Taking stock, as we head into November and the last working month before we pack up our house and head out of town on our farewell South African road-trip before Canada, I realise this has been a year of writing: first, a 50 page paper, with Ian Scott, on higher education in South Africa, about to be published by the World Bank; next, six months of research resulting in a 150 page report which I presented, successfully, to the Engineering Council’s Strategic Advisory Committee yesterday and which, I hope, will be published in a variety of guises in the coming months; and alongside all of this, the completion, about a week ago (I have hesitated to mention this, as if it is revealing too much, exposing more than I am ready or willing to) of the first draft of my novel – 58,000 words, in its current, raw, unedited form.

I have been re-reading the novel, over the past week, making a few notes and comments as I went, and today I got to the end of it, all 185 pages. And, I have to say, I think there is the essence of a novel there: there are dead patches, for sure, lame patches, awkward patches, and two middle chapters that I think could usefully be combined into one, shorter one – but, and this is the thing, right, I think the centre holds and I, my own most critical reader, found myself absorbed, engaged, and ready to go deeper, further. Hardening the prose, till it gleams; tightening the story, till it twangs, like a guitar string.

There will be some re-reading on the plane, I think, as I fly out to Zurich and then Toronto in the middle of December; and three months, I plan, early in 2012, on a concentrated re-write. Perhaps, out of the cold of a Canadian winter, snowed in in a Toronto basement, I might yet forge an African summer.

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