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 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

Six-Month Stats Round Up

It’s a new week at the start of a fresh month. We’re now entering the second half of 2019 and, personally, I’m excited. But before I jump headlong into the next round of CampNaNoWriMo, it’s time to look back. I said I’d be more open with my stats, going forward, so here we go:

Books Read

  • 31 out of my goal of 60 for the year = 52%
  • So, just ahead of target. That’s a win.

Words Written
(Rounded to the nearest thousand)

  • January: 4,000
  • February: 6,000
  • March: 6,000
  • April: 37,000
  • May: 12,000
  • June: 13,000
  • Total = 78,000

Continue reading

On Taking Opportunities

It is my firm belief that success rarely happens on its own. There’s a huge amount of random chance involved in winning the lottery, but there’s always another key ingredient, too: buying a ticket.

Award-winning author Kit de Waal wrote a piece for the Bridport Prize website urging people to enter competitions. Lots of them, in various different shapes and sizes; paid and unpaid.

I found this advice as I was reading through this year’s website, preparing to put my work forward for a few of this year’s prizes (the Bridport actually being made up of a few different competitions: one for poetry, one for short stories etc).

Kit de Waal offered up five bursaries to people wanting to enter the flash fiction competition. I was eligible, I entered, and I won one of those five chances to enter the flashfic competition for free.

On top of this, I paid to enter the poetry competition and the short story comp.

Fingers crossed something comes of it. I’d love to be able to end this post with a big success story to perfectly illustrate my point, but I don’t think the pay off is the point at this stage. Success will come in time, I’m sure. If not with this competition then somewhere else.

I also think successes tend to build on themselves.

Once you’ve won an award for a short story (for example), you won’t necessarily find it easier to hook a literary agent for your novel, but it might help and, in the meantime, other doors may open.

All that’s in the future, though. The main takeaway message for right here, right now, is to try. And to keep trying. Continue reading

The Bittersweetness of being on Book Deadline

I’ve often found starting something to be the hardest part. It’s like I have two settings: no focus and hyperfocus. As such, deadlines are both my best friend and worst enemy.

My husband, as a gamer, is often trying to find games that I can enjoy as much as he does. One I had a go at, on his recommendation, was Fable II.

Now, for those who aren’t familiar, this particular game includes a few in-game mini-games. (For those who have no interest in gaming and are waiting to see where I’m going with this, hold tight a second. I’m getting there.)

So, as well as the main Fable quests you can make money on the side by chopping wood, pouring pints, and forging weapons. These are tasks you have to really grind at (a concept I hadn’t heard of before, in terms of gaming). To get anywhere, you had to get into the flow of repetitively doing the same action again and again for actual hours at a time.

When Steve first told me this, I was not impressed. “That sounds like work,” I said, “Not entertainment.”

He said he enjoyed it, so my first go ’round, I got him to do it for me.

By the time I actually figured out what I was doing with the game in general, I decided to restart it all from the beginning so as to get right some parts I now knew a little about. On this occasion – mostly because Steve was asleep at the time, and I was low on coin – I began to do the wood cutting myself.

Lo and behold, five minutes into it, I found a rhythm. ‘Maybe this isn’t so bad,’ I thought, and I carried on. Once I got my first star, I was encouraged. I kept going. Kept grinding. And by the time I had my full five stars in woodcutting, I also had a real sense of achievement.

It was rare that I would have stuck to anything that long – my attention span really can be an issue at times, have I mentioned that? – but I went on to complete the two other grind tasks as well.

Recently, I have been reminded of those times playing Fable as I work on book two in my trilogy, tapping on keys to hit a specific word count each and every night in a row. Continue reading

Afeared Afresh

Back in February last year, I wrote a blog post aptly titled ‘The Fear‘ in which I talked about how, after several years of trying to finish a novel, I was on the verge of doing just that and was scared sh*tless. Said fear was making me drag that last little bit out longer than it ever needed to be.

Writing the blog post helped.

I finally finished writing the book.

I got even more positive feedback – my writing mentor said it was “good to go.”

It was May by that point. I sent the novel out to an agent that very month and considered the issue resolved. I had got past my hesitation. All was good, right?

Well, I submitted to a second agent in July and then, inexplicably, stopped.

To be completely honest, I had gotten so caught up with other things, I hadn’t even realized I’d stalled again. When I opened my list of agents recently, I was horrified it had been so long since I had contacted any of them. Then, when the horror wore off, I found that old fear hiding underneath.

I hadn’t dealt with it, I’d just put a lid on it and left it on a shelf for a while. Continue reading

PitMad March 2019 Results

Yesterday – Thursday the 7th of March – was the latest round of #PitMad, a Twitter event in which novelists pitch their books to agents and publishers. I had dabbled in the past, deciding last minute to take part without giving it a lot of thought.

This time, I prepared. I pre-wrote my tweets. I scheduled the date in my diary. I double checked the timezone difference. (PitMad being mainly an American thing.)

Do things like this actually work and secure people publishing deals? Sometimes, yes.

Someone – last year I think it was – shared information of what they tweeted and how far they got with it. I find it fascinating to look at this data alongside success stories and crunch the numbers.

Naturally, I put together some stats for my own experience. I wondered if there was any point in sharing it – it’s a fairly niche set of information, of importance really only to me – but, hey, why not? I found that other person’s findings interesting. If no one else connects with this post, no harm, no foul.

But enough preamble. Continue reading