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