Clearing the decks

Over the last few days, I’ve had a good think about the story I’m at present writing… I started in about January and was soon underway and the narrative was racing ahead; all was flowing well and I’d been working at it off an on while editing another book. However I was a bit taken aback when I was checking it, tallying the wordcount etc, and suddenly realised I was 4/5 through the expected length of it.

There were so many plot lines which need to be tied up that I ran the risk of completely missing the mark, losing my readers, and it was just going to be too long. It gradually began to dawn on me that I’d over reached myself, and I felt a bit overwhelmed. Actually, I felt utterly stranded, marooned in a sea of words. Was I just flogging a dead horse? Had I written so much for so long – especially with the long novel I’ve just finished – was I actually flaked out?

When I read it through some of it was fine, but to be honest, if I stepped back, stood off from it, some of it was just rubbish, junk, bilge – if anyone still uses that word! I felt a bit adrift actually, in my heart I knew it needed a complete overhaul; I could see that some of it, if not quite first rate, was ok, but some of it was just flimsy flannel!

I fiddled about taking little odd bits out here and there (I do overwrite! I get carried away with something in my head and go off on another tack and before I know it there’s a thousand words I don’t need!) I was getting a bit frustrated, and to be honest I was beginning to feel I hadn’t a clue where to go next with it! There were so many loose ends! The story was just drifting! I was feeling a bit despondent, and to quote ‘Groovy kind of love’ by the Mindbenders (remember them?), I was ‘feeling a little blue…’ How could I get over this… what could I do?

Suddenly I saw in a moment of clarity that a story line had to go! I excised it, and pasted it into a new document to keep for another time… and then last night, I realised that another story line was supernumerary… it too was cut out and saved. Suddenly, my dramatic action had put a new slant on things, and I felt ready to get cracking, ready to attack the keyboard again! With new found energy, powered by coffee, I set to work and suddenly I was forging ahead, the words were flying onto the page/screen!!

As I was getting showered this morning, I was thinking about this, and the expression, ‘cleared the decks‘ which  originally came from sailors literally clearing the decks. Just yesterday I was listening to the radio and in a news item, nothing to do with the sea or sailing, the presenter used two nautical expressions, ‘calm before the storm‘, and ‘on an even keel‘.

I’ve thought this before, but it’s amazing how many words and phrases we still use in everyday English, and many of us don’t even realise they come from our maritime heritage. There are some words which come from hundreds of years ago and wouldn’t have any bearing at all on boats, ships and the navy now… ‘bearing on’ that must originate from being on ships and using a compass!

Here is just a selection of phrases we use everyday – I’ve taken them from a longer list from a great site to do with the sea and our maritime history:

  • Take someone down a peg or two
  • Three sheets to the wind
  • Take the wind out of someone’s sails.
  • Touch and go
  • Try a new tack
  • Under the weather
  • Under way
  • Weather the storm
  • Whole nine yards
  • Windfall
  • Zigzag/ zigzagged

If you haven’t read my novels yet, here is a link:

… and here is the interesting site about our long association with the sea:

By the way… If you’re interested, I’ve actually used lots of naval/maritime slang in my first few paragraphs… Watch this space to find out which are which!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.