Happy Hogmanay

End of the year, and all that. I have to say, 2013 has been fantastic. Vintage.

Every year I write a list of all the things I want to achieve by the following December. Lose weight, study Japanese properly, things like that. December 2012 I wrote for the next year ‘Finish Wasting Embers‘. Nailed that one. This morning I put the finishing touches to the final edit of First Time Solo, making the last little adjustments my editor, Rodge Glass, recommended. It’s done. Sent off to Freight with a ribbon and a ‘do not open until after New Year’ card.

It’s been brilliant. Friends who have gone through and are still going through the process scared me. Stories of huge structural reorganisations, changes to plots, attempts to shift the emotional heart of the book so it appealed to a different demographic fueled my nightmares while waiting for Rodge to get back to me. When his first edit arrived, I couldn’t believe it. None of these worst-case scenarios. True, an entire character needed to be erased, but that’s time consuming, not headache inducing. The vast majority of edits were to cut off excess explanation, tangents that didn’t need to be there and iron out character inconsistencies. Turns out I over-explain things. Rodge’s most frequent comment in the margin was WE KNOW!!!!

The text went back and forth a couple more times. In the end more than 20’000 words were cut and the novel is a much learner, stronger book for it. I’ve learned more about writing and editing from Rodge in the last few weeks than in the last few years. Thanks Rodge.

So what next? Well, I’ve still got Silma Hill to finish. A couple of days ago I bought a new notebook and began sketching out chapters for my next novel, currently called Burn Your Flags (although we know how long my titles last). It’s set in the aftermath of the earthquake / tsunami / nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011 and is about consequences, identity and punk music. I’m itching to get to work on something new but I don’t want to rush into it. Two complete versions of First Time Solo went in the bin because I set off without knowing where I was going. Not again.

I can also begin work on a short story anthology I’m editing for the charity Bantuan Coffee Foundation. They raise money for safe houses and scholarships for the victims of child prostitution in Indonesia by selling the delicious Kopi Luwak coffee grown in Sumatra. I’ll go into this in more detail at a later date, but some of my favourite writers and artists have kindly donated work.

2013 has been great for me and for many of my friends, and 2014 looks to be even better.

Anyway, I’m off to play in the snow. I wish you all a happy New Year and leave you with a random list of great things about 2013:

Got an agent; got a book deal; Simon Sylvester got a book deal; Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City; Anneliese Mackintosh got a book deal; new books by Linda Cracknell, Chiew-Siah Tei, Toni Davidson, Pippa Goldschmidt, Rodge Glass, Tendai Huchu; Kirsty Logan got a book deal; Bantuan Coffee Foundation up and running thanks to crowd-sourcing; Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt, discovering Tan Twan Eng, Chris Beckett and Ali Shaw; Kirstin Innes got an agent; learned to play Rock and Roll and Black Dog by Led Zeppelin on the guitar; shortlisted for Dundee International Book Prize; went to Cambodia and Thailand.

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