How Much Do Writers Earn?

Not much, is the answer. Sorry. But you knew that really, didn’t you? I’ll come back to this in a moment.

In the meantime, I have good news! Last week, I had 3 short stories accepted by The People’s Friend magazine, which made me feel quite ‘chipper’! (And, ahem, will pay for my car to be serviced…with a little bit left over).

I submitted them back in October, so it was quite a long wait but that’s how long PF take to respond (unless it’s a rejection, in which case, I find they tend to reply much more quickly – sometimes in a matter of days).

The reason it takes so long is not only because they receive a lot of stories (upwards of 100 a week) but because each story is considered by a member of the Fiction Team, who then – if they like it – writes a short critique and forwards it, with the story, to Shirley, the Fiction Editor. If she gives it the thumbs up, the next stage in the process is to get the approval of the magazine editor herself. All of that, naturally enough, can take several weeks.

How do I know all this? Do I have a direct line to People’s Friend or insider knowledge? Nope. I just read their website, which is soooo writer-friendly these days. There are writing prompts, book reviews, writing tips and yes, ‘insider knowledge’, if you want to call it that, on the process of writing for the magazine. Here’s the piece about ‘What happens to your story once you submit it’ (from which I got the information above).

You won’t get rich, writing short stories for women’s magazines but it’s still nice to be paid for your work and to get a buzz (I do!) from seeing it in print.

If you’re interested in finding out what People’s Friend pay for short stories, serials and poems, the details are all here (I told you it was worth looking on the website, didn’t I?).

I’ve just read Sally Rooney’s acclaimed debut novel Conversations With Friends and at one point, the narrator, Frances, who’s really a poet, writes a short story (her first!) which is snapped up by the first literary magazine it’s sent to and she’s paid 800 euros for it!! Whaaa?! What is that literary magazine, I want to know because I was under the impression that they didn’t pay very well! But what do I know?!

And on the subject of writers’ earnings, BBC Radio 4’s Money Box programme had a feature today on ‘The Economics of Being an Author’. You might have heard it but if not, you can listen to it here.

Apparently, even though the British book market is booming, the average full-time writer makes just over £10,000 a year. Not much, is it?

But there is an author featured on the programme, who self publishes his books and made over £1m last year alone. I’m sure it’s not easy (you’ve still got to write books that people want to buy and do all your own marketing) but if you can make it work, then you certainly keep a lot more of the profits, by self-publishing.

What d’you think?

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Posted in Books, Magazines, Short Stories, The People's Friend | Tagged , | 12 Comments

How to Get Your Writing Mojo Back (+ pics of Yorkshire)

What do this month’s Writers’ Forum and Writing magazines have in common?

Well, for a start, they both contain an article by yours truly. I’ve written about writing competitions – specifically the Evesham Festival of Words’ short story competition for WF and about ‘UpLit’ for Writing.

I’m only telling you this (not to be boasty-boasty) but just in case you’re wondering if I ever actually write anything.

Looking back at the last few posts, it looks as though I just roam around the country (I’ve just been in Yorkshire for 4 days) and am occasionally ill. And this blog is, of course, supposed to be about WRITING!

But anyway… the other thing that the two March issues have in common is a reader’s complaint/plea for help with writing mojo.

In Writers’ Forum, Victoria from Bristol wants advice on how to ‘ignite her creative spark’ and in Writing, Tori, from Cardiff, gets ‘block’ and ‘depression’ when she can’t write, both of which, I reckon, boil down to pretty much the same thing: Loss of Mojo.

I think most of us writers feel that way sometimes, don’t we? Lacking inspiration, feeling so fog-brained that trying to write feels like wading through treacle and there’s just a general feeling of ‘ugh’. Am I right? (or is it just me – and er, Victoria from Bristol and Tori from Cardiff?).

I’ve touched on this ‘loss of mojo’ and destressing for writers, before but I thought I’d see if I could come up with a few more tips for getting that mojo back – and feel free to add yours in the comments!

1. Take a break. Forbidding yourself from writing for a week or two (or however long you decide), will probably have you itching to get back to it. I’ve just been up North (roaming around the country) and that’s certainly worked for me.

Bonnie in Yorkshire on her 6th birthday (11th Feb)

2. Apparently, creativity is cyclical! Who knew? So, if, some days, you’re on a roll and the ideas are coming so fast and furious that you can hardly keep up with them and you could write all night, a) make the most of that time and b) don’t be surprised – or too disheartened – if a few days later, you feel stuck in the mire again Have faith, that another burst of creativity is just around the corner and perhaps, in the meantime, do something else?

3. Nail That Routine! I find that, without a routine, I often procrastinate, feel bad, beat myself up, procrastinate even more and just can’t get down to writing.

After Christmas, or a holiday, it seems to be worse. So, trying to stick to a routine – and having goals – for writing is often helpful. Set yourself a REALISTIC daily goal: 15 minutes of writing or an hour, or 200 words, a paragraph, a page. Whatever works for you. If it’s realistic, you should be able to do it. No excuses allowed!

4. Self-Care. I’m going all ‘Psychologies magazine’ on you now but this is an important one: practice self-care.

It goes without saying really but we need to sleep and eat well, drink lots of water, get some exercise and meditate/practice mindfulness or ‘journal’/do Morning Pages (if you find that helpful), to be the best writers we can be.

There were Highland cows! With very big horns.


5. Go Easy On Yourself. Author and tutor Meg Pokrass recommended the following on Twitter the other day:

“When one has writer’s block (or feels generally uncreative): Lower your standards immediately! Write anything at all. Think of it as simply getting those muscles warm again.”

Good advice! I wrote a couple of letters to magazines. It was nice just to write something short and simple and submit it.

6. Use Prompts. Set a timer and write for 10 minutes without stopping, on a given prompt. Meg Pokrass has some on her blog here. Don’t let yourself ‘choose’ though: just go with the first one (or, when you’ve done that, the next one down). You’ll be surprised what you come up with, I promise.

7. Get out of the house! It’s really hard to write at home because there are too many distractions. A couple of weeks ago, I went on a one-day retreat, to a Christian centre near me that was offering a special offer ‘pop up retreat day’ but you don’t have to do anything that fancy.

A writer I know takes herself off to her local library every day, armed with sandwiches and a flask of coffee, so she’s not tempted by cafes. She has a favourite table, tucked away in the corner and that’s where she writes. Could you do that?

What else? What do you do when your muse deserts you?!

Posted in Blogging, Competitions, Magazines | Tagged , | 14 Comments

Flu’ & Free Writing Competitions

Aagh, we have been a poorly household this week. To give you an idea of the strength of the illness… it’s been FOUR Harry Potter films’ worth (four still left to watch).

Now, we just feel like we’ve got bad colds, which is a big improvement. Hopefully, things will get back to normal next week.

Being ill is such a waste of time, isn’t it? It makes you appreciate your good heath, though. If any of you are poorly bad out there, you have my sympathies.

Yesterday we felt a tiny bit better and we yearned for McDonald’s (I think it was actually just a yearning for salt), so we hobbled out to the car and set off across the border into Worcestershire, where there is a drive-thru McDonald’s. It was soooo exciting.

But (you knew that was coming, right?), it was Saturday, it was lunchtime, there was a huge queue. And although the cheeseburgers were good, the chips were luke-warm, soggy and seriously lacking in salt. It was very disappointing.

Anyway, to cheer myself up, I checked my forecast for the new Chinese Year of the Pig, which starts on 5th February. I am a rabbit and this is what it said:

“You are the luckiest of 2019’s lucky ones, Rabbit! You are a friend to the pig, so your luck is in your friend’s and your network. This year, whatever you desire can become a reality.”

So, that’s good.

FREE WRITING COMPETITIONS

Let’s cheer ourselves up a little more now with news of FOUR free writing competitions:

1. Here, first off, you can win a week’s writing retreat in BALI in October. How good does that sound? OK, there’s a bit of a catch – there are no flights or transfers included. But still worth a look, if only to dream….

2. Harpers Bazaar have announced details of their annual free-to-enter short story competition. The theme this time is ‘liberty’. Originally, the rules stated that the magazine publishers would take copyright in all entries (not just the winner) but after an outcry on Twitter, they’ve clearly been shamed into removing that.
Closing date: 15th March 2019.

Prize: The winner will receive a two-night stay at Brownber Hall, Yorkshire, and the chance to see their work published.

3. There’s no theme for the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook short story competition but you’ve only got until 13th February to get your entry in. It’s also free to enter but you have to register on the website before you can enter. You can win an Arvon writing retreat.

4. You’ve got until 28th Feb to enter this short story competition, which is free to enter and has a theme of ‘A New Home’.

This one isn’t free to enter (unless you’re entering the published novelist category – otherwise it’s £10) but I thought it was worth mentioning.

The Comedy Women In Print (CWIP) prize is a new literary award to “bring female comedy writing the exposure and recognition it deserves.” If you’ve written a funny novel of up to 85,000 words (or, ahem, you can write one between now and 28th Feb, when submissions close), this could be the competition for you. Full details here.

Good luck if you decide to enter any of these competitions. And stay healthy….!

Posted in Competitions, West Midlands | 16 Comments

Michelle & The ‘Meet Cute’: Ideas for Characters’ First Meetings

Barack posted this ‘throwback’ photo on Instagram yesterday (17th Jan) to celebrate Michelle’s birthday.

I have almost finished reading Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming and I’m enjoying it but I must admit, I got frustrated with the first few chapters, about her working-class-but-loving-childhood and hard-working adolescence and getting to Princeton – all very worthy and admirable, of course BUT I wanted to get to the part where she first meets Barack!

I was really hoping it was going to be sweet and funny (you’ll have to read it yourself to find out!). I know her memoir isn’t a rom-com but that was the bit I was really interested in: the (strangely named) ‘Meet-Cute.’

Because people are intrigued by that kind of thing, aren’t they? If you’re part of a couple, I bet you’ve been asked, many times ‘How did you meet?’ People want to know ‘the story’ and, rather like me and my curiosity about the Obamas, they want it to be interesting and romantic (and if it isn’t, their little faces fall).

If you write – or watch – romantic comedies, you’ll know, the ‘Meet-Cute’ is the first meeting between two characters who will go on to fall in love. It’s usually memorable in some way – funny, embarrassing or awkward. Sometimes – quite often, actually (think Darcy and Elisabeth Bennett) – they hate each other.

You can have a lot of fun with the ‘meet-cute’. The key is, it’s inventive.

Mark Kermode talks about it brilliantly, with lots of great examples from films in the ‘Rom Com’ episode from his series ‘Secrets of Cinema’. (It was repeated over New Year and that’s when I saw it. Hopefully, when you read this, it will still be available to view on BBC I-player. You might need to register first!).

If you’ve seen the film Notting Hill, you’ll remember the first meeting between Hugh Grant’s character Will and Julia Roberts, playing Anna Scott, is when they crash into each other on the street and he showers her in orange juice.

In Robert Galbraith’s crime series (ahem, heavily laced with a sub-plot of ‘will they, won’t they?’ between detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant, Robin), the two main characters first meet (in The Cuckoo’s Calling) at the top of a staircase, in the middle of a row between Strike and his ex, when 16 stone Strike barges out of a door, slams into Robin and only saves her from falling down the lethal staircase by grabbing her (unfortunately – and embarrassingly, for both of them, by the left breast. Ow).

In Meryl Streep’s Falling in Love (bless, one of my mum’s favourite films), the two main characters are both buying books in a book shop, at Christmas and inadvertently take each other’s purchases home, which makes for an interesting Christmas Day but also, later brings them back together.

In Serendipity, something similar happens – the two lead characters are both trying to buy the same pair of gloves, as Christmas presents, in Bloomingdales, when they meet.

You get the idea.

Actually, I think I need to review the ‘meet cute’ in my novel-in-progress. At the moment it’s probably an anti-meet-cute (it involves a dog-poo bin. I cannot say any more).

So, I’ve been thinking. Whatever kind of novel (or story) that you’re writing, a ‘meet cute’ (perhaps with a less ridiculous name) is a useful trope or concept for bringing two important characters together, in an interesting and memorable way.

It doesn’t have to be funny, after all and the characters don’t have to be potential romantic partners. They could be future adversaries, best friends or work partners.

I wonder how Lewis and Morse first met, for example? Or (showing my age here), James Herriot and Siegfried in All Creatures Great and Small?

My OH has just suggested a great ‘Meet Cute’ between Harry Potter and the giant – and pretty intimidating – Hagrid, in the first HP book, when Hagrid knocks down the front door to reveal to Harry that he’s a wizard. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s a stunning entrance for any character and of course, although Hagrid turns out to be a good guy, at first sight, how can Harry – or the reader – be sure?

Yep, that’s the kind of thing I mean. Perhaps you can think of some more? Impactful. Memorable. We just have to think of a better name than ‘meet cute’, right?

Hagrid

Posted in Books, Novels | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Happy New Year! And a (quick) review of 2018

The beautiful Lake District

Happy New Year to you – albeit a bit late, as it’s now 11th January!

It’s been a busy time. We went up to the fabulous Lake District (Haweswater, to be exact) for New Year, which was Bonnie the dog’s holiday, as much as ours and she loved it! She is half-goat, we’ve decided, as she enjoyed the rock-climbing as much as the running around. I’ve re-christened her Bonnie Bonington, in deference to the great mountaineer.

On New Year’s Eve itself, the hotel where we were staying, organised a ‘Murder Mystery Night’. Hmm, we weren’t too sure whether it was going to be our cup of tea but it was really good fun.

The actors (in character) mingled with everyone in the bar, before the dinner started (we were marked down as ‘trouble makers’ immediately by the detective, Noah Deer, as we refused to give him our names) and after that, you could get involved in trying to solve the murder, or just sit back, drink and eat.

Haweswater

Each table had to write a limerick during the course of the evening – from a first line that they gave us – and the one that I came up with was judged the winner! Hurrah. Shame the people we were sharing the table with, nabbed the box of chocolates that we won! But I’m not bitter or anything.

I’d never really thought about it before, but I heard one of the actors (when it was all over) telling someone that he wrote all the scripts and there must be quite a skill to writing a murder mystery, don’t you think? The company was called Highly Suspect and although they’re based ‘up North’ I think they travel all over the country. I can certainly recommend them if you’re looking for a fun night!

Our ritual on New Year’s Day: a walk with a mini bottle of bubbly (chilled in a lake this time!)

We’d only just got back from the Lakes and unpacked our bags, when it was time to pack them again and head North once more.

We had a family funeral to attend in Scotland. We couldn’t get flights, our regular dog sitter couldn’t have Bonnie, so we had to drive (ahem, it’s 500 miles, 11 hours each way…) and take her with us!

Beach huts on Findhorn Beach


It was a very long journey.

Of course, we had a lot of breaks. And the M6 ‘helped’ by being closed 3 times, for accidents and ‘major police incidents’, so that all added to the time taken.

The life-safer was, in fact, an audio book that we listened to for 10 hours – Conclave, by Robert Harris – which is about the election of a new pope and I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but believe me, it was gripping! (And I learned a lot about the Catholic church and popes and cardinals and stuff).

I love Robert Harris books; I think he writes really well. I wasn’t too sure about the ending of this one though. I shall say no more, as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it!

So, I’m back now and hoping that my travels are over for a little while.

I thought I’d have a quick review of 2018:

2018: My Writing/Blogging Year

In February, I reached the heady heights of 800 followers (of this blog, I hasten to add, not of the strange cult that I lead), so I ran one of my ‘random word’ flash fiction competitions, which was eventually won by Jan Halstead. Once I get to 900 followers, I’ll be running another one.

In the summer I accepted an invitation to join the Steering Committee of Evesham Festival of Words. It’s a voluntary role and it’s really interesting (and good experience) to see how a literary festival is put together.
I run the Twitter feed for the Festival, run the odd workshop and my friend Chris and I organise the annual quiz and now I’m also helping to judge this year’s short story competition (closing 22nd March – details here).

In October, my friend and I went to the National Centre for Writing in Wales, Tŷ Newydd, for a fabulous week of ‘Writing Commercial Fiction’.

And here are a few numbers… I wrote 40 blog posts (!) totalling over 23,000 words.

I submitted 58 short stories to magazines (but most of these were oldies/resubmissions – not very many new stories, in other words).

I entered 4 short story competitions (in Writers Forum magazine) and came precisely nowhere with those.

But, to end on a more positive note, at the start of the year, I joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (and have rejoined for this year).

On 31st August, with about half an hour to go before the deadline, I submitted my novel manuscript (when you join the scheme, your fee includes a full manuscript critique).

I’ve now had that critique back, plus one that I arranged earlier in the year, from Alison May and they were both pretty positive, so I’ve got no excuse: polish the novel up a bit and see if anyone’s interested in publishing it! (Oh and start writing another one. No pressure!).

How was your writing year? Any resolutions for 2019?

Bonnie on the beach

Posted in Bonnie | Tagged , | 16 Comments

My Christmas, actually

So, Christmas is over and it’s time for me to hang up my pudding earrings once more. Hurrah!

Did you have a good Christmas? ‘Quiet’ is the usual, required answer, isn’t it? But mine was anything but… Christmas Day (and Boxing Day and the day after…) was punctuated by my mum’s loud sneezing, nose blowing, coughing and yanking of tissues from a box.

And now she’s toddled off home, feeling much better and I’ve got a tickly throat and a headache… NOOO! I am trying First Defence to ward off the terrible lurgie before New Year. I’ll let you know if it works.

On Christmas Day itself I almost experienced an Emma-Thompson-in-Love-Actually moment.

If you’ve seen the film (we watch it every Christmas but we do have to fast-forward over the excruciating scenes with Liam Neeson’s stepson), you will, no doubt, remember when Emma Thompson’s character Karen finds a gold necklace in her husband’s coat pocket and assumes it’s a Christmas present for her (but on the day, she gets a Joni Mitchell CD instead, the gold necklace being for the evil husband’s lover!).

Well, a few weeks ago, I casually mentioned to my OH that I could do with a new rainproof jacket and, as if by magic, a big box arrived in the post one day and before he could whisk it away, I spotted the label ‘SeaSalt’on the side. Lovely jubbly, I thought.

But on Christmas morning, we exchanged presents and I’d finally opened everything from him and there was no jacket! Who, I thought, had he bought it for?

I was really disappointed (and, er, slightly worried of course, that he might have another rainproof-jacket-wearing woman on the side). But then he uttered the immortal words, “Oh and there is something else….” and the big box was produced (from another room! Sneeky) and here is my jacket! (erm, I’ve just spotted that it’s now half price in their sale! Eek. Don’t tell him).

Someone on Twitter posted a photo of all the books they’d had for Christmas. Honestly, there were tons! It was about a year’s worth!

I only had one, which I think reflects the extent of my reading. It is shameful! I set myself a target on Goodreads this year, of 20 books. I think I might just manage it. I’m on number 19 (Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. Good but very long!) and then I have a little one that I might just be able to sneak in before the end of the year but one of my resolutions is definitely to read more in 2019.

My one and only Christmas book. (But it looks like a good ‘un!)

And finally, remember in my last post, I urged us all to ‘let go of perfect’?

Well, my sister-in-law (who doesn’t read this blog, as far as I know…) certainly did, bless her.

We went to my brother’s on Boxing Day and our dog, Bonnie, disappeared for a few minutes, only to return (from upstairs!) with a bread roll in her mouth. It had clearly been retrieved from under a bed or behind a radiator, or somewhere because it was rock hard, probably weeks, (if not months!), old and therefore, inedible! (even for a dog!)

Happy New Year (in advance!)

Posted in Bonnie, Books | Tagged | 12 Comments

‘Letting Go of Perfect …’

Findhorn Beach, Moray Firth

Hello. I’ve been to Scotland since I last wrote (hence the pretty pics), for a flying visit to the OH’s rellies. There was no snow but believe me, it was cold!

Talking of snow, the snow that usually appears as if by magic, floating down the screeen on this blog every December, hasn’t worked this year! And I don’t know why (and I haven’t got time to investigate) but it’s a shame because it always looks so lovely and festive! 😦

And now, I’m contemplating writing my Christmas cards (something I ALWAYS end up leaving until the last minute, despite my best intentions).

My feelings about Christmas cards are thus:

– They’re are a bit daft and outdated – like lots of things in life – but no-one wants to give them up. We need a brave soul to stand up and say ‘Enough!’ And ban them. Perhaps Mrs May will do it when she gets a moment.

– They’re particularly stupid when you give them to people in the office that you sit next to every day. What on earth is the point? But, I must admit, that when people say, “Erm, I’m not giving Christmas cards this year. I’m making a donation to charity instead”, I do think, “Yeah, right.” Which is a bit mean of me, isn’t it? (They just have to show me the donation receipt and it’ll all be fine).

– And then, there are the ones you send through the post, mostly to people you don’t see from one year to the next and actually, it would be quite nice to hear a little bit of their news (as long as it’s not too gushing) but you either get NOTHING (just ‘Happy Christmas!’, which seems like such a wasted opportunity) or, as we did this week, you get a 3 page missive of closely-typed wordage, so detailed, it practically tells you what the person had for breakfast every day and ….agh, is simply too much.

I think part of my procrastination is that I feel I should, somehow, strike the balance between no information and too much information and it all seems like such a headache, that I just keep putting it off.

Pebbled beach

Of course, what we should all be doing is ‘letting go of perfect’ – and embracing ‘good enough’ (and I’ve blogged about this before, here).

We were urged to ‘let go of perfect’ in the Waitrose Weekend magazine, a couple of weeks ago, in an article entitled “Make Time For You” (hashtag #selfcare). It sounds like a great idea but then, a few pages later, in the same magazine, I spotted another article on ‘Creating the Perfect Home at Christmas’.

Ah, I give up.

More Findhorn Beach on the Moray Firth

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