New New Year’s Resolutions

Back in January, I laid out my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016. We’re now nearly half-way through the year, so I thought it was time to re-visit those resolutions and do a progress report.

My first resolution was to finally finish my novel The Silvergreen Sea. Status: Confident green tick. It’s all done and out on submission as I write these words.
Second resolution, to finish the rough draft of my new novel The Tide of Fire. Status: Slightly more wobbly tick, probably in blue ink. It’s done – albeit only to a given value of ‘done’. It’s still nowhere near ready to be sent out on submission and I’m putting it aside for now, to be re-visited later.
Third resolution, to read at least 50 books. Status: Firm tick. I have successfully consumed 50 books in various forms – 29 paperbacks, 11 audio books, 5 hardbacks, 4 electronic books, and a graphic novel.

All my resolutions are already done, and it’s not even the end of June. I’ve officially won at New Year’s Resolutions. So what comes next – shall I just put my feet up and watch Netflix for the next six months? It’s certainly tempting – the new season of Orange is the New Black has just come out, so that’ll keep me occupied for a few days at least.

Some of my reading material for the second half of the year

Some of my reading material for the second half of the year

But after that, perhaps it’s time for some New New Year’s Resolutions. 2016 Part Two, if you will. What’s up next? Well, I’ve started writing a new book, The Only Thing That Never Burns In Hell, so I want to finish that in rough draft. I also want to read 50 more books, to get me up to a nice round hundred for the year. And as part of that I’ve got a mini-resolution, to read all the books which have been nominated for the British Fantasy Society’s Best Fantasy Novel and Best Horror Novel Awards, before they’re given out in September at the convention in Scarborough. I’ve made a start on the winning novels from last year as well – Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, and No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill. The only problem is that they’re both kind of freaking me out. Oh well, New Year’s Resolutions can’t be too easy, can they?

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My 2016 Reading Challenge

As mentioned a fortnight ago, (https://ruthdehaas.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/guess-whos-back/) I have a resolution to read at least 50 books this year. The impetus behind this resolution is partly business and partly pleasure. As a writer, I want to see what my contemporaries are doing, and to learn more about the craft in general. As a civilian, I want to rediscover the joy of being swept into a different world. A good book is totally immersive and brain-stimulating in a way nothing else is: words on a page translated into pictures of the imagination.

I’ve established some rough rules of engagement. I’m being strictly quantitative in some respects: I’m reading at least one per week, setting aside time each day to read, and setting a daily target of pages to get through. And I’m recording each book in a spreadsheet as I finish it. In some other respects, I’m being more laissez faire. Books of all types and formats count: novels, non-fiction, comic books, audio books, fan fiction. And I’m trying to be as diverse as possible in my reads, on every axis: old books and new, classics and trash, books in every genre by authors of every background. I’m encouraging friends to recommend and/or lend me books of any kind, so that I can experience the full rich variety of literature. It’s easy to get sucked into reading the same type of thing all the time, and while as a fantasy author I clearly need to keep up with the genre, I don’t always want to be reading trilogies about dragons.

My to-read shelf as of today. Nothing better than the glorious sight of colourful paperbacks waiting to be cracked open and devoured.

My to-read shelf as of today. No more glorious sight to than an array of colourful paperbacks waiting to be cracked open and devoured.

Right now I’m listening to the audio book of War and Peace, and reading a paperback called Heat Stroke: Weather Warden book 2, which was a gift from a friend. One is a monument of European literature about Napoleon’s army getting inconveniently in the way of some Russian aristocrats’ love lives. The other is a book about a weather-controlling genie who wears lime-green stilettos. I started reading it, thought ‘what a load of rubbish’ and immediately read 100 pages. Each is enjoyable in its own way, and every book teaches you something – about writing, about reading, about human nature, or about the Battle of Borodino.

It’s going well so far, both quantitatively (4 weeks in, 6 books down) and qualitatively – I’ve read a classic mystery (The Moonstone), a comic book about a women’s prison in space (Bitch Planet), a novel based on a comedy-horror podcast (Welcome to Night Vale), and some recent works of fantasy and horror. I’ll keep you updated as the year progresses…

Guess who’s back

Hello there my lovelies. After a three-month hiatus, I’m back in business!

So what’s new? Well, my original plan back in October was that I would get my head down and finish my novel The Silvergreen Sea before Christmas. That, um, didn’t happen as planned. Instead I did NaNoWriMo. For the uninitiated, this is national novel writing month, an annual thing where you attempt to write a novel in November. ‘A novel’ is deemed to be 50,000 words, which is a tough-but-achievable target, and without a day job, I had no excuse not to hit it.

The great thing about NaNo is that, because it’s a big event, you can go to meetings – or just hang out online – with lots of other people attempting the same thing and swap tips, make connections, and generally appreciate the fact that you’re not the only insane person out there. I’ve done it once before – back in 2011 – and decided it was time for another plunge. So I started a completely new book – working title The Tide of Fire – went to a bunch of meetings, and dutifully churned out my 50,000 words of magic, murder, and mayhem. It was good fun, and now I have the makings of another novel – about half a rough draft.

But what about my current novel, the one I was supposed to have finished by Christmas? Well, to be honest with you, I’d been working on it for so long I was thoroughly sick of the thing, and I desperately needed a break. NaNo provided that while keeping the creative juices flowing. Now, refreshed, I’ve picked up The Silvergreen Sea again and started on the final edit, aiming for completion by the middle of March.

All this brings me round to the two questions which must always be asked at this time of year: what’s my new year’s resolution? And did I achieve last year’s resolution?

Checking back, I see that my 2015 resolution was to finish The Silvergreen Sea. Oops. Guess I dropped the ball on that one. Oh well. So, my 2016 resolution is – guess what – to finish The Silvergreen Sea.

But – famous last words – that’s not going to take a whole year, and so I’m going to have a couple more resolutions. One is to finish The Tide of Fire in first draft. And another is to read at least 50 books. (Last year I watched an awful lot of television, so I’m thinking 2016 should be the Year of Reading). I’ve read three-and-a-half so far, so I’m off to a good start. Let’s see if I can keep up the momentum, and not leave my to-read shelf as neglected as those gym memberships.

Best of luck for all your endeavours in 2016. Unless your endeavours involve annihilating the human race.

High Resolutions

So, it’s 2015 now, which is officially The Future. Although I think my hoverboard seems to have got lost in the post, sadly. While waiting for it to turn up, I’ve been asking some of my family and friends if they have any new year’s resolutions. Responses have ranged from the straightforward – ‘I’d like to lose another stone’ – to the mysterious – ‘Well, I have my own aims, but they’re not tied to anything as prosaic as what year it is’ – to the minimalist – ‘Survive’. I’ve also seen someone on Twitter with the commendable resolution to ‘continue bumbling along in the same half-arsed fashion as heretofore’.

What’s my plan? My main aim is to finish – not just first-draft finish, properly finish – my current work-in-progress, The Silvergreen Sea. How long that will take remains to be seen, so at the moment I don’t have any other writing resolutions. Ideally, I’d get another book done, at least in first-draft form, but if The Silvergreen Sea requires extensive revisions, that might have to wait for 2016.

I’ve also been thinking I should really do something that isn’t writing, to keep things varied and get me out of the house: do some voluntary work, and learn something: French or Italian or BSL or piano or algebra. But I haven’t yet quite get my head round what I’ll have time for, or what would be most beneficial. Perhaps my first non-writing resolution should be to work out what non-writing thing I want to resolve to do.

Finally, I have not a resolution, but an aim: to try and get myself flying again, so I can get further from home than Kent. I can’t control my back pain, but I can at least try to manage and improve it through exercise and medication, and – I hope – enable myself to do the things most important for me. Like go on holidays to see some friends and family later in the year, so we can compare notes on how all those resolutions are going.

I hope everyone achieves what they want to (unless your resolution is ‘achieve annihilation of the human race’) so we can make 2015 the year it all happens. After all, we’re now living in the future.