Friday, 31 October 2014

What Are You Writing About?

When I'm planning an article, I find it useful to write a short sentence that I think encapsulates what the article is about. As I'm planning and writing the article, I very often refer back to that one sentence to ensure that I'm staying on track.

Sometimes, if I wonder off the track, I make a note of where that wandering has taken me so that I can use it for a future article. That way nothing is wasted. I also think about why I have wandered off track: maybe the article brief I've designed isn't wide enough and it needs to be expanded, or maybe it's too broad and I need to rein it in.

Spending a little time thinking about the remit of your article can save you a lot of time and heartache later. If it's flexible enough, there's no reason why you can't change and adapt it as you go along. Perhaps, by the end of it, your remit might have changed completely - that's the beauty and frustration of creative writing!

Always keep in mind what it is you're writing about and what you want to say.

Happy writing

Julie xx

Sunday, 3 August 2014

What to write about?

Writing ideas are everywhere. You just have to be patient, stop, listen and write them down as soon as they enter your head for they soon disappear again, fluttering away like butterflies. I have lots of ideas for articles and, consequently, I have lots of them scribbled on odd bits of paper, the back of envelopes, till receipts, notebooks - you name it, I've probably got something written on it - somewhere!

I've had ideas when I'm in the bath, watching TV or listening to the radio. I get them walking down the street, in the café or a shop, overheard conversations, posters, reading a book, talking to someone on the phone, reading newspapers, from e-mails, social media, websites, waiting in car parks and traffic jams, at the GP surgery or hospital waiting rooms, at work, in bed, eating breakfast, lunch and tea - ideas can strike at any time and anywhere - so you must be ready to catch them and put them somewhere safe until you're ready to expand on them at a later date.

This week's challenge number 1 is for you to keep your eyes, ears and minds open to new ideas that could potentially be written up into an article. When you've successfully pitched one of your ideas that came out of this exercise and had the finished article published, let us know.

Challenge number 2 is to tell us where you get your best ideas from? Do they come to you when you're out walking, or when you're just going to sleep? Do they come when you're driving somewhere or doing something completely different?

Happy idea catching!
Julie xx

Thursday, 15 May 2014

When Life Gets in the Way

Whether you write full-time or part-time, for pleasure or for business there will come times during your writing career that life will most definitely get in the way. It's not always possible to work your writing around your life or your life around your writing. This can be frustrating, especially when deadlines are looming and you have to reschedule interviews or appointments.

It's all too easy to panic and rush to try and get everything done where you run the risk of producing writing that is not up to your usual standard, forget about something important in your writing or home life, and end up getting very little done at all.

Things happen in our lives which we are not in control of and getting anxious about the things you think you should be doing doesn't help. If we can let things run their course, take time out to sort things out, leave the writing for a while until we are back on an even keel. We will feel better, our writing won't have suffered and might well actually be better for it.

When the dust settles ...  You can always get an article or six, or maybe even a non-fiction book out of your life getting in the way!
Happy writing

Julie x

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Taking it Seriously

Do you take your writing seriously? Or, more to the point, do you take yourself as a writer seriously? It's all very well writing every now and then or going about it half hearted and then being disappointed with your writing output and wondering why all you've got to show for your minimal efforts is a pile of rejections.

To be a successful writer you have to keep at it, writing regularly and writing well. In the magazine world unless you are pitching regularly, the likelihood of you being published is reduced. And once you have been published by a magazine don't let go! Keep reading that magazine and keep pitching. If they have used your work before, they may be more inclined to use your work again. But if you leave it a long time between pitches, they may well forget you - so keep going.

The keep going approach is useful when you keep having your pitches rejected or no reply at all. By pitching regularly to the same magazine you are showing that commissioning editor that you are not just a one pitch pony. They might not have commissioned an article from you previously but that doesn't mean with a little tweaking and persistence that they won't ever.

So for the month of May I'd like you to take yourself and your writing seriously, act and work like the professional writer you are and keep going.

Happy pitching

Julie

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Only Book You'll Need

I recently downloaded a book to my Kindle. This book is the Writers and Artists Yearbook and it's got all the advice you'll need for writing articles and who to sub to and how to do it. As well as having listings of the many magazines that accept pitches and submissions, they also have a couple of articles on the subject of article writing too.

So armed with the Easter holidays which signal more time to write, the yearbook, a few copies of different magazines and my computer you know what I'll be up to this week! I thoroughly recommend this book as it will help you. Sometimes, trying to come up with an idea and a pitch for articles can seem overwhelming, but if you don't try you'll never know. So it's time to sit down, come up with a few ideas, write the pitches and send them off. Don't be afraid to be adventurous.

Let me know how you get on with your pitches too.

Also, if you're on Facebook - why not head on over to The Writers' Café? It's a page I have set up that is a virtual café for all writers where we discuss all things writing and have a nice virtual cuppa and a lovely virtual slice of cake. If you've got any questions, something you want to get off your chest, or you just want somewhere to hang out that is warm and welcoming then do join us.

Happy writing
Julie xx

Saturday, 22 March 2014

It's Research ... Honest!

As you know, last time I blogged, I'd almost cleared my local newsagent's shelves of magazines. Well I managed to read through them and they threw up some good article ideas (thank goodness!) I'm never stuck for article ideas, but I wanted to make sure that I could mould the ideas I had to the needs of the various magazine editors. There can be no substitute for doing this - you have to read the physical magazine, either on-line or the paper version.

So this week I'll be busy editing the article pitches I've already drafted and subbing them. I've sent a couple out already with no responses so far (frustrating and tedious, I know, but all part of the job) but I'm determined to keep pitching until something sticks! Sorry editors!

Pitching articles really is a numbers game; the more you push out there the more likely you are to hit the bulls eye. You can't let rejections or no replies (the worst kind of rejection in my opinion) get in your way or slow you down or, god forbid, stop you from pitching. Keep trying and you will get there.

Don't be afraid to follow up your pitches either. Sometimes pitches do go astray and your email might well jog the editor's memory and get you a commission. Remember that the more pitches you send, the editor will see that you aren't just a one trick pony or a one idea freelancer. The more you send the more practise you get at writing them and practise makes perfect.

If you have any particular questions about writing pitches for articles or if you have any advice then please do comment here.

Happy pitch writing
Julie xx

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

So many magazines, so little time

I went down to my local newsagents recently and it never ceases to amaze me how many different magazines there are on the shelves. I'm often spoilt for choice. But do I choose magazines to enjoy as a reader or magazines to read as a writer hoping to get into a new market?  The answer is, probably, a bit of both.

I've always enjoyed reading magazines but now I have a good excuse to as I can also pitch article ideas to most of the magazines I read as a reader. And I think it helps if you genuinely enjoy reading the magazines you want to write for as you will know the format, tone, target audience, type of articles/features favoured, etc.,

But, I'm also open to new ideas and new experiences (as a writer of articles, it pays to be!)  So I also try and look through at least one new magazine a month to assess it as a potential new market. I'd advise writers to do this because if you don't read new magazines then you might miss out on potential article sales!

So, if you only do one writing related thing this week, pop down to your newsagents and seek out a new magazine to read - you might be pleasantly surprised and find a new market.

Happy writing and reading

Julie xx

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Magazines are everywhere!

Walk in to any newsagents or supermarket and you will find rack upon rack of magazines. A recent foray into Tesco revealed magazines on just about any conceivable subject known to man: countryside, cookery, cross stitch, dogs, cats, birds, wildlife, trains, knitting, running, walking, dancing, tattoos, photography, railways - you name it, it was probably there somewhere!

So when writers say that they have nothing to write about I'd advise them to go along to their newsagents or local supermarket and take a look at the magazines on display. They have to try and stop themselves from thinking, I'm not an expert on anything so why would the editors of these magazines even bother with my pitch. STOP RIGHT THERE! That's no way to think!

Start to turn your negative thoughts into positive actions and look at the types of magazines you read and they type of things you're interested in. For instance: I like to bake and decorate cakes - I'm not a professional but I dabble in it; I like walking in the countryside (that's two potential magazine markets in one hit!); I have two cats, I like photography and aspire to be a better one, I live by a steam railway, and have been known to do cross stitch and other crafts. I also like wildlife. Right there I could already pitch at least two ideas to at least 8 magazines.

It doesn't matter if you're an expert in that field or not - amateur experience and knowledge will get you somewhere. And, you can always find experts, if you need them, who will be only too happy to help you. So no more excuses. Get down to your seller of magazines next week, have a browse and a buy a couple of them and get reading. Then order some back copies and read them - then you're ready to get some ideas together and pitch them.

There's nothing more exciting than finding a potential market for your articles that just clicks with you!

Happy clicking!

Julie xx

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Treat Yourself - Your Writing Will Thank You!

Ever fancied going to a writing festival but never had the time to do so? Or are they all too far away from you, or too expensive? Well, there is a solution. The National Association of Writing Groups is holding its 2014 Warwick Writing Festival 29th - 31st August at Warwick University (Coventry way).

I've been for the past two years; 2012 for the whole festival and 2013 as a day delegate and both times I learnt such a lot about writing and met some wonderful fellow writers. It is well worth attending as it's reasonably priced and is in a central location - the university complex. facilities and accommodation are brilliant and the quality of writing workshops/courses are second to none.

I'm about to book my place tomorrow and it would be great to see some fellow bloggers there too.
See www.nawg.co.uk for further details. You don't even have to be a member of NAWG to attend, although it is cheaper to attend if you are a member.

Looking forward to seeing you there if you're going!

Julie xx

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Putting It All Together

So you've been busy pitching your article ideas to editors and, hopefully, having some of them commissioned. Well done if you have - you're sparkling well. And if you haven't yet succeeded - keep trying. It takes time and a lot of practise to be able to write pitches and get your article ideas commissioned so don't give up on the first no. Remember that it might not be your pitch or idea that the editor didn't like. Pitches get rejected for many, many, reasons:

The editor just commissioned a similar idea - not your fault unless you're a mind reader.

They covered a similar idea recently (if you'd done your research properly, you would have seen this!).

The idea wasn't quite what the editor wanted.

Timing was off - The pitch you sent was time specific or seasonal and because of the strict lead in times of the magazine's production, you pitched it too late.

The editor's file is overflowing with commissions at the moment and they can't fit any more in.

But once you have been commissioned, this is when the hard work starts! You've been given a chance - a foot in the door. You've beaten off competition from countless other writers. You have been given the opportunity to show the editor what you can do. So don't fluff it! You might not get another chance.

How can you make sure you deliver what the editor wants?

1. Listen carefully to the editor's brief: They should give you a word count and a deadline.

2. Read through several issues of the magazine to see the magazine's house style in action and follow it.

3. Make sure you get all the quotes you need early on the process. You don't want to have to be frantically searching for experts to interview when one lets you down.

4. Write a skeleton for your article using subheadings and write in what is going where roughly.

5. Make sure your first draft is written well before the deadline so you can tweak and improve it.

6. Leave at least a couple of days between edits - a week if you can manage it and bear it. Coming back to your article with fresh eyes can bring up a surprising number of errors.

6. Keep to the word count and deadline. If you don't, the editor might have to go with another writer's article that is ready, and they might not commission you again.

7. Spelling and grammar do matter - so check, check, get someone else who knows what they're talking about to check and check again before submitting it.

8. If you're not sure about something then ask the editor - sooner rather than later. Don't guess the answer.

Do all of this and you'll deliver the editor exactly what he wants and on time. They're more likely to commission you again.

Happy writing
Julie xx


Saturday, 25 January 2014

Best Foot Forward

I have no idea how many articles I've pitched since I started article writing about five years ago, but I know it's a lot! And I've had lots published. It would be interesting to work out the percentage of articles I've had published from those pitched, but I don't like maths and I have neither the time or the will to do it. Yet, it could well help me to ascertain which of my pitches were the most successful and why. So, if I'm ever in an analytical fame of mind I will swallow my mathematical misgivings and give it a go.

During my time as a writer, I've also come across lots of editors. I have to say that I've never come across any that are anything but professional and courteous. And that has a lot to do with how writers approach them. Editors are busy people. Aren't we all? I hear you cry. Yes we are, but just as we don't appreciate our time being wasted, neither do editors.

When you approach an editor for the first time, they don't know you or your writing from Adam. They have hundreds of writers, some like you, some more experienced, some less so, approaching them every day. Some of the ideas expressed to them will be bang on the money and will be commissioned fairly quickly. Although true that editors will go to the names they know and trust first, that doesn't mean to say that it's a waste of time pitching to them. Far from it. What you have to do to get their attention is to sparkle brighter than the other writers out there.

No, I don't mean by wearing the gold hot pants and glittery top, although that might work in some professions - it's not going to help you here. I mean by making your approach to the editor as professional as possible. By that I mean by making sure that:

1. You are approaching the right editor at the right time in the right way. Editors don't appreciate being called the wrong name (please, please, please, get the spelling right.) Or being telephoned when they state they want an e-mail.

2. You have read several issues of the magazine they edit, cover to cover and know the readership demographics and what the editor likes to publish. Editors don't like being pitched an idea that is far removed from what they usually publish.

3. Being courteous at all times. They are a professional business. You are a professional business - so act like one.

4. Making your pitch as specific and succinct as you can. No editor has the time or will to plough through a page of pitch so make sure your e-mail subject line it to the point and gives the editor a fair clue as to what the pitch is about. The crux of your idea should be in the first paragraph. Two to three short paragraphs are all you need. Outline the main ideas of the article, who you've interviewed if you have. Tell them if there are photos available (either ones you've taken, or a source if you have one.) Also give subheadings of the natural progression of the article or bullet points work well. Add a few words as to why and where you think the idea will work well within the magazine and why you should be the one to write it - relevant qualifications and experience.

5. Add a few relevant lines about yourself as a writer and your experience. The editor wants to know if you've got past form that shows him you can write.

6. Add your contact details  - especially a link to your writing website or your writing blog that should show some examples of your best published work. Check the text in your website/blog too to make sure it makes sense with no grammatical or spelling errors. An editor might be put off by these. If you can't get your website/blog right then how are you going to get the article idea you pitched to the editor right?

7. Be patient. Don't give into the temptation to contact the editor the same day or a couple of days after you've sent the pitch if you've heard nothing. A week later is a reasonable time scale to nudge.

8. Don't sit twiddling your thumbs once the pitch has been sent. Target another editor with another idea. That way, if the first editor doesn't want your article, you still have other options out there. The more article pitches you have out there the better.

The aim, as I said last time, is to have at least five pitches out there a week. It's not that hard to achieve if you really think about your pitch and how best to approach the editors and sparkle.

Happy writing and good luck

Julie xx

Saturday, 11 January 2014

How many?

I like a challenge but I have to admit that last year, I didn't get many pitches or articles out there. So, my challenge to myself and you this year is to get cracking on the article front and get more out there. I want to try and get at least five articles pitched a week to a variety of magazines on a variety of subjects. I want to try out new topics and new markets too. There are thousands of magazines out there who want good quality articles and you and I are just the writers to supply them!

So, I'm also passing the challenge onto you ...

I've set up my spread sheet and numbered each row so I can see exactly how many pitches I've sent out, who to and when and what the result was. I find a spread sheet on my computer helps me the most as I can see, at a glance, the markets I've hit and where I might be able to hit next with more article ideas.

Let's see if the challenge works: I'll get my article pitches out there and you send yours and we'll we see what happens!

Good luck
Julie