Monthly Archives: December 2009

Paul Dacre – A Good Egg

The letter below doesn’t require a great deal of explanation. For those of you who don’t know, Paul Dacre is the editor of the Daily Mail and chairman of the PCC’s Editors’ Code of Practice Committee. He’s also a good egg. I was paid this morning. 

Dear Paul Dacre,
I’ve no idea if this will reach you, be ignored, or be binned, so I’ll endeavour to be brief.
In short, I’m in a tight spot. Earlier this week I was due a payment from the Daily Mail for a feature I had filed on November 5th. Today – and despite assurances to the contrary – I’ve just found out that the invoice will not be processed until the second week of January. For many writers, one unpaid invoice in December wouldn’t cause a great deal of alarm, but for this writer it has. I was banking on that payment to get me through Christmas and all the expense involved; without it, it looks as if I’m going to have to come up with novel (i.e. badly homemade) gifts for people, or no gifts at all.
I was wondering then, if you were able to use your not inconsiderable clout and get the invoice paid this month, the month I was expecting it. I understand this is an unorthodox (and no doubt annoying) approach in getting payment, but perhaps you could inject a little Christmas spirit into my life. It’s probably scant consolation, but I run an award-winning blog read mainly by journalists, and I would love to title my next post: “Paul Dacre – A Good Egg”.
Can you be a good egg?
Merry Christmas,

Pitchingtheworld

Advertisements

Purge & Cleanse

Some people I spoke to last night had some interesting things to say about Pitching the World. One of those people was a girl at a party. Another one of those people was my wife. The girl at a party reckoned she had been on this award-winning fucker, but had cause to read some posts “three or more times” to understand them. Is Pitching the World sometimes impenetrable? Is my snazzy journo-speak offputting? All this talk of copy, filing, rewrites, deadlines and so forth – although that, really, is about as technical as it gets, I don’t really know many more journalistic terms – is it not what you want? Maybe I can do a glossary. Or maybe – check this out – I can write with a little more clarity.

Second then, my wife. She claims – and you’ve got to hear this, it’s ridiculous – she claims that I’ve exaggerated my heavy drinking, poverty, cigarette smoking and general deadbeatness in order to impress readers and present an image of myself of how I would like to be. Her argument for this, being that I “buy the most expensive sausages in the supermarket”. Now, my wife is mostly brilliant, but here she’s talking complete rot. I could go into the ins and outs of why it’s bullshit, but I’m drunk, and poor and smoking four cigarettes at once. I’ve also got to file some copy, copy that was in before the deadline but had to be rewritten.

Plus, if that’s not enough to deal with, I’ve got my trial at the peerless Colchester United tomorrow and need to spend the next few hours having a series of panic attacks. Wish me luck. With the trials, not the panic attacks. I’m pretty ace at those by now.

Deadlines

If you were a casual observer of Pitching the World – and you could well be: I had someone on here a couple of days ago who had searched for “what are exotic meals?” and up popped this shit – you might be forgiven for thinking that within these pages there would be valuable information to read about the process and business of writing. For a start, it’s fundamentally a blog about pitching magazines with ideas for features. It also has some arresting, yet helpful-sounding titles: “Rewrites” and “Deadlines” and “Money” among them. You might read a post or two and feel as if there’s the possibility of learning something. You would look at my Rewrites post and think: ah, good, he’s going to be charting his progress up until now with some easy-to-follow pie charts. He’ll be doing this next week, because he said he would. The more you looked however, the more disappointed you would become. He’s not going to do those pie charts (and this is you), because he either is incapable of doing them, or his progress so far has been so tragic that he can’t bring himself to let us all know what he’s really been up to these last three months. This man is a soak and a fraud. Let’s kill him.

But don’t kill me just yet. I have a pretty much inescapable deadline that will see this project wrapped up. At the end of January, Pitching the World will be no more. The British Journalism Review – which, because it’s quarterly, I assume is prestigious – have commissioned an article from me about my experiences of pitching every magazine in the Writers’ & Artists’ Shitbook and I’m going to fire off something to each one in there, even if it means staying awake throughout January.

So yes, you’ll have me around for another six weeks ago and then, like Keyser Soze, I’ll be gone. Just like that. Imagine that, my award-winning blog: Gone.

Except it probably won’t be gone. And it’s not really an it, it’s just a me spouting a lot of nonsense and I’ll refuse to stop spouting nonsense, I’ll simply come up with another skeleton upon which I can piss out my half-baked thoughts and pretend it’s all very special.

One last thing: does anyone have any football boots? Size 9? My trial with Colchester United is on Friday.

Rewrites

There are few things more dispiriting to this writer than having to rewrite stuff. Scrap that, that’s not true: there are loads of things more dispiriting to this writer, including hearing in the same day (today, from two different people) that both my wife and Alan are “more entertaining” on this blog than I am. This would be funny if it wasn’t so dispiriting, and if it wasn’t so painfully and obviously true.

Still, rewrites. In a sense I’ve been lucky: over the last three or so years I’ve only had a handful of stuff come back to me from editors that has needed to be rewritten. This isn’t, as you probably don’t suspect, because of my brilliant, error-free copy, but more because I’ve cultivated an image among the people I work for as being half-man half-psychopath. I put this down to spending a lot of my waking hours drunk, mad, careless and sweary. It works, most of the time.

Still, rewrites. This afternoon, I have to rewrite a bunch of stuff I filed on Friday. This, as I say, is possibly only the fourth or fifth time this has happened but it still feels like a kick in the teeth. Perhaps I’m too insecure or unbalanced or heady, but whenever I have to rewrite stuff I consider packing it all in. What if I’ve produced the best writing I’m ever going to? What if every time I write something from now on, I’m going to end up having to rewrite it? And what if that rewrite isn’t good enough? Rewrite a rewrite? And what if,  whilst all this is going on (whilst I’m spending my whole career rewriting stuff), what if Alan and my wife are coming onto Pitching the World and outdoing me in the writing stakes, and they strike up a relationship and – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Still rewrites. Yes, still those damn rewrites. I’m supposed to be doing them now. And the deputy editor who I’m supposed to be doing them for, for some reason, reads this blog religiously and will no doubt see all of this and wonder why the hell I haven’t been doing my rewrites and, when he receives them, will put the poor quality down to me messing around updating Pitching the World. He can even quote bits of this post at me if he chooses, just to rub it in. He can say, look, before you even started rewriting this you knew it was going to be of a “poor quality”, you said as much on your blog. You only have yourself to blame. 

Yes, rewrites. Almost makes me nostalgic for the days of beetroot and cigarette butts. Life was much simpler back then.

Money

What’s one of the greatest things that can happen to a writer? For a poet, it’s getting a fiver in a card from your Nan and a handjob – not from your Nan – in the same day. For this writer, it’s getting double-paid. Sometimes, this can happen through syndication of your work, but for pitchingtheworld earlier this week it was from a flap-up in accounts and I got paid twice by the same publication for one piece of work. Usually I would give the money back straight away. In this instance however, I was fully immersed in beetroot-shaped poverty and  had just received an email from the accounts lady, an email that was destined for the publisher but accidentally sent to me, and simply read: “Can you tell this guy to fuck off.” 

Now, this lady in accounts isn’t the first person ever to tell pitchingtheworld to fuck off and won’t be the last, but I felt a bit put out as all I was doing was chasing up money that was late and owed to me, and threatening them with the UK Late Payments of Commercial Debts (interest) Act 1998. It’s a good Act, I like it, and worth bearing in mind when chasing up money.

But it’s not all good news, it never is in the life of pitchingtheworld. No, now I’m in credit with said publisher and they’re tossing me bits of work here and there to do and it’s quite tricky doing work that you’ve already been paid for. Is for me, at least. 

Still, I’ll do it and try to do it well. Know what else I’m going to do? Here’s what: next week you’ll all be able to feast your eyes on a series of pie charts that I’m working on, that will chart my progress so far. Imagine that. It’s going to happen too. Not like previous promises that I’ve made then spectacularly broken. There’s no way the pie charts won’t happen.