Sunday, 29 July 2012

Literary Aerobatics: They Ain’t Big, and They Ain’t Clever…

There I was, flying; my WIP coming on a treat. With structure, characters, scenes and plot all fully operational, I was working on about the fourth (and hopefully final) rewrite. This was the move which concentrated on getting the delivery sown up; size of loop, degree of spin, angle of flick and so on. After this one last flight of witty wordplay, all I had left were minor edits.

So yes, there I was, flying along; soaring through the skies of literary genius around about chapter 13… when all of a sudden I had engine failure.

Something was wrong!

I pulled hard on the joystick, stood on my tail and went into a vertical climb attempting more and more brilliant bookish banter. And of course I loved it because basically, I thought it was so clever. Hell, I thought I was so clever.

"The worst English I have ever
encountered," said Orville Wright,
co-pilot and chocolate labrador
“Well Mrs, it’s too clever by half,” warned my literary critic of a co-pilot. “And totally out of place in this story.”

That’s when I remembered my last blog posting. Point 7. “Showing Off … knowing something really clever and in great detail is no reason to include it in a story. Nobody likes being lectured to. You can make your writing way more powerful and readable by putting complex ideas into simple language.”

Oo-errr, that’s me, I thought. That’s what I’m doing. It was at that point I went into a nosedive and started plummeting towards the ground at ten thousand feet per minute.

The inclination to be even cleverer had hold of my joystick and it was hard not to give in to Mrs Smart Arse. But I knew that if I persisted, and wrote something which didn’t fit in with the rest of my story, I was going to end up with my literary genius splattered across the earth below.

If I was going to save this novel, and if I was going to save myself, I was going to have to use the ejector seat!!!

And so, in a nosedive, I had a cup of tea, ate some toast and piled all my clever brilliant and frankly genius writings onto that seat, and plucked up the courage to hit the button.


Goodbye forever. I cried a few tears and stripped my chapter down to basics.

And do you know what? Suddenly, I felt lighter. I felt the wind beneath my wings. I saw the ground moving further away…. I was up again. Flying….

Charles Lindbergh dressed as a dog
The moral of this tale – clever crap is not good for you. If you are stumbling repeatedly over a scene, it probably shouldn’t be there. No matter how clever it is.


  1. Ah, poor Wendy! But it's brilliant that you managed to spot a duff bit before it led you down a blind alley. I'm about to embark on a rewrite of my WIP, so I will keep my eyes out for incidences of Roger Irrelevant and Mrs. Smart Arse, thanks to your post.

    1. "Yes, well me and blind alleys seem to be getting quite well acquainted lately."

      "Oh ignore her - she has the middle of manuscript blues. Nothing she does will feel good enough until she reaches about chapter 20..."

      "Hey, don't talk about me as if I wasn't there."

      Good luck with your rewrite. (Roger Irrelevant sounds like a nice guy.)


    2. I looked at my manuscript this morning, on day one of the rewrite, and was gripped by blind panic. What I had thought would be a neat, if fiddly job now looks like a mammoth undertaking. But a journey of a thousand miles and all that...

  2. Yes. Great post. I think the fear I experience while dithering about what's wrong, whether to rewrite and, the worst part, the fear of letting go, scrapping all that hard work... actually disappears once I've been brave, scrapped it and commenced rewriting. As you say, very freeing.

    Had to do this recently. Not a case of Research & Knowledge TMI, more approaching WiP/pov the wrong way. And the more I wrote, the more uncomfortable I was with it. It was a relief to let go. And rewrite. Hope you enjoy it again now.

    1. You hit the nail on the head there; "the fear of letting go, scrapping all that hard work..." That, and an unhealthy dose of ego!

      Love what you said in your tweet about letting the heart get back in charge. That's what I am aiming for now. Thanks so much for comments :) xxx


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