Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Goodbye to the Counterfeit Queen

Thanks to Dollen 

With great reluctance, I'm abandoning my children's fantasy, The Counterfeit Queen. It would have been the third story in a loosely-connected series. I love what I've written so far, and feel very loathe to abandon it, but I don't want to spend what's left of my life on a story I can't get to function properly. 

I'm abandoning what is now the third draft and the longest - so far. In this draft the story isn't even half over yet, and already it's longer than my three previous kids' books. This draft differs substantially from the two previous drafts, which both differed considerably from each other. That's not to say they weren't all telling the same basic story, but the hero became a heroine, three main characters (or was it four?) got whittled down to two, and innumerable scenes came and went. The villain lost her substantial magic power - which might have been a mistake - but to compensate she increased in cunning. The plot, by the time the third draft was in process, was increasingly complex, as was the world-building. The complexities required more complexity as I went along, until my poor little brain couldn't keep up anymore with the politics, a possible rebellion, hints of racism and dozens of other things. 

Worst of all, I'd never been able to persuade my usual co-writer to like the original idea of the story. This is my co-writer in the sense not that she writes any words but that she acts as sounding board, discussion maker, checker of plot-holes, suggester of wackier ideas than I often have, and a person with a sharp eye for inconsistencies. Without her assistance I've had to work even harder to overcome difficulties, and I think that in itself has been wearying. 

Not that the previous books we did together didn't have their complications. The third book we worked on, which wasn't part of the 'series,' was also written and rewritten, but at least it moved forward. This one has been like pushing one wall in a room outwards, one strenuous step at a time, which required the two adjoining walls to stretch further and further without breaking. 

That's not to say the writing didn't flow, and didn't continually bring up interesting details as it went along. The writing was enjoyable; the plotting and all the rest of it not so much. 

Incidentally, in a rough count of how many words were written in either drafts or notes for this book, it comes to around 260,000. Quite a few for a book that should have been around 30,000 to 40,000 words. 

So it's off to something new, something different altogether. In spite of reading what seems like endless books on the how to plot and how to construct and how to do this or that when it comes to writing, I think I'll stick to my mostly tried and true method of just starting to write and see where that takes me. I know this is the method used by plenty of good writers; some of them get the story functioning from early on; others, like me, usually have to write draft after draft along with copious notes before the finished product arrives. 

So it goes, to quote Kurt Vonnegut - who was also a writer of many drafts and a tendency to discover the story as he went along. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Ministry of Advice

 If I have a fatal flaw in my character it is an inability to pass by a piece of paper with words on it. I have to read it - even when the print is upside down. 

Consequently, I misread a missive the other day and thought that a new ministry had been created: the Ministry of Advice

The mind boggles (well, it would boggle if it knew how. Boggle is a variation of Bogle, I find, and an archaic version of Bogey. A bogey is a mischievous spirit, which may explain the loss of innumerable golf balls.) 

Anyway, one wonders what the Ministry of Advice would advise on, since the Department of Internal Affairs seems to be the place to get answers to legislative matters. Might the MOA, for instance, replace those agony columns in magazines? 

"Dear MOA, my boyfriend says my zits drive him crazy. He says he can't make up his mind which to squeeze first, them or me. What should I do?" Signed, Helpless and Confused. 

"Dear Helpless and Confused, we must first point out that no one in this nation should consider themselves helpless and confused. The sense of purpose and direction of this nation's leadership is such that it has taken the people from the doldrums of international debt to recovery in a matter of a decade, and now all citizens can be proud that they are part of a movement which will raise the level of opportunity, finance and welfare far above that experienced in any period since this country was colonised.

"Therefore, since his country cannot be classified as beyond help, no individual member of the nation can be classed as helpless. Confusion we find is a matter for the Ministry of Health, however, and we have referred the relevant section of your letter to them. 

"Boyfriend under the terms of the Act (section 205, paragraph 9a) is not only a relationship of degree that cannot make claims having no foundation in fact, it is a relationship that is not yet a relationship, as 'boyfriend' has no legal or legislative status. Therefore you are no obliged to take this person's statement as being in any way true for yourself. We would suggest you get a second opinion, one that will hold valid in a court of law. 

"Furthermore, we can find no mention in parliamentary proceedings to indicate that minute growths on the skin can cause any kind of delirium, dementia, derangement, lunacy, mania, or state of unsound mind. This would incline us to the conclusion that the 'zits' are not responsible for the state of your boyfriend's sanity, and we have thoughtfully passed on your letter to the Ministry of Women's Affairs, which is well able to deal with inaccuracies of thought, counterfactual opinions and specious solecisms by members of male sex. 

"It is our opinion that many persons in this country are in a state of indecision, and this in spite of the consistently straight-as-an-arrow approach to leadership our beloved leaders take. We admit some bewilderment therefore when you say that your male associate is unable to make up his mind regarding a certain process of compression. 

"From where we sit, at this point in time, with all things being equal, and considering all options, we believe that an undeviating procedure is the prerequisite in this particular case. Your acquaintance of the masculine gender should take pen and paper and, sitting at a desk, write out an order of attack. 

"Depending on the number of skin eruptions involved, he may have to work out at which point of the facial features he is going to begin. Only when he has dispensed with each outbreak, will he find it sensible to pass onto the next stage - embracing your person. However, stage one of the plan may take some time. We do not suggest you fret unnecessarily until it is completed. 

"We have enclosed a large number of Government-produced pamphlets showing how to occupy yourself during such a time. We hope these, and the advice contained above, will assist you with your request. 

"Yours sincerely…."

This was originally published on a now defunct site, Triond. 

Listless and listful

English lacks a number of what could be quite useful words, particularly in the suffix departments labelled, ‘ful’ and ‘less.’ (That’s ‘full’ to people in the USA.)

Just to take an example, think of the word, ‘wrongful.’  We use this in relation to a person being unjustly arrested. Surely the word should be ‘wrongless.’  If you’ve done nothing wrong, then how can your arrest be described as wrong-ful?

We think of certain kinds of marriage as ‘loveless.’ Why then don’t we call those marriages that last for 50 or 60 years – you know the Darby and Joan kind that get reported in the paper – as ‘loveful?’ What about the person who wins several prizes at once in Lotto? Isn’t he luckful? (If ever I have occasion to possess a Lotto ticket, I can always be described by the more familiar luckless.) 

And don’t we often wish politicians were more speechless than speechful, and would let us have a truthful earful? 

Isn’t it curious that we describe certain kinds of sunless rooms as airless, when in fact only a vacuum can be airless. All rooms are airful, though not all are sunful. 

One of the most commonly used adjectives is ‘awful,’ which is a shortened form of what used to be a word of great strength: ‘awe-full’, meaning full of awe. It would be far more accurate to describe most awful things these days by its opposite. We should be using that awkward little squashed down word, ‘awless.’  

Turning to another awless area of life, dentists must be pleased that we are toothful rather than toothless. Equally chiropodists should be pleased with footful people – even if they are wearing footless tights or fingerless gloves. (Actually haven’t you thought how much more couth it would be to give someone a fingerful rather than a fistful? Though I’m usually pretty fistless when it comes to such occasions.) 

I’m sure the peaceful would like to see a lot more hateless people around them, while most mothers would be grateful for willess children, rather than grateless and wilful ones (when you use the word ‘willess’ however, you can see why it’s never really made the grade. And should it be spelt with two ‘l’s or three?) 

Actually I was being truthless when I said I’d made a lengthy study of this matter. These endful curiosities first distracted me in the middle of listening one morning at church to an otherwise interesting sermon. 

It was there that I saw that we’ve managed to retain some twin words. Even in our less than Godful society we still have sinful and sinless, faithful and faithless, graceful and graceless, joyful and joyless, fearful and fearless. 

How come all these kept their opposites, when lustful has no lustless, or topless no topful, or bottomless no bottomful? (The mind boggles.) 

I guess they were successful instead of successless. 

PS.   Thanks for my daughter’s listful help. 

This was originally published on a now defunct site, Triond.