Wednesday 31 August 2022

10 things writers don't need.

There's loads of advice about things which will help you as a reader. Lots of it is excellent. This book for example is jolly good. And this one is full of ideas (the seeds of a story!) – but just for a change this post focuses on things you don't need.

1. A qualification.

It helps if you can spell, and have a grasp of punctuation and grammar – and know interesting stuff you can include in your work. It doesn't matter whether you learned this in a formal way and have a piece of paper to prove it, if you picked it up as you went along, or even if you're still learning. You can still write.

I'm in no way criticising those who do have qualifications (I'm very proud of my grade B 'O' level in English language). Nor am I suggesting it would be a mistake to enrol in an academic course in the future if you'd like to - I just don't believe anyone needs a qualification in order to write.

2. Lots of free time.

Writing does take up some time. Ok, lots if you're going to complete a book or attempt to earn enough to keep you in biscuits, but you don't need a whole day or even several free hours at a time. The majority of writers started when they had full time jobs, young children to care for, or other commitments. Getting up twenty minutes earlier to write, writing for half your lunch break, or instead of watching one TV programme each week will give you at least a couple of hours every month.

3. To be able to type 'properly'. 

There's absolutely nothing wrong with learning, or using this skill if you have it, but it's not vital. I use one finger and my thumb. I've written hundreds of short stories, six novels, lots of blog posts and plenty of other stuff. Some people aren't physically able to type in the usual way, or at all, but still write.

4. A dedicated writing space.

Yes, I know I have the wonderful mobile writing retreat. I love it, but I'd still write without it. My first few published stories were written on kitchen tables and the landing in a friends' house. If you don't have space at home you could write in the library, a cafe, at work, in the bus station ...

5. Money and equipment.

We all need money to live, but writing needn't be a further expense. 

A computer of some kind helps enormously and is necessary if you wish to submit work, but it doesn't need to be new or even yours. Libraries provide free computer equipment, so do some charities. A friend or employer might allow you to use theirs.

6. To read.

It is possible to write without reading, but I don't advise it. If you don't read the kind of work you want to write how will you know what readers expect, what's been done to death and where there are gaps in the market?

If you don't love the written word, why would you want to create more of it?

7. Routines, dedication and discipline.

Trust me, if these things were essential I'd never have written anything. In order to be even moderately successful you will need to put in some effort, but writing doesn't need to be your top priority or done at a certain time each day / week. 

That's not to say that a routine and consistent, professional approach are bad. They're not – quite the opposite in fact. However if you have other commitments or distractions you must or chose to spend time on, take breaks from your writing, or have a disrupted or non existent schedule, you can still be a writer.

8. Luck, contacts, fame, influence and magic.

These can be hugely helpful in achieving sales and other success (more so in some areas than others) but you don't need them for the actual writing part.

9. To have a blog or website, be on social media or create a platform.

See above! 

10. Cake.

I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. At times I've gone days without the stuff and still produced readable work. You will of course need an alternative – cookies, scones, flapjack, biscuits, cheese, chocolate, even fruit can work.

Do you agree with me? Are there things you've been told are essential for writers but which you manage without?

Sunday 28 August 2022

Something for everyone?

I hope that everyone visiting this buffet of free competitions and opportunities to submit will find something to encourage them to write and the get their work 'out there'.

Free entry competition news

Thanks to Alyson for passing on the link to this interesting short story competition with excellent cash prizes. If I get an idea for it then I'll give it a go, but nothing has sprung to mind so far. I suspect there won't be as many entries for this one as for other free competitions offering £1,000.

Here's a poetry competition which is open to international entries and offers a £1,000 prize.

This Christmas ghost story competition is only free to under 16s although there is an adult category with a fee.

This poetry competition is also free to younger writers (under 18 this time) with another paid for adult version.

Are any of my blog readers under 18? Do any adult readers know of young writers they would pass competition details onto? If not, I won't continue including stuff for young writers.

Submission opportunities

Brilliant Flash Fiction want stories of up to 1,000 words to publish on their website. They pay $20.

The Face Project ask for poems and short stories written in response to the portraits they share each week. Those selected will be "featured in a unique art and literature publication." As far as I can see that will be the only reward.

Womag reminder

If you want to check the submission requirements for any magazine I know about which considers fiction, you can find the links and other info on my submissions database.

How did I do?

Are any of the above of interest to you?

If I've not included anything for the form or genre you write, please tell me in the comments what that is so I can look out for suitable opportunities.

How do best like to attempt to get your writing before potential readers? Magazine submissions, competitions, calls for submission, self publishing ...?

It takes time to research and write my blog posts. All I ask in return is a comment if you've found them to be useful and / or of interest.

Monday 22 August 2022

Newsletters that Involve the reader – Guest post by Robin Dynes.

Today's guest is Robin Dynes


Do you send out a newsletter to raise awareness of your publications? If not, you may be missing an opportunity to promote yourself and your work. Newsletters have been used successfully since Roman times as a way of communicating with friends and customers. They inform them about the availability of goods and provide other news that affect their business. 

In today’s world, social media such as Twitter and Facebook are not suitable for longer material. Also, they are so fast-paced that good material gets lost. E-mail newsletters, however, remain effective for attracting and keeping readers interested. Nevertheless, they must - to maintain attention - be engaging, meet their needs, add to their knowledge and involve readers. Don’t make it just about you - though your book signings and meet the author events, etc, are very important, too, and should be included. Involve the reader! Here are some ideas you can try to help you do this: 

  1.  Share and recommend books you have enjoyed. Many of your readers will have read or want to read the same books. This is a good way to make connections. 

  2. Offer a free sample chapter or a short story which will hopefully get them to start reading your latest work.

  3. Do occasional reader surveys but keep them short and simple. Not any more than 3/4 questions at the most. Use tick box responses and an additional option for a short written response. 

  4. Include fun facts about your writing process and what is happening behind the scenes. This might include research you have done, how you got the idea, etc. 

  5. Seasonal and holiday greetings with recommended reads. Don’t forget special events such as mental health days, friendship days, etc. Also use anniversaries. For example, ask readers to help you celebrate the anniversary of when your last book was published and so on.

  6. Add additional material related to your book subject. Perhaps something you learned while doing research. For a non-fiction book you might include additional exercises the reader can do. 

  7. Consider including content from your readers. What they liked best about a book or story. Questions you have been asked about your publications. What they have learned. For nonfiction – how useful they have found the content or exercises.

  8. Have you been interviewed recently? Share your experience. Perhaps you have interviewed someone who would interest your readers. 

These are a few ideas to help you build a successful newsletter. Don’t bombard readers with them. Once every two weeks or once a month is enough and it won’t take an enormous amount of time to produce, but do be consistent. 

Many of you may have your own You Tube video channel, Facebook or Instagram page or even have thousands of followers on Twitter. All help you raise your profile but e-mail based newsletters will continue to be to be popular with readers as long as they provide interesting content! 

Robin Dynes edits The Voice newsletter ( ) published by Wessex Writers. He is also the author of 25 non-fiction books, numerous articles and blogs and was a commissioning editor for Speechmark Publishing Ltd (

You can subscribe to The Voice here.

This is Patsy's Newsletter.

Here's Geraldine Ryan's newsletter.

If you have, or contribute to, a writing related newsletter feel free to put a link in the comments and it will be added to this list.

Friday 19 August 2022

ALCS statements and discounted books

My books on special offer.

Three of my books are currently on special offer.  They'll be available for 99p / 99c until 23rd of August and will then go back to their regular price. 

You could get all three for slightly less than the normal price of the novel. Bargain, eh?

Family Feeling is a collection of 25 family 'related' stories.

With Love And Kisses has 25 stories each with the theme of love.

Leave Nothing But Footprints is a fun, escapist romance about photographers in a campervan. Never was a novel better researched!

If you know of any good books which are currently on offer (your own or other people's) please do let us know in the comments.

The ebook of Eirin Thompson's I Know I Saw Her has been reduced in price. See the comments for more details.

How to find your ALCS statements

Several people said they were interested in learning where their ALCS money comes from. Here's how to find some of the answers –

First log into your account and scroll down to where it says MY STATEMENTS. Select the year you're interested in.

You should then see the amount(s) you were paid (I've deleted the figures for mine) and the fact that the statement isn't ready for down load. You have the option to REQUEST STATEMENT DOWNLOAD or REQUEST STATEMENT EMAIL. Click on your preference.

The statement to download should appear almost immediately. On my computer it shows up in the bottom right hand corner. The email is fairly speedy too. In both cases you get an identical pdf. This shows the various categories for which you've earned money.

In some cases it's very detailed. For example I earned a few pennies from stories reproduced in annuals. and can easily see which ones.

The bulk of my money comes from short stories in magazines, and this is all lumped together in one figure.

I hope that helps a little bit!

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Over To You

Womag news

Do you have any womag news?

Are you researching, writing, subbing? Had any acceptances or rejections? Any other news?

Feel free to use the as a picture prompt. If you'd like other writing prompts, short exercises and story/scene suggestions then you might find this book useful.

Free entry writing competition news

I'd love to hear your competition news.

Do you have writing tips to share, questions to ask, or suggestions for this blog?

Sunday 14 August 2022

Singing the blues

The sky is still a cloudless blue, the sea an invitingly cool blue, and some of the prettiest flowers in my garden right now are blue. I'm not blue myself – just a smidge exasperated with some aspects of this writing lark.

Free entry competition news

Wasafari are looking for, "critical essays of an exemplary standard, which constitute the most exciting academic work happening today across the field of international contemporary literature." There's a £250 prize, plus other benefits for the best entry.

I've never written anything like that, and doubt I ever will (not enough of a blue stocking?) How about you?

Thanks to Alyson for reminding we about this competition from Comma Press. £500 is on offer for a short story with the theme of Music. All shortlisted entries will be published in an anthology.

Womag news

Nothing much to report! I'm not getting acceptances, or rejections. It feels as though everything I submit is slithering into a heap behind a metaphorical sofa out in cyberspace.  

I have had an acknowledgement of a submission and a response, but not an actual answer, to a query about long outstanding submissions. 

Yours have stopped sending the automatic responses, so now we don't even have the reassurance that our story arrived safely as we wait for a response which might not come. The website states Yours Fiction don't send rejections, but Yours does. They no longer provide a cut off period past which you may assume your story will not be used.

Email subscriptions to this blog

To the right of this post is the option to sign up for email blog updates. Some people have reported that it doesn't work very well, or that they're unable to add their email to the list. I'm sorry about that, but don't know how to fix it. If anyone does know, please tell me! 

If you do subscribe, you should get a confirmation email with a link to click to activate your subscription. You may also get scary warnings about it not being secure!

Sorry, I can't add anyone myself. That's probably a data protection thing. I do have a newsletter you can sign up for, which does seem to work, but that's not news about my writing, not blog updates.

I've added a link to an alternative way to subscribe, just in case that's helpful. If you try it, please let me know if it works!

Sorry not to be better and more professional with the technology side of things. 

Wednesday 10 August 2022


How do you feel about book reviews? Do you take any notice of them? Do you write them for any of the books you read?

Rosemary J Kind
and I have had a lovely review for the 2nd edition of From Story Idea to Writer.

"An excellent book on how to write commercial short stories. It is especially informative for beginners – if only it had been around when we started to write! But this book is equally helpful for those already writing seriously. It has two other big pluses - 1: It is very clearly written and 2: It skilfully encourages would-be writers to persevere and not give up.

The advice is given in an entertaining, encouraging way; some creative writing books can get a bit too intellectual, putting the would-be writer off completely, but this one has the opposite effect.

We liked the way the two authors (pictured at time of writing the 1st edition) gel with their advice – their styles complement each other all the way through. Rarely do their opinions differ and, if they do, each individual shows how her particular way could work as an alternative. 

How you approach the book is up to you – you might prefer to read it straight through, picking up points as you go, but it also works well as a ‘dip in’ source, where you just look up the particular writing problem that is bothering you at the time. Either way, you will find this book a great help; all writing aspects are covered. 

The marketing guide section is exceptional – rarely have we seen it explored so thoroughly. On the very important issue of discipline – getting down to writing - the advice cannot be faulted. There are so many writers of real talent who, alas, fail miserably because they lack the necessary discipline. Don’t be one of those writers - read this excellent book, learn from it and get writing!"

By Robin Dynes and Barbara Dynes who edit and contribute to Wessex Voice.

Obviously I feel very positively about this particular review! In general I do take notice before buying a book. I tend to look at the worst ones. Weirdly they don't always put me off, as what annoys one reader might not be a problem for another. If the above review tempts you to take a closer look at our book, you can do so here or ask you local bookshop or library to order it for you.

I try to leave reviews when I think they'll make a difference. 
Very occasionally that's when I've felt a book was a big let down – huge numbers of errors perhaps, or not being complete. Far more often I review books written by indie authors which I've loved. Us indies need the support more than the bestsellers who already have thousands of reviews!

Sunday 7 August 2022

Five freebies

Free entry writing competition news

There's still time to enter Anansi's summer competition. They're offering small cash prizes and publication for poetry, short stories and flash fiction. I'm sure I must have something I could send.

The Blackness on Sea poetry competition, which has a large cash prize. £1,000! Poetry is very much not my strong point, but I'm trying to come up with something.

The Perito prize. The writer of the best piece on accessibility and inclusion will get £500. I've already entered that one.

The Orna Ross Green Stories novel prize. This one has cash prizes of £1000 and £500, plus help with getting published. I've written a novel which I think might suit the theme, but as I've already published it, I can't send it in.

The L Ron Hubbard writers of the future competition offers $1,000 to the winner each quarter and accepts several different genres – none of which I write.

My news

This small collection of my short stories is available to download free from Amazon, and some other retailers, such as Smashwords. That might only be news to newer readers of this blog, but I'm too busy drooling over the illustration for my story in the My Weekly Special to think of anything else!

Tuesday 2 August 2022

A bit of a result?

Womag news

Here's some advice from Lucy, the fiction editor at The People's Friend which might help reduce the amount of time we need to wait for a response from that publication. (I've no idea if it was my Twitter thread and blog post she saw, or if there was another discussion which she's responded too. Either way, it's good to know that writer's concerns are noted.)

The photo is of a tree in my garden (ten points if you can identify it). Years ago I blogged about this tree and shortly afterwards it was mentioned in a response to one of my magazine submissions (not to TPF). That was the first time I realised it wasn't just writers who read the blog.

Free entry competition news

Thanks to Alan for passing on the details of Beagle North.  They're looking stories of up to 2,500 words with the theme of falling. There are small cash prizes for the winner and two runners up and the best 15 to 20 will be published in an anthology.