Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Tools for the Job

So what would you say are the most important pieces of kit a freelance writer actually needs in order to do a decent job? I suppose it depends on what you write, how often you do it and what you're trying to achieve with your writing. The days when all you needed was some paper and a couple of quills have long gone. And the speed with which technology has, and continues to advance is mind boggling (and ever so slightly scary).

When you are first starting out, do you need a computer or laptop? I would argue that in one sense yes you do, but, in another - if you find the expense is beyond your means, you could try your local library or Internet cafe, or borrow a friends - but this would probably only work in the short term. It's an option if you're keen to get started and while you save up for a computer of your own. You can also print your work out at the library, though it could be expensive. You can also use the Internet - a must in this day and age.

Obviously, copious amounts of pens and note books are a must (as is regular browsing at your local stationery store - believe me, it's good for your writing soul.) Books offering advice on how to write? Magazines you want to write for? Punch pockets, a desk, folders and printer? There's quite a bit of kit when you think about it and it can be an expensive business. But don't forget if you intend to make money from your writing you will have to register yourself employed status within your business with HM Revenue and Customs (easy enough to do on line). But the good news here is that virtually everything you buy for your business is an allowable business expense!

Writing can be as high or low tech as you want it to be. No you don't need the latest, top of the range, super dooper computer, but you do need a decent one that works and performs the basic tasks that you need it to do for the purpose of your writing. At the moment I'm typing on a tiny netbook - it's not ideal, but it's fit for purpose until I've saved up enough for a laptop - I can still write my short stories and articles on it and e-mail or print. It's not stopped me from getting my work published.

I'm also saving up for a DSLR camera. My little point and shoot does the job up to a point but I need a better one. Again, my lack of a bigger camera hasn't stopped me from getting published, but I'd like to take better quality photos.

What is the piece of kit that you as a writer couldn't do without - and what piece of kit are you salivating for?

Happy writing!
Julie xx

Monday, 20 August 2012

Workshop Wonders

Last week I did a workshop for the writing group I belong to. It was called Pitch Perfect and was about pitching article ideas to editors. I like doing workshops as they are always interesting to prepare and a wonderful way of passing the knowledge and experience I've picked up along the way to other writers. I like to see other writers inspired and motivated to give it a go themselves - even fiction writers can benefit from pitching and writing non-fiction and vice versa.

I write both short stories and articles, flitting between the two so that I always have both fiction and non-fiction pieces of work out there. Variety is the spice of life as they say, and if I'm getting a little fed up of fiction, I switch to non-fiction for a while and when I'm ready to go back to the fiction - I can do so with fresh eyes.

Quite often, writing a non-fiction piece will spark an idea for a fiction piece or vice versa, which is why I like to both. Doing workshops also has the same effect! As I'm preparing for my workshops, I really like to think about what I have learnt and what would be the best way to get that across to my writing group so they will feel inspired and motivated to have a go themselves. This makes me narrow what I'm trying to say down to the important points and it reminds me why and how I do what I do. It also inspires and motivates me to write more too - to practise what I preach!

So why not consider getting out there and doing your own workshops too? They are fun to do and even if you are a little nervous, doing your workshop among a small group of people you know in your writing group will break you in gently and give you the opportunity to try out your presenting techniques.

Go, on -  give it a try!

Happy writing

Julie xx

Friday, 10 August 2012

Get Pitching

Next week I will be doing a workshop for my local writing group Wrekin Writers called Pitch Perfect. What I will be doing is giving advice on how to identify possible markets and how to structure an idea into a pitch. I've been pitching a lot recently, both for my own writing and as part of the Writers' Bureau course I'm (still) doing. I love coming up with new ideas but I have had to learn to contain my excitement from the spark of that idea and work it into a well structured pitch where my enthusiasm for the subject still shines through but where I also show prospective editors that I have thought the idea through properly and come across as the professional writer that I am. Editors should see from the pitch that you mean business and are not an amateur.

So what I wanted to say about pitching is that I'd advise you to take a good look at the magazines out there and pick two or three titles. One should be a magazine you would absolutely love to write for, one should be one you think you can't write for, and one should be one that you've never seen before. Then spend time reading them, cover to cover, adverts and all. Reading the editor's page/comment is very telling, often, of what that editor likes to see in their magazine.

Having a variety of magazines like this should give you plenty of inspiration to come up with lots of new ideas to pitch. Look at the articles that have been published and write a pitch you would have sent if you had written that article  -  this can really help you to hone in on the important aspects of the article and help you to structure your pitch for your own article ideas. What are you trying to say with your article? What are the key points? How will you back up facts? Who are your 'experts?' Why should you be the one to write it? Do you have qualifications and/or experience in the field of what your article's subject? Have you been published before?

Your pitch is your opportunity to sell your writing - if you don't show the editor that you are professional and well capable to write this article no-one else will and the editor may favour another writer's pitch over yours. Be brave, be bold and be brilliant!

Happy idea searching


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Where do we start?

So you want to write articles? Where do you start? I can't write articles and can get them published can I? What? Me? Don't be daft. Don't you need years of training and experience and a degree to do that?  These are questions that I asked myself when I started writing in 2007. The last question stopped me from subbing my writing for a long time. I did not have the confidence or the gall to approach editors with my inferior, amateur, excuses for articles.

It took a lot of time, a lot of reading lots of articles in different publications and starting a blog and a lot of help and coaxing from a very good writing friend to get me to sub an article. Even then, it was to a free publication. I wouldn't entertain that anyone would want to pay me for the rubbish I was churning out. But, eventually, someone did pay me and my confidence grew and I grew as a writer and here we are today! I have a regular slot writing about writing groups in Writers' News (thank you editor!) and I have cracked a new market in the women's fitness area with an article out 8th August!  I now have the confidence to try multiple new markets as I have the proof that I can do it and I have cuttings to show other editors. This has helped me tremendously.

If you are relatively new to this and have got yourself into the mind set that what you are writing isn't good enough. Stick your fingers in your ears and sing, very loudly, LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LAAAAAAA - I'M NOT LISTENING, I'M NOT LISTENING so that you drown out that irritatingly negative nay saying voice then get that article pitched! Yes, there is the possibility that your first pitch(and several after that) might be rejected - but so what? Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? No. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get pitching again. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your writing career. I'm 5 years down the line from when I started and I get rejections all the time but I also get more acceptances. If I worked at it full time, I'd get even more done - but I don't, time is limited as I'm sure it is with most of us, so I get by and do what I can.

Why not give it a go? Promise yourself that you will always give it just one more go, no matter how many rejections you go. You'll never know, otherwise, if your next attempt would have been the one that got published.

Happy writing