Friday, 25 October 2013

My story Helpless in Crannog 34

My copies of Crannog arrived today. That’s always good news, but this time I’m excited to say that one is a contributor's copy, so I’ve a story published in Crannog 34. It's called Helpless. I’m so sorry to miss the launch in The Crane Bar, Galway. I hope everyone has an enjoyable evening of fabulous readings.

I’m really pleased to be featured alongside many well known and familiar writers again, and can’t wait to get stuck in for a read. There are even a few more Donegal writers between the pages. Congratulations to all. See Crannog website here

Helpless is a story that I have written and re-written over time. I've put it away and taken it out again to revise many times. At one point, I was very unhappy with the beginning, and very unsure about the ending. Ultimately, I cut away most of the original draft beginning, although I did this after setting it aside for quite a while. Sometimes it’s hard to see the problems when you’ve recently written something, or even after you’ve gone back to writing intensively on a piece. When it’s too fresh, I can find it hard to edit - I get too attached to neat little phrases, and I can’t admit that they simply don’t fit.  I’ve heard it said by some very experienced writers that sometimes the beginning of a story is scaffolding (e.g. see 10 tips by Joseph O’Connor at here). The original first paragraph often works like a writing exercise to get you started, to bring you into the real story. Then, in final drafts, you need to cut a lot of the original beginning away. It’s not always the case for my stories, but it’s something I try to bear in mind. In the case of Helpless, it had to be done, as I knew the beginning just wasn’t right.

There is no doubt that first paragraphs are hard to write, as are good endings. Somehow, I’ve always really struggled with endings. Maybe it’s because I rarely have a story plan before I start.  I never know myself, until I’ve reached the end, how the story will end. I’ve been reassured over time by reading that lots of short story writers work that way, though I’m also sure that lots don’t – we’re all different, I know. Anyway, I changed the ending of Helpless. Oh, and this all reminds me that there have been quite a few edits to the rest of the story too.

It’s a funny business writing. Some of my stories have been written relatively quickly, and have worked well despite that. Others have been very slow to write, have been changed a lot over time, and have taken a long time to get right. Though, the old idea of putting stories away in a drawer for a while (I know, even I use a laptop!), is sound advice. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to send something out. Though, I know better than anyone, it’s hard advice to follow.

I should  also mention that, like all my stories, Helpless got a private reading at a Garden Room Writers meeting. As always, I got invaluable feedback. Thank you GRW. Oh, and submissions for Crannog 35 open on 1st November 2013 see here

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