Bigger windows? No. I’m not talking about a new Microsoft Operating System. Instead, I’m talking about broadening your window of topicality.
Topicality is important. Write something well in advance, with a topical hook aimed squarely at a publication’s readership and, if the editor likes it, it could be used in that topical-dated issue.
Well, he’s gone and done it again. That top bloke behind the Mistakes Writers Make series of books has just launched his latest in the series: Writing A Non-Fiction Book: A Mistakes Writers Make Guide.
As with all of Alex’s books, this one is written in a clear, no nonsense way, offering practical information in a succinct way. The book is a short read, but it contains plenty of information in each of its three sections: Creating and selling the book idea, agreeing the contract and writing it, then publication and promotion.
We’ve slipped into June and already people are thinking Where’s the year going? Time seems to be flying by and I haven’t done achieved anything yet! It’s not helped by the fact that, here in the northern hemisphere, in a couple of weeks, the nights start drawing in. (The countdown to Christmas has begun!)
I, though, can simply flick back through the pages of my journal for this year to remind myself of what I’ve been doing with my time. That’s because, this year, one of my projects was to journal every day. (Last year’s project was to experience a mindful moment every day and create a ten-second video capturing that moment. (You can see some of them here: http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/category/mm/)
Can we write a novel on a smartphone, or edit a short story on a tablet? Simon Whaley connects with four writers who aren’t chained to their desks.
(Writing Magazine – July 2017 issue)
In July 2016, Literature and Latte, the company behind the popular Scrivener writing software, released their iOS version, making the programme available to writers on their iPads and iPhones. At first, I was sceptical. Who writes a novel on their smartphone with its tiny, cumbersome keyboard?
It all changed for me during a delayed hospital appointment. Instead of sitting there, wasting time, I realised I could review the first draft of an article I’d written earlier that day at my desk. Out came my smartphone, and I began editing. When I got home, all those amendments I’d made via my smartphone were reflected on my desktop version. Amazing.
In the business of writing, being productive means making the most efficient use of our time, and this is where writing apps for mobile devices come into their own.
Freedom and Flexibility
For New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison (www.jtellison.com), whose latest standalone thriller, Lie to Me, is published on 5th September, having access to all of her writing on her iPad has revolutionised her writing workflow. Being able to use the same writing software on all of her devices enables her to write everywhere. As a Scrivener fan, she couldn’t wait for last year’s launch of the mobile app.
Last weekend I was in Bewdley, Worcestershire, finding out about the Repair Cafe they have there (for an article). Repair Cafes are a worldwide scheme, originating from one location in Holland in 2008 and exploding into over 1200 locations worldwide today.
The idea is simple: instead of throwing something away when it is broken and buying a brand new replacement, see if you can get it repaired. Their success rate is high. When Bewdley’s Repair Cafe first opened its door a year ago 40 people walked in with broken items and 38 walked with repaired pieces.
It reminded me of a query I once had from a student who was troubled about what to do for the best: keep working on two short stories that she couldn’t sell, or to give up on them and write something new.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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?
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.
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:
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:
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 …
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.