Friday, 20 December 2013

The Goose Is Getting Fat .....

Not long now till the Big Day. Have you ever wondered, though, why, every year, we rush around buying presents, scribbling cards, battling through the queues and endless checkouts, buying more than we'll ever need with cash we haven't got and more likely than not will be paying off till next Christmas when we can start the whole silly process off again.

Or maybe you're one of those uber organised people who starts your Christmas shopping in January, have your Christmas cake baked by February, your cards written by March, your presents wrapped by April, your turkey ordered by May, your decs up by September and can sit there smugly on Christmas Eve sipping your mulled wine - if you are one of these people then I take my hat off to you because I wish I was like that!

But, if you're like me, in the middle of your frantic 'last minute' present buying, stop and note down anything and everything that springs to mind about the festive period. Look at the articles the magazines have published and be observant as you are walking around doing your festive business - you never know what inspiration for new article ideas you will find.

I know it'll be too late for this year, but it will stand you in good stead ready for next year when you start pitching your festive ideas - you'll have a few months in order to mull it all over in your head and come up with something unique.

I'm taking a break from blogging until the New Year now. So I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Merry Writing!

Julie xx

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Look What Came Through Through The Post ...

Article writing. There's nothing quite like it - amazing yet frustrating at the same time! But, having had numerous articles published and a column I have to say that there's nothing I'd rather do than writing. Okay, I'm not a full-time writer but that doesn't mean I am not a professional one. I approach my writing business in the same way as I do my teaching assistant job. And there are advantages to writing articles, particularly a column, as this is where non-fiction book ideas can be born.

So imagine my delight when this came through the post ....

 
It's my new book (1st one!) and the idea for it came out of my column in Writers' News.  It's not out until 28th Feb 2014 but you can get a sneak preview or pre-order here:
 
Or look on the publisher's website, should you be interested: www.0-books.com

Why not think of an idea for a book to pitch to them too while you're there!

Julie xx

Friday, 29 November 2013

Happy New Year!

No, it's alright. I haven't gone mad (well maybe a little). It's at this time of year that a writers' mind tends to wander down memory lane and have a look about what they have achieved in their writing year. It's time, before the whirlwind that is Christmas sets in, to take stock of what you've done as a writer and to look forward to where you want to go.

It doesn't need to be done in any depth - just a cursory glance at your out put and in put - what percentage of articles that you pitch actually become commissioned? What percentage of those actually make it to publication? Could you be doing something to up your output and publications?

There are always ways we can try and improve our writing success. Yes, much of that will be down to the writing time we have, our motivation levels and general life (it does have a tendency to get in the way). But, as writers, our job is rise above all of life's little irritants and frustrations and get on with writing in what little time we might have.

So, while the wind howls outside and the rain (or snow) falls, it's time to get your writing records out and take a look at where you stand, where you want to get to and what steps you need to take to get there. Small steps are fine! As long as they are travelling in the right direction.

Happy stock taking!
Julie xx

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Curse of The In-House Staff Writer

I don't know if you've noticed, but increasingly, when I look through potential magazines for my article pitches, I see there seems to be an alarming number of such magazines who only seem to use their own staff writers with minimal or no scope for free lance contributions. So where does that leave the freelance?

Is it still worth pitching to them on the off chance that they might take you up on it? Or do you leave yourself wide open to, at best being ignored completely or getting a polite decline, or, at worst, see your article idea written by a staff writer in the magazine you pitched it to!

Now, there's no way of proving that they 'stole' your article. There is no copyright in ideas and it could be the reason you didn't hear back from the editor was because they'd already got the topic you pitched covered. The only reasonable and professional thing you can do in the case of a magazine that has the staff writers' names on all of their articles is to move on and find another magazine that welcomes freelance contributions.

You could also save yourself and the editor of such a magazine a lot of wasted time by actually contacting them first - by phone is ideal, if you can get a number, as it's not so easy to avoid a phone call as it is to ignore an e-mail - and ask them if they are open to freelance submissions. Then you'll have your answer and know either not to bother or to pitch.

It's always worth approaching the editors with your intention to pitch article ideas as you never know if they'll say yes or no. Maybe a staff writer is off and they need someone to cover, or perhaps content is a little light for a couple of issues and you can help them out. Maybe you are an expert in something topical and their staff writers aren't and the piece would be better written by you. Who knows? So don't be afraid to try but do move on if it's an outright no. Remember to keep checking periodically as editor's change, staff writers leave and there may be openings in the future.

Happy writing
Julie

Friday, 1 November 2013

Head Above the Parapet

How do you write your pitch or article so that it stands out above the thousands of others that are also doing the rounds trying to grab the attention of the stressed and snowed under editor? It can be hard to remain positive and motivated when you know there are thousands of writers who, just like you, are fighting for those all important and highly coveted publication slots - but, with a bit of thought, some inspiration and thinking outside of the box, it can be and should be you who makes it through. Why shouldn't it be?

The first thing I'd say is to KNOW YOUR MARKET. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. This is closely followed by KNOW WHICH EDITOR TO SEND IT TO. It's no good sending an editor of a magazine a pitch that shows them that a) it's a generic round robin e-mail sent to all of their rival magazines too or b) it shows them that you haven't bothered to read their magazine or have read it but have missed the point. Would you reply to someone who got your name wrong or who didn't know who you were? They don't like it and they won't commission you. So, whatever you do - DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

The next thing I consider to be important is to NOT TRY TO SELL THEM WHAT THEY ALREADY HAVE. It can be tempting to read one issue of the magazine and try to emulate the same thing. It won't work. Editors need new material that hasn't been done to death so package it up from a different angle. Do you have personal experience or knowledge and expertise in a certain field that would make it a better and more interesting, living, piece than if it were written by a staff writer with no clue on the topic? If so - get in there and flaunt your wares shamelessly!

A big clue I picked up on whilst reading magazines is to check out the 'COMING NEXT ISSUE' section. This will tell you what the editor has lined up so you won't make the mistake of offering them something they already have covered. The READER LETTERS page can also be a mine of information too as can the EDITOR'S NOTE, usually at the beginning of the magazine. They give you a valuable insight into what the readers like and dislike in the magazine and also give you a glimpse into the psyche of the editor and what he likes in the magazine.

So do consider the above when you're pitching to editors. Show the editor that you have a professional approach, know the magazine, care about the magazine, have thought hard about what readers and the editor might be interested in and presented it a way that clearly shows you are capable of writing well and you'll stand out from the crowd.

Happy writing
Julie xx

Friday, 25 October 2013

Getting it right

Okay, I admit it. I'm a stickler for good grammar and spelling. It drives me insane when I see grammatical errors and simple spelling mistakes, particularly in articles or any written communications aimed at children. How can we expect them to learn proper usage of English grammar and spelling if the books and magazines they read are littered with errors?

I'm currently the unofficial proof reader of the newsletter produced by the school I work in - now, on the whole, it's pretty good, as you would expect from a school. But I've been in some schools and seen letters produced by some schools that have very silly mistakes in the most basic of grammar and spelling. Tut, tut.

Now, I'm not perfect. I know that - no-one can be. I'm sure I've made lots of such mistakes in my own writing. Lots of articles and books have mistakes in them that have been missed or misused by the spell checker, or the eagle eyes of the author, editor or proof reader. It's just one of those things.

I do worry, however, in the days of text speak, that our youngsters will not only lose the ability to spell and form sentences correctly that they won't even care! But for we professional writers, our standards must be high. It would be unlikely that an editor or publisher, when faced with a pitch or article that has impeccable spelling and grammar and one that has not, for them to chose the one that has not. Your pitch not only tells the editor your intentions for the article, but it gives them a good idea about your standard of spelling and grammar and ability to construct a sound and engaging piece of writing too, one they aren't going to have to do a lot changes to or spend a lot of time getting ready for print.

So let's hear it for sticklers all over the world - there aren't many of us left! And don't forget to get your spelling and grammar as perfect as it can be in your pitches and articles. If you don't know, learn. There are plenty of books out there on the subject and there's always the Internet for advice too - and other writers.

So what do you think?

Happy writing!

Julie xx

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Funny Ha Ha

I have to admit to being stuck. I've been doing the Writers' Bureau article writing course for more time than I care to admit to - and the thing that is stalling me at the moment is writing an article that is funny. Now it's not the writing of the article that is the problem - so many funny things happen in my life, and I find such a lot of things funny in life - I do have a warped sense of humour - that I have plenty of material to draw from. It's finding likely magazines that would want a humorous article that's stopped me in my tracked.

This is very unusual for me, as I can always identify potential markets for the other articles I pitch and write, but for some reason this latest assignment has left me stumped! Now some kind writer soul did suggest The Oldie as a possible market - but I've looked on the Internet and tried to find a copy in various newsagents but have failed miserably to find one so I can do market research on it.

Does anyone have any other suggestions for other possible markets for a humorous article, or even know where I can get hold of The Oldie? (Here's an example of my strange sense of humour - in that last sentence I did a typo and missed out the words 'get' & 'of''! Ooh matron.

Does anyone else ever have these ridiculously silly potential market blips?!

Happy (funny ha ha writing)!
Julie xx

Monday, 30 September 2013

What to write about?

I'm always intrigued by writers who claim they have nothing to write about and  non writers who ask, 'Well, what do you write about then?' Ideas for articles are all around us and it's the job of a good write to listen and look for those potential ideas wherever they go: An overheard conversation, a local event, an advert in the local newspaper, an article in a national newspaper that can be tweaked to have a local angle, a radio interview, something on TV or a magazine, every day people, hobbies, occupations, etc., can all provide inspiration and leads for potential articles.

It's important for a writer to think like a detective and for them to have their nose into everything and anything. You never know where your next idea might pop up so always take a note book and pen with you wherever you go. You will forget by the time you get home (I can't tell you how many times that has happened to me!).

So next time you're out and about or think you have nothing to write about - remember to keep your eyes and ears open for that next flash of inspiration.

happy writing
Julie xx

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Going for a double

When I started out writing articles they actually began life as blog posts. I wasn't very confident back then and didn't have the slightest idea of how to write articles and pitch them - not that I thought that any of my ramblings would be of any interest to editors anyway.  I did send small articles to The Link - NAWG's (National Association of Writers' Groups) publication. There was no money in it, but a brilliant opportunity to hone my writing skills and get published.

It was a comment by one of my writing friends that set me on the path to making money from my writing (the cheque is in the post to this person, honest......) He said that my blog postings were the right style for writing Magazine. So I took courage, sat down and edited the blogs and came up with some pitches and subbed them. It took a while, but eventually I had my first article accepted and published in there, followed by many others and in other magazines too.

Then I had a series of articles accepted by Writing Magazine on writing groups. Now I've had a two part article accepted by Writers' Forum. I don't think I ever thought I'd get one article accepted let alone a series or a two parter! But I did and it took patience and a lot of hard work.

When the idea for an article comes into your head do you ever think you could expand it into more than one article. It's well worth exploring this before you pitch a single article idea to the editor. They like ideas they can expand - it encourages readers to buy the next magazine if they read an article in one issue that has part 2 coming next issue!

Make sure your pitch outlines why it would make a good two or three, or more series and show your plan for each instalment and how each article progresses and moves on smoothly to the next article in the series. Each article should be able to stand alone yet, link in effortlessly with all articles within the series. Also it pays to get quotes from different people for each article to enable readers to see the theme from different points of view.

It takes a lot of planning to get an article series accepted but with some thought and time it's not an impossible task.

Happy writing
Julie xx

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Right Person, Right Time

The path of a freelance writer is not a straight or easy one. There are obstacles in our way and route to publication can be a long and winding one. But, if we want to succeed and be a regularly published freelance writer we have to be prepared for that journey.

It doesn't help when some magazines seemingly make it incredibly difficult for writers to contact them with potential feature ideas! They don't always print contact details in the magazine themselves. This is where a bit of lateral thinking comes in.

I had come up with a few ideas over the weekend to pitch to a certain magazine. Now, when I last tried to pitch to them I couldn't find any email addresses. I knew who the features editor was, but had no clue how to contact them. So I enlisted the help of a Facebook friend who had been recently published in that magazine and asked her. They very graciously obliged and I had that all important contact e-mail. I didn't get a commission that time.

So, I looked in a recent copy of the magazine and saw that the features editor had changed. So, using the same format of e-mail as last time, but with changing the name I sent my pitch off. But it bounced back. All the best laid plans and all that - that'll teach me for trying to be too clever. Any way, I decided that the best course of action was to actually phone the features writer for that magazine who was the only one listed as having a phone number.

It is always nerve racking phoning a magazine editor. But, it pays to remember that they too are human, just like you, and do want to hear your ideas - they need a constant supply of good content. Just remember to be prepared, though. They might want you to tell them a bit about yourself and your past publications. They might also want you to talk through your ideas there and then. On the other hand, they might just give you a contact name and e-mail address to send your pitches too. Sometimes they might not be that co-operative and say no thank you not to day! You have to be prepared for all eventualities.

This is your chance to sell your writing to that editor. Take your time to think about what you are going to say and listen intently to what the editor says to you. Either record their instructions or jot them down for reference later. Slow your breathing and speech down and try to relax. The editor doesn't want a jabbering, stuttering wreck they can't understand on the phone. Don't let your nerves get the better of you.

It takes time for an editor to get to know you and your work so don't expect miracles with your first few pitches. Your pitches might not be accepted initially, but keep trying. Make sure you have read several back copies of that magazine and the recent issue and you are pitching appropriate ideas. Having said that, I once pitched an idea to a magazine I hadn't tried before and got my first pitch ever accepted by them. On the other hand, with another magazine it took several attempts. KEEP TRYING!

Happy pitching and phoning!
Julie xx

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Make it a habit

To make any kind of headway as a freelance writer you have to be coming up with ideas and pitching several of them a day. It's no good sending a pitch out when the mood takes you, once in a blue moon. By sending out your pitches regularly to the same magazines you are making an impression on that editor and getting your name known. They know you are not just a one trick pony and that you are a serious writer.

But you want to make the right kind of impression. You don't want to bombard them with article ideas that are so far off the mark they are left wondering if you actually know what magazine they are features editor for!  And that takes time, preparation and research.

You have to read back copies of your chosen magazines as well as the latest issue. And don't forget to look at the 'what's coming up next' section so you don't pitch an article idea they are already covering next month. Notice the tone of the articles they do publish. Is it chatty, or more formal - do they use lots of quotes from experts or more case studies from ordinary people?

Writing your pitch in the style of the magazine shows the editor you have bothered to read their magazine and can write in the style they favour. And don't forget to address your pitch to the right person, otherwise there's a risk it will get banded about for weeks before reaching the right person, or, worse case scenario, it just gets deleted. Look in the magazine as there is usually an e-mail address or phone number you can use to find out who the appropriate person to address and how, is.

But the most important thing is to try and make pitching articles a habit not a thing you do when you've got a spare five minutes or so. Regular pitching is your friend! The more wonderful, appropriately pitched article ideas you send out there, the better your chances of a hit.

Happy pitching!

Julie

Friday, 9 August 2013

What's your inspiration?

What would you say is your biggest inspiration when you are searching for ideas for your articles?
For me it is often reading through back copies and recent issues of my target magazine that will start my creativity popping. By reading the magazines I can get a real feel for the ethos of the magazine  - what they are trying to achieve by what they publish, their readership, and the editors likes and dislikes as to the material they want in their publication.

At other times it might be something someone says or does, or something I've read elsewhere or seen on the TV or Internet that might set me off. For me - inspiration is everywhere. I just have to capture the idea and work into something viable for publication.

Le us know what were the more quirkiest methods of inspiration for you.

Happy idea hunting!

Julie xx

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Is your writing worth it?

Writing is a very strange profession to be a part of. It's not as stable as most other jobs, particularly if you are freelance, fighting for the seemingly diminishing slots within magazines. But then there's something that is special and unique about writing that means I could no sooner give it up than I could breathing. And I know a lot of writers feel the same.

There comes a time in most writers' lives where we must question whether our efforts at writing are worth it. Particularly when we have had rejection after rejection or editors just aren't answering our e-mails, it can seem as though we are banging our heads on a brick wall all of the time.

No-one asks us to write. We write because we want to. We write because we have something to say. We write because we want to see our words in print and get paid for our work. So, even when we do get rejections and are sitting at the bottom of a very deep publication famine period, we can't just sit there, waiting for someone to throw us a rope ladder and drag us out - it's not going to happen any time soon.

What we need is to begin that long and difficult climb back to the top to at least reach the table where the publication feast is taking place. If we don't keep researching our markets, trying to come up with fresh and enticing ideas and pitching them then the longer we will stay in publishing famine. The sooner we get out there, pitching and conversing with editors, the sooner we will increase our chances of publication. It's as simple as that. Yes there is stiff competition out there and more writers are chasing fewer commissions, but why shouldn't it be you who gets that commission?

There are several things you can do to increase your chances and here are some tips that have helped me:

1. Know your market - readership, adverts, reader letters, editor's likes and dislikes for their magazine, word length, style, pace and tone of articles the magazine carries. If you don't research your potential markets, your resulting pitch will show this, reducing the likelihood of a favourable response from editors.

2. Know yourself as a writer - what are your interests? What fascinates you and floats your boat? Writing about something you know well and that inspires you will show through in your pitch and writing - something editors like to see when commissioning: enthusiasm and knowledge of the topic.

3. Push the boundaries: Make a list of the topics you think you can't write about and then write about them. Research the topic and potential markets who might like an article on this topic. If you're not an expert on it then find someone who is and interview them.  This will bring credence to your pitch and your piece. Don't be afraid to try something new and open up your writing repertoire.

4. Don't make promises you can't keep. Yes you should produce a pitch that promises an all singing and all dancing article that will excite the editor and send them scrabbling to commission your piece. The aim is to make your pitch stand out from the rest - but, if you then fail to deliver do you think that editor will commission you again? Not likely.

5. Keep the pitches flowing. If one editor says no, find another. If you stop, it can be very difficult to get yourself in motion again. Use the momentum of your stream of ideas to keep you pitching - you never know if your next pitch will be the one to make it through. I once sent pitch after pitch to a well-known writing magazine - everyone of them was rejected until I sent my umpteenth attempt. The editor actually used the words that my persistence had paid off and he was commissioning my article. So it does pay to keep trying. Either the pitch the editor accepted was brilliant or they were so fed up of my bombardment that they gave me the commission to shut me up!

Having now had many articles published I am constantly on the lookout for potential new markets and adapting my writing style to the needs and preferences of each editor. Writers need to seriously think about doing this if they are to increase their output, commissions and writing portfolio. Don't be afraid to e-mail the editor of that magazine you've not tried to write for before. Editors need good copy if their magazine is to stay afloat, ahead of its competitors. Editors need a continual supply of material to fill their pages just as much as writers need to be commissioned to write what the editors need.

So get down to your nearest newsagent and get researching! Your writing and magazine editors will thank you for it.

Julie xx

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Respect Your Writing

What does your writing mean to you? When you think about your writing and how it is going, which words spring to mind? Could do better? Doing as well as you can? Struggling? Thinking of giving up? Not exactly inspiring and motivating thoughts are they? What if you tried to alter your mind set and look for the positives in your writing career. Try conjuring up points that are going well and with the negatives, turn them round to provide solutions so that you can do better. How can you improve your writing? It's no good sitting there lamenting your lack of articles in print. What are YOU going to do about it so you do get more articles in print?

My solutions are to devote more time to my writing by watching less TV and spending less time blogging and on social media. For my articles I intend to spend more time on researching the markets and concentrating on a couple at a time before moving on to others. There comes a time when you have to stop planning and get writing and pitching. If you spend too long on the thinking about it, you lose out on commissions - it's as simple as that.

So get to it! Give yourself and your writing the time and respect they deserve. If you want to be a professional published writer then act like a professional published writer. A writer writes and so must write regularly, just as a nurse nurses and a teacher teachers.



Happy writing
Julie xx

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Back to the wood

Whenever I embark on a DIY project, which I admit isn't very often - I like to do it properly - which is why each project takes me a long time to finish. I'm the same with my writing. I like to get all my tools and equipment I need around me first and my work area needs to be clean and tidy, otherwise I have to clean up and tidy that first before I start. I also have to follow instructions to the letter - I do exactly as it says on the tin (Ronseal should be my middle name!)

With my writing, I set up a new folder and document on my computer, my pencil is sharpened, my pen full of ink, my note paper is by the side of me, a dictionary, back copies and an up to date copy of the magazine I'm writing for are on the other side of me and I have a cup of tea to wet my whistle and I'm off. I also follow submission guidelines to the letter too.

When I'm painting the house, I like to strip the doors back to the wood if I can. I then sand paper it and apply the undercoat or base coat. While that's drying I have another cuppa and think about what I'm going to do next or other frivolous thoughts that might enter my head. Then I apply the next coat and usually one more coat after that.

With writing, I find that taking it back to the wood - the bare origins of the inspiration for an article - I stand a far better chance of writing something that is worth writing about and publishable. If I'm stuck on an article, it just isn't flowing or doesn't read right, I stop and take that back to the wood too - step by step-  until I can see the point that the article began to unravel and I can fix it. I wait for the undercoat to dry before I tackle the next coat.

Taking your time instead of rushing in can save you a lot of time and stress at a later stage. So don't be afraid to take a step back, plan what you're going to write about, take it back to the wood and write it with the confidence that you know where the idea came from, it's essence, where it's leading to and where via which route you are going to get there.

In writing, as in life, the journey - how you get there - is as important as your destination.

Happy writing
Julie xx

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Hitting the spot

How do you know when you have written the perfect pitch that an editor will snatch up? It's not always as easy as it seems. You can do the usual things that writers and editors suggest: Read several back copies, cover to cover, including adverts, letters page, etc. But even if you do that, sometimes you still get a negative response. And if you keep getting negative responses from the same editors for everything you pitch to them you may be forgiven for thinking that your ideas and pitches just aren't up to it.

Well, you'd be wrong! There are many, many reasons why editors don't respond favourably (if at all) to your pitches/article ideas: They've run something very similar recently, they've just accepted a pitch from another writer on a similar theme, the topic you're covering just isn't current enough for them, your style of writing doesn't appeal to them, they are bursting at the seam with copy and there's no room for yours, they just don't want copy from freelance writers because they do a lot of it themselves, in-house.

But, thankfully, there is light at the end of the tunnel. One editor's reject is another editors delight! If one editor rejects your idea, repackage it and send it to another editor - keep doing this until you run out of editors (this should take a long time!) and when you've exhausted all avenues, go back to your pitch, try going at it from a different angle and re-pitch it to the first editor you sent it to... stranger things have happened - they might accept it. You never know.

To be a writer you need three things: 1. knowledge, 2. Talent, 3. Tenacity/determination. And it's the tenacity and determination that you need the most! Keep going and you stand a chance of being published. Stop, and you have no chance whatsoever. Just something to think about.

Happy writing
Julie

Friday, 14 June 2013

Like Buses

I don't know, you don't have an article idea for ages and then all of a sudden several turn up at once! And, have you noticed that when you have little or no time to write, all your ideas flood out, but when you have all the time in the world to write, you get none! I think that's called Writers' Law!

But don't knock it! Make hay while the sun (sore point at the moment, sorry!) shines as they say. I find that each single article idea can generate at least three spin offs - with a little lateral thinking. You could target three different magazines with one idea that's been tweaked.

For example:

Idea: Cake baking.

Spin off 1: Is our obsession with cup cakes fuelling obesity? - for a national newspaper.
Spin off 2: Cup cake baking for the terrified! A beginner's guide to baking the perfect cup cake using your unique flavours - for a cookery magazine.
Spin off 3: The history of the cup cake - for a history magazine or specialist magazine.

You can do this with absolutely any idea you have for articles and the more spin offs you can think of the better! Think of the selling /money making potential you can have if you treble your pitches from one original idea!

Let us know how you get on.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Make your approach in 5 easy steps

It's an interesting time to be a writer. Times are changing - there are less outlets for our work and more people trying to make a living from writing. The competition is fierce so how can you make your pitch stand out from the rest?

It's all in the approach. Your initial contact with an editor is all important so it's essential you get this first contact right. What I would advise is this:

1. Make sure you send your initial query to the right person: find out the name, contact details and how they like to be approached from the publications website on the internet, the magazine itself, or phone them. Editors do not like to be addressed as 'Dear Editor.' It marks you out as sloppy, unprofessional and not bothered to find out about the magazine.

2. What style of pitch do they want? Length, details, a short initial query, full article, a short bio of yourself as a writer and samples of your previous work? There's no point sending them the full article if all they have time to read is a short pitch.

3. The tone of your pitch needs to be right: not cocky or overpowering but professional and polite. Don't tell the editor their job! Let them be the judge of whether they think your article will be perfect for their magazine.

4. Be a grammar puss: Check, check, recheck and check again your spelling and grammar in your email to the editor. Any spelling mistakes and grammatical errors will mark you out as an amateur and will not give the editor a good impression or much faith in your ability to write good copy.

5. Don't be needy: once you've prepared the pitch, are sure who to send it to and how, send it off and forget about it for at least a week. Don't go harassing the poor editor five minutes after you've sent it. Editors are incredibly busy people and are not constantly gazing at their computer screens waiting for the ping of their in box. Unless the editor states otherwise, leave it a week before gently nudging. A short, polite e-mail stating who you are, what you sent and when, whether they received it and whether they've had chance to look at it is all that's required.

Following these five easy steps will get you closer to having your pitch accepted. Having a professional and polite, knows-what- they- are- talking- about approach will give you that edge when to comes to pitching articles.

Happy pitching!
Julie xx

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Christmas is coming ........

Christmas is coming and the editors are there waiting for your Christmas related articles. Yes, I know that spring has barely sprung yet, but getting your ideas in early puts you ahead of the competition. And, when you think about it, for most monthly publications, they are already on their June/July/August issues which means they'll be planning their Sept, Oct, Nov and Dec issues soon if not already.

So put on some Christmas movies, look at Christmas produce websites, drink some mulled wine, look through your photo albums for old Christmas memories and get writing! Hopefully you would have remembered to keep a couple of Christmas back copies of magazines so you can see what they've gone with before and pitch them something original. I know it's 7 months to go before the big day but believe me, that time will soon whizz by, so don't get caught out and start pitching now while you've still got plenty of time to do so.

Merry Christmas!

Julie xx

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Where to start?

So you want to write? That was the situation I found myself in a few years ago when I first started to write seriously. I had wanted to write short stories initially and I had written poems as a child/teenager. But then, somehow, life got in the way, as it always does and my writing got lost in the tornado that was exams, college, nurse training, finding a job, moving counties, moving jobs, getting married, moving jobs a couple more times, night shifts, day shifts, having a child and changing careers. It's amazing any of us have any breath left after all the changes we go through during our lives!

But get back to writing I did - I had very little success with the short stories though, even after I'd done an Open University course in creative writing. I even joined a writing group when that course finished, so determined was I not to let life snatch my writing from me again. And it didn't. I still dipped my toe into the short story world but by far my greatest success to date with my writing has been with the articles. It's funny how hell bent we are in conquering one facet of writing only to be disappointed but find success in another area of writing we hadn't considered to be our 'thing.' But that's life for you!

This blog is about writing articles - something I now enjoy doing and I still write short stories having had some published to spur me on. But it will always be the articles for me now that I think will take a greater priority in my writing life. When we first start our writing it can seem confusing: where shall we take our writing? What shall we write today? Will what we write today be different to what we are writing in ten years time?

There are so many different possibilities with writing that it is impossible from the start to know where we might end up. But make a start we must and I'm a firm believer that nothing we write is ever wasted. It can be improved upon, it can be altered, a small spark of the original can be lifted to create a bigger and better piece.

So whatever you do today - make a start with your writing. Whatever it is, make that start. Don't worry about editing or what you think your writing dreams, today, are. Get something down on paper and then you can think about where you want to take it.

Happy beginnings!

Julie xx

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Have you got a book in you?

One of the most traditional routes to getting a non fiction book published is to write a series of articles first - something that can be expanded and adapted into a book. The first hurdle here is to persuade an editor to let you write a series of articles in the first place - but it's not impossible. Certainly, telling a potential book publisher that you have a series of related articles already does your pitch no harm so I'd recommend that you give it a try.

The way to increase your chances of getting a series is:

* Write down your ideas and separate them into specific headings that you can work into several different articles.

* Give the editor a flavour of why you should be the one to write a series: details/examples of your previous published work (whether paid for or not).

* Provide a basic outline of what will be in each article and how they relate to each other.

* Give the editor an idea of the kind of experts you will be approaching/have approached to be in the article and in what way they will contribute.

*If you are an expert with the relevant knowledge, qualifications and experience, all the better. But if you are not - you soon will be by all that hard researching work you are doing and the networking with people who have you'll be doing!

Once you have all the relevant information and have written your pitch you can send it in and see what happens. Preparation is key here so be as specific and professional as you can be. If a potential editor knows they are dealing with a writer they can trust to give them good copy it bodes well for future relationships with potential publishers.

Give it a go. You never know!

Julie xx

Friday, 3 May 2013

It's all a bit random

Writing articles. Where do you start? Does the idea or the potential market come first? It's like the proverbial chicken and the egg isn't it! Do you buy a magazine first, do the necessary research: read it cover to cover and come up with an idea that's worth pitching to the editor? Or do you have the idea then go and find a magazine that might offer a potential market for your idea? It can all seem a bit random.

Well both have their charms and devils. I find that I often get my best ideas when I'm leafing through a magazine, but I also have some great ideas when I'm wandering around, minding my own business too! So, for me, either of the two methods works well. But if you're just starting out, picking out a magazine (along with a few recent back copies) is a good starting point.

Once you've been writing for a while and know a few different markets well, you begin to develop a nose for what would make good content for those magazines. But, as a newbie, it's essential to do the leg work and study the markets thoroughly - it's the only way you'll get to know what the editor and readers' preferences are.

Plus, buying magazines is a good excuse to put your feet up, have a cuppa and relax - no-one will dare complain because you are 'doing research!'

Happy researching  and do let us know of any successes, near misses or pitches you send out.

Julie xx

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Writing From Life

They say that truth is stranger than fact and one of a writer's greatest inspirations has to come from the writer's own life. Whether a writer has experienced tragedy or joy, success or failure, love or hate, there is plenty in a writer's life to be mined for creative purposes.

Everywhere we go we are touched by life. The people we meet, the places we go all impact on us, whether consciously or sub-consciously and though we might not be aware of it at the time, the seed of our next creative project might have been sown and given time will grow into a workable idea.

So even when life is frustrating and the universe seems to be against you, smile and remember that whatever happens, it will appear in your writing in some shape or form sometime in the future  -  nothing is wasted.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

What do you Want?

I've heard it said that if you want to write well then write about something that interests you. Your enthusiasm and passion for the topic will show through in your writing. If you write about something that holds no spark for you then the resulting writing might well be lacklustre.

What do you think about that? Would you agree or disagree? The feeling I get when I'm writing an article on something I like and enjoy certainly flows better that if I'm writing about something that leaves me a little cold. So, to a certain extent, I'd agree. But I also think that professional writers should be able to write about anything and everything, whether they're experienced in it and like it or not.

What do you think?

Happy writing
Julie xx

Thursday, 4 April 2013

NAWG Open Festival of Writing - Warwick

Shout out for the National Association of Writers' Groups (NAWG) Open Festival of Writing. It's taking place in Warwick this year, 30th August - 1st September. I went last year and had a great time - learned lots and met many lovely fellow writers.

Look on their website www.nawg.co.uk for more details but basically, for the full weekend it's £230 for NAWG members, £250 for non-members. You can also go as a day delegate which is cheaper but still worth considering.

This year they have workshops on Crime writing, novel writing, self hypnosis to increase your creativity, comedy writing, script writing, poetry, short story writing and e-book publishing. There is a delicious gala dinner on the Saturday night with Gervase Phinn as after dinner speaker!

I'm hoping to go again and I'd love to see you there too!


Happy writing!
Julie xx

Friday, 29 March 2013

Is this a drought period for publishing?

Though it's true that the publishing industry is feeling the heat, along with the rest of the other industries in the UK, there are still plenty of opportunities for freelance writers. You just have to work harder to find them and raise your game to get those commissions. I was in WH Smith's the other day and was enthralled by the racks and racks of vastly different magazines on a wide variety of subjects. All of them need content. Granted, not all of them will take non-commissioned work from freelancers, but the vast majority of them will. Some might not pay very much, if anything at all, but most of them will.

Your job as a freelancers is to approach magazines you haven't done in the past and come up with pitches that will attract the attention of the magazine editor. If you don't seek, you won't find and if you don't approach, you won't be commissioned.

So get out there, pick up a magazine and get pitching. But give it your best shot - don't be timid or half hearted about it. This is your chance to impress an editor and get your work in print.

Happy pitching
Julie xx

Friday, 22 March 2013

Getting to the Heart of it.

There's something incredibly satisfying about writing an article. From the exciting conception of that first idea, the approaching of the editors to the first draft, the final draft to sending the article off there's a buzz. It's the buzz of potential and the possibilities that exist from that one idea - which angle will you take? Where will you go with this? Whose story will you tell and what is it you want to say?

It's important to get to the heart of what you want to say in your article. And asking the questions above can help you to tighten your thoughts up on the subject and write an article that doesn't go off on tangents but keeps to the brief. Any other ideas you have off the back of that article idea are a bonus and can be worked up into another article.

Thinking about what you really want to say in your article and it's essence will help you focus your writing which will be all the better for it. This really helps with the writing of the pitch too and can help you to keep your pitch succinct and to the point. So next time an idea for an article pops into your head, slow down and think about what it is you're actually writing about.

Happy writing!  Julie xx

Friday, 15 March 2013

Trawling

It's time to get those magazines out and shamelessly trawl them for inspiration. Are you forever flicking through magazines saying, 'I could have written that!' Well why didn't you? is the question you should be asking yourself. If another writer has got their piece in that magazine and it's on a topic you know you can write about then it's time to come up with other ideas, get pitching and see your name in there instead!

Once I have an idea for a magazine article, I write a spidergram with the main theme in the centre and legs with relevant comments coming off it. This helps me to see the bigger picture as well as the possible angles I could take with the article. It also serves as a memo for me to include certain points in the final pitch.

Once I've exhausted the theme and can fit no more legs on my piece of paper, I try and hone it down and pick an angle that I think would best interest the readers of the mag and its editor. I pick out the main points I will be including in the article and seek out potential experts for quotes, noting the kind of expert I want and possible sources.

Then the hard work starts! I start the pitch and then leave it for a day or two to mature - often other more interesting and pertinent comments will come to me in that time period which I can then add when I return to it. I then edit it a couple of times and when I'm sure it's as tight and as alluring as it can be, I send it off.

That's how I do it and it seems to work well in the most part for me. Of course, as a writer, I cannot possibly know whether the editor has recently commissioned a similar article to the one I'm pitching or not, but if it's along the right lines but a no this time, I have to make sure I hit the mark next time by reading the magazine more closely and paying attention to the editor's comments on my last pitch - if there are any.

Happy pitching! Let us know how you get on.

Julie xx

Friday, 8 March 2013

To approach or not to approach?

When searching for new markets to pitch our articles to, it can be daunting to approach editors we've never contacted before. I think we sometimes let our imagination run away with us (well, we are writers after all!) and view editors as some sort of Gods to be revered and feared. These editors don't know us or our work from Adam's but far from being aggressive and unapproachable the majority of good editors are constantly on the look out for good copy. Why shouldn't you be the one to supply them with that?

I've approached a couple of new editors recently and they couldn't have been more helpful. My ideas were rejected but I didn't feel as though they had closed their doors to me permanently and I will approach them again. One idea was rejected because they'd recently covered something on a similar theme - that's my fault as I should have studied that particular market more closely. The other was 'not for us, thanks.'

I couldn't find an email address for one editor so I bit the bullet and rang the magazine, thinking the person on reception would give me the address. No. I was put through to 'the department' and before I knew it I was talking to the features editor! So be prepared! You don't want to lose the power of speech when the editor says 'hello.'

So, this weekend I'll be drafting some more article pitches and trying them again and some more new editors. You won't know until you try. Editors are, after all, human as well, and  receive hundreds of pitches a week. So it's up to you to do your research properly and make your pitch stand out from the crowd. This means:

1. Right topic.
2. Professionally put together.
3. No grammatical or spelling mistakes.
4. Written in the style of the magazine.
5. Pitched to the right person at the magazine - by name.
6. Sent to the right e-mail address.
7. Sets out the planned layout of the article.
8. States who your intended 'experts' will be to deliver quotes.
9. Gives the editor a clear idea of who you are as a writer and why you are the person to write this article.
10. Doesn't make promises you cannot possibly keep.

As usual, thorough research is a must and cannot be skimmed on, but don't be afraid to approach new editors once you've drafted the best pitch possible.

Happy approaching!

Julie xx

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Half Full or Half Empty?

What kind of a person are you? Is your glass half full or is it half empty? Do you have a generally positive outlook with your writing or are you more pessimistic? Our attitude to our writing and, indeed, our life in general is a big indicator as to how our lives and writing might go. If we think that we can't write and let every rejection prove that, then we become a self fulfilling prophecy. We think we can't do it so therefore we don't do it. I suspet that most of us live somewhere in the middle of the two.

If, however, we adapt the more positive mindset of we can do it and we have done it so we can, therefore, do it again, we become more productive and each rejection that comes our way loses its sting somewhat because we have more work out there that may well be an acceptance.

Simon Whaley's www.simonwhaley.co.uk  marvellous book the Positively Productive Writer goes into more detail about how being positive can help you to be published so I'd recommend this book if you haven't yet read it. I'm also featured (a tiny bit) in it where Simon takes you through my little TV experiment. Simon and I also attend the same writers' group where positivity positively pings round the room every time we meet! So it does work!

So next time you're feeling less than enthusiastic about your writing career, where those around you seem to be having more success than you, or you have a mental block on how to move forward, ask yourself this: what would be your biggest regret should something prevent you from writing ever again? What would you wish you had finished? What would you regret not having the chance to have tried to have got published? Sobering, but motivating and positive thought.

Happy writing,

Julie xx

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Capture the Sun


I know that it's not possible to capture the sun. It's too hot - you don't say! But, isn't it amazing how this huge ball of energy that shines down on our planet makes us all feel just that little bit better about life? How do those rays do that? The grey, misty rain we are so used to makes way for the warmth and colour of the sun and suddenly the world seems a better place.
  

I think writing articles should be a little like that. There's far too much doom and gloom going on in the world and I think our articles can help to counterbalance that. Inject some of that solar energy into your writing. No, I haven't gone all New Age - not that there is anything wrong with that. I just think if we can infuse our writing with energy and drive and a new perspective, our enthusiasm and positivity for the subject will shine through. People want to read something dynamic not boring.

So while you're planning your next pitches and writing projects, remember how that first warmth of the sun against your cheek after the cold winter feels and see if you can't tickle your typing into passing that feeling along to editors and readers who want to be made to feel good from what they read not bored and miserable!

Happy reading

Julie xx

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Straight Road

If only the road to publication was a straight one. Think how much easier our article writing and publishing journey would be. If we didn't have to slow down for the bends or be delayed by fog. If only what we wrote was exactly what the editor wanted every time! There would be no rejection, no wasted effort and no frustration.

But don't you think it would be a little boring. If we didn't take that little meander off the beaten track to rest awhile at a gate we hadn't noticed before, to stare out across the fields of golden corn and the friesian cows grazing in the lush green fields beyond?  If we hadn't have taken that wrong turning in the middle of nowhere that led us to the middle of nowhere with no way out of the middle of nowhere, we might have never happened upon that old country pub where the owner's great grand father was an officer in the army in WW1, and the chef who wrestles crocodiles in his spare time. Okay - a little far fetched I know ..... I am a creative writer after all!

But you get the picture. If we stay on the motorway, all the good, interesting fodder for our articles will just whizz past us, unnoticed. Where would the challenge be if we knew that all our articles would be published? Where would our delight and swell of pride be if every e-mail we opened was an acceptance from an editor? It's good to have your pitches knocked back every now and then - it reminds us to keep moving forward and that standing still is not an option if we want to be published.

Take the scenic route.....

Happy writing
Julie xx

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Little Pleasures are often the Most Profitable!

You may remember me banging on about fillers and sending letters and photos off to magazines. I've send quite a few out recently and was pleased when I had a Tip of the Week published in Pick Me Up and a Picture of the Week in That's Life magazine! Together, they earned me more money than a short story! So it's well worth the minuscule amount of effort to do them and send them in. When compared to the amount of time it takes to get a short story written and subbed, a filler, photo or tip has better returns in many ways for far less effort.

Most of the magazines like Chat, Take A Break, Full House, Pick Me Up and That's Life have sections in their magazines that you can send funny anecdotes, photos, tips, letters, etc in. All you have to do is pick up an issue, read it, and see what you have that could fit in. I just use things from my daily life. It really is that simple. But, be aware - they receive hundreds if not thousands if tips, photos and letters every week - the trick is to be persistent and keep sending them in.

So give it a go! They boost your confidence as well as your bank balance when the shore stories or articles aren't selling so well.

Julie xx

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Playing the waiting game

The world of writing is quite a strange world to inhabit. It's unlike any other job in many ways. Who in their right mind would send out pitches to editors in the knowledge that it's probably going to be a no? Is this the action of a person who is fully in control of their faculties?

But pitch we must! I've been indulging in a fair bit of pitching myself over the past few weeks with some success - you win some, you lose some. Probably one of the most frustrating replies for a writer from an editor is they'll keep it on file in case they can use it at a later date. Sometimes this pays off and they do, indeed, contact you later and commission the article. But mostly it never sees the light of day.

What is a writer to do in this limbo situation? Do you wait in the hope that it's picked eventually? No! If they don't want your article there and then I would send the pitch, once you've tweaked it to suit new markets, to another editor who might want it there and then. It makes no business sense whatsoever to wait in this instance.

And that is what you are as a freelance writer - you are a business. If one customer doesn't want what you have to offer then you move on and find a customer who does. I would, however, pay the previous editor the courtesy of telling them if you do place the article elsewhere so they can remove it from their file.

Writers have to be pretty patient creatures but in business if you wait too long you lose out and someone else might get their article in instead of you. There are plenty of magazines out there who will want your work - so while you're waiting for other verdicts from editors to come in, don't forget to be sending more pitches out there. If they editor puts your idea on file - send it somewhere else! Hesitation can cost a writer dearly so if it's a no or on file, get it out again to another market.

Happy pitching!
Julie xx

Thursday, 17 January 2013

What would you say?

What piece of advice would you now, as a more experienced writer, give your just starting out in writing self?

Think about this question and post your answers - it will be interesting and helpful to see what it is that has helped you the most to get you from your staring point with your writing to where you are now.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Spread Your Wings

This year I am determined to travel more. I don't mean abroad in particular, but I intend to explore the areas of Shropshire and its neighbouring counties that I've never been to before. It should throw up some interesting article ideas and I'm going to make sure I take my camera and notebook with me.

But before I go, I will be doing some research on the area and what it has to offer so that I can direct my wandering and visits and think about the type of publications I can target my resulting articles better. I'm interested in special events, historical events, places and people too and I'm sure I'll find them in abundance where I will be going. I'm lucky to have access to a lot of interesting and beautiful places close to where I live and I can't wait to get started.

Where will your travels take you and your writing?

Happy wandering and writing
Julie xx