Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Still doing research

I haven't written any articles for a while as I've been out and about making contact with people for future articles. I think that the initial preparation stages of article writing - before you actually sit down and put pen to paper - are almost more important than the writing of the article itself. Get your research wrong and it can really throw your article out.

I have been asked to send a synopsis and some sample images of one of my articles by an editor I sent an article proposal to this week. I was a bit thrown (okay I had a major panic) as I've never been asked to do this before and was unsure how to formulate a synopsis. But I knew a man who did (thank you Simon Whaley!) So off it went. He suggested that I bullet pointed the synopsis highlighting chronologically the most important points I wanted the article to portray. It is the only chance you have to 'sell' your work and I was keen to get it right as I wanted to show the editor a professional approach and I didn't want to let down the people I'd interviewed for the article. I wanted the article to do them justice.

I'm still waiting for verdicts on this article and I've been busy editing and sending out some short stories (my other passion) alongside writing down some notes for other articles I might be writing soon. I will have more time to devote to both my article writing and my short story writing when the kids go back to school, Unfortunately, at the moment, I have to concentrate on one or the other so I'm looking forward to doing both again. I feel I'm torn between two lovers at the moment!

Keep writing


Saturday, 22 August 2009


We did something like this at my last writing group and I found it very useful. What we did was look through a variety of magazines (it was work, honest and not just procrastination by reading magazines) and chose an idea or phrase in one of the features to inspire us to make a new article, poem, short story or maybe a novel.I'm always looking through the local newspapers and local free community magazines for writing ideas and have even found information for editors this way.

My particular favourite pastime at the moment in my research for article writing is to look through the list of community/self help/hobby groups and societies in these papers/magazines. I have found many interesting groups here that I have taken the details for so I can contact them to ask if I can attend one of their meetings in the future and interview them for possible articles. Remember there is an article in everything!

So next time you have a free moment (not easy or very often I know), scour the pages of your local newspapers/magazines. Take particular notice of the headlines and key phrases. Can you think of another fresh angle for a new article out of the one you've read in the newspaper/magazine? Have a go at writing your own headline for the article. It's amazing how inspiring this can be.

Julie xx

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Speculate To Accumulate

So how is the article writing going with you? It's not going too badly with me as I have lots of ideas floating around that I've got to grab hold of and tether to the ground before they float off never to be seen again. I went out on a photo shoot yesterday evening. The light was just right and quite atmospheric - thank goodness for long, sunny summer evenings (when we get them!)

I've made tentative enquiries at another establishment to see if I can go and interview someone from there for a couple of articles I'm planning and I'm about to look on a magazine's website for contact details and submission guidelines. So it's all go again. You have to speculate to accumulate in this writing lark - if you don't ask, you don't get. You might not always get a yes but if you don't ask you definately won't get a yes!

It was my writing group meeting on Saturday and we had an editor from a local community magazine who is going to give us a page in the magazine each month for a short story or article which is a brilliant opportunity for our group to publish its work. I had an article on Community meetings in the magazine this month and yesterday was the first chance I had to see it. I was impressed as it's a great quality, glossy magazine and has definately spurred me on to write more articles.

I'm still polishing up the archery article ready to send out and I'm hoping to interest some more magazines in that this week. I've been out and about this weekend with my family - the Severn Valley Railway. So it was an opportunity to take photos that may come in handy at a later date. I think it does a writer good to step back and take time out visiting places as a 'tourist visitor' rather than a journalist as you can get a more rounded picture of the place. You can always go back in your capacity of a journalist at a later date if you want to. It's nice to be able to relax and enjoy the experience too.

The thing I've found about article writing is that you have to be persistant and organised. It helps, before an interview or going to a place, if you can do a recce beforehand and get a feel for a place. If you can't physically go to the place then try their website or go to the library for any info you can glean about the the history of the place or person. You will look more professional if you can show the person you're interviewing that you have read up on them or the place, and it can throw up some questions you hadn't considered asking before.

And most important of all - keep writing!


Thursday, 13 August 2009

Keeping Track - X marks the spot.

I've been going through my list of proposals and articles I've sent out since January this year today. I'd got behind on it (never a wise thing to do) and, to be honest, the task was filling me with dread every time I thought about it. I didn't want to be depressed by all the little red crosses signifying a 'no go' article; believe me there have been many! But with gritted teeth and upper lip stiffened I plunged in to the task.

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there were lots of red X but there were a lot of green smiley faces for a sale too! I have this key system where a red X means No go, a blue X means something pending and a green smiley face means a sale. Every time I see a green smiley face on the chart it makes me smile and think more positive about my writing. It's good for bolstering the spirits and resolve - despite all the red.

So far this year I've sent 31 articles out of which: 20 were accepted for publication - 4 were rejected and 7 are pending a decicion. I also sent outa further 8 proposals of which: one is a possible but waiting for confirmation - five were a no thanks already commissioned similiar article/not right for mag - 2 still waiting for reply!

It pays to keep these records as the stats they throw up are useful for the annual end of year postmortem on how the writing has gone - and how it can be improved. It's also useful to look back and see just how much you've achieved and written in the first place. It can be a quite a shock sometimes to see how much work you've done and is a real confidence boost.

Two of the articles which were originally rejected found homes in other magazines so it really is worth sending them out again if the first editor you send it to says no. Don't forget the small press and free mags either. You might not get paid as much, if at all, but that's not the real point - you are laying down foundations and practising your art, getting your work and name in print. Don't underestimate the power of this. You will have physical evidence to show other editors you have been in print and what you are capable of. But don't make the mistake of thinking that you can send any old rubbish into these smaller mags - you can't. Your writing still has to be of a high standard, so don't think you can get away with being sloppy.

But most of all, have fun and don't give up. Right it's back to my charts!


Saturday, 8 August 2009

Procrastination, Inspiration, perspiration, and sheer bloody mindedness

I managed to write the first draft of a 1,500 word article last night by shutting myself in the kitchen with my lap top and not allowing my bum to leave the seat until I'd finished the damn thing! I have been whining a lot, both on here and at home (in fact to anyone who will listen) how unproductive I feel I'm being at the moment in respect to short story writing. I have a few ideas written down but have been so preoccupied with article writing that I've let that side of my creative endeavours slide somewhat.

The trouble with me is that I want to do everything and I want to do it NOW!! I don't have enough hours in the day to do what I want with my writing and we all have commitments that must take priority over our writing. I have a tendency to become a little obsessive about writing and, if left to my own devices, would spend every spare hour of every day indulging in my beloved activity.

But how much is too much? When does writing become your life instead of the things that really matter such as family and friends. We are advised that if we want to become published writers we must be determined and write as often as we can. We should leave the housework and sit down and write. I know housework has never been my forte but if I sat down and wrote instead of doing the housework every time the writing bug bit me I would suffocate under ten feet of dust!

I am going to have to learn to slow down and prioritise my writing workload. I have to meet myself half way between what I want to write and what I can reasonbly expect to achieve. I am in danger of 'watering down' the quality of my work if I stretch myself too thinly and try to do too much. This is what I think has happened with some recent article submissions of mine that an editor was not happy with. I hold my hand up - my fault, lesson learned. I took on more than I could handle, but at least I gave it a chance - better to have written and lost than never to have written at all and all that. If you don't try you don't know what you're capable of but quality must win over quantity. It's true that you have more chance of being published the more you send out, but if you are sending out rubbish there is no point!

I always get a bit panicky and think if I don't send this and that idea off or post this short story or that article off within the hour then someone else will do it, and I'll lose the sale. This may well happen, but there are plenty of other ideas out there and if I don't get a sale for this article I might for the next. So it's off to spend some quality time with my family then back to the drawing board to take some time to look at the quality of my articles and writing in general before I send anything else out. What is it they say about haste and speed?

Julie xx

Friday, 7 August 2009

Funny Old Day

It's been a bit of a strange day today as far as my article writing goes. I had an article published in the new Issue of the National Association of Writers' Groups magazine, The Link, which I received through the post this morning but then I had two emails. One email was from an editor who loved the aritcle I sent in to them but the other was from an editor who was not happy with my work for various reasons.

I have to admit that I was disappointed to start with. I'd worked hard on the articles, as I always do, but I have to admit to feeling a little out of my depth on the ones the editor wasn't happy with as they were on a subject I know little about and an area I've never visited, so even when I sent them off to him I felt uneasy. It's like a gut feeling; I get it when I have an inkling an editor might not like what I've written. But I often have this feeling and have been wrong about what the editor thinks about my work! So I just have to bite the bullet and override my misgivings sometimes and send the work out anyway.

I'd done as much as I could on them and, to be honest, writing them was taking up valuale time that I could have spent on other projects. I know I shouldn't grumble because at least this editor pays - but not a lot! At the moment I'm happiest writing for the free community mags but I do need to concentrate on paying markets too. We all need to earn a living, after all. Maybe I need to move on.

So I'm just putting that set back down to experience and I'll find another writing opportunity elsewhere. Although I love article writing it does stop me from writing short stories as much as I'd like to so I think I'm going to have to choose between the two - at least for a while. I'm going to finish the few articles I have on the go over the next few days and then go back to writing short stories for a while. I need to immerse myself in fiction. Maybe I'll come back to article writing with fresh eyes and more enthusiasm then.


Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Be bold

I sent an article proposal to a local glossy mag last night (Gasp, shock, horror, pass the smelling salts!) I know, I know, the audacity of the woman. I was feeling unusually brave (reckless) and before I knew it I'd typed the proposal and I'd tapped the 'send' button and that was that. (Why do I do these silly things late at night?! ) I didn't think I'd ever hear anything back. Well, maybe a no thank you if I was really, really lucky in a few months time.

I was just about to shut the computer down when my inbox pinged and the subject was my article proposal - it was from (spooky music with echo) THE EDITOR! My eyes widened in fear and I developed a tremor in my hands and a twitch in the right hand corner of my upper lip. My mouth went dry. I could barely bring myself to open the e-mail. But with shaking hand and moist brow I did. I looked at it through my fingers. THE EDITOR! was interested in my article (Scrapes self off floor) but ........ There's always a but isn't there?

THE EDITOR! is full to bursting point with articles at the moment and will get back to me in a couple of weeks. So a near success. THE EDITOR! is interested and so another door opens for writing opportunities. If she doesn't take this article she may take others. I have butterflies in my stomach but I'm trying to quieten them down as I don't want to get my hopes up in case it all goes pear shaped. But I am 'quietly' pleased that I have managed to catch THE EDITOR'S ! attention. Two weeks ago THE EDITOR! had turned down another proposal of mine and so I was very reluctant to give it another try with a different article idea. But I remembered what Mr Whaley said (remember to listen to this man) about the importance of continuing to send proposals out and just did it.

I may well never hear from THE EDITOR! again - or I will be posting my disappointment in this blog in a few weeks when THE EDITOR! says "Thanks, but no thanks." But it's given me an important confidence boost and the push to send out more proposals. Even if I don't get published this time I know how to write proposals that catch an editor's eye and I am a step closer to publication than I was yesterday!

Julie xx

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

You wait weeks for new writing opportunities ......

........ and then three turn up at once! Just a short posting today. Not only am I writing the articles about Hampshire for the editor of a website, plus trying to finish an article on the Archers I am now doing some articles for a free community magazine. I had read this new magazine when it plopped through the door between the pages of the free Telford Journal community newspaper last week and noticed that the editor was asking for articles. I read an interesting and well written article by a new writer in there and so my article was written in response to that as I agreed with most of what the other writer had said.

I had an email from the editor last night and he likes my article and has asked me to write more for him. I also received an email from the author of that original article thanking me for my comments and asking me for advice. He wants to be a writer and I think he has an excellent chance of being one. Well he is published already! I don't half feel old now,though! Is it me or writers getting younger by the day?! I think I've managed to get a new member for the Wrekin Writers too!

I've said it before but writers shouldn't dismiss writing for community magazines. Okay, you might not be getting paid for your work but publication is publication and, besides helping you to practice your writing skills, it also allows you to build up your portfolio. And writing on a variety of different subjects can show your versatility as a writer. Some of these free community magazines are pushed through the doors of thousands of homes in your area - that's a potentially big audience for your work and could lead to other writing opportunities.

Embrace every writing opportunity that comes your way and never say never! If you have the time writing for community magazines can be great fun and a challenge, and if you don't write for them someone else will and you'll loose a golden opportunity to show case your writing skills.

Back to the grindstone

Julie xx

Monday, 3 August 2009

A Good Time Had By All

I had such a good time at the archery competition yesterday. Is it legal for 'work' to be that much fun?! The Bowbrook Archers based just outside of Shrewsbury were, as always, very welcoming and couldn't have helped me more. I think it helped that I was so much more relaxed this time as I had already met them before, and my interviews and photograph taking went more smoothly.
I have the hang of my dictaphone now and I'm not so self conscious about using it. If you can buy or borrow one then do - they are fantastic and make it so much easier. And I find people love speaking into it - it's like putting a huge microphone in front of them - everyone wants to be famous for five minutes! Hanging my ID card and dictaphone around my neck helped me feel more confident too, though it took me a while to work out why everyone I passed seemed to be staring at my chest?!

It is such a laugh playing it back and listening to myself too. You should try it sometime - it's hilarious! (small things please little minds!) I noticed a few 'quirkes' of mine when I was playing back and transcribing the interviews last night. There were times when the tears were rolling down my face as I listened to Dick and Alan, two of the archers - they really are great guys, a real double act. I was laughing so much I couldn't write and as I had my headphones on my husband couldn't hear what I was laughing at and wondered what I had really got up to yesterday afternoon!

For instance, I kind of state the obvious when I'm interviewing people. The whistle blowed signalling it was safe to correct the arrows whilst I was talking to Dick and I said - in a high pitched, high on sugar, school girly voice - "Oooooh there's the whistle!!" and Dick just says "Yeeeeees!" in a slow, deadpan voice, like he's talking to an imbecile! Stunning. The poor man has to have a good sense of humour to deal with me, I can tell you. I also giggle a lot and finish people's sentences! And at one point (I am mortified by this) I cut Dick off mid sentence to ask another question! Tut tut tut. I slapped my wrists for that one. Maybe it was good I didn't have the mead after all! It's also a good learning tool and can tell you things about your interviewing technique that you wouldn't have believed if you hadn't heard it with your own ears!

It was fascinating to hear more about Archery and get to watch the professionals in the beautiful surroundings of Attingham Park. There was mead and a buffet at the end which I didn't stay for as I felt I had imposed myself on them enough. Apparently drinking mead from an old tin cup is traditional! But I took one sniff and couldn't stomach it - there was a great scent of whisky in there too and as I don't drink I had to decline so Alan knocked it back in one for me!)

I can't reccommend going out and meeting new people as a writer highly enough. It's such fun interviewing people and just chatting. Give it try if you haven't done it before. I wouldn't do what I did for your first venture out as I went to the Wenlock Olympian Games and it was just too big with too much going on and I was like a child in a sweet shop! Start small and work up to a bigger event. I was lucky enough to be the only journalist there yesterday and as it was just the one event I had the entire event to myself and had all afternoon to collect my interviews and photos. And I managed to get everything I needed which made me feel quite proud.

Tips that I learned this time:

1. Give your contact details out to the organisers and those you interview so if they want to contact you about anything they can. Also make sure you get their details too so if further questions spring to mind you can get hold of them.

2. Before you go do your homework so that you have a working knowledge of the event you are at. It shows the organisers that you are interested in them and their cause and that you are serious.

3. Make a list of questions the night before you go and take a copy with you so you can refer to it whilst you are there and don't forget something vital.

4. Relax, take your time and try not to get over excited! Be friendly but professional - you might not know exactly what your doing and feel like a jibbering wreck inside - but put on a calm exterior and a smile and they won't know you're nervous. You might even find, like I did, that you enjoy it despite yourself.

I'm still in the process of sending proposals out, frustrating though it is, so watch this space.


Saturday, 1 August 2009

It's Official

Freelance Market News Magazine & The Association of Freelance Writers

I applied for the Freelance Market News magazine last week and it plopped through my letter box this morning. It had free membership with The Association of Freelance Writers with it and I now have an ID card I hope will help me be taken more seriously as a freelance writer (I'm hoping it will make me take myself more seriously as a freelance writer too!!) I recommend that if you are thinking about writing articles or write them already and feel, like me, that you are floundering a bit, that you join this Association and get the magazine. The ID card alone, from what some other freelance writers who have used the card say, is worth it. It apparently got them into some events with no problems.

I found out about it via another writer and it's run by The Writers Bureau. You don't have to be a student of theirs but there is a small fee to get the magazine. A recent article was on submitting photographs to magazines and they have a letters page, competitions and information from a variety of magazines that will take submissions from freelance writers both here and abroad. It's well worth a look at.

There's also an online newsletter from the Writers' Bureau E-Zee Writer with top tips for writers.

Email Website for details.

Agenda for the weekend.

This afternoon I'm going to be doing a blitz on the Hampshire articles (I finished the first draft on one of them last night and I have three more on the go.) Even if you don't know much about a subject an editor has asked you to write about - always say yes, do your research, learn about the subject and hey presto! Suddenly you're a mini expert on the subject! Don't be perturbed by your initial lack of knowledge and don't let it stop you writing an article on it. I was daunted when I was asked to write about Hampshire but there were three things that made me take the plunge and say yes: 1. I had written on a subject that I knew a lot about for this editor before and he obviously must value my work as he's asked me to do more on a different subject! So I know I can write articles in a style he likes. What I didn't know about Shropshire before I wrote the articles, I do now!!
2. It would be a challenge, another string to my bow and it shows my versatility as a writer to other editors. I have a good rapport with this editor and hopefully he will ask me to do more writing for him. 3. I can print copies of my work off the Internet sites and put in my portfolio to show other editors who may then commission me.

Tomorrow is the archery competition and so this evening I shall be creating a list of questions I want to ask the competitors and thinking about the types of photos I'll need. Today I will be sending proposals out to some magazines outlining my ideas for articles from my visit. So it's all go! And it's official - I am a freelance writer coz it says so on my ID card!!

Have a good weekend