What I Wrote and Had Published in 2020

In 2019, I wrote 166,000 words. At the time, it was a new personal record. This year, however, I outdid myself, writing a total of 242,000!

Poems Written: 5

Poetry Submissions Sent (many including multiple pieces): 20

Poems Published: 1 (and 1 held for publication in 2021)

Short Stories/Pieces of Flash Fiction Written: 6

Short Story/Flash Fiction Submissions Sent: 16

Short Stories Published: 8 – a new personal record!

Some of those stories made it into FOUR different anthologies, now available to buy worldwide.

And probably most important of all, I crowdfunded a fricken novel! Which leads me to say, I think 2021 will be even better. At least in terms of books.

2021 Goals

Usually, at this time of year, I write a little re-cap of everything that’s happened in my life over the past twelve months. For what should be obvious reasons, I’m not feeling much need to sum up 2020. (Though I will put up a post next week detailing what I wrote and had published during that time.)

I started the year with fourteen goals, seven of which I completed, two of which I came close to, but didn’t quite meet (reading and blogging), and some of the rest of which quickly became moot. Given that everything that happened globally, I’m gonna call that an overall win.

Moving on, here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Read: Twenty or Thirty Books (including at least two on writing craft) –– this is way down on the ever-increasing number I usually set, but given everything else I have planned, I decided to go easy on myself in this area.
  2. Blog: At least two posts per month –– Again, intentionally setting the bar lower than usual, because I don’t want to be forcing it or stressing about it.
  3. Study: Complete the Masterclass classes I’m signed up to (by April, when my subscription runs out)
  4. Newsletters: Increase these to three per year
  5. Make at least two poetry submissions per month (each submission typically containing multiple pieces)
  6. Submit at least two short stories per month
  7. Finish writing at least three fan fiction works-in-progress
  8. Finally get the third Belfast Writers’ Group anthology out into the world (Summer?)
  9. Finally, finally, finally publish my debut novel (Spring 2021) –– Despite being number nine on this list, this is actually my top priority and the reason I’m both cutting myself slack on reading and blogging, and increasing the number of newsletters I put out.
  10. Rewrite my second novel (Camp NaNoWriMo April)
  11. Finish my third novel (Camp NaNoWriMo July)
  12. Publish a different book –– Keeping all of the details of this secret, for the time being.

Plenty to be getting on with, I should say!

Author Interview: Kelly Creighton

Today on my blog, I have a special treat: an interview with author Kelly Creighton. Keep reading to find out about her, her writing journey, and her new book – Problems With Girls.

How did you get into writing crime?

I always watched crime series and true crime documentaries, and read a lot of crime fiction, but I didn’t initially start writing crime. I started with a story. When my first published book, The Bones of It, was billed as crime I was surprised, but at that stage I was formulating an idea for a detective series so I thought, alright, it makes sense. My work and voice had developed to be more on the noir side.

Can you tell us a bit about your publishing journey?

I have been writing for a long time, on and off, but in 2012 I decided I would really take it seriously and so I started on a novel. It never got published, but I got to play around, learning about different forms. I published a book of poems with Lapwing, called Three Primes. Then in 2015 my first novel was published by Liberties Press. In 2017, Doire Press published my short story collection, Bank Holiday Hurricane. Now, this year, 2020, despite how hard it has been overall, somehow it has been my busiest year in publishing.

In March, The Sleeping Season, book 1 of the detective series came out with Friday Press. This month (November) Problems with Girls, book 2 of the DI Sloane series is publishing, and I have been working as co-editor with Claire Savage and a host of talented local authors on Underneath the Tree: a multi-genre Christmas story anthology. That launched at the start of November.

What are your favourite crime books/series?

I adore everything by Gillian Flynn: Sharp Objects, Dark Places, Gone Girl. I think she is the real deal, an excellent writer and she thinks up great, memorable plots. Her books have a bit of edge and her female characters are especially compelling.

Tell us about DI Sloane

Harriet (Harry) Sloane is a twin, the youngest in her family of five. She was raised on the Malone Road to parents who worked at the top of their game: one was the chief of police, the other a judge. Harriet has just got out of a bad marriage, her love life is a bit of a mess. She is very career-focused and isn’t sure if she wants what women around her seem to want. She’s quite complex but is doing her best considering everything she has been through in her life.

Many thanks to Kelly letting me interview her. You can find Problems With Girls (alongside Kelly’s other books) for sale on Amazon here.

Reading and Writing Update – November 2020

Reading

I have not been reading quite as much this year as previous ones, so instead of stressing about my Goodreads challenge, I decided to take the pressure off and lower it to a more manageable level. Because I firmly believe reading should be fun, not a chore.

My goal had been 65 books and is now 50, of which I have read 47. That leaves me 94% done, and 4 books ahead of the [new] schedule.

I’m currently in the middle of a couple of books – an ARC* of In Pursuit of Happiness by Freya Kennedy, and re-listening to the audiobook of Side Jobs (short stories from the Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher – so I’m pretty confident that everything is now well within reach.

*Advanced Reader’s Copy 

Writing

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and so, I’m knee-deep in trying to squeeze out 50,000 words in 30 days. This year it’s going… slowly. I am way behind target – sitting at only 15,000 words at the time of writing – but I’m not ready to call it quits yet. As with the reading, I’m trying not to stress out about it too much, because I know from experience how much that doesn’t help.

Any words I get this year, I am totally counting as a win. I said in my last writing update (Summer 2020) that I have somehow been writing more than ever during this strange, unprecedented year, and that has slowed down considerably as we’ve come into autumn, but considering the move and all, I’d say that’s more than fair. It’s not like churning out words at full steam all of the time is sustainable, anyway.

So, I’m pretty happy with how things are going.

Publishing

Recently, I had a poem included in Issue 7 of Re-Side, an online literary zine. I have a short story forthcoming in Scarlet Lead Review. And I’ve had two short stories accepted for Hidden Voice Publishing’s 2020 anthology.

Pretty chuffed with all that!

Please tell me in the comments of this post how you’re doing, dear reader. And until next time, stay safe.

What Happens Now

I said in my last post that at various points in the journey towards putting my debut novel out in the world, I was faced with variations on the question ‘and then what’ll you do?’

Originally, people were questioning the specifics of my grand plan for submitting the book via traditional means. Then the questioning turned to contingency plans, as the original plan didn’t go to… well, plan. (How many times can I use the word ‘plan’ in one post? Let’s see!)

Well. Plan A was a bust, as was Plan B, BUT Plan C is working.

Just in case you didn’t see the news elsewhere on social media: the crowdfunding campaign for Full Term was a success!

As of right this second, it is 113% funded.

So, you might be wondering, what now?

There is still time left to donate and/or claim perks, so if you had been planning to support the campaign but now thought there was no point, please don’t let the fact that the original target has been reached put you off. That goal was only the minimum amount needed.

As the funding deadline creeps closer (twenty days to go, at the time of writing!), I have been looking into funding to cover the editing costs of books two and three in the series, been finalising the cover design for the trilogy as a whole, designing a couple of other marketing images, and looking into a few legal and admin-y things.

The final edits of book one are starting fairly imminently, and so my main task right now is figuring out who I can get to write me a nice quote for the front.

I’m fully planning to document these behind the scenes things here, for anyone interested, so stay tuned!

On Having Finally Made a Decision

There comes a day when enough is enough.

So many times on this blog I debated the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Both generally, and in terms of trying to decide what was right for my own books, in particular.

Having announced last week that I was making a leap and starting a crowdfunding campaign to put my novel in print, I wanted to delve in and explain how I finally made the seemingly impossible choice.

May this year was the most recent time I approached the topic publicly. In my post ‘Thoughts on Legacies in a Time of Lockdown‘ – in which I was discussing how living in scarier times gave me new perspective and had me questioning what to do with my extensive body of work – I said, “I talk about choosing between self-publishing and traditional publishing like it’s a decision, but obviously it’s not as simple as that. If I could just decide to be traditionally published, I would. It is what I prefer, but whether someone else publishes me or not is ultimately out of my hands.”

At that point, I also said I wasn’t ready to self-publish, but was leaning ever closer to the idea of doing so in the “next six months.”

It was following this post that I had an epiphany; a brainwave so simple and straightforward that I felt like a complete idiot for not having it before, instead wasting literal years torturing myself over this decision that, as I’ve said, isn’t really a decision for me to make. Continue reading

Nice Things Agents Have Said to Me

A number of people have read my first, so far unpublished novel (Full Term) at this point. Friends and beta-readers, mostly, but in the process of submitting it various places at various times, some agents have read it too. In the video above is a small selection of their thoughts, from when I pitched Full Term at last year’s SCBWI conference. And below are snippets of feedback I got when submitting traditionally.

All such lovely, wonderful comments that made my heart happy.

You might wonder why, if they liked it so much, I still don’t have an agent, so for context, I will also put in their reason for turning it down, too. As is often the way of things, it’s usually not an actual fault with the book. Marketing reasons. Timing reasons. All things out of my (and their!) control.

I just thought it would be interesting to collect the comments and decisions here, in one place. So have a look – and then read right to the very end, where I have an announcement.

Here’s the very first one I got, containing both praise and reason for rejection succinctly in one sentence:

I really like your writing and found this very engaging, but I’m afraid in the current YA market I’m not confident of being able to place it with a publisher.

Side Note: I thought about putting names beside each of these quotes, but then thought it might be considered bad form. If you’re really interested in who said what, you could turn it into a very difficult guessing game (that I’ll never admit the answers to).

Agent Two:

The writing is pretty good, pretty strong. You’re a good writer but with the YA market not as strong as it was and the amount of competition out there….

Agent Three – a matter of personal preference: (This one read and requested the full manuscript)

I think you have a really gripping premise and setting here, and that you are a very talented writer. Despite this, I am sad to say that I am going to pass on this. I appreciate that Mya’s experience is realistic of a vulnerable young person but it is simply a bit too dark for me.

One agent read my submission and was really positive about it, but told me the subject matter hit too close to home. Which is fair.

Here’s another one: Continue reading

Malorie Blackman

A feature on my favourite author.

World Book Day 2003, at age 14, I picked up my very first Malorie Blackman book. It was An Eye for An Eye, a short story from Malorie’s Noughts and Crosses Series.

I had not read Noughts and Crosses at that point. I hadn’t actually heard of it or Malorie herself before. In fact, that day in Easons bookstore in Bloomfields Bangor, I wanted to pick up an entirely different book.

I’ve said before that, prior to going to university, I was not really a reader. I likely would have been, because I was in love with the idea of books, but it was not encouraged.

That day in the bookstore, I had picked up a novel I wanted to use my £1 book token towards but my parents refused to buy it. They would not add money to my token, so if I wanted to use it, I had to pick one of the £1 short reads produced specifically for the day.

A somewhat unlikely beginning, but I got that short story, read it, and loved it. And when I finally had a little freedom and some of my own money, I walked into Waterstones in Lincoln, aged 18, and came out with my very own copy of Noughts and Crosses.

The short story had stayed with me that long. My curiosity about the rest of the series had been piqued for four years. And so, not long after I devoured book one, I worked my way through the rest. At that point, Knife Edge and Check Mate (books two and three) were out and Double Cross (book four) was in the pipeline. I was one of the first people to preorder it, and I actually have a clear memory of the day I picked it up. Continue reading

The Numbers Game

I think about submissions a lot. Not just figuring out what I will send where next, but bigger picture stuff like how many submissions is “normal” or “enough.” How many acceptances equals success. Torturous questions like that, that don’t really have a real (i.e. definitive) answer. I adore definitive answers. Objective feedback. Hard and fast rules that tell me when things have worked and when they haven’t. With such a mindset, it’s hard to know why and how I ended up writing for a living – where I’m not sure certainty ever happens – but, you know, such is life.

Further to thinking about submissions a lot, I have this one particular friend (hi, Elizabeth!) I talk about submissions with a lot. She’ll come over for tea and a chat, and that chat will almost always turn to which journals are open, who has a good reputation for replying fast (or at all), and whose guidelines are completely incomprehensible.

Even further to this, it has not been unknown for me to start making notes during these chats or periods of intense thought. I will often look up my submission folder in my email inbox, or pull up one of my many spreadsheets. But in all this, I wondered, has anyone else perhaps looked into the submission process more thoroughly? Has anyone ever sat down and researched the stats behind this seemingly mysterious process of firing your word babies out into the void, hoping one of them will land somewhere and… I’m not honestly sure where I was going with this metaphor, ‘word babies’ is maybe one of the worst phrases I’ve ever written and I apologise, but I’m sure you catch my meaning.

It’s all well and good to torture yourself, wondering if the five submissions you made yesterday were “enough,” or if that one you spent two weeks on a month ago was “worth it.” I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be much more effective to torture yourself by the cruel and unusual means of comparison? Continue reading

Refocusing

It is Monday morning. A new day, a fresh week. I am, as the title of this post suggests, refocusing.

I had been thinking I would write a post today titled ‘On Disappointment and Uncertainty,’ because that’s the one I had planned. It’s what I wanted to write last month but didn’t have the brainpower for. Because disappointed and uncertain was where my head was at for pretty much all of August.

I’ve already said I found August particularly hard, and that part of that was moving, but that doesn’t really paint a full picture of everything that was going on.

Before we got to the huge physical strain that moving was, there was applying for houses. And that was the emotional strain, because it seemed no one wanted to accept our application.

Waiting for landlord decisions is tough, in and of itself (especially when the answer comes back as no and you have to start all over again), but what that waiting coincided with for me was also waiting for responses from agents and publishers, waiting for a funding decision, and waiting for my A Level result. (I feel like there was something else in that list, too, but I’ve lost track of whatever it was at this point.)

If you’ve been following the UK news over the past month, you’ll know that results day was a clusterfuck. And if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I was relying on a good result to, hopefully, kickstart my re-entry to formal education.

Well, I got an okay result. A grade C. Not exactly what I wanted, but not awful. And we found a house and moved in. There are some loose ends still to tie up the end of the moving process, but for the most part that is done. Huge, huge relief!

I found the uncertainty over these things legitimately debilitating. Hence my hiatus from writing. And reading. And posting here.

I’m still waiting on the funding decision – it ended up being pushed back until October – and I haven’t heard from the majority of agents and publishers I submitted to, but I’m not particularly stressing about that. Why? Because I have a plan. I almost always have not just one single plan, but a main plan and lots of smaller, sub-plans. I think that’s what made all the uncertainty hardest for me – all of the things being out of my hands. But going forward – recentering my focus on the future – not everything seems so dire.

I’ve had a poem accepted that I think is being published next month, in October. I have a short story due to be published in November. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I plan to be finishing the third book in my trilogy. As of this past weekend, I am writing again. I am reading again. I have an active list of reading and writing things to work through that is A. not crushing me under the weight of it, and B. not a list of physical tasks I must complete before even considering taking to my computer for words.

In under two weeks, I am handing back the keys to the old house. By that time, the minor work that needs done there will be wrapped up. It will have been cleaned within an inch of its life (several times over). I will have finished updating our address everywhere. Puzzle pieces will have slotted together and our payments will be all in order.

Things are coming together.

Huzzah!