Friday, 3 September 2010

Cautionary Tales

Last night for reasons unknown, I closed the Word document I’d been working on and when it asked “Save changes?” I clicked NO.

This isn’t the first time which is why normally I am very careful before clicking on anything. Think before you click!

Sadly I’ve done things like this so many times now that instead of screaming and tearing my hair out and throwing things at anyone who asks what’s wrong, I just shrug and start again.

Anyway, off to the great cyber nowhere went my story. But all is not lost. I was nowhere near finishing it and so it is still there in my mind. All I have to do now is actually get it into the Word document and keep it there.

Last weekend I spent a lot of writing time editing a story. I changed a bit here, twiddled a bit there, fiddled and faffed and eventually felt happy enough to print it out. It was only when I went to write it down on my list that I realised I’d already written it down on my list as subbed – a month previously.

So I had wasted time editing a story that I’d already sent out. The fact that it had a title at the beginning and the word count and © at the end should have been a clue! No matter, I thought, I will have copied the original onto my second hard drive.

Except I hadn’t quite got round to it – well I’ve been busy blah blah . . . excuses, excuses.

For the first time in my life I found myself hoping for a rejection. Because the magazine I’d sent the story to asks for Word copies if they take a story.

Anyway, I needn’t have worried. The story came winging back to me this week with the standard rejection letter and so the nice shiny new version has been sent elsewhere and yes, this time I have kept a spare copy.

It also occurred to me that if I had to spend all that time rewriting and improving that story, then it wasn’t ready to be sent out in the first place.

Pictures are from the Colne Valley Railway and Farm Park at Castle Hedingham. The kids had been asking to go back there so that was where we spent the last day of the summer holidays on Wednesday.

Ooh and while we were watching the cows watching us, a small plane appeared overhead and did loop the loops, steep climbs and dives and kept us entertained for quite a while! It was like watching our own private little air show.


  1. Not wishing to sound mean, but it is a great relief to hear that someone such as yourself still has organisation/computer related story mishaps! I have also been in the position of hoping for a rejection when I realised I'd sent the same story to two UK mags at the same time. I must have hoped too hard, though, as they both came back.
    Pleased to hear that your mishaps weren't too consequential.

  2. Oh I can empathise about sending out a not quite edited copy of a story. I tend to save my documents too much and got so much in the habit I'd click send on my emails thinking I was saving the document only to find I'd sent off a half finished email!! BTW You can sometimes find old documents that you didn't quite save properly. They say '.tmp' after them instead of .doc in the 'My Computer' section.

  3. I feel your pain re all the computer-related mishaps! I nearly sent a story to a magazine it had already been rejected by today because I'd changed the title and didn't realise it was the same story.

  4. I wanted to run round screaming and pulling my hair our for you, Teresa! That's the kind of silly computer thing I do. I do feel for you.

    Although it's annoying and sometimes heart breaking when rejections come - I had one myself today - it's also a relief to know that more established writers such as yourself, Teresa, get them too. And I'm not being nasty when I say that - some writers may think once you've had a few short stories published that their days of rejections are over (if only eh?!) So it's refreshing to know that everyone gets rejections. You just have to keep going don't you.

    I know I draw great inspiration and motivation from your blog and reading your stories in the women's mags - may are rejections be few and far between!

    Julie xx

  5. I really sympathise. Yesterday I was re-reading a poem I'd sent with great hopes to a competition. It was one that I'd been so pleased with that I committed my customary sin of dashing it off without that vital final check; that dispassionate check in the cold light of day. I should have waited a while to cool off from the initial rush of over-zealous enthusiasm. Upon yesterday's re-reading, I discovered that I'd changed the main character's name in the last line. It was a line I'd felt so happy with that I'd not noticed the very basic flaw.

    I felt hot with embarrassment at the thought of the confusion it would cause. What a let-down! That'll teach me to be more patient.

    I suppose that we all have to accept that slips are inevitable. Mine happen either when I'm too excited about the work I've completed or too distracted by other matters.

  6. You just shrugged and started again? Wow! I would have felt like throwing the computer out of the window (followed by myself).
    It's all part of the administration isn't it? Keeping tabs on where you are with your WIPs, making sure everything is backed up, recording your submissions.
    I have lists, charts and cross references all over the place so that I don't send something off twice. Hasn't happened yet.

  7. I keep promising myself that I'll get the position where there will be some 'work in progress'.

    Creating back-ups has become second nature, though. I have lost material in the past and, that can be a real pain.

    Good luck with those new submissions!

  8. It’s always a relief to know you’re not alone isn’t it, Bernadette. That must have been gut wrenching when you sent the same story out to different mags! Because I can be quite disorganised, I have had to force myself to be very organised and when I submit a story I write it down in four different places and stick a sticker on my calendar – it should be a foolproof system shouldn’t it!

    I know lots of people who have clicked Send by habit, Madeleine, including me! I have Word do an autosave every 5 minutes which would have been fine if I hadn’t told it not to save my changes.

    Oops, Helen! That’s an easy mistake to make when you change a title.

    In all honesty, Julie, until I started to meet other writers about 11 or 12 years ago I thought I was the only one getting rejections. It came as a great relief to know I wasn’t. And yes, all you can do is keep going xx

    Oh Joanna, what a blow! I know just how you would have felt (including the going hot with embarrassment). But it could be that your poem will blow the judges away and they’ll realise the name change was just a slip . . . or could you resubmit it?

    Believe me, Keith at one time I would have been having a real tantrum and the fall out would have been terrible for anyone else in the house, but I’ve deleted stuff so many times now – and lost more than just a bit of a short story – that I can’t do anything but shrug it off. As for the reworked story - well I suppose my system did work – I realised before I sent it off again that I already had. Thank goodness for keeping records. The fault there was with me for not checking before I launched myself into the editing!

    Thanks, Martin. I used to be so good at backing up – must get myself back into the habit.

  9. It's just so easy to click the wrong button isn't it.

    I often do things too quickly, especially when I'm sending emails, then I panic that I've sent the wrong thing to the wrong person. I dash back onto the computer to check my 'sent' box - and so far my panic has been unfounded. I should really slow down though, otherwise it's only a matter of time before I totally embarrass myself.

    When writing I tend to work more on paper than on the screen, so if I do have a disaster with saving something then I've usually got a reasonably up to date version in handwritten scrawl.

  10. Oh how I can relate to your cautionary tale and I'm relieved to see others can too! I've also posted a story off without a stamp on the envelope and sent the same story to the same magazine twice.

    Don't tell anyone though.

  11. I once stayed up all night to finish a job for a client - and didn't save the changes on the excel file. I think I cried for two days.

    Hugs for the R.


  12. I know that feeling of realising I've lost something I'd spent time working on. It's horrible. Glad it wasn't too much of a disaster.

  13. I've done the 'no' to saving documents before. Now I save the document as soon as I open it and set the option to automatically save every five minutes.

    I'm glad you were able to still start again and so didn't lose it completely.

  14. Almost as alarming as writing a story twice is reading one. Several times recently I've settled down to a nice new novel, only to find half-way through that I've already read it, and only a few weeks ago, too. And I keep a list of books I've read, to prevent just that...

  15. Oh Joanne me too! The times I’ve got into bed and suddenly thought I might have sent the wrong email to the wrong person and then tossed and turned all night worrying about it.
    I used to write everything longhand, but my handwriting is so terrible now I can’t understand what I’ve written half the time. I have notes on my notebook and I have no idea what they say or mean!

    Karen – I sympathise over the stamp (I won’t tell a soul). One time the post prices went up and I didn’t realise for ages (months) and was sending everything out with the wrong postage on.

    Argh Suzanne – I could cry for you. That must have been awful xx

    Thanks Patsy. I’ve finished that story now and it didn’t turn out at all as I’d intended so maybe losing some of it was a blessing in disguise.

    Thank goodness for autosave, Ellie!

    I do too, Frances – keep a list for much the same reason! I read a short story the other day (Jeffrey Deaver) and thought it sounded familiar and realised I’d read it a couple of months before – but I couldn’t remember the end so I read it again anyway and still appreciated the twist.

  16. Teresa, I really admire your patience for the 'shrugging and starting again'! I once lost (or thought I'd lost) half a novel ... I was hyperventilating and almost fainting by the time a computer-savvy friend came round and managed to bring it back from the dead. I still don't know what happened, but at least I ended up losing only the last page I'd written. It still makes me feel sick to think about it! I now e-mail my novels to myself at various stages - so at least there's a copy floating around in cyberspace that I can access from any computer!

  17. Oh, my dear God, how we love our computers until we do something wrong. I try to back my story and novel every time, but I don't... You just know in your hearts of hearts you will blame the computer when something nasty happens.:-)

    I love the pictures of the pigs!

  18. Glad it's not just me then. Funny how it doesn't seem to bother eds as much when they lose stories though, isn't it?

  19. That's a good idea, Olivia - emailing to yourself. I'm going to invest in an external hard drive I think, just in case. When I had a major computer crash a few years ago - I lost tens of thousands of words of a novel I was working on and I hadn't got any back up at all. I wasn't very calm then!!

    The pigs were so cute, Jarmara. And very curious!

    Ah those lost stories, Geri. What becomes of them I wonder? Where do they go?