Monday, 26 August 2013

Photographic Folly

I’m sure many of you will be aware that I usually have a photograph to accompany my blog postings. I like to think that it adds a little more eye-candy to the post. These photos usually come from my own photographic library (currently approaching 10,000 images, and always growing). On those times when I don’t use my own image, I usually use a piece of clip art, or perhaps the cover of a book. In other words, I do this to ensure that I don’t infringe anyone’s copyright. (Technically, using book covers does infringe copyright, however, most publishers don’t kick up a fuss because they like the publicity.)

The reason I mention this, is because, if you have time, I would seriously recommend you read the following blog posting by romantic author Roni Loren: This shows how an ordinary person, who did not set out to harm anyone, found herself on the wrong side of the law, when using some photographs found on the Internet to illustrate her blog.

It’s something I find many writing students do - especially when tackling assignments on travel writing. They write their articles and then search the Internet for some suitable images. As a writer, you would be mortified if someone stole your words, but, because photographs are everywhere on the Internet, many people think it’s okay to help themselves to anything that they can find. What’s on the Internet is free to use, right? No. I own the copyright in this blog posting, and I also own the copyright in the photo accompanying this post. (Yes, even though it is a photo of me, I took it, because I set the camera up on a timer. And also, remember, it is the person taking the photo who ‘creates’ the photo, not the person who owns the camera.)

I’ve mentioned before how photographs can increase your chances of selling your words. Indeed, that’s what my next book is about (I’m reading the final proofs as I write this), so I understand why writers look for images. But the safest way to do this is to take your own photos, or to get permission to use photographs (for writers the best source is directly from PR and Media departments who have photographs for this precise purpose - to be used in publications to publicise the destination/product.)

So next time you need images to illustrate your article, or book, remember that copyright applies to every creative form, just as much as it does to words. Don’t make the mistake that Roni Loren did, because it could lead to financial claims, or months of heart ache from threatened legal action.

Good luck.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Edit. Edit. Edit. Stop

A friend at the writers’ group I go to asked me a question at our most recent meeting: at what point do you stop editing your work?

I know this is something many writers struggle with. Every first draft, and sometimes a second draft, will need editing of some kind, but there comes a point when editing changes from a productive activity into a procrastinating one. And it doesn’t help when there are quotes attributed to (several) famous writers who claim to have spent all morning editing, taking out one comma and then spent all afternoon editing, putting it back in again! Those are the comments of a writer without a deadline!

For me, the amount of editing varies depending upon the project, however, generally, when I’m writing articles, I go through a three-stage process:

Stage 1 - Having written the first draft, I then go through and check whether I’ve used the right structure. Sometimes in the first draft I just need to get down the essence of what I want to say. Articles can be structured in many different ways, and, sometimes, I’m not always clear which is the right structure when I’m writing that first draft. Changing the structure can require a heavy edit, even completely rewriting the text! If I’m not changing the overall structure, I consider whether paragraph five might work better as paragraph twelve, or whether the first paragraph is my true opening paragraph, or whether I’d be better deleting paragraphs one and two.

Stage 2 - This is where I go through the text to see if the information now flows well, in a logical manner, and my message is easy to read. Does the point of my article come across? I’ll also aim to get my word count to within 50 words during this editing stage.

Stage 3 - This is my spelling, punctuation and grammar check, and also the point where I consider word count more closely. This is the stage when I think many writers lack confidence about whether they have completed this.

I occasionally dabble in short stories, and the editing process follows a similar format there, although sometimes I may rewrite the story three or four times if I’m playing around with viewpoint. I’m not always brilliant at picking the best viewpoint first time around, and sometimes it’s not until you rewrite a story from someone else’s viewpoint that you realise whose story it really is.

For longer projects, such as non-fiction books and novels, I can go through several editing stages getting structure sorted and word counts adhered to. My next book has a specific maximum word count of 25,000 - and the first draft ended up at 32,000 words! It took me three editing processes to cut that down to the 25,000 words. Then I began my punctuation, spelling and grammar editing process.

One of the best ways to bring your editing process to an end is to have a deadline. This is easier for commissioned pieces, but for those without a hard commission there are still ways of giving yourself a deadline. Whilst self-imposed deadlines don’t always carry the same weight as an externally set deadline, there are ways of making your deadline important. List the consequences of failing to meet your self-imposed deadline.

For example, if you’re writing an article about kick starting your life in the New Year, then for monthly magazines you need to be submitting your text by the end of this month to be in with a chance of having your work considered. The consequence of failing to meet this deadline is missing out on the opportunity to be published in this coming January, and having to wait until January 2015 for your next opportunity.

Similarly, short story writers targeting the women’s magazine market can increase their chances if their stories are themed in some way. Setting your story around St Patrick’s Day means your piece needs to be used in March issues, so you need to be submitting those stories within the next six to eight weeks.

Of course, a good deadline is a competition deadline!

Editing is a fine balance. Every writer needs to edit, but if all you do is titivate with your text, deleting a comma, and then later putting it back in again, you are most definitely entering the world of never-sending-anything-off!

Good luck.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Book Giveaway - Handy Hints For Writers

Following on from last week’s words of advice from writers here’s another tip from Lynne Hackles:

“The best advice ever: Find the market first. Write the product next.”

Anyone who has ever written for publication will tell you how true that is, and once you understand that point, you will increase your chances of success.

Lynne’s wise words come from her new book, which, although has a publication date of 30th August, is available to buy right now. However, those of you based in the UK, can take part in a prize draw Lynne is running to win your very own copy. All you have to do is visit this particular post on her blog (, leave a comment and say hello! That’s all there is to it!

You’ll have to be quick - a winner will be selected at random on Wednesday 14th August, by Lynne’s LSO (Long Suffering One - also known as … her husband!).

Good luck! 

Monday, 5 August 2013

A Reminiscence of Writers

I’ve just returned from the Writers’ Holiday, held for the last time at Caerleon, near Newport, Wales. (Next year’s takes place at Fishguard - for more information visit here: 

These conferences and get togethers are always great fun, a good place to forge friendships, network, learn from others (and wear pink hair - but that’s another story!). Indeed, the overriding point of these events is the sharing of knowledge - everyone is willing to help everyone, sharing tips, news and techniques.

Because it was the last Writers’ Holiday at Caerleon, there’s been a bit of reminiscing going on, and over the years I’ve been fortunate to listen to talks, or go to workshops facilitated by writers like Katie Fforde, Freda Lightfoot, Simon Hall, Iris Gower, Della Galton, Lynne Hackles, Jane Wenham-Jones and Ray Allen (writer of the popular sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em).

So this week’s post is a look back at some of the snippets of advice I’ve heard whilst at Caerleon over the years …

Solange Hando, travel writer, said: “Start a travel piece with some action, or an anecdote. It gives the piece a human angle immediately and draws the reader in.”

Irene Yates, short story writer: “Don’t write in a writerly voice - find your own voice. Write in a way that feels natural to you. Don’t be tempted to use complicated grammar, or big words, if it’s not something that comes naturally to you.”

Gaynor Davies, editor of Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special magazine: “a story that makes you laugh, or cry, has done its job.”

Theresa Chris, literary agent: “Know when to move from amateur to professional. Many writers approach agents far too early.”

Lynne Hackles, short story writer: “Think of a short story as a piece of knicker elastic. It works best when it’s tight!”

And I think it would be appropriate if the last piece of advice came from novelist Trisha Ashley, who delivered the last speech at the last Caerleon Writers’ Holiday, where she said: “Writer’s block is a luxury. Get over it and get on with it [the writing].”

Good luck.