Saturday, 28 January 2017

Find Your Focus

It's been a while since I posted here and it's been a while since I've pitched or written an article, bar those for my Writing Magazine column. It's not that I haven't been writing. I've just been writing different things.

Recently, however, I've been thinking of dipping my toes back into the waters of article writing. The problem I'm having, though, is that I'm finding it difficult to focus.

There are so many magazines out there and so many potential topics to cover that it's quite difficult to pinpoint which magazine to target and what to pitch.

So what I've done is buy a couple of magazines and read them cover to cover. I've then noted down who their target reader is, what the magazine has already covered and what I think might interest them.

Standing in front of a newsagent's magazine section can be very daunting, though. There is a fantastic array of different magazines to choose from but you just have to be brave and just choose two to begin with.

If you let it, indecision will get the better of you and you'll end up not writing a thing. So tackling one magazine at a time and pitching to that editor helps you to focus with more chance of understanding what that editor wants and gaining a commission.

Once you've cracked one magazine you can look to getting your foot in the door of another. It's far better to be sending one or two, well researched, targeted article pitches to an editor than sending several I'll researched, off target pitches to several editors and gaining no commissions.

So next time your in your local newsagents, instead if being blinded by indecision just grab two magazines that catch your eye and interest you.

It's a good idea to discount those magazines that you know don't take freelance submissions. That information can be found online or by a phonecall or email to the publication or by asking other freelancers. You can then concentrate on those magazines that welcome ideas from you.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Water, water everywhere ...

Having been preoccupied with writing non-fiction books about the Great War, I've recently been getting back into the game of pitching articles. I had quite a lot of success previously with this and have a column in writing magazine as a result of my efforts.

I mentioned in the last post that I'd been reading up on pitching articles as I was feeling a little rusty with it being so long since I'd last tried. I found, however, that it wasn't just the mechanics of pitching that interested me - it was the confusion over ideas and just what to pitch. It was like stage fright!

So how do you find that one idea that editors will snap up, and how do you keep doing it? One of the things that jumped out of my research was the need to come up with a unique angle because every other writer and their dog will be hitting the ordinary angle.  To me, it's a case of water, water everywhere ... But I'm afraid to dip my toes in. Where do you even start?

One idea I came across in a book about short story writing, but which can be useful also for feature writing is to pick a topic and brainstorm potential feature ideas from this. Then you disregard the first three as these will be the ideas most other writers will come up with too.

I've decided to give that a go. It's early days but I'm already finding some interesting results. If you're new to the pitching game, or, like me, just getting back into it, give it a go. What other advice have you found helpful?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Nothing Great is Easy

I'm not entirely sure that people who don't write really understand what a writer does or how hard it is to get something published. I'm also not convinced that some writers, when they first start out, have a clue about what awaits them. Unless they are determined, willing to learn and don't mind hard work they soon find out that, actually, writing - or writing for publication is not easy.

Anyone can write, primary school children do it, but they aren't writing for publication. They're writing for the teacher and to the curriculum and, eventually, to enable them to pass exams, but they aren't yet writing for publication. That is a whole different kettle of fish. The problem being that a lot of people think they can write but they actually can't. They see it as the easy option but are left scratching their heads every time they get a rejection - if they get as far as submitting their work - because they don't understand the process and art of writing or how to improve.

Writing take patience, practise and persistence. I haven't been pitching articles for sometime now due to other projects taking priority but I am just getting back into it now.  Because I am a little rusty I haven't gone back into it blind, I've been reading around the subject again and taking it slowly. It's going to take some time for me to get back up to speed.

I was thinking about this the other day. I was a nurse for thirteen years but gave it up eight years ago. If I wanted to get back into nursing, I couldn't just apply for a job and step back into the ward or GP practice. I would have to do more training and spend time doing practical placements before I would be competent to practice again. Why should getting back into writing be any different?

So, if you have been out of the article writing scene for a while and want to get back into it you could do worse than go back to the basics and brush up your skills before you send that first pitch. Remember that 'nothing great is easy' is a good motto to write by - it's the motto of my daughters old primary school and was spoken by Captain Webb the first man to swim the Channel. We could learn a lot from him about hard work and success.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Brick, Head, Wall

Sometimes, when the tenth rejection comes in that week, it can feel that you are banging your head against a brick wall when it comes to pitching. After a while, with no editors taking the bait, it can make a writer feel despondent and as though they are never going to get anywhere. This is where myth and rumour can rear their ugly heads and a writer can start to feel a little paranoid about the whole thing.

So when your brain starts with its conspiracy theories, how can you tell fact from fiction?

1. I'm not getting any editors interested in my pitches because they are so fed up of receiving emails from me that they have blocked me from their email.

2. I'm not getting any editors interested in my pitches because they are reading my pitches and stealing my ideas to get their in-house writers to write them up.

3. I'm not getting any editors interested in my pitches because I haven't yet come up with an original and fresh idea that appeals to them.

4. I'm not getting any editors interested in my pitches because the editor has got in for me and hates me after I wrote that reader's leader rubbishing one of the articles they had in their magazine.

5. I'm not getting any editors interested in my pitches because I wasn't clear enough in my pitch what the focus of the article was.

6. I'm not getting any editors interested in my pitches because I didn't bother to read several back copies of their magazine and so pitched an idea that was not appropriate for their publication.

7. I'm not getting any editors interested in my pitches because they've recently covered a similar idea or are about to.

Which ones do you think are real reasons for not having your pitches accepted and which ones could you do something about to make your pitches attractive to editors?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

In the Net

Hello, my name is Julie and I am a writer. I am a writer with a butterfly mind. I am afflicted with a flutter of ideas flying around my head at anyone time. To some writers who find sourcing ideas like getting blood out of a stone, this might sound like heaven. But it isn't. Clearly, I'd rather have too many ideas than not enough ideas, but just as not having a clue what to write about, having too many ideas can be just as debilitating.

As part of this affliction I have note books and pieces of paper littered around my house. They're in my office, my kitchen, my front room and my bedroom. I actually wake up in the middle of the night, quite frequently, and have to scribble notes down as new ideas intrude into my sleep. I always tell myself, whilst sitting amongst these little mountains of paper, that no idea is wasted and that I will, eventually, use the ideas in a short story or article. But judging by the amount of ideas I've noted down, this could take some time.

Another problem with having a butterfly mind as a writer is that I never know which project or idea to work on first. I want to work on all of them. I can't seem to distinguish between which idea will get me a sale and which will not. It can be all so overwhelming and, if I am not careful, I am rendered inactive and end up not writing a thing.

So what can I do to make sure I am productive? I have to go with the idea that speaks to me most at the time. Last year the choice really was a no brainer. I had three close deadlines to hit for a publisher who had paid me an advance to get the work done. That obviously took priority. The other projects and ideas had to take a back seat but they still nudged me every now and then to remind me they were there, waiting in the wings. And still my piles of ideas got higher.

My plan this year is to quieten my butterfly mind and tackle one project at one writing session, instead of becoming a rabbit in the headlights and become frozen by the many ideas I could be getting on with. I am going to use my butterfly net to catch that idea and give it my full attention.

Which writer are you? Have you few ideas or too many? How do you deal with it?

Happy writing
Julie x

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Can't, Won't, Shan't

We've all been there. That dreaded voice in our heads that belittles our thoughts of positivity with our writing yattering on in the background, until we give in and stop writing. So what stopped you writing in 2015? What was your background voice saying to you that made you give up? Or were you able to ignore it?

My little voice tells me that I can't write. It tells me that I shouldn't even bother. I'm told there are thousands of other, better qualified, more talented, younger writers out there so I'm just wasting my time. Then my little voice has the audacity to suggest that I just give up and get a proper job, that no-one will want to read what I write let alone pay me for it! Who do I think I am?

This year I managed to silence it just long enough so that I could get three books published and several short stories as well as continue to write a regular column. My little voice is most definitely not happy and continues to sulk in the back of my mind, just waiting for the next rejection to come through so it can yell, "I told you so!" at the top of its lungs.

We all have doubts and get nervous at the thought of pitching an idea for an article, subbing a short story or novel. That's normal. But what's not normal is if we let the heebie jeebies paralyse us into inaction. If we let our insecurities and anxiety prevent us from getting our work out there then we might never know what we have the potential to achieve.

So, next time your little voice pipes up, listen to what it's saying but then blast it with what you do know you are capable of, and that's putting pen to paper. Keep scribbling no matter how loud your little voice says so that you can silence it with your success. But beware. Your little voice is as stubborn and determined as you are. It will always be there in the background. Your job, if you want to be a professional and successful writer is to keep its volume down so you can keep writing.

Happy writing in 2016

Julie x

Thursday, 24 December 2015

T'was the night before Christmas ...

Well, the big day is almost finally here. All that preparation, money spent, wrapping paper running out, scissors and sticky tape being lost will, hopefully, be worth it as you settle down tomorrow for your post Christmas lunch snooze on the sofa.

But, hold on a minute, there's no room for slacking in a writer's life! Think of all the opportunities for writing that lie in wait for you in 2016. Just think, if you use the ambiance and experiences of this Christmas to sell articles for Christmas 2016, you might find yourself with a little extra spending money which should help soften the blow in New Year 2017! There's nothing like thinking ahead, is there?

So, my challenge for myself and YOU is to write one article pitch for each of the 12 days of Christmas. Instead of  collapsing on the sofa following a marathon sprout ingestion, try and stay awake long enough to get your Christmas themed article ideas onto paper!

I'm not talking about producing publishing quality full articles here - just quality pitches that editors up and down the country have been yearning for (and possible begged Santa for) all year. Then, when you've edited and polished your pitch to perfection and have submitted them you can sit back and ... no, not stuff your face with left over Christmas pudding,  produce some more quality pitches!

Wouldn't it be great to see some of your efforts this Christmas find themselves in the pages of magazines in Christmas 2016? So lets all give it a bash and see what happens. Do let us know how you get on. I wonder how many of us will do it and actually get an article or two published out of it?

Happy Christmas, now step away from the roast potatoes and get pitching!

Best wishes