Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Guinea Pig Must Go by Lynda Waterhouse

Yesterday after four years of living together I took an axe to one of my ‘guinea pigs’. It was a deliberate wanton act on my part.
Don’t worry no actual guinea pigs were harmed by my actions. I am an animal lover. The guinea pigs I am referring to are my pet names for those sentences that you get ridiculously attached to when you are working on a story. The cute fluffy ones that are so self-consciously wordy that one day you know you are going to have to kill them off. And yet somehow they survive edit after edit defying all rules of grammar and decency.

They snuggle comfortably in a paragraph so I leave them be. I’ve got more important things to do, like resolving a plotline or reaching the end. Besides I’ve grown fond of them.  They remind me of a guinea pig from my childhood; a clever sentence that won me a gold star in primary school.
Doubts creep in. My fingers waver over the keyboard and it survives yet another draft. I am not ready to kill it yet. It’s a rubbish sentence but it means something to me. It triggers an image I still need to cling on to in order to move the story forward. Whenever I read it I see the northern seaside town called Whiterock created through the eyes of one of my characters.
The axe must fall on these ‘guinea pigs’
The air filled with spiteful sea gulls and dank smells.  Whiterock’s crumbling art deco sea front had lost its glamour like the face of an ageing celebrity whose botox was wearing off.
Reincarnated as:
Whiterock out of season was filled with spiteful sea gulls and dank smells.
Looking forward to seeing some of you at Cwig!


JO said...

The usual phrase of 'kill your darlings' always sounds far too 'lovey' to me. So the thought of chopping guinea pigs as a great image to hang onto next time I face a serious line edit.

Stroppy Author said...

What Jo said! Yes, axing guinea pigs has to be the new darling-slaughter. Just off to sharpen my axe....

Nick Green said...

Funny, I call them 'tent pegs'. They're the first pegs you put in when raising a tent, and enable you to get the rest of it up... but they are always the ones that are in the wrong place by the end.

Celia Rees said...

Cute guinea pig!

Celia Rees said...

Cute guinea pig!

Penny Dolan said...

Oooh that's a harsh phrase from you.

Maybe that's why they are all hiding in my WIP.

ps. Poor Olga da Polga will be terrified.

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Penny please assure Olga da Polga that I am a huge softie. The phrase was created in my mind years ago when faced with a paragraph about pet guinea pigs in story where they were never spoken of again and so they had to go!
When I find myself sharpening my axe I know I am coming to the end of the editing process.

Mr. Wickizer said...

Love the picture! May I use it?

Mr. Wickizer said...

Love the guinea "pigture." May I use it?

Mr. Wickizer said...

Love the "pigture." May I use it?