Lipstick & Chatter: Can We Stop With the Late Night Fireworks Now?

Everyone, can you believe its November? The German Market is just around the corner and so is the end of the year. I feel like it’s flying by quicker than I would like.

Shopping

These days, I get to come home to a great cinnamon scent in my room. I’ve been revisiting TK Maxx a lot waiting for a classically autumn scent like cinnamon or pumpkin in a reed diffuser. I own a few candles but I’m not allowed to use them upstairs for safety reasons, so the best near alternative for my room is a reed diffuser.

Now that I have my hands on a cinnamon scent, though, I think I would have preferred vanilla pumpkin or something without cinnamon as the scent is a bit strong. I’ve tucked away the reed diffuser in a corner where the scent will be less strong so hopefully, it won’t be so bad.

On the other hand, some of you may know that I love the Paper Place A4 Spiralbound notebooks from The Works. I’ve noticed that they’ve made their notebooks less pages recently although ultimately the same. I don’t know whether to be sad or happy seeing as it took me ages to get through them but now they’re less value for the same price!

University

I feel like I’m juggling so many things recently. Beyond university coursework, I’m also part of two societies, a language exchange group, a Japanese class and an extra module. I also have a gym membership and have been aiming for two days a week. I’d previously felt drained at most times during the week and at one point I started missing lectures and workshops in order to recover from my really long Tuesdays.

(This post goes out on a Tuesday, so rest assured I am probably dying at Uni as you read this.)

Until a few weeks ago, I also had two jobs. I’ve since quit the second job in order to have more time to fit all of these extra-curricular things with time to relax. The Tuesdays haven’t changed, essentially, so they’re still too long and tiring for the moment but I’m glad to have my Fridays and Sundays back – a few days where I can take time off and get ready for the next week. I feel as if I can still cramming in too much though and I’m still struggling to make it to the gym. I am hoping to change that this week.

NaNoWriMo

All this said, you’ll understand now why I’m finding it so hard to blog. You’ll be even more baffled to hear that I’m also adding NaNoWriMo to that list this year. For those of you unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month is a writing challenge to get 50k words done throughout the month. I’ve only succeeded once in 2015 and not reached 10k in subsequent years since. So, of course, I’ve set a small goal for myself of at least reaching 10k. Right now, I’m at 1k.

On top of that, I haven’t concretely planned my novel at all, whereas I have attempted plans for most of my previous projects. This is because, in my mind, I am still in the mindset of getting to know the characters and setting and when I try to write with a plot I quickly lose the plot (pun sort of intentional).

So I am actually approaching the novel more like a plan, and hopefully all those words will help me become more familiar with my characters. Case in point is that I started this month with only three characters and simply by writing about their setting I’ve now got at least eight characters.

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Lipstick Spotlight

Recently, the lipstick I have been wearing the most is my Smashbox Be Legendary in Legendary. I know I did review this lipstick a little negatively saying that it was not fully opaque and a bit patchy at times, but it means I’ve fully embraced a messy lip look.

I want something bold this autumn and winter as well as not too drying, so I have been wearing this two ways: popping this in the centre of my lips on top of Skinfood’s tinted avocado lip serum, or using the lipstick first in the centre and using a lip brush to line my lips in lip balm and soften the lip lines. I don’t have defined lips so softening lipstick lines really improves the look in my opinion. The result is this super plushy and glossy-ish look that I like wearing on a daily basis.

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The lasting power of the lipstick is not great so depending on food type it may have to be retouched. However, with just a drink or so, it will last well and only lose some vividity, fading to a more blotted look.

I did wear a liquid lipstick or two recently but I couldn’t handle just how drying they felt so I think I am back to bullets, pigmented balmy products and glosses for life. I picked my recent gel polish to match – it’s Halo Gel Polish in Apple Red, which is slightly orangey yet not too bright. Ask your local nail salon if they offer it, and if not they’re sure to know a trade stockist that does.

And Finally…

On a random note, I find myself picking more and more vegetarian options recently when I am going out for food. I recently picked up a jar of pumpkin seed butter to try out – it’s the one option I saw that was not nut-based (my sister is allergic) so it was an impulse buy! I just look at what interests me and many times it happens to be vegetarian. I told myself in this regard that I would never force myself to eat vegan or vegetarian, and focus on what I like, and it’s interesting to see what I naturally gravitate to and what I could easily give up.

Until Next Time,

X

‘How to Edit Your Novel’ Workshop!

Last month, I signed up to the How To Edit Your Novel workshop at Waterstones Birmingham. Writing and editing a novel can sound a bit daunting to anyone who has never gone through that process before, so it’s great to hear from authors and editors about how they go through this really intimidating process.

The panel of lovely people talking about editing were:

  • Gillian McAllister – her thriller, Everything  But The Truth is released in March
  • G X Todd – whose thriller novel, Defender, was recently released
  • Stephen Aryan – who writes the current Battlemage series of epic fantasy
  • Amanda Rutter, a freelance editor

They divided the general writing process into four steps – the first draft, the structural edit, the copy edit and the proof. I have roughly divided this post that way, but there’s a lot of universal tips scattered throughout.

The First Draft

Firstly, they discussed their approach to writing their novels. Gillian McAllister wrote her first draft in three months, and stressed to us that it was absolutely terrible. She then scan read it (it’s too terrible to try and read any other way) and condensed it all into scenes on index cards. From there, she decided on weaker, ‘saggy’ parts of the story or ones that could be removed entirely. Then she would move on to the second draft.

GX Todd, on the other hand, took a very different approach. She aimed to write 2000 words a day and each day, revise the 2000 words from the previous day before writing more. It’s similar to my current approach only with less daily words!

Stephen Aryan said his approach was a mix of the two. He noted that he has to read the end of his chapters for the hook that keeps one reading. Amanda Rutter added that the Davinci Code by Dan Brown was a good example of a book with great hooks as it meant she finished the book in one sitting!

Some tips for re-reading

Get critical beta readers. Pay attention to all they notice, good and bad, reason or no reason. If they’ve noticed it, it’s something you should probably pay attention to. If all your readers say the same thing about a specific section, then pay special attention. If they say something different about the same section, take their words with a pinch of salt, although it is clear that there’s something to pay attention to even if it stands out less.

Read your work out loud, especially dialogue. This is a common tip and it’s not hard to see why – it’s dialogue, it’s meant to be spoken.

When reading though your work, do it in a different way. Chances are you were staring at your laptop for ages,so try reading your work on a kindle or printed (double spaces with room in the margins to annotate) or change the font to something different.

The Structural Edit

Let the first draft go~! You may become emotionally attached to a draft you spent months or even years on, but the first draft is always gonna be pretty terrible and that’s a given.
Don’t be afraid of big structural edits, and keep an open mind as to the direction of the story!

From what I heard, it seems structural edits look more at the work as a whole, an overview of the project. The major themes of the story, the plot, the characters and their roles, all are sorted out in this editing step. I say ‘sorting’ but it could be ‘figured’ out afterwards. This is the time where you get an idea of where your novel sits on a bookshelf – its genre.

Some extra writing tips from the panel included ‘never start with waking up’ and ‘don’t be too continuous’. If it doesn’t progress the plot it may not be necessary. This is one of my problems! I somehow have to move my main characters from place to place without writing a documentary of their day.

Another plot advancement tip is ‘achieve more than one thing with a scene’. This means don’t just focus on advancing characters development in one scene and plot the next. Make one scene do twice the work.

2nd drafts can get bigger instead of smaller! I think the numbers thrown around were 80k to over 100k!

Know the 1 sentence pitch of the book. Keep it in mind as you write. You might say ‘it’s ____ meets ____’ but also keep in mind not to overshoot your ambitions by , for example, ‘it’s Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings!’

The copy edit covers things like spelling and punctuation but also fact checking. For example if you’ve mentioned someone shooting a bow and arrow, that detail has to be right because eventually, someone who knows how to shoot one may read it and get very annoyed at any detail that is wrong. I know I would get annoyed!
Structural edits may be suggested at this point as well but you don’t have to implement their suggestions.

The Proof

Finally the proof. Final checks are made like in copy editing, but this time there’s also a physical version, something that’s being sent out to reviewers. In the meantime, the authors will keep reading their own book, and making tiny changes. GX Todd mentioned that she read her novel start to finish at least 34 times before it got published (throughout the entire process) and McAllister says she read hers about 20 times.

GX Todd adds that she didn’t pick up the book again after it was sent off to publish… Not until she had to write the sequel, anyway.

They all agreed that deadlines are a good thing for them, because they’ve never felt like their projects were finished. There’s this urge to keep working on the manuscript but if they followed it, it would never be published!

Again, they stressed that Fresh Eyes are important. This is why fonts are changed and we read things on kindles and we have beta readers. The more ways of reading a project like its new, the better, since most readers will be new to your story. To add, try reading stuff in reverse! Read your manuscript starting from the last chapter or just work back page by page. Rutter says it good to stop yourself from getting caught in the story.

Lastly, tips for finding an agent. They mention and praise the Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook which is published annually and includes a list of agents and what they publish. An agent is pretty much essential and they stress that having one is worth every penny.  They will make sure you get paid decently for your work.

Finish the manuscript before you start to approach agents. The panel agreed on three rounds of editing before sending the work off to one. It’s going to be edited more with the agent as well as the publisher too.

Remember that agents read 8000 submissions a year! It takes a bit of luck and being the right manuscript at the right time.

If an agent has a social media profile, go stalk it a bit. You might find they are in the mood for something in the genre you wrote in. Twitter has made them ever more accessible with hashtags like #askanagent, too.

That sums up all the advice we got from this talk! It was super helpful. My main takeaway from this was that, as much as I am working my butt off on this draft, it really is just the start – the tip of a bottomless iceberg or something. Therefore I should really stop fussing over how perfect my second chapter has to be at the moment.

I hope you found this helpful too. I didn’t get absolutely everything in my notebook but I tried my best to get down as much as I could. Lastly, a special thank you to the lovely panellists and Waterstones Birmingham for hosting this workshop!

Until next time,

X