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Archive for September, 2010

Out of the Box Writing Workshops are changing!  Based on a blend of feedback from participants and my desire to give you the most effective format, Out of the Box writing workshops will now be a monthly event – to give you time between sessions to practice what I’ve preached.  But, in future, these workshops will also allow for more ‘reading’ and critiquing time.  This means they will now last for three hours – instead of two as previously.

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Some publishers know authors only as Joe Bloggs c/o Alex, Swaddel & Binge, Literary Agents…So, if your favoured publisher – listed in the ranks of The Writers & Artists Yearbook or The Writers’ Handbook or Willing’s Press Guide – says ‘No unsolicited MSS’, yes, you do need an Authors’ agent.

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Unless you are writing exclusively for yourself – and I’m not sure how possible this is – you are not writing in a vacuum. You are writing for an audience.  That audience may be represented in indirect ways but an audience it remains.  For example, an editor represents the readers of his or her magazine or the buyers of his books.  And, as you write her memoirs, your great aunt Agatha will be sitting on your shoulder – probably tutting.

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Creative Writing comes from our ability to day-dream.  Through it we can practice our narrative competence – making sense of our own lives, our own fears, our own anxieties.  We can generate meaning and find re-assuring resolution.

As writers, as Freud said in his paper on Creative Writers and Day-dreaming (1907) we can make up imaginary worlds, take them seriously, invest them with huge emotion, enliven them with material from the world’ around us and keep these worlds separate from our own reality.

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At my workshop yesterday we thought about the writing process including inspiration, where to find it and what to do with it when you have.  The workshop participants were creative writers but the process applies to pretty much any kind of writing.

We identified the writing process involves:

P – Preparation of yourself as a writer

  • Fitness – mental, emotional and psychological, physical.  Look at your working environment, your workstation, your general fitness levels.  You have to be strong to be a writer.
  • Writers’ Block – is this a reluctance to commit, evidence of a conscious vs unconscious struggle or inertia induced by panic?
  • Work/Life Balance.  When did you last see your father?

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Freelance journalism is a hard way to make a living. Newspaper and magazine publishers are cutting writers’ rates by the minute – some to as little as 9p a word in the UK.  Many even encourage writers to write for nothing – for the glory of being in print ie for nothing.  So why bother?

At a workshop I ran yesterday for writers exploring the possibilities of freelance journalism, we considered this question in some depth.

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Guidelines

1. Content: keep it simple

  • 250 words maximum, 1 page only, plain text.
  • Human interest – leave out graphs. (For business stories, include figures to illustrate performance or turnover).  Always find the human angle – death, tragedy, triumph over tragedy.  Remember money, food, health and sex sell newspapers.  That you have set up a new company is not enough (too much like advertising (advertorial).  So find a people story.
  • Details regarding people – name (properly spelled), age, occupation, marital status, location.  Some or all of these.
  • Topic Stories – can you relate your story to something happening now e.g. credit crunch, volcanic ash, bonfire night etc.
  • Beginning, middle, end, answering the questions: who, when, where, what, why and how (and how much, if appropriate).
  • What makes your release/event/story different?
  • Think locally, nationally, globally…
  • Timely – react to the news pages.
  • Editors’ notes: clearly marked and at end of piece (very useful), these explain all that cannot appear in the body of the text, including who you are and what your company does.

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