Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Writing Tips

I was just thinking today about the various tips and advice I've gained along my writing journey so far and that I feel have helped me the most. Now I haven't had any short stories win or be placed in any competitions or published in magazines. Neither am I published novelist. But I thought I'd share with you the 'little gems' that I've found most useful.

1. READ LOTS: Read anything and everything. Don't just read the particular genre or style of short story/ novel that you want to write. Reading something different once in a while will give your brain and creativity a kick. See how different styles work. Make your own writing versatile.

2. WRITE LOTS: Again, this will help your creativity. Get a note book or several and always have a pen handy. Write down any details about your surroundings, the people you see, your childhood, going to the supermarket, having a coffee in the cafe, digging your garden. Whatever you like, write it down. It doesn't matter if it makes sense or not or that it's not good writing, just get it down. You can edit and clean it up later. Let the process of just writing anything that comes into your head free you up.

3. DON'T RUSH: Take your time when completing your drafts and editing. Put each draft away (lock it in a cupboard if you have to!) for at least a week - more if you can bear it, this way you won't be so close to your work that you miss simple mistakes etc. Go back to it with fresh eyes.

4. GUIDELINES: Make sure that you follow submission guidelines to the letter. Don't make the same mistake that I made recently. I wrote a story for Writing Magazine/Writers' News. The brief was to write a story about Emily a 48 yr old woman walking her dog. Did I do this? No! I wrote a story about a disabled man walking his dog in his wheelchair! I didn't even realise my mistake until the winning story was published in the magazine. Read, read, READ the instructions very carefully! Mistakes can and do happen! If you don't know the guidelines of a magazine then email or phone the magazine direct or have a look on the internet -there's an excellent blog about all that and more . (Thanks womagwriter!)

5. PAY ATTENTION: Particularly grammar and spelling. Don't rely on your computer for this. Get a good dictionary as well and use it if you're not sure. Present your manuscript to the magazines/ agents/ publishers exactly as they like them. It could mean the difference between being your manuscript being read or not being read.

6. READ YOUR TARGET MAGAZINE BEFORE YOU WRITE YOUR SHORT STORY: Get a feel, over several different issues, for the magazine(s) you wish to write for. Look at layout, word count, do they use double " or single ' speech marks etc. Look at the titles and the bylines - how does the magazine describe it's stories, ' heartfelt,' 'funny,' 'heartwarming,' etc.

7. READ OUT LOUD: Read your work out loud to check for flow.If you stumble in your story then the reader might too. Reading out loud will help pick up on any grammatical errors or inappropriate word useage.

8. LET SOMEONE ELSE READ YOUR WORK: Not your partner or mum or best friend. If you want honest brutal advice then give it to someone who you know has an eye for grammar and who will tell you the truth. My partner reads my work and he always says it's good, yet when I read it through again I find some more mistakes! Your loved ones love you and want to encourage you and be supportive of you, they don't want to offend you , so give it to someone else. It's for your own good!

9. DO A CREATIVE WRITING COURSE/JOIN A LOCAL WRITERS' GROUP: I did a course in Creative Writing with the Open University and when that finished I joined a local Writing Group. Both of these has proved invaluable to me. You have the ears and advice of all these wonderful writers who can help you. Don't be too proud or embarrassed to ask for their help. Some of them will have been writing for a lot longer than you and have been published. They can be a great source of advice and encouragement for you. Take a short example of your work along when you feel brave and show it to them. If you're stuck on something they may be able to help you move forward.

10. STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER AND START WRITING!: Procrastination will get you nowhere. Get off the internet, come out of the forums/ chat rooms, turn off the blogs (yes including this one!) These distractions are okay for research purposes and to let off a little steam, but they can become addictive and before you know it the evening's gone and you haven't written a thing.

11. SEND YOUR WORK OFF!: Sounds a bit obvious I know. But don't do what I do and leave half completed short stories or novels hanging about in drawers or folders for months (coughs - years!) Get them finished to the best of your ability and once you've done a final proofread and have rechecked that your story ticks all the boxes, send it off!

Most of all - have fun with your writing and don't get bogged down with it. Don't be discouraged or start wailing and grinding your teeth when you get a rejection letter. Dust your self down - check the rejection letter for any useful advice the kind editor may have given you - and keep writing. Practice , practice, practice and you may one day be celebrating an acceptance and publication.

That's my take on it anyway, anyone else found anything else useful?


Suzanne said...

Some good advice there. I think No 7 is particularly important. And No 10 hit a nerve...in fact, I'm going to disable the internet now...

Julie P said...

Tee Hee! It's true though isn't it. The times I've sat goggle eyed to the screen when I should have been writing! I'm doing it now! Aaaagrrhh!

klahanie said...

Greetings Julie,
Here's another tip. I contacted a show on B.B.C.'s radio 5 Live, called 'Pods and Blogs'. They looked over my blog and much to my amazement, decided to feature my blog on the show. Heck I was even interviewed.
For a guy who is a vitual recluse with mental health issues, that was one heck of a challenge.
Warm regards klahanie aka Gary.

Jaye said...

Ah, yes - No 10 *stares guiltily round the room* I am working, honest ...

The Buddhist Conservative said...

Great advice... oh boy! another blog to read!... (I need to print #10)

The competition for print is fierce and your ideas will go a long way for those who wish to be published.

I am never far from a pen and notebook since keeping an idea in my head for more than 30 seconds is difficult.

It helps to be flexible when the sparks of inspiration hit. There are days when I have trouble writing a shopping list and others where the words just seem to flow.

Editors can receive hundreds of submissions a day but as you state, practice and persistence can eventually pay off. Rejection does not mean your writing is necessarily bad. Often it just did not fit the editor's concept of the publication. That's what I tell myself anyway.

If all else fails, at least I can post to my blog :)

Julie P said...

Thanks The Buddhist Conservative. That's the spirit! If in doubt blog it!It's writing after all isn't it. Look what happened to Klahanie.

Julie P said...

Well done Klahanie (Gary) You must be really pleased. Just goes to show that bogging has its advantages sometimes and can present you with opportunities when you least expect them.

Julie P said...

Turn off the computer and back away slowly Jaye!