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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Writing Advice. Basically, it's all about prunes...

Gather close on this wild, winding day... oh, except for you, you smell funny so you'd better sit at the back.  No, not bad, just funny, I'm thinking that cut-price aftershave might not actually have been Aramis that the label fell off, it just might be sheep dip.  But, on the plus side, you won't be getting Scroobie or Maggot-Damp this year, and you will be irresistible to entire flocks of Swaledales, so, you know, swings and roundabouts.
Don't fancy yours much...

Why am I asking you to gather close? Apart from the fact that it's cold and I haven't got my cardigan on and I'm hoping that the body heat from you all squishing up against me will keep me warm and any restraining orders which might ensue will have been worth it... Actually, I want you close because I am going to offer you Writerly Words.  I know I don't do this often, but that's mostly because I'm not very writerly, I'm mostly chaotic and it's just that as I fling my arms about randomly, sometimes books result.  But, at the moment, books are resulting quite a lot, and I am writing things, you know things, so I feel if not qualified, then at least bursting with things (other things you understand, not the things I am writing) and fit to offer some Writerly Words of Wisdom(ish).  And you all know that I tend to whisper these words, so I need you close, besides, I think it might be snowing out there and we all know that a huddle is the best defence against snow, don't we?

1.  Ideas are like prunes... Yes, they can be consumed straight away, if you absolutely must, but they are far better for a little marinading.  With ideas, marinade them in time...soaking for at least a few days, if not weeks, renders them tender and far more usable.  With prunes, I recommend brandy. Actually, you can marinade your ideas in brandy too, if you want to, it makes them all floppy and you tend to think that they've turned out brilliantly, although in reality, all you've really got is some little brown things and a lot of juice.

2.  Your finished manuscript is the opposite of a prune.  It's more like a bar of very expensive chocolate.  You know, the sort you don't want to leave open because of people just breaking a bit off every now and again and eating while they are watching Eastenders, which is a crying shame because it costs like £10 per square and is definitely NOT to be consumed during soaps but rather at the end of a delicious meal as a sort of petit fours or something.  This manuscript must, like the expensive chocolate, be hidden away.  Completely hidden, you don't want the dog to get at it and leave you nothing but the wrapper..(Kate Johnson once told me a traumatic story about her dog eating an entire box of expensive chocolates and it's had such a profound effect on me that I now find myself hiding bars of Cadbury on inaccessible shelves).  Leave your manuscript in that hidden place for at least six weeks.  Like expensive chocolate, it is all the better for waiting.  Hopefully, you will have forgotten all about it by the time you rediscover it sitting there, all innocently, and can gobble it down in one sitting when nobody is looking. Probably they'll all be watching Eastenders, and wonder what you are doing sitting in a corner going 'mmmmmmmmmmmmmm'.  Unless you do that sort of thing all the time, of course.

3.  Edits are like...no, not prunes. Plums.  When you first get edits (or critique, any form of commentary on your manuscript, it's all much the same) you may well feel that they are bitter.  Well, if they are to be of any use, that is, critique that gushes about how marvellous and wonderful and thoroughly awe-inspiring your manuscript is are also like plums, but they are more like those over-ripe things that are no good for making jam or anything else, really.  There is not a lot you can do with them, except stare at them and wonder about wasps.  The ones that you get that start out 'I loved this'...but go on with 'but...', those are the ones that you can use to make really nice jam, or even just stew them with custard (she said, getting her metaphors mixed because of a deep and abiding love of stewed plums). Yes, these start out bitter and making your mouth go all cat's-bum, and you ignore them because they're far too green to do anything with.  Put these away too.  Only for a little while though, or you'll get wasps.  Then get them out.  They will be starting to turn purple, and you may find a bit of sweetness in there.  Put them away for a little bit longer, and I guarantee, when you get them out they will be juicy and you will be able to use them to your heart's content.
Your book and your edits. No, I'm not totally mad.  Honestly. All right, maybe a bit.


4 comments:

Carol Hedges said...

I love prunes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Great blog. Funnily enough with one of those strange synchronisitic thingies, we are both blogging about food . Yours is much tastier though..

Janet Gover said...

when I was a child - my favourite thing in the whole world was really fresh bread with lashing of butter and plum jam... OK - maybe not my very favourite thing - that was my pony.

Just Another Bloke said...

Do your ideas go hard, dry and wrinkled if left too long??

John

Jane Lovering said...

I love prunes too Carol. And I read your blog..which, curiously ties in with Janet's comment about loving her pony... Mmmm, fresh bread and butter...and ponies...

And yes, John, if you ignore your ideas for too long they get all...constipated. For which the obvious solution is more prunes...