Thursday, 30 December 2010

A place for everything ........

.........and everything in its place is to be my new article writing mantra in 2011. For too long I have allowed my hallowed writing place to be a slovenly disaster zone: piles of papers everywhere, magazines I no longer need, lists and agendas and note books and pens that don't work, you name it it's there. Well at least it was until this afternoon. Oh yes I've had my annual post Xmas/pre- New Year clear out. One could make the observation that if I kept my writing area clean and tidy all year round I wouldn't have to resort to this mammoth task. But hey ho! Maybe that's something I can work on this year.

Tomorrow I'm going to buy some box files so I can divide my notes and works in progress into articles, short stories and novels. That way I think I won't behave like a kid in a sweet shop, my eyes eagerly darting between which delight I'm going to work on and then, because my work is all over the place, end up doing precisely nothing. I already have a new whiteboard up so I can plan my writing better and I can put my ideas down on there as soon as they come to me so I can work on them later, rather than scribbling them down on tatty pieces of paper and leaving them all over the house.

I recognise that in order to take my writing seriously and get it to where I want it to be, I'm going to have to smarten my act up and get more organised and professional. Let's see if, even in these unfavourable financial times, I can get my sales count up.

Have a reshuffle, a tidy up, a clear out yourself and see what you can achieve! It's certainly cheered me up - an uncluttered workspace = an uncluttered mind = greater productivity.

Good luck with your writing in 2011.

Julie xx

Monday, 27 December 2010

New Year Resolutions?

Do you make New Year Resolutions in regard to your article writing?  Do you make plans for the year ahead highlighting what you hope to achieve with your writing over the next twelve months? Some writers leave it at that. They make vague notes on what they want to do but that's as far as it gets. A dream, scribbles on a piece of paper they shove in a drawer, never to see the light of day again. They might write the odd article through the year and make half hearted attempts at pitching to markets they haven't really researched because they couldn't really be bothered. Then twelve months later they wonder why their writing year hasn't been as successful as they had hoped.

If you make New Year writing resolutions then go to town on them. Look at the specifics. Instead of writing down, 'I want to have three articles published in a magazine and three short stories published in one of the women's mags, or I want to interview someone interesting or famous,' get down to the details and name the magazines you want to be published in and the person/people you want to interview. Make a calendar and impose your own deadlines: By 1st Feb 2011 I will have submitted three short stories  -  one to Take A Break, one to Woman's Weekly and another to The Weekly News. By 1st March I will have pitched six article ideas: two to Writing Magazine, two to Healthy Magazine and two to Pregnancy and Birth Magazine. It doesn't matter which magazine it is as long as you make firm plans across a timescale that is achievable for you, given your own commitments and time constraints.

I love this time of year as it's so full of promise and potential  -  what fun planning your writing future when it's cold and dark outside! But you will only realise your writing dreams if you actually plan out how you are going to achieve them, otherwise you run the risk of leaving them as just dreams. Got to be in it to win it as they say! But remember that plans need to be both realistic and flexible to be achievable. If they are too rigid and too full on you might set yourself up for a fall and trip yourself up before you've really got started. On the other hand, if they are too fluid you might not have the attention span or the discipline needed to see your writing dreams through to realisation. There's a fine line between under or over egging the pudding.

I can't wait to get started on my plans and I hope that 2011 is a great writing year for you. I'm looking forward to hearing about all of your successes! Remember it's great to dream but if you want to be published you have to take action. He who dares wins.

Happy writing
Julie xx

Monday, 20 December 2010

Jingle Bells

So the big day is almost upon us. The goose is getting fat and all that. But how is your writing notebook shaping up  -  is it suffering, absolutely stuffed full of festive/winter ideas that you can't close it? Or is it looking a little slimline with not a crumb of a mince pie having passed its pages? On a previous posting I was mulling over what to write about and Sally commented that she would suggest we write about seasonal things while we are slap bang in the middle of it. I quite agree. We should, as writers, be ultra nosy, I mean observant, and take note of the details of Christmas and the winter period:

Listen to the snow as it crunches underfoot.
Enjoy the silence a blanket of snow brings  -  don't you find the world is muffled under snow?
Watch the snowflakes as they spiral to the ground.
Watch the cars slip sliding along the roads.
Walk through some woods in the snow and hear the branches creaking and groaning with the weight of the snow they carry, and watch little flurries of snow fall from the branches.
If you can't get out in the car, don't get frustrated. Instead, revel in the moment. Accept this temporary house arrest and use it to fill your ideas notebook/folder up.
Look out of the window and gaze upon the magical winter landscape and let your imagination run riot.
What aspects of the Christmas/winter season could you capture and write about for next year's magazine market?
Go for a walk in the snow and record every sensation, sound, sight, touch, emotion that you feel.
Listen to weather reports and note the language and terminology they use to forecast the weather. Describe the weather report. Do you know any weather reporters you could interview? Or do you know of any non-scientific ways to forecast the weather? Do they work and how?
See how many top ten or top five festive/winter tips you can compile.
Do you know any unusual Christmas/winter customs or traditions?
Can you identify different types of frost and snow?
Can you look back at weather reports for your area and write an article about what's been happening over the last fifty or 100 years or further back?

The list is endless!If you do all the hard work and research now, when you come to pitch the ideas later on in 2011, it's not going to take you long to get the articles written and sent off. Even if some of your ideas are rejected, no research is ever wasted and you can always adapt the idea to try with another magazine or look at it again for a future Xmas/winter.

Happy writing! And Merry Christmas. I hope you achieved at least some of your writing aims this year and I wish you all the very best of luck in realising your writing dreams in 2011 and beyond.

Julie xx

Friday, 10 December 2010

What to Write About?

It seems that it's not just the weather that's gone into a deep freeze over the past few weeks. It feels like the publishing world is in suspended animation or has been stuffed in the freezer for the remainder of the winter months. Now I like the snow, but I hate the ice and freezing temperatures. I hate the way the whole country seems to grind to a halt because my writing brain seems to freeze up due to lack of grit too. And several of the publications I've pitched to recently have come back with the reply that they've got enough material for now and are not taking ideas until the New Year.

So what is a writer to do when their ideas have iced over and editors have closed the doors against the cold, harsh winter winds? Well, a writer could go into hibernation themselves and just give up until the warmth of the spring sun awakes them from their slumber and miss out on any writing opportunities that might have come their way while they were sleeping. They could continue to batter their head against the door that isn't going to open and just give themselves a headache as well as irritating the poor editor  -  no means no. Or they could spend the rest of December writing down all the ideas that come to them and working on wording the perfect pitch, ready to send out there when the editors open their doors again. I would suggest the latter option is the best to go for. You have to be prepared for the New Year so you have something to pitch, so thinking about it now will save you a lot of hassle.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Learn All About It

I had an article in a writing magazine earlier this year about writing courses and how to choose the right one for you. I enjoyed researching and writing that article as a lot of my own personal experience was tied up in it. I did an Open University Creative Writing Course back in 2007. I decided to do it as I had started writing again (something I hadn't done since I was a child and a teenager.) Why I suddenly decided to start writing again I'm not sure. I think I needed a creative outlet in my life and writing was it. I also felt that if I wanted to try and be a published writer then this was my chance to give it a go.

I didn't know if I could do the course as I'd never attempted one like it before. And there I was, taking a huge leap into the dark, going straight for a level three writing course! Madness or bravery? I still don't know! But I am so glad that I did. Okay, it wasn't an article writing course, it was more about poetry and short story writing, leaning far more to the literary side of writing than I'd envisaged, but I still passed the course. Something that tipped me into deciding to try and become a full time writer.

I'm now doing another course which, if I'm honest, I started in Sept 2009 and I'm still not even half way through it! It's not the course. It really is me. It's a Writers' Bureau journalism course and I think because there are no real deadlines as there are with the Open University course, I'm finding it hard to commit the time to complete it. Maybe it's because I've already had a fair few articles published already? I hadn't had anything published when I started the Open University course. But there's always room for improvement and I've learned a lot from the journalism course already that has definitely improved my writing style (thank you tutor!)

I saw the journalism course folder in my drawer this morning and I felt a pang of guilt that I had neglected it. I know that I have to get through it. Something to keep me busy over some of the Christmas holidays I think! I always seem to find other writing projects to do instead, though! I have the typical writer's trait of starting something else before I finish the last project. And although having several projects on the go means you'll never be short of a submission or two, it's a pain when you can't finish what you've started and have several half finished projects you can't submit! Got to stop that.

So it's time to get a grip and get focused. The year is nearly out and although I've achieved a lot of what I wanted to with my writing  -  more than I ever dreamed, in fact  -  I need to bring all of that success and hard work together and focus it into 2011, to be a sharper, better, more organised writer.

Do you need to do a course to be a successful writer? Well no, but a course or two will give you the tools you need to know that you are going about this writing business in the right way. So, if you're thinking about doing a course to improve your writing in 2011, why not have a look around and see what's available. It worked for me  -  but then I needed the motivation and the structure to make sure I got my essays and writing in on time -  something that has really helped me with getting my submissions out there to this day. I just need to impose my own deadlines on the journalism course and get it finished.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Saturday, 27 November 2010

All Change

I had a change round this month. Instead of having an article published where I was the one asking the questions, this time the tables were turned and I was the one being interviewed. Sally Quilford has done a fantastic job, as she always does, and in her monthly Writers' Forum column she's included an interview she did with me talking about Wrekin Writers and our annual Doris Gooderson short story comp. It's in the January 2011 issue of the mag (out now in all good newsagents!)

I hadn't realised it would be out so soon (neither did Sally!) So it was a lovely surprise to see it when I flicked through the magazine. If you don't read this magazine, I would suggest that it wouldn't be a bad idea to start reading it. I've been reading it each month now for almost 4 years and the advice and interviews contained within it's pages haven't done me any harm. They have, in fact, enhanced my own writing. I'm so proud that I've had a couple of articles published in there myself as well - something I never thought would happen. But it did! It can be done if you persevere.

It's always a pleasure to flaunt the many virtues of the  wonderful Wrekin Writers too and raise our profile a little! I still haven't got over our last retreat. I don't think I got over the first one I went to two years ago either. I don't think I'll ever be the same again! A great writing group is worth it's weight in gold and I'm lucky enough to be involved in one of the best. I don't think I'd have dared submit half of what I do get out there without their help and support. Thank you!

My writing plans for this coming week are to finish NaNo, which I'm on target to do by tomorrow. Then I'll be straight back on to my articles, pitching ideas ready for next year.  I'm keen to explore different magazines next year and target them. I feel like stretching my wings a bit. It's good for writers to change direction every now and then and keep their ideas and writing fresh and exciting.

Talking of fresh, it's a bit nippy out there today and I see we have a sprinkling of the white stuff this morning.

Happy writing!

Julie xx

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Out of the ordinary and original

Some people might say that there's nothing left on the planet to write about that is original as it's all been done before. Well, yes, to a certain degree I would agree with that. But, on the other hand, it's not been written by you or me. We are individuals with a unique experience of life. No-one will ever have the same experiences, go to the same places, have the same ideas, motives, thoughts and inspirations as you or I. You can, therefore, bring freshness and originality to your articles. No-one can do that but you. If you asked ten writers to write on the same subject each of those writers will produce a different article. The content might be similar, but because each writer will bring their own blend of experience and opinion to it, they will have an originality about them that editors will love.

So instead of thinking, 'Oh I won't bother writing about that because someone else has already done it,' look at the subject matter from a different angle, from your perspective, and see if you can come up with an even better article that sparkles with originality and freshness that will have editors snapping it up. If you allow yourself to give in to your writing devil who is telling you not to bother writing about this and that because it's all been done before, you will end up not writing anything. Not a good place for a writer to be in!

Happy writing and give your writing devil the heave ho -  I wonder what you will achieve once he/she's gone?

Julie xx

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Article time again

I realise that some of you write articles all the time and for you this post won't mean very much! But in my case I seem to work on a rota system, dividing my time between writing either articles, short stories or novels. It's a bit like the phases of the moon really!  Or where my moon is rising in my chart. I've just gone through the short story phase and I'm well and truly engrossed in my NaNo novel writing phase now. This phase will last until the end of November when a new moon will take me into article writing again.

It's a bit of a strange period at the moment with article writing. Some editors aren't interested in any articles until the new year, Everyone seems to be gearing up for the Christmas period and winding down for the holidays. But it is the perfect time to reassess your article writing and think about your plan of attack for next year, so you can get your ideas in quick next year. Are you going to continue to pitch and putt to your old faithfuls or are you going to spring out of your comfort zone and take a shot at a magazine you've not approached before?

I'm going to be thinking up some new article ideas over the coming weeks and look at other possible outlets for them  -  magazines I haven't been published in before. I find this an exciting exercise as it's full of potential and new growth. A writer who is continually growing and evolving has a distinct advantage over a writer who refuses to move with the times and adapt.

I'm concentrating on the morris dancers at the moment and I'm also going to be looking through magazines I've not seen before to assess them as potential markets. I've still got to finish my journalism course (she says again!) Time just seems to run away with me and writing time is scarce. But I'll get there!

I went on a writing retreat last weekend and managed to get some writing done (I say some  -  look on the Wrekin Writers' website for evidence of what we got up to!) It was a wonderful experience and very, very funny. My motivation levels are sky high again and all I want to do is write! So I've made a promise to myself and challenged my self to increase my writing time and up my output. I've realised that if I want to continue to be a published writer I'm going to have to up the ante and buckle down and write a lot more than I have been. No excuses. No diversions. I hope my increased determination levels will pay off.

Hope everyone else is doing well.

Happy writing
Julie xx

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Wake up!

As I'm busy with NaNo again, I haven't had much chance to think about articles. I had hoped to have got some more  of my journalism course done, but that's life, eh? I have to make priorities, as we all do, with writing and I find I have to be in the mood to do one or the other. At the moment the NaNo novel is taking the helm as are some short stories (I had one accepted by The Weekly News last week!Wooh hooh!) But article writing is never far from my mind.

At the moment the nights are drawing in. It's getting colder, wetter, windier and everything is slowing down for winter. So I'm thinking about article material that I could get ready over the next few weeks that looks at spring: the waking up of the countryside and the Earth after its winter hibernation. If you can think back to last spring and what was in the magazines then, you can think up new slants on that material and pitch it to the magazines now so the editor receives it in plenty of time to consider it for publication.

So while it's cold, dark and unwelcoming outside, make your writing space warm, cosy and inviting. Close the curtains and lock the darkness outside. Light some candles, turn the heating up, get yourself a large mug of  hot chocolate and  a supply of biscuits. Turn your computer on, get your notebook and pen out and get thinking about and writing your spring ideas ready to pitch.

If it helps, type spring season into your search engine and look at spring pictures. I've taken loads of photos over the past two years of scenes from different seasons and I've found these very good for inspiring me when I'm trying to write about spring at the end of autumn!

Happy Easter!

Julie xx

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Playing Ball

I know that writing can sometimes feel like a waste of time, particularly when you get rejection after rejection. You begin to wonder why the jiggery you started writing in the first place and what possessed you to try and get published. It's true that it's not the easiest of professions to break into but that's what it is: a profession, a job just like any other. And if you approach it in that manner it will go a long way to getting you to where you want.  

When I started writing in 2007, I saw it as a hobby, a past time, something to keep me amused, a stress reliever from my then stressful  job. A release. I never thought that I'd be able to write for money. But then, when I joined Wrekin Writers and met other writers who did write for money I had a huge attitude change. Instead of just writing willy nilly into the wind I became organised and structured and targeted magazines with my writing to varying success. The more I wrote and submitted, the more I sold. It was as simple as that.

I used to get annoyed at myself when I hadn't sold any articles for a while until I remembered I hadn't actually took the time to think of any article ideas or pitch them! You can only submit something when you've thought about it and at least formulated a plan of what your article is about and who it's intended for. When you're busy it can be difficult to get the energy and inclination to write an article.

Go to fullsize imageI'm a busy person (aren't we all?) and I have to constantly remind myself that, amongst other things, I am a writer and writers write! All too often my writing slides because I forget to write and I let other areas of my life take over. But if you want to be a published writer you have to make it a priority. It's a business. You have to have determination, a cast iron constitution, persistence, a nose for good article material. And you have to be prepared to spend quality time on your writing. If you're too busy to write and would rather slump in front of the TV every evening rather than get your pen or computer out then maybe you don't have the right attitude to be a published writer. Everyone slumps in front of the TV sometimes (I know I do, particularly when there's a few hours of CSI on!) But, eventually you have to make a decision as to whether you want to be a published writer or Go to fullsize image a TV fanatic! I know which one I prefer.

Even if you only have 10 minutes at your disposal to write then write, Just do it. It soon mounts up. And once I start writing I usually find that I don't want to stop, and before I know it I've written an article synopsis or half an article  -  sometimes even the first rough draft of an entire article. Now that and seeing one of my finished articles published in a magazine makes me feel so much more happier than watching TV ever will.

Keep your eye on the ball and give the editor what they want. Don't just write an article because it's on a subject that interests you. Read the magazines and see what interests the editors and the magazine's readers. It's important to write in the style of the magazine your article is destined for, but before you even start I would contact the magazine to see if they even take freelance contributions. You may be wasting your time if you send an article off on spec and they won't consider anything from outside. 'In-house' seems to be the favourite buzz word banded out by editors these days who are feeling the financial squeeze along with the rest of us. So don't waste your or the editor's time. By all means send them your writing CV. I've done this in the hope that one day an editor might contact me  -  you never know!  But don't give the editor something they don't want. True, sometimes, editors don't know what they want until they see it, but usually they have a clear idea and if you're not on the same wavelength it will be a thank you but no.  But there's no harm in asking.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Back To The Future


Go to fullsize imageI intend to spend some time over the half term holidays looking at back copies of a couple of a few magazines. I'm also going to look at the current copies. I'm going to do this for two reasons:

1. So that I can get a flavour of the types of articles and features they publish and work out from the content the magazine's intended reader.

2. So I can get some ideas on what seasonal themes the articles are based on so I can write something appropriate to that magazine's style ready to send for this time next year.

It's also an excuse to put my feet up with a cup of coffee! It's something I don't have a lot of time to do usually. But I had to ask myself if I could afford not to. I owe it to my writing, and you owe it to yours to get down to the nearest newsagents and pick up some magazines that take freelance contributions and read them from cover to cover. If you don't give yourself that valuable research time you are denying yourself the best chance of publication. You have to read the whole magazine, adverts and all, in order to get your head round what it is the reader and, therefore, the editor wants - that means reading as many back copies of the magazine as you can lay your hands on as well as the current issue. The closest you can match your article to the general style of the magazine, (and remember that each magazine has it's own particular style, so one size or format does not fit all!) the better your chance of acceptance.

Happy reading!

Julie xx

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Chasing

We all know how life can run away with us.  Most of the time we are chasing our own tails and time seems to accelerate at an alarming rate. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything that I'd like to achieve done. This is particularly true with writing which, I have to say, has been treated a bit like Cinderella recently - the underdog. Not high on my list of priorities.

I'm ashamed to say that the realisation at just how far I'd slipped with my writing subs was when I suddenly realised I'd written an article back in May, sent it to the person it was written about but not heard back from them. So I contacted them and resent the article which they loved. They were apologetic but it was my fault as I should have contacted them within a couple of weeks after I'd sent the article  -  not almost five months!

Anyway, the point of this post is to say that if you want to be a published writer you need to:

* Make your writing a serious priority and actually make the time to write.

* Keep a log of the article pitches you send out and any articles you send out, so that you know exactly  where you are.

* Whatever the outcome of your submissions make sure you log this down too so you know which articles to revamp and send elsewhere.

* Accurate record keeping is important so you don't send the same pitch/article to the same magazine twice!

*If you are interviewing people for your articles, remember they also have busy lives and don't always pick up their messages. So if you've contacted them but not heard back from them, give them a reasonable amount of time (only you can determine this time scale as only you know when the editor is expecting the article) then try contacting them again. It might be a good idea to indicate within your e-mails to those you are writing about the time scale you are working with. It might chivvy them along!
*Bide your time. The world does not revolve around the writer! We have to fit in with other's busy schedules. People will forget. People will dither and chop and change their minds. It's human nature. I know it can be frustrating, but life happens and the mark of a good writer is for them to learn not to let it bother them. Work round it.

I've been trying to get my questionnaires filled in by the Morris Dancers for ages  - but there was a couple of times I couldn't get up to them due to my family commitments and other times when they forgot to tell me about a venue change, they were away dancing the other end of the country, they had meetings, they forgot to give the questionnaires out!  But I don't panic or cause a fuss. What would be the point in that? I'll get the questionnaires in when I get them in and the articles will still get written eventually. Just go with the flow and be grateful that people have agreed to let you in to their worlds. Enjoy the process of meeting new people and watching what they get up to! Your writing will be so much better.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Interviewer or interviewee?

I had the pleasure of being interviewed myself via e-mail yesterday. I think it does writers good to be on the receiving end of an interview rather than the giving end every now and then. We can learn so much about the interviewing process from being interviewed ourselves and it informs and improves our own practice. It might be a good exercise to do a mock interview  -  get your friend, writing buddy, family to devise some questions and interview you. It can be great fun and you'll get a flavour of what your interviewees go through when you grill them!

I find e-mail interviews the easiest to cope with as an interviewee but you can't beat face to face interviews when you are the interviewer. I've performed many interviews and met such a lot of wonderful people through my work as a writer in this way. I've also discovered some surprising things about people that I never knew - aren't other people fascinating? Or is that my nosy streak?! Nosiness is an essential quality in a writer. I find e-mail interviews easy at the moment as there's not much time in my schedule to get out there and meet anyone who wants to interview me. But had I had time to and we lived nearer to each other I would have liked to have met my interviewer.

I think meeting people and sitting down face to face gives you so much more information than telephone or e-mail interviews ever will. You can see facial expression, their environment (if you get invited to their home you are lucky and can use that,) subtle body language, how they speak etc are all important in getting the gist of what a person is really like. It's nice to meet them too and they can also suss you out too.

I went up to the morris dancers again last Monday and delivered my questionnaires that I'm hoping will be completed by next week. The Morris dancers are so welcoming and tried their level best to get me to join them but I'm afraid I have two left feet and an appalling sense of direction! They'd be dancing one way and I'd be off in the other direction! So I did them a favour and declined. I am looking forward to writing about them. And that's what it's all about  -  enjoying the writing process. If you enjoy what you write about and are genuinely enthusiastic about the subject, person you are writing about then this will show through in your finished article, giving it life and the personal touch - much more interesting than a mere stringing together of facts. Make it sparkle!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 30 September 2010

mini success

Because my writing time has been reduced recently I've been sending little snippets out. The result of this is that I had a letter published in the local newspaper and a filler article published in the local school governor magazine. Nothing big or paid for but just enough to keep the writing flow going and give me  boost!

I've also started to send out my writing CV to magazines. I've sent one out so far and think I might send out a couple more. There is no harm in trying and it might get my foot in the door to at least show them I'm a serious writer who can deliver the goods. It might come to nothing but I'll try anything once! That's the thing with writing - you have to learn to take the risk of a) not being allowed to pitch to certain publications; b) being able to pitch but having them declined at every turn; or c) writing the article but being told it's not quite what they were looking for!  But there is always the chance that you will be successful - that's a risk I'm willing to take. What about you?

Happy writing

Julie

Monday, 20 September 2010

Small but beautiful

I had three surprises on the filler writing front yesterday (Why do they all seem to come at once?) When I was in the dinner hall at school,  one of the other lunch time assistants told me that she'd seen my beauty tip in Prima magazine (Nov issue.) That will be £25 coming my way soon then. When you consider that it's £25 for probably as many words it's not a bad gig! Prima and Essentials mag are always on the look out for tips etc, both general and themed. Have a look on their website, or better still, get the mags themselves and indulge yourself with a cuppa and some biccies while you do your 'research.'

The second and third surprises were both in the Nov issue of Writers' Forum. I had a letter in response to my previous article on NaNoWriMo and I supplied some quotes for Sally Quilford's column too on judging short story comps (thank you Sally!)

So not a bad day at all really. The only perplexing thing that happened in evening was when I went to meet the Morris Dancers at their practice session but they weren't there! I met a nice lady, though, who had also come - she'd been in their team a few years ago and wanted to rejoin them. We had a nice chat as we waited. Then we ventured to the leisure centre where we thought they might have gone instead . We had a giggle too. When we arrived at the leisure centre it was deserted.  A light was flickering and we could hear a faint whistling coming from down the long corridor. I said, "isn't this how really bad horror films always start! It was freaky! Anyway, the morris dancers weren't there either so we gave up and went home! They're probably down the pub somewhere.

Happy writing  - get those tips and fillers out there £25 is a printer cartridge or two or a couple of small moleskine notebooks  -  well worth the minimal effort!

Julie xx

Thursday, 16 September 2010

To Write or Not to Write is That The Question?

I've been thinking a lot about my writing recently. You'll note I said thinking about it and not actually doing it. Although I am writing, I'm not writing to pitch or try and earn money from it  -  well not in a direct sense. I am doing a lot of  'essay' writing for the teaching assistant course I'm doing, but no article or stories. But it's still writing isn't it? I still have to construct proper sentences, think about the words I use and the point I want to make in a concise and meaningful way. I'm varying sentence length, trying to make what I'm writing interesting to the reader (my assessor) who, for all intents and purposes is acting as an editor. If I don't make myself clear or include all the relevant points, or I start waffling, I won't pass the course. So although I'm not writing my articles or short stories I am still practising my writing skills, keeping my hand in so to speak.

My plan is to do as much of my course work as I can during the week and leave the weekends free to indulge myself in writing articles and short stories. The course finishes in January 2011 but I know I can get the course work out of the way much sooner than that. I have had such great support from the two teachers whose classes I go in and that has made all the difference. I've also been using my writing skills in the classroom, helping the kids to improve their writing/reading and it's been such good fun.

I am frustrated that I'm that I'm not doing as much writing as I was and I'm still disappointed that I was unable to make a living purely out of writing and had to go back to some paid work other than writing. But I can live with that at the moment. I love going into the classrooms and it's given me fodder for things to write   - we writers must always be alert to new writing opportunities! I don't think I'm the kind of person who can survive without going out to work albeit part time. I think I liked the idea and the flexibility of working purely from home as a writer but I missed the social side of interacting with other people and I certainly missed the money! There's a fine balance between having enough money and doing the kind of work you really want to do. I think I have the best of both worlds at the moment, even if I, temporarily, have to write more essays/coursework than my beloved articles/short stories.

Writing is about choices: we, to a certain extent,  choose what we are going to write - or what an editor wants us to write. We choose how much time we devote to our writing - sometimes we have more time and sometimes we have less. But we have to decide what we are going to write and when and how much time we can give to it. Sometimes life gets in the way and we just have to go with that and write when we can. It's no use to man nor beast if we think, 'I've got too much on this week so there's no point in me even trying to write as I haven't got the time to do it justice.' You have to make your choices and get on with it.

In the words of a famous sports brand  -  Just Do It! Oh and another motto, this time from a leading supermarket, I've found helpful  is, 'every little helps!'

Happy writing what ever form it takes and for how ever much time you have to do it in,

Julie xx

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Got an itch

I have this itch that I'm just going to have to scratch and it's all Writers' Forum's fault. If I hadn't have seen my article about NaNo in there in their October issue I would still be procrastinating and being indecisive about what to write next. As you know I have been concentrating on writing my short stories but now I really feel the need to get back to articles. So Writers' Forum have given me he kick I needed to get going again.

I had a successful year last year with my articles when my short stories didn't do as well as I hoped they would. But because I wanted to give the short stories another bash I stopped pitching and writing so many articles. I didn't have the time or the inclination to do them both justice. Now I've subbed some short stories, I'm once again scouring the magazines in the name of research to see any likely victims  -  I mean candidates and thinking about the kinds of articles I could pitch to them.

It's an essential activity for article writers to get out to the newsagents/ look on the Internet and look for new potential outlets for their articles,  even moreso in the current economic climate. A couple of magazines I've had my articles in before are full to the rafters with articles and so I've had some pitches rejected. But instead of deterring me, this has made me even more determined to widen my search and find mgazines that are open to submissions.

It's important for writers to reinvent themselves on occasions and write something they wouldn't ordinarily write. But needs must and writers need to be flexible in their approach to their work and write for the market that's out there not the market they would like to be out there. And that's where thorough research comes in.

It's not easy but neither is it impossible to get your articles published in this financial crisis. You just have to think a bit harder and wider about what editors want and become more inventive and creative with your article ideas. Yes, there are thousands of other writers trying to do the same thing as you which means it's highly competitive, but you musn't let that put you off. Up your game and act like the professional writer even if you don't feel like one! It's all in the mind is a good motto to use here. Think positive, think professional and be productive - you won't succeed every time but every article you get accepted is an article further toward your writing goals.

I was thinking of having regular question and answer sessions on here. What do you think? I thought we might find it helpful as there are things I wish I'd known before I started writing articles and even now I don't know everything and I never will! So if you have a question about article writing, put it in a comment and we'll see what happens!

Best of luck and keep going!

Julie xx

Sunday, 29 August 2010

A welcome boost

I know I haven't written any articles in recent months but I have had one published in Writers' Forum (Oct Issue) out now in all good newsagents! It was a great feeling to see my article in print and  it has given my confidence a boost - particularly so as I had confirmation from the editor that he would publish another of mine too!  Great news.

The article was about NaNoWriMo  - the write 50,000 words of a novel in a month madness from America! You may recall I did this for the first time last November, alongside two other Wrekin Writers, Sue and Jenny and the lovely Suzanne Jones in blogland (thank you for contributing!) All three feature in my article, as does just over 300 words of the nonsense I wrote for NaNo! It is a great example of writing what you know and using your experience of something you've tried or do regularly and turn it into an article.

It's given me the inspiration and motivation I needed to get going on the articles again. I also want to finish the journalism course I'm doing with The Writers' Bureau - so I can kill two birds with one stone and submit the articles I write for the course to magazines.

I have been concentrating on my short stories for a while and was really surprised and  pleased to discover that I've actually managed to submit six short stories to various magazines over the six week school hols, with another two about to go in the next few days. So that will be eight in total  -  I can live with that.  It's shown me what I am capable of when I put my mind to it and make the time to write. Whether any of them will be published is a different matter, but you can't blame a girl for trying.

If you should happen to see my article in Writers' Forum, take a look at it and tell me what you think about it. I always like to do a post mortem on my articles to see what I could have done better or what worked really well so I can improve on my article writing technique for the next one. It might be an interesting exercise to read other people's articles in this analytic way and see how you would have written it. Then you could have a go at writing an article, using the  tips you picked up from your analysis, and submit it. See what happens.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Whoopsie. Mr Magoo lives!

Guess who arranged to meet a local author in a cafe but managed to go to the cafe next door? We were both sitting at the same window seat in the respective cafes, waiting for each other! Each of us was worrying that something ghastly had happened to the other as neither of us had driven by ourselves for a long time and we needed the practice! It's a good job we are good friends and can see the funny side of it!  But not very professional on my part - completely my fault for not looking where I'm going properly. Note to self and other journalists: make sure you know where you are meeting your interviewee and make sure you go through the right door! If it's in a cafe/restaurant ask the waitress or owner just to make sure.

Don't think I'm ever going to live this down! Still it gave us both a laugh once we realised we were both okay, even if I was and still am a little embarrassed.

Julie xx

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Waiting Time

On a bit of a hiatus really with the article writing. No excuse other than I have been having a wild time with the short story writing, looking after my wonderful daughter as it's the school hols, and catching up with the more mundane things in life like doing the housework (don't faint, yes I do actually do some occasionally) However, I do have an article about NaNo coming up in the October issue of Writer's Forum so watch out for that one if you read that magazine. (If you don't read it. I'd highly recommend that you do). I can't believe that I started the NaNo challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days  back in November 2009 and here we are, almost a year later, and I not only got an article out of it that was accepted for publication but I now have a 75,000 word novel awaiting its second edit! Out of small acorns ..........

I'm still waiting for the Morris Dancers to return their e-mail interviews, but as it's holiday season I think I'll be waiting a while longer yet. But while I'm waiting I won't be resting on my laurels, oh no - I shall be transcribing the interview I already have from the Morris dancers on my Dictaphone and looking at the one e-mail interview I have had back so I can start formulating a plan for the articles and follow up on my pitches. The writing devil waits for no man or woman!

I also had a bit of a revelation recently in regards to article writing. Something Alex said in his blog also struck a clanging chord with me. I have been looking at several magazines (whilst lying on the sofa, coffee in hand, all in the name of research you understand) and I keep thinking I could have written that, or that's the kind of thing I could write about. But I haven't  -  someone (another writer just like you or I)  has got on their first. The first question that crossed my mind after this light bulb moment was: why haven't I pitched to these magazines before? Answer - I don't know (too self conscious, they'll never be interested in small fry like me, they'll be inundated with similar pitches from other writers who are much more capable than me  -  yes Simon, I can feel the heat from your glare!). Then the second question, after I'd beaten my 'you're no good, you'll never make it as a writer' devil in to submission, was how can I rectify this and what do I have to do to get my features into these magazines? (Read the magazines through again cover to cover - mine's a white coffee, no sugar thank you. Find out who the editor/features editor is and whether they take from freelancers. Discover their house style/presentation and subbing preferences. Find out if they prefer a pitch first or the whole article and then kick my nerves/reservations/ squeamishness out of the back door and nail the cat flap down so it can't get back in (the nerves, not the cat) and go for it  -  you never know!

So if you think your writing isn't good enough for the likes of the such magazines STOP! Ask yourself what you are basing your assumptions on. Do you know for a fact that they will reject your pitch/work or are your self confidence diminishing demons at work? You don't know until you ask or try - and if it's a NO to your work this time, next time might just be a resounding YES! So go on, dare to be a little devil and have the audacity to bother these editors. Assume nothing and remember the saying 'assume makes an ass out of u and me!

Happy writing!
Julie xx

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Keeping an eye out

So how is the article writing going these days? Is anyone having any success? I have to admit that I'm still trapped in the land of short stories at the moment and enjoying every minute of it. It's as though my brain has sent my creative writing on a package holiday to short story. I am, however, keeping one eye on the articles. I've sent a list of questions off to various Morris Dancers (you may recall I went to watch some practice a few weeks ago and they've gallantly allowed me to write about them.) I'm doing the interviews via e-mail and did one face to face (because the bloke I interviewed was only there for one night and was then going back down South and I wanted to catch him while I could!)

I like all forms of interview except over the phone. I don't know why I don't like it - I haven't the technology to record it so I find myself frantically scribbling down what the interviewee is saying and can I read my notes afterwards? NO! Mind you the one I did with someone in the USA was great.

I'm still searching for article ideas and pitching occasionally, but not to the extent I was before. I find I'm getting the same old story at the moment and I'm getting a sense of how Mary and Joseph felt when they were told there was no room at the inn. But things will no doubt improve. Ever the optimist!

Here's something that cheered me up. I had a funny thing happen with a pitch. I pitched an article to one of the writing mags about how writers might find alternative markets for their work in the face of the recession when many mags are folding or editors aren't taking submissions from freelancers but going in-house for their material. The editor replied that he thought it was too negative. So I re-pitched with a more positive slant to which the editor said he liked it had no space in his magazine at the moment but to try again next year! The very tip of one of my points in the article - editors not taking any subs from freelancers because they had no space in the mags! Oh I did laugh!

Next week I'll be concentrating on my short stories again - I have a few I want to get out there. I already have four out there doing the rounds now. Once I've done that and I've got the answers back from the Morris Dancers, I'll be formulating that article, along with a couple of articles I've had in the pipeline about local issuse. I've still yet to get to my NaNo novel edit! So much to do, so little time. I really must calm my butterfly mind. I'm sure I'd get a lot more writing done if I could just slow my fluttering mind down a tad and focus on one thing at a time. I'm just glad it's the school hols and I've had time to get some writing done. I've surprised myelf by how much I actually have done  -  it's amazing what you can achieve when you set your mind to it. But today is my day off  -  if a writer can ever have such a thing.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Saturday, 24 July 2010

I know there's a recession .......

........and everything, and we writers, along with every other profession/job/occupation in the country can expect things to slow down, but has anyone else got the article writing heebiegeebies? You know what I mean: you take a look on the newsagent's shelves, as every budding good writer should, searching desperately for inspiration and a few new outlets to try your luck with but you draw a blank. You clamp your hands over your ears and shout LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA  every time you hear about magazines folding, publishers going bust and editors not taking any new commissions this side of Christmas - perhaps longer (gulp). What is a writer to do?

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I am, by nature, an upbeat, positive writer, bursting with enthusiasm and motivation. But I am worried about what the future holds for we freelance article writers and for those yet to be published. How is it all going to pan out I wonder? We can try and comfort ourselves with the knowledge that people will always read and editors will always need  writers to provide them with stuff for their readers to read, and there will always be topics to write about. But with many magazines limiting their writing to in-house ( GASP - that's a swearword for freelancers!) just what can we do to 'recession proof' our writing?

The answer to this is not easy. But giving into our fears and thoughts that the markets for our writing are diminishing by the day and so it's not worth us bothering to write or send our articles off to editor, is not an option - or it shouldn't be. In the words of Corporal Jones 'Don't panic Mr Mainwaring!' That should be our mantra I think. Keep pitching, keep writing and keep sending our work out there. If one editor says no, try another one and another one until you've exhausted all your options. Keep searching the magazine racks for new outlets - they are out there if you look hard enough. Don't be afraid to approach the editor of a magazine you haven't heard of or considered before. Be brave and take a shot at it - you've got nothing to lose. New titles will spring up from time to time too. All is not lost. Only those who give in to their apathy and belief that this recession spells the end of their writing career will see it happen  - a self professed prophecy?

It isn't going to be easy but I believe that perseverance is part of the key as is being doubly thorough in your market research and keeping your writing standards and presentation high. This will increase your chances of success. If an editor is presented with umpteen different manuscripts to choose from ,they will most likely go for the one that is well written and well presented. So don't let that slide - even though your enthusiasm and hopes for your chances of being published are half way down that slide with your knuckles white from  clinging on to the safety handles for dear life.

Have some faith in your writing and your ability to adapt your writing skills to whatever writing opportunities are out there and you may be surprised!

Happy adapting your writing

Julie xx

Friday, 16 July 2010

No Man's Land

I'm in a bit of a dip with my article writing at the moment. I pitched two ideas this week but both were declined. One was too close to a series of articles they run already (tut, tut, tut, I should have spotted that before I pitched.) The other the editor had already comissioned a similar series of articles on. So I know with one of them I wasn't far off the mark. That's encouraging at least!

I've been up to watch and talk to the Morris dancers twice now and I'm just waiting for a couple of them to agree to have interviews with me and I can then start writing the articles. I've had a fabulous time with them and have met some great characters, so I'm looking forward to writing about them. I'm thrilled they agreed to let me in. Having a couple of articles I've already had published ready to show them really helped  -  so that's my top tip of the week: take a portfolio of your work along to show them what you can do. It shows them that you are professional (even if you don't feel it) and are capable of getting in print.

Having been out and about in Shropshire recently, taking notes and photos on my local area, I think it's about time I get a move on and actually wrote something up on them! Oh if only I had more hours in the day, or I made my writing more of a priority. It's difficult though isn't it? I know - excuses, excuses!

Have a great weekend. It's Wrekin Writers' meeting tomorrow morning - something I'm looking forward to. I always find my writing enthusiasm and motivation tanks are filled to overflowing when I've been to my writing group meeting. They are just a little bit low for my liking at the moment! What I need is another sale.
But if I don't do the writing and work hard at it, it won't happen. Time to get my skates on.

Happy writing

Julie

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Out And About Again

It has to be said that there is something about getting an assignment finished for my journalism course and posting it off that gets the creative juices flowing again. I've said before that I've struggled with finding the time and the inclination to complete this course. I started it last October and I'm only on Assignment four of fifteen! Having no deadlines is one of the problems, I think!

I haven't been as enthusiastic about my article writing as I usually am for a while now and I think despondency had set in which had led to inertia. All that changed last night. I had the good fortune to go and watch some local morris dancers who practice just up the road from where I live at the local school. And what an experience it was! They were great and I managed to interview one of the founding members who had come up from Devon. I'm going again next week to get more interviews and, hopefully, some photos.

I'm well on my way with assisgnment four, of which an article about the morris dancers will be part of. I just have to get my priorities back into sync and  push forward with giving more emphasis and importance on my writing rather than some of the other stuff in my life that I can afford to either let go or put on the back burner. Prioritising what we want in our lives is a big part of our writing. Life will always get in the way and if we want to be published it's up to us to make the best of the writing time we have.

So over the next 2.5 weeks before the schools break up for the 6 week's hols I shall be finishing off assignment four and pitching more articles - I also have four short stories that I need to edit and send out. Busy, busy, busy! I'd rather have a lot of writing ideas and a couple of projects on the go than none at all, though!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Back on track

I sent assignment three of the journalism course I'm doing off late last week. I wouldn't say that it's the best assignment I've ever done but hey ho! It's done and gone - now onto assignment four. Why did I sign up for a course? Oh yes that's right; I wrote an article on are writing courses for you!

Anyway - I've found my pace again with the course and I'm looking forward to working on the next assignment. I was feeling a bit low on the article front as I hadn't sent any articles or proposals out for a while and I started this course last September and here we are 11 months later and I had hoped to have finished it within the year, but it wasn't to be. Maybe 18 years is a more realistic time frame.

That's the thing with writing. I think that all too often we writers put far too much pressure on ourselves by trying to achieve too much at once. It takes a lot of time and patience to produce work of a good enough quality to be published. And it takes a lot of time to research possible outlets for your work and build up a rapport with the editors. So I think the message is: slow down to get the results you want. It's tempting to send off submissions willy nilly that could have done with a bit of maturing time in the drawer before being edited and sent out.

I'm still concentrating on the short story side of my writing at the moment but hope to get back to some article writing soon. But if you'll excuse me I have a date with Gok Wan! For some reason I like watching his Fashion Fix show ( says she who is a regular tomboy with no interest in fashion and that stuff  - I don't even own a skirt or any make up!) shock, horror!!!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Course or no course?

As you know I started a Writers' Bureau Journalism course back in October 2009 and I'm still going with it now. Only my enthuasism for it dwindled when I received what I thought was a bit of strange advice in the feedback I got back on one of my assignments. It's made me reluctant to write the next assignment. But I'm determined to carry on regardless to the bitter end! It was nothing drastic but having submitted and had published many articles I'm not sure the advice I was given helped really.

This begs the question: do I need to do the course? Well yes, I think I do. I've read all the course material through and I've learned a lot I didn't know before. And I've had some good feedback on the assignments I've done. So I just have to grit my teeth and get the next assignment finished and sent it. Once I get on a roll again I know I can finish this course before the year's out -  which was the original plan. The school summer hols are coming up soon so I'm hoping to get assignment three and four and five (5 weeks) done before school's out and six, seven and eight  in the holidays themselves. That will give me three months to get the rest done!

What I need is my fellow bloggers to keep me on track and kick me at regular intervals to make sure I ruddy get on with it! No excuses - no mercy! Will you do that for me? Ta!

I'm interviewing some morris dancers on Monday for a couple of articles and also I'm going back soon to the lovely amateur dramatic group I spent some time with last year and wrote a couple of articles and a review of one of their plays, so I'm looking forward to that (thank you Mike!)

It's my writing group meeting on Saturday - time to get my fix! I always feel energised and enthusiastic about my writing when I've been there  - I think it's everyone's successes we hear about and the general buzz is infectious!

Don't forget to let me know if you want to join my private blog and join in the debate and look at published articles to see what we can learn about how to improve our own articles. I've posted one of my published articles, the original pitch and the manuscript on there already but so far I'm Jilly No Mates in there ;0) So come on - someone keep me company please! I'll make a nice cake and we'll have a brew while we're at it.

Good luck with your writing!
Julie xxx

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Where do you want to go next?

No, I'm not talking about where you fancy going on your holidays this year but where you see your writing going over the next week, month, year, five years, decade. It pays a writer to think about what their writing goals are what they can realistically achieve. What I've found helpful is to write down both my long term writing goals and some shorter ones so that I am always working towards something, a smaller short term goal, while also working on longer term projects such as my novel.

Making plans is a good way for writers to narrow down what it is they actually want to write and what kind of writer they are. Of course plans need to be realistic and flexible so that you don't become despondent when things don't go exactly how you want them to. Life often gets in the way of writing so to keep your spirits up and the words flowing you need to take a 'what the hell' attitude, learn to roll with the punches and change tack to get round the obstacles in your way,  and write whatever happens!

As I've said before, I'm concentrating on my short story writing at the moment - this is one of my short term goals: to get a short story published in the UK, with a longer term goal of getting lots of short stories published here and abroad. I've already achieved one of my goals by getting a short story published abroad (two now!) and that spurred me on to write more and more and now I'm editing a novel! Unthinkable to me a couple of years ago.

It was the same with article writing. I started off writing letters and getting them published in local and then national magazines and newspapers. Then I wrote short articles  for free for local community mags and then progressed to a local glossy magazines and national writing magazines where I actually got paid for my work  -  as they say in the football world  RESULT!!

Now we are half way through the year it might be a good time to take stock of what you have achieved so far with your writing and make plans for where you are going to take your writing between now and the near year. You might be surprised how far you have already come. I know I am! And even little victories: a letter here, a filler or tip there, can bolster you up to carry on writing and achieve an article in a local magazine or national glossy. It can be done  -  even if you think it can't! I never thought I'd get an article published but here I am with several articles and two short stroies published. How the hell did that happen?!

1. Hard work and determination by the bucket load.
2.Listening and acting on advice given to me by more experienced writers than me who knew what they were talking about.
3.Reading the magazines cover to cover and adopting the house style as my own.
4. Perserverance. Keep going, keep learning, keep improving and never give up.

That's what I think anyway! So, on the article front, although I've come to a bit of a hiatus while I get some short stories out of my system, I'm still gathering ideas and have sent off  couple for vetting, so I'm still giving my article writing some thought.

For those who have joined my new article analysing forum, I'll be posting a manuscript of one of my articles alongside how it appeared in the magazine it was published in. It will hopefully help people to see how I presented my manuscript to an editor and the changes they made to my text to better fit their remit.

Happy writing!

Julie xx

Monday, 31 May 2010

New Forum

You can access the new Analyse This forum (looking at short stories) by sending me your e-mail address and then when I've added you to the author list by clicking here

Or if articles are more your cup of tea then send me your e-mail address and I'll add you to that one! Then click here

Both forums are a lot of fun and will give us the opportunity to see work that has been published from the submitted manuscript to the finished articles and short stories as they appear in the magazines. There will be lots of time for questions and we can address any specific problems writers may have.

We will be discusseing what makes a good short story and article and how we can improve our work to get it published.

Hope to see you there soon!

Julie xx

OOOPS!

I've recently been informed that some people are having trouble accessing this blog -  I've had a tweak and a tuck and you should be able to get onto it now!

Computers, computers, computers! Tsk, tsk,tsk!

Julie xx

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Have A Think

What do you look at/think about when you are leafing through a magazine? What draws your eye and holds your attention? What is it about the article that makes you want to read it? Or what is about the whole magazine that made you pick it of the newsagent's shelf? These are all important questions to ask yourself when choosing a magazine to buy and when considering writing for that magazine.


*Are we looking for: entertainment? Information? Something to pass the time? Lots of illustrations or photos?

*What kind of reader would this particular magazine appeal to?

*Is it full of celebrity gossip? Or is it a how- to magazine with step-by-step guides? Is it full of fiction or solely non-fiction or a mixture of both?

*What kind of topics are covered in the magazine? This can help us to narrow the themes we can write about down and increase our chances of publication.

*What are they advertising in the magazine? This will give us an idea of who the magazine is targeting and who we are writing for.

*How are the articles worded/what is the layout/ length? Paying attention to this can really help us to make the editor's life a lot easier when we present our work and sub it.

*How often is the magazine published - this will help us guage how much competition there is from other writers to get in and the amount of space available. A quarterly magazine will need less material than a weekly.

*Look at the names in the staff list in the magazine and look at who has written the articles. Are there lots of different names or the same few? This will help us to see how much work the editor takes from freelance writers and how much is done in-house.

*Look on the magazine's web site if they have one. This can provide you with a lot more information.

*Find out the submission guidelines if there are any and stick to them. If there aren't use the standard presentation rules.

*Don't be afraid to e-mail the editor or contact them via which ever method detailed in the magazine and introduce yourself and ask if they would be interested in hearing your ideas. Even if it's a 'no' now - you might get a 'yes' at a ater date and the editor may well keep your details on file.

These are the sort of things we need to consider when we want to write for a magazine. It's no good just casually flicking through the magazine, scribbling down your article and then sending it off. Take your time to really study at least two back copies of the magazine, follow the style and submission guidelines of that magazine (remember not all magazines will have the same guidelines), and before you do any writing for that magazine check they take freelance subs! If not, don't waste your valuable writing time. Target another magazine instead.

Happy analysing and writing.

If you go over to my new Analysing Articles Forum for the next post  there I'll put up a copy of one of my article manuscripts and a copy of how it eventually appeared in a magazine so we can compare the difference.

To join the forum let me know your e-mail address and I'll add you to the author list so you can post, comment and join in the fun.

Julie xx

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

NEW FORUM

I've now started a private blog forum to look at articles and what we can learn from reading and analysing published articles to improve our own writing and improve our chances of publication. If you would like to take part then drop me your e-mail address and I'll add you to the author list so you can join in!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Reawakening

Having had some time off article writing in order to concentrate more on my short stories, my urge to write articles again has been woken and is having a long yawn and stretch, flexing and warming up its muscles ready to go! I've finished the second drafts of two articles: one for a writing magazine and the other for a local school governor magazine, that I hope to finish off tonight with a view to submitting them soon.

The journalism course is also going well as I've started to work on that again. I'm now on assignment three and hope to get that one and assignment four done by the end of Whit week. I've found taking a break from the articles refreshing and although I'm still writing and subbing short stories, I don't like to neglect my article writing for too long.

I still have a couple of articles that were accepted some time ago that are yet to be published, so I'm looking forward to seeing those in print. I'm sure once I see them in the magazines it will kick start my article writing session again. I'm always searching for new things to write about but recently I've been thinking more about what I can use from my past experiences to write about. There is a lot that I have done previously in my life that I'd like to tap into to  - my 15 year nursing career has got to be good for a few articles surely!

Although I don't like writing about myself in particular there are lots of opportunities, if you think hard enough, of things you can write about that you have either knowledge or experience of which could provide you with plenty of material to keep you going for ages. Why not sit down and go back through your life: your past jobs, hobbies, interests, anything that can give you ideas of what to write about. It doesn't have to be a first person article as you can write on a topic within your frame of reference on what issues are relevent to the job you used to  do today or tackle things from a different angle. Why not compare and contrast how things used to be done to how they are done now. As long as you do your research and approach it in the right way you should end up with some interesting and saleable articles.

I have just started a new private blog for analysing short stories and I'd like to do the same for articles too. Is there anyone interested in looking at a few articles that have made it into print and discussong why they got into print and seeing what we can learn from them to increase our own chances of publication? Let me know what you think.

Good luck!

Julie xx

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Finding Time

My copy of Writers' Forum came today and I've been reading it with interest, as always! It never fails to bolster my flagging enthusiasm and it sends me into a flurry of writing activity after I've read it. I have to admit that my writing time has been severely squeezed over the past few weeks  -  my fault for taking more things on in my 'real' life but entirely my choice. I only have myself to blame when I don't have any articles to send out!

That's the trouble when life gets in the way and we are forced to push our writing in to the background like a once loved toy that has become all grubby with an eye missing and it's belly in tatters letting the stuffing poke through. But are we forced or do we just use the extra activities we cram into our lives as an excuse not to write? Are we procrastinating? Sometimes I'm not so sure!

Having had my second short story accepted for publication last week I'm still determined to persue that avenue of the writing  -  if only I had the time! If only  - there is that universal cover all excuse! If only I'd done that; if only I hadn't done that; if only I hadn't wasted all that time; if only, if only, if only! I think I need less of the if only and more of the make it happen! What about you?

Happy writing!

Julie xx

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Inspiration

I have been out and about recently gaining more information and ideas for articles. I think it does writers good to put their pens down, close their computers down and get up from their chairs and go out into the big world once in a while. It can become a bit claustrophobic and I find I get a bit of cabin fever if I'm stuck inside writing for too long. But I don't always want to stop what I'm writing. So I have a dilemma: do I interrupt my writing flow to relocate and get some fresh air? Or do I stay in doors and become hermit like? I chose the former.

I've been feeling a little restless of late and I'm finding it increasingly difficut to do anything about the ideas for articles I have in my head and written in various notebooks.I also want to get my next two assignments for the journalism course I'm doing out of the way as I am in danger of forgetting I'm even doing a course if I don't buckle down to it soon! This is why I think doing a course that has assignment deadlines like the OU does is a good idea if you lack the ability to motivate yourself. The Writers' Bureau one I'm doing now gives you about four years to complete the course -  I need to self impose some deadlines I think or it could well take me four years to finish it.

Yesterday I went to a school reunion. They've built a new school behind the current one and the current one is due to be knocked down soon, so it was our last chance to take a look around. It was strange going back. I left in 1987 - a long time ago. I was struck by how old the ex-students all looked! Then it struck me: oh my Lord I must look that old too! It was a bit of a shock that required a sit down in the canteen with a strong cup of tea! I didn't see anyone from my year but saw many faces I thought I recognised but wasn't quite sure. I spoke with some of my old teachers and our old headmaster but I didn't really get a sense of nostalgia and there was no emotion attached to the school -  I didn't really feel anything when I was walking around  - just had a sense of how noisy and crowded it was and the fact that I once pounded these halls with my aged 11-16 feet!

It was an opportunity to take my daughter round who was amazed that mummy used to attend that school! It also gave me some great ideas to base some articles on  -  if I could only gather enough umph to write them! I also bumped into the Percussion teacher I interviewed some time back. He'd done an African drumming workshop at my writing group and yesterday he was doing the same workshop in The Edge  -  a small theatre/community space attached to the school (it used to be the old gym when I was at school). So it was nice to see him again. And a timely reminded to get a ruddy move on with the articles I'm writing about him and his work!

Today my family and I went to Attingham Park, a sprawling estate with a wonderful manor house near Atcham which is on the way to Shrewsbury. I've been there many times before and as the weather was so nice, we decided to have a walk within the beautiful grounds  -  a truly inspirational place for writers! I have taken some pictures so will post some on here when I've got them on my computer so if you've never been there you can see what a great place it is. I will also be writing there one day soon if anyone who lives close enough wants to join me.

I find that by going to places  -   it doesn't matter where but a variety of places works best: a cafe one day, the countryside another day, a town park, a skating rink, spectating at a swimming pool, anywhere you like where there will be nature, or other people, quietness one day and noise another - gives you a great pool of resources when setting your story/article. You can really soak up the atmosphere and note down what it feels like to be there: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Use all your senses while you are there, take loads of photos and notes, ask lots of questions. You will have a mountain of subject matter to write about as well as enjoy the experience of being somewhere else. This really kick starts my creativity. If I've been feeling a bit stale writing wise, I go somewhere else. It doesn't need to be far away, but just a different environment to engage your brain into experiencing something different from your normal routine.

Don't forget to get out and about. Now the weather is better (occasionally) it's easier to get out into the great outdoors!

Have fun exploring and don't be afraid to open yourself up to different experiences - your writing will thank you for it.

Julie xx

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Think About It

I've sent a couple of short stories out there and so now the frustrating wait for a verdict from the magazine editors starts. I'm sure we've all been there/are there. You send your work off in a flurry of excitement and expectation which soon transforms into agonising anxiety and frustration as you chew your finger nails down to nothing while waiting for that all important letter/e-mail/phone call that you know deep down isn't going to come for a while yet, if ever!

So while I've been waiting, I've been e-mail interviewed by another writer who is doing an article  - that was fun and I hope the article finds a home. I've also managed to finish transcribing the last interview I did and will be planning a couple of articles from that. I've made a list of the magazines I think might be interested in an article (you need to think wide and obscure for this - don't just go for the old favourites.) This is where I find I really need to sit down, highlighting pen clutched in my hand and notes from the interview spread out in front of me on the floor and read through it, highlighting quotes and bits I particularly like. It helps me to have three blank sheets of paper too. These pieces of paper represent the three articles I'll be writing on the same subject aimed at three different magazines. I write the name of the publication I'm aiming for on the top of each sheet and then put any relevant quotes of bits of info I find on each sheet  - ensuring that no two quotes/information bits are the same in any of the articles  -  unless I write the information in a different way for each article.

I always try and aim for three articles out of one interview  - maybe more if I can stretch it! Once I have been through my notes and transfered the bits I want to use on each of the pieces of paper I have a cup of tea or two and then I start to form a plan for each article. I don't go overboard or in to too much detail here  -  it's just a short beginning-middle-end format where I note down what I want to say in the article and which order I want to say it in. I think about it at this stage so I can ensure I don't miss anything important and I can contact the interviewee if I'm unsure of anything rather than waiting until it's almost due for submission and having a mad panic about it! I might note down a few sentences that pop into my head that I'd like to put in the article so I jot them down before I forget.

Then I put it all away for a couple of days while I get on with something else. This gives me more time to think about it and I'm sure a lot is going on at a sub-conscious level in my brain too. Then I get it all out again and start looking at one of the plans. This is where I go either one of two ways depending on how much time I have and what mood I'm in. I either write the first draft of the article in longhand on paper, or I type it straight on to the computer. I have no preference as to which one I use really, but the typing option cuts down on time in the long run. It's already there on screen ready to edit rather than me having to type the whole thing from the hand written one.

I tend to do about three edits (I think three must be my magic number!) These edits take place over a week or two and I always put the 'finished' article away for at least two days to a week before getting it out for a final read through before I send it off. You'll be amazed what errors you can miss - even at that late stage, so it's important to do that final read through.

I'm hoping to get the first draft of one of the articles from this interview done by the end of the weekend. I have pitched the idea to two magazines but they said no thank you, so I'll go to the next magazines on my list and pitch to them until I run out of magazines. I will also use one of the articles for the journalism course I'm doing which I must get a crack on with as I have been neglecting it.

Whatever you're doing this bank holiday I hope your article writing is going well and the ideas are flowing. Keep at it!

Julie

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Interview Buzz

I've just been transcribing an interview from my digital dictaphone I did about a month ago. Due to my ears being bunged up after a cold and with wax for that time period I hadn't been able to do it until now. I had fun listening back through it as it was a fun interview to do and the interviewee was fantastic. So now the hard work starts!

I'll be reading through my notes for next few days and looking at which magazines to pitch my ideas to from the interview. There are so many different avenues I could go down with this that I find it quite exciting making those first tentative approaches to editors. Some will invariably say no  - but there might just be one or two who say yes!

Thinking positive and thinking outside of the box are two qualities a writer should strive for if they want to be a freelance article writer. You have to use the writing talent and knowledge of what makes a good article that will sell to its fullest advantage to make your pitch and article stand out from the other hundreds the editor has landing on their desk on any one day  -  but this is all part of the process and fun!

I'll let you know how I get on  - and do let us know how your article writing is going and what problems you've had or if there's something you've experienced or learned that has helped you gain success with your article writing.

Happy writing

Julie

Friday, 23 April 2010

Trying Your Hand

I hope everyone's writing is going well and you are enjoying the process even if you haven't got anything published yet. It took me ages to get something I'd written published and even longer to get something published that I'd written and actually get paid for it! But it can be done and I'm so glad that I persevered with it. It can be a hard slog but it's imortant that you keep going  -  it worked for me.

Today I had a short (250 word) review published in the Times newspaper. It was for a regular slot called You The Editor and it involves readers of the newspaper saying what was good, or bad about one issue of the paper  -  snag is you have to get it in by 3pm for the day's paper you want to review! Hence the fact I was up early yesterday and had to enrol the services of my brother-in-law to deliver the paper to my house on his way to work at 7am and I had about 30 minutes to read the paper, write the review and e-mail it off before I took my daughter to school. As I was at work 9am-3pm that day, I wouldn't have had time to do it later!

It's important, as writers, for us to think about what obstacles we face in our quest to write and get published. Some of these obstacles are outside of our control but some of them are self imposed and if we really wanted to we could leap over them and write. It took me three attempts to get a review in The Times and after the first attempt the editor e-mailed  and asked me to try again which I did. However, there was some problem in the office that day and the editor missed it so he editor rang me asking me to try again and once I'd climbed back on my chair having fallen off it in shock at speaking to the editor of the Times (my husband took the call and said to me "It's the editor of the Times on the line for you!" I didn't believe him!)
So although it doesn't pay it would be great writing practice for you to give it a go  - just buy a copy of the Times, read it and e-mail your review in. You never know what will happen!

I also got an article in The NAWG newsletter as did two of my fellow Wrekin Writers Simon Whaley and Sue Ross. As Simon pointed out to us, of the seven articles in there Wrekin Writer members wrote three of them  - that's not bad going!

Have a great weekend and keep writing

Julie

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Trying New Outlets

I had a magazine through the post yesterday with one of my articles in it. You may remember that a few months ago I interviewed several people from the charity Volunteer Reading Help. I managed to get one article in the local paper about them and now this one in Learning Support. The magazine is aimed at Teaching Assistants and it was Sue Ross, a fellow Wrekin Writer and blogger who pointed me in their direction (thank you Sue!)

Because I do reading support in my daughter's school (though not through this charity) I thought an article on this subject might be of interest to a variety of magazines and so far two have taken the article (the wording in each is very different as if you are going to pitch articles on the same subject to different magazines you don't want to clone them - editors don't want to read the article you've given them in another publication!)

I have recieved no payment for either artices. Learning support gave me a copy of the magazine which I can put in my portfolio and I could use it as a taster for other editors from 'paying' magazines who may take articles on a similar subject. In this case working for 'free' has its advantages in that it can lead on to other things. Although I would say that generally you should be paid for your work, if you are just starting out, it can be a good way of getting cuttings to build up your portfolio and get your work published. Writers are divided on the issue of whether writers should write for free - so I'm not going to go into the pros and cons here (we'd be here all day going round in circles!) I think the idea for the articles still have some mileage in them so I'll let you know what else I do with it.

Other article news: although I am concentrating on short story/novel writing at the moment, I've had a couple of ideas for articles that I'm going to pitch to some parenting magazines  -  a group of mags I haven't yet aimed for - so that will be interesting to see what happens there. Plus I will be writing another couple af articles for the local governor magazine. I hope you're having success with your pitches/articles!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Thinking Time

As you know I'm on a sabbatical from article writing at the moment to give me chance to get up to speed on finishing the first draft of my NaNo novel. I started it in NaNo season (Nov 1st) 2009 and wrote the required 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. I'm sure most of you know what NaNo is but for those of you who don't, it's an American idea where you get to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Thousands of people do it so you'll be in good company should you decide to do it this year.

Well, I hit my 70,000 word target yesterday and I am on the final chapter now, so I'll be going over my target by a couple of thousand words. However, this is the first draft so the eventual wordage after much editing may be more or less anyway.

In the spirit of NaNo, this novel was written minus a plan and was totally spontaneous  - the plot and characters grew as I wrote it. I'd recommend this 'writing by the seat of your pants' approach as, for me, if I'd have had to sit down and plan it I'd still be planning it now. Yet here we are, 5 months later, and I've nearly finished it. I have been writing it part-time as well as writong articles and working outside the home - so I think I've done reasonably well time wise. If I'd have been writing it full-time, I'm sure I'd have finished it ages ago - but I wouldn't have had any quality thinking time factored in, and that thinking time is imortant as it gives your ideas time to grow and mature.

Once I've finished it I'll leave it a while and get on with some more short stories, but I haven't forgotten about the articles! Look out for my article about NaNo coming up in Writer's Forum (hopefully!) in the Summer.See writing about what you know does work! I did NaNo and then wrote about NaNo! And I'm sure I'll get a few more articles out of that experience too.

Other articles I have coming out soon include the Wildlife rescue centre article and two about being a Governor. There are a couple of other articles still out there doing the rounds, but I haven't heard anything about them yet. I also submitted a short story recently, so I'll be interested to hear its fate.

While I'm doing all this fiction I'm also thinking of new article ideas. I'm finding that having engaged the fiction part of my creativity, it's inspiring me with the non-fiction too. I think it's helpful to have several pieces of work out at any one time, as when the rejections come it doesn't matter so much as you'll always have something else out there that may be accepted.

Because I write poetry, articles, short stories and now a novel, the potential for being published is wide. I think being a chameleon in this game doesn't do any harm. It pays to be flexible and able to turn your hand to different styles/genres of writing. So if you don't usually write poetry or short stories, give them a go, and vice versa. Or if you only write about a couple of subjects in your articles, cast your net wider and stretch your writing skills to write about something or someone you know very little about. I did it with my archery article and it got published! So don't be afraid to give things a go.

Have a look at Simon Whaley's recent blog posting Stepping Into The Editor's Shoes  It gives some excellent advice on what to do with the unpublished articles you have lying around (of which I have many and I'm guilty as charged for doing nothing with them when I ruddy well should be! Kick gratefully received, Simon!  -  ingenious! Give his advice a try  - his advice has always worked for me.

Happy thinking!

Julie xx

Monday, 5 April 2010

Article break

I'm having a break from the article writing for a bit (they say a change is as good as a rest, don't they?) I want to focus my attention on my fiction. I did so well last year and up until now with my articles  - much better than I ever envisaged. So I'm hoping that if I can focus my energies on the short story and novel writing throughout the rest of April, I might give myself a fighting chance in getting more short stories published - especially armed with all that I have learned since I last subbed a short story.

I have also been inspired and spurred into action by several other bloggers who have had some success with getting their stories into the women's mags recently: Suzanne Jones, Teresa Ashby, Helen.M. Hunt, Olivia Ryan (aka Sheila Norton) and Sally Quilford, to name but a few. I've read some of their stories in the mags and I have to say they are fantastic, so I am a little but daunted by trying to follow in their talented footsteps and get my stories published in the same mags. Especially with my rather dismal track record last year after my efforts! But I decided, as I'm approaching a big birthday next year, the number must be significant as I sent 40 short stories out - so I hope if I send forty out again before my next birthday (most will be reworked from the 39 that got rejected - sorry - declined) something might stick!

But I'll still be thinking up article ideas and I'm sure a few will come from my fiction writing exeriences too. And I know there are several mags out there I want to try and write my non-fiction for. I'll also be finishing the journalism course which involves a lot of article/feature writing, so I'll still get my fix!

If anything great happens you'll be the first to know  -  if it doesn't, you'll still be the first to know!

Wish me luck as the fiction writing starts in earnest tonight!

Julie xx