What I’m Reading: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Before I picked up this book, I read a few contradictory reviews and wasn’t sure that I would read it. There were plenty of diverging opinions about whether or not the world really needed this book. In the end, I decided that as I had really enjoyed reading the Hunger Games Trilogy, I wanted to read another book set in the world of Panam. And in this dystopian time of Covid and other things, I could use a good dystopian novel.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is President Snow’s story, but it is also the story of the Hunger Games. I didn’t like the book as much as I enjoyed Katniss’s story for one primary reason: I love Katniss, I do not love President Snow.

That said, it can be a very interesting perspective to read a book about someone you don’t like. Often, when we read, we want to be the hero, we want to feel what they’re feeling, do what they’re doing, become our hero. Reading an anti-hero novel is more like a love to hate. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book at all if I didn’t know that years later Katniss would come along and crush Snow under her iron hope, but because I did know that, I could stay with the story to the end.

Have you read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes yet? What did you think?

If you haven’t read it, but did enjoy the Hunger Games, you may want to check out this prequel, however, I will say that it might not be for everyone.

4/5 Stars.

JEH

How to Write 261,000 Words in a Year: Update #2

My progress over the past couple of weeks has been spotty but great! I’m pushing to get a draft done, and I write best when I keep a draft flowing continuously for as long as possible, without taking breaks for side projects or rewriting. This is my novel writing process, it might not be everyone’s, but it works for me.

I think my process comes from over ten years of doing NaNoWriMo. Of course, it’s now October, which already has me in NaNo plotting mode, but there is a lot I need to get off my plate first (more on that later). Because NaNo requires writing a complete first draft in the month of November (or 50,000 words, which may or may not be a complete draft), I’ve trained myself to push through and write a story from start to finish in around 30 days.

With my current work in progress, I’ve been working on it slowly for a longer amount of time, but lately I’ve begun to felt the need to push through, which means I’ve had some bigger days. Here’s where I’m currently at:

I’m almost double where I need to be if I were sticking to my minimum of 1,000 words every workday for a year! This is exciting for a few reasons: 1) if I keep this up, I will be able to write more than 261,000 words in a year, and 2) if I need a break, I can afford to take one.

Currently, I am planning on taking a breather before NaNoWriMo. You can see that while I had three really productive days this week, I’ve really slowed down. This tends to mean I’m reach a bit of a burnout when it comes to sitting in my desk typing away.

Here in Canada, this weekend is Thanksgiving, so I’m also thinking there will be a lot of break time this weekend, though I’m hoping to keep the flow going by writing a few words here and there.

I’ll let you know how I’m progressing in another week or two. Until then, have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Every so often, a book calls to you. That was how I felt when I first read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss a few years back. I loved this book so much I dreamed about it. I loved it so much I refused to read the sequel because I wanted to save it for later, since no one seems to know when the Third book of the Kingkiller Chronicles will be released.

A year ago I bought the special ten year anniversary edition of The Name of the Wind because I absolutely love beautiful books. The anniversary edition is hardcover and has both beautiful maps and illustrations. It is heavy, it is thick, and it is still my favourite.

I decided to reread this book last month, because I was in that epic fantasy super-giant book mood I get into every so often. And I loved it all over again. For me, The Name of the Wind is the kind of book I read without checking to see what page number I’m on. I just read. And then before I know it I’m at the end of the book. All too soon.

My favourite part of the book is the mystery around the Chandrian. Kvothe, though, is just a great character. And Rothfuss’ writing is so spectacular that in my dreams it is like I’m actually living on the streets of Tarbean myself (not such a great place to me if it were real).

Have you ever read The Name of the Wind? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it.

JEH

How to Write 261,000 Words in a Year: Update #1

In my last update, I stated my new goal this year is to write 1,000 words every weekday. If I do that, I will have written 261,000 words in one year, or the equivalent of 3 books of just under 90,000 words each. For me, drafting 1,000 words a day is pretty straightforward. I make myself sit down in my cosy armchair and I make my fingers move, without caring whether or not the words are any good. I’ll worry about that part later, during the rewriting process, once I actually have something to work with.

I started a chart at the beginning of September—my favourite time of year to start new goals—so that I can track how much I’m writing and what project I’m working on. Even with taking weekends off, which may or may not be the best thing (but I think I’ll make that a separate post), I’ve been able to meet my goal so far. So where am I at? Take a look at the chart below to see my progress for the past week.

Currently, I’m a bit over 5,000 words above my goal. I’m excited about this, as it means my goal is at the right level. Some days, I can barely manage to squeeze in the 1,000 words, and others it’s easy to double that, and occasionally, as you can see on Wednesday, I have so much other stuff going on that I draft no new words at all (though I try really, really hard to get at least a half hour of straight typing time in every day).

You can see the names of my projects on the right, too. Factor of Safety is the name of my current work in progress, a literary fiction novel that I hope to be able to share with the world one day. Weekend is not a project, just an acknowledgement atet it’s okay that I didn’t write any words that day. You’ll see on occasion other titles cropping up in this column, as I’m always working on more than one project, though at the moment all my other project work is focused on rewriting aspects (an no, I don’t count rewritten words in my word counts, my rewriting I do on an hours per day basis and I don’t currently track that, though maybe I should?).

Are you doing any writing? Is it going well? I hope so!

JEH

My Writing Life: Updates and New Writing Plans

It has been a long time, a long, long time, since I’ve had real time for the blog. For the past year and a bit, I was working a crazy, busy, but fun day job. I took the job with one main goal: to save enough money to comfortably fund a few full time years of writing time, and I’m happy to announce that I’m finally there, I’ve arrived. I am once more a full-time writer.

It is a challenging thing, to be a fiction writer that makes money. I see it over and over again and if you search, “how to make money as a fiction writer” online, the returns will be full of a general response that sums up to, “you can’t.” I don’t believe that is true, however, it is very difficult when compared to a day job that pays a regular salary with benefits. So for the past year my focus was on buying my own time, and for anyone that wants to writer, I would recommend this path. Not only is it great to be where I am now: sitting in my office writing this blog, it was a rewarding year full of experiences, regular paycheques, and expensive coffee.

However, it was challenging to find time to write, and I didn’t manage to finalize the projects I’ve been working on for over a year now. I hope, however, to have something new out soon, but I have so many different projects sitting around, and one main project that is the focus of all my commitments, that I can’t promise anything. But the fantastic thing about funding my own writing journey for the next couple of years is that I’m free to work on projects as they capture my interest. It’s all just about slow and steady progress, reaching my daily goals, and thinking fresh thoughts.

That said, I have been fleshing out my minimum goals. As a writer, no matter if it’s full-time, part-time, or on the side, it’s always been important for me to have goals. A few years back, my goal was to write 365,000 words in a year (approximately four books). It sounded impossible, but when you break it down into 1,000 words a day, it sounded achievable, and it was, I did it!

So, with it being September and my favorite time to make goals, I decided that I would set a minimum goal of 1,000 words every weekday. In a year, this will come to about 261,000 words! With still taking my weekends off! Again, I believe this is a highly achievable goal, and will still give me plenty of time for the business side of things and rewriting, which will take up a large part of my day since I have some great projects that I want to make better.

I’m also hoping (fingers-crossed), that this will leave me with a bit of time each week to check in on this blog, mostly because checking in here keeps me honest, makes me compare my progress to my goals, and is a reminded to myself of what I’m setting out to do.

Do you have any new goals for the next 12 months? If you do, feel free to share them below, and best of luck on your goals.

See you next week!
JEH