Saturday, 14 June 2014

Weekend Reads: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is another one of those books that I just haven't been able to escape from – it seems like everyone loves it, so once again I gave into peer pressure to see what all the hype was about. And boy am I glad I did!

Cinder is the first book in Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles series and it's futuristic retelling of the fairytale, Cinderella. Cinder, a cyborg mechanic living in New Beijing, dreams of freedom from her wicked stepmother, Adri. But as she's a second class citizen on account of her being a cyborg, she's forced to work as a mechanic to order to fund her stepmother's and step-sister's lifestyles. But with a mysterious deadly plague, letumosis, sweeping through the city, a Lunar queen intent on declaring war and Crown Prince Kai desperate to thwart the Lunar queen's plans, will Cinder finally get the life of freedom she's always dreamed of, or will she be forced into a life of a different kind of slavery?

I thought Cinder was really well written – I could vividly imagine New Beijing, with all it's bustle and noise and new technology (though that may just be because I lived in actual Beijing for a while...) and I loved the futuristic world that Meyer has built. She goes into just enough detail about Cinder's situation as a cyborg so that I was intrigued, but not overwhelmed with technical details. Cinder is a great heroine – she's funny, feisty, strong and independent, but she's also totally believable while she's at it. So many YA books these days seem to just plainly tell the reader 'she is feisty. She is funny. She is strong,' that it was nice to have a bit of change and to have Meyer actually show us Cinder's qualities, rather than have us simply read about them.

I really liked the different relationships between each of the characters, and getting inside each of their heads. I especially enjoyed seeing Cinder's feelings for Prince Kai develop. Thankfully, there was no case of the dreaded insta-love disease, and it was so good to see a natural relationship develop between them, even if it wasn't a full-blown romantic one (at least, not where this books leaves off...).

Overall, Cinder was fun, entertaining read that really drew me into the world of New Beijing. It didn't seem to suffer from the same affliction that some first books in YA series do – it offered the reader enough information to keep them guessing what would happen, but there was enough information in there that this book could stand pretty much stand on it's own, as well as being part of a series. Although there were a couple of slip-ups (i.e. in one scene, the rain stops but a moment later, it's still pattering against the window....) and the 'twist' at the end was a bit obvious (or so I thought), I really enjoyed reading Cinder and I'm really looking forward to picking up the rest of the The Lunar Chronicles series.

Final comments: A good, solid debut that will intrigue you and leave you wanting more (in a good way).

4/5 cupcakes

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

June IWSG - What's right in writing?

Welcome to June's Insecure Writers' Support Group (IWSG) post...and my 75th blog post, hooray!

ISWG was set up by Alex J. Cavanaugh (check out his fantastic blog here) as a place for all writers to come together on the first Wednesday of every month to air their writing woes and offer each other support. You can check out the official IWSG website here (seriously, check it out, it's awesome).

So the last couple of weeks have been surprisingly productive for me in terms of writing – I've managed to finish a detailed synopsis for one novel and I'm currently halfway through another. This is probably the most serious writing I've done since...well, ever....

But as my main insecurities this month are very similar to the ones I had a couple of months back, so I'll try to keep this post brief. Basically, how do you know if your novel is worth writing?

How do you know people will want to read it? I am so so excited about my current project, but I just can't bear the thought that other people might not be as enthused by it as me. But hey, I guess that's what writers do, right? They write in a way that draws readers in so they'll want to read their novel. I guess I'll just have to keep practicing my craft and hope that one day, I'll produce something that people want to read.

Also, on a similar theme – how does one find beta readers? This is a question I've been curious about for a while now, and although I'm nowhere near the stage of needing beta readers, it's just something I'd like to find out about. Should you ask (always professionally and politely of course!) other bloggers to read it for you, or should you pay for a professional to do it? I'd love to know your thoughts!

Til next time, happy writing!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A game for a rainy day...

...or a sunny day for that matter. The sun is shining, the birds are singing...and I'm sitting indoors like the little hermit that I am.

Anyway! I thought I'd share with you all a little writing tip I read about last week. Now, I don't know about you, but I always work/write better if I don't think of it as actual work...which is why I'm calling this a 'game', and not just a bog-standard writing tip.

Are you ready? Sure?

Ok, let's go - here's what you do:
  1. You sit down.
  2. You open up your laptop/computer/notepad/chalkboard
  3. You write a synopsis for your novel that's between 35 - 80 words
That's it. That's all there is to it.

I know, I know - it probably sounds incredibly boring, but trust me on this - for the past few weeks, I haven't been that excited about my novel. So instead of slogging away forcing myself to write, I decided to thumb through the Writer's & Artist's Yearbook for some inspiration. It was only when I found the page on how to write a synopsis that I thought, 'hey, here's something I could do right now.'

Best. Decision. Ever.

It might sound counter-productive, but having a definite word count really sharpens your mind and forces you to focus on exactly what you want to say. If I didn't have a word count, I might end up writing a rambling 2000 words blow-by-blow account of each chapter in my novel. But by limiting yourself to a maximum of 80 words, you really have to think about the essence of your story, the bare basics of what makes up your novel. Instead of throwing the words down onto the page, I had to think about each one - and once I'd finished my synopsis, I suddenly knew exactly where I wanted my novel to go.

I know you're only really supposed to write a synopsis once you've finished your novel and you're getting ready to query it, but it you're stuck in a bit of a rut, it can be a fun activity to get your excited about writing again.

So what do you think about synopsises? Have you written one before you've finished your novel? If so, did it work or not? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Have a great Sunday, everyone!