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