2018: The Year of Fail Again. Fail Better. Keep Writing. You?

2018 is the year I failed. As the year winds to a close and I look back over the past twelve months, its with a heavy heart and the feeling that I let myself down.

The plan was to have my second vampire novel out this year. I was so resolute in 2017. I even put it into the end of Our Destiny Is Blood. We will return in 2018. Evelyn and Sasha would be back. It was Spring, then Summer and as the Autumn leaves fell, I knew I’d failed. I spent the first half of the year just trying to finish the first draft, eventually did and set it to one side to breathe, only to dive into edits on my third novel that I’m hoping to find an agent for and am STILL working on. All the goals I’d set for the year had failed.

So while scrolling through different people’s reflections on 2018 on Twitter, I thought about this and the fact that I’d had a terrible year creatively. What had I got to shout about? And then I realised that that’s not necessarily true. And it’s really up to me what lens I choose to look through. So instead, here’s what I DID do this year that I’m incredibly proud and thankful for:

I found The Inspiration Project

In January I spent a weekend at writing retreat The Inspiration Project in Wexford hosted by bestselling authors Catherine Ryan Howard, Hazel Gaynor and Carmel Harrington. It restored all my hope in this writing lark as a career and I left fired up! (You can read more about the experience here). Writing is such a lonely pursuit, and this was such a safe place to be me among people who are struggling with the same issues and also know the joy it brings. A place to dream. (www.theinspirationproject.ie)

My writing space at the beautiful Seafield Hotel

Thanks to them, I finished the first draft of what is now Heavy Lies The Crown and even though I didn’t make my own deadlines for publication this year, I’m really excited to share it when it’s been knocked into shape.

I continued to take chances

When I look back on my book adventures, London plays a huge part and this year I was determined to go back to The London Book Fair. I booked a Date With An Agent, taking fate into my own hands again. You can read more about that day here. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as the agent I met then went on a period of sick leave (and still hasn’t returned) but for me, I jumped on a plane and spoke to an agent and it felt good. Because I was doing something about making those dreams comes true.

I also made time for a tour of the Victoria Revealed Exhibition at Kensington Palace in the name of research, which I loved.  Win, Win.

Kensington Palace, London

I continued to write, even when I couldn’t

Months of struggles with daily wordcounts and edits and re-edits and more edits have been painful but I’m still here. And I’m persistent. I won’t put my current work to one side to go back to the other. I’ll see this draft through first. For months I thought there was something missing from it, an idea that hadn’t dropped yet for the process was so hard to make headway on. But the truth is, there’s nothing wrong with my book – only that it is a first draft. And they’re all bad. And I know how to fix it. I know which characters have to go, which plot points convolute and need to be cut. I know the changes that need to be made. So the book is not in peril. I am – at the actual doing of it. BUT I’M STILL HERE.

I wrote in nice places

I found myself stifled this year at my desk. I needed to get out of the house to write. The library was great but nothing beats writing in the early morning overlooking the beach or on it, in the beautiful sunshine of Baiona, Spain. Bliss.

(Also where I bought my gorgeous Edward Scissorhands figure).

The view from my window in Baiona

I began advertising again and sales went up

Having had to lay off the advertising, both financially and for my sanity, I decided to run a Facebook campaign in the UK & Ireland for Halloween and I sold 120 books. It’s a boost that’s had a knock on with further sales so I finish the year quite happy with my figures. After taking a break it was nice to come back to it and get results. My mantra now is not to panic that I’m not hard-selling it out there all the time. There’ll be more books in the series. It’s fine. Me and my books are in this for the long game, book one included. The sales will come. They don’t all have to happen today.

I met some wonderful people

  1. In October I met Deborah Harkness at a special Q&A and signing for Times Convert as part of The Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin Castle. She was wonderful and inspiring and so generous and kind when I sheepishly mentioned that I had written my own vampire novel.
Me & Deborah Harkness

2. The Rick O’Shea Christmas Party – The annual get together of the biggest online book club in the nation, run by broadcaster, book worm and all round super great guy, Rick O’Shea. I wasn’t going to go this year. My head was telling me I’d failed to release another book and the year previous it had all been new and exciting and I’d signed copies and I felt like a real author. This year, I had no new work. But I made myself go, despite the anxiety. Mingling with booklovers is always the best anyway and it was in Easons O’Connell Street, where my book was on sale so at least I had that.

Rick O’Shea & me

I’m not the best socially. I don’t know if its gotten worse the last few years but all the doubt you have as a writer grows tenfold in social environments. But I had a lovely time, catching up with great people. And then the nicest thing happened. A woman, named Alwyn came up to me and asked me when the second book was coming out – that she’d really enjoyed the first and when could she get her hands on it because she wanted to know what happens next. She and her friend were so lovely and we chatted and I could feel her enthusiasm rubbing off on me and I was so excited to share the next book with her. In that moment, I knew that no matter how long it takes me, there’s an audience out there for my work and my characters. Oh and Alwyn’s name is going into Heavy Lies The Crown – it has to!

Thank you Alwyn!

3. I still freelance occasionally with various film companies in Dublin (I used to be a full time publicist) and though I don’t go into that a lot here, there were some lovely highlights this year that deserve a mention. I had the joy of working on a press junket with Mark Hamill when he came to Dublin in March for The Last Jedi DVD release. I sat happily in a room with him timing his TV interviews and I could have listened to him talk all day. I also had the pleasure of working on a press day with Jamie Lee Curtis for Halloween. She’s an incredible woman and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

There are no pictures sadly – it’s not something you do when you’re on that side of the fence. You are part of the machine and there’s a job to do but alas, I’m content with the memory of it and other nice encounters I’ve had. I never take my old job for granted. It was the best. It was hard work but always amazing when you met people you admire. And I appreciate that I still can do it and am asked. It fuels my writing exploits and helps me pay for advertising etc which I don’t like to take from our family budget.

I showed my work

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I haven’t put myself in the path of rejection too many times this year, but enough for it to hurt still when it comes. Last week I got a rejection from a big publisher – a submission that came about through another project. An unplanned rejection if you will. It hurt. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. I had the ‘this is NEVER going to happen for me’ pity party and then I re-read the email. Yes, it wasn’t right for their list, but they did think I was talented, liked the way I wrote and saw much to admire in my submission. So, just the wrong publisher for this book. They made some suggestions about my putting a Gaelic twist on a magical story and while it’s depressing for someone to suggest you write something other than what you have, I won’t discount it. Maybe that idea will strike like lightning next year or five years from now. And when it does, I’ll be back to that publisher with it.

So even if you think 2018 hasn’t quite been what you hoped and you feel you didn’t get where you needed to be, look at all the little things – because each and every one of those steps you take for your writing are worth it and are the building blocks for the future – even the perceived failings.

So – 2019, I won’t be making any elaborate plans for you. The only thing I need to do next year is write. To keep on keeping on. Write more. Worry less. The rest will take care of itself.

Bring it on!

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