July throwaways

At the start of the week I did my usual think/query/write submit and I chose three topics to write articles on and three topics to write short stories around.

Here are some throwaway ideas that I won’t be using this time (remember to double-check them first):

Nov 2017

  • 7 November 2017 is Diwali
  • 21 November is the Prophet’s birthday
  • 29 November was the national day of Yugoslavia
  • 30 November 1667 (350 years ago) Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin

Dec 2017

  • 7 December 1817 (200 years ago) Captain Bligh died in London
  • 8 December is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • 10 December grouse shooting ends
  • 17 December is Sow Day

Jan 2018

  • 3 January 1958 (60 years ago) Edmund Hillary reached the South Pole
  • 4 January 1958 (60 years ago) Sputnik 1 disintegrated
  • 8 January 1918 (100 years ago) recruiting began for the WRNS
  • 25 January is Burns Night

Feb 2018

  • 6 February 1918 (100 years ago) women first permitted to vote in elections (1st general election they could vote in was on 14 December 1918)
  • 6 February 1958 (60 years ago) Man Utd plane crashed in Munich
  • 13 February 1958 (60 years ago) Dame Christabel Pankhurst died in California
  • 13 February is Maha Shivaratri

If you’re very quick you may be able to query article ideas for November and December, or you may come up with some short stories that can be pegged to these dates. For January and February, we all have a little longer.

Here are some quick tips:

  • What similarities are there between Bonfire Night and Diwali? Are there other similar festivals around the world at the same time?
  • Jonathan Swift’s Dublin. Less famous Swift works.
  • Captain Bligh’s London. Captain Bligh’s Plymouth (if that’s where he was born).
  • What on earth is Sow Day?
  • A history of the WRNS. How does it compare now to 100 years ago?
  • Christabel Pankhurst’s Manchester. What did she do after the suffrage movement in the UK?

Don’t forget to let me know if you use any, and let me know how you go on with them.

Good luck!

Getting organised: Trello

Yesterday I realised I’d not done any writing in almost two weeks – not ANY writing at all …

… well, I lied. I *did* actually write the structure for a book proposal on 29 June, complete with outline ideas for a further 14 potential non-fiction books.

Obviously, I’m not going to be able to write 15 new non-fiction books any time soon. And many of the ideas may be rejected anyway. But I can do the book proposal for book one and include two books on the same broad topic as the three-book-option.  If the publisher likes all three, then he’ll give me the go ahead. If he only likes one or two, he’ll come up with suggestions for book(s) two and three himself.

And, of course, he could just hate the first proposal and it’ll be back to the drawing board. It’s good to know, though, that there are already 12 more waiting in the sidelines.

But it’s a start, and that’s the main thing.

Getting organised
After tidying up my diary and sorting out my workload yesterday, I did two more things:

  1. I updated my online T-card system
  2. I started a new think/query/write/submit

Because I’m very behind on the think/query/write/submit system, I’m coming up with ideas for all four: Feb 18/Jan 18/Dec 17/Nov 17.

Fave short story market is already looking for stories for October and November. I have one November short story that’s already doing the rounds. But if I can come up with new short stories very quickly that would be suitable for November publication, or if I can slant one I’m already working on to October or November (or December), then I’m halfway there.

For everything else, I have to start again from scratch.

Trello
And that brings me on to my online T-card system.

Because I *do* juggle so many different ideas and projects at a time (I get bored and need the variety), I tasked the poet with finding me some kind of online project management system.

The first one he came up with was a Gantt-type chart. I tried it, but it was too big and complicated for what I needed. Then I asked him to find some kind of T-card system instead. And he found Trello.

Does anyone remember using T-cards? I’ve used them in loads of jobs and find them very useful.

I use the free version, but there is a premium version too. This is what my main Trello board looks like:

The picture’s a bit small, but you might be able to see that I can “star” or “favourite” however many boards I want to. And I can share the boards with other people, or they can share their boards with me. Then I can copy T-cards from one board to another.

I’d like to be able to update just one card and it automatically update all other copies elsewhere. I don’t know yet if Trello does that or if it’s in the premium version. But if it does, then that would also be very useful for me.

I have a board for each of my editing and proofreading clients, I have a board for my own books, I have a board for my short material, and I have a master board for all the books I’m working on. This master board used to include short material too, but it just went on and on and on for ever…

Here is my own book board:

As you can see, there are a few books on there. The cut-off column to the right is books still in planning stages.

I choose to change the background colour of each of my boards. I can also colour-code the labels and I have a key to remind me. These coloured labels show me at a glance how far I’ve progressed for each project.

I’d like to be able to move short card-sections to beneath existing columns. At the moment each new list starts a new column so there’s wasted space beneath shorter sections. Again, that may be possible, but I haven’t found it yet.

Here is my short material board:

This has ALL of my short material on – short stories, articles, RTEs (reader’s true experience), fillers, reader’s letters, etc. At every stage of production. The “in progress” section goes below the screen area, but you can scroll down to view them all.

Again, the labels are colour coded.

Even the cards themselves can be edited to suit. You can add pictures, comments, details such as targeted word-count, target market, target fee, actual fee, and a to-do list, which I really, really like. You can also attach files…

Here is a close-up of a T-card for a short story that’s currently with a market:

(They’ve asked for a slight re-write, so I need to crack on with that this week.)

I’m not using it to its full capability, but this is enough for me. I can tell at a glance how far along in the production process it is.

The beauty of Trello, for me, is that I can access it and update it from anywhere online, even via the mobile phone. So as I’m in the habit of packing a notepad and pen and writing something wherever I end up, I can easily update how far along I am. I can see which of my short pieces is next on the to-do list (and I’ve probably taken a previous draft or any notes with me), and I can mark off whichever task or chore I’ve done.

If you fancy giving Trello a go, it’s free and you can do so by following this link. Let me know if you do and how you get along with it.

Do you have any online organisation tools you like to use?

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: 20 April 2016

Wahey! I seem to have made it on time this week! And what a busy week.

Wednesday 13 April 2016
On Wednesday I was back in the hot seat, trying to catch up with everything I’ve let slip. I wrote several blog posts, I did some band admin for Monkey Dust, and I edited a chapter of Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book 3.

Thursday 14 April 2016
On Thursday morning I pitched for a job and by the afternoon I’d won it. I wrote 1,059 words for a draft of a new short story. I did some gig list admin, and I completed the hard copy edit of a client’s book. On Thursday evening the poet had band practice, so I did the shopping then.

Friday 15 April 2016
On Friday I completed the job I’d won the day before (it was a very short children’s book) and I started the electronic edit of the client’s book.

Weekend
On Saturday, I completed the electronic edit of the client’s book. I don’t often work at the weekend, but I wanted this one of the desk so I could invoice for it. The poet’s band had a gig over in Doncaster Saturday evening.

On Sunday we visited the outlaws, and we went for a very short walk.

Monday 18 April 2016
First job today was to submit the book I’d finished on Saturday and get the invoice sent off. I wrote another short blog post and spent the rest of the day doing gig list admin, band admin and admin-admin.

Tuesday 19 April 2016
Yesterday we were busy having meetings and appointments again, but I did some job searching and pegged 10 jobs for further investigation.

Homework w/c 20 April 2016
I still have a lot of work to do that I didn’t manage last week. So here is a slightly updated to-do list for the coming week:

  • think/query/write/submit Nov/Oct/Sep/Aug
  • #2 short story – THE MYSTERY OF WOOLLEY DAM (draft 2)
  • #3 short story – SHAKING THE TREE (draft 3 – 1st typed draft)
  • continue editing BAGGINS BOTTOM BEST BITS BOOK 3
  • continue transferring to Scrivener CATCH THE RAINBOW

And I still have to reinstall those word-count meters …

What have you been up to this week?

Diary of a freelance writer: 13 April 2016

I can hardly believe that my last diary was on 23 March. We have been sooo busy, running around, again, doing all sorts. We’ve been having work meetings, business meetings, bureaucracy meetings, doctors appointments, hospital appointments. And when I just came to look in my diary to see what else I’ve managed to do in between, my diary was bare! 😮 How often is my diary bare?

I thought I’d have a go at filling in the gaps anyway, so … are you sitting comfortably …?

Wednesday 23 March 2016
On Wednesday 23 March the poet had a business meeting in Sheffield. So I went along for the ride, and took some work to do in the car while I waited. It must have been mostly reading, though, and walking the dog, as I don’t have any record anywhere of what I actually did.

I still managed the usual daily stuff before we went, including (apparently) 1,022 words for a blog post. That would probably be the diary for that day.

Thursday 24 March 2016
On Thursday morning it looks as though, once again, the usual daily chores were completed, including gig list admin.

Friday 25 – Monday 28 March 2016
On Good Friday we packed up the car and went off to Kingsbury in the West Midlands for a camping weekend, our first in our new blow-up tent. Before we went down, we went to visit the poet’s parents, and by tea time, we were pitched and settled but quite tired. We joined the Camping & Caravanning Club … but are still awaiting our membership details. That might be something to chase up.

On the Saturday, we went to visit my parents, thinking we could probably go walking or sightseeing afterwards … but the visit took the entire day. So once again, we were back at base for tea and not a lot else. On the way back, however, we did nip to Go Outdoors on the Kingsbury Road in Birmingham to buy a camp fire …

On Easter Sunday we did go for a walk to see the birds at Kingsbury Water Park in the morning. But by the afternoon we were thinking it might be worth decamping. The weekend had been unseasonally cold with very high winds, and higher winds and lower temperatures were forecast. We’d made the right decision, though. By the time we got back to Yorkshire it was snowing in the Midlands! And while I DO love the snow, I’d prefer not to be camping in it.

Easter Monday was spent recovering, recharging, putting things away and doing the washing.

At some point over the weekend, while we were away, I did write a few pages of reviews – 1 site review (343 words) and a review of the fire (136 words). So it wasn’t completely idle.

Tuesday 29 March – Friday 1 April 2016
For the Easter week following our camping expedition, the poet was off work and so we cracked on with some publishing. The paperback of Night Crawler: a Marcie Craig mystery was published, and the paperback of Twee Tales was repackaged, rebranded and republished, with a brand new cover.

On Friday 1 April, I wrote several blog posts about the publications, including one advising readers that the hardback of Night Crawler: a Marcie Craig mystery was now on general release. For those posts I managed a whopping 332 words.

This week I pitched for 15 editing or proofreading jobs.

Saturday 2 – Sunday 3 April 2016
After a bit of a break, Monkey Dust had a gig in Doncaster Saturday night

Monday 4 – Friday 8 April 2016
Last week was another week that I didn’t put anything in the diary beyond a doctor’s appointment and a nurse’s appointment. I have started to do surveys for cash, though, and I spent quite a lot of time sorting out the admin and payment methods for those. I also updated my daily competitions diary, to make it a bit more streamlined.

However, beyond reading (aka studying or market research), not much writing was done. In fact, NO writing was done … (sigh!)

Weekend
On Saturday Monkey Dust had a cancelled gig because the drummer’s son, who is also a drummer, was performing in his own band’s special record launch event in Doncaster. We went along to cheer him on, especially as he’s the poet’s godson, and had a nice night out.

On Sunday we were visiting again.

Monday 11 April 2016
And so to this week and my diary is back on track.

Monday started with all the usual admin jobs, gig list and chores, but most of the day was then spent editing a book for lovely-already-boss.

Tuesday 12 April 2016
Yesterday was another day of appointments and much of the day was lost. When I got back, though, it was the usual morning admin jobs that were caught up with.

Today I pitched for 9 new editing or proofreading jobs.

Homework w/c 13 April 2016
My work this week will need to be the think/query/write/submit for April, as I’m a little behind. As much of this was already done at the start of last month, though, it will be a smaller job with fewer throwaways, if any.

Here’s the to-do list for the coming week:

  • think/query/write/submit Nov/Oct/Sep/Aug
  • finish current edit for lovely-already-boss
  • #1 short story – MARTHA’S FAVOURITE DOLL (draft 1)
  • #2 short story – THE MYSTERY OF WOOLLEY DAM (draft 2)
  • #3 short story – SHAKING THE TREE (draft 3 – 1st typed draft)
  • continue editing BAGGINS BOTTOM BEST BITS BOOK 3
  • continue transferring to Scrivener CATCH THE RAINBOW

I’m going to need to reinstall the word-count meters …