Monday, 27 July 2015

Urgent Deadlines

It all began with an email at 17:37 for a photo. “Hi Simon. Do you have any photos of the Stiperstones?” came the request from Country Walking magazine. I’ve recently helped out the magazine with a couple of photo requirements, and so I assumed this was another similar request. I trawled through my photographic library and identified a selection of images that I hoped may be of interest. Twenty minutes later I emailed them the details.

The following morning, shortly after 9am, Country Walking emailed again. They liked one photo and wanted to use it for their ‘Only On Foot’ section. But now they needed me to write the accompanying 330 words. So what I thought was a simple photo request was now a words and picture package. The only trouble was they needed the words within the next 48 hours. Of course, being freelance, I said, “No problem,” and set about rejigging my workload to fit in the urgent request.

When I’ve spoken to new writers at workshops and events, many have commented that it’s nice when editors get in touch and ask them to help out, but sometimes the tight deadlines can be immensely frustrating. How come we have to pitch ideas months in advance and yet when an editor wants something they need it yesterday?

Well, normally, magazines do start planning issues months in advance. Indeed, I’m currently working on a piece for BBC Countryfile for their October issue, and I’m also working on the December issue of my Business of Writing column in Writing Magazine. But, just like other industries, things can go wrong at the last minute. Projects can fall through at the last minute, promised material from other business and organisations can fail to turn up, and an editor is faced with a page to fill and a looming print deadline.

All this happened less than a month ago, on 30th June, and I now suspect that I was helping Country Walking magazine out of such a tight hole, because last week the latest issue of the magazine fell onto my doormat, and when I turned to the back page there was my photo and my text that I’d supplied them with a little over two weeks previously.

So if an editor contacts you and asks you to write something for them in the next 48 hours, don’t curse them for the urgency of their request, nor moan at why they couldn’t have asked you for this a week ago. The chances are they didn’t know a week ago that they would need to make such a request. You could be helping them out of a difficult situation. And remember - that’ll be helping your bank balance too!

Good luck.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Google Alert!

One of my students, Cedric, sent me an email about the benefits of Google Alerts, and he thought other readers of my blog may be interested in the service too.

Google Alerts is an extremely useful facility that enables users to get Google to email a link to a subject matter of interest every time something new on that topic appears on the Internet. In fact, there are several ways this service can be of use to writers. Firstly, here’s what Cedric had to say:

“Whenever I submit articles as guest posts to a blog, I usually wait around 1 week to see what happens. If they don't publish it, I submit it to another blog. However, when the posts start adding up, it becomes very cumbersome to manage. You end up having to check every blog to see what has been published and what not.

So, I use Google Alerts.

I just set an alert for my name and possibly a key phrase in the article. The Google Alerts system sends me a daily digest of all the instances where my name has appeared on the day. A small note: I'm not sure how effective this is for less popular blogs. The ones I submit to have huge traffic, so Google crawls them constantly. With a less popular blog that is not updated so often, you might not get instant results. But it's worth checking out.”

I also use Google Alerts in a few ways:

1) I post some of my articles onto my website, so I set up an alert for a key sentence or phrase from that article. This brings to my attention any unauthorised copying and pasting of my article in other websites.

2) I also have several alerts set up for topics of interest that I enjoy writing about, such as walking in various parts of the UK, British travel, and also different genres of writing.

3) I sell some of my photos via the agency Alamy, and when a photo of mine is used it should (should being the operative word) be credited as Simon Whaley / Alamy, so I have an alert set up for this search term. This notifies me every time one of my Alamy images has been used on the Internet.

You could set up alerts to bring to your attention news of any new writing competitions, news of your favourite author, or even news about yourself. Set up options allow you to choose how often you want Google to get in touch (a daily digest is sufficient for me, but you can choose various options), and which email address you want Google to use to notify you. So don’t search the Internet yourself - get Google to do it for you.

Visit: to set up your alerts.

Good luck.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Confidence Crises

I’ve just finished drafting the November article for my Business of Writing column in Writing Magazine. In it, I’m exploring that crisis of confidence feeling we get at key stages of our writing projects.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing an article, short story, novel or non-fiction book, there will come a stage when the nerves kick in. What made me want to write this drivel? Why did I think I could produce something decent? What a load of rubbish! What am I going to do with this pile of …?

Many new writers I’ve spoken to often believe this is something that only affects newbies. It’s not. It affects all of us, no matter how long we’ve been writing. The trick is understanding that this is a normal part of the writing process. If you don’t believe me, check out point 9 in an article novelist Sarah Walters wrote for The Guardian, where she offers some tips about writing a novel. (

I’d also recommend a new book by Glynis Scrivens called Edit Is A Four-Letter Word - due out on 25th September. (Isn’t that a great title?) Obviously, the book tackles editing, but one thing many new (and more experienced) writers are always unsure of is how much editing should one do? When do you stop? Is editing and rewriting the same thing? Often, it’s these questions that allow the self-doubt to creep in.

Glynis interviewed several writers, from a range of writing genres, and asked them what steps they took when editing, and how they edited. What makes it interesting is, it clearly shows how the editing process can not only cause a confidence crisis, but also get you out of one. As long as you’ve written something, then the editing process can help you turn it into something to be proud of.

So the next time you have a confidence in crisis in your writing take a deep breath and tell yourself four things:

1. This happens to every writer. It’s normal.
2. It’s our creativity that exaggerates our negativity, so think positively. (And there’s a book ( to help you do that!)
3. You can get over it.
4. It proves you care about your writing.

And do check out Glynis’s book.

Good luck!