A Year of Writing Dangerously

Today marks my one year Londoniversary. Somehow a whole year has passed since my Brighton friends and I ate tapas (some of them getting food poisoning from whitebait in in the process) before bidding me farewell.

This year has been unlike any other. The move to London also marked the start of my full-time writing career. I know that most wannabe writers would kill to be in my position, so I’m definitely not going to complain about my job, but I thought it might be of interest to share what I’ve learned over the last twelve months.

  1. You can go a bit mad. Most days I write from home to save money on food on-the-go. This means that I spend the vast majority of my time all alone in my bedroom. THANK GOD FOR TWITTER. I can’t stress this enough – Twitter is a staffroom for writers. To me, it’s not about flogging books, it’s about discussing Revenge with Tanya and Laure or how insanely hot Darren Criss is with Jenny from Wondrous Reads.
  2. Motivating yourself can be hard. Aside from deadlines, I have no-one standing over me telling me what to write. This is why I MIGHT start writing in coffee shops like a big poser – you’d be amazed at how much laundry and dish-washer emptying you can do when you have a tricky chapter to tackle. I try not to be too hard on myself. Sometimes I write a lot. Sometimes I write less.
  3. Self-employment is HARD. Like most authors, I’m officially self-employed. This means you have to get good at keeping receipts for one thing, but also very savvy at managing money. When I was a teacher I got my monthly pay and knew roughly how to stretch it until the next payday. For writers, advance delivery days might only come once every six months. MAN, have I had to rethink spending and saving this year. Also like a lot of other writers, I’ve also started free-lancing on others bits to earn extra money and for something different to write away from the novels. You gotta hustle. Don’t even get me started on tax self-assessment. I have an accountant and still managed to make a big fat mess of it.
  4. THIS takes up time. If the only writing I did was on the novels, I’d have probably written about four by now. The first part of any day is emails and (especially around publication) a lot of words were dedicated to guest blogs and articles. I don’t mind this at all because they act as a pallet cleanser sorbet, but they DO take a LOT more time than you might imagine.
  5. It’s NOT glam. I have been to two fancy parties, two launch parties (one of which was my own) and one awards ceremony. I DO hang out with authors a lot of the time, but only because they’re my mates and it tends to be in a branch of Yo Sushi or a certain subterranean theatre bar in central London. As I presently write, I am wearing a pair of shorts, a vest and trying to stuff dry roasted peanuts into my mouth at the same time as typing. See? Not glam.
  6. I am not rich. Obviously. I’m only a debut author. The delusion that all published authors live in skycastles and ride unicorn led chariots to the earth to grace the Hay Festival once a year is the most common misconception I hear. The idyll of private jets flying me to New York to meet my hordes of fans is some way off I fear.
  7. The highs are high, the lows are low. In teaching, I had career certainty most people can only dream of. The world will always need teachers. However, rarely at the job centre do you see a poster reading: NATIONAL SHORTAGE OF TEEN FICTION AUTHORS. There is NO certainty in this line of work, and anyone considering a career as a writer needs to be aware of how much rejection there is involved. At a panel event I did on Saturday, of the six authors present, only two had their first manuscript published. Even once you ARE published you still have to deal with rejection. When it’s going well, though, like when you see your finished book for the first time…it’s the BEST.
  8. Publishing is a business. At first I was so excited that publishers would even TALK to me that I didn’t really have my business head on. You should though. I recently did some negotiating, and it is nerve wracking, but it’s totally expected and everyone does it. It’s OK to ask questions – no-one is expecting you to know everything.
  9. School events are brilliant. Self explanatory. If I could do these every day I would. I really worried at first – I needn’t have.
  10. All you can do is write. I have recently discussed with my agent things I NEED to know and things I DO NOT NEED to know. This has come from the realisation that I CANNOT DO EVERYTHING. I cannot control who is buying my book; I cannot control where it is stocked; what the reviews say; how much it is featured in TV, radio and magazines; how much it costs; what the cover and blurb say; what awards I’m up for and this could go on for infinity. Thinking about these things is time that I am not thinking about Ryan, Katie and Alisha (and that, folks, is a little exclusive).

There you go. That’s what I’ve learned this year. I’m not gonna say I wish I knew these things twelve months ago, because it’s been fun finding out. That said, I hope my unsolicited nuggets of wisdom are in some way helpful. To someone. Anyone. Is anyone out there..?

 

See…you go mad.

I’M SORRY

My mother always said that my big mouth would get me into trouble and she was (of course – mothers know best) right. This keeps happening. It happened when I was a teacher, it is still happening now. No matter how many times I jam my small-but-perfectly-formed size eight feet into my mouth I keep doing it.

Basically, this is me apologising to the whole world up-front for anything ridiculous I might say in the future. As I am physically incapable of stopping word vomit from flying out of my mouth, it’s probably best if I just say sorry now. I seem to be unable to censor the IDEAS before they come out, like a faulty gumball dispenser.

This is in no way excusing the ludicrousness, but a good friend suggested that as I was the lowest of the low back in high school (and had no-one to talk with), now that I am blessed with lots of lovely friends I overcompensate with verbal diarrhoea. He may well be onto something. I’m not even talking about gossip (although if there was a local Gossips Anonymous meeting, I’d attend), this is just the INSANE opinions that flop out – often to looks of bafflement and disdain from unsuspecting listeners – I swear I have no idea what possesses me. It’s worse now that I’m an author because people actually ASK me for opinions and they are still stupid.

I think I need to revert to 1997 when I wanted to be Posh Spice and spent the whole year pouting and being ‘enigmatic’. Moody and mute is probably better than gobby and obnoxious. It is safer that way. Again, I am sorry.