Thursday, 24 December 2015

T'was the night before Christmas ...

Well, the big day is almost finally here. All that preparation, money spent, wrapping paper running out, scissors and sticky tape being lost will, hopefully, be worth it as you settle down tomorrow for your post Christmas lunch snooze on the sofa.

But, hold on a minute, there's no room for slacking in a writer's life! Think of all the opportunities for writing that lie in wait for you in 2016. Just think, if you use the ambiance and experiences of this Christmas to sell articles for Christmas 2016, you might find yourself with a little extra spending money which should help soften the blow in New Year 2017! There's nothing like thinking ahead, is there?

So, my challenge for myself and YOU is to write one article pitch for each of the 12 days of Christmas. Instead of  collapsing on the sofa following a marathon sprout ingestion, try and stay awake long enough to get your Christmas themed article ideas onto paper!

I'm not talking about producing publishing quality full articles here - just quality pitches that editors up and down the country have been yearning for (and possible begged Santa for) all year. Then, when you've edited and polished your pitch to perfection and have submitted them you can sit back and ... no, not stuff your face with left over Christmas pudding,  produce some more quality pitches!

Wouldn't it be great to see some of your efforts this Christmas find themselves in the pages of magazines in Christmas 2016? So lets all give it a bash and see what happens. Do let us know how you get on. I wonder how many of us will do it and actually get an article or two published out of it?

Happy Christmas, now step away from the roast potatoes and get pitching!

Best wishes


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Tying in and tying up loose ends

I haven't been writing a lot of articles recently. But that doesn't mean I haven't been writing! My attention for most of the last year has been on finishing the three WW1 books for Pen & Sword Books which I have now done, give or take a few last minute editor's queries and a proof read or two. Newport in the Great War is due for release at the end of January 2016, with the other two, Kidderminster, and Ludlow in the Great War due out soon after.

I had hoped to write a few articles about the process I went through to complete the books as well as other articles based on the research and the information I uncovered but I didn't want it to distract me from doing the books justice - next year I will be pitching like a writer possessed! Not only will I have three books to flog but I'll also have a WW2 book to research and write as well as my usual short stories. A writer's life is never dull!

I've also been taking stock this week, as I do towards the end of every year, where I am with my writing and where I want to be with it. I don't make any detailed or concrete plans at this stage, as life has a habit of throwing those plans in the bin - I just make a simple list of what I would like to write and then think about the how and when later.

It's good to think about our writing because it's easy to forget the highs when the rejections have been flooding in. Looking back and seeing our victories, however small, can be such a boost to our confidence. I was moaning the other day that I hadn't had many articles published this year until I realised there was a good reason for it. And, actually, I 'd had 12 (one a month) still published in my column in Writing Magazine. I'd also had several short stories published! So, in the grand scheme of things, I'd actually written and had published a lot more than I realised.

Have a look back through your writing year too - you're bound to find some forgotten gems in there. And, if there are not as many gems as you would have liked, have a think about what you can do next year to remedy this.

Here's almost goodbye to a very productive 2015 for me and you, and all the best for your writing in 2016. Do tell us how you got on and what you hope to achieve in 2016 and don't forget to think about how you're going to get there ...

Best wishes


Friday, 16 October 2015

Changing Seasons

As Autumn is well and truly upon us, it's a good time to sit back and reflect on how the change in seasons can provide inspiration for our writing. It's time to get out in the fresh (decidedly chillier) air and start asking questions about what the change in seasons means to you and your local area. You know your own locality and, if you have done your market research well enough, you also know what the magazines you are pitching to want - or you should do!

Although it's true that most subjects have been written about before, they haven't been written by you. You, your knowledge, interests and experiences are unique to you and you will bring a different edge to those subjects, so don't let the fact that what you want to write about has been written about before. Being a local, you will have your ear to the ground and all the research you need to do is right on your doorstep.

So, your mission for this weekend, should you choose to accept, is to get outside in your locality and see what topics for articles you come up with, Topics you might consider are:

* Is there a park or nature reserve near you that has rare or interesting wildlife or plants?

* Think about seasonal festivals or celebrations.

* Are there any interesting walks, buildings, or places where someone famous once stayed or liked to go?

* Activities for the all ages?

* Landmarks or naturally occurring features that are of interest?

That should keep your keyboards, pens or pencils busy for a while.

Let us know how you get on and whether this exercise has sparked your imagination and resulted in a pitch or, what we all want, a pitch and commission!

Happy writing


Monday, 31 August 2015

New Season, New Start

As it's the last day of August today and it's a Bank Holiday, how about investing some time in looking at your writing career? We are three quarters of the way through the year now (how time flies!) and with the kids going back to school and me back to my day job after the summer break as well as writing, it's a good time to assess where you started at the beginning of the year, where you are now and where you want to get to.

It gets very busy for me this time of the year, especially with the run up to Christmas, so it's important that I plan my time and writing projects effectively. I started off well in the middle of last year by gaining three contracts for a publisher on a non-fiction project and another a few weeks ago. I I am coming to the end of the three book project now, ready to start the next one and so I know where I am going next, but it can be disconcerting as you finish one project with uncertainty about what you might be doing next. Plan, plan plan and get yourself a next project! You're only as good as your last book or article, so it's important to take stock and then keep moving forward.

Think about what it is you want to (realistically) achieve with your writing and what steps you  need to take to achieve those goals. The goals should be small and achievable otherwise you may well over burden yourself and find you can't achieve them which is not exactly conducive to self confidence or your writing career! If you find you are achieving things quickly and easily you can always up the ante later.

The nights are already drawing in and soon it will be time to draw the blinds or curtains against the bad weather and early evening dark skies and set about achieving your writing goals. If you don't sit down and do it, no-one will do it for you.

Happy writing!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Expanding Horizons

Whether you're an amateur or professional writer there is always scope for improvement. A few years back I started a course in Journalism but had to stop doing it whilst I was writing books about WW1. Now I'm coming towards the end of that process I decided it was time to resume my studies - I only have 4 assignments to complete and it would be a shame if I didn't finish it -  that's just not in my nature!

Would I still get published if I didn't finish the course - yes. I know this because I was already getting published before I started the course. You might be thinking if I was getting published why did I need to take a course? It was because I wanted new ideas as to how I could improve my pitches and hit rate. Things change in journalism all the time and it's good to keep yourself up to date with what is current and stay ahead of the game.

So, if you're doing okay with your articles and features but think they're lacking that special something and you want to do better, consider investing some of your time and energy on a course that could see you get to the level in your writing career that you want to.

Happy writing


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

what to Write?

In my last blog the topic of finding out what is stopping you from writing was discussed. Once you've discovered what your writing obstacles are you can take steps to overcome them. But until you know what your stumbling blocks are it's very difficult to move forward.

One of the biggest blocks is usually knowing what to write about. Sometimes the problem is having so many ideas whizzing around inside your head that you flit hopelessly between them all, never really pinning any of them down. For other writers it's having nothing to write about whatsoever. Both blocks are as bad for each other but the solutions are simple.

Writing down your writing ideas can help you to focus your mind. Seeing each idea in black and white on the page in front of you will make your brain concentrate and the idea that is most appealing to you will jump out at you. This is the one you should put your efforts into before moving on to the next in your list.

If you have no ideas, don't worry. This is a mere illusion. Ideas are everywhere - you just have to train your brain to tap into them, Having a notebook handy really helps here. An overheard conversation, a person in the street, an item in your local newspaper, anything can become a seed that when planted grows into a piece of writing.

So next time you are drowning in a sea of ideas or are caught in an idea drought, train yourself to see the wood for the trees and allow some rain to fall to soften the hard earth and let your ideas grow.

Happy writing
Julie x

Sunday, 17 May 2015

What's Stopping You?

My lost blog talked about how it had been a while since I had blogged. Now there were good reasons why there was a big time gap between posts in that I was writing a book (well, three actually), but at least I was writing and not procrastinating. It's all too easy to become sidetracked from our writing goals and dreams, especially when the going gets tough and it's easier to switch off the computer than to persevere and write through it.

If we want to become professional writers we have to have certain qualities that will help us to get there. These are; tenacity, determination, a dogged bloodymindedness, professionalism and adaptability/flexibility to learn and progress. If you don't have those you might not make it through as there are many writers out there who do have those qualities.

So what's stopping you from reaching your goals? Recognising which obstacles have stopped you in your tracks is the first step to overcoming them. You have a choice; you either find a way around the obstacle or you shut down your computer and walk away. Sometimes you need to think laterally to defeat your opponent; sometimes a battering ram is overkill when a feather will do. So once you know what's standing between you and achieving your writing goals you can devise a strategy that will move you forward.

Some of things that tend to get in my way are not always physical like having to take my daughter to gym, they are also psychological, ie, I only have ten minutes to write, it's hardly worth it. STOP RIGHT THERE MISSUS! It is worth it and you will do it - this is what I have to tell myself. Ten minutes a day is 70 minutes a week; 70 minutes a week is 280 minutes a month =  just over four hours a month of writing time.

I used to go home in between dropping my daughter off to gym and picking her up again. I usually have between 2 - 3 hours while she's happily flipping and bending away. Until I realised, actually, if I just wait in my car in the car park, or drive the 5 minutes up to the nearby retail park where there is a coffee shop, I can gain more writing time there.

It's all about giving yourself a good talking to and finding reasonable and realistic solutions to your writing obstacles so that you do move forward to achieving your writing goals, So what can you do to grease your wheels and move forward?

Happy writing
Julie x

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Phew, time flies!

Well, it's been a while, but all for good reasons. I've been (still am) writing a series of three books about WW1 for Pen and Sword Books which has been taking up most of my writing time (sleeping time, eating time, living time, etc.,) Anyway, the first of those manuscripts has now been submitted (hurrah!) and I am too busy with the other two to be worried too much about the one that went.

I am also getting back into writing articles again. Of course, a lot of my research for the books I will be using for articles, so nothing will be wasted and my efforts will hopefully be rewarded again and again!

Which is why I am asking you the question, have you got a book in you? Have you had a series of articles published, or have you been researching and found a lot of information you can't put into an article but you could extend into a book? It's worth thinking about.

My first book The Writers' Group Handbook was the result of first a few blog posts which led to articles in Writing Magazine which led to a series of articles in Writing Magazine and then the book. if you write, or have written, say 20 articles or blog posts at around 1500 words each, you could have enough material, with a little expansion and tweaking for a book.

Now the WW1 books will work out slightly differently as I had not written any articles on that particular subject before I got the book deal, but I will have many article ideas to pitch about the subject when the books are out. It still works out well on the article front.

Have you a book in you? Or articles that could come out of a book you have already or about to write?