book review · books · shanti · writing

Final Draft is Absolutely Wonderful

Final Draft is one of the best books I have read this year. It was an Experience, and I mean that in the best way. I genuinely believe that were this not marketed as YA it could easily pass as literary fiction. Not that YA is bad, and neither is literary fiction, but Redgate’s cerebral story is just really, really tersely written. and really Deep. Effectively, Redgate uses the form of a YA contemporary (on the surface, this book is pretty standard high-school-senior-comes-into-herself stuff) to interrogate that same form, and the use of cliche more broadly. I finished it last week and I already want to reread it.

Continue reading “Final Draft is Absolutely Wonderful”

blogging · discussions · shanti · writing

Book Bloggers Responsibilities

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about whether it is a book bloggers responsibility to promote reading, and if you want to know my thoughts on that, go read the post! but I also promised to write a post about book bloggers responsibilities in general, and this is that post. What are a book blogger’s responsibilities? After all, this is something we do by choice; not just reading, but reading and then making things out of it. Do we have any obligations? And what does that mean for me?

Continue reading “Book Bloggers Responsibilities”

shanti · writing

Beautiful Books: Writing progress

Hi Virtually Readers! The end of November, and hence NaNoWriMo, is approaching. I have been writing…despite the fact that my laptop died and all I had to write on for three weeks was my phone or that laptop I borrowed at work. Yes, I have become the person who works on her novel instead of doing work, and I don’t feel at all guilty about it. Anyway, I FINALLY got a wireless keyboard, and then I arrived home and have a new laptop, and so I have definitely upped my productivity on my novel. I’m feeling…okay about it. So I’m linking up with Sky @ Further Up and Further In  and Cait @ Paper Fury for their Beautiful Books feature, where you talk about a novel you’re writing. You can see my post for last month here. Oh, and I thought of a title, or at least a working title: it’s called Skies Contained!
Continue reading “Beautiful Books: Writing progress”

shanti · writing


Hey Virtually Readers! As you may know I do some creative writing from time to time and I do so love it. (I also suck). I turned eighteen a few weeks ago, and among several goals for this year, I want to write two first drafts and edit two more manuscripts. Let’s see how that goes. I want to get Entreaty to a place where I’m happy to get feedback from people, and after visiting Thailand I feel all inspired to rewrite Lighter Places with a better setting and stronger characters (though I don’t think the plot will need such big changes). Anyway, I’m writing something totally different, an as-of-yet unnamed fantasy novel that will be part of a trilogy, for NaNoWriMo this year so I thought I’d link up with Beautiful Books, hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further up and Further in, to talk about it. Continue reading “Beautiful Books: NANOWRIMO IS WAY TOO SOON”

books · discussions · features · shanti · writing

Setting in Stone 3: Research Methods

Hello, Virtually Readers! Your, that is, my, favourite discussion feature is back again. Setting in Stone is a series where I explore many assumptions inherent in settings in books, spurred by enthusiasm for this post. You can read all the Setting in Stone posts by clicking the ‘setting in stone’ tag at the bottom of this one. Today, I’m discussing how setting is researched. This information is derived from reading/listening to various authors talking about their research process plus common sense. I’m going to outline the different ways to research setting, and their advantages and disadvantages as I see it. Continue reading “Setting in Stone 3: Research Methods”

shanti · writing

Beautiful People, Author Edition

Hi Virtually Readers! I’m a writer as well as a reader, and at the moment I’m busy writing the first draft of my novel lighter places. I’m 40k words in (!) and feeling good about it (like good in the sense that the plot totally sucks and I need to change everything) Anyway, Beautiful People is a linkup for writers, hosted by Cait @Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In. This month, the questions are not about our books but about ourselves as writers. SCARY.


How do you decide which project to work on?

I mean, so far with novel-sized projects I’ve only had time in the summers, so just whatever then. But in the next six-eight months, I have more time, so I have to make some calls. Anyway, in general I try to shift between chasing those plot bunnies and editing what I have already.

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?

I mean, so far I haven’t got any novel to the point where I could say that it’s finished. But I like the idea of Nano style drafting (what I’m doing at the moment, actually, with some of my own adjustments) and…I haven’t really figured out editing yet. With short stories, it depends (for example if it’s for a class project it’ll be faster), but working sporadically, short stories which I do for fun amidst other commitments take about three months (and lots of feedback from others) until I’m happy.

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

Apart from opening my laptop, not really. I guess I like to put on some nice music, like a musical soundtrack, quiet acoustic based songs, or instrumental covers of pop music, and read enough twitter/news that I don’t mind writing for a few hours haha.

What time of day do you write best?

I like to write in the mornings, I think, because the creative stuff takes more focused, and then I sort of have it out of the way and can feel productive for the rest of the day. But I *can* write anytime depending on my schedule.

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?

Hmm, my natural style is first-person present tense. I remember thinking that I was sort of similar to Rachel Hartman when I read Seraphina and Shadow Scale last year, but I can’t remember why…. I don’t really know who else I’m similar too, because when I read finished books, they’re WAY more polished than what I write.

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?

I guess I started writing because I wanted to create stories like the ones I loved. Most of these involved cliched generic fantasy plots that were never finished haha. I keep writing, because there are stories that don’t exist yet, stories which I think are important, and that I’m qualified to tell them (for whatever reason)

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?

There was this short story called Draconian which I finished this year, which was really hard to do well, and as it is, I still think I want to create a fourth draft so I can feel happier about it. I’ve also been trying to write this short play, tentatively titled Coming Into Money, because I think plays are really fun to write (I had to do one for Creative Writing class), but every single character believes something different about the other characters, so I haven’t figured out the details yet, so I”m only a few thousand words in.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

Yes. It’s about loss. And that’s all I want to say about it for now.

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

I just went and looked at them, and the goals were ‘write short stories’ (done), ‘and poetry’ (yes), ‘work on Lighter Places and Entreaty’ (yes to the former, no to the latter), ‘write essays’ (not yet…that is I started one, but I haven’t quite found the perfect lense yet. I have read some books of essays though! I also wrote some essays I’m really proud of for school), and ‘keep thinking’ (I certainly have.) The goals were intentionally vague, but anyway, these are my writing plans for the rest of the year: July: finish first draft of Lighter Places. August: work on short pieces. September: Outline the fantasy trilogy that I had the idea for while on holiday (that is, it’s an idea based on a previous idea, but you know). November: NaNoWriMo the first book of said trilogy. *At some point*: edit Entreaty. I want to get it into a state where I”m comfortable with others reading it, which will require some research and a lot of plot restructure, which I sort of know the gist of. I initially thought that this would be a light edit, but there are SO MANY issues which I didn’t really fix in the second draft, so yeah, I just have to suck it up and do that. If I don’t have time, the light edit will happen, but it’s hard to see the point when the plot sucks so absolutely. Anyway, hopefully by the end of the year I can find some critique partners (several of my family members have volunteered already) and do that. And I’ll keep writing poetry as well.

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

I can’t be bothered to find a gif, so: Write, then worry. (the worrying usually leads to ideas which help me fix it. At least, that’s the idea)

Sorry this post is so long, lol, I clearly love to talk about myself. So, do you write? What’s something you’re proud of writing? (blog posts or essays for school or even tweets totally count)

books · shanti · writing

Parents and other Drama (Beautiful People)

Hi Virtually Readers! So I am currently VERY excited because I’m about to graduate from high school. You’ll definitely hear a bit more about that in the next few weeks. Anyway, because apparently I’m not busy enough, I’ve been working on my current WIP, Lighter Places, during May. It’s currently at about 10k words, but hopefully I can give it lots of time this summer. Lighter Places is about Elaine, who does lighting at her school in Thailand. She’s in her last year, and trying to figure out what it means to pursue a passion and also serve others. I’m linking up with Beautiful People (thanks Cait and Sky) to tell you a little more about her parents (but if you want snippets, go look at my twitter feed, ‘kay?)


1. Overall, how good is their relationship with their parents?

Elaine really admires her parents, who are divorced, but is a little intimidated, particularly by her mother, who does so much. Her dad works as a businessperson in Singapore, and is always giving her gifts, like a scooter–but she really wishes that he was around more.

2. Do they know both their biological parents? If not, how do they cope with this loss/absence and how has it affected their life?

Elaine does know both of her parents, and lives with her mum. She doesn’t see much of either of them, because her mum is so busy, and her dad only comes when they have holidays. This means that Elaine has to deal with a lot of the daily issues with her siblings.

3. How did their parents meet?

I actually have no idea, haha. Let me see…. I think they were both in an international club in university (Elaine’s mum studied International Development and her dad studied International Business Management), and went on a trip together, and fell in love. But they divorced basically because they were too busy, and had high expectations of the other to manage that busyness.

4.How would they feel if they were told “you’re turning out like your parent(s)”?

Elaine would be gratified, but she’d be thrown into a bit of an existensial crisis, because she sees her chosen direction of work, managing lights, as not being able to serve others or make a difference like her parents have.

5. What were your character’s parents doing when they were your character’s age?

Pakpao, Elaine’s mum, was studying hard to get into a university in the UK, but also giving a LOT of time to soccer–she was co-captain of her team. James, her dad, was managing his friend’s band, dealing with their money.

6.Is there something they adamantly disagree on?

I assume this is Elaine and her parents? They don’t disagree so much as get into trouble over what they perceive each other’s expectations are–Elaine worries that her mum thinks she spends too much time and money on lights stuff, but her mother doesn’t really care.

7.What did the parent(s) find hardest about raising your character?

They don’t really understand why she loves lighting so much, and she doesn’t explain it to them. They wish that she was friends with their friends kids, but she isn’t, because she’s still figuring friendship out.

8.What’s their most vivid memory with their parental figure(s)?

Elaine remembers when her dad took her to the theatre when she was about twelve. She had loved film lighting before, but after that she fell in love with the interactive nature of lights in a live production. She also remembers meeting some of the women who her mum worked with, and how much her Mum cared about them. That’s what compelled her to look into serving others somehow with her job.

9.What was your character like as a baby/toddler?

She was very stubborn and very loud, and consequently had lots of friends. Her dad is always asking her why that isn’t the case any more.

10.Why and how did the parents choose your character’s name?

I don’t really know, because her name was initially Elissa, then it changed to Elin, and now it’s Elaine. Her dad liked it because it sounded old-fashioned and sweet, and her mum liked how it sounded, and meant ‘bright shining light”. But it took quite a while to settle on a name!

So are you engaged in any writing endeavors? Would you like to hear more about this one? how do you feel about parents in stories? let me know in the comments!

books · features · Shar · writing

Bookish Hangover

Hi Virtually Readers! Remember when I diagnosed Just Another Chapter Syndrome? This is a another illness that many of you may recognise (and no, it has nothing to do with alcohol). It’s serious and awful, so do try to be sensitive to those who suffer from it in the comment section.

About the disease

It’s defined as ‘an inability to get over a book’. This disease has been around as long as good books, i.e, forever.

I finished  The Half Blood Prince when I should have been sleeping.

The symptoms:

Those afflicted may exhibit some of the following:

  • Excessive emotional expression, usually crying or shouting.
  • An inability to meet anybody without recommending the book to them.
  • Insomnia brought on by thinking about the characters
  • Deafness caused by loud yelling of ‘I can’t believe it’s over!’ or something of the sort.
  • A refusal of reality; this may manifest in the patient calling their siblings by the names of the characters, muttering about swords and knives rather than vegetables, or strange statements like ‘I don’t need to do my homework! I’m the chosen one!’
  • Loss of interest in activities such as homework, chores, and socialisation.
  • High pitched squealing with other fangirls.
  • Mental fixation on the book’s plot of characters
  • A desire to hold, stroke, or cry on the book.

As you can see, these symptoms are serious and can last for anything between an hour and several weeks. It’s an illness that comes in bouts, like a cold: it can be caught (the most common method is recommendations.), lasts for a while, then the patient will recover, only to catch the disease again.



Unfortunately, the only way to permanently cure book hangovers is by stopping reading entirely. This is risky and not recommended. However, with patience and wisdom, it can be treated.

  • As already mentioned, avoiding recommendations will prevent relapse. This may require the patient to block their ears to avoid wanting to read more.
  • Conversely, getting new recommendations and reading another book will cure book hangover, but only temporarily, so beware.
  • Joint fangirling can dispel the patient’s hangover blue and help them move on; this is one activity they will always show interest in.
  • Make the patient panic about homework/dirty dishes/work so they stop obsessing over their book.
  • Distract the patient with smol animals/children.
  • Counseling the patient through the stages of grief:

Denial: ‘I can’t believe it’s over.’

Anger: ‘How could the author do this to me?’

Bargaining: ‘I’ll be over this book if there’s another five book series in this world and my favourite character is resurrected.’

Depression ‘I’m going to sit here and think about death a while. The death of my book, that is.’

Acceptance: ‘I finished this book, but at least there are more out there!’

  • Patience. In time, new books will come. Get ready for the next hangover. Until then, things will be okay.


Do you get bookish hangovers? What are some symptoms/treatments that I missed? Which books have given you bad hangovers? Do you go through stages of book grief?

books · features · shanti · writing

YA Found Poetry

Hi Virtually readers! So this is a sort of random post, but I was in the mood for it. Have you ever heard of blackout poetry? It’s basically where you have a page and cross out all words except the ones in the title. So today I’m doing that except I’m just taking random words and phrases from YA books and turning them into poetry. Each book (there are three) was published in the last five years by a major publisher (but none are from 2016 or 2017, and they’re all different) and is pretty popular. You have to try to guess the book. Hint: the title of the poem will in some way relate to the title of the book.


  1. Fragile Beauty

She wasn’t hungry

A small box

Her heart twisted

She couldn’t approach


Bewilderment and desire and fear

You need protection

Kissing her again


Don’t control you

Every time you touch me

A cruel sound


It was perfect

Everything she wanted

Didn’t seem to care


Good progress

A good queen

A plan


Those bodies were her fault

  1. Remaining Ashes

Obsidian eyes

Shadows and claws

Rare gift



Iron figurines

The whispers died


They might have valuable information

Still gruesome

So vital


Burnt yourself out

That much magic

Cut open and broken


Usual vitriolic dislike


curled up in the corner


deadlier than poison


wildfire in her mind

  1. Tender Monstrous Skeletons.

It should end with one too

Neither disappointing nor magical

A shared secret

Pestilence is free.

As fortune would have it

Luteous gold with vertical slit pupils

Unlike the other bidders

It isn’t becoming

And use it. And use it.

Something else. Something else.

Ambassadress of teeth.

Mint leaves

You don’t know everything


A passage of dull black stone.

She was caught

Voice lifted in hope

That vivid searching


Nothing at all had happened

Repelled by his hands

Plan. Plan. She had a plan


Fragile in his fist

What am I not?

Its bright and shining madness

Do you still want to know who you are?

Eyes filled with tears

Doubt her guilt

A resurrectionst

I came here for you.

Her angel had gone


So, this was fun. Do you have any guesses which books the poems came from? And do you ever dabble in poetry? 

features · shanti · writing

Writing Goals for 2017 (Beautiful Books)

Hi Virtually Readers! Today I’m away holidaying, hopefully feeling warm, but you get to read about my writing goals for 2017. I’m linking up with Sky and Cait for their Beautiful Books feature.


1. What were your writing achievements last year?

Um, I edited Entreaty in June and it somehow grew by 8000 words? But I really need to spend some time thinking about the plot, because I basically didn’t change that. I also wrote 3 short stories for fun, and several more for classes, won a writing award at school, and did some more dabbling in poetry

2. What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017?

I really want to finish the first draft of Lighter Places. I also want to keep on working on poetry, try some flash fiction, maybe write a short play, and continue working on non-school writing (though I’m taking 3 english classes atm= it’s really hard to tell what’s for school and what isn’t.) I also need to read through Entreaty again to fix tiny things and hopefully get to a place where I’m comfortable sharing it and getting feedback, because I’ve put so much time into this story that I don’t want to abandon it.

3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!

Lighter Places for sure. I’ve only written 6000 words so far, but I really want to finish the first draft. It’s about a girl called Elin who is trying to balance what she sees as important with what she loves/is good at, and also make friends and survive high school. (that’s also my goal, to survive high school)

4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?

I really want to get better at editing, and also find time for fun projects, and accept others help and be able to give effective feedback. I just want to still be wrting at the end of 2017; I’m not really sure where I’ll be.

5. Describe your general editing process.

Hmm, I’m not experienced enough in this, but I read through the whole thing and make notes, and look at my comments from when I was writing the draft, then go through chronologically (for novels like Entreaty) or parts where I’ve spotted plot holes or problematic dialogue (for short stories), and try to make it better.

6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?

Which draft? Um, the second draft of Entreaty gets a 6, because the writing was better, but the plots wasn’t.

7. What aspect of your draft needs the most work?

The plot. It needs to be more complex and mysterious, and the characters need to have more clear motivations. I also have no idea how to do the ending—this time round, it was sort of violent, which is the opposite of the point of the story, so I need to fix that somehow.

8. What do you like the most about your draft?

I don’t know—I think that I developed Asli’s character and his family more?

9. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

I’m seriously contemplating the dark hole option…but I just need some other people to read it (maybe Shar and my mum or dad?) especially to work on the plot.

10. What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?

Don’t forget why you love this story, why you spent hours on it. Don’t forget that you—and it—are worth it. (that’s so trite, but I think it’s also true?)

What do you think of my writing goals? And do you have any goals for this year?