8-14 years old
I always say that I started writing stories when I was about 8 years old. This is when my mom remembers giving me my first notebook – I used to tell her stories and make up imaginary worlds and games for myself and my siblings.
These were random stories that often went unfinished. I wasn’t very disciplined in that respect, but I wrote new stories all the time and allowed myself to just go with the flow.
14-21 years old
The turning point would be when I was about 14 years old, when I started to write the first book in the Eternity series. At the time, it was called No Secrets and I wrote it from start to finish but didn’t show anyone.
My good friend Allie asked me about it and begged me to let her read it. She read all of it on my iPod in one day! And this blew my mind. This was the first sign that I could write something that others would actually want to read…
Of course, she was my friend and so I knew she could have lied to me about how good it was. However, the fact that she had read it so fast and so avidly was a sign to me that yes perhaps it wasn’t brilliant, but it was at least good, and that was a massive confidence boost.
From the age of 14-21, the Eternity series was all the I really wrote. Other story ideas reared their heads, but none ever stole my time and energy as much as the epic YA fantasy series that was the start of my publishing journey…
In 2013, at the age of 18, I published my first work. No Secrets was finished and I’d worked on it for many years, making it better with help from friends and family. The support from these wonderful people helped me to have the confidence to put it out there.
Yes, I was very young. Yes, by no means are these books my “best work” at all! But I have never regretted publishing them. At the time, my mom convinced me to get it published, saying I’d worked on it for years and it was time. Both of us knew nothing about publishing and after some failed phone calls to publishing houses, I ended up self-publishing.
The first publication was done with an American company that charged me quite a lot to publish the book. Do I regret self-publishing? No. Do I regret the way I did it the first time? Absolutely.
If you wish to self-publish, do not pay for it. You can pay for editors and cover designers and formatting etc, but not publication. You can do this for FREE with Amazon (paperback and ebook). But I learned this later…
In 2015, the sequel to No Secrets was published. My second publication. It is important, I think, to note that in 2013 when No Secrets was released, I went through depression.
The course of my life had suddenly changed at the same time, and so I fell into a dark place and hated myself. This meant I wasn’t even happy about my achievement and didn’t care to market it or anything else. The only people who knew about it and bought a copy was family and friends.
Fast-forward to 2014 and I was in a better place. Things were back on track (I was at university) and I was writing the sequel. But at the end of 2015, I was again in a bad place. And so, once again I was publishing a book but my mental health was poor.
I was the published author of two books (whether they were considered bad or good is beside the point) at the age of 20, yet I hated myself and beat myself up at every given opportunity.
At the beginning of 2016, I was trying to get through my depression. I’d been sent to Anxiety Management classes but one-to-one therapy wasn’t available to me (funding for mental health care isn’t enough). I said to myself that I’d been depressed before and so I knew how to get better.
And so I started writing out everything I knew about coping with anxiety and depression. Little did I know that I was writing what would soon become my third publication…
Friends of mine were interested in what I was writing and so I thought, “why not turn this into a book?” And so I did. It became 25 Ways to Break The Chains of Anxiety, Depression and Stress. Writing this book and publishing it brought me out of my depression – well, enough, at least, to be in a better place.
Many people bought the book. I started getting Facebook messages from people I hadn’t spoken to in years, saying how it helped them. They started talking about suicidal thoughts, loved ones, their personal obstacles, and anxiety. And I found that I was good at talking about it, making them feel like they could talk about it, and offering empathy.
This lead to 2016 becoming the year of my joining the Mental Health Community.
I shared what I thought on my blog, in YouTube videos, in magazines, and even in a radio interview. I started my own support group and hosted my own Mental Health Awareness event. I was invited to speak at other events, too.
I found a voice and found that others needed to hear it.
Alongside this, 2016 was the first time that I actually put time and effort into trying to market my published books. Beforehand, I had no idea what I was doing. I’m still not good at this, but for the first time, I felt like an actual author worthy of people’s time and money.
Over the years since the first publications of my work, I’ve republished each book. I wanted to ensure they were perfected as best I could, and seeing as my readership wasn’t very big, I had the ability to attend to whatever I felt needed fixing.
This gave birth to my published works as they are now:
I started writing the third book in the Eternity series but didn’t finish it. I felt like it was time to move away from that world, if only for a little while.
I started writing another book late in 2017, about a young Angel called Elle. She lived in the world above Earth and was learning what it meant to be an Angel in a world that claimed to be perfect but was far from it. I loved that sprightly little girl who was Mixed Race like myself with big curly hair; the first non-white main character that I’d ever written.
At this point in my writing journey, I was learning how important representation was. How important it was to write characters that all little boys and girls could see themselves in. I explored mental health in my work. I wrote new worlds. I was writing fantasy but for a younger audience, too.
I was growing as a writer. Really fricking growing.
I entered this manuscript in the 2018 Pitch Wars competition but didn’t get through. I pitched this manuscript in the autumn Twitter PitMad event and received interest from two literary agents.
I queried my story to these agents. It was the first time I’d ever queried a book idea and the first time I could say that I was moving away from self-publishing and pursuing traditional publishing instead. Neither agent requested a full manuscript after the query, though.
In November of 2018 for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I wrote another MG fantasy about a little demon girl called Cole. I wanted the challenge and I’d had the free time, so I went for it with little expectation that I’d actually write the required 50k in that month.
But I did it.
I finished my manuscript in one month, and it felt amazing.
It feels amazing to say that in 2018 I had:
- Wrote two new books (both of the first drafts were completed in less than two months)
- I queried to agents for the first time
- I entered writing competitions and events
- I researched in my industry
- I allowed myself to grow and venture out of my comfort zone
- I’d won NaNoWriMo
Now, in 2019, I’ve started two different books! One was about a pirate girl settling her family’s debt, but I moved away from that idea. The other is my current work in progress which is an Adult Contemporary novel about 5 POV characters at an Art school facing internal struggles of identity and belonging.
Again, this is a totally new idea for me. A step out of my comfort zone and a project that has encouraged me to be open, honest, and vulnerable. I’m writing from a place of personal narrative, emotion, and meaning. And it freaking rocks!
Alongside this, I am growing my freelance writing business, building a client list and networking while defining my niche. Each step is a learning curve and chance to grow; I know this from all the books, blogs, and ideas that have come before…
If you’re reading this as a writer, I want you to know firstly that no two writer’s journeys will look the same. We all tackle things differently, start at different times, and have different goals.
It is important to know, as I’ve demonstrated here, that writers (as with all people) will learn and grow and change always. My first book is not my best work but that doesn’t mean I should hide it now. It is a part of my journey and I love that I wrote it and shared it.
That first book, no matter its flaws or my age at the time, helped me become the writer I am today. It helped me land jobs and show what I could do. It is physical proof of my dedication and passion above anything else.
You will write good books and bad ones. Many bad ones, actually.
You will have ideas that are utterly stupid and ones that could change the world.
But you can’t let the fear stop you. You can’t let the challenges shake you. You can’t let society or family or “the norm” stop you from just doing you and seeing what happens. There is nothing wrong with following an interest with curiosity and going with the flow.
Some may look at my journey and think “that’s a reckless person publishing bad work before allowing herself to grow” but I disagree. I’ve been brave enough to share my work and put myself out there. To allow people to poke and criticise. And this is inevitable for writers! But we can either be broken by it or learn from it.
So, my blog allows me to flex my writing muscles every week. My books will be something that I write regardless of publication or readership. Every word put to the page is a step closer to your dream or masterpiece.
There is a lot of writing advice out there, and people will tell you that you should do this thing or that thing. Ignore it all if it gets confusing and just focus your mind on two things:
- Just keep writing!
- Just keep reading!
I don’t have all the answers and I’m far from the writer and influencer I want to be, but I do know this: if I keep writing and keep reading I will grow and learn without even realising that it’s happening until I look back. And that’s a beautiful thing.
It will be hard sometimes, and very hard at other times; but if you love it, you’ll keep facing the blank page.
Now that’s bravery.
Every word on the page is you writing your story, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes, fail, write some rubbish and be criticised along the way.
Just keep writing.
I’m very interested to see what the next 5-10 years of my writer’s life has to offer…