A Year in Books: January

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Oh no, I hear you say. Not this again…

Well, yeah. I’m bringing back A Year in Books!

giphyAnyone else excited? Just me? Ok. | © Universal Pictures, via Giphy

For those of you who don’t know, A Year in Books is a series I started in 2015. The aim was:

  • read a couple of books per month
  • choose the one I liked best
  • and review it on the blog

All in a bid to encourage me to read more outside my syllabus. Perhaps it was sound in theory, but like most of my projects, it sort of petered out and faded into the background, never to be spoken of again. Until now!

The main reason A Year in Books failed was because I didn’t enjoy writing my original reviews (if you’re interested in reading them, they’re here. Spoiler alert, there are only three). The content felt dull and the process of writing them just wasn’t fun. So I’m going to try a few new things, see what works. The main thing I want to do is to talk about a range of books, and not necessarily about ones I liked.

So, since January is long over and I’ve some catching up to do, I’ll get started with the book of the month! Without a doubt, this would have to be:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry 

I can’t express how much I loved this book. It made me laugh, it made me cry. It let me experience appalling, heartbreaking and magical moments.

Here are some things I liked about it:
  • It intertwines stories: The novel moves between characters, gradually revealing their pasts and connecting them in the present. The scenes chosen to introduce and develop them are poignant, and the characters end up feeling like real people you get to know over the span of the novel.
  • It crosses boundaries: The structure lets us glimpse many people’s lives, allowing the book to cross boundaries including time, class, caste and gender. Individual lives are brought to light. Their daily experiences are shown against a background of larger political processes. Numbers and statistics become real people; and everyone, regardless of differences, becomes human, driven to extraordinary things by forces larger than themselves.
  • It’s a wonderful combination of the simple and complex:  The book gets a lot across without weighing itself down with unnecessary fluff. It gets to the point, and it does so beautifully.

Through the stories it weaves, the novel presents us with life: the happy and sad, the horrifying and amazing. It shows us the incredible connections people weave because of necessity.

So, as you can probably tell I highly recommend this book. If you happen to pick it up sometime, let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading, and until next time.

Writing A Novel… Kind Of

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For years, I have worked on various projects that I hoped would develop into novels. I have participated in National Novel Writing Month without any real idea of the direction I wanted my piece to go. I have created countless character profiles in an effort to get to know my (frankly generic) characters. Over time, I let the projects sit, simmer and eventually trail off, and now they are in a folder that I labelled ‘Current Writing Projects’ maybe three years ago.

Well, the time for that is over.

One of the assessments for my creative writing course is completing a writing project of 8,000 words. It’s not much compared to an actual novel but for someone who’s primarily written short stories, it’s kind of a lot. I chose to write an extended fiction piece, possibly an excerpt of something that could go on to be a novel. In the beginning, I was very excited: I would finally get a proper chance to work at a longer project! I would finally take a step out of the short story/flash fiction world!

Now I’m realising I actually have to do it. I have to work on a longer project. I have to take a step out of the short story/flash fiction world.

giphy.gifWhat have I done… | © Disney, via Giphy

Of course, I’m still excited. And I wasn’t expecting this to be easy. But the realisation of the work I have to do is hitting me and it’s a little overwhelming. I started a few months ago with little idea where to start. I have progressed since then by doing some preliminary research and starting to write, but I still have a lot of work left.

As is tradition, I have been procrastinating because the tasks ahead are daunting. And as is tradition, I have decided to motivate myself by posting about my progress here! That way, I can keep track of how much work I do whilst also sharing my experiences of writing an extended piece of fiction, in case it helps anyone who is working on a longer project too.

And this time, there will be progress. There has to be progress, as this is not a self-imposed challenge like Resolutions Recap, Project X or Mission Extreme Writing (if you don’t know what those are… that’s probably best). This is something I not only want to do, but have to.

So look out for updates and let me know if you’re working on a longer piece of writing! We can cry share some tips and tricks. 🙂

For now, here is where I stand and what I need to do next:

Progress Report

  1. Words: 2,962/8,000
  2. To do next:
    1. More research (watch documentary; read one chapter out of key text)
    2. Edit the existing work (I got some feedback on it, so will probably be rewriting some a lot)

I will return with an update with what I have done/learnt next week!

Promise. 😉

Until next time!

Photo above is via Unsplash, by Lauren Mancke

Coping with Comparison

Boy, I will do anything for a bit of alliteration.

But alliteration aside (see what I did there?), today I am coming to you with some thoughts about comparison. I’m sure most of us have subjected ourselves to this at one point or another in our lives: looking at ourselves, or at something we’ve done, and undermining it because someone else is further or seemingly better off.

In my first year of university, I lived about ten minutes away from central campus. The path I took every day led me through a scening route, but it could also be secluded. Aside from listening to music and admiring nature, I was pretty much left to my thoughts.

IMG_0689The view on my walk, every day for a year. Not bad!

Sometimes on my walk, there would be people in front of me. Not that I competed with them, but thinking about how far they were never really helped me in any way. Still, if I was particularly tired or half-asleep after a night of sleep deprivation, I found myself wishing I was where they were.

Other times I felt completely alone and wondered why I was the only one on that path. I looked around only to realise that there were others behind me.

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