Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Saturday, July 29, 2006

New look at Mywriterscircle.com

My forum at www.mywriterscircle.com has had a few changes recently, so in case you've not visited recently, I thought I'd tell you a bit about it.

In response to several member requests, we have added a new board called Review My Script. As the name indicates, this board is for scriptwriters to post excerpts of their work and get feedback from other members. TV and radio scripts, theatre plays, movie scripts and even multimedia are welcome here, with a maximum recommended length of 1,000 words per post.

Review My Script is in a new category we have created on the forum titled Workshop. Under this heading you will also find Review My Work, where you can post excerpts of prose fiction and non-fiction, and Review My Poetry (previously Poets Corner), which needless to say is for posting poems!

Incidentally, if there are any categories in Mywriterscircle.com you don't want to see, just click on the little arrow to the left of the heading and the category in question will be collapsed. You can expand it at any time by clicking on the arrow again. So long as you are logged in to the forum, your preferences will automatically be remembered every time you visit Mywriterscircle.com.

So if you haven't seen Mywriterscircle.com for a while (or ever), do make a point of dropping by. As well as getting feedback on your work (and giving it to others), you can ask any writing-related questions you like and have them answered by other members, browse through the growing list of opportunities on the Writers Wanted board, or just shoot the breeze in the Coffee Shop.

I hope to see you on the forum soon!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Keep your computer comfortable!

Here in the UK (and much of Europe) we are in the middle of a heatwave that shows little sign of abating.

There are lots of articles in newspapers and magazines about keeping cool in the hot weather, drinking plenty of fluids, and so on. However, one thing that can easily get forgotten about is that computers don't like extreme heat either.

This is something I know all about from last year, when a failing cooling fan in my PC caused all sorts of problems, including a series of crashes with ever-more-alarming warning messages. I didn't realise what was causing the problems at first, and tried a range of measures with little success.

It wasn't until I downloaded a free program called Motherboard Monitor which reports back on the state of a PC's CPU (central processing unit) that I discovered my computer's operating chip was reaching temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius. The standard operating temperature is around 50 degrees (preferably even lower).

When your CPU overheats, all sorts of bad things happen. Your computer becomes less stable, and programs crash more often and more seriously, potentially causing data to be lost. Modern computers are amazingly robust, but eventually an overheating CPU is likely to cause long-term, permanent damage. So here are a few tips for keeping your computer cool in the hot weather.

* Avoid putting your computer in direct sunlight.

* Don't put it on the floor, especially if carpeted. On a desk or table is better.

* Avoid piling papers or books on top of or against your PC. Likewise, avoid putting stickers over the ventilation grills, or cute furry toys up against them.

* Position the computer so that all ventilation grills are at least six inches from the wall.

* Keep dogs, cats and other hairy pets well away from the computer.

* Keep your computer in a clean, well-ventilated area.

* Consider downloading and installing the free Motherboard Monitor program. It's not the most user-friendly software I've ever seen - indeed, it could be described as geek-y - but it really is invaluable for checking your computer's internal temperature and getting early warning of any potential problems.

* Try to stop dust building up in your PC.

On the last point, if you don't fancy taking off your PC's case, you can still get some benefit by vacuuming through the vents (ensure the PC is switched off first, of course). However, most modern PCs are made for easy access. Mine has a side panel which can easily be removed just by means of a couple of clips.

If you can get into your PC, you really can do something about the inevitable dust build-up. A vacuum cleaner hose used very carefully should do the job, though professionals prefer to use specialist computer cleaners or compressed air sprays.

A bit of spring (or summer) cleaning really can make your computer more comfortable, in the hot weather especially. Even if you're not having problems at the moment, therefore, I strongly recommend doing everything you possibly can to keep your PC clean, cool and dust-free. Your computer will thank you for it!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Win an iPod (2)

Further to my post last week, you can also win an iPod by recommending this blog to your friends. And yes, your friend could win an iPod too if he or she visits this site as a result of your recommendation. Here's the URL to visit for more information:

http://www.recommendurl.com/?d=mywritingblog.com

I hope to see your name on the winners' list soon!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Visiting a Neighbour

I had a nice lunch out earlier this week when I met up with Linda Jones, who along with her colleagues Carol, Katie and Helen runs a local communications agency called Passionate Media.

Linda is a member of my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com, and also subscribes to my E-Writer newsletter. We've been in touch a few times over various matters, so it was great to meet her face to face at last.

I was also very interested to see her office. Passionate Media has a room on the upstairs floor of an old church in Gailey, Staffordshire, the ground floor of which has been converted into a pottery. At one end of their office you can see the top of a beautiful old stained glass window. It's a lovely and unusual place to work.

Anyway, a couple of points arose which I thought might be of interest to readers of this blog. First of all, Linda and her colleagues are always keen to hear from people who have an unusual human-interest story to tell. They have contacts with a number of national magazines and newspapers, and if they think your story would interest them they will help you sell it for a fair price while ensuring that it is handled in a sensitive fashion. I've put a copy of their card below...


For more information about what they are looking for, in Linda's own words, please see this topic on my forum. Note that, as their main clients are UK magazines, they are primarily interested in people living in Britain. You can contact Passionate Media via the Contact Us form on their website.

Secondly, Linda told me that Passionate Media are providing PR support to a new publishing house called Public Eye Publications. This company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, is currently inviting proposals from writers for two series of books.

The first series is 'The Greatest Tips in the World'. These are short, paperback books on a wide range of topics - those published so far include Barbeque, Yoga, Cats and Dogs, Golfing, Personal Success, Cookery, DIY, and so on. The books are written in a light-hearted but informative way, and include lots of cartoon illustrations. A link to more info about one of these titles at the Amazon.co.uk online bookshop is given below.


The second series is 'The Greatest in the World', e.g. 'The Greatest Cricketers in the World'. These will be hardback books, with photographic illustrations. Titles in this series are being launched in 2007 and will have a classy, coffee-table look and feel.

Ideas for either of these series are welcome, and you don't have to be UK-based (the author of the Barbeque Tips book comes from New Zealand!). Before you start writing, however, do read carefully their detailed submission guidelines. It would also be a good idea to order at least one title from the series (they're not expensive), to get a feel for what the publishers require.

Good luck!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Win an iPod!

Thought you might be interested to know that my publishers, WCCL, are giving away two brand new iPods every month in a special promotion to encourage visitors to my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com.

All you have to do is to nominate one or more writer friends who you think might be interested in seeing the forum. Just enter their details in the form on the web page below and WCCL will email them on your behalf. You will then go into the prize draw to win an iPod, and your friend will go into the draw as well if they visit www.mywriterscircle.com as a result of your recommendation.

No purchase is required, and neither you nor your friend will get any more e-mails from WCCL if you aren't interested. This contest is not widely known, so if you enter now, your chances of winning are actually quite good. Here's the link you need...

http://www.recommendurl.com/?d=mywriterscircle.com

For every friend you recommend, you get one entry in the monthly prize draw. So do your writing friends a favour - tell them about my forum, and give both them and yourself a chance of winning a shiny new iPod as well!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Three Great Writing Websites

Here are some interesting websites for writers that have been recommended to me recently. It's a varied selection, so hopefully there will be something here for everybody!

Seventh Sanctum was recommended by CradleThief, a member of my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com. The site contains a wide variety of idea generators for fiction writers. Here's what they say on their homepage:
Even the best writers sometime need a little stimulation, if only for practice. Otherwise, writers may face the dismal monstrosity of writer's block. These generators are here to help when you need that plot, that idea, or that challenge to keep fresh.

Just a few of the many idea generators on the site include the Quick Story Generator, which comes up with basic plot ideas, and the Envisioner, which "combines legends, tales, and stories with new or unexpected elements". When I tried out the Envisioner this morning, it came up with the following possibilities:

* The story of Ali Baba envisioned as a high-school comedy tale.

* A fusion of the story of Aladdin and the tale of William Tell.

* The legend of Johnny Appleseed being about a group of network engineers.

* A fusion of the legend of Ilmarinen and the legend of Orion envisioned as a for-the-gentlemen tale.

* The story of Sinbad set in heaven.

You have to admit that there are some intriguing possibilities there! Seventh Sanctum also has generators for character names, superheroes, organisations and even magic spells. A lot of these are admittedly quite tongue-in-cheek, but if you ever find yourself running short on inspiration, a quick visit to this site should certainly prime your pump again.

My second featured site is Writing Fix. This site was recommended to me by Jenny Hall, a purchaser of my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. Writing Fix is another site that aims to help writers find inspiration. It has an educational bias, and is suitable for both adults and children.

Writing Fix includes over 200 interactive on-line writing games. These games are structured series of activities designed to produce a finished piece of writing. They are much more detailed and interactive than the lists of writing prompts you will find on other websites.

The Build Your Own Adventure Story game, for example, takes you step-by-step through the process of choosing your adventurer's name, outlining three exciting moments that will happen during his or her adventure, then mapping and writing the paragraphs that will comprise the story.

Writing Fix would be a great resource for writing teachers or writers who work in schools, though it can equally be used by individual writers seeking inspiration as well. There is also a section dedicated to younger writers which (my correspondent Jenny tells me) was a huge success with her seven-year-old. You can access this section directly vis this link.

Finally, I heard about Abcwritersnetwork from its proprietor, Kevin Hart. This promising new site features a range of articles, advice and information for freelance writers.

One particularly useful section is the database of writing contests. To find this, click on Competitions in the left-hand menu. An article 'Ten Tips on How to Win' will appear. Above this, however, you should see a grid with the months of the year on it. Click on any month and a list of all writing contests ending that month will be displayed.

The contests listed are based all over the world, though predominantly in the US and the UK. Basic details are provided, along with a link to the relevant website. As well as contests, some other writing opportunities are also listed, e.g. anthologies which are currently accepting submissions.

Abcwritersnetwork is a new site and still developing, but already it looks a very useful resource for writers who enjoy entering competitions in particular.

So there you are - three interesting and varied websites for you to explore and use in your writing. Happy browsing!