Meanwhile, the writer was determined to get to a reasonably high word count irrespective of what that meant for the quality of the story. She typed like the wind, except for the long gaps in which she was checking her phone, or making cups of tea, or yawning.
Sometimes she would go off on a tangent about how she was looking forward to having crumpets for tea when she ought to have been describing Amelia’s hat collection (which was vast, expensive and unexpected; not least because Amelia never wore hats, not even at weddings or funerals).
And when she ought to have been making subtle hints about the whereabouts of Chris’ mother, she was actually looking up forums about digital photography in the hope someone would be able to enlighten her on the best way to take a self portrait to go with one of several articles she was writing on the side.
In point of fact she was easily distracted, and far too susceptible to writing down random streams of consciousness in the body of a story just to make herself feel better about her gradually declining word counts.
This stuff about the shed vanishing out of the tree is not the fast paced story she was hoping her brain would produce. It’s a little bit silly, but it’s the boring side of silly, a little known place frequented mainly by people who try too hard. What would her heroes think if they read this far? Spike Milligan, Roald Dahl, and Madame Bovary would never suffer this sub-par stuff. Well, Madame Bovary might let it slide, but only because she’s fictional and more interested in getting her end away than children’s fiction. To be honest, she isn’t really one of the writer’s heroes at all, she’s a character in a book she once read.
Anyway, as the word count sits on the bottom left of the screen and painfully drags itself higher – 5417, 5418, 5419, all the way up to the dizzying heights of 5,430 – she wonders what to do about this shed, and the fact that there isn’t really much to this story at all.
Whether the thin plot is to become a problem hangs on the reading level she is writing for. On the blog she has proclaimed 8 to 10 year olds, but this is gloriously vague. Some people have suggested 8-10 year olds are still reading Horrid Henry, which the author had previously thought much younger than that. There again reading levels vary wildly, depending on whether or not the government has closed down their local library yet.
What was the author herself reading at that age? Flambards, she thinks, was something she read around that time. She only knows this because it was the subject of an argument on holiday in Yorkshire and she is fairly sure the holiday took place when she was nine or ten. It’s hard to remember for sure, because summer holidays in your childhood all kind of melt together when you get to the ripe old age of twenty five. Perhaps she should try and pull together a memoir of them all now, before she turns thirty and all that information is lost to her forever.
Is Snooky Jim’s vanishing shed a funny concept? She can’t tell, she is too close to it, even though it was only invented yseterday afternoon in a quiet spell at work. It might have potential, but so far she hasn’t written it well enough to unlock said potential. It feels like filler, a meandering description designed to fill up the page whilst she works out what it is she really wants to do with this story. The problem here is that she is tired, and has entered the part of this process that involves writing everything that comes into her head without thinking about it, so that when she goes back to the manuscript next year she thoroughly embarrasses herself and takes early retirement from writing and goes to work in middle management somewhere.
Although these characters have been hanging out at the back of her head for several years, she isn’t sure that she has introduced them very effectively. Perhaps she ought to begin further into the future of the story – maybe she should start off with Amelia and Chris trying to find Snooky Jim and the missing cats. Except surely when you’re writing for children they want some semblance of tradition; some form of introduction to the people they are reading about. All of those Harry Potter books started in the same way, introducing the characters, giving a brief summary just in case someone had accidentally picked up book three first and didn’t know anything about what had already transpired.
The author pauses a moment to consider Harry Potter. It is fair to say that so far, Amelia Trousers and Snooky Jim do not have such clout. But then, they aren’t supposed to. They are aimed at younger kids, who want to have a bit of a giggle, but can’t be bothered wading through a book as thick as their leg.
It is time to go back to the story.