Tug o’war

In medieval times, they say, Good and Evil were pictured as a devil and an angel sitting on your shoulders whispering advice. That’s why you throw salt over your left shoulder, to blind the little devil.

I’m editing (still)  and I’ve got two voices whispering in my ears. They are not Good and Evil, but more like Imagination and Creativity on one side – and Logic and Analytical Reason on the other. I have to keep testing and refining what I am revising – as Scientific an enterprise as you could wish for – but I also need to generate new scenes on occasion. Cue Art – and the need to stick a gag in my Critical self’s gob.

Should my door be shut or open? (to use Stephen King’s metaphor) Tricky.

I need to come up with new material, to innovate, to avoid cliché – but at what point am I re-inventing the wheel? Is the accuracy and honesty of, say, a particular  image worth disrupting the flow of a paragraph for?

make it simple and easy to read, please the target readership , give them what they want


be true to yourself, use your own voice, the readers you are meant to have will love it that way


Who do I listen to?

The Princesses of Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason talk to Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster , illustrated by Jules Feiffer.  (I wish I had their advice.) 

I need other voices guiding me – external ones. I am aware of my own stubbornness, my (surprising-to-some) shyness and reticence in seeking help. Partly I feel embarrassed, ashamed that after years of teaching , and a Masters’ Degree in Creative Writing , I still don’t know how to write for children.

I have to squash my ego and seek advice. It’s the task that matters , not some day-dream of being An Author. And then comes the really important bit:

I must be discriminating in what I do with that guidance.


As my wonderful friend and musician colleague Pam Wedgwood said  the notes are only a guide. It’s up to me how I interpret them.

I need both passion to rise above the ordinary to keep me going – and commonsense coupled with humility to be thankful for those who have helped along the way. (SCBWI/Golden Egg pals – this means you.)

So I’m rather hoping by responding to both, I can figure out my own way. Something like having callers on both sides of the river telling me which way to steer – from their point of view.






Spring Clean

When I returned from my wonderfully stimulating and exhausting weekend in Frome at the Golden Egg Academy, I started work immediately – on preparing my house for bed-and-breakfast guests. I had a photo-shoot scheduled for Tuesday morning courtesy of Airbnb.

What, you might well ask, has that got to do with writing?

Mug shot courtesy of The Literary Gift Company

More than I thought at first.

One task was clearing out the clutter. Getting shot of the bits and bobs that got in the way so that the potential guests could see what they were getting easily. It needed to be clear and clean and suited to the people who liked that sort of thing.

Of course, it was hard to wang stuff out. I am temperamentally averse to disposal. Ideologically too – though handing stuff over to charity shops soothed those qualms. I had to get over some of my sentimentality and clingishness. I can’t say I have entirely triumphed – there are cupboards upstairs bursting with that-which-might-come-in-useful-one-day.

But I had to steel myself, to try and look at my rooms with a dispassionate eye. The tired and the sad had to go – because they got in the way of what I was trying to do. Likewise, I arranged things to make it look good in the photographs. There’s an element of the stage set here, the use of props to suggest the atmosphere I wish to convey – a little cynical, perhaps.

Some rather ‘placed’ tulips – for March.

You can see the parallel, I suspect.

The crucial, though not the only, learning point of my time at Imogen Cooper’s lovely house was identifying the core of my novel that would appeal to my intended readership. That is what I have to de-clutter. I need to strip away all the extraneous tat – and even the really lovely writing – that doesn’t make it clear, clean and suited to readers who like that sort of thing. I have to chuck out the verbal chintz.

To use an old Yorkshire expression, my novel needs a ‘good bottoming’ – it needs sorting out – or ‘fettling’ from the bottom up. And it’s no good being half-arsed about it (pun intended). I shall have give it a proper seeing-to.

Perhaps an exaggeration?

On with the metaphorical rubber gloves, then.

Chuck chuck chuck chuck chicken…

…lay a little egg for me.

Tomorrow finds me on a train to Frome in Dorset before I attend a Golden Egg Academy workshop on Saturday & Sunday. I’m making a day of it and intend to explore a wee bit. Changes of scenery can often lead to new inspirations – not that I’m short of anything to write about but a little prompt whilst between major works-in-progress keeps the creativity ticking over nicely.

I’ll be sharing accommodation with my www.seamagic.org pal Claudia Myatt – so an exchange of sea yarns will be going on, I suspect. It will be great fun to meet up with other writers for young people too – if nothing else, I will find that stimulating.

However the biggie is help sorting out the stack of tamboured muslin, talking gargoyles and civic corruption which is Georgiana & the Municipal Moon. I think you’d have to envisage my first draft as a cabin trunk jammed full of grubby little scene oddments, faded images of neo-Regency life, salt-stained maps of Selchester, the City-on-the-Sea, and the odd transcript of curious dialogue. It seems as if it should all fit together somehow – but I need some serious help putting my scrapbook together.

I am both nervous and thrilled to have Imogen Cooper take my story seriously. I want all the help I can get to make it work the best I can. There is a core, like the spine formed early on in an embryo that I can’t or won’t change, but otherwise: whatever it takes to tell the story.

To be continued…