Read & Written: A Peek Inside My Writing Life (January 2017)
Welcome to the new Well-Storied, writers!
This is the very first blog post I've published since She's Novel became Well-Storied on January 31st, 2017. Writing blog posts feels pretty familiar, but at the same time, there's something freeing about this one in particular.
Now that I've refocused and streamlined my online presence, I feel like I'm finally creating at 100%, with all my mental energy and excitement focused on just one thing at a time. Can you smell the possibility in the air, friends?
Because I am STOKED.
But in other news, what you might not realize about the launch of Well-Storied is that this site will now also serve as my author website. Previously, I had published Read & Written articles and other sneak peeks over at kristenakieffer.com, but that link will now redirect you right back here.
Now, if you're just here for the writing tutorials, I don't blame you. Life is short, time is valuable. If you don't really want any sneak peeks of my personal writing life–all the things that go on behind-the-scenes for me as a freelance writer and dedicated reader–that's totally cool.
I still love ya.
And no worries, I only plan to publish one or two blog posts in this vein a month. Everything else I create will be completely focused on what will actually help you become a better, happier writer.
But without any further ado, let's get on to my recap of the month...
What did I read in January 2017?
As the end of 2016 drew near, I knew I wanted to make 2017 a well-storied year, a year in which I celebrated stories in every aspect of my life.
One of the areas I knew I could improve in was reading.
Now, granted, I did read 50 books in 2016, and that's no chopped liver. But I also binge-watched 8 seasons of Grey's Anatomy in 7 weeks and got myself into a depressive funk in which nearly nothing got done for 2 months.
Going into 2017, I knew I wanted to make strong plans to not only read more, but to read more widely. Much of my reading in past years had been sequestered to adult and YA medieval fantasy novels by white authors.
I knew it was time to make an active change, to begin including more genres, more diversity in author and character, and more non-fiction and poetry into my life. Thus, my January reading recap:
(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. Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley (Link)
My rating: 4 / 5 stars
This adult historical novel explores the life of Gwynneve, a pagan-born woman living as a nun shortly after the introduction of Catholicism to Ireland. A sweeping and heart-breaking tale of love, life, and loss (and religion's involvement in all three) this book was a beautiful start to my reading year!
2. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (Link)
My rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Siege and Storm is the second installment in Bardugo's debut series about magic-wielding humans known as The Grisha. While I FAR preferred Bardugo's follow-up duology (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom), this was still a fun, fast-paced, and entertaining read.
3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Link)
My rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
The tale of a woman living as a favored concubine in a theocratic society, this book was positively worth all of the hype it's received over the years, even if it was a bit too close for comfort at times. I've been meaning to read this classic dystopian novel for all of forever, and thankfully a friend gifted me a copy for Christmas. No more excuses. I loved it.
4. How to Make a Living with Your Writing by Joanna Penn (Link)
My rating: 4 / 5 stars
If you're looking to make any sort of cash from your writing, this is a great introductory book for you. Joanna Penn (of TheCreativePenn.com acclaim) lays the groundwork for an incredible career as a writer based on her own experiences. My only complaint was that much of the information included can be found in her podcasts or on her website if you do some digging.
5. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Link)
My rating: 3 / 5 stars
This was my first #ownvoices read of the year, and it had a lot of highs and lows. Things Falls Apart follows the life of an Igbo man and his village in Nigeria before and during the time of Christian invasion. While I loved reading about a new-to-me culture, I felt that this book lacked a strong character-driven plot, which made it feel quite directionless at times.
6. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (Link)
My rating: 3 / 5 stars
This debut in Alexandra Bracken's Darkest Minds trilogy follows Ruby, a teenager with psi powers, as she breaks free from an internment camp and fights to forge a new life while the government tracks her down. While a quick read and fairly entertaining, this book was also pretty formulaic and at times lost sight of its plot.
7. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (Link)
My rating: 5 / 5 stars
My first non-fiction book of the year was a definite favorite! I've recently been very interested in the minimalism lifestyle, and Kondo's book on decluttering your physical possessions by choosing to keep only what serves a purpose or sparks joy was the perfect starter course. I definitely recommend this book if you're interested in owning less and living more!
8. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
My rating: 4.5 / 5 stars || (Trigger warning: rape) (Link)
I feel strange calling this book lovely after that trigger warning, but it was lovely. Lovely and sweeping and lyrical and heart-wrenching. This YA historical novel follows the Roux/Lavender family through the generations, all leading to the strange and beautiful life of a girl born with wings. It is magical. You should read it.
9. Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight (Link)
My rating: 5 / 5 stars
Okay, this title may have you cracking up, but this was a fantastic read. Seriously, the book's tagline speaks for itself: "How to stop worrying about what you should do so you can finish what you need to do and start doing what you want to do". For a workaholic people-pleaser with anxiety and a touch of perfectionism, this book was a serious life-changer. And also hilarious.
Overall, it was a fantastic month of reading. It felt fabulous to make reading time a priority and to diversify the scope of what I read. I can't wait to carry these trends into the rest of 2017!
What did I write in January 2017?
Unlike my month in reading, my month in writing was...less than stellar.
I wasn't quite sure what my writing goals were at the beginning of the month, which certainly hampered my productivity. But what really kept me from a great writing month was overwhelm with the Well-Storied rebranding.
During the rebranding process, I ran into quite a few hair-pulling technical issues that left me pretty mentally exhausted. And so writing went on the back burner.
Most days, I only kept up with the 200 words or 10 minutes of writing-related work needed to maintain my daily writing habit. The good news is that I actually reached a new milestone in my #WriteChain: 700 links!
Another highlight of my month in writing was finally nailing down an idea for a short story.
I've been wanting to try my hand at penning short stories for a while now, but I have a terrible problem with ideas ballooning and ballooning until they become verifiable epics.
I don't know what triggered the switch in me this month (maybe all that mental exhaustion?), but while lying in bed one night, a short & sweet idea came to me nearly fully-formed. And given my track record (The Dark Between came from a single daydreamed scene!), this is definitely one to pursue.
What are my plans for February?
Ahhh, it's February 1st today and I confess to not yet having solid plans for the month. I'm trying to make a habit of taking the first day of the month to a) reflect on the previous month and b) use that reflection to build the next month's plan.
So maybe I should stop typing my recap, and actually go do that? Hmm? Yes. *bolts*
Aaaaand, we're back. With February plans in place. Huzzah!
Here are my plans for the month:
• Read 6 - 10 books. I'd like to continue prioritizing reading in my daily life, for obvious reasons, and I'd also like to read books predominately by black authors this month. To celebrate Black History Month, yes. But also to introduce myself to new-to-me authors that I can continue to read throughout the year.
(Can you believe I only have two books by black authors on my shelf right now? TWO. I, honest to God, thought that was a much higher number before counting them up. This is obviously a problem that I plan to rectify ASAP.)
• Draft my short story. Tentative title: And All Was Golden. It follows the story of an arrogant and highly-driven healer faced with hurting everyone he's ever loved to gain everything he's ever wanted. The main character, Cannen, is essentially a medieval Sherlock Holmes (at least in manner), and I can't wait to write him.
• Finish plotting draft #2 of Lady Legacy. The first draft of Lady Legacy had some big issues in the first act and in the motivations department, and I've been struggling for months to figure out how to fix them.
Thanks to yet another awesome daydream (seriously, bless my muse!), I finally have the solution to these problems. Now to tweak the plot so I can prepare to write draft #2 come March.
• Create the Write With Purpose workbook. (Even though I didn't do a recap of my month in business–it was all pretty much staring at code for hours anyway!–I thought it would be fun to include my business goals for February.
My main priority is to create the Write With Purpose workbook, which I've already been advertising as launching March 1st. (Yay, self-imposed deadlines!) If you'd like to learn more about this free upcoming resource and sign up to know the moment it's available, click here.
• Plan out my Pre-Write Project overhaul. I don't want to say too much about this just yet because a) I don't want to spoil anything and b) I don't want to jinx the project, but it's in my plan to overhaul The Pre-Write Project in late winter/early spring.
I do want to redesign the current workbook to better match the new Well-Storied branding, but I also have plans to expand The Pre-Write Project offerings as it's been my most popular resource by far. I have some cool ideas up my sleeve, y'all.
Okay, I think that's pleeeenty to focus on in the next 28 days. Now to get the coffee brewing, eh?!
Did you enjoy this sneak peek into my reading and writing lives? One of my goals for 2017 is to be more personal and transparent online, so I'd love to know if this kind of recap is at all interesting to you.
Tell me, too: what did you accomplish in January and what are your February goals? I'd love to hear 'em!