Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sifting Through The Polyps By Odour, Texture, Gloopiness & Wibble

We’ve all heard of dangling modifiers, all made jokes about ladyboy dance troupes capable of swinging either way.*

* Why, some of us have even toured the shows, taken the tips.

If your WIP is full of these (and all the other bizarrely named horrors riddling the corpses of otherwise perfectly comprehensible writing manuals like buckshot up the backside of a life-threatening moose), then you can take heart that at very least you’re dealing with what Donald Rumsfeldt once described as “known knowns”.

The real problem lies with the unknown unknowns — those invisible obfuscating clouds that suck and spit unwanted moisture over the ink as it flows from your pen in such a way you don’t see you’re writing the opposite of what you think you’re writing. I realise this analogy doesn’t apply particularly well to the knick-knacks of the digital age, but if you lick your monitor/screen NOW, maybe you’ll experience analogy lite. If your webcam is on, it might even make a fun post for the weekend — My Chameleon Spirit Exorcism or Way To Go Barfing Basics. I’ve just tried it myself and that last sentence now reads like a lewd invitation to eat fourteen kilos of giraffe meat with Gloria Hunniford.** Anyhow, to summarise: unknown unknowns.

** Beats chopsticks...

And I’m not talking about grammar here. Or plot, pace, exfoliation — or even what has come to be known as “voice”.

I’m referring to that amorphous, blobby nothingstuff we*** get to work with most of the time that doesn’t truly exist till we start snorting it in plumes from our gushplunkles. But is it animal, vegetable, or mineral? High in H2O or tantalisingly short on polyunsaturated moodidoodads? Isn’t the problem that at the moment you’re forming yourself into a human conduit between its inherently nebulous pre-expunged zest and all those inflatable letters hung up in alphabetical order in your study/shed/lexirarium, it’s difficult to be certain whether the stuff you’re dealing with is possessed of precisely the same -ness as the stuff you worked with the day before — or worse still, the stuff you worked with a month ago, whose fully inflated letters, words, and paragraphs you’ve presumed to know enough about to begin EDITING?

*** By this, I mean writers. If you’re here looking for tips on plumbing or how to neuter aggressively oversexed bloodhounds, you are not my kind of “we”.

While I’m on the subject of exfoliation, btw, I’m pleased to report that as a result of being thoroughly wonderful prior to Valentines Day this year, I am now the proud owner of no less than four sachets of spectacularly gungy pro-beauty facial yumminess. It was originally five, but I used one last weekend, and I have to say that in addition to removing the somewhat dry top layer of my skin and revitalising the various other strata of derm, it made me look like a larval Sea Devil capable of making even Jon Pertwee’s hair stand on end (and if you’re not au fait with this particular reference, you may easily substitute the word “twat” without too much loss of meaning). This is not to confess that I’m any kind of advocate for excessively poncy male grooming, or even overpriced products cunningly marketed at imbeciles desirous of the same, but I do rather like having weird smelling stuff splattered all over my face, particularly if it takes a full twenty minutes and the smirk of pure joy to begin the process of chiselling it all off.

So, when you’re in mid-gushplunkle spurt, how can you tell what fits with what when you’re first starting out with a writing project? Whether you’re mining like seams — or the proverbial peas and carrots? Or — later on when it’s kind of apparent that everything you’ve written thus far in relation to a particular project lacks overall cohesiveness, or is a blend of many ingredients (each with the potential to blossom, with hindsight, into an obvious impurity capable of rendering all your endeavours null and void) — whether the squirming mass before you is simply an irretrievably formless gooage of drivel?

If you want my take on it, I haven’t the faintest idea.


Robin S. said...

First things first.

I do rather like having weird smelling stuff splattered all over my face, particularly if it takes a full twenty minutes and the smirk of pure joy to begin the process of chiselling it all off... This made my day.

Secondly, the only way I can edit is in a mad fit of thinking, havng some time absolutely alone - and doing a combo plan of reading my manuscript aloud and checking old notes to see if I 've dropped anything important. Then facing it when I see I need to take something out.

And I think the best way to know this, at least for me, besides having an astute and trusted reader tell ya (and then doubel-check them), is the reading aloud part, and then keeping a notebook handy when out walking or driving, and by the bed, to ctach the drifts where your brain is telling you what to do, editing-wise, but unless you catch it right when your brain is making the pronouncement, you are royally screwed, and won't think of these things again until right after you've sent your maunscript off to be judged as to whether it is or isn't publishable.

Hope that clears things up.

Scarlet Blue said...

But I do rather like having weird smelling stuff splattered all over my face...so do I...

Seriously though [and this is rare], I have spent the last 6 months trying to weld iron to wood. It doesn't work, they are two separate stories and the sooner I get my head around this the better.

Old Kitty said...


Oh it's all perhaps drivel or a euraka piece of utter genious but at least you come up smelling of crushed roses with newly exfoliated skin after you've used said male grooming products that I hope were dematologically tested but not on Mr Bunny Moppet or Ms Monkey Mona.

What goes round comes round. Tis Karma.

Take care

Whirlochre said...

There's been plenty of reading out loud going on, some of it which may make my dinky new tabs over the next few weeks...

Rest assured, if I had a blowtorch I'd lend it to you.

Old Kitty
If it's true that what goes around comes around, why is it always so smelly on the way back?

fairyhedgehog said...

Damn it, I was here for the plumbing tips.

If you want my take on it, I haven’t the faintest idea.

That's about where I'm at.

Phoenix said...

It's all kind of like beating egg whites and sugar by hand. You beat and you beat and you beat and you think it's never going anywhere, nothing's going to happen, why are you spending all this time and energy on something so obviously wrong, so obviously lame and limp and a soggy mess, and then --

-- and then, just when you're about to give up out of exhaustion or fear of carpal tunnel, it happens. At first, it's only a whispering of a happening, a hint of the glory to come. Then you blink, and it all comes together with a stiffening and perky peaks and an airy delight. Meringue.

Keep at it, Whirl. I've no doubt you're on your way to a beautiful meringue.

McKoala said...

I don't know what fits with what, but I do know that when my head hurts the characters don't fit in there any more and I have to let them out (the voices! the voices!). That's the start of a new project for me.

Kiersten White said...

Facial products aside, I was showing your voice off to my parents (who like you and refer to you as that "eye guy") and then I had to read the Bambi entry to them outloud and could barely read I was laughing so much.

As were they.

Really, your brain completely mystifies me. Delights, too, but mystifies all the same.

And frankly, bunny tail would NOT be a pleasant way to go. I'll never be able to watch that movie again.

Also, I think I'll make a habit of coming on the blog and commenting on some post you did weeks ago, because that's just conducive to a good conversation, now, isn't it?

Whirlochre said...

Shrubbery Mammal Fantastique
Commencing on Monday, I have 3-4 weeks of hardcore central heating and bathroom refit, so stick around.

Oh, meringue is where it's at, baby. It seems to have risen wonderfully. The trick now is not to burn it round the edges during its last few minutes in the oven.

Whaaaaaaaat? Waitaminute — you're capable of feeling pain?

Does that mean I'm officially endorsed by the Mom & Pop de la Momo Prime? That's exciting. Almost like being knighted. I shall don a tie today in their honour.

As for conversations in old comments trails, some here will know that they...happen. Geoff, too, has had many a secret bunker over the years. And occasionally, there are worm holes — though no-one has spotted any of these yet.

Meanwhile — I'll go and look for you now, just in case.

PS — now everyone has the pic, I'm surprised I've not morphed into "the nose guy". Bernita even thinks I have a dimple on my chin. Next time, I'm posting a photo of some killer sexy black dude with dreadlocks...

stacy said...

I feel the same way about editing, Whirl.

sylvia said...

dammit, it won't let me post my picture.

sylvia said...

So, what happens if I make it my profile?

sylvia said...

Maybe I'll just spam you to death instead.

Whirlochre said...

Glad to hear it. Or not.

Abysswinksback — the comments trail where you can chat amongst friends. Or to yourself. Or to my cat.

Anything goes...

Rufus said...

You hear that, Geoff? Like we need his permission to talk to you. Blooming cheek!

sylvia said...

My teenaged son walked into the office. "Mom, what are you doing?"

"I'm um, taking a photograph of myself licking someone's blog."

"Does Cliff know about this?"

Cliff looked up. (Note he was sitting next to me but failed to notice anything amiss until his name was mentioned.) "Know about what?"

"Mom is licking someone's blog."

"She is? Whose?"

"Whirlochre's," I said.

"Oh." He turned back to his computer, as if that explained everything.

"You are so embarrassing," said my son as he stalked out of the room.

I don't know if Kiersten's conversation with her parents was similar but now my family knows who you are, too.

fairyhedgehog said...

Sylvia, I'm so glad I'd finished my coffee before I read that comment.

Whirlochre said...

Oh, brilliant — I get it now.

I couldn't work out what was in the picture. For a moment I thought it was a notice board hung up on a venetian blind. Then I thought — is it a fridge?

How silly of me not to realise it was a monitor, with your good self licking it.

There may be a Blogger Award in this...

Whirlochre said...

Echoing Fairy — just been over and seen the full size version. That's not a monitor, it's a small planet. I think that's what foxed me. plus, on the smaller version, you can't see the tongue.

sylvia said...

You thought I was a fridge?!?

I knew I was going to regret that Haagen Dazs mini-cup last night, but really!

(Yes, I know you can't really see what's happening in the profile photograph but the other option was to post it to my Flickr account and yeah, no.)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oh my gosh! I popped over from Maybe Genius to say hello and congratulate you on your award, but I may die laughing before I find my way back! You rock! :-)

Whirlochre said...

You have my assurance that never for one moment have I ever, ever, EVER mistaken you for a fridge.

That said — shit hot taste in ice cream.

Whirlochre said...

Glad you've dropped by, and at risk of blowing my own hubris out of the end of some chance trumpet, maybe I'll concur with you about my rockness.

writtenwyrdd said...

I love the new look, Whirl. Is that really you in the headshot, or some random photo you've lifted off the interwebs?

Whirlochre said...

Believe it or not, it's Lou Ferrigno before he embarked on the crustacean-only diet that pumped his muscles up to the size of a furious mammoth's haemorrhoid.

Geoff said...

Is this despair, morbidity, or the relentless suck of the afterlife?

Either way, where's my Puss-o-Munch?

Phoenix said...

Well, darn. Sylvia's taken down her full-size tonguing and all I'm left with is the micro version that I can't make heads or tongues of. And she seems to have replaced her smiling profile pic with a pouty pic now. Everything's gone wonkers, but I guess wandering through Whirl's blog will do that to ya.

sylvia said...

Last night I became paranoid that I would post to some important agent blog and they would see me licking blogs and ... actually, I bet that's the best chance I've got of finding an agent. Maybe I should try it.

Meanwhile, I've hidden it here:


I'm trying to work out a "through the looking glass" style phrase that encapsulates a visit to Whirl's blog.

And yes, I own the biggest monitor in the whole wide world.

Whirlochre said...

Are you inseminating that I'm wonkers?

It doesn't exactly look good an a CV does it? On a par with dressing up as a soldier from the English Civil War and running around some field in the rain with a pike.

writtenwyrdd said...

"mammoth hemmoroids"??? I shall never be able to drool over a musclebound, steroid-enhanced bodybuilder again.