The Business of Writing

Simon Whaley's Resource For Writers

Run Out Of Things To Say?

I’m in the process of judging a couple of competitions at the moment, and there’s one observation that’s really standing out to me: Entries way under the maximum word count.

All competitions set a maximum word count. Entries that exceed this are disqualified. I’ve seen a few competitions that also have a minimum word count: but not many. I don’t feel comfortable setting a minimum word count, because if you’ve got something to say, and you can say it successfully in far fewer words than the maximum, I don’t believe an entrant should be forced to ‘pad’ just to make it meet a minimum word count threshold.

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Bye Bye Wunderlist For Writers

Wunderlist for Writers

Microsoft, who bought the Wunderkind software company in 2015, has announced that development of their productivity software, Wunderlist, will cease, and the software will be withdrawn at some point in the next few months.

Staff are now focussing on a Microsoft To-Do programme called ‘To-Do’, which is in its infancy, but will be developed further over the coming months.

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Is Your Life’s Work Worth £10?

Okay, so perhaps I’m being a bit flippant with the blog post title, but hear me out. The news over the weekend of the ransomware attacks affecting both public and private sector organisations is a powerful reminder about how important it is to back up our data. How would you feel if you suddenly found you no longer had access to your life’s written work?

As I understand it, this ransomware attack tricks users into downloading some software (often via a link in an email programme) which then locks your data, preventing you from accessing it until you pay a ransom. (And then there may be some uncertainty about whether you’ll regain access, once you’ve paid the ransom.)

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Real Life

Recently, on a Facebook group I’m a member of, a member posted how demoralising she found the constant posts from writers commenting about all the rejections they’d received. With all this negativity being posted, she wondered whether it was worth writing anything and sending it off in the first place.

I could see her point. The facebook group is for writers who write short stories for the women’s magazine market, and so members are forever writing material, submitting it, and then waiting for a reply: hopefully an acceptance, but quite frequently a rejection.

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What The Editor Changed

What do you do when you see your work published in a magazine? Do you buy an extra copy and frame it on the wall? Do you pass it round to friends and family, insisting that they read it? Or do you file it away in your achievement files of published work?

Have you ever thought of sitting down and reading through the piece yourself? Have you ever played the ‘What The Editor Changed’ game?

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Contacts

It’s all change at The People’s Friend today when they move in their new offices in Albert Square (which just so happen to be their old offices too). Make sure you update your contact address book with the relevant details.

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Titivating Too Far

Perfection. Whenever we create something, we want it to be good. No. We want it to be great. Well, let’s face it, if other people are going to read our creative words, we really want them to be perfect!

And quite right too. But don’t let perfection hold you back.

A story that is often raised in writers’ groups is that of the perfection of editing, when a writer once reportedly said:

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Experience: Ninety Years On

 

Ninety years ago, in April 1927, a new publication hit the newsstands: The Countryman. Buy a copy of the April 2017 issue (out now) and you’ll find it comes with a facsimile copy of that first 1927 issue.

Inside this, there’s a request from the editor, which says:

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Confused By Your ALCS Statement?

This week is an exciting week for writers, because those who are registered for ALCS (Authors Licensing and Collecting Society) will be receiving their March 2017 payouts.

Statements became available to writers online about ten days ago and, funnily enough, when writers are offered free money, most of us log into our accounts to find out how much we are getting. (In previous years we have managed to crash their system, such is our eagerness to see whether we can afford a celebratory drink, or a celebratory meal.)

If you don’t really understand what ALCS does, where it gets its money from, or how it gets its money, then a quick glance at the statements might have you scratching your head. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to get in touch with ALCS and ask them some of those questions, in the hope that it might help you.

My thanks go to Jade Zienkiewicz and her colleague De’Anne Jean-Jacques at ALCS for their time in answering these queries. Please note, this is quite a long post because of their detailed answers. Here goes …

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Do You … Evernote?

As writers, we’re constantly collecting ideas, undertaking research, and filing useful website addresses for future use. What we need is a big bucket.

However, no matter how big your bucket is, we need to be able to get stuff out again for it to be of any use.

My bucket is Evernote (https://evernote.com), which I’ve been using for more than a year now. It allows users to create notebooks, and put as many sheets, or notes, inside each of those notebooks. Tags can also be added to these sheets/notes, offering further ways of retrieving the information.

 

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It’s A Writer’s World

 Well, I wasn’t expecting that. Last week, I had an email from the lovely Jill Finlay at The Weekly News. She wrote to say that a story I’d sent to her a couple of weeks ago would be in the next issue (out now – dated 4th March). 

The Weekly News usually publishes two stories in each issue, and the story accompanying mine was also written by a male writer. According to Jill, this is a first – both stories in the same issue written by men.

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Turning Sunflowers Into Birdfeeders

Payments come in all shapes and sizes. But it doesn’t matter what the format is, it’s important you chase up what is rightfully yours, even if it is ‘just’ a prize.

I’ve finally received my prize for a submission I made to a gardening magazine, which was selected as the Star Letter in their January issue, published at the beginning of December. A neighbour had spotted a sunflower growing out of a branch of a tree. While it wasn’t the World’s tallest sunflower, the branch was certainly giving it an altitude boost.

So I snapped a photo, wrote a 54-word letter and submitted it. I was delighted when they published it as the Star letter, not just because of the prize, but because it meant I had another published photo to add to my DACS claim. My prize turned out to be an RSPB Premium Bird Feeding Station with additional bird feeders and bird food – worth £65. So £65 for 54 words and a photo was not to be sniffed at.

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Negotiate. Nicely.

I recently had to renegotiate a contract with a magazine I’ve done work for in the past. Looking back, I realised that the current contract which I was working with was over ten years old. And ten years is a long time in the magazine world.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I didn’t like the revised contract. But that didn’t matter, because these things are always just a starting point.

When you receive a contract, take yourself off somewhere quiet and read through it. If it helps, read aloud each clause. Do whatever it takes for you to understand it.

  • Highlight in one colour clauses you don’t understand.
  • Highlight in another colour the clauses you don’t like.
  • Then put it to one side and do something else.

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Crystal Clear

Making A Point: The Pernickety Story of English Punctuation, by David Crystal

Crystal clear: thats what the rules of punctuation are not. But David Crystal’s journey through the history of punctuation is, and this guide not only clarifies when is the right time to use a specific punctuation mark but it also explains the history of how these marks came into existence. It also clarifies why confusion reigns about usage.

Do you remember being taught that you used a comma when you needed to stop and take a breath? This was important advice at one time … especially if you were a monk being given a new piece of text that you were going to have to chant with fellow monks in the next 15 minutes. It was handy to know then, when to pause for a breath, so that you spoke in unison with your fellow monks. But if you were in a silent order, then the need for commas to denote breaths was …

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Creative Equilibrium

I’ve just come back from a week’s break in the Lake District, and now I’m raring to go (which is good, because I’ve lots to do). But it reminded me of a comment I heard in a podcast by author Joanna Penn, who spoke about Creative Equilibrium.

The idea behind it is a simple one: balance.

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