‘Write often, to a deadline and with an audience in mind. Have something of the marketer about you.’
This was the advice of writer and broadcaster, Stuart Maconie (pictured), in his keynote address at The Writers’ Toolkit 2011, held in Birmingham last week. He went on to tell us that the mastery of words is power and we should be proud to say ‘I am a writer’.
It was a full day of panel discussions and chances to chat to other writers. I found the session on ‘Networking as a Writer’ the most interesting and I came away with several scribbled notes about how to do this (both on-line and in real life):
- Be generous – help those who can’t possibly help you. It will be remembered and what goes around comes around. Share things that might benefit others – don’t see them as your rivals.
- If it feels like networking then you’re doing it wrong or trying too hard. It should feel like a conversation, not a sales pitch.
- Don’t vent your feelings online no matter how badly you feel you’ve been treated – cyberspace is a big place and you never know who might be reading.
- Become part of the real and virtual community. Join or start reading/writing groups and classes. Do book reviews on your blog & approach other writers to ask if they’d like you to review their book.
- Don’t limit yourself to writing events – attend other types of conferences and look at different types of blogs.
- Leave intelligent comments on the blogs of others to make people curious enough to have a look at you.
- Listen to what others have to say – don’t just sell yourself all the time.
- Be genuine and approachable
The event was organised by Writing West Midlands.
- What are the 7 essential personal qualities you need to be a successful freelance copywriter?
- What is the single biggest mistake most freelance copywriters make when quoting fees? (What should you do instead?)
- How do you go about winning that all-important first copywriting job?
This book, written by one of the UK’s leading and most successful freelance copywriters, has the answers and much more more.
But you’ll have to be quick because this competition closes tomorrow (25/11) but it’s easy to enter. Just like Work Your Way on Facebook, and leave a nifty bit of copy on their wall to finish the following sentence: “Work your way for…..” For example “Work your way for … a better work life balance.”
Have a quick look around the Work Your Way website to get some ideas.
Do you have an interest in history? Have you ever written a story set in the past? Have you ever heard of the publication Snapshots of History?
Snapshots of History is a quarterly journal dedicated to all aspects of historical short story writing. It was set up in 2010 and comprises an ongoing serial, short stories, a members’ corner for information of interest plus a quarterly competition. The best entry receives £15 and is printed in the magazine. Runners up may also be included in the journal. There is a £3 entry fee for non-subscribers. Stories should be between 1,000 and 2,500 words and be set no later than the end of the Second World War – and historical accuracy is important.
An annual subscription to the magazine costs £7.50 or individual copies can be bought for £2.00.
Full details are available here.
Don’t forget that some of the women’s magazines also take historical short stories. Writer Joanna Barnden penned a guest post on the subject for the Womag Writer’s Blog. It contains general advice plus some market tips. Read it here.
Sometime ago on this blog I mentioned a competition run by the West Country Writers’ Association to win a weekend away at their Annual Congress in 2012 (see here). This is a competition they run every year (and I was the lucky 2011 winner).
Well, I’m pleased to announce that the 2012 winner is Tracy Fells - who found the competition on this blog (hence my reflected glory!) and left a comment to let me know of her win. Congratulations, Tracy!
Tracy also heard about 2 other successes on the same day as this win - visit her blog to read about them.
If anyone else has any successes from anything I mention on this blog, please let me know so that we can all share it. I find it spurs me on to know that ‘ordinary’ people are winning things and getting published – if they can do it then so can the rest of us!
Write Exposure has launched its first monthly competition. There are 3 categories – short fiction (up to 1200 words), flash fiction (up to 250 words) and poetry. Entry into each category is £4 or you can enter all 3 for £9.
The winner will be showcased on the website for a month along with 3 other ‘honourable mentions’.
Prize money depends on the number of entrants. I couldn’t find it on the website so I contacted Cheslyn Baker, who is running the competition, to find out the ‘formula’ that would be used to calculate the prize. She told me that it would be 25% of the total entry fee received in each category.
The theme for the competitions will change each month. For November it is “I know your face” and the closing date is 30th November.
Please read the full details here before you enter.
In most competitions we never know what percentage of the entry fees was paid out in prizes so this competition is being transparent in that respect. It is also being open about its judging. It will be using a panel of 3, one of whom is a ‘citizen’ judge and any of us can apply to sit in that third seat. See the website for details.
What does anybody think about prize money being 25% of the pot? Is it fair? Can we (the entrants) actually reach a fair conclusion on this question when so many other competitions only advertise a fixed prize rather than a percentage?
There is a lot of work in running a writing competition – including a large amount of administration as well as the actual reading and judging of entries. 100 entries would be required to win £100 – and I’m sure that a lot of competitions offering a prize of £100 receive more than 100 entries so maybe 25% is realistic.
By coincidence I came across another competition recently where the prize money is dependent on the number of entrants. Words Magazine is running a ‘winner takes all’ competition for short stories of up to 2000 words. Entry fee is £3 – so if 100 people enter the prize will be £300 (Closing date is December 31st).
Best of luck if you decide to enter either of these!
My daughter’s school was offering a ‘community’ lecture on Tragedy by Professor David Robert of the English department at Birmingham City University. I haven’t studied English Literature since my O’ level in 1979 (Julius Caesar, Lord of the Flies & Keats’ poetry – you never forget those books do you!) so I thought it was about time to broaden my horizons.
Wikipedia tells us that tragedy is ‘a form of art based on human suffering that offers its audience pleasure’. This definition seems to make anyone that has ever enjoyed Hamlet or Macbeth heartless and cruel! But David explained that watching a tragedy is a catharsis because we see someone in a worse situation than ourselves. The hero who suffers a tragic end can be seen as scapegoat. His demise makes us feel good because we didn’t suffer such a terrible end – he does the suffering for the rest of us.
David took us on a whistle-stop tour of famous tragedies through the ages from ‘Oedipus Rex’ to ‘Death of a Salesman’. Then he gave a mention to the current popularity of disaster movies such as ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, which can also be seen as tragedies.
Tragedies are mostly written by men and this could be because there is a more certain self-destruct pessimism about the world within the male psyche (and they call us the moody ones!).
So where is all this taking us in the context of our writing? Well, I’m not sure really unless you’re a playwright since tragedies seem to be generally written for performance rather than as a narrative. I had hoped that learning about the greats of English Literature might inform my own writing but I can’t see People’s Friend or My Weekly falling over themselves to buy a tragedy!
But it wasn’t a waste of time because it broadened my horizons and I got a certificate of attendance!
By the way if there are any English scholars out there do correct me if I’ve got anything wrong here.
What is the allure of secondhand books? Why do so many of us enjoy sorting through other people’s discarded reading material?
If you’re anything like me then you’ll find it impossible to come away from a secondhand bookstall empty-handed. And we’re not alone – more and more charities are opening shops that sell only books. Oxfam also sell them online.
So do these shops attract us because we like a bargain? I think there’s more to it than that – after all I don’t enjoy rooting through the donated blouses and shoes in a charity shop.
Is it because, unlike a slightly used skirt, a secondhand book can give us the same experience as the new version? Possibly, although new books (like a new car or a new carpet) have that unbeatable ‘new’ smell and that’s part of their attraction. Some older pre-read books can have a slightly less attractive odour.
I think the excitement of ferreting through a secondhand book shop is the journey into the unknown that it offers. The books might be jumbled up or loosely grouped – but you never know what you might find! It could be a favourite classic from your childhood, a recipe book used by your grandmother or the latest best-seller. The secondhand book shop experience is totally different to the well organised High Street book chain where everything is in its place and the staff can consult the computer and tell you instantly whether something is in stock.
I now have a bookcase groaning with books. Those that I’ve really enjoyed I pass onto friends, the others find their way back into the perpetual charity secondhand book cycle. I have sold the odd one on Ebay but found that it wasn’t worth all the hassle for the amount of money generated. But if you have a real mountain of books and would like to try and make some cash out of them (maybe to buy a Kindle?!) have a look here for some tips on how to set up a bookselling business.
Alex Black contacted me last week and asked if I’d give a mention to the poetry competition that his company, PrintExpress.co.uk, is running. So here goes:
- Entry is free!
- First prize is £150
- Poems can be on any theme and up to 45 lines long
- Entry is via email
- Closing date is November 30th 2011
Full details can be found here
So with nothing to lose in entry fees or postage, even a non-poet like me might enter!