Monday, 25 June 2012

Does My Bum Look Big In This?

Well, I can't hide from it any longer ... my debut as a magazine model has hit the shops. (I haven't been out the front door since last Thursday.) I have to say I was a little gutted. The magazine appears to have cut out many of my well-practised poses:

  • "Where are we?" (Shrugs shoulders and holds hands up in air.)
  • "Look at that fine view over there!" (Right hand on right hip, left foot forward, with left hand pointing, and index finger stretched to uppermost limit.)
  • "Which way now?" (Left hand cups right elbow, whilst thumb, index finger and middle finger of right hand cup chin, and left eye is closed for extra 'pondering')

 In this photo, Rachel and I are actually walking the wrong way! The route description that I provided has readers walking up to the church, not down from it. Oh, this magazine production lark is all smokescreens and mirrors it seems!

In the photo at the top of this page, Rachel and I actually walked this bit of the path five times so the photographer could get the shot he wanted (and I have to say, it's a great shot showing what sunny weather we always (ahem) have in Shropshire). Sadly, in the photo at the bottom I obviously moved, because that blurred left leg is mine. Having said that, of course it should be clear that readers should be looking at the early flowering purple spotted orchid in the foreground (which I happened to spot), rather than my left leg. Hmmmm. Do you think I ought to insure my legs now?

Anyway, I have to go now. Naomi Campbell is on the phone and Kate Moss is at the front door. Apparently my unfashionable looks and appearance are just what a  model needs to emphasize their own beauty.

(Normal service will be resumed in next week's post.)

And if any of you ever get the opportunity to be a magazine model, I have five words for you:

Go for it! Good luck.

Monday, 18 June 2012

"Give The Reader What They Desire ..."

On Saturday, at the meeting of the writers' circle I go to, we had a workshop about writing erotica. It was led by the alter ego of Yvonne Sarah Lewis, and he's (yes, in real life she's a he) qualified to talk on this subject because he's had several erotic books published by Whiskey Creek Press. (We pull his leg about his erotic writing sometimes, but that's because we daren't pull anything else!)

During his talk he mentioned the common maxim: Write About What You Know, but then we all know that isn't essential because Agatha Christie didn't murder anyone and Arthur C Clarke didn't get beyond the earth's atmosphere in order to write any of his books. Instead they drew upon their creativity, which is what many writers of erotic fiction do (I almost wrote erotic writers there, which isn't the same thing!). He used the phrase: It's the job of the author to give the reader what they really desire. (He also used the phrase, "handle it to see what it's like," but we won't go there in this posting!)

However, it struck me that "It's the job of the author to give the reader what they really desire," is something all writers need to do, not just those writing erotic fiction.

When you read anything: book, short story, novel, or article, hopefully you have a rough idea of what it is you're going to read. Pick up a Lee Child novel and it's a thriller you'll be expecting to read. Select Practical Parenting magazine off the newsagent's shelf and it's some useful advice, or some great ideas of things to do as a family, that you're hoping to benefit from. Before the reader has turned the front cover, there is an expectation.

A great piece of writing is going to meet the reader's expectations, and then deliver extra. It entertains the reader, but makes them feel that the time spent reading that text, was time well spent. Remember, it doesn't matter what you write, if you want someone to read your words then you're asking someone to give up their time to read them. That's time they'll never get back again. If they buy a book, read it and hate it, they might be able to get a refund from a bookshop, but the bookshop can't refund them their reading time.

The point our workshop tutor was making was that with erotic fiction, sometimes readers don't know what they desire until they read about it. The job of the erotic fiction author is to take their reader on a journey and show them pleasures that they may never have imagined. Essentially though, all writers need to do this - we should take our readers on a journey that informs them and entertains them. We need to give our readers a good time!

So next time you read through something you've written, think about your reader experience. How do you want them to feel when they've finished reading your words? Will your writing have pushed all the right buttons? Has it left them with a warm glow? Okay ... I'm going to stop now, but you get my point!

Good luck.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Pitching Away

I was on a social network site the other day, when a fellow writer moaned about editors who never seem to respond to pitches. Yes, it happens - frequently - but the best way to avoid this is to give the editor a great pitch, pitching a great article. (Easier said than done, I know!)

But I thought I'd share with you one of my recent pitches, which led to a commission. Here's my email pitch:

Dear [Editor's Name]

Would you be interested in a 1,000-word guided tour around Caerleon, near Newport, Wales? The article will show readers what can be seen in the town's museums, before taking them on a walk around town to explore the Roman remains that still exist. What's so special about Caerleon?
  • Caerleon is one of only three permanent Roman Fortresses in Roman Britain, which the Romans established in 75 AD. 
  • It's the home of the National Roman Legion Museum, and also the Roman Baths Museum.
  • There are excellent Roman Amphitheatre remains to explore, beside the River Usk
  • Caerleon is the only place in Europe where remains of a legionary barracks can be seen.
  • Sections of the Roman town walls still exist.
I've attached some lo-res images of some photographs I have available, which might be useful for illustration purposes.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


Why do I think this pitch worked?

  1. It's short. It's a brief email. Editors are busy people. Get your message across quickly.
  2. It bullet points key facts, quickly. Look at that bullet-pointed information: Caerleon is one of only three permanent Roman fortresses in the UK. There were many other Roman fortresses in the UK, but they weren't permanent. The remains of the legionary Roman barracks are the only ones to be seen in Europe. These are quite startling facts, which show how special this place is and why it's the focus of this article.
  3. I've attached a few pictures (including the one in the blog posting). If you can, show an editor what images you have, because if an editor likes the images, they frequently take the words!
Don't expect a response straight away to your pitch. This idea was pitched on 13th April (a Friday the 13th, actually!) and was commissioned on 29th May - so six weeks later. Always do what an editor asks in a commission - when the editor came back to me she wanted a different word count.

I'm not saying that a short, bullet-pointed pitch will earn you a commission every time, but it will help to keep your idea focused, which makes it stronger. 

Good luck.

Monday, 4 June 2012

No I'm Not Taking Over BBC Countryfile ... Well, Not Intentionally!

I was delighted to see the latest copy of BBC Countryfile pop through the letterbox last week, because it has one of my own pieces in it. I'd been commissioned to write about the Royal Yacht Britannia for the magazine's Great Days Out section (and with a four-day-weekend, for those who aren't self-employed, that gives readers plenty of ideas!).

It wasn't until a few hours later that fellow writer emailed to congratulate me on getting the Star Letter in the very same issue of the magazine. I'd completely forgotten about it, and I hadn't spotted it when I was flicking through the pages!

All this actually answers a question a student asked me last week: can a writer have an article and a letter published in the same issue of a magazine? Well, I'm going to have to answer that with a definite yes now, aren't I?

My student was querying whether it was acceptable to send something into the letters page when they were aware the editor had agreed to use a piece of theirs in an upcoming issue. Would the editor reject the letter because of the article that had already been accepted? My answer to the question was: "don't do the editor's job for them - send in your letter and let them decide."

Many new students fail to send off work, because they don't think the editor will publish it. Well, if the editor doesn't get a chance to look at it, what do you expect the outcome to be? And it is the editor's job to decide what gets rejected and what gets accepted. You're the writer, not the editor. You do your job and write something and let the editor do their job.

Remember - you don't know what other letters the editor has, or hasn't, received. The editor may be grateful for your letters page submission. Mine clearly was because it was awarded the star prize - I've won a luxury food hamper! And this isn't the first time I've won the star letter in this magazine, so don't think that when you've had a letter published in a magazine that that's it. Keep sending them in. That's why I keep writing letters to magazine letter pages. I like getting surprises like this!

Good luck!