, but I will try to incorporate these challenges into what I choose to read this year as well. Just to inject a bit of variety, and I do like a challenge.

Only two resolutions this year, as I do want to keep to them, and it feels good to achieve rather than overshoot and fail. I learnt this year that I have to prioritise activities or run the risk of taking on too much and not being able to do any of it.

Anyone else made reading resolutions for this year? Or any other resolutions for that matter. My New Year resolution for 2016 is to spend more time with friends, trying to see the people I might not see all that often, because I have awesome friends.

Merry Winter Holiday

From me, to you, I hope you are enjoying the day, whatever you might or might not be celebrating.

anee stokes dragons

December Recovery

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to recover after November. There was probably some minor burning out going on, I did have a lot going on. But now I have dropped some responsibilities, I’ve got two assignments for my Master’s degree handed in, and I’m not pressuring myself into writing extraordinary amounts every day.

Admittedly, today is the first day I’ve written since November, hence why I suspect that there was some minor burnout going on. And there was a tiny bit of neglecting the blog, but as evidenced by these posts, that is over, and I am slowly hacking away at those words. Eidetic isn’t finished, so I am still going to be working on that, but I am not limiting myself to it either. Archmage and Mechanica Awakening are in editing, and I am not making as much progress on them as I should be. I also have a couple of ideas that didn’t make it as my NaNoWriMo novel this year, so I’ll probably have several projects on the go at the same time.

So, in an effort to help with this, I’ve signed up to a 365K club in one of my writing groups. Write 1,000 words every day, or 365,000 over the course of a year. Although since next year is a leap year, we get an extra day. Perhaps this is a bad idea, but I do like goals, and I work better with stuff like this, and 1,000 words a day is very doable for me. Sustainability? Well I’m hoping that it is. Even if I don’t get 1,000K every single day, I hope that I write something each day, even just a bit. Because I have a seeming inability to develop consistent habits, and I do need to write more.

Christmas is fast approaching, and although there’s social stuff going on, I’ve managed to get a week and a half off work between Christmas Eve and 4th Jan. I’m probably going to devote that time to reading, since I have a large to read pile, and haven’t managed to find a lot of time for it recently. Of course, that will be interspersed with other activities, such as gaming and writing and coursework. But you should get an update on my reading for the year before the New Year.


The only other news is that I went to see a midnight (well, half past midnight) screening of Star Wars: the Force Awakens. By the dragons it was a good film. And you should definitely go see it.

So I’m catching up with myself, definitely happier than I was in November, and I’ll be pecking away with all my projects, and I will keep you lovely readers informed about them both in the final weeks of this year and the new one.

NaNoWriMo 2015 – Week 4

Tomorrow (okay, today if you count midnight as the change between days, but I’m more of a measure days by when you sleep kind of girl) is the last day of NaNoWriMo.

How have I done? Not badly. I’ve just hit 73K, which means that it’s only 2,000 more words until 75K. That would be nice to end on. I started this month aiming for 100K, but given the stress and the masters and everything else that has been going on, I’m not going to be too disappointed with 75K

Well, I’m trying to tell myself that. I know that I could have done better, but this month hasn’t been smooth sailing for me. Ups and a lot of downs, illness, exhaustion, balancing acts between trying to do too many things. Hopefully, Decemeber will be less stress.

Also, you know, I haven’t finished the novel. Not by a long shot. So, although I have 75K under my belt, what I am also hoping I now have is some sort of routine, where I can come home and continue to chip away at at this novel until it’s done, although at a slower pace than NaNoWriMo I think.

We’ll call it a win, because that’s what it is. I just need to convince my brain to smile about it, because writing more than you had at the beginning of the month is what NaNo is all about in my opinion, and I’ve certainly done that.


So, for this final instalment, I’ll talk about my actual writing process. My actual decisions when I come to write novels.

Plotter vs Panster? Pantser. All the way. For Eidetic this year I had a word document with names for the important characters, and a timeline of big events. And that’s a lot of planning for me, mainly I did that because I was having trouble with the order that things were meant to go in. I really do prefer just opening up a blank screen and getting on with things. And yes, I have tried to plan in the past. A couple of different methods, it’s just not worked for me. So the ideas brew in my head, and when I’m ready, or they’re ready, I open up at the document and start typing.

Chronological vs out-of-order? You know, I always thought I would be the latter. Indeed, my first NaNoWriMo I did do out of order. However, ever since then, I’ve been chronological. My last four NaNoWiMo’s, including this year’s have all been chronological. I think it allows for development, both of the novel, the characters, and of me as I write, although stuff like that can always be fixed in editing. I think if I ever got stuck on a particular part, I would skip it, write the bit I knew what was happening with, and then come back to fill it in. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s something I could easily see myself doing.

Character vs Plot? ……bit of both? No, actually, I would say plot. I start with plot and work my characters into plot. However, I am very aware that a good book only works with good characters, so I do make sure that my characters have personality, and traits, and aren’t one dimensional, and they develop as thing go along. But, I do start with the plot, and I tend to know what people are doing before I know how they go about it, or how they react to things.


Morning Lark vs Night Owl? Night Owl, I always prefer staying up late to getting up early, it’s just how I work. Naturally, I go to sleep at 3am and wake up at midday, I’ve tested this. Although, one of the writing groups I’m in shared this very interesting infographic about authors productivity and waking times. Turns out, quite a lot of writers are morning larks.

So basically, it can be summed up, as I will sit down, late at night, on the sofa, on my laptop, something playing in the background (tonight it’s QI), open up the writing software and just start typing. That’s how I write.

I hope that those of you who have been doing NaNoWriMo as well ahave validated or are close to it, and if not, then I am sure that you have more right now that you had at the start of the month!


Also, congratulation to this blog – Five Years Old today! It’s been through some changes, but I think it’s only gotten better, I certainly like it now more than ever ^.^

NaNoWriMo 2015 – Week 3

*Large exhale of air*

It could be going better. Also, could be going a lot worse.

I’m on…65.5K so over the last week I’ve written about 16K. So week 1 was 30K, week 2 got 19K and this week got 16K. Slowing down, and although there is often a bit of a last hurrah during week 4, I am not sure if that will happen for me.

I think that unless something drastic happens and I get a huge wave of productivity (which, you know, could happen) I am unlikely to reach my original goal of 100K. I think at this point I’ll set minimum at 75K, and anything over that will be nice. I mean, I should definitely be able to get another 10K over the next week, and there’s a touch over a week left, and at current speed, 15K seems likely for the week, but we’ll just have to see.

What I know is unlikely to happen, is penning ‘The End’ on the novel. I reached the halfway point of the novel, the bit where I write ‘8 years later’ at 64K, so only just. And this means that unless I feel like doubling the word count in the next week (roughly, the two halves are relatively equal in my head, but you never quite know until you get it out onto paper) it’s going to have to continue after November. However, this is probably a good thing, I need to get back into the habit of writing every day, or almost every day, and having a project I want to finish is good for that. I am certainly not going to abandon it after November like I did a previous years (Archmage got picked up eventually, but only during the next year’s NaNo).

Hopefully if I pick away at it during December/January (Christmas is going to be a big interruption, much like Thanksgiving is for my american peers) I’ll get it finished within the next couple of months, although I will be taking it at an easier pace than NaNo. I have things which I have put on hold for this month which will come back on board in December, and I have all my other work as well.

Which brings me onto my writing process portion for this week – writing time.


I am not a marathon writer. I cannot sit down for hours at a time and devote myself to a task, it just isn’t how I work.

Instead, I am a sprinter, or piecemeal worker. Or…some other word I can’t think of right now, it is late in the evening, forgive me. Basically, my attention can only focus on one task for so long, so I do one thing for ten minutes, and then swap tasks, doing a different thing for ten minutes. Then maybe I’ll have a five minute break of checking social media, ro listening to music, and then I’ll go back to the first task for ten minutes.

Yes, it’s a bit pick and mix, but that’s how I work, and this is tried and tested over many years. Occasionally, I can get more than twenty minutes out of my attention span, but hitting that kind of grove is rare for me, and I am far more likely to do ten/fifteen minutes of a thing, go do something else, come back to it, another ten/fifteen minutes, off again.


Sprinting and word wars work wonder for me when trying to boost my word counts. Admittedly, I haven’t been doing many word wars against other people this month, I keep seeming to forget about the OA chatroom, but there is an entire twitter account for NaNoSprints and I love using that to help me write.

Short, sharp bursts. Today I was actually experimenting with one minute sprints. Really hard, really fast typing for a minute, then a minute off, then again, then off. Worked really well, managed to get 500 words in not too much time at all.

However, right now, I am feeling the lure of bed more than the lure of some more sprinting. How is everyone else doing with writing? Got any good projects on the go? Any exciting events? My most exciting event is that I killed my MC’s father, and she kind of orchestrated the whole thing.

C'est La Vee

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