This post is being brought to you in association with Sally Quilford’s 48th Birthday Celebrations on August 11th 2011.
Many of us whinge that we don’t have enough time to write. Home and work commitments are always getting in the way -I use this as an excuse for my lack of writing as much as anyone. So, here is a 7 day plan that involves writing for just 48 minutes per day and by the end of it you should have a short article all ready to go.
- Day 1 – visit a large newsagent and spend 48 minutes finding your market. Look for a magazine that covers something you know at least little about (i.e. write what you know so that the research isn’t too onerous). Check out the list of staff in the front of the magazine and compare to the ‘by’ lines on each article in order to check how much is written in-house and much is freelance provided. Buy the magazine you think you could write something for. (N.B. In a perfect world you would buy 2 or 3 issues of the magazine over a number of weeks/months in order to get a feel for which articles are regular columns and which are the one-off freelance features that we are aiming at) .
- Day 2 - make yourself a cup of coffee and sit down with a large sheet of paper. Set a timer for 48 minutes and then brainstorm! Dream up as many article ideas as possible for your chosen publication. For example, if you’ve chosen a dog magazine then your list could include ‘How to Choose a Dog Walker’, ’10 Tips for Taking Your Dog on Holiday’ or ‘Famous People and their Dogs’.
- Day 3 - choose which of the articles shows the most promise and spend 48 minutes writing an outline. Include an introduction (not too long – get straight to the point of the article), each point that you want to make and a conclusion.
- Day 4 - pitch the idea, via email, to the editor of the magazine. If you want some help on how to put together the perfect pitch have a look at Simon Whaley’s article here.
- Day 5 - start writing the article. If you don’t want to stop after 48 minutes that’s fine – keep going whilst the enthusiasm is high! Hopefully by now you’ll have stopped looking for displacement activities like cleaning out the kitchen cupboards.
- Day 6 - finish writing the article. Then find someone to read it aloud to – this will help you spot clumsy sentences, missing words, bad grammar etc. (this bit can be in addition to the 48 minutes since it can involve the rest of the family and therefore isn’t strictly ‘writing time’).
- Day 7 - spend the last 48 minutes having a final read through the article and then, submit !
For the purposes of simplicity I have assumed that the above activities will take place on 7 consecutive days. In reality there will probably be a gap between days 4 and 5 whilst you wait for a response to your pitch (fill this gap by starting work on a second idea). It might also be wise to leave a gap between days 6 and 7 so that you can re-read the article with fresh eyes before sending it off.
That just leaves me to wish Sally a ‘Happy 48th Birthday’ and thank her for the challenge to write a blog post based on ’48′.
The New Writer doesn’t have the glossy finish of Writing Magazine or Writers’ Forum nor does it have pages of adverts. I think the magazine has a cosy, friendly feel. The Spring 2011 edition included features on ‘First of a Million Kisses’ by romance writer Sally Quilford, ‘Travel Writing Perks’ by Roy Stevenson and ‘Make it Short & Snappy’ by me (!).
The magazine is open to unsolicited articles and features (for which it pays a small amount). Poetry is also accepted but fiction is restricted to guest writers, subscribers’ stories on a given theme and competition entrants.
The New Writer runs an annual Prose and Poetry Competition with 5 categories:
- Micro fiction – up to 500 words (2 entries for £5 or 3 entries for subscribers)
- Short stories - 500 to 5,000 words (1 entry for £5 or 2 entries for subscribers)
- Single poems (2 entries for £5 or 3 entries for subscribers)
- A collection of 6 – 10 poems (£12 entry)
- Essays, articles and interviews on any writing related subject - up to 2,000 words (1 entry for £5 or 2 entries for subscribers)
The annual closing date is 30th November and the prizes are:
Micro Fiction: 1st prize £150, 2nd £100, 3rd £50.
Short Stories: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100.
Single Poem: 1st prize £100, 2nd £75, 3rd £50
Poetry Collection: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100.
Essay/article/interview: 1st prize £150, 2nd £100, 3rd £50.
If all this has whetted your appetite then you can obtain a free back issue by sending an A4 SAE to the address shown on the website here (scroll to the bottom of the page for the offer).
That must be the question most often asked of writers and the most difficult to answer. We all know that story and character ideas are all around in us our daily life – overheard conversations, a couple arguing in the street or 2 teenagers in hoodies following an old lady.
But ideas tend to be like buses – 3 come along in a row or, no matter how long you wait, not one puts in an appearance.
If you’re suffering an ideas drought here are a few ’ideas factories’ to kick-start your imagination:
- Sally & Cally’s Short Story Ideas Generator - this will give you a random character, setting and conflict/situation
- The Brainstormer - this is a little bit like an on-line roulette wheel. Click on the ‘Random’ button to spin the wheel and generate a conflict, adjective and person/place/thing.
- The Writers’ Idea Store in Writers’ Forum magazine – this monthly feature by Paula Williams discusses where to find ideas and also incorporates a Fiction Square. The square includes 6 each of characters, conflicts, weather, setting and objects. Roll a dice once for each of these categories in order to determine which should be in your next story.
- The Writer’s Block - this is a block-shaped book that contains ideas and story prompts on every page. It’s well worth dipping into if you’re scratching your head for something to write about.
- Sign up for the free e-newsletter produced by www.ideasforwriters.co.uk - you will receive story prompts and ideas for historical anniversaries to write about.
- Creative Writing Prompts has 346 prompts to get your pen moving.
There is no copyright on ideas. This means that it’s acceptable to re-write a well-known story such as a fairy-tale or legend. Try writing The Frog Prince from the point of view of the frog rather than the princess or modernise Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by giving the heroine a job as a housekeeper to a group of brothers living in a large house inherited from their parents.
So now you’ve no excuse for not writing. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike – use the suggestions above to create your own!
Remember – Writers Write! (they don’t just sit around and think about it).