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: 29 June 2016 (*** list alert ***)

It’s Wednesday again, and I made it in on time again. Things are looking up.

We finished the final stage of moving house at the weekend, so that gives us much more time at home, and me more hours in which to work. We do have boxes and bags to sort and unpack, though. But at least we don’t have that extra travel time in between houses. I’m really hoping to knuckle down and get some serious work done.

Wednesday 22 June 2016
Last Wednesday the plumber was due at 8:30am. He made it at just after 9:30am. He was coming to drain down the heating system and give it a good flush through. By midday his work was done and we had hot water and central heating at the same time.

While he was here, I still cracked on with work and left him to it. I added a new daily chore to the daily chores, I wrote 1,067 words for a blog post, I did some more photo admin on Facebook, and I did some sugar-free diet research. We were supposed to be at a meeting on the evening for the pro-bono project, but we were just too busy and too tired, and had to send our apologies.

Now we had hot water, I enjoyed a much-anticipated bath – I’m not really a shower person, but at least we have one for backup.

Thursday 23 June 2016
First job Thursday morning, after the daily and household chores, was gig list admin. There was an item in my diary entitled “blog post”, but today was Thursday and the next blog post was due on Friday. So I rubbed it out … then I remembered I had Friday off, so had to pencil it in again. I wrote 687 words, and was then able to tick it off. Ticks are very therapeutic and truly aid motivation.

I did my weekly diary chore and then did some writing research. I was looking for markets and guidelines for novellas and I found 2 UK-based ones. And then I had a lightbulb moment for the family saga story idea.

Friday 24 June 2016
My car was due for its MOT on Friday (it passed, eventually) and we also had to collect a self-drive van for the last of the house-move. The day was spent moving stuff and collecting my car.

Weekend
We still had the van for the morning, so finished using that. Then we cleaned the old house from top to bottom and the poet filled a load of holes in walls. We did some shopping and spent what time was left (not a lot) looking at boxes.

On Sunday we were in Alrewas for the National Service Memorial Day at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Monday 27 June 2016
We had Monday off too as part of the big move weekend, and were finally able to settle into our new house and know that we didn’t have to go back to the old one again.

Tuesday 28 June 2016
Tuesday it was back to work for both of us. It took a little longer to do the daily chores and jobs – it always does on the first day back at work – but I still managed 590 words for a blog post.

In the afternoon I was supposed to do some writing work and some editing work, but a migraine settled in instead and I went to lie down in a dark room for the rest of the day, and some of the evening.

Homework w/c 22 June 2016
I’m getting a little better at keeping on top of work, but the to-do list is still a lot like the one I did for last week, although it is also shorter again:

  • start new edit for lovely-already-boss
  • start new edit for lovely-more-recent-boss
  • write #1 of brand new story A DAY TO REMEMBER
  • continue uploading CATCH THE RAINBOW to Scrivener
  • write #2 of short story THE MONEY IN THE SHED
  • Module 7 fiction writing course
  • Module 8 fiction writing course
  • Module 9 fiction writing course
  • continue tidying photographs
  • continue playing with new novel idea

What are you up to this week?

Diary of a freelance writer: 22 June 2016 (*** list alert ***)

Well, well, well. It’s Wednesday and I’m updating the diary on time. Looks like I’m catching up.

We’ve still been living in 2 houses, sort of, finally moving the big stuff over to the new house on Saturday. We still have odds and sods to pick up, and we’re hiring a van on Friday to do that, then we’re cleaning the old house on Saturday, and filling holes and things like that. The poet has already cut the grass over there. Hopefully it won’t need doing again before Monday, when we hand the keys over.

Wednesday 15 June 2016
Wednesday, then, was a very good day. I managed to do everything at the right time and I wrote 837 words for a blog post and 2,558 words for a short story. That story has now been edited and sent off. (Please keep everything crossed.)

Thursday 16 June 2016
Thursday started well, with all of the admin being done in time again. And I wrote 633 words of a blog post.

In the afternoon, however, when I went to print off the next editing job, the printer wasn’t connected. The computer could see it, but it just wasn’t communicating. That took the entire afternoon before it was fixed again.

The night was spent at the new house as our new dishwasher was due for delivery “between 7am and 6pm” on Friday, so I had to be up early.

Friday 17 June 2016
On Friday I printed off the new editing job, wrote 855 words for a blog post, and did some photo admin. I’ve been using Facebook as a backup for photographs since 2005, and now they’re threatening to remove that facility for some.

I don’t like having so many pictures on Facebook anyway, so it was a good opportunity for me to start tidying things up over there. We have a portable hard drive now, so I started by downloading some of the older albums to that before deleting them from Facebook. Then I started a gradual regime of filing photographs on Facebook in group directories. I’ll do a bit more of this each day, as and when I have a few moments to spare.

The dishwasher arrived late morning, and when the poet came home from work, he fitted it straight away. (He’s very versatile.)

Weekend
On Saturday the van came at 8am (it was booked for 8:30am), and all of the big stuff was moved over in just one journey. By 10am they were gone and we had our “stuff” around us again. And, of course, the cats finally came over too. Much of Saturday was then spent sorting everything out, and going for another couple of car loads as well as a good, weekly shop.

Sunday was Father’s Day, so we went to Doncaster to see the poet’s dad and one of his lads made it to see him too. Then it was off to Birmingham to see my dad. When we got home, we had a lamb dinner, having used the slow cooker for the first time in the new house.

Monday 20 June 2016
On Monday I did more photo admin, I wrote 695 words for a blog post, and I rebooted my fiction writing course, studying the new Module 5. They revised the course after I started, and because I’d raised some issues about the quality and content of the course, they asked if I’d like to resume with the new version instead. So, of course, I said yes.

The new course arrived in October or November of last year, and I’d already acquainted myself with the first 4 modules. But this is the first I’ve managed in a long while.

Tuesday 21 June 2016
Yesterday, I continued with my study, reading up on Module 6. I did a little more photo admin, then I outlined a new short story (inspired by part of the next assignment I have to do for the course), and I did some short story admin.

I updated the worksheet I use to keep on top of drafts, moving material I want to work on first up, and shifting older ideas to a different spot, so I don’t forget about them. Although, if I do forget about them, perhaps they didn’t really want writing in the first place.

Here’s how the spreadsheet currently looks:

worksheet

KEY
O = Outline
#1 = draft 1
#2 = draft 2
#3 = draft 3
E = Edit
SS = Short Story
F = Filler
RTE = Reader’s True Experience

(I can’t even remember what THE FORTUNE TELLER is all about, but it will need editing if it’s to stay up there!)

I also discovered some “story starters” over on the website of a magazine I really want to crack – she currently has one of mine sitting in her drawer that I slightly re-wrote at her request, I’m hoping if I can send her another it will remind her of the one in her drawer! – and I’ll be mulling over some of those and hopefully adding them to the list.

Then I sat down and started a new binder on Scrivener for a new novel … the poet reminded me when he got home that I have yet to complete a version of CATCH THE RAINBOW on Scrivener, but I’m hoping to run the two consecutively. Plus, I need to be practising with Scrivener so I don’t have to keep on Googling how to do things I’ve done several times already. I need to be “doing” so I remember how to do it.

For the new project, I also started to create a family tree, as it’s going to be a family saga. Someone recently told me that family sagas are very popular with publishers, and as I generally strive to “write for the market” … well, I have to give it a go.

Homework w/c 22 June 2016
So, the to-do list is a little shorter than last week’s, but the first 5 are also carried over from last week’s, so not as great as that first seems:

  • start new edit for lovely-already-boss
  • start new edit for lovely-more-recent-boss
  • write #1 of brand new story A DAY TO REMEMBER
  • continue uploading CATCH THE RAINBOW to Scrivener
  • write #2 of short story THE MONEY IN THE SHED
  • plumber coming Wednesday to clean out hot water system 
  • Module 7 fiction writing course
  • Module 8 fiction writing course
  • Module 9 fiction writing course
  • continue tidying photographs
  • move last of stuff over from old house, close up and hand keys over
  • Armed Services Day at Alrewas
  • continue playing with new novel idea

What are you up to this week?

Diary of a freelance writer: 15 June 2016 (*** list alert ***)

Hurrah! I made it – only a day late for this week’s diary! 😀

Wednesday 8 June 2016
I think today was the day we’d stayed over at the new house for the first time (Tuesday night) because a plumber was coming at 8:30am to fix a radiator and remove a radiator. So I was up and waiting and taking pictures of horses wandering up my drive when the farmer came to say I’d missed him. The plumber, not the farmer. Well, how could that have happened? We called him back and he said he’d be there around 12 now.

He arrived at about 4pm … and said he was knocking at the door at 8:10am. Well, what a surprise. I was up, but in the shower at 8:10pm.

So much of today was waiting again, having the heating fixed, and finding out what the problem is with the hot water. (It needs flushing out and could take a whole day.)

I did my usual daily and admin work, and continued to hard-copy edit the big historical.

Thursday 9 June 2016
I didn’t have to wait in for anyone or anything today, so was actually able to get on with some work. But that was mostly finishing the hard-copy edit of the big historical … and being asked by the client if I was almost ready for the next one! Wunderbar!

Friday 10 June 2016
Friday was also a full working day with no interruptions, other than the poet finishing work early and us going to buy yet more things for the new house. He wasn’t skiving, he’ll always finish early on a Friday … which probably means that I will too, once we get settled. I started on the electronic edit for the big historical.

Weekend
Saturday was once again waiting for people to turn up, this time the Sky engineer for the television. But they’d called yesterday and given us a more narrow time-slot (from 1pm – 6pm to 1pm – 3pm), and they turned up at 1:20pm. This was the day that we found out that our old Sky HD+ box would no longer work, despite the Sky salesman assuring us that it would.

Monkey Dust had a private party to play for on Saturday evening, in Doncaster. And Sunday was doing more stuff at the new house and finally being able to have some chill time.

Monday 13 June 2016
On Monday I started to write again. (Hurrah!) Nothing great, just a blog post. But every little helps and that old writing muscle doesn’t get fit by doing nothing all the time. I managed 953 words for that, and it included a couple of rants. I did all of my admin and daily stuff, streamlining some of it so that 2 fit into 1 hour and 1 only takes 1 hour, and more of the electronic editing.

Tuesday 14 June 2016
On Tuesday, I finished the electronic edit and got that submitted. (Hurrah! Again!) And I wrote another 354 words for a blog.

Homework w/c 15 June 2016
So, now I’m back in the swing of things, the plan for the coming week is as follows:

  • write 1 more catch-up blog for the diary 
  • edit SHAKING THE TREE and submit 
  • share the gig list with FB followers 
  • schedule a new gig list post for Monday morning 
  • start new edit for lovely-already-boss
  • start new edit for lovely-more-recent-boss
  • write #1 of brand new story A DAY TO REMEMBER
  • write a new blog post on Friday for Tales From Baggins Bottom
  • await dishwasher delivery on Friday
  • continue uploading CATCH THE RAINBOW to Scrivener
  • move big stuff to new house on Saturday
  • Father’s Day visits on Sunday
  • write a new blog post on Monday for Tales From Baggins Bottom
  • write #2 of short story THE MONEY IN THE SHED
  • look at catching up on fiction writing course

(Those square root signs, btw, are ticks.)

What are you up to this week?