Monday, 30 December 2013

Reading Resolutions

2013 is almost done and it’s that time for resolutions for the New Year! I am both going to make separate blog about writing and reading resolutions. This one is going to be about reading. But first, before I begin, it might be interesting to have a small conclusion about 2013 in books:

  •  I have read 47 books this year, 20 more than last year
  •   The best book I’ve read was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  •    I started 10 new series and finished one of them. Out of those series, there is one I’m not going to continue and another I’m not yet certain about.
  • The books with the prettiest cover I bought this year are Green Rider series by Kirsten Britain, The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and the 10 year anniversary edition of Eragon by Christopher Paolini.
Here you can find all the books I read last year!

The resolutions:
  •    Read 55 books
  •   Buy less books and keep track of how many books I buy
  •   Finish more series
  •    Read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien in English. I have read the series almost ten years ago in Dutch.
  •   Read more about mythology, which includes reading The Kalevala.
  • Try to keep the to-read list to a minimum. I have 334 books on my Goodreads to-read list which is a bit overwhelming. I’m going to try to bring to remove the books I’m not super eager to read and keep it at around 100 or less.
  •   Read more indie/self-published books.  Now that I have a Kindle, it is easier to get my hands on self-published books. I haven’t read any of them so far, though I have a couple on my Kindle that are waiting to be read.

These resolutions shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish. The 55 books will depend a bit of how much time I have besides school and writing. Although I consider reading a part of the writer’s job.
I hope to get the writing resolutions blog up soon as well, but right now I’m studying for exams. It will be up at the latest at the end of January! Happy New Year everyone! May there be a lot of reading and writing waiting for you in 2014.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

On Writing Confidence

Writing a story and getting it out in the world requires confidence. A lot of writers – if not every – sometimes have moments were they lack that confidence. You think your writing absolutely sucks and that no one will ever want to read your book. Moments like that are very humbling and every writer should have them every now and then, even the very best. Being overly confident will make you arrogant but having no confidence at all will lead you nowhere. 

I am not a very confident person. I doubt a lot and I know how unhappy that can make me. My inner critic is a fierce monster that I haven’t been able to tame. The fear of not being good enough and the bouts of ‘my writing sucks’ can be severe enough to ruin my day. Sometimes I even question why I am putting so much effort in it. Why would I make myself feel horrible by trying over and over again? There are times that I have no answer for this and when it is really very bad (which luckily doesn’t occur that often) I might even end up curling in my bed and cry. I am never going to be able to make my dream come through, is what spooks through my mind then. There is no one around to cheer me up and tell me my writing isn’t as horrible as I think. The only ones who can get me out of this writing slump are the characters. They refuse to leave me alone and demand that I spend time with them and continue telling their story. I love them for that, though they aren’t always very convincing. 

But if I stop writing, what else will I do? I am only as passionate about reading but that does not offer me the creative outlet that I need. I cannot make anything of my own with only reading. I need to pick up those words and group them into sentences that eventually become a story. The prospect that I have to severely cut back on writing time very soon because of upcoming exams makes me sad. And this proves me that I meant to write. 

One time you might feel like we can write as good as or even better than, our favourite authors. Yet some time later, you might feel like your writing is worthless crap. It is far harder to get out of that, but remember why you are writing and think about what you would do if you weren’t writing. If you like the possible substitute of writing more, you might want to consider if you are truly passionate about telling a story with words. Without passion, you will get through the hard days and the less fun aspects of writing.

Hold on to the magic of writing and never give up. The journey is very difficult and perhaps dangerous for your sanity, but I heard the rewards make it all worth it. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Writing Descriptions

Descriptions are an important part of the story. They help to create the atmosphere and, especially in fantasy and science fiction, they add to the world building. But how much should a writer describe and how much should be left to the imagination of the reader? 

This is a difficult question and there really is no right answer for it. Some readers love a lot of description while others get easily bored by it and rather skip it. For me, it all depends on the skill of the writer. Yet I do not want page after page full of descriptions. I often forget it anyway. Some writers describe their characters in elaborate detail, but the most I tend to remember is their hair colour, eye colour and their build or other remarkable details such as a scar or a tattoo. The shape of their eyes, their nose, his large feet or their unusually small ears vanishes from my mind quite quickly, unless it has been repeated a couple of times or the writer put an emphasis on it. I create my own image of a character, building, place, etc. in my mind on the basis of the information I can remember. 

For me, the most important role of description is that it helps to get to know the characters. If you give description from the point of view of one of your characters, you should focus on what the character will see, hear, feel and smell. A character that has not eaten for quite a while, will notice the smell of food before (s)he sees the expensive tableware and the painting of an alien on the wall. The character who loves art will most likely see the painting of the alien first and (s)he shall look at it in more detail than the hungry character. 

Description can also bring your story alive. Often small details have a major impact on convincing the read that the story you are telling is real. In Harry Potter we do not get to see every detail of the shops in Diagon Alley, but J.K. Rowling describes just enough to let the whole street come to life. The best way to make your world come to life, whether if it is a world you build yourself or our word, is to make use of every sense. Too often smell and sound is left out and then you get a flat image. If there is a fire, describe the sounds. How it roars as it destroys everything in its wake or how a dungeon smells of death and decay besides describing how dark and cold it is. You want to make your readers shiver as they plough through the snow with your characters; you want them to smell and taste the freshly baked bread and feel how soft the fur of your monster is. 

Create the atmosphere, point out how expensive his clothes look and how the tiger’s coat looks in the setting sun, but do not describe every drop of rain, every wrinkle in his clothes or every stripe on the tiger’s coat. Leave some room to let the reader build the world in his head. I like to think of the descriptions in stories as the foundations of the reader’s imagination.