Monday, 26 September 2016

Irish Travel Competition T&Cs

Alex Gazzola ( has spotted that the Irish Times are running a travel writing competition (for writers based in Ireland -, and it’s another classic example of why writers should read the terms and conditions of every competition they enter, just so they know what they’re signing up to. I took a look at them and … well, I just started laughing.

But seriously, it’s another example of why writers should scrutinise the terms and conditions before entering, because they affect not just the winner, but EVERY entrant.

Here are some of the key T&Cs that either frustrated me, or made me laugh with incredulity:

“Entries may be published in The Irish Times or on All entries will become the property of the promoter. The entrant assigns all intellectual property rights in his or her submission to the promoter and waives all moral rights. The entrant confirms that all entries submitted by him or her will not breach the intellectual property rights of any third party and agrees to indemnify The Irish Times in the event of any claim by any third party that his or her intellectual property rights have been breached by the entrant’s submission. The entrant agrees that the entry submitted by him or her will not contain any defamatory material.”

Right. So entries MAY be published in the paper or on its website. Note the word entries. We’re not just talking about the winners, or those shortlisted. Any entrant’s work may be published.

All entries become the property of the promoter. Again, it’s ALL entries. Not just the winner and shortlisted. EVERY SINGLE SUBMISSION. (Note, the competition is being run in conjunction with Travel Department, who, if I understand this correctly, are the promoter of the competition. So entries become the property of Travel Department, rather than the Irish Times.)

The entrant assigns all intellectual property rights in his or her submission to the promoter and waives all moral rights. 

EVERY entrant, not just the winner, hands over their copyright and moral rights in their submission to the promoter.

But it doesn’t get any better for the winner, because further down the list of T&Cs it says:

“As part of the prize the winner will be required to submit a piece for publication in The Irish Times. Publication of this piece is at the discretion of the promoter. The winner assigns all copyright in this piece to the promoter and waives all moral rights. The promoter may amend, modify and alter this piece as it sees fit.”

What does this mean? If your entry wins, you’ll get sent on a trip somewhere, and then you’ll be expected to write it up. The Irish Times might publish your piece about your prize-winning trip … or they might not. It’s at the discretion of the promoter. But you give the promoter the copyright in this piece (as well as the copyright in the piece that won you the opportunity to write this piece). They can do whatever they like with it, without further recompense to you. (As the promoter can with all of the other entrants’ submissions.)

You also waive all moral rights, allowing them to amend it as they see fit. Waiving moral rights means you have no right to object to how your work is used by them in the future. That means they could completely change it … and your name could still appear as the author. 

So, in theory, if you get sent on an exotic prize trip to the Corley Service Station on the M6, and you write up a piece about what a wonderful destination this is, they could change it and say it’s the worst place on the planet … and it could still have your name on it (if they publish it). Even though you know that’s not what you originally wrote, everyone who reads and sees your name by it will think that you did write it. And having waived all moral rights you have no right to challenge this. Moral rights are about protecting the integrity of what you have written.

It doesn’t end there:

“The promoter reserves the right to change any aspect of the prize and amend these terms and conditions without notice,”

This phrase means the prize could be enhanced and improved, as could the terms and conditions. It also means things could go the other way. What it means is the T&Cs could change (either positively or detrimentally) after you've made your submission.

“The prize will be subject to any additional terms and conditions of the suppliers of the prize to the promoter.”

Call me old-fashioned, but if I’m signing up to something I want to know exactly what I’m signing up to. What exactly does the promoter of the prize expect the winner to do? 

“The promoter is excluded from liability for any loss, damage or injury which might occur to the winner arising from his or her acceptance of the prize.”

Okay, now I REALLY AM worried about what the promoter is expecting the prize winner to do! Injury? I don’t like getting hurt!

Of course, no one is forcing you to enter the competition in the first place. But it’s a reminder that you should fully understand what you’re agreeing to, because the Terms and Conditions apply to everyone who enters, not just the prize winners. Most competitions have a rule stating that submitting an entry means you agree to all of the T&Cs. Don’t think it’s only something to worry about should you win. It’s something to worry about before you even consider picking up your pen.

Watch out.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Scrivener for iOS

Many of you will know that I’m a fan of the Scrivener writing software. ( At the end of July they released a version of the software for iOS (Apple’s mobile operating system used on iPhones and iPads).

I’ll be honest. My immediate thought was, “Why would I want to write my novel on my phone, or my tablet?” I have a writing desk, with my desktop computer, and I also have a laptop, so I can write anywhere with that, if I want to. Both have the full version of Scrivener. I didn’t need it on my other devices.

But after watching the overview video ( I was smitten ;-). I downloaded it. (There’s also part of me that wanted to support the developer: the iOS app is £15, and the macOS/Windows version is only £35. And he’s also a writer - that’s how the app came into existence - and we writers need to support one another. For those of you who don’t know, the developer, Keith Blount, lives in Cornwall and creates most of the Apple version software himself, and uses a small team dotted all over the world to sort out the coding for the other versions. This is not some large conglomerate business here.)

As with any software, it’s usefulness is determined by how it makes life easier. I couldn’t see why I would want to write new stuff on my iPad. My laptop is light and portable enough. But since I’ve installed the software on my iPad (and iPhone) it has changed the way I work. I’m not using it to write new material. Instead I am using it to edit existing material. This is saving me time.

When it comes to editing, I found it useful to export my text from Scrivener into mobi format and then email it to my Kindle. Seeing the text on a different device, as opposed to a large computer monitor (or even a laptop one), seemed to make errors jump out at me a bit more. So if I wanted to edit the latest chapter of a book I’m working on, I would convert it to Kindle format and email it across. Then, usually in the evening, I would make myself comfortable, get out my Kindle and a notebook and pen, and start reading. Every time I spotted a mistake on the Kindle, I would jot it down in my notebook, with a view to updating the Scrivener file the following day when I was next sat at my desk. 

But all of this has changed. With Scrivener on my iPad I don’t need to move it to my Kindle. Reading it on my iPad is just like reading it on my Kindle. But what makes so much difference is that now, when I spot a mistake, I can make the correction right there and then, directly into my text, on my iPad. There’s no more jotting it down in a notebook first and then waiting until I open Scrivener on my desktop. Whatever changes I make to my text in Scrivener on my iPad are reflected on my desktop and laptop machines the next time I switch them on. (Your Scrivener files need to be stored on a Dropbox folder for this to work best.)

Originally, I didn’t think I would use Scrivener for iOS that much. But I do. I rarely write anything new directly into Scrivener on my iPad or iPhone. (But, who knows? That could change in the future.) But it has completely changed the way I edit my work at the end of the day.

I should also point out that you don’t need to use the desktop version to be able to make use of the iOS version. The iOS version is not far off the full desktop version - so if you enjoy writing on your iPad then check it out, because the iOS version is capable of exporting your text into Word, ePub, Kindle, PDF and other formats. There’s no reason why you can’t write a whole novel on it.

If you’re a Scrivener user and have iOS devices do check out the iOS app. You might not think you need it, but you might find it does help your writing process. (And, no. I’m not paid by the developer to say any of this. I really do like the software!)

Good luck.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Avoiding Predictability

Caroline recently got in touch with me enquiring about how to improve the endings of her short stories. She says she often gets great comments about her stories, but her endings let her down. They are too predictable.

This is a common theme found in many rejection letters. In fact, it could be argued that editors need to come up with a less predictable way of saying our stories have predictable endings!

Predictability is not just an issue for fiction writers. Feature writers also need to be less predictable. Pitch a predictable idea to a magazine and you won’t get far with it. Pitch something out of the ordinary, but perfectly targeted for the publication’s readership, and the editor may be eager to commission.

I, too, find myself falling into the predictability trap at times. And, in my experience, it’s because I’ve just gone with the first idea that’s entered my head. The first solution is rarely the best. This is because the first idea is usually the same one that everyone else has come up with - whether it’s a story ending or a feature pitch idea.

To get round this I think for a little longer, but the way I do this is by using the free writing technique. I will sit down with a pen and notebook (for me it has to be handwritten - if I typed my brain would never keep up with my typing) and then I just write down my thoughts as they occur to me.

I write a lot of drivel in these free writing sessions. (Some people may argue that a lot of my drivel gets published too.) But free writing is not a place for editing, or grammatically correct sentences, or perfect punctuation. It’s about brainstorming. It’s about getting the mind to dig a little deeper. Here’s an example of how awful some of my free writing can be:

What's the ending to this story? I could have Sarah get a neighbour to do all of the liaising, but that's a bit naff. If Sarah doesn't like builders, Sarah is the one who has to take ownership of the problem. What if she phones her brother, who is a builder by trade and get him to come down? Don't be stupid, Simon - if her brother was a builder she'd have given him the job in the first place. No, it needs to be something else. She's got to take the initiative.  It's got to fit with her character …

Fifteen or twenty minutes later I am sometimes rewarded with the right idea. Whether it’s the end of a story or a more unusual angle to a feature idea there is usually something that is better than the first idea that entered my head. If I count back I might find it was thought number eight, fifteen or forty seven that became the better idea. Some sessions work better than others. Sometimes the ideas come quickly, other times they don’t.

But one thing I do know is that the first idea is usually the predictable one. So always ditch your first ideas. And the next six too, if possible.

Good luck!