Story Triage

One of my husband’s favourite authors is Dan Abnett. Recently, he was reading a book by him (The Magos – part of the Warhammer series) and was surprised/amazed/amused to hear him describe a little bit of his writing process in the introduction.

Dan writes a lot of books – his Goodreads page lists him as having 1,403 distinct works – and, by the sound of it, he has ideas for at least ten new writing projects for every single one he completes. How does he carry all of that around in his head? Well, imagine his brain as a waiting room…

“At any point in the last decade,” he said, “I could have told you, in order, what books I’d be writing this year, next year, and sometimes the year after that.” He explains that most of his novels “plan their visits” months or years in advance. “They line up, take a number, and then go and sit in the waiting room, glaring at me, surrounded by their carrier bags of reference books, clutching their lists of problems and demands.”

On the other hand, some of his books “turn up without warning.”

Sounds intense, right? I’m sure most writers don’t ascribe to the same system, and almost no one else to that degree or volume. But when my husband read me the introduction, awe in his voice, I looked back and him and was like, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

Which is to say, I’m not normal either and I’m thankful for it.  Continue reading

Writing Goals for the Second Half of 2018

Being pretty much halfway through the year, I thought it would be a good time to refocus myself and set some goals for the next six months.

I’ve come up with five specifically writing-related ones.

Here goes…

1. Put a Big Dent in Book Two

Having completed a novel during the first half of 2018, I want to start work on a second – the sequel. Mostly, I see myself doing this during CampNaNo in July and NaNoWriMo in November, setting myself up to finish it during CampNaNoWriMo in April 2019.

2. Finish One Piece (Short Story or Poem) a Month

Given that I have so many things half-written, this shouldn’t be too difficult. I just need to dig them out and wrap them up. (It helps that I already have a spreadsheet for this.)

3. Submit Two Pieces Per Month for Publication

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. There’s no point in finishing things up and having a back catalogue of work if I’m not gonna do anything with it. Already, I have a bunch of completed works sitting doing nothing. I’m gonna get on that.

4. Self-Publish Two Micropoetry Collections

I have both of these almost ready to go and have done for some time. Why I haven’t finished the polishing process and pressed ‘publish’, I’m not quite sure. I just wanna get them out into the world already.
Torn between having a launch this summer or trying to get them out for National Poetry Day in October, I’ll be happy as long as they’re complete this year. Details to follow on that soon.

5. Acquire Literary Agent and Join the Society of Authors

This has been on my list – and, indeed, a few different lists – for a long time. Eventually, it’ll happen and I’ll keep going (and keep including it on my ‘to do’ lists) until it does.

Writing Update – May 2018

I’ve been fairly quiet on social media recently, partly because I needed to recharge my batteries in that respect (it was all getting a bit much, you know?), but also: I’ve been really concentrating on my writing.

On that count, I have some updates:

The two pieces of flash fiction I said had been accepted in my March update have now both come out – one micro piece in issue two of the Bangor Literary Journal, and a brand new short story in issue nine of Corncrake Magazine.

I finished and won CampNaNoWriMo, writing 20,000 words during the month of April.

But, most importantly, I have finished my novel!!! (Yes, those extra exclamation marks are necessary. Didn’t you hear what I said?) I don’t mean I’ve finished the first draft – oh, no. We’re way past that! – I’ve sent the whole thing out to my beta readers and finished a round of edits.

I had a meeting with a writing mentor on Friday who looked over my pitch and first 10,000 words and she was so positive about it, encouraging me to not delay in sending it out.

So, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

My novel will be in the inbox of an agent come morning!

On Almost Giving Up

Two days before the end of NaNoWriMo in November, I had ten thousand words still to write. So I thought to myself, I’m probably not going to be able to do it, I might as well not bother trying.

I probably don’t need to tell you that that’s a terrible attitude. I knew it myself even as I thought it, but that didn’t make giving up any less tempting.

So I went to a few friends and asked them for a pep talk. They waved their virtual pompoms, I wrote the ten thousand words, and the rest is history. I have another NaNoWriMo win under my belt, and that win had me riding high on good feels for good while.

Way back at the start of 2017, I wrote a blog post that stemmed from a lot of frustration with myself. I put on too much pressure, and I buckle, and I don’t finish a lot of projects (not compared to the number I start, anyway). But that’s only half the story, because you know what else I do? I get up and I try again.

Today has been a crappy day. The course I was supposed to start teaching tonight was cancelled for lack of people signed up. I turned down client work, because I wasn’t up to it. I cancelled an event; deleted my Patreon. Then I had a nap, and I started writing again.

I’m currently behind on my CampNaNo word count, but I’m still going. Tomorrow is a new day.

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.  Continue reading

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?

Summary

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.