Consideration of ‘Shed’

When I  go back to edit – having found that I can go no further until I do – I am clarifying for myself the situation I have set up.

I clear away unnecessary junk, and by doing that, begin to be able to see where my protagonist is, who he or she is.

And I begin to see the setting that this person is working in or running through, or fighting in.

I begin to see things that I haven’t noticed before – most especially discrepancies.  Winter is coming on (I took out a reference to winter coming on) – but how far through autumn is the character in the setting?  There is a noise – is it a cricket chirruping (I took out a reference to an insect chirruping) – is it spring, after all?  Or is it a bird flapping away from the scene?

The character is alone – I read somewhere that you are throwing away opportunities – of speech and engagement – if you have your character alone – better to set up the character with someone else.

But I feel strongly that the character in this story (or beginning of a story) should be alone – from that, maybe more menace is created.

But I know that the character – yes, she will need to meet someone else at some point.

Who could that be?

Also, though, by taking note of which details I discard and which I keep – I try to discard some, and then add them in again upon reading – I begin to see which snippets of description, for instance, will finally add to the plot – this character wore a fine-wool blanket that she used as a cloak – did it matter that it was fine-wool?  She wrapped herself in her cloak, then.  No. The fine-wool, along with the cheese and the few strips of meat – suggestive of a natural way of life, but with some technologies maybe still available; therefore, maybe other technologies lost.

It’s a way of building up the story – and there are also metaphorical considerations of ‘fine-wool’.



She came across a ramshackle shed.  One corner of it still had some roof – it looked serviceable for a night.  It was already getting dark.

The shed should be an outbuilding of a house.  She scouted around, keeping to the bushes where she could, and found a stream.

All was quiet.

She drank from the stream, filled her bottle.

There was something that could almost have been a path leading upwards through trees.  She went up it – climbing over a denuded area at the last, feeling horribly exposed, but stopping every few seconds, looking out from where she was, and seeing nothing – and no one.

She reached the high point, looked around a landscape that was largely wooded.

She could see no house, and no evidence of where one could be – no clearing, or roof-top.

There was a road, though, in the distance.  Roads led somewhere.  She took note of its location from where the shed was.

She went back to the shed, crouched into the corner of it, wrapping herself around in the fine-wool blanket that she used as a cloak.  She nibbled the last of the cheese, and the crust of bread, kept the few strips of meat.

She slept.

When she woke, she was stiff and cramped.  It was cold.

There was no sound but for the croaking of some bird – that stopped with a flutter of wings the minute she moved.

She went down to the stream again and drank.  Her bottle was still full.

She made her way to where she knew the road was.



All Names are Pseudonyms

Six in the morning, Floribunda noticed.  There was some noise outside – yesterday, she had seen one of the bad lads riding a quad bike again – maybe the noise was that.  Or – it was Monday morning – maybe this was an early start for someone in a car – maybe letting it rev over.

She wondered where she was – her mood was not exactly as it had been.

She was pretty much down, to say it was her good time of year – even the extra darkness was getting to her.

She had put Imprisoned1 aside – it had been getting on her nerves too much – you didn’t have to read the books – you could just read what Gigi said about them, re-iterate that, and that would do.

Except that it wouldn’t.

This thing about literary criticism had always got to her, and got to her more and more towards the end of her time at the university – what was the point of it?  Give a reading of something.  Say why you agreed or disagreed with other readings – except that she never really did that – and that was why she got on the wrong side with the Castle – it was that they had demanded.  To them, progress was made through that method.  To Floribunda – it was a knockout-contest that approached no truth.

Oh, it was okay as a discipline – she could see that – but she didn’t want to partake.  It turned out that it wasn’t exactly to her taste – which was why she was having trouble with Gigi now.

This was where she was – still working out all that – what went wrong with her and the Castle, or the Castle and her (she was okay – it was them – it wasn’t as though she had nothing to offer in place of what they’d wanted) – and, at the time, she had known what the trouble was – but she hadn’t been able to articulate it – and – at one time, she became ashamed of her use of that word (as being too posh) in relation to that, but it was the right one – and, you know how it is – if you can’t articulate something, it isn’t fully there.  She knew what she meant by this, though she could see that it sounded contradictory – it was there, but seemed not to be.

And that was precisely where that whole thing linked in with her past – and why she was so much feeling down just lately – the past was impinging again.  Maybe – just maybe – she was going through particularly painful stuff at the moment, and so she had chosen (maybe) this good time to begin looking at it – maybe she wouldn’t be strong enough at other times – yes, there was a mechanical noise out there of some sort – she’d never have kept on sleeping through that.

The past was there – her past was always there, in one way or another –

But she was telling it – she was telling it.

And now – she was getting over that a lot more – because she was remembering it and acknowledging it – but the reasons for not remembering it and acknowledging it – this was difficult for her to try to think – it was a two-edged sword – but then, of course, her past was a two-edged sword –

That thought was straining her – she’d go back to what she had been thinking (of course she would because that was it, as well) –

She felt pulled up – she felt as though she should be apologising or something – she was getting more and more into tangles.

But – she was gradually opening out, and she couldn’t expect to just – sail through it – but that was a phrase her mother would have used…

1  Imprisoned: A Study into Facets of Women’s Existence Through History: a Literary Disclosure, Second Edition, HH Gigi, Castle Press, London, 2010

Let’s Just Get This Clear (and I’m sticking my neck out in doing so)

When I didn’t do first drafts – that belongs to a particular historical period (when I was doing my Humanities degree as a mature student – in the 90s), and it related to the doing of essays and academic work (there was a dissertation).

Previous to this – I’d spent my time doing fiction.

I came from an ordinary working class home – there were books around, but these tended to be passed on to other members of the family.

I wasn’t even of the middle class – arena – (I didn’t want to say ‘fraternity’).

I hadn’t read the classics, only those we did at school.

And – I did draft after draft – I was a novelist – I completed maybe two of them – I’d get so far, and then feel so thoroughly lost that I felt I had to go back to the beginning – try to find where I was up to and how I’d got there.

It didn’t exactly work because I’d find things I could say here, or I went off in a direction there, and the story (novel) would end up somewhere else entirely, and a great tail of stuff hanging on at the end – when I’d found bits to add, they were often somewhere in the middle, and what came after – it no longer applied.

I suppose this is why I’m still interested in the ‘plot it all out’ camp as well as the ‘let it come’ camp.

But – whatever I attempt to do – I can’t keep going, relentless – I have to go back.

However, once I got into doing the degree (I thought I’d do the degree through the week, and my own writing at the weekend – ha!) – I didn’t have time – I said this before.  I worked piece-meal with an essay – read and read, took notes, took notes of notes – but found a thread somewhere – began there – went from there to where I felt was best – no, not best – I went where was insistent.  It was all feeling, rather than plan.

I began to work this way from a certain point when I figured that the degree was mine.  I used to say I was doing so-and-so’s essay – wrong – the essays were mine – they did not belong to whichever tutor had set them.

And – the course was so pressured that there was no time to do more than – start off with an essay and get to the end of it.

I have handed in essays, portfolios – even the dissertation – that – I produced by feeling in that way – and then I didn’t have time to even read it over – the deadline was there.



Yeah – I know – I said I didn’t do first drafts (‘Barbarity’) – and then I have a story with a date on it of a ‘first draft’ (‘Retail Therapy’).


I might have been playing.

I may have been concerned, at that time of writing, as to what was happening to my first drafts.

Maybe ‘first draft’ was just a label.

Maybe I artificially gave myself a first draft.


Retail therapy

[First Draft 14/05/2012.  Revised 29/02/2016.  Done Again 12/10/2016.  Gone Back to it 2/12/2016]

“We’ve got everything,” she said.  “Let’s go.”

He made no move.

“I was thinking of that hole in the bathroom vinyl,” he said.  “It’s unhygienic.”

“Unhygienic?” she said.  “It’s not even a fingernail-width across!”

“I mean, someone might fall over it.”

She sighed.  “I can’t see anyone tripping on such a tiny hole.  Let’s go.”

“If someone was in those thin heels…”

She could have retorted that ‘those thin heels’ were no longer in fashion—but were they?  What would she know?  And hadn’t she seen someone in them, recently?  They seemed to come in, and out, of fashion like…

She said, “The floor in there is so bumpy to start off with, we could do with figuring out how we’d level it, before we did anything else—”

“I was thinking of that underlay you can get for between floor and vinyl.”

“I didn’t know such a thing existed,” she said.

But, now he’d mentioned it, something like cushion-flooring came to her mind.

“Let’s look,” he said.

Honestly, talk about retail therapy.

He used to joke about it.

She would go along with it, when they had the money, thinking that he was happy to be treating her, thinking he was referring to her when he mentioned retail therapy.

But, over recent months, when money had once again become tight, she had come to realise that when he mentioned ‘retail therapy’, he wasn’t referring to her at all—she had just been his excuse, all along.

No.  He meant himself.  He had a thing about spending.

It was something in his psychology, she could see now.

He not only liked to spend money—he needed to.

“Okay,” she said, “but then we really should get going—I still have the cooking to do.”

They wandered up and down aisles in the store, him pushing the laden trolley.

They found the ‘bathrooms’ section, but meandered out of it again when they couldn’t find what he was looking for.

They tried the ‘kitchens’ department, but there was nothing there he was interested in.

At last, in ‘floor coverings and carpets’, he found it.

“Here,” he said.  “This is it.”

She picked up the pack he pointed at.

Behind clear plastic packaging she could see white floss sheeting.

It was thin, and web-like.

It was called ‘carpet interlining’.

It had no substance to it at all.

“It’s for carpets,” she said.  “Come on, let’s go.”

“If we just…” he said, moving ahead, looking from one side to the other of aisle after aisle.

She trailed behind, wondering how much they could afford for a take-away.



No—sorry—I can’t work out a whole plot-plan before I begin, story-arc and so on.

I tried doing character studies—you know—where you end up knowing more about an individual character than ever appears upon the page.

I did a writing class once—yes, another one—I did it to earn brownie points to get mental-health inexperts off my back—but I was also genuinely interested—it was about fairy-tale.

And—the woman who ran it—a planner.

I’ve got nothing against planners—some people can work no other way—but this person had it all down to the nth detail—her teaching, that is (yes, I know—I tried teaching—was it three times? or maybe twice…couldn’t do it…godawful job…and so I had some sympathy…I do try to be fair…after all, it’s not raining—haaa…(long laugh).

Yes, poor soul, she had to keep control of it all—so much so that we students couldn’t get a word in edgeways—

She told and told and told us what we were going to do.

I couldn’t, though—because I don’t write from the outside, from a thought-out plan, as she was advocating—I write from the inside—from what is already there (I garden in the same way).

I couldn’t come up with the goods.

I couldn’t write at all.

She misinterpreted me (as far as I was concerned) every which way.

She could not see where I was, or what I was doing.

I know.  I’m a grown-up person now (some of me) and you can’t expect everyone to understand you.

But I wasn’t going to bow down to such—barbarity.

I couldn’t, anyway.

I met her since, and she seemed to think I was—an enemy—she still didn’t see where I was, though I could see her—almost clearly.

I’d thought I wouldn’t be able to hand in work for that class.

I didn’t care anyway—the class was about working towards a degree, and I already had a degree.  I don’t know why I handed the stuff in, in the end.

What I did let her see—the essay (she wanted us to show her what we had, early, so she could direct it), she didn’t like much anyway; she’d give me a B, she said.

Unless I changed it—treated what I had sweat blood for—as a first draft.

I was still in degree-mode at that time, though I’d left university quite a few years before—and I didn’t do first drafts.

I didn’t work that way.

But this woman…



We had words.

As I say—I wasn’t going to hand-in (or submit, isn’t it called?)—but I already had something of a—what could be construed as a ‘character study’—you could hand in a character study, if you wanted, and I had nothing new—in the fiction department—

Oh—that was it—since I could produce nothing new from that course—fiction (I had the bloody essay)—I thought I may as well take the opportunity of testing out some of the writing that I did have—with this audience—the rest of the class—we would have sessions on our own, sometimes, where the teacher sloped off—

It was weird this stuff that I thought I’d let these people look at.

Even I could see it was weird.

And I couldn’t categorize it—it certainly wasn’t genre.


Isn’t ‘literary’ just another genre?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Well—they liked it.

Previous to this, they had me down as a rebel.

And then they thought my writing might be…

But I ramble on…

I handed in the character study, and some of the weird stuff, and the essay, unalteredand all I can say is—thank goodness for the second marker…


Yeah—sure—if I find that character study—yeah—why not—I might include it—

Just don’t expect it to be pretty.