Creative Writing

When Prevarication Bites: A Cautionary Tale

This is the sad little story of what happens when you let prevarication get in the way of a good story and my unerring ability to do so right up to a deadline.

The day went something like this:

5:30am Plott dog does his very best to convince me it’s time to get up. When his up close and personal dog-breath in your face routine doesn’t work, he resorts to flatulence. It still doesn’t work.

8:00am Massive oversleep – I finally get up dazed and groggy headed.

8:30am Quick hike along the tow-path of the Trent-Mersey canal. Detour to see the myriad of newly hatched ducklings scooting around on the River Trent – everybody say Aaaah.

9:30am Two miles later Plott dog is pleading for respite having been dragged along on a 7 miler the day before. It’s blisteringly hot already and I decide he’s right.

9:32am We meet a rather bouncy spaniel on the loose which bounds up to Plott dog and, in the way of dogs the world over, immediately sticks its nose up his behind.  Affronted, Plott Dog decides he wants to tear it limb from limb. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time he’s taken against Spaniels in a most alarming way; Plott dog, it seems has a “thing” about Spaniels. Had it been a Jack Russell, he would probably have let it carry on.

9:35am Manage to disengage Plott dog from Spaniel. Owner gets a bit snippy but in the spirit of all things warm and fuzzy— it being Easter— I refrain from pointing out we have leash laws for a reason.

9:45am Thoughts turn to my story, or rather the lack thereof.  I have a midnight deadline  for Round 3 of the Whittaker and a collection of disjointed, somewhat ethereal thoughts. What I don’t have is a single coherent sentence or anything resembling an outline—not even an itsy-bitsy wafer thin one.

11:00am The sun continued to shine and I now have what I think is a brilliant, grab you by the throat opening. I don’t have anything which even in my wildest dreams would amount to a middle and an end, much less a plot. Maybe caffeine can fix it.

11:15am Caffeine does nothing to help. I stare at the textured walls of my office. Finding no inspiration there, I spare a thought for the new owner of this house and hope they love Artex, or failing that, have a very good remedy for removing it.

12:30pm I scan through every writer’s prompt book I own in an increasingly desperate search for an idea.

2:30pm  More coffee. Now I’m wishing I’d not been so holier than thou about avoiding Easter chocolate.  There’s no time for a mercy dash to the gas station up the road—besides it’s too hot. In extremis even Plott dog’s canine choccy drops start to look good. I settle instead for a Marmite bar – yeah well, I’m a writer, I have imagination although, in the case of Marmite bars, possibly not enough.

 3:45pm I tell myself there’s plenty of time.

5:00pm I have something that may work, based on something somebody said to me at a party not long after came back from the States—but is it a story?

7:40pm A quick dash onto the internet to check something out takes longer than it should because pages are hanging and refusing to load. I remove my blistering in-your-face opening.

8:00pm Coffee. I tell myself there’s still plenty of time.  Quick gallop around a few blocks with Plott dog —enticing smells wafting from Pizzeria; there’s a half-hour wait for take-out. I decide my story can’t afford it.

8:30pm Internet still playing up—I run a diagnostic check on the system. Everything seems OK, there’s no time to mess with it. I’ll try later.

9:00pm I have a draft I’m happier with but the ending isn’t working. Hey there’s a surprise, me having problems with an ending. This is seriously not good.  I crashed and burned badly in round 2 on my ending and crawled in in joint-fifth with possibly my lowest score in a competition ever.

9:30pm My neck and shoulders have concretised  into a hump and I’m on what seems like my gazillionth coffee of the day. I print onto coloured paper. The ending still isn’t working but at least I’ve caught the more obvious grammatical howlers—I hope. I tweak the ending and scan through for continuity.  It makes sense to me but I’m really not sure the judge is going to get it. I format and print again, this time onto white paper. There’s a spelling mistake on the very first line an “an/and” typo that spell check wouldn’t pick up. I worry there may be more. I scan again word by word, line by line.

9:50pm It’s done, as good as it’s going to get and if I pick at it any longer I’m going to change something critical which will cause all sorts of problems.  I’m pinging off the walls from all this coffee.

10:00pm The browser is hanging…hanging…hanging. I check the wireless strength and the lights on the router.  The browser returns nothing. I switch from Chrome to IE – same result.  I wait anxiously. My Gmail starts to open but it’s about as fast as molasses in winter.

10:05pm I write my submission email and attach the file. I watch the progress bar—it doesn’t make any. I try again. Now the page won’t reload and it keeps telling me I’m timed out. I try to figure out my options while re-booting my system —just in case.

10:50pm I try my phone – same problem with wireless. I switch the wireless off and miraculously, for where I live, it picks up the 3g network. Thank you, God.  It’s never done that before while I’ve lived here. I’m in a dead spot and normally have no connectivity without the wifi on.

11:15pm Using Safari on my phone I log in and send a frantic message to the TWI forum while haranguing myself for not  getting my act together and getting the story done and submitted earlier.

11:17pm  I’m still trying to get Gmail to load on my laptop. The administrator responds. I can submit via private message directly onto the site. Now all I’ve got to do is figure is how to get the formatted story file from my laptop to my phone. I have GoodReader on my phone. If I were to switch my phone back to wireless I could zap it straight from the laptop to my phone as a Word.doc then email over 3G. It’s worth a try.

11:20pm But what if the problem is with my laptop wifi card? Can’t be, I tell myself I haven’t got time to worry.  The minutes are ticking by faster than I want to think about. I open up the app and then a browser. I type in the IP address—will if find it….will it…YES!!!!!!

11:23pm the file transfers seamlessly to my phone. I ask the app to email it. It opens my email, but can’t open my address book.  I kill the app and switch off the wifi again.  Still can’t open the address book.  Can I remember the submissions email? What if I try to and it’s not the right one? I have no choice but to go back on the TWI site via Safari  and check it.  My hands are shaking, I’m totally wired from the caffeine I’ve overdosed myself with and light-headed from the lack of a decent meal.

11:25pm I pull myself together. I have the right address. I hit send. Nothing happens. OK, I think —Plan B – Private Message direct to the site. I open the GoodReader file on my phone, copy and go back to Safari.  I paste it into the message. It takes what seems like forever to appear. I hit send. Then I wait. Did it really send or is it going to time out again?

11:26pm I wait. I can do no more now but pray that my story is winging its way through the ether to Canada.

11:28pm I realise how much I don’t want to give up on this competition.

11:34pm My phone pings to announce incoming email. Submission received.

02:00am I am still WIDE awake – so decide to occupy myself with a little packing for my forthcoming move…incidentally I have found these supermarket bags to be ideal for moving my books. This is part of the fiction section ready and waiting to go.  Did somebody say Kindle?


So there you have it, the moral of the story really doesn’t need a great deal of exposition does it?  There are only another 6 rounds to go. Hopefully I will not let prevarication get this close to biting me in the rear again—hopefully.