Monday, 29 August 2011

Going, going, gone .....

I'd like to thank all my followers on Article Antics for their support and interest over the year and a bit this blog has been going. But, unfortunately from the 1st September 2011 I will be closing this particular blog down. I will still be blogging at http://jlpwritersquest.blogspot.com so you are very welcome to join me there where I will be blogging about all things writing: articles, short stories, novels and poems, etc.

The reasons for closing this blog down is because I'm finding it increasingly difficult to devote as much time as I'd like to both blogs so one had to give! I also want to concentrate more on my actual writing.

So thank you, once again,

Happy writing

Julie xx

Blowing Bubbles

Well, for some of us the summer holidays are almost over. It's one week until the kids return to school here and the seven weeks they've had off has just flown by.I haven't done as much writing as I'd planned or would have liked to have, but that was my choice. And now that the Autumn term is about to start, I'm quite excited by the increase in my writing time this means. It's bad enough to stay motivated and hide in my office when my husband's on his days off from work, but it's nigh on impossible when our daughter is off school and she and her friends are charging around, shrieking 'Justin Beiber' at the top of their voices!  So getting back to some 'normality' will be refreshing (and I get to listen to Justin Beiber's CD all by myself - only joking <cough>)

As you might well know, I've been trying, recently, to broaden my horizons on the article writing front and pitch to magazines I haven't targeted before. It's a bit hit and miss - some editors have ignored me, some have said an outright no, and some have said pitch again in a few months. But I'm working on an article for the one editor that has said yes. It's been fun researching for it and has given me the impetus to keep pushing forward with article writing. A lot of the pitches and articles I'm doing now can also be used for the journalism course I'm still doing, so I'm hoping to kill two birds with one stone.

I'm a positive person, but , just like everyone else, I do have setbacks and it can be hard sometimes to see the point in carrying on with writing, especially when the media reports suggest that publishing is in decline and being affected by the recession. I had a recent experience that didn't help this mood either. I won't go into too much detail as I don't wish to dwell on it. But it involved an article I had accepted for publication a couple of years ago by a magazine. I hadn't heard anything despite my trying to contact the editor on several occasions. Anyway, I heard recently that the editor who had accepted my article had left and although the new editor was interested in it and some other ideas I'd pitched to them,  they weren't prepared to pay for it - when the ex-editor was!

Yes, it's annoying and frustrating, but these things happen and it hasn't put me off pitching elsewhere. Better communication on the part of the outgoing editor might have helped here - I did try! I have written pieces for free before and I dare say I will again but I don't see why writers should forfeit payment to glossy magazines who have a cover price and get a large proportion of their income from plush advertising. Writing is a business, just as much as the magazines are.

We had a lively debate recently on Facebook about when, if ever, it was acceptable to write for free - and it obviously stirred up strong opinions and emotions on the subject ranging from those who were dead set against it and didn't take too kindly to those who did write for free, or who weren't prepared to haggle for a higher fee, to those who could see the value of writing for free - for them it wasn't always about the money.

I think that as writers we should be blowing as many  pitching bubbles as we can and see how far they float.  A lot of the time, yes, you might not get a reply from the editors you target, but sometimes you will. Editors will always need good copy for their magazines and why shouldn't it be you who provides that? The only question is whether the editors are prepared to pay for your copy or not,and if they are, how much? And what will your reaction be to the editors who like your ideas but aren't prepared to pay for them?

On this occasion I walked away as I know there are editors who are prepared to pay for my work. As a writer I supply a product, rather in the same way as a teacher provides their teaching skills to the school that employs them, or a nurse provides their skills to the hospital that employs them, or a plumber repairs a leak or fits a new bathroom for a customer. They expect to be paid for the work they do and so should writers  - you.

I do a lot of volunteer work for which I receive no monetary payment but the rewards I do get: sense of purpose, sense of giving something back to society and helping young people to achieve what they want from life are priceless. But writing is my main business and I have to make money from it to keep my business going. Everyone has to make money to survive in this society, so I see my volunteering and writing as two separate things.

There are only two occasions when I would consider writing for free: if it was for a non-profit making charity and all its fundraising goes towards the people it helps, or if I was running low on examples for my portfolio - and then it would only be for 'free' magazines or ones I know don't make high profits and honestly can't afford writer's fees. But we're all different, and I certainly wouldn't pass judgement on any writer who does or doesn't write for free.

So, don't be afraid to blow your pitching bubbles and see where they land - you have nothing to lose and you might just get your work in a new publication. Think about what you expect to gain from your writing too: pleasure, money, publication, or a combination of all three?

Happy writing

Julie xx

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Nothing ventured ..........

I followed  a bit of my own advice recently abd it's actually starting to pay off. I rell must start listening to myself more often! I know I've mentioned before in this blog the importance of trying new markets and this was brought home to me recentlky when a potenial market I'd had an article publishd in and a further one accepted had a change of editor meaning that my accepoted article became unavvepted and there ws no sale. And to further rub salt in the wound when I tried to pitch to the new editor, the reply was that they liked my ides but weren't preparedto pay freelance writers at the moment! Had I have been a more sensitive soul I might have given up there and then. But I didn't. I politely declined and moved on. Then a market I've had a few articles in isn't taking subs for a couple of months, so that was another potential setback.

It's a tough old job this freeelance writing lark and you have to develop a tough skin to survive it. If one magazine editor's door is closed to you, try knocking on someone else's. I've done just this recently and it's starting to pay off. I've had a pitch accepted in principle by a magazine I've never pitched or subbed to before which is great progress. But I've also had pitches ignored by other magazines I've just started pitching to - you win some, you lose some! But thus stunned silence from these editors will not stop me from trying them again or approaching others. And if it happens to you, it shouldn't stop you either. It's how the game goes: you find a potential market, you study that market, you pitch to the editor, editor says  yay or nay and you either write the article or you pitch it elsewhere! And if you're approaching the right markets that pay - which you should be if you're a professional writer - you get money for it too!

So go on, give it a go. You've got nothing to lose.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Friday, 19 August 2011

This and That

One of the things that I love about writing articles is that you never quite know what you're going to write about or the people you will meet and interview in the course of your writing life. I've been very lucky so far as I've written about some pretty interesting and quirky topics as well as meeting some lovely, and if one can say so without coming across as rude, slightly unhinged, or eccentric people (it does take one to know one).

Writing articles is the ideal job for me as I don't see it as work. Yes it's hard going sometimes and you do have to sit down and write if you want to see results, but it's something I love doing: I have an inquisitive (nosy) mind - I love finding out stuff - it doesn't matter what that stuff is. I have a very open mind and welcome new opportunities -  you have to as a writer.

So open your mind and get out there and talk to people -you never know what you might find yourself writing about next!

Happy writing!

Julie xx

Monday, 15 August 2011

You put your left leg in

What are you writing about at the moment? Is it something you know a lot about? Or a subject you know little of? I'm all for writing about what you know, but I do like to go off roading every now and then - it's good for the soul and sanity. It does a writer a good to try something new, gain new skills and experiences. So what are you going to learn next? And, more importantly, what are you going to write about it?

There is an article in anything and articles are everywhere, if you look hard enough. Sometimes the perfect subject is sitting right under our noses - we just don't realise it. Your subject doesn't have to be huge or exciting - the best articles often come out of the mundane and the common. But it's how you handle the topic that counts: get the unusual angle from the usual - make the ordinary the extraordinary.

Whatever you're doing, wherever you're going, make like Worzel Gummidge and put your writing head on; can what you are going to do or where you are going be turned into an article or three? The answer here should always be a resounding YES! If it's a no, you're in the wrong job and you should take another look until you can say yes.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Batten Down the Hatches

I love summer storms. I love the tension as it builds, the heaviness of the air, the electricity buzzing above my head, the deepening and darkening of the skies, the sense of anticipation and the prickle of what is to come. There's a moment, just before the storm breaks, when the heat and humidity is almost too much to bear that makes me feel as though my head is about to explode! It's a bit like that with my writing. I um and ah for what seems like days (sometimes it is, lol!), grumbling away like the beginnings of a storm - I become irritable and can't think straight: I want to write but I just don't know what!

But then comes that first splat of rain, that first clap of thunder and flash of lightening that fractures the sky. Oh the relief! The first word is typed out, followed by another and another and before you know it that first sentence is complete followed by the first paragraph. You have the beginnings of your article! Now it really wasn't that bad was it? All that frustration and irritation over nothing ;0)

So, instead of waiting for your literary thunderstorm to break - pre-empt it and set the thunder rolling before the first flash of lightening. You won't get the words out if you don't sit down with your pen and paper/computer. And you won't get the commissions from editors if you don't pitch them - don't be shy and don't think that you can't do it or there's someone else who can do it better than you. The only person who can stop you from getting that commission is you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take my own advice and pull myself together and bally well go and write something!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Monday, 8 August 2011

Stumbling Blocks

If you're anything like me at the moment, and like a lot of people out there, you might be a bit short of cash. This can spell trouble for a writer, particularly when they need to buy magazines and analyse them to be able to pitch ideas to the editor. Magazines can be expensive, but they are worth the investment. But having no spare cash to buy them can be a huge stumbling block - an article writer needs access to magazines if they are to keep their writing business afloat. I would say they they are as essential to a writer as a notebook and pen or a computer.  It is only by reading several back copies and a recent copy of a magazine that you can truly get the flavour of it and be able to pitch your ideas appropriately. So what do you do if you can't afford to buy magazines?

* Share: get a couple of your writing friends together and each of you buys a different magazine, analyses it and then you swap over.

* Shelf surf: go into a large newsagents with a note book, or use your voice recorder or recording device in your mobile phone and flick through a couple of magazines noting down pertinent points that will enable you to hone your ideas and construct the perfect pitch.

* Dead time: sitting in your doctor's or dentist's waiting room is dead time - nothing happens. It's such a waste - but it needn't be. Take advantage of the time and read the magazines on the table. Now, I know they may not be in date, but sometimes they are only a couple of months old and they can be a goldmine of information for you. Even the older ones will give you a sense of what has been published before and you may be able to update the articles - rewrite them and make them your own to pitch. It's recycling at its best!

* Be cheeky: ring up the mag and ask for a back copy or two. You may even get them for free!

* Look out at car boot sales,  jumble/attic sales or charity shops. They sometimes have piles of magazines and some of them aren't that old!

*See Simon Whaley's blog posting on a couple of Internet sites where you can buy single copies of magazines rather than go for the full subscription.

* Ask friends, colleagues or family to pass on their old magazines to you when they've finished with them.

Buying magazines is not a luxury for a writer, it is a necessity. But there is more than one way to get hold of them without forking out a small fortune.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Who you gonna call?

When your looking for something to write about for your articles and you maybe want to include some quotes in it, who do you call? Attracting the right person to want to be in your article can be quite difficult. There's how to get hold of them for starters. Then there's the dilemma of how to approach them. Do you go for their web site and click on contact? Or do you search for their agent or publisher (if they are a writer or celeb.) If it's a local person, or someone with the experience or knowledge in the subject you want to write about, say, for example, wood turning, do you ring them, or turn up on their doorstep, or chase them round the supermarket ;0).

The best thing to do, if you're unsure, is to find out if they have a PR or media department and contact them first. If they don't, I would advise contacting them via their agent or publisher or on-line, via their blog or web site. With a local person, if you can find out their company's web site or their own personal e-mail address/ phone number, I would try and make contact that way. Writers and other such people will almost certainly state how they want to be contacted (if at all) so it's best to follow their instructions.

Don't be shy, either! Don't not contact them because you think they'll say no - they may well say no, but they might just say yes instead. Be brave and bold but polite. If they say no, it means no and don't badger them - no-one likes a stalker! Treat them with respect and they'll return it.

Happy interviewing

Julie xx