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?
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:
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 …
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.
What’s writing got to do with geology? Well, it’s all to do with prioritisation and focus.
I did this as an exercise, last week, at one of the writers’ groups I go to, and it’s a great way of showing how important it is having your writing projects correctly prioritised.
First you have time, represented by this jar:
Have you been good this year? Were you on ‘the list’? No, I’m not talking about Santa’s list of good little children, but of Take A Break’s list of preferred good fiction writers?
Last Thursday some of us received an email advising us of changes being made at TAB Towers, where Fiction Feast is put together. There were two different emails issued, depending upon which list you were on: one to those who were lucky enough to be on TAB’s list of preferred fiction writers, and those, like me, who were not.
“When the bell rings, that’s the start of your ten minute time slot. You must go to where your booked agent is sitting. If the last person is still sitting in your seat you must evict them from it. Pull them off the chair, pull the chair from underneath them, or simply sit on their lap, the choice is yours. Whatever you do, do not let them finish their conversation, because they are eating into your ten-minute time slot. Got that?”
What had I let myself in for? I thought this was some civilised event at a writers’ conference where I would get the chance to chat to a top London agent and perhaps get some feedback or guidance on my novel. Instead, I seemed to have stumbled across some sort of writers’ Game of Thrones event. Were we expected to fight one another to the death?
Two weeks ago I mentioned that the follow up to my short story collection (Ten Teatime Tales) was in production, now that some of the stories I wanted to include in it are now out of their exclusivity period. Well, I’m pleased to say that Ten Teatime Tales 2 (it took me months to come up with that title) is now available. (Just in time for all of those new electronic reading devices that will be unwrapped in a couple of weeks time.)
As writers, we tend not to think of our scribblings as products. But if you’re hoping to generate an income from your creativity it’s important to think about the different formats you can exploit in your work.
Sometimes, it’s not until you build up a body of work that you really appreciate what you have created. And that’s when the consequences of being a little slap dash with the rights you grant others in your work becomes apparent.
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to be swayed into granting more rights in a piece of your work than you’d like. You know you really ought not give a publisher copyright in your article, but they are going to publish it (which is what you really want) and, let’s face it, who is going to turn Ten Alternative Uses Of A Nose-Hair Clipper into a movie?
Last week I was approached by two different writers, each with their own publishing dilemma. I hope they found my comments useful, but what the queries demonstrated was that when it comes to publishing your book you need to be clear what your dream is. Only then can you decide what is right for you.
The first writer had made the decision to self-publish her novel, having spent many years writing it and then even more time trying to interest a traditional publisher. She’d come to accept that to get what she wanted – a print book she could encourage retailers to take – that self-publishing, or independent publishing, was the way forward for her. It would cost her money, but it was what she wanted.
Has anyone signed up for NaNoWriMo yet (National Novel Writing Month)? For those of you who don’t know, this is where writers set themselves the challenge of writing 50,000 words of their novel during the month of November. (That’s an average of 1,667 words a day.)
If you’re not used to writing big projects, this can be a great way to get started. Your aim is just to get 50,000 words written. They don’t have to be great words. They’re not perfect words. In fact, you’re not supposed to do any editing at this stage. Just write 50,000 words. At least.
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!
Are you a creative hoarder?
At this year’s Writers’ Holiday, in Fishguard, novelist Marina Oliver gave an interesting talk about why writers shouldn’t throw anything away. She explained how she’s developed ideas for certain markets, only for them to disappear, for one reason or another, leaving her with a piece of writing she’d created but nowhere to place it. But then, several years later, often when she least expected it, an opportunity arose and she was able to dust it down, rejig it slightly, and sell her work.
I was recently interviewed by Helen Walters for her competition column in Writers’ Forum, and the piece has just been published in the July 2016 issue, out now. I thought I’d repeat some of the tips here, but if you can, do go out and buy the magazine for the full interview, and also because it’s packed full of other useful articles for writers too.
What do you look for, when judging a short story competition?
Last Monday I was running some writing workshops at the Leominster Festival. This year’s theme was Nature and Landscapes, and one of my workshops looked at how writers can draw inspiration from the landscape around us.
It’s an area of writing that interests me greatly at present, and so I purposely take time to stop and note the smaller things around me. As a photographer I love landscapes: huge vistas of mountains dominating a skyline. But our landscape comprises smaller details too. Every mountain has its own geology, flora and fauna. Every field has its own flowers, grasses and insects. Every leaf has its own skeletal structure, texture and colour.