writing

Politicians… putting the “n” in cuts


Perhaps it’s a consequence of having a cynical mind, but don’t you find politicians these days are just so condescending?

They were always condescending I suppose, it’s just that they used to be so much better at putting us in our place… “plus ca change” and all that…

Writing the unwriteable and why on earth would you do it anyway??


Act like it

 

 

It’s been a while hasn’t it?

It sure has been a long time since I actually put pen to paper, figuratively, to write something meaningful. The reason, oh well, there are many, but the main one is that I have been writing, but not anything I would deem fit for publishing on my own blog.

Since I posted about my writing venture, The Write Writing (shameless self promotion now: www.thewritewriting.com – do go and check it out if you have time) I have been writing articles, company newsletters and all manner of (some) interesting, and other, (completely) soulless pieces for (equally) soulless and (verging on) undead, companies. There seems to be no end of clients looking to put things on their blogs or websites and equally no end of useless crap on the internet (I should know, I have written some of it while sitting on public transport looking out of the window and dreaming of writing something meaningful).

But there is one client who comes to mind that I have to tell you about (the name has been changed to protect my writing contract because what I am about to say about them is not in the least bit glorifying – but they are just another of many out there and who knows, you may even work for one such company).

This client, we will call them Devil InCarnate Kompany Limited (“Dick”) is a global enterprise with tens of thousands of employees. I am sure many of them, the majority of them probably, are being squeezed for every drop of their blood at work. You know what I mean, cost cutting drives, fears of redundancies even though Dick seems to be doing well – no payment for overtime, perks and benefits being cut while Dick’s investors are sitting somewhere exotic sunning themselves with their courtesans while their children are credit carding their lives away in Gucci buying another jockstrap they don’t need (or know what it is for that matter – if you are curious then do click here for a jockstrap of a description – yes, I did intent to say that rather than, a description of a jockstrap).

Where was I? Yes, the employees of Dick.

So there they are, sweat pouring from every pore from overwork, in constant fear of that letter and an escort out of the building by company security, are also the (proud??) recipients of a newsletter every month written by yours truly which I am sure cheers them no end. Actually, I am not sure of that at all. In fact, if I were them, I would mark it spam so there is no extra effort required in clicking a couple of extra times to get said email into the nearest bin.

The “Why?” thingy is now going through your mind… I can see it quite clearly. Good question. Now, every writer knows that his work will be subject to an Editor’s beady eye and common sense. This sense can be extraordinarily common or just plain common. I have yet to come across a mediocre common and never have I, until now, come across a positively boorish and pedantic common sense.

So, the process goes something like this:

7 easy steps to writing success!

1. Yours truly gets given a topic which Dick’s management committee thinks is a great thing for their serfs, oops, I mean employees to read to make them realise how lovely Dick is and how Dick really has their interests at heart – so much so that they have hired a writer to pen said newsletter instead of just getting any other old idiot to write it.

2. Yours truly then proceeds to write a few bullet points on the back of an envelope while sitting having a beer and thinking about something completely different.

3. Dick’s Editorial Committee (on which sit three normal people and one Editor sans any sense whatsoever) then sends it back with comments.

4. Yours T shuffles around, opens another drink and proceeds to finds yet another envelope whose back has a couple of postage stamps worth of space and rewrites the same bullet points in a different order and emails it back to DEC (Dick’s Editorial Committee). Whereupon (shock, horror and utter disbelief) it is immediately approved and onwards and upwards the process now enters the (dreaded) writing phase.

5. The clock begins to tick as there is a 48 hour deadline for submission. Yours T is now in full procrastination gear… tick… tock… tick… tock… This gear function, only engaged when something for Dick needs to be written, sees Yours T do almost anything except think of the pending article needing, nay, begging to be written.

(An aside here – Yours T has made procrastination an art, in fact, since I got this contract, my procrastination has had a bit of a Medici-esque Renaissance. It has come into its own. It has blossomed into something much more than just plain procrastination. It has had its cocoon phase and now is no longer the mere caterpillar of procrastination, but the butterfly soaring on the wings of procrastination.)

6. Cut to 47 hours and 15 minutes or so into the deadline and worry starts to take hold – a niggling, annoying scratch in a place that you just cannot reach. Suddenly, more out of guilt than anything else, aforementioned bullet points on the back of second envelope are elaborated into a verbose offering (sacrifice?) to Mammon. Lo and behold, hey presto, abracadabra and anything else magical you can think of, the butterfly of procrastination is, temporarily, grounded and aforementioned deadline is met by the closest of shaves that even the mighty safety razors advertised everywhere these days wouldn’t be able to match.

7. The click of the mouse to send it to Dick is followed by a sigh of relief and the opening of a bottle of wine to celebrate the writing of it and to wait for the (impending) reply from aforementioned idiotic Editor whose comments range from banal (“there is a comma out of place..” A comma, one single flaming comma in a 1000 word piece to “GPs can be General Physicians, General Practitioners and Doctors too” which is common sense, given that the readers are mainly medical professionals of one sort or another, nurses and the like).

This, in an oversize, genetically modified, Brazil nutshell is how I have sold my soul to companies like Dick – what a writer in this day and age has to do to be able to pay for a glass of plonk – I tell you – and therein lies the answer to your earlier question, “Why?”

PS. If you work for (a) Dick and are reading this: someone has hacked my blog and any opinions expressed above constitute those of a mean and naughty hacker and have nothing whatsoever to do with me, cross my heart, promise and signed in blood.

The Write Writing & Social Media Explained


I haven’t posted in a while, but all of you should know that there is a genuine reason for this and not just a lackadaisical attitude to my blog. You should also know that I don’t take you, my readers and followers for granted and so don’t want to post things willy nilly (I love that phrase!) nor do I want to waste people’s time with unimportant things about this or that and how life is generally progressing, did I like my morning cup of tea, is there any milk in the fridge, you know what I mean. I use this blog as a platform for freeing thoughts, important ones and very, very seldom do I promote anything (if ever).

Amazing what we can achieve with the Internet!

Amazing what we can achieve with the Internet!

Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I am against shameless self-promotion – the type that involves mass social media use, taking selfies (would it be appropriate to hashtag selfies here?) and tweeting, blogging or instagramming them all over the place for all and sundry to see. However, I am going to break from this habit, just this once, and am going to ask all of you for a favour – if you would humour me.

Many of you already know that I have been making a website (and if you didn’t, then you do know now and I apologise for not telling you earlier but do refer you back to the self-promotion bit above). It’s taken a while, but I have finally completed it – and yes, I made it all myself, pics, links, logo and all (which is quite an effort as I am new to the world of website design, imagine me saying “oooh, what does this button do” and you will get the idea).

So please do go and take a look at www.thewritewriting.com and “like” it on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thewritewriting, if you get a chance and are feeling especially charitable or are just bored and have nothing else to do than to click away your life. And if you are really feeling generous, then we have a blog too… www.thewritewriting.com/tww-blog which you might like to take a look at.

And, if by chance, you need some of our excellent services, then please feel free to email me for a quotation and I will happily offer my services to all and sundry.

Lastly, if you have read thus far, my thanks again and I will, in future, try and keep my social media marketing to a minimum – thank you again!

101st Post! The Elance freak show, unpublished authors & thoughts…


Before you get so engrossed in subject of this blog post, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for accompanying me on this journey of words. This is my 100th blog post and I am still here because of your support, your comments, likes and especially your patience.

Two years or so have gone by since this blog was born and in those two years it (he will be angry at being called “it” but never mind) has formed opinions, written poetry, won a flash fiction contest, expressed existential thoughts and like all toddlers, thrown tantrums and sulked.

Nevertheless, it has accompanied me through thick and thin, cold and sun, laughter and sorrow and we both want to express our gratitude to you, friends, followers, commenters and all for being with us on this journey.

So a (huge) THANK YOU from me, and he says thank you too!!!!

And without much further ado…

 

The Elance freak show, unpublished authors & thoughts…

[PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING: If you are an unpublished author, then do not read this as it will make you look at yourself as a wastrel and a complete failure. Alternatively, do read and join the club as you too are not just a writer but an author!]

There is this stigma attached to being an unpublished writer that I find a little offensive and am sorry to say this, but very often I find that it is promoted by writers themselves. Which of you (and I include myself in this) don’t go green with envy every time you read when someone is a “published writer” somewhere in a blog post or a Goodreads email or just about anywhere else these days – as there are badges that abound almost everywhere I look.

Every time I see one of those badges, I feel the sin of envy swelling up inside me… do you ever feel it? I feel my innards going greener than a lush green field of grass just having received a nightful of sprinkling, simply because I haven’t published, in my own name, my writing. Well, I have published bits and bobs here on my blog and what I write for clients has been published under their own names but it seems like cheating if I put a badge on my site “Published as a Ghost Writer.” Hell, it seems like an idiotic thing to write, plus I have signed my writing away to someone else for a bit of cash so I can’t really do that – it would be unfair moreover, I would probably be in breach of contract – another headache I am not willing to undertake, not to mention a downright unprofessional approach to being a writer for hire.

So why do I, and so many others, place such an importance on being a published author, and why do people “listen” to what published authors say so much more than an average joe like me, or you (if you are unpublished)?

One word: Perception.

In more than one word: Sales and marketing and just plain spiel. That’s my (jealous, albeit honest) take on the situation.

 

Writer’s Earnings break records – we can afford a cappuccino now

As if it wasn’t bad enough getting no recognition for not being a published writer, I was looking at the paltry numbers for our trade… our chosen métier, writing. I thought I would look at how I was doing in comparison to my peers, to ease the burden of being unpublished. I came across Brenda Hiatt, who has put it quite succinctly, where she surveyed hundreds of authors anonymously – and yes, there are a handful who say they earned a bucketload but for the main, it seems that a figure somewhere a fair bit below below $13,000 per annum seems about right (and being unpublished just started to look better):

http://brendahiatt.com/show-me-the-money/

And Author Earnings has backed that all up with sales figures from Barnes & Noble and the Goliath of publishing, Amazon, which demonstrate that we writers, unpublished or not, are struggling to pay for the milk in our cappuccinos, let alone earn a decent living from it (I am not counting those that write for publications, websites etc. I am talking about authors alone – the book writing types):

http://authorearnings.com/the-bn-report/

Now, it’s clear that we unpublished authors are aplenty and all struggling in a quagmire of below minimum wage levels while dousing ourselves in schadenfreude and trying to set ourselves on fire with our last match – only to find it being blown out by the wind of potentially fickle readers greedy publishers. So all we actually achieve is smelling like a pre-dry cleaned suit put in for a good soak of petrol in the faint hope of being worn to the ball. The reality is a useless, and perhaps even dangerous sack cloth.

But what of the published ones? Look at links again, please, and you will realize that, in the light of cold hard figures, they seem to struggle under the sheer weight of their $13,000 annual earnings – okay, that is a slight exaggeration, well an itsy bitsy bit (massively) more than a slight one!

 

Am I a Content Manager’s Bitch?

So what’s the solution, what are we to do? Well, you could go on Elance freakshow and become a Content Manager’s bitch. One only has to take a look at some of the writing jobs on Elance to really understand: $1.50 for 500 words anyone? I mean come on, who are you kidding and what sort of crap will be spouted for that amount, honestly, someone at Elance should just get a grip of what they are allowing on their site, it’s akin to a modern workhouse and has to be illegal on so many fronts. (For those of you who don’t know what a workhouse is, click here or on the picture below).

 

Is this what we have to go through?

Is this what we have to go through?

 

To put the Elance, oDesk, Guru, Freelancer et al freak show into perspective, a writer would have to write a novella of 50,000 words for $150 of which Elance would take a mammoth commission and then there would be an escrow payment which means that essentially you would get about $25 per week! No wonder there is so much rubbish on Amazon and the internet as a whole, I mean if you pay peanuts you get monkeys, as the old saying goes, and I know as I have been offered similar amounts for assignments and politely told them to put their offer where the sun doesn’t shine.

 

George Washington was so right!

George Washington was so right!

 

I suppose what I am saying is that there is little or no difference in being a published or unpublished author, unless you are James Patterson, JK Rowling (or JK Rolling-in-it) or a few others. Most of us just struggle on, fighting the good fight (for the sake of a fight I suppose). The jealousy remains because it’s the one thing that keeps us going, in the biblical sense, and reminds us of the struggle to become something we dream of.

So, to all you unpublished and published authors, ignore the initial Health Warning, and go for it. Write what you want to write, sod the money, sod cheap writing contracts, sod the Elances and other freelancing sites, and put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard is also a very good start) and don’t listen to jealous people like me or people like Brenda Hiatt, who will only depress you.

But do listen to this (final) piece of advice:

Write for you, write for your heart and write for the pleasure of telling a good tale.

The rest is just life…

The Lightship First Novel Prize 2014 – don’t enter because you can’t!


I am fuming. Fuming is probably putting it mildly. I am as red in the face, with steam coming out of my ears fuming, as fuming can be.

Lightship Hilary Mantel

For the past two months, I have been polishing my entry for a prize, the Lightship First Novel Prize 2014. A prize aimed at novelists who have not published any work whatsoever and aims to give new novelists a chance to have their work read by experts and the chance of seeing your words on the printed page with a proper cover and an agent to boot. Lightship is a small independent publisher in the UK. They run these prizes and have managed to convince some literary heavyweights including: Sir Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate and Chairman of the Man Booker Prize 2010, Christopher Reid, Winner of the 2009 Costa Book Of the Year Award, Lindsay Clarke, Winner of the Whitbread Prize, 1989, Hilary Mantel, Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2009 and Cynthia Ozick, finalist in the US National Book Award 1987, to be their patrons. Great list, I am honoured to be entering a prize that has patrons like that and the chance of that all elusive, dream book deal. I probably won’t get past the first round though but I have my dreams like everybody else.

Now why am I so angry you ask?

Well, I have worked day and night to get this far and today is the final date for submission of my novel’s first 10,000 words. My synopsis of 300 words is ready; my entry, the first 10,000 words of my novel, has been edited, proofread, re-edited, formatted and is also ready to submit; My account with Lightship created and personal details entered; My card for payment of the entry fees is ready: all good to go as far as I am concerned.

Here’s the catch (look closely at the picture):

Lightship CLOSED CROPPED

The bloody competition is CLOSED! Now, my first reaction would be to blame myself. In fact, I am sure everybody’s reaction would be “Oh, you blithering idiot!”

Wait. Look at the picture below, the rules of the competition, and if you look at number 6 more closely, it clearly states that “The First Novel Prize will close at midnight on 31st January 2014. Any novels submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for entry.”

LIGHTSHIP RULES CROPPED

Now who’s the idiot? Me? I mean maybe my English is not what it used to be, but it would be safe to assume that “midnight on 31st January 2014” is going to be tonight – right? I mean even if we factor in GMT, there are still several hours to go. And the competition is closed? How, Why and WTF? Or is my English failing me and doubt creeping in: maybe it meant midnight on 30 January being midnight on 31 January? Come on, who am I kidding?

Should I write to them (I already have), should I go to Hull and bang on their door – I mean I like Hull, but… well you know where I am going with that idea. That, in a nutshell, is why I am angry. Angry at two-bob competitions that make you work towards a goal, only to have dreams shattered by not even being able to enter! A scam – that’s what I call it. I mean, I haven’t lost money, no. But I have lost an opportunity that I worked hard for and I feel bad because editors, proofreaders and friends all gave their time to read my “entry” and critique it and now it is not even an “entry” because it can’t be entered into the competition.

And why? Because of the sheer incompetence of someone at Lightship who either:

a) cannot write English themselves (the date issue), or

b) cannot run a simple website (no link to submit your work as well as clearly stating that the competition is closed before the actual closing time).

So Lightship – I find you incompetent and I hope one of your patrons comes across this post (okay, so I do like to dream – sue me) and gives you hell for using their names to promote yourselves by running a competition whose rules are flaunted by you!

And for those of you wondering what the novel is called… I will reveal all in my next post so hang in there and thank you for reading my rant!