Update

Once again I have been very busy and I’ve neglected both of my blogs. I’m waaaay behind on my 52 books in 52 weeks, but I *am* still reading them, I *am*still digesting them. And there’s another finished one I’m about ready to review too.

I’m trying to get a bit of cash in, though. There are a few things I’d like to clear and I’m looking at buying a new car – this is the new car I’ve been promising myself since 2011, when I was going to get a VW Golf (Rabbit), and then lost my editing job.

But I’m getting a Ford Ka instead.

Now, I’ve always steered clear of the Ka as it’s always been a bit … dinky. But when we went to look at a new car for the poet last week, we both gasped with shock when we saw the new Ka+. It’s MASSIVE. In fact, it’s more like the old Fiesta than the current Fiesta is, which is actually more like a Focus these days.

And the upshot is … one new car has become two new cars (he’s having another Focus). I’m not getting the top-of-the-range model that I wanted, though. Instead, for now, I’m getting the basic model as the finance is just a bit easier to manage – or that’s the plan at least. But it does mean we need a few more “readies”, and that means I need to do a bit more guaranteed paid work.

My dad’s coming to visit at the end of the month, and I’d like to take some time off with him. And I have to go into hospital for a very minor, routine, no-worry procedure – well, I don’t even *have* to go in, but I think I will. Plus we have holiday coming up too. And this all means time away from the desk, so time *at* the desk is now suddenly at a premium.

I do have three books in to edit and one to proofread, and those must take priority.

However, I’ve been trying to write something of my own every day. This has mostly been at least a Teach Yourself creative writing course I’m doing just to keep the writing muscle exercised. The target for this is an hour a day, and I even set a timer. The problem is, though, the exercises keep giving me lots of new ideas – so many ideas, so little time!

At best, I’ve also been pantsing a new novel. Well, I say “new”, but it is, in fact, a very old idea that keeps resurfacing. My target for this is 500 words per session.

On top of this, I’m planning a new novel too, and I have two NaNoWriMo projects (2015 and 2017) to edit/rewrite/polish.

And then! One of the books I’m editing gave me the glimmer of an idea for a book of my own, and then another, and then another. And then I got a glimmer for another set of three! This is what happens when I exercise that writing muscle. They keep on coming.

Anyway, I tentatively pitched the first series of three books to my favourite editing client to see if (a) they already have something in the pipeline, (b) they already have something on the topic(s), and (c) they’re interested in *me* subbing a full-blown book proposal …and they said No, No, and YES!

Because, like, I could always do with the work! But at least, at this stage, it’s a better chance of a paid writing gig.

With all of this, and with me squeezing in the odd short story or article pitch here and there, I’m hoping the cash will soon start to drift in.

So … that’s what I’ve been doing and what I’ll continue to do for some time to come. What have you been up to?

PS I think we need a new ideas masterclass, so watch out for one of those in the coming weeks as well.

When a new project begins

writing-bagI’m so excited, I always am when I’m about to start a new project I’ve been mulling over in my head.

The plan was to start the new project in January, but sickness in us and various members of the family put paid to that.

So then the plan moved to February, but then I received a client editing job that is taking longer than I originally imagined it would.

BUT … yesterday I submitted the author questions before I continue, and while I wait for the replies, I can finally write!

I’ve been digesting loads and loads of writing books and guides (and yes, I’m behind on the 52 books in 52 weeks again, but bear with me …), and I really have been thinking about this story for a long time, with two short stories already written featuring some of the characters. These will be manipulated to suit future omnibus short story editions once I have enough material for a complete suit …

… yes, suit. Because I’m finally starting my Stevie Tarot series, beginning with The Fool, which is the start of a new journey, a leap of faith.

The picture above shows what is currently going into the writing bag. Everyone has a writing bag, right? Anyway, from top left and working clockwise, it consists of:

  • the bag itself, bought a long time ago from Sheffield Hallam University book shop
  • my Monsters Inc pencil tin, containing pens in green, red, blue and black, a small ruler, pencils, pencil sharpener, pencil eraser, mini stapler and mini staples
  • a small book of assorted sticky tags the poet brought home for me one day a long time ago
  • tarot card no 0 – The Fool (a colour copy of this is pasted into the front of the notebook)
  • The Tarot Bible by Sarah Bartlett
  • an A5, touchy feely lined notebook from Paperchase
  • Writing and Selling your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron (I have the latest version of this book, now updated, on the Kindle)

ALL of my planning notes and maps and diagrams and pictures will go into this A5 notebook. The chapter-by-chapter breakdown, character notes, world notes, tarot notes, everything will go into this book.

When the planning stage is complete, a shorthand notebook will be added to the bag for the first draft. When I move onto another draft, an A4 notebook will be added, and a 12″ ruler. (Yes, I call it a ruler because I’m a Brummie and that’s just the way we roll.)

While I work on this, then, I’ll also be editing a hard copy of my NaNoWriMo 2015 project, Mardi Gras. At the same time I’m polishing the exercises for Diary of a Scaredy Cat. And in between all of that, I edit and proofread books for clients and I write short stories …

So tell me, how do you work?

January round-up

blog-standalone

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. 🙂

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?