You Will Never Learn to Write [April]

30 April

Nothing is going to happen re launching my book until I have finished this semester’s Masters assignments. Then I will have 6 clear weeks during which I will edit a few chapters each day and post them here; plus – I can put them on Authonomy and once 10,000 words are up, the book will appear to others on the site and with any luck, get some comments and reviews which will no doubt be very tough to take.

Today heard about Anyone can post their stories/book and even put a price on it. I looked at several of these books and they all had mistakes on the first page. Plus, the formatting was all over the place. Not saying the site is bad but this is lowering the standards for bona fide aspiring writers who try and do everything correctly – like getting a copy-editor for starters.


I understand there are two basic tenets for writing; firstly, that writing is about rewriting and secondly, if you want to write, then be a reader.

However, I have also learned a lot by subscribing to certain literary sites and publications. I learned pretty smartly that new writers really must acquire a literary agent as virtually no publishing houses will look at unsolicited material. I also found that it is imperative to compose query letters and book proposals according to the exacting strictures laid out on agents’ websites. You must be professional from the start. If an agent says they only accept email or hard copy submissions, and then only send their stated preference.

Visit the following site FIRST as you will learn a lot very quickly. The most important fact you will learn is that there is no fast-track to getting published:

24 April 2012

Just been put on Greenleaf by a fellow forum member on Writer’s Digest. These publishers seem quite open to receiving submissions from unknown – so long as they are spectacular of course. You don’t often find publishers this open:

You can write articles, initially 10 for free on this site and link it to your own site if you have one. This is a way to bring more traffic your way.

You can publish your book online with Kindle and Amazon; also, there is a print option available under Create Space. Other sites are Lulu and SmashWords.

If you have your own site, you can see who is visiting it by joining:

Images of every kind can be bought from

For flash fiction and other opportunities to appear online via submissions or by winning contests go to:  (females only)

“The only site that submits your book details to more than 280 literary agents in the UK and Ireland.”

Now, there are tons of great sites listed below, but I will put the best one first. It is from Harper Collins and you can put your book on this site and if enough people show interest, HC will have a good, close look at your book:

Another from the US which is mainly lists books and courses to buy. It is part of Writer’s Digest:

This one from the UK gives you the opportunity to post your writing and get comments back. “Great Writing is a free creative writing support forum where the aspiring authors, poets and bards come to read and review each other’s work.” You can post up to three items for comment on the site at one time which is good as it keeps the site from getting clogged up:

Here is another site from the US which has many links to follow on from. It has lots of competitions featured but they cost a lot more to enter than UK ones.

“The Writer is dedicated to helping professional and aspiring writers with a straightforward presentation of information, instruction and motivation.”

Below I have copied in the blurb from the actual website which I imagine is ok as it is more advertising for them. I get the magazines from the public library and there is always a lot of useful reading therein.

“For every writer, from beginner to advanced, whether you write for pleasure or publication, and whatever your writing preferences, Writing Magazine – the UK’s biggest and bestselling magazine for writers – has something to help you. Every month, our 112-page magazine helps you become a better writer and understand the publishing industry. And now, Writing Magazine also incorporates Writers‘ News, crammed with information about paying markets, opportunities to get into print and calls for submissions, cash prize competitions, events to attend, industry news… ”

I currently subscribe to Writer’s Digest magazine (http/ and also to the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (http/ Recently I began reading Writing Mag and Poets & Writers. Utilising these fine resources has been a valuable grounding via self-study, in approaching the business end of getting my writing into print.

Writer’s Digest produces and annual 101 Best Sites for Writers which covers the gamut from resources and agents to publishers and jobs. The following sites are a few that I think are particularly useful.

There is an extremely useful, vitriolic site where real query letters are analysed word by word by an anonymous “grumpy literary agent” http / A similar site has the literary agent very thoroughly scrutinising actual synopses to reveal “why you don’t get published.”

A good way for new writers to develop their style is to enter creative writing competitions. A comprehensive site is  which also features news and announcements of interest to writers at all levels.

The Bulwer-Lytton site is the home of the competition to compose an opening sentence along the lines of Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s infamous opening to his novel Paul Clifford: “It was a dark and stormy night.” This site (“where www means wretched writers welcome) runs other competitions and regularly posts excerpts of fluffed writing from published books, often by eminent authors. Sticks & Stones can be found at

Fish Publishing (Ireland) also run competitions and a critique service for a small fee throughout the year (

There is the National Novel Writing Month (USA) at which challenges writers to complete a novel in November. The sites also runs a 100-page scriptwriting challenge (film, play, TV show or graphic novel) to be produced in April.

It is unusual to find publishing houses that accept unsolicited material from unknown writers but here are a few good leads:

The Oldie magazine ( invites its readership to submit “articles on any subject” between 600-1,300 words as long as they relate to the magazine themes (no poetry or short stories).

The BBC accepts scripts for radio and TV drama and sitcoms on

I was forced to join Twitter after recent shenanigans on American Idol. I sent several suggestions to Jimmy Iovine for Elise as she has her own tough act to follow after the sensational “Whole Lotta Love” a few weeks ago. Now #TellJimmy is following me! I know that it is a group of minions scanning the incoming but it was nice to see I was in the top listed. Mind you, you have to keep tweeting and there is only so much that you can say. At least I am staying polite unlike so many others.

20 April 2012

A bit shocked I did not get into the top 10 on the WD 25-word sentence challenge! So I have learned something from that. Been reading letters in Poets & Writers and on WD’s forum. These amateur writers get really worked up about how unfeeling agents and editors are. The talk like they are the only ones submitting to these people. It does not seem to occur to any of these aspirates that perhaps their writing is not up to scratch either – along with 1,000s of other deluded would-be writers (NB: I am being deliberately provocative here as I would like to hear from disappointed amateurs).

19 April 2012

The other day I was reading a critique of the first 300 words of a reader’s novel in Writer’s Mag. The whole thing was a string of flowery adjectives, adverbs pulled together by a sea of clichés, which the critiquer of course focussed on. The woman had a blog so I went to and found that was her style … clichés by the dozen. The woman also had stories on a site called ShortBread. Truly awful.

Also, I have now read many letters to these writing magazines how agents or publishers tell amateur writers they need to tweak their work. But these writers don’t know what to fix. They are unable to perceive their own work. They cannot hear that words or phrases are repeated, that too much exposition is given, and that the pace if too fast – or slow – writing is an art just as any other. I myself have spent hours the last few days just polishing off short summaries about my book, my background, etc. Each time I read these jottings, I notice areas that need to be improved. I think I am just about there. At least I realise where I need to improve.

I can’t write fiction but I see that most competitions feature fiction categories. So I will start entering those looking for shorter stories, just for practice. I used to like writing stories at school; plus I can always use some anecdotes from real life as a basis.

18 April 2012

Noticed that every day for a few weeks now I have spent hours on searching writing sites, competitions, etc. It has become an obsession which I am putting above my study. I only have a few more assignments to complete (one in one week) but I keep leaving that work and coming back to my personal writing. You do need to devote yourself full-time to writing because it is the rewriting that takes it out of you. I always see something I can improve on, as opposed to change. How do I know I am improving as a writer if I am an amateur? Changing an item could of course go on forever. All I can say is that my study and practice in academic and journal writing has given me an ‘ear’ – a bit like, I suppose, those that have perfect pitch (!) in music. Not saying I have that either, but you need to develop this instinct with regard to your own writing. I think that many aspiring writers do change their work, as advised by an editor or their writing group. But not necessarily for the better. If people keep telling you to change that particular article then something is not right – I won’t say ‘wrong’ as that sounds too negative. I wonder how much reading starting-out writers do. I have always read and read a wide variety of subjects across fiction and non-fiction. I believe that you can pick up ‘clues’ like this, by a process of osmosis, on what constitutes good writing. Shortly I am going to see a documentary (in a festival) made by a friend of mine who now lives in Melbourne. She is narrating as well. I find it inspiring that someone I know has achieved this – in fact, I have another old friend who also makes documentaries (she is based in Auckland). We all knew each other from 35 years ago. I am the only one dragging the chain so I hope it is a case of “things happen in 3s”.

17 April 2012

The comments I made under women and humour about self-awareness apply here as well. Most people are not aware of how their personality affects others. That is why amateur writers thinks there work is great – what else are they going to think about themselves! I reread the story mentioned below again today and found more errors, in terms of the reader being confused since they did not have the background knowledge that I do.

I have just done the exercise of sending a short non-fiction story I wrote a few weeks ago into a competition. Firstly though I had to lengthen the item. When I reread it I realised I had been repetitive regarding word usage and started most sentences with “I”. There were many areas where it just did not make sense – I should say it made sense to me but then I knew the story well. I think these are traps that amateur writers fall into.

Many of my jobs have required expert communication in terms of oral instructions, written letters and proposals, etc. This is very good experience in addressing an audience with optimum clarity. I often find I have to ask what someone means by a certain word or even phrase; this is because I usually have more than one interpretation of documents. Elsewhere on this site is an essay about Communication and Perception. We all have our own unique perception of everything presented to us; that is why communication skills are now highly sought after in managerial recruitment.

14 April 2012

Just joined up to publish my book via Kindle on Amazon – you can actually sell it there! There is a print option too called Create Space. I have done all I can to set up the book including a cover. Just need to edit six years of journals and pick out the less than great periods of my life which are numerous to say the least. I am also on Authonomy (Harper Collins), Writers & Artists and Book Submit.

Two other very popular self-publish sites are Lulu and SmashWords. Also, Barnes & Noble.

11 April 2012

Looked again at competitions offered in Writer’s Digest and Writing Magazine. Realise I have a magazine feature more or less prepared (about prosthetic contact lenses) so I will submit that. If I can write a 750 word short story by the 16th I will enter that into Writing Mag! Not so keen on fiction but that is so short it is a challenge to write a full story in such a short space.

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