Friday, 23 May 2014

Friday Reads: Pawn by Aimee Carter

I've been hearing good things about this book for a while, so eventually I decided to bite the bullet and see what all the hype was about. To be completely honest, Pawn is an okay book...but it's nothing spectacular.

Kitty Doe has been raised in a world where, on your seventeenth birthday, you take a test which will determine what rank you receive. Your rank (from I – VI) determines what kind of life you will lead – from what job you will do, to where you will live and what privileges you are entitled to. Aiming for an average VI but marked as a III, Kitty knows that there is no hope for her...until she is offered an opportunity she cannot refuse. In return for raising her rank to a prestigious VII (which only the Prime Minister and his family are entitled to), Kitty must agree to fool the world and live the life of Lila Hart – the Prime Minister's dead niece. But as Kitty is drawn deeper into the Hart's twisted game, she slowly begins to ask herself - is a rank worth the lives of those you love?

Pawn was a bit of a let down for me in terms of writing style and character development. Although it sounds great, I didn't feel as though the rest of the novel lived up to it's premise. Quite often we're told instead of shown that Kitty has 'spunk' – okay, that's great and I'm all up for a feisty character – but not when they're generally just standing around observing events and occasionally coming up with stupid 'smart' comebacks. And if I need another characters specifically telling me that the main character has 'spunk', then warning bells immediately go off in my head and I spend the rest of the book rolling my eyes at her 'spunkiness' (okay, I'll stop using the word spunky and all it's variations now).
Then there's Kitty's boyfriend, Benjy. To me, Benjy merely seems to exist in this book to create some extra teenage angst/drama Рthe overall plot would've worked perfectly well without him, given that he doesn't actually do anything. Ever. Oh, but when he does pop up, you can be assured that he'll bring with him the whole 'overprotective boyfriend' clich̩. Seriously, he wants to stop Kitty from doing anything...but when she says she's going to do it anyway, he just seems to shrug his shoulders and let's her get on with it, which is a tad contradictory to me (not because I agree with him stopping her, just because he seems to whine a lot and gives up far too easily).

The whole book feels very clunky – there are virtually no descriptions, or if there are, they're very generic and flat. The only time I felt as though I could really visualise the setting, was when the author wrote about Elsewhere – then I could really imagine all the vivid colours of the woods. Although, there is one part when Kitty is on a private jet and her luxurious surroundings are described to us, including the real log fire...yes that's right, there's a real log fire on the plane. Now, I'm all for futuristic, but I'm pretty sure a real fire on a plane would interact very badly with the plane's combustible fuel system...but hey, what do I know? There's also a scene with a poker towards the end of the novel – I won't go into details in case I spoil it, but I'd love to know if anyone else spotted the consistency errors in that scene...

Final comments: Overall, Pawn was an okay read – nothing spectacular, but good if you're looking to while away a couple of hours. Just don't expect too much from this novel, and you won't be disappointed.

3/5 cupcakes

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

One detailed synopsis down, one novel to go...

Today I'm proud to announce that I've actually finished something novel-related.

After about three months, and a lot of procrastination, I've finally finished the detailed synopsis for my novel! In case you're wondering, for a while now I've been following a 'how to' guide on writing a novel (because if left to my own devices, I don't get very far...), and in it, it suggests writing a detailed synopsis for your novel, so you can see exactly what's happening in each scene. The idea is that you write your detailed synopsis, then leave it for a couple of weeks and do something completely non-novel related, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes and see what parts of your novel might need fleshed out a little more, whether anything needs to be changed around, or perhaps cut out/changed altogether. That way, when you come to write your first draft, you've already got a solid idea of your novel in your head. Which, trust me, works a lot better for me because it stops me from fizzling out halfway through!

I'm so thrilled that I've actually managed to complete something novel related for a change (even if my original schedule dictated that I finish it in March – but that's a minor detail..) - but my only niggle is that it's only 8,902 words.

Now, I know this sounds like a lot, but the last detailed synopsis I did, it ended up being over 20,000 now of course I'm completely paranoid that there's nothing happening in my novel and I should just give it up. I have no idea how long a detailed synopsis should be, but I'm assuming it's up to the writer, depending on how much, well, detail, they want to put in. But still, I guess 8,000 words is better than nothing!

Anyway, I'm now going to stop worrying now and relax. It's half term next week, so for once I'm going to enjoy the holidays without fretting over whether or not I should be working on my novel, and then come back to it well rested and with fresh eyes in a couple of weeks time.

I've love to hear about your experiences of using a detailed synopsis – do you write one? If so, does it work well for you? Or was it completely pointless? And if you've never written one, would you consider it or not?

P.S. About the book reviews – I definitely still AM writing my book reviews, although I do apologise thatI haven't been able to post any for a couple of weeks. The internet here is horrendous and I hate it. But I am hoping that at least for this Friday and next Friday, I'll be able to post something up for you guys :). Happy writing/reading!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

May IWSG: Time for a confession...

Welcome to May's Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG)! IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh (you can check out his blog here) and the official website for IWSG is here – I highly recommend you check it out if you're looking for inspiration/tips about writing!

Me: Hi! My name's Rachel....

Everyone else: Hi Rachel!

Me: My name's Rachel and I'm...a quitter.

There. I said it.

Believe it or not, this is actually quite a difficult thing for me to admit. No one likes to think of themselves in the wrong, or of giving up easily...but I do. I wish I didn't, and it's something I'm trying hard to work on – I don't know if flakiness is something that most people my age have, or if I'm just a dreamer that flits from one thing to the other (in all honesty though, it's more likely the second option).

I could sit here all night and try to justify the things I've given up on - I quit my first proper office job after nine months (although I did hate that job so much it was starting to impact on my mental health, and I'm a strong believer that no job should ever make anyone feel the way I did), I quit my job in China because I couldn't stand the thought of being away form home for Christmas; and I quit my volunteering work this week, telling myself that I didn't have the time for it (I do, I just wasn'tl so enthused by it to give up my spare time to do it...and yes, I'm well aware of how horrible that makes me sound, but I am just trying being honest).

But then equally, I could look at it this way:

Because I quit my office job, I got the opportunity to live in China, meet some amazing people and experience an entirely new culture...

...and because I came home early from China, I was lucky enough to get a job a few weeks after I got back – which surprised me because I went completely blank in the interview, and for one question I just outright told them I didn't know what to say. But I'm so so happy in my job now :) and if I hadn't have come home when I did, I never would've applied for that job or gone to the interview.

...I'm not entirely sure what the positive is of quitting my volunteering work yet, but I'm going to choose to look on the bright side and say that it'll give me more time and (hopefully) more incentive to write.

The reason I'm bringing this up is because just like in my everyday life, I quit a lot of the novels and stories I start to write. And once again I could try and justify why I keep quitting, but the fact is, I just give up. Simple.

But once again, there is a positive side to this. The novel I'm working on now is the one I started during NaNoWriMo last year...and I'm still working on it. By now, I would normally have discarded that novel as well as given up on several other ideas, but just the fact that I wake up willing to work on my novel – whether that's by working on my detailed synopsis (which I wanted to have finished by Easter...whoops), or just by mulling over certain plot points in the car on the way to work – is a huge step forward for me.

So, I guess this month's post isn't just about my insecurities and fear that once again, my current WIP will be doomed to end up just another unfinished file on my computer (because that is the biggest fear that I keep returning to) – it's also about positivity and hope. It's a corny saying, but every cloud DOES have a silver lining :).

If I can sit here and work on a novel six months after I started it, after a lifetime of flakiness and quitting almost everything I've ever started, then you can do it too :).

It's one small step for man, one giant leap towards my dreams of becoming an author ;)