Sunday 6 February 2011

Guest Blogger Maureen Lynas: Happy New Competence!

Previously on Incompetence- The Series:

Episode One: Our very excited Lesser-spotted Red-faced Authors have hatched from their egg of unconscious incompetence and discovered a world in which they don't know what they don't know. Please Note : If you've just read the first episode and found no reference to the Lesser-spotted Red-faced Author blame my incompetence and lack of imagination at the time.

Episode Two: The fledgling authors discover just how enormous their incompetence is and they now know what it is that they don't know.

Such a lot to learn!

Such small heads!

Tantrums, feather pulling and flocking are observed until our Lesser-spotted Red-faced Authors reach the third stage in their development –

Episode Three - Conscious Competence!

The cry of the Lesser-spotted Red-faced Authors is now YAY! HOORAY! HURRAH!

They know what they know!

They know grammar, they know plots, they know structure, they know lots! They preen themselves, they display themselves, they cry to anyone who will listen, ‘I can write! I can write! I can write! I’m a writer!’ Please note ‘writer’ not author.

So with beaks full of dialogue, wings powered by imagination, and characters firmly gripped in their talons the Lesser-spotted Red-faced Authors flap their wings and take flight, heading for Far Away, the land of the Masked Agents, the Plumed Publishers and the Greater-spotted Authors, certain that now their time has come.

And as they fly, they write (such talent!) page after page of marvellous metaphors, seductive similes, catastrophic clauses, comic characters and practically perfect protagonists. They use every tool in the box. They write and fly, fly and write, for hours, weeks, days, months, possibly years. Writing, writing, writing, churning out - stuff.

And finally, exhausted, they land in the lair of the Plumed Publishers.

Let’s follow one particular Lesser-spotted, Red-faced Author who, once upon a time, arrived eager and chirpy into the lair of a particularly large Plumed Publisher.

‘Look, I can write!’ she cried, dropping a mountain of stuff at her feet.

The Plumed Publisher surveyed the mountain; pecked at the mountain, flicked over this page and that, clucked over: picture books, teen romance, magical realism, fantastical fantasy, a dystopian diatribe, POETRY!

‘My, you certainly can write, can’t you,’ said the Plumed Publisher, as she looked the Lesser-spotted, Red-faced Author right in the eyes, forcing her to focus. ‘But I don’t want that,’ flick, ‘Or that,’ flick, ‘Or that.’

‘Just tell me what to write and I’ll write it,’ said our chirpy little bird. Because now inside her head the cry had changed from, ‘Why won’t someone tell me how to write!’ to, ‘Why won’t someone tell me what to write!’

‘Can you do comedy?’ asked the Plumed Publisher. ‘I could do with a laugh.’

If you can't see the video, watch it here

‘Can I do comedy?’ thinks our particular Lesser-spotted Red-faced Author, flying home. ‘Of course I can do comedy! I CAN WRITE, CAN’T I!’

‘But do you want to do comedy?’ says a sneaky little voice in the back of our author’s tiny little head. ‘Wouldn’t you rather do something that explores the human psyche and has something to say that is relevant to the reader in 2011. But maybe not vampires. You should come up the next Harry Potter. You should come up with the next Philip Pullman. You should come up with an original twist or combination of genres. What about Bridget Jones meets Dracula. Or, The Famous Five meets the Triffids. Or, Elizabeth Bennett meets Zombies.’ (I know!)

Confused, our particular Lesser-spotted Red-faced Author now re-joins her flock as desperation sets in and they are all forced to land by the weight of indecision.

They join wings, cross their eyes and look deep inside their own heads in an effort to discover where their stories are hiding and they ask,

‘Why am I writing?’

‘Who am I writing for?’

‘Do I have anything to say worth listening to?’

And ... ‘What do I want my reader to feel, learn, experience? What do I want to feel, learn and experience?’

Of course, they ask many other questions like, ‘What’s for tea,’ but before they have a chance to groan, ‘Not scrambled eggs again!’ another very important question pops into their heads. This question is, ‘Will I enjoy finding out the answers to the other non tea-related questions?’

The lucky Lesser-spotted Red-faced Authors who answer, ‘Yes, I will enjoy finding out the answers to the other non tea-related questions,’ take off and soar through the air on flights of fancy, they bank and turn as the genre islands below catch their eye.

Having turned down the scrambled eggs they stop off for refuelling. They gobble up a pastry of popular prose. Scoff on a hearty meal of murder mysteries, and finish off with a tasty bite of horror. Wondering all the time, ‘Is this what I should be writing? Does the answer lie in what I love to scoff?’

Still confused and disoriented the Authors head back for home. Maybe, they think, the answer also lies in what they have already written. It is possible that somewhere in their mountain of stuff, is the answer.

It is, they believe, and they are determined to find it. And while they are searching, they begin to discover for themselves just what sort of a Lesser-spotted Red-faced author they really are.

Coming soon on Incompetent, The Series – Me? Competent? Am I? Wow! Really? Hey! Thanks!

Maureen Lynas is an ex-teacher and literacy consultant who believes that with a bit more work and a load more willpower, resolve, fortitude, doggedness, tenacity, persistence, diligence, grit and determination, she will eventually win a publishing deal for Boggarty Bog’s Tasty Teeth. Or Kissy Wissy. Or Hatty’s Splendiferous Hats. Or one of the many other stories in her ‘finished’ folder. Maureen is currently feeding her writing obsession by associating with members of SCBWI British Isles and has taken on the role of North East Regional Advisor. You can see Maureen’s reading scheme at the Action Words website


  1. Will there be a Mr. Darcy Zombie too?

    And does it matter that my eggs were fried, not scrambled and lunch, not tea?

  2. We had a lesser spotted author in the bog once. It didn't stay long.

    The climate messed with their clauses the damp diasbled their drama and their methaphors got mildew!undefic

  3. Mr Darcy the Zombie meets Bilbo - now there's a story, there's a ring of truth to it.

    Sorry about the eggs, if you ate any eggs at all then you will never be a Greater-spotted Author until you do penance.

    Hieronymus! You never ate a Lesser-spotted author! That's terrible.

  4. It was lunch time I was hungry,I ATE EGGS! SOB!

    Quick what's the penance?

  5. Love it! Or should I say tweet tweet..... but what is the difference between a 'writer' and an 'author'? Or do I have to wait until the next instalment to find out?

  6. George, you must sit on a log in a bog and be kind to a frog - for a whole day.

    Claudia, the difference is when you are a Lesser-spotted Author you are not worthy of the name Author (even though you are called a Lesser-spotted author - I never said I was logical, merely incompetent) because you have not been published. Even if you have a stack of books in your loft you will stutter over the word author and come out with writer.
    Also I would never call myself an Illustrious Illustrator, I am merely a Dipping Doodle-ator.


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