We Wrote Like Jonathan Stroud for a Day

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to the 50th post on Tales of the Lonely Sun! Today we’re doing a little collaboration with me (Jorja, here) and Mya.

Mya and I both love the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud. We’ve both talked about it on this blog before, because it’s amazing. Go check it out if you haven’t!

Recently Mya was on Jonathan Stroud’s website and found his writing schedule. You can check that out here. We both thought it was awesome and decided to try it out.

So you can keep us straight, Mya will be in bold and I’ll be in normal text.

One day. 5 pages. A whole lot of tea.

Jorja’s Writing Day:

My writing desk. Ooh. Aah.

My usual daily word count goal is an easily attainable 500 words. I picked this number because its something I can hit even when I’m not feeling motivated, which allows me to make continuous progress. 500 words often ends up being about a page to a page and a half of writing per day (unless I feel like writing more). 

All that being said, five pages is a lot for me. Especially because I use a fairly small font (Fanwood Text in Google Docs) and single space my work. So I had my work cut out for me. 

One thing I knew I needed to do was to plan out what I was going to write the night before. I do this every night because if I don’t… I don’t write. I’m becoming more and more of a “planner” as time goes on. So that’s what I did. The night before I planned out much more than I usually do, trying to make sure I could get five pages out of my outline for the day. I finished that up at around midnight. 

The next morning I had some work to do, separate from writing, for my church. I got a bit of a later start than Mya, but I decided I would just write a little longer if I needed to. I got started writing sometime between 10:30 and 10:45. 

For the most part, the writing day went great! I was in the zone most of the day (that doesn’t always happen, it was a nice surprise) so I didn’t stop to check the time. I remember I ate a sandwich for lunch, but the break wasn’t more than 10 minutes. I knew I needed to get back to writing as soon as possible, to keep my streak going. 

I had minimal interruptions, a steady stream of music playing in my headphones, several glasses of iced tea (its 100-degree weather over here, hot tea is not an option), and five total pages by around 3:00. My total word count came out to 2,750 words, over 5x my daily goal. 

I made a lot of progress in my story, including introducing a character I love, working out the details of my magic system, and deepening the motivation for several of my main characters. 

I considered this a total success! While I won’t be writing this way every day, it helped me gauge a lot about my personal process. I now know my capabilities and more details about how I can make my writing day as productive as it can be. 

“Getting that first draft out is a horribly hard grind, but that (perversely) is where the joy of it lies. There is nothing better for me, nothing more uniquely satisfying in the whole process of making a book, than the sensation at the end of each day—good or bad, productive or unproductive—when I look over and see a little fragile stack of written pages that weren’t there that morning.” -Jonathan Stroud

Mya’s Writing Day:

I don’t have a consistent writing routine or daily goal (yet), but I usually write late at night. Jonathan Stroud’s routine starts at 9:30 am and ends at around 5. Which is a significantly longer “work day” than I usually have. 

At 9:30, I sat down with my laptop on the back porch. Technically Jonathan Stroud says he likes to write inside, but I didn’t feel the need to make everything exact. I went through two mugs of tea during the first phases of the day: staring out the window, rereading yesterday’s work, and attempting the first line multiple times. I wasn’t expecting words to come easily to me in the morning, but they actually did! I was quite productive up until lunch and had a good time. 

Then came after lunch. I moved inside due to the heat and tried to begin writing. This is when brain-deadness set in. Stroud seems to get back to work right afterward, and I did also, despite feeling kind of stuck in my story. I pushed through until around 6, which is later than he ends the day. My progress was a lot slower during this chunk of time and I got distracted easily. 

In total, I wrote 1530 words, which came out to four pages. A page short of how much Stroud tends to write everyday, but for me personally it was a pretty good total.

“Each day I kept strict records of what I achieved; each day I tottered a little nearer my goal. Five pages per working day was my aim, and sometimes I made this easily. Other times I fell woefully short. Some days I was happy with what I got down; some days I could scarcely believe the drivel that clogged up the page. But quality was not the issue right then. Quality could wait. This wasn’t the moment for genteel self-editing. This was the time when the novel had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into existence, and that meant piling up the pages.” -Jonathan Stroud


J: I encourage any of you writers out there to try something like this. Pick one of your favorite authors, see if you can find their writing schedule online, and try it out! You can learn a lot about what works for you, and what doesn’t. You may find a trick that you would never have thought to try that works super well for you, or you may spend the day not writing anything. Either way, experimentation is super helpful. There’s a channel on YouTube called Kate Cavanaugh where she tries out the schedules of many famous authors, and she has a lot of helpful tips. 

M: It’s a great way to see if the routine is something that helps you, even if you think you already know how and when you like to write. I was surprised that I worked so well in the morning, so I will probably start working then on a regular basis. The afternoon was not a good time for me, so I would stick to late evening writing sessions as well.

J: Another positive part of this is you can sometimes do more than you thought you were capable of. Maybe you can write 5,000 words in 4 hours. You’ll never know unless you try.

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” —Christopher Robin

M: The routine wasn’t perfect for me, but it was definitely worth trying. I ended up writing more than I usually do and thought about how I want to go about scheduling my writing. I only did it for one day, but it still had a positive impact on my novel.

J: Doing it with a buddy can also be super helpful. Mya and I had a steady dialogue throughout the day, updating each other on word counts and struggles and scenes. It was great for motivation. We even did some writing sprints with Carlye. 

M: Plus, it was fun to experience firsthand the process my favorite author uses to write his amazing books! In general, writing with friends can be super helpful and a good bonding experience. 

J: All in all, it’s a total adventure and I totally recommend it!

M: I’m planning to follow more of my favorite authors’ routines in the future and see how else I can improve my writing sessions.


(Quote sources: https://nanowrimo.org/pep-talk-from-jonathan-stroud; https://parade.com/935628/parade/winnie-the-pooh-quotes/ ) 

A Plethora of Quarantine Reviews

Hello dear readers! I have been reading a lot lately. I have a stack of library books that comes up to my knee on the floor of my bedroom, with more to come. So I figured I would review a bunch of books today. Five to be exact. This is going to be a pretty long post, so let’s get right into it.

Moonscript by H.S.J Williams

3.5/5 stars

Blurb: “It is said that Darkness is empty and whatever vanishes into its depths is lost forever. I know this better than anyone. For I have suffered here in the shadows, and there are none who might find me.”

Seventy years. Seventy years the elven prince has been lost to the darkness, assumed dead by his people and endlessly broken for a book that connects to the hidden realm of his ancestors, a land untouched by evil.

And now a light in the shadows. A chance for freedom. But those willing to help him come from the unlikeliest of worlds.

The orphan girl, yearning for a loving family, and the boy who won’t leave her side. A healer maiden given an unexpected chance for a life beyond narrowed expectations. A grieving creature flown far from home.

They all search for something and now their fates are tied to his. If their quest for life can pull him from the dark mire in which his soul drowns, then perhaps he can be saved.

Or else he will drag them all down to a fate worse than death.

The beginning of an epic saga, MOONSCRIPT is a journey of innocence, despair, and redemption.

Overall:

I have friends who loved this book with every fiber of their being (Looking at you, Hannah) but I didn’t love it. I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t dread picking it up every time I read it. I did finish it. I just didn’t get super into it. 

There are a lot of people out there who do and would love this book. If you love large scale adventure stories, elves, and great themes, be sure to check it out. Fans of Lord of The Rings, this book is right up your alley. 

What I loved:

Themes: The themes in this book were presented very well. You’re are never too far gone to be forgiven, there is a family out there for everyone, the loyalty of friends. Overall, the themes were great. 

Descriptions: There was a lot of setting description, some of it beautifully poetic. I could imagine every place the characters went. 

What I didn’t love:

Characters: The characters are where I really struggled with this book. I felt that the only character who truly had an arc was Errance. And, other than small paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter, we never really got to see the world from his point of view. My favorite character, Kelm, was a sweet and honest young man. While he was a rather flat character, I did enjoy it when he was on the page. All in all, I never really got invested in the characters, which made the rest of the reading experience less immersive and less suspenseful. 

Plot: I didn’t dislike the plot of this book, per se. I just I never really got into it. The reason for that, however, is because I didn’t really get into the characters. 

I was given an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. These were my honest thoughts. 

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

5/5 stars

Blurb: A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren’t exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?

Readers who enjoyed the action, suspense, and humor in Jonathan Stroud’s internationally best-selling Bartimaeus books will be delighted to find the same ingredients, combined with deliciously creepy scares, in his thrilling and chilling Lockwood & Co. series.

Overall:

This book had been sitting on my TBR for ages, due to a friend of mine with obvious great taste (Thanks, Evie) and when Mya got the first book for me for Christmas (Thanks, Mya) I finally got around to reading it.

I was skeptical at first since paranormal fiction had never even been on my radar as something I would read. Ghost hunting teenagers? Not my cup of tea (British pun very much intended). Or so I thought. 

I was very wrong. This book had me hooked in seconds. 

Fans of Sherlock, immersive world-building, engaging character development, and a touch of horror (I don’t generally like horror, and I liked it) would love this read.

What I loved:

Characters: I. LOVE. THESE. CHARACTERS. The Screaming Staircase is told in first person from the perspective of the fiery Lucy Carlyle. The other two main characters are the fearless Anthony J. Lockwood and sarcastic George Cubbins. All three of them stole my heart, especially when they were all together, arguing about cookies or ghosts. Lucy’s narration and perspective on the other characters made this book so immersive, and her sass and stubbornness are amazingly portrayed. Anthony Lockwood is a secretive character whose past is elaborated on as the series continues. Despite the mystery surrounding his childhood, his personality is clear and very entertaining. And then there’s George Cubbins. Though he first comes off as abrasive, he quickly grows on you and his humor makes potentially dark scenes a lot lighter. 

Plot: Despite the fact that I would read about these characters doing literally anything, the plot is super unique and engaging. It showcases all of the character’s flaws and quirks so wonderfully and had me invested and intrigued right up until the end. 

Description: Atmospheric is the only word. All the settings in this book were so vivid, from the streets of London to the clutter of 35 Portland Row to the eerie haunted houses the characters visit throughout the book. I could also imagine each character with extreme clarity. 

Flashbacks: I rarely see a more excellent use of flashbacks than is utilized in this series. They reveal so much about the characters and add so much depth, without wrecking the flow of the overall story.

Suspense: Not gonna lie, parts of this book (and the whole series) legitimately scared me. I’m a total wimp when it comes to horror of any kind, so it’s not much of a surprise. However, the humor in this book balanced the suspense out beautifully. It succeeded in having me on the edge of my seat without giving me nightmares. 

Themes: The characters certainly grew over the course of the book, and much more so over the course of the series. Themes like learning to trust yourself and others, dealing with grief and fear, and many others were showcased. It added another layer of excellency to the books. Although they didn’t change my life or inspire me greatly, they contributed very well to the story.

What I didn’t love:

Ending: I didn’t have a problem with the ending, just the fact that it ended. 

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

5/5 stars. All the stars.

Blurb: April didn’t mean to start the fire. She wasn’t the one who broke the vase. April didn’t ask to go live in a big, creepy mansion with a bunch of orphans who just don’t understand that April isn’t like them. After all, April’s mother is coming back for her someday very soon.

All April has to do is find the clues her mother left inside the massive mansion. But Winterborne House is hiding more than one secret, so April and her friends are going to have to work together to unravel the riddle of a missing heir, a creepy legend, and a mysterious key before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever.

Overall:

Ally Carter is one of my favorite authors, so when I heard she was writing a middle-grade book I was thrilled. I had high expectations for this book, and they were blown out of the water. It’s like everything Ally Carter had ever written was building up to this glorious novel. 

I smiled throughout this whole book. 

What I loved:

Characters: These characters stole my heart and didn’t give it back. They will have it for all eternity. April is the perfect main character for this story, and she was the perfect balance between clever and a kid. Violet is a shy girl who is amazing at art and really grows over the course of the book. And you can’t mention Violet without mentioning Tim, her “guard dog” during her time in the foster care system. Each little glimpse into is past casts him in a new light and I can’t wait to learn more about him as the story continues. Next is the adorable Sadie, inventor extraordinaire, even if her inventions often… malfunction. And finally, Colin. Up and coming con-man, British, and probably my favorite character in the book. They all have their pasts and quirks, but my favorite thing about these characters is that they’re kids.

Plot: This book had a mystery element to it that propelled the story along in a series of questions, answers, and more questions. The characters drove the plot, which made it much more engaging. Saying much more would give away some of the excellent plot twists, so I’ll leave it there. 

Themes: I’m a sucker for found-family stories, and this is the epitome of that trope. It leaves you with that warm and fuzzy feeling and is one of my favorite themes ever. Your family isn’t just who you’re related to. That’s just the best. 

Description: Although the descriptions aren’t as atmospheric as books like The Screaming Staircase or Caraval, Ally Carter used them as a way to expand on April as a character, and how she sees the world, which I just loved. 

What I didn’t love:

I have no complaints. Ally Carter is a genius.

In 27 Days (Blink) by Alison Gervais

4.5/5 stars

Blurb: Hadley Jamison is shocked when she hears that her classmate, Archer Morales, has committed suicide. She didn’t know the quiet, reserved guy very well, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling there was something she could have done to help him.

Hoping to find some sense of closure, Hadley attends Archer’s funeral. There, she is approached by a man who calls himself Death and offers her a deal. If Hadley accepts, she will be sent back twenty-seven days in time to prevent Archer from killing himself. But when Hadley agrees to Death’s terms and goes back to right the past, she quickly learns her mission is harder than she ever could have known.

Time ticks away as Hadley looks for ways to not only talk to Archer but to know him on a deeper level. But just as she and Archer connect, a series of dangerous accidents starts pushing them apart. Hadley must decide whether she is ready to risk everything—including her life—to keep Archer alive.

Overall:

Carlye and Mya recommended this one to me, so I grabbed the kindle copy from the library. It’s safe to say that those two know what they’re talking about. I read it all at once, almost walked into a few walls too, I couldn’t put it down.

What I loved:

Characters: I found the characters in this book interesting. Main character Hadley could have had some more internal conflict, in my opinion, since most of her conflict was linked with Archer. Archer was developed very well, and his huge Italian family was absolutely amazing.

Plot: I knew from the blurb that this book was going to be very unique and deal with some heavy topics, such as suicide. I thought it was done very well, and was presented in a very considerate and realistic way. It focused on the real effects and consequences of suicide and was very impactful.

Themes: The themes in this book were tied so closely with the plot, so I feel like I already touched on them, but again it was a very impactful read.

What I didn’t love:

Pacing: The pacing was a little off for me during certain parts of the book. The climax especially felt a bit rushed.

Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? By Ally Carter

5/5 stars

Blurb: Have you always wanted to write a book, but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re really great at writing the first few chapters . . . but you never quite make it to the end? Or do you finally have a finished manuscript, but you’re not sure what to do next? Fear not — if you have writing-related questions, this book has answers!

Whether you’re writing for fun or to build a career, bestselling author Ally Carter is ready to help you make your work shine. With honesty, encouragement, and humor, Ally’s ready here to answer the questions that writers struggle with the most.

Filled with practical tips and helpful advice, Dear Ally is a treasure for aspiring writers at any stage of their careers. It offers a behind-the-scenes look at how books get made, from idea to publication, and gives you insight into the writing processes of some of the biggest and most talented YA authors writing today.

Overall:

This is the only non-fiction book I’m reviewing today, so I wont be going over characters and plot and stuff like that.

This book was super helpful, and I recommend it to writers everywhere. It had really great perspective on plotting vs panting, editing, outlining and a bunch of other stuff. It had solutions to so many writing problems that I was having. I also loved that it wasn’t just Ally’s answers, she got input from a ton of other authors to, which showed a lot of different methods. 10/10 recommend.


Woo, that was a long post, but I hope at least one of these books interested you. I can vouch for the fact that they’re wonderful time-passers during quarantine.

Until next time,