Writing and editing can be a torturous process and many sentences and ideas get left on the cutting-room floor as a book is crafted then polished. I edited every day while penning Moristoun then spent a year re-writing the first draft so some big changes were made along the way.
For instance, Moristoun didn't originally begin in Buchan's office on the island as the first draft started with McSorely going through the anguish of his insomia. I changed this around in the rewrite as I wanted to start off in Moristoun itself and try to reel readers in with the mystery of the place.
To give readers an idea of the writing process, I've included two bits which didn't make the final draft of Moristoun. Hopefully I made the right call to leave them out. Let me know what you think.
The chapter where McSorely reaches his lowest ebb originally had a different start. I rewrote it for the second draft because it just didn't sit right with me. Here's the first effort in all its awkward glory....
McSorely lifted his head from the crater it had created in the pillow and took another glance towards the alarm clock on his bedside table. Deprived of his glasses, craning his neck to the right was an exercise in futility as all he could make out was a red blur breaking the darkness.
But it had become almost a reflex action, as if his body somehow believed its most disruptive disability would be cured between each depressing check on the passing of time. The cumbersome routine that inevitably followed - stretching an arm out of the duvet's soothing sanctuary to snatch the alarm clock and bring it close enough for sharper optical recognition - was slightly less predictable. Greater variety was provided by the cornucopia of items joining the alarm clock atop the bedside table.
Would it be the half-eaten packet of Lockets that McSorely's arm would send spinning to the floor this time? Or would the remote for his stereo suffer the indignity of its second successive tumble? Maybe McSorely's hand would even tip the bedside lamp arse over tit before finally reaching its intended target? All of these eventualities would have been given decent odds had William Hills opened a book on the matter but on this occasion the gods were smiling on McSorely as he managed to reel in the alarm clock without suffering any minor catastrophes.
The meagre joy this small triumph elicited was soon washed away by the news it was only 4.33am, revealing that just one hour and 15 minutes had passed since McSorely's last fumble in the darkness. Thus the insomniac sank into an even deeper despair. He couldn't take much more of this; he had to end it all soon.
A Coatbridge too far
I came up with far too many things for McSorely to do on his final day in Scotland before taking his own life. It almost became a book in itself so it was the obvious target for editing when I went back through the first draft. I originally wrote a section where McSorely returns to his hometown of Coatbridge to give him more of a backstory but it wasn't really relevant to the book so I got rid of it completely and took him straight to the casino instead. Here it is if you want to learn more about our Albion Rovers diehard...
Sarah's theory passed its first acid test inside the limo as the driver, an amiable 50-year-old who introduced himself as Sam, jumped to the conclusion that McSorely was heading for an important business meeting.
"Right sir, where are we off to?" he asked. "One of the big hotels in the city centre? That's the kind of suit that means business."
But McSorely shot down all of Sam's preconceptions as he revealed their first destination. "Coatbridge!" said the driver in disbelief as he tried in vain to hold back a laugh. "What in God's name do you want to go there for?"
"Sentimental reasons. I'm leaving Scotland tomorrow and just want one last look at my hometown."
"OK, you're the boss – Coatbridge it is," said Sam as he started the engine and pulled away, leaving behind both the kerb and the deference that McSorely's suit had initially inspired. "You should have told me you came from there when you were making the booking. I could have put a bottle of Buckie in the fridge alongside your complimentary champagne."
"I'm one step ahead of you," replied McSorely as he pulled a half-bottle out of his inside pocket and waved it in the air so Sam could see in his rear-view mirror. "It wouldn't be a trip to the Bridge if I didn't have a wee swig of the wine, would it?"
As McSorely turned his lips purple by taking a slug from the bottle, Sam seized the chance to quiz him about the journey he was making tomorrow. Had McSorely already demolished the half bottle of Buckfast over breakfast, he probably would have opened up and told the driver he had an imminent date with his maker.
However, alcohol had still to demolish his emotional barriers, so McSorely opted for another lie and told Sam he was a lottery winner about to join Monaco's millionaire row. "Nice one," was Sam's response. "How much did you win then?"
If you're going to lie you might as well do it in style, so McSorely dived deep into the waters of deceit and claimed he was the mystery winner of Friday's £23million Euro jackpot. "Bloody hell! I've got a celebrity in the back," said Sam, whose surprise was matched only by the joy of discovering the biggest tip of his career was tantalisingly within reach. He could only thank God for the fact his gag about the Buckfast was taken in a far better spirit than the one that filled the bottle in his client's hand.
"I don't know if celebrity is the right word," said McSorely. "I told the lottery people I didn't want any publicity. I hope you can keep a secret, Sam."
"Oh, you don't need to worry about me, son. I've seen plenty of things in the back of my limo that could have landed people in big trouble but I've always kept my counsel."
Sam certainly didn't keep his mouth shut, however, when it came to advising McSorely on what to do with his vast fortune and the driver spent the duration of their trip to Coatbridge running through his own fantasy shopping list.
He did it with such enthusiasm and passion that McSorely sincerely hoped Sam's own lucky numbers came up one day, enabling him to move from the front seat of a limo to the back. There was a refreshing lack of envy to his words, something of a surprise given he spent every working day watching people throw money down the drain on expensive cheap thrills, and McSorely felt ashamed that his own dour demeanour betrayed a lack of excitement about his fictional windfall.
He tried his best to muster some enthusiasm as the limo rolled into Coatbridge and he directed Sam towards his old family home on Kildonan Street. McSorely didn't have many happy memories from his 30 years of existence but the few precious specks of light that did peek out from the stormy skies emanated from this location. Sam pulled over on the opposite side of the road next to Dunbeth Park and McSorely gazed across at the football pitches as he stepped out of the car.
He had wiled away many an hour on that hallowed turf in childhood games contested every bit as fiercely as a World Cup Final between Israel and Palestine but it was the gentle kickabouts with Freddy he cherished the most. Both of their lives were so filled with hope in those days - before Freddy's was cruelly cut short and McSorely's began its downward spiral. A new generation of kids was now basking in the warmth of their lengthy summer sabbatical but McSorely couldn't help but wonder which of the carefree boys chasing the ball about were also destined for tragedy.
Would that ginger waif running past player after player end up inserting a heroin syringe into his cultured left peg? Were the keeper's skilled hands destined to prise open doors and windows then wrap themselves around plasma tellies and DVD players? And would the big defender use the aggression that served him so well on the park to terrorise his future spouse and children? All of these thoughts ate away at McSorely until he could stand it no longer and turned to face his old house.
Twelve years had passed since McSorely closed the door behind him for the last time and fled to Glasgow to escape his demons but the exterior of the house looked exactly the same. The only thing that betrayed the thought his dad was still inside watching some obscure lower-league game from England on Sky was the fact a caravan now sat in the driveway. It was hard to imagine his parents ever investing in one of those monstrosities as sending them on holiday together in such a confined space was certain to end in a double homicide.
McSorely heard plenty of blazing rows during his 18 years behind those walls but the fiery relationship between his parents never once descended into violence as his father would always storm off to the pub before his hands did something his heart would eternally regret. That same heart would eventually send them both to an early grave by packing out on the B804 - a fitting end, perhaps, given the calorie-laden meals McSorely's mother served up every night.
The accident tore a hole in McSorely's own heart and introduced him to the unwanted acquaintance who would make his life such a misery – insomnia. 23 Kildonan St was transformed from a happy childhood sanctuary into a haunted house, with memories of his parents and Freddy lurking in every nook and cranny, and McSorely turned into the resident zombie. Sleep deserted him when he needed it most and each day felt like a week as dark psychological clouds conjured a relentless thunderstorm.
All he could think about was the loneliness that now enveloped him and McSorely became a hermit at the age when nearly all of his peers were wallowing in the glory of being able to flash bona-fide identification in the faces of the suited gorillas who took great pleasure in blocking their path into licensed premises. Friends tried their best to free McSorely from the house arrest depression had placed him under but each chap on the front door met with silence.
The trickle of visitors soon dried up and it was hard to blame the pupils of St Andrew's sixth form for abandoning the orphan in their midst. Passing the exams that could determine the happiness of their own future was far more important than providing an emotional crutch for the crippled McSorely.
One pupil never stopped coming back to the door of 23 Kildonan Street, though, and that was the one person McSorely could always rely on, Brian Hughes. He understood the need for solitude and silence in times of extreme crisis and refused to bombard his fragile friend with telephone calls and text messages. Most visitors used McSorely's letterbox to shout platitudes to the prisoner inside but Brian put it to far more traditional use and merely dropped supportive letters on to the welcome mat.
He ended each composition with the words "call me when you are ready" and McSorely eventually did just that after 13 days of solitary confinement that had decimated his mother's stocks of frozen food and tinned soup. Brian slowly helped his broken best friend piece his life back together but the one thing that remained shattered was McSorely's ability to mount a defence against the rapacious onslaught of his insomnia. Sleep remained a distant dream in the ghostly silence of a house once filled with the laughs, shouts, insults and tears of bustling family life.
He was left with no other option, he had to move. The flit to Glasgow had the desired effect and McSorely savoured his triumphant return to slumberland. It was to be but a temporary reprieve, however, and he now looked at the house with the cold, dead eyes of an insomniac yet again. How foolish he had been to believe moving 20 miles down the road would allow him to leave the past behind and start a new life unburdened by emotional baggage. Even if he was heading for Monaco tomorrow with £23million in his back pocket, as his driver believed, there would be no escape.
The ghosts of Coatbridge and his ill-fated engagement would haunt McSorely for the rest of his life. The only escape he could see was bringing that life to an end. As tears started to fill McSorely's eyes, he realised returning to Coatbridge and Kildonan Street was a massive mistake. This was supposed to be a day of indulgence and titillation yet he had wasted an hour of it dragging his feet over the hot coals of his painful past.
There was still plenty of time to make amends, though, so McSorely wiped his tears away, stepped back into the limo and instructed Sam to return to Glasgow.
"What's next on the agenda then, chief?" said Sam. "How are you going to top our trip to glamorous Coatbridge? Lunch at Greggs in Castlemilk?"
"Charming as that sounds, I think it's time for a bit of extravagance, Sam. Take me to that casino on Glassford Street."
"Are you sure that's a good idea, son? I don't want you to blow all of that £23million on the roulette table."