December 31, 2023

What I’m up to - December 2023

Putting a bow on 2023.

This is a cross-post from my current Now page. You can also get these updates (and other cool stuff) in your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.

December was a month for finishing things, sending things out, good news and mince pies.

Writing and editing

December was another very low word count month, for two reasons. The first is that I was almost entirely editing, rather than writing new words, and the second was that I finished up the month of writing a full week ahead of schedule, on Saturday 16th of December. I had intended to write until Friday 22nd, then take a week and a bit off for Christmas and New Year. But once I’d finished the work described below, I decided to just potter about and take a week to do all the annoying writing admin and marketing work that I normally squeeze into the gaps into my schedule. It was a good decision.

So I wrote roughly 2,500 new words in December, almost entirely in small additions to PROJECT ALTHROP, which came back on Friday 8th December with lots of comments on it. That was absolutely perfect timing, because that was the day that I finished my edits on PROJECT SHARD and sent that out to my beta readers. SHARD was where I got my 1,200 or cut words for the month, zapping those last few instances of that’ (Pro-Writing Tip - it is extremely rare that a sentence either needs or is improved by the word that’, you can nearly always remove it).

ALTHROP’S edits were pretty doable - about eight or nine points I needed to address in multiple places across the draft, along with a handful of one-off points, three or four typos and oodles of very nice compliments. By the time I get to the fourth or fifth redraft of a novel-length project, I have no real idea if it’s working, because I’ve lost all objectivity on it. So it is extremely validating to get feedback that it is, in fact, working.

I’m writing a blog post about exactly how I handle edit letters/notes from third parties, so I won’t go into detail here, except to say that I powered through them in just over a week (thanks in large part to the structure and process I follow when planning an edit run), finishing with a monster session in a cafe on Saturday 16th December. I documented all my changes in a nice table with page numbers (can’t shake that day job training), bundled the whole thing up and sent it back, thereby finishing my drafting and editing for the year.

The last working week of the month was spent on outlining and writing blog posts, as well as fiddling with my 2024 spreadsheet. I have kept annual spreadsheets to roughly track what I write for years now, but putting together my 2023 By The Numbers post made me realise that I was still calculating a lot of things manually at the end of the year, so I spent a little time adding stuff like weekly and annual automatic totals, max, min and median word counts as well as optional weekly, monthly and annual ballpark targets. It’s all extra bells and whistles rather than a fundamental change to how I track my writing effort, but it should make doing these monthly posts a little easier, as well as giving me a useful running view of how the months compare to each other as 2024 goes by.

Right now, I have no real idea what I’m going to be working on in 2024. I’m waiting on beta reader feedback for SHARD. ALTHROP is done except for copyedits and proofs, so I will definitely be working on something new after SHARD. There’s PROJECT TWINE, which I have 30k of, but which I don’t want to start on again until SHARD is finished and away to my agent. So in January I will probably write pitches and samples for two or three new thriller projects, ready for consideration by the folks who are working on ALTHROP. If I hope for anything from early 2024, it’s to be able to finally announce ALTHROP properly, so I can stop using codenames and making not-very-coded allusions to everyone involved in it.

New work and submissions

Halfway through the month, I was delighted to wake up to an email from Neil at Clarkesworld Magazine accepting my novelette Kardashev’s Palimpsest’. This is probably the most personal and emotional SF story I’ve ever written, so it was very gratifying to discover it had struck the right chord with the readers at Clarkesworld. Edits on this story are already done, so it will hopefully come out in an issue of the magazine in the first quarter of next year.

I didn’t sub anything else in December, though I was very tempted to try and squeeze out something in that last week of the year. Instead I decided to have some lie-ins (I usually get up very early to write) and noodle with spreadsheets as above, so the various ideas I have in reserve will need to wait until next year.

Publishing and community

Most of my writing community events this month were in-person, including two great Christmas parties with fellow ESFF writers and finally, after two years of working together, a really nice lunch with my agent Harry Illingworth. We’ve been trying to align on dates in London that whole time (I’m down once or twice a month and so is Harry, but we kept missing each other by a day or two).

Image of me with Harry Illingworth having lunchImage of me with Harry Illingworth having lunch

Harry has worked tirelessly over the last couple of years to get my work out into the world, so it was brilliant to meet him in person, celebrate our successes and make plans for the future. And to do it over delicious dim sum in Covent Garden to boot.

Another plan cooked up over lunch in December was with my friends and fellow novelists Nick Binge, Marco Rinaldi and Tariq Ashkanani. Nick and I were delighted to appear on Marco and Tariq’s fantastic Page One Podcast for an end-of-year special.

We had a nearly two-hour conversation about our writing years, books, TV, film and more. You can listen to the podcast at the link above, or watch it on Youtube. As a reminder, you can always see a list of podcasts and other media appearances of mine on my website’s media page.


I’ve been extremely light on reading this month, thanks to a lot of work travel, various social events, editing and, frankly, a fair amount of Cyberpunk 2077 (the Phantom Liberty expansion is great). I’m still working on Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor but I’m chipping away at it by reading a chapter a night.


Lunches, present buying, work trips, editing, emails, more editing, submitting, more editing. It’s been a busy month, but December is always a complete blur for me. It has been really nice to just do not much at all in the Twixtmas period between Christmas and New Year.


I don’t have a huge amount on the agenda for January, aside from the aforementioned pitch writing and making plans for what promises to be a very busy writing year. I do have a very nice dinner planned at the end of January with someone who has been working with me on ALTHROP, which I’m really looking forward to. But it’s probably going to be a quiet one otherwise.


A smattering of linkage to round out your year:

After the hectic first three weeks of December, this last week has been a really nice opportunity to properly rest, eat leftovers, read a bit and get over the festive cold that I got as a really nice Christmas present from the universe. I love this time of year, but I also inevitably get a bit sick too. Thankfully I recovered pretty quickly, but it wasn’t a great finisher to the year. Ah well.

I hope you had a good December, and a good 2023. If you’re a writer too, I hope you moved your fingers across a few notebooks or keyboards and managed some words/stories/books that you are proud of this year. If you’re a reader, I hope you found stories, books, films and movies that you loved and which made your year better.

There are now over fifty of you reading these emails each month, which is kind of crazy to me. You could fill a moderately-sized back room at a pub with that many people. Whether you found me through a social thread, one of my stories, one of my blog posts or somewhere else entirely, thank you for joining me on this gentle cruise through the year. I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them. Onward to 2024!

In the meantime, as ever, keep reading, keep writing and keep moving.

If you have a question, suggestion or something else you’d like me to write about, please get in touch over on Bluesky, Mastodon or Twitter, or send me a message on my contact form.

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