View the winners of our 20th Anniversary Award and Writer of the Year competitions, get sound advice on creating convincing dialogue in Top Tips, find out where to locate local history information in Useful Websites and learn how to profit from walking with Simon Whaley.
Hello fellow writers,
THE WRITERS BUREAU
"There was hardly a time that I wasn’t writing – stories, skits, poems, ads, inspirational pieces – just for fun. Soon, what was leisure grew into a dream, not only to be a published writer, but to be paid for my work. This I knew needed to be accomplished concurrently with a full-time job.
"I joined The Writers Bureau course as long ago as 2005 and regret that I have still to complete it. Nevertheless, the course itself plus advice from tutors, tips from E-zee Writer and ideas in Freelance Market News all help to fuel my ambition to be a full-time writer. As well as carrying a Blog on my website, I have written general interest articles for the Internet, as well as some technical contributions in professional publications.
Thanks, as always to Sean and Helen for sharing their inspirational stories with us. If you would like a prospectus for the courses they are studying please email us here with your full name and postal address.
Or, to share your success stories with others, just send an email to email@example.com with 'Success Story' in the subject line.
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.
How to write for cat magazines, plus the usual mix of markets and helpful advice for you to absorb and utilise.
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The Great Outdoors
I do a lot of writing with my feet. In fact, publication can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. More and more magazines are publishing walking routes – rambles that readers can follow for themselves. Depending upon the magazine’s readership, they may be short strolls around the village pond or hearty hikes to mountain summits. What you mustn’t do is to lead your readers up the garden path! However, with some common sense, a decent map and some good notes, your next published article may only be a few footsteps away.
Many publications use walking routes for readers to follow. Apart from the obvious walking magazines (Country Walking, Trail, The Great Outdoors, Walking Wales, Lakeland Walker, Walk to name a few) why not take a look at your local county magazine or newspaper? Offering readers a short walk is a great way to explore a local village or site of historic interest. I have a regular monthly column with my local magazine, Country & Border Life, which does just this. I’ve also contributed routes to BBC Countryfile, Country Walking, Walking Wales and Trail magazines . But it doesn’t stop there, I’ve seen rambles in BBC History magazine, dog magazines, disability access magazines and local newspapers. Readers love to get out and explore, and publications like a walk because it gives readers an opportunity to get involved. Don’t dismiss writing about the great outdoors just because you’ve never walked further than two miles!
I always consider who my reader is before even planning a walk. Because readers of Country Walking are interested in walking, most of the routes I’ve tackled for them have been between five and eleven miles. My Country & Border Life walking column readers are not active walkers, although they often enjoy a short Sunday afternoon stroll if the weather is nice. Most of my walks for these readers tend to be between one and three miles in length, which I’m sure most of you could easily manage!
If you have an idea, then I would suggest you approach editors by email first. Dominic Bates, editor of Walk magazine says, “Email, then post. A phone approach is often unnecessary and time-consuming without having seen any actual writing.” David Perrot, editor of Walking Wales agrees. “What I prefer is an outline of the idea along with a sample, so that I can get a feel for it. If potential contributors telephone, I will only ask them to send something anyway.”
Yet, how difficult can it be to write ‘turn left at the lane and then cross a stile’? It’s hardly creative writing is it? Wrong! Don’t for one minute fall for the trap that writing walking routes is easy - outdoor writers have to be succinct writers. “The real skill of writing for our routes section is condensing a lot of information into 500 words or so,” says Nick Hallissey at Country Walking magazine. “Some writers find it easier than others.”
When analysing a magazine to establish what sort of walkers the readers are, look to see what else they’re interested in, and therefore what sorts of walks they’ll be tempted to tackle. For my Country & Border Life column, I tend to create walks that are near other attractions, or follow an outdoor theme. I’ve just completed an article about the Blists Hill Victorian Christmas weekends for next December’s issue. Blists Hill is based in the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge, so I’ve included a two-mile walk through Ironbridge Gorge that readers can do after visiting Blists Hill. This month’s issue looks at the Crocus, one of the first flowers of spring, so I’ve written an article about the flower and then devised a one-and-a-half mile walk through a woodland where crocuses thrive.
If you’re interested in targeting a magazine that already produces walks (such as Country Walking, Trail, Lakeland Walker), the best advice is to go out and tackle one of the routes published in the magazine. How easy is it to follow? Note how the writer succinctly summarises the description. Instead of writing ‘cross the stile and the field, cross the next stile and field, then cross another stile and field to reach a lane’ they may write ‘Cross the next three stiles and fields to reach a lane’.
Always take copious notes when walking and be as observant as possible. When you reach a gate, is it a metal one or a wooden one? I refer to wooden gates as ‘gates’ but metal gates as ‘metal gates’. Why? In my experience, farmers generally replace wooden gates with metal ones, rather than the other way around! A reader might panic if I told them to expect a wooden gate and the farmer had replaced it with a metal one. They may think they’ve taken a wrong turning.
And don’t write about turning left after the third Daffodil. That won’t be much help in October! Be aware of your surroundings and how things may change on the ground. What looks like an overgrown and impassable hedge in summer, is just a row of twigs in winter. That lone tree that you tell readers to bear to the right of as they cross the field, could easily disappear during the next thunderstorm, when struck by lightening.
Take lots of pictures when out and about. Remember, pictures help to sell your route as well as provide confirmation that readers are on the right trail. If you’re writing for a non-walking magazine, take pictures on bright sunny days, to encourage readers to get out and explore. Dedicated walkers do it in all weathers!
And walking routes do not have to be countryside based. I’ve tackled a couple of town trails and written them up and sold them. My county town is Shrewsbury, birthplace of Charles Darwin and 2009 is the 200th anniversary of his birth. There are several buildings in the town connected with him, so I’m creating a trail around town that readers can follow to visit those buildings themselves. As long as your route descriptions are clear, readers should be able to follow them. If ever you’re unsure, then get a friend to see if they can follow your instructions.
So next time you’re looking for a new writing market, consider stepping out and getting some fresh air. Don’t describe your town’s history, create a trail around it for readers to follow instead. You never know where your journey may take you!
Simon Whaley - Biography
Simon is a tutor for the Writers Bureau and has walked over 1,500km for a variety of magazines including Country Walking, Trail, Country & Border Life, Cumbria, Walking Wales, Lakeland Walker. His book, Best Walks in the Welsh Borders, was published by Frances Lincoln in 2007. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers & Photographers Guild and in 2006 was honoured with an Award for Excellence for his monthly walking column in Country & Border Life magazine. His next book, The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking is due for publication in Spring 2009.
Ten top tips for effective dialogue.
Many novels and short stories get rejected because they do not include enough dialogue – or the speech their characters use sounds stilted and unrealistic. So here are some tips to help you make the most of what your characters say
1. When your characters start talking they must say something important – something that helps to push your plot forward. There’s no room for idle chit chat. Every conversation should involve a crucial piece of plot information being given to your reader.
2. Use dialogue to inject pace and impact into your stories. Try substituting a line or two of dialogue for a long, rambling description. Instead of taking 500 words to describe how horrible a place is, your readers will get the same information from a character saying “What a dump!”
3. Dialogue should be a real aid to characterisation. The voices, accents and vocabulary used by your characters should tell the reader a lot about them and their backgrounds.
4. Try to make dialogue reflect your characters’ emotions and frame of mind. Let the reader hear the pain, anger or delight in what they say.
5. Make sure you know the difference between direct speech: “I’m hungry. I could eat a horse!” and indirect speech: Mary said she was so hungry she could eat a horse. Direct speech is always more emotionally powerful and gives more immediacy.
6. Always use dialogue tags – he said, she replied, Mark added - unless it is obvious who is speaking .But keep your tags simple. Nothing is more irritating than a hero who opines, pontificates or rejoins. And avoid long dialogue tags such as he said angrily or she replied with sadness. It should be obvious from the words your character speaks whether they are happy, angry or sad.
7. Make sure that you use contractions: “Don’t do that.”, “I can’t see it.” or “He’ll kill me!” That’s how people really speak. When was the last time you heard someone say “I cannot see it”?
8. Slang, swearing and dialect. If you’re writing a period novel it’s OK to use the appropriate slang (for example a novel set in 1960s London gangland). But if you are writing a contemporary novel, avoid it, as nothing will date your work quicker. Now on to swearing. If you are writing a gritty, realistic novel then don’t be prudish about your characters swearing. On the other hand, if you’re writing a Mills and Boone-type novel it’s best to avoid it. One way is to refer to it in your descriptions rather than your dialogue: The air sizzled with Dan’s non-stop cursing. He eventually wore out his fury and went quiet… And dialect. Avoid it like the plague as it may make your readers give up. Instead, mention that a character speaks with a specific accent – say Scottish – and then let the readers do the work for you. Alternatively, drop in a dialect word occasionally, to act as a reminder.
9. Many people worry about punctuating dialogue. The main things to remember are: Start a new line each time a different character speaks. Use either single or double inverted commas – it doesn’t matter which you choose. But once you have made your decision, be consistent. Always put the inverted commas outside the sentence punctuation:
“Yes,” Derek said, defensively. “That’s my plan.”
Only use speech marks around direct speech, not reported speech, or thoughts that your characters might have. Study as many published novels and short stories as you can to see how other writers do it.
10. Even though dialogue isn’t real, it must be able to pass itself off as speech. There mustn’t be anything in it that jars or sounds too stilted. So, always read your dialogue out loud. See if it sounds plausible. What seems to work on the page may come across differently when you hear it actually spoken.
Follow these tips and before you know it your characters will be leaping off the page full of life and talking nineteen to the dozen!
For those of you who are looking to write articles about your local town or area this website is a useful starting point with over 300, yes that’s 300, links to other sites covering all kinds of areas such as national organisations, archive repositories, archaeology and genealogy sites and libraries and museums. Plus there’s a handy section on how to get started with your search for information in the, aptly named, ‘Getting Started’ section.
For those of you who cannot attend the festival of travel writing taking place in Hyde Park this website will be a useful alternative resource. The website contains travelogues, articles and urban postcards as well as travel book reviews and travel guides. They actively look for submissions and as they say, ‘If, one day, you hope to get paid for your travel writing then use this as a stepping stone. I am a trained editor and will help you create a high-quality article. You retain copyright, and you can use the site to sell your ideas and talent to paying editors. If you are just looking to tell your travel story then I will help with this too. Novice writers are often amazed at the improvements that can be made to articles from even fairly minimal edits - and if I can help you go even further then so much the better.’
We have many requests for information about script writing, so here is a useful website that can get all you budding blockbuster writers on the right path. It contains ‘Everything screenwriters need to develop their work and make informed decisions about how best to approach the profession of being a writer.’ It includes over 600 articles, Beginners Guide to script writing, forums, blogs and an area where, if you pay a membership fee of £25.00 for a year, you can upload your own profile for producers and filmmakers to see.
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?
Could you write an article about ...
|1st August 1834
||The British Empire decided to abolish slavery.
3rd August 1958
|USS Nautilus, the first nuclear powered submarine, makes the first submerged crossing of the North Pole.
|4th August 1944
||Diarist Anne Frank is arrested by Nazi officers in the annex in Amsterdam which she and four other have been using as a hideout for two years.
|5th August 1962
||Marylin Monroe, best known for films such as ‘Some like it hot’, is found dead following an overdose of barbiturates.
|6th August 1945
||Hiroshima, Japan sees the first use of an atomic bomb by the USA against civilians killing tens of thousands instantly.
|7th August 1941
||Nobel prize winning Indian author and icon of Bengali culture, Rabindranath Tagore, dies at the age of 80.
|9th August 1945
||The second atomic bomb used against civilians is dropped by the USA on Nagasaki, Japan.
|11th August 1919
||Scotsman Andrew Carnegie dies at the age of 84 leaving behind enormous wealth to be used to carry on his tradition of philanthropic deeds.
|13th August 1876
||Wagner’s opera in four parts, Der Ring des Nibelungen, premiers in the purpose-built Bayreuth Festspielhaus.
|15th August 1969
||Upstate New York sees the opening of one of the greatest rock festivals of all time, Woodstock.
|16th August 1958
||One of the most successful American female singers of all time, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, better known simply as Madonna, is born in Bay City, Michigan.
|17th August 1896
||The Klondike Gold Rush is instigated by the discovery of gold in Bonanza Creek, western Canada.
|19th August 1883
||French fashion designer Coco Chanel, best known for her Chanel No5 perfume, is born in Maine-et-Loire, France.
|22nd August 1862
||Claude Debussy, composer of well known operas and classical pieces such as Pelléas et Mélisande and String Quartet in G minor is born in St-Germaine-en-Laye, France.
|23rd August 1305
||William Wallace, popularly known as Braveheart, is executed as a traitor against Edward I in London.
|24th August 79 AD
||Pompeii, is destroyed and buried by an eruption from Mt Versuvius and is not rediscovered until 1500 years later.
|28th August 1947
||Manolete, the great Spanish bullfighter, dies in the ring at Linares after being gored by a bull.
|30th August 30 BC
||The last member of the Ptolemaic dynasty to rule Egypt, Cleopatra, commits suicide after hearing that Octavian intends to exhibit her in Rome as part of his spoils of war.
|31st August 1962
||Trinidad and Tobago gains its independence from Britain.
So, that’s it for this month. I hope you found some nugget of usefulness in this issue and as a way of adding a bit of fun to your day have a go at this game Entangled for some brain teasing distraction.
Next month's issue features expert advice from Heather Cooke, where she shows how using vivid sensory detail can breathe life into both fiction and non-fiction, including travel writing: You Know It Makes Sense! Top Tips covers the best way to approach editors and the usual mix of useful websites and helpful tips should help ease the wheels of creativity for you.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t forget our 20th Anniversary Competition and Student of the Year award winners are now available to view on our website by clicking here.
THE WRITERS BUREAU, SEVENDALE HOUSE, 7 DALE STREET,
MANCHESTER, M1 1JB, ENGLAND.
“I’m currently working on my fourth book, have been paid for my writing by at least 15 different magazines, and now earn half my income from writing – all thanks to The Writers Bureau’s course."
Sarah Plater - Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2017