Writing Update – December 2019

So, NaNoWriMo is over for another year.

In the run-up to November, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to take part. I’ve consistently attempted NaNo for several years, and I wanted to try again this year, but I didn’t know if it was possible with everything else going on.

To begin with, I was starting the month in England for the annual SCBWI Conference, and I wouldn’t have my laptop with me. (There would have been no point, I didn’t have a spare minute for the whole three days.) I was also trying to keep up with my studies. But, despite this, I decided to go for it in the end anyway. I wasn’t really expecting to hit the 50,000-word goal, but I wanted to write as much as possible.

I signed up –– and then promptly got sick. (Typical, right?)

Even so, I managed 21,000 words total across thirty days.

That was:

  • 2 Poems (200 Words)
  • 5 Blog Posts (4,200 Words)
  • a 600-word story outline (for Death Girl: a project that’ll either end up as a novel or novella)
  • 16,000 Words of Fan Fiction

Going in, I thought I’d be mainly working on one project (Death Girl) but, as you can see, I actually ended up mostly writing fanfic. I’m okay with that. Given the craziness of the month, I’m happy with how I did.

Going forward, I thought some of you might be wondering what works-in-progress I have left after recently abandoning a bunch. So, here’s the breakdown of that:

Right at the top of my list is the fanfiction I was writing in November. Originally started in October, it’s now at 24,000 words and I expect it will be done at 30k. I aim to have those final six-thousand words done by Christmas.

My two main projects for the first half of 2020 are the third book in my trilogy (which I will be working on during CampNaNoWriMo in April) and a draft of Death Girl (now scheduled for CampNaNo in July). I also want to finish three short stories: Prepared, The Change, and Wingman.

Back Burner Projects:

  • A non-fiction book about my childhood
  • Short Stories: Drama Queen and Subterfuge
  • Y.A. Novels: Rain After Fire, Family Secret, and Holes
  • Adult Novels: Sasha and A Man Convinced
  • Ella and Vin – a standalone comic book
  • A random academic essay I have an idea for (not actually part of my current course)
  • The twenty-five fanfic WIPs I have ideas for, that I mentioned in part two of my ‘Idea Graveyard’ post

What writing projects are you in the middle of, dear reader? Please tell me in a comment below.

The Idea Graveyard Part Three

A non-exhaustive list of story ideas I’ve given up on:

  • The ten fanfic works in progress I mentioned in part two of this series that went on to have better lives as story challenges for other people.
  • The Worlds of Day and Night. This was to be a speculative novel in which society is divided into two main groups: diurnal people (who are awake during the day) and their nocturnal counterparts. I gave up on this for two reasons.
    • One: I didn’t have much of the story figured out beyond the actual concept as I’ve just explained it, and–
    • Two: I discovered that there is a book called Plus One by Elizabeth Fama that has done something very similar.
  • Matter. A story about a trans character and her lesbian girlfriend that I really want to read but am absolutely not the right person to write.
  • Sidekick. The story of a guy who has always been ‘friend-zoned’ and his long-suffering romantic interest who is trying to explain to him why he’s an entitled prick. A fairly thinly veiled feminist rant.
  • Tears at the Kitchen Sink. A really dark domestic thriller that I might resurrect one day but simply do not have the skills (or the emotional fortitude) to do justice to as of right now.
  • Woodwork. As above.
  • Fairytale Smashed. As above, but not so original.
  • Following the Wind. A concept novel set in a contemporary world the same as ours with one main difference: family means nothing. You’re born and whoever wants you, raises you, but – for the most part – you’re on your own.
  • Untitled. A vampire novel I hadn’t fully thought through and can now see is just full of overdone tropes.
  • The Widow’s Window. A horror novel that I’ve abandoned because I don’t actually like horror. Do not ask me where I got the idea from, because I have no idea!
  • Dark as Day. A short story about a man who is convinced the sun has stopped shining. (Yeah, it’s a little weird. Not sure where I was going with that.)
  • The Spirit that was Intended. About a ghost who’s also a groom. Not so much a story idea as a terrible pun.
  • The Spoon Thief. A children’s story based around spoon theory.

I’m aware this is a really weird mix. Some of these I’ve had in the back of my head for almost ten years. Needless to say, my brain can be a bit of an odd place.

The Idea Graveyard Part Two

I get a lot of story ideas. In the past, I’ve talked about how I deal with them all: metaphorically, by making them queue up and wait their turn, and practically via the use of lists and spreadsheets. But even with this mindset and those tools, it can still be a lot to manage. Sometimes – and it breaks my heart to say this – it is best to just let an idea go.

I was greedy for a long time, so obsessed with fears of ‘the one that got away’, that I tried to not give up on any idea. Ever. No matter how much it didn’t work. But that, as I’m sure you can guess, is unsustainable.

Once upon a time, I had a long list of maybe twenty or more blog posts I wanted to write, forty poems, and dozens of short stories. It stressed me out because, deep down, I know my output wasn’t big enough and that the backlog was only going to grow. Not only that, but all the blog posts, poems, and short stories were keeping me from the novels I wanted to write.

To save myself from the insanity, I’ve had to learn to prioritise even more; not just making the stories queue up and wait their turn, but actually turning some of them away. It’s been difficult, but my master list of works in progress is finally starting to look manageable.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not entirely where I want it to be, but substantial progress has definitely been made. This has taken literal years. I used to have three blogs instead of just this one. When I merged two of them and scrapped the other one entirely, that was a big step. As of right now, I have ideas for three future blog posts. Three is a number I’m comfortable with.

In place of my list of forty-plus poems I wanted to write, I easily have forty poems. The backlog on those is completely cleared to the point that if I get a poem idea, I can write it then and there without wondering to myself if I should finish a different one first. Continue reading

Surprised by Joy

On Saturday the 23rd of November, I’ll be taking part in this year’s C.S. Lewis Festival alongside other Women Aloud NI members. A couple of years ago when I took part, the theme was ‘Surprised by Joy’, for which I wrote the following flash fiction piece. I hope you like it!


It was a terrible, miserable, frozen, windy, brown-grey day; the sky the embodiment of ‘bah humbug.’

Jasper just wanted to sleep through it, but circumstance wouldn’t allow. There were presents to buy, food to arrange, parties to go to, decorations to put up – all the rest.

It wasn’t that he hated Christmas, it was just that he was exhausted and the holiday always poked at him, knowing just where his insecurities lay.

“Haven’t you settled down yet?” one great-aunt or another would invariably ask, only for all the other family members to pile in and spend no less than a half-hour discussing the intricacies of his love life, or lack thereof.

There would be advice – “You’ve just got to put yourself out there, you know?” – and there would be teasing – “Look, Jasper, even the cat has a girlfriend!” – and it would be miserable. All of it.

Jasper had tried to find someone, he really had, but there was nothing for it – no one out there for him. He was alone, and he was lonely. That was just the way things were.

Dragging himself around shop after shop to get everything sorted, Jasper’s mind wondered as his mood lowered still. It took someone calling his name three times before he blinked and looked up, coming back to himself.

There she was. He had to blink again to make sure he was imagining things. Joy Pringle – Jasper’s childhood sweetheart, who had moved away when they were twelve and, in all honesty, he had never gotten over.

“Joy!” he exclaimed. “I’ve found you!”

She laughed, the sound like jingle bells. “I found you, more like. I’ve been looking for you for years. You aren’t on Facebook.”

“Ah, well,” Jasper stammered, cursing his previous negative attitude towards the site. “I– I’ll sign up now.”

Joy smiled at him, the sun rising in her cheeks. “Oh, no. Not now. I’m about to meet some friends for a drink. Do you want to come?”

“Yes,” said Jasper, glad he pulled himself out of bed for such a glorious day.

Nightmares in Bliss

Today I’d like to share a blog exclusive: an older piece of flash fiction by myself that’s never been seen before. It’s written exclusively in dialogue, but I like how it turned out. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section.

“I spy with my little eye…”

“Do we have to play this?”

“…something beginning with M.”

“You’re just gonna ignore me, then? What if I play the silence game instead of your stupid–”

“It’s a mouse.”

“What?”

“A mouse.”

“Where? No, don’t just shrug at me! Are you serious? Macie, if there is mouse I’m gonna scream, I swear.”

“Relax.”

“Oh, you relax! Were you making that up?”

“Maybe.”

“I can’t believe you! All your stupid games and pranks. Why did you bring me up here, anyway? I’m cold.”

“Here.”

“No, I don’t want your jacket. Take me home.”

“Look, I’m sorry, okay? I was just trying to lighten the mood. Take the coat, please.”

“Well, okay. But you have to tell me why we’re here. It looks like it’s going to rain, and we’re miles from anywhere.”

“This is where it started.”

“Here we go. Where what started?”

“Us.”

“Mace–”

“Okay, okay, hear me out.”

“Fine. What is it?”

“This, my darling, is the place I was sitting when I first saw your face.”

“Here?”

“Yip.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“I’d run away. This is always where I came.” Continue reading

October Reading & Writing Update

What I Wrote in September: 7,000 Words Total

  • 2 Poems (100 Words)
  • 2 pieces of Micro-Fiction (400 Words)
  • 3 Blog Posts (2,000 Words)
  • 900 Words of Non-Fiction
  • 1,000-word Essay
  • 2,700 words of Fan Fiction

What I Read in September:

Currently Reading: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

My ‘To Be Read’ List for the Next Four/Five Weeks: 

What I Make As a Writer

Some people are oversensitive about money. Some people will be scandalised that I’m about to break taboo in talking about it.

Some people, in my humble opinion, need to get over themselves.

I mean, yes, this stuff matters to some extent (I wouldn’t be blogging about it otherwise) but, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not half as important as we make it out to be.

It was back in May that I promised to lift the lid on my personal income but, all of the above said, I’ve actually gotten a slight case of cold feet between then and now.

Please understand that, when I criticise people for focusing on things that maybe don’t matter so much, I’m including myself in that too.

In my first post I was all like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna be radical and awesome, breaking down barriers and laying all my sh*t bare!’ And then, having calmed down and thought about it some more, worry started to set in that people would see how little money we’re actually talking about and write me off as barely a professional.

I asked myself if I should wait until I was earning more before sharing my figures. Then I remembered that I was entirely missing my own point. I’m not making this blog post to be impressive, I’m doing it because I genuinely believe more open and honest discourse is needed and that everyone would be better off for it.

So, without further ado, here’s me putting my money where my mouth is:

I started freelancing during tax year 2013/2014 – the best part of six years ago. I’d just quit a “normal” job from hell (it was a call centre. Enough said.) and didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was enthusiastic. Foolhardy.

I was also living rent-free with my parents, which is a depressing yet important piece of contextual information.

For the first eight months, I earned nothing. Not a single penny. I call this my ‘year zero.’ Continue reading

Summer Successes and Autumn Goals

This post is third in a series. You can find part one (covering January to April) here and part two (May to August) here. As outlined in those previous posts, I’m tackling this year in chunks, setting myself goals for four months at a time, rather than having a single set for the whole of 2019.

It seems to be working out.

My only year-long goal – the Goodreads reading challenge – has me sitting at 44 books completed off a total of sixty. That’s 73% complete/4 books ahead of schedule.

Before I get into my goals for the rest of 2019 going forward, let’s take a minute to recap on my summer goals and how well I did (or didn’t) achieve them.

In May, I set myself the following tasks:

  • Lose more weight
  • Continue to submit my first novel to agents
  • Make edits to my second novel and send it to beta readers
  • Draft yet another novel during Camp NaNoWriMo in July
  • Attended two publishing conferences
  • Complete my tax return

From that list, what I didn’t do was lose weight or write a third novel. The number of things I achieved (listed below) definitely outweigh these two failures, which I’m obviously delighted about, but they are still two pretty big failures. Though I will point out that I did take part in Camp NaNoWriMo, as planned, and got a few words towards book three in my trilogy. Overall, I wrote 25,000 words during July, much of it fanfiction works in progress that I wanted to get out of my head at long last.

Here’s the full list of what I actually did achieve: Continue reading

FanFic Writing Update 2019

I usually share some statistics regarding my fan fiction on the 28th of July each year (the anniversary of when I first started writing fanfic). This year, I wasn’t too bothered about it, but I do actually have some news to share in that regard so am deciding to write about it after all. Better late than never!

As I acknowledged in my annual fan fiction round-up post last year, I won’t always have the opportunity to write as much fanfic as I do right now, at this stage in my life.

If and when I get a publishing contract, my focus will be on working with my own characters and worlds.

So, as much as I’m impatient to hurry along any future success in that regard, I’m using the opportunity currently afforded me of not being on book deadline to continue work on my (unpaid) passion projects.

This past year, I wrote some new stories and finished off a couple of other pieces that had been left abandoned for way too long. I also won Elysian’s Field’s ‘Author of the Month‘ award – something I have coveted since it was first announced, a few years ago.

I continued the mega task of re-editing and uploading my older work to Archive of Our Own and, in completing my outstanding WIPs, ticked off another goal I’d been working towards: finishing with Fanfiction.net

All of the stories I have published on FF will remain there, but I won’t be adding any new pieces to that site (those will continue to be shared on Ao3 and Elysian Fields).

In the image on the right are my ‘legacy user stats’ as of the day I uploaded my last chapter to FF.

By this time next year, my goal is to have finished archiving old work to Ao3. Beyond that, I can only hope to have acquired one of those lovely publishing contracts, but we’ll see how it goes.

On Researching Contemporary Fiction

I don’t think it’s particularly big-headed to say I have a somewhat decent set of writing skills at this point – it is my job, after all – but world-building is definitely not something that comes to me naturally. This didn’t matter, I told myself, because I mainly write stories set in the real world in the modern-day.

Well, as you can probably guess, I was wrong.

I may have been basing my descriptions on places and things that already exist, but I don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of stuff even I know fairly well. Like, I can picture a road I’ve walked down dozens of times, but I won’t necessarily know the name of that road because it hasn’t ever been relevant to me before. And the thing about characters is that, if done right, they take on a life of their own, which means things will be relevant to them that have nothing to do with you as a writer.

If you don’t want your reader to stumble over something out of place, sooner or later, you’ll have to look things up. Even if the real world is your source material, the reader probably won’t know which part of it you’re drawing direct inspiration from, so you’ve got to rebuild that world inside their head – not as big a deal as creating an imaginary empire from scratch, but still no mean feat.

In preparation for National Novel Writing Month last year, there were a series of Instagram inspiration prompts and one of them was ‘Last Writing Related Search.’ Displayed in the photo, below, is what was in my Google search history.

Yes, it was all research for my book, odd as it may sound.

Since then, I’ve actually gone even further, to figure out what subjects my main characters would have studied at G.C.S.E., what dates the exams would have been on, and plotted this info on a calendar next to the plot points of the book.

No one else is ever going to need this information, and it doesn’t end up in the book directly, but it certainly helped me get my head around timelines and pacing, which ultimately makes the book better. Continue reading