Further adventures in learning to write fiction with the Open University
How did you go about the rewrite and why?
Some copy editing errors and for someone not familiar with British history the significance of what takes place may have had no relevance. I fixed the inconsistency and wrote in an appropriate style a summary that establishes that the two characters are the Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII and HRH Edward, Prince of Wales age 68 and Arthur Minty, a comedian and household name age 64. The two met during the First War 1914-18 when they were 22 and 18 respectively.
What editorial criticisms did you reject and why?
I can keep, edit or rewrite anything – so why not give it all a shot and reserve judgment for later. In this instance I want someone to enjoy the story wherever they may be from in the world and whether or not they know some British history.
Did you agree with all of the recommendations? Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to cut an apparently successful aspect of a story because it jars with the rest of the story. It might be good but doesn’t fit.
The only issue I have with rewrites and editing is how quickly I can lose the sense of flow, or fear abandoning important chunks. It therefore becomes a matter of filing which I am dreadful at. I have numerous deposits for words online, and a couple of notebooks on the go – some of which I lose for months years.
What do you consider to be working well in the story?
The relationship between two friends who can never be rivals or get into conflict; it is where or from whom the conflict will come that is my problem now. I know who and where this is, from a nebulous lot known as ‘the establishment’. What staggers and pleases me is the serendipity of the research that suggests I am far closer to the true character of the non-fictional character, Edward, Prince of Wales. He was, as a young man, ‘physically courageous’ loving to steeplechase for example, and coming off once in days when hard hats were not worn. He itched to go into action on the front line like all other hot blooded young men of the time.
What in the story still needs work?
This point of conflict is crucial, but ‘the establishment’ is a cultural modus operandi, not a cult, but a sensibility felt by those with power and influence: aristocracy, lords, MPs, leading lawyers, journalists, academics and senior religious figures. Fictionalising the lot of them as the bad guys ala J K Rowling would be easier than having to work with the facts. Maybe I will have to invent a bogie man?
How did the editorial comments compare to your own earlier reflection on the story – the one you wrote in Being your own critic?
This was very interesting. And some of the same problems still apply. My confidence in the relationship between these two has grown: I am thinking of them as ‘Laurel and Hardy’, rather than ‘Ant and Dec’ or ’Morecombe and Wise’ – though herein lies a solution to my problem. What conflict have, or did such ‘acts’ face and how did the overcome the barriers to success, together or individually. Further research paints a far better picture of Edward, and his devotion and love to ‘Duch’ as I hear him call her in a 1968 interview. They are more Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton than we may think from impressions we have from news coverage.
The revised and developed piece now runs to 2,600 words and will eventually embrace another 60,000 words in due course using a variety of approaches I’ve experimented with courtesy of Start Writing Fiction. I happened to have to look at how to write jokes and found some lessons that are just as valid here: information is everything, the audience must know what you are talking about. I will therefore not take for granted that people around the world know anything about the British royal family, or the First World War. I fear losing track or losing the flow if I cut around, so will rewrite all the way through in this new style rather than cut and paste. i.e. remain closer to the experience a reader might have. My two characters have become a double act – so the conflict has to be one they face together and that is something I need to develop as a matter of urgency.