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


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Tying in and tying up loose ends

I haven't been writing a lot of articles recently. But that doesn't mean I haven't been writing! My attention for most of the last year has been on finishing the three WW1 books for Pen & Sword Books which I have now done, give or take a few last minute editor's queries and a proof read or two. Newport in the Great War is due for release at the end of January 2016, with the other two, Kidderminster, and Ludlow in the Great War due out soon after.

I had hoped to write a few articles about the process I went through to complete the books as well as other articles based on the research and the information I uncovered but I didn't want it to distract me from doing the books justice - next year I will be pitching like a writer possessed! Not only will I have three books to flog but I'll also have a WW2 book to research and write as well as my usual short stories. A writer's life is never dull!

I've also been taking stock this week, as I do towards the end of every year, where I am with my writing and where I want to be with it. I don't make any detailed or concrete plans at this stage, as life has a habit of throwing those plans in the bin - I just make a simple list of what I would like to write and then think about the how and when later.

It's good to think about our writing because it's easy to forget the highs when the rejections have been flooding in. Looking back and seeing our victories, however small, can be such a boost to our confidence. I was moaning the other day that I hadn't had many articles published this year until I realised there was a good reason for it. And, actually, I 'd had 12 (one a month) still published in my column in Writing Magazine. I'd also had several short stories published! So, in the grand scheme of things, I'd actually written and had published a lot more than I realised.

Have a look back through your writing year too - you're bound to find some forgotten gems in there. And, if there are not as many gems as you would have liked, have a think about what you can do next year to remedy this.

Here's almost goodbye to a very productive 2015 for me and you, and all the best for your writing in 2016. Do tell us how you got on and what you hope to achieve in 2016 and don't forget to think about how you're going to get there ...

Best wishes