Saturday, 18 December 2010

Happy Christmas

I began this blog nearly two years ago with all good intentions of writing a blog about writing.

All too often I stray off the point, that’s if I ever have a point to start with. See there I go already.

Two people in this household are down with the Dreaded Lurgy and I’m not exactly feeling great. My second grandson is due any time and my daughter lives at the bottom of a steep hill where they often get snowed in. Well, only when it's snowing. Like now.

The midwife told her not to worry – if she can’t get up the hill, they will slide down to her.

So anyway, what is this post all about? Writing that’s what. I thought I’d try to end the year on a writerly note.

But I look around at other blogs and there are so many excellent ones for writers, whether they are beginners or jaded old hags like me and I wonder if there is really anything I can offer.

The honest truth is I know little about the forensics of writing – and yes I know that’s the wrong word, but as you know it spoils the flow if you spend ages trying to find the word you want, so it’ll have to do.

I know there is such a thing as voice and I know I have several, but there is only one I feel truly at home with and I wouldn’t know how to start describing it.

So here’s a bit of advice (though why you would want any advice from me I don’t know – but everyone gets presents they don’t want, so just smile and say it’s just what you always wanted and fits like a dream then pass it on to Aunty Doris next year) to end the year with and try to redeem myself as the writer of a writing blog. This is probably all stuff I’ve said before, but I’m old so if I want to repeat myself I will. So here we go.

Write what you want to write. Enjoy it.

If you want to write for a market, study it. That means buy the publication (and I'm not just talking about women's magazines here) and read it – lots of times. Don’t just flick through before tossing it aside with a disdainful snort as you declare that you could easily write rubbish like that. If you think it’s rubbish, bugger off and write something else.

Don’t refuse to buy the magazine you are trying to write for then complain when it folds because no one else is buying it either.

Don’t, for God’s sake don’t look down on your readers. I have heard people sneer and shudder as they say of the publication they write or are trying to write for, “Of course I would never read those magazines myself,” (again I'm not just talking women's magazines) and it breaks my heart. You should damn well respect your reader and it really, really sets fire to my innards when people don’t. Believe it or not, I can sometimes tell the stories that are written by people who think that they are writing beneath their own lofty aspirations.

Write what you want to write and enjoy it.

Forget what your English teacher told you. The reason you are told to say things like, “He blurted tetchily,” or “He exclaimed hotly,” or “She expostulated,” are to teach you, a child, to look for new words and use them. Well that’s my theory. English teachers aren’t there to teach you how to write for publication, but to teach you to write as creatively (as in saying “he said” in as many different ways as you can think of) as you can and as correctly as you can so that you can pass your exams. Nothing wrong with the magically unobtrusive he said she said. If you’ve written your story well your reader will know how they said it without you having to tell them.

Remember that there are exceptions to every rule. But if you’re going to break them, do it with style. If the guidelines state “We don’t need stories about weddings,” but you have a brilliant story about a wedding you think would suit them, send it in. But I stress only do that if your story is exceptional and hasn’t already been done to death (which of course you will know if you have done your research).

If you are entering a competition Read the Rules. And remember that reading the rules and sticking to them like glue is the same as following guidelines to the letter – it won’t guarantee anything, but it will give you a fighting chance.

If the guidelines state “We only consider stories of 2000 words” don’t send in one any longer or shorter than that (give or take a few words, and I mean a few, I don’t mean 100s).

Care about your characters. Care about your readers.

Don’t take rejections personally and don’t assume you’re the only person in the world getting them. Don’t get in a strop because your rejection came in the form of a standard rejection letter. If it is the norm to get a standard rejection letter that is what you will get, whether you have been writing for a month or for thirty years.

Don’t think that it will ever be easy.

And most important of all, write what you want to write and enjoy it.

Well there you are, a pathetic attempt at a post about writing/illustration of how old people tend to repeat themselves.

All that there is left for me to do is to wish you all out there in Blogland a very Merry Christmas and to thank you most warmly for coming by and visiting my blog xx.


  1. Have a lovely Christmas Teresa, and I hope your grandson arrives with minimum fuss and bother. Thank you also for these sound reminders on writing - good, down to earth advice! x

  2. Terrific advice, Teresa, thank you.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. And, like Joanne, hope the wee one arrives safely and without fuss (although, there has to be a story in the idea of medical staff sliding down a snowy hill to attend a birth).


  3. I enjoyed your post very much. Still smiling. Thanks Teresa. HO HO HO have a good one! x

  4. Have a great Christmas. And don't worry about not having anything of note to offer. Your suggestions were excellent. No one else has your perspective on writing or life, for that matter. Happy Holidays, Roland

  5. Thanks for that sound reminder - a good post to take into the New Year! Have a great Christmas and I hope all goes well with the birth.

  6. I did think about giving this to aunty Doris, but she always preferred making cakes and lamshades, so I'll keep it. Just because other people write about writing doesn't make your contribution any less valuable

  7. Very timely reminder, thanks. Hope all goes well with the expected grandson. Have a great Christmas.

  8. Great advice - not pathetic at all! Have a happy Christmas and a busy (writing wise) New Year. Caroline x

  9. Couldn't agree more.
    And I always enjoy your posts whether writerly or otherwise.

    Have a happy Christmas and I hope all your family bits resolve satisfactorily. (I had a few spare adverbs culled from stories - hope you don't mind that I used one up here!)

  10. I agree 100% about respecting your readers, Teresa. Thanks for posting this advice - just what I need to kick-start my new writing year. I hope the baby arrives safe and sound. Happy Christmas.

  11. Thank you, Joanne. I really wasn’t at all sure about this.

    Thanks, Suzanne – yes, a story there for sure!

    Thank you, Diane. Ho ho ho – that reminds me, I saw Father Christmas walking down the road after the snowplough had been down here. No one believes me!

    Thank you very much for that, Roland. Your comments are greatly appreciated. Happy Holidays.

    Thanks, Rosemary – this is one delivery I am very excited about.

    That is very kind of you, Rod, thank you.

    Thank you, Carol, hope you have a good one too.

    It’s always nice to be busy writing isn’t it, Caroline. Thank you.

    Thanks, Bernadette. I love the odd adverb!

    Glad you agree, Elizabeth - it really irks me when people are mean about their readers. Happy Christmas.

    I can’t believe how much I worried about posting this and I am so grateful for you visiting and commenting. Thank you all so much and I hope you all have a great time this Christmas.

  12. And a Merry Christmas to you too. I hope it's a great one with another new bundle of joy for everyone to cuddle.

    Thank you, for being a motivation and for being a friend.

  13. Great post, Teresa. Makes me so MAD when people dismiss mags they don't even read. Or genres, for that matter. Or... no, I'll stop there. It is Christmas, after all.

    have a good one.

  14. A wonderful post Teresa! I hope you all feel better soon. Merry Christmas!!!

  15. All the best, Teresa. I am here as living proof that however old you are and however long you have been writing, there is one older. Cheers, Marian H

  16. Thank you, Diane, that means such a lot.

    Couldn't agree more, Jan - one man's meat and all that. Thank you.

    Thanks, Lacey - I'm afraid to say they are looking better - I don't want to tempt those deities.

    Thank you, Marian. I've no idea how old you are, but I've never imagined you older than me :-)

  17. Merry Christmas, Teresa. Hope all goes well for your daughter. xxxx

  18. Really interesting post, Teresa. Hope you are all over the dreaded lurgy now. Have a lovely Christmas. Not long now!

  19. Sound advice, Teresa. I haven't made nearly enough progress on the writing front, mainly down to me being poorly organised. This is something I'm hoping to redress in 2011. Well, you've got to have a resolution or two, don't you think?

    Have a wonderful Christmas. Best wishes to you and yours!

  20. Just like everyone else I'm going to say: great advice!!! I stop sometimes when things aren't going well with writing and think about who I'm writing for. Yes, for myself, because I love it but I also try to remember the readers. How dare anyone look down on them? Womag readers are getting on with their lives doing the best they can - just like the rest of us.If something I write diverts them for even a few minutes, then it's worthwhile. They might not be much like me or they might be very similar: who knows and who cares? I am grateful they want to read my stories and whatever those with loftier ambitions might say, I consider what I do worthwhile. We should all remember that through womags our stories reach a much greater audience than all but the bestselling novels!
    Have a lovely Christmas, Teresa. I hope all goes smoothly with the new arrival.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting so often. I appreciate it.
    Happy Christmas and Happy 2011! xx

  21. Very good advice, all of it. I remember when I had my first story accepted thinking how easy this was, and that writing for women's magazines was a doddle, and I was going to be a great success. But I was writing down to my readers, and it showed. It took me ages to sell another one, but I learned my lesson, and went on to sell many more, but it was a hard apprenticeship!

    Have a very happy Christmas, and a successful and happy new year. Oh, and enjoy the new baby!

  22. Any advice is always welcome, Teresa. After all, it's up to the reader if they take it or not. I really agree that you should enjoy your writing and, if you don't like a particular magazine, then you shouldn't submit to it. I also agree with reading the submission guidelines carefully. It's amazing how many people don't do this.
    Merry Christmas.

  23. Thanks Kath, I’m keeping fingers crossed. Merry Christmas.

    Thank you, Susan – touch wood Dreaded Lurgy seems to be on its way out - I hope.

    Thank you, Martin – I wouldn’t say you hadn’t made any progress – your blog is brilliant!

    Thanks, Lydia – you sound as hot under the collar about it as I am!

    Me too, Frances – I thought it would be so easy after selling the first one. You soon learn though don’t you.

    Thanks Keith. And you get people who read the guidelines and promptly disregard them because they think they know better!

    Thank you all for coming by and commenting. Hope you have a great Christmas – and Happy Writing in the New Year :-)

  24. Thanks Teresa for great advice. Your stories are always the best. You always make me cry, in a nice way. Happy Christmas, and how lovely to be having a new baby.

  25. Thank you for your great advice. I've read many of your stories in PF and many other magazines as well as annuals i.e woman's weekly etc so I know you have been published for many years now. I keep telling my husband 'One day I shall be as good as Teresa when it comes to writing short stories' this year I got my first one published in a book called 'Whitby Abbey: pure inspiration'. It's one step on the ladder and who knows what tommorrow will bring.

    Wishing you and your family a very happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

  26. Brilliant advice, Teresa! Written from the heart and also from hard won experience! Hope things go okay for your daughter and have a wonderful Christmas!

  27. Hi Theresa
    Great advice! You are right about knowing and respecting your readership, there's no point trying to write a great story if you don't know who you're writing for!
    Have a lovely Christmas and best wishes to your daughter and new baby, I can just see the midwife sledging down her road!

  28. Suzy - what a lovely thing to say, Thank you.

    Thank you, Jarmara - that first step is just that, a first step - you'll keep climbing from now on :-)

    Thanks, Geri - we're still waiting!

    Thank you penandpaints - that is a lovely image isn't it :-)

  29. "Happy Christmas," she says festively.

  30. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Teresa. And Happy New Year 2011!