Welcome to my blog - a collection of thoughts and musings on the world of writing, books and all those wordy type things.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Shameless plug as it's Hallowe'en

Happy Hallowe'en to one and all!

Bearing in mind the date, I am today going to do a shameless plug of my non-fiction book, Ghost Walks of Brighton.

I mean, if you can't plug a ghost book at Hallowe'en, when can you? (Well, any time and as much as possible really, if you want to get sales, but you know what I mean.)

I've always been interested in the paranormal and had toyed with the idea of writing something about it but I wasn't sure what, exactly. That was until I came across the call from Country Books about a series of ghost walk books they were putting together, and that they were looking to expand the series further.

Having known Brighton for many years, and the interesting history it had, I suggested this to Dick Richardson, the publisher and he was happy to go ahead. What I really enjoyed was that, although it is a series, Dick didn't have a specific format he wanted to go with, it was up to me as to how I wanted to do it, and how long it was, etc.

First of all, I did all the research and gathered stories and tales, choosing the ones I felt were best included and weeding out ones that didn't fit or were a bit vague. Being fairly local, I was also able to draw on a couple of experiences from friends and relatives. Once the stories were there, I had to put them into place.

Now, I am not known for my navigational skills. Rather I am known for my total lack of them. Thankfully my husband has excellent ones so, with the help of a big map, we plotted the locations of the tales and then condensed them into actual walks, keeping them within certain areas, although it's possible for them to be put together to make longer ones. Then came the time to walk them and try them out. There were a few changes along the way which I noted down and applied to the manscript once we got back. Although we had done the 'Lanes' one on a separate day, the others were all done together, on quite a long and fairly tiring day! It was all quite fun and exciting though!

If you're interested in the subject, the book is still a good read, even if you aren't able to do the walks. Several people I know have gone this route because they either are not able to physically do the walks or aren't local enough so don't feel you need to miss out!

The paperback can be bought at Brighton's Waterstones, or direct from the publisher here. There's also a Kindle version which is available at Amazon here

If you choose to have a read, I hope you enjoy it - and Happy Hallowe'en!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Need a boot up the bum? Here's a great book to do just that (but in a nice way!)

Like most writers, I have a shelf full of creative writing books and enjoy gaining inspiration from them, and immersing myself in the 'writerly' world. Although, again like most of us, I've found that some are definitely more useful than others.

One of the most useful, and enjoyable, I have found is Diana Cambridge's 'How to write for magazines in one weekend'. Having been a subscriber to Writing Magazine for yonks, and encountered Ms Cambridge's helpful advice there, I eventually came across this book and looked up some reviews. They were all positive and I sent for my copy.

I can now see why the reviews were so good, and can also say that I totally agree with them (and just to let you know, I am not in any way connected to the author and bought the book with my own pennies!).

Although it's set out in the form of struturing the exercises over a weekend, it's not at all vital. I read it over the course of a few evenings and did the exercises as and when I could fit them in. It still works brilliantly. However, if you have a free couple of days and really want to get stuck in to some writing, then following the set layout could be a really good start.

What I like about the book is that it is broken up into sections with the various segments available for magazine writers listed individually, such as letters, opinion pieces, jokes, etc. Often when we think of writing for a magazine, we think 'article' so it's great to be reminded about the other options too. Also, writing things like letters gives us a quick 'hit' of writing and submission which can help spur us on to bigger things (more about this in a future post).

As an editor herself, Diana Cambridge knows what editors are generally looking for, and also what they don't want. Insider information like this is extremely helpful and this book gives it to us in a really relaxed but enthusiastic way. The author isn't looking down on writers or being patronising, as some books in this genre can be guilty of. It's simply 150 pages of valuable and friendly coaching which I know I'll be dipping back into every now and then for an 'energy boost'. Highly recommended.

One note though, on the front of my copy it advertises a writing competition to win £100 of Lonely Planet Guides. Just be advised that this competition is no longer open. 

If you want to know more about Diana, and her books, her website is http://www.canalstreet.org.uk/

Monday, 24 October 2011

That explains things...

Following on from the previous post, I was doing my own chasing last week.

One of the chases in my 'To Do' list was for She magazine. They'd put out a call a short time ago for writers. I was pretty excited about this as I like the mag and felt they had interesting articles and a good outlook. I had a couple of pitches to do which I thought would (hopefully!) be suitable for them. All in all I was actually quite cheery about these pitches.

And then nothing. So when I came to do the chasing last week, I made a discovery that the magazine in which I had such hope has been closed. Which would go some way to explaining why I hadn't had a reply to my pitch. Hearst Magazines has bought out Hachette Filipacchi and immediately closed Cosmo Bride and She magazines.

So, in case you missed the announcement (as I did) and are waiting for a reply, I just thought I'd let you know.

And now to finding a new home for those pitches....

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The chase is on

Ask any writer what one of their least favourite aspects is when it comes to writing articles, and many would say the chase.

You study the publication, write up the article or pitch, find out who best to send it to and off it goes. And then...nothing. Absolutely nothing but silence. You might want to send an email a couple of weeks after the initial submission and with a bit of luck you'll get a response to that but more often than not, you'll end up having to ring up the magazine to find out a) if they received the information and b) whether they've had a chance to look at it. This can be pretty intimidating.

Writers are often, by nature, shy and the thought of having to ring up and speak to someone can fill you with dread. But often, there's no other choice. You need to find out what's going on with the piece so that you can plan your next step.

Most of the time the person on the other end of the line will be helpful and pleasant. Make sure you have the date of when you sent the piece, what you sent and how (email or snail mail), and to whom. It won't look good if they ask you any of the above and you don't have the answers to hand.

Avoid ringing at lunchtimes, five minutes before the office is due to close or in the days running up to the launch of the latest issue. None of those choices will help endear you to the editor. Aside from that, it's a case of just biting the bullet and making the call. At least you'll know.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

I MUST finish the book!

For a writer, it's so important to find the time to read. Don't make it a chore, or something that 'has' to be done but do fit it in somewhere. There's often a bit of compromise or multi tasking involved but that's ok, it's whatever works for you.

I know I'll never read all the books I really want to anyway so I no longer force myself to plod through a book just because I've started it. I used to. It didn't matter how dire it was, or how much it just wasn't my sort of thing, onward I would tramp, constantly glancing to see how many pages I had left until finally, finally I was done and could go and start something else.

The first time I didn't finish a book, it was an incredible release. Why on earth had I been forcing myself to do this? The book that brought it all to a head was 'We need to talk about Kevin'. I was reading it as part of an online reading group but I couldn't do it. The subject matter was just too dark for me at that particular time in my life and I had to pull out. I'm sure there were those in the group that felt I 'should' finish the book and they are entitled to their opinion.

I read to be entertained, to learn and to escape. That particular book did not suit my personality, that's all. I wasn't going to continue reading a book that disturbed and upset me, even though that is essentially the whole idea. It's meant to be a disturbing book.

But I have a lot to thank that book for. It freed me! It broke the chain of 'having' to finish a book. That decision meant I now have more time for the ones I do want to read.

It's not that common for me to not finish a book but now I know that if I don't, it's ok.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

My muse went to the beach

There are definitely days when it feels like the muse is taking the day off. The sun is shining, and they've gone to the beach along with everyone else.

So, what to do on the days when we are feel less than inspired? There are a few classic tricks that can give both the motivation and inspiration a bit of a kick start.

  • Take a complete break from your writing desk/chair and go and do something completely different. Go for a walk, play with the dog (both?), do some gardening, go for a bike ride.
  • If you're writing fiction, watch a couple of films in the same genre to get you 'in the mood' and the right mind set.
  • Take a snooze. A tired brain is not a productive one
  • Read a book. Immersing yourself in the land of the written word can be a good way to get yourself back into being the one doing the writing.
  • Just write. It doesn't matter what it is. Write in your journal if you have one, on your blog (again, if you have one), write a letter (remember those?), and I do mean a 'proper' letter of the paper kind that you have to stick a stamp on and post.
Hopefully after some time spent doing one or more of the above activiites, you'll feel in a better frame of mind to get back to it.