Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Your Writing Support Team

For the most part I enjoy being a freelance writer. However, it's a solitary occupation, and sometimes I do miss the camaraderie of working in an office (as I did in my earlier existence). In particular, there are times when I wish had colleagues to bounce ideas around with, or to give a second opinion on some point or other.

Well, I may not have colleagues any more, but I do have the next best thing. And that is, my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com. I know quite a few readers of this blog belong to the forum, but many still don't. So I thought in this post I'd mention some of the benefits that I, and other members, derive from belonging to the forum.

To start with, the forum is great when you want a second (or third) opinion from a fellow writer. In my recent Day in the Life article for Linda Jones's Freelance Writing Tips blog I mentioned an occasion recently when I used the forum this way. You can read the whole story in the article if you like, but briefly I was writing a profile for a client, and wasn't happy with my closing sentence. So I decided to post it on the forum and see if anyone could improve on it. Three forum members rose to the challenge, and one came up with the perfect solution. I was pleased, and so was my client!

The forum is also used regularly by members needing help with research. For example, a new member, Collegeguy, wanted some advice on creating a convincing bank robbery scene. On the topic in question several members offered comments and ideas. At the end Collegeguy wrote: 'Thanks a ton for all your help, everyone...it's coming along well, and I'm positive it would be totally different (and a lot worse) if it wasn't for your suggestions!'

Plotting is another area where the forum can be a life-saver. Written your hero or heroine into a corner where you can't see any way out? Describe the situation on the forum, and see if the ingenuity of MWC members can deliver a solution for you. Long-standing member (and forum moderator) Cathy C had this problem and sought help from our members. In the topic in question, she wrote:

I've managed to leave my character without money (the result of a house fire which destroyed everything - credit cards, cheque book, bank card etc.). Even worse, it's a Sunday and all the banks are closed. (Man, when I mess up I REALLY mess up). Anyone got any ideas as to how she can lay her hands on some money fast? (And no, robbing a bank/shop/house is not an option...)

Take a look on the forum to see the range of answers members came up with!

And, of course, if you have any questions about grammar and punctuation, correct manuscript format, how to write a query letter, or any other writing-related topic, our (nearly) 6000 members are ready and waiting to help. Check out the All the Write Questions board for a range of questions that have been asked - and answered - recently.

And finally, it's not just writing-related matters you can raise at MWC. On our Coffee Shop board, members have asked questions about or simply debated a huge range of topics, some serious, others less so. If you need advice, support or information on almost any subject, our members are ready to help if they possibly can.

So there you are. I hope in this post to have convinced you that Mywriterscircle.com is an invaluable resource for any writer, especially if (like me) you work on your own. If you're not yet a member, it's quick and easy to join, and of course it's free. And if you are already a member, ask yourself whether you are making the most of the forum? Remember - to harness the power of the friendliest writing community on the net, you only have to ask.

Happy writing, and see you on the forum!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

BlogRush - A New Way to Get Visitors to Your Blog

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that for the last few weeks a small box has appeared in the right-hand column of my blog headed 'From the Blogosphere' (you may need to scroll down a bit to see this). The box is part of a new - and free - service for bloggers called BlogRush.

BlogRush aims to help bloggers attract more traffic. The way it works is that when you sign up (which as mentioned is free) you get some code to put on your blog. The code displays the BlogRush widget - the little box I've mentioned - which shows the titles of the latest posts on five other blogs in a related field (writing, in my case). If any of these piques your interest, you can click on the title to visit the blog concerned.

But what makes BlogRush particularly interesting for bloggers is that every time a visitor sees the widget on your blog, the title of your latest post is displayed on the widget of someone else's blog. So, in effect, the titles of your blog posts are being syndicated across the 'Blogosphere', and hopefully some of the people who see it will click through to visit your blog.

I've been evaluating BlogRush for a few weeks now, so here are my initial thoughts. First of all, the programme is NOT likely to generate hordes of visitors for you. I'm finding that I get about one visit per 400 impressions. I might be able to improve this a bit by creating more compelling titles for my posts, but realistically I think it's unlikely anyone will do better than around one in 300.

So is BlogRush a waste of time? Well, I don't think so. For one thing, even though most people may not be clicking on my blog title, they will still be seeing 'Nick Daws Writing Blog' on a wide range of writing-related blogs, and that can't hurt as far as getting me and my blog's name recognised.

A second feature of BlogRush I like is that, as well as impressions earned every time someone visits your blog, the system also allocates extra 'bonus' impressions. In my case, I am getting roughly one bonus impression for every one that I earn (so for every 100 visitors to my blog, the title of my latest blog post gets shown about 200 times on other people's blogs). I understand that new blogs with few visitors get a higher ratio of bonus impressions, on the basis that they need the extra traffic most!

A third 'plus' is that you can also introduce new BlogRush members, and you earn extra impressions every time someone views the blog of someone you introduced. This works down through eight levels. You don't need to do anything special to publicise BlogRush either. The widget has a tab on the bottom for people to click if they want more information, and anyone signing up via your blog will be credited to your downline. This is the first time I have mentioned BlogRush anywhere, but I have already recruited three other bloggers into my network from this source.

A final benefit of BlogRush has been unexpected. On various occasions I have noticed an interesting-sounding title on my blog's widget, and have clicked through to view the blog in question (there is no objection from BlogRush to members doing this, by the way). By this means I have discovered a number of other interesting blogs that I might otherwise never have known about.

Overall, if you're a blogger, I think BlogRush is well worth giving a spin. OK, it may not bring you thousands of extra visitors overnight, but it's a free - and in my experience hassle-free - way to help build up your readership. And any people who come to your blog via BlogRush are likely to have a genuine interest in your blog's subject area. They are more likely to stick around and become regular readers than those who simply arrive via a search engine listing.

Anyway, if you'd like to know more about BlogRush, just click on any of the links in this post, or on the tab at the foot of the BlogRush widget on the right. There is a very professional five-minute video on the information page which explains exactly how the system works. If you decide to join, simply click on the button below this and follow the on-screen instructions to get your widget code.

Incidentally, if you do decide to join, you will find that there is a longer video you can watch that explains exactly how you can check your stats, change the colour and size of your widget, block certain posts from being syndicated, and much more. Again, I highly recommend watching this, as it explains some features of BlogRush you might otherwise remain unaware of.

Good luck, and see you on BlogRush!

Postscript: Just wanted to say it's great to see that so many of you have decided to take up this opportunity, and I've been delighted to see your blog posts and titles already popping up in the widget on my blog. If you're having any problems getting BlogRush set up, do feel free to ask me and I'll help if I can. You can put a comment on this blog post, or contact me via my homepage at www.nickdaws.co.uk.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Guest Blog: Specialize, Specialist and Specialism...

Today I'm pleased to publish a guest post by my friend and colleague Dr Suzanne Harris. A little while ago I wrote an article on Suzie's blog about five things I wish I'd known when I was starting out as a freelance writer. Suzie's article, below, is a good example of two of the things I mentioned in particular. One of these is the value to a freelance of specializing and becoming an 'expert' in your field. And the other is the importance of enthusiasm, a quality that Suzie has in abundance! I hope you enjoy reading her piece...

When I started out as a freelance writer, some seven years ago now, I had no idea what to actually write about. I had the passion and the drive, but I didn't think I knew enough to write a full length book. Frustrated, I sat down with a pen and paper and brainstormed. After around half an hour I had a pretty impressive list of things I knew something about, or could research. Top of my list was health. As a long-term sufferer of a debilitating illness, I knew more than most about coping with chronic pain, prescription medication, alternative therapies and other methods of fighting the ill effects of nature-gone-bad. A health writer was born.

Steadily, I created the persona I needed to sell articles and, ultimately, my book. I was so excited to be the author of a real how-to book on alternative health and I really felt as though I could make a difference. But as time passed I became restless in my niche. However, it was to be another four years before I finally found the courage to reinvent myself. I knew the importance of specialising; I already had a lucrative career as an alternative health writer, making it hard to decide to change direction. Then, quite by accident, I started to get work come to me in the form of finance writing. I almost turned it away thinking it was beyond my knowledge, but I didn't and I found I was comfortable working with the topic.

After doing a few paid jobs I decided I would like to be a finance writer alongside my health writing - after all, two specialties are better than one. It sounds easy, but specialising is actually a challenge. Before people accept you as a writer on a topic you need to be viewed as an 'expert' and to be an expert you need experience; the good old catch22 had reared its ugly head. Not to be put off, I asked a few colleagues, Nick being one of them, about how to go about establishing myself in another area. The advice I got from them proved to be sound and soon I had deleted all my old blogs, set up new ones to reflect my change of attitude, and approached some companies with ideas. Before long the work was pouring in. I secured a regular column with a B2B print magazine, creating content on Bankruptcy for pts.com and negotiating with a finance publisher on a number of book ideas. In a short space of time I managed to become an expert.

Achieving these new positions wasn't easy and a few times I had to rely on charm and a few exaggerations of the truth, but in the end it paid off. Most of them asked what experience I had. Luckily running my own writing consultancy gave me a heads-up, and I also dropped into emails that my book idea, The 30 Day Money Diet for Women: The Only Book That Helps You Gain Pounds!, was under consideration by a publisher (and still is). From there, as the odd job came in, I simply added it to the list I gave to prospective employers, so that by the time I approached some of the bigger companies my experience list was impressive. Now all I have to do is write it all!

To keep up with me and what I'm up to you can always check out my blog or find me on My Writers Circle.

Before I go there is one piece of advice I want to share that was given to me when I started out and that is to believe in yourself even when the rejection letters are flooding in because one day someone will say yes. And it's true. If someone had told me ten years ago I would end up as a published author and freelance writer I would have laughed, but through perseverance and hard work that's exactly what I am doing. And to prove anything is possible, I trained my husband, Mark, to be a freelance writer, and he is now successful in his own right. He now works for the New York Times company about.com as their MP3 guide !

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

PLR Time for UK Authors

If you're a UK author with at least one published book and you're registered for PLR, you should have received your annual statement by now, with payment due in the first week of February. If you have an account at the UK PLR website, you can also view your statement there in electronic form.

For those who don't know, PLR stands for Public Lending Right. It is a payment made to UK authors out of government funding to compensate them every time one of their books is borrowed from a public library. Authors are paid about 6p (approximately 10c) per library loan, and the most any author is allowed to receive is 6,600 pounds (about $12,000 US). Most authors, naturally, get far less than this.

Even so, if you're a UK author with at least one full-length book to your name (even if it's self published or you were paid a fixed fee), you should definitely register with the PLR office to claim what's due to you. Nowadays you can apply online if you wish.

While you're about it, too, don't forget to register with ALCS (the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society). ALCS pays money to UK authors for a range of things, most notably when their books are photocopied. They also distribute fees paid by other countries in respect of library lending, photocopying and so on in the countries concerned.

I always find it fascinating to study my PLR statement. A number of my books are out of print these days, but that doesn't stop people borrowing them from libraries. One of my 'star performers' is Start Your Own Home-based Business, which was published back in 2001 and is definitely a bit out of date now. However, my PLR statement shows that last year it was borrowed from libraries 1678 times, earning me a fraction over 100 pounds. Since it was published, I have earned almost a thousand pounds in PLR fees for this book alone.

This example is an interesting one, since with this book (and several others I have written) I was paid a fixed fee by the publishers. In effect, then, my PLR payments are simply an added bonus for me. In fact, because I get paid for library loans but don't receive any royalties on sales, it is more beneficial to me when people borrow my book from a library rather than buying it outright! For this reason, I've also been known to turn down opportunities to talk on TV or radio about this and other books where I was paid a fixed fee, as the main benefit of any publicity would go to my publishers rather than myself. This is possibly an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences...

Incidentally, non-UK nationals cannot claim PLR payments (or payments from ALCS), but many other countries - though not the USA as far as I know - have similar schemes in place to compensate writers for library lending, photocopying, and so on.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Simon's Birthday Bash

I thought for a change I'd share with you what I was doing at the weekend. On Saturday night Jayne and I went to the 50th birthday celebration of my old friend, the poet and performer Simon Pitt.

Simon and I go back many years. We've collaborated on several books - click here for one example - and also shared a stage in years gone by. But basically, and most importantly, he's one of my closest friends.

Anyway, for his 50th, Simon decided he wanted to do something special, so he hired the large upstairs room at the Old Royal pub in Birmingham (England). He invited all his friends, and arranged a night of cabaret-style entertainment.

All the acts were friends of Simon and gave their services free. And naturally, Simon himself was top of the bill, performing with ace guitarist Tony Wille in their long-standing words-and-music partnership, Redman, Greenman.

Everyone had a great time, and it was wonderful to meet so many old friends we hadn't seen for a long time. Jayne and I got a table near the front. We took quite a few photos, so I've copied some of the better ones below.

The show was launched in good style by blues duo Kirsty and Kenny...


Here's Arts Council West Midlands' Literature Officer Adrian Johnson, reading from his novel. Adrian also stepped in at the last moment as compere for the evening, which he did with his customary aplomb.


I hadn't seen Sally Lavender before, but she blew everyone away with her rendition of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, accompanying herself on the recorder. You really had to be there!


Here's the birthday boy, Simon Pitt, in full flow. Sorry the picture is a little dark.


And here are Tony and Simon performing their encore, The Monster Mash/Unchained Melody (again, you really had to be there...).


Finally, who's that idiot with a new video camera getting in everyone's way?


Well, yes, it's me, I'm afraid. I videoed the whole of Simon and Tony's set, and I'll try to put at least some of it on my blog in due course, so you can get a flavour of their unique style. But first, I have to work out how to transfer the video to my PC, how to edit it, how to upload it, and so on. Watch this space, I guess!

P.S. If you'd like to see any more still photos from the event, you can do so by clicking here. I'll try to put some captions up soon.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Another Day, Another Guest Blog...

I'm getting around at the moment, in a virtual sense anyway. In my post yesterday I told you about my article on Linda Jones's Freelance Writing Tips blog about my typical working day.

Well, I've now had another article published as a guest writer on someone else's blog. That "someone else" is Dr Suzanne ("Suzie") Harris, and you can see my article on her My Digital Desk blog (she also has a number of others, including a book reviews blog and one on business and finance).

The title of my article is Five Things I Wish I'd Known as a New Freelance Writer. As you may gather, it comprises five pieces of advice I wish I'd been given at the start of my writing career. I hope will be of interest to anyone seeking to make a living - or at least an income - from their writing today.

By the way, I originally met Suzie because she bought my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course and wanted to interview me about it for a book she was writing. She assumed I lived in the USA (all my publishers' sales websites are written in US English), and was quite surprised to discover that I lived only a few miles down the road from her in the English Midlands! She has now moved to Wales with her family, but we still keep in regular touch. And the best news is, she has promised to write a guest article for my blog very soon!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

An Apology and an Article

I have to start by apologising to people who subscribe to My Writing Blog by email. Earlier today I was doing a bit of housekeeping on the blog, and for some reason that's not entirely clear to me, a copy of an old post - my January 2007 review of WhiteSmoke's writing software - was sent out to subscribers again. Please accept my humble apologies for this!

On a brighter note, you might be interested in checking out this article I wrote for Linda Jones's Freelance Writing Tips blog. Linda is running a series called My Writing Day, where freelance writers and journalists describe a typical day in their lives, and this was my contribution. Now at last you can discover what I get up to all day!

By the way, I highly recommend Linda's Freelance Writing Tips blog, which has some great advice and information for freelance journalists in particular. You might also like to check out my review of her book The Greatest Freelance Writing Tips in the World, which was published in October last year.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Thoughts on the Simpleology Blogging Course

In my post yesterday I mentioned this new course on blogging for fun and profit. As I said in that post, the course is currently being given away free to anyone who has a blog, so long as they mention it in a blog post. I promised I'd let you know a bit more about the course after I'd evaluated it, so here's what I thought...

To start with, accessing the course proved more tricky than I expected. As you may know if you've taken up this offer, once you've placed the pre-written post on your blog, you then have to enter the URL on this web page. I assumed after doing this that I would 'simply' be taken to the course material, but not a bit of it. Instead I was taken through a series of steps that involved confirming that I wanted to sign up with Simpleology, setting a user-name and password, viewing a 'one-time offer' of something or the other, and being invited to download various items of free software.

Indeed, so laborious was the process that I was on the point of deleting my original post and apologising to anyone who had acted upon it. However, after jumping through all these hoops, I did eventually arrive at a page where I could access the free blogging course. And I have to say, it's very well done and informative.

The core of the course comprises 15 lessons. Each of these lessons is around five minutes and plays in a browser window (you DON'T need to download any special software to watch them). The lessons start with the absolute basics - i.e. what is a blog? - and move on through topics such as what to blog about, what blogging software to use, how to attract more readers, how to make money from your blog, and so on. Nowadays I'm quite an experienced blogger, but there were a number of suggestions that I hadn't thought of, and I definitely plan to act on these in the months ahead.

Alongside each lesson, there is an interactive quiz you can take to test your understanding of the points covered. You can also download the lessons in printable (PDF) format and as audio files (for listening to on your MP3 player). Some bonus materials are included as well, including interviews with a number of well-known bloggers in the Internet Marketing field.

Overall, it's a highly professional course, and if you have a blog I do recommend checking it out now while it's still free. But - as mentioned above - do be aware that accessing it will involve negotiating what seemed to me an excessive number of hurdles. It's worth noting that you don't have to accept ANY of the offers made to you or download any of Simpleology's proprietary software in order to view the course. Once you're logged in to the Simpleology 'WebCockpit' page, you'll see a heading 'Daily Targets' at the top left. The blogging course can be found in the right-hand column under Electives. Click on Blogging, and the course material will all be set out for you.

Finally, I should say that Simpleology appears to be a personal development system for organising your life, and in particular your business. Their logo has the strap-line 'The Simple Science of Getting What You Want'. By signing up to view the free course, you also become a member of Simpleology, and get access to a lot more course material as well. Personally I haven't looked into this - I'm not sure it's quite my thing really - but if you're interested in learning more, obviously the opportunity is there for you.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Free Multi-Media Course for Bloggers

I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Bad Grammar on Sky News

On my recent holiday in Cyprus I found myself watching Sky News quite a bit. I'm not a regular viewer of this station normally, but it was one of the few English language channels available on the TV in our hotel room.

While it was nice to have a lifeline to what was going on in the world over Christmas, one thing that quite surprised me was the number of grammatical errors made by Sky's presenters. Here's just one example I jotted down:

"The future of democratic elections hang in the balance..."

The story in question concerned the appalling assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and in no way do I wish to trivialise this. But hearing the presenter mangle the sentence in this way did succeed in distracting me from the story itself.

Of course, 'hang' in this sentence should be 'hangs'. The subject of the sentence is 'the future'. This is a singular noun and therefore requires a singular verb.

What seems to have happened is that the presenter - or whoever wrote his script - was distracted by the plural noun 'elections' directly preceding the verb, and therefore assumed that a plural verb was needed. 'Elections' is NOT the subject of the sentence, however. It is simply part of the adjectival phrase 'of democratic elections'. This is therefore an example of faulty subject-verb agreement.

I might excuse this if it was an isolated mistake, but in fact it was one of a number of such errors I heard. In addition, because Sky News is a rolling news channel, stories get repeated every twenty minutes or so. I waited hopefully for someone to have a word in the presenter's ear and get him to correct the mistake, but sad to say it didn't happen while I was viewing!

Anyway, I don't suppose the bosses at Sky News will lose too much sleep over this, but I'm afraid it diminished their channel's authority in my eyes. I was left with the feeling that if their presenters couldn't get their basic grammar right, how much faith could I have in their reporting of the facts? Perhaps it's time Sky News appointed a grammar czar? In the meantime, I've gone back to BBC News - where I've never heard this particular error committed at least - with some relief!

* Just in case you're interested, there is a whole module on subject-verb agreement in my brand new course Essential English for Authors.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Christmas in Cyprus...

As some of you will already know, this year Jayne and I spent Christmas week in Cyprus. It was our first visit to the island, which for those who don't know is in the eastern Mediterranean. We stayed in Paphos, which is a quiet but popular resort. It's also a World Heritage Site because of the amazing Roman ruins and mosaics that are still being discovered there.

We had a great week, and I thought you might like to see a few of the photos I took. The first one is a view of our hotel - The Pioneer Beach - by evening.



Although the hotel we stayed at was for adults only, we had a visit from Father Christmas on Christmas morning. Here's Jayne standing beside him. I think he was the smallest Santa I'd ever seen!


The Roman mosaics at Paphos were truly astonishing. I thought there might be half a dozen or so, but there are literally hundreds, many of them incredibly well preserved considering their age. The photos I took don't really do them justice, but here's one showing close-up details, which reveals just how intricate they are.



We were lucky with the weather during our stay. Here's a typical sunset...



And here's one of the beautiful tapestries at the Kykkos Monastery, which we visited on a coach trip. Yes, that really is gold leaf!


I hope you like the photos. If you wish, you can see a lot more I took on this Picasa web page.

I'd definitely like to visit Cyprus again before too long!

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fifty Pounds an Hour Entering Consumer Contests!

I'm talking mainly to my readers in the UK and Republic of Ireland in this post, so I hope the rest of you out there will bear with me. Your turn will come again soon!

If you're in either of these countries, did you happen to see the new TV show on UK Channel 5 last night titled It Pays to Watch? It's on at 7.30 pm on Wednesdays, and features Martin Lewis, the renowned personal finance campaigner.

Martin runs the excellent Moneysaving Expert website. If you haven't already, by the way, you really should sign up here for his free weekly email of money-saving (and money-making) tips. You can also read about the TV show, and view an extended online version, at the It Pays to Watch website.

Anyway, the show was very interesting - if a little frenetic at times - but one thing that especially caught my eye was when they interviewed a guy called Glynn Olive. Since he retired from the police force in 2007, Glynn has been spending an hour a day simply entering consumer competitions. During that time he has apparently won over 6000 UK pounds' (about $12000 US) worth of prizes. Some of these, such as a holiday at a five-star hotel in Malta, he and his family enjoyed - but others they didn't want, such as a Kymco motor scooter, he sold on for cash.

Martin Lewis worked out that, in effect, Glynn's hobby was earning him a staggering fifty pounds ($100 US) an hour. In fact, because in the UK prizes won in consumer contests are normally tax-free, this is the equivalent of a much higher rate of pay in a normal job. It's food for thought, isn't it?

Entering consumer contests has long been a sideline interest of mine, and over the years I've won various prizes, from a Mediterranean cruise to a crate of lager. I particularly favour the sort of contest which includes a tie-breaker slogan, e.g. where you have to complete a line such as "I love eating Australian apples every day because..." in 15 words or less.

These sort of contests are great for writers, because you really can use your professional skills to give you an edge over most of the other entrants. Here's an example of one such contest running online at the moment, so you can see what I mean. Note that these contests often require you to answer one or two other questions as well, but almost always these are very easy. Really, it all comes down to who can write the best "tie-breaker" slogan.

Unfortunately, this sort of contest is mainly open to people in the UK, and to a lesser extent in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Elsewhere in the world - e.g. the USA - sweepstakes abound, but because there is little skill in entering these, you have no opportunity to apply your writing abilities, and your chances of winning are therefore much less.

Anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to mention that entering consumer contests is a topic covered in my Quick Cash Writing course and, in much more depth, in my new course How to Win Contests. If you want to know all about entering consumer contests, how to devise winning slogans, essential online (and off-line) resources for "compers", and much more, you really should check them out. How to Win Contests does also discuss sweepstakes, but as mentioned above you can't do a lot to improve your chances of winning these. There are a few things, however, and naturally in my full course I reveal them :)

Good luck, and I hope you're soon earning the equivalent of fifty pounds an hour!

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Review: The ABC Checklist for New Writers

I was kindly sent a review copy of this new book for writers by Lorraine Mace and Maureen Vincent-Northam, both of whom I know are readers of this blog. The book's full title is The ABC Checklist for New Writers - How to Open Doors and Get Noticed the First Time Around, and it is published by Orana Publishing Limited (2007). The book's ISBN is 978-0-9550751-7-9.


I'd better get one admission out of the way first. I have a certain prejudice against books such as this where the content is organised alphabetically (apart from dictionaries, of course!). The effect is almost inevitably that the book zig-zags from topic to topic, and is difficult to sit down and read from start to finish. And even looking up particular subjects isn't always as straightforward as you might wish, if the writers have chosen a different way to organise the material from what you expect.

Lorraine and Maureen have done their best to counter this problem by including a full list of contents at the start and plenty of cross-references throughout the book - so, for example, under the subject heading Cliches you will find the direction to 'see also Consistency, Dialogue, Final Checks, Originality and The X Factor' (don't worry, the latter is nothing to do with Simon Cowell's TV show!). Even so, incongruities do exist. I looked in vain for Copyright - one of the key topics that worries new writers - under 'C', only eventually to discover it as a sub-heading of the section 'Legal'. A conventional index at the back of the book would have helped.

With that reservation out of the way, however, I have to say that this book is very good indeed. It is beautifully produced in trade paperback format, very readably set out, and extremely well written and edited. The book includes lots of practical advice on topics that often puzzle new writers, including manuscript layout, agents, vanity publishers, writers' groups, research, multiple submissions, invoicing, and many more. The advice is concise but helpful, and at the end of each article there is a handy bullet-point summary.

To some extent the book also serves as a writer's style guide, and includes articles on setting out dialogue (which can be a minefield for new fiction writers), grammar, punctuation, spelling, and so on. Inevitably the book cannot go into great detail on these huge topics, but the advice given is sound enough, even though it may not always address the particular question you want answered!

It is interesting to compare this book with another title aimed at new writers, The Greatest Freelance Writing Tips in the World by Linda Jones, which I reviewed recently in this post. The two books are quite different, but both are very good. Linda's book contains some great 'inside tips' based on her long experience as a freelance journalist and PR, and will probably do more to inspire you. On the other hand, The ABC Checklist for New Writers is a very good general reference book for new (and not-so-new) writers, and I suspect that buyers will refer to it more often from day to day. If I was a new writer, I would definitely want both of these titles on my bookshelf.

The ABC Checklist for Writers can be ordered from any bookshop or the Internet store Amazon.co.uk (see image above). It is aimed at UK writers, but much of the advice would be equally relevant to writers in other countries. At the end of the book, and out of alphabetical order, are short sections of useful addresses, awards and prizes (all UK and Ireland based), a glossary of writing terms, and resource lists of books, magazines and websites. Incidentally, the latter includes the excellent Writelink forum run by Sue Kendrick, but not my own forum at http://www.mywriterscircle.com/. I hope that Lorraine and Maureen will rectify this in the next edition!

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Time to Chill Out...

OK, so it's Monday...the holiday period is over...the decorations are down...you're back at work...and (in the northern hemisphere anyway) we still have the worst few months of the winter to look forward to...

Never mind! Here's a YouTube video featuring another beautiful track by my favourite band of the moment (well, one of them), Conjure One, the electronic music project headed by Rhys Fulber.

The track is called Sleep, and it's sung by a guest artist, Marie-Claire D'Ubaldo. The track can be heard on Conjure One's debut CD, also called Conjure One.



As ever, if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to watch the video.

As with Conjure One's Endless Dream, which I featured in this post last year, I like the lyrics of this number as well (any song that includes the line 'kindred spirit of candlelight' is OK by me!). The video is nicely done too, though I did find one or two of the anime-style images unintentionally scary!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video, and that perhaps it may give you a bit of a lift on a cold, grey Monday.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blogging for Storytellers

...That's the title of a new downloadable report in PDF format by Mywriterscircle.com member Nelodra (real name Leah Witmond). And the good news is that it's completely free of charge. You can get your copy by clicking on this link to the download page at Lulu.com.

Leah enjoys creating short stories based on characters she creates in the computer game Sims 2. You can see a number of her stories - and tales by other Sims 2 aficionados - at Leah's Sim Tales website. In her new report, she provides a detailed, step-by-step guide for anyone who would like to follow in her footsteps.

Of course, not everyone will want to write fiction about Sims 2 characters. In her report, however, Leah has provided a handy guide to setting up a blog using the popular (and free) Blogger platform, and much of her advice would be just as relevant if you are thinking of starting a more conventional blog or ficblog using Blogger. I particularly appreciated the generous use of screengrabs illustrating what you should be seeing on your computer at each stage.

Congratulations to Leah on creating her report and making it available free to the online writing community. And, incidentally, I've also had lots of good feedback on my free 'Christmas Gift' report about devising and selling ideas for movies - click here to read my blog post about this - so I've decided to leave the link up a bit longer. By the end of next week I will definitely remove it, however, so if you're at all interested in this subject, please get your copy now!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Make 2008 YOUR Year of Success!

Happy new year! I hope you had a great Christmas (even if you don't celebrate it in your religion) and are entering 2008 reinvigorated and bursting with enthusiasm to achieve your writing ambitions.

If you haven't yet made a new year's resolution, why not make it that in 2008 you will complete your first non-fiction book, novel or screenplay? After all, you have 364 days left after today. That's loads of time to get one complete first draft - at the very least - under your belt!

I thought I'd also take this opportunity to suggest a number of (free) resources that can help you to achieve your writing goals...

The Motivator program from my publishers, the WCCL Network, is a great piece of software. It uses the power of programmed rehearsal to help you recall and focus on your goals. You can read more about The Motivator, and download your free copy, from this web page.

Another valuable resource I discovered recently is 43 Things. This free website lets you set personal goals or join shared ones. You can then get support from other people who have achieved that goal or are working towards it. When I checked, 18,235 people had entered the goal "write a book". If you choose this particular goal on 43 Things, you will be in very good company!

Don't forget, also, WCCL's free Internet radio station WritersFM. If you have a broadband Internet connection, you can listen to inspiring interviews with successful, published writers, from historical novelist Bernard Cornwell to British politician-turned-author Edwina Currie. You can simply listen in to whatever is being broadcast right now, or choose any of the most popular interviews and download or stream them from the WritersFM site.

And, of course, I can't leave out my free forum at www.mywriterscircle.com. The forum has been running for over two years now, and has almost 6,000 members from all over the world. It's a great place for getting feedback on your work, asking writing-related questions, finding new markets, or just chatting with your fellow writers in our chat room or virtual coffee shop.

I'd like to conclude with a quote from James A. Baldwin: "Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it." Don't ever let the nay-sayers hold you back from pursuing your dream.

Good luck, and please let me know when, later this year, you've completed your book or screenplay!

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