Well, 2016 was quite a year, and many others have summed up its highs and lows better than I ever could. So rather than weep about the state of the world I thought I’d take this opportunity to review my New Year’s Resolutions from January 2016 and set some new ones for the year ahead.
My first two resolutions from last year were to work through the teetering pile of books beside my bed and buy books from independent bookshops or direct from the publishers
I’ve certainly read a lot of books this year, although there’s still a pile by my bed and this is constantly refreshed with new books.
I’m still in a book group, which nudges me to read books I might otherwise miss. At some point I should do a post about my favourite books of this year, but for now let’s just say I loved Laura Lipman’s Wilde Lake, Kit de Waal’s My Name is Leon, and I’ve been reading a lot of YA (more on this later), a highlight of which was E Lockhart’s We Were Liars.
This year I found it harder than ever to buy books from independent bookshops as our local indie bookshop closed down. But I have bought some directly from small publishers, and quite a few from authors themselves, including the brilliant Sharon Duggal, whose novel The Handsworth Times came out in September.
Follow up for 2017: Keep reading!
My next resolution was to finish Baby X, and work hard to sell a lot of copies
It was hard work to plough through the final edits and got the book ready in time for the launch, but my publisher and I made it, and the book came out at the end of June 2016.
Thanks to a very generous friend who lent me a venue, I had a very enjoyable local launch, which was very well attended and where I sold lots of books – yay! (Don’t worry of you missed it, you can still get your copy from Mother’s Milk Books or from Amazon.)
Baby X had some great reviews and I had a lot of positive feedback from readers, all of which has been incredibly gratifying.
I worked hard at promotion, appearing at events and even doing radio interviews, and I’m told I’m due a royalty cheque sometime soon which feels like something to be proud of.
Follow up for 2017: pat myself on the back, and keep my fingers crossed that someone picks up the film rights.
My next resolution was to rewrite my Young Adult dystopian thriller about gender, provisionally titled He, She, It.
What with one thing and another (well, Baby X mostly, since we didn’t finish the edits til June, and I’d given myself the summer to focus on promotion) I didn’t get started on this rewrite until September, and although I had done some work on the book last year, I found myself wanting to unpick a lot of the work that I’d done and start again, drawing on the lessons I’d learned editing Baby X.
When the kids went back to school I still had promotional work to do on, as well as a lot on at work, so inspired by Sophie B Lovett I decided to set my alarm extra early and get a little done at the start of every day.
There were times – especially as the early mornings grew darker and colder – when I didn’t much relish getting up an hour earlier to write. But sometimes timing is everything, and the events of this year, in particular the rise of the alt right, with its backlash against feminism, and threats to LGBT rights, not to mention the election of a US President who revels in shitty treatment of women, made the issues in this book feel more relevant than ever.
As of December 2016 I’m happy to say I finished the rewrite. It’s now with a small gang of trusted beta readers, and I’m aiming to respond to their comments, make any necessary changes and get this book out to agents early in 2017.
Follow up for 2017: find an agent to represent this book, and/or a publisher to publish it.
My next resolution was to find a home for my middle-grade novel Seal Skin.
Unfortunately I didn’t win the Times/Chicken House competition (ah well), but I’m very happy to announce that I’ve just heard from Mother’s Milk Books that the indie press is going to publish Seal Skin in early 2018.
Watch this space!
Follow up for 2017: sign a contract with Mother’s Milk Books, and wait to hear from my editor.
Resolution number 6 was to collaborate with a playwright to produce a piece of original (podcastable?) radio drama
My love affair with radio continued this year, but sadly this project didn’t make it. Chalk it up to competition from other projects, or artistic differences, I still learned a lot.
Follow up for 2017: be open to opportunities for collaboration which present themselves.
Resolution number 7 was to keep blogging, and keep making connections with interesting people online, but don’t get sucked into to believing this stuff is the actual work.
I haven’t been blogging much this year. Apart from those moments when a news story makes me itch to share my opinions (whether on the obsession with formal grammar in the new SATs or why we don’t believe women when they talk about sexual assault) I’ve been concentrating on writing fiction in the little time I have.
But I’m always inspired by reading other bloggers, and I love being a part of the amazing by our What I’m Writing community, curated by Maddy at Writing Bubble, who’ve kept me sane at key moments this year. I enjoyed attending the Mumsnet Blogging conference in November and came away filled with renewed energy.
I may not blog much in the next twelve months, but it’s more important than ever to have a community of writers around me. I pledge to be generous with my time, advice and support, to reach out for help when I need it and to revel in the successes of others.
(Gif: Strong Women Lift Each Other Up – this has been reblogged so many times I’m not sure who to thank for it. I found it on Libby Vander Ploeg’s Tumblr but I’m not sure if she’s the illustrator/animator. Anyway, whoever made this originally, thank you! It sums up my current attitude to blogging, writing, and social media pretty much perfectly!)
Follow up for 2017: keep building community online and do what I can to support my fellow writers
My final resolution from 2016 was to jealously guard time for creative work, in the face of multiple demands and distractions…
Despite everything else going on this year, I’ve launched one book, sold another and rewritten a third. Although there’s so much more I still want to do, this feels like progress.
And whenever I get waylaid by internal resistance, there’s always Steven Pressfield’s The Art of War, not to mention a wonderful community of writers to get me back on track again.
Follow up for 2017: Keep going. You’ve got this.
I’d love to hear about your creative resolutions and plans for 2017, and leave you with a quote from KRS One:
The God of your understanding has chosen you and you’ve agreed to be here in this space and time to do something that only you can do. Now I won’t stand here to try and tell you what it is. But deep inside yourself, as you take time to uncover, and ask yourself some vital questions, like, What is it that brings me peace? What is it that brings me joy? What do I love doing? What am I willing to become highly skilled at doing? What part can I play for the betterment of the society and the world in which I want to live? …. Now visualize exactly, the way that you desire to live. And don’t be afraid to dream.