Monday, 22 February 2010

A Lesson For Us All ... and ... No More Crap?

If any of you follow the Womag Writer blog (for those interested in writing short stories for the women's magazines - which is an excellent blog - you'll have read about the amazing story concerning Brenda and her My Weekly short story submission.

For those of you who haven't seen it, last week, the editor of My Weekly put a call out to her regular writers saying that if anyone knew Brenda could they ask her to get in touch with the editor at My Weekly. They'd read a short story she'd written, but the cover sheet containing all of Brenda's contact details had come off and been lost in the office, so they had no means of giving her the good news!

Well, the power of the Internet meant that this news was posted on the Womag Writer blog, and a reader of this knew Brenda and so contacted her to give her the good news.

Brenda goes to the same writers' group that I go to and we had our usual meeting on Saturday, so not only did we congratulate Brenda on her success - not only is she having a story published in My Weekly, but it is also her FIRST short story to be published - but Brenda also explained what had happened in more detail.

Brenda's story was originally submitted a couple of years ago. My Weekly had rejected it saying that they didn't like the ending ... if she rewrote the ending, they would be happy to look at it again.

Now, editors don't have to give this advice - it's not in their job description - but they will try to help anyone who shows promise. And Brenda did exactly the right thing. She rewrote her story with a different ending and sent it back in. This, she did over a year ago.

It isn't Brenda's fault that her front cover sheet became detached in the My Weekly office (heavens knows what antics it got up to in the My Weekly offices for 12 months) but in most magazine offices there is a lot of paper flying around so it can happen. It is quite unusual for an editor to go to as much trouble as My Weekly's editor did, in their attempt to track Brenda down. However, perhaps because they realised that this was a story they'd seen before, and the writer had taken the editor's advice on board and done what had been suggested, that they went to all this effort.

There are two morals to this tale - if an editor gives you advice - then act upon it - it could pay dividends. And also, in addition to putting your name in the header of every page (along with the manuscript title and page number) it is worth putting an email address or contact telephone number in the footer of every page of your manuscript, in case the front sheet gets lost in the office!

Finally, regular readers of this blog will know that the Observer newspaper had a regular column in their travel section called "My Crap Holiday" and several followers have had success with this column. Well, the Observer has undergone a revamp and now sports a new look with fewer 'sections'. The travel section now forms part of the magazine and there was no sign of the 'My Crap Holiday' slot. This may be the time to advise you to stop have 'crap' holidays and start having decent ones!

Good luck!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Do I Know You?

Just a quick note to say that my article entitled "Do I Know You?' can now be viewed on the Ezee Writer ezine. It looks at how magazine Media Packs can help you get to know your intended readership of your target publication more intimately!

With links to the online media packs of 14 magazines, hopefully there's something there to interest most people.

Note: I notice that two links have been merged together for two publications - Country Life and Grazia - (now there's an interesting readership!) so you'll need to cut and paste the links to separate them.

To read the article in full go to:

(sorry, for some reason I can't get the link to work on this one - just cut and paste it into your browser.)

Monday, 15 February 2010

Do You Love Your Writing?

I'm sure you were all inundated yesterday with Valentine messages, and perhaps you even sent one (or two, or a few!) yourself. But did you send one to your writing?

You do love your writing don't you? After all, if you don't, then why should anyone else? For some writers, particularly those at the start of their relationship, their writing is a very personal relationship. Even private detectives fail to reveal the identity of the lover in this affair.

But, treat it with respect, cherish it and work hard at it, and it will reward you for all of your hard work. There's no need to buy this lover of yours diamond rings, or take it out to posh restaurants. All it asks of you, is to spend a little time together. Reward your lover with this time and your relationship will flourish.

To begin with, those first moments together may be fleeting, torrid affairs, where the words between you poured from your hearts, leaving you physically and emotionally exhausted. But, soon the world will catch you together and your relationship will become common knowledge. People will accept you together and if you happen to be at a dinner party, and a snippet of conversation attracts your attention, no one will think it strange if you slip out your notebook and jot down the details.

Don't forget those early days. Take time to recreate the passion you experienced at the beginning of your relationship. It's possible to relive those moments when the words just flowed without a care in the world. Flirt with your writing. Caress your ideas and massage them into shape. You may be surprised at what you're both capable of producing together!

Good luck!

Monday, 8 February 2010

There are changes afoot ...

There are a couple of changes taking place to some of the popular freelance markets here in the UK, I thought I'd bring to your attention.

The first is The Lady. It was revamped about six months ago when the new editor, Rachel Johnson took over. I've heard that the circulation figures have dropped, so over recent weeks it has undergone another 'tweak' as the editor continues to make changes. Following a major revamp a magazine can take up to a year to 'settle down' into its new format, so this is nothing out of the ordinary, but for us writers, it does keep us on our toes! If you take a look at the website (click the link earlier) you'll see that this has undergone a major change too. Interestingly for overseas readers, or anyone who can't get hold of a copy here in the UK, some of the features can now be found and read online, so some basic market analysis can be carried out here (although this is no substitution for actually buying a copy of the magazine).

It appears that the editor has begun some regular columns with 'big name' writers, so this does cut down the number of freelance written pages, but there are still opportunities. A flick through the current issue demonstrates at least five freelance written articles (and remember, The Lady is a weekly). So, check out the revamped issue. If you haven't looked in a while, you are in for a shock.

Some better news comes in the form of Best of British magazine. With effect from the March 2010 issue (out on February 27th) the magazine is increasing in size ... to 96 pages in total! So, with more pages, it will need more content! Again, the magazine is undergoing a slight revamp, although I'm sure it will only be a slight 'tweaking' as opposed to a a radical revamp like The Lady. If this is a market that you've written for before, or wondered whether you could produce something, then take a look at the new March issue when it comes out. This has always been a good market for my students!

And finally, to finish off this 'changes afoot' posting, here's a wonderful, overheard conversation that I listened to at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital last week, between two old ladies:

Old Lady 1: Ooh, I'm pushing to have one of those walk-in showers fitted. You know the ones I mean, not one of those contraptions hanging over the bath.

Old Lady 2: What? A wet room?

Old Lady 1: No! Not a wet room. I couldn't afford a permanently wet room. I'm on a water meter!

Good luck!

Monday, 1 February 2010

More Grit and Determination ...

Well, the weather caught many people out again this weekend. The forecast snow scheduled to appear sometime during Saturday and Sunday gatecrashed South Shropshire a little early and arrived Friday afternoon, taking many people by surprise.

By 5.30pm Friday evening, the hilly road that I live on was covered in snow, and the office workers were attempting to get home. Two cars in particular found themselves in difficulty. One managed to get as far up the hill as outside my house, then lost traction and spent five minutes revving the engine causing lots of of wheelspin, lots of noise (do you mind - there's a writer trying to work here!) and only achieving a highly polished look to the ice on the tarmac. Eventually the driver realised she wasn't going anywhere, took her foot off the accelerator, and I watched in horror as her car slid back down the hill. Thankfully, the kerb caught her where the road bends and brought her to a stop. (The kerb at that spot hasn't always been that successful.)

Seconds later, another car driver attempted to climb the hill, but got stuck in exactly the same spot. More wheel spinning, followed by more road polishing, eventually resulted in this driver giving up too, and allowing gravity to take over, pulling the car back down the hill.

Thankfully, the earlier driver had managed to move her car so she wasn't squashed when the second driver rolled back down the hill, but rather inexplicably in my opinion, she made another attempt at driving up the road. Unsurprisingly, she only got as far as she had last time, before minutes more of wheel-spinning followed, until she gave up and rolled back down the hill again. I couldn't believe it when the second driver then decided to make another attempt!

With all this wheel-spinning going on, I went to my garage and got the small bucket of grit I keep to hand, and spread some on the road, which was now mirror-like, thanks to the polishing efforts of a couple of Goodyears and some Pirellis. Stamping the grit into the ice, I then waved the drivers up for their third attempt.

Moving as far away from the road as I could (knowing what cars have done before on this section of road) I watched as the first driver made it up as far as my house, skidded slightly before gripping the grit and then managing to plough on up the hill. With her safely out of the way, the second driver then made his third attempt, and successfully made it home.

Does this happen with your writing? Do you find it keeps getting rejected? If so, what are you doing to change it? In the example above, both drivers repeated the same mistake. Nothing had changed between the first time they attempted the hill and their second attempt. When you get a piece of work back, rejected, don't just print it out and send it off to the next publisher on your list. Something needs to change, in order for it to succeed. Both drivers only succeeded, once I'd made a change and gritted the road.

Review your text. Does the opening grab the reader's attention, or could it be stronger? Are you sending it to the right market? Does your text speak to the majority of the readers? Are you sending it to a market that accepts freelance submissions? I had a non-fiction book proposal returned to me on Friday, and already I've rewritten it to fit the catalogue of the next publisher on my list. I've changed it.

So, just like those car drivers trying to make it up the hill on Friday evening, we writers need to be a determined bunch. But we also need a bit grit every now and then too, to have the courage to review our text and change things, before we make another attempt up that hill!

Good luck!