Book Worm · School

Best Writing Advice I’ve Received

Hey everyone, sorry for the last two weeks of silence but I’ve been dealing with some laptop issues. Luckily, my lovely mother is allowing me to use her’s so I can get back to blogging ❤

 

I will admit, I am not the best writer there is (shocking, I know). However, I have been blessed to have some amazingly talented teachers and professors as well as had the opportunity to meet a few stunning authors at my university. Today, I thought I’d share some of the best advice for aspiring authors that I have heard from these professionals.

 

Focus on character, not plot.

I took a student-led workshop and the women running the show urged us to avoid ‘genre writing’ meaning not creating an epic horror or fantasy and instead creating a character first and seeing how that character interacts with the world. They said this helps avoid archetypes, cliches, and allows the readers to relate to the characters more because they turn out to be more life like.

The 1 inch picture frame.

One professor told me that when you’re stuck, fill in a 1 inch picture frame. What he meant was, when you don’t know where you are in a scene or what is happening, imagine the person or setting and just try to explain a 1×1 inch square of the full picture. It will get you started and help keep moving you forward.

best book ever

Write what you’re bad at.

The brilliant Junot Díaz spoke at my university my first year there. Many of his books are written in second person point of view and when asked why he writes that way, he responded that point of view is the one he is worst at. So, he writes books that way so he can get better because otherwise he would never improve. I try to emulate his approach by trying to write short stories and thrillers every once in a while to mix it up and practice. It’s kind of like switching up exercises in the gym so that all your muscles get stronger rather than just one.

Edit at the end.

Nanowrimo taught me this. Before, I’d write twenty pages then spend hours painstakingly looking over word choice and spelling errors rather than writing twenty more. By not looking back until you’re done, you’re less likely to get disgruntled and more likely to finish.

kermit writing

Rewrite rather than edit.

My creative writer professor is a novelist and his main advice for editing drafts was to literally retype the entire piece rather than just edit an existing document. He encouraged this for poem drafts, ten page stories, and claims that he does this for his novels as well. Although time consuming, he guarantees that it helps slow you down and will allow you to catch mistakes and areas to improve that you may otherwise miss. While I have yet to do this will a full novel, I did recently retype rather than edit a twenty page short story and I do believe it helped.

 

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me. Please share your own in the comments because I’m always looking for new ways to approach telling a story!

Book Worm

Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

Confession: I did not sleep last night. I decided to start A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas with the intention of only reading a few chapters. Then, all of a sudden I was 600 pages in at 5 in the morning so I just powered through.

I love this series. Check out my review of book one here and book two here. This book picks up a few weeks after the second one with Feyre living at the Spring Court with a duplicitous mission – weaken Hybern and the Spring Court from the inside. Don’t worry, no spoilers!

court of wings and ruin

This book is the longest in the series yet at 699 pages and is action packed. My favorite aspect of this book is that we get to see more of the other courts and their interactions. There is a fabulous scene with all the leaders of the different courts bickering about past issues and having political fights. It is entertaining and important to the plot as Feyre and her friends attempt to unite the island against enemy forces.

Rhysand is without a doubt one of my favorite characters in this series. Thus, I was a little disappointed that he didn’t make an appearance until about 100 pages in. Tamlin, as always, annoyed me. I think that Maas attempted to write a slight redemption arc but I was not having it. We get to know Elain and Nesta much better and how they fit into this new Fae world.

I do have a few critiques about this book. There were a lot of side stories such as Lucien taking a little adventure and Nesta recovering after the cauldron incident from the last book that I would have enjoyed seeing first hand from their POV. There are two short chapters form Rhysand’s POV but other than that it is entirely Feyre. My hope is that Maas may write some novellas to provide a few more details about some of the side plots. Additionally, some of the plot lines wrapped up a bit too easily. I can’t believe that I’m saying this since the book was quite long but certain pivotal scenes felt rushed.

Overall, it was a great addition to this series and fans will definitely enjoy it. However, the second book remains my favorite in the trilogy. Let me know what you all think!

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Favorite Book Covers

Whoever said not to judge a book by its cover was CLEARLY never overwhelmed in a fabulous book store! Because, let’s be honest, the book cover and title is what makes you reach for the book and read that back cover. So while it’s obviously not the most important part of the book, the cover does have a key role to play and there’s something so impressive that these artists do to express the feel of the book in a single snapshot that I just love to look at. I only included covers of books I have actually read.

So without further ado, here are some of my favorite book covers of all time…

Three Dark Crowns

three-dark-crowns

Each crown perfectly represents each of the main 3 queens which you appreciate even more after reading it.

Meg

meg steve alten

Yes, the cover is a giant shark eating a t-rex is a bit much but you have to admit that it definitely grabs your attention.

Graceling

graceling-cover

Individuals with graces have distinct eye colors. The main character’s graced skill is killing so the reflection of her eye on a dagger is smart and iconic.

My Sister’s Keeper

my sister's keeper

A beautiful story of two sisters’ dependence on each other that this cover depicts.

Undivided

undivided

This is one of my favorite series of all time! This novel shows America’s reactions to the divisions which is why I love the scarred statue of liberty.

Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects

wicked bugs

I love this creepy but still lovely cover.

The Murmurings

the murmurings

This horror novel grabs you with this creepy cover. The story is just as creepy!

This is How You Lose Her

this is how you lose her

This collection of stories about lost love is astonishing and I really appreciated this lego-like heart.

The Cellar

the cellar

This story is haunting and heartbreaking about a young woman who is kidnapped and locked in a man’s cellar. This cover captures the haunted aspect perfectly.

Tiger Lily

tiger lily

This novel tells the story of Peter Pan from Tiger Lily’s perspective. I love the colors and textures of the dress on the cover!

Let me know your own favorite covers! If you try any of these books, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Believe me, the stories are as great as the cover images ❤

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Summer Reading Recommendations

There’s nothing quite like reading a great book poolside and summer is a perfect time to catch up on one’s reading list. Today, I thought I’d share some of my favorite summer books that are perfect for an enjoyable summer read!

 

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

You may recognize the name from the popular TV show – well the book is incredible as well. It follows the world war II nurse Claire who accidentally travels back in time to 18th century Scotland where she meets warrior Jamie Fraser.

The story is an entertaining blend of historical fiction, romance, and adventure. If you aren’t the biggest fan of fantasy, don’t count this out just because of the time traveling. Other than that, it doesn’t have as many fantastical elements but is more of a historical romance.

outlander

The Girl in the Gatehouse – Julie Klassen

Mariah lives in an abandoned gatehouse where she supports herself by writing novels in secret. When a new wealthy Captain leases the estate, he is intrigued by her but also curious as to what dark past forced her to seek asylum in the gatehouse.

This is a beautiful piece of historical romance with a beguiling outcast as its protagonist. An easy read with some interesting twists.

girl in the gatehouse

I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson

Twins Jude and Noah are incredibly close and talented artists. At 13, Noah is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door. Three years later, Jude doesn’t speak to her brother and is having difficulty making art until she meets a cocky, broken boy. The story alternates between the two time lines and weaves a beautiful tale about art, family, and growing up.

This book has a lovely and inspiring plot and beautiful writing. There were literally lines in every chapter that took my breath away. It made me want to be a better writer.

i'll give you the sun

Meg – Steve Alten

During a top secret dive into the Pacific Ocean’s deepest canyon, diver Jonas Taylor finds a creature that should be extinct – the megalodon shark. Taylor tries desperately to get the world to believe him but it takes a trip back to the water with a new hotshot female submarine to see if he is correct.

This book is Jaws times one hundred. While it may not be a great read while at the beach (especially if you’re already anxious about sharks haha) it is super entertaining, action-packed, with romance, suspense and a fairly plausible explanation for how the megalodon still exists.

meg steve alten

Selection – Kiera Cass

Think The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games in this riveting young adult novel. The selection is the chance of a lifetime for thirty-five girls to compete for Prince Maxon’s heart and become queen. But, for America Singer it is horrible due to her secret love for Aspen.

This book is an easy to devour beach read perfect for summer.

the selection

Moloka’i – Alan Brennert

Rachel Kalama is seven years old when she is taken to the far-off island Moloka’i due to her leprosy. The novel follows her life growing up in isolation with other sick individuals.

This story changed my life and inspired me to pursue medicine. With vibrant characters, warmth, and humor this story is so heartfelt and will change how you see illness as a whole.

moloka'i

 

I hope you enjoy some of my recommendations. Please let me know if you have any recommendations for me, I’m always looking for new stories to love!!!

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Book Worm · Medical Student

Book Review: First Person Plural

I recently read First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple by Cameron West which details the author’s personal struggle with dissociative identity disorder or DID (once called multiple personality disorder).

first person plural

I have read quite a few books detailing individuals with this disorder and their life stories. Many involve quite detailed accounts of the abuse they encountered. Although this book does include upsetting details, the focus is not on what Cameron went through as a child due to a sexually abusive mother and grandmother, but rather it focuses on Cameron’s struggles as an adult. I think this makes this a more approachable story for readers interested in DID who are wary of reading a graphic retelling of abuse.

The story starts with Cameron West, a father in his late thirties, running a successful business and happily married. However, as time goes on he finds that his mind starts to jumble and eventually, he finds other personalities – 24 to be exact.

What is truly amazing about Cameron’s story is the support system he has! His wife Rikki is incredibly supportive. The story includes her own struggles as she tries to help the  man she loves through this journey. Also, reading about how the two decide to tell their young son about what is happening is so interesting. Their son, Kyle, explains how he sees his father’s disorder as well and a child’s perspective is great.

I think that this book is a great find for anyone – either people interested in psychological disorders or practicing physicians. DID is a disorder that is often misunderstood and has serious implications on an individual’s physical health as well. Cameron’s story is a fantastic first step to starting to understand DID and its full impacts on an affected individual’s life.

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Book Worm · Medical Student

Book Review: How Doctors Think

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, M.D. is on many lists of what to read before entering medical school. Thus, this past month, I thought I would check it out. I was surprised to learn that it was actually not written with aspiring doctors in mind, but rather it was written for patients to hopefully aid them in better interacting with their doctors.

how doctors think

The goal of this book is to provide both patients and doctors better information so that they can make better judgements, diagnoses, and treatment plans together.

Now, as noble as that can sound, it also does not sound like a truly exciting book to read, but don’t be discouraged. I really enjoyed reading this book! Groopman includes multiple stories from his own work as well as from his colleagues that are gripping, heartbreaking, and interesting. Often, you are following the doctor’s thought process and he/she tries to correctly diagnose a patient with an unclear problem. Almost each chapter has a mystery patient and as Groopman goes through it, you learn how  the doctors approach the problem, how their medical training influences this approach, and how sometimes their approach is flawed leading to complications.

 

doctor nothing

 

I found this so interesting because as an aspiring doctor, it is important for me to understand some of the pitfalls that doctors can have in their thought processes when making a diagnosis. For example, Groopman describes a woman who had Celiac disease but was constantly diagnosed with psychological disorders instead due to a cognitive bias the doctors had.

The book ends with Groopman’s advice to patients on how to best interact with doctors including what questions to pose, how to describe symptoms, and how to handle non-ideal doctor patient relationship. I think this advice is useful for any patient and all doctors to consider moving forward. All in all, I highly recommend reading this especially for people considering the health field!

 

 

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Book Worm

Book Review: So You Got into Medical School… Now What?

I was officially accepted into medical school and since then have been alternating between being unconditionally happy and insanely terrified of what the next four years have in store. Thus, I asked for this book for my birthday and, because my mother loves me and knows how anxious I can get, she dutifully shipped it out for my 22nd (Side note – she did call me a nerd for this being on the top of my birthday gift wish list).

This book is designed to read prior to medical school to help accepted students feel more prepared for the upcoming years. I will be reviewing it as one of those students who has not yet entered school so keep that in mind – a current medical student may have differing opinions.

so you got into med school

The first four chapters of this book are all about studying. Topics include the difference between conceptual learning and memorizing, ensuring study efficiency, procrastination, avoiding study anxiety, and the idea of diminishing returns. Diminishing returns in regards to studying means that as your test grade gets closer to 100 percent, the points are harder to gain. I found these chapters incredibly useful – and not just for the future! Although medical school examples are utilized to explain each concept, I honestly believe any college student could benefit from the first half of the book and the approach it provides towards studying and class preparation.

For example, the book explores how to make studying the most efficient. This includes  not cramming for a test which can be avoided by not procrastinating. It also means identifying what the author calls ‘high-yield material’ or material that will be have more test questions than minute details. This is what your studying should be focused on.

One of my favorite concepts from the first half of the book was the idea that “all study hours are not equal.” Often times, people compare how many hours they studied on a test to their classmates, but the sheer amount of time is not a great indicator of the quality of studying. For example, I could study for six hours straight from 8:00 pm to 2:00 am versus my friend who studied for three hours from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm. My friend’s studying was probably better because she was more well rested, more focused, and was not burnt out by hour five.

no idea what we're doing

The second half of the book explores the 3rd and 4th year of medical school which include clerkships, rotations, and applying for residency. Stories in this section were not as helpful because one’s experiences is so specific to what school they attend. However, the author included specific questions to ask and who to ask them to so that you may feel more prepared for your transition to 3rd year.

At the start of each chapter, there were little short stories from actual medical students lives which were humorous, honest, and provided great insight into what it is like to be a medical student. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The author had a very casual tone and was reassuring. He explained his reasoning with examples, hypotheticals, and his own experiences.

This book gave me hope that I can actually have a life in medical school so fingers crossed! 🙂

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Camp Nanowrimo

camp 1

April 1st marks the start of Camp Nanowrimo. Check out the website here

For those of you who don’t know, Nanowrimo occurs in November and is National Write a Novel Month where in 30 days you attempt to write 50,000 words of a new novel. I have participated three years and only completed the challenge once. Throughout the year however, Nanowrimo holds ‘camps’ which are less intimidating because you pick your word count goal.

This year, I will be working on a new YA fantasy novel I’ve had mulling in my mind for a few weeks and my word goal is 30,000 words which I think is do-able. I’m super pumped because one of my good friends is also participating with a goal of 30,000 words so we can be each other’s support system. I wanted to share this super fun opportunity for those who haven’t heard of it and share my tips for doing well and having fun when participating in Nanowrimo!

 

Talk about the process with friends

As I mentioned, one of my friends is doing this challenge. It really helps us to chat about it and keep ourselves accountable. Even if you don’t know anyone participating, tell your friends about it. Tell them what you’re working on and your story ideas. They’ll help keep you encouraged and motivate you to keep going. Plus there’s nothing like having a great sound board for ideas when you’re hit with writer’s block.

 

Set a realistic word count

The great thing about the camp challenge is that you set the goal. Look at your April schedule and see if you’re super busy or if you can push yourself to write more. Also, keep in mind how much you write normally. If you barely write now, asking yourself to write 2,000 words a day may be too much whereas asking yourself to write 750 words a day is more realistic.

camp 3.gif

 

Avoid getting behind

From past experience, every time I have quit these challenges is when I became days behind on my word count goal. It becomes an insurmountable challenge in my head and becomes more like a chore. To avoid this, make sure you write at least twenty minutes each day, even if you’re just writing character description rather than the story.

 

Use the Camp Nanowrimo resources

The website has tons of resources including forums and emails from authors. My first time participating, I was overwhelmed and made little use of them. But now, I love seeing what other aspiring writers are saying, working on, and struggling with. Hearing their tips and experiences helps me with my own process. So take some time to explore what the site has to offer and the community of the other ‘campers’.

 

Schedule time

Try to set up time throughout the day to commit to your writing. Also, always have a notebook on you so you can make use of your random twenty minutes between classes to write down a short scene or idea you had.

 

Be proud

You are writing a story – that is amazing and you should know that!! Even if you don’t write a full novel in a month, even if you only write 1,000 words, that’s 1,000 words you didn’t have before you started.

camp 2

 

Let me know about your guys’ nano experience and keep me posted throughout the month. My Nanowrimo account is jdafgek so feel free to buddy with me on the site!

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Committing to Being a Writer

As I mentioned earlier this week, my creative writing professor gave my class advice on how to commit to our writing and it has left me inspired. My desire to write has been reinvigorated and I’m happy to say that I’ve already written the first three chapters of my new book (*squeal of excitement*). I’ve compiled the advice offered from my professor and other writing friends on how to focus your energy on writing and take your writing seriously.

Call yourself a ‘Writer’

Make this word part of your identity. You don’t have to be published or famous to be a writer. See yourself as a serious writer and you are one step closer to becoming one.

Join a writing group

There are official writing groups you can join (similar to book clubs) where you workshop and get feed back. It’s great to have fresh eyes look at your work and it keeps you accountable. Even if you can’t find a group or don’t have the time, find at least one friend who is willing to read and provide honest notes.

Schedule it in

Set up blocks of time to write and take it seriously. Maybe tell close friends about the times so they know not to disturb you while you’re writing. Also, get away for the writing – don’t do it at home with all of your distractions ready to pull you away from your story

bright idea gif
Unfortunately, you can’t always wait for inspiration to strike… otherwise you’d never write a word

Read and underline

Read as much as you can, especially books or poems similar to how you want to write. Underline lines and parts you love to pull inspiration from.

Always have a notebook on you

I have a page in my bullet journal dedicated to random ideas for poems or books. Additionally, whenever I’m on campus I try to have a small notebook stashed in my backpack so if I have a spare moment I can write.

Find resources that work for you

There are a lot of online resources available to provide support and inspiration to aspiring writers. I use Pinterest to find writing prompts for practice and often use the fashion and model posts to find images that help me decide what my characters will look like.

I also LOVE The Most Dangerous Writing App (find it here). The app allows you to set a timer and you have to write for the entire time otherwise it deletes everything you’ve written so far. It sounds crazy but it really forces you to push past your writer’s block. I usually shoot for 5 minutes at a time on the site.

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My game face when using the Most Dangerous Writing App

So, I hope some of these have been helpful. Keep me posted on how your writing is going and let me know if you have any of your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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