Catch-Up and GDR Full Review of 2008

Abandoned Christmas Tree
Image: Banalitie

The first half of the holidays are now over and the second are about to begin. Christmas has been and gone and now the New Year celebrations beckon with earnest. Pretty soon, it will all be over, and all too soon let me tell you.

I totally shut down over the past few days and let myself fall into mega-relaxed mode. I never checked my email, logged onto the Internet, or did anything in the way of work until this morning – I haven’t even thought about doing anything other than reading and thinking about next year’s projects. I feel good, recharged, excited, and it feels great to have spent so much time with the family over the festive season doing nothing but being together.

I was lucky to be able to sleep until 8am on Christmas Day, which can only mean one thing – Laura’s getting older. The excitement is still there, but there is also the desire to grab an extra half hour before waking up Mum and Dad, which suits me down to the ground.

There was much excitement in the house as the presents were collected from under the tree, then after a small breakfast, we headed round to my In Laws to spend the day. My MIL made us a lovely meal of fresh soup followed by smoked salmon for starter, turkey with all the trimmings (no stuffing – it went AWOL), and a Chocolate Bomb cake for dessert. It was all washed down with a lovely South African red, followed by some cool beers.

We drank some more and ate some snacks as afternoon moved into night, as well as watching some TV and playing board games. We never made it home until 1:30am and I was knackered by the time I got to bed.

Boxing Day was a much quieter affair. Gail had to go work so me and Laura lay around the lounge and watched a few films while eating chocolate. That’s about as exciting as it got.

On Saturday we went through to my parents house in Glasgow. It’s been a tradition that the whole Galbraith side of the family have a get-together every year over Christmas as we are all spread to the four corners of the country. Being the first with baby Charlotte, it was an extra-special day.

We kicked things off with some champagne then Christmas Day Pt.2 kicked in as we all handed out our presents to everyone. Then the meal: smoked salmon to start, with steak pie and roast beef with ALL the trimmings for the main course, finishing with chocolate cake and trifle. Lots more wine and beer was consumed as the night slowly wore on.

After playing some board games and sitting around talking and having a laugh, we had some hot snacks and a cheese board with more drinks, before finally calling it a night around 2am. With the extra body in the house, albeit only a tiny one, the normal sleeping arrangements had to be changed around. Instead of me sleeping in my old bedroom, I found myself in a taxi with my sister heading back out to her flat the south side of Glasgow, while everyone else crammed into my parent’s house.

Overall, it was a smashing Christmas period. Everyone had a fabulous time at Gail’s parent’s – in fact, it was one of the best days we’ve had there for quality of laughter and fun – and on my own side we had all the usual mayhem and carrying on. You can’t beat a good Christmas!

Yesterday was another relaxing day. Gail collected me from my sister’s flat and we headed back through to the east to spend the day chilling out. I did a bit of tidying around the house then ordered pizzas for the family while we watched an Indiana Jones movie, but that was as much energy as I used.

I came away with some great gifts from Christmas: some new clothes (lots of socks), a Mogwai CD, book tokens, and a USB Turntable so I can start transferring my vinyl into digital format. As you would except, I got a lot of books bought for me: The Grave Tattoo and Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid, McIlvanney’s Docherty, a 3-in-1 PD James book, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, and The War (and Peace) Memoirs by Spike Milligan, a box-set of seven war memoirs including, Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall, Rommel? Gunner Who? A Confrontation in the Desert, Monty: His Part in My Victory, Mussolini: His Part in My Downfall, Where Have All the Bullets Gone?, Goodbye Soldier, and Peace Work.

All thoughts now turn to our couple of days away for New Year. Tomorrow we will head off into the lower highlands, so today was all about getting our stuff together and buying more presents and food to take with us. Time was pressed for doing this since both Gail and I were both back into the day job for the day, but we got there.

Next stop The Trossachs; out of civilisation and out of range from all mobile phone masts. Next post will be January 1st, meantime, here’s my long awaited, annual GDR review for 2008.

GDR Annual Review


What were my GOALS for 2008?

(3 out of 9 achieved)

  • Obtain representation from a literary agent. NOT MET – The submission of Slick to top agents/publishers was a giant step towards this target, albeit not achieved this year. Can still be considered ‘in progress’ while Slick still out there. This goal will continue into 2009 but more realistically as a dream, not a goal.
  • Have a major piece of fiction published traditionally. NOT MET – Should really have read: Have a Major Piece of Fiction Published. Approaching top agents/publishers with Slick was a giant step towards this, but as far as getting a major piece of fiction published, Hunting Jack may yet achieve this – it’s certainly closest – as may Stella after it was re-written and submitted to researched markets. Have written plenty to take into next year to continue the submission cycle with major fiction, so this goal will continue into 2009.
  • Write two new novels. MET – Completed first drafts in 2008: Gatecrash novel and Greener is the Grass novella. Final completed and placed on submission in 2008: Slick novel, Hunting Jack novel, and Stella novella. So technically, although two brand new novels were not written, the intention was to make greater progress with getting longer fiction completed and submitted, therefore, this goal has been deemed a success. This goal will also play a big part in 2009.
  • Publish a new chapbook. NOT MET – I wrote plenty of poetry and laid out several chapbook ideas during the year, but none of these were fulfilled. There is scope to move these ideas to next year, but I may alter my expectations. This goal will move into 2009 with a higher priority.
  • Increase my profile. MET – I’m not sure how to measure this tangibly, but I do feel as though I have increased my web presence through my new websites and related marketing, and that development of my personal networking within the local (writing) community has also been useful. I feel this goal has been achieved, but I shall continue this into 2009 at the same pace.
  • Develop The Ranfurly Review. MET – site stats up 33% non-publishing weeks; site stats up 200% publishing weeks; downloads up average 10% on each issue; submissions made average nn per month (nnn in total for first 5 issues). Cross-advertising and features all generated good interest, particularly the PSH feature in Issue 5. Happy with the progress of the magazine and I have reached a good level of procedure and publishing expertise. Therefore, this goal has been achieved to the level I want to take it for now, so will not appear in 2009.
  • Double my freelance earnings from 2007. NOT MET – Earnings up 184% from 2007 – missed the target by 16% so still very acceptable. I broke the (now deceased) Inkthinker Query Challenge from Kristen King with 120+ freelance queries. This goal will move into 2009 but at a reduced expectation.
  • Double royalty earnings from chapbooks. NOT MET – Chapbook sales plummeted this year; no advertising, follow-ups, or web hits have all contributed to this general failure to make any progress. This goal will not appear in 2009.
  • Become 100% debt-free. NOT MET – Only managed to pay off around 5-10% this year, with other money having to be channelled into other projects. This goal will continue into 2009 and have an increased priority.


What were my DREAMS for 2008?

(0 out of 2 achieved)

  • To obtain the services of an agent. NOT MET – Having this as a goal as well as a dream was a mistake and only just noticed during this review. The submission of Slick to top agents/publishers, though, was a giant step towards achieving this dream. Can consider this a work in progress while Slick still out on submission. This dream will move to 2009.
  • To have a novel bought by a publisher in a traditional book deal. NOT MET – Should not have been a goal also. Hunting Jack is probably closest to achieving publication in paperback as it is currently in the final consideration stage at a medium-sized internet-based publishing house. Until a final answer is given, this has to be marked as a failure. If it were accepted it would only be semi-tick as it is not “traditional” but it would be a huge achievement given the formats of publication. This dream will move to 2009.


What are my RESOLUTIONS for 2008?

(1 out of 2 achieved??)

  • Lose 2 stones. ? – no idea what my final weight was yet (and won’t until Dec 27th), but I don’t think I made the 2stone mark. I did lose a fair chunk, though, especially up to July before my holiday. Same again next year until I achieve this one.
  • Learn to drive. NOT MET – Have not had the money or the time to put into this.


What writing breakthrough this past year made me the happiest/proudest?

  • Slick completed and submitted to major Scottish agents and publishers.
  • Hunting Jack through to “serious consideration” stage with publisher (still waiting).
  • Earned 187% of last years total freelance income (13% off target).

What unexpected writing joys did I discover during the year?

  • Time spent networking and learning at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
  • First time at the Muse Online Writer’s Conference.
  • William McIlvanney phoning me at my home!

What was I unhappy with?

  • Rejections = 70%; Acceptances = 3%; Still Waiting = 26%
  • Ridiculously stupid grammar mistakes with some early articles, but subsequently worked on.
  • Failed to complete NaNoWriMo (74%).
  • No chapbooks published.
  • The expectations some non-writers have towards me.

Looking back, would I have done anything differently?

  • Slimmed down further the range and type of work taken on.
  • Been more aggressive in my decision making.
  • Written more fiction.

What did you find you needed to release, because, as the year progressed, it no longer worked to struggle towards it as a goal?

  • I released the hope that 2008 would be the year I could begin thinking about moving to freelance on a more solid basis.
  • I released the drive to push harder with my fiction, in order to fill my plate up with a larger percentage of freelance projects without realising I o0nly have so much time to do it in.

What expectations did I find I needed to let go of?

  • That anything much might happen immediately with my agent search.
  • That I can’t do everything I want to within a single year.
  • That I can take on as much work as possible as the year progresses and it won’t affect anything else.

How has writing become more important in your life this past year?

  • Novel writing has become much more important to me, and in particular, after three extremely enjoyable weeks at the Edinburgh Book Festival, crime fiction. I set myself up at the festival to be able to spend more time with other crime writers and it fed my belief that I fit well into the genre and my work tends to gravitate towards it. I intend on developing this further in 2009.

Where am now I with my writing career overall?

  • Fictiontwo full novels completed and on submission (1 in final decision stage); two novels drafted and one a WIP. One novella drafted, and one fully re-written and submitted.
  • Short fictiondeliberately held off on this to work on longer fiction but would have liked to have made more time. I found my work in the Muse Conference helped to reignite my lost passion for short stories.
  • PoetryHad plenty of ideas but not found the time. The priority this year was with developing my fiction and freelance, so I was prepared for this to take more of a back seat anyway.
  • Freelancegoing superbly well. Regularly getting gigs and earned 184% more than last year.
  • Overall I streamlined what I was doing but feel it was till too much spread and wrongly balanced. I’m finding my feet more with the type of fiction I want to be writing and made huge strides both in the writing of fiction and submission process then ever before. Generally speaking, I’m moving in the right direction, and with the submissions and responses received to my work in the latter half of the year, if I can keep things moving and regularly submitting large works, I’m confident for the future.


Where did I want to be with my writing in the long-term?

  • I want to publish a novel traditionally. ON TARGET – Made good progress through the submission of Slick to top agents and also with Hunting Jack, but the ball must be kept rolling. Have written plenty this year to keep the potential up for next year’s submissions.
  • I want to be able to earn from both fiction and freelance writing. ON TARGET – I’m earning well from my freelance with a 184% increase from last year, but I need to do more with my fiction; keep submitting to paying markets and keep pushing my longer works of fiction. I need to be careful not to “over-market” my chapbooks if any are published in 2009.

How could I change/compromise on the non-supportive elements in my life?

  • Convince people that I am serious about being a full-time writer and pursuing it as my main career. MET – still some sticking points with this, but generally speaking this has got through to most people that matter.
  • Treat myself more seriously, in order to become more serious and taken more serious. MET – When have I not? Can probably take this one off the list now as I feel as though I’m moving into a more focussed and career-minded phase with my writing, particularly with my fiction.
  • Not allow writing to encroach on my family time. MET – Generally speaking this was a success, which is down to various reasons; the support from my wife and daughter, and deliberately downing tools to do family things more often.
  • Include my writing in family time by going on research trips etc. MET – Easy to achieve this given I can incorporate this into holidays or photography sessions with my wife.

What would make me refer to myself, first and foremost, as a “writer”?

  • I already do, but having a major piece of fiction published will go a long way. ON TARGET – Still do and still chasing that elusive major publication to prove it to the world.
  • Continue to widen the success of my freelance business. MET – Increased querying and marketing (120+ in 2008) has lead to a 184% increase in takings from last year.

With what new type of writing will I experiment with in the coming year?

  • Not sure yet. Still want to finish the HTML Manual I was in the middle of writing. NOT MET – Never found the time or motivation to complete this. May remove it from the list.

What new non-writing interests did I wish to add to my life this year?

  • Go fishing with my daughter. NOT MET – She’s getting older and fishing seems to appeal more to me than it does a young lady.
  • Learn Italian. NOT MET – Never found the time.
  • Research and build my family tree. NOT MET – Never found the time.

What overall changes did I need to make in my life to achieve ALL of my life goals?

  • Move outside my comfort zone MET – Seemed to achieve this more during the first half of the year and August at the book festival. Within freelancing, I definitely achieved this with the type of “uncomfortable” work I made myself go for and accept.
  • If I feel uneasy, am I being challenged? (don’t ignore gut reactions) MET – I asked myself this a lot – sometimes it was true, sometimes not. Most of the times I feel uneasy are because of frustration with what I can’t do, as opposed to what I should.
  • If I am being challenged, am I doing the right thing? MET – I learnt a lot by pushing myself into more challenging positions. I feel a lot better off and more experienced for having done so.
  • Are the easy things wise moves anyway? MET – Don’t see why not or I wouldn’t do them. One never knows unless one tries, and on this business the unique and different often rise quicker.
  • Minimise costs MET – Spent very little in the way of meaningless expenditure from my earnings. Didn’t get as much put into my debt as I would have liked, though.
  • Maximise output MET – Burnt myself out badly on a couple of occasions. Have managed to prioritise pretty well between paid and non-paid work, though.
  • Maximise visibility MET – Given the line of work I’d say this was a success. Need to do more offline advertising.
  • Think big MET – Always tried to keep this in mind throughout the year especially at key times, i.e. Slick and Hunting Jack submission, Edinburgh Book Festival, Muse Conference.

Download Full and Detailed GDR Review for 2008.

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About Colin Galbraith

Thriller author, music fan, St Mirren fan, fluff chucker, rabbit tamer, outstanding fake faller. Loves cannoli.
This entry was posted in Day Job, Edinburgh, Family, Film & TV, Food, Drink and Bevvy, Glasgow, Reading, Scotland, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Catch-Up and GDR Full Review of 2008

  1. You’ve had a great year and made wonderful progress. 2009 will be wonderful!

  2. Brenda says:

    Your accomplishments and reflection on 2008 will be a great foundation for 2009. Congrats on a great and productive year.

    What do you mean you CAN’T drive? I thought everyone could drive! Have a great NEW YEAR. At least you don’t have to worry about getting a DUI (driving under the influence). We call ’em “deweys” on over here.

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