Wednesday, 26 January 2011

What helps me to write articles

Have a look over on my other blog http://jlpwritersquest.blogspot.com/  for tips on what I find helpful when writing articles. I'll be posting some tips that I find useful when writing short stories over there soon.

I haven't sent may pitches put recently as I've been in short story mode but I'll be continuing with my Writers' Bureau Journalism course shortly and so I've been looking at new ideas for that and it made me think about the advice I've been given and what I've read that's helped me since I started writing articles. I hope it helps you too.

Let me know if you've had any success with your articles or if you have any tips of your own.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Writing from experience

I've been reading some magazine's recently in the name of research to identify some potential markets for my articles and I noticed that a lot of the magazines like personal accounts of events to fill their pages. Some pay a lot of money for these stories too. Then there are the magazines and newspapers who will pay for your account of your holidays and day trips. It can be quite a lucrative market and a way of getting published. Magazine's like Prima, Essentials, take a break and chat are hungry for real-life accounts and, in some of the magazines, it seems the gorier the stories are the better. You only have to see the headlines and titles of the stories to see the type of story they are after.

But if something dreadful had happened to you, would you want it splashed across the pages of a national magazine? I can see why you might if the money the magazine paid you for your story was for charity, but some of the stories in these magazines leave me thinking why people do it? Well, for the money I guess, or, of course, writing about what happened can work as therapy. It can also serve as a warning to others: this happened to me. Don't let it happen to you. I'm not sure I'd do it, no matter how much they paid. Could I write about something horrific that happened to someone I know, with their consent, either? The answer would probably be no. It takes all kinds of writer to write all kinds of things, maybe you're different and could write a piece like that. It's something to think about.

Personally, I'm quite a private person and I am very selective about what I choose to write about. It could be why I found the Life Writing part of the Creative Writing course I took difficult. I'm not a life writer, but there are plenty out there who have lead fascinating and sometimes tragic lives that they have no qualms about revealing to a wider audience. I've read a few autobiographies in my time and some of them have been great. I am amazed by how candid people are and it makes for interesting reading that made  me think. But we writers do have a nosy streak, it's part of the writers' toolkit, so it's no wonder we find other people's lives fascinating. So if you have a personal story to tell and want a wider , look at some of these magazines and have a go at writing down what happened to you and submit it.

Word of warning: make sure you are absolutely sure you want to share your experiences and are prepared for any potential fallout when it's published. People can be supportive but they can also be cruel. Make sure, if your story involves other people (and especially if it shows them in an unfavourable light) that you tell them what you are going to write about them and your intended market. You might like to take legal advice, as you don't want a libel or slander case to deal with, or having to deal with recriminations.

Good luck with your writing
Julie xx

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Sucking Eggs

I'm not trying to teach my grannie to suck eggs here, but it does no harm to get back to basics with your article writing and it might well help you get that sale. I know you know it and you've heard it a million times before, but I can't champion enough the importance for article writers to research the market, follow the individual editor's/publication's submission guidelines to the letter, address the pitch/article to the name of the current editor of the magazine and not just Sir or Madam. If you're not sure who the editor is, and you should do if you've researched the market thoroughly, then look at a current issue of the magazine to clarify. If it's not clear whether they take pitches from freelance writers then find a phone number/e-mail address for the editor in the magazine and make contact. This is no time to be shy! You won't then waste yours or the editor's time if they don't take freelance contributions, but you might gain a sale if they do.

Most of all, from my own experience, it's important that article writers, (any writer for that matter), keep trying. Keep looking for new magazine's to pitch to as well as pitch to your old favourites and to never give up. If it's a no from the editor this time, it might be a yes next time. There's usually no rhyme or reason to why one pitch makes it through to acceptance whilst another doesn't  -  that doesn't really matter. What matters is you don't let all the 'no thank yous' stop you from trying again. There will be many no thank yous, but there will be some yes pleases too.

 Yes it is hard to get an article published, particularly in the current market. Lots of magazines have gone under, but there are plenty of survivors and new magazines popping up. So go back to basics, widen your net and you might find yourself pitching to and being published in magazines you never thought you would be in!

Happy pitching.

Julie xx

Friday, 14 January 2011

Forget Me Not

I had a lovely writing related surprise this morning when Simon Whaley e-mailed me to say he's just seen one of my articles in The New Writer. He'd also got two articles in the same issue. Both of us had forgotten that we'd subbed the articles! How did that happen?! I was perplexed to start with as I was sure all the articles I'd ever subbed to The New Writer had been rejected. Obviously not. So I am one happy writer as it's not only one I'd forgotten about but it's my first article published in 2011 and it's the first article I've had published in The New Writer. Good things come to those who keep trying and waiting.

The article is about getting the most out of your writing group which is quite apt as it's my writing group's meeting tomorrow!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Getting to the real story

I love writing about other people. I find their lives fascinating. Just walk down the street and take a look at the diversity of people you see. There will be many different faces, some old, some young, some will look happy, sad, worried, harassed. I often wonder who the people I pass are and where they are going, what their lives are like. On the face of it, they might be very different people to what you can imagine. They might be projecting their 'public' face. The face they are comfortable in letting other people see. But bubbling under the surface they could be a different kettle of fish altogether.That's why I love going out and finding new people to interview and write about. I haven't done much of this recently and I've got itchy feet so, no doubt, I'll be out there again with my trusty digital voice recorder, notebook and pen again soon.

It struck me, though, recently, have I been looking in the right places for subject matter for my articles? I tend to go for people and groups that I have a personal interest in: the local amateur dramatic group because I've seen some of their plays, they rehearse just up the road from me and I know a couple of their members. The archery group because I like to watch archery and had the opportunity, locally, to go and watch them. Local authors Carole Anne Carr and Phyllis Blakemore because, again, I know them both well and I'm interested in their work as writers. The Morris dancers because I like Morris dancing and they are a great group of people.

Why not go further afield and look into groups/people who do things that don't interest me personally but would make great articles? I think that as writers we should be versatile, and  I think I've been playing it a little bit safe. I thought that if I had a real interest in the groups and activities I was writing about this would show through in my writing, and make the piece come alive and be more interesting to the editor and reader. Maybe it does, but that shouldn't prevent me from looking for people/groups that do things I either haven't heard of or experienced before. I think it does writers good to spread their wings and talk to people from all walks of life. I love learning about things and as a writer I have the opportunity to meet such lovely and interesting people and learn about a wide range of subjects. It is the person's/group's passion for what they do that shines through in my articles. A good writer/Interviewer will be able to coax that passion out and use words that convey that passion in the right way in the article.

So go off road with your writing for a while. Look for a group/person/subject you haven't considered writing about before and just do it. Don't be afraid to experiment. You might not come out with what you expected, but that's the beauty of creativity and writing, you never know where it might lead you. Poke around a bit and get a feel for the stories that might be out there. Look deeper than the surface layer. See what you come up with.

Happy digging!
Julie xx

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Read for information and inspiration

It's been the first week back at school today and what with having two weeks off for the holidays, (three if you count the last week of term when I was off with the flu,) and the residual tiredness I have from that I haven't really felt like writing. I'm also at the tail end of a teaching assistant course so a lot of my writing energy has gone into that coursework. I was feeling despondent and wondering if I'd ever have another article idea or the energy to pitch and write it! It's funny what tiredness/illness/holidays can do to you.

But then, when I got home today, there on the mat was the new issue of Writing Magazine. A beacon shining through the fog. It's lifted my spirits and I shall look forward to reading it tonight. I had a quick flick through and it looks great, as does Writers' Forum that came just before Xmas I think. When I read them, I don't just read them for pleasure, or to improve my writing. I also read them for inspiration: I think about which themes and subjects they've had in and what ideas I could pitch to the editors too. I had a couple of articles in Writers' Form last year and one in Writing Magazine as well as one in Writers' News (which is now incorporated in the main Writing Magazine instead of being a separate publication.

I already feel bolstered from just flicking through the magazines and I'm going to make a concerted effort over the weekend to come up with some good ideas and pitch them. I'm also going to pick up a few other magazines that take contributions from freelance writers that I haven't pitched to before (nothing ventured, nothing gained!)

How is everyone else getting on so far this year?

Julie xx