Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Stories - old and new!

My short story 'The Lamp' is being published in Woman's Weekly 8 December issue. I've just received my complementary copy and feel pleased with it - the illustration is lovely and the story reads OK. Do you have favourites amongst your own stories? This was one of my faves from this year - because it was inspired by the trip to Marrakech we went on, last May, with our group of friends. Re-reading it, I remembered other stories I've written, over the years, that were inspired by holidays: some of them, I know, turned out better than others! Sometimes the idea was too weak, and wasn't enough to make much more than a rather dreary 'holiday' story. Other times, there was something different about the holiday - or something different that occurred to me - that made the story a bit more special. Those, of course, were the ones that got published!

Thinking about this, yesterday I got out the file where I keep copies of all my published stories, and started looking through them. During the early 1990s, before I started seriously trying to write a novel, I had stories published quite frequently in 'Woman's Realm'. It was actually the fact that this magazine folded, that spurred me on to write the novel that eventually got published first. 'Woman's Realm' had been my best market, the editor was lovely, they paid me well - so losing it was a terrible blow, and I began to think I'd never have any short stories published again: so I became more determined to try being a novelist. At least I have them to thank for that!

Of all the stories I had published back then, I have a few favourites - stories I was really pleased with at the time, and still feel pleased with now when I re-read them. One was inspired by a holiday in France; another by a trip to the Yorkshire Dales. Travelling definitely seems to do the trick! On the other hand, lots of stories back then were also inspired by my day job: working in a hospital does give you access to lots of stories - some funny, some sad, some romantic!

It occurred to me that some of my best stories from a decade or more ago, could easily be rewritten slightly, brought up to date where necessary, and made into completely new stories to be submitted elsewhere. I've been feeling a bit short of ideas lately, so I got quite excited about this, and chose one straight away that I thought would lend itself to a re-write. With the original story out in front of me, I started tapping away at the computer. New names, new places ... the heroine would now have two young sons instead of a teenage daughter; the hero would be a doctor instead of a lawyer. A new twist occurred to me; the plot took a different course ... and suddenly, I realised something strange was happening. I wasn't just changing the original story as I went along ... I was turning it into a something completely different!

I worked on that story until quite late last night, and I'm still feeling somewhat shell-shocked. I've gone from idly wondering if it was worth changing and resubmitting some old favourites, to feeling quite fired-up at the thought of using LOTS of my old stories to simply provide some much-needed inspiration for new ones! Why hadn't I thought of this before? When the creative spark feels like it's started to flicker and die a little, it needs feeding ... so, if going off on another jaunt abroad is out of the question right now - I'll get back to looking at some more of my old favourites!


  1. Well done, Olivia,

    See you don't need knew ideas you just need to go back to your olde stories and revamp them! Congratulations on The Lamp. I'll look forward to reading it.

    Julie xx

  2. What a good idea, and I'll look out for your story in WW :o)

  3. Great idea, Olivia.
    I'm looking forward to reading The Lamp.

  4. Thanks Julie, thanks Karen.
    Yes - I can recommend getting new ideas from old stories! Can't think why I never tried it before! x
    Hope you do both enjoy the story if you read it. It's under my Sheila Norton name as always. x

  5. Olivia

    I agree, reviewing past projects from time to time, can actually turn up some nice surprises.

    Congratulations on the publication of 'The Lamp'.

  6. I'm looking forward to reading "The Lamp." I had a story published around last New Year that had a lamp at it's centre. It was one of my favourites.

  7. Brilliant idea, Olivia and can't wait to read The Lamp. I don't know about reusing my own ideas though. With my short story attempts I often start off with what I think is an original thought idea and by the time I've written it I've gone off the idea completely!

  8. Thank you Teresa, Martin, Colette, and Helen! Hope you enjoy the story, if you read it, (now that I've said I was pleased with it!). And if anyone does try the 're-write and surprise yourself' trick, let us know how it goes! I'm definitely going to try it again.

  9. Think the rewrite idea is great. I've often finished a story only to realise later that it's in fact a rewrite of something I've written earlier: different situation, characters, twist, but essentially the same idea, although I wasn't aware of it at the time of writing. Anyone else had this experience, or is it just me and my obviously limited stock of ideas?!

  10. You're right, Lydia - after all, they say there's a limited number of basic plots (but thousands of derivations from the basics, obviously!). I bet if all of us were given the same basic plotline and group of characters to play with, we'd all still come up with totally different stories. (Maybe we should try it!).

  11. Loved your story The Lamp in Woman’s Weekly this week, Olivia, and felt very pleased with myself that I recognised your real name, Sheila Norton.

    I actually bought the magazine to read the final part of Geraldine Ryan’s great serial (congrats Geri. It was brilliant!) so it was a double pleasure to find your story there too.

    I’m currently bogged down in my novel (It’s not going swimmingly!) and have been feeling guilty that my short story output has grinded to a complete halt. I like your idea about giving old stories a face-lift so much that I’ll be digging out my returns file and looking at its contents in a whole new light. Thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Thanks, Rena! I'm so glad you enjoyed 'The Lamp' - and yes, I must tell Geri that I noticed her serial instalment too - wish I hadn't missed the earlier parts!

    I don't do much short story writing when I'm mid-novel, either. Don't be too hard on yourself - it's difficult to do both at the same time. I'm currently taking a breather between finishing a book and starting the next, so I'm trying to rack up my short story output while I can! Good luck with the revamps. I'm planning on trying it again. x