I’ve wanted to be an author more or less since I found out that was an option, and I spent my teenage years writing obsessively to try and lay the foundations for that future. I always said, though, that I’d never be able to write full-time because I write too fast and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. And, well, it’s true — I do write fast, and I’m not sure trad publishing can keep up with the speed at which I produce books, so I might one day think about going hybrid so that I can have some of the indie flexibility over my schedule too. But it turns out that being a published author involves a lot more than just writing: there’s always so much to do.
So here’s a week in the life of an author. Specifically, this author, i.e., me. Current status: approaching a deadline for TBA 3, but not yet close to said deadline; I have a draft written but am doing my own rewrites and edits before my editor sees it. The Hummingbird Killer is less than two months out and has just gone on NetGalley, so promo is beginning to ramp up. I am still on sub with some adult books, but that’s largely out of my control. And I have a day job and multiple chronic illnesses limiting my time.
With all that in mind, let’s go.
We get off to a late start because I’m suffering from severe headaches and ear problems at the moment, so writing this morning mostly goes out of the window. The first reader is digging into the eARC of The Hummingbird Killer that they got from NetGalley, and is messaging me some reactions, so I chat to them for a bit and use their posts as a chance for a bit of low-effort Instagram promo. Then I hop over to my writing group chat to see how everyone’s getting on. A few folks are having a rough time, and I try to offer what solidarity and support I can — a crucial part of the publishing process is having others who are going through it with you!
I have a ton of promo- and admin-related tasks to do for THK, and I’m worried I’m going to lose track of them, so next up, my job is to make a list of everything that needs doing. I have videos to script, film, and edit; emails to send; graphics to make; schedules to finalise… Once I’ve made the list, I tackle the highest priority items: I respond to an email from my editor about audiobook pronunciations, and email a bookshop about holding my launch party there. Then I message my Esperanto consultant re: Esperanto pronunciations for the audiobook, and draft an email to my publicist following up on a few things.
Last up this morning, the post arrives and it brings with it Blackheart Ghosts by Laure Eve, which the publisher has sent for me to review. I reviewed the first book Blackheart Knights a couple of years back, and I’m really excited for this follow-up, which publishes on 30th March.
My afternoons belong to my day job, since I work 2-6 (and not from home). I do keep an eye on my author emails in case anything comes through that absolutely needs a same-day response, but otherwise, I am officially off the author clock.
As soon as I get home, I finish sending the email to my publicist that I wrote earlier (I saved the attachment on the wrong computer and couldn’t send it earlier). Then I flip to Goodreads, where the first review of The Hummingbird Killer is in, from the reader I was chatting to this morning. They loved it, thankfully, so it’s time to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
I take a couple of hours to eat, decompress, and spend some time being horizontal, which is essential to managing my neck and back pain. During this period, I read Needle by Patricia Lawrence, because it’s been nominated for a few awards lately and I like to know what’s going on out there! Then at 9pm I get back to work. I’m self-editing TBA 3 before I show it to my editor, which for me involves opening a new document next to the old one and rewriting the book from page one. It’s labour-intensive, but it’s my favourite way to edit.
After I’ve rewritten the first two chapters of the book (a little over 5k words), I call it a day — it’s getting on for 11pm. But I end up reading The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Finch and it slaps enough that I don’t stop until I’ve finished it, which means my efforts at an early night do not succeed.
After some life admin (e.g. calling the hospital to reschedule an appointment), I check over my author inbox, but otherwise I’ve decided to give myself a bit of time off this morning — I head for the nearby country park for a walk, before going food shopping on my way home. I maintain that going for walks counts as working, since I’m frequently turning over ideas in my head and trying to fix plot problems. On this occasion, it gives me some dialogue to try and integrate into my rewrites, but of course, by the time I’ve been to Tesco and then headed home, I’ve lost the thread of it and my efforts to hastily write it down don’t give me anything that feels particularly usable. Maybe it’ll be better when I actually put it in the book?
I head out to meet a friend before work, which is nice; we haven’t seen each other in a while.
I spend a bit of time on social media promoting sign-ups for The Hummingbird Killer‘s bookstagram tour and the ongoing 99p sale for The Butterfly Assassin, as well as posting some book recs for the Trans Rights Readathon. I’m not actively participating myself because I’m both exhausted and busy, but I want to support those who are!
After dinner and the required Horizontal Time, I start work again at about 9pm. I’m tired and it’s going slowly, but I’m hyper-aware that I didn’t write anything this morning and I need to make some progress, even if I’d rather be in bed. Today’s chapters require more significant changes to integrate a new plot thread, so progress is slow; I finally get to the end of chapter four around 11.15pm, and call it a night.
Tonight’s reading is The New Life by Tom Crewe, but it’s a chunky enough read that I don’t try and finish it in one night, despite my wrecked sleep patterns. #SelfCare
It’s a beautiful day and I wish I was out for a walk again, but I committed myself to laundry and admin, so here we are. I get distracted from my work by the ‘excursion’ options for a conference I’m presenting at in Utrecht this July. Do I want to look at special collections in one of the university libraries, or go for a walk around medieval buildings? An impossible choice, surely…
I wrench myself away eventually, and my first task is to write a letter for S&S to send out with early copies of The Hummingbird Killer. I give it my best shot, although I’m not totally sure what vibe I should be aiming for, and send it over to my editor for her thoughts. It turned out pretty political in the end, but that’s fitting, given the nature of the trilogy. Then I dive into scripting some of the videos they’ve asked me to make.
This takes slightly longer than anticipated, because it turns out that even when I’m trying to talk slow, I do in fact talk much faster than anyone for whom “100 words = 1 minute” is true, so I keep having to make my script longer. But I manage to script three videos, and I get an email about an awards ceremony I’m supposed to be attending in June. I need to work out travel and accommodation logistics, but that requires more mental strength than I have right now.
Just before I log off to get ready for work, my editor emails to say that my author letter is ‘absolutely perfect’. Nailed it. So that’s one thing checked off the list, anyway.
My journey home is unexpectedly exciting thanks to the power cutting out on my electric bike for no discernible reason, five minutes into my journey (not ideal). When I do make it home, I go back to dealing with the awards ceremony email. It was delayed reaching me, so I want to respond asap rather than leave the team hanging, even if I haven’t figured out all the logistics yet. I’ve also had an email back from the bookshop where I want to do my launch, but due to travel complications, I’ll need to rearrange my work hours to make it possible, so I email my boss about that before confirming the date.
Then I start poking at a sentence in yesterday’s rewritten chapters, because it’s bugging me. And that is how I burn my dinner. Whoops.
Tonight, Horizontal Time ends up lasting the whole evening — the headache and exhaustion have won, and there’s no more work happening today. But I did finish The New Life, at least.
The headache persists, but I head to the computer anyway. A note in the group chat about ALCS money makes me realise I never properly registered for that, so I change that; I’ve missed this payment, but hopefully I’ll get anything that’s due to me in the next round. I’d planned, after that, to work on another author letter and the final video script on my list, but I’m not really in the mood, and the rest of my promo tasks require someone else’s input before I can act on them, so I’d rather edit a chapter.
I do manage to edit one, but my headache is now sitting in my eyeballs and I can’t motivate myself to do more. Five minutes of half-hearted social media promo, and then it’s time for lunch and trying to convince myself I can face going to work.
Work. The headache settles deeper into my eyeballs.
Headache’s still bad. I crawl into bed with an eARC of Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli, and stay there until I’ve finished that. By then I’m feeling slightly more human, so at 9pm I spend half an hour working on the annotated copy of The Butterfly Assassin that I’m offering as a prize as part of the pre-order campaign for The Hummingbird Killer. Today’s chapters include chapter 12, which always makes me cry.
At 9.30pm I switch to editing, but I’m not particularly focused. I switch over to NetGalley to leave a review of Imogen, Obviously, then to Rightmove — I’m looking for a house that fits the needs of my characters, so I can steal its floorplan and details to write the descriptions in this book. I don’t have a good visual imagination, so I need reference pictures to make sure that kind of thing adds up. I find one that’s perfect. So perfect, in fact, and so cheap, that I am seriously envying my characters for being northern and therefore being able to afford an entire house on the rent I pay for a room in Cambridge. I’ve gotta move north, lads.
At 11.10pm I finally finish my chapter, and my head’s killing me. Time to stop. One of my Libby holds just came in, though, so I read for a little while before I actually make it to bed.
I have a Zoom call this morning with my agent, Jessica, to discuss various things — plans for the French edition of The Hummingbird Killer (coming in October, hopefully!), updates on some of the promotional stuff for the English edition, etc. I also tell her about a new idea I’ve had, although it’s still in the preliminary stages.
After we hang up, it’s Email Time: I have a few to tackle. One about the launch event for THK, one about the possibility of future events in the Cambridge area, and one from a sixth former interested in my area of study. Then I flip back to editing. This chapter’s pretty easy, with only a few small edits, although there’s a plotline I’m not sure I’m integrating as much as I’d like.
I head out to work a little early so that I can pop into one of the other academic libraries nearby and borrow some books to research my new book idea. This is dangerous, as research tends to make me want to write things immediately, but I reassure myself with the knowledge that I’ll probably procrastinate on reading them for a while first.
While at work, I get an email telling me that one of my academic articles has been published. This one has been in the void for years, so I’m very excited to share that with everyone.
Tonight I’m in both Academic Mode and Human Mode, rather than Author Mode. Human mode: I’m worried about a friend, and also our boiler’s playing up, so I’m trying to deal with that; plus my headache has not pissed off. Academic mode: the internet is very excited about my new article (which is open access and you can read it right here), so I’m promoting that and responding to a few people’s comments about it.
I do spend a bit of time noodling around with my new idea, but only to make sure I don’t lose the fragments of narration that were in my head on my cycle home from work. I’m trying to cut myself a bit of a break about not working too much; I spend the rest of the evening finishing the book I borrowed on Libby. (I don’t particularly love it, though, so I won’t give the title.)
Mornings do not exist on Saturdays. At least, not on this Saturday.
Once again, I’m wearing my Academic hat for some of this afternoon — discussing my article with a friend who just read it, sharing it more widely online, etc. I’ve been talking about this research since c. 2018, so it’s kind of a big deal that it’s finally out in the world. But eventually I have to get back into author mode. I start with the easier things: making a graphic to promote The Hummingbird Killer and scripting that fourth video I was neglecting.
Here’s the graphic, featuring some things you’ll find in THK:
I chose to match the font my past self used for the equivalent book 1 graphic, but honestly, it’s way too cheerful for this very not-cheerful book about murder.
My head still hurts and I need a break from the screen, though, so after that I spend the evening reading Blackheart Ghosts and thinking about how I might review it.
At 3am I can’t sleep, so I work on my annotated copy of TBA. It needs to get done, and if I’m awake anyway, might as well do it now…
Mornings also do not exist on Sundays. At least, not when I didn’t get to sleep until 4.30am thanks to the clocks changing.
I’m still significantly in Academic Mode, discussing my article with people and sharing the news with those who might be interested in it. The increased traffic to my website has reminded me that I need to do a bunch of technical updates and admin, so I muddle through that — I am not good at anything that requires me to go into the back end of the site, but I do my best. I finish annotating The Butterfly Assassin for the pre-order giveaway, although I might add further comments later on, and I do some small edits on the bonus short story I’m writing for that too, before sending it over to my editor.
I edit/rewrite two chapters of TBA 3, send emails to three bookshops about my trip to Leeds and York next month, and then take a break to do some dance practice because my back is full of suffering. Then I write a long and probably slightly controversial blog post. I’d planned to post it immediately, but I decide I might be better served by keeping it under wraps for a few more weeks, so you’ll have to wait for that one.
I usually do more actual writing on the weekends than I did this week, but the publication of my article slightly shifted my priorities this week. Fortunately, I’m ahead of schedule, so my edits won’t suffer too badly from the break. I hope. Although I definitely should’ve spent Monday morning working on those instead of writing this blog post, but… well, one thing I didn’t note in this list is all the time I spent noting down what I was doing so I could accurately include it 😅 Can’t let that go to waste.
And that is a week in the life of an author. Well, this author. And this week, specifically.
I am chronically ill, and the reason I work part-time at my day job is not because I don’t need the full-time money, but because my health won’t let me. Even so, my best guess suggests I worked at least twenty hours as an author this week — not including the time spend reading other people’s books (an essential part of the job) or thinking about things while doing other tasks. On top of my day job, that means I worked more than a full-time set of hours, so that’s probably why I’m so tired all the time.
And that’s bearing in mind I’m a very fast writer who can re-write 5k in 2 hours without feeling like I’m rushing and draft a 500-word letter from scratch in half an hour. I honestly have no idea how I’d get anything done if I wasn’t, because there just aren’t enough hours in the day — although there would be a lot more of them if I didn’t lose so many to pain and fatigue, ugh. You’ll also notice that I have almost nothing resembling a social life. Yeah, I’m… working on that. The whole work/life balance? Not my strong point.
So maybe, when younger me said that I’d never be a full-time writer because I wouldn’t know what to do with all that time… they were slightly under-estimating how much is involved in Being An Author vs simply writing. If only I knew!
(How people do any of this when they have kids / caring responsibilites, I do not know. Possibly they are superheroes and/or witches and are manipulating time somehow?)
Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered how authors spend our time when we’re not actively writing, or the kinds of things we might need to send emails about when we aren’t the kind to be getting brilliant news about film rights and new book deals every three seconds (alas), I hope this offered some insight. Please consider pre-ordering The Hummingbird Killer so that one day I might be able to quit my day job and do all this stuff while still actually going to bed before 2am, that would be grand. 🥰
This was really interesting. I learnt a lot about the business of working as an author and managing illness as well as many other duties on top of the work you do. It was very insightful. Also wow writing 5k words in 2 hours is a awesome skill
Ha, thank you. I’ve cultivated the art of writing quickly over the years (last year I wrote an 87k draft in a week), and it definitely stands me in good stead to get things done. It’s pretty rough on the hands after a while, though!