Hero Meets Nemesis

I am the hero, in case anyone was wondering. My nemesis? The dreaded November 16th during National Novel Writing Month. I am gearing up to face this roguish fiend down. This is my 4th year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I’ve learned that this slump in the middle of the month is a trend for me, as it probably is for many others as well.

Up until this month, I’ve been dabbling with my most recently finished project, Holding, a YA fantasy about two boys, their forbidden magic, and the vampires that want to eat it. I finished the 2nd draft and am preparing to bind it for 3rd draft revisions, an idea I got from Maggie Stiefvater. After NaNoWriMo, I doubt I will have the desire to produce any new words ever, so I will be going through a physical book of my WIP, looking for pacing problems, character consistency, and tightening my theme. As stressed as I get about revisions and making sure every single letter is balanced within the universe, I also enjoy revisions because it’s like solving a problem…a very prolonged problem.

NanoWriMo is a little different for me. I could revise my old work for the rest of my life and probably be mostly content, but creating new, raw words is like squeezing juice from apricot pits for me. Especially creating raw, new words at the speed NaNoWriMo requires. BUT it gets my ideas out of my head and onto the page. And this is exactly why I do it.

Each year that I undertake this task, I dread confronting my old nemesis, the mid-month NaNoWriMo slump. For this year’s novel, I am returning to a long-time work in progress, Wrathmoor, a gothic romance (Annie Neugebauer has a great post on the gothic genre here) about a young lady posing as a housemaid to escape the tragedy of her past. The decaying old house, far from her old life, harbors ghosts that moan at night and an eccentric, brutal lord. I’m writing the novel in a tone appropriate to the time period, or attempting to, anyway. And because I depend so heavily on accuracy and research as I write, my usually slow progress with new novels is even slower with this one. You can see why this project might be a difficult one for NaNoWriMo, I assume?

So, how do I plan to combat my nemesis this year?



I will be listening to soundtracks (aren’t they pretty?) made by my illustrious best friend.  They probably won’t leave my CD player throughout this month. Also, this song and this entire score.


Img src: https://www.flickr.com/photos/56238066@N08/8110149754/

My Pinterest page for the novel has taken on new life through October in preparing for this month. I will be revisiting it anytime I feel uninspired. I’ve taken to referring to the above-image as a temporary cover for this project because I am utterly in love with it.

Books that feed me.

Revisiting the greats, like my inspirations for the novel and some of my favorite books: The Great Gatsby. The Fountainhead. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights. Also, I’ll be reading time-relevant works, old and new to catch a feel for the voice I want, like Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker for something new and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill for something older. I also couldn’t resist starting Confessions of an English Opium Eater. 


As King famously declares in On Writing, the muse doesn’t always just wait around, leaning temptingly against an ivy covered pillar. You have to schedule a standing appointment with that flighty twit. Ergo, at one point–well, many points throughout this month–I will have to just sit down and get the story out. It will be messy and that’s okay. This month is not about producing a perfect final draft.

That, my friends, is how I plan to prepare for this throw down with my nemesis.

Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month this year? How far are you already? How do you keep the words coming when you stall out? (And why are you reading blogs when you should be writing?)

Giveaway winners!

My Blogoversary giveaway ended last night at 11:59 PM PST. And the winners are…

Drema Drudge –You won House of Leaves, my most favoritest novel ever! (After reading your most recent post, I think this is perfect for you, you theory-head!)

Annie Neugebauer  –You won The Catcher in the Rye, my most beloved, well-read, old friend of a novel. I hope you like it!

Carie Juettner –You won Jane Eyrecontender for my favorite novel (against Villette) by my favorite author, Charlotte Brontë! I wish I could get a copy with that cover from the previous post…

Congratulations to the winners. Thank you for being part of my blog family, everyone. And for the winners, you will soon be holding three pieces (horcruxes) of my soul. Take good care.

Lastly, it appears my timing could not have been better, as it is also National Booklover’s Day today. Please go tweet a shelfie, make a book recommendation on goodreads, or just go to the library and read something, you bibliophiles!

Courtesy of BookBub


3 Year Blogoversary: Recap and Giveaway!


To celebrate my three year blogoversary (who knew these existed!), I want to thank you for taking your valuable time to come here and interact with me and my work. 

Thank you for your encouragement and feedback these last three years. Thank you for all of your wonderful blogs out there which have inspired me. Thank you to those of you who may not make your presence known but who are lurking reading nevertheless. 😉  I’m sure other bloggers can agree that it all makes a huge difference to know you’re not posting in a void, to know that others are out there, on the other side of the screen, listening. I appreciate it all.

Before we get to the goods…


You can always see my highest traffic posts in my side bar on the right there, but here is a small selection I think pretty well represents what I’m about.

Writer’s Lot

This was one of my top five posts for a long time. I enjoyed writing it and it hits close to home for me. I was a little surprised at the serious and thoughtful responses.

The Dissonance Between Experience and Writing Place

The discussion this one garnered was enlightening and enjoyable. Yet another topic that bears quite a bit of significance for me: travel.

An Object is Never Just an Object 

A short fiction piece.

Night Fishing

Less of a blog post, and more of a nonfiction vignette about my first experience night fishing.

Sharon Olds: Writing the Extraordinary Ordinary

A current top post, this is a review of the poet and two of her bodies of work.

Recovering from NaNoWriMo

As I revisit these most frequented posts, I am seeing a pattern. Writing-related, non-fiction/fiction/personal essay, and reading-related. This is another one of those posts geared more toward writers than people who I hope will be my future readers. But hey, other writers can also like my work. And apologies for so many of these kinds of posts, but as a writer I need a community, people. We can be a sad, lonely bunch.

The things I focused on in the beginning have changed as I have learned what my audience is more receptive to and interested in (this is an ever developing learning curve). I have changed so much as a person and a writer. And that’s what the giveaway is about.

Giveaway Rules

I will be giving away three favorite books of mine, each representing different genres that have had huge effects on me as a reader, writer, and human being, each continuing to shape me, years after reading them.


Catcher in the Rye–The one book I’ve read 10+ times. A staple in YA and literature
House of Leaves–my favorite horror story ever. Gritty, literary, and chilling

Jane Eyre--I immediately fell in love with this novelTaking in into account any writer’s entire body of work–though I have not yet read Shirley–Charlotte Bronte is my favorite author.

Please note these will be second hand books; I appreciate books that have a history to them. Or maybe I’m just short on cash. 😉

To enter the giveaway, comment on this post. Earn a second entry by sharing this post on social media. If you use Twitter, include my handle, @shleybdavis. With any other social media, email me a link (email on my contact page). If you want to comment on the post, but do not want to be entered, please let me know. The giveaway ends August 8th, 11:59 PST. I will randomly select winners, who will have to provide me with their address for shipping (only US, as I cannot afford international shipping costs). Or, if you’re not in the US and you win, I will gift you an ebook version of your prize–though that might be a little awkward with House of Leaves, if there even is an ebook version.

Looking back, do you think you’ve changed in the last three years? If you blog, what are some things you’ve learned that you’d like to share? Whether you blog or don’t, have you been grateful for any recent experiences?

To Read the Book First, Or Watch the Movie?

I love books. I love movies. What could be better than the two mediums joining forces to visually interpret a brilliant literary work or enjoyable novel with all of the wonderful elements exclusive to cinema, like thoughtfully executed lighting, balanced, striking composition, and illuminating music? One of my absolute favorite examples of this near-flawless transition is Cary Fukunaga’s 2011 Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre cover            jane eyre poster

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels, so of course I am going to love its film adaptations. Truly though, Fukunaga does such a great job with Jane’s emotional strife; he emphasize the starkness of Jane’s childhood and later, Thornfield Hall, with the monochrome colors and studies in contrast; and alludes to the mystery at the belly of the house with the warmer colors, the firelight and night lighting, and the sounds that convey the gothic elements restlessly turning at the film’s core. Of course, no movie could ever match the effect of the book because they are two SEPARATE entities, but there are good adaptations and bad ones. And I have seen other adaptations that were good, but Fukunaga’s is a work of art that captures the breathtaking emotion and courage distilled in the pages of Brontë’s novel.

So, back to our original question: to read the book first or watch the movie? ‘Tis an age-old debate, where I believe many fall on the side I will be arguing for. But let’s take a moment to consider the other side.

A coworker of mine claims he prefers to watch the movie (based on a book) first. Otherwise, he watches the movie while internally bashing the characters and events that don’t match up with what he’d imagined when reading the book.  This was appalling to me, but hey, to each his or her own, right?

Reading the book first gives me the chance to envision it in its perfect form, to traverse that precious space only reader of the writer’s work can access: it is a realm where the writer’s story goes to wait (most literally) until the reader comes along to experience it. In that perfect space, it doesn’t matter that what the reader experiences isn’t exactly—or even close to—what the writer experienced writing it. What matters is that the writer weaves his tale to have those threads unravelled by the reader on his or her journey to find the origins of each thread. Let me explain what I mean here, and let me volunteer a nugget of Stephen King wisdom to assist me.

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” On Writing 

This is something a movie can never hope to do, because it lays everything out for you. But when you read a book, you are screenwriter, producer, and director. You are a kind of co-author. It is the highest achievement writer and reader can attain together, that bridge between conception and conceiving.

So, when the book is read first, and the movie seen second, it affords the opportunity of two different kinds of enjoyment, two experiences of one event:

The pleasure of reading it


Jane Eyre


The pleasure of seeing it the way another person envisioned it when they (hopefully) read it

So given my amateur arguments, do they adequately represent your preference, whatever it is? Do you prefer to watch the movie first or read the book? Maybe you’re at one of the extreme ends of the spectrum. Maybe you’re completely against film adaptations of novels. Or maybe you always ‘wait for the movie’ and never open the book. In closing, I will reach again for the aforementioned cliché: to each his or her own.