Writing Recycled

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Ever since I took to a computer and could save and edit my stories and poems I’ve become a fan of re-cycling work. Not that I do it very efficiently or thoroughly or systematically, but I try. I always keep a copy of any story or a poem I submit to a magazine or enter for a competition. When I find the editor doesn’t want it or I haven’t been one of the winners I look over my work, sometimes edit it and then send it out to a different market or enter it for another competition. That at least is the theory.

Doesn’t always work or course. I’ve occasionally found I’ve picked out something as just perfect for a particular comp and only when I’ve started to fill in the entry form do I find it is something I sent to that very contest the year before last!

And I do, really I do, try to keep records of what I’ve written and where it has been sent. But…Some poems especially change their titles, first lines and even the number of lines in the poem. I write something in the first person, all about what I am doing and how I am feeling and then later decide it will sound better as a third-person narrative seen from the outside.

 One question I’ve never been able to answer properly: when does a story become a different story? I mean, suppose I write a romantic tale about a couple called Brenda and Bernard who live in Bristol and then send this piece off to one of the women’s magazine, can I then produce a similar but slightly different story about Mavis and Malcolm from Manchester and submit this as a “new`” piece of work? Just how many details need to be changed to ensure something is a different work?

 Every writer including Shakespeare used ideas and plots that he’d pinched from someone else and adapted and made his own. Is “West Side Story” the musical any the worse for being based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”?

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