Saturday, 30 April 2011

How Very Dare You!

I've got a challenge for you. When I first started thinking about writing articles I had this nagging thought in the back of my mind that no-one would want to read the drivel I wrote. It put me off submitting anything for months. That was until I started this blog and a fellow blogger suggested that I edit a couple of my blog postings and sent them off to a writing magazine. I thought my fellow blogger was out of his mind, but I did as I was told and, what do you know, they got published and someone even parted with their well earned cash for them! I couldn't believe my luck.

Now I realise that it's not down to luck at all. It's down to a lot of hard work and research and having the balls to actually submit your pitches/articles in the first place. You can't be a shrinking violet in this game. So here is my challenge to you (and myself.) I declare May 'I Very Dare You,' month:

1. Go to a newsagent you don't normally frequent.
2. Browse the shelves of the newsagent and look at two magazines you don't normally buy.
3. Does it look like they use contributions from freelance writers? If they do, purchase the magazines. If they don't, look at more magazines until you find two that do and buy them.
4. When you get home, look through the magazines very carefully, taking note of who their readership is, the style/tone of the articles, the adverts, reader letter page - everything.
5. Pick out a word that you think describes each magazine (theme) and write it down in the middle of a big piece of paper.
6. Make  a spidergram (ideas shooting off from the main word) of ideas for articles you could write for each of those magazines.
7. Choose the best ideas you come up with and pitch them to the appropriate editor of those magazines.
8.If you get a positive response - hurrah! - well done you and get researching/writing the article.
9.If you get a negative response - boo - never mind and try other ideas you came up with.
10, Repeat the journey to the newsagents at least twice in the month of May and repeat steps 2 - 10 until you are published!

Go on  - I very dare you!
And don't forget to let us know how you get on!

Julie xx

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Don't I Know You?

What do you think about before you start writing an article? Do you read the magazine you're targeting first before you even consider a subject to write about? Or do you get out there and do some research first? I suppose I use a combination of these methods. Sometimes, if I'm out and about, I take my notebook, pen and camera and a chance meeting or sighting will result in the idea for an article. I might even approach people I think have an interesting story to tell and arrange an interview for a later date.

But more recently I've found my inspiration for articles by scouring the pages of magazines and writing similar articles but from a different angle. I find that by reading the magazines I can better target my articles. I can see from the adverts, tone and style of the articles in the magazines and the reader letters page what the readers are interested in. Because, whatever it is that the readers are interested in, as a writer, I'm interested in to. If I can get under the skin of what makes readers tick then I'm a lot closer to knowing what it is the editor is after and, therefore, a potential commission.

I find other people fascinating and there are stories to be found and told whichever direction you look in so we really have no excuse for not having material to write about! My writing goes in phases and I've just had a big short story push but I haven't forgotten about my article writing as I slotted some article writing into my schedule whilst concentrating on articles. I think this helps me to stop becoming bored and keeps my writing fresh: if I get fed up with a short story - it's just not flowing - I switch to writing an article and vice versa

I hope that whether you are knew to article writing or have been doing it for years that you enjoy the process  and are constantly finding ways to reinvent your writing.

Happy writing


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Going Digital

It's been an interesting week for me, writing wise. I've been out and about again, after a bit of a hiatus, interviewing people. This time it was to a local community centre where Age UK hold dance sessions for the over 60's. They had the Rambert dance company in doing a dance workshop and it was great fun. I managed to interview the woman from the dance company and three of the ladies who took part. I think I had as much fun interviewing them and watching them dance as they did dancing.

I've had my digital Voice Recorder for some time now and it's an essential bit of kit for me. Whereas before I would be scribbling what my interviewee was saying into a notebook (I don't do short hand and would have to try and decipher my illegible scrawl after the interview) now I just press a button and the hard work is done for me. Not only does it save me a headache and time, it also serves as evidence should I be accused of writing something that an interviewee said but then claim they didn't say  -  it's all in my magic digital box. It's something all writers need to be aware of. I tend to keep my recordings on there for some time after the article has been published, just in case there's a complaint and I need to check.

But using a voice recorder also protects the interviewee, and using one comes with certain responsibilities. I always, for instance, tell the interviewee that I have a voice recorder and I ask their permission before using it. Once I explain why I prefer to use it, ie, the interview will take twice as long without it and using it will prevent me from getting facts wrong as I can refer to it later on. But, if they don't like it, I don't use it. It's a pain without it but you have to respect people's wishes.

I've just finished transcribing the interviews I did from Thursday at the community centre and I also went back to an interview I did last year with one of the Morris dancers as I hadn't had the time to do that one yet and it brought back some lovely memories of when I was with them - they are so funny! It spurred me on to get back on the article writing wheel and get going with those articles I promised myself I would pitch and write but hadn't got round to yet. If I've taken the time and effort to go and interview people the least I can do is get down to writing about them!

So that's my writing goal of the week - to get the articles pitched and written so I can out there and get interviewing again. There's always stuff out there to write about if you can be bothered to look closely enough.

Happy writing

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Have You Got That Freelance Feeling?

I recently received my ID badge from The Association of Freelance Writers and because I'd had my hair cut in a different style since the last card, I had to get new photos done. If you are serious about your freelance article writing, and you're not a member of any official group, then I'd highly recommend that you join one. Why? Well being a member of one of the groups out there helps you to mark yourself as a professional and not just an amateur playing at being a writer. I didn't take myself seriously as a writer until I joined such a group. I'd feel nervous about interviewing people and even approaching people to write about. But with my ID card that nervousness left me and I have no qualms about talking to people I might potentially write about.

I am pretty sure that the card has given me confidence and this has shown through to the people I've talked to and given me the credibility I needed. Because I'm freelance, and I'm sure a lot of freelance writers must experience this, when the people I approach ask me who I write for, it's incredibly difficult to give them a straight answer! Fortunately, the last couple of article ideas I've pitched have been accepted and I've been able to tell my potential interviewees where their comments and photos might end up. If people have an idea of where their words will end up, they are generally more willing to talk to you.

Sometimes, I do approach some people I'd like to write about without getting the article commissioned first. I then just let them know the general market I'm aiming for. I show them articles I've had published in the market before to prove to them that I have done it before and that they are safe in my hands. This may seem a topsy-turvy way to do it, but sometimes it's not until I 'm half way through the interviewing and research process that something I hadn't thought of comes up and I use that as the basis for the article instead, (I love it when that happens!) Plus sometimes it's a chance meeting and I might not be able to interview that person again so I do it while I can. But generally, now, I pitch first and interview once I've been commissioned. But, as a good freelance writer knows, you don't always know where you're going to find something to write about until it hits you in the face! The old saying 'Be Prepared' really comes into it's own here. No matter where you go or what you're doing always take your notebook, pen and camera and Dictaphone (if you have one) with you. You never know when inspiration will strike!

This week I'm going back to editing some short stories again as I want to get my subbed story count up. I subbed two articles this week and have another to write when I've finished all the research for it. I should have plenty of time over the Easter holidays to fit it all in (I hope!)

Please consider joining one of the associations geared up for freelance writers - not only will it help you get interviews, and it's useful to put .....member of the association of ...... at the bottom of your pitch, so it shows the editor you are a serious writer - they might, if it's including in your membership, help you out with legal matters should you find yourself in dispute.

A selection of other unions/associations to look at: National Association of Journalists.  British Association of Journalists. I know that there are lots more out there so if you belong to any of them, or know people that do, then please let us know your verdict on them and why you joined.

Happy freelancing!


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Ready For Anything!

If you are a writer it's important to be prepared. This was highlighted for me yesterday when I went to an interview in my local area. I dropped my daughter off at school and walked down to the venue. I took a photo of the building and walked in where I was greeted by the young lady who I had been told would be answering my questions.

It all went rather well as she gave me a tour and I took few more photographs. Then she mentioned that a couple more people would be coming to talk to me too. I thought they might be service users so imagine my surprise when three directors from the project walked in!  I was a bit taken aback but it was a fantastic experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. But up until now, I've been more used to interviewing local people from local groups  -  the grass roots people  and not the people who help shape the local communities.

The lesson here is that if you want to be a freelance writer you have to look and think like one. Preparation and how you present yourself to the people you are interviewing or approaching for information is crucial. It's no use going into it half-heartedly or you will run the risk of not only editors or potential interviewees not taking you seriously, but also yourself not taking you seriously. If you don't believe in yourself and your freelance writing abilities no-one else will.

Okay, I wasn't expecting what I walked into yesterday, but at least I'd prepared for it: I'd dressed smartly, taken all my equipment - camera, dictaphone, notebook and pen - read up about the place I was going to and, most importantly, even though I was a little nervous, I kept calm and concentrated on the job in hand. As a result I got the information and photos I needed and it was an enjoyable experience for all those concerned.

So get out there and get interviewing! But don't forget to be ready for anything


Friday, 1 April 2011

The Tables Were Turned..........

Today, myself and a few other Wrekin Writers got papped for the local paper. I'd written a couple of articles for the paper's supplements and, after they'd read my blog, they asked me to do a piece on Wrekin Writers. So I keenly obliged. It's also proof of what a good blog can do for your writing. Editors can check you out.

It was an interesting experience for me as it's usually me taking the photos and interviewing people. The tables were definitely turned. I'm not a huge fan of having my photograph taken. I'd rather be the interviewer that the interviewee,  but the photographer was very good (and extremely brave, bless him!) Unless you are a Wrekin Writer or have seen Wrekin Writers out on their jollies, you don't know what we Wrekin Writers are like when we get together - we behaved ourselves impeccably, though. We had to: our good reputation was at stake!

I was fascinated by the photographer's camera, lenses and other gadgetry he had with him. I definitely had lens envy! His camera and lens was bigger than mine. I yearn for the day when I can afford to buy some decent photography equipment and learn how to use it, <sighs wistfully>.

It's always worth checking out writing opportunities with your local papers and magazines. They might not pay much, if anything at all, but it's good writing experience and great PR. It's where I started and it's great to have the opportunity to do it again. I'm not a great advocate for writers writing for free - you wouldn't expect a plumber to refit your bathroom for free, after all. And writing is a trade just as plumbing is. They deal with ball cocks and washers and we deal with words. But, I see the benefits of sometimes writing for free and it can lead to other things.

Happy writing!

Julie xx