U is for Umpteen

Madamebovary487

Manuscript of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary

Number 21 in The A to Z of the Writer’s Affliction, part of the A to Z blogging challenge.

Umpteen. That’s the number of revisions, drafts, deletions and tweaks before you finally decide to say it’s finished. Ah, that first sentence! So vital, as Sydney Lushpile reminds us, therefore revised more umpteen times than any other. Only yesterday, I was speaking to Arnold Pogostik about it. And he’s kindly allowed us a glimpse into the process that led to the first sentence of The Incredibly Cruel Creepy-Crawly That Kidnapped Kate.

The ladybird which alighted on Kate’s fair-skinned hand as she stood on the balcony that fine spring morning appeared to be inoffensive.

Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, never would have thought that a ladybird could be anything other than a ladybird.

‘Ah, how sweet!’ thought the wife of the future king, little suspecting what calamaties lay ahead.

A ladybird, while seemingly pretty and harmless, is nonetheless a creepy-crawly, and should be viewed with distrust.

On the distant planet of Xylbaaal, the creepy-crawlies waited for news from their envoy, Lysandra Ladybird.

It was 9.14 on a fine spring morning when a strange encounter occurred between a duchess and a ladybird.

Etcetera, etcetera, until one hour and twenty-two minutes later, Arnold settled on the opening sentence which satisfied him:

The ladybird which alighted on Kate’s fair-skinned hand as she stood on the balcony that fine spring morning appeared to be inoffensive.