Wednesday, 21 January 2015

On Useful Shorts and Fillers by Pauline Chandler

Writing takes up so much time, doesn’t it? You spend hours creating your novel, then, unless you’re a best seller, you wait months for a publisher’s decision.

Even if you catch the editor’s interest, you still have to wait for the marketing department to say ‘Yes!’ 

I’ve never been good at waiting, nor taking publishers’ advice: ‘Write something else,’ ‘Get on with the next thing’, ‘Plan your next novel!’  All very well, but it all takes so much TIME! And there are no guarantees. For every novel I’ve had accepted, I’ve had another turned down. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. So much time wasted on more piles of paper, abandoned, left to languish dustily on the shelf.     

Does anyone write only for the love of it, content to write without ever being read? Can writers actually exist without readers? I don’t think so. The thrill for me has always been that someone has read and enjoyed my writing. It’s about contact, isn’t it? Communication. To elicit that magical elusive 'oh, yess' moment, where someone's full attention is caught by your story. 

I think it was Wilkie Collins who said, about writing: ‘Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em wait,' in other words a writer's task is to provoke a response. Then there's E M Forster's 'Only connect.'

When I started writing for the market, I did take some useful advice, about a way to ease the tedium of waiting for a decision on my grand oeuvre. Write shorts and fillers! In other words, short pieces for magazines, that are constantly on the lookout for short stories and fillers, entertaining pieces to fill a gap in their pages. Wow! Fast writing. Quick decisions. Cheques!

I began simply with readers’ letters. Most magazines have a letters page and some pay well for your contributions. I was paid £10 for a recipe and another £10 for a humorous account of a funny thing that happened when I was on a bike ride with my son. 

Gosh!  Wonderful.  Then £25 each for pieces based on family anecdotes, such as my husband’s flying lesson and moving house to Cornwall, when the cat escaped from the cat carrier as I was driving in the fast lane on the motorway.

Next, I was submitting short stories to magazines and competitions. Hooray! I danced round the house when I got a three figure cheque for one of those. 

There’s nothing like success to keep you going. 

I’ve written seven novels for children, with four published. That’s three I’ve not been able to sell. It’s tricky when your novel is turned down and you’re not sure why. No one in publishing mentions sales. They all talk about stories and talent and wonderful writing, but what I’ve finally realised is that if your current books don’t meet sales targets, your next book slips out of consideration. That’s difficult to live with: two or more years’ effort down the pan.  

So, what you do is keep writing your book, as a labour of love, and meanwhile earn a crust with shorts and fillers, if you have the time and inclination. Don’t quote me, but I believe you have to have about 70 fillers circulating to make a decent remuneration from this kind of writing. That’s a lot of short pieces, but it’s great fun, with swifter responses from editors and cheques in the post.  

Pauline Chandler    

Pauline's latest book is a new edition of 'Warrior Girl' from CybermouseMedia.

Set in 15thc. France, during the 100 Years' war, 'Warrior Girl' tells the story of two teenage girls caught up in epic events, who face love and loss together. 

When Mariane, left mute after her mother's murder, is sent to live with her Uncle d'Arc in Domremy, she is mystified by her strange cousin, Jehanne, whom we know as Joan of Arc.  Jehanne says God has commanded her to crown the next king and lead an army against the English invaders. Is she serious? Or quite mad? Has she told her parents?  When her mother's killers pursue Mariane too, she leaves Domremy with Jehanne, to face her own challenges. The girls part for a while, then meet again, after Jehanne is captured. 

Available from Amazn:
Signed copies available from the author at a cost of £10.00, to include p&p 


madwippitt said...

So many other places to earn money from writing - had never considered those mags that pay for letters ...

Don't forget your short story for the AE anthology though!

Lynne Garner said...

Thanks so much for that. Very well timed. I just happen to be covering this in my creative writing for pleasure and profit course this afternoon. Will give everyone the link.

Pauline Chandler said...

Thanks, Mad. Any port in a storm when you're a struggling writer! I'll not forget my short for the anthology. I'm trying to decide which to offer. Are we thinking serious or quirky? I've got all sorts, even SF!

So glad I could help, Lynne, and thanks for passing on the link!

Lydia Bennet said...

I hadn't realised one could still make a few squid from those kind of things, do they always advertise in the mags etc? I've done a few journalism pieces/features in the past and was even paid for some but hadn't thought of pursuing it now. I'm sure lots of people will be following up this extra source of writing income now, so thanks for this!

Umberto Tosi said...

So true, Pauline. It was easier when I was a working journalist. Always had something in print. But I like being able to write my books and short stories full time now. I also prefer self-publishing much of what I write, a venue in which I do know I'm being read at least by some, and where I have creative control. And there's no waiting! You're right. One way or another, writers must keep writing and keep putting it out there, and not filed away, for there's no closure in that.

madwippitt said...

Whatever you fancy Pauline - there are all sorts of stories in there - both serious and quirky ... looking forward to reading whichever you decide to submit :-)

Pauline Chandler said...

Lydia, I'm sure there are places waiting for shorts and fillers. There are so many niche magazines, for specialist articles on all subjects from pets to antiques.

Umberto, welcome! Writing shorts is a god second string to your bow, don't you think? Very best of luck with your writing, in whatever form!

Mad, I'm working on it! X

Dennis Hamley said...

Three spare novels, Pauline? Tell me more. We could be interested.

Pauline Chandler said...

Ooh, Dennis! May I contact you privately on your email?

Dennis Hamley said...

As I write this, Pauline, you already have! And I was delighted to receive it. They sound great. As you say, there's a long way to go and we promise nothing. We are at the 'keeping the ball in play' stage. I'll say more in an email.