Monthly Archives: October 2011

How to Lose a Mind in Two Days

On Friday I scribbled some notes down on scraps of paper and sellotaped them to the wall beside my desk. Stuff like: “ROCKY WAS WRITTEN IN A WEEKEND” “BEARD?” and “MAKE FOGGY – MAKE REALLY FOGGY.” I’ve no idea what that last one means. I’m not sure if Rocky was written in a weekend and I don’t want to check. I’m not entirely sure about the beard bit, either. Does my character have a beard? Should I be questioning my own beard? Clearly the work of a lunatic. Yet I felt such notes provided me with the impetus to start writing, so on Friday afternoon I sat down to write and I sit here on Sunday with thirty-something pages written. The beginning is done. The end is done. The middle needs work. Needs so much work, in fact, that I’m tempted to write “THE MIDDLE NEEDS MORE WORK. MAKE IT FOGGY.” and sellotape it to the wall beside my desk.

Still, good to get the skeleton of a small book down over a weekend. And the weekend isn’t over yet. Who knows how many more insane notes I’ll write by the end of today? Not me. I don’t know anything. Except these 10 things, all learnt since Friday:

1. Writing about a man dancing with a vacuum cleaner in Russia is a lot easier than you might expect.

2. Writing about a tennis match is quite hard.

3. Whilst examining a fictional character’s marriage break up it occurred to me that my marriage may have broken up for similar reasons: that when I first met my wife I presented a side to myself that barely existed and then tried to sustain a relationship based upon this; essentially for four years acting out a character I invented one night at a party when drunk. Cool, isn’t it?

4. Writing over 5,000 words in a day leaves you physically tired. You’d expect mental or even emotional tiredness, but not the physical sort. The feeling is not unpleasant though – more odd – and left me wanting to experience what it’s like to write 10,000 words in a day.

5. I tend to use the word ‘certainly’ too much.

6. If you write something funny that makes you laugh, it feels good. If, however, you fake laugh when reading something you’ve written to try and convince yourself that it’s funny it doesn’t feel quite so good.

7. According to a 1995 paper in Astrophysical Journal entitled “Interstellar Alcohols”, alcohol exists outside of this solar system.

8. I was offered a weekly poker column last week. This isn’t related to my ‘journey’ this weekend, but I thought you might be delighted to know.

9. When I’m not writing well I use the word ‘fuck’ all the time. When I am writing well, I barely fuck at all.

10. I have wild eyes. A friend drove past me as I walking back from the local shop on Friday and asked what I was doing.

“Writing a book. Small book. Novella. Thing.” I said.

“Is that why you’ve got wine and ham?”


“Your eyes have gone weird. What’s happened to your eyes? You look mental.”

Then he honked his goodbyes and was off. Is this what we’ve become, I thought, a race of people driving around in cars all day telling other people that their eyes have gone weird? This certainly wouldn’t have happened a hundred years ago. When I got home though I checked, and my blunt friend was correct: My eyes had gone weird.


I Want A Word With You, Abraham Lincoln.

At the moment, I’m not writing this book. I’m doing lots of things, but writing this book isn’t one of them. Last week, this situation didn’t feel too odd. ‘I’m not writing this book,’ I’d say to myself, ‘But I’m preparing to write this book. Preparation is key.’ In fact, I’d feel so confident in (and overcome by) preparation being key, that I’d tell people about it when they asked me how the book was going.

“It’s fine. All fine. Abraham Lincoln once said that if he had ten hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend eight of it sharpening his axe,” I’d say, and they’d look at me like I had a herd of wild animals running up behind me. “And that’s what I’m doing: axe sharpening. Not the writing, the writing’s the easy bit. Preparation. Preparation is key. Why are you looking at me like that?”

That was last week. That was the point of view I’d adopted last week and I appeared to be happy with it.

This week – well, there’s very little going on this week, too. Certainly from my end, no novella writing is going on. Now and again I’ll check, and yep, sure enough, no sort of book writing will be happening. I’ll find myself watching Peep Show, rereading novels that I’ve already reread or absent-mindedly thinking about women I’ve had sex with, but you won’t find me writing a book. Even the axe-sharpening – if that indeed is what I was doing – has ground to a halt. This simultaneously leaves me feeling empty, amused, horrified and, rarely, elated. I’ll find myself eating a breakfast far more healthy than you might imagine (brown toast, natural yoghurt, banana, grapefruit juice) at around 11:30 am, thinking: “Now this really is strange. I’m still definitely not writing that novella. How long can this go on for? I certainly didn’t spend five or six hours in the middle of last night writing it like I imagined I would. Perhaps I’ll write some of it later.”

And when later rolls around I’ll still not be writing the novella. It’s verging on the abnormal. For years this is all I’ve wanted: a room, an idea, enthusiasm, no pressing financial, matrimonial, or emotional issues to deal with, a ready-made and enthusiastic audience. I’ve done the preparation – nailed it last week – so why am I not writing the thing? ‘Is it because I don’t have a desk in the room?’, I wonder.

Yesterday someone gave me a desk. Today, nothing.

“I’ve got writer’s block,” I announced rather grandly over lunch earlier, a lunch where I definitely wasn’t doing any novella writing whatsoever. “It’s okay though, I’ll cope,” I told my lunch companions, as if I was telling them I’d just been given two months to live. “I just thought you should know.”

I haven’t though, have I? Got writer’s block, I mean. At best I’ve got the writing yips. But why with writing? When I was painting houses for a living I didn’t need to steel myself in order to paint a room. When I used to work in bars, I didn’t tell my customers: “Look, I’d love to prepare and serve this drink for you but I don’t feel quite right about it. Not yet, at least. It’ll come, and when it comes you’ll love it, but you might have to wait a few hours while I really think it through.”

Of course I know the answer to this. Serving drinks is easy, writing much harder. But when you strip it down, writing just involves putting the right words in the right order – that’s all. Someone better than me once said that. So that’s what I’ll have to do: chain myself to this desk for the next few weeks and force myself to put the right words in the right order.

Apologies for writing a post like this. I promised myself I’d never commit something like this to paper. But in a way it’s helped so, you know, thanks very much.

Abraham Lincoln probably not writing a book, earlier. 

The Old Switcheroo

What if it stinks? The small book, that is, what if it’s just dreadful? What if when it’s finished I proudly ping over a copy to my brother and he tells me: “I don’t…look I’m not sure what you think you’ve been doing over the last six weeks, but this. Jesus. What is the. What IS this? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.” Or something like that. What if he says something like that? And what if other people say something like that too? I’ve informed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people that – no matter what – I’m writing this thing and this thing is going to be published before Christmas and that, well, they could do a lot worse than buying a copy. But what if the copy they buy is shit? And it wouldn’t just be their copy that was shit, would it, it would be every copy. What if I produce a thousand copies of shit?

One of the reasons I based the character on a character from Withnail & I  is because there is already a keen fan base out there, that I could shift a number of copies on the idea alone. What if they hate it? What if I end up spending my evenings signing into forums under assumed names to write things like: ‘Well, it isn’t too bad. It’s got a certain something. The bit where he does the thing is good. Isn’t it? You know, and some of the dialogue crackles. It doesn’t really though, does it? Oh God, even I can’t defend it and I wrote the fucker.”

It’s possible that the mainstream media will get wind of it. Some flabby plum at the Guardian might write a shrieky review where he says “Hahaha look at this prick who thinks he’s written a good book about Withnail & I where in fact he’s done no such thing. What a stupid fucking idiot, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever read hahaha.”

Well, Flabby Guardian Plum, I’ve got news for you. Rather, I’ve got a way out for me. If this thing does turn out to be truly, truly dreadful, I’m going to pretend that it’s intentionally truly, truly dreadful. I’ll phone up FGB, and say “I’ve got a scoop for you fat boy, so listen and listen good. I deliberately wrote a bad book to gain publicity. I tried to write the worst book in the world to gain attention. Now that I’ve got it, I can reveal that the ACTUAL book is coming out in three months. This one was just a smokescreen. I mean, an attention-grabber. Hold on to your hat, fatty, because the real book is coming out in three months and will blow your grubby little mind to bits.”

That’s what I’ll say. It will be a massive lie, but I’ll still say it and it will give me three months to write something much better. If, in those three months I write something that is only marginally better or even slightly worse, then I can pretend that that too was a trick and that the ACTUAL ACTUAL book is being worked on as we speak . See, I’ll tell anyone who will listen, same thing. Double publicity. What’s the matter, not heard of double publicity? Well, you’re hearing it now.

And if that book is bad too, just repeat. Repeat until I’m an old mad man with 100 crap books behind me, lots of promises that THE REAL ONE is coming soon and quite a healthy relationship with Flabby Guardian Plum.

It feels good to have a back-up plan.

A plum, earlier. 


Sleaze Notes

Last Friday afternoon I was speaking to my brother on the phone. “The thing is,” I told/bored him, “I’d write this book anywhere. If I had to sleep in a field and scrawl it on stone walls I’d still write it. Not that it’s a book, really, more a novella. God, I hate saying novella. Small book. If I had to write this small book in a field, I would do. If I had to.”

Regular readers will know that I’ve taken the next four or five weeks off to write a small book. Regular, unfunny readers will be thinking ‘Taken the next four or five weeks off FROM WHAT?’ right about here. Good one, regular unfunny readers. Regular readers will also know that I’m not writing this book in a field – not yet, at least – rather a nice big house in the country that someone has asked me to look after until the end of the week.

Tomorrow sees me start the actual writing of the small book. In my mind it feels as if I’m embarking on some mission to space or preparing to go up a river to assassinate Colonel Kurtz but I’m not doing either of  those things, all I’m doing is writing a fucking (small) book. Still, it’s daunting. Anyone can write a small book in four or five weeks. Not anyone can write a good small book in four or five weeks, fewer still an excellent one. I’d like to write an excellent one. If you had chanced upon the ‘Book Notes’ that I’ve been writing over the last couple of days, you would think that I haven’t got it in me to write an excellent one. Let’s hope you’re wrong.

But it isn’t just the writing of the small book that’s bothering me, it’s all the stuff that surrounds it. Once completed, I need to have it typewritten, copyedited, I need a cover design, I need to get an ISBN, I need to get it available on Amazon, I need loads more other things too – all in the space of a week. I don’t know what any of these things mean, really, or how they work. I’m not sure why I think I can sort out all these things that I know very little about in such a short space of time. There are also some very complicated copyright issues that I need to deal with too, but I’m hoping that by not dealing with them that they will somehow drift away.

The small book also needs to be reviewed. It must do, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing things like ‘REVIEWS???’ all over my notes with a list of potential reviewers who I barely – or less than barely: radiatory – know. I have a list. John Crace, of The Guardian, is on there. I’ve emailed him once. Oliver Burkeman, of The Guardian, is on there. I’ve emailed him once. Karl Webster is on there.

Regardless, I’m going to see this whole thing through. For three reasons. One, because I’ve never really seen anything through before in my life – it could be good for me. Two, because I’ve told everyone about it. Initially I was hoping to get a column in The Guardian’s Books Blog Section – or whatever the hell it’s called – that I was snappily calling Can I Research, Write, Publish, Market and Sell a Thousand Copies of a Book Before Christmas 2011? but I’ve since decided that no, The Guardian isn’t going to be on the receiving end of my colourful weekly columns and that, yes, The Guardian can go and fuck itself and that, yes, this is a defence mechanism: if I snub The Guardian over my weekly brilliance before they snub me then it’s some sort of victory. Besides, you’re my audience. I’ve come to the conclusion – quite late on – that I’d rather write about my experiences of the writing and marketing of a small book for Pitching the World readers than I would for Guardian readers.

The third reason for having to write this small book can be found in the 20-point list that I made yesterday. Item 19 reads: Is it worth keeping a longer diary – 500 words a day or so – so at the very least [underlined three times] I can write a short book about writing a short book? Or I could perhaps include some of my diary – like sleeve notes? 

I should be fucking sectioned for this. Nobody in their right mind wants to be reading a book about writing a book unless it’s Out of Sheer Rage. And sleeve notes? SLEEVE NOTES? Two days without talking to another human being is all it takes before thinking that my grand, 30,000 word small book is going to be so mind blowing and deep that it needs sleeve notes.

This small book’s getting written, and it starts tomorrow, and there’s not going to be any fucking sleeve notes.

Sleeve notes, earlier. 

Life: I’m Preparing Myself to Forgive You.

Two bits of news: one thrilling, the other pretty unappealing. The unappealing bit of news is that you can now go to the Amazon Kindle Store and for £0.99 a month have Pitching the World delivered to your Kindle. Imagine that.

Look, proof:

It looks terrible doesn’t it? You can see if for real, here. Frankly, I’m not sure you should subscribe to it, but if you feel inclined to leave a review of all this nonsense that has been going on for two years, then I certainly wouldn’t fall out with you. I took a screenshot on my computer without noticing that bits of my desktop would be displayed – including, if you look closely, a picture of me dressed up like a madman and a really boring picture of some magazines – but when I realised the problem I simply thought, Fuck it – that’ll do. Typical, really. My life is almost entirely comprised of a string of Fuck it – that’ll dos and is perhaps the reason why I have a six week beard, am thirty-six but look fifty and feel ninety, have no job, no money, no wife, dwindling self-respect, two arms and one leg that go numb every night as I’m going off to sleep, and tinnitus.

There’s lots of other stuff wrong with me but fuck it, that’ll do as far as my list of ailments goes. Not, as you might suspect, because I can’t be bothered to recite my long list of woes, but more because my woes aren’t bothering me today. Woes: today you have lost. Today, woes, I think I’ll be chaining you to a bear in a small room somewhere. I have a plan, you see. A plan that is half brave, half foolish, entirely poorly constructed and yet completely thrilling.

Here’s a clue:

A six week old foetus, earlier.

Okay, that’s a pretty obscure clue. Here’s another:

Well it’s a house isn’t it, earlier. 

Okay, perhaps not the best of clues either. But it gets better, honestly.

Book, earlier. 

Oooh, what’s that? Some sort of book?

And what’s this?

Man from film, earlier. 

Final clue:

Me stealing the ‘earlier’ bit from Viz, earlier. 

That’s right, over the next six weeks in a farmhouse in Mallorca I’m going to be writing a book – more a novella – set in 2011 about a character from the film Withnail & I. And not only that, I’m going to be writing a weekly column about my experiences where I attempt to answer the question: Is it possible to conceive of, research, write, publish, market and sell a book (that makes money) between now and Christmas?

The beauty of this – as far as Pitching the World is concerned – is that once I’ve achieved this looking-less-acheivable-by-the-second plan, then not only can I write about my experiences for a heap of arts/writing/publishing magazines, but I can also tell the readers of Runner’s World, Yachting Monthly, and Dancing Times who they too can write and self-publish a book about running/yachting/dancing.

There are, as far as I can see, only about a million problems. Something surrounding intellectual property rights is one of those problems. Having no money but needing an isolated mansion to write the book in is another. Not having a column yet another. And there are more.

All will be overcome during the coming days and weeks though, just you watch. I have ways. You should see the ways. You will see the ways.

What do you think about all this? I’m tapped aren’t I? Or am I just a man with nothing left to lose? No, I’m definitely tapped.


[Update: A few hours after posting the above, someone phoned me up and asked if I could look after their huge mansion in the country next week while they’re away. “The thing is,” she said, “it’s on a hill and very isolated. You won’t see anyone up there.” Who said that when you make a decision the universe conspires to assist you? I’m not sure, and it’s probably not true, but it certainly feels like it sometimes.]

Bear Necessities

Imagine hearing that your best friend is chained to a radiator in a small room somewhere. You don’t know where. And imagine the radiator isn’t really a radiator at all – everyone gets chained to radiators these days – it’s a grizzly bear. The grizzly bear is full of Etorphine and won’t wake until next Friday. When she does wake next Friday, she will groggily paw your friend’s knees and ribs and shoulders for a few minutes and then rip your friend’s face off.

Imagine that.

Now imagine that you have an opportunity to save your friend. This is what happened to me earlier when I woke up. God came down and told me about the room and the chain and the bear and the best friend, but also told me I could put a stop to it all.

“But how God?” I asked God. “I’ll do anything to save my best friend. Can I have a look first though? I’ve always wanted to know what a man chained to a sleeping bear in a small room looked like.”

“Always? That’s a bit strange. You can have a look later maybe,” said God.

“Why didn’t you chain him to a radiator?”

“Radiators are boring. Everyone gets chained to radia – hold on, who’s saying that I chained him to a radiator. I mean, a bear.”

“Sorry, you just seemed to know a lot about it. Okay, how do I save him? It doesn’t involve running does it? I can’t bear running. Ha, I said ‘bear’, that’s sort of a joke. Not a good one though. I should have said radiator. Let me have another go. Okay, how do I save him? It doesn’t involve running does it? I can’t radiator running.”

“Well done. And you wonder why your best friend is chained to a bear. Listen: You can only save your friend if you get three articles commissioned by Friday.”

“That’s all?” I said.

“That’s all.” God said.

“And if that doesn’t happen then my best friend gets it? Well I can barely believe it. I mean: I can radiatory believe it. Doesn’t work so well the second time, does it? A bit much.”

“Yes, a bit much.” God said.

“Is this a metaphor?”

“Um, no. How do you mean?”

“Well, I’m thinking that my best friend isn’t my best friend, it’s me. And the bear isn’t a bear, it’s my project, Pitching the World. I suppose the small room represents my life. So: I’m trapped in this small room, my life, and I’m chained – and I must say, I really like what you’ve done with the symbolism here God – to a project that is going to destroy me if I don’t make considerable progress within the next week. Oh, and at the moment the bear, the project, is sleeping. I wonder why I’ve made it a female bear. Is that it?”

“Yes, I suppose so. I didn’t really consider all that. I saw it more as a game you could play with yourself, to test yourself. If your friend really was chained to a bear in a room, and the only way you could save him was to get three pieces of work commissioned in six days could you do it? Of course you could. I thought that might be a novel way of working this week. That said, if you really can’t get three features commissioned in a week, then you should just give up.”

“You’re right. And I will give up. Properly this time. Isn’t this a bit weird though, playing games with yourself like this at thirty-six?”

“No, it’s fine.”

“You’re a bit bored now aren’t you God?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“You want to go off and chain someone else to a bear don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do.”

And so began my morning. I’ve clearly had enough and am clearly going a bit tonto, but it’s good to set goals. And I know I’ve nearly given up on all this nonsense before, but God wasn’t involved then and that time was only really to elicit sympathy and gain readers (it worked), whereas this time I mean it and I need to stir myself because I’m really, really, really fucked off with it all. And pretty fucked up by it all too. Apologies for the fucks at the end. I was being all respectful and doing well with the fucks up until then. Enjoy your weekends.

Elegant, practical, lively, funny (and lots of other words) advice from ACTUAL EDITORS about pitching.

Aren’t people great? Yes, yes they are. Isn’t the world great? Yes, yes it is. Sometimes. On Sunday I solicited advice from around 20 editors, features editors and commissioning editors about what makes a good pitch. The replies are trickling in and I thought it might be an idea to put a few of them up. I hope you find them useful. Frankly, I’m amazed and heartened that people have replied (on a Monday morning, no less) in such detail. Thanks again to all those who have contributed.

(But one question: Why the hell didn’t I do this before? Why didn’t one of you tell me? I’ve spent two years clowning around and fucking up without really giving the slightest attention to what actually makes a good pitch. Now, I’m beginning to get it. For those who have only a passing interest in journalism or pitching, just substitute ‘pitch’ for ‘life’ and ‘pitching’ for ‘living’ and I’m sure the advice will still prove fruitful.)


To: Various editors/features editors/commissioning editors

From: Pitching the World

Subject: Can you spare about two minutes to help my doomed project please?

Date: 02/10/2011

Dear Ed,
What makes a decent pitch? (Sorry about all the blather below. The only bit you really need to read is in bold.)
As you may well know, just over two years ago I started Pitching the World, a project that so far has seen me attempt to pitch all 642 magazines listed in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and fail spectacularly. Well, perhaps not spectacularly. Miserably. And perhaps not even miserably, just half-heartedly and badly. All I’ve really done is harp on about how much I drink (lots), smoke (more than lots), pine (not lots), succumb to nervous breakdowns (lots) and have sex in bins (I’d rather not go into this, if you don’t mind).
Anyway, my point. My point is that I had a breakthrough in my thinking earlier on on this sunny evening. I perhaps should have considered this two years ago before starting this project that has torn my life to bits, but it occurred to me that I’ve been pitching a lot of publications without really considering what makes a good pitch. So I’m coming to you, fine editors or features editors or people who play some role in commissioning to ask what makes a good pitch. With that in mind: What makes a good pitch? In fact, what makes an excellent pitch? Any examples that shine out? Any answers most welcome, whether a word, a sentence, or a five thousand word rant. 
Apologies for the mass mailout. This email is going to you, and nineteen other editors or similar who I’ve either written for in the past or have had some sort of correspondence with that suggests I could end up writing for them. I’ve been promising my readers – a spirited bunch of journalists, students, drug dealers, single mothers, architects, analysts, doctors, the chronically unemployed and so on – useful advice for some time now and have failed to deliver. And whilst we’ve all had a ball over the last couple of years at my gormless harrumphing and general misfortune, it’s time to move on. I’m 36 and need to grow up. And I’m not getting any younger. Imagine that: both refusing to grow up AND not getting any younger. It’s unbearable, at times.
In short, I’m in a tight spot and could do with a hand. Your lovely advice may help to get me out of that tight spot.
Yours sincerely,
Pitching the World
A really boring picture of magazines, earlier.


To: Pitching the World

From: Ronnie Whelan*

Subject: Can you spare about two minutes to help my doomed project please?

Date: 03/10/2011

Dear Pitching the World,

I hope this finds you well, and may be of some help/interest to you.

– Get my fucking name right. And the title of the magazine, too. During my time at one particular men’s magazine, the amount of pitches I’d get that started “Dear Loaded” was incredible.
– Personality is key to pitches and should, in my opinion, try to match what you’re pitching. I don’t want to read a dry, dour pitch for what you’re professing to be the funniest thing I’ll ever read, and likewise I don’t want to read a slapstick pitch for an article on Third World starvation, or something.
– That said, your pitch doesn’t need to be a beautifully structured piece of prose that you’re hopeful of claiming a Pulitzer for. In all honesty – and this might sound harsh – I actually don’t care that much about what you’re telling me. I’ve nine hours in my day and a to-do list that extends to about 40 things before I’ve even sat down. Your pitch is meant to be helping me out – taking away some of my workload and stress. If your pitch of 1,110 works, complete with illustrations, makes my workload bigger and stresses me out more, I’m not going to read it. It could be the best idea in the world, but I’m not going to read it.
– On the subject of making my life easier, give me everything I need on a plate. When I’ve read your pitch, I’m going to have to go to my editor and pitch it again to him. In doing so, I don’t want to have to rethink your half-baked idea and work hard to convince my editor that it’s good for the magazine. I literally want to repeat what you’ve told me, so make it good, sharp and tailored to the title. I don’t want to have to work, here. I’m really, really lazy.
– Don’t chase me up incessantly. When I was commissioning, I used to read my folder of pitches maybe once or twice a month. Give me time to go through stuff in the way that I choose to. Remember: you’re meant to be helping me, not the other way around. And use a bit of nous here: if I’m on a monthly title, chances are I might take some time to get back to you, because I’m in no rush to do so. So don’t chase me 30 minutes after you’ve sent your pitch through.
– Basically, above all, remember how this relationship is meant to work: you’re essentially asking me for work. And money. You’re one of hundreds of people doing so, and chances are your pitch isn’t the only one of its kind I’ve read today, let alone this week. So don’t be a cunt about it. You, Pitching the World, were one of my favourite writers and go-to people not because I thought of you as the single greatest thing to ever happen to journalism. You were one of my favourite writers and go-to people essentially because I liked you and I knew that you weren’t going to make my life a total nightmare. And you weren’t shy about offering to buy me a pint while you pitched work. That’ll always go a long way.

Ronnie Whelan*


Splendid advice, isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. The best/worst bit was when I chose to delete the ‘not’ from the following sentence. In my mind at least:

You, Pitching the World, were one of my favourite writers and go-to people not because I thought of you as the single greatest thing to ever happen to journalism.

The second best/worst bit was when I wrote back to him to say thank you very much and began the email, “Dear Loaded.” That was fucking hilarious, that.

Anyway, onward.


A really boring picture of newspapers, earlier. 

To: Pitching the World

From: Joel Snape. Features Editor, Men’s Fitness

Subject: Can you spare about two minutes to help my doomed project please?

Date: 03/10/2011

Hi Pitching the World,

The Muay Thai piece is a non-starter, I’m afraid – we did basically exactly that about four months ago. Should be a goer somewhere else though, as you might have found by now.

What I can do, though, is talk about this. Probably like most people you’ve written to, I could write an essay about this, but instead I’m going to give one bit of advice to budding freelancers:

Show That You Have Read The Magazine

Seriously. Even if you’ve only picked it up once, in WHSmiths, to find out the name of the features editor. Which you are doing, right? Because if you’re sending an email to Sir/Madam it will almost certainly get deleted. It will also get deleted if you suggest a feature that simply won’t fit in the features section, or worse, a series of features to go in some unspecified, previously unheard of section of the magazine – we’re not changing our remit for you, however brilliant you are. Instead, look at the magazine, and see where the thing you’re pitching fits into that – which section it would go in, how you would approach it (self-experimentation-based investigation? Story with loads of quotes?). Spend about 100 words telling me how you’d do that, along with why whatever you’re suggesting is an interesting story in the first place and why it is interesting to OUR READERS SPECIFICALLY.

Pick up bonus points for suggesting boxouts, experts that you’d interview, or including links to the subject matter that might help me make up my mind. If you do all that, you’ve exponentially raised your chances of being commissioned – and even if you don’t get it right first time, I’ll certainly keep you in mind for future stuff. If you send me a pitch that looks like you’ve just cut-and-pasted my name into the opening line of a mass mailout, I’ll probably ignore you in the future.



More excellent, welcome advice there from Joel Snape. So welcome, in fact, that I barely noticed him not commissioning my Muay Thai piece.

You want more? You’ve got more…


[Except you haven’t. Not for the time being at least. I began writing this post at midday yesterday, shortly after the above replies came in and expected to be flooded with other replies throughout the day. Except I wasn’t. Editors are busy people though and I imagine more advice will come in this week. If it does come in, I’ll put it up on here. Let’s see, shall we?]

*All contributors who wish to remain anonymous will be named after players in Liverpool’s 1987-88 title winning side.