The Pitch

You haven’t heard from me in a while. It’s because I’ve been writing. It’s the reason we embark on this journey – to write, to put our words out there, to tell our stories. I’ve been fortunate, in my short writing life, to connect with an audience early on and find opportunities to share my work. I’ve published fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and participated in a couple of magazine interviews. Amid all that, I am steadily working away on my own book projects.

One of the many challenges I have been working on is the magazine pitch. Back in the fall, I wrote about an experience choreographing a pantomime and contributed it to a website as a guest blogger. One of their public relation consultants suggested that this story be taken further and pitched to potential dance magazines. She took the lead by sending out her own pitch on my story and received a response by a local magazine in my city – but they wanted the pitch to come directly from me. I have five years of writing life behind me, but for all those small accomplishments, nothing prepared me for writing that first pitch to a magazine.

When I have an idea for a story, I write the story. I work it. I let it carry me to its eventual finish – and then I pitch it. I don’t always have to know where it’s going right from the beginning, because I know I will discover its course along the way and end up with a solid foundation to propose. A completed piece already has the points in place – the work is already done, making it easier to market. With the magazine pitch, I need to understand the groundwork before I write it. Instead of relying on the finished piece, I must convince an editor to consider an idea.

A magazine pitch takes research. It forces you to take the time to understand a magazines’ style and subject matter, to figure out how, or if, your story will fit. It’s a different sort of writing challenge, but one I think every writer should try. The pitch I sent did not work out for this publication – but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for another one. The story is there, it’s worth telling, therefore it’s worth the continuing effort to find it a home and practice the art of selling a concept before it comes to fruition.

In the meantime, I did find my way into my first magazine. I was fortunate to have my story featured in an issue of Arthritis Research Digest UK – and the only thing I had to pitch was myself.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

A New Way to Write

DSC_2114 (2)Over the years I’ve used all sorts of writing tools. It began with a pen and a notebook being carried around in whatever bag I had at the time; then for a little while, I started carrying a tiny recorder so that I could record ideas as quickly as they came before losing them while looking for my pen. Then cell phone technology evolved and I was able to replace my recorder with the voice technology in my phone. All of these techniques worked well for recording my ideas and rough drafts – and then arthritis came along and attacked my hands, making handwriting a difficult task on some days, until my occupational therapist introduced me to a new method of writing – telling stories with my voice.

Voice technology has come a long way. Now we can activate programs in our computers and talk to them, watching our words pop up on the screen. I often find myself expressing random thoughts out loud and my voice technology helps me reproduce that amazing phrase right at the moment it arrives. Of course there are always challenges with writing with your voice. Technology doesn’t always recognize the words and some major editing is required after using voice technology. This can sometimes be time-consuming, and it can make you feel as if you are writing the same story all over again. I find voice technology works well for micro pieces and for collecting initial thoughts and ideas that will grow into something more. Just like with writing, voice technology takes practice – over time it will become accustomed to your voice and begin to build its vocabulary.

Right now, I’m wearing my microphone and pacing the room while talking out loud. I can capture the words right at the moment in all their original glory. Another delightful aspect of using voice technology, apart from giving my arthritic hands a break, is that I can move around while I work. Movement helps to stimulate my mind and frees me from the “sitting duck” syndrome.

Every method has its virtue and its shortcomings. I still use a variety of different techniques to tell my stories – in the end, it doesn’t matter what method you use – the only thing that matters is that the work gets done.

Illusion and Reality

DSC_1623 (2)I saw an interesting question posted on a social media site: How many writers write in the same genre as they read? I took a moment to consider that – at first, my answer was “no”, I don’t normally write in the same category, but when I took a second look, I found the answer was not as simple as all that.

One my favourite genres to read is historical fiction and non-fiction – more specifically the history of Tudor England. I have a whole shelf dedicated to King Henry VII, King Henry VIII and all his wives, Mary Tudor and of course Elizabeth. I also have books on the Queens’ of England prior to the Tudor reign. I find Tudor England fascinating in all its horrific glory. There are more villains, heroes, femme fatales’ intrigue and mystery than in most fiction I have read. I love to escape to that tumultuous time during my break from writing.

I indulge in this historical world and yet, I write in the present. I blog about my life with RA, write guest posts for other sites and contribute to health articles. In writing about chronic illness, I always try to find the silver lining. My poetry bounces between shadow and light. In my fiction, I lean towards the dark and sinister side of human nature. I am attracted to characters I love to hate. I never connected my style of writing to history, but after some thought I realized that I tend to write about some of the same aspects – the survivors of Tudor England were untouchable in their exhibition of the darkness of human nature.

I suppose in answer to the question, “do I write in the same genre as I read”, I’d have to say both “yes and no”. I am influenced by some features as the things I read today, although, it doesn’t always fit into the same genre. And of course, I can’t overlook my younger years when I was drawn to the alluring stories of Stephen King – his influence lives on in some of the crime noir and supernatural thrillers I have produced. I think all writers absorb bits and pieces of the things they read and unconsciously adapt them to their own style – and that’s what makes writing a distinctive and fascinating occupation.DSC_1626

The Way Our Stories Change

DSCN0643Stories are destined to change in the midst of their creation; sometimes we need to learn how to let go of our original concept, and ride the current of our words. No matter what my original idea might have been, I find that in the midst of writing, the story takes on a shape of its own, leading me to new possibilities. By allowing myself to follow the flow, it frees me to play with my words, setting, characters and point of view. My core idea might remain the same, but the ending I envisioned has somehow shifted in the course of my work – usually for the better. The joy of writing is that it constantly surprises us. It is never sedate, it is always shifting, and I love to test the limits of my first drafts.

The Last Cigarette started out as a thriller. Born from a photograph of an apartment building in New York, it went through a myriad of transformations in two years. The basic plot was still intact, but I played with different points of view, action, dialogue, and switched the sex of my characters. I loved watching how the story changed when a male became a female or vice versa. At one point, I had three versions of the story and each one disclosed a new route to follow. The completed version had transformed from a thriller to crime fiction. This wasn’t in my original plan, but it turned out to be perfect.

The Last Cigarette