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This month Lesley Cryer gives a realistic account of a writer's lot, Ten Top Tips covers how to present the perfect manuscript, plus student success stories, useful websites, a fantastic competition and inspiration for articles.

E-zee Writer
Top Tips For Writers

E-zee Writer Top Tips for Writers

Issue 107
August 09

Hello again and welcome to another fact-packed edition.

Well, August, it seems, is the month of independence with no less than seven countries, including India, Malaysia, Ecuador and Pakistan, claiming independence in this month at various points throughout history. I’m sure they chose warm summer months so they could have big outdoor parties to celebrate the anniversary each year – I know I would!

August also hosts National Psoriasis Awareness Month, National Immunisation Month and in the USA it’s also National Goats Cheese Month, mmm...melted on a huge field mushroom – yum! The point of me telling you these interesting facts is to highlight just how many opportunities there are to come up with article ideas. I found most of this information using internet searches, however, if you are not so savvy on the net you might want to consider our course ‘Write for profit using the Internet to help you make the most of your online time.

This month our expert advice is from Lesley Cryer who gives a warts and all opinion of what it’s like to be a freelance writer, Ten Top Tips covers how to present your fabulous piece of work to the publisher once you’ve completed it and useful websites and the end note should give you plenty to ponder.

I have some exciting news this month too! One of our students, Gillian Hovell, has a new book due out on the 17th August. In Gillian’s words, “With over 100 illustrations, ‘Visiting the Past' is an easy-to-follow, jargon-free guide to the archaeology of Britain. Priced £12.99, it takes us on a journey through time, exploring what happened in each era, what life was like and the best sites to visit and places to go. But it also reveals the archaeology that's all around us - this is history we can reach out to and touch for ourselves.” Congratulations Gillian, I hope it’s a roaring success! We also have student success stories from Evans in Zambia and Marion in France.

If you think you’d like to write a non-fiction book along the lines of Gillian’s you should look at our Non-fiction writing course, which covers how to plan, research and write non-fiction books, as well as covering other kinds of non-fiction writing too.

If you are out and about this month Charlotte Square Gardens is hosting the Edinburgh International Book Festival taking place between the 15th and 31st August. Featuring 750 author events and activities its “An inspiring literary festival, the world's largest public celebration of the written word, right in the heart of Edinburgh: hundreds of author events, debates and workshops packed into 17 extraordinary days each August”. Attending this year are Richard Dawkins, Valerie Martin, Ian Rankin, Douglas Coupland and Michael Morpurgo to name but a few. There are lots of events to keep all ages entertained so you can join in or just sit and listen to your heart’s content. Tickets range from free to, a very reasonable, £12.00.

Kingston University, London is the venue for ‘How to get published: a conference for writers’, a two-day gathering for budding writers taking place on the 11th and 12th September. You’ll have the opportunity to hear agents and authors pass on their wisdom, plus there’ll be practical advice about writing synopses, presenting work and spotting trends. The cost of the two days is £135 and more information can be found here.

If you are into fantasy, science fiction or horror writing you really don’t want to miss FantasyCon 2009 being held over the weekend of the 18th September in the Britannia Hotel, Nottingham. Guests of honour are Gail Z Martin, Jasper Fforde and Brian Clemens and the fabulous Ian Watson is Master of Ceremonies. Not only can you “meet your favourite authors, attend book launches and listen to panels”, you can also attend a lavish banquet on Saturday night followed by the presentations of the British Fantasy Awards – should be good. Prices range from £30.00 - £105.00 to attend.

See our end note for an exciting competition and a lovely Tanabata poem – thanks Brenda!

Have a fun month!


Shelley x



"Wow! Wow! Wow!’ I said as I read my letter informing me that my novel had been published. My excitement reached fever pitch when I opened the pages of the book over and over. Great! I told my friend John who responded with ‘You a published writer? You're pulling my leg’. He looked at the front cover of my novel and saw the title ‘Nyika Yasanduka’(The World has Changed) as well as my first name and surname written in capital letters. ‘So it can happen eh? This is a turning point in your life. You've blazed a trail for our village. You've gained the admiration of everybody. It sounds like a fairy tale.’

“I had toiled for many years in the wilderness, working round the clock, hoping to turn my disappointment into a gem. My manuscripts had been rejected by several editors time and again because they did not meet their standards. Having been found wanting, I kept on trying, proving myself guilty of incompetence and sentencing myself to literary death. Had it not been for my friends encouraging me, I would have abandoned my writing world. They gave me the never-say-die spirit. I was the subject of gossip, the target of slander. ‘Hopeless Bookworm’, the villagers called me. So, when I saw my name in print, it was like a resurrection. My success story spread like wild fire. I went from one home to another, telling whoever I met about my success.

"My life suddenly changed. The villagers became interested in everything about me: my steps, my clothes and even my food! ‘Shakespeare, Dickens, Achebe, Soyinka!’, they chanted as they lifted me shoulder-high. A friend asked what the secret of my success was. I replied that every huge success is a climax of small related successes and I've learnt the value of self-discipline as a budding writer. I don't take anything for granted in writing. Even a minor punctuation or spelling mistake makes me brood as if I were the worst offender under the sun. While I was talking, a small girl brought me another letter. It stated that my novel would be a set book for the school certificate/GCE O level examination. This was confirmed by a radio announcement that I was the writer of an important book in Zambia, one of the rising stars in the writing world!”

Evans Simbuli, Zambia


“My reason for choosing The Writers Bureau course was a desire to write and learn how to do it well. As part of one of my assignments I had to research the market and offer an article to a magazine. I’d written about a beautiful walled town called Montreuil-Sue-Mare, where Victor Hugo found his inspiration for ‘Les Miserables’. My tutor really liked it so I found the courage and confidence to send it to the editor of ‘The French News’, a national monthly newspaper in France. She liked it too and I could hardly believe my luck when she asked me to be her local correspondent for the Nord Pas de Calais area. My role was to research and write up monthly events in my region; plus every month I’d search out interesting people or occasions and offer her my ideas; she would often commission me to do an article, like covering ‘Le Braderie’ in Lille.

“I learnt how to liaise with editors, keep my writing tight and work to deadlines, research using the internet, network with other correspondents and tourist offices and interview people from all walks of life. It’s been a fantastic opportunity for me to meet interesting people and learn about different cultures and customs. Plus, I have been able to gain front row seats in order to take the best photographs and access VIP places with my press card and my freelance writer's pass.

“It’s very rewarding for me. I’ve made new friends and I’ve even found an old school friend who contacted me after seeing my name in the paper.

“Even more priceless than that; I have gained a wealth of knowledge, met an abundance of colourful characters, seen places of interest, wonderful backdrops and unusual situations, all of which I can take into the next chapter of my life and my fiction assignments.”

Marion Catchpole-Dossat, France

If you would like a prospectus for the courses studied by Marion or Evans email us here with your full name and postal address.

Or, to share your success stories with others, just send an email to with 'Success Story' in the subject line.


FREELANCE MARKET NEWSFreelance Market News Magazine
an essential guide for freelance writers


For up-to-date market information, Freelance Market News is invaluable.

Issued 11 times a year it's packed with information on markets in Britain and around the globe, plus you get all the latest news and views on the publishing world.

Every subscription comes with FREE membership of The Association of Freelance Writers. Your membership also entitles you to discounts on books and competitions, a free appraisal worth over £30 and a Membership Card which confirms your status as a Freelance Writer.

FREE sample copies are available to view at the website, along with more details about the magazine and how you can subscribe.

Have a look at our new website using the link below to grab a sneak peak at what’s coming up in the next issue, read success stories, plus access a whole host of useful resources.



by Lesley Cryer

Earning your living as a writer really does have a lot going for it - on paper at least. Work hours which suit you, doing something you enjoy and getting paid - sounds ideal, doesn't it? But be warned, being a writer isn't without one or two pitfalls.

It's true that there's very little which beats the thrill of popping into W.H. Smith's or Waterstone's and seeing your books on the shelf. It's even better if you see someone actually flicking through a copy. On such occasions I used to lurk nearby watching them fixedly to see their reaction. It was only with extreme difficulty that I stopped myself from trying to convince them that the paperback in their hand was well worth £6.99.

I was convinced that the staff of my local branch of W.H. Smith's thought I was deranged, because whenever I was in there I set about rearranging the shelves to display my own novels to greater advantage.

I was reassured to read that this is a trait shared almost universally by writers, but it's hard to imagine Jilly Cooper breezing into the Stroud Smith's and behaving in a similar fashion. Although I suppose that when there's already a seven foot stand stacked with your novels and the walls are plastered with posters advertising the latest one, you don't really need to.

It becomes an obsession with writers to enter any book shop they pass to see if it has their books in stock. If they can't find any, they emerge disconsolate, their day ruined. Once I returned home from a trip into town so downcast at being unable to find a single one of my novels in Waterstone's, that I telephoned them. Having identified myself as an author and told the manager of the fiction section the names under which I write, I asked querulously why the shelves were bereft of my work. He told me diplomatically (but probably not altogether truthfully) that they'd sold out, but stressed that he had re-ordered. To mollify me further he then asked if I would like to come in to do a signing. I felt churlish when I replied that I wouldn't, but the truth is I'd rather unblock a drain with a teaspoon.

I'm aware that to many aspiring writers the invitation would be an intoxicating one, but a friend of mine once witnessed a best-selling, high-profile author sitting alone behind a massive stack of her latest novel at just such a signing. Although the shop was crowded, no-one went near her. Eventually, my friend felt so sorry for her she bought a copy, even though she was not an admirer of her work. Quite frankly I can live without the prospect of such a public humiliation.

One of the best aspects of being a writer is that you usually work at home. Which means no more driving into town in rush hour traffic, arriving at work practically psychotic with rage. Instead you can get right down to it as soon as you get up in the morning.

On the other hand, editors and clients think nothing of phoning you late at night, at the crack of dawn or in the middle of Sunday lunch to talk to you about whatever's on their mind. Don't even think about telling them they've phoned at an inconvenient time - their goodwill is vital to your career. I dread the day video phones become the norm. It's easy to pretend to be alert, bright and breezy on the phone at nine in the morning after staying up until 2 a.m. to meet a tight deadline. But a video phone would reveal the sordid truth - I'm still in my dressing gown, my face has the the pallor of the freshly exhumed and I'm downing my third cup of coffee in a desperate attempt to jump start my creative faculties.

Being a writer can make for interesting encounters at parties. No conversation is ever wasted because you can always learn something new and benefit from a fresh perspective on a subject. A casual remark may trigger off an idea which can be developed into an article, a short story or even a novel. This can backfire on you of course. Express an interest in the fact that someone is a high-flier in extruded piping and you can stand there for hours, unable to escape, while they hold forth on the topic in mind-numbing detail. But happily I used to be a copywriter and over the years I've written about many technical subjects ranging from fibre optics to plastic gaskets. No party bore is going to out-bore me. I can play them at their own game and talk indefinitely on a wide range of equally uninspiring themes.

Then there's the party bore who's convinced that their life would make a fascinating basis for a book. Invariably it wouldn't. Or the ones who tell you they'd write a book but they're far too busy (probably watching satellite TV). Think of them as an occupational hazard.

Possibly the biggest problem for burgeoning writers is pecuniary insecurity. As a self-employed writer financial planning is a potential minefield and the situation needs reviewing constantly to keep it in accurate perspective. You really do have to keep meticulous accounts, as much for your own sake as for HM Revenue & Customs. Sometimes it can be difficult to get paid for work done and you have to pursue the money with terrier-like tenacity, which is both tiresome and time-consuming.

In an ideal world, any writer would have another source of income, or a partner with a secure job. Some bank or building society managers get nervous at the idea of lending money to anyone in what they consider to be a precarious (or even nefarious) profession. On the other hand, if you have a book published there's always a possibility it will become a bestseller, and the royalty cheques will just keep on coming. Most people in salaried jobs have to rely on the lottery or premium bonds for their pipe dreams.

And writing can be an unstable profession, not only because it's affected by the prevailing winds of the financial climate, but because of the notorious whimsicality of fickle editors. You might have articles published in a particular magazine for three or four months in a row. Never assume that this is going to be an ongoing situation. Your next three pieces could easily be rejected and you'll never be able to work out why. It may be that a new editor has been appointed and he or she could well bring in their own writers and you can wave goodbye to your column space. Luckily this can also work in your favour and the editor who likes your work may move to a different publication and suggest you write for that. Bear in mind that you can't have too many sources and cast your net as wide as possible. Never, ever, miss a deadline because if you do and you leave a harassed editor with inches to fill at short notice, you'll certainly never work for them again. They won't be remotely interested in your excuses, however convincing. In their book, your own death would only just rate as an excuse and a pretty feeble one at that.

All scribblers, at one time or another, come across the dreaded writer's block. There are few things quite as unnerving as a completely blank screen on your computer and a mind to match.

If you're working to a deadline, this is something you can't allow yourself to admit the existence of. You just have to start writing and hope that in the end it comes together. I've always found that the terror of a tight deadline focuses the mind wonderfully and I can work really fast under pressure. But if it's a self-imposed deadline, suddenly a whole host of enticing alternative activities present themselves. I might decide I need some reference material and have to go into town. And if I'm doing that I may as well meet someone for lunch. And then go shopping...

Personally I think I'm fairly self-disciplined, but I do know people who, given a week to write a feature, won't actually start work on it until twenty-four hours before it's wanted, then work through the night in a caffeine-fuelled panic and need to spend three days recovering.

But despite all the pitfalls, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. There can't be many other professions where reading widely is an integral (and often tax deductible) part of the job. And anything you do, anywhere you go, anyone you meet, can all be mentally filed away for future use in an article or book.

Writing is something that a vast number of people want to do, at least as an additional interest (and income) if not full time. But it's not a talent everyone has, so you can be justifiably proud when you have anything published. And best of all, it beats the grind of the nine to five any day.


Lesley Cryer is a freelance writer and part-time university lecturer with a General Arts degree in English and American literature. The author of fourteen contemporary novels, four period novels and a humorous book, she has also written for children’s TV and the BBC. She has been a regular contributor of short stories and features to national publications and produced scripts on a wide variety of subjects for independent film and video production companies.


Ten top tips on presenting a perfect manuscript.

Good presentation can’t replace talent and good writing but the appearance of your work can make an editor give it more attentive consideration. Whereas a badly typed, poorly presented article may receive only cursory consideration, good presentation can definitely help you to sell your work.

1. Use good quality A4 white paper (not coloured). 80g is ideal.

2. Use a plain font like Times New Roman, which is professional, easy to read and preferred by many editors. Avoid fonts like Courier (which looks old fashioned) and most sans-serif fonts because they can be more difficult to read. Never us fancy, cursive fonts – nothing is more off-putting for an editor. A font size of 12 is usually about right as it is neither too big nor too small.

3. Manuscripts must be typed or word processed for submission to editors. They will not accept hand-written manuscripts. Alternatively, send work by email if the guidelines say that this is acceptable. Most publications will accept work by email but check whether the editor wants work pasted into the body of the email or as an attachment.

4. Always use double line spacing and leave decent margins (usually an inch and a half – certainly not less than an inch) at the top, bottom and both sides of the page. You should still use double spacing when you send work to a print-based magazine by email. But if you are submitting to an ezine for publication on the web you can use single spacing.

5. If you chose to indent your work, leave between 5 and 10 spaces at the start of the first line of each new paragraph. There is no need to use additional blank lines between paragraphs. If you do not indent, and use block layout, then you should leave an extra line between paragraphs.

6. At the top left hand corner of the first sheet give your name, address, telephone number, email address and the date. At the top right give your work a single word ‘catchline’ based on what the story is about. For example, an angling story could have the catchline Hooked. The first page would be Hooked 1 and subsequent pages Hooked 2, Hooked 3, and so on. This helps to identify your work if the pages become separated. Then, type the title of your article and your byline (name or pseudonym) in a central position across the page about a third of the way down. Then start to type your article.

7. Always put mf or more follows at the bottom of each page. On the final page type end or endit to show that it is finished. Make sure you number each page. Again, these measures should stop pages of your work going astray in the editorial office.

8. If you are sending your work by post always attach a cover sheet. This looks professional and prevents the front page of your manuscript from getting grubby. The cover sheet should have all your contact details on it, the date and what rights you are offering. In the centre of the page you should give the title of the article, the word length of your manuscript and your name. Remember, it is essential that you give the word length.

9. There is no excuse for obvious corrections on your manuscript. Check your work carefully before you send it out to ensure that you have eliminated any typing, spelling or punctuation errors.

10. Finally, when sending work by post always include a sae - stamped, (self) addressed envelope – so that the editor can return it to you if they do not wish to use it. Obviously, if you send work by email you save on this expense.

Even though strictly speaking this website has nothing to do with writing I think it deserves a mention simply because it is such an awe inspiring site. If you find yourself lost for inspiration or suffering from writer’s block sit and watch the experts talking about all manner of things – such as exploring the mind of a killer and escaping the Khmer Rouge – for half and hour and you’ll soon be buzzing with ideas, plus it’s free to join.

In line with the theme of this month’s expert advice it may also help you to understand what it’s like to be a freelance writer if you read other people’s blogs about trying to be just that. So, here’s a huge, and I mean huge, list of blogs written by new and established authors about what life is like. The blogs are alphabetised and categorised by genre and whether they are written by published or aspiring authors. There should be something to suit every single one of you.

This site is for those of you who like to write fantasy and science fiction. It’s a writing community, a place to chat, read other people’s work, look at art work and generally enjoy being amongst other like-minded individuals. You do have to register to take part but it’s free.

Remember, if you run a website that you think may be of use to our readers, let me know. If I like it, I’ll publish a link to it giving you a free plug. What could be better than that?

END NOTE and a little inspiration


Could you write an article about ...


1st February 1790  US Supreme court attempts to convene for the first time.

2nd February

Imbolc – a celebration of hearth, home and the lengthening of the days by the Gaelic and Celtic cultures.

3rd February 1959

According to some this day is the day music died as three successful American singers die - Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and JP Richardson.
4th February 1703

Edo (now Tokyo) witnesses forty six of the forty seven Ronin committing seppuku or ritual suicide as recompense for avenging their master’s death.

5th February 2008

Fifty nine people die in the Southern United States following an outbreak of tornados.
6th February 1962

William Bruce Rose Jr., otherwise known as Axl Rose of Guns ‘n’ Roses fame, is born in Lafayette, Indiana, USA.

7th February 1882

Mississippi City, Mississippi is the venue for the last bare-knuckle heavyweight boxing championship fight. 

8th February
The annual Buddhist festival of Nirvana takes place.

9th February 1991

Lithuania becomes independent following a public vote.

10th February

IBM’s supercomputer, Deep Blue, beats chess world champion Garry Kasparov for the first time.
11th February 1938

BBC Television adapts a section of Karel Capeks play R.U.R making it the world’s first science fiction television programme broadcast. It also coined the phrase ‘robot’. 


12th February 2007

A gunman kills five people in the Trolley Square Mall shooting, Salt Lake City.

13th February 1990 An agreement is reached on a two-stage plan to reunite Germany.

14th February

Valentines day – a day for lovers in memory of St Valentine. 

15th February 1852

The first patient is admitted to the Great Ormand Street Hospital for sick children, London.

16th February 1985

The Shi’a Islamist paramilitary group Hezbollah, literally ‘party of God’ is founded in Lebanon.

17th February 2003

London introduces the congestion charge.

18th February 1979
Snow fell for the first and, to date, only time in the Sahara desert. 

19th February 1952

Amy Tan of ‘The Joy Luck Club’ fame is born in Oakland, California. 

20th February 1995 

The FA Premier League is formed.

21st February 1952

Winston Churchill abolishes identity cards in the UK to ‘set the people free’.

22nd February 2006
The biggest robbery in UK history is staged by at least six men who steal £53 million from a security depot in Tonbridge, Kent.

23rd February 1999
The Austrian village of Galtur is destroyed by an avalanche which also kills 31 people.

24th February 1981
Buckingham Palace announces the engagement of The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.

25th February 1723
Sir Christopher Wren dies in London following a visit to his ‘greatest work’, St Paul’s Cathedral.

26th February 1919
Most of The Grand Canyon is declared a National Park by a US Act of Congress. 

27th February 1900
The British Labour party is founded.

28th February 1986 
The Prime Minister of Sweden, Olof Palme, is assassinated in Stockholme.


I thought I’d mention this competition which will be of interest to many of you I’m sure – it is to become a Writer in Residence for InterAct Reading Service. The charity provides readings by professional actors to stroke patients in hospitals and clubs around England. The competition has a prize of £2000, plus you’ll become their Writer in Residence for one year. During that time you will be expected to produce five further short stories, so it’s a bit more of a commitment than is usually expected when you enter a competition. The entry fee is £10.00 and the closing date is not until December this year so, there’s loads of time for you to get your entries in order. If you think you’d like to enter this competition – and just think what it could do to your profile as a writer if you won – but if your short story skills are dubious enrol on our Novel and Short Story Writing course and learn how to construct the perfect piece. You could also enrol on our Writing for Competitions course to ensure you give yourself the best chance of bagging that Writer in Residence role.

Below is Brenda’s Tanabata poem. Once again, thanks for sending it in:


By Brenda Gath

In summer of every year
There is a Tanabata, you may hear
The rustling of coloured streamers
Disturbing the breezes
But wait, that isn’t all
The wishes of the fishermen call
Pinned to their ceilings written small
Coloured papers around them all.
That’s not all that matters
Let’s talk about the Tanabatas
They’re small and bright, a wish within
A tea light candle in a square tin
A raft for it to float upon
A lightshade of sorts and all of it shone
Bobbing on the water it floats upon.
It takes the message to their God
Written by people of all walks
From fishermen on the sea to toilers on the sod
Their wishes are only simple you see
For all workers to have prosperity.

Here’s a little something to relax the grey matter - Roly Poly Cannon. It’s fun and not too difficult either.

And finally, if you found something of use to you in this issue please pass the word on to all your writer friends – and even those who don’t! You never know, you might inspire them to take it up. They can sign up here

See you next month.

Shelley x

P.S. If there are any of our overseas readers who would like me to promote literary events in their country, please let me know and I will do my best to mention them.

As usual, if you've any suggestions or would like to comment on anything you have read then please contact me at:






Annemarie Munro Writers Bureau's Student of the Year 2022

"I have seen my writing journey as an adventure: What can I write? What am I best at? What new aspects of writing can I discover and contribute towards? I have welcomed the wide range of modules covering different types of writing, challenging me to try new aspects in style and content, pushing me gently outside my comfort zone with encouragement.

"I signed up for the course in December 2020 as a Christmas present to myself and I started the first module in January 2021. I have had eight pieces published: three paid earning £1080 and a star letter where I won a £250 hotel voucher."

Annemarie Munro - Writers Bureau Student of the Year 2022

Read Annemarie's full story

Lou Carter"After completing the course I began writing as much as I could and in 2014 I was finally signed by my agent and within two months I had a contract with Bloomsbury.

To date I have nine picture book contracts all at various stages of publication. There Is No Dragon In This Story (Bloomsbury) and Pirate Stew (Orchard) both published last summer and Oscar The Hungry Unicorn (Orchard) is due to be released on Sept 20th 2018. "

Lou Carter

Sarah Leavesly"Since starting The Art of Writing Poetry course, I have been published many times under my pen name Sarah James, won competitions and made money."

Sarah Leavesley


Noel Gama"I was so excited about the immense potential of the Internet that I enrolled for yet another Writers Bureau course, ‘Writing for the Internet'."

Noel Gama


Gilian Atack

"The course has helped me write a story that evokes strong emotions; the constructive but motivational feedback I received from The Writers Bureau has helped me knock down the barriers to self-doubt. Recently, I held my first book launch where I talked about how and why I wrote my story."

Gillian Atack

Read Gillian's Story

Cathal Coyle

"My short-term intention is to continue combining writing for newspapers and magazines with my current job. I'm enjoying my writing 'sideline' but I may find as time goes on that I want to make the transition to full-time writer."

Cathal Coyle


Institute of Training and Occupational Learning

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