• EDITING EDITING

    Posted on September 10, 2014 by Rebecca in Rebecca's Book Blog.

    SOME people’s writing has such ease and fluency that it appears to have been written straight off the cuff without a moment’s thought – Roald Dahl and Hemingway for example.  If prose appears that way it probably means the absolute opposite and in fact hundreds of different attempts have been made to make the words work.  

    I’ve been trying to write a book about Tizzy the little witch and a magic potion bottle. I have written the whole thing several times over and I’m still not happy with it. But, it is getting better and better.  After each complete rewrite I put the story away to ‘compost’ and then the next time I look at it, it is usually clear what’s wrong with it.Here, are just some of my versions of the opening. I think they get better and better.  It’s not just editing that’s improving it though, it’s also knowing more about my characters so each one speaks with their own voice and has their own agenda.

    Effort 1 was really  just jotting down ideas. At that stage I was thinking of making it a story for very young readers:

    The Witch had made a potion. She gave it to Tizzy to mix up. It was a super duper potion and it was so strong that the cat couldn’t stop sneezing.

    The Witch laughed. ‘Never mind about the cat,’ she said. ‘It’s just so STRONG!’

    ‘What’s it for?’ Tizzy asked.

    ‘Never you mind,’ said the Witch. ‘When it reaches full stink you can bottle it.’

     

    This version was more about what was in the potion itself and what the witch had made it for.

     

    The witch had made a magic potion.

    A super duper whizz bang fizz pop magic potion.

    Tizzy had the job of mixing it in a great big pan. She had been stirring it for ages and she was bored.

    ‘Pooh! This stuff doesn’t half stink, Mum!’ she said. ‘Can I stop?’

                The witch was adjusting her black cloak and smiling at her ghastly reflection in the mirror. ‘Keep stirring!’ she said. ‘When it reaches full stink – that’s the time to stop.’ She chuckled. ‘If you think this smell is bad . . . just you wait. When it’s ready it will blow you away!’

    ‘What’s it for, anyway?’ Tizzy asked.

    ‘Never you mind,’ said the witch, putting on some navy blue lipstick. ‘It’s very special. I know I should stay until it’s done, but . . .’ she looked quickly at the clock, ‘but I’m late already. I have to get my hair done and my warts waxed and there’s things to buy . . . So, Tizzy, I trust you to finish it. When you can’t stand the pong for one more second, pour it into a potion bottle and leave it to cool.’

    ‘But Mum-’

     

    Effort number 3:

    The witch had made a magic potion.

    A super duper whizz bang fizz pop magic potion.

    It was Tizzy’s job to stir the potion in a great big pan. And she’d been stirring for ages.

    ‘I’ve been stirring for ages!’ Tizzy said. ‘Pooh!’ she added, making a disgusted face. ‘This stuff stinks, Mum!’

                      The witch was busy. She was smiling at her reflection in the mirror and adjusting her black cloak round her shoulders. ‘Keep stirring!’ she said. ‘Only stop when it reaches full stink.’ She chuckled. ‘If you think this smell is bad . . . POO! Just you wait. When it’s ready it will blow you away!’

    Tizzy peered into the pan.

    ‘What’s it for, anyway?’

    ‘Never you mind,’ said the witch, putting on some navy blue lipstick. ‘It’s very special. I should stay until it’s bottled, but . . .’ she looked quickly at the clock, ‘but I’m late already. I have to get my hair done and my warts waxed and there’s things to buy . . . So, Tizzy, I trust you to finish it. When you can’t stand the pong for one more second, pour it into a potion bottle and leave it to cool.’

    ‘But Mum-’

    ‘Sorry! Must dash!’ The witch jammed her hat over her scraggly hair and jumped astride her broomstick. ‘See you later.’ She flew through the open door and hurtled across the yard like a big black bird. As she skimmed over the wall she turned and shouted back over her shoulder:

    ‘Don’t take your eyes off it! It’s VERY, VERY strong!’

     

    And then the story grew longer and I think I turned a corner: 

     

    Deep in the forest there was once a small, crumpled cottage where Agatha Bloom the witch lived.  Agatha Bloom was not a nice witch. She never did anything very nice to anyone, even her daughter Tizzy. Their cottage was hidden by tall spooky trees and snatchy brambles.  Smoke from the chimney hung in the air around it, shielding it from any curious eye.

    On this particular day of this particular story, Agatha Bloom was making a magic potion.  Because she was making the potion it was not a nice potion. It was meant to cause trouble.

    ‘That potion,’ Agatha told Tizzy, ‘is a super duper whizz bang fizz pop humdinger of a Magic potion! So you keep your eyes on it, my girl. We don’t want any monkey business with this here potion.’

    ‘Ok, Ma.’ Tizzy was perched on a stool stirring the horrible glunky potion in a huge pan.  ‘Pooeee! This stuff really stinks, Ma!’ she said, wrinkling her nose.

    Agatha huffed in disdain. ‘Huff huff! That’s nothing,’ she said with a little shrug of her crooked shoulders.  ‘You wait. When it reaches full stink you’ll certainly know it.’ She cackled. Her laugh sounded like a pair of blunt scissors trying to laugh. The noise  made the cat Pushkin’s fur stand on end.  ‘When this stuff’s ready it will blow you into the sky!’

    ‘I’m not sure I want to be blown into the sky,’ Tizzy said, peering into the pan. ‘What’s it for, anyway, Ma?’ 

     

    And here is the most recent.  Do let me know if you think it’s getting better. I shared it with my splendid writing group the other day and they liked it. Always a good sign, thank you ladies.

     

    Deep in the forest there was a small, crumbling cottage where Agatha Bloom the witch lived.  Agatha Bloom was not a nice witch. She never did anything very nice for anyone, even for her daughter Tizzy. Or Pushkin the cat. She specialised in mean and nasty. Their cottage was hidden by tall spooky trees and snatchy brambles.  Smoke from the chimney hung in the air around it, shielding it from any curious eye.

         Agatha Bloom was making a magic potion.  Because she was making the potion it was a mean and nasty potion. It was meant to cause trouble.

          ‘That potion,’ Agatha told Tizzy, ‘is a

    super duper whizz bang fizz pop DIDDLE PLUM SQUISHOUS  humdinger of a Magic potion! So you keep your eyes on it, my girl. We don’t want any monkey business with this here potion.’

         ‘Ok, Ma.’ Tizzy was perched on a stool stirring the horrible glunky potion in a huge pan.  ‘Pooeee! This stuff really stinks, Ma!’ she said, wrinkling her nose.

         Agatha huffed in disdain. ‘Phuff phuff! That’s nothing,’ she said with a little shrug of her crooked shoulders.  ‘You wait. When it reaches full stink you’ll certainly know it.’ She cackled, which sounded like a pair of blunt rusty scissors trying to laugh. The hideous noise made Pushkin’s fur stand on end.  ‘When this stuff’s ready it will blow you into the sky!’ she crowed.

         ‘I’m not sure I want to be blown into the sky,’ Tizzy said, peering into the pan. ‘What’s it for, anyway, Ma?’ 

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