U is for Umpteen

Madamebovary487

Manuscript of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

Number 21 in The A to Z of the Writer’s Affliction, part of the A to Z blogging challenge.

Umpteen. That’s the number of revisions, drafts, deletions and tweaks before you finally decide to say it’s finished. Ah, that first sentence! So vital, as Sydney Lushpile reminds us, therefore revised more umpteen times than any other. Only yesterday, I was speaking to Arnold Pogostik about it. And he’s kindly allowed us a glimpse into the process that led to the first sentence of The Incredibly Cruel Creepy-Crawly That Kidnapped Kate.

The ladybird which alighted on Kate’s fair-skinned hand as she stood on the balcony that fine spring morning appeared to be inoffensive.

Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, never would have thought that a ladybird could be anything other than a ladybird.

‘Ah, how sweet!’ thought the wife of the future king, little suspecting what calamaties lay ahead.

A ladybird, while seemingly pretty and harmless, is nonetheless a creepy-crawly, and should be viewed with distrust.

On the distant planet of Xylbaaal, the creepy-crawlies waited for news from their envoy, Lysandra Ladybird.

It was 9.14 on a fine spring morning when a strange encounter occurred between a duchess and a ladybird.

Etcetera, etcetera, until one hour and twenty-two minutes later, Arnold settled on the opening sentence which satisfied him:

The ladybird which alighted on Kate’s fair-skinned hand as she stood on the balcony that fine spring morning appeared to be inoffensive.

 

 

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19 Comments

    • Ha, ha, yes! It’s often said that writing is rewriting – certainly no escape from it. In fact I find it varies enormously – some bits fall into place very quickly, while others have to be worried at endlessly, and then sometimes, after all that work, deleted. Good luck with number five!

  1. Goooood!!!!! Because of the “umpteens”… is why I CANNOT BE A WRITER!!!!! Never could I finish a story!!!!!… so… I read yours and otherwriters as good as you!!!

  2. I’ve had blog posts where (at least according to WP) I’ve made 20+ revisions before hitting publish, so I feel this, Curtis. I’m not sure if I’ll be a successful novelist or not, given that propensity. Sydney and Arnold are quite fun fellows; hope to see them {re}-appearing (again).

    • Well, I guess WP knows the figure – though maybe it was just a comma you added somewhere. It’s always difficult to know when to say it’s finished – it could be never-ending!

  3. Oh I can scribble away all day and end up saving only a few sentences.

    And WordPress revisions! The brief moment between the last placed photo/ period and the Publish Button, always ends up with me having to go back and cut and carve later.

    Enjoyed this post very much. Thank you. 📮

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