Category Archives: taking stock

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.

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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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Taking Stock of 2016

Happy 2017, everyone!

Sometimes as a writer, it can feel like you haven’t achieved much, because you can spend so long editing and reediting the same projects. I think a lot about how I only wrote one book all year, and worry whether that makes me lazy.

However, last year I wrote a summary of my achievements in 2015, and looking back at it helps me see that I actually did quite a lot that year. So I’m doing the same again this year: good and bad. 

The good

Writing

In 2016 I wrote the first draft of a new novel in a new genre. I also fulfilled my 2016 New Years Resolution and wrote a screenplay. It actually got through to the final stages of the BBC Writer’s Room (but no further! Next time…). 

I also started a  quarterly newsletter (subscribe!) and wrote some blog posts, including:

I blurbed some amazing books, including Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle, A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard, The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson and Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt.

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I spoke on over 10 panels with some amazing authors – Jennifer Niven being a particular highlight! I also finally appeared on a panel with Alice Oseman. 

I chaired a panel at YA Shot and co-ran a workshop at YALC (again, with Alice! The dream team).

Publication

I published a novel, a novella and a short story!

TNT was also published in translation in Czech Republic, Brazil and Turkey.

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My books so far!

We sold 16,000 copies of TNT- and it’s on its fifth or sixth print run, so there are now 23,000 copies in print. This number is so big I can’t understand it.

It was also longlisted for Branford Boase Award and chosen as iTunes book of the week in October!the_loneliest_girl

The Last Beginning was chosen by Scholastic Book Clubs to become a special edition including the novella Another Together. It
was reviewed in The Independent as one of the best LGBT inclusive children’s books of the year – my first press review! It was also reviewed in Diva Magazine.

I got a new 2 book deal with Walker, and the cover for my next book was revealed.

Personal

I went on holiday to Cambodia, Thailand, Edinburgh and Wales.

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I lived in London for a month (and decided I never want to do that again!). I saw my brother sworn in as a Special Constable, which made me very proud.

I adopted 3 adorable guinea pigs from Lucy Powrie.

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I went to the theatre a LOT. I saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (twice!), Les Liaisons Dangereuses, As you like it, In the Heights, The Maids, Groundhog Day, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Cymbeline, Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Aladdin, Guys and Dolls, The Phantom of the Opera, The Woman in Black and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. I also saw in concert Hozier, The Lumineers, Monsters & Men and Jurassic Park at the Royal Albert Hall.

I read nearly 200 books. Last year I was in a reading slump because I kept reading contemporary YA in an attempt to be part of the cultural conversation. I DNFed lots of books because they weren’t interesting me. This year, I took a step back and started really thinking about what I enjoy to read about. I’ve started to love reading again, and I happily ignore the conversations about books I’m not interested in without panicking. I don’t write contemporary YA, so there’s no reason for me to treat those books as competition just because they fall under the umbrella of Young Adult.

I started doing yoga and donating blood.

I was very, very happy.

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The Bad

carI passed my driving test and bought my first car! …..but it took me three attempts to pass my driving test – and I still struggle a lot still with my confidence about driving. It’s my biggest weakness. My New years resolution is to try and drive somewhere every day. I haven’t done well on this so far..

I missed a few events I was really looking forward to due to illness, particularly a panel at Waterstones Piccadilly which I was so excited and honoured to be asked to participate in.

I intended to write some more non-fiction articles, like my ones for The Toast and The Guardian Children Books in 2015, but didn’t find the time. Also, sadly, both of the publications I wrote for have since closed down (not my fault, I promise!).

I spoke about this last year, but I still struggle a lot with jealousy/envy/comparing myself to other authors. The solution, as far I’ve been able to determine, is to avoid going on Twitter as much as possible. But I feel like I’m drifting away from a brilliant community at the same time as improving my mental health. It’s a dilemma.

As I found last year, I did a lot of work for free this year – both my novella and short story were unpaid works. I think it’s all good practice and publicity, but it can be difficult at times to know that I’ve spent whole months doing full time work for free. I have started blogging a little less – I decided against doing a blog tour for TLB because I wasn’t sure of the payoff compared to the amount of work it takes.

In more positive news, last year I was very worried about my long term career plan. I had absolutely no idea whether being an author was possible permanently. This year I’m feeling a lot more settled and confident about my career and chances. Money is still tight, and the payments are very irregular, but I’m hoping to move into my own home in 2017. So I’m getting there! Slowly…

My 2017 resolutions:

  1. Drive every day
  2. Write a new novel
  3. Write a second screenplay

In other news: I’m doing an event at Waterstones Birmingham:

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The Loneliest girl on the universe was featured on Book Riot.

Simonlevvis on tumblr posted these amazing photo sets about TNT and TLB!

 

Taking Stock of 2015

The end of my debut year is here! It’s been an incredible twelve months: I’ve made tons of new friends, gone to amazing events all over the country, and got to know some incredible writers. So here’s some of the amazing things I’ve done over the last year.

The Good:

Writing

I wrote a new novel called The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, finishing it the day before I turned 23. It’s my third, and definitely the one I’m most proud of, for lots of reasons (most of which I shouldn’t talk about just yet, as it’s still unannounced…).

Hopefully there’ll be more news on this front in 2016, but for now –

Publication

TNTOG_anim4bMy first novel was released in the UK, Australia and New Zealand! Obviously this is the best thing to happen …. ever.  There were lots of amazing things related to this, but some of the highlights were being featured in the Australian subscription box the YA Chronicles, becoming a #1 Bestseller on Amazon in the sci fi category for the last month, and being mentioned in Marie Claire, The Bookseller and The Sunday Express! (I feel like that’s more of an achievement of my publicist, who is pretty excellent, than myself personally, but I’m including it anyway). People also made fanart and
fanfiction and gifsets about something I created, which is just . . . wow.

I was awarded a writing grant from Arts Council England, supported by the National Lottery. To be chosen was really touching and I’m so grateful.

yashotI participated in my first author events, including a book launch (!), school workshops and bookshop events. I even got to chair a panel at YA Shot! At my first event at Nine Worlds Con I was very, very nervous, but to my surprise, I’ve quickly got the hang of public speaking. I don’t get too worried before events any more. Getting so much practice at public speaking this year is one of the things I’m proudest of – I’ve done nearly 20 events all on my own! Some other highlights were UKYA Extravaganza, my visits to the Uni of Notts, my old sixth form and Kenilworth Books, YALC and a blogging panel at Waterstones Birmingham.

I also had a professional photoshoot with Pete Bedwell, which was very surreal and fun.

I got to blurb Catherine Doyle’s second book Inferno (out this week, and amazing!).

Non-fiction writing

tumblr_nruh84k7Tw1qa24muo1_500I wrote some non-fiction for the first time. I wrote an article for The Guardian called ‘Scientific inaccuracies your favourite historical characters definitely believed’. I also wrote a humorous scientific essay for The Toast called ‘The Hogwarts Houses of the Periodic Elements: A Critical Analysis’, achieving one of my personal goals for the year – to write a freelance article for my favourite website.

I did a huge amount of publicity for The Next Together, including writing a whole series of extras for the book including a Buzzfeed quiz, playlists, moodboards and short stories. It was a lot (lot) of work that I doubt I’ll do to that level for a book release again – I spent so much time working for free this year! – but I’m really glad I gave my debut the best possible start I could.

 

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My favourite video with Alice Oseman!

I was also lucky enough to be invited to film lots of vlog interviews with book bloggers like Lucy Powrie and Two Paper Girls, which was so much fun. 

 

I interviewed a series of publishing professionals, lots of whom personally worked on The Next Together. It took a lot of organisation but I learnt loads about the publishing industry, and I think it’s a great resource. My favourites are with my German translators and cover designer.

Personal

I visited Venice and Wales, both for the first time! I swam with a seal. I saw the NYE fireworks from the banks of the Thames. I went to lots of plays and concerts, including Wicked, The Decemberists, Fall Out Boy, Halsey,  Bakkhai and Measure for Measure.

I got to be very proud of my brother, who wrote a dissertation, graduated, turned 21, got recruited into the police and passed his driving test – all within the space of about three weeks. My best and oldest friend moved back home with her two kids, and got a kitten, providing me with a year’s worth of playtime.

I made lots of new friends in the UKYA community, who I feel like I’ve known for years. Shoutout to Katie Webber, Kate Ormand, GracieActually and Arianne! I started a book club with fellow authors Alice Oseman, Catherine Doyle, Sara Barnard and Louise O’Neill (which we really need to start up again soon!).

The bad:

By far the worst thing to happen this year was losing my American publishing deal in January when Egmont US closed down. It was a big blow, and it’s been a massive cause of stress for me. I’m very lucky to have found a new home for The Next Together in the US (more on that soon, hopefully! For now I’m sworn to secrecy…). However, publication has shifted from the original date of Autumn 2015, to coincide with UK release, to Spring 2017. I think it’ll be worth the wait, though (if only because it’ll be a fancy American hardback *drools*).

tumblr_inline_n7119uUK0u1rbvse2.gifI took my driving test! ….. and I failed. I’m taking it again next week, so second time lucky I guess?

I got very anxious about book-related stresses this year, especially when approaching release day, and let it make me ill. My main New year’s resolution for 2016 is to just chill out about stuff a little more. Worrying, for the most part, does nothing to help a situation. (This also may be while I failed my driving test….)

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This, basically. (By Deep Dark Fears)

I struggled a lot with reading this year, because I was reading purely contemporary YA in an attempt to keep up with hype on twitter and the blogging community. It took me a long time to realise that this is something I’ve never enjoyed, and that it was making me dislike reading. I’ve since banned contemporary YA almost completely from my reading list, and I’ve started enjoying reading again.

For related reasons, my relationship with Twitter has got… complicated. I’m still working on this. I might write a blog post about it. It’s tough.

Overall rating for 2015:

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New year’s resolutions:

  1. Worry less. Chill more.
  2. Stop googling my book (this will probably, you know, help with #1 a little bit….)
  3. Write a screenplay.
  4. Pass! my! driving! test!

Happy new year, everyone! I hope you have an amazing 2016, and stay tuned over the next twelve months for the publication of The Last Beginning and TNT in translation (into four languages!).