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

My Writing Journey (So Far)

How long have I been writing? It’s a simple question, but the answer is… not. In fact, far from being simple, the answer isn’t singular. There are a number of equally accurate responses, depending on what kind of writing you’re talking about.

In the bio that I share about myself all around the internet, I say I’ve “been writing poetry and short stories since primary school and been blogging for over ten years.”  Which is true and works well as a summary but, by its very nature of being a summary, leaves out some pretty key details.

I mean, everyone writes stories and poems in primary school, right? For class assignments if nothing else. It was just that I never really stopped.

I focused on poetry in high school. In the five years I was there (2000-2005), I think I wrote about 100 poems total. Some might consider that not many, some might count it as a lot. I guess it doesn’t matter either way because most of them have been lost (some intentionally and some inadvertently) in the years since.

In college (2005-2007 | ages 16-18), I don’t think I wrote anything other than a metric shit-ton of coursework.

My very first ever blog was made in February 2007, but I only got a couple of hundred words on there before I swiftly forgot about it. It was 2015 that I found it again, during a random Google search.

My time at university (2007-2010) was when I really got into blogging regularly (if not all in the same place).

2009 was the year I first attempted National Novel Writing Month, for which I completed a grand total of 216 words.

In 2011 I started writing posts for other blogs for free. (I mean – ahem – exposure.) And had my first ever poem published in an anthology – which turned out to be by a vanity publisher (not that I knew what that was).

I also signed up for a workshop with Nicola Morgan. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a real turning point for me.

Continue reading

Novel Updates/What I Wrote in 2018

It’s hard to believe (for me, at least), but it’s been months and months since I shared any real update about my novel on here.

Back in December 2017, I announced that the title of my book changed (from Ripped to Full Term), I discussed sequels (stating that I had two planned), and I shared some concept cover art I’d made.

Around the middle of 2018, I finished writing book one, had it looked over by a writing mentor, and sent off the first submissions to agents. Then (in news I have shared here previously), I was awarded funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to help support me write book two (Life Lessons).

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’ll be submitting Full Term to yet more agents by the end of the month and will have the complete first draft of Life Lessons done by the end of April.

As for what I wrote in 2018 more generally, I have just totted up the figures and they come to a grand total of 146,000 words — the exact same number as 2017! It’s an odd little coincidence, but I’m pleased with my output across poetry, blog posts, short stories, fan fiction, and — of course — work towards my novels.

Here’s to writing in 2019!


P.S. The image in this blog post was for a NaNoWriMo Instagram Challenge in which I had to imagine which actors would play the main characters in my book. Number One is Jessica Sula as Mya, the main character in book one. Two is Malachi Kirby as Richard, secondary character in book one and main character in book two. Image three is  Brian F. O’Byrne as Kian, my villain. And image four is Ella Purnell as Zhara, secondary character in books one and two, main character in book three.

Such A Night (Flash Fiction)

Here’s something I wrote at writers’ group last week. It’s a little bleak, but I thought I’d share it anyway. Would love to know people’s thoughts!

He didn’t want to go out on such a night but if he didn’t leave now, his head was sure to explode. The twins next door were both screaming to be fed and the dog in the apartment on the other side was howling in sympathy.

Gerald’s could feel his brain melting out his ears. He grabbed his coat and headed into the rain, just trying to get a little respite from the overwhelming noise in his tiny flat.

He didn’t ask for much in life. A quiet night on the one weekend a month he wasn’t working overtime was all he really needed. Six hours of uninterrupted sleep would have been worth all of the money his extra shifts were pulling in.

You can’t put a price on peace of mind. That’s what his mum always used to say. God, he missed her. Gerald didn’t think he was built for being alone.

Part of him wished he’d kept the house. It would mean he wouldn’t have to be dealing with paper-thin walls now, but he couldn’t justify keeping on such a big place just for himself.

Life after his mum was gone wasn’t the same. Existence was hollow. Maybe that made him sound weak, or pathetic, but he didn’t care. It didn’t change the fact that life for Gerald without his mother wasn’t really life.

He worked in a job he hated just for something to do. He came home to sleep – or try to sleep – because he physically needed to. But he didn’t want to do anything anymore.

Gerald’s mother had been a rudder in his life. Now he was adrift. No other family. No qualifications. No hope. And a blinding headache.

He hadn’t cried.

Some part of Gerald realized that he’d feel better if he just let go and gave into his emotions, but he was scared of them swallowing him whole. If he started crying, he didn’t think he’d be able to stop. That would be worse. It was all worse. There had to be a better plan than just being sad for the rest of time, right?

Gerald’s caseworker said he had a bad attitude.

“Sure,” he’d replied. Because that much was already obvious. “What do I do, though?”

She told him it wasn’t her job to offer solutions, so he didn’t go back.

He walked to the end of the block, turned for home, then thought better of it. He kept walking.

He didn’t go back.

He didn’t go back.

On Winning the Lottery (Writing Update – October 2018)

I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The title of this blog post is a bit click-baity, yes, but it’s also technically true.

The big news I am delighted to share with you is that the Arts Council of Northern Ireland are funding me, using lottery money, to write my second novel.

I’m practically shaking with joy, just being able to write that. Each element of the statement makes me want to scream with happiness.

Let me break it down for you:

  1. I have written a novel.
  2. I’m writing a second novel.
  3. The arts council are funding me to do so.

If this is a dream, please no one pinch me!

The book in question is called Life Lessons and is the sequel to my first novel, Full Term. Currently, Life Lessons is sitting at the 10,000-word mark. I have between the 1st of November this year and the end of April next year to finish the draft. Those dates include NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where I’m hoping to get the bulk of it done and CampNaNo, when I’ll be going over it all again before handing it in at the start of May.

Between now and then, I have a letter appearing as part of an exhibition in Glasgow this December. Sadly, I can’t make it to the launch but I still think it’s such a cool thing to happen and I’m delighted to have been included.

I also have a few other opportunities I’m currently waiting to hear back from – there is a residency I have applied for and a competition I have entered book one into. Part of me wanted to wait on those decisions before making this post, but I just couldn’t put it off any longer.

I want to thank the wealth of people who have congratulated me across social media already this weekend so, so much for their love and support. It’s been a long road getting here – I can remember my disappointment this time last year, when I was unsuccessful – but I’m not done yet.

Onward and ever, ever upward 🙂

Attention (Microfiction)

This is the final piece of writing I did during Bernie McGill’s fiction workshops at the John Hewitt International Summer School. Short but, I hope, still able to strike a chord. Based off prompts given in the class.

She always said I was useless, though she never said it to me; never looked at me long enough to realize I was there, and could hear.

The worst decision I made was to make her aware of my presence.

I find myself now in the cupboard under the stairs, the door locked.

I am here because I couldn’t stand it anymore. I needed attention. I needed her to look at me.

In my pocket I am carrying the hair she pulled from my head when I spoke to her.

When people look at me, they see my bruises. They gasp and look away again. I hear them whispering.

The truth is, I think maybe I deserve to be here. I think I must be the worst kid in the world. Why else does my grandmother hate me?

Dystopia in the Modern Day?

While at the John Hewitt International Summer School, I took a three-day workshop with Bernie McGill and, over the course of those three days with her, I completed a few different writing exercises. Below is what resulted from one of those. I was given a photo prompt and some starting words. I’m not sharing the photo for copyright reasons, but you should be able to gather from my description what it depicted.

I read the final piece at the JHISS Showcase at the end of the week and it got some really strong reactions. It was labelled dystopian and I suppose it is but I think, for some people, the word dystopia conjures up the idea that it’s set in some distant or alternative future where everything has fallen apart, but that’s not where my mind was when I wrote it. Maybe not here in the west but, as far as I understand it, the things I mention can and do happen here on earth, in this reality, in the modern day. In a lot of ways, I think that makes it more striking. But enough preamble, here is the piece. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

I can’t remember my name anymore and I don’t know where I am. I don’t know what age I am, or how old she is either, though she’s smaller than me. She can’t talk, but she clings to my side. We stay together on the streets and I keep her safe from the dogs and the bad men.

I wasn’t born on the streets, but in a house. It had one big room, and there were many of us. It was always warm, and there was always a fire.

It is still warm outside, the sun making the dust on the road rise up and burn in our throats. We cough and, despite the heat, cling harder to each other.

I like her close to me. I like to think of her as my sister, though I don’t know where she came from. She was never in the house with the rest of us.

I don’t like that I don’t know where they went –– all of my real brothers and sisters from the house. The night they were taken, everything was dark and loud. I ran and hid until the sun came up. Then I found her.

The last time I saw my mother, she was stooped over the fire, stoking it. She didn’t look up at me and I can’t remember her eyes, but I dream about them. The girl has nightmares, most nights, and I try and tell her about my dreams; about my mum’s eyes. She stills and listens to my voice until her breathing slows again.

I wonder if I’ll ever see my mother again, or if I’d recognise her. I wonder if she’d take my sister in, too, if she came for me.

I remember one day my brother found a dog and brought it home –– it wasn’t angry like the rest of them. My mother said we couldn’t keep it and my brother cried. She hit him for ‘acting out’, then told him to leave the dog and go fetch more sticks for the fire.

I watched her kill the dog and mix the meat in with the rice.

I have always wondered if my brother knew. He didn’t ask for the dog after the first time, when she hit him again, and he didn’t eat dinner that night.

I was angry with my mum for doing it, but when I look at my sister and hear her stomach growl, I wish we had a dog I could kill for her. The ones in the street now are too big, though. I worry they’ll get us first.

Five Years Writing FanFic!

When I first heard about fanfiction, I thought it was a fantastic idea. I didn’t start reading it right away, however, and I told myself I was not – absolutely categorically NOT – going to start writing it.

Why? Because I recognized it for the rabbit hole it was. I knew that if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop.

Regardless of knowing that in advance, though, and no matter how much I told myself I wouldn’t give in, temptation finally got the better of me.

And, as it turned out, I was right. Fan fiction kind of took me over, just like I thought it would. Do I regret that, speaking from my place now five years down the line? Nah! It gave me a lot of writing experience I wouldn’t have had otherwise and, aside from all that, it was fun!

It’s still fun.

If and when I get traditionally published, I plan to continue with fanfic on the side. Granted, I’ll no doubt have a lot less time to devote to writing in other people’s worlds, with other people’s characters, when I’m also trying to focus on my own, but I’m no longer in denial. I’ll still dabble any chance I get.

Continue reading

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