Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Too many Projects, but nearly there with this one
It's happened again. I have so many different writing projects that I'm reduced to allocating half an hour a day to each. Of course, this means progress is slow all round.I seem to finish the odd blog, but I've been writing a magazine article for for about three weeks now. There's no deadline,which is just as well. In fact, I'm only just ready to submit a proposal.
I came back from my stint as a volunteer classroom asstant in Spain all fired up with enthusiasm to write some articles. I'm also determined to get paid, which means not writing for websites as I did with some of my China articles. Ditto lots of theatre and film reviews. I'm just regarding that as practice because now I want to earn some money.
Christmas celebrations intervened, then a holiday and a bout of bad health which seemed to last though most of February. Then I revised a synopsis and a chapter for a competition. I joined facebook, restarted evening classes and a crime reading group, etc.etc. All delayed completion of my Zamora piece.
I followed the advice of various courses and 'how-to' articles and looked for a suitable 'outlet' to analyse for tone and content. I trawled through travel mags in WH Smiths.
The most likely print outlet I've found is a magazine called Living Spain , its target audience, as might be expected, people who are thinking of moving there permanently.
As well as guides to the more popular expat areas -there's an article about Andalucia - it includes pieces written by people who've lived and worked in Spain, ranging from the adventurous and unusual - the author man who lives up a mountain, with his Spanish wife, to the more predictable - a woman who teaches English and drama in a private international school on the Costa Blanca. They include details of work and lifestyles as well as descriptions of local fiestas and information for readers who might want to do something similar. Both are living there permanently, so have lots of relevant local knowledge.
Other features include book reviews -written by the same person, so probably a staff writer - some in-depth well-researched articles on, for instance, The Basque Country, with when-to-go and where-to-stay advice. These are written by experienced travel writers. All the pieces are lavishly illustrated with top-class photos.
There's a cookery page and I use the instructions to make a perfect tortilla - though I've had some practice. There's advice on tax and finance and a round up of fiestas and festivals, and a portait of 'Spanish Legend', Seve Ballastero.
I find what I'm looking for on the back page. I've had luck with back pages, before, namely a couple of articles for 'Expat Eye' in the Beijing Review. That was when I worked for a publisher in China and by a stroke of luck a colleague got a job in Beijing. His duties included commissioning writers. The fist piece was about taking part as a judge in an English speaking competition. It meant a week in China's northern-most city, Harbin, at Ice Festival time, with temperatures at -30C.
'How about taking the lid off what it's like to work in a Chinese office?' was his next suggestion. So I wrote that - a great success and very funny, I thought, but relations with the boss were never quite the same.
The back page in 'Living Spain' is named 'Final Call' and this issue has an article called 'A Week on the Camino de Santiago'I decided that space was to be my goal.
I've done my 'how to write magazine articles' homework, analysed the magazine in general and the 'Camino' piece in detail. There's an illustration but I took lots of photos in Zamora so that shouldn't be a problem. The word count is 1200, which could be.Maybe the scope of my piece is too wide.
The structure of the Camino piece more or less does itself - a narrative of the pilgrim's route. There's some dialogue, quite a lot of landscape description:
Almost as soon as we crossed the frontier, the lush greenness of the French Pyrenese gave way to a much rockier and starker countryside and the further we travelled down the valley towards Jaca, the drier and warmer everything became.
We also saw all sorts of wildlife, including Griffon vultures, red kites and buzzards
It's all stiffened up with a fair amount of history, a touch of humour. (At the start, the writers friend speaks in French instead of Spanish and says hello instead of good bye.) The human interest or arm-chair travel aspects are covered by accounts of sweaty walks along dusty terrain and a welcome at a hostel.
So, I've used it as model and incorporated most of the elements. Mine lacks the sense of outdoor adventure that appeals in the 'Camino' piece, but has more Spanish people - and children, of course. Maybe I could introduce more drama. Looks as if I'll have to lose about a third of its length, too. I've probably used enough material for two or three pieces.
Now the first draft is finished, though, I should be able to polish it this week. So I'll write the proposal.