The Value of Writing

Ever wanted to carve out a career as a writer? Writing is one of those skills that gets seriously undervalued. Take this little example I copied from a jobs website… (Some of the words have been changed.)

I need a romance story of about 50,000 words to be written before the end of July. Elements that MUST be included in the story are Bad Boy/Alpha, Motorcycle Club Romance. Sub-elements, character descriptions and the plot will be provided.

I am looking for an excellent writer who not only can supply FULLY EDITED work, but is also experienced in character development, dialogue and plot development that can hook a reader. Again, any work submitted should always be error free.

The proposed budget is between .01-015 per word (cents, not pennies) but I have been known to give excellent bonuses. PLEASE NOTE – content should be creative, high quality and 100 percent original. If you decide to accept the job offer, you agree that you will own no rights to the work or parts of the work and you understand/agree your name will not appear anywhere on the work. I would retain all copyrights to these stories. It cannot be used for portfolios or as samples for other clients.

The candidate must be experienced with this type of writing, be a NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER and have excellent spelling, grammar and punctuation. I am looking to create an ongoing business relationship with chosen bidder(s). I have many future projects in mind. Hope to hear from you!

Lordy.

So, not only must you come up with 50,000 original words in five weeks, but you will need to have them professionally proof-read and/or copy edited. It is nigh on impossible to proofread your own work when it is this length. You don’t own the copyright, and you’re now allowed to use the content in samples. And all this for $800.

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Artists Town

kbtI’m trying a brand new project – Artists Town. If you’re about to read this, be warned: it contains swear words.

“It’s called the Artists’ Town.”

He used his special voice, the “family, listen carefully; I’m going to tell you interesting information” tone.

Daisy wondered how her mother put up with it. She’d only had to endure it for the last ten years (if you didn’t count ages 0-5 when presumably she didn’t take account of such things). Mum, on the other hand, must have listened to him drone on for the last 17 years.

Urgh.

She glanced out of the car window. The scenery hadn’t improved. Trees, fields, grass, water. Times 20. It had looked the same for the last two hours. Where were the Golden Arches, the glass-fronted towers, the railway tracks and the mass of traffic that made up her usual familiar and comforting views?

Toby, luckily for him, had fallen asleep at Carlisle. His head lolled, sometimes to the side, sometimes falling onto her shoulder. When it did that, she shrugged it off as quickly as possible.

Mum turned in her seat now, her expression concerned and probing. She hated that.

“Daisy, do you want to do a blood test love? We haven’t done one since this morning.”

We? What’s this we thing – I don’t see you stabbing your finger to get it to bleed.

“I’m fine,” she did her best to make her voice sound neutral. Too aggressive and her mum would insist she test, convinced she knew better than her daughter. Too flat, the same thing.

You couldn’t bloody win when it came to sodding blood tests. Forgive the over statement. Bloody was the most appropriate adverb.

The car had stopped outside a terraced house, its exterior displaying a sign; Vacancies. Enquire within.

“Inquire.”

“What’s that love?”

They had all exited the car, Toby shaken grumpily awake. They stood in the street, the four of them, looking up at the sign: Braemar Quality B&B.

Vacancies. Enquire within.

Quality was an optimistic description, Daisy reckoned. The place was tiny – the windows meanly small and draped with dirty looking lace curtains. One curtain twitched now and the front door (red paint, flaking) swung open.

“Aye?”

The woman crossed her arms.

“Mrs Burnett?” Her dad embarrassed her all the time. Now he was doing it again. He said Mrs Burnett like… Oooh, Missis Burrrnettt. The woman looked scornfully at him throughout.

“That’s me.” She stamped her feet on the mat, wiping them back and forth several times.

“We’re the Williamsons. We’re booked in for two nights?”

“C’mon in. You’re early.”

Daisy’s dad turned to face them and smiled widely, encouragingly. He followed Mrs Burnett into her B&B and everyone else traipsed upstairs, Mrs Burnett droning on about when they could expect breakfast and what it comprised of.

“I will do you a Scottish cooked breakfast. If you ask the night before. One sausage, one rasher of bacon, one egg, beans and toast. Otherwise, cereal and fruit.”

Daisy grimaced and then stopped abruptly. A teenage girl lounged against the wall in the hallway, her expression louche.

“Enquire/inquire?” She grinned. “You fucking snotty wee cow.”

Daisy, insulated from her own rudeness most of the time, grinned back.

“Are you the cool girl round here?”

The cool girl smirked, her mouth moving up, stopping and then tilting upwards once more.

“No.”

She leaned forward, the movement enabling her to whisper in Daisy’s ear. “You cannae be cool here. This place is a dump.”

Daisy wondered if she meant Braemar Quality B&B or the town itself.

Personally, Daisy thought “dump” could apply equally to both. The Quality B&B was no more impressive inside than it was out. It smelled of burnt toast and the hall carpet had dirty foot marks on it. Someone hadn’t wiped their feet properly. There were also lots of pictures of Scottie dogs, their cheeriness in complete contrast to their host.

And the town? Well, she’d only seen a bit of so far and none of it included a cinema, clothes shops or a McDonalds.

Cool girl said she wasn’t cool, but Daisy had an instinct for the cool girls. Mainly because she wasn’t one. How could she be – her mother hovering anxiously over her all the time? And being dragged along on family holidays at her age. Daisy wasn’t one of her school’s in-crowd.

She longed to be.

“What’s your name?”

Cool girl was back leaning against the wall, arms folded.

“What’s it tae you, posh girl?”

See, this is what cool girls did. Daisy answered questions straight, imbuing a questioner with automatic authority. And being called posh. That was the biggest insult, wasn’t it? Cool was never, ever posh.

Greatly daring, she gave cool girl the bird, pushing down on her forefinger hard to emphasise the gesture.

Cool girl grinned again.

“Katrina. Ma friends call me Kit-Kat. You can call me Katrina. And you? Lady something? Bo-peep?”

“Daisy. My friends call me Daisy. You can call me Your Royal Highness.”

Katrina laughed – the noise deep and dirty.

Mrs Burnett had reappeared at the top of the landing, her three guests peering over the banister at Katrina and Daisy.

“Kitty,” she said sharply. “You’ve no’ finished tidying up the back bedroom.”

The girl looked up and then back at Daisy, who raised her eyebrows.

“Lovely to meet you, Kitty,” emphasis on the word ‘Kitty’, the person in question responding with something only Daisy could see, a flip of the bird too,

She started up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Watching her go, Daisy admired her thin legs. She wore a printed dress, much shorter than Daisy would ever dare.

As Katrina/Kitty reached the landing, the old woman startled Daisy by ruffling the girl’s hair. “Hurry up, aye? And then you can go out.”

“Alright gran,” she responded.

So… Daisy liked building up stocks of information on people. To date – rude teenage girl, knows about inquire/enquire, name Katrina (likely), known as Kit-Kat (in her dreams), called Kitty by everyone (yup), helps at the B&B, the B&B owner is her granny.

“Come on up, Daisy!” Mum did her best not to make it sound like an order. “We’d better get all your stuff unpacked.”

Mrs Burnett looked at her first and then back at her mum. Daisy read her mind – what stuff? She’s only got a backpack on.

She contemplated flinging the rucksack up with the instruction: you unpack it then.

Best not to.

Upstairs, the décor was terrible. There were yet more Scottie dog pictures on the walls of the room she’d been allocated and several creepy china dogs on the mantelpiece above the fireplace. The wall paper print was enough to give her a headache and it clashed with the curtains and the carpet.

And, she was sharing with Toby, who’d already bagged the bed next to the window.

On the other hand, it was bigger than her room back home and it was right next to the B&B’s bathroom. Daisy usually needed to get up once or twice during the night to go to the loo. At home, this meant traipsing all the way downstairs.

Mum opened the door now. “Right, we’d better get lunch. We’re a bit later than usual. Are you okay?”

Daisy gave her the same “I’m fine” reply she’d delivered earlier – careful to avoid aggression or lethargy in her tone.

Downstairs, Dad was already telling Mrs Burnett how much he liked what he’d seen of the town so far. She looked bored.

“Mrs Burnett?” Her mum sounded anxious. “Is there somewhere near here we can get something to eat?”

Mrs Burnett glanced at the watch on her wrist and sighed.

“Aye, well you’re a wee bit late for most places. They stop serving at 2 o’clock. Try the Gordon Arms and if no’, the chippie might still be open.”

She looked offended when Daisy’s mum grimaced at the mention of the chippie.

“Well,” Daisy’s dad clapped his hands together decisively. “I’m sure we’ll find something. Thanks so much for all your help Mrs Burnett.”

Mrs Burnett was back to staring at him scornfully. Even she knew the help she had offered so far had been shit.

“Well, see you later,” she opened the front door wide and shooed them out.

As they spilled out on the street, Daisy’s dad remembered to shout back – “Where is the Gordon Arms, Mrs Burnett?”

But the door had closed. They were obviously expected to find their own way there.

 

©Emma Baird 2016

 

Picture thanks to Artists Town.

 

Potential senior photos of Thomas.

“He tilted his head to the side, pushed up from his chair and looked at me askance…”

No, it’s not a description of the man in my life contemplating some request I have just put to him, it’s three of the terms I over-use.

A quick find check of my latest manuscript revealed a lot of askance staring, too many push-ups from chairs and a surplus of head tilting. My vocabulary is shamefully limited at times.

This kind of over-use of words and terms is something a professional editor would pick up on, no doubt, but in the meantime I am relying on the ‘find’ facility in Word and an online thesaurus to come up with alternatives.

How often is repetitive anyway? If it’s an ‘askance’ every 10 pages or so, is that too much? Or does it demonstrate that my character is puzzling to others and they have a need to look at her, askance, frequently?! Maybe they should simply be puzzled from time to time.

Do you find yourself using certain phrases (particularly descriptive phrases) repetitively? Any advice for the remedy?

 

Pic thanks to Nic McPhee on flickr.

Expendable of Course

This one is a little bit naughty… I’ve got a publisher so b****ing about agents and their seemingly impenetrable world is a moot point. However, from time to time, I can’t resist the odd narky comment…

No? No, no no no no no no ad nauseum...

No? No, no no no no no no ad nauseum…

Dear Ms Birnie, thanks for submitting your manuscript to Expendable Agents Inc. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit our requirements and you are not a celebrity so we can’t take it any further…”

‘May we take this opportunity to wish you blah blah,’ thought Edie, deleting the message, not bothering with the ‘Many thanks for letting me know’ reply. Nowadays, she figured she didn’t need agents to know she was a nicely brought up gel.

Agent rejection number 25, however, hadn’t reckoned on one thing. Edie lifted the phone – “Ann-Louise, Jane and Rejoice – are you still in the hit woman business…?”

 

Clearing the Decks – And Trying Not to Puke

Words, words, words

Words, words, words

Recently, I heard someone opine that the first draft of a novel was basically a ‘word vomit’.*

Ooh, I get what she meant, but as someone who has just written the first draft of her first book, ‘word vomit’ made me want to cry. I must endeavour to toughen up if hearing some other person’s description of the writing process makes me react in such a pathetic way.  It was not a personal comment on my own attempts, for heaven’s sakes!

Having triumphantly typed out ‘The End’ almost 14 days ago, I have ignored The Book ever since. I didn’t dare look at it and, as I had really galloped towards ‘The End’ at the rate of knots, not caring about casualties such as spelling, grammar, credibility or sense, I certainly feared to view it again.

So, adopting my best school prefect voice, I said to self today – “You MUST look at this. You MUST read it again. You MUST change stuff if necessary.” So in between writing bathroom blogs and bugging the editors of air conditioning websites (yes, really), I read Book Part 3.

And, er, it was not quite as bad as I feared… Now, next week’s Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is reading parts 1 and 2. And perhaps putting chapters up on Readwave and asking for feedback.

Declutter – It’s Good For You

In another bid towards encouraging creativity (or putting off bidding for jobs online – you decide…) I finally got round to clearing out the spare room. I now have the dedicated office I promised myself way back in April. It’s a minimalist space where creative energy will flow, uninterrupted by endless tripping over of piles of washing in various states of dryness and dodging piles of paperwork. That’s the theory!

A women’s magazine I’m rather fond of (Woman & Home) had an article about de-cluttering in its latest edition. The aim, apparently, is to own no more than 100 things if you want to be free. Store all your music, books and pictures on your PC or online, go for a capsule wardrobe and the rest is easy. Idly, I wondered to myself, do ‘toiletries’, ‘skincare’ and ‘make-up’ count as three things, or should one count up the individual items? If the latter is true, I may well have reached the 100-item limit five times over. Woe!

Just to demonstrate that I can do a 100 limit, I did recently write a piece of flash fiction. It was for a competition. I didn’t win, or get mentioned or anything really, but it’s the taking part that counts, don’t you reckon? Here it is:

I’m a Deelan – Oh My Lord!

On Thursday I came home from work, disheartened.

My cat didn’t greet me at the door, but a handsome stranger was waiting in my kitchen. “Bobbee,” he said, “do you recognise me?” I shook my head. “Who has kept you company all these lonely months? Who has slept on your bed every night while you cried yourself to sleep?”

“You are Jazz?!” I exclaimed. “My cat?”

“I’m a deelan,” he said, “a human who can change into a cat and you are one too. Look!”

He clicked his fingers. I changed into a cat.

If any of you have your own examples of flash fiction, I’d love to read them so please feel free to post in the comments.

 

*LinkedIn – the writers and editors group. Very good for brain storming, and asking for advice on the creative and the more prosaic, such as ‘hey, what printer do you use and why?’

8,000 Words Comin’ Atcha!

I promise you the ones I wrote were a bit more interesting than this.

I promise you the ones I wrote were a bit more interesting than this.

Fiddle-de-dee!* Ladies and gentlemen of my esteemed audience – from out of nowhere (it seems) another 8,000** words has appeared.

Gracious heavens! The wretched writer’s block is blissfully obliterated and my self-imposed 3rd August deadline for finishing the book looks do-able once more.

Oh, but despite my lack of superstitious beliefs do such carelessly-uttered confidences signal an inevitable crash? You might encounter me next week with a cheery, “Hey, how’s it going? You were charging ahead great guns last week! Is another 8,000 words in the bag and The End in sight?”

To which I might mutter (bad-temperedly and shame-facedly): “Ah. Well, ahem, this week we are looking at rather reduced productivity. It’s a matter of… five words. And three of them were the result of re-reading old chapters and discovering I had missed out the odd ‘a’, ‘the’ and ‘but’.”

I am also contemplating my top of the range (not) printer and wondering how on earth it will cope with my attempts to print out 300 or so pages post novel completion. Repeatedly. I fear for my toner cartridges – I sense they are sprinters and not marathon runners. I’m definitely going to need to see this baby in the flesh (so to speak) and thus be able to survey the many, many typos that will surely jump out to me as I view the words on paper.

An additional concern! Who among friends and family can I further cajole into reading my book and reassuring my ego that it is ok? (Or suggesting in a kindly way that I should not have given up my day job after all.) I may further test patiences when I ask them to re-read said book, having swapped chapters around and added bits in.

All in all though, it’s a wonderful feeling when The End is in sight. Mucho excitement threatens to over flow in the Highheelsandpinkglitter household. Life beyond the laptop is contemplated and I may dust off my running shoes.*** Veuve Cliquot beckons…

 

 

*From out of nowhere too I appear to have developed a penchant for peculiar turns of phrase.

**8,771 words to be exact. Now I may go and write precisely 229 words to take this week’s total up to 9,000…

***Once the heat has died down.

The Sun-kissed Freelancer

This sunbathing station was not set up until at least 1,000 words had been written, oh no it wasn't...

This sunbathing station was not set up until at least 1,000 words had been written, oh no it wasn’t…

Ah, the sunny day is the enemy of the writer hmm? We who are already experts in the art of procrastination gird our loins, set up our laptops in the far corner of the room, hidden away from any hint of sparkling and enticing sunshine outside and buckle down…

Still, beats working in an office though! So here I am trying to carve out my living as a freelance writer and keep myself in wine and cat food*. There are kind souls who have contacted me and offered me their advice a la blogging tips to make money, so thank you the two Joe’s (Warnimont and Seeber), Glenn and the Daily Phil; I do find your newsletters most useful.

Then there are the freelance sites, elance and People Per Hour where I can flog my services to the whole wide world. “Yes, yes, I promise I can write about almost anything, I’ll make it original, it will pass Copyscape no problemo and, thanks to my skills with key words and SEO techniques, three trillion people will find your business as a result of my words!”

(And of course buy whatever you are flogging…)

Blimey, selling yourself is hard work though and occasionally dispiriting especially when hirers post jobs where they will pay you $2 or less for 500-word articles… (Seriously).

Having written some 50,000 words of my own book – a fantasy adventure aimed at young adults – I dilly dally with tidying up those pages most days. I had got a bit stuck; two-thirds of the way through and I had bored myself, I hated my characters and I wished them out of my head for ever. “You lousy lot,” I muttered to myself, “stop bothering me with your foolish adventures and your lacklustre dialogue!”

Then I found myself a writing buddy – a gent with far more experience than I who has written books and screenplays before and we began exchanging emails about the writing process and even – gulp! – swapping chapters. I challenged him to write a synopsis for the remaining part of his book and then thought I had better take my own advice and write one myself.

Off I went and researched the narrative arc, investigated the seven plots and looked into characterisation. Et voila, a synopsis was born. I swapped it with my writing buddy. He made an extremely good suggestion and pointed out where the story didn’t exactly work. I gave it to my mum. She was kind and constructive, as the best mums should be.

So, I now have the complete story in my head and on paper. Better keep writing hmm?

And now for a little interaction… I’d love to hear from you if you have any tips on writing a book and what forces you to keep going when motivation is lacking?

 

*Reader, fear not. Life has not deteriorated to the level where Whiskas whets my appetite on a daily basis. It’s just that as well as myself and husband, we do have one greedy cat to feed.