Archive for category Writing

How to Make Money as a Writer – plus A Giveaway!

In my previous post I mentioned doing a Zoom Novel Writing course in the hope of reigniting my enthusiasm for writing. The course did make me write a chapter of a brand new story (hurray!) and I got to know Jacci Turner, the lovely course tutor from Northern Nevada. She has some wise advice to share with us plus an exciting giveaway, over to Jacci:

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Sally through an online writing class and she is delightful, plus a very strong writer. We decided to collaborate on a fun project. My latest book, Tree Singer, which is a Young Adult Fantasy, is now out on Audible and I’ve been given fifty free coupons to give to people to listen and hopefully write reviews.Tree Singer by Jacci Turner

The thing is half of these people need to live in the UK. So, we decided to offer 20 free copies of the audio to the first 20 people to write a comment on this post on Sally’s blog. Sally also invited me to share a bit about writing with you, so here goes:

How to Make Money as a Writer

  1. Don’t quit your day job. I say this in the kindest possible way. To put financial pressure on your creativity is a creativity killer. I’ve worked an extra job just to afford my writing habit. It takes time, energy, and a great deal of hard work to become a successful writer but adding the pressure of paying the bills could stop you cold. So, allow yourself the luxury of working until you’re bringing in a livable wage from your writing. Full disclosure, this has not happened for me yet.
  2. Network with other writers. Belonging to a writing group is a huge support for writers emotionally and a way to better your craft. But a bonus is the marketing. As you build relationships you can share activities like tabling (i.e. sharing a table to sell books at fairs and other events), book launches, conferences, and speaking engagements with your friends. You support them and they will support you. It’s synergy to move your writing to the next level.
  3. Diversify your craft. Look into places you can teach what you know. Local community colleges are a great place to start. Libraries often host writers and sometimes allow them to sell books. Local bookstores might also allow you in for a book signing, or to read to children, or teach a writing class. All of this builds your author brand and gets your name out.
  4. Use social media to your advantage. You don’t have to use all of it, just find one that works for you and stick with it. Each one is different, Facebook is for older people, LinkedIn for business, Twitter uses hashtags to find likeminded topics, Instagram is for pictures and short videos, TikTok is all video and you can use #booktok and #authortok to connect. These are extended networks to help you find others who might invite you to write on their blogs or do an author interview with you. I’ve been invited to do several of these through social media. headshot
  5. Don’t forget to look for grants or enter contests. Where I live, we have the Nevada Arts Council and the Sierra Nevada Arts foundation. I’ve applied for grants with both of them and have received several. Contests are fun and give you bragging rights you can use in your marketing.

In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, keep writing, exploring, connecting, and doing what you love. Hopefully the income will follow.

Many thanks, Jacci! I particularly agree with the networking advice – it helps so much to know that you are not alone!

If you would like a coupon for an Audible audiobook of Tree Singer and are based in the UK, please leave a comment below. The first 20 people to comment will receive the coupons. 
This opportunity closes at midnight BST on Saturday 30th July 2022. Comments left after this date will not be eligible for a coupon. Leaving a comment on this post means that you are happy for your email address to be passed to Jacci for the purpose of sending out the Audible coupon. It will not be used for anything else.

 

, , ,

7 Comments

Keeping On, Keeping On

“Keeping On, Keeping On,” said Alan Bennett. But I’m wondering whether that is always the right thing to do? Should there come a point when it’s best to draw a line in the sand, say, “I tried my best”, and then move onto something else?

I’m going through a dry patch in my writing. You may remember me telling you that I had a second book on submission with my agent and was keeping my fingers crossed. As with the earlier novel, this one also failed to find a home with one of the big publishers. I suggested trying both books with the smaller, digital first publishers. My agent felt unable to add much to this process and therefore we agreed that I would proceed down this route un-agented. I have submitted to several places but, as of this moment, nothing has come of it.
I’ve put a lot of work into getting so near, but yet so far. People tell me that I did well to get taken on by one of the best agents in the country. I understand that and I learned a lot from the process. But it’s still very difficult to get re-enthused about starting all over again on another novel that might also never see the light of day.
I’ve considered returning to short stories and have managed to write two. One’s gone off to a competition and the other one is waiting for a final edit before I try it with The People’s Friend. However, the short story market has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, so I’m not feeling optimistic.
And, at the moment, the article pitches seem to be landing on deaf ears after a good run of successes.

On a more positive note, I am two weeks into a free Zoom novel-writing course run by Jacci Turner. She’s running the course in the US at 10 am, which is a convenient 6 pm BST but there is an Australian in the cohort joining from a darkened house at 2:30 am! I’m hoping this course might re-ignite my passion and enthusiasm.

But in the meantime I’d love to hear your opinion/advice:
Should I continue ‘keeping on, keeping on’ as a writer or call it a day and find something else? How do you cope with dry patches like this?

, ,

18 Comments

Still Waiting for News

Slo-cooker marmalade

Last November I mentioned my novel was out on submission. It still is. Off it went to seven publishers and the responses have dribbled back. So far there have been four rejections and three publishers still to hear from. For many of us ‘getting an agent’ is the pinnacle for which we aim and we assume that after we’ve achieved that, everything will fall into place and we will become successful, traditionally published authors. Be warned: that is not always the case! However, hope springs eternal …

In the meantime I’m finding it hard to focus on a brand new novel and my ability to write short stories seems to have gone AWOL. So I’m keeping my writing brain in gear by producing short articles for The People’s Friend and the Mirthy website. Obviously this is not as glamorous as having a novel published but at least I’m no longer writing on spec and am getting paid for my words.

I am also considering doing Alison May’s ‘Re-ignite Your Creativity and Find Your Voice’ online course in order to kick the fiction part of my brain back into gear. But first I need to find some space between the day jobs and my other commitments …

In other news, we’ve been making marmalade in our house.

My husband and I do this every year and it takes hours of simmering the peel and filling the kitchen with steam. This year we used the slo-cooker to cook the peel overnight and it made things a lot easier, quicker and kept the windows free of condensation. The recipe is here – a bit late for this year’s Seville oranges but, if you’re a marmalade love, save it for next year.

, , ,

15 Comments

The Magic Faraway Tree and Two Free Writing Opportunities

I heard on the news today that Jacqueline Wilson is to write new stories in The Magic Faraway Tree series, originally created by Enid Blyton. On the Today program she said, “I’m being very very faithful to the whole situation that Enid Blyton set up with this wonderfully original idea about a tree that reaches up to different lands. I have three modern children going into the Enchanted wood, up the tree, meeting Silky, Moon-Face etc. and then going up and finding the different lands. So the magic world stays the same and if anybody reads this new book when it comes out I very much hope that they will go back to the others.”
I’ve mentioned before that I loved The Magic Faraway Tree books as a child so I’m in two minds about the new, modern stories being written. I don’t see how they can contain the same magic if the children are eating pizza rather than pink blancmange. But if the new books are a hit with today’s youngsters and get them reading (as they did me, way back when) then they have to be a good thing.
What do you think?

If you’re scratching your head and wondering what writing project to tackle next, a couple of free competitions have come to my notice:

The Fusilli Writing Flash Fiction Competition is looking for Fusillistories up to 200 words with a twist.
There is no closing date but the winner and short-listed entrants will be announced once 100 entries have been received (website shows details of how many entries have been received so far). No prize except publication on the Fusilli website and promotion on social media. Plus there is the opportunity to purchase feedback for £3.

The Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing 2022 is looking for one-act plays of 25 to 35 minutes from amateur playwrights. The plays should use a maximum of six actors and be suitable for a studio theatre. Three winning scripts will be performed during the Windsor Fringe Festival in October and the overall winner will receive a £500 prize. Entry is £10 BUT if “BBC Writers Room” is written on the top right hand corner of the contact sheet accompanying the play, no submission fee is required. More details about the waiving of the fee can be found on the BBC Writers Room website.

, , , ,

Leave a comment

Writing as a Team (or The Importance of a Weapons Cabinet)

Most of us write alone but occasionally successful writing partnerships come to the fore. James Patterson regularly co-authors novels and his latest partners have included Bill Clinton and Dolly Parton. C. L. Raven are identical twins who write horror stories together. Good Omens was written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Madeleine Purslow and her brother, Robin, recently published The Field of Reeds: In Shadows (Children of Bastet Book 1).
Today Madeleine and Robin have kindly agreed to spill the beans on the sometimes vicious experience of writing with a sibling.

So, co-authoring a novel. How does that work? Hmmm, let me introduce you to the weapons cabinet…
Picture, if you will, an antique cabinet in the corner of the room, ornate and a bit dusty. Now, open the doors. They protest a little, they groan, they could do with a spot of oil. Inside though… now, that’s unexpected, every kind of weapon you can think of, softly shining in the half-light. The weapons are all in perfect order and ready for use at a moment’s notice.
Got it? Great, hold that thought, we’ll come back to it in a minute. Small Maddie Guest Blog Photo
So, writing is a solitary thing, isn’t it? You take yourself away from other human beings for hours on end. Go deep inside your own head and stay there.
Stephen King said, writing is actually a form of telepathy. You take words, images, emotions and transfer them from one mind to another. Well, if that works between a writer and a reader, there is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t work between two writers.
Well, perhaps not absolutely no reason…
Unless you really, get on well with your potential co-author, don’t even think about it. It has been said, that the best way to break up a friendship, is for two people to go on holiday together. I have a better one, try writing together.
If you are writing with someone else and you are both convinced that you have just come up with the best possible way to express what you are trying to say, who’s words do you use?
That’s where the weapons cabinet comes in…
You have to fight it out. Maybe with twin swords? Or, sneaky, ninja, throwing stars? Even a ball point pen can be lethal in the right hands…
Eventually, a compromise, the best of both worlds. Two brains really can be better than one. They had better be brains that genuinely like each other though. Whatever wounds you inflict in the heat of battle, you have to be able to live with afterwards.
So, what about the nuts and bolts? Well, it starts with huge brain storming sessions, lots of notes and a lot of laughing. You build the world, the shared playground and agree on a writing style.
Then, it may be that we take a chapter each, go away and write it. Or, if we are really unsure about how a chapter should go, then we both write the same chapter and ‘swap papers,’ like doing a test at school. Then we… Did you hear the creak, as the weapons cabinet doors opened?
Boundaries are also important, recognising who does what best. If you know your co-author is better at dialogue, or spooky atmospheres, or has a real feel for a particular character, then, you do what serves the story. After a trip to the weapons cabinet, obviously.
So, there you are. This blog has been brought to you after a short but vicious fight, by the gestalt brain that is Madrob, or possibly Robeleine. We have to decide which. Excuse us for a moment, we are just going to the weapons cabinet…

About The Field of Reeds: In Shadows (Children of Bastet Book 1):

Smallest Maddie Field of Reeds in Shadows 5 x 8 book one

When Priah, Captain of Cats, began her night patrol, everything was as it had always been. The sleeping streets of ancient Bubastis were quiet, dark and still.
Then it came… death came… sorcery came.
Before dawn, Priah’s life would be forever changed…
In Bubastis, the holy city of the cat Goddess Bastet, a secret enemy stalks the streets after dark, killing indiscriminately. As this seemingly unstoppable foe spreads terror, it falls to Captain of Cats, Priah to halt it in its tracks. She embarks on a quest to do just that, with the help of the newly arrived stranger cat, The Alexandrian. Together, their journey will lead them through magic and dangers and ultimately beyond life itself.
The Field of Reeds: In Shadows, is set in a fantastical world inspired by ancient Egypt, a stylized version of every cat’s original homeland. Here, cats have a hierarchy. They tell heroic tales of “the days of the beginning.” They communicate with and live alongside humans, in a secretive parallel existence, as advisers, spies and allies.
This is the first book in an epic fantasy series, that takes the ‘talking animal,’ genre to a very different place. A place full of heart and heroism, extraordinary things extraordinary deeds and extraordinary characters.
Death stalks the dark streets of Bubastis and they are the only hope of salvation…

, ,

Leave a comment

Write a New Chapter for Alice in Wonderland

The Lewis Carroll Society is launching a writing competition to commemorate 150 years of ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ and to celebrate the creativity of Lewis Carroll. The award is part of the bequest from Ellis S Hillman who was the first President of the Lewis Carroll Society in 1969.

The challenge is to write a ‘missing’ chapter for either Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or for Through the Looking-Glass. The chapter can introduce new characters or re-use existing characters. It can create new scenarios or follow from an existing scenario.

The competition is free to enter and offers a prize of £100 in each of three different age groups (including adults).

The closing date is 3rd July 2021 which coincides with Alice’s Day in Oxford.

Full competition details can be found on the Lewis Carroll Society website.

So, scoot down the nearest rabbit hole, take tea with the Mad Hatter and let your imagination take flight!

,

2 Comments

An Update on Me

I’ve been rather quiet about my own literary endeavours of late, so here’s a quick update.

Cup Cakes

Pre-Covid Memories from March 2020

At the beginning of February the first three chapters and synopsis of last year’s NaNoWriMo manuscript generated a call for the full manuscript from my agent. Since then I’ve been working on bringing the rest of the manuscript up to scratch. Today I pressed ‘send’ and now have around six weeks to wait for the verdict. 

I’ve also completed a training course (via Zoom) to become a Shared Reading Group Leader. I’m looking forward to the end of restrictions and the opportunity to get a real-life group started.

So what do I do while I wait for the above two things to come to fruition? I’ve made a little list of possibilities. They won’t all get done but, hopefully, the list will mean I don’t waste too much time procrastinating:

  • Complete article commissioned by The People’s Friend
  • Chase up pitches outstanding with other publications.
  • Attempt to win my way to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School by entering their short story competition.
  • Publish my short story collections on Kobo when the relevant KDP Select enrolments end. This will involve sourcing new covers. Kobo cited the existing covers as a factor in stopping the books being accepted into their promotions. 
  • Investigate whether I have enough short stories to publish another collection.
  • Revisit the categories/keywords on my existing KDP publications.
  • Update Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners.

Watch this space to find out how I get on!

What’s everyone else working on? Are you a list-person or do you just go where the whim takes you?

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

The Short Story Synopsis – How to Get It Right

Much is written about crafting the novel synopsis and agent pitch but there’s far less on how to sell a short story to the women’s magazine market via a synopsis.
Writer, S. Bee has put together some good tips for those of us trying to make sales in this ever decreasing market. Here is her advice:

Six UK women’s magazines require a short synopsis – either with the story itself, or before the story is submitted.

  • The regular, fortnightly Yours
  • The Yours Fiction Special
  • Take a Break’s Fiction Feast. (N.B. This has a closed writer’s list and takes all rights.)
  • Spirit & Destiny. This magazine requires a story pitch upfront. If they like the sound of the story, they ask for it to be emailed for consideration. They also take all rights to accepted stories.
  • My Weekly require a brief synopsis to head up the story. This magazine has a closed writer’s list.
  • During the current lockdown, The People’s Friend is asking for writers who have previously been published by the magazine to email a synopsis. Writers new to the magazine should continue to submit by post.

Possible reasons editors ask for a short story synopsis:

S. Bee

S. Bee

  • It allows the editor to quickly see what kind of story it is – sweet romance/comedy/crime/revenge, etc.
  • It explains the plot, so the editor can decide whether or not the story will work for that magazine.
  • It’s useful for the illustrator/picture editor – so consider including significant details about the age and appearance of characters or the location.

Below are six steps to getting the synopsis right:

  1. Keep to the word count. If the guidelines ask for 200 words, don’t ramble on. Don’t start with: ‘This is a story about…’ Provide a clear outline of the story from start, middle and end.
  2. Do I reveal the ending? There is some debate around this. Some writers do (I’m one of them) but some choose not to. It’s entirely up to you.
  3. Run it past a womag writer/ reader friend before submitting. Asking other womag writers to read your work before submitting is useful. I run a womag writers’ email critique group; we read each other’s work and give constructive feedback. Not only can others point out the flaws in the story, they might be able to spot the flaws in your synopsis too.
  4. Themes/ Genres There’s no need to include the theme or a genre in your synopsis. The word count matters, so don’t fill your lines with: ‘This is an empty nest/ moving on/ dealing with bereavement story.’
  5. Get to the point Imagine you are an aspiring scriptwriter who steps into a lift with a movie producer. You have an amazing opportunity to pitch your story – but only 30 seconds to do it. Cut the waffle and focus on the chain of events in your story: The main character has a problem/conflict. How do they overcome this problem? What complicates it? How is it solved?
  6. Get over the dread writing of them. It can seem like a synopsis cruelly chops our work down and removes the heart of the story. But without it, there’s no chance of a sale to the above magazines. The more synopses you write, the more confident you’ll become.

Women’s magazine writer, TW, has kindly provided me with an example synopsis:

Music manager Ross King is visited in his office by Beth and Sam, who are members of one of his most successful pop acts.
Beth and Sam are in their early twenties, slim, blonde and beautiful. They are very excited, as they have met a potential new member of the group, Penny. Ross has a shock when Penny enters the office, as although she is also slim, blonde and beautiful, she is over forty. Ross thinks the group’s young fans won’t accept an older woman as part of the group. He’s forced by politeness to watch Penny audition (sing and dance) and recognises that she is very talented. After some tough argument, Ross agrees that Penny can join the group.
The girls are so keen on her joining them that Ross suspects – rightly – that there is something they are not telling him about Penny, and at the end of the story the girls reveal what this is.

The above story was published in Take a Break’s Fiction Feast. Note that the twist ending wasn’t revealed in the synopsis.

Practice makes perfect. Writing a synopsis – whether it’s for a short story, a novel, article or a play – is a specific, highly valued skill. Give it a go and increase your chances of a story sale!

 

Paws for ThoughtS. Bee is the brains behind the lively short story anthology Paws for Thought. It is available on Kindle and raises money for the RSPCA.
To find out more about S. Bee and her critique group, Fiction Addition, please visit her website.

Don’t forget there’s lots more information about writing fiction for women’s magazines at https://womagwriter.blogspot.com/

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

A Few Interesting Nuggets

I’ve had a day of writing events.

First up was a writers’ networking meeting organised by Writing West Midlands:
The chief executive, Jonathan Davidson, explained how the selection process for the writer development program Room 204 works – each year there are around 150 people for 15 places, but a worthwhile scheme for ’emerging writers’ if you can make the grade.
The Arts Council England is now open again for applications for Developing Your Creative Practice – grants from £2000 to £10000 are available, but be quick because they close on 5th November.
And a reminder about the free courses offered by Futurelearn and be edX.

Then it was off to Bristol Literature Festival and Build Your Social Media Presence with Tom Mason. He told us that social media posts that include images get 150% more engagement than those without. He recommended using Lumen5 to create mini promotional videos to use with social media and Canva for graphics.

Next up in Bristol was a panel discussion between Phoebe Morgan, editorial director at Harper Collins, literary agent Kate Hordern and book blogger, Anne Cater. Phoebe explained the importance of the hook – it is the selling point to an agent, on to a publisher and then on to supermarkets and book shops. It’s also essential that the book fits a recognised genre, otherwise even the best written book is likely to fall by the wayside. Kate Hodern echoed the importance of hook and genre and mentioned the usefulness of being able to draw comparisons between your book and others already out there. She added that younger agents are often more hungry to take on new writers than older, more established agents who already have a large stable of writers. Anne Cater gave an explanation about the blog tours that she runs for both mainstream publishers and indie authors. She and Phoebe both agreed that, hot on the heel’s of Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club, cosy crime is likely to be the next big thing. There was a general consensus that psychological thrillers are still hugely popular but to be successful, they need to be better than the books being published five years ago and need to offer the reader something different to what has gone before.

Please take the above nuggets and use them as you see fit!

Finally, a couple of months ago I recommended Readly for accessing a multitude of magazines digitally. I now have a link offering you a two month trial subscription if you fancy trying it out: Readly 2 Month Trial. The link is valid until 31/10/2020.

, ,

2 Comments

A Zoom Writing Retreat

Although lockdown is gradually easing, there are still lots of things we can’t do. Groups meeting together indoors is one of them. This has led to the rise and rise of Zoom, video conferencing software that most of us had never heard of at the beginning of March but now use regularly. I take part in Speakers’ Club and Shared Reading on Zoom. We have family catch-ups and quizzes and there’s been guided alcohol tasting too!

On Saturday I tried something new – an all-day Writers’ Retreat on Zoom.

It was organised by Sophy Dale of Fully Booked and ran from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. There were around twenty of us online and Sophy stopped any chaotic, cross conversation by keeping us all on mute. Instead of speaking we typed in the chat box a few sentences about what we intended working on. This included novels, short stories, blog posts, a translation and a guided meditation, among other things. For those who didn’t have a project in mind, Sophy provided writing prompts and also offered guidance to anyone who was struggling or had questions.

Introductions and explanations over, Sophy set a timer for 45 minutes, we all minimised the Zoom window and started writing.

Zoom Writing Retreat

Timed 45 Minute Writing Sprints

It’s amazing how a defined time limit and the knowledge that others are beavering away too helps creativity! I focused on the chapter I was writing and the words came quickly.
After 45 minutes we were all called back together to add more comments to the chat window and then take a five minute comfort break before the next writing sprint. At lunchtime Sophy gave us an hour away from the screen and encouraged us to get some fresh air (I mowed the lawn, which went some way to cancelling out the ‘guilt’ I felt for spending a whole day on writing).

Through the course of the day we had five writing sprints. I switched from churning out words to reviewing the structure of the story and ironing out parts of the plot that didn’t work.

At the end of the afternoon there was time for comments on the day and everyone deemed it thoroughly beneficial. Sophy is planning on doing it all again sometime later in the year.

It struck me that a retreat like this would be easily organised by a group of writing friends – but it would require someone to have the paid-for version of Zoom. I fear the continuity of the retreat would be lost if participants had to keep logging into a new meeting every 40 minutes!

, , ,

5 Comments