I have recently, as I think I said here a couple of weeks ago, been rewriting and revising and editing some pieces I wrote a while back. This has produced the usual share of ‘OMG! did I really write that?!’ moments, including the discovery that I had written words, phrases, and ‘young people’s terminology’ like that one. I never say OMG! and while I have no problem with it per se I’m not always sure using what sounds like contemporary slang works in most fiction. If it really IS contemporary it will age and be forgotten by the time of publication and being read, modern slang is that ephemeral. On the other hand if it has stood the test of time to be universally understood it is usually already too old to reflect contemporary ‘yoof’ speak. And using ‘yoof’ itself shows how dated I am.
So the Flashing Blade having flashed and slashed – I never did watch that all the way through. The Flashing Blade was a French adventure story set in the Seventeenth Century serialised in 12×22 minute episodes on BBC every year during the school summer holidays in the 60s and 70s. I didn’t know how many episodes there were at the time as I watched the first two or three then some ‘real life’ event would break the train and that was that. Apparently it was originally made for transmission in France in 4×75 minute episodes which may tell us something about relative attention spans in the UK and France. Perhaps that is why French diplomats always out negotiate the Brits? Seventy five minute chunks of the War of Mantuan Succession as a child probably sets you up for all night diplomacy a lot better than five minutes of the Woodentops. Just a thought.
Which may be why I kept coming across versions of an unfinished short story I had begun during Covid. At the beginning when we thought it would all be over by Easter, never mind Christmas, I remember people setting up challenges to write about what it might be like post Covid. I wrote a few I remember, and even put a spoof cabinet meeting of one of the petty English statelets which might have emerged from the ashes had things really degenerated to the Black Death proportions some were predicting.https://gfarrish.wordpress.com/2020/04/20/2026-keep-safe-yeah/
But I also wrote some more sombre pieces and started one almost post apocalyptic short story for which I had really high hopes. And looking at it, I still do, but on closer inspection I seem to have written myself into a blind alley without any GPS, Ordnance Survey Landranger or even a tatty old AtoZ to get me out again.
I found the last version saved in March this year. Other editions stretch back to June 2021 and there were notes, ideas and cuttings from each version stuffed at the end of manuscripts or collected in a rag bag file. And then I realised that tucked away was the original draft idea from – June 2020. This has been at ‘maturing’ for some time.
On a quick read through of the latest save, c6,000 words, I felt that it was almost finished and I could easily knock out the ending in a week, leave it aside for a week and tidy it up in a few days after that. It isn’t working out like that. I’ve tried just writing an ending to where I’d got to in March. I’ve tried going back to each version I can find and writing on from there. You would have thought that would allow me to avoid the road to the dead end that appears to be signposted after about 3,000 words. But no, whichever path I follow I seem to end up at or near the point when the ending on the horizon appears telegraphed, twee, clunky and frankly unbelievable.
I’ve tried wrestling it away from there. Killing off secondary protagonists. Changing tack. The problem is, it is almost as if I subconsciously had the idea of the unsatisfactory ending in mind when I set the whole situation up. The awful thought is dawning that it just doesn’t work. Yet I love the initial situation as I’ve established it and I like the writing (vanity!) but I think I am just going to have to tear it up and see what if anything falls out. I think it is that or abandon the whole thing. It’s already taken up more time than it warrants I suspect, but some things just hang around. I remember a story about a young man finding some reel to reel audio tapes hidden in his fiancée’s attic which revealed the chequered and unknown history of her late father. This developed in my head as I used to go on country walks, around the time of the tenth showing of the Flashing Blade series in the early seventies. I never bothered to write it down. Well you don’t at that age. But it’s still there knocking around my head. So that’s what? Fifty? No it can’t be? But it is. Years ago. Suddenly two years waiting for an ending doesn’t seem so bad.