November 30, 2023

What I’m up to - November 2023

Revisiting projects, old and new.

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.

November was all about editing, redrafting and enjoying the writing community here in Edinburgh.

Writing and editing

It was a low word count month this November, but it always is when my focus is on editing. Quite often I cut way more words than I write. This month, for example, I got roughly 3,809 new words in various edits on various things, but I cut 1,739 words. In practice, I probably actually wrote and redrafted two or three times that amount, over the thirty hours or so I spent writing, but the aggregate counts always come out way lower.

At the very start of the month, I started things off by finishing Kardashev’s Palimpsest’, which then went out on submission. It’s still in the queue with the first venue I sent it to, so we’ll see what happens.

In the middle of the month, I worked on a short story called New Town’, which I’ve reworked for my first ever solicited (!) anthology call. The first Nova Scotia was an anthology created to celebrate the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow. I was super stoked to be included in the solicitations for this. New Town’ is a near future police procedural about a mysterious murder investigation in Edinburgh’s titular wealthy quarter, which gets extremely weird when a team in full hazmat suits turns up. It was actually a story I first wrote a couple of years back, but which I couldn’t quite make work. I had a good ending (kind of), cool scenes, fun concept, but it was one of those stories that just didn’t hang together right.

I have a few of these unhappy misfit toys kicking around in various drawers, digital and literal. Almost always, the missing ingredient is simply time and a strong enough reason to revisit it. I redrafted New Town’ three times with the help of my critique group. That included writing a different ending, revising it down significantly in length, then rewriting it again into first person and adding a different and clearer opening. I’m now pretty happy with it, and packed it off to the Nova Scotia editors earlier this week. A solicitation is no guarantee that my story will be included (anthologies can only have so many stories after all) but I’m chuffed to have been asked and it was fun to get to a version of this story that I’m happy with.

Work on that story has been bracketed by PROJECT SHARD rewrites. I’m awaiting edit notes on PROJECT ALTHROP still, so I’ve been rumbling along on SHARD with the hope of completing another slow-read edit before the ALTHROP edits turn up. I’m still really enjoying working on this book - it hangs together pretty well and I’m quite pleased with it, especially as the first draft was some time ago. This book is still recognisably descended from that book, but it’s got deeper, richer and (crucially) shorter. SHARD was my first experiment with detailed outlining and the first draft somehow managed to be kind of light on characterisation and depth while also being quite puffy’ in the draft, with a lot of, frankly, waffle. I’ve cut most of that now, so I’m down to the much more focused and detailed edits that are a little harder.

New work and submissions

Kardashev’s Palimpsest’ is out on submission, but I haven’t heard anything on it yet. And Such Is My Idea Of Happiness’ picked up some very kind reviews from Tarvolon, SFF Reviews, Tangent Online. One of my favourite reader comments was from JM Franklin, who said:

Woke up at 4 with my kids after staying up late worried about the toll my job takes on my health, tired to my bones,@WordsByGoodmans Such Is My Idea of Happiness” in @clarkesworld hit me hard. Great story, terribly believable world, highly recommend it!

While I hope JM gets some sleep soon, I have to admit I was really pleased to hear how much the story resonated with him. It is a profoundly weird and cool thing to get these messages from readers. If you’re ever wondering if you should tell a writer you enjoyed something they wrote, don’t hesitate - tell them! This can be a tough business and these messages let us know that people are connecting with our work and make the whole thing feel worthwhile.

In November I also sent off my responses to a Q&A interview with Analog SF magazine. This is going to be run on the magazine’s website when my story Hull Run’ comes out in their January/February issue. It was really fun to answer their questions and yet another wow I feel like a real author’ moment.

Finally, right at the tail end of the month, I got some very exciting stuff in my inbox, related to ALTHROP. Suffice to say Things are Happening in a very exciting way. More soon hopefully!

Publishing and community

The big event this month was the first Cymera Writing Conference on 18th November in Edinburgh. It was a fantastic conference and I’m really glad I signed up to go. I particularly enjoyed the workshop on finding your narrative voice that Erin and Morag (aka MK Hardy) ran, as well as the contracts workshop with Francesca Barbini from Luna Press.

It was also one of the smoothest-run conferences I’ve ever been to. Running the main Cymera festival has clearly stood the team in good stead, along with the fearsome organisational powers of the unstoppable Ann Landmann, festival director. Highly recommended, and I will definitely go along to the next one. I may even be pitching some workshops myself…


I’ve been having a fairly varied reading month in November, from fantasy to post-apocalyptic. I’ve also started a whole bunch of books and been flitting between them. When I have months where I read the first fifty pages of about six different books, I tend not to finish much, strangely enough.

  • Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor - My friend Nick has been recommending this book to me for literal years and I recently had some birthday book tokens burning a hole in my pocket, so I thought I’d pick it up off the shelf to take a look. If you ever need a definition of an extremely compelling opening page, this is the book to use. It’s also one of those books where everything is working together - compelling characters, gorgeous prose, fantastic worldbuilding and a slow-reveal central mystery where each chapter both introduces new strange things to wonder about and gradually answers the central question that is pulling you through the book. An absolute masterclass in pacing too.
  • Last One At The Party by Bethany Clift - I heard an interview with Bethany Clift and when she described this book, I thought oh, hello, that sounds like my cup of tea’. And it is! I actually got this as an audiobook and I’ve been listening to it on my evening walks, and it’s one of those books with a fantastic narrator and a little bit of sound design that really makes an incredible difference. It tells the story of a young woman who is very unhappy with her life in London, but who becomes the sole survivor (possibly in the world) of a viral plague called 6DM (Six Days Maximum). Unlike a lot of survivalist fantasy stories, our protagonist is pretty hapless to start with, and the way her story of survival is interwoven with the story of her life before the pandemic is really well done and compelling. Another strong recommendation.


November has very much been an inside month - the weather in Scotland (and around the UK) has been pretty appalling. Aside from the aforementioned conference and a very nice lunch with my friend Nick and the two hosts of the Page One Podcast, Marco and Tariq, I’ve basically been in full hermit mode.

We did also have a very nice Thanksgiving dinner (I’m married to an American) with my family, but I suspect December is going to be a lot busier.


My two main priorities for December are going to be editing and seeing people out in the real world.

I’m lucky enough to travel down to London regularly for my day job, which is handy for seeing my brother and friends who live down there, as well as the odd bit of publishing stuff. Next week I’ll be heading down for a few days and I’ll be getting a long overdue lunch with my agent (and someone else!) which I’m very excited about.

After that I’ve got a couple of Christmas parties and then a week off I’m really looking forward to. Then I guess it’ll be 2024?



This has been one of those steady as she goes’ months - working on three or four projects, making incremental progress on all of them, seeing friends, doing some wee writerly things that were amazing, getting exciting emails. Nothing massive but plenty of small steps forward. These are the months where the real progress actually happens, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

We’re nearly at the end of 2023, which is wild to me. The time dilation/compression effect of the last few years has been quite extraordinary in many ways, but for some reason this year it’s been particularly pronounced. But it’s been a good year and I’ve enjoyed nearly all of it.

I hope your month has been good and that you’ll take a bit of time for yourself before the hectic final few weeks of the year. Maybe pick up that book you’ve been putting off, or get down a few dozen words on that story you’ve been writing. Or, y’know, just have a nap. I’m not the boss of you.

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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How I Write - 2023 By The Numbers Another year has run its course, so it’s time for another round of ‘what’s in my spreadsheets’! Image by Lukas from Pexels This past

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