thewritersbarn

Writing because words are the essence of my life.


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The problem with freelancing (or would you buy a kitchen from this man?)

Knightsbridge Kitchen - what it looks like beneath the glamorous veneer of respectability

Knightsbridge Kitchen – what it looks like beneath the glamorous veneer of respectability

I’m living the dream in many ways. I was so stressed out, strung out and sick by last summer that redundancy was incredibly welcome. Every day I wake up with the fear that I have to go back to my old place of employment, and every day my heart skips when I realise I don’t.

Initially I wasn’t concerned about what I would do next; I was too ill to care really. But obviously I did need to do something. Becoming an elf in the run up to Christmas was a great way for me to restore my confidence, and although it was long hours it was fun in a way.

I love writing!

I love writing!

All I knew for certain when I finished work last year was that I wanted to write. While I was off with stress I wrote a great deal, on my novel, short stories, some non-fiction etc. Some of it has been sent out. Some of it has been buried in the compost heap. Since the beginning of January, as regular readers will know (ok, all three of you! And yes I KNOW I don’t post as much as I should!), I have been freelancing. I started off feeling scared and worried I wouldn’t pass muster, but I have been really successful and have quickly built up a great client base. I’m now writing blogs for a wholesale company, a tablecloth company, along with articles on dating and relationships, health and wellness, natural remedies, travel and business. Most of my clients are wonderful and I’ve been lucky.

This week I have learned a lesson however. I put a proposal in for a job along with a number of others, twenty or so writers, and the client duly came back to me and asked for a sample article. I think that’s a sensible response in order to see whether you are suited to each other, and I’ve written a few sample articles in the past. So I stopped what I was doing (which was trying to hit a deadline with 20 x 1000 word articles on natural remedies) and researched and wrote an article for him.

I checked out his website first. It’s a very plush kitchen company in Knightsbridge which numbers a popular cake maker among its customers. The other blogs on it were fairly generic although a couple were interesting to be fair. I liked all the photos – I’m a simple soul!

I spent an hour and a half, probably more, researching and writing it. I sent it off. I didn’t get a response or hear anything for three days so I sent a reminder. He came back to me quite quickly after the prompt, to tell me he didn’t like it. To be fair, I’d guessed as much because of the delay. You can always tell when a client is keen! Well in this case, it wasn’t my best; it was ok but I was up against it with all the other work I was doing so it didn’t get tweaked as much as I would like. He decided he didn’t want me for the job, which is ok, it’s a competitive market, and I was rushed off my feet so it’s only to be expected, but when I requested payment for the sample article that he had asked me to write, he refused.

You what? You're not going to pay me?

You what? You’re not going to pay me?

I felt powerless and angry. Freelance writing fees are rubbish on the whole and I am scraping a pittance while working up to 60 hours a week. My house is on the market because without my salary we can’t afford the mortgage so we need to downsize fast. He works for a Knightsbridge Kitchen Company that probably turns over hundreds of thousands a year and he wouldn’t even pay me my £25. That’s how the rich get richer, by exploiting people who are desperate.

Where is the integrity in doing business that way? Would I buy a kitchen from that man? No, because he’s unpleasant, greedy and unethical. Not that I’ll ever be able to afford to buy a kitchen, not even from Tesco, especially while I’m freelancing with clients like him. I guess he wouldn’t put a kitchen up for someone without demanding a down payment. Someone, somewhere will be getting their beautifully designed kitchen, and £25 of what they pay should be coming to me to help pay my mortgage. Would you buy kitchen from this man? Of course you would if you could afford it. I’m not daft enough to think anyone will be bothered about the actions of this company. Most people wouldn’t give it a second thought, but of course, it is important to me because things are so tight. That’s the way life is; we don’t think about each other with any sort of compassion until faced with similar situations ourselves. It’s not easy, life, is it?

My thoughts exactly!

My thoughts exactly!

So, I was a complete fool and it was a lesson learned for me this week. I’ll chalk it up as experience. No writing freebies for anyone, especially people who can afford to pay but don’t. I need to read what the clients says more clearly and request payment up front.

Anyhow, I’m still a hell of a lot happier doing what I do now, compared to this time last year! And I have a few pieces of good news, so keep reading 🙂


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Why do Americans have sex with their clothes on?

Complete Red Hot Article Fail

Complete Red Hot Article Fail

This is a question that has been puzzling me this week. If there is a more repressed nation than the Americans I don’t know which it is. Their attitude to sex is a real puzzle to me. I don’t think they’ve moved on that much since the days when Hollywood insisted you had to have one foot on the floor if you were filming a bedroom scene. Doris Day was always filmed in pyjamas and even Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City only had sex with her bra on. Where’s the fun in that? What’s the point of sex if you have your bra on?

The earth might move if you get nekkid

The earth might move if you get nekkid

I’m not suggesting I was desperate to see Sarah Jessica Parker’s boobs by any means. I just hate the false representation on an entirely normal act. The show screams SEX from every pore and orifice and yet gets all coy when anyone tries to get down and dirty.

I mention this because I have been completely perturbed this week when some of the writing I did for a US client, who shall remain nameless to spare their blushes (and boy they must have died of embarrassment) returned some writing to me for being too racy. The brief was to write an article about ‘scoring a date’ (their words) for an interview and link in with Valentine’s Day and lovers. In my proposal I sent some suggestions through and was really thrilled to be hired. Great job! A company I have a lot of respect for. Perfect. I love getting creative. Here’s a little clip of what I wrote.

The whole point of sending a covering letter with a resume is that it entices the hiring manager to look you up and down and appraise your attributes. The cover letter is the working-world version of the love letter. It needs to be easy on the eye so that your employer-to-be can register interest in the bumps and swells of your experience and the curves your career has taken. Their eye should be drawn inwards, to your resume, to further explore what you have to offer.

It stands out and gets the point across I think, about what the point of a covering letter actually is. That’s what they wanted, right? Wrong. Unfortunately I sent something through that was not even remotely to their taste. Oops. The article came back to me sanitised beyond my comprehension. The sort of bland, generic, well-written writing that causes nary a ripple of interest.

It was changed to this

Like a dating profile, your resume is a place to list your recent job experience, your likes or dislikes, or even certifications that make you enticing to a potential employer. It must be accurate, well-written, and organized. A cover letter is your opportunity to break free from the traditional resume; it is your opportunity to talk about why you are a great fit for a particular company, and to discuss your best attributes.

Keep it clean!

Keep it clean!

A pair of washed out grey knickers I feel. But what was interesting was that I instantly felt like a complete failure. Here was something I had loved putting together, I’d really crafted the words lovingly (passionately?) and they were being binned. So when I had recovered from my initial sense of being both gob smacked and disappointed I felt guilty for letting the client down and for misinterpreting the brief. To her credit, the woman that was dealing with me was lovely and quite generous but still… I guess I have to chalk this one up to experience. *hangs my head in shame*

I think maybe we British do this kind of smutty innuendo really well. I’m not a great Carry On fan and I absolutely loathed Benny Hill but we do sex better. It’s out in the open. We like a snigger and a chortle at double entendres. Maybe it’s us. Maybe we’re the crazy ones. We don’t take it seriously. It’s fun.

Anyway. *sigh* You’ll be pleased to know, dear reader, that my other writing work has gone well this week. I haven’t stopped! I haven’t made any money either, but I have had some really interesting gigs on. Besides the one above that I rally loved doing, I wrote an article on de-stressing, something I can’t seem do for toffee. My husband asked me this morning how long it had been since I had actually relaxed and we worked out it was 18 months ago when we spent three weeks camping in my beloved Devon. But I know the theory of how to de-stress, so that’s what I wrote about.

Ride Free

Ride Free

I’ve also written some tattoo articles which I loved doing the research for. I don’t have any tattoos myself. I don’t think they’d look great on my pale skin, but I very much enjoyed finding out about the meaning and symbolism of prison tattoos, biker tattoos and in memoriam tattoos. Great stuff.

Why would you NOT stop for this man? Guaranteed entertainment on tap!

Why would you NOT stop for this man? Guaranteed entertainment on tap!

Finally this week I wrote an article for a travel website which you can see here http://www.excitingworldtravels.com/thumbs-up-for-hitchhiking/ Again I really enjoyed writing this and I’m hoping to do some more writing for this website because I love travelling and I love writing so what could be better? This one is about hitchhiking. Given that we hardly do any in the UK, I was amazed how prevalent it is elsewhere, especially in Europe.

This is me keeping warm

This is me keeping warm

Sadly it won’t go out with my by-line. Most of the writing I do is ghost writing. I wrote a short horror story that went to its new owner on Monday. It was probably the best short story I’ve ever written but I had to wave goodbye! *sob* It will be in my heart, and my nightmares probably, forever!

Hopefully I will be able to sell my own stuff with my own name on soon. Keep reading!


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The Next Big Thing … or… currently a small thing that fits in a matchbox

Tree womanWhen the rather lovely Simon Bestwick (who is a proper writer, published and everything, eminently readable, humorous and supportive and general all round bundle of loveliness) was looking for authors to link to for this brilliant series of blogs, The Next Big Thing, he very generously asked me and other people I attended a horror writing weekend with if we would be interested. Sadly, there was only me that hadn’t been ‘got’. There are probably reasons for that but as today is my birthday WE ARE NOT GOING THERE and we are BEING KIND!

So I have to apologise to anyone who reads this and thinks, ‘but you’re not a proper writer.’ You’re quite right. I write somewhere in the region of 5-10,000 words most days but about 80% of that is for other people. What can I say. It pays the bills.

In actual fact however, as of yesterday I am a proper writer really. Yesterday I had my first rejection letter albeit by email!! Whooo hooo!! Now I’m getting somewhere! I happen to think it’s a good short story… it’s just erm … rather perverted and so has a limited readership. Well, it would probably have a wide readership among the kinky, the depraved and the weird. But hey, that’s what Kindles are for, right?

So I haven’t written a novel and I only have one short story published, but believe me, on my precious purple laptop there are enough short stories for several anthologies. I’m using this blog to tell you about the novel I am writing. It’s not quite halfway there and I am currently stuck, so this really won’t take very long will it? Just perch on a chair with half a cup of tea; that should do us.

1) What is the working title of your current/next book?

It’s tentatively called Hollowbank.

2) Where did the idea come from?

As you drive from West Hallam in Derbyshire to Bakewell (also in Derbyshire and home of the famous tart, and I don’t mean Katie Price, I mean an edible and non-plastic variety) there is a fabulous hill that rises like a giant breast on the landscape. The bottom half of the hill is covered in trees. The top is grassed. It just looks like a Bronze Age burial mound to me and I am bewitched by it every time I go past. It kind of got my creative juices flowing a few years ago. I had to wait for redundancy before I had the time to put finger to keyboard however.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a chiller, fantasy, mystery, horror kind of thingie. It has motorcyclists in it. And a demon or two. There is some nudity. And sex. It seems very grand to label it with it a genre when it hasn’t quite decided itself yet! Haha!hell's_angels

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

  • Ooooh. Now there’s a thought .. erm. Grip is a kind of Daniel Craig’ish type figure (yummy) from his days in The Mother. Needs to be fit, capable, intelligent, devilish and yet oddly vulnerable.
  • Shone would be one of the guys from ZZ Top. Or the fabulously sexy Ken Stott with a long beard and younger. Sorry Ken. I think you’re hot anyway.
  • Meredith somebody like Nicole Scherzinger (if she could act) or an evil Liv Tyler.
  • Jason – maybe the guy who played Speedle in CSI Miami. Dave Grohl. Does he act?

I have to say this is reading like my own sexual fantasy list.

This touches on a problem because one of my main issues is the lead character Evie. I just don’t get her yet and so I don’t know who she is or who could play her. So this is an interesting exercise isn’t it? *scribbles in notebook*

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Evie’s husband Jason is missing presumed dead after a motorcycle accident, but she and his biker mates are not convinced he is dead and after a series of weird events on the hill that towers over the town where they live, they take on the weird village of Hollowbank in an effort to free Jason from the ancient powers that hold him, although they also have to do battle with their own emotions and demons before they can succeed.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Obviously it’s going to be optioned by the biggest publishing house in the world and I will be able to afford a hot tub. And my mortgage …

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

I haven’t finished the first draft mainly because of the issues I’m having with the Evie character but hang tight friends. I will!

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think reading Tana French’s book In the Woods (2007) has given me the courage to write this. I didn’t love this book by any means but it did haunt me for a long time and I thought that her next book The Likeness was just phenomenal. If I would write half as well as that I’d be a happy lady!

There was a sense of mystery in In the Woods that I was really hopeful would go somewhere and it never quite did. Ms French is writing a different style of book to mine of course, but I want to have that feel that she had in the first half of In the Woods.

Also Alan Garner. An astounding writer. I love his work and I like the way he grounds reality with the magical, the fantastical and the downright weird.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write and Shone and Grip are demanding to be written about. They are great characters and are coming from my heart. Walks in Shipley Park with the dogs really help the atmosphere too, as so much of this novel is set in a forest that’s misty and dripping with moisture. But that’s Derbyshire and actually many of the settings have been stolen from my time living on the Isle of Wight when I rode motorcycles myself. The fabulous winding roads and the dripping trees and that sense of isolation, and, I hate to say it, some VERY odd people.

There is also a strong sense within what I’m writing of finding an inner strength, getting in touch with the feminine self and vanquishing jealousy and that hideous competitiveness women sometimes have. Evie is supposed to be doing that … and maybe we’re doing it together but it’s not easy!

I can’t help but write this story. It pours out of me and makes my fingers tap the keyboard.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

There are tree spirits, hollow hills, a crazy character who is more like a jester, one angry bitch of a goddess and because I am The Writer’s Barn there will be an owl.Blue Owl

So that’s it. I may not be a real writer but I am a good apprentice. Thanks to Simon Bestwick for tagging me. I haven’t found anyone else to tag so I will give a shout out to The Urban Writers Forum and Charlie Haynes particularly for being such a big part of what has helped me write over the past six months. And if you are a writer and would like to be tagged give me a shout 🙂