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,