Thursday, 25 November 2010

Writers Abroad Anthology - free download

Writers Abroad Anthology of Expat Stories in support of National Short Story Week 2010 

Click on this link to access the free Anthology of Short Stories 2010. You can also read it on-line by following the link on the website. Writers Abroad hope you will enjoy reading about their tales of expat life and that the short story format continues to be supported.

If you are a writer living abroad, why not join the Writers Abroad online group? Writers Abroad is a writing community for expat writers living in countries around the globe. It provides a 'virtual' meeting place where you can meet over cappuccino, or a glass of wine and share the ups and downs of a writer's life. 

Writers Abroad is a place where writers can share their work safe in the knowledge that their words, their characters and their aspirations are treated with consideration and a critical but constructive eye. It is the place for writers to share a passion for writing and the inspiration and motivation to keep creating.
Writers Abroad is a place where the sun is setting or rising somewhere, where the development of the craft is the driving force and where success is something to be celebrated.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Interviewed for Winning Words blog

I am usually the interviewer, so it made a pleasant change to be on the interviewee side of the questions. You can read all about me (and the Flash 500 competition) here.

I'd like to thank Michelle for her interest.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Flash 500 Winning Stories Now Online

The waiting is over and the results are in! To read the top three stories, visit the Winning Entries page of the Flash 500 website.

Winning stories picked by Sue Moorcroft

First place: Lord Stanton's Horse by Heikki Hietala
Second place: The Ghost of Christmas Past by Jayne Thickett
Third place: Fur by Janet Pate
Highly Commended: That's Life by Sheila Alcock

Sue Moorcroft's judge's report is also up on the Winning Entries page of the Flash 500 website.

Our new judge for the final quarter of this year is Iain Pattison, who also judges the Writers Bureau Short Story Competition. As you will see from his judge’s page, Iain is a much sought-after competition judge. An author, journalist and writer of fiction, he brings years of experience in the writing field to the task of judging competitions and we are thrilled he has agreed to judge ours.

Winning Story to be Published
In addition to appearing on the website, the winning story from the third quarter will also be published in a future issue of Words with JAM. To obtain a copy of this quality ezine you will need to subscribe on the website, or by using the link to the right of this post, but as it’s free, there is no reason not to subscribe immediately.

That’s about it for this post, except to say that I hope you enjoy reading the winning entries - and, of course, that you will enter this quarter’s competition.

Best wishes until the next post,


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Useful blog post by Sue Moorcroft

This week I'm going to send you over to the blog of Sue Moorcroft, whose student asks the following question:

If you don’t want to write for weekly magazines and haven’t got the ‘legs’ to write a novel – what other markets are there?

Sue's comprehensive answer can be found here. Her blog is a mine of information of real use to writers, both beginner and experienced.

My own answers to questions I've received from students and writers will return next week.

Lorraine Mace is the co-author of The Writer's ABC Checklist

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Flash 500 Shortlist Announced

I have a somewhat longer than usual post this time. I'm announcing the shortlist for the third quarter of the Flash 500 Competition (and paying tribute to those authors who made the long list but didn’t get through to the final judging). I'm  also letting you know about the fabulous new judge for the final quarter of the year, as well as giving news on publication of the winning entry from the second quarter.

So, let’s get started! Our judge, Sue Moorcroft, will be supplying a judge’s report and giving us the results during the first week of November. As usual there will be cash prizes for first, second and third, with one highly commended author receiving a copy of The Writer’s ABC Checklist. Here is the shortlist (in alphabetical order) for the third quarter of the Flash 500 Competition. Good luck to all the authors.

A Bag for Life
A Knacker's Guide to Ireland
Beef Hash and Corn Bread
Dark Thoughts and Heavy Metal
Find the Lady
Ghost of Christmas Past
Home Fries
Leona's World
Lord Stanton's Horse
Not on the Agenda
On Reflection
Point and Shoot
Sparrows under the Middle Cloud
That's Life
The Compliment
The House on Memory Lane
The Pink Bobble Hat
The Unknown Gladiators
The XY Factor
Things to Throw from a Bridge

Long List
The following twenty stories, also listed in alphabetical order, made the long list – congratulations to the authors concerned. The standard was exceptionally high and to have made this list was an achievement in itself. I hope you will enter your stories in other flash fiction competitions and wish you lots of luck with all your writing endeavours.

A Different Voice by Tracy Fells
Blurring at the Edges by Sallie Tams
Brief Romances by Rachel Pentz
Bull's eye by Mary Healy
Charlie's Angels by Pamela Howes
Dear BBC by Ross Gibson
Empty Promises by Louise Charles
Far From the Mythic Crowd by Oscar Windsor-Smith
Frozen by Jennifer Pulling
Grace by Adele Molson
Happy Ever After? by Vanessa Couchman
Hot Pocket by Bob Thurber
In a Hole by Warren Glover
In Loving Memory by Catherine Burrows
Marked by Vicky Barton
Once Upon a Time by Karla Sally Dearsley
Siamese Whispers by Anya Cates
The Atomic Man is Not Alone by Collin Minnaar
The Balloon and the Skateboard by Lucy Oliver
The Boys in the Wood by Ian Craine

Some Advice
Please, whatever you do, READ THE RULES of this or any other competition you decide to enter. Unfortunately we had a few disqualified entries because the authors didn’t follow the rules set out on the website.

Iain Pattison
Our new judge for the final quarter of this year is Iain Pattison. As you will see from his judge’s page, Iain is a much sought-after competition judge. An author, journalist and writer of fiction, he brings years of experience in the writing field to the task of judging competitions and we are thrilled he has agreed to judge ours.

Winning Story Published
The winning story from the second quarter has been published in the latest issue of Words with JAM. To obtain a copy of this quality ezine you will need to subscribe on the website, but as it’s free, there is no reason not to rush over and do so.

That’s about it, except to say that I hope you will enter this quarter’s competition.

Co-author of The Writers ABC Checklist

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Actively Passive

David from Vancouver sent in the following question. I belong to a writers’ group and keep hearing that writers shouldn’t use the passive voice, but no one can tell me why. What’s wrong with the passive voice and why is it such a taboo?

Because new writers tend to overuse the passive voice, many writing teachers advise their students not to use it. This has resulted in lots of confusion, with people condemning usage of the passive voice without really even knowing what it is – or recognising it when it’s used. However, there is definitely a place for it in modern writing, so it seems a shame that it has become such a taboo.

The passive voice differs from the active voice because it places the emphasis on the result of an action or on the receiver of an action, rather than on the action itself. This is appropriate in cases where the person carrying out the action is unknown, unimportant or anonymous.

A knife was thrown into the room and it hit Jane. This is passive voice. A knife was thrown into the room by John and it hit Jane, is also passive voice, even though we now know that John is the knife-throwing nutter who Jane should most probably have ditched years before.

However, John threw a knife into the room and it hit Jane, is active voice.

Active voice is more immediate and makes it easier to visualise the action. Too many sentences in the passive voice make a written passage wordy and dull and you should limit your use of it, but that doesn’t mean it should never be used. It is particularly useful when you don’t want to let on who has said or done something.

Jane was told John was dangerous. This is passive voice because we have no idea who told Jane she should duck when John turned up with sharp objects. Jane was told by George that John was dangerous, is also passive voice. On the other hand, George told Jane John was dangerous, is active voice.

Either way, Jane should run and John needs to get help with his anger issues.

Lorraine Mace, co-author of The Writer's ABC Checklist, runs Flash 500, a quarterly flash fiction competition.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Accepted, but never published

Vanessa Couchman from Caylus, France asked: What recourse do you have if an editor agrees to publish your article, but then changes his/her mind later on?

Providing you have some form of proof that the article had been commissioned or accepted, such as a contract or acceptance email, then you would be able to claim a kill fee if the work wasn’t published.

This applies regardless of whether the piece was submitted on spec or commissioned. If the editor has said yes, but then decides not to use the work at a later stage, the author can submit an invoice for a percentage of the magazine’s usual rate, or a percentage of the amount agreed at time of acceptance. The main exception would be if work was commissioned, but the article submitted was so poorly presented that the editor was unable to use it.

A kill fee is a percentage (often, but not always, fifty per cent) of the original fee agreed with an editor for a particular piece of work, which is then subsequently not published.

Do be aware that not all magazines pay kill fees. If you submit work to a publication whose guidelines state that kill fees are not paid, you have effectively accepted their conditions, and therefore cannot claim a kill fee if commissioned work is not used.

Acceptance of a kill fee does not affect your rights and you would be entitled to resell that piece of work to a rival publication.

Lorraine Mace, co-author of The Writer's ABC Checklist, runs Flash 500, a quarterly flash fiction competition.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

What's the Point (of View)?

Rob from the Costa Blanca in Spain writes: Several of my writing associates from our new group, Writers Abroad, have been struggling to resolve the issues surrounding the ‘Point of View’ often simply referred to as POV. Our main POV problem lies in writing in the 3rd person and the introduction of multi POVs. Is this permissible or must it be avoided?

The use of multiple points of view is one of those areas where you will most probably receive a different answer from every person you ask.

For very short stories, it is certainly not advisable to use more than one point of view, as it is easier for the reader to identify with a single character. For longer works, there is no reason why you cannot use several points of view, as long as your reader is able to follow what is going on.

Changes of POV can be very confusing unless clearly signalled, but the technique is extremely successful when used correctly. Anyone who has read Lord of the Rings will be aware of just how effective it can be. The POV switches were used to increase the tension, leaving the reader gasping to know what was happening to the characters they’d left behind, but at the same time relieved to catch up with others.

Some writers say you shouldn’t change POV within a chapter, but I think it is fine to switch, as long as the guidelines below are followed.

• Don’t change point of view mid-scene

• Clearly signal a point of view change by leaving a line of space, or inserting three asterisks, before moving on to the next character’s viewpoint

• Make sure the reader knows whose point of view they are in from the outset of the new section (it is very frustrating to think you are still reading from one POV, only to find out several paragraphs later that you are, in fact, in a different POV)

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms Editor/Agent/Publisher

Mike from Norwich wants to know if it’s important to address editors, agents and publishers by name. He writes: I’ve been told that I should use the person’s name when sending in a submission, but I can’t always find the name I need on a website or in a magazine, so does it really matter if I don’t address the recipient by name?

It is always worth going to a bit of trouble to try to find out the name of the right person in an organisation. Firstly, your submission or query is far more likely to land on the right desk if you have used someone’s name. Anything addressed to Dear Agent/Editor/Publisher stands more chance of being left unattended than something correctly addressed. Secondly, it shows the recipient that you are professional enough to do your homework. If the information you need isn’t readily available, a quick phone call to the organisation asking to whom you should address your submission will pay dividends.

Having said the above, there are some agencies and publishers who state that submissions should go to a department and not a particular person. There is nothing you can do about that, apart from giving yourself a pat on the back for at least trying to do the right thing.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Passing the Past Parcel

Liza from Brighton sent in this plea for help: No matter how hard I try, I just cannot get to grips with when I should use passed and when I should use past. Is there an easy way to remember?

This is something that many writers have difficulty getting right. The way I deal with it is to determine whether the context requires a verb or another part of speech. If you decide the sentence needs a verb, then you can only use ‘passed’ (apart from this exception, to be past it, which is colloquial usage, meaning old or no longer of use).

They passed the time by sleeping.
The ball passed over their heads.
I passed the house on my way to the bank.

Remember this: if you use any form of the verb ‘to have’ then it will always be followed by ‘passed’ and NEVER by ‘past’.

I have passed my exams.
He has passed his driving test.

For all other parts of speech you should use past.

As an adjective: I’ve been waiting for news for the past week. (‘Week’ is a noun and ‘past’ is an adjective modifying the noun.)
As a noun: It happened in the past. (‘The past’ is a noun.)
As an adverb: He hurried past. (The verb is ‘hurried’ and ‘past’ in this sentence is an adverb.)
As a preposition: He hurried past the house. (Because there is an object [the house] after ‘past’, it is a preposition and not an adverb, but the effect is the same and knowing the parts of speech doesn’t change the fact that you use ‘past’.)

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Update on Flash 500 Competition

A warm hello to all. I thought I'd bring you up to date on this quarter's Flash 500 competition.

We have had a few problems with PayPal rejecting credit and debit cards this quarter, but fortunately this has now been resolved and the site is once again able to process both debit and credit card payments.

If you have experienced any difficulties paying for this quarter’s entries with a bank card via PayPal, please try again as the system is now, once again, up and running.

Don’t forget to drop by the site and read the wonderful winning stories from the second quarter’s competition. The standard was very high and Jane Wenham-Jones had a difficult task on her hands in selecting her final three cash prize winners, as well as one highly commended entry which was awarded a copy of The Writer’s ABC Checklist. The top three stories can be read onsite here and the winning stories from the first quarter can be read here.

Our judge for the third quarter (closing at the end of September, so don’t delay in getting those entries in) is Sue Moorcroft. Sue, as well as judging many other competitions, is the head judge for the monthly Writers’ Forum short story competition. You can find out more about Sue’s vast experience and judging pedigree here.

It’s time to polish up those stories and start submitting. The end of the month will be here before you know it.

Happy writing,


Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Flash 500 Results

The results of the second quarter of the Flash 500 Competition have been announced. The stories and the judge's report are up on the website.

The third quarter is open for entries and will be judged by Sue Moorcroft. Sue is the chief judge for the monthly Writers' Forum short story competition, and also judges many other quality competitions.

Flash 500 is a quarterly open-themed competition with closing dates of 31st March, 30th June, 30th September and 31st December. The results will be announced within six weeks of each closing date and the three winning entries each quarter will be published on the competition website. The judge changes each quarter, details on the judge’s page at:

Entry fee: £5 for one story, £8 for two stories

Prizes are awarded as follows:

First: £250 plus publication in Words with JAM
Second: £100
Third: £50
Highly commended: A copy of The Writer’s ABC Checklist

Competition website:

Monday, 26 July 2010

Win £200 with How To Books!

Nick Lewis of How To Books sent me this message, which I thought I'd share with all the writers I know.

In celebration of our new user submission service, we have been holding a competition throughout July for the best article submitted to The winner, as judged by our editors, will be announced on the 16th of August and will receive £200 on top of any other earnings the article makes.

For those unaware of How To Books, we put all of our books online last year for users to read for free, while we make our money from advertising. Earlier this year we opened up the site to submissions from the public for short ‘how to’ articles. We have just implemented a new system allowing writers to submit content directly through the site making it quicker and easier than before. All of our writers receive a share of the advertising revenue that we collect on their articles.

There’s only a week left to go for the competition, but that’s still plenty of time to get your entries in. Entries can be on any subject as long as they offer practical advice. To get more of an idea, take a look at the articles already on the site.

For full terms and conditions, along with writing guidelines, please visit

Good luck!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

To E or not to E

Today an old writing friend is guest posting about his experiences with e-book publishing. David Robinson is 60 years old (see, I told you he was an old friend) and lives on the northeast outskirts of Manchester in sight of the Saddleworth Moors, a location he's used in at least one of his novels.

But I'll leave it to David to tell you the rest in his own words ...
My fourth novel hit the virtual bookstands on July 5th. Voices is a 120,000 word sci-fi/psycho horror tale with an unusual pedigree.

My hearing has gradually declined over the last few years. My eyesight’s been poor since I was a kid. Both knees are shot, my hips play me up, my heart’s having second thoughts, so trivia like losing your hearing tends not to worry you. But there was a curious side effect. I began to hear indistinct muttering, as if my neighbours had their TV turned up too loud. Apparently it’s my brain tricking me (another bit on the blink perhaps?) Because it’s got into the habit of hearing sounds for the first 55 years of my life it’s trying to fool me that it can still hear them.

That was the catalyst for Voices, the tale of Chris Deacon, college lecturer, survivor of a bomb attack who finds himself troubled by phantoms and voices in his head.

Although I penned the first draft in just over a month, the finished project took a year and a half, and then began the rounds of agents and publishers. As usual it met with serial rejection and worse than that, disregard. Some of the companies I sent it to never returned it, and one company has had it for over a year now.

So I submitted to E-Books For Pleasure (EBFP) a brand new outfit based in Minnesota, and they said “yes”. Voices is out as an e-book.

Shock horror! An e-book. Was it not good enough for print?

All four of my novels saw the light of day as e-books; only one became a paperback and even then, the e-book is outselling the print version.

I’m aware of all the arguments for and against e-books, I know there is a lot of dross put out by the “make two million quid this weekend by buying my e-book” self-publishers, and I know that even with the more upmarket publishers the quality often leaves something to be desired. But when economic times are tough, what do you do? Send it out to publisher after publisher, agent upon agent, wait three, four, twelve months for someone to say “no thanks”?

I may not (yet) be setting the world on fire with my fiction, and I can’t afford to give up the day job on the back of my earnings, but it is making money, I am a published author.

E-books also gave me the opportunity to self-publish two volumes of my sledgehammer humour; a couple of projects no self-respecting print house would take on. That’s six times I’ve been published. Five more and I’ll have to take my shoes and socks off to count them.

God bless technology.

If you want to listen to David talking about e-book technology, you can hear him at:

Voices is available in epub format at:

Or check out David's website at:

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Short tips on entering writing competitions

I've just sent out a newsletter for the Flash 500 Competition, but for anyone not on the subscribers list, I thought I'd repeat the information here.

Time is marching on ...

... but there are still three weeks left to get your entry in for this quarter's competition, so if you haven't yet written your prize-winning tale, there's still time to get going. However, before you start writing, or rush to hit the send button if you've already completed your story, here are some hints on how to make the judge sit up and take notice for all the right reasons.

A few tips ...

• Start with a strong opening. Introduce a complicated or interesting situation in the first few paragraphs of your story.

• Make your characters real and read your dialogue aloud until it sounds believable.

• Originality is key. Even if you are using a well-worn theme, a unique spin on it makes it entirely your own.

• The resolution of your story should come as a natural result of the characters’ actions. Make sure the ending doesn’t leave any unintentional loose ends.

• Proofread. Then proofread again. And again. Then just once more for luck.

• Follow the rules. Shouldn’t need to be said, but you’d be amazed at how many entries are disqualified in competitions because people didn’t think the rules applied to them.

Above all, have fun with your writing. If you enjoyed writing your story, the chances are high that the judge will enjoy reading it.

Good luck and if you want to find out more about this competition, follow this link: Flash 500 Competition.


Sunday, 30 May 2010

Inspiration and Advice for Writers

I want to point up two great blog posts by writing friends. In the first, Guy Saville outlines why we should never give up on our dreams. Guy’s post, Perseverance, Rejections and a Two-Book Deal tells of his twelve year journey to getting published by one of the UK’s top publishing houses. Something many writers forget is that overnight success usually takes several years to achieve.

Sue Moorcroft’s post, Promotion – radio interview, gives some great advice on how to gain much-needed publicity for authors. Sue has a writing pedigree as long as your arm, but is aware that today’s market requires authors to get out there and help promote their books.

Both posts are incredibly helpful – why not pop over to the blogs and take advantage of the wisdom on offer?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Co-authorship advice - guest post by Nick Daws

Today I'm fortunate in having a writing friend make a guest post. Nick Daws gives some great advice to anyone thinking of co-authoring.



By its nature writing is usually a solitary business, and it can sometimes also be a lonely one.

For many writers the prospect of working with someone else is therefore attractive for the human contact aspect alone. Plus you have someone else to bounce ideas off. And, of course, having a collaborator means they will do some of the work instead of you!

Of course, there are drawbacks to working with a collaborator too. If you don't get on with your writing partner or constantly disagree with them, the savings in time and effort may evaporate. Instead of being free to pursue your own artistic vision, you may sometimes have to compromise. And, of course, any payments resulting from your labours will have to be shared with your partner instead of all going into your own pocket.

I have worked with a writing partner on various occasions over the years. The person I've worked most often with is my old friend, the poet and performer Simon Pitt. One of our first collaborations was a satirical sketch show called The Naked Apricot (a skit on the then-popular book by Dr Desmond Morris titled The Naked Ape). This was performed by a local amateur theatre company, and in financial terms anyway was their most successful show ever (admittedly, it probably helped that we didn't get paid a fee for it!).

More recently I collaborated with Simon on a couple of non-fiction books: Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching and How to Invite Any Writer, Artist or Performer Into Your School.

The way that Simon and I work is to take a project, divide it into chapters or sections, and then allocate each of these to one of us or the other. When we have completed our assigned chapters, we pass them over to the other one to read, edit and add his own input. In addition, I tend to handle the IT-related aspects, as I'm sure that Simon would admit that this is not his strongest suit.

One thing we don't do (at least hardly ever) is sit down together and go through our draft manuscripts line by line, word by word. Apart from being horribly time consuming, I could easily imagine this putting our friendship under strain. In my experience anyway, it's easier to accept (and give) criticism in the form of a quick note rather than face to face.

My number one advice to anyone thinking of working with a collaborator is to agree how you will work together first. If your collaborator expects you to sit down and write together while you prefer to work alone and just meet for planning, administration, marketing and so on, it's doubtful whether the partnership will succeed.

Likewise, it's important to discuss the proposed topic of your book, screenplay or whatever in detail, to ensure you don't have totally different perspectives on it. That's not to say you have to agree in advance on every point, but unless you have certain basic assumptions in common, the writing process is likely to become a test of endurance. This applies especially in fiction-writing projects.

It's also worth looking into the range of resources on the web that can assist working collaboratively. One well-known example is Google Documents, which lets you publish documents online where they can be viewed and, if you allow it, edited by other selected individuals (i.e. your writing partner/s). This makes it perfectly feasible to work collaboratively with people in other countries and even other continents. I did this recently with The Wealthy Writer, an in-depth guide to making money writing for the web, which I wrote in collaboration with Australia-based author and publisher Ruth Barringham. I have still never met Ruth face to face!

Finally, if you don't have a suitable writing partner at the moment, the Internet offers many methods for finding one. You could, for example, post a collaborator request - such as this recent one - on the Writers Wanted board of my forum at

Alternatively, you could join a site such as Webook which (among other things) hosts a wide range of group writing projects, a growing number of which have led to published or self-published books.

Good luck, and enjoy your collaborative writing!

Nick Daws is a full-time professional freelance writer, editor and writing teacher, living in Burntwood, Staffordshire, UK. He is the author of over 100 non-fiction books, distance-learning courses and e-books, including the best-selling Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. He has a blog at and a homepage at You can also follow him on twitter at

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Flash 500 shortlist announced

The following stories, listed in alphabetical order, have reached the shortlist stage of the first quarter's Flash500 competition. The authors have been notified by email.

A Slip of the Tongue

A walk in the park

After the Wake

Coming Home


Diminishing Returns

First Time

Half-mown Lawn

Immaculate misconception

In a Right Hump

Kalpani's melody

Life Stories

Mr Bailey and the Cats

My Father’s Wallet

Queen Bea


The Arm on the Beach

The Bridge

The Prisoner

The Reunion

The smell of poverty

The Window

Tiger Lily



Friday, 2 April 2010

Flash 500 Competition - international entries

Wow, what a successful start to the Flash500 competition! I’d hoped to attract interest from other countries, but the entries have exceeded my expectations. There have been submissions from the UK (naturally), the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, France, Ireland, Finland, Poland, Croatia, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, India, Egypt and Spain.

Isn’t it wonderful how the internet makes international competitions so easy to enter?

The results will be announced on this blog and on the Flash500 website on or before 15 May, but the shortlisted entrants will be notified by email before the end of this month.

Anyway, entries are now open for the next quarter, which will be judged by the fabulous Jane Wenham-Jones.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Flash 500 Competition - final week

Only one week left to enter the Flash 500 fiction competition. Entries of up to 500 words on any theme are welcome.

Entry fee: £5 for one story, £8 for two stories

Prizes will be awarded as follows:

First: £250 plus publication in Words with JAM
Second: £100
Third: £50
Highly commended: A copy of The Writers ABC Checklist

The three winning entries will be published on the competition website -- for more details: Flash 500 Competition

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Wild books and their progress

Twenty books have been 'released into the wild' at different places around the UK - hopefully to be picked up, read, and then sent on further adventures. Find out all about this experiment, and learn more about the website, which will allow us to track their progress, in the next edition of the writing e-zine Words with JAM, out 30th March.

Subscribe to Words with JAM for free at or by filling in the subscription form on this page.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Cross-genre writing insights

Today I’m fortunate enough to have a good writing friend as a guest blogger. Gillian Hamer offers some great insight into writing cross-genre fiction.

Whose Advice ?
When I started writing crime novels, I had it in mind I wanted to bring something new to the genre. Maybe not unique, but something that stood me apart from the crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I love detective stories. I will always name Agatha Christie as my favourite all-time author, and stand in awe at the effortless way she winds a plot around numerous characters, so most times you never guess ‘whodunnit’ right up until the big reveal.

But I wanted to try and include another of my loves – paranormal – in my novels.

I decided my first book would include reincarnation, the next the paranormal element of second sight, and the third the ghost of a girl who died in a shipwreck.

I also decided as an added interest each novel would feature some real historical fact. Closure featured a long-forgotten shipwreck off the North Wales coast, The Dream Jar involved a survivor of the Lusitania, and The Charter involved a modern day gold hunt as a consequence of the sinking of the steamer, The Royal Charter.

Yes, perhaps I was being self-indulgent. But I am a big believer that rather than write what you know (which for me would be limited to dogs, cars and DIY!) but rather write what you love. If you have no passion, no drive, for a subject, I fail to see how you can write 100,000+ words that someone else would wish to read.

With each book completed, I grew in confidence. I submitted The Dream Jar to a few agents and got a lot of no letters, but one or two glimmers of encouragement.

With The Charter, I soon got numerous requests for fulls, and in April 2009 I signed a contract with my agent.

BUT this came with a massive proviso. The agent loved my writing. He loved the historical element. But he didn’t think the paranormal added anything to the book. He wanted me to rewrite it, removing all traces of the ghost, and rely on atmosphere to carry the modern day story.

I thought about it, but like so many would-be authors, it was something of a no-brainer. I knew how hard it was to get an agent, how lucky I was. I had to learn to let go of my work and trust my agent, after all he knew the business. His advice was that publishers weren’t keen on cross-genre books. Crime readers read detective stories. Paranormal fans read ghost stories.

At the time, I wanted to object. I love cross-genre. I love Susan Hill and Barbara Erskine (both authors who I am told are similar to my own style). But I agreed, rewrote the book and he submitted it to three publishers.

And guess what, two out of the three said they preferred the original. That the ghost fleshed out the story and they would look again at the book if the paranormal element was written back into the tale.

I began again and the book is now doing a second round of publishers.

The important question is, I think, – whose advice do we trust?

For me personally, I have a handful of writing colleagues whose opinion is spot on, whose editing skills I rely on. I have an agent who admits he got it wrong at first with my books, but thinks I am a talent and wants to promote my work. Of course, I will also listen to his opinion. And lastly, one day soon I hope, there will be an editor who will have their own ideas about my work, new suggestions to make it more marketable.

But ultimately, I think we should all remember that we’re in charge of our own destiny. We have to be comfortable with what we are and what we write. We have to be confident enough and proud enough to show the world what comes from inside us.

For my latest WIP, The Gold Detectives, I am sticking to my guns. A modern day murder hunt, linked to both paranormal element – a psychic investigation – and real historical details – the Roman invasion of Anglesey.

It’s what I love. And it’s what I want to write.

I found this quotation recently by another author, Neil Gaiman, and it is so very true …

The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ¬honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

If you want to keep up with my roller coaster journey, see my website and blog

Good luck and most importantly – keep writing!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Mistakes Writers Make

A writing tutor colleague of mine, Alex Gazzola, has started a blog called Mistakes Writers Make (and how to put them right), the idea behind which is to encourage new and student writers of non-fiction to view their mistakes as positives to learn from, rather than negatives to fret about. You can find it here at Mistakes Writers Make

The site includes market pages and lots of useful information for non-fiction writers. It’s a blog well worth following, so why not drop in and see what tips he has to offer?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Greg's 100 Stories for Haiti Blog Tour

I'm proud to have Greg McQueen guest post today. Greg saw a need for help after the disaster in Haiti, as did most of us, but he went one stage further and found a practical way to do so. His 100 Stories for Haiti Book Project idea is a wonderful example of how the internet can work for the good of others. Well done to Greg and everyone who contributed a story and/or worked behind the scenes.

Please support the 100 Stories for Haiti Book Project! Pre-order your copy NOW

Post from Greg
Ah, this is a suitable stop considering my post on Nick Daw's site yesterday. If you haven't picked up a copy of Lorraine and Maureen's book do so ... It is darn useful!

One thing I haven't done for a while is update people on Susan Partovi. She's a Family Physician from Los Angeles who visited Haiti over Christmas, working with four medical students in a rural clinic in Cazale, a small village not far from Port-au-Prince. Her account of her time in Cazale features in 100 Stories for Haiti, and you can read an extract on the project's website.

Susan recently returned to Haiti to help with aid efforts. She was kind enough to send us updates. What follows is her last update from a hospital in Port-au-Prince before jumping a military flight home.
Late Sunday night an orphanage director brought in a pair of 5 week-old twins. Their mother had died. The director didn't know of what. The father had said he couldn't take care of them. They had diarrhoea and were throwing up. They each weighed 3 pounds 7 ounces -- sooo tiny, not too sick looking, so very cute.

I gave them a small bolus each, fluids, medicines, and went to bed. Couldn't sleep though, up at 5:30am to get ready to go to the airport only to discover that they weren't letting anyone in until 5pm, unless you had a chartered flight. Apparently, the "humanitarian" flight I was supposed to be on was cancelled, so I would have to wait for a military flight that evening.

I decided to go back to the hospital. The same driver who had dropped me off picked me up, now loaded with a pastor and eight little girls in the back seats. Orphans. They wore frilly dresses and had braids in their hair. I held one of the girl's hands just because I could.

Arriving back at the hospital I checked on a patient, asthma guy. He was now willing to take breathing treatment and I found some oral medicines for him. When I examined him he said something was, "gwo," meaning "big," and pointed to his chest. His right breast and upper arm were enlarged, and he complained that his armpit was painful.

I consulted a surgeon. "There is an abscess there. He will need surgery." I translate, sort of, before returning to my clinic to see my sundry of hypertensives, my abscess-on-the-foot guy, gastritis patients, etc. Kisses and hugs to everyone before heading back to the airport where I meet a Haitiian woman, now an American citizen, who came down to try to get her non-citizen husband out of Haiti. She had waited 24 hours in line at the Embassy only to be sent away.

I also met an elderly woman who had come to Haiti on January 12th. Her son was taking her back to New York because following the earthquake she'd started suffering dementia. I met a woman and girl from North Carolina who had been coming to Haiti for years through their church. I met a sailor from Miami who just felt he had to do something so he sailed to Haiti with a boat full of supplies and ended up saving some art from a destroyed museum.

We ate dinner together. Ready meals from the military. We slept the night on chairs and were finally airlifted the next day at 6:30am.

Thanks for letting me post, Lorraine and Maureen. And, for those unaware, Lorraine was one of the volunteer editors on the book. In fact, when I asked for her help, she said, “Yes. I am busy though. Pressed with a deadline.” She ended up becoming one of the core editors on the project! I sincerely hope you didn’t blow that deadline, Lo.

Maureen’s story, Betsy Fudge and the Big Silence, features in the book. You can read an extract from her story on a previous stop on this tour. Maureen also helped proof the finished manuscript before it went to the printers.

It’s hard to find the right words to express my gratitude. Thank you just doesn’t seem enough ...

100 Stories for Haiti comes out later this week as an ebook and paperback. You can pre-order your paperback HERE

Greg McQueen

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Writing Serials for the Women's Magazine Market

If you've ever thought about writing serials for the women's magazine market, but didn't know where to start, then you should visit Sue Moorcroft's blog to find out all you need to know on the subject.

Sue says: As I’m a creative writing tutor as well as a writer, it has been suggested that I should include a few hints and tips about writing, here, on my blog. As I’ve just been asked about writing serials, that’s where I’ve decided to begin …

To read the rest of this informative and useful post, visit Sue Moorcroft writes

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Regular writing comps

This is a great link to find a list of writing competitions which are run monthly, quarterly or annually. The website also has lots of other information of benefit to writers, so it's well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

100 Stories for Haiti - extended deadline

We have well over 300 submissions — THANK YOU! But we’d like more … Extended deadline: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY, 27, 2010!

By the end of Wednesday, no matter where you are on planet Earth, please cut and paste a story, maximum 1000 words, into the body of an email. More details to be found by using this link: 100 stories for Haiti or by clicking on the image on the right.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Two more Amazon Vine reviews

It seems that the Amazon Vine reviewers (so far, at least) approve of The Writer's ABC Checklist. We've had another two good reviews - and in both cases it's clear they've looked at it from the point of view of how it can help writers.

The first is from an Amazon Vine reviewer called Sarah McCartney:

Lorraine and Maureen are my new heroes. Sometimes, all you need to be inspired is some practical, factual advice. There are hundreds of books about writing and I already own half a shelf full of them. What more was there to say? It turns out that 242 pages' worth just about sums it all up. This is a book for people who already write and just need a kick in the pants to turn them into professionals, and for professionals to keep them up to speed. It gives you essential information on everything from how to format your writing, to checking your work for libellous statements, with the best short piece on punctuation I've read in my whole half-shelfful. The best thing is that it doesn't miss out all the secrets that published writers normally keep to themselves because they're a bit scared of the competition.

It also serves to put off the dreamers. A long time ago I played the sax semi-professionally. Loads of people would come up to chat and tell me they wished they played the sax too. "I'll teach you," I'd say, and then their eyes would glaze over and they'd wander off. They were in love with the idea of being a sax player; the idea of learning for a couple of years didn't have the same appeal. With writing, most of us already pretty proficient at getting words on a page, or a screen, but there's the same mystique about how wonderful it would be to be a writer. There are romantics who dream of having a writer's lifestyle, as seen in style magazines, but don't really want to learn where to stick an apostrophe.

If you're not afraid of putting in a bit of effort to turn your work into a professional piece that you'd be proud to post off to publishers, get this book now. If you've had a few rejections and want to improve your chances, add it to your basket and head to the check-out. If you'd rather dream about it, read your poems to your admiring friends, restrict your short stories to uncritical girlfriends, start another couple of novels but ever finish them, you'll find The Writer's abc Checklist disappointingly practical. Which is fine, because the rest of us don't want your work cluttering up publishers' inboxes.

I'll be recommending it to all my writer chums and every student who writes to me asking how to get started.

And this one is by an Amazon Vine reviewer called E. Chittenden:

It's going to be hard to review a book that gives you advice on achieving something that is often judged by other parties. Without having "used" the book, only having read it, I can say it's an excellently presented book. I sincerely hope that I get to use the advice given in the book as it might make my life a little easier if I plan on becoming a successful author (here's wishing!).

The book is really well presented giving lots of cross referencing and different names for essentially the same thing. I think the authors certainly practice what they preach in terms of advice, which is always a good thing. The book covers the positive and negative aspects of a career in writing in a really proactive manner, which is nice. Instead of books saying "you'll get rejected" and not offering positive advice, suggesting not to give up is a really good thing. It's never nice reading the negative side of publishing without encouraging you to keep going.

With many different topics covered I can see that it will become a very useful tool whilst starting out on my path to a career in writing. I would certainly recommend this book to someone looking to start a career in writing, it gives lots of helpful advice and information.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Another five-star review

The Writer’s ABC Checklist has received a five-star review from an Amazon Vine reviewer. I’ve copied it below, exactly as it appears on the Amazon site.

This great little book is of invaluable use to those who are in or are entering the world of publishing work. The title is very apt, as it says exactly what this book is. It isn't a quide on how to write, though it does contain sections on vocabulary and writing to a target audience, etc. With advice about copyright and submitting work there is loads of practical advice amongst the pages of this book.

This is a great little reference work as it is written in an easy to use index format and contains useful addresses, what to do if your work is accepted, and if it isn't, when to admit work for magazines and newspapers and where to seek an agent or getting help on signing contracts. If you want to get something published then you can't go wrong with this. There are things covered here that you probably haven't even considered and it is all written in a very easy to understand style.

All in all this is a must have for those interested in submitting work for publication.

I had no idea such a programme was in existence. This is what it says on the Amazon website: Amazon Vine™ is a programme that enables a select group of Amazon customers to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make educated purchase decisions. Customers are invited to become Vine Voices based on the trust they have earned in the Amazon community for writing accurate and insightful reviews. Amazon provides Vine members with free copies of products that have been submitted to the programme by publishers or manufacturers. Amazon does not influence the opinions of Vine members.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

100 Stories for Haiti

The following has been copied from the 100 Stories for Haiti post put up by Greg McQueen (whose brilliant idea this is). If you have a story to donate (or expertise in the editing world and you'd like to help out) please use the contact email address below.

It’s simple …

You have until MONDAY, JANUARY 25th, 2010 (MIDNIGHT, CENTRAL EUROPEAN TIME) to submit a short story.


Please use your common sense! The work must be yours. Please don’t waste time by sending stories you don’t own.

No stories with graphic violence, or mass death and destruction. We want stories we a lot of HEART, a dash of COMPASSION, and unmeasurable amounts of HOPE.

The editorial team will choose 100 stories from the submissions for inclusion in the ebook.



Cut & Paste your story into the body of the email. Write “SUBMISSION” in the subject line of the email. Include YOUR FULL CONTACT DETAILS — treat this the same way as submitting to any magazine or publication.


And that's it! Please help us to help the people of Haiti. For more information on this project, visit this site: 100 Stories for Haiti

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Writing Competition Listings

If you’re looking for some great sites which list writing competitions, then the websites below should be comp heaven for you. All three are updated on a regular basis and cover both prose and poetry.

JBWB Competition Page

Prize Magic

Sally Quilford's Competition Calendar

Friday, 15 January 2010

Do you have a writing-related question?

Is there a writing-related question that you'd like answered in a future issue of Words with JAM? If yes, drop me a line at: and your letter could be one of those featured in the e-zine.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Using the radio to promote your book

I recently wrote a guest post for Daily Writing Tips. The post shows how to use local and online radio to boost awareness of your book. You can read the post here.

Editorial Calendars - final part

Read the Magazines
You cannot get sufficient information from the editorial calendar and media pack to successfully pitch an idea. You still need to read back copies and/or articles on the magazine’s website to get a full picture of what the editor is looking for in terms of content and style.

You should also request contributors’ guidelines. But, with the additional information provided in the calendar and media pack, you stand a much better chance of having your idea accepted because you will be able to aim at particular issues, knowing the editor is actively looking for content on a particular theme.

Trading Places
There are literally thousands of trade publications which don’t appear on the shelves of the local newsagent or bookstore. These magazines are sold by subscription only to people with an interest in the topic, or are given free to members of an industry or organisation. Their individual subject matter is almost as wide and varied as entries in a dictionary, but they all have one thing in common – the editors need content for the magazines.

If you have some expertise, or can gain the necessary knowledge on the subject, studying the editorial calendars could provide openings for you. To find trade magazines, search online using the ‘“Editorial Calendar” plus topic’ approach outlined above. There are plenty of trade publications crying out for good storylines which fit their calendar.

Think Laterally
Even though you will be ahead of the game by pitching features with an issue in mind, you still need to come up with ideas that are fresh and new. One of the drawbacks of the editorial calendar being there for the benefit of advertisers is that often the same themes reappear year after year in order to keep advertising revenue.

This means that the same old ideas keep doing the rounds. To succeed, and make the editor want to use your work again and again, you need to come up with unusual ways of dealing with tired topics.

Some thoughts to get you started:
  • All year round – a theme you can split into the four seasons, or turn seasons upside down. Skiing resorts in summer or coastal resorts offering winter attractions
  • How-to – do almost anything. Find the theme that suits you in the calendar and offer a how-to article
  • Make the national into a local event. If something nationwide is happening, offer a feature on how that impacts in your locale
  • Food, travel, family, hobbies – all of these have been written about so many times, it’s hard to find new ways to tackle them, but all are perennial topics on editorial calendars. Why not mix and match? Fitting a family holiday around a hobby; travelling to sample the most unusual foods a region has to offer; recipes for families too preoccupied with their hobbies to come to the table

Success Breeds Success
Once you’ve been successful with a magazine, go back to the calendar again and again. Editors like working with writers they know will provide good material, keep to deadlines, and come up with unusual ways of dealing with the perennial topics. Use the calendar to make the breakthrough and, possibly, forge a long-term relationship with the editor.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Making the Pitch with Editorial Calendars

Following on from yesterday's post on how to find editorial calendars, here's some advice on how to make use of them.

Which magazine should you pitch to?
The short answer to that is as many as possible. By working with several editorial calendars simultaneously you should be able to plan your year so that you are pitching ideas every month. Let’s say you have researched a subject for magazine A, knowing that magazine B is going to have a similar theme a month or two later means you can use your research twice. But do make sure the two articles tackle the subject from differing angles.

Articles that you have already had published can be reworked to suit new markets. For example, if you’d had an article published on celebrating St Patrick’s Day in New York’s Irish pubs, you might find two or three magazines that intend to use St Patrick’s Day as the theme for their March issues.

Clearly you cannot submit the previously published article, but you could use the information from it to make two new pieces. One could be on how and why Irish pubs have appeared all over the world, from Périgueux in France, to Cape Town in South Africa (both places do, in fact, have Irish pubs). The other could be on Irish traditions and how important they are to the expatriate Irish.

• Editorial calendars will tell you which magazines to approach with the ideas and which month’s (or week’s) issues to target

• Other information in the media pack will assist you in deciding how to deal with the topic

Finding New Markets
Searching for editorial calendars online can lead to many new markets. If you type ‘Editorial Calendars’ into a search engine, literally thousands of pages come up. Of course, most of these will not be of any use to the average freelance writer, but if you refine your search to include your particular areas of expertise and/or interests, then the search becomes much more interesting.

I write, amongst other things, travel features. Using Yahoo’s search engine and putting in ‘Editorial Calendar’ returned a total of 1,470,000 pages. When I refined the search by using quote marks “Editorial Calendar” and adding ‘travel’ (outside the quote marks) this brought the number down to 2,510 –much more accessible.

But I decided to refine the search still more by adding countries that I feel confident I can write about. ‘“Editorial Calendar” travel France’ produced 341 pages, substituting ‘Spain’ 248, ‘South Africa’ 91 and ‘Canada’ 491. From this list I may only find four or five calendars I can use, but the initial research took less than fifteen minutes and I found magazines I hadn’t known existed.

More advice on how to make the most of editorial calendars will appear tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Editorial Calendars - a writer's aid

Do you know how to find out what editors from hundreds of publications will want throughout the year? Think of the forward planning you could do. Just imagine targeting several magazines, knowing the subject matter is exactly what each editor has in mind for a particular month. That information is available in an editorial calendar.

What is an editorial calendar?
It is a schedule of the topics a magazine plans to feature during the year. Its primary function is to alert advertisers of product placement opportunities. For example, if a magazine’s theme in June is swimwear, you can guess how interesting that knowledge would be to swimwear manufacturers. It should also be of interest to freelance writers because of the opportunity to pitch ideas on similar topics, such as:

• Changes in swimwear styles since the war

• The history and use of bathing boxes for reasons of modesty

• Styles for lifestyles – modern swimwear for: pregnancy, post-mastectomy, beauty pageant wear, suits for serious swimmers

The possibilities are endless and, the best of it is, you’ll know the editor will be looking for swimwear-related features for June’s issue.

Other valuable information you can garner from the calendar is which countries will feature and when. If, for example, you find out in January that the August issue of a general interest magazine will focus on Spain as their travel destination, this gives you plenty of thinking time.

You may never have been to Spain, and so cannot supply a travel feature in the conventional sense, but there is nothing to stop you from researching and suggesting a piece on ‘20 little-known facts about Spain’, or ‘Essential Spanish Phrases for the Travelling Family’.

The public library and the Internet will supply the information, all you need to do is study the editorial calendar and come up with something which fits both the magazine’s style and the theme for the month in question.

Where and how can you get the calendar?
Many magazines have their editorial calendar accessible on their websites, often in the media kit available to advertisers. If this isn’t the case, write to (or email) the advertising department and ask for a copy.

If possible, download the full media pack as this contains lots of other information of value to the freelance writer, such as: Circulation, gender split, readership age group, lifestyle trends, economic situation of average reader, the magazine’s ethos and many other facts which will enable you to target your feature to the magazine’s core readership, thus giving you a better chance of success with the editor.

One final, but vital, aspect of the media pack and editorial calendar is that they often give the lead time required. Some give editorial and advertising deadlines, but others only have the advertising dates.

In the case of the latter, work on the assumption that the editorial deadline will be at least two weeks, and possibly a month, ahead of the advertising deadline. This is the date by which the finished article must be with the editor; obviously you will need to allocate sufficient time for the query to be accepted, the commission given, and the piece written, when you plan ahead in this way.

Tomorrow I'll give some ideas on how to use the editorial calendars - and also how to find new markets.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Flash 500 Competition

Flash 500 Competition is a new quarterly open-themed flash fiction competition. Judged by Simon Whaley, it has a closing date of 31st March 2010. Entries of up to 500 words.

Entry fee: £5 for one story, £8 for two stories

Prizes will be awarded as follows:
First: £250 plus publication in Words with JAM
Second: £100
Third: £50
Highly commended: A copy of The Writers ABC Checklist

The three winning entries will be published on the competition website -- for more details: Flash 500 Competition