20 August 2009

Blog overload

Not content with this one, the other one and the handful of other blogs I update or guest on here and there, I've only gone and started a new one!

The new one, though, is proper work on a topic that passes for an addiction in the Wordsmith Towers household - soap. No, not the stuff I lather up with in the shower. The other sort. On TV. One of 'em, anyway.

I'm busy pimping it right now on Twitter and Facebook and I'll be updating it at least once a week. That'll keep me off the streets in the evenings. And it's good to be hacking again...

17 August 2009

The long haul

My current job, a book edit, was supposed to finish a week ago. A combination of circumstances meant I needed an extension to complete it. That was duly negotiated and I even worked over the weekend to ensure I'd complete it today.

Alas, it was not to be. I'd been working at a good pace over the last fortnight or so, despite the aforementioned issues. Then I hit a brick wall. With just over 60 pages to go, my pace plunged to an all-time low of 2 pages an hour. Yes, 2. I'm used to doing 8-10 pages an hour. Even the ghastliest stuff I've worked on - usually something written by a non-native speaker of English and therefore prone to all those typical foreign errors - I can scrape through at 5-6 pages an hour.

Not this bastardbaby. I'm doing the reference section and it is, frankly, the worst one I've ever had to work on. And that's saying something, as I've edited some real stinkers in my time. I am having to google every single citation to check author names, title, publisher and the rest, because nothing - but nothing - is consistent, not even where the same citation crops up several times. Then there's the spelling, the punctuation, the styling... ok, ok, I know that's *my* job but the author had at least made a fairly good hash of it in the body of the book. When it came to the references, I suspect he chucked out the publisher's style guide along with his empty beer bottles and pizza boxes.

I've done a 15-hour day today, with barely a break. And I still have 40 soddingpages to go... Spare a thought for me, please.

At least I have an away-day tomorrow. Perhaps I'll be in a more willing frame of mind when I return to the grindstone on Wednesday. Then again, maybe not.

(Think of the cheque, Wordsmith, just think of the cheque...)

11 August 2009


Not me, I'm no fan of scalpels unless there's a tin of Cow gum, a steel rule and a cutting mat involved (ah, nostalgia for the days of galley layout!).

No, I've tarted up the Diary.

It was long overdue. When I started it, a year after I'd been ranting about freelancing on MySpace, the options on Blogger were limited. Later, the new templates became available but I've been putting off the upgrade for the best part of 2 years. Naturally, just when I really ought to be working my socks off to meet a deadline, I found myself in dire need of procrastinationdistraction and decided to overhaul things here. So - same style, but more widgety things and I've updated my blogroll and industry links so things are a bit more current and relevant.

I hope it all works. Tomorrow's probably when I'll discover that I've messed up my stats feed or something.

09 August 2009

Call yourself a writer?

Along with a bunch of others, I've been tagged by hack-cum-blogger Linda Jones to come clean about my writing career. That'll be the writing career that was once very promising, lapsed somewhat when I exiled myself across the Great Ditch (aka the Channel) for over a decade, and is currently languishing in the doldrums as all my pitches vanish into a commissioning editor's black hole or two. But what the hell, I still call myself a hack and I'm not one to run away from a challenge. So, despite my current lack of any paid writing work whatsoever (and thank gawd for the editing work that's still paying the rent), herewith my answers to Joner's questions...

Which words do you use too much in your writing?

All manner of sweary stuff, especially on here. Writing for an adult mag also means I can use lots of anglo-saxon verbs and nouns legitimately, which gives me a smidgen of childish joy. I suspect the majority of this blog's vocabulary consists of grouchy, grumpy words as this is where I like to whinge. Fortunately for the rest of the world, my paid writing is more cheerful if no less serious. Or should that be was? And will be again if some lovely, charming editor ever hires me again this decade. Pleeeeeeeeease! Oh, go on. You won't regret it.

Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?

I've given up reading a lot of mags for pleasure as they all seem to emanate from cliché central these days. I'm sick of reading about outmoded yet still perpetuated male/female stereotypes, how much I'm supposed to love designer labels, and crappy trivia about Z-list "stars". Oops, there's one - Z-list. "Dumbed down" is another overused phrase but I think it's appropriate for describing a lot of publications now. Sharp, interesting, thought-provoking and original writing seems to be in ever-shorter supply. And while the Liz Joneses of this world earn megabucks for peddling crap, many fantastic journalists are losing their jobs.

What's your favourite piece of writing by you?

I'm quite proud of this blog. And the various ones that preceded it. I had a brilliant blog about my sex life for several years, but I took it down a while back for various reasons. I've saved all the posts - racy, intellectual and entertaining as they are - and they may yet re-emerge in another format.

Of the paid stuff, I'm fond of my early stuff - I interviewed some great bands, including some I discovered and introduced to the wider world. I did some corking political features before I got cynical and cared less. And I had a fabulously bitchy TV review column in a listing mags for a while, although when they started televising the House of Lords I nearly got fired for calling the great and good "doddery old cocksuckers".

Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn't written?

Very few. I got expelled from boarding school for writing porn just before I was 13. That pissed my parents off immensely but I can't say I regret it - the school was awful and I really hated it but that youthful beginning got me out of there, so I don't regret that at all.

I've had a few run-ins with editors when I sailed too close to the wind and nearly sparked a few lawsuits. There was a column about the alleged drug habits of a certain Rezillo, for example, that had to be withdrawn and apologised for. The one about the doddery old cocksucking aristocracy that earned me a major bollocking. And a few others in a similar vein that nearly saw me collect a P45. I like to take risks, though, and tell it like it is. Safe is boring.

The only thing I really regret is getting utterly rat-arsed in the pub one night and telling a roomful of fellow hacks which famous Fleet Street journo I'd been shagging while still doing my indentures... They've never let me live it down.

How has your writing made a difference? What do you consider your most important piece of writing?

I doubt it. I went into journalism because I wanted to write. I wanted to change the world too, but I did that by getting involved with various causes and earning brownie points by doing stints on picket lines and at Greenham Common, and drinking lots of beer at benefit gigs, not by writing. I'd be amazed if anything I wrote had actually changed anything. In 31 years, I've only had one reader come forward and say thanks for making a difference. Which just proves that I'm utterly expendable as a journalist.

Name three favourite words

Hot, metal, and pub...

...And three words you're not so keen on

My office. Now.

Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?

Jean Scroggie was my English teacher when I was 14. She was everything I didn't want to be - prim, Scottish, repressed and a spinster. But she gave us a short-story writing assignment at which I astonished myself. She gave me the highest praise imaginable and I beamed, because she gave me permission to believe in my talent. Sadly, the story - called "Flight" and demonstrating a maturity way beyond my years - went missing shortly afterwards and I've been gutted about it for the last 33 years.

What's your writing ambition?

To get commissioned again. Honestly. Right now I'm at my lowest ebb ever as a journalist. I know it's not me - there's a recession on and my industry is going through upheavals that will change its landscape for ever. I'm not starving as I have enough corporate writing and copy-editing work coming in. But I'd really rather be writing for the press. Any press. Well, ok, not the Daily Mail, I wouldn't stoop that low. (Not even for Liz Jones' salary?) Is it too much to hope for that someone out there still wants to pay me NUJ minimum?

Plug alert! List any work you would like to tell your readers about:

Well, there was that book earlier this year. The one I still hate my publishers for because they mucked me around so much. I couldn't possibly plug the other stuff without outing myself. Those in the know know what else I've done or is shortly about to hit the shops. None of it will make my fortune so I should probably consider drafting some ghastly chick-lit novel instead. Or flogging this blog to a publisher...

Tag alert!

I gather I'm supposed to saddle some other suckers writers and bloggers with the challenge of furthering this meme. So, in no particular order:

Anne Brooke

Bill Hilton

Scott Colvey

The rules according to Joner: If you have time to do this meme, then please link to this blog entry, then link to three to five other writers or bloggers and pass it on, asking them to answer your questions and link to you. You can add, remove or change one question as you go. You absolutely do not have to be what you may think of as a "published" or "successful" writer to respond to this meme, I hope people can take the time to reflect on what their blogging has brought them and how it has been useful to others.