Tag Archives: homework

Diary of a freelance writer, 28 October 2015

screenshotDid you miss the diary last week? Have you been keeping busy? Did you try out some writing software? I had a long weekend, which shortened my working weeks, so I had a break from the diary as there wasn’t much to report. Catching up now, though.

Wednesday 14 October
Two weeks ago today was a very busy day. I did quite a lot of NaNo prep work. I created my binder in Scrivener and originally set it out in 3 acts. I broke it down into chapters, and then into scenes. I also worked on the plot summary and I wrote 877 words on another project. I didn’t do any editing work.

Thursday 15 October
As I was finding my way around Scrivener, and the new novel binder, I continued to have fun with it the following day. I started to fill in some gaps and rearranged some scenes. I also wrote 407 words on another project. I didn’t do any editing work.

Friday 16 October – Monday 19 October
This was a lovely long weekend for us with just the one gig, but we did work in the house rather than go out on any sightseeing or research trips. We visited my parents in Birmingham, and we ended up having to make several trips to the garage after the poet’s car caught fire.

Tuesday 20 November
Back to the desk, and more catch-up work. I wrote 2,274 words on just one project but didn’t do any NaNo prep or editing work.

Wednesday
Last Wednesday was a bit busy as we had to take the cat to the vet, she had an emergency operation, and we had to collect her again at the end of the day. I didn’t do any writing or editing work, but we did go to our pro-bono work meeting in Doncaster, although we were a bit late due to having to collect the cat from the vet.

To help pay for some of the things that went wrong this week, I started to pitch for a few extra editing jobs.

Thursday
Thursday was mostly pro-bono work, setting up the Facebook page and a blog. I asked for photographs to populate the FB page at least, and they started to come in almost immediately. This is for a series of fundraising events that are happening next year in memory of one of Monkey Dust’s friends and followers who sadly died earlier this year. I didn’t do any writing or editing work.

Friday
The cat was back at the vet Friday morning, so that cut my day up a little. I still managed to write 544 words on one project, though, and 354 words on the NaNo project. I also did more tidy-up work for the pro-bono gig. And I won one of the extra jobs I pitched for.

Weekend
Just a regular weekend this time, but with another gig on Saturday night. We didn’t manage any sightseeing or research trips.

Monday
On Monday I did a little writing work. I didn’t do any editing, but I did save the new job that came in so that I have the file in a safe place and can start on it as soon as I finish the one I should be working on right now.

They came to collect the poet’s hire car today, so he’s in my car this week. I had to rearrange some appointments to suit.

Tuesday
Yesterday I was back on Scrivener and more NaNo prep, and I rearranged the whole book in what I hope will be the working structure throughout NaNoWriMo next month. The picture you can see above is how it looks today.

The title is at the top. (“Mardi Gras”.) The “binder” is to the left. This can be switched out if necessary, but at the moment you can see how I’ve changed the 3 acts into 3 parts and how the plan is to write at least one chapter a day at 1,667 words, each chapter a separate scene. The 3 piles of “index cards” have writing on all of Part One chapters, 4 of Part Two chapters, and 2 of Part Three chapters. This is my working outline, which I’ll use as a guide. As more ideas occur to me, or as I iron out a problem, the empty index cards will be filled in and the information transferred to the writing screen for each chapter, to remind me. The inspection panel to the right is empty in this view, but filled in each of the chapters. This can also be switched on or off.

I’ve set up a project tracker, also in Scrivener, to record how many words I write per session, what the overall word-count target is (50,000), and what the target daily word-count is (1,667). There’s also a progress screen, like a gantt chart. I’ll share a screenshot of that once it’s been populated with something.

I wrote 694 words on the NaNo project yesterday.

I finally got going on some editing work, and last night the cat was discharged from the vet. (Hurrah!) Now all we need is the poet’s car to be discharged from the garage …

Homework
With NaNoWriMo only a few days away (i.e. on Sunday), that’s the only homework I’m recommending at the moment. Prep work this week, actual work for the next following 4 weeks.

Let us know how you’re getting along. And good luck! 🙂

Diary of a freelance writer, 30 September 2015

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Where does this go? What do you find? (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I managed to come in on my regular Wednesday this week. That must bode well.

How did your week go? Did you try those 10-minute exercises? Or the extra homework on Friday? Much of my week has been hidden beneath a mountain of other work again, but I think I’ve kickstarted myself again.

Thursday
Last Thursday I resumed the heavy edit I’d abandoned for the heavy proofread. I started the electronic edits, but it really is proving quite tedious and tiring.

My day was also disrupted by (a) a running overflow, and (b) waiting in for and then entertaining the plumber. The only writing work I managed was the diary of a freelance writer. Oh, and a few notes.

Friday
I managed a little writing work on Friday, general stuff, nothing huge. I continued with a little more of the heavy edit and I raised one of the 2 invoices (hurrah!).

There was some thinking time too on Friday, and a bit of a Eureka! moment.

Last month, when I started my think/query/write/submit process, I got fixated on thinking April 2016 pieces and then querying them too. And when I didn’t receive a full set of replies, I started to consider chasing them. However, it hit me than that I only needed to be thinking April. Had the routine already been in place, I would also be querying March, writing February and submitting January. It was too early to be querying April too.

So, this month, that means that while I would normally be thinking May, querying April, writing March and submitting February, what I really should be doing, as it’s only the start, is thinking May and querying April. Had I already done the other work, then I’d be writing and submitting too.

Still with me? Cool.

Basically it means I can stop beating myself up about the April stuff. I can query 3 new magazines this month, with 3 new ideas, and stick to just thinking about May.

Weekend
Due to a 2-gig weekend, much of the rest of the time was dedicated to domestic stuff rather than extra writing work. On Saturday I managed more notes, more “5 ideas for 7 days”. But generally, we were busy doing other things.

Monday
On Monday I hoped to be back in the saddle, but after writing the blog for the day, the rest of the day just went downhill. I wasted good writing time waiting in for a delivery that never arrived. I wasted more good writing time writing emails, Facebook posts, Tweets and making phone calls. And I wasted good editing time going out to buy the goods that never arrived from somewhere else instead.

I managed a second blog, although it was quite the rant. But it did push the word count up a little for the day.

I chased the plumber. He should be arranging a day to come and do the work, which will mean more disruption.

Tuesday
Tuesday was better. Much better. I joined in a current WiP meme on Facebook that got me back in touch with CATCH THE RAINBOW. I wrote a further “5 ideas for 7 days” plus an extra 5 too for good measure (so I have a choice, and so I have some throwaways). And I wrote 2 brand new scenes for CATCH THE RAINBOW.

I also checked the current requirements for one of my favourite short story markets, and as they’re working on January/February at the moment, I looked for a few vague February-related topics I might be able to weave a story around.

I completed module 9 of my fiction writing course and am now ready to tackle the next assignment. I had to study modules 5 – 9 for this assignment, but I see from the next assignment that I have to go back and study modules 4 – 9 again.

And then I continued with the heavy edit. I need to get that one shifted and invoiced so I can start the next one. It’s boring me now and that’s never good.

Homework
Your homework for this week, should you wish to join in:

  1. Look at the photograph above. Imagine yourself following that path. Where does it take you? What do you find? Who is down there? Write a short story based on your findings.
  2. Start preparing for your think/query/write/submit tasks this coming month. They’re going to be (in order) May/April/March/February.

More writing homework

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Police house, Moreton in Marsh (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Extra homework
The house pictured above is the old police station in Moreton in Marsh. When we visited, it had recently sold.

  1. Write a short story around the building when it was still used by the police. OR …
  2. Write a short story around the new owners – who are they, what do they do for a living, why would they want an ex-police station, will they live there, will they work there, will they set up a detective agency there, enter your own ideas here … OR …
  3. Research, query and write a photo-feature on historic police stations/police houses in your county/area/state, targeting your local county magazine or any of the heritage magazines. OR …
  4. Do all 3.

Let us know what you do and how you get along.

I was going to say that this past week had turned into another 4-day week – I’m starting to get used to those. But then I remembered that I worked on Sunday too, so while it should have been a 6-day week, it was actually a 5-day week.

It’s been a busy week (again!) with the poet away for 2 days in Scotland. I mean, for those 2 days I had to make my own meals and everything!

Before he went away, on Monday, he fetched home a carrier bag filled with cooking apples. There must be getting on for 10lb in there. I don’t know if he was expecting to return to apple pies and apple crumbles, but he didn’t. I’ve been wondering all week the best way to preserve said apples and I may actually do some cooking at the weekend.

While he was away, an overflow pipe started to run, which turned out to be the hot water expansion tank. On Tuesday I’d bled a stone cold radiator in the en suite bathroom. It was totally empty and took ages to refill. But now we think the hot water system may have been using that radiator as an expansion radiator. The plumber came yesterday (Tom the Gas), and he said the expansion tank has never been supported properly and the base it’s on is now bowing to the extreme that water’s sploshing over the outlet pipe.

It’s going to be a big job that will mean draining down the entire hot water system. And while I can hardly wait for the upheaval, it would have been worse had the tank come crashing down bringing half the house with it. And, fortunately, we don’t have to pay for it, although I have suggested stats for all of the radiators while he’s at it that we may have to contribute to.

I have a busy day ahead, tying up another heavy edit and getting that submitted, raising invoices (hurrah!) – note, that was plural (double hurrah!). And it’s a 2-gig weekend for the band, both in Doncaster. So not only does that mean gigor mortis, it also means 2 very late nights (2 – 3am finishes). I can’t see us squeezing much else in over the weekend, other than maybe a gentle drive to the shops, perhaps some baking (though I may cheat and get some ready-made pastry), and a visit to the poet’s parents perhaps. The poet’s working in the Midlands on Monday, so he’s going to drop into my parents on his way home – if I make apple pie, he may have to drop one in for me.

Have a great weekend.

Diary of a freelance writer, 16 September 2015

young adults10 minutesHow did your homework go last week? Did you join in and send anything off? Aside from the first acknowledgement I received, I’ve not heard anything about mine. I might schedule in a chase session next week.

There are 2 books featured in today’s diary, GET STARTED IN WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION by Juliet Mushens, and WRITE A NOVEL IN TEN MINUTES A DAY by Katharine Grubb. Both are available from Teach Yourself Books. (The TYB link is to the creative writing section, but there are loads of other departments too in this series.)

I’ve already started the young adult book, but I’ve not even bought the 10 minutes a day book yet, although it is on my wishlist … and the more I read about it, the more tempted I am. I love good writing books, and I love good time management books too. If anyone has it and has read it, I’d appreciate your opinions. 

Wednesday
On Wednesday I wrote the second instalment of my freelance writing diary. I also had a recall from an editing client, where the client’s client wanted 3 spaces at the start of each paragraph. Every. Single. Paragraph. And they had to be physical spaces too. I couldn’t set an auto-indent throughout. They’d asked for a very quick, very light edit … but they got considerably more. So I’ll be thinking more carefully next time they approach me with work.

Thursday
I had the day off on Thursday due to a series of appointments arranged throughout the day. In between time, though, I did start a heavy edit I should have started the day before.

Friday
The heavy edit took up most of Friday, so I didn’t get time to do any writing or admin work. I didn’t manage a blog post either.

Weekend
We didn’t have any research trips arranged for the weekend. Instead we had to do shopping stuff, band stuff, and family stuff.

Monday
On Monday morning I received an email from one of my overseas markets itemising what they’re planning for their November issue – wow, a 6-week lead time. As it happened, I had a short story reprint I thought might fit their brief. So I checked it through, repackaged it and sent it off. Almost by return.

I finished the heavy edit on the hard copy client book I’d started. I was so busy with that, though, that I didn’t have time to write a blog post for the weekend.

Tuesday
I needed a rest from the book I’d just edited, before starting the electronic edits, so I started what I thought would be an easy proofread. However, it’s actually a heavy proofread and is taking longer than I thought. If I get it done today (Wednesday), then I’ll drop it in overnight. Otherwise they may get it Thursday night or Friday morning, when I have more errands booked.

I managed a blog post on Tuesday, started to read the young adult writing book and did a few of the exercises, and I managed to study a module of my fiction writing course.

Homework
Your homework for this week:

  • If you have WRITE A NOVEL IN TEN MINUTES A DAY, let me know what you think of it.
  • If there’s anything you didn’t manage to complete last week, do it this week. But make sure it is done this week.
  • If you’ve already had responses to queries sent last week, start to schedule the work in – research and writing.
  • If, like me, you’re waiting for responses, is there something else you can be getting on with? A longer piece of work or something that’s been nagging at the back of your mind?
  • If you don’t have anything to do this week, read a writing book with exercises and do the exercises, or research writing books to buy or writing courses to study.
  • Let us know how you get on.

Heavy edits

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Memorial, Moreton in Marsh (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Apart from being in the midst of another very heavy edit, yesterday I also disappeared beneath a fug of faff and almost let the entire day run away.

It all started when I tried to tidy my pictures on Facebook, and I was going so fast that FB suddenly stopped letting me update the captions, saying my “behaviour” was intolerable. (Or words to that effect.)

Well, FB, enjoy them while you have them. Because when you start to dictate to me what I can write and what I can do with MY OWN PICTURES, I start to back them up elsewhere and they start to disappear from your platform.

Anyway, once I got over my little tantrum, I left the computer (and FB) on the office desk and moved downstairs to finish the heavy manual edit. I should be doing the electronic edit on that next, but I need a rest from it so will do a quick proofread for the same client instead, and get that back to them either tonight or tomorrow night, overnight.

Last week got a bit busy as I had another 4-day week (it’s 5 days this week, I hope I can cope). All of Thursday was pretty much written off with appointments, but I did manage more editing in between at least. I just didn’t manage anything else.

At the weekend we had a Monkey Dust gig Saturday night, and we visited both lots of parents – one on Saturday, and one on Sunday. I also had a baking day, making a cherry fruit cake and some cherry buns (we needed to use up the cherries), and I made a strawberry trifle. And on Sunday the poet left a pork casserole in the slow cooker while we were out.

I have at least 2 books I need to clear and get back to the client this week (the 2 already mentioned), but we have a meeting Wednesday evening too for the one piece of “pro-bono” work I’ve taken on. I don’t do work for free very often, but I do like to help out a good cause where I can and this one’s to do with some friends of the band, and it is a charity thing. The band will be doing something too.

Friday is back to being an errand day this week. I usually still work in the morning, but try to arrange any appointments for late afternoon onwards. This week I had to make one appointment in the morning, at 10:30am, and I already had one late afternoon, at 4:30pm. Hopefully there’s still a big enough gap in there for me to crack on with some work.

Extra homework
Today’s picture is another one from our long weekend in Evesham over the bank holiday. We had a day showing the poet some of the Cotswold villages, and this one is Moreton in Marsh. Have a look at it and see if you can come up with a story – either around the memorial or about the people who live (or do they work?) in the little house immediately behind. With Remembrance Sunday less than 2 months away, some speculation – or good, honest research – around the memorial might make something interesting. But so might whoever you decide to populate the house with.

Don’t forget to report back. 😉

Diary of a freelance writer, 9 September 2016

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On our way up Kinder Scout (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

How did your homework go last week? Did you find any anniversaries or local events that tickled your fancy? I had quite a good week, very busy but good. It should be easier from here on in.

Wednesday
I launched the new diary of a freelance writer and I checked an online dictionary of dates. And I came up with a good half-dozen potential ideas and topics, adding them all to my new spreadsheet in date order.

Thursday
Today I moved on to my old faithful but very ancient dictionary of dates and added a few more anniversaries to my list. Then I checked my dictionary of feasts and seasons, and then I nipped online again to see what events are already booked in locally, both to visit in September and to think about for next April. There weren’t many up for next year yet, but I did add quite a few more to my spreadsheet.

Friday
On Friday I went through my spreadsheet and decided which of my ideas tickled me enough to find out more. I booked in our first research day for Saturday.

Weekend
Saturday was quite busy but we managed to squeeze the research trip in between everything else. We had a nice afternoon soaking up the atmosphere in Haworth and taking pictures, noting things we either wanted to come back for or how an article could be slanted.

Sunday was mostly thinking time for me – percolation.

Monday
Today I chose 4 broad topics and tried to come up with at least 3 slants for each, to maximise potential. In fact, for 3 of them, I came up with 4 slants, and only one came out at 3 slants. I also selected a handful of throwaways to share as a semi-worked example here today.

Tuesday
Yesterday was market study. I identified a good selection of magazines that might be interested in the kind of things I’m interested in writing about. I came up with 5 regulars that I could slant pretty much most things towards, and about the same again as one-offs.

When I bought a Writer’s Market in 2011, it came with a free 12-month online-subscription to the massive database and various writers’ tools that go with it. But I’d never activated it. So yesterday, I dug out the code, and I activated it. This is basically going to give me the next 12 months to sell probably just one item that will cover the online subscription next year. For now I’ve selected just one well-paying magazine.

It’s harder work writing for the American magazines. They like to see proper, fleshed-out queries, and their researchers will check, check and check again almost every fact you hint at in your article. But they issue proper contracts too, and they pay proper wages. So I like to think the extra work is worth it.

(Aside)
As I was studying each of the magazines, it occurred to me that one of them might also be interested in an “evergreen” article. An evergreen is an article that doesn’t have a topical peg to hang on but is still interesting all the same. It might be something you can write about from your own experience or existing knowledge, or something you can research and write very quickly. The trouble with an evergreen is that even if a market accepts it, they may hold onto it until a suitable slot comes up – usually unexpected, usually due to someone else letting them down with a topical. This is fine if the market pays on acceptance, but if they pay on publication (or, horror of horrors and to be avoided at all costs, the end of the month following publication), then you risk waiting months, sometimes years for your wages. Evergreens are useful to have on the backburner, but often better submitted to magazines who still accept submissions on spec, rather than commissioned or requested, and who use their stock quite quickly.

Then I drafted 9 queries targeted towards 3 magazines. By the middle of the afternoon, I’d already received a reply from one of the magazines, and it wasn’t a reject.

Now those queries are done and out of the way, I can sit back and (hopefully) wait for them to come back to me. Meanwhile, for now, the rest of the month can be spent on actual, real-life writing.

Throwaways
I came up with several anniversaries or topics that either didn’t excite me or I didn’t think I could do them justice. So here are some of the ones I tossed away, and some suggestions of what could be done with them:

  1. 4 April 1991, 25 years ago, the children at the centre of satanic abuse allegations in the Orkney Islands off Scotland are reunited with their families after the case was thrown out of court.
    1. This screams out for a short story, a serial, a novella or a novel. Remember to mention the topicality if submitting a story or serial to a magazine.
    2. What other instances have children been separated from their families only to be reunited due to lack or fabrication of evidence? Can anyone be interviewed and photographed?
  2.  18 April 1956, 60 years ago, the British chancellor, Harold Macmillan, unveils plans for a new state savings scheme, offering cash prizes instead of interest.
    1. Have you ever won anything on your premium bonds? Write a reader’s letter to a finance magazine, or a general interest magazine, sharing this information.
    2. The chancellor wanted to encourage the nation to save. Over the years, returns (aka “prizes”) have been slashed over and over again. Are they worth it? What can you win? Often nothing? This would make a finance feature.
  3.  23 April 2001, 15 years ago, a former personal assistant to the Duchess of York stands accused of murdering her boyfriend.
    1. Again, this screams out for a short story, a serial, a novella or a novel. Remember to mention the topicality if submitting a story or serial to a magazine.
  4. Various dates over Easter 1916, 100 years ago, the Easter Rising took place, in Ireland. As it happens, the anniversary can be pegged onto Easter (which is March next year) or April (when Easter fell in 1916 – I’d be inclined to use this one).
    1. The political savvy can go to town on this one with various features and articles.
    2. It also allows for a work of fiction to be set against it – and has. Remember to mention the topicality if submitting a story or serial to a magazine.
  5. Other stories for April:
    1. 1 April is All Fools Day … apart from in Orkney, when it’s 2 April and tricks should be played after noon instead of before noon.
    2. 1 April is also Gowking Day. (Look it up.) What stories or articles (or poems) can you write about Gowking Day?
    3. 1 April is apparently a good day for thunder. (Look it up.)
    4. 5 April 1976, 40 years ago, Jim Callaghan is voted leader of the labour party, beating Michael Foot, takes over from Harold Wilson, and moves into no 10. What other politicians have won the prime ministership in this way? (And who have refused to give it up?) Can this contest be compared to another, very recent, very similar contest? (For which the results will be out very soon.)
    5. 8 April 1986, 30 years ago, Clint Eastwood is voted in as mayor of Carmel. This could be a feature on other actors/entertainers who have gone into politics.
    6. 18 April 1956, 60 years ago, Prince Rainier III of Monaco married Grace Kelly.

Homework
So, your homework for this week is this:

  • choose at least 3 of the topics you came up with yourself, or choose 3 from the above, or a mix of both
  • identify at least 3 slants for each topic or anniversary
  • identify at least 3 magazines you can target with at least 3 article queries
  • from your market study, identify at least 1 market that may be interested in an evergreen
  • if you have them, select at least 3 pdfs or jpgs of cuttings, or samples if you’re still submitting via hard copy – if you can choose cuttings that are appropriate to the current ideas you’re querying, all the better
  • carefully draft your queries, and send them, ensuring you have the most up to date contact details (for which a quick phone call will do)
  • let us know how you get on

(Do those count as lists? 😉 )

Diary of a freelance writer, 2 September 2015

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Just a little something to illustrate today’s post – nothing to do with writing. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Welcome to the new diary – which should be a weekly journal of my freelance writing experiences and escapades. Let me know if there’s anything you want to see, and equally let me know if there’s something you’d rather not know.

I’ll try and keep it to freelance writing – short material and long – with maybe the odd nod towards any editing or proofreading that’s getting in the way. Bear in mind that I do have to earn a living, so that too does impact on my time.

The picture, by the way, is because we (the business manager and I) think the whole blog looks nicer with an illustration. If I mention a book, then I’ll use the cover. Otherwise, it’ll just be a nice or an interesting picture of something.

Prep work
So, last week I started the prep work. It’s quite a big job to get started, but once it’s in place, the maintenance of it is much quicker and easier.

A jobbing freelance writer should be thinking 6 months ahead. Lead times on monthly magazines are usually around 3 months, sometimes longer, and on weekly magazines are usually around the 4 – 6 week mark. So once in the swing of this, in September I’d usually be thinking March next year at this point. As I’m just warming up again, though, I’m giving myself an extra month. So this jobbing writer is currently thinking April 2016.

The first thing I usually do, when I’m up and running, is go to my dictionary of dates. One of the best ways to achieve success with most kinds of magazines is to find a topical hook on which to hang your feature or article or short story or filler or reader’s letter or whatever. If a magazine can link something to a date, they’re more likely to accept your work/idea.

It’s no good just coming up with an annual date, though – unless it’s a feast or season or annual occurrence that a fiction-using magazine will want stories around. Generally, for articles, a magazine isn’t really interested in something that happened 3 years ago, or 9 years ago, or 37 years ago. They seem to prefer it to be in multiples of 5 or 10. So before I can even go to my dictionary of dates, I need to list the years I’m looking for 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 25 years ago, 50 years ago, and so on. So, for April 2016, I should be thinking April 1991 (25 years), 1966 (50 years), and so on.

For example, on 1 April, aside from it being All Fool’s Day every year, in 1986 (30 years ago), the US submarine Nathaniel Green apparently ran aground in the Irish Sea. And on 5 April 1976 (40 years ago), James Callaghan succeeded Harold Wilson as prime minister, defeating Michael Foot in the final ballot for the leadership of the labour party. Now, while neither of those may interest me personally, there will be other material that does. And with the current contest for the leadership of the labour party soon to be resolved, I can see how the savvy jobbing political freelance writer can milk that second story to death, using both the anniversary and recent events.

Other things on which to peg any kind of creative writing would include feasts and seasons, such as Easter, if it falls in April next year, which also seems to herald the start of the Morris dancing season as well as the well-dressing season. It can also include the tail end of Hocktide as well as Rogationtide. And saints who are celebrated in April include St Richard of Chichester, St Alphege and St George. And it’s the bard’s birthday and the anniversary of his death, so not only something on Will Shakespeare, but also travel features on parts of the country that featured in his life.

And then there are all of the local events that are happening in April next year, which will include well-dressings, mostly but not exclusively in Derbyshire, coal-carrying competitions in Yorkshire, and Tutti Day in Berkshire. (If you don’t know about them, do a search.)

So at the start of each working year I begin with a list of topical anniversary year dates – just the years, I look up the actual dates later. And this year I added the dates to an Excel spreadsheet I’m using as a master working document. This document also includes the “think April, query March, write February, submit January” reminder for September. For October’s worksheet, they’ve all moved on to May, April, March and February. Because while I want to be thinking April, as a jobbing writer I also need and want to be querying March, writing February and submitting January.

And this actually means I have a bit more work to do in September if I want anything out there and published in January, February or March too, something that can be sent to magazines with a shorter lead time.

Wednesday
Last Wednesday I started the prep work by opening an existing spreadsheet – one I use for tracking word-count each month – and adding those topical dates plus a think/query/write/submit table for the next 12 months on page one. This is my “schedule” page.

Thursday
On Thursday, I continued with the planning admin by copying my “drafts record” onto page 2 of the master spreadsheet. This is the table that keeps track of which draft I’m working on (outline, draft 1, 2 or 3, editing) of which item – short story, filler, reader’s letter, RTE, article, etc.

I also created a new page for each month, being that month’s “worksheet”. For example, I have a September worksheet that reminds me what month I’m thinking/querying/writing/submitting but also includes a section for jobs I have in for that month (in September I have in 6 books to edit already), and a section for research trips I want to make (such as local annual events we can photograph and experience this year and maybe sell something ahead of for next year).

Friday
Last week, with it being a bank holiday, I had Friday off.

Weekend
The weekend will be when the poet and I go out on our research trips – when we’re not already busy with the parents, the band, or with fishing. As we were away this weekend, where we went may form the basis of something in the future, but for this weekend it was a holiday.

Monday
Same as Friday.

Tuesday
Yesterday, in preparation for when the work proper starts later today, I hauled out my old faithful dictionary of dates, an almanac I have of British myths, customs, feasts and seasons, and I did a search on the internet for some useful “this day in history” websites. When I found a few I liked (and it’s always best to have several sources as they’re not always complete or correct), I bookmarked them to make searching quicker in the future.

The coming week
During this coming week, i.e. from today onwards, I’ll be narrowing down my think/query/write/submit to specific dates. And, once in the swing of things, this should be a mechanical job for future months.

So today, I’ll be glancing down the dates for April 2016 to see if something catches my fancy. And, if I have time, I’ll have a quick look at March, February and January later in the week too, so see if there’s something I can come up with fairly quickly. Then I’ll have a think about how meaty the idea is, where I can sell it, whether to write an article or a short story, and how many slants I can come up with. When I have examples, I’ll share some of them – and even toss out a few I don’t think I’ll do anything with.

Homework
In my experience, some readers like to “join in”, even if they do so secretly or just between them and me. So, if you want to join in (and share progress in the comments section if you wish), this coming week, find out what’s happening in your world in April 2016. Is there something that interests you enough to write a story or article about? Or loosely base a story on? Do you know an organiser of a local event you could interview? If you have time, use this week as your thinking time for March, February and January too.

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