Monday, July 11, 2011


I have realized writing can be like trying to perform a juggling act while balancing on a wire high up in the big top. There is so much for a writer to try and keep track of: Is the plot moving forward quickly enough? Are the characters compelling? What about the setting? Add to this worries about grammar and vocabulary and I admit (for me) the urge to let loose with a primal scream becomes almost overwhelming.

The Plot Ball

Is it a good plot is the first question I ask myself; and then continue to ask over and over. Is it logical? Are there huge holes in the action? Is my solution reasonable or will it have people hurling my book (if it ever actually exists) across the room in well-earned frustration?

The Character Ball

Are all these characters real people? Do I understand why they do and say what they do? Are there too many of them; or (good grief) are there too few? Who gets the leading roles? Who's important but secondary? Who has bit parts? Then there's the issue of the names; not too similiar to each other but not too out-of -this world either. As a reader, I get bounced out of the story line when I have to spend 10 minutes wondering 'how on earth do you pronounce that?' There's also the character-arcs to remember; what are their individual journeys? How do they evolve as the plot progresses?

The Setting Ball

First off, does it matter where this story takes place? If it does, how much time do I need to spend describing it? This is often where I find my over-flowery sentences (which earn an eye-roll and the delete key).

The Grammar and Vocabulary Ball

This (for me) is the most frustrating part of the task. I am still learning American grammatical rules, which are quite different from the rules I learned here in Canada. I have a fairly extensive vocabulary but I don't want my manuscript to read like I've swallowed a dictionary.

Perhaps I was behind the door when the juggling gene was being handed out. There are days when I think I'm doing okay, but then there are days when I'm sure every one of those balls just went tumbling onto the ground. Welcome to being a writer!


  1. Exactly so. Some days I make myself crazy. Those balls hurt when they bounce off my head :)

  2. Elspeth - Juggling is really an appropriate analogy! And then there's the fact that they are all related. Plots are affected by characters, who are affected by what happens to them in the plot. And it's all affected by the setting. So not only are all the balls juggling, but they all juggle relative to each other. Reason #8 for which I forgive myself on THOSE DAYS. It's not easy to do this writing thing.

  3. Carol; They can leave a bruise, can't they?

    Margot; You make a very good point - each ball *does* affect the other. One gets misthrown and soon all you have is a mess.

  4. I sympathize with you on the grammar and vocabulary balls. I grew up in Mississippi (not in another country) and I still don't have a clue as to how to write a sentence without a fragment or "ain't" in it.

  5. 80sQueen; I'm sure you'll get adept with time - I have.

  6. Great post, Elspeth. Your analogy made me think of how I have described being an executive producer for film. I have likened it to those acts we used to see on variety shows where a juggler tried to keep plates spinning on rods and would have to run up and down a table to keep them all spinning. If one fell, they would all fall. For film development the plates represent the money people, the star, the distributor, the crew, etc. They are all so interdependent that they are like those plates that tumble if one falls.

  7. Maryann; I've never produced a film, but I have produced many, many plays. Spinning plates is an excellent analogy.


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