2020 – A Retrospective

Holy shit, what a year. But then, I don’t need to tell you that. You’ve lived through it too.

Bizarrely, this year has been my most creative to date. I’ve read a lot about people being distracted by the pandemic and not being able to read or write as much. To be honest, that hasn’t been the way for me.

I appreciate that not everybody is in the position I’m in, where my job switched online almost seamlessly and I am still getting paid etc. This year has truly been the one in which I learned to appreciate my day job. I’m fortunate and believe me, I’m grateful.

But in this, the weirdest, scariest year on record, I have to say that my writing has flourished. In a world where I haven’t hugged my own mother for nine months, you have to cling to the crumbs of comfort where you can.

This year I’ve clocked up over 250,000 words of fiction. That includes the edits and changes to my first football novel Nobody Wins, all the work on Lionhearts, the abandoned 40k words of Static, the first draft of my second football novel Rangers, a number of short stories and a complete rewrite of my snowbound horror novella Territory.

A quarter of a million words. It seems scarcely believable that I’ve managed such a milestone. I remember attempting NaNoWriMo in 2012 and balking at managing over 1,500 words a day. Now, I’d barely blink at that total.

I guess the question to ask is, what’s changed?

To answer this honestly, I’d say my daughter being born inspired a big change. It felt like some sort of penny dropped. Not only was there decreased free time, which put pressure on me to do things promptly but I want to make her proud and to show her that she too can follow her dreams in the way that I’m trying to follow mine.

I’ve adopted a professional mindset. Sure, my writing earns me nothing right now, but I’m here every day, getting the words down and making things happen. It might be slow going but my muse is tamed now. I can channel it when I need to and make the words flow.

I’ve been reading Steven Pressfield’s incredible book The War of Art lately and have been so inspired and enthralled by his writing about amateurs and professionals. Perhaps some of that inspiration has come from the fact that without realising it, I’ve already adopted most of the professional perspectives and tricks that Pressfield mentions. There’s something validating in reading about habits you’ve already adopted.

That said, creating the words is only half of the battle. Getting them out there is the issue. Of all the words I’ve produced this year, less than 1% have been published. It’s a dispiriting fact but one that comes with hope. I’ve shopped novels for the first time this year, that in itself is a learning process.

Writing a good book isn’t enough, you have to draft the submissions package that will hook an agent or a publisher. That’s a separate skill. One I’m still learning. It’ll come. The ideas are there for more novels. I’ll make them work. It’s just getting a foot in the door.

There’s more news to come regarding upcoming books from me, as I’ve hinted in the previous post on this site. Nothing that I’ve written will be consigned to the desk drawer, gathering dust and mold. There are plans afoot for the books I’ve written this year. 2021 will be exciting.

2020 has been dismal for most of us, myself included. We’ve all suffered in one way or another. I hope by posting this achievement, it can help people to see that despite the darkness, we are all capable of creating our own light.

Have a brilliant Christmas break. Stay safe. Enjoy the rest as best you.

See you in 2021. Let’s hope for even better.


Breaking Out

First things first, whenever I achieve something as a writer, it has to be publicised here pretty damn quickly.

With that in mind, I’d just like to say that my story ‘Expedited’ was picked up by The Other Stories podcast and released as their latest episode. I’ve been really fortunate to have Josh Curran read my work again, this dude really lands my stories every time he reads them. He’s a great talent.


The story is about a delivery driver who takes a fancy to some of the parcels he’s delivering but soon realises that there’s a reason curiosity is something we warn our children about…

Away from celebrating getting a story on my favourite fiction podcast, there’s been a lot of real work going on. By that I mean, arse in chair and fingers on keys. Today I reached the 60k word count on my latest project, tentatively titled Rangers.

As with the other recent books I’ve written, this one has really flown by. For me, first drafts are about getting the structure of the book down correctly. Getting the key events in the right order and going from there. Much changes between the first and second drafts but that rarely involves the structure of the book. It’s more to do with characterisation or dialogue. If nothing else, by the end of my first drafts, the skeleton of the story is there. To my mind, that’s the hardest work done.

But completing books isn’t enough. Not really.

In 2020, I started and completed Lionhearts which is now out in the real world trying to find a home. I started and abandoned Static at 40k words deep. I’m now 60k deep into Rangers. One thing I can honestly say is that I have a hunger to write. I complete things. I am a writer.

But so far, I’ve fallen short with getting the book out there.

My 2018/19 project Nobody Wins is in good shape. Beta readers liked it and there was some agent interest that ultimately ended in disappointment – to be clear, not rejection but something much worse – inertia.

Lionhearts is complete. The book is fierce and honest and uncomfortable to read. What it needs now is a home. An agent to nurture it. A publisher that adores it. The search for those things is exhausting and upsetting and time consuming although hopefully (please Jesus) worth it. But if it comes to nothing, I know I have a great book to take to indie publishers or to bring to market myself.

And that’s when it hit me.

It’s 2020 (as if we could forget the year of the plague). The world is at our fingertips. Technology not only makes things possible, it makes them prevalent. There’s no stigma to getting things out there yourself anymore. Hell, it’s almost an indictment on me that I haven’t tried it yet. What the hell have I been doing?

There’s no better time to make things happen for yourself.

Let that sink in because I am right now.

One of the things that has held me back for years is waiting for permission. Who from? Why? I’m not sure I can answer these questions.

We write to get our stories off our chests. We write to get the stories out of our minds and into the eyes of readers. To share the joy or fear or tension that drove us to create in the first place. Without this final output can we ever be complete as writers? Without eyes on our work, does it even exist? I doubt I’m clever enough to answer such an existential question but I do know where this is going.

I need to publish.

Novels serve no purpose on my hard-drive. Without being out in the world, the words are empty.

Starting soon, things are going to change.

Short stories, podcasts, novels. They’re all coming.

It’s time to not only create but to publish.