Friday, 28 May 2010

Away for a few days

We're off cycling and camping for the next few days so pray for fine weather for us!

Meanwhile, the second shortlisted story for the SW award is up at Strictly Writing, so do go and take a look.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Perform it!

My 12-year old son wants to be an actor. (He has a bit of talent, particularly for humour and characterisation, so, who knows? Maybe he'll be the first ginger-haired Doctor Who!)

He decided recently he wasn't good enough at reading aloud, and thought that improving this skill would help his acting abilities. So for the first time in several years, I'm called upon to listen to him read a few pages every bedtime. We sit side by side on his bed, and he reads from The Hobbit, complete with different voices for each character (growls for the dwarves, squeaks for Bilbo, magisterial for Gandalf and something very strange and eerie for Gollum).

It's interesting to spot the sentences he stumbles on. While I adore Tolkien's work, his prose isn't the most flowing-most, you have to admit. Even in The Hobbit, which was written for children, there are some run-on sentences and strange constructions. You gloss over these when you read it in your head - it does make sense so you skip over the difficulties of the sentence construction.

But, how much better could it be if those awkwardnesses were ironed out? How much more pleasurable would it be to read? Well, it's too late for Tolkien and admittedly, it's not done his sales any harm. But what about your work? Your just-finished story, that you're considering sending off to Take A Break or Woman's Weekly once you've printed it off? How does it sound? Have you read it aloud? No? Why not?

Reading aloud uses a different part of your brain than reading in your head. The words have got to get from eyes through brain to mouth, where they have to be properly formed in the correct order.

Pick a quiet moment if you're shy, when everyone else is out of the house. Print off a copy of your story, stand up, and read it to an imaginary audience. (Or, if you're braver and a member of a writing circle, take it to the next meeting and read it there.)

Awkward sentences will you can be sure stand out especially if they could do with more punctuation (like this one). Run-on sentences (as this one will be) being those which start talking about one subject and end up being about another will stand out because by the time you get to the end of it you will find you are completely out of breath even if you are a trained opera singer with an amazing control of your voice like Katherine Jenkins and what has she got to do with the subject of this post anyway? You'll notice if your character name changes and Katherine Jenkins becomes Kathryn Jennings or, worse, Pamela Smith. If your story has too much description, or takes pages to get going, you'll spot that too, as you or your audience will have nodded off before you get to the climax. And alarming accidental alliteration will tie your tongue in knots, so you'll notice that too.

So, when submitting a story: before you post it, perform it. Read your story aloud, deal with the bits you stumble over, count this as the final edit. If it reads smoother aloud, it'll flow beautifully when read silently.

Which means you'll stand a better chance of selling it.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Turn your Rejections into Sales

Well, that's what we all want to do, isn't it?

Della Galton runs a course in which each participant intensively workshops a rejected story. She'll help you see what's wrong with it, and how to improve it, so you can send it out again with increased chances of having it accepted. And you pick up so many tips and ideas from joining in the discussions about everyone else's stories too.

The next date for this course is Saturday, 3rd July. It will run in Kinson, north Bournemouth. If you're at all within reach of Bournemouth, I can thoroughly recommend taking this course.

For further information or to book, email or see Della's website.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Sally's Top Tips for Pocket Novels

If you're interested in writing for the Pocket Novel market, take a look at this post where Sally Q passes on her wisdom and knowledge. She began writing pocket novels only recently, but so far every one she's written has been snapped up by My Weekly. The first of them has also been purchased by a large print publisher, which means plenty of PLR payments heading Sally's way in the future.

Monday, 10 May 2010

What to do when you don't get paid

This is such a thorny topic. But for some of us, writing is our job, and the income from it is what puts food on the table. So delays in being paid for accepted pieces can hit hard.

Usually, everything goes smoothly, and magazines pay when they say they will pay. Some magazines pay on acceptance - so shortly after the piece is accepted you should get your money. However do remember publishers may have a single end-of-month accounts run, so don't expect the money instantly. 'On acceptance' might actually mean 'end of the month in which the piece was accepted, or possibly end of the following month if it was accepted late in the month'.

Other magazines pay on publication. Again, 'on publication' might not mean 'the instant the magazine hits the shops', but could mean 'end of the month in which the magazine hits the shops, or possibly end of the following month depending on how up-to-date the accounts department are with their work'.

So don't hold your breath.

But sometimes it all goes horribly wrong. Maybe the magazine is putting a new accounts system in place. Or maybe there's been some other change of process, or a change in personnel. Or perhaps something's gone wrong with the actual payment process, and the magazine staff think they've paid you but the money hasn't arrived in your account.

Whatever, if enough time has passed and still no sign of payment, you're going to have to chase it up. I know we all get scared at the thought of contacting an editor and saying, um, excuse me, but can I have my money please? but that's what you must do. The editor will forward your email or letter on to the accounts department, and hopefully they will sort it out or get in touch. It might take several goes, and it's very frustrating (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt) but you are entitled to that money so you must keep at it.

So, how do you go about chasing payment? Well, to borrow from an article by April Aragam in the latest issue of The New Writer (in which, by the way, there is also an excellent article by Sally Quilford who asks Do Ghosts Kiss? - you're going to have to subscribe to the magazine to find out what that's all about!) try sending an email with the subject 'Payment Query' or similar, to the editor, worded something like this:

Dear (editor)
My story (title) was accepted/published on (date) and I was wondering if payment is on the way. Thank you for your time.
(your name and contact details)

Keep it short, keep it polite, keep it to the point. If you don't get an instant response, don't worry. The editor may be looking into it, or might have forwarded it to someone else to deal with, or maybe they are on holiday. If no response at all in a fortnight, send another mail asking politely if the editor has had chance to look into this yet.

What also happens sometimes, is that payment which should be sent automatically to your bank account gets rejected because not enough bank details were provided. Sadly, this seems to happen quite often with payments from overseas magazines. It's happened to me - I received an advice slip saying a magazine had paid me, but the money didn't reach my account though I kept checking. Eventually I had to query it, and then had to resend all my bank details. Then finally the payment arrived. So do check (especially if it's your first sale to a magazine) that you've provided all the details they need, and that the details are correct. Even if you're sure you sent the right details, send them again. And keep at it until you get that money.

It's frustrating, it's horrible to have to do, but selling stories is a business transaction. You kept up your side of the transaction, and provided the story. The magazine must keep up their side, and pay you. OK, things go wrong sometimes, but when they do, and you've chased payment, then the onus is on the magazine staff to sort it out and make sure you get paid. So don't let them forget about you!

I hope most blog readers will never have to refer to this advice. But unfortunately I know of a few who've been fighting for payment from different magazines for some time. Hopefully their payment issues will be sorted out soon.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

New wallpaper and Brenda Carter again

Well I seem to have confused everyone with this new colour scheme - sorry about that, but I was bored with the old look! Hope you like it. (If you all hate it I suppose I shall have to change it back again....)

Old Kitty left a message under the last post saying Brenda Carter's story is in last week's My Weekly. Remember Brenda? Thanks for letting me know, Kitty. I'm hoping my mum's still got last week's My Weekly - am desperate to read that story! Well done once again, Brenda.

Short Story Radio

I was sent a press release today (you know your blog's really arrived, when people send you press releases to post up!) about Short Story Radio. The winner of their first romantic short story competition is now available to listen to online. And their second romance competition is now open for entries (£5 to enter, £50 prize plus your story featured on the website, deadline November 2010).

Winner of the first romance competition is a name we should all be familiar with if we've been researching our market properly - Linda Mitchelmore. Well done Linda!

Anyway, here's the full text of the press release. It certainly looks worth investigating. Note the competition judge is Pat Richardson who used to be fiction editor at best, back in the good old days when they accepted fiction.

The sunny South of France, good food and wine, and a romantic Frenchman...
New award winning romantic fiction story available to listen to free of charge from PCs and MP3 players.

Romantic fiction enthusiasts can listen to a new two-part romance story online. The winning story of the Short Story Radio Romance Award 2010 is now being broadcast from
Short Story Radio producer Ian Skillicorn says: "Millions of readers around the world enjoy reading romance stories and now they can listen to an enchanting romance on their pc or MP3 player, free of charge."

The winning story, All Good Things by Linda Mitchelmore, is broadcast on Short Story Radio's website and podcast. It tells the story of Crissy, a fortysomething divorcee who meets a Frenchman on the plane to a holiday in Antibes. Linda explains that the inspiration for the story came during a stay with friends who live in the south of France: "I was overwhelmed by all the colours, scents and sights, and the general ambience of the place. I thought what a wonderful place it would be to re-think one's life and one's love.....and this story came from that."

The Award's shortlist judge, Pat Richardson of Perfectly Worded Writing and Editing Consultancy, and former Fiction Editor at best magazine, describes All Good Things as "a truly romantic tale which warms and lifts the heart." Pat continues: "I was delighted to be asked to judge the shortlisted entries for this new award, and greatly enjoyed reading the final five. I was impressed by the originality and creativity shown by all five finalists but the winning story stood out from the start."

Submissions for the Short Story Radio Romance Award 2011 are now being accepted and details are available on the website.

Listen to All Good Things by clicking here.

You might also like to check out the writing and editing consultancy Pat Richardson now runs - here.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Free books!

Don't you just love free book giveaways? This one's from Sally Zigmond, author of Hope Against Hope (and author of the Short Story tutorial I linked to yesterday). Go here to find out how you could win a copy of her book. Which I've read, and can thoroughly recommend, by the way!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Short Story Tutorial

If you're new to writing short stories and would like to learn how, or if you've been writing them for years but believe in the value of continued learning (so that's all of us, right?) then do check out Sally Zigmond's excellent short story tutorial which she's running via her blog. Part One now published.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The Weekly News - Jill now back

Jill Finlay has returned to work following her maternity leave (congratulations, Jill!) and has resumed her job as fiction editor at The Weekly News.

Email stories to her at