Thursday, March 20, 2008

Quick Wins are great morale boosters!

I'm currenly outlining a non-fiction book I hope to interest a publisher in, about being a positively productive writer. Freelance writing is one of those careers where more often than not, we are rejected, rather than accepted. It's hard trying to remain positive when the postman has delivered today's envelopes of 'thanks, but no thanks' replies.

Often though, to remain positive, all you need is 'something' no matter how small. A letter or joke and cheque for a few pounds can completely change your day and keep you motivated. Best of all, letters can be written quickly, (although I would still advise you to put them aside for a day if you can before you send them off).

My of my new students, Julia, recently sent me an email:

I sent a short letter and photo to My Weekly in the first two weeks of starting the course. Today I received a copy of the magazine with my printed letter, followed by a £25 cheque, so I'm really chuffed!

You can tell from the language and the tone of Julie's email that she's on a high now, and deservedly so.

One of my other students, Dave, is much further on through the course, but he continues to send the small filler material and letters off, even though he's now achieving publication in article format in magazines ranging from The Lady to Paranormal. I have had another two lurid jokes published in "That's Life!" and received two £15 cheques.

Importantly, further on in his email, Dave says I also intend to send a constant barrage of jokes to "That's Life!"

I believe this to be a good philosophy. These small amounts of money soon mount up into substantial sums, but the written work produced also mounts up into a portfolio of published pieces. Keep everything that you have published, no matter how small, and put it in a folder. Then whenever you have a bad day and feel down, get your folder out and remind yourself that you CAN do it.

All it takes is a letter a day, to keep despondency at bay!

Good luck.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Lady Luck works In mysterious ways

Firstly, congratulations to one of my previous students, John for having a letter published in the March issue of Freelance Market News. In it, he tells of an opportunity that arose, quite by chance when he went to a local church fair in order to write a short piece for his local newspaper. Whilst walking around, John was approached by a woman who asked if he was a reporter. Confirming that he was, she asked if he would be interested in writing about her and the work that she does with orphaned children. As a result of being in the right place at the right time, John's now interested a couple of editor's in articles about this woman.

One of my other students, Ros, recently discovered that lady luck works in mysterious ways. Traveling by train, she'd been subject to the usual delays that occur when errant lorry drivers decide to drive into bridge supports! Sitting around the table, she soon began chatting to the other passengers, when the topic of conversation moved to what line of work everybody was in. Ros said she was a writer undertaking a correspondence course, and the gentleman sitting next to her asked her what she was writing. Now Ros has a big biographical project that she's working on, and she told her fellow listeners the brief details behind it. Well, would you believe it, but the bloke sitting next to her gave her his card and has asked to see the first three chapters and a synopsis. Yes! Ros was only sitting next to a publisher! All I can say is that that must have been the only train on the entire British train network with a destination of cloud 9, because that's certainly where Ros got off! She's busy working, honing her first 3 chapters, in preparation for submission.

Now many readers will see both of these situations as lady luck just breezing in and changing people's lives. I disagree. It's not luck that made John sit down and chat to the woman and then formulate 2 ideas to approach editors with. It's not luck that is making Ros sit down and hone her chapters. Yes, both students have identified the opportunities, BUT both students are also working hard to maximise those opportunities. 

So next time an opportunity presents itself at your feet, rejoice that lady luck has worked with you in this way. Then sit down, and start working hard with what she's given you. That's the only way to benefit from the opportunity. 

Good luck.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pictures, pictures, pictures

The old cliche says that a picture paints a thousand words, but in this writing game, a picture can help to sell your thousand words. 

As soon as I started supplying pictures with my articles, I found my success rate improve drastically. Now, over the years, I've continued to learn as much as I can about photography, and I have a Digital SLR camera. This means that I can provide editors with high quality, A3 pictures, capable of being used for double-paged spreads. Country & Border Life magazine regularly begin my walking features with such a double page spread. I was surprised this month to find that the magazine had used one of my pictures on the front cover.

However, you don't need a fancy camera to take pictures. When you analyse a magazine's words, take time to look at the pictures too. How big do they use them? Many magazines use relatively small images, less than 6x4 size. Most instamatic type cameras are more than capable of producing images of this size suitable for magazine production. 

When out taking pictures, the golden rule is FILL THE FRAME. Don't have the stately home looking like a rabbit hutch in in amongst a sea of countryside. Zoom in and make the building fill the picture.

"But I don't have a camera!" I hear you cry. Don't worry. It's still possible to supply a complete words and pictures package. I've written several articles where the Press Relations department of a company have been able to supply me with the pictures. Organisations such as The Royal Yacht Britannia, The Landmark Trust and the clothing company, Hawkshead have all been able to help me out with pictures. If you're writing an article which provides good publicity for a company, many will be more than willing to help out.

I'm just reading the current issue of Writers News magazine and inside, two editors are making the point. Martin Smith of Railway Bylines magazine says, "It doesn't matter how good an article is, if I can source appropriate photographs, I can't use it." Notice how the editor says 'source' appropriate photographs.  Even if you can't supply the images yourself, if you know where an editor may be able to find suitable images, then give them the contact details.

Laura Quiggan of Cat World magazine says that she is always happy to receive reader's stories, and factual articles especially when accompanied by high resolution digital images

How many letters pages do you see these days where a picture can be found alongside?

So you see, getting published these days not only means producing the right words for the right publication. You also need to be thinking about the pictures as well.

Good luck.