Saturday, 30 July 2011

You can do it

When I look back to when I first started writing, I can't believe just how much I have achieved. Now, this isn't a boastful blog, far from it. I just want to show those of us who are just starting out, or are struggling, reeling from rejections what they can achieve if they stick with it.

I started out writing letters to magazines and newspapers. When I'd had a fair bit of success with those (they also served as a form of stress relief, getting stuff that annoyed me off my chest, LOL!) I gained in confidence and moved onto writing articles for NAWG (National Association of Writers' Groups). When they published my articles, I started this blog and a fellow writer suggested that I might edit some of my blog postings and expand on them, maybe adding some quotes in. I was a little reluctant at first, but I did it, and I got published in magazines that paid me for my writing!

But when you're struggling, and attracting rejections like a magnet, it can be difficult to brush them off and carry on writing and submitting. But carry on is what you much do! If you want to be published and get paid for your writing you have to be determined, But it's not just a case of keeping at it blindly, you have to research your market and target it in the right way - you have to learn to evolve and try new markets. I am the first person to admit that in the past I was reluctant to try new markets, but not any more. You have to be versatile and be able to adapt your writing style to be a successful writer. Don't just write about what you like to write about. Come out of your comfort zone and try something new. It isn't easy but the rewards are many: the satisfaction that you've broken into a new market, another string to your writing bow and something extra to put on your writing CV, learning a new skill, or knowledge.

Happy searching for your next writing project - make sure it's something you haven't considered before!

Julie xx

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

We're all going on a summer holiday ......

Feel free to sing along if you feel the need! Many of you will be jetting off on your summer holidays soon and some of you will have already arrived at your destination, or maybe you're having a staycation. Whatever you're up to over the summer months, don't forget to pack your notebook, pen and camera. No matter where you are going there will almost certainly be a writing opportunity to be had. It doesn't matter where your destination is or the journey - what matters is what you note down and take photos of. Even the most mundane of details can be important when you get home and start writing.

Okay, so maybe the place you're staying in has been written about to death before, but while you're staying there you are the mini expert. You are the person experiencing where you are, and that gives you a unique point of view. No-one can write about where you are better than you can. Writing in a different place can do wonders for your creativity too.

Happy holidays and happy writing

Julie xx

Friday, 22 July 2011

Bits and Pieces

I had some great news yesterday in that one of my articles that I based on a recent workshop I did for my writers' groups has been accepted for publication! I'd been thinking about offering to do a workshop for a while but I put it off until I was asked if I wanted to do something - I jumped at the chance! It was a wonderful experience and I got an article out of it.

Have you ever thought of doing a workshop? It doesn't have to be for your writing group - you might not belong to one - but you could do it for it for other groups, or get a group of fellow writers together and give it a go. It was such a positive experience for me and the group got a lot of it too. It was a feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway- moment for me and was such a confidence boost. We had a lot of fun and it's given me the motivation to do more.

Have a think about what you could do for your writing group or a group of writers, do it and then write about it. You might think that you can't do it or won't be able to do it well, but you can! And it will help with your writing as well. If you can stand up in front of a group of people and do a workshop, it will give you the confidence to broaden your horizons and improve your writing.

Before you give a talk/do a workshop go to a few yourself and learn what works and what doesn't. Make sure that you have researched what you are going to talk about/do and have prepared thoroughly - there's nothing worse than arriving at a workshop you are doing and you don't know what your going to do!

It's definitely worth considering.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Monday, 18 July 2011

It ain't over till the last editor sings!

Excellent post over on Simon Says about how he had pitched an idea to an editor, the editor asked him to revise it, which Simon did and he got the commission! There's dedication for you. The thing is, though, earlier that day, before I read his post, I had a similar situation with an editor and I revised my pitch and got the commission too! There's spooky!

It also taught me a valuable lesson. The editor said that my pitch was too vague and the article would have had too much breadth with not enough depth. The editor was quite right. So what am I going to do about that in future? I'm going to sharpen my pitches and be more specific and clear in them. One article = one topic/theme.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Write what you know ...... and what you think you don't know.

Every one of us has experience. All our experiences will be unique and different, although there will be a common thread in situations that most of us are familiar with: weddings, births, shopping, eating etc, how we view the world and what happens to us in our world will be similar, but no-one can truly know how someone else feels or what they perceive from the world as we have our own unique view.

So what has this got to do with writing? Well, we are always being advised to write what we know - this is great advice as an expert in your own field you are the best person to write about it. You live it so you know it. But someone else writing about the same topic who is also an expert in that field will write a totally different article to you. It's all down to individual view point and life experience. So don't think that because there are hundreds, possibly thousands of people who could write about what you want to write about that there is no point in you bothering - there is - editors want your unique view point.

You don't even have to restrict it to writing about what you know. Writing about something you don't know much about will broaden your writing repertoire as well as giving you new interests and refining your research skills. So next time you're deliberating about what to write about, think about your unique life experience, find a common thread to resonate with readers and use your individual insight to make it come alive.

Happy writing!

Julie xx

Sunday, 10 July 2011

You Don't Know Til You Try

When I first started writing in 2007 I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I wanted to write but I didn't know what or how. I did a writing course which set me on the right track but it wasn't enough for me. So I joined a writing group which did the trick. I gained support and valuable advice from the other members of the group which gave me the confidence as well as the know-how on how to write, pitch and get my work published. I will be eternally grateful to them as well as to my blogging friends.

But it doesn't matter how many times someone tells you that you should send your work off, if you don't have the confidence to do it, they will have been wasting their breath. At some point, though, you have to just grab the bull by the horns and send your work off. If you don't, you'll never know if your work is good enough to be published.

It's not easy getting published, especially with the market as it is now with magazines disappearing. I didn't think that I'd ever do it. But there must have been something inside me that made me persevere, regardless of how many rejections I got - and I've had more than a few! You can't think too much about the diminishing market as magazines will always need content and why shouldn't it be you who supplies it? You just have to:

1. Research the market.
2. Don't give up
3. Follow the house style of the magazine you want to pitch/submit to.
4. Find out the submission guidelines and stick to them.
5. Don't give up.
6. Find different angles for your pitch that will catch the editor's eye.
7. Don't make promises/claims that you might not be able to keep - it marks you out as unprofessional and if you can't deliver what you promised you might not get a second chance.
8. Don't give up.
9.Be professional.
10.Don't give up.

There's a lot of don't give up in there as I feel that that is the most important piece of advice! If you give up because you keep getting rejections, you will never know if the next piece you would have written would have been the one to get published. And if you're reluctant to try new markets because you think they won't be interested in what you have to write - do it anyway - you won't know until you try. Let the editor be the judge of whether they'll be interested or not. And if you've done your research properly you shouldn't be too far off the mark.

Happy writing
Julie xx

Friday, 8 July 2011

Patience is a virtue .... It's also frustrating!

There's a saying that goes something like 'good things come to those who wait.' There's also the phrase 'she has the patience of a saint.' We spend a large proportion of our lives just waiting: post office queue, doctor's waiting room, phone queues, check outs, you name it we wait for it. But one of the most frustrating kinds of waiting is the waiting we writers do for news about our submissions.

We get anxious and confused about how long we should wait, too, and what to do when we feel we've waited long enough. But it's nothing to worry about, really. There's no point in, for instance, trying to contact an editor a week after you've submitted something to them if their guidelines state they take 8 - 12 weeks to reply. I know it's tempting to try and find out earlier but all you'll end up doing is irritate the editor! If the magazine you're pitching/subbing to gives a time scale for responses then that's brilliant as you know what to expect. It's also easier, after that time has elapsed to contact the editor then, making inquiries as to the fate of your work because you can say you've waited the 12 weeks and heard nothing.

I know it's annoying when you're desperate to find out if an editor is going to take and publish your work, but it's part of a writers' lot. And we haven't even got to the wait between an editor accepting your work and then actually publishing it. The longest I've waited so far (and I'm still waiting) is two years, But I know of other writers who've waited a lot longer! 

I also used to worry about sending my work to a magazine and that editor rejecting it after a long wait and opening up another magazine (the one I was going to send it to next) and seeing a similar article to mine in it. But I don't worry so much now. It's an occupational hazard and you can't really do much about it, other than revamp your version of the article (there's always a different angle) and send it out to the third or fourth magazine on your list. Where there's a will there's a way.

While you're waiting, it's a great opportunity to crack on with your next piece of writing.

Happy waiting and writing

Julie xx

Monday, 4 July 2011

Don't just think it .....

Everyone knows what thought did. So I think it's important to act on your thoughts as soon as you can. Write them down for a rainy day - you'll be amazed at how fast thoughts and ideas for your writing will just disappear if you don't hold on to them and physically write them down. I've lost count of the ideas that have come to me in my sleep and because I've been too drowsy and lazy to turn my torch on and scribble them down, I've forgotten them by morning. It's very frustrating to wake up knowing you had a fantastic idea for an article last night but you can't for the life of you recall any details.

Some times, if I'm lucky, bits of the idea come back to me in fits and starts throughout the day - but the essence is always missing. I can get the gist but that killer line, that hook that was so obvious to me in my sleep has gone.

We are all guilty of procrastination -I hold my hand up to it. Guilty as charged. But it always ends up costing me in the end: a pitch that didn't get there in time and I was pipped to the post by another writer, an article I've had simmering in the back of my mind for weeks turns up written by another author in a magazine.  Frustrating, but probably avoidable if I'd have pulled my finger out and got that pitch or article subbed. I only have myself to blame.

Don't leave it for someone else to have those pages in that magazine that could have been yours! Get writing and get it subbed! I think we're all going to have a busy writing week.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Friday, 1 July 2011

Lead-in time

We all know that magazines are published to a regular schedule. Some are weekly, some are monthly, some quarterly. It's important that as writers we know when the magazines we are targeting are published because we don't want to send our pitches or manuscripts too late, particularly if our pitches are seasonal, eg, Christmas or Easter related.

Magazines have their own, what they call, lead-in periods from when an article is accepted to when it will be published, or from when articles need to be submitted in order to be accepted for a certain issue. Recently, I submitted an article to a magazine knowing that it wouldn't be used until November as the editor had already told me this.They also will tell when you need to get your submissions in, ie 4-6 months before the event.  But if you want to make sure you get your pitches and manuscripts in at the right time, so as to not miss the magazine's lead-in time you need to either look at the magazine's own submission guidelines which will tell you how many weeks/months their lead-in time is, or contact the editor themselves.

It would be a shame to miss your cue!

Happy writing

Julie xx