Monday #406

We finished up our second Cunningham and Petrov story last week, and we are about to start work on the third which will take part during The Mountain of Adventure. I hope to start publishing it on Fridays in February to give us time to have a decent amount written first. Lately we’ve been finishing a chapter as late as Thursday night before a Friday morning publishing – and let me tell you, that’s not the best way to write a story!

My 2020 in books and Blyton


2020 Birthday and Christmas present round up

Alicia took it into her head to evolve a kind of demon-chant whenever she appeared or disappeared on the stage. She only thought of it a few minutes before rehearsal, and hadn’t time to tell Darrell or Sally, so she thought she would just introduce the weird little chant without warning.

And she did. She appeared with her sudden, surprising leaps, chanting eerily. ‘Oo-woo-la, woo-la, riminy-ree, oo-woo-la …’

Moira rapped loudly. The rehearsal stopped. ‘Alicia! What on earth’s that? It’s not in the script, as you very well know.’

Alicia causes chaos by suddenly ad-libbing lines for the pantomime in In the Fifth at Malory Towers. Later she threatens to quit the pantomime altogether, throwing Darrell into a panic as she can’t possibly rewrite all those scenes in three weeks!

This is a bit what it’s like writing fan fiction at the last-minute. Your characters suddenly try to go off in an entirely different direction, and you can’t let them because it would contradict what’s already been published and read!

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4 Responses to Monday #406

  1. Your enthusiasm for the subject never ceases to impress. I’m not entirely sure how you manage to write so much! I do, though, think you may be ignoring one of your own guidelines, as I’m sure I read somewhere on your site a piece of guidance for contributors, in regards to fiction, that they should finish the story before publishing it!

    If you write well, which I think you do, at some point the characters should take over, and should dictate the path of the story to you. If you are struggling for development of the storyline, things are not going as they should: a character must, to some degree, have a natural development, an inevitable development, just because he/she must act in accordance with the character traits you’ve previously established.

    Your latest post suggests you are fighting against this, and actually rejecting developments suggested by the characters. Re-writing earlier parts of a story is a natural part of the process, but it can’t occur if you are publishing parts of an unfinished tale. Ideas which suggest themselves in the course of the narrative should be embraced, not fought against! It is tough having to rewrite earlier bits of the tale, but it often makes for a better story.

    In Enid’s case, I suspect that she was a good enough writer to understand this, which is why the Five Find Outer novels are so strong, except for the last one. When she wrote ‘Banshee Towers’, she was simply writing-by-numbers: phoning it in, instead of writing it properly. The difference between actually writing a story before publishing it, and just bunging down on paper whatever comes to mind simply to meet a deadline, is the difference between ‘The Invisible Thief’ (a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie) and ‘Banshee Towers’ (a potboiler).


    • Fiona says:

      You’re right – I do break that rule and a lot of others too! I prefer contributors to have finished their stories mostly because otherwise I run the risk of publishing a few chapters and then them never sending me any more, which has happened a few times. At least I know I’ll finish a story.

      Normally I do listen to my characters and let them lead – only reigning them in now and again when the sections of ‘banter’ get too long and unwieldy. The difficulty with the Cunningham and Petrov stories are that they are fitting literally in the middle of an established story, so we have to stick to certain timelines/locations/events so that we don’t contradict the original books. So sometimes we work out what seems to be a reasonable storyline to fill in the gaps; write a certain amount and then find that actually it might have been better if we’d done things slightly differently. With Sea I was worried that we’d given Anatoly, Bentley and Thompson too long to spend searching and we were running the risk of making them look incompetent. If we hadn’t already published certain chapters I may have had the chief – I can’t recall his name right now – ignore Anatoly’s demands and delay them setting out for a few days. But it worked out OK in the end (I hope).


  2. I suppose you, as webmaster, do have the ultimate sanction of removing a serial story from the site, if the author doesn’t finish it. But I never get the feeling that you yourself are likely to run out of ideas: you have something of Enid Blyton about you, in that you seemingly have a capacity to write reams and reams and reams, as if you have no limits to your imagination.

    Yes, the story worked out fine in the end. I don’t reckon that a reader can have that sort of reaction: this isn’t a novel, its a serial in a real sense. You only post a bit at a time, so it might look like the characters were taking too long to get to their goal – to you – but because we only read a chapter, then come back to it a week later, if there was any delay we tend to not notice it — I didn’t notice it.

    Boy, if you think they were procrastinating, don’t read the Find Outers! There were a couple of novels that were half over and the kids were still bemoaning the fact that no mystery had come along. They were amusing themselves by sending Ern Goon on a wild goose chase up Christmas Hill, or recuperating from the ‘flu — your friend Pippa Stef had some harsh things to say about the one in which they all had ‘flu and had to stay in bed, when she reviewed it, because she thought nothing much was happening!


    • Fiona says:

      Yes – I could remove the incomplete stories but so far I’ve left them as some people don’t mind reading unfinished works.

      I have endless imagination, or so it seems, but unlike Enid if it plays out in my under-mind I then forget a lot of it by the time I sit down to commit it to the page. I have dozens of half-finished stories where I can’t seem to get past a certain point even if most of the rest is fairly clear.

      Your point about the perspective of the reader is interesting. I suppose my view of it is exacerbated by it taking much longer to write than to read. I also don’t imagine that many readers totted up the number of days the search took but I had a document open with the events of each day listed starting with train journey Bill and the children took to Scotland and ending with the sea-plane collecting them from the stricken boat. In the middle there seemed to be a long section where every day was ‘search x island, find nothing, search y island find tent…”


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