January round-up

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

January has not been a great start to 2017 for me, work-wise. I’ve been lazy, unmotivated and easily distracted. I think the biggest problem was I didn’t set myself a total word-count target for the month and, as a result, I’ve written hardly anything.

I have had one book each in from two clients, one to edit and one to proofread. I’ll be finishing both of these today and tomorrow, so January won’t have been a total washout.

The other client I had, I knocked on the head because he was sending me far too much work, wanting it all done NOW, and then forgetting how much he’d agreed to pay for it, trying to renegotiate several weeks after invoices were already overdue.

I have two books of my own I want to start working through, Mardi Gras (which was my 2015 NaNoWriMo project), and Catch the Rainbow (the first draft I finally finished for my 2016 NaNoWriMo project). I haven’t touched either.

I have two books of my own I want to finish writing, Diary of a Scaredy Cat, which has been on the verge of being published for several months now, and Ideas for Writers and What to do with Them, of which readers have been getting sneaky peaks.

And then there is the short story work, which ground to a halt when another previously approachable short fiction market in the UK slammed its doors.

All of these things I should have worked on, and I’ve not worked on one. PLUS, I promised to review fifty-two writers’ guides in fifty-two weeks and I’ve managed two-and-and-a-half.

Therefore, this “January round-up” is fast turning into “plans for February, because I didn’t pull my finger out in January”.

Today I have some serious diary work to do, I have at least one of the client books to finish, and I have today and tomorrow to knock a short story into shape to get it submitted to a still-existing UK fiction market before the end of tomorrow. I also need to re-start my word-count and work-load tracker in Excel.

I’d best crack on … or quack on, courtesy of today’s picture of a duck. 🙂

New beginnings (*** list alert ***)

The news that yet another short story magazine has closed its doors to all but a privileged few has knocked me sideways somewhat this past week. It’s not a market I’ve had a lot of success with, but it’s a good market to target anyway and at least the result is a completed short story at the end of it.

I had such plans, though. I’d bought a new diary that starts in January and finishes in December instead of sticking with my usual academic diary, and I’d insisted on getting one with appointments so I can stick to my individual time-slots. I’d written out a schedule of work for various drafts of various short stories, to ensure I completed something. And I’d bought recent copies of all of the short story magazines you can buy on any newsstand in the UK.

My short stories generally “do the rounds”. I write them with a specific market in mind and then, if they’re rejected, I’ll work on them to make them suitable for the next market on the list. That list has got shorter and shorter until now there are only three. One favourite market had already temporarily closed its doors before Christmas, and then this other one slammed them shut over the Christmas period.

So I took a step back and spent my first official day back in the office (aka yesterday) having a rethink.

Fortunately, my diary is always written in pencil – apart from anniversaries, birthdays and other un-moveable events. So I can rethink the schedule, rub them out and start all over again.

Fortunately, there are other markets for short stories – I just have to work harder to find them and build up a new routine.

Fortunately, I am not averse to self-publishing collections of my own short stories, and it is these anthologies that have actually worked the hardest for me out of all of my self-published books. (In case you’re interested, you can find all of my current books here.)

I’ve renewed my previously expired subscription to Duotrope. I’m going to buy a writing magazine each month and try and target at least one competition or call for submissions. And I’m following several websites that list opportunities for writers.

Words Worth Writing is also having a bit of a facelift for the new year:

  • Diary of a Freelance Writer  will be updated to the end of 2016 and then it will be finished. A lot of readers do say they enjoy it, but – really – there is only so much that changes from week-to-week that it can get quite … stale. I’m working on a collection of the previous Diary of a Scaredy Cat and this will be followed by a collection for Diary of a Freelance Writer. Both will include extra exercises for readers to try at the end of each section or chapter, and there may be further insights discovered since they were originally written. I was going to complete two volumes of Diary of a Freelance Writer, but I’ve decided now that one should be sufficient.
  • At least once a month I’ll be interviewing writers of all levels about their work and especially if they have books coming out. Please let me know if you’d like to take part, with thanks to those who already have.
  • There will be more “nuts and bolts” posts, ranging from (*** dirty word alert ***) money, including how to set your own minimum rate and how and when to chase payments that are overdue, to working as a freelance writer and all the things that involves.
  • I’m going to try and read, review and attempt the exercises in a writers’ guide each week – 52 Books in 52 Weeks. If you have any suggestions, or any writers’ guides of your own coming out, again let me know, but do bear in mind these MUST include practical exercises that lead to a finished piece. I’m simply incapable of doing writing exercises for exercise-sake.
  • Because it’s been requested, I’ll do an ideas masterclass at least once a month.
  • And there will still always be homework suggestions.

Tales From Baggins Bottom will be changing too. I’ll still have My Fat Year and a walk or a day out as often as we do them. But new features will include Tales From the Farm and the long overdue Wormy’s Kitchen.

Behind the scenes I’ll be working on quite a few things too:

  • I want to get back into feature writing, so will be doing the whole ideas-to-finished-piece myself (watch out for a new book on this …).
  • I’ll still be writing short stories, but they’ll be more market-orientated and will automatically go forward into the self-published anthologies in case they don’t do well elsewhere.
  • I’m finishing Diary of a Scaredy Cat. Watch out for this soon too.
  • I have Catch the Rainbow to fine-tune and polish. I want that to be doing the rounds by mid-year.
  • I’m starting The Beast Within, which is the next Marcie Craig mystery.
  • I’ll be collating Diary of a Freelance Writer and adding in those extra exercises and insights.
  • There should be at least two more volumes of Tales From Baggins Bottom in the pipeline this year.

As a point of note, everything – everything – I write is with a view to it earning its keep and/or getting it published, either via the traditional route or myself. This is the way I roll.

I hope you enjoy the new features. Here is today’s homework:

  1. Spend some quiet time thinking about where you want to go next. What has changed recently to make you rethink plans or your way of work? Jot these thoughts down.
  2. Challenge yourself to come up with at least one thing you’re going to do differently – more if you have them. Give yourself a deadline to do this by. Then do it.
  3. Choose a writers’ guide. Read it from cover to cover. Go back and do the exercises with a view to sending the finished product(s) out. Polish it, find a market, adapt it to suit, and then send it out. Spend the next 6 months looking for another market for each item, in case the market you sent it to doesn’t use it (although they will usually come back quicker than that now if they are going to use it).
  4. Challenge yourself to try something you’ve never tried before – a reader’s letter, a filler, a poem, a short story, a puzzle, a nostalgic article or RTE (Reader’s True Experience). Find a market and send it out in its entirety. Each of these will go out in its own entirety rather than as a query. Do this at least once a month.
  5. If you don’t already, buy at least one writing magazine per month. Read it from cover to cover and look for potential markets to send your work.

Let me know how you get on!

Diary of a freelance writer: 7 December 2016

It’s been a full and busy week with mostly admin work and not as many words written. As usual, there’s a fair bit going on. But it’s all do-able.

Wednesday 30 November 2016
Wednesday was the last day of NaNoWriMo, and while I limped over the finish line, I’m delighted that I did it again. When I added my words to the NaNo site to have the word-count verified, they gave me an extra 16 words too. Had I known it was going to do that, I might have stopped sweating slightly sooner.

Anyway, thanks to NaNoWriMo 2016, I now have more than 78,000 words for Catch the Rainbow. I’ll have a closer look at those in the new year.

I wrote 1,579 words on Wednesday for NaNo, and I wrote 924 words for a blog post. I didn’t get any additional writing done, but I did continue with a client edit in the afternoon.

Thursday 1 December 2016
Thursday began with a huge sigh of relief, then I cracked on with gig list admin and new month admin.

New month admin consists of two new daily threads for the Seriously Serious Scribes plus a new word-count tracker spreadsheet that also includes a list of short writing work, and the various drafts-stage they’re at, and any books in I have to edit for clients. The SSS work isn’t necessarily mine, it’s usually whoever of the 3 admins gets around to it first.

In the afternoon I continued with the client edit, which has been particularly useful for me as it’s set in the same place as my story Mardi Gras (last year’s NaNoWriMo project).

Friday 3 December 2016
On Friday, I worked overtime on the client edit as I wanted to get it back today. This meant I didn’t do much other work.

When I’d finished we went to a friend’s birthday party … only to discover it’s next Friday … Oh dear! But, as we were were out anyway, we went to the pictures instead, to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

We did have another party we needed to be at too, and we did say if we got back in time we’d go. But we didn’t get back in time as the film was quite a bit longer than we thought it would be.

Weekend
On Saturday we went to collect our chickens from Letwell. We rescued six chickens via the British Hen Welfare Trust. They were very scraggy and sorry-looking, and they were jittery too. So we put them quietly in their new coop, made sure they had enough food, water, straw and wood-shavings, and left them quiet, while we went to a Monkey Dust gig over in Doncaster.

On Sunday morning we were rewarded with 6 eggs from our hens. When the sun came around, we opened the doors and let them out for an exploration. They didn’t stay out for long, so they clearly feel quite safe in their house. But they were picked on a bit by the existing resident peacocks, guinea fowl and chickens, although they did stand up for themselves.

Monday 5 December 2016
I now have a new job to add to the daily household chores, morning and afternoon – “chickens”. And while we all get used to each other, while I check they’re okay and happy and not being bullied, this is taking up time throughout the day too. Also on Monday I had a poorly poet home sick with a stomach bug.

Despite this, I managed a lot of reading and planning work for my writing, and I wrote 450 words for a blog post.

Tuesday 29 November 2016
Yesterday consisted of a lot more planning work and more reading work, but now I think I have a workable, if busy, schedule. I’ve caught up on my think/query/write/submit regime and I also wrote 796 words of notes and ideas. I also still had the poorly poet home.

Homework w/c 7 December 2016
With a Christmas break on the horizon, I have a lot of planning work to do and, hopefully, plenty to write about. It’s December, so my think/query/write/submit is July/June/May/April. Here are some throwaways if anyone fancies giving them a go (don’t forget to confirm the dates before sending out any queries):

  • 8 April 2017 is the Grand National (date specific)
  • 14 April is First Cuckoo Day (evergreen)
  • 24 April 2017 is Hocktide (date specific)
  • 14 May is Pag Rag Day (evergreen)
  • 29 May is Oak Apple Day (evergreen)
  • 15 June 2017 is Corpus Christi (date specific)
  • 21 June 2017 is the Summer Solstice (date specific)
  • 12 July is Orangemen’s Day in Northern Ireland (evergreen)
  • 28 July 1967 the steel industry was re-nationalised in Britain (50 years ago)

Any of these topics can be written about, all except for one can be written about each year. They can be turned into features or articles, or short stories can be woven around them. Some are politically sensitive, some are controversial.

There are also a number of countries celebrating their national days over this period. These include:

  • 17 May – National Day of Norway
  • 27 May – National Day of Afghanistan
  • 31 May – National Day of South Africa
  • 1 June – National Day of Tunisia
  • 2 June – National Day of Italy
  • 5 June – National Day of Denmark
  • 6 June – National Day of Sweden
  • 17 June – National Day of Iceland
  • 23 June – National Day of Luxembourg
  • 1 July – National Day of Canada
  • 6 July – National Day of Malawi
  • 9 July – National Day of Argentina
  • 14 July – National Day of France
  • 18 July – National Day of Spain
  • 21 July – National Day of Belgium
  • 22 July – National Day of Poland
  • 28 July – National Day of Peru

Now, there are so many topics that can be written around these dates, and they’re not necessarily travel features, although travel features are great if you have that kind of knowledge (and photography). However, if we take, for example … Argentina. What else can we write about Argentina, other than a travel feature? How about:

  • wines of Argentina
  • food from Argentina
  • football and Argentina
  • walking in Argentina
  • wildlife in Argentina
  • birdwatching in Argentina
  • flora & fauna of Argentina
  • culture of Argentina
  • Evita and Argentina
  • Argentina politics
  • the Falklands
  • interviews with famous Argentinians
  • profiles of famous Argentinians
  • independence from Spain

But if you want to write a travel feature, concentrate on one thing, such as:

  • a city profile of Buenos Aires or Córdoba or San Juan, etc
  • eating out
  • night life
  • the Glaciers National Park
  • the Iguazú Falls
  • the southern-most city in the world
  • touring the Andes

This is what I’ve just come up with off the top of my head for Argentina. You could try the same kind of brainstorm for any of the countries mentioned, or you can go beyond and do some research. Their national day is in July, so that gives you plenty of time to do the research, see which topic(s) excite(s) you, and query your favourite magazine(s) – or a(ny) new magazine(s).

Whatever you decide to write about, and whether it’s a short story or an article or a feature, remember to mention the date in your query/cover letter so that the target market has a date peg to hang it from. This will give them an extra excuse to accept your query or story.

I hope that’s given you plenty to think about. Please let me know if you use any of these suggestions for your work.

I’ll be working on the think/query/write/submits that I’ve kept for myself, as well as various drafts of various short projects. And I’ll be editing Diary of a Scaredy Cat. What are you up to this week?

Diary of a freelance writer: 30 November 2016 (*** rant alert ***)

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winnerWell, today is the last day of NaNoWriMo 2016 and, for reasons that should become clear, I have mixed emotions.

The bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and also anyone on Facebook and Twitter, will have already spotted that I WON this year’s NaNo. It’s the fourth time I’ve officially entered, and it’s the second time I’ve won.

Last year I threw caution (and the rock-solid outline) to the wind and wrote Mardi Gras by the seat of my pants. Mardi Gras is still awaiting completion, because it’s nothing like anything I’ve ever written before. But it will be finished.

This year I decided to have a crack at finishing Catch the Rainbow. It’s now, thanks to NaNo, at more than 78,000 words and the first draft is practically finished. Practically. I still have a few tweaks and a couple of extra scenes to do, possibly around 5,000 words-worth (ha! do you see what I did there?) of extra work. But the main thing is, it’s the closest to finished that it’s ever been, and with that I’m delighted.

*** rant alert ***
However … while I absolutely fell in love with Scrivener while I was writing these extra 50,000 words, I am also furious. Not once, but TWICE Scrivener lost my latest work. I’m not really sure how this is happening at the moment, but it seems to be because I’ve been saving it to both destktop and memory stick. Sometimes, if it opens a version by mistake, and it’s not necessarily the most recent version, it’s OVER-RIDING the most recent version because this one is the last to be opened. This is SO WRONG. It should at least ask.

When it did it the first time, I was still quite early on in the project, but it lost around 2,000 words and two whole scenes. From that moment on, at the end of each session, I made sure to compile to Word every time, email that Word file to myself, and then I saved the latest of the Scrivener files on both the desktop and the memory stick.

BUT … yesterday it did it again, and I don’t know why.

Unfortunately, I’m unable to email the latest Scrivener files to myself. Fortunately, I still had my latest compile in Word. Unfortunately, it didn’t include things that aren’t included in the compile.

I’ve got around it for now and, for now, I was able to complete this year’s NaNoWriMo, but either I’m doing something very wrong, or it’s a bug and Scrivener needs to sort it out.

Anyway, *** end of rant *** … here’s how the rest of the week went …

Wednesday 23 November 2016
Wednesday was day 23 of NaNoWriMo but it was a wrench and I gave up after only 680 words. In the afternoon, I started a new edit for a book, and we did the shopping that evening.

Thursday 24 November 2016
On Thursday, I caught up a little and wrote 1,996 words for NaNo and 684 for a blog post.  I continued with the new edit, and I popped in to see the neighbours as I’ve not seen them for ages and had a few minutes to spare … I think I was down there for around an hour in the end …

Friday 25 November 2016
On Friday, I caught up some more and wrote 2,019 words for NaNo. I did some more editing (it’s not an easy edit), and I raised an invoice (hurrah!).

Weekend
On Saturday, I wrote 1,726 words for NaNo. But we had a very long day on Sunday visiting and ferrying parents, and by the time we got home, I was very tired. Before we knew it, it was bedtime and – for the first time this year – I forgot to do my NaNo.

Monday 27 November 2016
First job on Monday was Sunday’s NaNo, and I wrote 1,710 words. Then I wrote 506 words for a blog post, added 277 words to Diary of a Scaredy Cat, and then wrote 1,810 words for Monday’s NaNo. I felt very smug by the end of Monday, especially as I also managed more editing.

Tuesday 29 November 2016
On Tuesday I wrote 1,514 words for NaNo, but I was definitely running out of steam. I think the only thing keeping me going was sight of the finish line. I also did some admin. With NaNo soon to be over, I’ll be starting work on short material again and the record files were all over the place, and markets information needed updating. I also continued with the sticky edit.

Homework w/c 30 November 2016
We already know that I finished NaNoWriMo and the thing I’m looking forward to the most is writing something different. I will finish the loose ends of Catch the Rainbow, but as there are “modern day” scenes in this otherwise historical story that feature Marcie Craig and that were very, very easy to write, I’m itching to get back to her next story, The Beast Within, which is the immediate sequel to Night Crawler.

(Although the scenes in Catch the Rainbow happen in between the two stories … and also, a character that features quite heavily in The Beast Within made his first appearance in Catch the Rainbow too, but in the historical part.)

Thursday 1 December will be new month admin day, and then I want to shift some short stories, get those out earning their keep. I had one rejection during NaNo, and I’d like to apply the suggestions before sending that one on its way again.

Our hens arrive at the weekend, on Saturday, so we’ll be busy with those. And the poet has his first gig in over a month that night.

What are you up to this week?