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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Life cycle of a story

You've heard it here before and from many other writing blogs too, that you should NEVER give up on a story. The Indoor Writer started writing short stories four years ago and keeps track of everything she's ever written and submitted. In her large green notebook story number 1 is 'The Butterfly Effect'. A comic tale of a teenage girl trying to outwit her mum's new boyfriend. It involves a diamond ring, a mobile phone, Maisy the pet cat and a smelly litter tray. The story was recently shortlisted in the GKBCinc International Crime Short Story competition and then last week made the final ten, of which all stories will be included in the forthcoming e-book. So it's finally reached the end of the story life cycle and will be published! Sadly, this probably means retirement for what has become a special favourite but at least it has fulfilled it's story destiny, as surely the only purpose of a story is to be read by others.

When the Indoor Writer decided to pursue writing as a serious venture this was the very first short story penned and the first ever submitted to competitions. It was shortlisted at least twice, hinting that it had potential, but had never been published. Until it's twelfth outing (and reincarnation, as the story has been edited/tweaked/pulled about each time it went out) when it made the shortlist for

Sometimes a story needs resting time in its chrysalis before it's ready to emerge in all its glory. Sometimes a story needs a serious amount of editing before it can be truly appreciated. I'm not saying which is the case for 'The Butterfly Effect', but today's take home message is keep recycling your stories as it may some time to find an appropriate home. Always be prepared to read, revise and re-work before submission. Hopefully, your stories will find a published home in less than twelve attempts!

Please share how many outings it took for one of your stories to get published. We'd love to know the numbers. Can you beat twelve?

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Fail better

I'm probably not the only writer to have Samuel Beckett's famous words propped above my desk: 

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." 

February seemed to be a black month of increasing failures. The significant one being a rejection from the BBC for my radio drama. As it was my first attempt, then I must take heed of Beckett and "Try again"! For the record I'm not a fan of the F-word, I prefer to think of 'getting things wrong' rather than failing, as we often learn the most valuable lessons from getting things wrong...

Earlier this week (3 March 2014) I heard a wonderful R4 programme coincidentally called "The value of failure". Here is a link to the episode on writing, where Irish Man-Booker award winning novelist (The Gathering), Anne Enright "considers her experiences of a writer's life - and of having her words judged by the world". I love how she starts by sharing her desire to get a tattoo declaring "200 words a day". Now that would be a goal! Because this would save her answering the most commonly asked question. 

Enright tells a wonderful story of Irish writer, Flann O'Brien (1911 - 1966), whose 2nd book 'The Third Policeman' was rejected by Longman's publishing house during WWII. He was so ashamed by this failure that he told his drinking mates that on driving to Donegal the pages of the book flew out of the car window and were lost forever. (Perhaps he didn't own a dog?) He kept the manuscript hidden in the sideboard for the rest of his life. After his death it was discovered by his wife and finally published. Enright suggested O'Brien was "saving face by getting a laugh out of his failure". We have to remember that this was in the days when one rejection was sufficient to bury a book forever ...

Throughout the programme Enright shares some gems of her own about writing. Here are a few I jotted down:
"The book you're writing is not the final book. The final book's the one you'll re-write many many times. The one you're working on any given day is the inferior version - a failed book. The perfect book, the one you have in your head, can never be approached - you'll never hold it in your hands."

"If you're at your desk then your muse knows where to find you. I don't do inspiration, just work and hope for the best."
[Thankfully, my muse seems to find me even if I'm out swimming, walking or eating teacakes with Wendy]

and finally ... "If it's a book written for the right reasons and with enough skill then it will find its home and its readers and it will be its own kind of success." Though I think her caveat in that comment is "enough skill", say no more...

Don't give up on that writing project. Keep writing what you believe in and if you do fail (get it wrong) then next time try harder and fail better.
And let me know what you would get as a 'writing' tattoo.