Reading and Writing Update – March 2018

What I’ve Been Reading

As of right this minute, I have read eleven books this year so far – three audiobooks, three poetry collections, two non-fiction books, a novel, a short story collection, and a novel-length piece of fan fiction – though I’m hoping to make it twelve this evening.

11 books off my goal of 52 is 21%, which means I’m exactly on track.

You can follow my reading challenge on Goodreads here.

What I’ve Been Writing

After a very slow start to the year, which I promise to stop going on about from here on out, I’m finally getting back in gear.

I wrote just over 5,000 words in January, almost 6,000 in February, and I’ve written roughly 3,000 so far this month but, again, I’m hoping to finish another piece tonight. Mostly, I’ve been editing. A lot. Which brings me on to my next topic.

Works Accepted & Published

In January I had a small, jokey piece of flash fiction posted on the Belfast Writers’ Group website – we decided that’s something we’re going to do periodically, now.

In March I had a poem published in the inaugural issue of the Bangor Literary Journal, AND I’ve recently heard that a flash fiction piece by myself will be included in Issue Two as part of a feature on Women Aloud NI members. That’s due out in April, as is a different literary journal that is publishing a flash fiction piece of mine – not sure if I can publically announce the details of that one, yet, but keep your eyes peeled on Twitter and Facebook.

Things Just Passed

I’ve just finished my first term at Crescent Arts Centre as a tutor and my last there as a student.

International Women’s Day is over for another year, but it was fantastic to be part of a brilliant set of events both on the day itself and the following weekend. There’s a video of my reading at the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin here.

The past two days, I’ve have had Kindle editions of my books all on offer for free and was delighted to find that I topped a few of Amazon’s charts in doing so – see photo, below.

Things Still to Come

Camp NaNoWriMo is happening in April, and I’m all signed up. My target is set to 20,000 words which will see my novel finished. Hall-e-lu-jah! It can’t come soon enough. But, that said, I have one important thing before that – my birthday, which is on Friday *does happy dance* 

Finally, a new term is starting at Crescent Arts Centre soon – after Easter – and I’m all set to teach again. My class will be running on Friday evenings, and I’ll be trying out an all-day workshop as well. More details on that here.

Did I mention things had been busy?

What I Wrote in 2017

It took me some time, but I now have a typed record of everything I wrote last year, and I can tell you it all totals one-hundred-and-forty-six-thousand (146,000) words (rounded figure). That equates to a decent sized novel.

For context and comparison, it’s quite a bit more than Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and a bit less than Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which are 107,253 and 168,923 words, respectively – source for that info. here).

On average, it’s 400 words per day, which is just shy of the 500 words per day that Ernest Hemingway wrote during his life (source).

So, this blog post can be summarized by me saying I’m basically the Ernest Hemingway of Harry Potter. Except, you know, nothing like that at all.

A lot of the words I wrote were towards my novel, but most of them were scattered across a lot of other projects, including 42 blog posts, 80 poems, 20 pieces of flash fiction, a hefty amount of fan fiction (as always), and non-fiction (reports and memoir).

All of the blog posts made it into the world (most of them here on this very website), the fan fiction was all published, and some of the flash fiction got shared online, too, while most of the poems form the second micropoetry collection I’m working on.

I had a poem published in print as part of an Arlen House anthology, had two-and-a-half short stories published in anthologies by Belfast Writers’ Group, a poem published on the website of the Imagine Festival, a short story in an anthology by A New Ulster, and another one published by ANU in their regular journal. (Full list of publishing credits for all years here).

I’d say that’s pretty good output for a year that threw me more than a few curve balls. We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of 2018 pans out for comparison.

The Fear

I have wanted to be an author for a very long time and have been working on novel drafts since 2009/2010. That’s nine years ago, give or take, which seems crazy to me.

Undoubtedly, a lot has happened in that time, not least of which, I have improved my writing and related skills.

I’ve said before that the novel I’m working on at the minute (that I started at the beginning of 2017, I think) just feels right to me. I really think this is the one that could see me getting an agent and publisher. I’m also so close to finishing it; on the pinnacle of sending it off for submission. My beta readers have given me nothing but positive feedback (and I’m not even bribing them, promise!).

And here’s the thing: I am scared to go that last mile.

For all I’ve dreamed about coming to this point and talked almost incessantly about nothing else for months of my life at a time – and for all of the hugely terrifying, genuinely important things going on in the world for other people (like, you know, terrorism and Brexit) – I am currently gripped by the sudden realization that this is real. Or it could be.

I’ve built this up in my head and heart for so long, I… I’m not scared I’ll fail, I don’t think. I’m not sure what it is that’s behind the fear, I just know that it’s here and it’s making me hesitate.

Maybe I’m worried I’ll actually succeed – get an agent and publisher – and that it won’t live up to my expectations, which aren’t even that inflated, realistically. I’ve done my research. I’m under no illusions that I’ll become a rich and famous. And yet… there’s something.

For the very fact that I can’t pin down that ‘something’, it’s clear to me that this fear is not especially logical. I feel foolish about that, particularly given the fact that it’s like the first world-iest of all first world non-problems and there’s the aforementioned terrorism going on in other people’s lives. I have nothing to say for myself on that account other than, really, this is a big deal for me and I felt the need to acknowledge it before it ate me alive.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy here. Just airing my thoughts and feelings. (And why do I feel the need to justify sharing my own feelings on my own website? Well, I don’t. Note to Self: Your guilt complex is showing.)

Anyway – acknowledgement now done, I plan to ignore the fear, and I’m setting myself a deadline to get my sh*t together, which I’ve decided will be April, during Camp NaNoWriMo.

It would probably be even sooner than that, but I have a lot to wrap up in March with the end of the current term at the Crescent Arts Centre, my birthday, and a bunch of events I’m taking part in. But I will get there. I will!

February Update

For me, January felt like a too-long month but, despite the fact that it seemed to stretch and stretch, I never quite managed to fit in everything I had planned. I only finished reading one book (a novel-length piece of fan fiction) though I did listen to most of an audiobook, too. I finished it (Star Wartz by Patrick Tilley) in the early hours of this morning. So, here I am on the first of Feb. with two books off my 52 book goal for the year and five-thousand words written of my ten-thousand-word January goal.

I think it was getting sick right at the start of the year that threw me off. For about a week, all I could focus on was the physical pain I was in and whether I was going to be taken into hospital. The jury’s still out on that one. I may be sent back there tomorrow after I see my GP again, or I might have to wait a year – who knows?

On the plus side, after having to cancel the first week of my class, I started it a week late and it is going well. My task for tomorrow is to put in a proposal for next term. Now that my taxes are (finally!) in, I can really focus on it.

Maybe I can even get back to writing fiction after that. I certainly hope so!

December Update: News, Events, and 2018 Plans

I’m sure I’m not alone in having a lot happening at the moment – December seems to be an ultra crazy month for most people. But, aside from Christmas, there are three biggish things in my life right now, and I’m here to tell you about them.

New Job

Starting in January, I will be teaching a class! With actual students!!

The class is Social Media for Creatives: How to Build & Maintain an Online Platform for you & your work, and the initial run will be two hours a week for ten weeks but, if it goes well, I might get to run the class again.

Women Aloud NI 2018

Women Aloud have just announced their programme for International Women’s Day 2018, and I’m taking part. As well as reading at events in Belfast and Dublin, I’ve been put in charge of coordinating this year’s cross-border in-train recital.

Novel Update

The novel I rewrote during NaNoWriMo last month now has a new title, and I have two sequels planned as well.

Those of you who follow me on Patreon will be able to see the details I have already released there but, for everyone else, I have added a specific page here on my website where you can keep up to date with how things are going. (Spoiler alert: they’re going well so far. I am so excited!)

Ripped: A Novel

A few people have been asking me about the book I’m working on at the minute, so here goes.

It’s called Ripped, and it’s a contemporary young adult novel. Which is to say it is set in the real world (no fantasy elements), with a teenage main character, and intended for mainly a teenage audience (though it will appeal to some adults too).

The tagline I’ve written for it is ‘Can a family be held together by the red tape that helped tear it apart?


Mya’s life was hard enough already, dealing with her sociopath step-dad on a daily basis, but when she goes into labour during maths class, things are set to get a whole lot worse.

She hasn’t told her boyfriend, Richard. She hasn’t told anyone; hasn’t got any support in place, and is helpless when her step-dad forces her to give her baby up.

Mya had no idea social services would offer the baby to Richard before putting her in the system, and she certainly never would have guessed Richard would say yes. Now all she can do is fight to get them both back.

It’s quite character driven – written in close third person point of view, so you really get inside Mya’s head.

I’m aiming for is a total word count of 50,000 when finished, so not too long. I got half-way through the previous draft when I realized I really needed to work on the story structure. So, this year, I’ve been rewriting the whole thing from scratch.

Yeah, I’m biased, but I think the updated plot works a lot better. All in all, I’m really happy with how Ripped is progressing. I have plans to finish the bulk of the rewrite this month (as part of NaNoWriMo), tie together any loose ends next month, and start querying agents in January.

Ripped isn’t the first novel I’ve worked on. Previously, I’ve written drafts of two other novels, which I plan to go back to once this one is done.

If you’d like to support me as I plug away at my path to publication, please consider donating to my Patreon. Even $1 per month helps.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear what you think of my premise.

A Long, Long Year

I want to write an update on life and writing and everything quite literally in between, but I’m having trouble knowing where to start…

Flicking through past blog posts, I can see that NaNoWriMo last year didn’t quite go to plan for me. After that, in December 2016, I tried to take a break. That didn’t quite work out either. I’d been so heavily involved in client work, I’d built up a ton of momentum and found the sudden stop incredibly jarring.

Next, the come-down happened. Burn out from doing too much for too long hit me once I finally stopped and took a breath. I think I allowed myself three whole breaths before New Year hit and I was right back to expecting the world from myself.

I wanted to hit 2017 running but found that I couldn’t go straight back into top gear having stopped the engine for a bit. So I beat myself up for a while, wrote a couple of stirring blog posts about how I was determined to do better. And then I got married, which of course was wonderful but also a bit of a whirlwind that left my head spinning. Months of building up to a single event can kind of have that effect.

Home from honeymoon, I told myself ‘this is it, time to be serious now, get back to work for real.’ So I threw myself into the Women Aloud NI events in March. I had a birthday, and then a little bit of a breakdown in which I admitted to the world just how sick my new husband was/is and how burnt out I was still feeling.

I carried on caring for him, and battling the government on his behalf, and trying to keep up the level of client work I’d been doing before, and trying to write and everything else. And the writing was pushed to the side because I didn’t have the time or the energy, and I felt worse and worse about that. (Writing keeps me sane, I swear. When I can’t do it, I really come apart at the seams.)

During that time – May until like September – client work became increasingly stressful and time-consuming to the point where I snapped and couldn’t do it anymore. I had pushed aside practically all of my clients to work on one main contract and it became too much, so I quit, leaving myself with no income from my business.

I actually stopped operating as a business somewhere along the line, knowing that I needed to focus on my craft as an artist.

The lead singer of my favourite band died during this time, too. A big part of the band that had got me through my teenage years without killing myself killed himself. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I could barely think, much less write.

Then a big relief came when my husband won his welfare appeals, and we finally were able to get the pet we’ve always wanted.

And then I got swept up in launching Belfast Writers’ Group’s two new short story anthologies.

And now I’m here, about to start NaNoWriMo 2017. I had hoped that I would be going into this year’s writing challenge with the backing of the Arts Council, but I have just gotten word that they have turned down my application for funding.

So, I’m going to redraft my novel anyway; not doing much client work or taking a wage besides. I am going to write and relax and try not to traverse any further into burn out territory.

Not gonna lie, I’m exhausted before I even begin this next leg of my journey. Please, please wish me luck.

Breaking News: Double Book Launch!

Belfast Writers’ Group have been going from strength to strength since we reformed in September. After stalling for nearly two years, we are finally launching a new short story anthology AND re-releasing the first anthology with new, bonus content.

I have a story in the second edition of Ghosts in the Glass, a story in Creatures and Curiosities, and another story in ‘creatures’ that I helped write with my husband. It’s his first publication, so we’re really excited.

The official launch for both books is on Friday 27th of October at Malone Lodge Hotel Belfast, between 7 and 9.30pm.

Please come along for some readings and free tea and coffee. Facebook event here.

Four Years of Fan Fiction

On this day, every year, I post some stats about fan fiction I’ve written; today being July 28th – exactly four years since I started writing it. You can view my stats for 2016 here, and 2015 here.

When I started, it was only Buffy fanfic, and it was only posted in a single place: Elysian Fields. After a year, I started sharing work to and dipping my toe into other fandoms, also. Last year I decided to re-edit my back catalogue and stick it all up on Archive of Our Own. That is still a work in progress, as you’ll see below.

Total Words Written: 320,000
Words Posted to AO3: 100,000

On EF, I have left over 1,000 reviews totalling 50,000 words, and 84 people have favourited me.

130 people have favourited me on FF, and I’ve left 150 reviews there.
Total views to my FF profile page: over 10,000.

I have almost 500 ‘Kudos’ on AO3. Hits are over 12,000, subscriptions over 100, and 69 bookmarks (honestly, I don’t really know the difference between subscriptions and bookmarks, but I post the details here for reference anyway).

I’m not even going to begin trying to count how many reviews I’ve received, because it was in the thousands last year and it took me forever to total. Needless to say, though, I’m feeling pretty pleased with what I’ve accomplished.

Writing Through the Night

It’s 6.27am. I haven’t slept yet and, at this point, it’s unlikely that I will sleep before I head out to my last creative writing class for the [academic] year. I’m considering walking into the city centre instead of taking a bus. It’s the kind of mood I’m in.

One of the reasons I’m still up, aside from being an insomniac/nocturnal and having a criminally early class, is that I was writing a short story that’s been playing on my mind/heart for a while. It’s inspired by a conversation that happened in my aforementioned writing class. And it’s a story that, I think, could be developed further. It’s one that I’m tempted to turn into a short stage play. One that I’m considering having sequels to. I don’t know yet, and that’s okay. It’s not the point of the blog post.

I just wanted to say that, in times like these when I don’t have the time or energy to write much, writing is still what I come back to. It’s still what I love.

Perhaps it’s cliche, but I feel like there are so many stories in me. I want to write them all. And not even in the way of overworking myself that I’ve previously written about. I just mean that I am certain that telling stories – whether by poems, or plays, or novels – is what I want to devote my life to, ultimately. (Well, that and love, but that’s a different blog post.)

It is one of my sincerest goals to be considered prolific – to get as much down on paper in my lifetime as humanly possible. I don’t know if I’ve said that before or not, but it’s 6.38am and that’s what I’m thinking about.