Read & Written: A Peek Inside My Writing Life (February 2017)
Oh, February. What can I say about you?
Well first, let me begin by saying that Read & Written is my monthly recap series that offers a behind-the-scenes look at my reading and writing (both fiction and for Well-Storied), as well as a sneak peak at my goals for the coming month.
(Psst...you can check out past recaps here!)
And, well, February's recap isn't the shiniest. It was by no means a terrible month, don't get me wrong. But after transitioning She's Novel to Well-Storied on January 31st, I suddenly found myself jolted into a new stage of life, and things didn't go as smoothly as planned.
Simply put: goals did not get accomplished. But hey, we all have bad days and months! It happens. I'm human, just like everyone else. So enough with the pity party. Let's get on to the review!
You may have noticed that I'm sharing this recap a few days early. That's because I'm launching a brand new free workbook on the 1st, the day I normally publish these recaps.
And I am SO excited the workbook is nearly here! If you haven't already, you can click here to learn more about this new free resource and to sign up for an alert the moment it's live.
What did I read in February?
My goal for this month was to read 6 - 10 books, with a focus on black authors because a) February is Black History Month here in the US and b) I realized I hadn't read very many books by black authors and that's just a shame.
I was hoping to find some new-to-me authors that could become year-long favorites, and I'm happy to report that I did!
Unfortunately though, my 6 - 10 book goal did not happen this month. But I'm still on track for my yearly reading goal of 80 books though, so no biggie. Here's a recap of what I read this month:
(Psst! The Book Depository links below include affiliate codes. Any purchases made through those links helps me keep the lights on here at no extra cost to you. Also, free worldwide shipping, yo!)
1. The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight (Link)
My rating: 3 / 5 stars
This hilarious book by Sarah Knight teaches you all about how to stop caring about the things that don't matter so you can funnel all of that energy into focusing on the things that do.
I found some of the information less actionable than what she shared in her other book, Get Your Sh*t Together (which I read first), but I still thoroughly enjoyed much of what Sarah had to offer here.
2. Short Stories by Langston Hughes (Link)
My rating: 4 / 5 stars
I haven't quite wrapped up this short story collection yet, so this rating might be a bit unfair (sorry!).
Edited by Akiba Sullivan Harper, this collection includes many never-before-published stories and early works by one of the Harlem Renaissance's most prominent figures.
If Hughes' poetry is anywhere near as spectacular as these short stories, I can't wait to pick some up soon.
3. The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey (Link)
My rating: 4 / 5 stars
This is another book that I haven't quite finished. I know. Bad reviewer!
I struggle quite often with procrastination, so when I saw this book at the library, I decided to give it a shot. So far, I'm loving the information and techniques Bailey has compiled.
What I appreciate most, however, is that Bailey stresses the importance of taking breaks and carving out relaxation time, rather than the all-day, every-day productivity schtick some gurus try to sell.
4. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Link)
My rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
I picked this book up a few months ago after hearing that it won the Hugo and was nominated for the Nebula (two of fantasy & science fiction's biggest awards).
Why I didn't read it immediately, I don't know!
This end-of-the-world tale is one of the most unique and heart-wrenching reads I've ever come across. As added bonuses, the world-building and diversity in this were absolutely fantastic.
I definitely recommend checking this one out ASAP!
5. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Link)
My rating: 3 / 5 stars
I absolutely loved the crazy unique formatting of this space opera, which follows two teens as they face down zombies and psychopathic AI's while caught in the middle of an interstellar war. It reminded me so much of a YA Firefly, which...um, YES.
Unfortunately, I felt this book could have been split in two.
Both halves tell nearly full tales that rely on one another for context, but not so much for arc resolution. Making the second half of this book into the second book in the series would have made more sense and given the authors the room to explore the underdeveloped areas of this book.
I just realized that I've tackled more books that I thought this month. *self-fives*
Granted, I still haven't finished Short Stories or The Productivity Project yet, as I mentioned, and I probably won't quite finish at least one of them in February as I'm preparing for the Write With Purpose launch, but still...not too shabby, yo.
What did I write in February?
In my January recap, I attributed my lack of writing to the time-consuming Well-Storied rebranding and launch (which may very well be true), but it wasn't until February hit that I realized how much of a writing rut I was in.
It occurred to me that I really hadn't written for the pure love of writing in months.
So I decided to make a game plan to tackle this problem head on. I also shared how you can make your own game plan for rediscovering your love for writing in this article. Huzzah!
Part of my plan was to let go of the pressure to publish I was feeling and to work instead on what made me happy (rather than what I felt I needed to publish first). So I did a little bit of this and that this month, letting my writing take me where it wanted.
I spent the most time working on the third draft of The Dark Between.
TDB features four point-of-view characters, one of whom–Cim Ceradin Ryter–needed a complete storyline overhaul. My brain went wild with new ideas this month, and I ended up working a lot on the first chapter of his new storyline.
Here's a quick snippet for you:
"The tavern inn at Lock-Linne Roh was alive with the sounds of celebration.
Celwith stamped his thrice-empty tankard and Mitton swallowed ale in great gulps, both keeping time to the fiddler's lively tune. And my!, how Jodir sang a barrel-full of bawdy lyrics to match as he bobbed his wild, off-tempo jig.
A few of the knights jeered at the man's drunken dancing, but Jodir didn't seem to mind. Not even when they lobbed gnawed chicken bones and the burnt ends of the innkeep's bread at his head. The man just kept grinning and dancing, grinning and dancing, much to the knight's amusement.
Cim Ceradin let them have their fun. They deserved it, after all. It wasn't every day the company slew a hoard of ghost-men on the crags, especially without injury to man or horse.
The men of the Roh, drawn by the ghost-mens' war cries, came out of their cottages and craft-halls brandishing whatever looked vaguely sharp enough to be a weapon, just in time to watch Cim’s company make good on their knightly training.
It was as satisfying a victory as Cim had experienced in his eight months on the southern border, and even he–despite all his longing to celebrate in peace and quiet–couldn't help but tap his toe along with the fiddler's beat. It did him good to see his men so proud. And it did them all good to expend a bit of energy on something other than hunting or killing for once.
He sighed, letting this small satisfaction spread through him like the warmth of a good ale.
“The bastards are getting bolder.”
Cim started as Duke Vingel's gravely voice tickled his ear.
“Lock-Linne’s nearly triple the size of most border Rohs. If they dared attack here, Duun-Aren or Tundenee might be next.”
The tightness Cim had felt deep in his chest before today’s battle returned, quick as a flash.
“I know,” he said, a bit more forcefully than intended.
Duke Vingel bristled. “And what are you going to do about it?”
I hope you enjoyed that tiny sneak peek. I'm pretty excited about where this chapter is headed, even if it still needs a good bit of brushing up.
What happened at Well-Storied in February?
Ooh, look! A new section!
Since Well-Storied is such an important part of my life and I spend so much time reading, writing, and creating to bring it to life, I thought it would be fun to give it it's own little spotlight here in Read & Written.
Here's what happened in the life of Well-Storied this month:
Published on the Blog:
- I created Write With Purpose, the upcoming free workbook launching March 1st!
- I made a few tweaks to the site design based on after-launch feedback, including changing the links to a web-safe blue (apparently they were highlighter yellow for some of you instead of a dark gold–yikes!) and introducing a simpler blog roll layout.
- More and more writers are discovering and joining the #StorySocial chat, I think in part due to the recaps I've started creating and sharing on social media. We also had what many deemed their favorite chat thus far. Catch the recap here!
- The Well-Storied Pinterest account hit 20,000 followers (!!!), something I never thought possible. Truly. I also reached 5,000 followers on Twitter, thanks in part to this tweet that got shared like crazy this month:
Just write. Stop thinking about how hard it might be, how someone might read & critique it, how bad you think your writing is. JUST WRITE.— Kristen Kieffer (@kristen_kieffer) February 23, 2017
What are my plans for March?
Oh, plans. I love making them. And apparently also breaking them. (*side-eyes February*)
But in all seriousness, I don't think I'd get anything done without making monthly plans. Here's what I hope to accomplish this March:
- Read 6 - 10 books. Yes, I know this was my goal last month and I kind of failed, but I definitely feel like I've jumped out of whatever weird reading funk I was in for the first two weeks of February. So bring it on, March!
Some books I'd like to tackle include: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and some poetry (perhaps a bit of Langston?).
Oh, and maybe Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology if it's ever available at my library. I am ninth in line guys. NINTH. *weeps for all eternity*
- More writing love, please! I'm still in the process of rediscovering my love for writing, so I'm not ready to make any hard and fast plans here. Just trying to say no to pressure and yes to happy. :)
- Launch Write With Purpose. This baby is coming out WEDNESDAY, y'all. As in this Wednesday, March 1st. And I'm so excited to share it with you. Also, it's free. No barrier to entry. So sign up to know the moment it goes live today!
- Revamp The Pre-Write Project. I mentioned this in last month's recap, but my next big project is a revamp of The Pre-Write Project, one of Well-Storied's most popular resources.
I don't want to say too much about my revamp plans (mostly because I'm not 100% sure exactly what I'll be doing yet), but at the very least, the current workbook will be redesigned to match the new Well-Storied branding.
If you've been interested in purchasing The Pre-Write Project, don't worry about waiting until the new version comes out. All those who've purchased prior to relaunch will receive the new version for free.
- Plan out my next free resource. That's right! More free resources are coming in 2017. You may have noticed that I no longer offer free blog post worksheets or templates like I did on She's Novel. (You can still access them here, though.)
I felt that they didn't reflect the level of quality I wanted to offer you guys, so I decided to retire them and instead work on building an arsenal of free workbooks on some of writing's most popular topics.
Though this isn't set in stone yet, I think I'd like to tackle a character workbook first. Keep an eye out for updates over the next few months!
Okay, okay. Enough with the plans. Now to get to work, right? Let's go, March!
As always, I hope you guys enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at some of the things that have happened in my life this February.
I'd love to hear what you've been up to in return! Share a mini-recap of your month with me in the comments below, or write your own full-length blog recap and shoot me a link. I can't wait to check it out!