Tag: writing.

Writing workshops: how to read magazines — and write for them

If it’s Friday, then it’s a magazine masterclass in Chester.

I ran the first in a series of new-style workshops today, hosted by Meltdown, in which we got to grips with some of the thorny issues of making it as a magazine journalist.

Such as, you ask? Well, try signposting, pitching editors and, the thorniest of all — money.

Magazines matter, I think. They educate and inform; they define the age in which we live.

That’s why our discussion moved from Nineties Britpop and Loaded to Monacle‘s spin-off brands and the rise of the indie magazine as celebrated by Stack Magazines.

It was a lively debate with four super-keen wannabe hacks [pictured above], all of whom brought loads of experience, ideas and enthusiasm to the session.

Here’s a taster of some of the take-away tips of the day …

If you’re going freelance, then you will need:

  • An ability to generate lots of ideas and pitch them successfully, turning your ideas into hard cash
  • An ability to take old ideas and recycle them or spin-off fresh ones with different angles. Either way, you need to refresh quotes, rewrite intros and concs, and check with editors re copyright contracts
  • Some business sense and a basic grasp of accountancy to keep your own records

Thanks to the attendees and for the great feedback, such as:

And this comment from the feedback sheet:

“This has given me the confidence to give it a go and actually start pitching stories to editors.”

The plan is to take these workshops quarterly, so look out for the next one in the new year.

#WriteHereWriteNow: Can we learn to write better?

I was on assignment in Stockholm last week and looking for an idea.

We obsess, as writers, about the words. We analyse the craft and devour books about the technique.

Writing in the Guardian recently, the columnist Ian Jack discussed the perennial question: can writing be taught?

He suggests that, while we can study templates and consult with experts, nothing beats the age-old concept of practise. He says:

Writing is like riding a bicycle: its techniques are best not dwelt on.

For me, it’s about the ideas.

If the ideas are poor then, no matter how erudite the words, then the writing will not shine.

If there’s no angle, no hook, no reason to grab the attention of the reader, then it’s just more words on a page. And we have enough of those already.

The writer David Quantick says ideas are gold.

In his book, How to Write Everything, he describes the craft of coming up with good ideas as even more crucial than the craft of writing itself.

A good idea is simply one that inspires something you are capable of writing, something that might sustain.

But can we learn to have good ideas?

We’ll consider this at the next #WriteHereWriteNow meeting.

As for me, wandering around Stockholm in search of a good story?

Well, let’s just say a visit to the Abba Museum [pictured above] and a night at the Pop House music-themed hotel may just make a Scandi-pop story about Eurovision-crazy Sweden.

Thank you for the music.

Liked this? Try A new writing group comes to Storyhouse, Chester.

Questions? Follow me on Twitter and DM me, or sign up for my newsletter.

A new writing group comes to Storyhouse Chester

Image: Storyhouse.com

Storyhouse opens this week.

The new arts centre is big news for Chester and already riding the crest of local support.

But it’s not just a new theatre, cinema and library. A major aspect of the project is the community programme.

That’s why I’m leading a new writing group, based at Storyhouse, from this month.

It’s called #WriteHereWriteNow and open to anyone who wants to find their voice as a writer.


We all have a story to tell but not everyone has the opportunity or confidence to do so.

This new creative community offers an opportunity to express yourself in a supportive environment.

Expect workshop-style activities and occasional guest speakers, based around Storyhouse events.

We will look at ways of getting your story out there — from blogs to flash fiction via magazine features — and craft our work together.

Never tried a writing group before? No problem. Here’s an outlet for your creativity.


We meet monthly on the last Thursday, starting May 25th. It’s free. No, really.

The sessions run 7.30-9pm and we will be in the Meeting Room. Subsequent dates are June 29, July 27 and August 31.

To find us, take the cinema stairs and follow it round to the left to the meeting room. You can take drinks up from the bar, or we’ll retire there afterwards.

There’s space initially for 14 people.

Please bring your own iPad/laptop or similar device.

You will need to create an account via the Storyhouse website in advance to use the free public WiFi. No need if you have already bought show tickets through the site.

More events listed at the Storyhouse activities page.

Questions? Follow me on Twitter and DM me, or sign up for my newsletter.


IVC writing workshop — How to write a magazine feature


Workshop news. I ran a taster session for the Chester IVC group last night [pictured above].
It was based around writing features for magazines and hosted by the Cross Keys pub in their upstairs room, plus fuelled by one of their Sunday roasts.
We developed some great story ideas on the night from travel to health via food and careers. Thanks to those who took part for sharing their ideas and writing in a supportive environment.
One key aspect of the workshop was about crafting your first line. As I explained:
“It’s really important as you win the reader in the first line. So make it good.”

We went on to talk about styles of introductions and how these can win over the reader to hook them into your story. Examples of intro include …

  • Provocative / intriguing to bring colour, contrast, impact
  • Narrative / anecdote as an oblique way into the story
  • Descriptive / scene setter to take the reader right into the story in an active and colourful way
  • Question to make the reader think
  • Direct speech  can look ugly but a great quote can have real impact
Some feedback on the night from the attendees includes the comments below.
“I had a fabulous time, really thought provoking and fun. Can’t wait until the next one.” — Emma
“Liked the setting and company. A great group of people.” — Alison
I’m planning more workshop for 2016 and there’s even an idea for a writing retreat in Wales. Sign up to my newsletter for more details.