Posted in Charlotte Writes Things, Uncategorized

Charlotte Writes Things | The First Draft

“The first draft is a secret that no one ever needs to see, but it leads to the second draft, where the book really begins.” – Patrick Ness

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I decided that, after another joint winning Twitter poll, my next writing pot would be focused on that dreaded first draft since I’m currently in the middle of one.

No one likes drafting. If even big name, best-selling authors like V.E.Schwab and Neil Gaiman struggle with them, then there’ really no hope for the rest of us. To me, a first draft is like breaking into a run only to collapse in a fit of exhaustion a few feet later. That shiny new idea feels exciting and fun but the second I hit a mental wall it’s far too easy for me to abandon a project; to convince myself that I’m just not ready to tackle it yet and I’ll come back later.

The big fact I have to constantly remind myself of is that a first draft is only going to be seen by me. Which is important to remember because I am of the firm belief that you need to enjoy your own story before anyone else does and the entire project becomes influenced by what other people think you should do. In this early stage I think it’s also too easy to get hung up on words because you don’t have any to work with yet. It can be very disheartening to work for an hour and find you’ve written 100 words. It’s easy to feel like you’ve not made any progression and completely disregard that you technically spent an hour working. This is where my mantra “we measure time spent not words” comes into play because why should time spent trying to make a chapter work and deleting everything, research, or planning not count as progress? After all, they’re just as important as writing. I tend to use the forest app to mark my progress (more on that in another post).

If I’m really struggling to keep momentum but I can visualise scenes later in the plot then I make that shift and write those. Words are words are words, and I’ll do anything to keep going. Even if I want to give up 90% of the time.

What are your tips and tricks for handling a first draft?

Posted in Charlotte Writes Things, Uncategorized

Charlotte Writes Things | Planner vs Pantser

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck

 

20190119_132210It’s a common topic discussed and one that, in fact, I was asked to write about by fellow reviewer Anna. Writers are often asked if they are a “planner or pantser.” Simply put, do you plan or go in with no plan? When I tried to think of what other writers do, I remembered when I went to an event for The Iron Trial with Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and they talked about this very subject. Cassandra Clare has to plan every single detail down to when a character blinks, whereas Holly Black likes to go in with no plan whatsoever because she likes surprises. Naturally, you can imagine this made their partnership on the series a tad difficult.

I have to admit that I’m both a pantser and planner in equal measures. I have the initial concept in mind, along with characters and some understanding of location. When it comes to writing a chapter or scene, I like to have a framework – some idea of where I’m walking – but I never fully know what’s going to happen. I always leave room for things to happen naturally and so that the characters are able to think for themselves. It’s in these moments of no planning where new locations sprout, new characters join the story, and old characters have died. Sometimes I start writing and don’t even have the ending figured out.

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I’m hoping to do a whole seperate post about how exactly I plan a new project. But for now I pose the questions to you:

Are you a planner or a pantser?
Do you have anything you need to do before starting a new project?

Posted in Audiobook Of The Month, Uncategorized

Audiobook Of The Month | The Humans

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After getting into Matt Haig’s books last year, and one of them making it onto my list of favourites for 2018, I’ve decided that I really want to read more of his back catalogue so when I was scrolling through audible desperately trying to find my first listen of 2019, I came across The Humans. 

The Humans is about an alien who comes to earth and takes over the body of Professor Andrew Martin. The unnamed narrator has been sent to stop the humans discovering the answers to a mathematical theory. Initially, this summary didn’t really interest me, but I adored the writing style in How To Stop Time so I took a tiny leap out of my comfort zone and decided to give The Humans a go.

A lot of my pure enjoyment from this audiobook so far comes from the narrator, Mark Meadows. He is simply fantastic. The delivery of the lines and the tonal usage really makes the funny and witty moments land perfectly and I’ve found myself laughing out loud many a time at my desk during a work day. Of course, part of this falls to the clever nature of the narrative constructed by Matt Haig. The narrator talks about walking around naked and being confused about why the police have been called on him, not understanding why on earth someone would have a wife, and learning the human language through magazines such as Cosmopolitan.

It’s a short audiobook – standing at just over 8 hours- so I’m wondering where exactly the story is going to end up given the length.

At the time of writing this I am 29% into the audiobook and loving every minute of it.

What audiobooks are you listening to this month?

What were your favourites of 2018?

Posted in Historical Fiction, review, Uncategorized

Salt To The Sea – Ruta Sepetys

“What a group we were. A pregnant girl in love, a kindly shoemaker, an orphan boy, a blind girl and a giantess who complained that everyone was in her way when she herself took up the most room. And me, a lonely girl who missed her family and begged for a second chance.”

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Blurb: World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.”

Historial fiction is not a genre I actively reach for. In fact, when I think about others I’ve read, the only one that springs to mind is The Book Thief. But like the way I find most of my books, it’s talked about a lot in the community. So when I came across in on the shelf at my library, I scooped it up and went on my way.

I used to love learning about history when I was younger and it’s baffling that this is the first time I’ve heard about the Whilhelm Gustloff which is one of the worst wartime ship disasters. It’s total loss is greater than the Titanic and Lusitana tragedies combined. The event seems to have become a minor footnote amongst everything else that took place during World War II so I’m glad this book exists as a way to counteract that.

Salt To The Sea is told through four different perspectives: Florian who is fleeing from his dark deeds, Joana who is a nurse, Emilia who is a young pregnant girl, and Alfred who is a German solider. Each of these points of view worked perfectly in showing the realities of war and showcasing different stories of civilians just trying to make it out alive. When it comes to stories of war, I feel like it’s too easy to forget the innocent people trapped in the middle. Out of the four characters the reader follows directly, Alfred was the most interesting as he was working for Hitler. He was determined to prove his worth, earn a medal, and genuinely believed that he was on the right side of history.

The book is incredibly brutal. When the plot reaches its climax there is no escape from the death and graphic descriptions of people jumping from the ship in a desperate attempt to survive, no way to get past the images of bodies floating in water. But to downplay those elements would do this book, and history, a massive disservice. While the characters themselves are fictionalised and inspired by Ruta sepetys research, knowing that this tragedy really happened was almost impossible to fathom.

The only real grip I had with this book is the chapters. The reader is following each character for three pages at most before another one steps up which makes it really hard to care entirely for the characters or really get a full sense of who they are.

Salt To The Sea is heart wrenching but shines a light on an important, forgotten part of history.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

A Cover Is Not The Book

Recently, I went to see Mary Poppins Returns in the cinema and I absolutely loved every single second of it. But among all the familiarity, the contrast of colours and the pure magic weaved into its story, one song in particular stuck out to me.

The song is called “A Cover Is Not The Book” and tackles the topic of how really you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because then you’ll be surprised and find that your preconceptions were actually quite wrong. It got me thinking about some books I’ve come across where I wasn’t that enamored with the cover but, whether through knowledge of the author or hearing many good things, I decided to continue on and see what happens.

So here’s a list, in no particular order, of books where I hated the covers, but really loved the story:

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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Did you really think this would be the year where I didn’t mention The Great Gatsby at any given opportunity? One of my favourite books of all time but has a truly appalling original cover. Of course, like with many classics, there are many different editions out there but I chose to stick with the original as this was the cover of the copy I read. It was purely because of the 2013 adaption that I picked this book up so that I could experience the story for myself. Little did I know that the glitz and glamour of 1920’s parties, luscious prose and complex, intoxicating characters would have me coming back for many a reread.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare 

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I promise that this list isn’t going to include all my favourite books! Another book that I picked up because of an upcoming film adaptation, City of Bones was a game changer for me.  After devouring this book and its subsequent partners, I took a shift in my reading life to YA fantasy and also realised it was the kind of stuff that I wanted to write more of. A tale packed full of half angel- half human individuals battling demons in a world of warlocks, vampires and werewolves. There sure is something for everyone.

A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi 

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea made it onto my list of favourite books for last year. It follows a Muslim teenager called Shirin as she tackles school and wider society a year on from the events of 9/11. She is an incredible well-rounded character with so many layers to her than what those see around her, and I actually really liked the romance in it. The cover itself, however, I just found a bit bland. I get the effect of showing the reflection in water but I feel that it’s just too simplistic.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab 

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Victoria Schwab is an auto-buy author for me so most of the time I pick up her books not really knowing that much about them. City of Ghosts is a prime example of the US cover being infinitely better than the UK cover. I just really don’t like the way the red and black blend together and it makes it actually hurt my eyes to look at. The story, however, is fantastic. It’s about a girl who can see ghosts and sometimes step into the veil to the other side. It will appeal greatly to fans of Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

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Again, another one where I feel that the cover is a bit too simple. But the story is outstanding, and turned into an equally amazing film adaptation. It’s about a boy called August with a facial disfigurement who starts his first year in public school after being home schooled. It’s multiple perspective which works really well to see into the minds of other characters and how they view August. It’s a tearjerker, so make sure you have tissues handy.

So that’s my list! What are some books that you loved but didn’t like the cover?

Alternatively, what are some of your favourite book covers?

 

 

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Visting Charles Dickens

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Despite holding an English Literature degree, I’ve never really connected with any classic literature. The exception to that rule is Charles Dickens. I can’t quite explain what it is about his writing that whisks me off to another world, or why I find myself so fascinated with his life outside of writing, but it’s the way I’ve been wired ever since I studied Great Expectations in High School for exams.

Recently I took a visit to London for some theatre shows and, of course, I had to take a stop by the Charles Dickens museum at 48 Doughty Street. In 1837-1839, Charles Dickens used this house as a base as his popularity with his writing began to soar. During his time there, he wrote well-known works such as Oliver Twist.

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For £9.50, guests get to explore the various rooms that Dickens, his family, and his servants occupied. While likely biased, I found it well worth the money as you’re given a free guide that gives information and there are plenty of plaques around giving out a plethora of knowledge, a lot of which I didn’t have prior.  I was able to see the reading table Dickens used in his public performances, the desk he wrote some of his books at, the copyright contracts with his authors, what his books looked like in serial form, and some of the belongings from his main residence in Kent.

It was overwhelming to climb the stairs knowing that one of my favourite authors once lived and breathed here and I felt incredibly close to him. It was as if the years were rolling away and I was alongside him in the 1800s, in the hustle and bustle of a middle-class home.

I find these aspects of history so mind-blowing: that we have record, to an extent, of people who lived hundreds of years before we were born and these traces in the present day showed that they once existed. That, even though they have long since left the world, their memories and stories can live on forever; as long as people keep sharing them.

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Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

The Fear Of A Series Reboot…

We all have our series that we love with every piece of our heart. From Percy Jackson, to Harry Potter, Twilight to A Darker Shade of Magic. Ask any reader and I’m sure they’ll be able to name at least one that they constantly revisit. Sometimes, we yearn for the possible day when we might finally get to know what happens after the final book ends, and sometimes the ending is just so perfect that we can move on to the next adventure; satisfied with the outcome.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a book that I never would have picked up if it wasn’t for the announcement of a film adaption which would also be directed by Tim Burton. I was gifted the first book and entered the experience with trepidation because my tolerance for creepy/horror is not good. Frankly, I didn’t expect to fall in love with it the way that I did. The combination of prose and unusual photographs, the depth of the characters and world building had me completely hooked until I moved onto the next installment… and then the next.

While a very emotional reader, I don’t often cry at the end of a series but Library of Souls had me sobbing for an hour as I read the last paragraph over and over. It was perfect. It had the balance between getting answers, but also not knowing what happened next. Stories, just like events in life, are ambiguous in their endings. So when it was announced that Ransom Riggs would be rebooting the series with THREE new books following the same cast of characters I… had a bit of an anxiety attack. Which is really a stupid reason to have one.

For weeks I felt anxious about what this magical new fourth book, A Map Of Days, would be about. I avoided every possible mention of it let alone any snippets. Just the thought of more books genuinely made me sick. I went through the motions of whether I would even be able to read it. I went and bought it on the day of release and it has since sat on my TBR shelf, next to my Miss Peregrine figure, mocking me.

It’s a strange feeling to be so afraid of a reboot. But it’s more the What If’s: what if it’s terrible and runs how perfect the original ending was? What if the actions of the characters don’t marry up to what I expect? What if… What if… WHAT IF.

This is a very long, rambling way of me just putting my freak out into the world and now… I think it’s finally time to dive in.

Posted in review, Uncategorized

Virtually Sleeping Beauty – K.M.Robinson

“Find the girl; get out.”

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Blurb: “She may be doing battle in the virtual world, but in the real world, they can’t wake her up.”

K.M.Robinson has become known for fairytale retellings and Virtually Sleeping Beauty is no different. In this novella, she takes another classic tale and, this time, gives it a sci-fi twist.

The story follows Royce who learns that a girl called Rora has been playing the virtual reality game for longer than the allotted time. Becoming the hero, he delves into the universe hoping that he can be the one to break her free.

From the outset, the tension is palpable: there is the real sense that Rora’s life is on the line if the cast of characters don’t work quick to get her out of the game. Given this is a novella, I was glad to see this woven into the plot from the very first page. I thought it was a really interesting choice to tell the story from Royce’s point of view as it made him an onlooker to what Rora had to do due to the limitations of the game; he spends a lot of the story looking on, unable to help. Everything in this novella just seemed to pull together so perfectly that when I turned the page and was met with the acknowledgements, I felt almost cheated.

I did have a few typos in my kindle copy so I wish more time had been taken to make sure these errors weren’t present, and I wish the story was a little more developed as I would’ve liked to see more details and places within the game itself.

But overall, K.M.Robinson adds another marvellous read to her catalogue.

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

For my writing adventures follow me on Twitter

For my videos, check out my Youtube

For bookish photographs follow my instagram: @charlottereadsthings

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

Things I Learnt As A Bookseller

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Working in a bookstore was always something I wanted to do, regardless of for how long it would be. I’ve been fortunate to work as a Seasonal Bookseller, two Christmas’ in a row, at a high-street bookstore, and I thought I would share some of the things I learnt during my time there.

 

HOWEVER MUCH YOU THINK YOU READ, IT’S NOT ENOUGH

It’s pretty self-explanatory that you have to read a lot of books. But no matter whether you read 10 books a month, or 10 books a week, it is NOT ENOUGH. The book industry is constantly moving and unless you grow fifty pairs of eyes and arms, it’s pretty hard to keep up with.

 

THERE IS HOMEWORK

As someone who is very rigid when it comes to genre, you have to do a lot of relying on what other booksellers are into. If someone asks about cookbooks, it’s easily to palm that person off on your co-worker that spends all their free time baking cakes. But when a customer comes up to you with a book from the new releases section and wants to know whether it’s any good, reviews are your best friend. I spent a lot of time when the store was quiet just reading summaries and reviews of the latest releases I had no interest in reading, just so I would look like I knew what I was on about.

 

SENIOR BOOKSELLERS ARE WALKING ENCYLOPEDIAS

I lost track of how many obscure questions customers asked me where I stared back at them blankly, not sure they were talking about something real, only for a co-worker to go “oh yes I know all about that, let me show you out selection.” If you get to work as a bookseller, or the next time you go into a store, take time to talk to them. They have an endless supply of knowledge about books and various topics. I’m convinced some of them aren’t human.

 

PREPARE FOR BIZARRE INTERACTIONS

Following on from my previous point, I have my fair share of odd stories to share. My personal gem is a woman who told me she was looking for a book (handy as she was in a bookstore) and told me she “didn’t know the name of it, or who wrote it but it was on tv as a serial killer drama at the moment and she thought the cover was a light green colour.” Hoping I could narrow the search down, I asked if she knew what channel the show was on. To which she said “how the bloody hell should I know?” And walked off.

 

YOU WILL WANT TO TIDY EVERYTHING

Long after you’ve left your position (if a temporary one), and knowing the secrets of brand standards, you will struggle to avoid reorganising in stores. I have a bad habit of putting books in series order on a shelf, tidying tables before that horrible “I don’t work here” moment dawns over me and I scamper out of the store to safety.

 

SHELVING IS HORRIBLE

Is this 5-8 fiction or 9-12? Is it a biography? Travel? Am I going to leave it on this trolley for someone else to deal with? Absolutely. The only way to solve this problem is by paying attention to your surroundings and learning where everything is. There is no shortcut and it’s often a struggle to shelve books when the store is open. Also, you’ll probably get something wrong and see a senior bookseller grumbling to themselves as they move a book to the right place.

Posted in discussion, Uncategorized

History Of Magic: A Comparison

“J.K Rowling first had the idea for Harry Potter while delayed on a train travelling from Manchester to London in 1990. Over the next five years she planned the seven books in the award-winning series for them at Bloomsbury. Harry Potter’s journey had only just begun…”

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To mark the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, the British Library held an exhibition all about the series. It covered everything from aspects of the content, to their real life magical counterparts, along with the chance to see J.K.Rowling’s notes and drawings in person. Like many, I was not able to attend, so breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced the exhibition would be turned into a book. In a time when we’re seemingly bombarded with endless add-on books (as discussed in my good things blog post LINK), I was slightly sceptical. But after reading, I can confirm this is probably the only extra Harry Potter book that needs to exist.

The book is available in two physical versions: The hardback which is called History of Magic and the paperback which is called Journey Through A History Of Magic.

The first main difference between the editions is the price: the hardback retails at £30 and is more of a “coffee table” book, whereas the paperback retails at £12.99 and is much easier to carry around.

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Both editions contain the same art and information; covering topics such as Defence Against The Dark Arts, potions and magical creatures. But the way that content is conveyed varies. The Hardback is more academic and very dense to read. I found myself having to take a chapter a day in order to get through it, and often had to reread passages because I didn’t understand what I’d just read.  Whereas the paperback is more aimed at children, and so the information is condensed, highlighting the important pieces of information to take away. It’s overall a lot more colourful and appealing to look at, along with little games to “try at home.”

Naturally, because I am such a child at heart, I enjoyed the paperback a lot more. It gives you the interesting highlights, has all the colourful illustrations from Jim Kay, and it’s easier to consume. Where it took me two weeks to get through the hardback, I was done with the paperback in an hour.

Have you read either edition? What did you think?