How To Be A Freelance Writer (My Story So Far)

Have you ever wondered how to be a freelance writer? For the longest time, it was a dream of mine. But I wasn’t sure how to go about it. It seemed too hard to actually make a living this way. But then, last year, everything changed. Lockdowns happened. Working from home became a big thing. I was furloughed from my day job for seven weeks. The door was blown wide open for me; I saw my chance.

And maybe you want to be a freelance writer too, but haven’t got around to it yet. Well, it’s not too late. Neither do I think it ever will be, if you want to do it. Because I don’t think working from home is a trend that’s going away.

This is an article about what I’ve learned so far, in my first year, about how to be a freelance writer. Are you ready?

In short, to be a freelance writer takes, above all, determination. You’ve got to have a strong reason why. More on that later. You also need strong organisational skills and strong writing ability. Don’t worry though, I’m going to break it down a bit more in the following article.

What You’ll Need:

A PC or laptop

A good internet connection

Pens, paper and sticky notes!

A quiet place to work. Ideally a desk, and some noise cancelling headphones might be a good idea too.

Appropriate writer’s attire, snacks and accessories. I always wear a huge vintage 1980’s cardigan when writing. I always have some sort of drink on my desk and maybe dark chocolate or chewing gum. You have what fits you – coffee, a pipe, whatever.

The determination to succeed

My Tips For How To Be A Freelance Writer

1. Start Small

I actually started my freelance writing quest before I got furloughed from my day job last year. I started off doing voluntary work, writing articles for websites and being a social media assistant for a charity. I also had my own blog. I did all this around a full-time job to begin with, working in the mornings before work or in the evenings after work, and at weekends. This isn’t easy, admittedly, especially if you find your day job draining or you have other commitments. So, I looked at my financial situation and figured out that I could drop a day at the day job and invest more time in trying to find work that works for me.

As the money started coming in, I dropped another day at my day job, so I now only do three days a week there. This is not a bad situation to be in: I have the financial safety net of my other job and also the freedom that working freelance the rest of the time brings.

My ultimate goal, though, is to be a freelance writer full time. I believe this is possible for me and I’m going to keep pushing for this goal and keep this blog updated about my progress. With every small win my confidence grows, and you’ll find this too in your quest to be a freelance writer.

2. Build Up A Portfolio

This is very important. As I mentioned above, I did voluntary work. This was so I could build up a portfolio of articles and links to my work online. I also signed up to PeoplePerHour and looked for jobs there. The pay isn’t always amazing, especially if you’re just starting out, but it’s a good way to help build your portfolio.

You may find it useful to do a course. I actually did a copywriting course through the Writer’s Bureau a few years ago, which helped me to build up a portfolio via assignments completed through the course. This portfolio did get me some casual content writing work though marketing agencies, way before working from home was the big thing it is now.

If you’ve recently graduated you can even use written material from your degree in your portfolio. Perhaps you wrote articles for the student newspaper? It all counts.

And finally, it’s a very good idea to have a blog or a website to demonstrate your writing abilities.

3. Work With Your Personality And Interests

As an introvert who is organised and enjoys writing, being a freelance writer is a strong career match for me. Why not try taking a personality assessment such as the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, to help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses and how they apply to a work setting?

I would say from my own perspective that knowing my personality type has helped me to understand myself better, given me more confidence in my abilities, and made me more motivated to pursue my goals in life as well as work. I think it’s especially helpful if you have a rarer personality type, as you may have been made to feel at times as though aspects of your personality were ‘wrong’. The truth is, there are upsides and downsides to everything, and just because something is common or popular does not make it more objectively ‘right’.

Working with your interests is another important way to find fulfilment in your work. The good news is that freelance writers are required to write on a vast variety of subjects, everything from psychology to technology to the world of business. Depending on your subject area or areas, you may need additional qualifications or, at the very least, demonstrable experience of writing about the subject.

4. Find Your Writing Niche

There are all different kinds of freelance writing you can do. Do you want to write journalistic articles? Be a content writer or a blogger? A ghostwriter? Or do you want to create content for social media? You may find you’ll want to do a few of these things, and there can be quite a bit of crossover in freelance writing, but it helps to have specialisms as it’ll make you more reputable in the eyes of clients.

5. Be The First To Apply For Jobs

Once you’ve got your blog and your portfolio, what are you waiting for? Apply for jobs! Look at job boards (yes, I’ve found writing work on Indeed, but look at specialist freelance writing job boards too) or sign up to PeoplePerHour. Try to be the first to apply or bid for jobs. Clients are usually looking for a fast turnover and want to hire someone as quickly as possible. You may even find jobs via social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’ve even had a client contact me directly via my blog, which shows how, even in the early days, it’s definitely worth having a blog to advertise your services.

6. Network

A word that strikes fear into the heart of many an introvert. It isn’t that scary though, with practice. If you’re freelance, for one thing, a lot of your networking can be done virtually, via social media, emails, and through your website. Use your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, not to share your personal life, but to network.

But, do try and be brave enough to actually tell people in real life that you do freelance writing too. It can lead to opportunities. For instance, my hairdresser asked me to write for her website! Also, you’ll find that as your portfolio builds up and the money starts coming in, you’ll feel like less of an imposter and more confident about putting yourself out there.

7. Don’t Worry Too Much About Qualifications

You don’t need a degree to be a freelance writer. But it can give you a head start, especially if your degree is in English, Media or Communications. If you have a degree in a specialist subject like Law or Medicine, then you can certainly make a living as a freelance writer writing on those subjects.

If you don’t have a degree, or you do but it’s way off in the rear view mirror (as mine was when I officially became a freelancer), don’t worry. Experience is more important. Build up a portfolio. Do an online course if you think it’ll help you, but make sure you build up examples of your writing in your chosen niche. Having the experience is way better than having a Communications degree but no real-world experience.

8. Be Organised

Okay, I cannot understate this point. Be organised. If you’re not naturally organised, you’d better learn how to be. Otherwise, you will literally have no money.

So yes, manage your finances. Keep an Excel spreadsheet of all work completed and paid for (you’ll need this when you do your tax return – ho ho). Keep a Word document or notepad to hand to write down all your brilliant ideas for blog posts and articles. Manage your time. Track how long it takes you to complete projects. This will help you to know which projects and clients are most profitable for you.

And keep a schedule! Work on your most important tasks in the morning, if you’re a morning person. When it comes to managing time, well, I could write a whole other blog post on that and I’m still a work in progress myself. You’ve just got to find what works for you and try and strike a good balance between the fun stuff and the boring but necessary (like tax returns).

9. Be Self-Motivated

I think the key to self-motivation is having a strong reason why. For me, I think my self-motivation stems from a need to defeat a dragon of sorts. For years I’ve worked in (mostly) low paid jobs that I don’t want to do. It’s been a compromise – I work in a job I don’t want to do, but I get to do my creative writing on the side. But I was fed up of this compromise and wanted to get to a point where I made work actually work for me, instead of coming home drained every day from a job where I don’t feel valued and I don’t get to use my skills or the best parts of my personality.

I’m seeking self-actualisation, if you will. So, when the lockdown came, I saw an opportunity. I saw that working from home was going to be a big thing, and it wasn’t going to go away. How could I take advantage of this situation?

Being a freelance writer has long been something I’ve wanted to do, but it seemed that finally the door was wide open for me to pursue this goal. What was I waiting for?

I think a great deal of missed opportunities in life come from 1. Not spotting them in the first place, and 2. Not being prepared. I saw a chance to get out my crappy work situation and finally defeat this dragon: the dragon of unwanted jobs!

So yes, this a strong reason why. And I really think that’s the key to self-motivation. And with each little win, like new work coming through, or getting positive feedback on my work, that fire burns brighter, and my determination grows.

10. Register As Self-Employed

If you’re going to be a freelance writer, you need to register as self-employed with HMRC, so you can do your taxes and so employers can take you seriously as a freelance writer. I know tax is boring, but it needs to be done. My first tax return is now due so I will let you know how I get on with that!

And when it comes to being paid, probably the simplest way to start out is getting paid through PayPal. And don’t worry too much about your invoices. You can find some simple templates online to get you started. Remember to save invoices as a PDF before sending to clients, and keep copies of all your invoices in a folder and record all your earnings on a spreadsheet. It might sound simple I know, but it’s important.

11. Edit Your Work

Being able to edit your own work is important if you’re a freelance writer. Hopefully you already have a good grasp of the English language. Make sure your knowledge of grammar is solid (there’s no harm in having a grammar guide to hand or doing the occasional Google search for those tricky sentences!) Write out your documents on Microsoft Word as it’s better for formatting and it’ll help pick up typos. Grammarly is good to have for the same reason, but always use your own judgement, above all. I literally have Grammarly just to pick up that one typo I always miss.

12. Read, Read, Read!

You probably do anyway, and more than you realise, but reading helps you become a better writer. Especially reading material in your chosen niche. If you’re an online content writer like me, Google similar articles to the one you plan to write. It’ll help give you a grasp of (and hopefully an edge over) the competition and help you tailor your writing style. But all reading helps you strengthen your grasp of the English language and her fabulous intricacies.

So, these are my tips when it comes to how to be a freelance writer. Are you just starting out or hoping to be a freelance writer? Do you think there’s anything I’ve missed; are you a more experienced freelancer and have some tips for me? Let me know in the comments!

The One Where the Year Doesn’t Start Quite as You Expected

We’re just over halfway through Feb. How has your year been so far?

Mine’s been busy, but … I’ve not quite achieved as much as I was hoping for. For one, a major client has gone completely quiet on me, and I’m not sure what’s going on. I’ve made little income so far from my freelance writing this year, compared to the last three months of last year. And a lot of my personal goals have turned out to be unrealistic, it seems. I haven’t been reading, working on my novel or practicing French as much as I’d like. I was hoping to have finished the first draft of my novel by the end of March but, no way is that going to happen. That’s obviously too ambitious.

And when can I get a damn haircut??

I know, I know, I’ll just have to wait. I’m certainly not going to do it myself:

Image result for bad haircut gif

I think I just want to go and hide in Stardew Valley and weep over my lack of achievement or social life ☹

No, that’s not the way!! We must keep pushing onwards, forwards!

How do you cope with disappointment?

Nicola

X

Five Productivity Tips You May Not Know About, from A Fledging Freelancer

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Many more people are working from home now, and perhaps, like me, you are pushing for your dream of becoming a freelancer. The matter of motivation, therefore, rests almost entirely on you and you alone. How can you increase your productivity? A quick Google search on the subject will yield hundreds of results, but with so much, often contradictory, advice, what is the best approach to take?

It all comes down to personal preference, of course. However, in this article I want to share five things that have really helped me and I think may help you too: some are recent discoveries; some are older, time-honoured tips but so easy to forget.

Anyway, without further ado, here they are:

1. Listen to Lo-fi

Or lo-fi hip hop to be more precise (or chillhop as it’s sometimes known). It’s a downbeat musical style that incorporates breakbeats, sampling and textures, and has gained massive online popularity during the worldwide lockdowns of 2020. It’s the ideal kind of music to listen to when you want to focus on work or study. This is because it’s unobtrusive enough to have on in the background, but stimulating enough to stop you from nodding off. There are many playlists and live-streams of lo-fi music on platforms such as YouTube and Spotify. Lo-fi music is easily my biggest productivity discovery of late, and I think you should give it a go.

 

2. Plenty of Daylight

By this I don’t mean you should work outside (although this always an option), but it’s worth remembering that daylight naturally makes us feel more awake. By making sure there’s plenty of daylight in your workspace, you’re more likely to be productive because you’ll feel less sleepy. So fling back those curtains and open those blinds – it’ll help. And fresh air is never a bad thing either.

 

3. Limit Distractions

It’s important to limit environmental distractions to increase your productivity and focus. Find a quiet spot to work in and invest in some noise-cancelling headphones if you need them.

It’s equally important to limit electronic distractions. You have to be strict with yourself here. Don’t check social media during your work or study time. Don’t keep checking your phone notifications or email inbox. A stable, predictable environment with as few distractions as possible will help your brain to focus better without becoming overtired.

 

4. Get Plenty of Sleep

If you’re tired, it’s going to be harder to focus. Fact. Tiredness will sap your motivation. You may overcompensate by drinking lots of coffee, but this can make you jittery and find it hard to concentrate on one thing at a time. The only sensible answer, then, is to get enough sleep.

What constitutes enough sleep will vary for each person. If six hours is enough for you, great. But if you need nine hours, make sure you get them. And if you’re not an early morning person, don’t try to force yourself to be. Getting up early will only increase your productivity if your body clock is used to it, not if you’re sleep-deprived. You have to work with your own natural rhythm.

 

5. Take a Break

Sometimes you’ll find, despite your best intentions, you just can’t focus. Maybe you’re tired, worried, stressed, or restless. Maybe you think you should just try to push through. But this probably won’t make you more productive. More likely you’ll just spend most of your time staring at a blank screen or trying desperately to understand a spreadsheet which normally wouldn’t be that difficult.

In this case, I think the best thing to do is give yourself a break. Just do what is absolutely necessary that day and cut yourself some slack for the rest of it. Take a nap. Go for a run. Spend time with friends or family. Whatever you need to do to recharge. Then, when you return to your work, you’ll be refreshed and maybe even inspired, and this will naturally increase your productivity.

 

I hope these tips help. Have you got any productivity tips you’d like to share? I’d be glad to hear them!

Furlough Thoughts

black vintage typewriter

Furlough. It’s a funny word. I thought it was something to do with ploughing fields until it happened to me. I’ve been on furlough from my day job for four weeks now, and I have to say I’m enjoying it, because it means I get to spend more time doing things I love, i.e. my writing.

So pretty much most of my time on furlough has been spent writing, thinking about writing, and planning marketing activities linked to my writing. I’ve been treating each weekday like a workday: each morning I make a list of things I want to accomplish that day. Then in the late afternoon I exercise and study German, then after dinner (or tea as we call it in our house) it’s time to chill: journal and read a book.

I’m content in the rhythm of my days. I know the lockdown and being on furlough has been hard for some people, but for me it’s been business as usual to be honest, except I have more time because I’m not going to work. I didn’t go out a lot anyway.

I’ve been looking into turning my Alice novelette into an ebook, researching my options, but have come up against two major hurdles: one is my dislike of Amazon, which is monopolising the ebook scene (as well as a lot of other things), and the other thing is basic lack of funds. I’m tight for cash at the moment and can’t really afford to publish through an alternative platform, such as Ingram Sparks, and pay for an ISBN code (which costs, like, £90 in the UK). I’ve already spent £100 on self-publishing a limited run of paperback volumes for friends and family. So I can’t really afford to spend more on promoting this novellette at the moment.

It’s a shame, because I’d like for my writing to reach a wider audience, but there’s time.

Another thing I’m focusing on while in furlough is trying to push my day-job in a more writerly direction. I’ve been applying for online copywriting jobs, and trying to get work as a freelancer. Early days, but I’m hopeful. I think my experience so far during furlough has confirmed freelancing would suit me. The only thing I’m missing is a nice cuddly cat or a dachshund to sit in my lap while I type, but I’ve got goldfish and they’re almost as good, right? They’re certainly cute, if not that cuddly.

So yes, I would say furlough has been good for me because it has given me more time to push for my dreams. How about you? Have you been furloughed and how have you found it?

Update on My Life

Hello followers! Today is my one-year anniversary on this blog. I would like to update it more regularly than I have been doing, but we’ll see how it goes.

I’ve finished my Alice novella and it’s all up on this blog now, in ten instalments.

So what’s it all about?

It’s about a 27-year-old woman, called Alice, who temps in an office. She’s a bit of a loner and feels she’s not quite where she wants to be in life. Then, one day, the Cheshire Cat appears inside her game of computer Solitaire, while all her work colleagues are in a meeting. This is the beginning of a strange journey for Alice, where she enters another realm and encounters some familiar fictional characters…

If this sounds like your thing, you can start reading from part one, here. I will also be publishing a very limited run of print copies – slim paperback volumes which are the very final, final, ‘perfect’ edition (which means they’ve been obsessively edited and proofread by me to within an inch of their lives).

I think I’ll also look into getting it published as an ebook format, a little further down the line.

My current project is: working on generating a bit of income for myself through freelance writing, editing, proofreading and transcription. If you have any work for me in these areas, please do get in touch via my contact form, or email themorningstarblog@gmail.com. I will charge very reasonable rates, as I’m just starting out, and looking to build up my contacts and CV.

I have also set up a BuyMeACoffee account. If you enjoy my writing, and wish to give a few pounds to show your support, it’d be greatly appreciated. Support a starving artist and all that (not that I’m technically an artist but you know what I mean…).

I want to start getting up in the early hours again as I’m way more productive when I do that. It can be hard to start off with, but I know if I push myself, I can get there. Plus, it’s lovely at this time of year, to hear the dawn chorus (I’m very emotionally invested in the birds of my neighbourhood). And then I can once again see the Morning Star!

Have a good day, and stay sane,

Nicola

Xx

An Alice. In Wonderland?

Bored? Got a few minutes to spare? Here is the intro to my soon-to-be-published novelette, a spin-off of the Alice stories by Lewis Carroll:

 

It was a sunny, late September day. The clouds were fluffy and far up in the bright blue sky. Alice sat at her desk by the window in the open-plan office, playing Solitaire and daydreaming. Once again, she had been left behind by her work colleagues to answer the phones while they all attended an important meeting. Alice was okay with this, though, honestly: she was used to being the odd-one-out.

There were no phone calls this morning though and all was quiet. Alice looked at the big clock on the wall. It was an unusual clock to have in an office: old-fashioned and very large, and the seconds seemed very loud. Endlessly ticking life away, here in the dreary office, when Alice would much rather be outside enjoying the sunshine and reading a book. The minute hand of the big clock was coming up to twelve.

Alice sat and played Solitaire on her computer, waiting for the inevitable moment when her peace would be disturbed. Already, her eyes were growing heavy – she had stayed up late last night. She had a habit, you see, of staying up too late so she was tired for work the next day. As she recalled, she had been doing nothing in particular; just browsing online, and had ended up researching Mad Tea Party ideas, Alice in Wonderland-style. She only wished she had enough friends to invite to such a party.

She carried on stacking the cards: red, black, red, black – she glanced at the big clock: less than a minute to twelve. Any moment her work colleagues would be back, and then she’d have to look busy.

The clock was so very loud. It echoed through her head as though the inside of her skull was a large, empty hall:

Tick,
Tock,
Tick,
Tock,
Tick
Tock….

She jerked her head up suddenly. Had she been dozing off for a minute there? She really needed to start going to bed earlier. She blinked her eyes and focused on her computer screen. Where she saw the big face of a stripy cat looking at her, with big yellow eyes, grinning. It looked very much like the Cheshire Cat, from the Alice stories. Its teeth were very sharp. Why was the Cheshire Cat on her computer screen?

It looked at her for a moment, still grinning, and then it said:

“Wake
Up,
Alice!”

It grinned even wider, then yawned. And it yawned and yawned; sucked up so much air as it yawned that Alice was being pulled towards her computer screen, towards the Cheshire Cat’s mouth, which opened like a gaping tunnel before her. This was very irregular! She tried to scream, but –

 

I.

She was falling, down and down, head over heels.

Tumbling down through darkness that had no end. She was falling, but falling very slowly. It wasn’t very scary, but Alice felt she ought to scream, for posterity.

So she opened her mouth, but no sound came out.

Instead, letters formed in the air like smoke. They said:

“Aaaaaargh!”

And then:

“Aaaaargh!”

And then, for some reason:

“Uuuurgh!”

Alice stopped trying to scream. It was pointless. What was the point in screaming if no one could hear you?

So she was falling, floating, down in the darkness without end. But she could see outlines of objects now in the gloom around her. She could hear the ticking of clocks, echoing, reverberating, and then she saw them: clocks of all shapes and sizes, floating around her. Even cuckoo clocks.

Cuckoo!
Cuckoo!

She could hear laughter echoing in the darkness, and she was pretty sure it was the Cheshire Cat laughing at her. Then she could see other objects as she was falling past them: bookshelves crammed with books – “All that knowledge!” Typewriters too; “I really must get around to writing my novel,” she thought to herself.

As she was trying to make out other objects in the dark, she became aware of a black-and-white chessboard coming up beneath her. It got bigger and bigger as she fell closer, until she realised it was a black-and-white-tiled floor coming up to meet her.

Alice landed lightly into a heap on the chessboard-floor. She got up, brushed down her office clothes, and peered around. The darkness was so intense she couldn’t make out anything around her, only the chequered floor.

“Perhaps my eyes will adjust in a moment,” she thought to herself.

Suddenly she saw a pair of eyes blinking at her out of the darkness. They were the beady eyes of some sort of animal.

“Hello?” Alice said uncertainly, and realised she could speak again. She stepped gingerly towards the pair of eyes. Then she could make out a tunnel behind the animal, and the creature turned and bumbled off down there.

“I wonder where I am?” thought Alice, following the creature.

She was in a large tunnel – large enough for a human to walk through. It was just light enough for her to see that the eyes around her were the eyes of badgers. They stopped and snuffled at her curiously as she went past, seemingly unafraid of her.

The tunnel seemed to go on forever. She lost sight of her guide around a bend, but it didn’t matter, because she realised she was getting close to daylight – the tunnel was growing lighter, and was that birdsong she could hear?

She followed another bend, and then it was straight ahead of her: the exit to outside, through which fresh air and beautiful golden light came pouring in.

Alice walked towards the light…

The City Of Omalas Part II

To read part one click here.

 

woman girl eyes blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In short, I had everything I had ever wanted, but for one thing, one thing in which I couldn’t seem to get my way. I couldn’t get the image of Lord Vertigo out of my mind, and I desired no other man, no matter how many eligible suitors I had. Many nights I implored for his company; I sent him letters by dove, but to none of these did he reply.

So, one day, I left my palace and made my way to the Council building in my horse-drawn chariot…

Once there, I enquired at the door where I might find Lord Vertigo.

“He’s out, Your Highness.”

“Where did he go to?”

“On official business.”

I began to suspect that the doorman was keeping something from me. At first, I grew impetuous: “Do you know who I am?”, and then I grew angry. I pushed the doorman to one side, threatening to set my dogs upon him if he dared to follow me, and then I searched the Council building. I looked high and low, but Lord Vertigo was nowhere to be found. Neither did I find any other Council members.

Finally, there was just one place left to look: a stairway in the basement that led underground.

I began to descend the uneven stone steps, my dogs still close by. My only source of light was a small lantern I had found.

As I descended further and further down the subterranean stairway, the air began to grow cold and dank and foul-smelling. The walls were covered with a slimy moss I could hardly bear to touch. Still I pushed on, holding my nose.

I reached the bottom of the stairway after what felt like years, and was faced with a heavy black door that looked cold and clammy. I gripped the icy handle and turned it, slowly. I could hear my trembling breath in the dead, flat silence.

The door opened with a heavy creaking sound, and a foul stench from the room beyond hit me like a breath exhaled from a gruesome beast. My dogs howled and whimpered and ran back up the stairway, their tails between their legs, so that I was left alone in the dark with only the guttering light of my lantern for company.

I was afraid, but I also felt curiosity, and the curiosity won. I had come this far, after all, so what was the point in going back? With this in mind I entered the room behind the door.

What a sight did I behold in that room!

Such a gruesome sight I had never seen! Such a pitiful, frightful, disgusting sight.

A vast cage, filled with beings that were once human, crawling like dogs. Some were naked; others swaddled in filthy rags. Their pale skin appeared to glow faintly in the dark like spectres, or the strange, tragic-looking fish that exist at the very bottom of the ocean. Skeletal and wasted, they clawed at each other in the throes of madness. Their eyes were huge, glassy and glazed, like miserable moons.

I knew at once what they were: they were The Damned, the rotten foundation upon which this seemingly flawless city was built. They reached out to me between the bars of their cage, moaning.

I turned and ran, all the way back up the stairs, out into the basement, up into the hall and out of the Council building, never looking back. I dived into my golden chariot and raced homewards.

On the way back, it seemed that the city had changed. Things were not as they had first seemed: I could see the fakery; I could see the corruption. Omalas was crumbling around me, quite literally breaking into pieces.

Faces leered at me from windows, laughing at my horror and confusion. The marble drive that led to my palace was now crisscrossed with cracks: it seemed as though it might crumble apart at any moment. And my palace no longer shone like a pearl: it was the white of old bones in the wan sunlight.

But inside, nothing seemed to have changed. Was it possible I had been imagining things? Perhaps nothing I had just seen had been real. I surrounded myself with my courtiers, to bring myself out of my dark mood, which was the result, I decided, of a strange delirium brought on by the onset of a fever, and nothing more. A bit of company was what I needed.

But I found my courtiers irksome now. Their mindless, empty laughter grated on me like a violin played out of tune. When I peered into my looking-glass, a huge crack shot up the centre, splitting my reflected visage into two; I screamed, dropping it to the floor, where it shattered into a million tiny pieces.

I screamed again, in rage and confusion, and my courtiers screamed too, as if mocking me, and when they did so their faces began to melt like plastic, so their expressions became huge gaping yawns of misery. As one, we all screamed, and the sound rang through the palace like a death-knell.

I knew then that their beauty had been nothing but masks to hide the truth: that they were The Damned, just as surely as those creatures beneath the city were, and just as surely as I now was, for the Council had surrounded me, and my dogs were not there to defend me. They had come to take me away, for they knew that I knew the truth.

Out of my senses, I fell to the floor at Lord Vertigo’s feet, clutching desperately at the folds of his robe, and implored him not to take me to The Damned, but to come to my bedchamber instead. He did not respond to my request, but his face was grim.

I was forcefully removed from my palace, and transported back to the Council building in a cage on wheels drawn by four huge tigers. I was jeered at by the citizens of Omalas and some threw eggs at me. I wept and implored Lord Vertigo to let me go.

I was taken down to the dungeon where The Damned are kept and here I now lie as I tell you this story, one of many. I am weak, hungry and miserable, but I still have some resolve. I believe that Lord Vertigo loves me, and is secretly on my side, but keeps up a pretence of devotion to the Council through fear for his life. However, I am sure he is harbouring a plan to rescue me.

He will rescue me, and then I will become the Queen of Omalas once more, and he shall be my King. The Damned shall be executed, and so shall the rest of the Council, and I will have absolute power and the freedom to exercise my will however I choose. This is my belief, and it keeps me going through the long hours of eternity amongst The Damned.

THE END.

The City Of Omalas

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“We have chosen you to be our Queen, for never before have we seen such physical and intellectual beauty amongst living beings. You are the Chosen One – come and live with us in Omalas, our beautiful city.”

 

I suppose I should begin my miserable tale by telling you how I got here in the first place. A long time ago – or at least it feels like a long time ago – I was taken from a lower plane: a planet called Earth.

I remember it well: I was walking along an empty road, gazing up at the thick white clouds that filled the sky that day. As I was gazing, an opening formed in the clouds, making a sort of portal, and I was dragged up into the air, unable to resist, towards that portal from which bright white light was issuing.

On the other side, I found myself in the centre of a large circular room. There were long windows all around, through which the purest light came pouring in and illuminating the white walls and floor.

Sitting in front of me, in a semi-circle of ornate and richly patterned silver thrones, were eleven men and women, all beautiful in appearance, wearing long and flowing white robes. Looking down, I saw that I too was wearing a white robe.

The man who sat in the centre of the semi-circle was the most exquisite being I have ever seen. His name, he said, was Lord Vertigo, and he was the leader of the Council of Omalas. I wish I could adequately describe to you his beauty, for such I have never seen. He had long, straight hair and high cheekbones.

But the colour of his eyes and hair were impossible to describe, as they always seemed to change. I hold his image in my heart always, and I hope that one day I will see him again.

But more of him later; I will move on with my story now. Lord Vertigo, the leader of the Council, said to me:

“We have chosen you to be our Queen, for never before have we seen such physical and intellectual beauty amongst living beings. It would be a shame for you to stay on such a lesser plane. You are the Chosen One – come and live with us in Omalas, our beautiful city. You shall be granted the gift of everlasting life, and have a palace of your own, and all the friends and lovers you’ve ever imagined. Come, live with us, and be our Queen.”

The way he spoke was supremely elegant, and his propositions irresistible. Of course, I was a little surprised to be spoken so highly of by such a creature as he, but naturally I accepted the offer, and requested that Lord Vertigo would visit me in my new palace.

I was transported to my new home in a golden chariot drawn by four horses. The city itself was grand and imposing, with huge white buildings that resembled seashells in their beauty and intricacy. The roads were wide and cobbled with stones that sparkled in the sunlight. The citizens of Omalas were otherworldly with their colourful robes and radiant faces. Youth and beauty abounded; of age and ugliness, there was nothing to be seen.

The grounds of my palace were entered through high golden gates, and then I was taken up a long and winding drive that appeared to be made of marble, snaking its way through a lawn of lush green grass. My palace shone like a pearl in the perfect pristine sunlight.

Inside, it was exquisite in every detail, from the master bedroom, presided over by a king-size four-poster bed; to the white marble bathroom, in which the bath had the dimensions of a small swimming pool; to the banqueting hall, filled with huge oak tables laden with all the food and drink you could imagine.

I revelled in my palace and my new-found glory. I twirled around and around in my cavernous ballroom, laughing with glee. All of this was meant for me. I suppose I’d always known, secretly, that I was the Chosen One.

I was glorious, I was decadent, I was truly alive! I threw masquerade balls and dinner parties; I surrounded myself with servants and courtiers, Lords and Ladies of the highest distinction. Two sleek black dogs followed me everywhere; they were my favourite companions of all.

I carried a looking-glass with me at all times so I could admire my beauty; this city was fair, and so were the people in it, but I was the fairest of them all, for I was the Queen.

In short, I had everything I had ever wanted, but for one thing, one thing in which I couldn’t seem to get my way. I couldn’t get the image of Lord Vertigo out of my mind, and I desired no other man, no matter how many eligible suitors I had. Many nights I implored for his company; I sent him letters by dove, but to none of these did he reply.

So, one day, I left my palace and made my way to the Council building in my horse-drawn chariot…

To be continued…

(P.S. Happy New Year to all my readers!)