Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On Hat-Juggling!

For the past few years I’ve alternated between wearing two main hats: my ‘writing hat’ and my ‘student hat’ – of course, with time in between for the ‘friends and family hat’!  But last week I graduated from university, so I’ve put aside my student hat for now…a strange feeling!  It feels like I’m at a loose end. I’ve always liked structuring my life – I live by lists and diaries to keep everything organized, and I felt the panic coming on as I approached graduation without a certainty of a full-time job – and knowing that no matter what crazy things the world threw at me, I had to keep writing.

The funny thing is, I’m actually busier than ever. Without the stress of university deadlines and obligations, I can focus on my writing – and on what I want from life. Right now, I’m alternating between job-searching, applying for internships, reviewing books on my blog, being an editorial intern at Entangled Publishing (and for the next two weeks, at Scholastic in London!), and working on the Darkworld series  with the wonderful Curiosity Quills Press, with the first book due to be published in September. That’s quite a lot of hats to juggle! I’m determined not to let the lack of graduate jobs get me down and to keep busy, so I jumped at the chance to intern at Entangled. I get to read books of all genres and write editorial reports, which is awesome. It’s a great feeling when you discover a book which could be the next big thing, and it’s also taught me to read with a critical eye, which I’m learning to apply to my own writing, too. I’ve learnt more in the month I’ve been with Entangled than I did in three years of studying creative writing, although that was a great way to learn how to critique tactfully!

In the past year, since I published my first novel (The Puppet Spell, an upper-MG/YA fantasy book), I’ve been learning to juggle writing with blogging and promoting as well as studying for my degree, and it’s been a lot of fun, if overwhelming at times! Writing a dissertation and two book series was no easy task, to say nothing of marketing and organizing a blog tour. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that it’s the WRITING that’s important, and marketing can be hit and miss.  Putting hundreds of hours of effort and a lot of money into marketing might not necessarily translate into sales. I learned this the hard way!

So I’ve resolved to concentrate on the writing itself. I aim to get 1000 words of my latest project every day, or a certain number of pages of edits. That way, my focus is on the writing rather than checking Amazon rankings or browsing for new ways of marketing. This month, as I work with my editor at Curiosity Quills on edits for the first Darkworld novel, the writing hat is very much on! Some writers have separate hats for writing and editing, but I’m one of those authors who constantly break the rule of ‘Don’t edit until the first draft is done’ – despite my best intentions! The first four Darkworld novels are in varying stages of completion, and I can happily jump from writing one to editing another. With different projects, however, it’s like putting on a new hat. The characters, setting, tone and voice are usually completely different. For instance, The Puppet Spell’s a quirky fantasy, whilst Darkworld is supernatural urban fantasy for older teens. Some authors can write multiple series at once, but I can’t do that past the planning stage. Once a story gets to a certain stage, it demands my full attention – I imagine my projects as like a line of talking hats constantly chattering at me. I’ve had to discipline myself to pick up one at a time and stick with it!

It’s not easy. But this is what I love doing. At times it can get overwhelming, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

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  1. I hear you! It's so hard to juggle being a writer with other responsibilities. I've yet to figure out the "trick." ;)

  2. Marketing is such a trick business too. It requires a lot of time and energy.
    Congrats on graduation!

  3. Whew, it sounds like you're super busy! Have fun in London!