Saturday, 28 November 2009

Christmas comes but once a year ........

....... so that's a guaranteed supply of material for articles, features and fillers every year then. At a recent Wrekin Writer workshop the speaker was Nick Fletcher the author and writer who has had a glowing career in writing all of his life. One of the things he said at that workshop that really changed my outlook in regards to article writing was that he recycles all of his articles. He has been selling the same Christmas themed article to the same and other magazines every year! He just gets it out about six months prior to December, rejigs it/updates it and sends it out again. Sometimes all he does, in a 'top 10' list, is move the tip around so that number five becomes number one and number two becomes number six! Ingenious and what a time saver!

Another thing I've learned is to maximise on your publishing opportunities. I know it's too late to submit articles and fillers for this Christmas, but why not spend some time this Christmas by reading the Christmas editions of the publications you fancy writing for next year and looking at the articles in there and be inspired to submit your own for next year. There is no copyright on ideas or titles and you can take a basic premise and make it your own if you put your own twist on it and don't plagiarise!

Attend as many Christmas light switch ons and Christmas fayres as you can over the coming weeks and don't forget to take your camera. You might need to get permission from the event organisers to take photos at public events as you could be unpopular if you just whip your camera out and start snapping away. It will probably be fine if you're just taking photos of your own family at these events, but if you're likely to catch other members of the public, particularly other kids, then it's best to get permission from the organisers and the kids' parents. You don't want any angry parents after you. It's a sad time of the times but you do have to be careful.

Take as many notes and photos as you can at these events and look on their web site if you have one. You can book to speak to the organisers of these events later the following year, well before their next event so you can get your copy in to the mags in plenty of time. That way you'll have plenty of material.

I'm off to the Ludlow Medieval Fayre tomorrow and the following week I'll be in Much Wenlock at their Christmas Fayre - there are plenty of opportunities out there to gather material for Christmas themed articles and fillers, so don't let them pass you by. You'll be so glad you did and might just find the Christmas present of seeing your name and work in print next Christmas - what better present is there than that?!

Don't forget to look for the more unusual and quirky side of Christmas instead of sticking to the more traditional and well trodden path. Magazine editors like to see originality, something different and interesting for their readers. A tall order I know, but the material is out there - you just have to look for it!

Happy seasonal writing! Get your material now and you can work on it in the new year ready to send out in June/July next year.

Julie xx

Friday, 27 November 2009

Writers' Forum magazine comes to the rescue!

After my post yesterday, about me being paranoid about the pitches I send out to magazines and asking for help, I was surprised to have an email this morning from Carl Styants editor of Writers' Forum magazine. He had read my blog posting via a google mail alert that tells him when Writers' Forum appears on-line. He has not only accepted my proposed article on NaNo but he also very kindly gave me some pointers on how to improve my pitches. Actually, he rewrote my pitch as to how he likes them done which is fantastic.

Here is what he advised:

My pitches are too long and it took him a while to find exactly what the article was about. So he suggested I shortened them and get right to the bones of it - make it more "snappy."

I talk too much about myself and what I do and should not open with this but shorten it and add it to the end. He advised me to also mention any previous articles he has accepted from me to jog his memory.

Talk about the magazine you are pitching the idea to more in the proposal - lets editor know that you have actually read the magazine and know how and where your article could fit.

I always say that I am writing an article on blah blah blah but he's advised not to do this as it infers to him that I will write the article whether he likes it or not! He said it's not very professional as a professional will be too busy to write every article they pitch.Professionals only write the articles they have pitched and have had accepted. I really hadn't realised this, that by me saying I have written or am writing an article, that it might put potential editors off. But I do now and so do you!

In your pitch, always stick to what the readers will get out of the aticle. It's not about the writer!

So thanks, Carl. He's a busy man but he took time out to help me. I have learned so much from his email and I will endeavour to take his advice on board and change the way I pitch ideas. I have to remember that shorter is sweeter. He's absolutely right - I do try and cram too much into my pitches!

So if you do too - stop it! If we take Carl's advice, hopefully we'll get more of our article proposals accepted.

Carl also sent me an image of the front cover of the next issue of Writers' Forum out on DEC 3RD. I know a lot of bloggers/writers already read it, but if you don't, get it and read it cover to cover - it will help you improve your writing. I've subscribed to it for a couple of years now and it's so informative.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Proposal Paranoia

Having completed my NaNoWriMo challenge and taken two days writing leave, I've been back on the computer today but this time getting back into article writing. As NaNo took up so much of my writing time over the past three weeks, I was keen to send some more proposals out there to keep myself up to speed and before I forgot how to send a proposal out!

You may remember that a few posts back I was bemoaning the fact that I'd sent loads of proposals out and heard nothing back. I was beginning to worry that either my emails were not getting through, or my proposals were that bad they were deleted immediately. I got quite a complex about it and was seriously concerned that I wouldn't get another editor interested enough from my proposals to actually get them to see the article in the first place.

It did put me off for a while as I thought what was the point in sending proposals in if they were going to be ignored and I would be there waiting for months for a reply that was never coming. Well, I'm still waiting for news on any of the many proposals I have out there, but at least I managed to pluck up the courage to swallow any misgivings and paranoia I have and send two more proposals out today. I have got a bad case of indigestion now, though, as misgivings and paranoia do not go down well!

I do feel, however, that I am very much in a chicken and egg situation at the moment. I mean in that I still feel that my writing is at an embryonic stage when I want it to fledge into the full crowing cockerel! I haven't had enough published to be able to show any perspective editors example of my work and I haven't had a novel, or more than one short story published, which makes it very difficult to get a foot hold and a way in. Maybe I'm trying to run before I can walk but I think that as no editor knows me from Adam it's quite a big problem. I'm not whining about it, it's just a fact and an obstacle that I need to work harder to overcome - and overcome it I will!

I've had some good success with the local newspaper and the local glossy county mag, and an upcoming article in Writers' Forum, but generally, when it comes to the nationals, I'm not getting very far. Is it my proposals themselves that are the problem, or is it that I'm just not well known enough as a writer to start making a headway. These are the questions I've been asking myself a lot today, and so I'm going to be spending some time sorting out my proposal technique (should it be done on bended knee or is that too old fashioned? ;0) ) If it is that I can do something about it. Maybe they're not all singing and all dancing enough; not bright enough to stand out from the crowd; or the ideas themselves aren't original enough. I don't know, but I'm going to find out and improve them if I can.

If it's because I'm not well known enough and editors believe that I'm not able to deliver then there's not a lot I can do about that at this stage, other than improve my proposal technique and just keep sending them out to a variety of magazines and see who bites. That way, if some at least ask to see my work, I'll get more chance of being published and getting my writing name and a good reputation out there that tells other editors that I can deliver the goods (as well as increase the size of my 'cuttings' folder!)

So as well as continuing on with my NaNo novel (I'm determined to finish it) and going back to basics with my short story writing by doing some market analysis - I'll be carrying on with trying to get some more articles accepted and published. It is so annoying when you send out as many proposals as I do, only to hear nothing back,and you start to get suspicious that you're not doing something right on the proposal front - yet I must have got them right on some occasions to have had some articles that I proposed accepted!

I have more than enough to be getting on with over the next few months, well into the new year. It's going to be hard work but NaNo have proved to me that I have the stamina and wherewithal to do it so I will! And I hope you know that you can do it too. Good luck and do let us know of your writing successes and frustrations. Writers need support and to give support when it's needed as well as work together to improve our writing. So if I come across any useful pieces of information I'll certainly pass them on. And if anyone else has a brainwave them please do say!

Julie xx

I felt better about the Marie Celeste situation when This England retained an article of mine, so I could just do with another bite or two from the other mags I've sent proposals to to get myself on an even keel again. After the rush and excitement of NaNo I need something to ground me again.I don't know when, but I will get there!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Send those letters out

While you're busy enjoying your Sunday morning lie-in (lie-in? What's that I hear you say?!) perusing the Sunday papers. Don't just lie there doing nothing but mindlessly reading the papers. Get them out, read them slowly and jot down the articles/columns/letters/features that interest you. Then have a go at writing a letter to the letters page. Read the letters they've published over the last couple of weeks and, check for style, tone, language, topics and length and write one and email or post it in. Some of the newspapers pay money or give prizes to their letter of the week so it can be worth your while to have a go.

I had a lovely surprise this morning when I opened the pages of The Mail on Sunday and saw my letter had won letter of the week and I've won an overnight stay in a top luxury posh hotel for my trouble (not bad for about 100-150 words and five minutes work!) So writing letters to magazines and newspapers can be quite lucrative.

Once you've had a few letters published why not up the ante and try writing an article/feature. Again, you need to read the papers you're targeting for a couple of weeks to get a sense of the style/word count and topics that they publish and then put pen to paper/finger tips to keyboard and write an article in their style. And don't forget to read the whole newspaper, the adverts etc too and their colour supplements and mags.

I did this with one of our local daily evening papers and got a feature published in there. Okay, I didn't get paid for it, but it was my name on there - valuable experience and a cutting for my portfolio plus the paper knows my name now so there's nothing to stop me from pitching other ideas to them!

I might try one of the nationals with a feature next so why don't you have a go too? Yes the competition is fierce and the chances of having a feature accepted my a national newspaper is pretty low, I should imagine, But NEVER say never - you won't know until you try and someone has to get their features in there - the papers have to fill their pages so it might as well be you who fills them!

Even if you don't get them published in the nationals, nothing is ever wasted, just revamp it and send it somewhere else until you run out of outlets (that will be a very long time!

And I now have more potential article material at my disposal from my win!

Happy reading (all in the name of research, of course!)and writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Check up

Out of the blue this morning I received a phone call from the PR lady (amongst other roles she plays) of the Wenlock Olympian Society. You may remember that I went along to the Wenlock Olympian Games back in July this year and got a press pack. It was my first outing as a freelance journalist and one that I learned so much from and enjoyed immensely, although I was very nervous!

She was ringing round all of the journalist who had attended over the two day event to see how we had got on with our articles about the event. I felt quite sad when I told her that, unfortunately, I had yet to get anything published from the event. Apparently the committee have a meeting tonight and any publicity or articles that have been published/accepted from the event are to be discussed.

Then she asked me a strange question that concerned me a bit. There were alarm bells ringing in the back of my mind. She'd been on the Internet and asked me if I was the Julie Phillips who was the international writer. I said that I wasn't, although I knew who she meant, and she said what a shame it was! Yes, quite - I'd love to be an internationally renowned writer! But thank god she didn't find my other namesake - the one who styles cross dressers! Now that would have caused a stir in the meeting tonight! (I'm not that Julie Phillips either.)

Then I got a bit anxious as I thought is she checking up on me? I felt guilty even though, to my knowledge, I haven't done anything that infringes their terms and conditions or any copyright laws. But it also made me stop and think about why I didn't get anything published about the event. I had a golden opportunity presented to me on a plate and I didn't take it. I took loads of notes, interviewed lots of people and took loads of photos. I remember approaching Shropshire Life about an article but I'd been pipped to the post (by the PR lady of Wenlock Olympian Society who rang me this morning!) And I approached Country & Border Life but that's where the photograph issue first reared its ugly head. Then I sort of just ran out of steam.

But the PR's phone call has spurred me on again - she was very kind and wished me luck with my future endeavours and so I have decided to give it another go and send a couple of articles off and photos. It would be a shame to waste the work I did collating all the information. I think what is putting me off is that the society requires anyone who writes an article about them to send a copy to them for scrutiny first and if the writer wants to use any photos from their archive, you have to apply by form for them and they charge a fee. But you can't just be vague as to what publication they're for, you have to be specific and they charge a fee for the photos. Now, if, like me you are freelance and you want to pitch articles to a variety of magazines - it can get complicated and costly - particularly if there is no guarantee the magazine will buy the article at the end of it.

So I've been a bit reluctant to try it really. I'm scared of breaching anything and and I certainly can't afford to be out of pocket. I think that before, I was scared that I couldn't write the article well enough to get published. But now, four months after the event, I know I can write the article easily enough and I have got articles accepted - so my confidence is higher. So maybe I'll just write it, send it in to the society, see what they think then offer it to a magazine with the photos I have but state that I can access other photos if they need them. It would be nice to see something in print of mine about the society and I know they'd appreciate it too.

Julie xx

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

This England/Evergreen/Beautiful Britain guidelines

Here are the guidelines for the above magazines. You might have something that is suitable for you to submit to them. Whatever you submit to them is automatically considered for publication in all three magazines - saves on postage and having to submit three articles to the three editors.

I had a slip from them today saying they are considering an article I sent to them recently. It might still be rejected but at least they didn't send it back, rejected, straight away!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Sunday, 15 November 2009

We're busy doing nothing .......

Still nothing to report on the article front, other than the guidelines for the Best Of British magazine came through. I'll scan them in a minute for you all to see. You might have something you can send off to them.

I'm still busy NaNo-ing at the moment but I have sent a couple of articles off last week and I'm aiming to send one or two off this week. One to Best Of British magazine and I'm not sure were else yet, but I'm sure it'll come to me as the week goes on!

Happy writing - I hope this week is the week you get some acceptances or see your work in print.

Keep writing!

Julie xx

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Feature Focus

I've been a bit lax on the article writing so far this week as I've been busy trying to keep my word count up for my novel as part of the madness that is NaNoWriMo. I'm taking part this year for the first time and I have to write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November. I don't know what possessed me but so far, to my utter amazement (and my family's) I am keeping up to a decent word count.

I still haven't heard anything back from the editors I've pitched ideas to or sent actual manuscripts to and I suppose I'm using my frustrations on that point to fuel my NaNo writing. Has anyone got any useful ideas on what to do if you hear nothing back re your pitches?I keep sending them out there but as I said previously, it's like I'm lost in space, drifting out over the galaxy, beyond reach of all communications. Don't they say that in space, no one can hear you scream?!

I'm devoting my writing time tomorrow to polishing up and sending out a couple of articles and I'll work on polishing my pitching technique (and I don't mean tents or balls!) and sending more out in the hope one will stick.

I tend to try and catch the editor's attention right from the start by putting a statement/title in the subject line that's unusual or surprising and then I go on in the main body of the text explaining who I am. I then go straight into the idea, mentioning side bars and people I will be quoting - unusual facts or techniques I'll be discussing and I include a sample photo or two. The whole thing is probably about 100 - 150 words, no more than two short paragraphs - three at the most. I then put my contact details at the end.

I know it works sometimes as I've had some articles accepted, but I get a lot of misses too where I hear nothing back. I do what I'm told and keep sending them out but it's so frustrating when you want to be given a chance to write this article you know is going to be great because the subject matter is brilliant and you know you can write to a publishable standard. But you can't bring it all to life if you're falling down at the first hurdle of the proposal!

So tomorrow is not NaNo day but ArNo day for me, where I try and take aim and hit my target magazines. I've said it before and I don't want to sound like a broken record, but the only way forward is to keep smiling (paste it on with face paint if you have to) keep pitching and writing and improving your writing skills and sending your articles out there and one day an editor will take you by surprise, and catch you out by wanting to see an article you've pitched to them now that you haven't written yet! I look forward to that day and NaNoWriMo has certainly taught me how to speed write so will come in handy, should that day arise!

Julie xx

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Hello? Is there anyone out there?

Mmmm. It's all gone eerily quiet in my writing life. It's not me; I'm writing away like a mad woman. I've sent two articles out this week and about seven proposals to a variety of magazines on subjects as varied as wildlife, writing and business. And there lies the problem. I've heard nothing back. It's like the Bermuda triangle here, or the Marie Celeste. It's as though my email proposals have been swallowed up by some mysterious Internet proposal gobbler and the editors are blithely carrying on regardless.Or maybe they have got through and they're pressed the delete button without a second glance.

I know there's been a postal strike on, but luckily we've still had a trickle of mail getting through every day. It may be that as the backlog of post filters through my manuscripts will be returned to me (not all on the same day, I hope! There's only so much a writer can take!)

I'm doing all the right things by not sitting here, twiddling my thumbs, waiting anxiously by the phone, or staring at my in-box, or hiding in wait to ambush the postman as he nears my door. I'm working on other articles and features. But every now and then I get a little niggling and nagging voice at the back of mind (it sounds a bit like Kenneth Williams) going, "Oooh 'eeer, all the work you'll ever write will be rejected, you know." Most days I just bat it away with my trusty electrified 'negativity' swatter but some days, when the tumble weed crosses my computer screen, or the postman misses my house out on his rounds, and my in-box doesn't ping, I can't help but think, "Oh my God, no-one wants to publish my work!" Then the manic wailing of, "WHY OH WHY doesn't anyone want to publish my work?" Starts.

It can be demotivating when you are writing an article that you have proposed to an editor so it is ready to send should they want it and you hear nothing back from them. I am loathe to email them again to check on the progress of my submission/proposal as everything I've ever read on the subject says that this is a sure fire way of being rejected. Yet, if I hadn't have emailed the Writers' Forum to check on an article I'd sent about writing courses I wouldn't have got it published as the editor had forgotten to email me back to ask me to send in the manuscript. So what do you do? Editors are busy people and mistakes/oversights do happen. But it's also true that if a editor doesn't like your idea or manuscript nine-times-out-of ten it's deleted or put in the recycling pile never to be thought of again,and the writer never hears the fate of their work.

One way round this would be do multiple submissions, tailoring your proposal or manuscript to the specific style and preferences of the editor of each magazine you send it to. But, again, I am loathe to do this. What happens if you get two or more editors interested in your work (highly unlikely, I know). I don't want to annoy any of the editors by saying,"Ooops, sorry, just sold that one." They will be less eager to read my work after this. What to do!

My heart sinks when I turn on my computer every morning and there is nothing in my in-box other than a round robin from Tescos urging me to join their diet plan and lose two stone before Christmas! (How do they know I'm trying to lose weight?!)

But anyway. The only way forward is to move forward. Keep sending article proposals out there and keep writing the articles/features. So I am now going to take the advice of a speaker friend of another speaker I interviewed last week SUMO (Shut Up and Move On! (If you are reading this, Liam - stop it! I can see my duck from here and it's giving me the evil eye! I know, I know - I can and I will!

Julie xx

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Lovely Blog Award

Thank you, Olivia Ryan, for passing on a Lovely Blog Award to me. I am honoured! I love writing my blog and have got so much support from my fellow bloggers and I really do appreciate it.

Blogging has been a revelation for me and I hope my blog continues to inspire and get people writing, because despite the ups and downs, the publications and the rejections I'm still here writing, and so are you all. We should all be proud of that.

I also love to read so many blogs - all of which are excellent. How can I choose who to pass it on to? The only fair way I can do it is to put the names of my favourite blogs into a hat and get my daughter to pull a winner out! So that's what I'll do when she finishes school this afternoon! Watch this space.

Thank you again, Olivia!

Julie xx

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

New Outlets

I found a new possible outlet for my article on the local drama group I spent time with. The tip off came from a fellow Wrekin Writer who is also a member of the drama group and was instrumental in my being allowed to observe the group and interview people/get photos. It often pays to ask the people you interview if they know of any magazines/newsletters in their particular field of interest that may take an article you're writing about them.

Mike White, the Wrekin Writer and member of the drama group emailed me to tell me about NODA National Operatic and Drama Association. They are a national company who have members from the theatrical and operatic world and they also have regional magazines and branches too. I had never heard of them before and so was a bit reluctant to approach them as I felt (huge slap on my wrists please) that my writing would not interest them! So I left it for a few weeks until yesterday when I plucked up enough courage to approach them. I figured if the group had been so kind and helpful to me when I was gathering information/researching/interviewing, then the least I could do was try and get them a piece in their own specialist magazine!!

I emailed the editor and received an email back expressing their interest, and I emailed a copy of the article with selected photos over last night with a hard copy version going out this afternoon, as they requested both email and printed. I await a verdict. But I would never had submitted to them had Mike not mentioned NODA to me. So thank you Mike, and fingers crossed, it might just make it in.

I've just finished transcribing from my dictaphone, the interview from the motivational speaker I saw on Friday and will be writing that up soon. I've approached two writing magazines now with the proposal for the article and will be pitching the idea to different magazines later. Liam O'Connell, he motivational speaker gave me ideas for how and where to pitch my articles on him too - the business trade press, which I, again, as in the drama group example above, would never have considered that arena for my work. So thank you, Liam, too!

Don't be afraid to push further with your writing into new avenues. And as Liam says, "Never, ever, give up."

Happy writing

Julie xx