Caught any good characters recently?

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. Well, I did write something about one of my typical mad weeks, but it was for someone else (over on Emily Benet’s blog, if you’re keen).

The reason for lack of blogginess is that I’m in the middle of a self-editing course. It’s online for six weeks, meaning that we can all fit it around our lives and basically do as little or as much as we want.

I – being a bit of a swot – am loving it. I am so near the end of the first draft of my current novel, I can apply the weekly topics directly. A better book is already rising from the smoking remnants of some of my sentences.

Quite apart from learning the official stuff, I’m finding it fascinating to be in a group of people for so long, all working individually but with constant exchanges of ideas and suggestions. We are eleven students in all, with our two tutors (Debi Alper and Emma Darwin). It’s been over three years since I held down an office job. I had to interact with colleagues every day, for months. Years! Juggling writing and parenting and exploding laundry and animal husbandry is hectic, yes, but it uses very different skills from the regular ‘getting on with people’ ones.

A discovery: I find I have replaced ‘getting on with people’ with ‘character-fishing’.

I might be about to break a rule here. The rule that says ‘the first rule of online courses is that you don’t sneak about the people you meet on online courses’. (Is there a rule like that?) There are ten women and one man in our group. Ten of us are warmly supportive, intelligent, constructively critical. We welcome comments on our work and are taking this course solely to improve our work. We know this is hard. We have wobbles. But we are overcoming those wobbles and I know that ten of our books will be vastly better books because of these six weeks.

One is not. He (if I’m not giving too much away there) has already self-published the book we are all sitting around discussing. Under a female pseudonym. It’s the first in a series, and the second – also already self-published – has an attractive pink cover.

Ten of us write multiple-paragraph critiques on each other’s weekly homework. We delve in microscopic detail. We probe. We question. We laugh.

One of us writes six-word critiques of meaningless platitudes for the rest of us and refutes any suggestion that his own prose does not sparkle with wit, intelligence and pace. His male characters seem to disdain his female ones. He did not respond when I mentioned the Bechdel Test.

Now I’m aware he might just discover this blog. I have asked myself whether I would feel bad if he knew what I think? My answer is ‘no’, for several reasons. Firstly, the chance of him looking at anything other than his own writing is slim. Secondly, he wouldn’t recognise this description. Thirdly, I’ve told him already – perhaps not quite so bluntly – and he accepted it all as compliments.

There may be a late rewrite of my current WIP. There is one character I simply cannot leave out. My novel is sometimes farcical and tries to expose human foibles as we go blindly through each other’s lives.

He’ll fit right in.