Writing Reviews: My Rating System (caitsbooks.com)

Writing Reviews – My Rating System

The longer I’ve been writing book reviews, the more confused I get with my own rating system.

Rating are hard. I really struggle with them. Since I use Goodreads a lot (shameless plug- add me as a friend), I wanted to keep things consistent and rate every book out of 5 stars. However, with so many people rating books from 1-5 stars, everyone now has their own meaning behind what a 5 star/3 star/1 star book is. Even my own meaning has changed.

So, for the sake of clarification, I want to explain what my ratings mean, and give some examples for each!

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Interview with Kalyn Josephson, Author of The Storm Crow

I am so super excited today to be sharing a conversation I had with Kalyn Josephson, the author of The Storm Crow, which will be hitting shelves this Tuesday, July 9th!!

The Storm Crow is an such an amazing book, but don’t let me tell you about it. Read on to see Kalyn talk about her new book, as well as writing mental illness in YA, magical creatures, and perhaps a hint of what to expect in the sequel!

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Writing a Book and Finding Motivation

So, back when I was doing NaNoWriMo, and posting weekly updates (<shameless plug> click here to check them out! </shameless plug>), I got a great comment from Ruqs over at Many Things Bookish:

[…]Can you do a post on how you managed to write your novel?? Such as inspiration, motivation, ploughing through and battling writers’ block etc? Because I’ve really been struggling with this  I wish you the best of luck with the editing process!

So, first, go follow her. Her blog is amazing and you should definitely check it out!

I’ve been meaning to write up this post for months now. I wanted to do it in the first week of December, but then life kept getting in the way and now it’s March. But since I’ve finally started working on editing my book (and by started I mean I gave it to a friend to help me start), it’s about time I answered this. Sorry if you’ve already moved on and this post is too late to be helpful!

I’m still not sure how I managed to write this novel. I have it printed out and staring at me from within a binder, and whenever I see how big it is, I am shocked. 93,000 words is a pretty good number for a YA fantasy, and some might say it’s a little short, but it’s the longest thing I’ve ever written by far. So, how did I actually do it?

As for inspiration, it’s was a line in another book. I was reading something last July, and one line made me think of a line from Legally Blonde, which then made me think of a bizarre scenario that somehow turned into a plot, which then turned into my book. Naturally, there were quite a few brainstorming sessions between steps there, but otherwise, it was just a stroke of luck and a sleep-deprived mind.

I spent my summer talking with friends and trying to actually come up with characters to go with the vague plot I concocted, then I worked on a deeper plot to really flesh it out. However, I didn’t actually start getting motivated to write until September, when I saw that one of my favorite booktubers, Katytastic, uploaded a video on a new book she was writing. Seeing her enthusiasm, and how fast she was plowing through her draft, inspired me to actually take action.

But then I didn’t start writing for another month, but whatever.

Once I started writing, I used the NaNoWriMo website to track my word count and daily progress. While it wasn’t quite NaNo time when I started, I tried to keep up with a daily goal of 1,667 words a day. I’m really competitive, so seeing the chart that NaNo makes was all I needed to want to keep writing. Any break in my continuous word count growth would have ruined the pattern in my chart, so I couldn’t miss a day or slack off.

However, writer’s block still hit. A lot. Luckily, this recent book wasn’t as bad as my other manuscript, but I think I know why. I went crazy with my outline. I outlined all 27 chapters (which then became 28) with the major events and what needs to happen, then I split each chapter into ~3 scenes with their major goals. Whenever writer’s block would hit, I would just fight to meet those goals I set and finish out the scene. Those chapters are a little duller, but I got through them.

On chapters where my outline was a little sparse, it was hard to break through blocks. There were two ways I always try:

The first thing to try is stepping away. Sometimes, you need to take a break and relax a minute before jumping into your world. Maybe there’s something you need to work out plot-wise or in your world-building that doesn’t require actual writing. However, you can’t let your writer’s block keep you away for forever. No matter how bad it is, try to put some words to paper that day.

Speaking of putting down words, my other way to get past writer’s block is just by fighting it directly. If you don’t think you can write, and you have no motivation or inspiration, just reread your last chapter or so, and then write something. Anything. It doesn’t have to be good. Or useful. But if you try to work through it, you may find yourself slowly inspired.

So there, that’s my advice for writing, inspiration, motivation, and blocks. I hope that’s helpful. And I totally wasn’t doing this to procrastinate editing my book.

What’s your favorite writing advice? How do you fight writer’s block?

The End of a Journey & What Comes Next – NaNoWriMo 2018, Week 4

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I hit 50,000 words of my manuscript on November 25th, 2018.

I finished my novel, with 56,847 words written during NaNoWriMo, and 93,086 words total, on November 29th, 2018.

I kept putting off writing the last scene. I would purposefully extend scenes, or conveniently stop writing just before I would need to work on that dreaded scene.

Finishing a book is bittersweet. I want to celebrate all of the work I’ve put in, but at the same time, I’m so sad that this drafting journey is over. I’ve loved creating this world and these characters, and I’m not ready to say goodbye.

I know it technically isn’t goodbye. This book needs a lot of revisions. But it’s goodbye for now, while I prepare to edit. And it’s goodbye to pulling story threads from the air and weaving them together. All that’s left to do is attack them with scissors and tape.

When you finish your first draft, there is still a lot of work to do. For me, it’s the hardest work. Revising.

I have absolutely no self esteem, and looking back at my writing only creates more doubts and insecurities. That said, I’ve made a schedule to revise my novel.

Everyone says you need to take a break between drafts. I’m really bad at this. If I take a break, I’ll never go back to it. Because of that, I’ve had to create my schedule in a way that will work with me.

My Plan:

Nov. 30th – Finish My First Draft (Check!)
Dec. 14 – Dec. 28– First Reading (During this time, I will be doing simple line edits and a read through to check the flow. Any major issues I notice will be noted for later)
Dec. 28 – Jan. 11 – Send It Out (I have a couple of critique partners lined up who want to take a look at my rough rough draft.)
Jan. 11 – ??? – Major Overhaul. (Take a look at all of the critiques and implement the changes necessary).

That’s all I have currently planned, but I know that I’ll need to repeat this process a couple of times before I have a product I’m proud of.

Books are a lot of work, but it’s worth it to see what they turn into.


Did you win NaNoWriMo this year? Are you planning on revising your manuscript?

Also, should I continue to make posts about my revision process and how it’s going?

Check out my latest NaNoWriMo post here:
Pushing Through and Finishing Your Draft – NaNoWriMo 2018, Week 3

Pushing Through & Finishing Your Draft – NaNoWriMo 2018, Week 3

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Time for some honesty. I struggle to finish drafts.

It’s not the word count or finding the time that hurts me. I just can never find the right way to end my story and do it justice. I talk a little bit more about how I’ve failed at doing this in my first NaNoWriMo post, My NaNoWriMo Plotting Process.

The third week of NaNoWriMo just finished, and we’re in the end game.  I’m 79,597 words into this manuscript (43360 for NaNoWriMo). I’m far above my original goal of 70k and while it’s looking like I’ll exceed my updated goal of 85k by at least a couple thousand, I’m in the last few chapters. Which means it’s time to work on ending my book.

Endings are hard. You put so much time and effort into this story, you get to know these characters and their lives, do the best you can to give them the conclusion you think is fit, and then you have to say goodbye.

The goodbye isn’t forever– revisions are necessary for every book– but I personally hate leaving the drafting stage. When you start a book, there’s so much potential. It can be anything. Maybe I’ll write beautifully. Maybe my characters will take a life of their own. Maybe I’ll be able to come up with plot twists that will make readers gasp. But ending a manuscript means accepting what your story has become. 

There are endless plot threads I never got to weave in. Themes I never explored to the extent I wanted to. A quarter of my words are misspelled and I’m not even sure my writing can be called English anymore considering how I massacred proper grammar. 

I hold myself to these high standards, that my novel has to be perfect, but no first draft is a masterpiece. Yes, you need to accept what your story became in the drafting stage. You can’t just delete the file or burn the pages. You need to look at what you’ve written, plot holes and all, and be proud, because it’s something to be proud of. Accept your draft, and remember you can revise it later (and open up an entirely new set of insecurities). 

I’ve always been too afraid to accept what I’ve written. Because of that, I would do everything I could to avoid giving my books the endings they deserve. I didn’t want it to end, because then I would have to look back at my book and see what a mess it was.

Not this year.

I’ll see you all at the finish line, with my ugly mess of a draft, and I’ll have an ending that I’m proud of.


Are you close to your novel’s ending? What’s your favorite final line of a book?

Check out my latest NaNoWriMo post here:
 Halfway Through NaNoWriMo 2018 & How To Stay Motivated

My NaNoWriMo Plotting Process (2018)

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Having done NaNoWriMo five different times over the course of seven years, I have tried a lot of different ways to reach that 50k and finish my novels.

When I first started, back in 2011, I had no idea what I was doing. All I had was a vague idea and theme that I wanted to work with, a simple sketch in my head of my main two characters. For some people, that works.

I’m not one of those people.

I gave up halfway through the month at around 25k. The next year, I went in wanting to rewrite what I had written in 2011 and actually finish it. However, I didn’t think it through beyond that.

I ended that year with about 33k.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I actually won. Using a basic plot chart-– the type I was given in my English class for analyzing novels– I created a simple story structure for a dystopian YA novel. Most of the book was planned out, except the ending. Luckily, I managed to write 52k…. and then never write the ending. In 2015, I tried to rewrite the dystopian and hopefully finish it. But because I was lazy I never actually thought out the ending and stopped once I reached 55k. That same issue happened when I started a new YA contemporary book in 2017. I got through two acts, and while I had a vague outline for the third act, I still wasn’t able to finish it.

So that brings me to this year and my current method.

I got the idea for my current WIP in July, and began outlining and planning over the summer. I used the 3 Act/9 Block/27 Chapter Structure. If you haven’t heard of it (like I hadn’t), I highly recommend watching Katytastic’s video on it!

This time, I left nothing up to change. Every chapter had a distinct goal, and for all of Act I, I split each chapter into 3 scenes that each had a goal. I later changed up the scenes and how they fell, but it definitely helped to keep my momentum.

By October, I started writing (I know it was early, please don’t kill me). I began on October 9th, and tracked my progress using the Goal Trackers on the NaNo site.

My original goal was to write 20k in October, then 50k in November, and finish the rough draft with 70k. It was a little short for a YA fantasy, but I would be able to fix that in editing.

By November 1st, I had 35k.

My first act alone was 30k, meaning if the other acts are that long, I’ll have around a 90k draft.

I was hoping to use NaNoWriMo to keep me motivated to continue writing through until I finish this book, but now it’s looking like I won’t be done by the end of NaNo.

My current plan is:

  • Write 35k in October (Check!)
  • Write an additional 50k in November
  • Write 1-5k in December to finish the draft!

I’m almost at the end of Act II, with 53k words and only about 2.5 chapters left. I’ll probably either just hit 30k for this act, or fall short by a couple thousand words. If all goes well, I’ll be finishing this book by December 1st or 2nd.

And then it’s time for revisions.

 

How do you plan for NaNoWriMo? Do you religiously outline, or pants it?
Also, add me as a writing buddy!

 

NaNoWriMo & Starting Your Novel (A Pep Talk)

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Hello friends! It’s November 1st, which means that it’s time for NaNoWriMo!!

In case you don’t know– NaNoWriMo (or NaNo because typing is hard) is National Novel Writing Month. During NaNoWriMo, thousands of writers take the challenge to try and write a 50k word novel during the month of November.

That means around 1,667 words per day.

If you want to learn more about NaNo and what it’s like to participate, I recommend checking out their website: nanowrimo.org. It’s really informative and you can see all the amazing reasons to become a Wrimo and jump in on this journey. There’s no way I could sit here and explain all the awesome parts of NaNo without forgetting something, so I’ll let them do the work.

As you can probably guess, I’ll be partaking in NaNoWiMo this year. It will be my 6th year. I’ve also done NaNo ’11, ’12, ’13,(I skipped ’14 because I had pneumonia) ’15, (I skipped ’16 because of college) and ’17. I won the last 3 years I’ve competed, so hopefully this year I’ll continue that streak. (Add me as a friend!)

But I don’t want to focus on me– I’ll save that for another post. Today, I wanted to talk about starting a novel.

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