April 2020 Updates: Writing, University, Reading, & Lock-down.

April Updates

Hey Everyone!

April was productive in some ways but not in others, but that’s okay as I’d decided to take it easy before the next university semester anyway. Whilst I’m pleased with the progress I made, last week was hard, as realistically, when is this pandemic going to end? I hope our odds of survival are better than they are in the Pandemic board game at least!

Pandemic Board Game
In the Pandemic Board game you work together to stop the outbreak of diseases. It’s practically impossible to win…

Before lock-down began I hadn’t been out much, as I was so focused on my university assignment. I think that’s part of the reason I resent my degree right now.ย I’m itching to go out and see castles, hit the arcades, etc, but lock-down seems never ending. If I’m struggling as an introvert I imagine extroverts are going stir crazy by now.

Writing:

I won Camp Nano on the 19th of April, and shared my favourite lines, but I continued writing 200 words a day and ended up with 9272 words. I wrote less on Merlin: Second Chance than I intended, but 4000+ words for my Beauty and the Beast retelling, and 4000+ on our Dungeons and Dragons adventure, which was fun to write as it’s like reliving our adventure!

I didn’t finish my Merlin plot like I’d hoped, but I did change a section that didn’t make sense. I think I’m spending too much time overthinking it though, as although I’m keen to start writing it, it’s beginning to feel like there are no surprises left.

I’ll aim to write 200 words a day in May too. I’ll focus on my D&D piece, one short story, and finishing my plot for Merlin. If I decide to complete my MA, I won’t have time to start writing my draft until September, but at least I’ll have a good solid plot and starting point.ย 

Merlin:

Merlin had to skip a month of flea treatment as we can’t get any until the 4th of May. He seems happier when he doesn’t have to go to the vets though, even if he does hate it when I clean!

Merlin in his latest box
Merlin in his latest box, hiding from the hoover!

He’s also been really cuddly lately, and getting in the way when I’m watching Netflix by sitting in front of my face around my neck like a giant scarf! We’ve been watching Scorpion together, and we also watched Code 8. My Netflix slump seems to be over!

merlin sleeping on the sofa
Merlin sleeping across the whole sofa. This is how he sleeps when he gets bored of my lap!

Reading:

My goal was to read 4 books in April. I succeeded, but three were short stories. I’m behind on reviewing though, because I’m struggling with how to rate things. Is it fair to rate a book lower because the plot or characters weren’t for me? Should I really reserve 5 stars for things I fan-girl like crazy over, even if that means I rarely give 5 stars? Are book reviews more about personal opinion than facts or writer skill? How do you review books?

I’ll aim to read two books in May.

Blogging:

April was a bust for blogging, partly because I was ill, and partly because I struggle with motivation in times of crisis. I posted about Camp Nanowrimo and Merlin, as we’ve had him for a year. I’ll aim for a regular schedule in May, with a short story based on the pandemic, the Author Toolbox (What does your inner editor sound like?) and Book or TV reviews.

University:

I’ve been trying to decide if I should continue my MA. I found out that if I finish this semester, I can quit with a PG Diploma, not a full MA but it avoids the long dissertation project. I know another student on the course is doing this, but I’m still not sure. If I decide to do the dissertation I’ll use the D&D story I started for Camp Nano.

Writing in the Garden Camp Nano April
All my Camp Nano writing is on paper, so it’ll be tough to decipher and type up, but I think I prefer drafting that way!

I hope the workshop feedback is better this time, as apparently we need to write about feedback received in our assignment. I want to submit each week in May.

Last week we were given tons of reading and told to read outside our comfort zone. I couldn’t see the benefit to that and didn’t finish most of the reading as I didn’t like it. Do you think there’s any benefit to reading outside your comfort zone?

Gardening:

Our garden is overgrown with weeds. I’ve been trying to sort it out, but it’s taking ages and some of the roots are very deep. I want it sorted by the end of May. I’m wondering why Dandelions are considered weeds though, as they’re not unpleasant to look at:

why are dandelions weeds
Dandelions are such a beautiful vibrant yellow!

Also, after a month of me thinking they were dead, my potatoes are finally growing! There was a potato shortage in stores, and as I have a habit of leaving potatoes in cupboards so long they shoot, I thought I’d plant them. Now, my worries are over, and I’ll have food again! (This is an exaggeration, we have tons of food!)

Merlin Inspecting the Food Supplies
Merlin, making sure I bought him enough food. For some reason he’ll only eat this cheap pate from one particular store!

scales divider copy

Thanks for Reading!

Writing, reading, TV and gaming were my focus in April. I met my reading goal, despite a massive slump where I wanted to do nothing but watch TV, played a few games before we got bored, lamented my lack of Final Fantasy VII remake (I don’t have a PS4) and wrote plenty for Camp NanoWrimo, all words I can actually use.

How was your April? Chat in the Comments!

31 comments

  1. Argh! You ask so many good questions I almost need to write posts about them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I always think how to review books is a tricky question (and it becomes even trickier if I know the author). My general rules go something like this:
    * If I can’t give the book at least 3 stars I won’t review it.
    * If in doubt, I err towards giving more stars.
    * I consider my review to be my opinion, and its purpose to help other people decide if they might enjoy the book. So if relevant I will talk about my experience of reading the book. I’ll talk about aspects I did or didn’t enjoy, with the full expectation that some of my negatives will be positives for other people and vice versa. I’ll mention if I was confused by head-hopping, thrown out of the story by awkward writing, or if I didn’t notice the writing at all.
    * I will try to say at least one positive thing and at least one negative.
    * I don’t try to write literary criticism. I’m not in high school any more. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m tempted to write a post on reviews myself, once I get my head around my strategy!
      I don’t review books if I can’t give at least 3 stars either (although if I was hyped for a book and it was a massive let down I sometimes leave a lower star rating without comments).
      I like the sound of reviews as opinions, as I know some of the books I’ve read others would love, even if aspects weren’t for me. I might do a few reviews where I list what I liked and disliked without a star rating, as it sounds easier than deciding!
      I love it when I read a book and the writing is so good I don’t notice it ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Taking it easier sounds like a good idea to me. Itโ€™s tough all around with the current situation but it will end eventually. Better safe than sorry and all that jazzโ€ฆ Iโ€™ve never thought of planting potatoes, thatโ€™s a good idea! I love potatoes, Iโ€™m pretty sure they count as a vegetable on par with broccoli, right? Chips and mashy tattiesโ€ฆmmmโ€ฆ I could live for a year on potatoes alone! Congrats with Camp Nano and good luck with the ongoing writing, I hope you can enjoy it rather than stress and overthink it too much. Might be a good distraction too to get stuck into writing. And to fuss over Merlin of course. What a cutie. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think taking it easy’s the only way to survive right now. Gotta look after our mental health too, and try not to add any unnecessary pressure or stress. Hope you’re doing okay?
      Potatoes are so easy to grow, just throw any shooted ones in a bucket of soil and wait. I forgot to water mine for a week and they still grew ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus the taste is so much better home grown!
      Thanks, so far so good with writing: I’m still writing 200 words a day, and so far even university seems much better ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “All my Camp Nano writing is on paper, so itโ€™ll be tough to decipher and type up, but I think I prefer drafting that way!”

    I just read this morning that Google Lens will capture handwriting and turn it into pastable text, Louise! Even if you have to do some correcting, it’s at least worth a try. Maybe it’ll save you some effort! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s tough. I’m not sure when the lockdown will end either. While I personally am dealing with it okay (being introverted helps me too XD), I do miss my friends too. Great job with your writing ๐Ÿ™‚ Rad that you’re watching Scorpion – and lol Merlin sure loves taking up a lot of space when he sleeps (he’s adorable too) :).
    Reviewing is subjective. It’s tough. But I too do not give a review if I cannot give a book at least 3 stars. I’m kind of more laid back with reviewing, so I do give 5 stars often as well as 4 stars. 4 stars I usually give if it’s a very well written story overall that keeps me hooked and only has minor issues (which I will point out – and I do point out what I like and don’t like in a constructive way). I think it’s perfectly fine to write a lower-star review if it’s not for you and to give a 5-star review if you love a story :). If I know the author is a new writer (i.e. like if it’s their first book), I tend to be a bit more lenient (not overly lenient, more like if it’s between 3 and 4, I’ll more likely choose 4 stars). I hope this helps. Sorry about this being a bit long- I find it hard to describe my process.
    PS. Very cool about the potatoes ๐Ÿ™‚ Gardening is a great activity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our government is talking about slowly lifting the lock-down from Monday, but I imagine things won’t be the same for a while.

      No worries, reviewing is tough! I like to point out the issues I have with books too, even if I rate them 5 stars. I actually stopped reading two books recently as I couldn’t get on with them, despite them having glowing reviews, which was disappointing!

      Merlin sprawls out on every available surface (he actually sulks if I dare to sit in his spot on the sofa ๐Ÿ˜† )

      Like

      • Yeah, the state governments here are lifting the lockdowns too. Some are quicker. Others, like my state, California, are slower. But yeah I imagine it will be a long time (maybe 1-2 years, depending on when people can get the vaccine) before we will be getting back to near “normal” or “normal”. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
        That’s cool. No book is perfect, and feedback can help future books be better (and help readers decide whether to buy a book), so it’s cool that you give feedback on issues on 5 star reviews. Lol does he sprawl out in boxes too?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Things are changing very slowly it turns out. People are being encouraged back to work if they can’t work from home, but shops are to remain shut until at least June. We’re also allowed to sit in parks now and exercise more than once a day ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s good that it’s a cautious approach as some people are having trouble adjusting to the idea of lockdown being lifted.

          Usually if I rate something 5 stars I point out what other people might dislike, rather than issues I found myself. I like to try and see both sides of things ๐Ÿ™‚ Merlin curls up in boxes so he can fit in smaller ones!

          Liked by 1 person

          • It’s similar here. There are some restaurants (I think take-out only) that may be allowed to open and some sectors are opening, but it will take a while. I agree – it’s better to be cautious. I’m not sure if the UK has had this, but there have been many here who are protesting and urging for an immediate reopening. Like you though, I prefer a cautious approach.

            That’s great – pointing out what others may dislike will help readers know more about what they’re getting into and can be helpful feedback for improvement too. Aww lol are Merlin’s favorite places boxes? :).

            Liked by 1 person

            • I don’t think our smaller take-outs ever closed, but the bigger ones did. Subway is reopening today, but only for carry out orders. I think we had a few protests in London, spurred by the US protests. Not many though, probably because the government benefit package here was generous.

              Exactly ๐Ÿ™‚
              With Merlin it’s boxes or the window sill: He loves bird watching!

              Like

              • Wow, I wonder how Subway’s reopening went. Hope it went well. Were the protests small protests? I wish the govt here was more generous in its aid for people. It gave $1,200 and some unemployment aid, but could have done so much more to help those in need.

                That’s cool. Does Merlin just watch birds or does he (like some cats) try to go after them too? He is a rad cat.

                Liked by 1 person

                • I think they were small protests, but not sure as I’m trying not to check the news much!
                  I guess $1200 isn’t enough to cover even a month of expenses?
                  Merlin’s an indoor cat so he can’t chase birds: his breed is more suited to staying indoors ๐Ÿ™‚

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • No worries. What do you usually do to keep yourself from checking the news? It’s hard for me.
                    Yeah, $1,200 helps, but it doesn’t go far enough. The UK’s program is much more generous, no?

                    Interesting ๐Ÿ™‚ Does he go after rats or spiders though? He sounds like a kind cat :).

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • I write, draw, read, watch tv, do anything more productive. It was hard at first, I think I was a bit addicted to checking news updates, but it was affecting my mental health so I knew I had to stop!

                      Merlin kills spiders, but only because certain members of our household encouraged it ๐Ÿ˜†

                      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think reading different genres can, maybe, be useful.

    I hate “outside my comfort zone” because many times, it’s just stuff I don’t like.

    I hate horror, others don’t. Nothing wrong with horror. But it’s outside my comfort zone, and I have no intention of changing that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same, that’s why I’m resistant to the idea of reading outside my comfort zone, I know what I like, and I like to stick to it ๐Ÿ™‚ I never understood horror, probably because I love happy endings, but one of my friends adores it! I guess it could teach us about raising tension in a scene though, so maybe I’ll do a bit of research!

      Like

  6. When I take off a star in a review, I always say specifically why. I figure what I don’t like (say, omniscient POV or whatever) someone else does like, so my negative review might help another reader find a good book.

    Liked by 1 person

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