Well, at least that’s over.
No more 2016. No more (please) awful, too-young celebrity deaths, or terrorist attacks, or… well, we still have to hear about Brexit and Trump, but at least the shock has worn off, a bit. 2016 is over. The curse has lifted. The spell is broken.
I haven’t been here in a while- not since February- and that’s mostly because I haven’t had much to say. Not that nothing’s happened. The Reaction came out in paperback in October, in the same week I was in the US, promoting The Catalyst, US edition. It was wonderful- I met people! Actual fans of the book! With their amazing hair and cool names!- although, slightly unsettlingly, after nearly three years of being told how young I was for an author, people now seemed to find it surprising I was only seventeen. They thought I was an adult. An adult. Me. Aaargh. It was weird.
Anyway, that happened, and it was glorious and joyful and full of the kindness of others, and now… Now it’s New Year’s, which means January, which means February afterwards, and for the first time in two years, I don’t have a book out during the February half-term.
I cannot believe that’s weird. But it is.
This was not the plan. Originally, when I signed the contract (three years ago now!), it was meant to be a book a year. And that worked, for a bit. The problem was, though, I had only planned two books. The Wars of Angels was a two-book series. I’d always known that. But Hodder had offered me a three-book deal.
I remember thinking, at the time, ‘Oh, that might end up being a problem.’ I cannot say I worried about it. I wasn’t in much of a state to worry about anything, then- the whole thing was just too miraculously, joyfully surreal, and I wasn’t about to let go of that for tiny quibbles like Where am I going to find an idea for another book?, or When am I going to have the time to write a novel during Sixth Form?
So, a year passed, and I handed in the manuscript for The Reaction, wiped my hands, and looked around expectantly for another novel idea.
And looked. And looked.
I had nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I thought I had an idea. I thought I had loads of ideas, actually, and the more desperate I got, the more fervently I believed they’d work. I have about two and a half- maybe three, cumulatively- novels stored away in the hard drive of this laptop which will never see the light of day, because they were written in a kind of feverish, deadened panic which made good writing all but impossible. Writing became less of a joyful hobby and more of a dull, pulsing worry in the back of my head, as GCSEs moved past and the Sixth Form hit me like a speeding train and everything became a blur of work and stress. I was overwhelmed, and scared, and lonely, because I was back to spending all my break and lunchtimes trying to write or do work or both, and that is not generally conducive to keeping friends.
Basically: I tried my best. And I couldn’t do it. I went to Hodder and told them, and they were kind, kinder than I had any right to expect, and they gave me time, and sympathy, and reassurance. And so I focused on school, and seeing friends, and my subjects and planning my university application, and with all of that, writing…
Not vanished. Faded.
I haven’t been back here because I haven’t felt I have many… writerly things to say, because for much of this year I haven’t felt like much of a writer. Not that I haven’t been writing. The word count on the current draft of the third book (and after this year I can’t think those words without silently praying for them to be true: please, please let it be the third book, please let this one work, please) is at 49,000 and rising, and I believe in it, and I am very excited about it, but after a year in which I came close to believing that actually, I couldn’t write at all- that everything that had happened since I first thought up Rose and David and Loren had been one long, miraculous fluke, and that I had no skill in this at all, simply luck and arrogance- it’s hard to feel certain of anything anymore.
My deadline at the moment is December 2017. Just under a year to write about half a book. It doesn’t sound like much. It didn’t sound like much, not so very long ago. My exams finish in May, and I have a long summer to write before the terror of university starts. Assuming I get into one. Aaargh.
I will do my best, and hopefully I will have another book to show people- lovely people, with their amazing hair- very soon. In the meantime, thank you for everything, and may next year be fuller of kindness and love and joy than this one was.
Happy 2017, everyone.