Getting Out of a Reading Slump: My Top Tips

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Being in a reading slump is the worst possible state for a reader. You sit there wanting to read all the books on your shelf, and nothing captures your interest, even one of your most anticipated reads. Sometimes it can last a few days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, but to give you a helping hand, here are a few of my top tips on getting out of a reading slump.

  • Try a quick read.

Reading a short, fast-paced book might just be all you need to propel you out of a reading slump. It might be a haiku, a poem, a short story, a novella or even a novel. Maybe even try a quick read in a different genre if you’re feeling adventurous, like non-fiction. If you’re searching for something to read, you can check out my blog post on quick reads for a few suggestions.

  •  Go to a bookshop and read some blurbs.

Getting yourself in a new and exciting book environment might get you into the right reading place again. So head on down to your local bookshop and start browsing! You don’t have to buy anything, but of course, we wouldn’t blame you if you did! Picking up a handful of books that make your bookish ears prick up might just give you the inspiration and interest to get reading again.

  • Take a break from reading.

If nothing is working, take a break. Don’t force yourself or feel guilty about not reading, or not being able to read. Reading is our most favourite and beloved pastime. Ultimately, reading is fun and it shouldn’t be a chore or something you put yourself through, so take a break until you find a book that gets you excited, or makes you feel that spark again.

  • Watch the movie first!

I know. BOOK BLASPHEMY. But if you’re really struggling to get into a particular book, you can watch the film before reading the book so you can get to grips with the story. This might be a good idea if you’re looking to read classics in particular, as there are lots of different adaptations to choose from, and the style of writing might be quite difficult to get into.

  • Re-read an old favourite.

Sometimes, it’s just best to go back to what you know and love. Re-reading something that is comfortable and familiar might just make you feel better about reading again. And who doesn’t love a good re-read every now and again?!

So these are my top tips for getting out of a reading slump. Are you in a reading slump right now? Do you have any go-to ideas for when you’re falling out of love with reading? Let me know in the comments!

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#NaNoWriMo – Week 4

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I did it! I actually went and bloody did it. Here are my stats now that I’ve completed NaNoWriMo2016.

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As you can see from the graph, I finished on November 28th and officially wrote 50,000 words. It was touch and go as to whether I made it to the word count because, not only was I really busy in my private life, but I also developed a chest infection in the last few days, which really hindered my ability to write. I’m thankful I pushed on through though, because now I can say I’ve won NaNoWriMo two years running.

I didn’t actually complete my story, which is the weird thing. I never think about my stories or novels to be particularly long. Even last year when I wrote The Last Four Years, my story finished, quite appropriately around 50,000 words. So when I realised I had only written half of my story at 50k, I knew that with the finished product, I was going to be in for some serious editing! That being said, I really enjoyed the idea that I was writing, but for now I’m going to put it aside and mull it over rather than push myself at the same pace.

I have started thinking about another project that I ideally want to work on this coming April for CampNaNoWriMo, but that is five months away! I’ve realised just how important it is to have a plan, but sometimes, even if you have an outline or a structure, sometimes it’s not enough. I’ve learned to write where my heart takes me and worry about filling in the blanks later, because those blanks might just end up filling themselves over time.

I can happily say that this NaNoWriMo was very educational and productive indeed. I would like to thank NaNoWriMo and the whole team behind the event and also my writing buddies who kept me going. You are the unsung heroes of a writer’s life!

#NaNoWriMo – Week 3

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Apologies for being slightly late with week three’s update. Life seems to have run away with me at the moment, but despite this I’m still making good progress. Let’s see how I’ve been doing.

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I’m yet to complete my words for today (23rd) but I’m confident that I will by midnight at the latest. I have passed the 30k mark, and even the 35k mark as well, and I am ever nearing the 40k mark with each day. As I said last week, I wanted to have 40k by the end of week three and I’m almost there, so only over 10k left to write in the last week. I’m confident that I can win NaNoWriMo again this year.

I’ve been continuing to jump around with scenes which has really freed me up and helped me get the words down. It’s also helped me flesh out the other scenes that I haven’t had at the forefront of my mind just yet. I’m still not even half way through my story and so I’m thinking my final product is going to be much longer than 50k. It will be the longest story I’ve every written, as the most I’ve ever achieved is 50k, which was last year’s effort titled The Last Four Years.

So we’re coming into the fourth and final week, and I’m hoping to just continue writing as much as possible each day. I don’t want to worry about writing loads and loads each day, as long as I can get the daily word count done, I’ll be happy. So 50k is the goal regardless of whether my story is finished or not. I’ll have plenty of time to finish it over Christmas.

Here’s to the last week!

#NaNoWriMo – Week 1

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It’s that time of year again where we all hunch over our computers and try to bash out a novel in a month! Does it sound mad? Yes. But there’s method in our madness. Have a look and see how I did in my first week of NaNoWriMo2016.

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When I realised NaNoWriMo was coming around again, I knew for definite that I was going to be participating. I’d been mulling over an idea in my head for a few months and after developing it in a notebook, it was finally time to unleash it in a word document. I wasn’t at all apprehensive because I knew I had completed a 50k NaNo Project twice already, and so knew I could do it again.

The story I have decided to write this year is a futuristic novel set in a regressive society that mirrors Elizabethan England. World War three has destroyed the earth and the humans left over are rebuilding society from the World’s previous blueprint. Beatrice, the rightful Queen of the Republic of Karelia returns to her Kingdom to reclaim her throne since she has come of age, and must neutralise a threat of invasion from her neighbouring Kingdom.

My aim was primarily to keep to the word count for everyday and get ahead on words if possible so that on the days where I’m feeling less inspired I don’t have to torture myself into completing the required amount. I did hit a few issues especially during the middle of the week. For me the problem wasn’t finding time to write, it was typing the standard “housekeeping” scenes and and trying to push through to get to more exciting scenes where the action rose. I also have never written a story that involved world building before. It was a lot of fun building my own world in the preparation stage, but putting it into a story and making it work was entirely different altogether. I struggled not “info dumping” or leaving out the world building all together (and so thus confuse the reader), and have tried to keep it in a healthy balance.

This first week I completed nearly the first quarter of my book, which is brilliant progress! By the end of next week I hope to have achieved the half way point at twenty five thousand words.

Feeling Craft-y: Journaling Ideas

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I never realised until recently, but I’ve been journaling my whole life. Even before I knew what journaling was, or before I could write, my mum has been keeping chronicles of pictures I’ve drawn and notes I’ve written throughout my years.

I then kept diaries when I was an angst-y teenager, which I eventually ended up throwing away or ripping up because I was too embarrassed about my feelings and thoughts. But now I’m older, and have developed a love of writing, and have gained confidence in owning my own feelings and thoughts, I have found a beloved hobby in journaling.

I love nothing more than putting on some music, or a film, sitting back with a pen or pencil, and letting my hand roam freely across the page. Sometimes when I’m on a train, I’ll put my headphones in and write down my thoughts and ideas, or how I’m feeling today. It’s great to look back on, especially when the pages are linked to significant life events, or strong memories.

So what do you journal about? I agree that there is nothing more daunting than a blank page, but that shouldn’t be what restricts you, it should be what frees you. You can put anything you want to on that page. But just in case you get a bit stuck, here are some ideas for pages in your journal to get you started.

About Me

What’s your name? When is your birthday? Where were you born? Are you left handed or right handed? What colour are your eyes? What colour is your hair?

Journaling is all about YOU and everything connected to your identity, what you think, what you feel, how you see the world and more. Don’t be afraid to be selfish with your journal.

Bucket List

Before you die, what do you want to have achieved? Do you want to donate blood? Sky dive? Milk a cow? Learn a language? Ride an elephant?

Journals are a great way of keeping focused on an idea or thought. You can dedicate a whole page to the idea that someday you want volunteer or own your own house. You could even fill your page with wallpaper samples!

Wish List

If you had all the money in the world, what would you buy?

Journaling is also about escaping reality and letting your imagination roam free. If you wanted, you could buy a quad bike to ride around your mansion. The possibilities are endless and your responsibilities don’t exist inside your journal.

Things to Learn

Knitting? Photography? The Off-Side Rule? Perhaps you just want to write down the definition of a difficult word that you keep forgetting.

Things to Buy

The latest season of your favourite TV show, or the dress you’ve had your eye on the past few weeks? Even if you can’t afford it, money knows no boundaries in your journal.

Road Trips to Make and Countries to Visit

Do you fancy trailing along Route 66, or driving across Europe and back again? Where in the world would you go if you could go anywhere?

Job Titles I Want

Professional bed tester? Professional tea and coffee taster? Professional Netflix watcher? I know these are three jobs I would jump at the chance to do.

Those are just a handful of the pages I have in my journal, along with lots of free writing, strands of poetry, novel ideas, character names, narratives, letters to various people, list of books I want to read, films I want to see, notes, plans, ideas, favourite foods, my favourite types of coffee, celebrities I love, wishes, hopes and dreams, and much more.

Ultimately, journals are all about having fun. Let me know down in the comments if you love to journal, and what is your favourite page?

Franklin (Part 3)

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Haley and I became inseparable. If we weren’t in class together, we were catching up at lunch, usually in the music room, and we always sat next to each other on the bus home. We started writing songs together, playing music and goofing off. Sometimes Jared would join us on bass, but it wasn’t until senior year, when we were playing open mic nights around Nashville that we realised we had a good thing going.

Haley practically lived with us, especially over the summer months. It was becoming tradition on the last day of school to walk home together instead of take the bus. Mom and Dad would be waiting for us and we’d have a barbecue that evening. It was always sunny on the last day.

Tim would make a fire and we’d sit around, cook sausages, toast marshmallows and eat s’mores, and talk about how much fun we were going to have over the summer. For Haley and I, that usually meant writing more music.

Afterwards, we would all set up camp in the basement, watch movies until the early hours of the morning and eat chocolate, just because there was no school the next day. Tim would fall asleep eventually, but Haley and I would always stay awake to watch the sunrise from the roof of the garage.

We sat there quietly, the red tones of Haley’s hair illuminated in the sun’s glow. She caught me staring and smiled.

“We’re not going to be able to do this next year,” she said.

“We will, it’ll just be…”

“Different,” she finished and forced a weak smile.

“We’ll be thinking about our future, and making the most of the time we have left.”

She sighed. “Mom is really against us going to college together.”

“Whatever,” I shrugged. “That’s our decision.”

“I just feel like I’m not ready, you know?”

“I know.” She looked out at the rising sun again, and I wrapped my arm around her tightly. “I bet you wouldn’t mind getting away from your mom and John though?” I said.

“Yeah,” she whispered.

“It’s not fair that he treats you the way that he does. I know you don’t think so, but believe me he treats you like shit.”

“He doesn’t hit me,” she replied.

“It’s not about that.” I kept quiet because I didn’t want to argue with her. I didn’t want to ruin the moment. “I just hate him hurting you,” I muttered, picking at the holes in my jeans.

Haley laid her head on my shoulder, and I rested mine on top of hers. Haley was right, leaving wasn’t easy no matter what we had to face. Leaving meant change, just when everything was starting to make sense for us.

We stayed like that for a while. We would be thankful for another year in Franklin, pushing the thoughts of the last “last day” from our minds.

~

Present Day

Mom closed the lounge door. I felt suffocated, smuggled blind, kicking and screaming into a situation that I had been trying to avoid. I hated confrontation, especially now. Haley and I had argued so much recently that I was sick of it. Haley paced the room, and I could see the rage in her eyes.

“You didn’t say anything, you just left.”

“I couldn’t do it, I thought you of all people would understand that,” I cried.

“I do, Taylor, but I thought something had happened to you.”

“I buried my father, that’s what happened.”

“I know this has been really tough for you, but if you had just… left a note… or -?”

“I just had to take some time out,” I insisted. My eyes were burning into hers, but not the way they usually did. “Things were getting… too hard.”

“I know that.”

“So why don’t you get off my back?” I could feel the heat rising from me.

“I’m not on your back.”

“Well, it feels just like that.”

“I know we’re not the same kids anymore, Taylor, but don’t treat me like a stranger.”

“I’m not.”

“I came down here because my boyf… my friend, my best friend, isn’t okay and that’s what friends do. What happened to night time walks around campus, or studying together after class or just playing music, like we used to.”

“We’re not those people anymore, Hales.”

Tears started welling in her eyes. “You haven’t called me that in a long time.”

“Jesus – I can’t do this -,”

“Why can’t you write music in front of me anymore, Taylor?” She asked. I couldn’t give her an answer no matter how hard I tried. “Is it because the songs are about me? The songs that we used to write together about our identity and friendship, about Franklin and us – do you remember that?” I avoided her gaze. “Are those songs we used to write now about me? Why did you push me away?”

“I don’t write music in front of you anymore because I can’t bear to – because everything has changed since then, Haley.” I took a breath, trying to work out everything that was going on in my mind.

“Taylor -,”

“I didn’t mean to push you away.”

“I think ‘cut me out’ is a more appropriate phrase.”

I thought I hated her for that.

“It’s because I care about what you think of me,” I cried. “I care if I fail in front of you. For so long I’ve spent my time looking after you, and I cannot accept the fact that I need looking after too.”

Haley closed her eyes, and let a small tear fall onto her cheek. “I know that.” Her voice was dry, and she sniffed loudly. “I’m here for you.”

“I’m not okay…” I resigned myself to it. I couldn’t pretend anymore. “I needed to come home and be with my Mom. I can’t settle at college knowing she’s here on her own.”

“She has Tim.”

“I know, but Tim has his own family to think about.” I saw in Haley’s eyes that she knew how I felt. “I thought I could go back to college but I don’t think I can,” I said.

She nodded. “If you think the best thing to do is come home then…”

“I know,” I reassured her. “I never thought we’d be having this conversation either.”

“It just scares me that I have to do this without you,” she whispered, and stepped forward to wrap her arms around my waist. I rested my chin on the top of her head, inhaling her scent all over again. I felt a stab of guilt, but I couldn’t decide what was right. “Where are we now?” She asked, looking up at me.

“I’m always going to love you, Hales. That’s all I’ve got.” She nodded, and I kissed her forehead, then looking down at her. “I’ll take you home?”

Haley looked up at me again with her big eyes blinking back tears. A ghost of a smile crept onto her face.

“Alright,” she said.

Franklin (Part 2)

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Haley and I first met in freshman year at Franklin High School. I was moving up with the rest of my grade, so I knew a lot of my classmates already, but Haley didn’t. She moved around the hallways like a fish out of water.

“So, what’s her story?” Jared asked me, as we walked past her down the corridor.

“Who?”

“The new girl.”

“How should I know?” I shrugged.

Jared gave me a look. “She looks kind of cool, though.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I like her style,” I agreed, thinking about how girls always dyed their hair peroxide blonde and wore tight jeans all the time. Haley didn’t seem to follow that trend. “I overheard her saying to Miss Williamson that she moved down from Indianapolis when her Mom got remarried.”

“See,” Jared grinned, and shoved me playfully. “I knew you’d hear something.”

“Are you coming to check out the music room?” I deflected, feeling the tips of my ears go hot. “I hear they’ve got six string basses.”

“Nah, I need to go ask Vanessa to Winter Formal. I’ll catch up with you later.”

“Alright, later,” I said, ducking into the music room and picking up one the guitars on a stand. I sat down on a nearby chair and gave it a strum. When I looked up, Haley was standing in the doorway wearing an oversized Phil Collins t-shirt and her trademark frizzy hair. We were a mess of acne, bad haircuts and thick eyeliner back then, but I still thought she was cute.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” I smiled, strumming a few chords again. I really hoped she hadn’t overheard mine and Jared’s conversation.

“You’re really good.”

“Thanks,” I stuttered.

She shuffled through the doorway and sat down on a chair opposite me.

“I’m Haley.”

“Taylor.”

“That’s a nice name.”

I had never heard my name be described as nice before. I shrugged. “It’s alright.”

“You’re really good,” she said again, looking down at the guitar I was playing.

My words stuck in my throat. “Thanks. Can you play?”

“Not really. I sing and write songs but they usually suck.”

I shrugged again. “I’m sure they’re alright.”

She smirked at me, but I wasn’t sure why, and I could feel my ears going hot again.

I cleared my throat. “So… the Alaskas are playing in Nashville on Saturday,” I said. “Do you know them?”

“Are they from Alaska?”

“No,” I laughed. “They’re Swedish.”

“They sound cool though.”

“Well they have this album coming out; it’s called We’re Not Actually from Alaska.” Haley snorted. “I know,” I laughed with her. “But they’re really good… and I was thinking of going…”

“Is this a really long winded way of asking me out?” She asked.

“No. I mean – yes. I mean.” I could feel myself sweating. “Do you wanna go? I mean, with me – to see the show. If you want to…”

Haley looked at me, her eyes big and blue, and her goofy smile showing the gap between her front teeth. She had a nice accent, and suddenly I found myself smiling.

“Alright.”

Taylor – Taylor!” I shook the thoughts from my mind. Back in the coffee shop, Tim was waving his hand in front of my face with a sympathetic smile.

~

The next day, I was still thinking about Haley and me, as I lay on my bed staring up at the ceiling, admiring the poster for The Alaskas I bought at their concert. I suppose it was mine and Haley’s first date. I don’t remember if The Alaskas were any good or not, but I’ve had the poster ever since.

Mom knocked on my bedroom door. “Are you alright, honey?” She asked, pushing it open.

I sat up, leaning on my elbows. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

Mum stood in the doorway clutching our home phone. “We had a strange voicemail from Haley this morning. Maybe you should give her a call?”

“Okay. Yeah – maybe,” I nodded.

Mom smiled and closed the door again. I looked towards my phone on my bedside table, which hadn’t vibrated since earlier that morning. Thirteen missed calls. I knew Haley would want an explanation from me but she must have guessed where I was.

I thought about her finding my empty room, all the clothes gone from the wardrobe, my truck gone from the parking lot. I hadn’t left a note but there were still books on my shelf, which I thought made it clear I would return at some point. I just didn’t know when. There was so much I had to do, get over what happened to my Dad, finish college… put things right with Haley… continue with my life. It all seemed so impossible.

I got up off my bed and headed downstairs for some milk. As I got to the stairs, I overheard my Mom on phone in the hall. I sat down at the top of the staircase and listened in, resting my forehead on the banister, like I used to do when Mom and Dad would argue.

“… I just feel like he gets mad at me every time I try and make sure he’s alright.” Mom said into the phone. “Of course, he isn’t alright, his father is…” She sighed deeply. “I don’t know how to help him, Tim. I know he’s gone back to college since but that doesn’t change anything. I’m glad he’s home, at least I can keep and eye on him here… I’ll talk to him, I will… what? Come on… Tim, tell me… they broke up?”

My Mom started to cry. A wave of crashing disappointment washed over me. Everything flashed into the forefront of my mind. Haley and I. Running, laughing, drinking, crying, shouting. They had been talking about me. My Mom was crying and they were talking about me and me and Haley had broken up and my Mom was crying.

“He just doesn’t need this right now,” she choked out as the doorbell rang. “I’m sorry, honey. I have to go. I’ll call you tomorrow.” Mom put the receiver back on its holder and opened the door. “Oh my God,” she said, as Haley stepped in out of the rain.

“I’m sorry,” Haley said, and then looked up at me. “But I didn’t know what else to do.”