Taking stock of 2017

It’s that time again! I’ve done a review of the year for the last few years – here’s 2015 and 2016. I started because I missed having the clear cut ‘evaluation’ of each year which you get from exam results at school and university – it felt weird that years could pass without any kind of indication of whether it had gone well. (I know, I know, I’m overly reliant on success as a measure of happiness. You don’t need to tell me.)

Anyway, it’s incredibly satisfying to look over the past years and see how far my career and life have come since I graduated and became an author. This year has been busier than ever, and at times it feels like I’ve not managed to stop all year – so one of my goals for 2018 is to rest a little bit, and not feel like I need to keep swimming to stay afloat. I don’t think I’m in danger of sinking just yet, so I can afford to slow down my pace just a tad to make sure I’m working on the things I really want to be working on, and that my personal life, health and fitness is getting some attention too.

So, without further ado – here’s my 2017!

The Good

Fiction writing

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I edited my third novel The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which was published in September in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It went into a second printing before release day, and was the bestselling title at YALC 2017. I got a book deal for The Loneliest Girl with Harperteen in the US, and received ARCS for it. It’s also sold to HarperCollins Brasil.

anotherbeginning

I wrote, edited and published a novella about Clove and Ella from The Last Beginning, Another Beginning.

 

The Next Together was published in the US, Russia, Germany and Brazil. The Last Beginning was published in the Czech Republic – and I got to meet the translator and sign it in a bookshop in Prague. translator

I outlined and pitched multiple new novels to my agent and/or editors.

I wrote book 4 (in 3 months!) and did the first round of edits. I also edited a book about ghosts, one which I thought might never see the light of day.

 

Non-fiction writing

I wrote a commissioned memoir article for Buzzfeed –  7 Times Studying Science Taught Me To Be Brave. I wrote a draft of a non-fiction book, which was a completely new experience for me, and taught me a lot, even if it never goes anywhere.

I started taking on editorial critiques. I judged the University of Nottingham short story competition (for which I wrote a short story about Kate and Matt at the university in 2016).

I wrote some blog posts:

I also wrote multiple lengthy issues of my newsletter, which has increasingly become my most pleasurable part of social media.

Publicity

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe got some great press reviews, including “Gripping psychological thriller with a very relatable heroine” from The Bookseller, “Black Mirror-esque. A fantastic slow-build drama” from SFX, and “The Loneliest Girl is a page-turning science fiction thriller with some terrific twists” from Philip Reeve.

Walker commissioned a book trailer, which was truly an I’ve-Made-It moment:

tumblr_ovekdl4Fe61qa24muo1_1280I did 27 events, including Edinburgh Book Festival and Bath Festival, plus my first international event in Dublin.

I also did lots of school events, the highlight of which was at the Eden Project in Penzance, when The Next Together was nominated for the Kernow Book Awards.

 

 

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I had two book launches, one at my local independent bookshop and one in London. My family and friends all came along, and it was just the most wonderful if not overwhelming week.

 

I chaired events for Jennifer E Smith, Paige Toon, Ayisha Malik, Patrice Lawrence, Frances Hardinge, Lucy Saxon and Maggie Harcourt.

I wrote a whole series of extras for my books, including playlists, moodboards and short stories:

I filmed lots of Youtube videos, including:

I went to London Book Fair for the first time, where The Loneliest Girl was featured on the front of Walker’s catalogue.

I blurbed some amazing books, including Chainbreaker, The Hazel Wood and Dotwav.

 

Personal

books

I read 220 books – my favourites were The Pearl Thief and Sourdough. I went to countless book events, including David Mitchell makes piano drabbles in a cathedral and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie fangirling with Nicola Sturgeon.

I travelled to Dublin, the Giant’s Causeway, Prague, Sofia, Scotland and Cornwall.

I went to see lots of plays and concerts, including Hedda Gabler, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Antony & Cleopatra, The Addams Family, Dream Girls, Angels in America, Lorde and a truly terrible one staring Jude Law.

I did some new things for the first time – including willow weaving and canoeing on Birmingham canals. I took my car for its first MOT. I started going to a weekly car boot sale with my mum at 5.30am on Sundays (it’s worth it for the deals). We also started going to National Trust properties, including Baddesley Clinton, Charlecote Park, Packwood House, Kenilworth Castle, Buckingham Palace, Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens. In 2018 we’re considering, gasp, actually becoming National Trust members.

My friends Sarah and Clare came to book events with me in London, Dublin, Edinburgh and Newcastle, which was just the best thing ever. It was also such a joy to watch them both succeed this year – Sarah graduated with a Masters in Publishing and Clare made some amazing career moves. I’m so proud of my squad!

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I started looking at houses, and went to many, many viewings – which is a whole new part of adulthood that I had to learn from scratch. I made about a dozen financial spreadsheets and spoke to financial advisers and accountants (eek).

The bad

Personal

I still struggle a lot with driving, as I’ve mentioned in every one of these yearly reviews. I’m just not a natural, and every time I drive somewhere I’m absurdly proud of myself for conquering my worries. I think this is just something I’m going to have to learn to live with until I’m driving often enough that it becomes easier.

I read 220 books – but somehow obtained even more than that which has gone unread. I get sent books from publishers now, but also buy them, and find them, and just somehow attract them, and it’s . . . becoming a problem. I need to start reading books I already own!

Last year I started donating blood, but the two times I’ve done that this year I’ve felt faint afterwards, and caused a lot of fuss with the nurses. I’m going to keep trying, but they’ve said I may not be able to donate if I feel like that again, which is a disappointment.

My family have had a lot of illness this year.

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My adorable baby guinea pigs grew into gigantic hormonal monsters, and started fighting so much they had to be split up. Their neat hutch turned into a sprawling labyrinth of pens, taking up more room than my entire bedroom (no joke).

Professional

I did a lot more events than any year before, and I didn’t always handle that very well. I rarely managed to do any work on days when I had events, and often took days off afterwards to recover.

In general, I made myself sick with stress quite a lot this year. My method of dealing with that tended to be to carry on working from bed, which isn’t the best, to say the least.

I have a terrible work routine, and the more work I have to do, the later and later my sleep pattern shifts. This year at the height of my workload I was working until six in the morning – which is not only very unsociable waking hours, but means I was seeing very little daylight. This autumn I’ve not been swimming as much as I used to, because I spent nearly a month away from home – and when I was at home, the gym was closing just as I was waking up! Not ideal.

I’m not really sure what the solution to this is, because I’m most efficient at writing when I’m uninterrupted, which in a busy house only usually happens at night. It takes time to get into the writing ‘mode’ and when things are going on all the time, it’s very easy to slip out of it without having achieved much. I’m hoping that when I move out I’ll be more able to get into the writing zone during normal daylight hours. (Maybe.)

There were quite a few bumps in the road in deciding on my fourth novel, and many different pitches were discussed and discarded. I’m very happy with the result, but it was a very stressful process which I’d very much like to avoid in the future.

The lengthy process meant that I ended up writing the first draft in only three months, which is half of my usual time. I didn’t do much else during that time, and was very anxious about it. I also missed several deadlines this year because I was trying to juggle so much stuff. Luckily I have very relaxed editors who hid their worry very well!

It’s really hard to discuss things like this about publishing without feeling ungrateful – I am in a very, very privileged position as a traditionally published author who can do this as a full time career. But there are parts of it which are pretty terrible sometimes.

And, one problem that I’m sure is in everyone’s summary blogs this year – it’s very hard to write in this political climate. I’ve found it hard to balance being well informed and actually….achieving anything.

In summary, here are my new year’s resolutions:

 

  1. Move out
  2. Find a work schedule that doesn’t affect my health/lifestyle
  3. Do less events(!)
  4. Get my ghost book published

Well. What a busy year!

Happy new year, everyone! What are your new years resolutions for 2018?

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