Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Bea Quintessential

This week I consented to do something which goes against every introverted grain in my body. I have agreed to take my place on The People’s Friend website under their “Getting to know you” section.

Apart from the discomfort of talking about myself, there is also a nagging voice whispering that I have no place amongst such prolific and talented authors as Della Galton and Wendy Clarke, to name but two. I silence it by responding that the magazine’s intention is to introduce a variety of writers, both longstanding and newer voices, to their readers.

Then came a decision on the photograph. Oh, horror! Do you dislike looking at pictures of yourself? Seeing ourselves as others see us. My hair doesn’t lie right, with loose strands and sticky up bits; the make-up on closer scrutiny has been badly applied; the double chin is dangerously exposed. But perhaps it is only we who look at ourselves so critically. Other people never notice trivialities but see beyond them: what a lovely smile, you look so happy, etc, etc.

So I did it! I wrote a few paragraphs about me, about my writing journey, my family and my hobbies. If you want to read about the quintessential me, then this is the place to go:

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Bea Patient

Good news today. I have a short story published in the current edition of The People’s Friend (25 April 2015 edition should you wish to buy it!). I have already had several non-fiction articles and fillers published in this magazine. But “Take a Break” is the first of my fictional tales which they have printed.

It’s been a long time coming. The story was written and submitted in November 2013. Yes, 2013! I waited, as you do, but there was no news. I thought perhaps it had vanished into a black hole of my imagining behind a filing cabinet. After 3 months I chased. ‘No problem,’ they said, ‘your story is still here and is going through our reading process.’ I waited some more.

Finally, 6 months after submission, they said YES. They paid me. Then I waited, eagerly anticipating publication day. And waited. And waited.

Until today! And I love what they have done with it: a few subtle edits, a fun strap line and a beautiful illustration by the talented Jim Dewar. My ‘light hearted story’ is ready for the world to read.

So from submission to sale: 6 months.
From sale to publication: 11 months.
17 months in total. It pays to be patient.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Bea Original

“Beware using well-worn themes” - “Avoid predictable plots” – “avoid stereotypes”

These comments are taken from magazine guidelines which if followed should make our job as writers easier. For their part presumably editors hope that by issuing guidelines their job will also be eased by reducing the amount of inappropriate submissions they receive.

Before writing I do my research. I find it helps to immerse myself in previous issues until my thought processes are attuned to what I believe the editor wants. It has to fit the house style, reflect the right tone and uphold the publication’s ethos. (As well as being interesting, entertaining, uplifting, etc)

But above all the story I write or the article I pitch has to be new. It has to be original. Ooh, this is a tough one. On the one hand it has to be something that I know from my research the readers will like. But it is not good enough simply to reproduce what has gone before. The challenge is to create something different. But not so diverse that it moves beyond the parameters set out by the magazine’s editors.

It’s not easy: it is said there are only seven stories in the world. It is dispiriting to receive a rejection letter or email telling me that my beautifully crafted, cleverly plotted, much loved tale is in fact a well-worn theme and one that has been used before.

Oh well, back to the computer. There are still six stories left to write.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Bea Newsworthy

How exciting! I have an article published in the current edition of Writers’ Forum magazine (issue #163, May 2015). It is a 200 word news item which reports on the change in management of the excellent womagwriter blog. 

Like many people who aspire to publication in the women’s fiction magazine market, I find the womagwriter blog essential reading. It was originally set up by Kath McGurl but has recently changed hands to Patsy Collins, who I should add is doing an excellent job. If you are interested in the women’s magazine market then do check the blog out.
(By the way, if you can speak Danish, Patsy would be very pleased to hear from you. You’ll have to read the blog to find out why!)
Another piece of good news received today is that my 80 word ‘Rave’ is to be published in the next edition of Mslexia magazine, due out June 2015. Neither of these pieces of writing is lengthy but their publication makes me very happy.
Have you received any good news recently, large or small?

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Bea Moody

How are you feeling today? Mirthful and merry? Or morose and miserable? I do hope you are experiencing the former of the pair of descriptions. If not, I hope that a Pollyanna will happen along soon to brighten your day.

The four words I have chosen identify moods at opposite ends of the happiness spectrum. In psychology terms they reflect the emotional valence, whether positive or negative, of an event or a situation.

Our choice of words impacts on the way the reader perceives our stories. Recently, Professor Matthew Jockers of the University of Nebraska analysed over 40,000 novels. By focussing purely on the positive or negative words used, the computer programme he devised studied the emotional valence of each story. By so doing he has created an objective method of tracking the emotional journey that the reader will experience as they read.

I failed to appreciate the lesson of Professor Jockers’ research. I received a rejection on Friday of a short story I had submitted to a magazine. The editor pointed out that there was too much negativity, reflected in my usage of words such as “bemoaned” and “rant”. My story dealt with some difficult issues but it had an upbeat and positive ending. Sadly this was overshadowed by my earlier choice of adverse words.

So I shall start my week with happy thoughts and joyful words in the hope that my writing will reflect a more positive emotional valence.

Happy writing, everybody! Have a good day!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Bea Loved

Romance as a genre covers a wide range. From fairy-tale ‘happy ever after’ to the ‘better to have loved and lost’ themes. Through historical fiction to contemporary drama to a futuristic voyaging of the stars in a space-capsule made for two.

Then there’s the edgier type of story. The sort the womag market would blush to read: Erotica.

I lost my writing cherry yesterday when I wrote my first erotic short story! I did it to prove I could. It was an interesting experience to say the least. The naming of the parts was tricky. Anatomical words made it sound like a biology lesson. Colloquial terminology made it read like a bad porno movie script.

Should it be tender or thrilling? Gentle in tone or incite fifty shades of contention in the reader? Does it sound sensuous? Or merely a smutty tale whispered behind the bike shed?

There isn’t a definitive answer to writing the perfect erotic tale. All I can say is I enjoyed writing my story. Although I think it is a good attempt, I am too embarrassed to allow anyone else to read it so I shan’t get objective feedback on whether I succeeded.

I found it stretched me to write out of my normal genre. It was good for the writing muscle. Do you experiment writing outside your normal market?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Bea Keen

I crept out of bed at 6am this morning and headed for my study. The husband opened a bleary eye.

“You must be keen,” he said.
Except I’m not. I have forced myself to the computer while the household are still asleep. I’m trying to instil a habit of writing. To do this writing job well I need to write even when I can’t be bothered. When I feel too lazy. When the ideas will not come.

Just like now.
In November I used the NaNoWriMo framework to start a new short story every day. I didn’t insist that I finish unless a particular story was flowing well. Then I deliberately put them out of my mind. Two months later I looked again at those beginnings and was pleasantly surprised by what I had written. Many were usable ideas and have become stories I have since submitted and sold.

I decided to do the same exercise in April, managed two days and ground to a halt – because it was Easter, because the family were coming round, because I had a jigsaw to finish…
What techniques do you use to motivate yourself to write even when you feel anything other than keen?


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Bea Jocose

The issue with setting a ‘theme’ for blog posts is sometimes it works, other times not. As my eagle eyed readers will have spotted, all my posts are headed alphabetically by adjective (Bea Afraid, Brief, Critical, etc).

Today works well as a ‘J’ day! On the 1st April it is traditional to play jokes and pranks on other people. So today I can use one of the more obscure adjectives from my vocabulary: Jocose.

Which brings me on to the subject of humour. I can’t tell jokes. I usually mix up the words and fluff the punchline. I also find humour difficult to write. Whether slap-stick or witty, shaggy dog tales through to the delivery of the killer ending, it all sounds lame when viewed in print.

So for the time being I shall work to my strengths and avoid trying to write a funny tale. And if the humour grows organically from the story, then all to the good.

Still, in honour of the day, here is a writerly joke:
Q: How many writers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two - one to insert the bulb, another to give it a surprise twist at the end.

Do you write humour? If so, please give me some hints as to how it’s done.