A Jar of Pickled Walnuts

If you’re a writer I wonder if you go through the same process I do….which I am going to call the ‘Jar of Pickled Walnuts‘ process .

It’s nothing fancy, nothing clever, nothing new, and it’s probably known by a better term which I can’t put my finger on right now, but it’s the part of writing I think, on reflection, I enjoy the most.

Okay, I’ll give you an example. In the book for children I worked on in December/January there was a scene in which one of the characters, a slightly dotty, distracted ‘aunt’ , carries a jar of ‘something‘ around with her which she thinks is the telephone. And every now and then she hears the phone ring in the house and she tries to have a conversation using the ‘jar‘.

Originally this character fell into the cliche of being ‘old and dotty‘ but of course this has been done a zillion times and so I made a big effort to update her….consequently she is now a far younger ‘hip’ modern day aunt whose life is one big distraction in which nothing seems to ‘match up‘ hence the jar and the telephone.

She is a victim of modern day plague of ‘I must be doing something every second of the day or else I don’t exist‘…..in which nothing has her attention for more than a millisecond.

So, here comes the Jar of Pickled Walnuts.

This jar when I first quickly wrote it was a Jar of Marmalade, and remained so for several days as I pencilled in the rest of the book. Then on reflection I didn’t think Marmalade was good enough, or funny, in fact I thought it was pretty bland……so it then turned into a Jar of Mincemeat. Don’t ask me why I thought this was better, it just seemed reasonable. But it wasn’t right.

The Mincemeat lasted almost a week before it suddenly became A Jar of Pickled Walnuts, which I thought was quite funny, well, at least ‘odd’.

Now, how long this Jar of Pickled Walnuts will last is anyone’s guess, but by going through the book using this ‘updating’ process I have underlined at least 40 items, gags, that need to pass the Jar of Pickled Walnuts test. I can clearly see them. They are underlined in red pen……and I’m working on them right now. I’ve even made a list which I will carry around with me for the next week or so. I know, sad isn’t it?

I suspect the pickled walnuts will turn into something far funnier (hopefully) and by isolating each ‘thing’ in the story like this it does focus my mind…I know it’s just rewriting, but by giving it a ‘name‘ it helps remove it from the general rewrite and makes it more fun and less like work.




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One response to “A Jar of Pickled Walnuts”

  1. MishaBurnett says :

    I think pickled walnuts are pretty funny, actually. It’s close enough to something real that I kind of skimmed over it in the text, then did a mental doubletake and thought about it, and then laughed.

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