April wrap-up: What I Read, What I Wrote and Some Painful Honesty

In which Camp NaNoWriMo rolls round again

And this time, I actually used it for revision! The flexibility to use Camp for other types of writing project is one of its main differences to the main NaNoWriMo in November, but I hadn’t taken advantage of that so far due to my abominably slow writing speeds.

The reading thing

Five and a half books this month. You’ll have to wait until next wrap-up for the half, even though I put it in the picture in a fit of misplaced optimism.

The highlights

Alterations!  Finally, a contemporary I wasn’t ambivalent to disappointed about. It’s not particularly complicated or deep (apparently it’s inspired by the movie Sabrina) but Amelia’s growth in confidence, finding her way and figuring out her dreams was just as important as the romance aspect. The cast was diverse and vivid, Amelia was easy to root for, and yes, the romance was adorable. It even managed to have a love triangle (or possibly square) without being obnoxious.

Prince’s Gambit and Kings Rising were the second and third instalments of the Captive Prince trilogy. In March I said it was difficult to rate or discuss the first book on its own. The overview of the trilogy isn’t a lot easier, but I did enjoy it very much. The character development in these books is spot on, I was rooting for the romance the whole way through, I broke my heart over some of the side characters. All the elements of a great read. They were as graphic as the first but without the discomfort levels. It wasn’t exactly a shock to see the other side of Laurent – I knew it had to be there – but it was fascinating to watch it unfold. The plotting and intrigue maybe got a little far-fetched but it carried the story, which is really all about the romance. And the smut. Yeah, these are not YA.

And the rest

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the Iliad, from the perspective of Patroclus. If you know anything about Greek legends, you know how it ends. You’d think it would be less traumatic when you know it’s coming, but no. My poor heart was shredded to pieces. The writing captured the tone of an ancient myth brought to life, it really was beautiful, but it took me a while to warm up to the characters and the slow build to what we really wanted to see – the war at Troy – was maybe a little too slow.

fangirl book held against a cloudy skyFangirl. I really, really wanted to love this book. I had so much in common with Cath. I’ve seen people criticise her anxiety issues and anti-socialness as exaggerated, playing off cliches and stereotypes about geek girls, but I’ve been that person who would rather live off cereal bars than have to find the canteen and sit in it alone. But the romance lacked chemistry. I was more interested in seeing Cath negotiate college and her relationships with her friends and family. Overall, a like rather than a love, and I’m disappointed it didn’t live up to the hype. However, I do now have a very strong urge to read the Baz & Simon spin-off, Carry On.

So how was Camp NaNo for you?

I temporarily abandoned The Hunt, letting it stew while I figure out some issues, and instead used Camp NaNo to revise for my adult fantasy, Abriny. I did attempt revisions before but wasn’t getting very far. I’ve since had a couple of insights and the story’s going to change drastically in some areas, including the introduction of two new viewpoints in place of one existing. They’ll mean I can give the other side of the conflict, from the besieging army, so I’m pretty excited to have them in there.

This all adds up to more than tweaks and revisions, really. Instead, draft 2 has become an almost total rewrite. Even if I have a scene that’s staying broadly the same, I type it out from scratch. It’s been working pretty well. Still taking longer than I’d like, but I feel more like the revision is actually getting me somewhere and the story is starting to look more like a book.

You want actual numbers? At the end of April I’d written 58,364 words of draft 2. That’s not got me much past a quarter of the way in, so clearly I’m still going to have a lot of editing to do to get the word count to something reasonable, but it’s progress and I’m happier with the way things are going. I’ve discovered I have a tendency to write characters too nice, and in this second draft I’m making them more prickly and uncooperative. In other words: fun!

You mentioned painful honesty

Ah yes. And I wasn’t joking about the painful bit, so bear with me.

I have mental health problems. Specifically depression and anxiety. It’s not something I hide, at least not on my other social media, but I haven’t really talked about it here. It’s one of the reasons behind my often extended silences – I’m sure everyone worries about their writing (blogs, books or otherwise) not being good enough, or no one caring, but thanks to anxiety it twists into such a crippling mess I end up preferring to say nothing than risk it. The longer it goes on, the harder the cycle is to break.

It’s taken me a long time to get to this point (we’re talking years, no exaggeration) but it’s been getting worse recently and enough is enough. I’ve been to the doctor, I’m on medication and I’m on the waiting list for counselling. And I wanted to share this with you, because what really pushed me to seek help was the people who are willing to speak up about their own experiences, to say, yes, I have these problems, and I refuse to be afraid of admitting to them because of the stigma society attaches. People ranging from my favourite authors to casual instagram acquaintances, who aren’t afraid to say it’s been a bad day, or their anxiety is making them think this bad thing.

From now on, I’ll be more vocal about my own experiences, to pass the good along the line. I’ll add my voice to the others already out there in the hopes those who are still struggling might find it and feel less alone, maybe feel brave enough to seek help when they need it. Here’s a few thoughts to be getting on with:

  • It’s not your fault.
  • If you were diabetic, you wouldn’t feel bad about getting insulin from the doctor when your body doesn’t produce enough of it. Why should the hormones that balance your thoughts and brain be any different?
  • You are not weak for admitting you need help. Given the stigma attached to mental health problems, it might actually be the bravest thing you’ve ever done
  • It’s alright to have bad days, to sometimes feel like you’re sliding backwards. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
  • It’s alright to have days where you can’t cope with the rest of life. You’re fighting battles in your head every day, sometimes just to be able to get out of bed. Of course you’re exhausted. Grant yourself the me-time, the space and the grace to put those burdens down when you can.

My comments are open! Chat about books, writing, mental health or anything.

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