I’ve been invited to talk about writing for the magazine market at the Telford Writing Workshops, based at the Meeting Point House, Telford. The workshops, organised by Lynne Tildesley, take place on Tuesday evenings, and I’ve been invited to talk on Tuesday 8th March 2011.
When Lisa Edwards’ telephone number appeared on Ricky Butcher’s mobile phone in an episode of the BBC’s popular Eastenders soap opera last year, she soon discovered what happens when a real-life telephone number is used in a piece of drama. Some 2,800 people either called her or sent a text message.
And in a scene where several different characters from the BBC’s popular Dr Who television series tried desperately to get in contact with the Time Lord, viewers spotted that 07700 900461 was the telephone number the characters were dialling in an attempt to reach David Tennant. Nearly 2,500 viewers tried ringing the number, but thankfully this time, all they heard was the unobtainable tone.
Whether you are writing a short story, novel, radio or stage play, film or television script, there may be times when it is necessary for one character to call another. Having a character answer the telephone, “Bristol 496 0303,” may help convey characteristics, or even the era in which your fiction is set. Telephone numbers can add further realism to your storyline. The question is, if you want to use a number, do you make one up, ring it, and if no one answers go with that one? Lisa Edwards would be the first to say no. Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, would also shake their heads in dismay and even consider taking action for infringing privacy regulations. What you need is a dedicated fictitious telephone number.
Have you ever noticed how telephone numbers in American dramas always seem to begin with 555? This 555 area code has some telephone numbers set aside purely for fictional use in film and television dramas. Similar fictitious codes exist in other countries too. In the UK, Ofcom has even created geographical fictitious telephone numbers, meaning that authors can create a Bristol area telephone number for their Bristol-based character, and a Nottingham number for their Midlands-based archrival.
Telephone numbers tend to comprise two sections, the first being the geographical area code (0121 for Birmingham), the second being the unique code allocated to an individual or business. Being able to use the same UK geographical area codes as those used in everyday real life enables us to add more authenticity and realism to our fiction. It’s the second part of the telephone number, where the fictitious element of codes apply. As Liz de Winton from Ofcom explains, “They are allocated specifically for these purposes and won’t be allocated to telecoms companies.”
Telephone numbers are allocated in blocks of consecutive digits to the various telecommunications companies who ask for them. So, by allocating a block of numbers purely for fictional use, writers can use any number from within this fictional range, safe in the knowledge that in the future, the number they choose for their main character won’t suddenly be allocated to a butchers in Swindon.
You can choose any number from within the fictional range of numbers. For example, if you have a character based in Sheffield, then you can give them the telephone number 0114 (the real Sheffield geographical area code) 496 0123 (from the fictional range). The fictional range of numbers offers 1,000 variations for each area code. Check the numbers carefully, because the fictional range of numbers allocated differs for areas such as London, Tyneside, Cardiff and Northern Ireland.
If your character does not live in one of the UK geographical areas that has a dedicated numerical fictional range, Ofcom suggest that you use the ‘No Area’ geographical code of 01632, and use a number from within the fictional number range of 960000 to 960999.
You can’t register a fictional telephone number; they are merely a selection of numbers available for use in any form of fiction. It’s possible that you could choose a fictional number for a character, and another writer could select the same fictional number for one of their characters. Fictional numbers also exist for other common telephone dialling codes, such as mobile phones, freephone numbers and even premium rate numbers.
American Fictional Telephone Numbers
Wherever in the world your characters are based, you may be able to give them a fictional telephone number. Although American fictional numbers famously begin with the area code 555, the fictional range that follows this is quite small. Only 555-0100 to 555-0199 are specifically allocated for fictional use. Other 555 numbers are used in real life, such as 555-1212, which is used as one of the numbers for directory enquiries in North America. Be aware that this range (555-0100 to 555-0199) is only valid for North America. Other countries, such as Iceland and Australia, also have 555 area codes!
Australian Fictional Telephone Numbers
The Australian Communications and Media Authority have set aside numbers for fictional use too. Aliska Angyal-Kvalic, from the ACMA, says, “It is anticipated that these numbers will not be allocated to individuals in the future, in order to minimise the impact on the general public as a result of the general public dialling numbers mentioned by fictitious characters appearing in novels, in films and on television programmes.”
For information about fictional telephone numbers available in other countries, seek out the country’s telecommunications regulator, usually a government agency, via the Internet. From there, either the website itself, or the public relations team will be able to help.
Being able to give your characters a telephone number can add a touch more realism and authenticity to your fiction, but you should always ensure that the number you use has been set aside for fictional use. In the American film, Bruce Almighty, God tries to reach Jim Carey’s character using a pager, and the number shown was valid in many different areas of America. Thousands of people rang it, asking to speak to God.
It may be good for your characters to talk to one another by phone, but picking the wrong number could have serious consequences – for your characters, for you, and for the person at the other end of the telephone!
UK Telephone Numbers Allocated for Fictional Use
Geographical Area Code
Fictional Range of Numbers
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
496 0000 to 496 0999
7946 0000 to 7946 0999
498 0000 to 498 0999
9018 0000 to 9018 0999
2018 0000 to 2018 0999
960000 to 960999
900000 – 900999
570000 – 570999
Premium Rate Services
8790000 – 8790999
Australian Numbers Allocated For Fictional Use
Numbers Available for Fictional Use
1900 654 321
Central East Area Code (covering NSW and ACT)
(02) 5550 XXXX(02) 7010 XXXX
South East Area Code Region (covering VIC and TAS)
(03) 5550 XXXX(03) 7010 XXXX
Central East Are Code Region (covering QLD)
(07) 5550 XXXX(07) 7010 XXXX
Central and West Area Region Code (covering SA, WA and NT)
A January mist swims across the surface of the water, swallowing all that rises above its depths. The still, cold air is broken by the frantic call of a startled Tufted duck escaping into the sky, and an occasional, unaccountable ‘plop’ is accompanied by a tiny ripple that floats its way towards us. Standing at the end of the jetty, we’re hovering above the water as our eyes try to penetrate the moisture molecules that the wintry sun hasn’t yet gained the strength to evaporate. Llangorse Lake it seems, wants to hold onto its secrets a little while longer.Continue reading →
For those of us who are not offered the support of the publisher’s entire publicity department to promote our latest book, sitting alone in a local bookshop, trying to sell it ourselves can be immensely demoralising. Persistent rain, the final of a great sporting fixture, or the lure of a more exciting event five minutes down the road, is all it takes to tempt any potential buyer away. The solution is simple. Don’t do it alone. Instead, make it a multi-author event. Not only is there safety in numbers, but there are other benefits to be had too.
A couple of years ago, the (rather forward thinking, in my experience) manager of the local WHSmiths branch advertised a ‘local author’ day. I got in contact and was offered a small table from where to sell my books. When the day arrived, I met 11 other authors, a few I already knew, but many I didn’t, all from within a 25-mile radius. Our book subjects and genres varied considerably from local history, dog humour, gardening and World War 2 memoirs through to romantic fiction, local walking guides and even senior citizen satire. The day went extremely well. I sold books, (yes, plural) and it was a great networking opportunity.
We realised that a lot of the success was because of the diversity in subject and genres. People came into the store to see what was on offer. They were browsing. All my sales were impulse purchases. No one had come in specifically to buy one of my books, but because there were so many authors in one store, cumulatively, we were ‘an attraction’.
At the end of the day we all swapped contact details, and thus began the start of many similar multi-author events, some of which we’re beginning to organise ourselves now. Our biggest event recently took place during the first bank holiday weekend last May. Attingham Park, our local National Trust property, holds an annual second-hand book fair during this weekend. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss; the place would be full of booklovers! We approached them, explained that we were a group of local Shropshire authors and felt that offering the public an opportunity to meet an author (and buy their books!) neatly complemented their second-hand book fair. We also volunteered to donate, 10% of our sales generated over the weekend.
Amazingly, they agreed, proving that if you don’t ask, you don’t get! They liked the extra publicity angle of having local Shropshire authors at their book fair. They supplied a magnificent marquee with tables and chairs, enabling us to create an author/book tent. We publicised ourselves and the book fair in the local paper and on the local radio, thus offering further publicity to the National Trust.
Although the Trust’s book fair runs across the full bank holiday weekend, we choose to start small and be there on the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday only. Visitor figures for the whole weekend proved revealing. On the Saturday (when we weren’t there), 1,300 people turned up, this increased to 2,000 on the Sunday and on Bank Holiday Monday (with typical Bank Holiday weather) there were still 1,400 visitors. So, more visitors turned up when we were there. The Trust were delighted with this, and as a result have asked us back for the full three days in 2010!
From the public’s perspective, it seems that a room or marquee full of several authors isn’t as daunting as one solitary writer sitting behind a desk. “With a group of you there, it’s easier for people to come in and browse without feeling pressurised to go to a specific table,” says Dorothy Nicolle, who kindly organised our National Trust event this year. “You know how it is with some people, there’s a solitary author sitting there and they try to walk past without even glancing in the direction of the author for fear he or she might catch your eye. A group certainly has an advantage.” We’ve found that as a group, people browse our stalls like they would at a craft fair or county show.
From the author’s point of view, we’ve discovered that such multi-author events offer more than just increased book sales. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to talk to other writers about what they are doing,” says one of our authors, Diane Perry. “In the past I have been inspired by chatting to them and the booksellers who may also attend these events. You pick up a lot of information, just by being on the stand next to another writer.”
Organising such events is an ongoing learning curve for us as we continue to seek out new opportunities. But for anyone else considering this approach, here’s what we’ve learnt so far.
Authors: Obvious, but I’ll say it anyway, for a multi-author event you need authors! Some of us already knew each other from the local writer’s circle, but that first meeting at the WHSmiths store was where we really began. However, we’ve continued to expand through word of mouth, and we also make enquiries in other local bookshops. Owners often have good contacts with local authors, as do libraries. Search the Society of Author’s website for other members. A simple first 2 letters of the post code search often brings up a good selection.
Administration: At the moment, we’re still quite small, about 20 of us in total. Most are on email, but a simple database keeps track of contact details.
Finding venues: So far, we’ve operated like this in our local branch of WHSmiths, although whether other members will find their local store as accommodating, it’s difficult to say. But, just like we found with the National Trust, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. We’ve also been in independent bookshops as well as Attingham Park, so check what’s available in your locality. We’re hoping to approach other National Trust properties, but are considering libraries, church halls and other local festivals. One member is investigating the opportunity of linking in with a local literary festival. Clearly it makes sense to target places that book-loving people are attracted too, which is why we approached the National Trust’s book fair, but don’t dismiss any tourist attraction or event.
Keep it small: Especially to begin with. Make your first events relatively short, a couple of hours, targeted at the busiest anticipated time, e.g. 10am till 2pm. Go for longer times at bigger venues with bigger crowds. Never underestimate how long it takes to set up, you’ll always need more time!
Remember variety: When setting out your tables, play on the strength and diversity of your subjects and genres. Mix everyone up, don’t ‘theme’ authors together. We’ve found that mixing encourages the public to browse for longer. Try to plan where individual authors will be placed in your venue before the event, rather than on the day, but be flexible. A leaky marquee can cause havoc!
Finally: Have fun! It’s another opportunity to sell your books and meet the public. And as Diane Perry says, “It’s not just about selling on the day, it’s a great way of marketing for future sales and events.”
“Not another triple letter word, Jock! Leave some for me,” I said, exasperated yet again. That was another 24 points on his score, not that he needed them. I did. And I needed them badly.
“Angus, you’ll never win if you miss an opportunity like that. Twice you could have used that triple letter square but you didn’t, so I have. Just add the points up and take your turn. That’s if you can go.”
If you were given an extra two hours a week, what would you do with them? Diane Perry decided to use hers for writing and has not looked back. Janet Johnstone gained a couple of days a week and has since been published in a variety of magazines in the UK and America. Julie Phillips suddenly gained a year and saw her name in print for the first time. Who gave them all this ‘extra’ time to write? They did.
Two Hours a Week
Diane Perry works full time as a civil servant and she also keeps horses and chickens. Life is hectic. But she’s the author of 100 Ways For A Chicken To Train Its Human and several articles in local county and smallholding magazines. She suddenly gained more time when she bought herself a laptop computer. How? She now takes her writing to work with her. “I use two lunch breaks a week for writing,” says Diane. “We have a small private meeting room with a huge desk and most importantly, no telephones! Two hours per week extra may not seem a lot, but I am always amazed at how much I get done in a solid hour without any interruptions. It has had a huge impact. My last three articles written during this time have been published, or accepted. Some were on a tight deadline, so I doubt that I would have got them done if it were not for my extra writing time.”
When extra writing time is limited like this, preparation is the key. You need to know exactly what it is you want to do during each specific writing period and how to overcome any problems you may encounter. “I use it for everything from the first draft to editing, and even research,” says Diane. “We are not allowed to use the Internet at work, so I have an encyclopaedia on my laptop, which is a useful tool to search for information and make notes.”
Buying a laptop computer has enabled Diane to literally buy herself more writing time.
A Couple of Days a Week
Janet Johnstone is a Health and Safety Advisor for a shopping centre, and whilst she’s approaching the time when many people consider retiring, that’s the last thing she wants to do! Janet used to get into the office before 7am in order to write before her colleagues arrived. Like Diane, these few hours a week were productive, but she wanted to write more, so she enquired about reducing her working hours. Her employers agreed, which means she has a couple of days a week to devote to her writing. However, as Janet says, creating extra time like this to write doesn’t mean that it all has to be spent on the writing process. “How many times has that spark of inspiration been lit, only to be extinguished because a full day’s work gets in the way? It’s ages before you’ll have that free time and by then, something has been lost. I have more time not only for writing, but also thinking – thinking without other matters getting in the way.”
Janet enjoys writing fiction and non-fiction, so her writing time follows no fixed pattern. “With an article deadline to meet, I will start around 7am or even earlier and I continue until I am completely satisfied. However, with short stories or when working on a novel, I write as and when inspiration fires in.” Having the flexibility of a whole day to do this rather than part of a day works better for Janet. It also has another benefit. “I would say the writing is far more enjoyable. There isn’t that need to squeeze it in between your working day and other essential tasks such as housework and cooking!”
That enjoyment has certainly paid off because Janet is much more productive. Since making this time to write, her articles have appeared in a variety of magazines including Doll Magazine, Teddy Bear Club International, BBC History, Living History, Woman’s Weekly and Doll Reader. Janet’s decision to invest more time in herself, is paying off.
The Gap Year
Julie Phillips was a part-time practice nurse and is a full-time mother. She caught the writing bug when she undertook an Open University course in 2007. “Suddenly the flood gates opened and I knew I wanted to write more and more.” The opportunity to do so arrived when Julie was given the option of taking a career break, putting her nursing career on hold. It was the push she needed.
Making this much time to write can have its drawbacks, particularly at the beginning. “Because I tend to write in a corner of the living room, when my partner and daughter are here it can be very distracting and frustrating – particularly if an editor rings and I’m trying to hold a professional conversation with Bob the Builder music blaring out from the TV! But the pros definitely outweigh the cons.”
However, having longer periods of time to write has also improved Julie’s writing experience. “I’m less stressed than I used to be, which helps with my creative flow. I also have greater flexibility, so when I’m researching for articles, I can go off and interview people during the week in the day time, which can be more convenient for the interviewee. Since I became a full time writer, I can take myself, and my writing, more seriously. I have no qualms admitting to people that I’m a writer. It’s what I do!”
Since beginning her career break, Julie has had numerous articles accepted and published, and seen her fiction in print in Australia.
Most writers would like to create more time to write, and although Diane, Janet, and Julie have all created different amounts of time, they’ve all benefitted from that investment. Two hours a week doesn’t sound a lot, but its equivalent to writing full time for two weeks every year. Where will two hours a week take your writing?
♣ Tell your colleagues what you are doing. That way they’ll be less likely to bother you.
♣ Plan what you want to spend time doing, especially if you only have a short break. You do not want to spend the majority of the time wondering what to do with it and then find it’s the end of your lunch hour!
♣ Enjoy it! Try not to see it as just working through your break. Take a huge mug of tea and nibble on your sandwiches wile being creative. It will pay off.
♣ If writing is in you and you can reduce your hours, go for it. We are all going to have more time ‘one day’ as we get older, but if you can afford it, don’t hesitate to follow that dream whilst you still have the drive and the energy required to be successful.
♣ Discuss your plans with friends and family. You can’t do it by yourself and you need that support network.
♣ Make sure you have everything you need to set yourself up as a writer before you take the leap. I would have made sure that I had my own writing space. You need that to keep all your writing stuff in one place and it looks professional, which means you are professional. It’s a psychological thing.
The one thing I admire about dogs is the way that they are always ready to go. Go anywhere. At any time, any place anywhere. All we have to do is tell them where we’re going and they immediately stand up and start wagging their tails profusely, ready for the off.
But what about us? We’re the ones who seem to have several decisions to make. What’s the weather like? Will I need my coat? What happens if I bump into X? Should I put any make up on? And that’s just the men!
What not to wear on the cat walk – sorry – dog walk, is clothing that is impractical. But that doesn’t mean to say that practical clothing can’t be fashionable or stylish. With some careful shopping you can be perfectly clothed for the hills, yet stylish enough for an evening out with friends and family. But to understand practical clothing, you need to understand what your dog is wearing.
With the exception of one or two breeds, all dogs are covered in fur. The fur differs between breeds, depending on what the breed was originally bred for, but the basics of fur is to trap air, warm it up with body heat and keep it trapped. Some breeds have a thicker coat in the winter and moult it out for a thinner summer coat, reversing the process in time for the following winter. But it isn’t as simple as that.
Labradors for example, have a double coat. Closest to the skin is a soft and fluffy undercoat, whilst on top lays a heavier, thicker, coarser coat. It’s the undercoat that keeps them warm and traps all the air close to the body, whilst the top coat protects the undercoat from mud and other outdoor substances! It even helps to keep the undercoat dry even when the dog is swimming in the nearest pond. That’s why so much water goes flying as soon as a Labrador shakes – it’s a design feature.
So as the human race isn’t covered in fur (usually), we wear clothing to keep warm, and sweat to keep cool. Dogs have to pant to keep cool because they can’t just through their fur off. So think layers of fur and you’ll always be prepared for that walk with the dog whatever the weather.
With our layering system of clothing though, we need to be able to get rid of excess moisture. Have you ever worn a cotton T-Shirt when climbing a hill? It doesn’t matter whether it’s summer or winter, you still work up a sweat. Stop at the summit to admire the view and the cotton’s excellent moisture absorbing ability comes into its own. But that’s also its weakness. All that moisture is retained by the cotton, and kept next to your skin, slowly cooling you down, making you feel cold and wet. Meanwhile, your dog is busy panting away cooling down, but still covered in fur keeping him warm.
Modern materials are excellent at wicking moisture away from your body. Clothes that can breath allow the cold wet air to escape but keep the dry warm air trapped next to your skin. A good base layer works well throughout the year, either as a first layer of defence in the winter, or the only layer required in the summer. Look for synthetic materials such as polyester, that have been modified to be “high wicking” and “quick drying”.
In the cooler months, you’ll probably need another layer over the top of your base layer. Think of this as your version of the Labrador’s soft fluffy coat. A fleece jacket or jumper is the perfect choice. Made from synthetic materials they are usually lightweight, durable, water repellent for those October showers, but quick drying. And they also continue to ‘breathe’ allowing all that moisture escaping from your base layer to escape through your fleece too. This mid layer helps keep those cool breezes at bay, whilst still allowing you to be active and throwing those sticks!
For those harsh weather conditions, (you know those autumnal gales we sometimes have), you need a third outer layer. Working on the same principle as the Labrador’s outer coat, it repels water with ease, keeping your fleece underneath warm and dry. Manufacturers understand this layering system perfectly, and are designing complete 3-in-1 systems, which will cope with just about every situation that the British weather can throw at us – usually on a Bank Holiday Monday too.
It’s not just our top halves we need to think about, there are our legs too. Now it’s possible to get away with just one pair of trousers or one skirt. The wonder of zips mean that trousers can either be full length, knee length breeches, or with one final zip, a pair of shorts. This simple idea transfers well to skirts too. Whatever the season, these garments can adjust quickly to the weather conditions. How many times have you taken the dog to the beach only to find the weather improve, and wish you could go for a paddle in the sea too? These multi-length trousers and skirts mean you’ll be in and out of the water in no time, with none of that fiddly rolling up of trouser legs that fall back down when you’re in the sea, or those embarrassing moments fumbling behind a beach towel trying to change into something more shorter.
A better understanding of how your dog copes with the different outdoor conditions means that you too can be ready for anything, at any time too. Outdoor clothing manufacturers have spent millions developing products to be hard wearing, durable and practical. But they’ve also made them fashionable too. The colours may change each year, but the quality doesn’t and investing in well-made products will serve you well if you look after them. Even dogs look after their fur and need our help in grooming them from time to time.
So next time you step outside to take the dog for a walk, make sure you’re prepared for whatever our British weather will throw at you. You know your dog is always prepared. And now you know, it’s all just a question of layers.
The Crossing the Threshold toolkit was produced for the Diocese of Hereford’s Conference (of the same name), held in November 2009 to inspire and encourage communities up and down the country to find ways to adapt their Church building enabling them to use it for multi-purpose community use as well as congregational worship.
As the Diocesan website says, “The toolkit was produced as a response to demand from parishes at the start of their journey down this road towards returning their buildings to their communities. This is an easy to follow step by step resource containing exactly the sort of information any parish will need to know.”
The entire toolkit is available free of charge and can be downloaded from the Diocese of Hereford’s website. Click on the links below to download each section (in PDF format).
To celebrate the 100th issue of The New Writer magazine, I want all writers’ circles to celebrate too. But instead of answering a reader’s question this time, I want to set you a challenge. Go to your next writers’ circle meeting and ask the following question: What has each individual member achieved, since joining the writers’ circle?
To me, The New Writer, is like a writers’ circle. Every two months, I receive a regular fix of writing advice, hints and tips, news and of course, great writing. But what have I achieved, since I joined this group? Well, my very first dalliance with this group was back in the early 1990s, when it was under the name of Quartos. In the Nov/Dec 1993 issue I had an article published, entitled, Are You A Dull Daydreamer Or A Respectable Writer? Since then, I have had nearly 400 articles published, seen numerous short stories published (here in the UK and in Ireland and Australia), been on the UK top ten non-fiction paperback bestseller lists for 4 weeks, had 9 books published to date, won several competitions and I’ve even been a judge for TNW’s Poetry and Prose competition. List it like that and I think – wow!
I sat and thought about the members of the writers’ circle that I go to. What had they achieved? Two others have had books published by mainstream publishers, three have successfully self published books (which needed several reprints), two members were lucky enough to read their poetry out on Radio 4, one’s had her very first short story accepted by a magazine in Australia, whilst one has had a regular column in a local magazine. Again, – wow!
So at your next meeting, let everyone sit down and give them 10 or 15 minutes to write down what they have achieved with their writing since joining the group. For some members, this may include being published, or winning competitions. For others, it may simply be gaining the confidence to read their own work out to other members at a meeting. If that’s something they didn’t have the confidence to do, then this is an achievement! Everybody’s achievements will be different.
When you’ve done that, go around the room and ask for everyone to read out their list. It doesn’t matter how long or short it is. Have someone write them down again on some flipchart paper for all to see. When you’ve done that, stop and look at what’s on your group’s list. Wow! Then share your successes with me. I’d love to hear about them. Email me or write to me c/o The New Writer.
Learn to celebrate your group’s successes and join in The New Writer’s celebrations. Crack open the bubbly and toast yourselves. You deserve it!
“We didn’t meet ‘in the flesh’ until the day we met our publisher,” says Maureen Vincent-Northam, co-author of The ABC Checklist for New Writers. Before this meeting, both Maureen and her writing partner Lorraine Mace, communicated entirely by email and Microsoft’s MSN Messenger whilst writing their practical guide for budding writers.
“We’ve known each other since 2003,” says Lorraine, “when we were both members of the online writing group Writelink (www.writelink.co.uk). We got to know each other’s work through articles published onsite and from forums, but we also became friends because we share the same sense of humour. This led to reading and proofreading one another’s work as well as sharing ideas and networking.”
This successful partnership proves that you don’t need to be in the same room as a co-writer, let alone the same country. Maureen lives in Hereford near the Welsh borders, whilst British born Lorraine is now based in south west France, although she was living in Spain when they started the book.
“Lorraine first suggested we write something together and as writing was something we had in common, a book on the subject was the obvious choice,” says Maureen. The ABC Checklist for New Writers is subtitled ‘How To Open Doors and Get Noticed the First Time Around’ and is aimed at writers of both fiction and non-fiction who are just starting out and want to act professionally, rather than look amateurish.
“I got the idea originally,” says Lorraine, “because I found it so difficult to find basic information on formatting for a submission when I was a beginner writer. So we brainstormed ideas until we came up with a list of topics that a beginner would need to know, or might not understand even if they’d heard the terms, and kept adding to it even after we’d started the book.”
“We chatted on MSN virtually every day about the book,” confirms Maureen, “and communicated via emails for longer discussions.”
Their book is an alphabetical list of terms, phrases and advice, starting with Abbreviations and ending with ZZZZ – Sleep On It. This alphabetical structure helped them to focus on the various sections of the book where they had most experience. Not only are they co-writers, but their writing skills and abilities complement each other too. Lorraine for example, tackled all the fiction areas, whilst Maureen concentrated on research topics.
As professional writers, both have plenty of experience to draw upon. Lorraine has been a columnist for ‘Living France’ and ‘Spanish’ magazines, as well as the writer of several non-fiction and fiction pieces that have appeared in monthly publications both here in the UK and in America, France, Australia and Ireland. Her next book, ‘The Greatest Moving Abroad Tips in the World’ is due for publication in 2008. Lorraine also won the comic verse category in the Petra Kenny 2006 International Poetry Award, has been placed in other competitions and judged writing competitions too.
Maureen’s work has been published in local newspapers, national magazines and online, and she is also the author of ‘The Greatest Genealogy Tips in the World’. She wrote ‘Write & Seek’, a research for writers’ e-book available from Writelink, loves local history and has undertaken research projects for a local authority.
Co-writing a book this way has many benefits. “The time lapse means France and Spain are one hour ahead of England,” chuckles Maureen, “so Lorraine may have begun work earlier but I could stay up later!”
“When completed,” Lorraine chips in, “each section was sent to the co-author for checking, which we then revised according to each other’s comments.”
Both writers agree that a writing partnership has many psychological benefits. “A big writing project is less daunting when it’s shared,” says Maureen, “and the editing even more so! And it’s helpful to be able to bounce ideas around.”
Lorraine agrees. “Having someone to share the task with is a great help, as is having a friend to laugh with, and having someone to blame if the book doesn’t sell!”
The ABC Checklist for New Writers is their first book as a partnership, and tackling something for the first time always makes it a learning experience. “We discovered during our research that an author agreement was essential,” says Lorraine. “We were lucky in that nothing went wrong, but things can go awry in some partnerships so it’s best to be prepared for all eventualities.”
Lorraine and Maureen’s book focuses on formatting, presentation, style and protocols. It is not a ‘how to write’ book because there are plenty of those already available. Instead, it’s like having a professional writer by your side who knows all the answers to those questions you have when you’re first starting out. What does an editor mean when they ask for clips? How do you hook your reader? How does a script layout differ between a stage play, and a radio play? What rights should you offer when submitting a manuscript? The answers are all in their book.
“It was important to both of us to write the sort of book that we wished had been available to us when we started out as writers,” says Maureen, “so we thought of all the things we’d struggled to understand and find answers to. We tried to remain focused as much as possible on the formatting and presentation of work as this is what usually lets most new writers down. It’s a one of a kind – there isn’t another book like this on the market which concentrates on giving the same kind of advice. The ABC Checklist for New Writers will help writers to present what they have written in a way that will give it the best possible chance of being read by the decision makers.”
It’s clear to see that partnership working can produce authoritative work. Would they do it again? “Most definitely,” says Maureen. “Lorraine and I work well together and we already have another book planned – something quite different from ABC.”
So next time you have an idea for a book, why not consider making it a joint effort? As Lorraine and Maureen have shown, co-writing can be as easy as … A…B…C!
Lorraine and Maureen’s Five Top Co-writing Tips:
1. Be supportive when the other is feeling down.
2. Work out time schedules and stick to them.
3. Listen to the other’s suggestions.
4. Accept criticism for the greater good of the book.
5. Prepare, and sign, an author agreement beforehand so that you are each aware of what’s expected of you and what will happen if the partnership breaks down.