Most writers – including me – want to write, well.. stories. We live half our lives in an imaginary world, populated by made-up people and places, dreaming of the day when our name’s on the cover of a novel. Right?
But, as I’m always telling my students, you’re much more likely to have non-fiction published, than fiction. You probably already knew that. There’s less competition because there are so many more openings and opportunities, from letters in magazines, to articles in print or on-line, reviews, blogs, travel and opinion pieces, life writing.. and so it goes on.
Just stand in WH Smiths and gaze at all the magazines they stock (and that’s not even all the magazines published in the UK). There are many subscription-only and specialised magazines too. (Check out the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for a comprehensive list) and all of them – and their accompanying websites – need copy and you might be just the person to supply it.
I’ve been thinking about non-fiction recently because I’m finding it more and more difficult to read long fiction (ie: anything longer than a short story!). I put down more books than I finish. The writing has to grab me in the first couple of pages. I have to like – or at least be interested in – the main character and there has to be sufficient tension for me to keep turning the pages, to want to find out what happens next.
And what of the novels I keep giving up on? It’s not, honestly, because I think I can do better. I know how hard it is to write good fiction. But there’s a world of books out there, waiting to be read and I’ve become book-intolerant: life’s too short to read anything that’s not unputdownable.
I’ve just (last night) started reading ‘H is for Hawk‘ by Helen Macdonald, a memoir which won both the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction and the 2014 Costa Book of the Year Award. And, as I’d thought and hoped it would be – it’s excellent. I don’t think I’ll be giving up on this one! (Hurrah!)
So, if, like me, you’re turning your thoughts a little more to ‘non-fiction’ these days, you might be interested in these (free!) travel writing competitions on the Bradt Travel Guides website:
‘To Oldly Go‘ – over 60 with a tale to tell? There’s a call out for true stories from silver travellers, to go into a new book. c/d 14th June and it’s open to anyone (including those who live outside the UK).
The Bradt Travel Writing competition, in conjunction with the Independent on Sunday has got some wonderful travel-related prizes and there’s even a category for ‘Unpublished Writer’ and ‘Best Young Writer’. You’ve got until 30th June to submit your true travel piece on the theme ‘Serendipity’. This one is only open to UK residents, sorry!
If you live in Dumfries and Galloway, Dorset ; North Devon and Exmoor , Cornwall or Northumberland or you know these areas well, this could be for you. There’s a competition for each area, asking for 500 words describing your ‘Perfect Day In Dorset’.. (or Cornwall or North Devon, etc). There are breaks for two to be won and the closing date for all the competitions is 30th June.
Bear in mind that: “The judge will consider a combination of factors including originality of idea, quality of writing, adherence to theme and creativity.”
Writing fiction is just one side of being a writer and getting published and if you’re interested in opportunities for writing non-fiction, I can do no better than to point you in the direction of Alex Gazzola’s excellent blog ‘Mistakes Writers Make‘ which is positively teeming with tips, advice and markets for non-fiction writers.
And on that subject, I have three articles to write for Writing magazine, so I’d better make a start on one of them …