An Awfully Big Blog Adventure: Plumbing the depths: N M Browne

Teacher Or Plumber?

In a telling anology, N. M. Browne, author and 'creative writing teacher' describes the teaching/editing process as plumbing:

What I offer is the writer's equivalent of a plumber's quick intake of breath. I rub my chin and offer a diagnosis. 'You see ( insert student's name) what you've got here is the old overloaded sentence problem.' Pause while I look reassuring, scratch and seem to consider a tea break. 'Not a big job to fix. Take you an hour or two tops. You need to turn down your melodrama thermostat to 'cool' and bleed your radiators - lose a few of those adjectives. Your kind of plot will run smoother without them.' And of course the same problems crop up again and again. There's the pilot light problem when the story never fires up, the blocked pipe problem when every time the story gets going the student throws a a lump of description or exposition into the works and messes up the flow. There's the dodgy connection problem where the story set-up defies logic or starts in the wrong place and so on. When I look at it this way I see myself less as the fount of all wisdom - more of a woman with a story-spanner: not so much a teacher as word-plumber...