Weight watching for writers

Every now and then we like to call attention to blogs around the place that we like and that we think you’d like too. An Awfully Big Blog Adventure is a wonderful collaborative blog between a group of children and Young Adult authors. Do pop over there to see more gems, but here is one example of the kind of thing you’ll find. The author is Penny Dolan – more about her here and at the end of this blog.

If you haven’t come across it yet, you will: the problem of weight.

I don’t mean the thickening of the person known as Writer’s Bum. “New” writers can often be identified by their sylph-like figures and some “older” writers are rangy, athletic type because they intersperse their writing with gym sessions or six-mile runs. However, well-worn-in writers are usually distinguished by a certain roundness of physique, plus a space on their desks reserved for chocolate and drink.

No, the weight problem I am talking about is to do with writing, to do with keeping the manuscript moving in the right sort of shape. For example, my current Work in Progress has developed an over-weighty beginning that currently eases off into a very tiny tail. Structure wise, the WIP is like one of those big blobby tadpoles that will somehow vanish from the jar or a cartoon whale.

This may well be to do with the computer as tool. How can this be the fault of a bit of machinery?

Simple. Seeing something on screen is not the same process as flicking though the pages and carrying on from where you last put down your inky brass nib. Whenever I get the current WIP up on screen, the opening appears in all its sudden dreadfulness before my eyes.

Even if I resist and skim on swiftly for a few pages, it’s not long I spot something that urgently needs my attention. Yes, a word or phrase is shouting out at me from a chapter I’ve already done. Heavens, this plot of mine thickens but it does not blooming well lengthen. Well not hwere it should.

Of course, I could and I do print the manuscript out, even though I can’t help feeling that “printing it out” is a kind of honour granted when I feel the pages are good enough. When. More usually I print the WIP out whenever I get totally desperate about the structure so I can make notes and do the analysis and the breakdown – and go back to the beginning again.

I honestly do know I should move on, on, on. I should work on the section at the end where there are slight traces of the intended story, such as “Chapter 29: Something Really Interesting happens to Marmaduke & Leticia in Grizewold Alley. Or Does It????”

Those later chapters are the places that should be my destination Those thin ghostly apparitions are where I should be adding weight. The misty unidentifiable-as-yet regions are where I need to go with my word-grappling hook and my haversack of Dolan’s Essential Word Supply and Super-Bonding Glue.

So come on, people. Why don’t I? Why do I think “Better see to this little bit first”? It is a mystery.

Off to make myself some hot buttered toast and honey. At least that will go towards building a weightier end.

Penny Dolan’s current novel for older juniors, A BOY CALLED M.O.U.S.E has been praised for its excellent finale. You can read more about Penny here.

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  • I sympathise with this. I too often find it easier to keep on at the beginning than to work on later pages. I partly get round this by writing into a word processor called Jer’s Novel Writer, which opens at the point it was showing when last shut down. It also shows an outline so you can click on the end and jump straight there.