Tag: writing process

A Week In The Life Of An Author

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:

A graphic featuring the cover of The Hummingbird Killer by Finn Longman, with arrows and text around it. The labels read: librarians doing crime, closed city, aroace protagonist, double life, friendship, loving descriptions of street art, not even moral ambiguity at this point they're all just terrible, truly terrible life choices (even worse than book 1), Esperanto, no romance, so much murder (no, really, like a LOT of murder).

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. 🥰

Write It Wrong

I’ve never formally studied creative writing. I don’t have a degree in it, I’ve never been on a novel-writing course or workshopped a story — I’ve never even been on a retreat. (Although considering I’ve more than once used a 2-week self-isolation period to get a head start on a project before being released back into the world, maybe that counts…)

This is fine: you don’t need any of those things to become a writer. I sometimes wonder whether, if I’d started writing later, I’d have bought into the myth that you do; as it was, I was thirteen and invincible and the internet told me all I had to do to be a writer was write, so I did. By the time the impostor syndrome and desire for qualifications caught up with me, I had enough novels under my belt to feel reasonably confident that I could go it alone, so I studied medieval Irish instead, because that seemed a lot harder to do by yourself.

That’s not to say there’s no value to studying writing. I’m sure there is. Personally, I learned to write by doing it wrong, over and over again. The Butterfly Assassin was the fifteenth novel I wrote, and it still took seven years to get from first draft to final draft, because I got it wrong so many times. Every book that I’ve written has taught me something, and I don’t regret writing so many of them, but it’s definitely a labour-intensive way of doing things.

I tell people my early novels were bad and they say, “Oh, I’m sure they’re not as bad as you think.” I promise you, they are. While I’m occasionally a poor judge of my more recent work (I recently reread the third draft of Bard, which I wrote last year, and realised I was wrong to shelve it because that book has a lot of potential), I’m more than capable of being objective about my fourteen-year-old self’s output, and I know that they’re irredeemable. It’s fine. It was a process of learning.

I’ve always been a hands-on learner; you can tell me or show me how to do something and I’ll take in nothing until I do it myself. Maybe that’s why I never studied writing: even when I read about it, instructions and ideas don’t make sense to me until I’ve tried to apply them myself, and that usually results in me abandoning whatever I was reading to run off and write a new novel. I tried to take an online seminar last year and only got a few videos in before I got distracted with a new project. (I keep meaning to go back to it, but I never have.)

But my first drafts are a mess. Not on a sentence level — they’re pretty readable when it comes to the prose, which sometimes tricks people into thinking they’re better than they are — but on a plot level. They usually start out okay, and then somewhere in the middle they become a pile of events that don’t completely add up, leading to an abrupt and/or anticlimactic ending, and as soon as you start asking questions of the story it becomes apparent that I don’t have the answers. That’s why I tend to take such a drastic approach to editing, rewriting the book from the beginning — there’s no point fiddling with a sentence if the whole chapter might get yeeted when I change the entire plot to make something work.

Partly, my plot woes stem from the fact that I’m a pantser. Despite my best intentions, I seem incapable of plotting a book before I write it — if I do, I find myself deviating from my outline in chapter two and throwing the whole thing off course. The only way first drafts get on the page is if I start at the beginning and keep going until I get to the end, wherever it may take me along the way. Then I dismantle it in order to plot the second draft, now that I have some idea of what I’m trying to achieve.

Pantser by nature or not, sometimes you hit a point where you need an outline. Now is such a time: I have to write a synopsis of a book that isn’t written, and therefore I need to plan it. Okay, so I have a first draft, but I’m planning to completely overhaul the plot and change the ending considerably, so I have to plan it as though I don’t. As though the 98k I wrote last year was just the first outline, the bad outline, the mess I needed to make before I could do it properly.

And that’s why I’m telling you all of this, about writing things wrong as an integral part of my process, because you need to understand where I’m coming from when I say that there is nothing which activates my writing impostor syndrome like trying to outline.

I know some writers who plot their books practically to the page. They have spreadsheets. Beat sheets. They know exactly what should happen when in order to create the perfect 3-act arc (or 5-act, or whatever their chosen approach is). I live in fear of them, because my brain simply does not work like that. It’s not that I don’t think structure is important, but I’ve always just gone with my gut, relying on intuition honed by years of voracious reading.

Unfortunately, years of medieval literature have scrambled my intuition, convincing my brain that “a series of episodic combats followed by a long list of names followed by a one-page final battle where nothing really gets resolved” is an acceptable structure for a story. Which it is, if you’re an eleventh century Irishman, but for a modern novel, that stops looking like a book and starts looking like a hot mess pretty fast.

And that was fine, when I had as many drafts as I liked to get a story right — when I could just keep reworking it until the pieces clicked into place. But once you start writing professionally and start having contracts and deadlines, suddenly the whole process needs to speed up. No longer can I write a draft a year for six years before sending a book out into the world: no longer can I write by getting it wrong, over and over again, until the day I don’t.

When intuition fails me, that’s when I start to understand why people study writing. Why people like rules and advice and charts and tables. I still don’t think that’ll ever be me: I’ll read one (1) book about writing and decide that’s quite enough for me, thanks, and once again breathe a sigh of relief that my eighteen-year-old self didn’t decide to do a whole degree in it. Again: I’m sure that’s amply rewarding for some people and teaches them a lot (whether about writing or in terms of transferrable skills), but I think going down that path might have put me personally off writing forever.

So, I read a book about structure a couple of days ago, because I felt I needed the help. There comes a point in the process where you go, “Yeah, I need some assistance here,” and since nobody in the world has read the latest version of book two in this trilogy and therefore I cannot ask anyone to help me plot book three, I figured I would have to get my advice somewhere else.

It kind of helped. I had a lot of ideas floating around in my head that I hadn’t entirely figured out how to get onto the page. Or at least, I had them on the page, some of them, but not in the right order. I’d spent a bunch of time talking to myself in a notebook to figure out the character motivations (my usual method of planning: I will literally ramble to myself on paper like, “Could it be X? No, that doesn’t make sense with Y. What about Z?”), but I needed a way of making the resulting plot points fit, and ensuring it was narratively satisfying. With a slightly more formal understanding of how to structure a story under my belt, I was able to come up with an approximate outline, so that’s something.

(The book about structure was Into The Woods by John Yorke. I didn’t 100% vibe with it in places, so this is a recommendation only with caveats, but I appreciated that it didn’t take a prescriptive “this is the only Right Way” approach the way so many writing books do, and also that it looked at 5-act structure rather than prioritising the more common 3-act approach. I have never clicked with 3-act structure, but five acts I can get my head around, possibly because I was a Hamlet nerd as a teenager and some things rewire your brain permanently.)

But even though it helped, and solved a problem I was wrestling with, and encouraged me to cut the oldest plotline in the book because it simply wasn’t working… reading about structure makes me stressed, and sets off alarm bells in my head. Did I do it right in The Butterfly Assassin? I ask myself (because if I didn’t, it’s too late to fix it now). What about book two, am I going to have to rework that completely? Couldn’t somebody have told me this earlier? Am I a hack, a fraud, an impostor who somehow got invited into the writer club when they really don’t know what they’re doing?

And the thing is: I do know what I’m doing, most of the time. On a gut level, running on instinct, I know how to write a story. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I have to keep telling myself that, when the impostor syndrome closes in. But that instinct-led approach means I have no idea how to explain what I’m doing, and it certainly doesn’t always fit neatly into diagrams.

That’s okay, mostly. Not everything has to fit into the diagrams. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s that there are no rules that can’t be broken and there’s no method that works for everyone, or even for every book written by the same person. It’s a constant process of rediscovery and re-invention, figuring out how to write.

But. This book needs to be plotted in a particular way, and that’s the way I find hard, and that makes me feel like a fraud. It’s a very hard book to write: it has to be narratively satisfying both in its own right and as the conclusion to a trilogy; it has to wrap up its own plotlines and any loose threads from the first two books; and being a third book means it starts in a state of absolute chaos, so your usual approaches to the first act of a book don’t work and it kind of has to be structured back-to-front. Unlike a standalone book, where we start with a normal that gets disrupted, a third book following on from a cliffhanger starts with a complete mess that needs to be gradually resolved: there is no normal, and we get dropped in the deep end.

Plus, this book isn’t under contract yet, but I would very much like it to be, so I need to make it look appealing and functional right from the synopsis — something I never had to do with an unwritten book before I started doing this professionally.

So, I have to face up to the thing I’m bad at, accept that I’m bad at it, and teach myself how to do it — all while my brain screams at me that I should have learned how to do it before I tried to make a career out of this, and probably my book is going to flop and it’ll be a disaster and I should give up now. These are not helpful brainweasels to feed, and I try to avoid it, but there’s something about being six months out from your debut novel’s publication that sets them all a-chattering, and I have to say, it’s a full-time job just trying to keep them quiet most of the time.

It doesn’t help that I’m in the process of arranging my first school visit as a professional author — what a bizarre sentence to write — and was asked if I wanted to do a talk or whether I wanted it to be more of an interactive creative writing workshop. Immediately my brain went, I can’t teach anyone how to write, I barely know what I’m doing. And, well, that’s not totally true, but I’m certainly not convinced my approach is replicable.

These brainweasels, this imposter syndrome… it’s all part of the process of going from writing as a hobby to writing as a career, I think — not that I wasn’t always trying to improve, but it’s different, when somebody other than yourself will care if you mess this up. And it is a process, this transition: it’s a constant, ongoing, humbling process. No matter how well I thought I understood my approach to writing, it will change now, by necessity, because a book written under contract is a fundamentally different beast than a book written over the course of several years with nobody breathing down your neck. A book written specifically to be published, rather than a book written only with the aspiration of publication, is a different beast. There are new rules and new methods to be determined.

One of those is learning about structure. And it’s probably not the case that every book I write from now on will fit in a five-act chart before I write it (more likely I’ll write the first draft in my usual chaotic way and try and fix it afterwards, as I always do). But this book needed me to learn this, and so I did. And the next book may require me to learn something completely different, so I will.

Maybe I don’t know how to teach people about writing, because nobody taught me about writing, but I know this: it’s completely fine to learn by doing it wrong, but you have to be able to recognise when that’s what you’re doing, otherwise you’re never going to do it right. Writing this book badly only worked because I could see that it wasn’t working and was willing to make the effort to take a different approach. Without realising the problem was structure, and teaching myself how to fix it, I’d probably have just continued to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Write it wrong first. But then figure out why it’s wrong, and write it right.

Now is a great time to pre-order The Butterfly Assassin. I promise that although it took me seven years, I did eventually write it right. You can also support me by buying me a coffee.