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!

Writer at Work- writing CATCH THE RAINBOW: characters

I’m currently typing CATCH THE RAINBOW onto Scrivener, the writing software I wish I’d discovered 30 years ago. I’m loving all of the gimmicks and gadgets that help to make the writing fun, interesting and motivating.

Yesterday I moved a few scenes around using index cards … and there they were already moved in the text part of the story too. All I had to do was change the scene numbers. I can move different scenes into different chapters at the sweep of a mouse. It’s blummin bostin!

Today, I’ve added a new character picture, using a photograph of Duane “Dog” Chapman (aka the bounty hunter). I can attach this picture to both the character index card and any chapters I’m writing where I need his image in front of me. And the index card has been duplicated, because the same character appears in a Marcie Craig story, THE BEAST WITHIN, more than 20 years later.

This character’s real name is Frankie, and the Duane Chapman image is attached to the 1974 story, CATCH THE RAINBOW. But in THE BEAST WITHIN, he looks more like Cat Weasel, and he’s now known as “Popeye”.

Here, then, for my indulgence, are some of the characters who appear in CATCH THE RAINBOW. Lenny is the main character, Jack is her best friend, Nicky and Shaun are twins, and Frankie you’ve already “met”. For fun, I’ve also included “Popeye”:

Lenny

Elaine “Lenny” Moxon (surname may change)

Shaun 1

Shaun O’Flaherty

Nicky

Nicky O’Flaherty

jack2

Jacqueline “Jack” Hardy

Popeye

Frankie

Popeye

“Popeye” (imagine him with an eye missing …)

Thank you for reading. 🙂

Diary of a freelance writer: 6 July 2016

I’ve had a very writerly week, which is always a good sign. I’m building the blocks for a 6-part “family saga” in Scrivener. And I started to get the itch again to find a decent criticism group for constructive feedback.

Wednesday 29 June 2016
It started last Wednesday . I wrote 674 words for the blog and did 2 extra chores – publicity and job surfing.

Then I settled down for a couple of hours and managed to write 1,347 words for CATCH THE RAINBOW. (Hurrah!)

The day finished with a couple more hours on a client editing job.

Thursday 30 June 2016
On Thursday morning the first job was, as usual, after the daily and household chores, gig list admin. I also managed an “extra”, studying Module 7 for my fiction writing course.

I wrote another 1,144 words for CATCH THE RAINBOW, then uploaded a load of information for the project to the project folder on Scrivener. This increased the running word-count considerably (almost 4-fold).

As I was tidying all of my old notes on the computer, I stumbled across another novel that was finished a long time ago for the Lichfield Prize, but it never went anywhere. So I copied and pasted that into a new file in Scrivener too.

I finished the editing job and got it sent back to the client.

Friday 1 July 2016
Friday was new diary day! I use an academic year diary and it always starts on 1 July. As it was the first day of the month, my Excel tracker for July was also set-up. This shows what I’m working on for this month, target word-count, actual word-count and which draft I should be working on for which story/article/filler/RTE/etc.

I wrote 286 words for a blog post and wrote a further 1,307 words for CATCH THE RAINBOW.

I feel as though I really need to use Scrivener at every opportunity, so that I get used to the masses of things that it apparently does for you. I’m starting with the basic template and doing everything I need to do myself – splitting it into acts, parts, chapters, whatever; get it to print the headings I want it to print and not the ones that Scrivener wants it to print; changing fonts, page layouts, etc.

Once I feel as though I’ve mastered all of that, then I’ll use the templates that come with the software. I’ve always been one for learning things the long way before learning the short cuts. At least then I know what the short cuts are actually doing for me, and if ever the short cuts don’t work, I also know how to fix things the long way.

With this in mind, I went through all of my novels – in progress and in complete draft form – and transferred them all to Scrivener. I now have the following “complete” novels awaiting revision:

  • CHINA
  • MARDI GRAS (last year’s NaNoWriMo project)

And the following awaiting completion:

  • WHITEHORSE FARM
  • HATTIE’S HOTSHOTS (book 4 of the 6-part “family saga”)
  • plus the makings of 4 other books in the “family saga” collection, of which CATCH THE RAINBOW forms book 6
  • THE BEAST WITHIN: A MARCIE CRAIG MYSTERY (book 2)
  • THE FOOL (Stevie Tarot book 1)

At some point, when I have less work to do (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha), I may also transfer over NIGHT CRAWLER: A MARCIE CRAIG MYSTERY (book 1) to Scrivener.

As it was Friday, I raised an invoice (hurrah!), did the first (ahem!)  “weekly” critical data backup in a LONG while, and I finished transferring photographs on Facebook to the “Days Out 2015” folder.

And I had an early finish!

Weekend
We had the weekend off. So we closed the gate on Friday evening and didn’t open it again until Monday morning. Then we spent the “free” time doing loads of things around the new house – gardening, DIY projects, baking, cooking and unpacking boxes.

Monday 4 July 2016
Monday was another good and busy day. I wrote 509 words for a blog post, and I wrote another 2,350 words for CATCH THE RAINBOW. Then I spent a couple of hours on Scrivener trying to “fix” the formatting so it looks how I want it to look when it exports to Word.

Tuesday 5 July 2016
After the usual daily chores, yesterday’s first job was the new weekly job surf. There weren’t any that I fancied, though, so I didn’t pitch at all.

I wrote 3,497 words for CATCH THE RAINBOW, and then I started a new editing job for a client.

Homework w/c 6 July 2016
This week’s objective will be to keep up the momentum, continue to write CATCH THE RAINBOW, continue to build the world and characters for the 6-book saga, continue to familiarise myself with Scrivener, and finish the current editing job.

I’m also looking at an online writing forum and may upload the next few new stories there to get some feedback. These stories need to be out earning their keep, but it’s always good to get impartial, constructive feedback if possible.

What are you up to this week?