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Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days

How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Essential English for Authors, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and The Wealthy Writer.

How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days is written by successful children's author Mel McIntyre. It's provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format, and is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux. The main manual and bonuses are all password-protected (you'll find the password in the email you receive when ordering), but this is only a minor inconvenience.

Like all WCCL products, How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days is beautifully produced, and it has obviously been professionally written and edited. The main manual weighs in at a substantial 178 pages.

The manual provides a practical, step-by-step guide to devising, planning and writing a children's book in the shortest possible time. It's divided into three main sections.

Section 1 (Day 1 to Day 5) takes you through planning your book. Its sub-title is The MAGIC Formula. Regular WCCL customers won't be surprised to discover that MAGIC here is an acronym. In this case it stands for Message, Audience, Genre, Imagination, Chapters & Verses.

Under each of these headings, Mel discusses the requirements for a successful modern children's book. The approach is hands-on throughout; for example, in the section about Message the student is required to complete a form summarizing the 'message' his or her book will communicate to readers.

Section 2 (Day 6 to Day 11) is where you get down to the nitty-gritty of writing your children's book. Its sub-title is Building BLOCKS, and yep, once again, BLOCKS is an acronym. B stands for Bang-On Beginnings - the rest I'll let you discover for yourself!

Section 3 (Day 11 to to Day 14) covers proofreading and editing your book. It's called Putting it to Bed (and no, for once bed isn't an acronym). There is also a short fourth section, which discusses getting feedback on your draft book and giving it a final polish.

Everything is clearly explained, with diagrams used where appropriate. There are also plenty of examples from successful, published children's books to illustrate the points made.

In addition to the main manual, there are also various bonuses. Perhaps the most useful is A Pocketful of Publishing. This discusses how to market your children's book (a topic not really touched on in the main manual). It includes details of publishers and agents who are currently looking for children's books. Self publishing is also covered, along with useful resources for those who want to try going down this route.

The other bonuses include a list of the author's top 50 recommended children's books that any aspiring children's author today should read. This is a mixture of acknowledged classics such as Alice in Wonderland, through to more modern books with which you may not be familiar unless you are a parent yourself!

Finally, the course includes an in-depth interview with the author himself, conducted by his wife.

Overall, I was very impressed with How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days. If you want to write a saleable children's book, there is no doubt in my mind that this course will help you to achieve this.

Do I have any criticisms? Only perhaps that the recommended approach, with its heavy emphasis on planning and outlining, might not suit everybody. If you are the sort of writer who prefers to trust to inspiration and 'go with the flow', you might find it a little restrictive.

On the other hand, if you want a realistic, practical, step-by-step guide for creating your first children's book, How to Write a Children's Book in 14 Days would probably be ideal for you.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Call Yourself a Writer?" Meme

I was recently tagged on this meme by Linda Jones of Passionate Media on her You've Got Your Hands Full blog.

In her post, Linda asked and then answered a number of questions about her own writing. She then tagged several other writers, including me, to answer the questions as well. So, without further ado, here are my responses...

1. Which words do you use too much in your writing?

However, therefore, great

2. Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?

Neat, suddenly, cool

3. What's your favourite piece of writing by you?

Possibly my novella The Festival on Lyris Five, recently published by my friends at Salvatore Publishing. This is a humorous (I hope) science fiction story I wrote a few years ago, when I had a bit more time for fiction. I had a blast writing it, and I hope readers will share some of that enjoyment now. The book also has some wonderful illustrations by Louise Tolentino. You can buy it in printed form or as an instant download.

4. What are your other favorite blogs?

There are some wonderful writing blogs out there. Here are just a few I keep coming back to:

The Creative Penn
Fuel Your Writing
Nail Your Novel

There are also a number of non-writing-related blogs I'm a fan of. Two of the best are Mashable (for all the latest news about Web 2.0) and MakeUseOf (for an endless stream of software advice, free tutorials, website recommendations, and more).

And finally, if you're a blogger yourself, Darren Rowse's ProBlogger blog is a must-read, along with his TwiTip blog for Twitter users.

5. Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn't written?

There are a few things over the years I've written that I haven't been paid for, so clearly I regret those!

I also rather regret trying to correct some criticisms of me and my publishers, WCCL, that had been published a while ago on another writer's blog. I rather naively thought I could put the record straight, and that would be that. Instead, it proved to be the online equivalent of stirring up a hornets' nest. Nowadays I follow the wise precept, Don't Feed the Trolls!

6. How has your writing made a difference? What do you consider your most important piece of writing?

A lot of my writing consists of courses and other instructional materials. I like to think I've helped a lot of people to get started as writers, and in other small businesses too. Certainly, the huge number of messages I receive from students of my courses telling me about their successes is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

Possibly my most important/influential piece of writing has been Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, my original and best-selling course for WCCL. I've lost count of the number of buyers of this course who have written telling me about the books they have written as a result of following my advice, in some cases sending copies of the books as well. I am truly humbled by some of the stories they tell me (such as this one, for example).

7. Name three favourite words

Opportunity, commission, holiday

8. ...And three words you're not so keen on

Deadline, scam, refer to drawer

9. Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?

Two writers I admire hugely are Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Both are prolific to an extent I could never dream of, and both write consistently to an extremely high standard (I'm really enjoying King's Duma Key at the moment). Because they both write genre fiction they do not receive the critical recognition they deserve, but I'm quite sure in future they will be regarded as the Charles Dickens's of their time.

10. What's your writing ambition?

I'd like to have more time to write fiction, and especially to work on a novel I've had in the back of my mind for ages now.

I'd also love to be asked to write a novelization for a movie, stage show or TV series. If any producers out there are reading this, I'm your man!

11. Plug alert! List any work you would like to tell your readers about.

I've already mentioned The Festival on Lyris Five and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

In addition, I'd like to mention in particular The Wealthy Writer, my latest downloadable writing guide to be published by WCCL. The Wealthy Writer was co-written with Ruth Barringham, and it covers a huge range of ways writers can make money by applying their skills on the Internet. I've already had some amazing feedback on this course, and anyone buying it via my website can get some unique extra bonuses from me as well.

And, if I can mention a website as well, please do check out my forum at It's a free, open-access forum with around 8,000 members from all over the world. It's a great place for getting feedback and support from your fellow writers, asking (and answering) questions, finding market information, and so on.

So that's me, then. In accordance with Linda's rules (see below), here are the names of four other writer/bloggers I would like to tag:

Coffee With Kate
Kristin Callender
Karl Moore
Joanna Penn

Obviously, there is no obligation on anyone to do this, but I've found it a very interesting experience myself, and would love to see other people's responses too. And, of course, anyone with a blog is more than welcome to take part in the meme - you don't have to be tagged first!

The Rules

If you have time to do this meme, then please link to my post here, then link to three to five other bloggers and pass it on, asking them to answer your questions and link back to you. You can add, remove or change one question as you go (as I did with Question 4 - feel free to revert to Linda's original if you like). You absolutely do not have to be what you may think of as a "published" or "successful" writer to respond to this meme.

Have fun, and I look forward to reading more responses!

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Nick Daws' Novella Published!

I'm pleased to reveal that my tongue-in-cheek science-fiction novella The Festival on Lyris Five is now available in both printed and downloadable form.

The Festival on Lyris Five has been published by Salvatore Publishing, a new publishing house run by Guy Cousins and other members of my forum. I'm delighted to be among the first authors to be taken on by Salvatore.

As regards the story, I can't really do better than quote my publisher's blurb:

Former Ten Stars combat pilot Rick Barrett is having a bad day. Not only is he jobless and broke, in a seedy spaceport bar he has just been forced into a winner-takes-all poker game with a homicidal cauliflower. Salvation is at hand in the shapely form of Irish redhead Julie Halloran, who has an unusual talent of her own. Julie has a proposition for Rick that could end his financial worries at a stroke, though it might also end up getting him killed. But is Julie keeping a few cards hidden herself?

The Festival on Lyris Five is a fast-moving, hilarious, science-fiction novella, where nothing is quite what it seems. The story by UK author Nick Daws is beautifully complemented by Louise Tolentino's wry illustrations.

If you'd like to know more, you can read an extract from the story by clicking on the BookBuzzr widget below...

If you are receiving this post by email or RSS, you may need to visit my blog to view the widget.

As you will see, The Festival on Lyris Five is available for purchase in both printed and downloadable form (PDF).

I'd just add that I wrote this story a few years ago, when I had a bit more time for fiction writing. It's proved quite difficult to place, as it's too short for a conventional novel yet too long for most short-story markets. I'm delighted to see it in print at last, much enhanced by Louise's illustrations. I make no claims for The Festival on Lyris Five as a work of literature, but I had a lot of fun writing it, and hope readers will share some of that enjoyment now.

Lastly, I'm planning to launch a competition to win a signed copy of The Festival on Lyris Five soon, so keep watching this blog for details!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Review: Box of Tricks by Jeff Phelps

I've mentioned Box of Tricks, the new novel written by Jeff Phelps and published by Tindal Street Press, a few times on Twitter, Facebook, and so on recently.

Well, I've just finished reading it and uploaded my review to I thoroughly enjoyed the book, so I thought I'd share my impressions with you here as well. Here's a slightly adapted version of my Amazon review...

Box of Tricks is difficult to categorize. It's part comedy, part nostalgia, part coming-of-age novel. But it also explores some deeper themes of freedom and responsibility, especially towards one's family.

The setting of the book - a British seaside town in the early 1960s - reflects a time when society was changing rapidly. Two of the younger characters - teenage tearaway Ray and aspiring model Julia - are enthusiastically embracing the new freedoms. The narrator, the slightly younger Eddie, finds himself torn between the old and the new.

Box of Tricks is beautifully written, in fluid, evocative prose. Yet though it is undoubtedly a literary novel, the author also weaves a deftly constructed plot, with some surprising twists and turns. Many of these centre on the eponymous back-street joke shop, which plays a pivotal role in the story.

Box of Tricks starts off slowly, then picks up pace as the key characters find their lives changing forever. The novel moves towards a conclusion that is touching without being over-sentimental. It answers enough questions to leave readers satisfied, yet enough unsaid to resonate long after the book has been put down.

Overall, Box of Tricks gets my highest recommendation as an intelligent, thought-provoking, but above all hugely enjoyable read.

Obviously, I may be just a little biased as Jeff is an old friend of mine, but I do read a lot of fiction, and this is one of the books I have most enjoyed for a long time. I've always known that Jeff is a highly talented writer, and it's great to see his work at last achieving the recognition it deserves. If you'd like to know more about Box of Tricks, here is an image link to the book's page on

If you are receiving this post by email, you may need to visit my blog to see the image link.

Incidentally, Jeff was interviewed a while ago on WritersFM about his first novel, Painter Man. He is a thoughtful and engaging interviewee, and I recommend downloading the interview from the WritersFM podcasts page and giving it a listen. Jeff has a demanding full-time job as an architect, and it's particularly interesting to hear him discuss how he manages to find time for writing in his busy schedule.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Two Paying Markets for Very Short Fiction

I know from comments on my forum that many writers enjoy trying their hand at very short (sometimes called flash) fiction.

So I thought in this post I'd spotlight a couple of paying opportunities for this type of story I've come across recently.

The first is for stories of 25 words or less for an anthology of 'Hint Fiction', to be published by W.W. Norton later this year. If you're wondering what Hint Fiction might be, the guidelines include the following explanation:

What is Hint Fiction? It's a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story. The thesis of the anthology is to prove that a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer. The anthology will include between 100 and 150 stories. We want your best work.

It's possible to write a complete story in 25 words or less - a beginning, middle, end - but that's not Hint Fiction.

The very best Hint Fiction stories can be read many different ways.

We want stories we can read again and again and never tire of. Stories that don't pull any punches. Stories that make us think, that evoke some kind of emotional response.

The payment on offer is $25 per story for World and Audio rights. For more information, click here. Note that submissions do not open until 1 August 2009, and an email address for them will appear on the guidelines page at that time.

The other opportunity I wanted to mention is for even shorter fiction - 140 characters or less. As you may perhaps have guessed, it's for short stories to be published on the micro-blogging service Twitter.

Tweet the Meat wants horror/weird/speculative fiction stories. They say: 'No serials. No unfinished stories. You must scare us in 140 characters or less. Are you up to the challenge?'

Submissions are via email, and the submission period each week is Saturday and Sunday. Most weeks there is a set theme. One story is chosen for publication on the Tweet the Meat Twitter account every day, and the successful author is paid $1 by Paypal. For more info, visit

Good luck if you decide to submit work to either of these markets!

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Twin Keys to a Long-Term Writing Career

Someone asked me the other day how I get writing work in these recessionary times: is it through advertising, my website, my blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites..?

I think they were surprised by the answer I gave. Nowadays, by far the most important source of work for me is clients I have worked with in the past, often for many years. And the next most important is personal recommendations.

I do get work offers from the other sources mentioned, but it is much less significant in financial terms. Other than maintaining an online presence, I don't advertise my writing services at all.

It comes down to two things really: the first, of course, is delivering a good service to clients, so they want to hire you again. And the second is networking, by which I mean building and cultivating a network of contacts, both online and in the 'real world'.

One obvious method of networking is to build good relationships with the publishers and editors you write for, and other writers you meet and work with. This can pay off in all sorts of ways. First, if they like you and your work, there is every chance they will come back to you for more in future.

Here's an example. Over ten years ago I answered a newspaper ad for a short story writer. I sent in a sample story, which was accepted, and ended up writing 11 more for the novelty publishing house in question. Another editor in the company saw my stories and asked if I'd like to contribute to a project he was working on. The upshot is, for that one company I've written humorous recipe books, Internet guides, quiz books, party packs, 'Cyberbabe' and 'Cyberboyfriend' CD-ROMs, online games, tee-shirt and mug slogans, and many more - all stemming from that one 'little' job ten years ago.

What's more, editors move on to new jobs, and naturally they like to bring their favorite writers with them. An example again: years ago I wrote a series of articles on business-related matters for an editor I'll call Vanessa. That went pretty well, then she got a job as editor for a personal finance newsletter, and she asked me to write regular articles for that as well. This continued for some time, and I even carried on writing for the newsletter for several years after Vanessa moved on.

Then Vanessa went freelance, and one of the assignments she got was writing a series of travel books. While she was working on those, the publisher asked her if she knew any other writers who might be interested in writing a similar book, and she put my name forward. The result was that I ended up writing two books about living and working in Italy and Germany.

Of course, networking is a two-way thing, and it works best if you can reciprocate. So I was pleased to be able to put some work Vanessa's way later with another of the mail-order publishers I work for regularly.

And here's another - slightly strange - example of how networking can pay off for all concerned. Last month, I switched roles with a fellow writer/editor called John, whom I've known for many years. Here's how it happened...

For over ten years I've been editing a series of monthly updates on investment-related topics. Most of them were written by John, though occasionally I contributed one myself.

Anyway, the publishers decided that the series finally had to end, so I thought that was both me and John out a job. Then they got back to say they were launching a newsletter on a similar topic, and would I be interested in editing it for them?

Well, because of all my other work, I didn't want to take on another major monthly commitment. But it occurred to me that John would be ideal for the role, so I recommended him to my client. The result is that John has just been appointed editor, and has asked me to write articles for him every month. So, as I say, we've swapped roles, but otherwise it's business as usual!

These things happen regularly in the writing world. In my view, delivering a good service and building up a network of fellow authors, editors and other publishing industry professionals are the two most important things any writer can do to ensure a long and successful career in this field.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

VocabGrabber: A Free Tool for Improving Your Writing

I've reviewed a few paid-for writing products recently, so I thought today I'd feature a free service.

VocabGrabber is a web-based tool for writers and editors. It aims to help you identify words that are over-used in a piece of text and suggests possible alternatives for them.

VocabGrabber is free to use, although it also links to ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus, which is a paid-for service. Using it is simplicity itself. Just copy and paste your text for analysis (up to a hefty 200,000 characters) into the box and click on Grab Vocabulary.

Almost immediately, the text will be analysed and a 'tag cloud' will be displayed, with the words found most often displayed largest. Here's an example using my recent blog review of the PerfectIt proofreading software.

You can change the display to a list if you prefer by clicking on the 'List View' icon on the left of the VocabGrabber screen. This will produce a list of all 'Relevant' words found in the document, along with the number of times they are found. ('Relevant' words are words less commonly used in English that are likely to be of particular relevance to that document, excluding common words like 'and' or 'then'.)

The list shows the number of times each word is repeated. Highlighting any word ('software' in the example) will bring up a dictionary definition, a diagram showing words of similar meaning, and copies of usages from the text itself. If you click on any item in the list, it will take you to a more detailed page showing related words from the ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus. As mentioned, the latter service is not free, but you do get a few free trials to see how it works.

As the screengrab above shows, VocabGrabber found a lot of uses of the words 'document' (11) and 'software' (8). There isn't really much alternative to 'document' in the post concerned, but if I was editing it now, I might try to use another word in place of some of those 'software' usages ('program', for example).

Overall, VocabGrabber offers a handy service for writers and editors. It's useful for identifying any words that may be over-used in a document (making it read poorly and look amateurish). The alternate suggestions from the free service are a bit limited, so if you find the site helpful you might perhaps want to consider subscribing to the companion Visual Thesaurus service (which is reasonably priced at $19.95 a year for the online version).

Even if you don't want to part with any money, however, VocabGrabber is worth a place on your Favorites list as a quick tool for checking you're not over-using certain words and expressions without realising it.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: PerfectIt Proofreading Software

This week I've been checking out PerfectIt, a dedicated proofreading application produced by London-based Intelligent Editing Limited.

Like myWriterTools, which I reviewed in this recent post, PerfectIt operates as an add-in for Microsoft Word.

It works with Word 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007. In versions of Word prior to 2007, PerfectIt is listed in the Tools menu. In Word 2007 (which I use) you click on the Add-Ins tab at the end of the Ribbon, then click on PerfectIt to run the software.

So what exactly does PerfectIt do? Essentially, it checks that any Word document is internally consistent. For example, it ensures that if you have spelt a word in one way in a document, you haven't spelt it differently somewhere else. PerfectIt runs a series of tests on your document and highlights any possible errors it finds. You can then allow the software to 'fix' these errors, or ignore them and move on to the next.

The screenshot below shows an example of the software in action. In my test document, it has found the phrase 'after school' used without a hyphen once and with one twice.

In this case, my usage was actually correct. The hyphen was required where the phrase after-school was being used adjectivally in front of the noun (an after-school club), but not where it was used adverbially (bored after school). As you can see, PerfectIt appreciates that this could happen and has included a note at the bottom of the box about it.

If, however, I had wanted to make all my uses 'consistent', I could have chosen the preferred phrase from the list. All exceptions would then be shown below this, and I could correct one at a time by clicking on 'Fix', or change them all by clicking on 'Fix All'.

I found the software easy and intuitive to use, and very fast. On my test documents (mostly modules from courses I've written) it found a few inconsistencies, mainly in my punctuation/capitalization of lists. PerfectIt also revealed that I had spelt 'specialize' with both a 'z' and an 's' in the same document. I'll have to correct these errors the next time the courses concerned are updated!

The software highlights any instances where contractions such as can't or won't have been used, and suggests writing them out in full. I'd accept that this would be preferable with formal documents, but that doesn't really apply to most of my writing. Still, you can skip any tests you don't want the software to run, either temporarily or permanently, using the Change Test menu item.

One other small irritation I found is that if you've written a word such as WILL in all caps for added emphasis, the software assumes that this is an abbreviation and asks you to define it. Again, though, I suppose you wouldn't do this in a formal document.

PerfectIt does NOT (oops - done it again!) check the spelling in your document, except for inconsistencies, and neither does it check for grammatical errors. Of course, Word has its own built-in spelling and grammar checkers, or you can use something like myWriterTools or WhiteSmoke. As mentioned earlier, PerfectIt is really a consistency checker. As such, it will work equally well with UK or US English or any other flavour/flavor.

Overall, I was highly impressed with PerfectIt and will be using it regularly from now on. I think anyone who regularly writes long(ish) documents would benefit from it, and it would also be particularly good for ensuring consistency in documents with multiple authors. Incidentally, companies can also get their own customized version of the software, incorporating their own house-style specifications.

If you think you might benefit from using PerfectIt, you can download a one-month trial of the full program free of charge from the PerfectIt website.

  • Finally, just a quick note of caution. Programs like PerfectIt, myWriterTools and WhiteSmoke can save you time and help you spot mistakes/weaknesses in your writing, but they are NOT a substitute for learning the rules of grammar and punctuation. My downloadable guide Essential English for Authors covers all the common problem areas, and will bring your written English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Follow Me on Facebook!

Just a quickie to let you know that I now have a public Facebook Page.

If you're a Facebook user yourself, you are very welcome to sign up as a 'Fan' of my Page.

You will then receive notification via Facebook of my latest blog posts and selected Twitter updates (e.g. those with links to websites of particular interest to writers). As with all Facebook Pages, you will be able to comment on any of these items, ask questions, start discussions, and so on.

I will also add extra material on my Page to supplement items from my blog and Twitter. And I will notify Fans directly if, for example, I hear of an interesting writing opportunity or vacancy.

I will be adding more features and content to my Facebook Page as time permits (and as I learn how it all works!). It is my intention to make it an essential resource for anyone interested in writing and - especially - students of my courses such as Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and The Wealthy Writer.

I hope to see you on the Nick Daws Facebook Page soon!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guest Post: Seven Ways to Use One Article for Book Promotion

Today I'm delighted to welcome to my blog Joanna Penn, from The Creative Penn, the hugely popular blog devoted to writing, self-publishing, print-on-demand, Internet sales and promotion for authors.

Joanna is also the creator of Author 2.0, a free blueprint for authors hoping to use Web 2.0 methods for publicizing and promoting their books.

In this guest post, Joanna reveals seven ways you can use a single article to help promote your book.

* * *

Web 2.0 technologies have empowered authors to write, publish, sell and promote their books online in many different ways. There are so many options now that utilise free software. They take some time and effort to achieve, but you can gain fantastic results.

One effective book promotion tactic is to use articles. These can be segments of your book, or an article written on the topic of your book. This works for both fiction and non-fiction. Repackage parts of your existing written work into articles of around 500-700 words each. You will also need a 'call to action' on the bottom of the article that contains your contact details and book buying information. I'd also recommend including an offer that gets people to click through, for example, 'Get Three Free Chapters Here'. Here is an example if you are unsure.

Here then are seven ways you can take one article and turn it into multiple channels for book promotion...

1. Turn it into a blog post with free services such as Wordpress or Blogger. Blog posts turn into individual web pages indexed by search engines, so each article of yours will represent a new web page.

2. Post it on, and These sites are specifically for article marketing and millions of people search them each day. People can download your work for free, but you get great exposure.

3. Post a link to it on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. This will bring people's attention to your article, and to your book if it is referenced. People can also forward your link on to others, generating a ripple effect for your promotion.

4. Add it to a collection of articles and release as a free (or paid) ebook through or Scribd. You could offer a selection of 10 articles for free download. Once you have between 70-100 articles, you will even have enough for a regular book that you can sell separately.

5. Record yourself reading the article and release it as a mini-audio or part of a regular podcast. You can record yourself using a basic microphone and the free Audacity software [ND: This is explained in detail in The Ultimate Podcasting Kit from WCCL]. You can then release it on your blog or through a network like BlogTalkRadio.

6. Make a video of yourself talking about the article and post it on YouTube and TubeMogul. You can use a basic video camera, a webcam or Flipcam. At you can even record straight to the screen. Many people use YouTube for primary search, so you need a video presence.

7. Turn it into a press release. You can reshape your article into a press release by linking it to a newsworthy subject, adding quotes, and targeting it to a specific market. Send it to journalists you have targeted for your specific book niche.

These ideas will cost you nothing in money - just your time. Multiply these by as many articles as you can write in a specific period and you will see how this can generate an effective web presence in little time!

There are many more ideas in Author 2.0 Blueprint: How to use web 2.0 tools to write, publish, sell and promote your book, available free by clicking on the link.

* * *

Many thanks again to Joanna for a very informative post. I do highly recommend checking out her blog and her free Author 2.0 Blueprint.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Free Stuff for Writers From WCCL!

Regular readers will know that this blog is sponsored by my publishers, The WCCL Network.

WCCL publish my courses such as Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and The Wealthy Writer, along with a wide range of other training courses, software, CDs, and so on.

You might not know, however, that WCCL also offers a number of free websites, resources and services for writers.

First among these is my forum at This is an open-access forum with nearly 9000 members all over the world. My role is to manage MWC, and I am particularly pleased by the reputation that it has built up as the Internet's friendliest writers' forum. Much of the credit for this must go to my dedicated team of volunteer moderators, of course.

If you want to get feedback on your writing, ask (and answer) questions, discover new writers' markets, or just shoot the breeze with your fellow authors, My Writers Circle should be high on your Favorites list. You can browse the forum without logging in, but to get the most from it you should really register (free) and become a member. It's easy and it's fun, although admittedly many of us do find it rather addictive!

Another free service sponsored by WCCL is WritersFM, the Internet's first online radio station by and for writers. WritersFM features a mixture of music, writing tips and in-depth interviews with successful authors, conducted by your irrepressible host, Karl Moore. There are some big names among them, including historial novelist Bernard Cornwell, British politician turned author Edwina Currie, world famous screenwriting guru Syd Field, top copywriter Joe Vitale, and many others (including yours truly).

WritersFM broadcasts continually on a regularly updated loop, or you can stream or download most of the interviews from their podcasts page. Note that you will need a broadband/DSL connection to listen to WritersFM, however.

Yet another WCCL giveaway is the bi-weekly Smart Writers newsletter. This has some great articles about writing, along with tips and advice, inspirational quotations, and much more. Yes, it also includes promotions for WCCL's writing-related products, but these are almost invariably offered at a discount - and, naturally, there is never any obligation to buy anything.

You can subscribe to Smart Writers via their Writers Giveaway site. Essentially, you get a huge selection of writing-related software, e-books, MP3s, and so on, just for signing up. You can unsubscribe any time you like, of course, so why not join the newsletter's existing 300,000+ subscribers and sign up today?

Finally, they're not aimed at writers, but WCCL also sponsors two other giveaway sites which operate in a similar way to the writers' site. The Self Growth Giveaway offers personal development guides, software, even free hypnosis downloads, just for signing up to a newsletter. And the Software Giveaway provides a vast range of free Windows software and utilities, including programs that will boost your creativity, protect your privacy online, and help you work more efficiently. I strongly recommend checking both of these excellent offers out!

Photo credit: Rileyroxx on

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Exemplar Possessive

A reader wrote to me recently regarding the Writer's Block CD, a product from my sponsors and publishers, The WCCL Network.

"Why is the apostrophe placed in front of the 's'?" he asked me. "Surely more than one person in the history of the world has suffered from this condition?"

I understood what he meant. The normal rule with possessives is that the apostrophe comes after the relevant noun. So the boy's room refers to a room belonging to one boy, while the boys' room signifies a room occupied by two or more. I discussed this in more detail a while ago in this blog post.

Writer's block is not really an exception to this rule, more a special case. Where the question of ownership is much less important than the nature or provenance of the item, a single 'exemplar' noun is often used for the possessive. I call this the exemplar possessive - I'm not sure if it has a more 'official' name. Here are a few more examples:
  • goat's cheese
  • cow's milk
  • greengrocer's apostrophe
  • cat's eyes (reflective safety devices on roads)
  • collector's item
In some circumstances you can make a case either way, or even three different ways. Father's Day, for example, can be written in any of three ways:

Fathers Day - 'Fathers' here is seen as an adjective, like 'sports' in sports hall.
Father's Day - The exemplar possessive here signifies a day devoted to fathers and fatherhood in general.
Fathers' Day - The plural possessive here signifies a day belonging to all fathers.

None of these options is 'wrong', though each has a slightly different emphasis. If you're a dad, see whether and where an apostrophe appears on your cards on the day in question. Fun for all the family...

In other cases, however, the exemplar possessive is clearly required to avoid ambiguity. Suppose, for example, you have a recipe that includes among the ingredients six lamb's kidneys. Most people would understand this to mean that six kidneys from lambs - obviously not all from a single lamb - are required.

If, however, you wrote instead six lambs' kidneys (the plural possessive), it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that the recipe required the kidneys of six lambs, i.e. twelve kidneys in all. So in this case, using the exemplar possessive avoids any risk of confusing the cook!

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

PayPerPost Version 4.0 Launched

I've mentioned PayPerPost a few times on this blog. It's a service that puts would-be advertisers in touch with bloggers who will write about them for a fee. Or, to look at it another way, it's a service that gives bloggers another option for earning money from their blog.

PayPerPost has just launched a brand new version 4.0, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a fresh look at it. For the moment version 4.0 is running alongside the old version 3.0, but presumably in due course (and if feedback is positive) version 4.0 will take over.

The first thing you notice about the new PayPerPost v4.0 is the simple, straightforward interface (see screengrab below). There are just two tabs, Opportunities and My Account. My Account is where you can check your earnings, change your email address, add blogs to your account, and so on.

It's also worth noting that in Version 4.0 bloggers can set the rate they are willing to accept for paid posts. This is done by clicking on the 'edit blog' icon under the My Account tab. Being able to set your own price gives more control and saves time, compared with the previous PayPerPost interface, where scrolling through pages of offers to find acceptable opportunities was the norm.

The Opportunities tab is where any paying opportunities that are available to you, and that meet your fee requirements, are displayed. If you see an opportunity you like, you can click on More Details and the full requirements will then appear.

Typically, a PayPerPost opportunity requires you to post a certain minimum number of words (e.g. 200) and include a specified link to the advertiser's website. All posts nowadays require disclosure that the post is sponsored, and how this should be done is also specified in the opportunity details (see example below).

Once you have made your post, you simply enter its permalink URL in the box provided. Once your post has been verified, payment by Paypal will follow, typically (in my experience of PayPerPost) a week or two later.

If you're looking for an additional way to monetize your blog, in my view PayPerPost is well worth considering. You can choose which opportunities to promote, and the disclosure requirement means that everything is transparent and above board. The new version 4.0 looks a marked improvement on the older one, so now should be a very good time to sign up if you haven't already. My one small criticism is that the minimum payout requirement has been raised to $50, so it's likely to take a few posts to achieve this.

Note: As you may have guessed, this post is sponsored by PayPerPost - you can even see how much I am being paid in the first screengrab! But that doesn't alter the fact that I am genuinely happy to recommend PayPerPost to any blogger who would like to add to their earnings in this way.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 Writer's Digest Best Websites List Published

As you may know, every year the top US writing magazine Writer's Digest publishes its list of the Top 101 Websites for Writers, as voted for by its readers.

The 2009 list has just been published, and I was delighted to see that my forum at was included - the third successive year it has been on the list.

There are some changes in the 2009 list compared with previous years. For one thing, the websites have been divided into categories, as follows:
  • Agent Blogs
  • Writing Communities
  • Publishing Resources
  • Jobs and Markets
  • Creativity and Challenges
  • Genres/Niches
  • General Resources
  • Fun for Writers
As a side thought, I find it slightly surprising that there is a section for agent blogs, but not one for blogs by writers or editors (of which there are some excellent examples). I also wonder whether non-writing-specific sites such as Twitter should really be on the list, useful though this service undoubtedly is.

Nevertheless, I strongly recommend spending a little time exploring the Writer's Digest 101 Websites List for 2009, as there are lots of great resources listed there. If you're anything like me, some you will know already, but others will be new to you. I've already found several such sites to add to my Favorites list!

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Special Guest Author: Casey Quinn

Today, as previewed in this post, I'm very pleased to welcome to my blog the American poet Casey Quinn.

Casey is on a virtual book tour celebrating the publication of his first anthology Snapshots of Life from Salvatore Publishing. You can read a poem from the anthology in this blog post from last week.

Without further ado, then, let's get the interview rolling...

ND: Welcome to my blog, Casey. Can you start by revealing when you first became interested in poetry writing?

CQ: My interest in poetry definitely expanded as I got older. I have always read a great deal since I was very young but mainly fiction, mostly short stories but also a good share of novels. I always appreciated poetry and read the classics growing up, but never dove in head first to really understand the beauty of poetry or see the strength of it.

If I had to put my finger on when 'the awakening' took place, I would say somewhere maybe five years ago or so. I think it was related to the time where I decided to try and lose weight by only drinking wine and cutting out all of the beer. Well, the beer commitment never really stuck, but the poetry world was opened and kept pulling me in. The next thing I knew I had stopped buying fiction and my bookshelf was filled with poetry. It sort of just happened.

Since 'the awakening' I always jotted down notes of lines, moments or simple observations into random sheets of paper and stored them away in a little marble notebook. The more I read poetry the more I realized how many flavors of poetry really exist, and I started to pick up tastes for what I liked and didn't, sort of how I figured out I like cabernet sauvignon a great deal more than merlot. You just keep doing something long enough; you really refine your tastes. I think once you have your tastes and tone you can become serious about writing poetry. Once I found a few poets that I admired and really just loved the words they wrote, their message, their style, it motivated to take my years of random notes and ideas and try to do something with them. From there, I began writing poetry.

ND: How did 'Snapshots of Life' come to be published? Was it difficult deciding which of your poems to include?

CQ: It really took a while for me to get comfortable with my poetry before I sent anything out, but once I met a few poets whose own work I respected and started to receive great feedback I got more confident in my word choice, my form and style. In the first few years I received a great number of rejections, but a few poems here and there snuck in to fuel my motivation.

After I had about thirty or forty poems published in different print or online journals and had written another two hundred or so poems, I wanted to try and just pick the poems I felt best defined my style of poetry and would work together as a group, and see if I could get the collection published. Every day I see something and I feel propelled to write it down. Could be simple and/or comical, could have a bigger meaning. Whatever it is, I see something and I want to share it with people. Selecting the poems was not too hard, as I belong to three or four pretty active forums where I post a good deal of my work for critiques, and had most of the poems I was going to include accepted already somewhere for publication. I felt pretty confident with a subset of the poems based on all of the feedback I had gotten. I had a good idea about which poems were total bombs and which ones had value. From there it was trying to pick the ones with the most value.

Right about the time I had my collection about ready to go it was toward the end of fall, early winter of last year, and I read a post on the greatest forum in the entire internet, also known as, about one of the members starting a publishing company and looking for submissions. I sent in the only query letter I wrote and Guy Cousins, the founder of Salvatore Publishing, responded and asked to see the collection. About six months later the book was released.

ND: Are there any particular poets whose work has influenced you? Do you have a favorite poet?

CQ: As part of the process of defining taste you will come across poets whose work you admire, whose every line teaches you something about how to write good poetry. Poets whose poems inspire you to write a poem and read their book over and over again just in case you can find another meaning, or just to appreciate the meaning you already took away the first time.

For me, these poets include Raymond Carver, e e cummings, Walt Whitman, Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, and many others whom I started to read after trying out a sample here and there of so many different styles. These people spoke to me the most, both in their presentation of the words and the messages they spoke.

My favorite poet has to be, hands down, John Yamrus. John writes and people relate. He could kill a big bug and spin it into a poem that is humorous and interesting. He could sit in his backyard and listen to his neighbors argue and find something poetic in the moment and write it in such a way that, as a reader, you feel the poetic moment as well.

I wrote a poem and posted it for a review on a forum and the feedback I received was that the style and tone reminded the reader of a poem that Yamrus would write. I won't lie, I really felt honored. To write something and have someone compare it to someone whom you admire sort of made my day.

ND: Have you any tips for my readers who want to improve their poetry writing?

CQ: Really, the best way to improve your writing is reading. I think everyone has a unique voice, which is what makes poetry so interesting to read. Two people can see the same exact thing yet write it out completely differently. Even two people who write in the same form and style will say it differently and present the words on the page differently. Poetry is unique to the individual, and that has to be the strength of the poet. Learn what your voice is and write in it.

After reading everything you can, write every day. Write about something that happened to you, something you saw on the news, anything. Just write a poem every day and be very specific about the event. There are enough poems out there about death, life, happiness, suicide, teen angst, hate, and every other vague, cliche word I can throw at you. Be specific and write it so the reader can live it. Don't write from the 10,000 foot level, but as if the reader was watching it happen.

Show feelings. If someone broke your heart, don't tell me they broke your heart. Write that the picture of the two of you on the counter is shattered and in the trash, and that your box of tissues is empty. I will get the point that your heart is broken. Reading good poetry you will just naturally pick up why it is considered good poetry - because it deals with specific moments in time and a specific event.

Listen to people whose own writing you respect and love. Everyone has their own style, and groups of people can write in similar styles. I have found people tend to critique poems trying to convert the poem to their own style rather than accepting it in the style it was written. Many poets believe their style is good and other styles should learn to be more like their style. Listen and work on improving your poems, but maintain your own voice. Listen to people whose own work you respect. Do not get defensive about your poems. When people critique a poem of yours, they are only critiquing the poem. They are not picking on you as a person or your writing in general. If someone does pick on you as a person or your style of poetry in general, just write 'thanks for your review' and ignore them. Don't get upset over feedback.

ND: What do you think about poetry writing contests? Do you ever enter them yourself?

CQ: I think money should flow to writers, therefore I am usually against poetry contests that charge an entry fee. I think poets do not make any money as it is, and really have only a few venues to make a name for themselves and, for me, poetry contests are not one of them. There are too many scams out there looking to make their money by taking advantage of writers. All contests generally end in an anthology or collection being created. The sponsor of the contest should make money by selling the books, not by the entry fees.

I will enter a poetry contest if I know the person running it or if I belong to an organization sponsoring it. I only do this to help the organization; I see it more as a donation then really participating in a poetry contest.

ND: As well as writing poetry, you also run an online magazine called Short Story Library and a publishing house called ReadMe Publishing. Could you tell me a bit more about both these ventures?

CQ: Short Story Library is now officially a one year old! I love to read short fiction and poetry, and in addition I write a good deal of short fiction and poetry. As I looked for venues online to submit work to, I realized that many sites were done poorly and decided to try and create a nice looking, professional magazine for people to display their work in. To be honest I had no idea of the amount of work it really takes to properly run a magazine.

We get about 25 submissions a week and only publish 3 or 4 items each week. It took a while for me to get used to the process of rejecting others and editing the writing of the ones I did accept. The first few months were a little rocky, but after about four months I really felt comfortable with my editor hat on and publisher hat on. We started out with a small number of subscribers, but now one year later we have over 2,000 readers each month, or about 500 a week for each issue we publish. My goal was to help short story writers and poets find an audience and I am pretty happy with the growth of the magazine. I think each week we put out quality writing and it shows in the loyalty of the readership.

ReadMe Publishing is a newer venture started at the end of last year, early this year. The more I got interested in publishing online, the more I realized that the printed word is what will last. I had a thought about one day loading up Short Story Library and the site was down. I would call the host and they would say there was an error and the database crashed. All the data is lost. It hit me that online, nothing lasts. Websites and blogs come and go, and when they go, so does the record of the publication ever existing. Only the printed words will remain. ReadMe Publishing was created really just to help more writers see their work in print and know that long after they leave this earth, their name will be in a book somewhere, maybe being read by someone.

ND: Finally, a question I like to ask all my visiting writers: What are your three favorite websites and why?

This is a tough question, as really so many websites out there have helped me improve as a writer, editor, and publisher. I think for me the site that has helped me learn the most about the writing world is the AbsoluteWrite forum. This place is filled with professional writers from all genres and styles. It includes bestselling authors, well-known poets and publishers with many titles in bookstores all over the world.

Number two on my list will be, of course, the MyWritersCircle website. I tend to not stray too far from the poetry section of the forum, but the feedback from the poets that reside on the site has been priceless. They are tough, honest and constant.

The third on the list has to be my own writing forum at Short Story Library. While not as big as AW or MWC, the Short Story Library folks have been around really since the beginning of the site and pop on to say 'Hi' and talk about general things in addition to writing. Many of the folks on the site have encouraged me over my time there with my writing and let me know when I have just written a piece of junk or when maybe there was potential. There is also just a great general feel to being home and knowing the folks on the site.

ND: Many thanks for answering my questions today in such detail, Casey - and thanks also for your enthusiastic testimonial on behalf of my forum at! I wish you every success with Snapshots of Life. I really enjoyed reading it.

CQ: Thanks, Nick, for the interview. It has been great, and best of luck with your own upcoming release from Salvatore Publishing.

Finally, just my customary reminder that Casey's book Snapshots of Life is available via the website of Salvatore Publishing. It's an entertaining and accessible read, and I'm very happy to recommend it to anyone who enjoys good modern poetry.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: MyWriterTools

I was lucky enough recently to be sent a copy of myWriterTools, a new program designed to help writers create better documents.

In view of the name, I should perhaps start by clarifying that this is not a WCCL product (WCCL sponsor My Writing Blog and My Writers Circle, among other sites for writers).

myWriterTools operates as an add-in for Microsoft Word. It works with Word 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007. Once it's installed, you can access all the functions it offers via a special toolbar.

In versions of Word prior to 2007, the myWriterTools toolbar shows up directly above the document and is visible all the time. In 2007 (which I use) you have to click on the Add-Ins tab; the toolbar then appears under this and you can access all its functions there. I actually rather like this, as it means the toolbar is hidden until you need it. Here's a screengrab with the drop-down tools menu activated...

So what does myWriterTools actually do? It's designed to help writers in a variety of ways. For example, it will help you fix common formatting problems (e.g. replacing all double spaces with a single space), find and replace incorrectly used words, make documents gender neutral, convert US to UK English (or vice versa), and so on. There are also tools to help you improve the readability of your work, e.g. by finding and fixing long words and sentences, and built-in style guides. Other features include:
  • lyRemover - finds and changes unnecessary adverbs ending in -ly
  • JargonBuster - finds and fixes commonly misused words and jargon
  • ClicheCleaver - finds and changes overused cliches
  • GenderBender - finds and replaces sexist language to make documents gender neutral
There is also a built-in back-up tool, which time stamps back-up files with your comments.

myWriterTools does not include generic spelling or grammar checkers, presumably because Word has these already. The program is really designed to extend the range of tools provided within Word and make them more specific to the needs of writers.

Overall, I was impressed with myWriterTools. It is much cheaper than similar products such as WhiteSmoke, while still offering a wide range of features. In fairness to WhiteSmoke, I should point out that their software (which I do also recommend) operates rather differently. It has its own built-in spelling and grammar-checkers and can be used with other text-based applications, including word processors, email programs, web-based forms, and so on. myWriterTools, as I said earlier, can only be used with Microsoft Word.

Nonetheless, if you're looking for help bringing your writing up to the highest possible standard - and you use Word, of course - myWriterTools is well worth the modest price being asked. There is also a slightly more expensive version for proofreaders and editors, offering additional features such as format tags and style sheets.

Incidentally, the latest addition to the myWriterTools product range is myWordCount (scroll down the myWriterTools homepage to see this product). This is a standalone program that will analyze your Word document for word and phrase usage and sentence length. It then produces sortable tables of counts for all words and phrases, and graphs sentence lengths. It looks like a useful tool for polishing your writing, and I'm planning on buying a copy myself (it's on offer for just $9.95 right now). I'll review it here soon.

Finally, just a small note of caution. Programs like myWriterTools and WhiteSmoke can save you time and help you to identify mistakes and weaknesses in your writing, but they are NOT a substitute for learning the rules of grammar and punctuation. My downloadable guide Essential English for Authors covers all the common problem areas, and will bring your written English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Poem by Casey Quinn

As mentioned in this blog post, American poet Casey Quinn visits my blog next week to discuss his new anthology Snapshots of Life.

As a little trailer, I thought today - with Casey's permission - I would reproduce his poem My Niece (as published in Snapshots of Life). I hope you enjoy reading it.

my niece

i talked
to my niece

i had not
seen her
in years

i told her

how tall she got
how grown up she looked,
how smart she seemed.

she told me

how fat i got,
how old i look,
how dumb i am.

it's really great
to catch up
with the family.

As the would-be trendy uncle to two teenage nieces myself, I could really identify with this poem. Although my nieces are far too polite to say anything like that to me, I'm quite sure they must think it at times!

Check back on my blog on Tuesday 26 May to read my interview with Casey and find out more about his poetry and other writing interests, and what tips he has to offer for other aspiring poets. You can also order his book Snapshots of Life via Salvatore Publishing.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Review: The Ultimate Podcasting Kit

The Ultimate Podcasting Kit is a new product from WCCL, who also publish my courses The Wealthy Writer, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

The Ultimate Podcasting Kit is written by Bob Ferris. I must admit Bob is a new name to me - as far I know this is his first WCCL production - but he clearly knows his stuff where podcasting is concerned.

The Ultimate Podcasting Kit is provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format. It is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux. The PDF files are password-protected, but that's only a minor inconvenience. Once you have opened them, you can print out all or any of the pages as you wish.

Like all WCCL products, The Ultimate Podcasting Kit is beautifully produced, and it has clearly been professionally designed and edited. The main manual (I'll get to the bonuses later) weighs in at a substantial but not overwhelming 114 pages. It takes you step by step through everything you need to know to create and publish your very first podcast.

Assuming no prior knowledge, The Ultimate Podcasting Kit starts by explaining what podcasts are and how to find and listen to other people's, before going on to discuss coming up with ideas for your own. The manual looks at the different options for creating podcasts before coming down firmly in favour of the open source (and therefore free) Audacity software. It explains how to record and edit your podcast using Audacity and how to publish it online.

Of course, there is no point creating a podcast unless you can get people to listen to it, so the last part of the main manual discusses how to publicize and promote your podcasts. Five chapters are devoted to this subject, so it's covered in considerable detail.

Three bonus reports are also included. Possibly the most useful is Get Audacious With Audacity. This is a step-by-step guide to using the Audacity software (for which a download link is provided). It's illustrated with plenty of screengrabs, and should be sufficient to get even a complete newbie up and running.

The other reports are Sizzling Interview Techniques and How to Produce Sensational Shows. These include lots of ideas and suggestions to help ensure that your podcasts attract (and keep) listeners.

Overall, I was very impressed with The Ultimate Podcasting Kit. Even by WCCL's high standards, I think it is one of their best products yet. If you want to create and promote your own high-quality podcasts, this kit - along with the free Audacity software - should provide everything you need to get started.

Do I have any criticisms? Not really. If I was being ultra-picky, I might like to have seen some mention of the latest Internet radio services such as Blog Talk Radio, which can help bloggers create their own online radio shows and save them as podcasts. Such services do not, however, give anywhere near the same quality you would get by following the methods set out in The Ultimate Podcasting Kit.

To sum up, if you are interested in podcasting - and more and more writers are using podcasts to help promote themselves and their work - and you want to do it to the highest possible standard, in my view The Ultimate Podcasting Kit would be the ideal guide and resource for you.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

$500 Flash Fiction Contest

Short story writing contests are always popular, so here's a good one you may want to check out.

The e-book publishing service Smashwords, in association with the Editor Unleashed blog and community, is running a flash-fiction writing contest for stories of up to 1000 words on any subject.

There's a top prize of $500 for the winner, plus 39 runner-up prizes of $25. The top 40 stories will also be published in an e-book anthology, and their authors will get free links/publicity via the contest sponsors.

The best news is that there is no entry fee, and the contest is open to anyone in the world.

Submissions are open from May 18 until June 14, 2009. To enter, you have to post your story on the Editor Unleashed forum. Stories will then be ranked by members of the forum, and the 40 winners will be announced on June 30, 2009.

For more information, see this post on the Smashwords blog or this one at Editor Unleashed.

Good luck!

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Special Guest: Danielle Thorne

As previewed in this post, I am delighted today to welcome romantic/historical novelist Danielle Thorne to my blog.

Danielle is visiting as part of a Virtual Book Tour to celebrate the publication of her novel THE PRIVATEER.

Without further ado, then, let's get on with the interview...

* * *

ND: Welcome to my blog, Danielle. Could you start by telling me how you first got into writing. What was your first published book or story?

DT: I was born with stories in my head. I won a national Honorable Mention for poetry with Scholastic in Junior High and went on to pursue poetry and then later freelancing. As a young mother I completed two manuscripts and almost had one published but it fell through. Sadly, it took a tragic car accident that almost took one of my parents to make me accept how unpredictable life is. Since then, I've researched and completed three novels of different genres in the last three years. Two are set to be released this year as an e-book and print; the third is under consideration with a New York publisher at this time.

ND: The Privateer is based in 18th Century England, but you actually live near Atlanta, Georgia. What made you choose to write about this period and setting, and how did you go about researching it?

DT: By the time I reached my thirties I didn't think there was anything left to capture my imagination! Then the film 'Master and Commander' debuted and I fell instantly in love with the Age of Sail. Patrick O'Brian is a master storyteller and I have read all of his series, and other seafaring authors, too.

Sea fiction teaches you that naval officers could be either good or bad; they didn't all fall into one category. Of course, this would apply to pirates, too. I love what Disney did with 'Pirates of the Caribbean'; they took a despicable lot of greedy, bloodthirsty criminals and made one very human. In essence, they made the act of piracy gray: Who were these men? Were they all bad guys? What were their back stories?

THE PRIVATEER is my take. It's about a man forced into piracy at a young age. He uses his intellect and ambition to escape the fate that awaited those pirates who were caught. With his pardon and years of swashbuckling experience, my character, Julius Bertrand, knows he can be of use to the British Navy and he determines to ascend society and become a success.

As we all know, nothing ever turns out as we plan it, so Bertrand has to deal with old enemies who put a bounty on his head to stop him from interfering in some nefarious plans involving diamonds.

The research was no chore. I've always loved history and dabble in UK genealogy. Besides buying books about the era and using the Internet, I spent long hours in the downtown Memphis Library reading reference books and documents from the West Indies. I probably have more pages of notes and copies filed then there are pages of THE PRIVATEER. My favorite part of research, though, was a three-day cruise through the Caribbean. To actually stand at the rail and look out over the ocean and taste the salt in the wind...that brought it all to life for me.

ND: The Privateer is being published as an e-book. Is there any special reason you chose this format rather than conventional print publication?

DT: I actually spent several months pursuing a contract in New York and met with some positive responses. It's such an oversaturated market - when you look at how many authors are trying to get their foot in the door, you appreciate the positive feedback and opportunities.

Finding a publisher that wasn't specialized in just one area was difficult. THE PRIVATEER has a broad appeal - it falls into several genres: historical, adventure, and romantic, so after some close calls I decided to test the waters with e-publishing, since I was more familiar with the process. I started at the top and quickly got a contract with Awe-Struck Publishing. They publish historicals and romances, and were very receptive to the premise of THE PRIVATEER. Looking back, it's the best thing that could have happened. These past three years I have seen e-books explode onto the scene and I am committed 100% to helping e-publishing become as accepted and understood as reading in hard copy.

ND: Could you tell me a bit about your typical working day? Do you have any special writing routines or habits?

DT: I am still raising a family so my writing has to be juggled to fit a busy schedule. I write during school hours and mess around a bit in the late evening if I have things to do. However, when I am engrossed in writing a manuscript, it becomes all encompassing. There are many weeks of fast food and dirty laundry. I've been known to go up to 72 hours without sleep. As my experience grows, I am learning how to balance and organize better, so I look forward to being more productive in the future.

As far as habits, I can't do without index cards. I use them to plan, plot, take notes, you name it. My office is littered with them when they're not laid out on the floor in scene sequences. Another habit I have, and not a good one, is snacking in front of the computer screen when I get stuck on a scene. Bad idea, but putting sugar into my mouth seems to make my brain work better. THE PRIVATEER probably equates to somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen pounds of chocolate. Me and the 3 Musketeers are very close.

ND: Are there any tips or advice you would like to pass on to other aspiring novelists?

DT: When you finish something, start something else. Every manuscript is a learning process and you do get better and better. Another tip is to be open-minded about negative feedback. Some, if not most of it, is well-meant and you need to learn the difference. When you start getting the same kind of comments about your story or style, it's time to be honest with yourself. You can't learn if you don't make mistakes.

ND: What other writing projects are you working on at the moment?

DT: Getting the word out on THE PRIVATEER takes up a lot of time but I enjoy getting to know readers and authors all over the world through blogs like this. On the creative horizon is a modern day sequel to THE PRIVATEER where one of Julius Bertrand's descendants discovers a missing diary and a shipwreck - keys to a hidden treasure. Think Goonies - but all grown up with a lot more romance and smarter adventure.

And then this coming August, my contemporary romance TURTLE SOUP will be released. TURTLE SOUP is a fun short-novel set between the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean, the Georgia Aquarium, and a fictional bakery just down the street. I've posted an excerpt of TURTLE SOUP at my website:

ND: Finally, one question I always like to ask visitors to my blog: What are your three favorite websites, and why?

DT: For absolute crazy pirate fun, you have to check out Swansbrough Manor:

These folks give whole new meaning to the phrase getting in touch with your inner pirate. Every late summer, Mr. Swansbrough begins building his pirate ship as an ADDITION to his home in Central Georgia. The Black Pearl is completed by Halloween night and the whole family and community get involved incognito - swashbuckling around giving pirate tours as visitors come out of their Swansbrough Manor Cemetery...which is actually a private home and front yard. Last year they took donations and were able to buy a kiln for the art department of their elementary school. Everything went to charity, but these pirates put on a great cemetery and pirate show that is funded from out of their own pockets.

My second favorite website would have to be for research purposes. I found more information that I ever dreamed of about Regency England and Jane Austen at Jane Austen's World:

There are even articles on flora and fauna, not to mention the little quirky things no one ever thinks to write up essays on. They have a great search function and always provide up to date programming you can catch to enrich your research.

Last, for genealogical purposes: is great and I made incredible progress with a membership from them, but I always keep on my favorites list because I spend a lot of time there. The best thing about Family Search is simply that it is free. It provides free, no-membership access to the IGI (International Genealogical Index) and has a lot more information on how to get started on genealogy and find other resources. I don't just love the history of Sail, I love my own, too!

* * *

Thank you very much to Danielle for answering my questions in such fascinating detail - I now feel much more in touch with my own inner pirate!

If you enjoyed reading about THE PRIVATEER, do check out Danielle's website - and, if you think you might enjoy reading the book, consider paying the modest fee to download it from Awe-Struck Publishing.

By the way, while exploring Danielle's website, I noticed that she has created a nifty video trailer to help promote her book. I asked Danielle how she did this. She was kind enough to provide a detailed reply, but I'll save it for another time. Something else to look forward to!

I hope you've enjoyed hearing about Danielle and her book today, and that it may have inspired you to redouble your efforts to achieve your own writing goals.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Wealthy Writer FAQ

My new downloadable course The Wealthy Writer - co-written with Ruth Barringham - has been out for a few weeks now.

I'm getting great feedback from buyers (see this review and this blog comment, for example), but I'm also receiving quite a few questions. So I thought I'd publish my answers to the most frequently asked here...

1. What's the difference between The Wealthy Writer and Quick Cash Writing?

Quick Cash Writing is my guide to making money writing short items for (mainly) traditional publishing media. It covers writing articles, fillers, short stories, greeting card ideas, jokes and comedy sketches, and so on.

The Wealthy Writer, on the other hand, is entirely about making money writing for online markets, including blogging, e-book writing, online article writing, bidding on job auction sites, and so forth.

2. How long will The Wealthy Writer be available at its current discount price?

I don't know the answer to this, I'm afraid. Pricing is entirely in the hands of my publishers, The WCCL Network, and they could in theory decide to raise the price at any time. I'm not aware of any immediate plans to do so, but even so I wouldn't leave it too long if you're thinking of buying.

3. Who is the Wealthy Writer aimed at? Is it suitable for anyone?

The Wealthy Writer has been written primarily for writers who have some knowledge of the Internet and are taking their first steps in making money online from their writing skills. It's also suitable for people with more experience who are looking to bring their online earnings up to the next level.

The course does not assume any special knowledge of website building, programming, HTML, and so forth. If you're brand new to the Internet, however, it might not be 100% suitable for you until have a bit more experience of the online world.

4. I have a query about the ordering process. Whom can I ask?

My publishers, The WCCL Network, have a 24-hour customer support website at If you have any queries about ordering, raise a ticket there and one of their trained technicians will get back to you with an answer, normally within 24 hours. is also the place to go if you need technical support with the course, or encounter any problems downloading it.

5. Can you tell me who wrote which chapters?

The Wealthy Writer was a collaborative project between myself and Ruth Barringham. We both worked on every chapter.

I wrote the initial draft of some chapters where I had the greater knowledge or experience, e.g. blogging; and likewise for Ruth, who wrote the initial draft of the chapter on e-book publishing, for example. However, every chapter of the completed course contains input from both of us.

6. How do you recommend approaching the course - there's so much in it?!

It's true, The Wealthy Writer has a LOT of content. In retrospect, we could and perhaps should have produced a number of shorter guides and made more money out of them. However, we wanted to produce one comprehensive guide which covers all the main ways of making money as an online writer - and that is, I hope, what we ended up with.

As we say in the course, we recommend that you do NOT try to do everything covered in The Wealthy Writer at once. Rather, pick one or (at most) two areas and focus on them. Once these are up and running successfully, you can then think about applying some of the other methods described in the course.

7. How do I get the special bonuses you are offering?

The Wealthy Writer already includes a number of bonus items - see the main sales page for more info. However, as a special thank-you to people ordering via my web page, I'm offering two additional bonus items to people who order via my website only.

The bonuses concern the micro-blogging service Twitter, and together explain how writers can use Twitter to help boost their online earnings. Please see my web page for more details, including how to claim your extra bonuses from me. Basically, though, all you have to do is go to the sales site via my link, and send me an email to let me know once you have made your purchase. As soon as I have confirmed this, I will send you my bonus reports.

Finally, if you have any other queries about The Wealthy Writer, please post them below as Comments and I will do my very best to answer them. Alternatively, use the Contact Me form if you don't want your question (and my answer) to appear publicly.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Wealthy Writer Just Launched!

I'm excited to reveal that my latest WCCL course The Wealthy Writer has just been launched!

The Wealthy Writer is a complete guide for authors on how they can make money writing for the Internet. I wrote it in collaboration with successful author/publisher Ruth Barringham.

In The Wealthy Writer, we aimed to cover all the main ways writers can make money writing for the Internet. They include:
  • blogging
  • writing website copy
  • short report writing
  • e-book writing
  • article writing
  • affiliate marketing
  • selling your writing services via job auction sites
  • setting up a writer's website
  • advertising online for writing work
  • and many more!
The Wealthy Writer represents the culmination of the project I began with Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, my top-selling guide to book writing, and Quick Cash Writing, which covers faster ways of making money from writing: articles, short stories, comedy writing, and so on.

I had been aware for a while that what was still needed was a dedicated guide to making money writing for online markets. The Wealthy Writer is the last piece of the jigsaw - and it was great to be working on it with Ruth, who has experience of some areas I don't know quite as well (and vice versa).

Anyway, I'm not going to go on too long here about The Wealthy Writer. I'd simply like to invite you to click through any of the links in this post to visit a page of my website where I've included an extract from the course and details of a unique special offer for anyone buying it via my site!

With the aid of the Internet and this guide, you really can become The Wealthy Writer of the title!

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ten Top Tips on Grammar and Punctuation

I have a particular interest in the 'nuts and bolts' of good writing. In the time I've been writing this blog I have discussed this subject on various occasions.

So in this post - written for Problogger's 31 Days To Build A Better Blog challenge - I thought I would list ten of my favorite such posts.

1. What Mr Sanders Taught Me

In one of my earliest posts, I reveal a valuable rule taught to me by my old English teacher, Mr Sanders (God rest his soul). If you're ever unsure where to place a possessive apostrophe, this rule will tell you.

2. Representing Thoughts in Fiction

This is a question that keeps arising on my writing forum. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are certain guidelines to bear in mind. In this post I set out my advice.

3. There's the Problem...

Who would have though an innocuous word like 'there' could create so many problems for writers? And yet, time and again, it trips up even professional authors and journalists.

4. Question Marks in Mid-Sentence

Question marks in mid-sentence - are they grammatical or not? It's a contentious area, but in this post I try to throw a little light on the issue.

5. Tense in Fiction

Should you use past tense or present tense for your novel or short story? In this post I examine the pros and cons.

6. Sean and the Vocative Comma

Many aspiring writers are unaware of the vocative comma and the rules governing its use - but if you omit or misuse it, you may end up inadvertently giving your readers entirely the wrong message!

7. Capitalizing Names

This old post gets a lot of search engine traffic, even today. In it I discuss the rules regarding whether you should write Dad or dad, Uncle or uncle.

8. Using Trademarked Terms in Fiction

This is another of those issues that many beginning writers agonize over - probably unnecessarily in many cases, as this post reveals.

9. What's a Worn?

In this post I discuss the importance of proofreading your work before submitting it, and offer a few tips about this. What's a worn? Read the post to find out!

10. Bad Grammar in a Holiday Brochure

In this post I talk about a grammatical mistake I spotted in a holiday brochure, and go on to discuss the correct use of a number of related prepositions.

Incidentally, if you would like a complete guide to bringing your English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time, you might like to check out my downloadable course Essential English for Authors, available from WCCL (see banner below).

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Filedbyauthor: a New Promotional Website for Authors

A quick mention today for a new website that offers free publicity for anyone with a book published in the US or Canada.

Filedbyauthor aims to provide a promotional platform for any such writer, by giving them a free, hosted, and e-commerce-enabled web page, ready to be claimed and enhanced. They say:
"With more than 1.8 million pre-assembled author web pages and over 7 million book titles, Filedbyauthor is the most complete site for finding and engaging with authors and their work."
Any published author (or co-author) can access and update their author page, which is linked to individual work pages. In addition to the free level, Filedbyauthor has two paid-for membership levels offering additional web marketing tools. These include blogs, additional linking and media postings, event listings, online press kits, and banner customization.

Filedbyauthor isn't just for authors, though. Any reader can join the Filedbyauthor community and start connecting with authors. Readers can fill in their own pages, collect favorite authors and books, write reviews, rate works and authors, and comment through wall postings.

Although most of my books are published in the UK rather than North America, I qualified for inclusion on the site by virtue of a couple of titles and duly claimed my page. I haven't done much with it yet, but you can see it if you like by clicking on the banner (provided automatically by the site) below.

View Nick Daws's profile on FiledBy

It's early days for Filedbyauthor - and the site itself is still in beta - but already it looks as though it may become an important resource for both writers and readers world-wide. If you've had any books published in North America, in my view it's well worth claiming your author page now.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

What New Writing Product Would YOU Most Like to See?

My colleague Karl Moore of The WCCL Network - who publish several of my writing courses - wants to know what new writing course or product he should produce next. And he's looking for ideas and suggestions from readers of my blog.

For those who don't know, WCCL already produce a wide range of writers' resources, from my own Quick Cash Writing and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, to Travel Writing Secrets and Movie in a Month. You can see the whole range on their WriteStreet portal.

So what new product or course would YOU most like to see next from WCCL? A few suggestions already made include:

* Freelance journalism course
* How to profit from writing/selling e-books
* Proofreading and editing course
* Comedy writing course
* Short story writing for fun and profit
* How to win writing competitions

If you particularly like (or dislike) any of these ideas, Karl would like to know. But ALL ideas and suggestions are very welcome. This is your chance to have a say in the future development of WCCL - and there may even be commissions on offer for suitably qualified writers!

So put your thinking cap on, and post your suggestions as comments below - or, if you prefer, write directly to Karl at karl @ He's waiting to hear from you!

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Five Things I Wish I'd Known as a New Freelance Writer...

I've been a full-time freelance for nearly twenty years now. I've made a few mistakes along the way, but I've learned a lot as well. So what advice would I give to anyone starting out on this path today? Here are five things I really wish I'd known all those years ago...

1. You Don't Have to Know Everything

When I was beginning my writing career, I worried a lot about what I didn't know.

Every time I came across a word I hadn't seen before, rather than view it as an opportunity to learn something new, I took it as a further sign that my vocabulary wasn't wide enough to succeed as a writer. (In fact, I now realise that while having a good vocabulary is definitely an asset, you could go through an entire writing career without ever knowing the meaning of palimpsest, clepsydra, ursine, and many more...)

It wasn't just vocabulary either. I worried that I didn't know whether I should use "toward" or "towards", "forever" or "for ever", "continuous" or "continual", and many more. And I could waste a whole morning agonizing over whether I should use a dash or a colon in my opening paragraph.

What I realise now is that most of these things matter little. Quite often, either choice will be acceptable. My advice to a new writer today would be to get a good dictionary and style guide, and refer to these whenever you're in doubt. But if you're still not sure, just make your best guess and move on. The chances are that whatever you choose, your editor will change it anyway!

The Americans have a very good expression for this: Don't sweat the small stuff.

2. It Pays to Specialize

There are lots of other would-be freelance writers out there, so you need to do whatever you can to make yourself stand out. For me, anyway, that has meant specializing.

Specializing has all sorts of advantages for a freelance writer. If you are regarded as an "expert" in your field, editors and publishers will turn to you when they need a writer on the subject in question. In addition, because of your perceived expertise, you may be able to charge a higher rate than an "ordinary" freelance.

Don't just stop at one specialism, though. Try to develop a number. My specialist subjects include self-employment, advertising and PR, careers, the Internet, gambling for profit, popular psychology, English grammar, writing for profit, and several more. At least then, if there is a fall in demand for one of your specialisms (as has happened for me in recent years with careers writing), you have other strings to your bow.

My advice to a new writer would be to start with an area you know a lot about, or have a particular interest in, and make it your business to become an "expert" in that field. Write a few articles about it, perhaps for low-paying markets when you're getting started. Once you have published some work on your specialism, people will start to regard you as an expert in it, and more work is likely to follow. By researching more articles and talking to "real" experts, you will build up your store of knowledge, until you really are something of an expert in your chosen field. It's worked for me, anyway ;-)

3. Don't Take Criticism Too Seriously

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you shouldn't listen to constructive feedback on your work. However, you should evaluate it carefully and be prepared to reject it if you don't agree with it.

Remember that judgements about quality (or otherwise) are often subjective. There's a story I tell in my CD course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days about a time when I regularly wrote careers information articles for a large UK publishing house. These were basically four-page articles about different jobs.

I submitted my articles to one particular editor at the publishing house. Invariably they came back to me covered in red ink, with insertions, deletions and transpositions all over the place. I tried to learn from her comments and improve, but still every time the articles came back changed almost beyond recognition. She still put the edited articles through, but I honestly felt like a schoolboy whose report card read, "Could do better".

Then I got a new editor - a man this time, as it happens. I submitted my latest article to him, and waited for it to come back to me covered in red ink as usual. And waited. And waited. So eventually I phoned him up and asked what had happened to my article. "Oh that," he said, sounding surprised I had even mentioned it. "It was fine, so I put it through for publication."

The truth is that in writing, as in life, everyone has different views of what is good and what is bad. So listen to criticism by all means, but try to evaluate it objectively, and always feel free to reject it if you think it's wrong. And never, ever, take criticism personally.

4. You've GOT to Put Yourself About!

However good a writer you are, no publisher or editor is going to beat a path to your door. Especially when you are starting out, you must be prepared to send off torrents of query letters, emails, book proposals, and so on. Look for publishers seeking writers - the Writers Wanted board of my forum at is one good place to start - and if a vacancy looks interesting, fire off an application.

Put yourself about in the flesh too. Join your local writers' circle, go on writers' courses and conferences, volunteer to give talks, and run classes in adult education. In the online world, set up a writing homepage and/or a blog, and join at least one writers forum. And sign up at social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and FaceBook. All of this will help raise your profile as a writer, and make it more likely that potential clients will get in touch with you.

And also under this heading I'd add, build up your network of useful contacts. These can come from all sorts of places: fellow writers you meet, proofreaders and editors you work with, folk you meet on courses, people you interview for articles, people you connect with via online services such as Twitter, and so on. Nowadays, at least half of all the new writing opportunities that come my way do so as a result of networking.

5. Enthusiasm isn't Everything - Maybe Just 90%...

OK, I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek here, but one thing experience (mine and other people's) has taught me is that enthusiasm will carry you a long way as a writer. I'm sure it's true in other fields as well, but clients generally are more inclined to hire writers who are enthusiastic about their work rather than those who seem simply to be going through the motions.

Obviously, you DO need in addition the writing skills and other qualities to deliver a good job. Without enthusiasm, however, you will probably never get the chance to demonstrate that you have these skills and qualities.

Look at it this way. If an editor gets two applications, one from someone who is relatively inexperienced but brimming with enthusiasm, the other from someone with an impressive CV who sounds as though they could barely be bothered to get of bed this morning, nine times out of ten it's the writer with the enthusiasm who will get the gig, even if they may not have as much experience. It's human nature that we all respond better to people who have a positive attitude themselves.

So before sending off an application for any writing job, ask yourself honestly: Do I really sound as if I want this job? Do I appear excited by the prospect of working with this company? Can the client see that I am bursting with ideas and raring to do a good job for him? Or, conversely, does my application sound half-hearted? Does it sound as though I don't really expect to get the job, and don't much care one way or the other? If the latter is the case, hit "Delete" and start again. You MUST, MUST, MUST convey enthusiasm in all your applications and proposals!

If you have any other useful hints or tips for new writers, feel free to add them below as comments.

Happy writing!

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Two Free Events in April to Sign up to Now

I wanted to give you a heads-up today about a couple of free events running next month you might like to sign up for.

The first is ScriptFrenzy. This is an annual event run along similar lines to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), though a bit less well-known.

As the name indicates, ScriptFrenzy is aimed at scriptwriters. Participants commit to writing 100 pages of scripted material for any dramatic medium in the month of April.

As with NaNoWriMo, there is no fee to participate, and no prizes are awarded for the 'best' scripts. Every writer who achieves the goal of completing 100 pages gets a ScriptFrenzy Winner's Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact. But really, the main aim is to challenge yourself to get a substantial script-writing project completed in 30 days, and have fun while doing so.

You can visit the ScriptFrenzy website by clicking on any of the links in this blog post. Here you can register for this year's event and check out the wide range of writers' resources on offer. You can also join the ScriptFrenzy Forum and get help and advice from fellow ScriptFrenzy participants.

Incidentally, don't forget that my sponsors, WCCL, produce a CD called called Movie in a Month, which could be an ideal resource if you want to complete a movie-writing project for ScriptFrenzy.

The other event running in April is aimed squarely at bloggers. It's called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, and is being run by Darren Rowse of the hugely popular Problogger blog.

Each day from 1 April to 1 May Darren will be posting an assignment for participants with two aspects to it:
  • a teaching component (theory)
  • a practical component (a task/homework)
Darren says the tasks are designed for beginner and newer bloggers, but many will be relevant to intermediate and more advanced bloggers also.

If you want to participate in this event, click on 31 Days to Build a Better Blog to go to the relevant post on Darren's blog, where you will be asked to register your email address. You will then receive one email per day over the 31 days from 1 April to 1 May, notifying you that a new post is up and giving you the link to it, as well as providing some extra information for registered participants.

You don't have to register to take part in 31 Days to Build a Better Blog - you could just read and follow the instructions in Darren's daily blog posts - but registering will give you access to more information and (apparently) a couple of special bonuses.

Good luck if you decide to sign up for either of these events. I've registered for 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, so hopefully you may see a few improvements around here in the weeks ahead!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Contests Week: Final Round-Up

Last week was Contests Week on my forum at, and this week the winners were revealed.

In this post I'll be publishing the winners of all five contests, and also setting out a few thoughts on the contests from a judge's perspective.

The first challenge, set on Monday, was to write a story in exactly 100 words including three essential words (envelope, jocular, precursor). The prize, a copy of WCCL's Novel in a Month, was won by Grognoth, with the following entry:

The Fear of All Mothers Whose Sons Went to War
by Grognoth

The news was bad; the fleet had come under attack at night. Philip's ship had been torpedoed. Few men survived, many were unaccounted for.

Having read the naval letter, Sally believed it was a precursor for worse to come. "Missing in action; presumed dead." No words of comfort, just the official cold line.

Sally waited before nervously picking up the beige envelope. An hour and three cups of tea later, she opened it.

"Dear Mum, in hospital and in jocular mood, though don't know why; so many friends gone. Love you."

Sally returned the paper to the envelope and cried.

You can read the winner and runners-up, and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published here anonymously as a Word attachment.

Tuesday's contest was to write a haiku including two out of three set words (smoke, lake, paper). The prize was a copy of WCCL's Writer's Block CD. The winner of this challenge was a new member, Rohi Shetty, with the following beautifully crafted entry:

Haiku: an ink-clad
thought on paper; lovely like
the lake at sunrise.

You can read the winner and runners-up (which included another of Rohi's poems), and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published anonymously here as a Word attachment.

Wednesday's Contest was to write a radio commercial for The prize was a copy of WCCL's Ultimate Copywriter guide. The winner was brimstone with the following entry:

Female1: What are you looking so chuffed about?
Female2: I've just had my first short story accepted by a magazine.
Female1: Didn't know you could write!
Female2: Neither did I. Then I joined this website called It's for people who like to write. You should check it out Jill.
Female1: I'm hopeless at writing.
Female2: Me too. But on we review each other's work. Share ideas. It's improved my writing a lot. It's fun and it's free.
Female1: Free?
Female2: That's right. And I've met some lovely people online.
If I can learn to write, anybody can.

Male announcer: Want to improve your writing? At we help each other write. Visit us now at

Female1: I checked out that website last night.
Female2: And?
Female1: You were right it's fun.
Female2: Told you.
Female1: Booker Prize. Here I come!

They chuckle.

You can read the winner and runners-up, and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published anonymously here as a Word attachment.

Incidentally, our forum administrator and sponsor Karl Moore has already recorded this ad for possible future use on his online radio station WritersFM - click here to listen to it on YouTube!

Thursday's challenge was to write a travel article about your best-ever or worst-ever vacation. The prize was a copy of WCCL's Travel Writing Secrets, and the winner was Sellit with this entry:

Wet and Wild Dominica, an Island for the Adventurous

Dominica is for nature lovers who crave a taste of the wild side. Don't expect resorts, gourmet cuisine, and upscale shopping. Pack your hiking boots and a swimsuit. Prepare to encounter 365 rivers, lush rain forests, waterfalls, amazing sea life, and narrow mountain roads. Dominica remains a largely undeveloped island where tourism and ecosystem coexist.

When our cruise ship docked, we anticipated a day of adventure. We were not disappointed. Two shore excursions provided memories we'll cherish for a lifetime.

Skirting the rugged volcanic shoreline aboard the Sting Ray II, dolphins set a tone of expectation as they frolicked beside our vessel. The boat's hydrophone picked up the clicks of conversing whales. Words cannot capture the thrill of racing to intercept these fascinating creatures. A pod of ten sperm whales surfaced like enormous gray submarines. Giant waterspouts blew from their noses. They posed for pictures and waved perfect flukes as they departed with the precision of a choreographed diving team.

A unique glimpse of motherhood came when a young whale surfaced to swallow and then dove several times to nurse. Both mother and child provided a splendid view of flukes when they departed.

Sun-baked by our morning with the dolphins and whales, we departed for a jeep ride into the mountains. These aptly named Wacky Rollers traversed riverbeds and wound along narrow roads high in the rainforest.

A short hike crossed a river via a footbridge and led to a dark opening between sheer black cliffs. Brave souls entered the river's frigid water and swam between the towering cliffs. A magnificent waterfall, plunging into Ti Tou Gorge, was our reward. Sunlight filtered through overhanging foliage at the top of the narrow chasm as we drifted out on the current. Invigorated by our adventure, we stood in the water of a warm spring that drops into the pool outside the pseudo cave.

'The Pirates of the Caribbean' movies used Ti Tou Gorge and other locations around Dominica during filming. It wasn't hard to imagine pirates sailing the shores or roaming the trails of this wet, wild island.

You can read the winner and runners-up, and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published anonymously here as a Word attachment.

The winner of this contest (real name Melinda) wrote to thank me, and added, 'I'm hoping to break into the travel writing area, so this win is a big bonus for me. I really wanted this prize.' Great to hear that, Melinda!

Our final, Friday challenge was to write a scene for any dramatic medium featuring three people in a restaurant. The prize was a copy of WCCL's premium product Movie in a Month. The winner was sue91353 with the following entry:

Meeting at the Angry Yeti

Man and woman seated at table in center of room. Both wear chain mail armor.

Serving wench drops off drinks and food and winks at man, whispers something in his ear. He grins.

Food and drink are consumed. Man stands.

Beauregard: I'm off, don't wait for me. I'll see you in the morning.

Elspeth: How do you do it? Every town we go to, there's a wench with room in her bed for you. And you're not even pretty.

Beauregard: (Shrugs) I treat them right.

Elspeth waves him away and sits back with her drink.

She looks around. A man is staring at her, looking her up and down. He looks at her face and she raises an eyebrow. He smiles. She turns away.

Tall, red haired man, bearded, muscular, leather armor, stands in front of table.

Tannik: May I join you?

Elspeth: (points to chair and nods)

Tannik: Your friend left you.

Elspeth: He had obligations.

Tannik: (Looks off in distance) So I see.

Beauregard and serving wench are climbing the back stairs.

Elspeth: What brings you to my table?

Tannik: (Smiles) I have obligations. And you are the most interesting one I've seen in a while.

Elspeth: (Laughs, shakes her head) I've been on the road all winter, I'm only here to drink.

Tannik: Then I'll escort you home when you've had your fill.

Elspeth: I need no protection.

Tannik: I suspect not. But I would like to anyway.

A chair flies by, loud voices in background.
Elspeth chugs her drink, stands.

Elspeth: Last thing I need is a brawl. You can escort me home now.

Tannik: Indeed. I'm glad I'm not on duty.

Exit pub. Warder at door hands back their weapons. Elspeth straps on great sword, dragon-hilted, ruby eyes, outspread wings form guard. Tannik hoists battle axe.

Tannik: I see you really don't need protection.

Elspeth: (Smiles) No, but you might.

Laughing, exit building.

You can read the winner and runners-up, and members' comments about them, on this forum topic. All of the entries are also published anonymously here as a Word attachment.

I and my fellow judges really enjoyed judging the Contest Week entries, although it was a lot of work for us as well! Here are a few tips based on our experience of judging the contests that I hope may be helpful to anyone entering writing contests on MWC (or anywhere else) in future...

1. Most important of all, obey the contest rules. We didn't actually disqualify anyone for failing to do this, but nonetheless an entry that clearly didn't follow the instructions had no chance of winning. A good example was the radio commercial contest, where several people wrote ads for other products or services, and not for as instructed.

2. It's also very important to pay attention to the instructions and how they are worded. In Friday's Challenge we asked for a script that would 'reveal something interesting about the characters' and also 'make us want to see/hear more'. Our winner and runners-up did this, but some of the other scripts were really more like comedy sketches, with two-dimensional characters whose sole purpose was to lead up to a punch-line. As such they might have worked well, but it wasn't really what we were looking for in this challenge.

3. Try to come up with an original slant. In contests where certain elements are required (as in many of the Contests Week challenges) a lot of people inevitably adopt a similar, predictable line, and this can become a bit wearing for the judges. When we see someone who has found an original slant different from anything we have come across before, inevitably we take a bit more interest.

4. And finally, check and double-check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. The overall standard was actually quite good, but a few entries were let down by lack of attention to the basics. Again, no entry is likely to win a writing contest if it is littered with mistakes of this nature.

Once again, thank you very much to everyone who took part in Contests Week, to the moderators who put so much time and effort into judging the challenges, and (of course) to Karl Moore from WCCL, who generously donated the prizes. Don't forget you can see a wide range of WCCL's great-value courses and products for writers on their dedicated website at

Watch out for more exciting contests and challenges on the world's favorite writing forum soon!

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Special Guest: Kristin Callender

As previewed in this post, I am delighted today to welcome new novelist Kristin Callender to my blog. Kristin is visiting as part of a Virtual Book Tour to celebrate the publication of her novel The Truth Lies in the Dark.

Without further ado, then, let me hand you over to Kristin, who will tell you all about her book, and share some tips for other aspiring novelists...

* * *

Hi, writers and readers. I am Kristin Callender, author of The Truth Lies in the Dark. First, I would like to take a second to thank Nick Daws for having me as a guest on his blog. And, of course, I thank you for spending some of your time to read about my publishing journey.

The Truth Lies in the Dark is a mystery about Amanda, who has no memory of her life as a child. Raised by her protective grandparents, she knows only what they have told her about her past and her family. But reoccurring nightmares tell her something different, and leave her feeling like a stranger in her own mind. Then her grandfather leaves her an unfinished letter that confirms her doubts and fears. As she begins to search for her true identity she finds that everyone in her life has been keeping a life-changing secret from her, even her loving husband, Nick. In the end she must answer the two most important questions: Who is trying to help her, and who is trying to make sure the truth remains 'in the dark'?

Before I share my experiences with you, let me just say that I am not an expert telling you the right and wrong ways to get published. I am still an aspiring author myself, and want to share what has worked for me. With that said, I hope that you find something here to help you in your writing and publishing journey.

I had wanted to write a book for a long time, but with four children and a million other things always going on, I didn't think it could be done. My own self-doubt didn't help either. I had been taking college classes, one a semester at first, for years. In 2006 I finally earned a degree and was planning on working in my town as a substitute teacher. I had started The Truth Lies in the Dark that summer, with a pen and a pad while I watched my kids at the park. Very quickly the characters and their stories came to life in my head, but it was harder finding the time and confidence to get it all on paper. I actually set it aside and began getting ready to start substituting. Then, as the school year got closer, I started having dreams about the book. That was how I got the idea for a part at the end when Amanda uses the natural echo of a lake to confuse someone who is looking to harm her (I don't want to give away too much, LOL!). I knew then that I had to seriously try to finish, just to prove to myself that I could. So the kids went back to school and I sat down at the computer and wrote. Once I took it seriously, I finished the book in two months. By November I was sending out queries to publishers.

The question I am always asked is, How did you know what to do and whom to send your book to? I researched and read everything I could get my hands on, mostly online. I came across John Kremer's website (, which I still visit regularly when I get stuck or frustrated with marketing. John's advice and links have helped me better understand this new world of publishing and led me to more helpful sites, like this one. Many writers' websites said to get the newest edition of Writer's Market, published by Writer's Digest Books. I remember cringing over the price at the bookstore, still not completely believing that I would actually be published.

Writer's Market helped me with everything from what a query letter was, how to write one, and what every publisher was currently looking for. I sent out about 12 queries, and then waited day after day for any response. I would meet the mailman at the edge of my lawn, until he started looking at me strangely; like I was interested in him and not what mail he had for me. Then the rejections started coming. Then, just when I figured that every publisher I chose was going to say 'no thanks', I got two requests to see my whole manuscript. In June 2007 I signed a contract with Blue Water Press out of Florida. The Truth Lies in the Dark was published in November 2008.

The most surprising thing I learned during this process was how much work is takes to market a book. Like a lot of new authors, I thought that writing the book was the hard part. I researched it enough to anticipate some involvement in my own marketing, but never did I expect it to become a full time job. I have learned so much and am surprised how much I have enjoyed most of it. Meeting other authors, joining writers' groups and sharing publishing stories has been great.

If I could give other new authors some advice it would be find out everything you can about writing, publishing, and marketing. That way you will have a good idea what to expect and be able to stay focused on your goals during the frustrating times. And there will be a lot of frustrating times, but that only allows you to enjoy the good times more.

I am currently working on another mystery, and have a romance under consideration at a publisher in New York City. I hope to have more news about that soon.

Nick asked me what my three favorite websites were (I gather he asks all visiting writers to his blog this!). I have found something I liked about so many of them, it is hard to pick only three, but here goes... - A great site that offers advice and ideas for every step of the publishing process. - You can join specific groups or just talk to other writers and readers in the open forum. I have joined more writing groups like this. It is good to have a place to talk about the frustrations and good days with other writers.

And finally, I have to say Twitter. I am new and still figuring it all out, but am enjoying it. My Twitter address is Do follow me if you want!

You can continue to follow my Book Blog Tour by going to my website and checking out my schedule. You will find a lot more information there too. You can see pictures of the original artwork used for my cover, which was painted by my teenage son. He is a talented artist, and I am proud to be able to share this accomplishment with him.

Thank you again for taking the time to get to know me a little better. If you have any questions or comments you can find contact information on my website. I wish all of you good luck on your own writing journeys. The Truth Lies in the Dark is available from this page of the bookstore and is the 'Featured Book of the Month' at

* * *

Thank you very much to Kristin for providing such a detailed and interesting account of her publishing journey. I hope that it may have inspired other would-be novelists among you, and that if you enjoy thrillers you may want to check out The Truth Lies in the Dark for yourself.

I look forward to hearing about further publishing successes by Kristin soon. Remember where you read about her first!

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Contests Week: Monday Challenge Results

Last week was Contests Week on my forum at, and this week the winners will be revealed.

Monday's challenge was to write a story in exactly 100 words including three essential words (envelope, jocular, precursor).

We received over 50 entries to this contest, and the overall standard was amazingly high (so much so that the judging took a lot longer than anticipated). There can only be one winner, however, so I am delighted to reveal that this was Grognoth, with the following entry:

The Fear of All Mothers Whose Sons Went to War
by Grognoth

The news was bad; the fleet had come under attack at night. Philip's ship had been torpedoed. Few men survived, many were unaccounted for.

Having read the naval letter, Sally believed it was a precursor for worse to come. "Missing in action; presumed dead." No words of comfort, just the official cold line.

Sally waited before nervously picking up the beige envelope. An hour and three cups of tea later, she opened it.

"Dear Mum, in hospital and in jocular mood, though don't know why; so many friends gone. Love you."

Sally returned the paper to the envelope and cried.

I will be in touch with Grognoth to arrange delivery of his prize, a copy of WCCL's Novel in a Month.

There were two runners-up in this contest, both of whom came within a single vote of the winner. Both Annvh and kk should consider themselves Highly Commended, therefore. I'm sorry there was only one prize! Here are their entries:

Never Again
by Annvh

Jenny's eyelids remained defiantly shut, ignoring the insistent beep of her alarm clock. As she eased one arm from beneath her duvet to tap the snooze button, her hand brushed against a package lying on the pillow next to her. Consciousness surfaced with jagged shafts of light flickering at the edge of her vision; the precursor of a blinding migraine; and images of last night's excesses forced her eyes wide open.

"Well, open the envelope," a teasing, jocular voice called from the doorway. "It'll help you remember."

Photos, of bits she didn't know she had.

"Call it a hangover cure."

Kids Rule!
by kk

We met at Fenway Park, huge fans of the Red Sox, never missing a game; a precursor to falling in love. We married; had babies. Life together was perfect; agreeing on everything - where we lived; children; life was good.

Finding that envelope with the photo of him and Marybeth - together - like that - it nearly killed me. Nothing could have prepared me. Devastated, I confronted him one fateful day.

"What's this?" I demanded, presenting the photo of little Marybeth; Yankees cap ruining her toddler's jocular innocence.

"Well," he replied, "I couldn't resist"; "As she says, 'Yankees rule, Red Sox drool.'"

Congratulations again to our winner and runners-up, and thank you to everyone else who entered. For those who are interested, on my forum post I have attached a separate Word file including all the entries, listed anonymously. See if you agree with the judges or not!

The results of Tuesday's challenge will be published on the Writing Games and Challenges board tomorrow. Note that I will not be publishing the results on this blog every day this week as well - I have a few other things I want to blog about - but I will include a round-up of all the winners on Friday.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Contests Week: Friday Challenge

All this week has been CONTESTS WEEK on

Every day we've posted a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

The final, Friday Challenge is now open - and as it's 'lucky' Friday 13th, it's a humdinger! This time, we're asking you to write a short scene set in a restaurant, in any dramatic medium of your choice!

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of WCCL's flagship product (well, one of them) Movie in a Month. This is a complete guide to film screenwriting on CD-ROM.

Movie in a Month was written by three successful screenwriters, two in the US and one in the UK. As well as a set of informative manuals, it also includes over 850 actual TV and movie scripts and treatments, and a complete, fully-featured screenplay writing and formatting program. The full normal price of Movie in a Month is $97.

As always you have just 24 hours to complete this challenge, with a final deadline of 9 am GMT on Saturday 14 March. For full details of this exciting contest, see Contests Week: Friday Challenge.

Just to remind you, the results of all the Contests Week challenges will be announced next week, with Monday's winner announced on Monday 16 March, and the winner of today's contest on Friday 20 March.

Good luck in today's challenge. Whether or not you are one of our winners, I do hope you have enjoyed Contests Week, and that you will continue to return regularly to!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Contests Week: Thursday Challenge

All this week from Monday to Friday it's CONTESTS WEEK! on

Every day we're posting a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

The Thursday Challenge is now open. This time we're asking you to write a short travel article describing your best-ever or worst-ever vacation!

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of WCCL's Travel Writing Secrets. This is a complete guide for any writer who enjoys travelling and wants to make money writing about it.

For full details of this exciting contest, see Contests Week: Thursday Challenge.

By the way, following the huge response to our first two challenges, we have had to delay announcing the results slightly, to allow more time for the judges to discuss the entries and vote on them. All results will now be announced next week, with Monday's winner announced on Monday 16 March, and so on.

Good luck in today's challenge, and watch out for the biggest prize of the week in Friday's final contest - all brought to you by courtesy of our sponsors WCCL, in association with the world's favorite writers' forum!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Contests Week: Wednesday Challenge

All this week from Monday to Friday it's CONTESTS WEEK! on

Every day we're posting a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

Tuesday's challenge is now closed. I'm pleased to say we received a huge response to our haiku contest, so please bear with us while we judge the winner. This will be announced on the forum, and we will also publish all the other entries, so you can see whether you agree with our decision or not!

In the meantime, Wednesday's Challenge is now open. This time we're asking you to put on your copywriter's hat and write a radio commercial for

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of WCCL's market-leading guide The Ultimate Copywriter. This is written for any writer who wants to break in to the exciting and well-paid world of advertising copywriting.

For full details of this contest, see Contests Week: Wednesday Challenge. And watch out for more writing challenges with great prizes every day this week on the world's favorite writers' forum!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Contests Week: Tuesday Challenge Now Posted!

All this week from Monday to Friday it's CONTESTS WEEK! on

Every day we're posting a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

Monday's challenge is now closed. I'm pleased to say we received a huge response to our Flash Fiction contest, so please bear with us while we judge the winner. This will be announced as soon as possible, and we will also publish all the other entries, so you can see whether you agree with our decision or not!

In the meantime, Tuesday's Challenge is now open. This time we're asking you to write a haiku - a form of syllabic poetry - incorporating two out of three particular words set out in the contest rules.

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of WCCL's amazing Writer's Block CD, which is intended not only to help writers overcome writer's block but also to boost their creativity.

For full details of this contest, see Contests Week: Tuesday Challenge. And watch out for more writing challenges with great prizes every day this week on the world's favorite writers' forum!

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Contests Week: First Challenge Now Posted!

All this week from Monday to Friday it's CONTESTS WEEK on!

Every day we're posting a quick-fire 24-hour writing challenge, with great prizes of software for writers donated by our sponsors (and my publishers) WCCL.

I'm excited to reveal that the first challenge is now open. We're asking you to write a short story of 100 words exactly incorporating three particular words set out in the contest rules.

The prize for the winner of this challenge will be a copy of Novel in a Month, WCCL's block-busting tutorial that guides you through planning, writing and editing a novel in just four weeks.

For full details of this contest, see Contests Week: Monday Challenge. And watch out for more writing challenges with great prizes every day this week on the world's favorite writers' forum!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Contests Week on!

Just wanted to let you know that from Monday 9 March to Friday 13 March, it's Contests Week at!

Every day, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors WCCL, we'll be giving away courses and products from their great range for writers, in a series of 24-hour writing challenges. For more info about WCCL's writing software, please visit

At 9 am GMT every day during Contests Week I will post a new challenge on MWC's Writing Games & Challenges board. This will also mark the closing time for the previous challenge.

The challenges will all be quite short. You will need to submit your entry by PM (personal message) to one designated moderator, whose name will be shown in the challenge details. They will then forward all entries anonymously to the other mods, who will vote to decide the winner. We have chosen this method to allow the contests to be judged anonymously.

Of course, this does mean that you will need to be a member of to enter the contests, but joining is very easy (and free) - just click on the Register tab near the top of the MWC homepage and follow the on-screen instructions.

Although we are keeping the exact details of the contests a surprise, I can reveal that we are giving away the following WCCL products as prizes during the week (though not necessarily in this order):

* Movie in a Month
* Writer's Block CD
* Novel in a Month
* The Ultimate Copywriter
* Travel Writing Secrets

For more details of any of these products, just click on the name in the list above. The sales page will then open in a separate window. The contests will be themed so they are at least vaguely relevant to the prize on offer!

For further info and updates, please see this read-only forum topic.

I do hope you will join in with at least some of the daily challenges. I'd also appreciate any help you can provide in spreading word of Contests Week to the widest possible audience, via e-mail, blog posts, Twitter, social networking sites, and so on.

Here's to an exciting week of contests!

Photo Credit: on Flickr

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Precision Matters!

This is National Words Matter Week, so I thought I would take up the challenge set down by the organisers to write a blog post inspired by this subject.

And yes, as a writer and writing teacher I know that words matter very much. That is why it is so important to choose them with care and precision.

Many beginning writers fail to understand this, and their work lacks punch as a result. A common mistake is to shore up a vague choice of words with adjectives or adverbs.

Thus, rather than scour his brain for the precise, correct noun such as cypresses, the novice writer settles for 'tall trees'. Rather than write 'She strode' or 'She marched', he writes the first, vaguely relevant line that comes to mind: 'She walked quickly.'

New writers are often inclined to over-use adjectives and adverbs, but the best writers use them sparingly; indeed, the author D.H. Lawrence once said, 'I would compel a young writer to put down 500 words without using a single adjective.' The reason for this is that, all too frequently, adjectives are used to shore up a weak, vague choice of nouns (and the same applies with adverbs and verbs).

Words matter. Vague words create blurry images in the minds of readers. By contrast, a precise choice of words brings a scene into sharp and vivid focus. Poets know this better than anyone, of course. Here is the poet Dylan Thomas, writing in prose on this occasion, describing A Child's Christmas in Wales...

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

I defy you to find a single woolly word in that paragraph, or any of the rest of this charming piece.

Aim to emulate Dylan Thomas and find the right, precise words for every occasion, and I guarantee that your own writing will spring to life for your readers as well!

* National Words Matter Week is an annual, national observance sponsored by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors to highlight the value of words in communication. This year it runs from March 2nd to 6th. Visit the National Words Matter Week website to download the free NWMW Yearbook and teleminars with top writers, plus find out how YOU can get involved.

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

WCCL Week: Self-Publishing Secrets

All this week I've been spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network.

Today is the final day of WCCL Week, and for my last item I'm featuring a personal favorite from WCCL's range, Self-Publishing Secrets.

Self-Publishing Secrets is written by the prolific UK author Carol Ann Strange, who also happens to be a former colleague from my days as a freelance tutor for The Writers Bureau.

Self-Publishing Secrets is an instant download (no waiting for a CD to arrive in the post!). The main manual (there are also various bonuses) is arranged in nine chapters: Introduction, Welcome to Self Publishing, Preparing Your Book for Publication, Going Into Print, Handling Your Book's Sales and Distribution, How to Market Your Book Successfully, Using the Power of the Web to Promote Your Book, How to Increase Your Self Publishing Profits, and Resources.

Self-Publishing Secrets makes a persuasive case for self-publishing as an alternative to seeking out a conventional publisher. It is particularly strong in the advice it offers about promoting and marketing your book. The manual is packed with ideas for getting publicity and sales, and really does fire you up with enthusiasm for getting your book out there and embarking on your first publicity tour!

You can read my full review by clicking on Self-Publishing Secrets Review.

And if you scroll down the review, you will see that I am making my own very special offer on this product when you buy via my blog. You get my own mini-guide to publishing an e-book at the self-publishing site - and you also get a copy of my e-book Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching (co-written with Simon Pitt), as actually published on Lulu. Please read the instructions carefully to discover how to claim these extra free gifts from me personally.

I firmly believe that, in these recessionary times, self-publishing represents the best way forward for many authors today. Self-Publishing Secrets will show you everything you need to know to get started in this exciting field.

This post is the last of WCCL Week, but I would just like to remind you again that you can see all of WCCL's writing products, including some I haven't had room to feature this week, on their writing portal at

Enjoy your writing, and watch out for some very special promotions on WCCL products on my blog and forum soon!

Photo credit: singsing_sky on Flickr

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

WCCL Week: The Best Seller Secret

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm featuring The Best-Seller Secret

The Best-Seller Secret is written by Dan Strauss, WCCL's senior editor, and successful author Mel McIntyre. It's provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format.

I should make one thing clear right away, however. Despite the title, The Best-Seller Secret will NOT show you how to write your book (for that, try Novel in a Month or my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days). Rather, The Best-Seller Secret is for anyone who has written a book, or is on the way to doing so, and wants to know how they can get it into the Amazon online bookstore's Top 100 Books list, with all the benefits that can flow from this.

You might think that only a major publishing house would have the resources (and budget) needed to propel a book into best-sellerdom. But, as this guide reveals, the Internet has changed all that. It sets out a ten-step strategy literally anyone can use to make their book an Amazon best-seller.

The Best-Seller Secret really does make this aim realistic and achievable. Yes, it will involve you in doing some work, but the returns (both direct and indirect) from having an Amazon best-seller should justify this many times over. It definitely can be done, and the guide includes several case studies of successful campaigns.

To see my full review, please click on Best-Seller Secret Review.

With The Best-Seller Secret, you really can become a best-selling author at the world's favorite online bookstore!

Watch for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit today to see the whole range!

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Friday, February 27, 2009

WCCL Week: Movie in a Month

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm featuring Movie in a Month.

Movie in a Month is written by three successful screenwriters, two based in the US and one in the UK. It is provided on CD-ROM in the universal PDF format.

At the heart of Movie in a Month is a 156-page manual on screenwriting by Los Angeles-based James Lamberg, who has written (and ghost-written) over fifty screenplays.

James has a highly readable and motivational style. His system for writing a 'movie in a month' is based on his unique and powerful five-part W.R.I.T.E. formula.

Along with James's manual, you get a wide range of other items. These include a 30-page guide to movie plotting, a Little Black Book of movie industry contacts, a guide to screenplay formatting, and over 850 sample movie and TV screenplays and treatments. And more besides. Perhaps you can see now why it's supplied on CD-ROM rather than as an instant download!

To see my full review of Movie in a Month, please click on Movie in a Month Review. By the way, if you scroll down the review, you will see that I am (still) offering a very special deal for people buying via my blog. Not only can you get $20 off the usual price, you also get three extra free bonuses from me that are unavailable anywhere else. Read the instructions carefully to discover how to claim these.

With Movie in a Month, it really is possible to break into this exciting and lucrative field and become a successful movie or TV screenwriter!

Watch for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit today to see the whole range!
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

WCCL Week: Writer's Block CD

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm featuring The Writer's Block CD.

Writer's Block is a common affliction among writers. For whatever reason, the creative spring runs dry and words refuse to flow. Many popular and successful writers have been affected by writer's block, and for some it has ended their careers.

The Writer's Block CD is NOT a manual of hints and tips for beating writer's block - there is no shortage of those. Rather, it is an audio CD that uses an advanced technology called binaural beats to help 'entrain' the mind into a creative state.

You can read my full review of The Writer's Block CD by clicking on Writer's Block CD Review. Briefly, however, it works by playing sounds of slightly differing frequencies in each ear (so headphones are needed when using it). Studies have shown that when you do this, a resonance is created in the brain at a frequency that represents the difference between the two frequencies. On The Writer's Block CD this difference is set at 4.5 to 9 Hz. This corresponds with the theta and alpha frequencies in the brain. These are the brainwave frequencies most associated with daydreaming and creativity.

I've been using The Writer's Block CD for some time now, and find it really does help me to get into a creative groove. Other members of my writing forum have found it a valuable aid also. If writer's block is a problem for you - or you just want a method for enhancing your creativity - in my view it's well worth checking out.

Watch for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit today to see the whole range!
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

WCCL Week: Essential English for Authors

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm featuring one of my own guides, Essential English for Authors.

Essential English for Authors is a guide for anyone who hopes to write for publication, but is afraid their written English might let them down.

Essential English for Authors covers all the common problem areas for new writers: from the basics of grammatical sentence and paragraph construction, through principles of capitalization and punctuation, to 'minefield' topics such as subject/verb agreement and how to set out and punctuate dialogue. Everything is explained in simple, easy-to-grasp terms, with lots of examples to illustrate the points made.

It's not JUST the basics, however. A long module titled 'Putting on the Style' covers a range of matters that - while they may not all be essential to achieving publication - will help bring your written English up to the highest possible standards. There are also self-study tests you can complete to check your understanding of the material covered.

I'm sometimes asked why anyone should buy Essential English for Authors rather than, say, the famous Elements of Style book by Strunk & White. My answer is that Strunk & White offers good advice on writing American English, and I do recommend reading it. However, unlike my guide, it was not written specifically for writers seeking to achieve publication. The original version was published over 90 years ago, and although it has been revised since then, it does not always in my view reflect the realities of writing for publication today. Many people also find it rather dry and prescriptive. My guide aims to clarify which 'rules' are the ones you MUST follow for your work to be taken seriously, and which ones nowadays are regarded as less critical.

Finally, I should add that Essential English for Authors assumes no previous knowledge, and is suitable for beginners and people for whom English is not their first language. It is, however, equally relevant for established writers who want to brush up on their knowledge of these matters.

To sum up, if you want to bring your writing to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time, Essential English for Authors will help you to achieve this. It won't turn you into Shakespeare, but it will ensure that your writing is taken seriously by editors, agents and publishers, and not rejected out-of-hand due to errors of grammar and punctuation. The rest, as they say, is up to you!

Watch out for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit today to see the whole range!
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

WCCL Week: Novel in a Month

All this week I'm spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network. Today I'm looking at their latest writing course, Novel in a Month.

Novel in a Month is written by Dan Strauss, Senior Editor at WCCL and a successful author/novelist himself. The course is provided on CD-ROM in the universal PDF format.

As you will gather, Novel in a Month is aimed at anyone who wants to write a complete novel in the shortest time possible. The system set out in Novel in a Month involves writing your first draft in three weeks, then editing it in the fourth. There is also a preliminary stage of planning and outlining, which takes up the first day or two.

Novel in a Month is far more than just an outlining system, though. It is packed with hints and tips for writing your novel as quickly and efficiently as possible. Among the things I particularly liked in it were the 'population index' chart for developing characters, and Dan Strauss's unique P.L.O.T. plotting method, neither of which I had seen before.

I know one or two people have gotten a bit confused between Novel in a Month and my own course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, so I am happy to try to clarify the difference here.

Write Any Book in Under 28 Days was WCCL's original writing course. My brief then was to create a course that would cover all types of full-length writing projects, fiction and non-fiction. The method of outlining and blueprinting set out in Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is therefore suitable for any type of book, and there is also a long section devoted to fiction writing. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that Write Any Book in Under 28 Days has a slight bias toward writing non-fiction (which is, of course, my speciality).

Novel in a Month was developed in response to requests for a course specifically devoted to novel writing. It is a completely different course by a different author. Novel in a Month goes into much more detail about novel-writing than I did in my original course, though my course does include some advice and ideas that aren't in it. Ideally, then, I think that if you want to write a novel you should really buy both (I would say that, wouldn't I!?). But if you just want one guide to writing a novel, I have to admit, Novel in a Month is probably the one you should go for.

You can read my full blog review of Novel in a Month by clicking on the following link: Novel in a Month Review. And, of course, you can click through to WCCL's sales and info page via any of the links in this post or my earlier review.

If writing a novel is one of your goals for 2009, Novel in a Month will provide you with all the tools and knowledge you need to see the project through to completion!

Watch out for my next blog post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, visit today to see the whole range!
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Monday, February 23, 2009

WCCL Week: Travel Writing Secrets

As I mentioned in my last post, all this week I'll be spotlighting a range of great products for writers from my sponsors (and publishers) The WCCL Network.

Here in Britain, and most of the northern hemisphere, we're coming to the end of a miserable winter. It's a time when many of us start thinking about getting away from it all.

So I thought I'd start WCCL Week with a look at the company's definitive guide to travelling and making money from it: Travel Writing Secrets.

Travel Writing Secrets is written by my colleague Mel McIntyre, who has also written several other WCCL courses. It's supplied on CD-ROM, in the universal PDF format. It's a complete guide to travel writing, suitable for both new and experienced writers.

Like all WCCL products, Travel Writing Secrets is beautifully produced, and - as always with WCCL - it has been professionally written, edited and produced. The main manual (there are also various bonus items) is a full 220 pages long. It takes you through pretty much everything you need to know to get started as a travel writer. The content is well organized and crammed with useful, practical information. For example, in chapter two alone you will discover the three things travel articles MUST do, the seven types of travel article, five secrets for gathering information for your articles, and so on.

Travel Writing Secrets also covers interviewing techniques, outlining and writing skills, and how to pitch ideas to editors. And, of course, it has in-depth advice on selling your work, with details of large numbers of potential markets. There are also some clever (and little-known) ideas for turbo-charging your travel writing career, from applying the step-by-step T.R.A.V.E.L. writing model to setting up your own travel writers' network.

To see the full review on my blog, just click on Travel Writing Secrets Review. And don't forget to scroll down my review to see details of my unique special offer for people who buy Travel Writing Secrets via my link. As you'll discover, I'm giving away a downloadable half-hour instructional video plus resource file on great ways to make money online from digital photography. In my view it's the perfect accompaniment to Travel Writing Secrets, and should give you lots of ideas for ways of making money from your travel photos!

Watch out for my next post tomorrow spotlighting another great WCCL product for writers. Alternatively, you can visit today to see the whole range!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

WCCL Week: Preview

As you may be aware, this blog is sponsored by my publishers, the electronic publishing house WCCL.

WCCL also sponsors a wide range of other free services for writers, including the forum, the WritersFM online radio station, the Smart Writers newsletter, and so on.

Like many companies, WCCL has suffered a downturn in business due to the current world-wide recession. Although WCCL have said they are committed to continuing their support of the world-wide writing community, it is important that none of us take this for granted.

I have therefore set aside next week as WCCL Week on this blog. Each day from Monday through till Sunday, I will be highlighting one particular WCCL product that I particularly recommend for writers. I hope you may want to check out some of these products, and maybe invest a few dollars on any that are relevant to your writing interests.

For further ways of supporting WCCL during this challenging time (including one free method and another that can actually make you money!), check out this forum topic: Please Support Our Forum Sponsors.

Thank you very much on behalf of my sponsors!

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Interview with Diana Nadin of The Writers Bureau

Today I'm pleased to welcome to my blog Mrs Diana Nadin, Director of Student Services for The Writers Bureau, the UK's leading distance-learning college for freelance writers.

As a former tutor and assessor for The Writers Bureau - and author of some sections of their comprehensive creative writing course - I have known Diana for many years, so I was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed for this blog.

I know from the number of times the subject crops up on my forum that there is a lot of interest among members in The Writers Bureau, and plenty of questions people want to ask about it. Without further ado, then, let's start trying to answer some of those questions...

ND: Welcome to my blog, Diana. Could I start by asking whether The Writers Bureau is for UK students only, or can anyone in the world enrol? Do you accept students for whom English is not their first language?

DN: Thanks, Nick - it's good to be here. In answer to your question, at The Writers Bureau we have students from all over the world. Just take a look at our website and click on Student of the Year 2009 and our 20th Anniversary Awards winners. You'll see that, although many of them are from the UK, there are also a good number from overseas.

Many come from places like India, Africa and the Caribbean where English is widely spoken. They write for both English-speaking publications and also those in their own language. However, there are other students from around the world who use the course to learn the skills they need but then write only in their own language.

ND: Who do you think can benefit most by studying with The Writers Bureau? Are there any groups of people who might be better not enrolling, or perhaps taking another course instead?

DN: We have students of all ages and from all walks of life. They are people who want to fit the course around their other commitments, whether these are work, family or social. They are often people who want to earn a good second income from their writing but aren't quite ready to give up their day job! Our courses are very flexible and that is what appeals to most people.

And those who shouldn't consider enrolling? If someone can't cope with constructive criticism or the thought of rejections from publishers and editors then they should think twice before enrolling. In fact, they should think very carefully whether they've got what it takes to be a writer.

ND: How long does it take for a student typically to complete the course? Are there any limits to how long students are allowed to take?

DN: There's no such thing as a 'typical' student. We've had people complete the course in 12 months, but many take a lot longer. One of the best things about all our courses is that you can work at your own pace, rather than having to keep up with others

ND: Here's a question from member Linda Jones. She wants to know how the tutors who work for The Writers Bureau are recruited, and what are the criteria for them to be given the job?

DN: There are a number of ways that we recruit tutors. These include: recommendation from other tutors; writers who see our adverts or website and contact us to ask about vacancies; and, of course, successful students. The last category is great because they are familiar with the course and how our systems work. Plus, they know what it feels like to be a distance learning student so they can empathise with the writers they are helping. And, because they're successful, they're a great advert for our methods and students find that very reassuring.

One of the main things we look for in all our tutors is that they are being published regularly so that they have current working knowledge of the markets. They also need to understand that criticism which comes over as friendly and helpful in a face-to-face situation may sound harsher in black and white. So, they have to ensure that the advice they offer is constructive and if they point out that something is wrong, be able to show how to improve it. It's all about anticipating problems that a student might face and then providing reassurance.

ND: Speaking of tutors, what happens if you don't get on with the one you are allocated? Can you change to a different tutor?

DN: We do our best to place students with a suitable tutor by asking them to complete a Personal Profile Questionnaire at the start of the course. But if this doesn't work - for whatever reason - we're more than happy to move them to someone with whom they can build up a better rapport.

ND: The Writer's Bureau is well known for offering a money-back guarantee on its courses. As I understand it, this states that if a student hasn't earned back the cost of their course by the end of it, you will refund their money. Several people have asked if this guarantee can possibly be genuine. In particular, could you explain what evidence you require before authorising a refund, and what proportion of students actually claim under the guarantee?

DN: The guarantee certainly is genuine! When a student gets to the end of the course and has not earned the equivalent of their course fee we don't quibble. All we ask is that they provide us with a selection of rejection letters or emails (about half a dozen) to prove that they have actually been approaching editors or publishers with their work. Once we've seen these we usually arrange a refund straight away.

However, we do ask tutors to keep an eye on students as they work their way through the course to ensure that they are following advice and are not rushing through their studies. It's a two-way thing! And, as a number of our students know, it's not getting to the end of the course that's important, because many of them start earning from their writing before this point.

Only a very small percentage of students claim under the guarantee. There are a number of reasons for this. To be absolutely honest with your readers, some students join the course but don't work through all the assignments for whatever reason. Others reach the end and feel that they have had so much enjoyment from the course and support from their tutors that they decide not to take advantage of the guarantee. Those that work at the course generally start earning from their writing. Then it's the small number who are left that receive their refund under the terms of the guarantee!

ND: What one piece of advice would you give to new students to ensure that they get the most from their course with The Writers Bureau?

DN: I think probably the best piece of advice I can give is to be open minded and willing to take on board your tutor's comments. Talking of being open minded, if you want to succeed as a writer you need to be willing to tackle quite a range of different kinds of writing. Many people start with us wanting to concentrate on fiction. They have a go - somewhat reluctantly - at writing articles, and they're hooked!

And can I cheat and squeeze in another piece of advice? Make sure you do your market research thoroughly - and have a definite market in mind when you start writing.

ND: I'd be interested to know what are The Writer's Bureau's future plans. In particular, as we're conducting this interview online, do you have any plans to develop your website and/or to offer more courses online?

DN: We've actually got quite a lot of plans in the pipeline. We're currently having our website re-developed. When it's finished there will be a student area with a forum, a resource area with lots of links to useful writing sites, and students will be able to access their first modules online while waiting for their course material to arrive.

We're also starting up a new ezine edited by students and with content written by students. Calls have already gone out in our free monthly email magazine Ezeewriter for suggestions for a name. An editor has been appointed - but this is not a permanent position and other students will be given the opportunity to volunteer.

As regards courses, we have three new ones in the pipeline. The first is Writing Competitions - the Way to Win. This provides advice on poetry, short story and article writing competitions from Alison Chisholm and Iain Pattison - giving you the opportunity to have some of your competition entries critiqued. There is a Proof Reading Course, written for us by Simon Whaley, and the Complete Copywriter Course, written by you, Nick! So, as you can see, we've got plenty of plans for the next couple of months.

ND: Thanks, Diana. Finally, do you have any advice for current Writers Bureau students who may have any queries, or potential students who are still wondering whether to enrol?

DN: If you're already a student and you've got any queries about your course, then get in touch with one of our Student Advisors by email at - they'll be happy to help you. [NOTE FROM ND: Please change the -AT- in the email address above to the usual @ symbol - I present email addresses this way on my blog to stop them being harvested by spammers.]

If you're still wondering whether to enrol, you can get advice by emailing us at the same address - or why not send for the course so that you can have a good look at it during the 15-day trial period? It's the best way we can think of to help you decide whether one of our courses is right for you!

ND: Many thanks for taking the trouble to answer my questions today in such detail, Diana.

DN: You're very welcome!

Finally, as Diana has let the cat out of the bag, I guess it's OK to reveal that I am currently half-way through writing a course on copywriting for The Writers Bureau. All being well, this will be out later this year. It will be a printed course aimed primarily at UK writers, with a series of assignments to be assessed by personal tutors (not me personally). I hope anyone wanting to learn more about copywriting (and, especially, freelancing in this field) will find it helpful.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Online Community for Independent Authors and Publishers

I wanted to alert you today to a brand new online community for independent authors and publishers.

Publetariat launched earlier this month. It describes itself as an online news hub and community. Although it's still early days, I can already see this site becoming an important and influential resource for anyone with an interest in writing or publishing.

Here are just some of the things you will find on Publetariat, in the site's own words...
  • News about independent authorship & publishing
  • Insightful and practical articles from experts in Print On Demand (POD), ebook publishing, book promotion, author services, social media, online video, podcasting, and more!
  • Words of wisdom from successful independent authors and publishers
  • Trip reports from relevant conferences and events
  • Reviews of relevant products and services
  • Member profile pages where you can promote yourself, your sites and your published works
  • Member blogs
  • A moderated community forum
I was fortunate to be invited to set up a contributor account for Publetariat in the pre-launch period. You can see my first article for Publetariat (based on an earlier blog post) by clicking here.

I have also set up my own profile page on Publetariat: you can view this by clicking on Nick Daws' Profile. I am finding that this page is already ranking high in Google for a range of searches including my name, and it is generating extra traffic to this blog as a result.

If you have any interest in writing or publishing, I highly recommend visiting Publetariat and registering (free) as a member. Not only is this going to be a resource of ever-increasing value to writers and publishers, it offers many potential opportunities for networking with others in the independent publishing field.

What's more, the site's already-high ranking in the search engines suggests that it should also be valuable for attracting extra traffic to your blog or website, if you have one. So, once you've registered as a member, don't neglect to start creating your profile.

See you on Publetariat!

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Get Your Free Issue of Freelance Market News!

Freelance Market News is a printed, monthly newsletter of market information for writers.

It's produced and published by The Writers Bureau, the UK's leading distance-learning college for freelance writers. Some of you will know that I used to be a tutor for The Writers Bureau, and also wrote some of their course material.

Anyway, I thought readers of this blog might like to know that the Freelance Market News website has just been updated - and as part of this they have uploaded a recent sample issue of the newsletter as a PDF.

The sample issue is January 2009, so it's almost bang up to date! If you click through to the Freelance Market News site and click on the image in the left-hand column, assuming you have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed, it should open in your browser. You can then see all 16 pages, and even print them out if you like. See what I mean about getting your own free issue?!

Freelance Market News lists dozens of market opportunities and competitions. It also has articles, letters, adverts, and so on. The listings are primarily UK-based, but there is also a page of 'overseas' markets. If you're a freelance writer looking for more outlets for your work, it's a very useful resource.

Subscribing to Freelance Market News cost 29 UKP a year (11 issues) or 17 UKP for six issues. Somewhat surprisingly, the price is the same whether you're in the UK or overseas. Subscribers also get a range of other benefits, including free and discounted competition entries, a free appraisal of their writing, and so on.

Whether or not you choose to subscribe to Freelance Market News - and as you'll gather I do recommend it - I hope you enjoy reading your free issue!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

UK Comedy Writers Wanted

My friend and near-neighbour Linda Jones is looking for UK writers to contribute humorous short stories - and possibly non-fiction and poetry as well - for an anthology titled (provisionally) TwitterTitters.

The anthology is being organised and publicised via the micro-blogging service Twitter (hence the name, of course). It will be self-published on, with all profits going to the British charity Comic Relief. Nobody involved, contributors or organisers, will receive any payment.

Linda intends that the anthology will be published on Red Nose Day, which this year is 13th March. She is looking for people to get involved in various ways. On her newly set up TwitterTitters blog, she writes that people can:
* Contribute a story/ask others to contribute a story, piece of prose or poem. Help spread the word!

* Publicise the call for submissions (via Twitter, your blog, your media coverage of Comic Relief or Twitter, please?)

* Help choose the writing to be included. Please get in touch if you feel you can bring something to this role. I'd like there to be a small but perfectly formed 'expert panel'.

* Help me get my head round the possibility of any celebrity backing. I'm following various celebrity tweeters. One is an absolute favourite of mine, but I'm afraid I come over a bit star-struck, and the thought of asking Mr [Rob] Brydon if he could lend his support has me breaking out in a cold sweat.
If you are interested in contributing to the anthology, or helping out in any of the other ways listed, check out the TwitterTitters blog and contact Linda via her Twitter homepage. You can also find her email contact details on this page of her Freelance Writing Tips blog.

And even if you aren't able to get involved directly yourself (if you don't live in the UK, for example), you can still help by spreading word of the project, via your blog, Twitter, etc. - and, of course, by buying the anthology once it's published.

Don't leave it too long if you want to submit work, though. The closing date is 4 pm on Friday February 20th.

Good luck, and happy Twitter-tittering!

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Friday, February 06, 2009

PLR Payday for UK Authors

My bank balance is several hundred pounds better off today, thanks to my annual PLR payment.

For those who don't know, PLR stands for Public Lending Right. The UK PLR Office distributes money to UK authors based on the number of times their books have been borrowed from public libraries in Britain in the last year.

This year they are paying 5.98 pence per library loan. This money is paid to authors as 'compensation' for their presumed lost royalties on sales.

All UK authors are eligible for PLR (even if they don't currently live in Britain), but you do have to register with the PLR Office first. If you're a UK author with at least one published book to your name, therefore, you should sign up immediately to get what is due to you. The PLR website is at

Non-UK nationals cannot claim from the UK PLR Office, but many other countries (though not the USA as far as I know) have similar schemes in place to compensate writers for library lending. In many countries there are also reciprocal arrangements to compensate non-nationals for lending in the country concerned. In Britain this is co-ordinated by ALCS (the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society), and UK authors should also register separately with them.

Over the years I have made literally thousands of pounds from PLR payments; in the case of some books I have earned more from PLR than I have in publisher fees or royalties. So it is well worth taking a few minutes to register yourself and your book/s at the PLR Office website. Otherwise, you really are leaving money on the table!

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Guest Post: The Business of Writing

Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post by my old friend and former Writers Bureau colleague Carol Anne Strange.

Carol Anne is the founder of writers' jobs and opportunities website Write This Moment, and a published author with over 20 years' experience. She also wrote the popular guide Self-Publishing Secrets, published by WCCL. In this article she provides a few insights on how to increase your chances of securing writing commissions...

Even at the best of times, writing can be a challenging profession, so it helps to marry your creativity with some good old-fashioned business sense to increase your chances of achieving a fruitful freelance writing life.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction for commercial publication, here are a few important pointers to help you succeed in the business of writing:

1. Be Professional. Let your creativity forge your writing but develop a business outlook if you aim to profit from your words. Be the ultimate professional from start to completion. It will increase your chances of gaining commissions and contracts.

2. Follow Guidelines. In running Write This Moment, editors tell me that their biggest grumble is about writers failing to adhere to the guidelines or simple instructions provided. Lack of attention to detail can cost a writer a valuable commission, so take time to follow the editor's requests.

3. Write for Your Audience. Whether you're writing a novel, feature, script, filler or business copy, always write with your audience/readers in mind. That means researching your target media and writing to suit their requirements. When you deliver what your audience wants, then you are more likely to succeed.

4. Be Organized. Create a daily to-do list and establish priorities. What needs to be done? Tick off the items on your list as you go along. It's great for motivation. Also, keep your writing space reasonably tidy. A bit of chaos is fine providing that you're not wasting valuable writing hours looking for notes, pens or books you've mislaid.

5. Seize Opportunities. Sitting back won't bring writing jobs to your door. You have to look for the opportunities and seize them. If you're struggling to find work, think laterally. Consider how you can put your writing skills to other uses. For example, could you offer copywriting services to specific businesses using any particular expertise? Could you use your knowledge to write and run a course? How about offering a biography/ghostwriting service? How about speech or greetings card writing? Don't limit yourself. Look at all the options and focus on your strengths.

It has to be said that writing is highly competitive, especially in these difficult economic times, but there is a diverse range of opportunities available. With changes in publishing and the explosion in digital media, many more exciting possibilities are now open to writers than ever before. So, be business-like in your approach and focus on creating a positive impression. It will make a difference.

I wish you every success in your writing career.

Carol Anne Strange


Carol has kindly offered readers of my blog a special bonus. Subscribe to her writers' jobs and opportunities website Write This Moment and you will receive a PDF copy of 75 Mini Motivators for Writers absolutely FREE.

To claim your bonus, you will need to email after you have subscribed, with '75 Mini-Motivators Offer' in the email subject line. You can also use the Contact Us form on the Write This Moment website.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Adult Anecdotes Wanted for Anthology

I was recently contacted by Sue Moorcroft of Accent Press, regarding an anthology she is editing.

Sue asked if I could publicize her call for submissions, so I am posting it here without further comment ;-)

With the working title, Who's Chewing Toffees? this anthology is scheduled for publication in time for Christmas 2010. A collection of funny, bawdy or astonishing true life stories connected to the sex act, Who's Chewing Toffees? aims to tap into the irresistible humour of getting caught, getting caught out, beginning it, ending it, what happened in between or almost anything else you can think of.

Sue is open to submissions from now until the end of November 2009. Anecdotes can be first or third person, your own experiences or someone else's (but please change names to protect the innocent!) Make your writing lively and entertaining. All successful contributors will receive a copy of the book.

Send your stories to Sue Moorcroft by e-mail:; or by post: Anecdote Anthology, 51 Pytchley Road, Kettering, Northants, NN15 6ND, UK.

Also needed is a cartoonist to illustrate the book. The project would suit someone who is prepared to work for a modest flat fee in order to have the book in her or his portfolio. Please contact Sue as above.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Interview With The Writers Bureau

Regular readers will know I used to be a freelance tutor and assessor for The Writers Bureau, the UK's largest distance learning school for aspiring writers.

I'm still on good terms with them, and work with them from time to time on special projects.

Anyway, I know from discussions on my forum that many people are interested in The Writers Bureau and the courses they offer. So I recently asked their Director of Studies, Mrs Diana Nadin, if she would be willing to be interviewed on this blog. I'm pleased to say she said yes.

So I wanted to ask, if you have any questions about The Writers Bureau (that aren't easily answered by visiting their website), please can you post them below as comments? I have also set up a topic on my forum for those who prefer this method of responding.

I will then choose the best questions, put them to Diana, and publish her replies. Please let me have your questions as soon as possible, and in any event by Monday 9 February. Many thanks!

* Check out also this blog post where I discuss tutored writing courses (those offered by The Writers Bureau in particular), and compare them with my own courses such as Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, published by WCCL.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

What I Learned From My First TV Appearance

I'm hardly an 'A List' writer, but from time to time I do get asked to appear on TV or radio. Typically, nowadays, this happens when a producer Googles the topic of his show, and one of my books comes up in the results list.

TV appearances in particular can be a great opportunity to promote yourself and your books to a large audience - so while I do still get a bit nervous before going in front of the cameras, I usually accept any invitations. (Although I did turn down one opportunity recently to discuss obituaries, where I had been asked because I wrote a novelty book about 'famous last words' ten years ago.)

Anyway, I thought in this post I'd tell you about my first-ever TV appearance, nearly twenty years ago, and what I learned from it. It was arranged by the publishers of a book I had written called How to Find Your Ideal Partner. As you may gather, this was a guide for single people on how to find the love of their life - sadly it's out of print now...

The publisher told me I'd be appearing on a regional evening news programme. Unfortunately it wasn't in my area but in the East of England. I was promised a rail travel voucher and an overnight stay in a nice hotel, but no fee. Still, hopefully the appearance would give sales of my book a big boost, in East Anglia anyway...

At first, all went well. I arrived at the station mid-afternoon and found my way to the hotel. I had been told a taxi would pick me up at six pm, so I amused myself for an hour or two watching afternoon TV and using the hotel swimming pool and sauna.

The taxi duly came, but instead of taking me to the studio as I expected, I was delivered to a local technical college. 'This is where they're filming,' the taxi driver explained helpfully.

OK, then. I headed for the college reception and explained my business. I was directed to a small room where a trio of bored-looking technicians were drinking coffee from plastic cups. I introduced myself to the one with the most impressive stubble. 'Oh, you're the relationships expert, aren't you?' I duly accepted this description. 'They want you up in the library.'

So off I went. I was immediately grabbed by the producer and told to stand by one of the bookshelves while the Glamorous Female Presenter introduced me. He gave me a slip of paper: 'Here's what we want you to say.' It was along the lines, 'I'll be telling you everything you need to know on how to meet the man or woman of your dreams.'

And within moments a camera was pointing at me and the GFP began, 'Tonight I want to introduce you to Nick Daws, our very own Doctor Lurrrve...' I was so stunned by this, I completely forgot what I was meant to say and instead muttered something like, 'Hey, there.' 'That'll do,' the producer said, and off we marched to the next location...

To cut a long story short, instead of the cosy studio discussion I had envisaged, the show in question was a manically paced, 'zany' affair. After the library, we invaded a workshop, where the only female student was asked embarrassing questions about whether she fancied any of the men there, and I was asked to pontificate on the attractions (or not) of evening classes for those in search of a mate.

Eventually I got a chance to sit down and the GFP asked me a few more serious questions about the dating game. I answered as best I could, and then suddenly the shoot was over. 'Thanks, mate,' one of the techs said as they were leaving. 'That was good TV.'

It was half-past six and I was left on my own as the crew bundled into their van and headed off to the local pizza house. I realised as they drove off that, in all the frantic excitement, I had completely forgotten to mention my book....

So that was my introduction to the crazy world of television. Here are a few things I learned from it. I pass them on in case any of you find yourselves in the position I was...

* Find out as much as you can beforehand about the show you are appearing on. Don't trust your publisher to tell you the whole story!

* If it's a regular show, try to watch it yourself a few times to get a feel for the style and approach.

* If it's not in your area, ask a friend or relative who does live there to watch and report back (and preferably send you a recording). Nowadays, you may be able to check it out on the Internet as well.

* Remember that the producer and interviewer will have their own agenda and 'angle' they want to pursue. Try to find out in advance what this is. If you're not happy about this, then say so.

* Have your own goal or target as well. If you're going to promote your book, DON'T forget to mention it! Be sure to take a copy with you, and if at all possible show it to the viewers.

* If you have a good anecdote to impart, tell the researcher beforehand. There is every chance it will be passed on to the interviewer, who will take the opportunity to ask you about it.

* And finally, don't take any of it too seriously. Try to relax and be yourself. TV is entertainment - it's not a matter of life or death.

So those are some of the lessons I learned from my first TV appearance - I'm glad to say others I've done subsequently have been a little more successful. But what about YOU? If you've been on TV or radio to discuss your work, I'd love to hear about your experiences and any tips you'd like to share. Please use the comment facility below.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How One Writer Made $1246 in 24 Hours on Helium

A while ago in this post I wrote about Helium (then called Helium Knowledge), a website that pays writers a portion of the advertising revenue generated by the articles they post there.

In my article I wrote that Helium was open to any writer, though with payment by advertising revenue share only, you were unlikely to make a fortune from it. However, this article by Peter Johns suggests that I may have been wrong on the latter score.

As you will see from his article, Johns really did make $1246 in 24 hours, from an article about credit cards. This happened after the article 'went viral', with people urging their friends and colleagues to read it in an ever-widening circle.

It wasn't just luck, though. As he explains in his article, Johns spent some time crafting a title that he hoped would pique people's curiosity and impel them to read more. He also posted a link to the article on the social bookmarking website Reddit, where others viewed it, liked it, and voted it up to the front page.

Johns' experience is food for thought for anyone who thinks sites such as Helium are a waste of time. He admits that not all his articles have earned anything like the amount made by this one (and remember, that $1246 was just on the first day - it's still presumably making money for him now). However, he lists five other short articles that have made him from $10 to $30 to date, so he is obviously doing something right.

One thing Johns' article does indicate is the importance of promoting your articles on Helium and similar sites such as Qassia, rather than simply posting them and waiting for visitors to come. As well as Reddit, other social bookmarking sites such as Delicious and StumbleUpon are well worth trying for this purpose as well.

As far me, I'm planning to dust down my old Helium account I've never done much with, and start posting on it again!

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Book on Obama Inauguration Seeks Contributors

I heard recently from my friends at, the collaborative writing website, that they are planning a new, printed book about Barack Obama's Inauguration as US President on January 20th (next Tuesday).

They are invitinthe 44th President of the United States...Bara...Image by jmtimages via Flickrg anyone interested to contribute an article for possible inclusion in the book. All profits from sales will go to a nonprofit educational and publishing organisation, 826 National. I've reproduced below the information sheet they sent me, including where to submit your work.

Make History on Jan 20 2009:
True Stories, Real People, One Day

On January 20, 2009, the United States will inaugurate Barack Obama as its forty-fourth president. Millions will flock to Washington, and countless more will mark the event in their hometowns., the home of community-sourced books, will publish a collection of inauguration stories, told by real people in their own words.

Jan 20 2009: True Stories, Real People, One Day represents a new approach to documenting history, made possible by's innovative online writing and social media platform. Never before has a publisher had access to so many voices so quickly around such a noteworthy event. This is Community-Sourced History: by the people, for the people.

Will this be a printed book?


Leveraging the speed and agility of the internet and digital printing by CreateSpace (an Amazon company), the printed book will be available within two weeks of the inauguration. Books will be sold on and for $9.99. WEbook will donate all profits from the project - and ask its authors to donate their royalties - to 826 National (, a nonprofit tutoring, writing, and publishing organization with locations in seven cities across the country. Their goal is to assist students ages six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing

Get Involved

You can add your voice to Jan 20 2009: True Stories, Real People, One Day by sharing your story of your anticipation of, participation in, and reflection on inauguration day. The deadline for short (500 word max) submissions is midnight EST, January 21. Submit online at

If you know other writers who might be interested in being part of this community-sourced history, spread the word or email

About WEbook is an online community where writers, readers, and 'feedbackers' create great books and cast their votes to make their favorite undiscovered writers the next published authors. WEbook is an innovative avenue for new and established writers to find an audience, tapping the wisdom of the crowd to create a unique new form of creative work: community-sourced books.

In early February 2009, WEbook will release its first published community-sourced guide, 101 Things Every Man Should Know How to Do. This 'manthology' - comprising valuable lessons like 'How to Fight a Bear' and 'How to Sneak into Cuba' - was written by 28 authors working on, with help from hundreds of others who shared their insights along the way. What's next? Thrillers, fantasy novels, mysteries, children's books, and more - all written, refined, read, and rated by WEbook users.

You might also like to read this guest post on my blog last year by Melissa Jones, Content Manager of, which explains in more detail how this innovative site works. One of these days I shall definitely get around to joining myself!
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Monday, January 12, 2009

My January Sale!

January is traditionally the month for sales - and more so than ever in the current recession.

So I thought I'd do my bit and offer my best-selling course, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, at a full $10 off the standard price for the rest of January.

The course normally sells for $49.95 - in fact, that's what it costs right now if you click through to the main sales site. If you follow the links at the end of this post, however, you can buy the CD for just $39.95 - a full 20% reduction!

In case you don't know, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days was my first course written for The WCCL Network. At its heart is my unique five-step outlining and blueprinting method, which thousands of buyers across the world have used to help create their first book (and in some cases many more...).

Quite apart from the five-step method, however, the course is also crammed with hints and tips on planning, researching, writing, editing and marketing your book, based on my own experience as the author of over 80 titles. Essentially, it's pretty much a 'brain dump' of everything I've ever learned about book writing...

The method set out in Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is suitable for writing both fiction and non-fiction books. Although the course as a whole has a slight bias towards non-fiction (which is what I mainly write), there is also a long section devoted specifically to fiction writing.

Anyway, if you'd like more information, just click through any of the links to Write Any Book in Under 28 Days in this article to visit the main sales page. Don't buy there, though! Instead, click on this link to pay at the discount price using your credit card, or click here to pay at a discount using Paypal. All prices include free world-wide shipping.

Good luck, and I hope you'll soon be joining the many other happy buyers of Write Any Book in Under 28 Days who are now enjoying all the satisfactions and benefits of being published authors. Don't forget, also, to check out the page of unsolicited testimonials the course has generated!

P.S. The discount links will be removed at the start of February, so please don't delay too long if you're thinking of buying!
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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Seven Reasons to be Cheerful in 2009

Economic conditions are undoubtedly tough right now, but such times bring opportunities as well as threats.

So in this post I thought I'd set out a few reasons for optimism where freelance writers are concerned. And there are actually more of these than you might think...

1. With companies laying off permanent staff to save money, I fully expect more work to be outsourced to freelances in the months ahead.

2. In tough times, businesses have to do more to promote themselves and keep sales ticking over. This will create more opportunities for business writers (and copywriters in particular).

3. And likewise, in these harshly competitive times, I expect more businesses to come to appreciate the value of good-quality writing, both on- and off-line. This should create more, better paid opportunities for writers who can deliver the goods.

4. I also expect that the flexibility and low overheads offered by freelances will be increasingly appreciated by cash-strapped companies.

5. The accelerating trend away from buying on the high street and toward buying online can only benefit freelances and other small businesses as long as they are 'web wise'.

6. The latest software and Internet services make it easier than ever for freelances to operate successfully via the net, set up professional-looking websites, use social networking to find new clients and collaborators, bid for commissions, and so on.

7. And freelances are typically far quicker to adapt to changing circumstances than large companies, who become set in their ways and vulnerable to changes in the market that make their products and services suddenly less desirable.

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Don't get me wrong - I have a lot of sympathy for people who are in conventional employment and don't know from one day to the next whether they will still have a job to go to tomorrow. But for a growing number of people, I'm convinced that the answer lies in self-employment. And unlike traditional jobs, I expect that opportunities for freelances will actually increase in the months - and years - ahead.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

My Ten Most Popular Posts of 2008

I thought I'd start 2009 by looking back at my Top Ten (plus one) most popular posts on this blog last year.

If you missed any of these first time round - perhaps you're one of my many new readers - I hope you'll enjoy reading them now.

And if you've been following me for a while, I hope there are some posts here you'll enjoy revisiting. They are listed in no particular order...

The Benefits of Twitter for Writers. 2008 was the year I joined Twitter, and I've been hugely impressed by the many benefits of this micro-blogging and social networking service. In this post I set out the advantages to a writer of joining Twitter, and described a few Twitter applications I have found useful.

Best Firefox Add-Ons for Writers. I'm a big fan of the Firefox web browser, not least because of the huge range of add-ons that are available for it. Check out my top recommendations in this post - and read the comments section for some further suggestions.

Some Thoughts on Professional Jealousy Among Writers. In this post, which also generated a lot of interest, I set out my thoughts about professional jealousy, and described two personal experiences I have had of this particularly unpleasant phenomenon.

Finding a Publisher for Your Novel. I regularly get asked for advice on how to find a publisher - so in this post from August 2008 I set out my seven top tips.

Two Useful Websites for Online Writers. Several readers wrote to thank me for sharing details of these sites. They both offer free tools for preparing text for online publication, and have saved me personally many hours of tedious work.

How Can Writers Survive the Credit Crunch? It seems 2008 will go down in history as the year the global economy went into meltdown. In this post I looked at the implications of the downturn for writers, and set out two particular strategies I believe every writer needs to apply at this time.

Brain Evolution System Review. I reviewed various new products and courses during 2008, but I'd like to highlight this one in particular. The Brain Evolution System uses advanced scientific methods, including binaural beats and brainwave entrainment, to help improve creativity, beat stress, boost energy levels, and so on. Even if you're understandably skeptical, I'd urge you to check it out.

New Promotional Site for E-book Authors. In November I posted this article about Mark Gladding's new site for e-book readers and writers, and it has quickly gone from strength to strength. If you read e-books and - especially - if you publish or self-publish them, this site is an invaluable free resource.

Trouble With Paypal. I use the online payment system Paypal a lot in my online writing work, but I've had some 'issues' with them this year. See this post to learn about my experiences, and read my advice on how to minimize your own chances of problems.

Writing Tips Contest Results. In 2008 I held a contest for writing tips of 250 words or less. Some great entries were submitted, and you can read the winner and all the runner-up entries here.

How to Hire a Freelance Writer. In this 'poacher turned gamekeeper' article, I set out some advice to anyone wanting to hire a freelance writer. The article includes seven tips based on my own experience of 'good' and 'bad' clients. I hope anyone wanting to hire me this year reads this article first!

Do check out these posts, and feel free to add your own comments if you like. And watch out for more posts from me on all aspects of writing for profit in 2009!

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Just wanted to wish every reader of my blog a happy, creative and (Credit Crunch notwithstanding) prosperous 2009!

I hope this is the year when you fulfill, or at least start to fulfill, all of your writing ambitions.

I'm looking forward to sharing my writing tips, advice, online "discoveries" and more with you on my blog in 2009. So if you haven't already done so, be sure to subscribe via email or RSS to ensure you never miss a post!

Don't forget, also, to sign up to follow me on the micro-blogging service Twitter. I regularly use this to share details of resources, contests, writers' markets and more that I don't always have time to post on my blog.

Good luck to all of you, and I very much look forward to hearing about your writing successes in the months ahead.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Setting Your Writing Goals for 2009

In just a couple of days - even less in some parts of the world - it will be 2009. It's the ideal time to plan ahead and set yourself writing goals and targets for the new year.

One thing about goals is that, to be of any practical use, they need to be specific. 'Make more money' from writing, while it sounds attractive, is too vague to be much help in motivating you.

A better goal might be 'to boost my writing income by 30 per cent this year'. Or, if you want something even more specific, 'complete my first book by the end of 2009'. Goals like these are much better because they give you a clear target to aim at and a yardstick to measure your progress.

I have a number of goals I want to achieve in 2009. Here are some of them...

* Create my first podcast.

* Start at least one new blog using the popular WordPress blogging system.

* Join HubPages and start creating my own Hubs.

* Join FaceBook (I can't put it off any longer!).

* Develop a new and radically different writing course idea I have been mulling over for some time now.

* Complete the writing course I am working on currently for a client.

* Write at least three more non-fiction books by the end of the year.

Those are just some of my writing goals for 2009. But I'd love to know, what are YOURS?

Please feel free to add them as comments to this blog post. Having your goals on display here permanently will give you an added incentive to achieve them. And naturally, at the end of the year I'll want to see evidence that you have done so!

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Friday, December 19, 2008

How to Hire a Freelance Writer

I've been a full-time freelance writer for nearly twenty years now, and during that time I've had a lot of would-be clients approach me about working for them. To some I've said yes, others no. Often, my decision is strongly influenced by the way they approach me.

So I thought in this post I would set out a few tips for anyone who wants to hire a freelance writer. If you're a writer yourself, maybe you'll identify with some of these points. If you're looking to hire a freelance writer, I hope my advice will make the process a little less stressful for all concerned!

1. First Find Your Writer

One of the best ways to find a freelance writer is by personal recommendation. So if you happen know anyone who hires freelance writers, find out whom they use and ask for their contact details. This will give you a good starting point in your search at least.

Otherwise, you will need to start looking around. You could simply enter "freelance writer" in Google and see who turns up (not forgetting to check the 'sponsored listings' as well). You can also narrow down your search by area or by specialism. Try searching on Google for "freelance writer UK" and see who comes up top, by the way!

In addition, there are lots of resource sites you can use to find a writer - the WritersNet Writers & Authors Directory is one example.

You can also post details of the job you have in mind on websites such as Guru and Elance and invite authors to bid for them. This does have some drawbacks, though. Apart from being time-consuming, the information available on those bidding for work is often minimal. You will still need to check very carefully whether any candidates have the skills and knowledge you require.

2. Give Them Enough Information

Once you've found a potential writer and checked them out, you'll want to contact them to see if they are interested in taking on your assignment. It's important to include enough information in your query for the writer to tell if the job would suit their skills and experience.

Personally, the type of enquiry I least enjoy receiving is along the lines, 'I have a writing job for you. Please phone me to discuss.' That means I am expected to call this individual at my expense - possibly at international rates - with no clue what he wants me to do, and the need to make an on-the-spot decision whether I am interested or not.

While I don't require a detailed brief with the initial enquiry, I much prefer a paragraph or two of explanation so that I can get some idea what the job will entail: length, subject matter, deadlines, and so on. If there is a set budget, it is helpful to know this also. Otherwise, especially if I am busy, I am quite inclined to say, 'Thanks, but no thanks'. Experience has taught me that vague enquiries seldom lead to worthwhile assignments.

3. Don't Assume You're Doing Them a Favour

Professional writers are busy people, and they can't take on every job that is offered to them. That applies especially with jobs that are offered out of the blue. You need to make some effort in your approach to demonstrate that you are a genuine prospective client and not, as they say in these parts, a tyre-kicker. As mentioned above, it helps a lot if you provide enough information in your initial approach to show the writer that you are business-like and professional, and have devoted some serious thought to what you want the writer to do.

4. Don't Expect Them to Work for Free

If you just want a quote or expression of interest, that's fine. But if you want your writer to produce sample articles, outlines, or whatever so that you can assess their suitability for the job, you should offer them a reasonable fee for this.

5. Don't Assume Any Writer Will Do

Writing covers a huge spectrum of activities, and all writers specialize to some extent. This is another reason you should tell your prospective writer what the job will involve in your initial approach. Even if it's not a type of writing he (or she) does, he may know someone who specializes in that field and be able to refer you. I routinely refer most ghost-writing queries to my colleague Hannah Renier, for example; whilst any approaches from people wanting to sell their story to a newspaper or magazine get referred to my near-neighbour Linda Jones, of the agency Passionate Media.

6. Be Honest and Up Front

Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but it's important not to get off on the wrong foot with your writer.

Here's an example from my own experience. I was asked by a potential client to help him write a book, and as a first step to produce an outline. This involved researching the topic concerned, and turned out to involve a bit more work than I anticipated. However, I agreed to do it, as I assumed that as long as the client was happy with my outline, I would get this well-paying assignment.

Then I found out, quite by chance, that a colleague had been approached by the same person and asked to do exactly the same thing. In fact, the client had approached at least two other writers as well, and we were effectively competing against one another. I felt I had been misled, and told the client I was no longer interested in working for him.

Of course, there is no objection to a potential client getting several quotes if he wants to, but where preliminary work is going to be involved for the unsuccessful writers as well, I believe the client should make this clear to all concerned. See also my comments above about not expecting writers to work for free.

7. Give Them All the Essential Info

If you don't tell your writer all the important facts, don't be surprised if they produce something unsuitable for you.

Here's another example from my experience. A few years ago I was approached by someone wanting me to write a short story for him, to give to his fiancee on their wedding day. He told me he wanted a medieval-style fairy tale, with himself as the hero and his fiancee as his princess.

I took the job (at below my usual rates, but I actually found the project quite touching and romantic) and produced a story where the hero went to Hispaniola with the king's forces and slayed a mechanical dragon that had been terrorizing the locals. He then came back as a hero to claim his bride.

My client wasn't impressed. He told me his fiancee's ex had been in the army, so could I come up with a story that had no military connections? Everything I'd written had to be scrapped. I told the client that if he still wanted me to do this job, he would have to come up with an outline plot himself. I would then flesh it out for him, but I couldn't go on writing stories then having them rejected for reasons I had hitherto heard nothing about. I never heard from him again.

In the last example, I do actually have some sympathy for the young man concerned, as he obviously had no experience working with freelance writers, and he did have the best of intentions. However, it turned out to be a waste of a week's work for me, purely because I wasn't given all the essential details.

To sum up, then, if you want to hire a professional writer, it's important to present a business-like image. Show the writer that you value their skills and understand that they may not want, or be able, to take the job on. Give them all the facts they require to assess your proposed project in an open and honest way. If you want them to produce a sample of work for you, offer them a fee. And once you've hired them, give them all the information they need to be able to do a good job for you.

Do all of these things, and you will be well on your way to becoming the ideal client for a freelance writer. And, more importantly, there is every chance you will find a suitably skilled individual for your project, and get the best possible results from them.

* And yes, as a full-time professional writer, I'm always delighted to hear from potential clients! Use the Contact Me link at the top right of the page to submit your query.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Announcing a Title on eBooks Just Published

In this recent post I mentioned eBooks Just Published. I thought I'd try out the service myself, so this is my report on how I got on.

To remind you, eBooks Just Published is a resource for authors who want to announce their ebooks free of charge. It's not a sales site; in your announcement you have to include links to somewhere people can buy and/or download your ebook.

eBooks Just Published allows you to promote your title to a growing group of enthusiastic ebook readers, some of whom subscribe via email or RSS. You are allowed to upload a 'cover image' and up to 400 words of promotional text, which can include up to three testimonials.

The site announces both fiction and non-fiction, the only major criterion being that the ebooks are DRM-free. The normal rule is that ebooks to be announced on the site should have been published within the last six months, but during the launch period they are extending this to 18 months.

I thought I'd try out the service using my latest WCCL title Essential English for Authors. This was actually published more than six months ago but less than 18, so it qualifies under the current rules.

To announce an ebook on eBooks Just Published, you first have to register. This is free and takes only a few minutes. You'll find a link allowing you to do this near the bottom of the left-hand menu.

Once you're a registered member, you'll want to upload details of your ebook. Instructions for doing this can be found by clicking on Authors near the top of the left-hand menu (read this before you log in). I recommend printing this page out, as the process can be a bit tricky at times, and it helps if you know a bit of HTML. However, the site owner Mark Gladding is on hand to provide help if required.

It took me a morning to get my entry uploaded and displaying to my satisfaction in preview mode. A fair proportion of that time was devoted to creating a cover image to the specifications required. Otherwise, though, it all went reasonably smoothly. Here are just a few tips from my experience...

* If you're not sure how to format text when creating your announcement, try using View Source to look at the HTML of another published item on the site. For example, by doing this I discovered that the HTML tag blockquote was used for testimonials.

* A good screengrab program can be invaluable for creating your cover image. I used CaptureIt, a neat little shareware program that lets you capture any image on your screen and resize and/or manipulate it in various ways.

* There are more instructions and a checklist in the template you use to create your announcement. Scroll down the template to view this. Again, I recommend printing out the instructions in the template, as they will help you to format and upload your cover image in particular.

* Don't forget to include links to your sales page from the image and the ebook title. I used a customized tracking link provided by my publishers, so that I can see how many clicks I get from this source. Mark says he has no objection to this.

* You can preview your announcement at any time by clicking on the Preview button to the right of the template. Don't worry, only you will be able to see this! Once you are happy with how your announcement is looking, click the other button to submit it for review.

Overall, I was pleased with how my announcement turned out - you can view it here for yourself. It took me a bit longer than I expected, but I know that next time I should be able to get the job done much faster.

If you've written an ebook (even a free one), in my view you have nothing to lose, and potentially a lot of extra readers to gain, by submitting an announcement about it to eBooks Just Published.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

LitMatch One-Year Anniversary Giveaway

I've mentioned the website LitMatch a few times on this blog, but for those who still haven't discovered it, it's a free online resource designed to help writers of all kinds connect with a suitable agent.

According to the statistics on their homepage, LitMatch currently have information on 1722 agents in 800 agencies. Although the site is US-based, agencies in the UK and other countries are also included.

As well as agency details in a searchable database, Litmatch also features a submission tracking system that allows users to record and manage their submissions online. You have to register, but this is free and takes only a few moments.

Other features of the site include targeted searches that let you quickly find agents by the authors they represent, the genres they're interested in, their professional history, and so on. A hotlist function allows you to bookmark agents and agencies for future reference. There is also a comment facility, which allows authors to share their experiences of specific agents.

Anyway, I thought I'd give LitMatch another mention now because they are currently running a one-year anniversary giveaway. Anyone who registers at the site before 31 December 2008 will be automatically entered into a free draw to win one of a number of writing-related prizes, including online classes from Gotham Writers' Workshop and one-year subscriptions to The Writer Magazine.

Even if you don't have a book for which you're seeking representation right now, it's worth registering (which is free, remember) to be eligible for the prize draw. Apart from that, however, LitMatch is a very useful resource for anyone seeking an agent, and in my view every serious writer should at least check it out.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Great Christmas Gifts for Writers

Speak it softly, but Christmas is just a month from today...

Assuming you celebrate the festival, or at any rate the gift-giving and receiving aspect, you may well have some writer friends or relatives you'll be buying for.

In this post, then, I thought I'd set out some suggested Christmas gifts for writers. These are all things I'd like myself, if I didn't in most cases have them already! Note that to save time, and avoid this post running on too long, where possible I've linked to earlier posts when I first mentioned the items in question.

Thinking of books first of all, one top recommendation for anyone who doesn't have it already is Stephen King's On Writing. It doesn't matter whether the potential recipient is or is not a horror fan. On Writing is an entertaining and informative read, written in King's usual highly accessible style (though without any corpses).

The book is a mixture of autobiographical material - some of it very amusing - and tips and advice for writers. The latter is useful if not earth-shattering. I would see this book as primarily an entertaining read rather than a writing manual, but none the worse for that. Image links to the book on and can be found below. As usual, if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see them.

A good introductory guide for new writers is The Greatest Freelance Writing Tips in the World by my near-neighbour Linda Jones. It is primarily written for UK authors, though much of Linda's advice would apply equally across the world. Linda comes from a journalistic background, and her advice on 'pitching' to newspaper editors especially is well worth reading. At its modest asking price, this beautifully produced book is a steal.

For any aspiring TV scriptwriters, especially if they happen to be science fiction fans as well, the newly published Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale by Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook would be an ideal present. In this fascinating (and beautifully illustrated) book you get to see how the popular BBC TV series is written and edited. It's also well worth visiting the book's dedicated website, where you can read more reviews and background info, and download six free scripts from the show.

And speaking of scriptwriting, if your friend or relative is an aspiring movie writer, don't forget that my sponsors, WCCL, produce a popular guide on CD-ROM called Write a Movie in a Month. If you order now it should arrive in plenty of time for Christmas. And if you order via my blog review, you can get a $20 discount AND my two extra bonus reports!

Another gift any writer would be delighted to receive is one of the annual market directories. For US publications, you can't beat Writer's Market, published by the all-conquering Writer's Digest organization. For UK markets, there are now three annual market guides battling it out: The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, The Writer's Handbook, and the latest arrival, Writer's Market UK. When I reviewed all three earlier this year, Writer's Market UK came out slightly ahead of the other two. But read my blog review of UK market guides and see what you think.

Leaving books aside now, an idea suggested to me by my colleague Suzie Harris is a digital pen. These clever devices let you take notes anywhere - in a meeting, watching TV, on vacation, in bed, and so on. Then, when you get to your office or study, you can plug the pen into your PC, and everything you wrote will be transferred into it.

A popular digital pen (and the one Suzie wants) is the Dane-Elec Zpen. This pen also has OCR software that will read your handwriting (assuming it's legible) and save it as text. For writers, I could see this modestly priced tool having a whole host of uses.

I've put links to the Zpen at and below. As mentioned earlier, if you are receiving this post by email, you may need to visit my blog to see the image links.

A final possibility is an e-book reader. I believe that 2009 will be the year that e-books finally take off in the mass market, as the latest e-book readers really do make this a comfortable and enjoyable way of reading a book (the old argument about not being able to read them in bed definitely no longer applies).

In the US, Amazon's Kindle Reader has been sweeping all before it. For technical reasons the Kindle is not yet available in the UK and Europe, though it is expected to be launched in the new year. In the mean time, however, the Sony Reader has been getting good reviews.

Whichever reader you get, there are thousands of ebooks you can download free of charge, both classics and newly published books whose authors have chosen to distribute them in this way (see this one, for example). Other ebooks you will have to pay for, but they are cheaper than the equivalent printed volume and won't take up any space on your shelves after you have read them. Again, I've put links to both leading ebook readers below.

Happy Christmas shopping!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Promotional Site for Ebook Authors

I recently heard from Australia-based Mark Gladding about his new website eBooks Just Published.

This site is a resource for authors who want to announce their ebooks for free. It also allows readers to subscribe (either via email or RSS), so that they can keep up to date with all the latest ebook releases.

The site announces both fiction and non-fiction, the only major criterion being that the ebooks are DRM-free. It's important to note, however, that eBooks Just Published is NOT a publishing or hosting site. Each ebook listed needs to include a link back to the publisher's or author's own sales site.

eBooks Just Published does not carry any advertising at the moment, so I asked Mark how he plans to make money from it. He told me that his company, Tumbywood Software, also produces the program Text2Go, which turns text to speech. He is therefore hoping that some visitors will purchase the software to listen to their ebooks on the go.

Apart from that, though, Mark says he doesn't have any other money-making plans for the site: "I really just want to make it a useful resource for authors and readers at this stage."

It's early days for eBooks Just Published, but already I'm impressed with it and plan to use it myself in the future.

One thing I've noticed as well is the number of free ebooks that are available. For example, you can download an electronic version of the excellent and thought-provoking Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (which I'm currently reading as an Amazon Vine selection) free of charge via the site.

My advice is to check out eBooks Just Published and sign up to receive the email or RSS updates. Even if you don't plan on releasing any ebooks yourself, there are some real gems already available via the site for free or modest cost. It's definitely a resource to keep a close eye on.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

100 Fun and Useful Search Engines for Writers

That's the title of another very useful article I came across online the other day.

100 Fun and Useful Search Engines for Writers lists search engines under a number of different category headings. They include image searches, blog searches, specialty searches, medical & technical searches, foreign-language searches, and meta-search engines (which aggregate results from several search engines).

As they say in the introduction to the article, 'Our list of 100 different search tools can help you manage your business, become a better biz tech or web writer, find primary sources, look up translations, and find the more authoritative information out there with minimal effort. Bookmark your favorites to take full advantage of everything they have to offer.'

I found some useful resources in this article that I hadn't known about before. They include the fast image search tool Picsearch and a range of non-traditional search engines such as Mooter, which presents your search results in mind-map-style clusters.

I can see myself using some of the sites listed in 100 Fun and Useful Search Engines for Writers quite regularly in future.

* Don't forget that readers of this blog can also obtain the premium research tool Research Wizard Pro for half price. See this blog post for more details.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Opportunity for a UK Scriptwriter

If you're a young, aspiring scriptwriter in the UK, or you happen to know one, you might be interested in this contest - launched today - to join the writing team for the E4 youth drama series Skins. And yes, the successful writer will get paid!

My contact at E4 says:

We are looking for some of the country's finest young talent to help us with a very special project.

E4 and Company pictures are about to go into production on an online mini episode of Skins that will coincide with the launch of Series 3 on E4. The episode will be produced by the Skins crew and will feature some of the main cast - but we've got four very important roles that still need to be filled. This role is part of a bigger team - it is just 1 of 4 roles available - with everything at

In order to produce this webisode we're looking for a writer to join the team. This role will be selected and mentored by Company pictures and the person will get to play a vital role in the production of the film.

We're looking for people aged 18 to 23 who have got the drive, ambition and most of all, talent to get involved with the UK's biggest youth show. Maybe they've got similar work experience, maybe they're studying something creative at college or uni, or maybe they just have a talent that's clamouring to get out - these are the kinds of people we are looking for!

To apply, you have to submit a short (max. 1600 words) comedy-drama script. Your script should NOT use any existing Skins characters. It should contain a minimum of three characters, and use a maximum of five locations. Here's a video from a Skins scriptwriter offering some advice for anyone thinking of entering...

And here's the current TV ad...

For further information on this opportunity, click here to visit the contest website. The opportunity is also being discussed on this topic on my forum. The deadline for entries is 6 pm on 9 December 2008, so don't delay too long!

P.S. There are also competitions to recruit a director, costume designer and production designer - see the Skins website for more details.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Writing Tips Contest Results

Yes, judging of my Writing Tips Contest is now complete, and I am happy to announce the winners!

To remind you, the rules required a writing tip of 250 words or less, including the title. I had two prizes of a year's subscription to SpellCheckPlus Pro to give away. One I have chosen myself (with a little bit of help from Jayne). The other has been randomly selected by my cat Reggie.

I've reproduced all the competition entries at the end of this post, lightly edited and with titles supplied by me if the author didn't provide one. I thought all of the entries had merit, and another judge might well have come up with a different winner (I'm pleased to say that Jayne agreed with my choice, however!).

So, without further ado, I'm delighted to reveal that the winner of the contest was Suzie, with her entry 'Keep Accurate Submission Records'.

I liked this for a number of reasons: it is well-written and succinct; it presents a specific, useful piece of advice that is germane to every writer; it is illustrated with an amusing anecdote; and it concludes by stating its key message clearly at the end. It didn't hurt, either, that Suzie followed all the rules of the contest to the letter. You can read her winning entry by scrolling down (it's the first in the list).

The other prize was awarded randomly by Reggie. If you want to know the mechanics of this, there were six entries left after taking away Suzie's, so I put a dice on the table with Reggie, and waited until he batted it onto the floor. He 'threw' a 4, so I picked the fourth entry, not including Suzie's. Congratulations then to Jo, who wins the other prize for her entry 'Use the Resources Around You'.

Jo, I will need your email address to notify the people at SpellCheckPlus Pro so that they can arrange for your free subscription. Suzie, I already have your GMail address, so I will give them that unless you tell me otherwise. Click here to contact me.

Congratulations to the winners, and many thanks to everyone who took part. Many thanks also to the sponsors, SpellCheckPlus - see the main page of their website for details of their free online spelling and grammar checker, and SpellCheckPlus Pro for their premium service. And, of course, thank you to Reggie, whose morning nap I interrupted for this important task!

All the tips are reproduced below, with Suzie's winning tip first.


When you send off an email or written piece, make sure you keep a diary or computer record of where you sent it, to whom, and the date - along with the details of the submission.

You can use a spreadsheet or, like me, if you prefer paper and pen, then buy a small notebook from a stationery shop and keep accurate hard copy records.

This can save embarrassing situations, such as the one I recently found myself in.

I used a web page submission form to fire off a query letter to a publisher. I didn't even think of making a note at the time, as I assumed they would reply before I forgot. What a mistake that was!

A few months later the publisher contacted me to thank me for my query and requested a full proposal. I could not remember what I had suggested to them so I had the embarrassing task of writing back to say that my PC had died and I had lost all my records. It wasn't true of course, and needless to say I never heard from them again.

So no matter how mundane it may seem, make sure you keep records of everything so that you don't miss the chance of being published.


As I write, and particularly when I edit my work, I imagine I'm an artist painting a landscape scene.

When you first put pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard) you are using a wide brush, blocking out the background with bold strokes. You're aiming for the correct scale and proportions at this point, giving yourself a framework to work to. Perhaps, in some scenes, your eye will be drawn to one section of the canvas and you'll add in a little more detail with a narrower brush, but generally your main aim is to cover the canvas with paint.

Remember Rolf Harris...can you tell what it is yet? No, it won't be ready for anyone to read at this point, and if it's a longer story you might be some way from your ideal word count, but it doesn't matter at this stage.

Once your background, or story, is complete you'll pick up your thinner brushes and start building up layers of colour to add depth, light and shadow - giving your characters personality and emotion. Finally, you can choose a really fine brush and go over the canvas yet again, adding in those finishing touches, perfecting your word choices and bringing the picture to life.


I'm sure you're familiar with the advice to have little notebooks and pens in every room of your house. In the bathroom, on your bedside table. And here I'm going to tell you to not use them. Not with this technique, which I've been using successfully ever since I first started writing as a child.

When you go to bed, don't count sheep. Think about your story. Dream about your main character while you're still awake. Dream while you're in that twilight zone between wakefulness and sleep - but don't reach for your pen and paper; it will disrupt the flow of your dream. Dream about what's going to happen until you fall asleep.

When you wake up, still half asleep, pick up your dream where you left it last night and allow yourself to dream for just a little while longer. Then, when you're finally fully awake, grab pen and paper and write it all down.

You can also use this technique when you're taking a nice long hot bath, or in the car on a two-hour drive to your grandparents up North... Just make sure you're in the passenger seat.


When you read, you subconsciously hear the words in your mind, so when you have written something, it makes sense to read it aloud, to make sure it conveys what you want it to. If it sounds right, it probably is. But beware. It might still need revising.

Driving too fast along the jungle track an elephant suddenly appeared in front of her.

The reader will know what you mean, but not before getting a bizarre mental image of an elephant behind the wheel of a speeding car. Your story, and your credibility as a writer, is ruined.

Reading your work aloud will not only show whether the writing makes sense, it will also help with the punctuation. Try saying out loud the following sentence:

She hurried past the cake shop she had already eaten and didn't want to be tempted, she was trying to lose weight.

As it is written, without proper punctuation, it's nonsense. What, she'd already eaten the cake shop? Reading it aloud immediately shows that it should be three separate sentences.

She hurried past the cake shop. She had already eaten, and didn't want to be tempted. She was trying to lose weight.

The comma after eaten is not essential, but the slight pause makes it sound better.

Whatever you write, whether a postcard or novel, reading it aloud will make it better.


If you are struggling to create characters you can use the resources around you.

Spend some time sitting in a cafe or pub and use other people to help mould your character or create a new one.

Listen to other people's conversations, are they telling any funny stories? Are they discussing any burning issues or talking about something that has actually happened?

Look at what they are wearing, how they have their hair, how they greet each other.

Ask yourself how they respond when they are laughing, how they look when they are confused and body language and non-verbal signs.

Alternatively look at old photos of schoolfriends or people you were on holiday with and try and remember their personality traits and mannerisms and use these in your characters.

As time has elapsed and you have fitted them to your story they won't be able to be identified but will be very believable.

I hope this helps either form an existing character or inspire a new one, perhaps even a whole new tale just from eavesdropping someone else's conversation.

6. STAY ON A ROLL - Margarett

My best tip is when you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, maybe paint to canvas and when you are on a roll keep going!

If inspiration hits in the middle of the night get up and put it on the page. We lose so much by not putting it down for safe keeping.

I know I had a big inspiration for this and then went to sleep and lost it. Seriously, get that first draft down, no matter if it does not play well.

That is what tweaking is for, and second drafts and third. Just keep writing till it's done and then worry about editing and touching it up. Get inspiration from anyone, anywhere and from anything.

Paint the picture you want seen with your words.


In Microsoft we trust is a rule many writers come to follow. In doing so we leave ourselves open to sneaky writing errors that slip by Microsoft's editing. As a result, your writing looks, well, unedited. These simple mistakes happen to everyone and are the reason why you cannot trust your word processing software to do what only human eyes can. Next time you finish your writing and smile from clearing all underlined errors the editing gods determined are your only issues, comb over your writing in search of the following errors.

Right spelling, wrong form: While 'there' is spelled correctly, did you mean 'their'? 'See' instead of 'sea'? 'Write' instead of 'Right'? Make sure the correct forms of the words are being used.

Right spelling, wrong word: It happens. We meant to say 'he had bent down to pick something up' and instead we typed 'he had been down to pick something up.' Why did we do it? Who knows, but it is up to you to catch it!

Tenses: If only! If only they were smart enough to tell you that in one sentence your character took actions in the past but was currently in the present.

While the editing list is endless (plot, structure, dialogue, etc), if you run through your writing at the end look for these three things. I bet you make at least one more change just when you thought you were done!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

FieldReport Update

In this blog post a few weeks ago I talked about FieldReport, a new, ongoing online writing contest and writers community.

FieldReport was - and still is - offering big cash prizes for true-life stories, with no entry fees required.

Anyway, I've been asked to remind readers that the final submissions deadline for the January prizes is coming up soon (Nov 15 2008), so now is the time to send in your stories.

There are 20 categories you can choose from, but according to data received from my informant, two categories in which there haven't been as many good submissions so far are Real Breaking News and Sport/Challenge. So if you have a good true story in either of these categories, your chances of success could be better than you think.

Also, if you know any teenagers - or you are one - they are looking for the best submission by a teenage writer in the TeenReport category. There is a special $25,000 prize for the best story in this category.

FieldReport is open to anyone in the world. The monthly category prizes are worth $1,000, with a monthly $4,000 prize for the top-rated story in any category. Not only that, on January 5 2009 the best overall submission as voted for by FieldReport members will be awarded the $250,000 Grand Prize.

So get your thinking cap on, and get over to the FieldReport website today. And if you win, remember who sent you ;-)

UPDATE: I've just heard that FieldReport's final submission deadline has been extended till 31 December 2008.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Over 100 Free Open Courseware Links for Writers

That's the title of a very useful article on the MatchACollege website.

It actually lists 103 free learning resources in a range of areas. The topic headings include Essay Writing & Research, Technical Writing, Language & Grammar, Technology/Web Writing/Design, Legal Resources, Creative Writing, Literature, and so on.

There is also a list of writing-related videos and podcasts, in case you get tired of reading and want to listen and/or watch instead! Just a pity that WCCL's excellent online radio station WritersFM wasn't included, though.

There are lots of useful and interesting resources here, including many I hadn't seen before, so I expect to spend quite a bit of time exploring them. I recommend checking out this well-researched article, and maybe adding it to your Favorites list.

* Have you written a blog post or website article with great info for writers and aspiring writers like this one? If so, drop me a line with details. If I like it, I'll be happy to feature it on this blog!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Time to Register for NaNoWriMo!

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.

It is a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in a month, and it comes around every November.

From humble beginnings in 1999, when there were just 21 participants, NaNoWriMo has grown into a world-wide phenomenon. Last year 101,510 people took part, and the numbers this year are expected to be even greater as the event becomes better known.

There is no entry fee for NaNoWriMo (though donations are welcome), and no prizes either. Essentially, it is a challenge to help you write that novel you had always meant to write but keep putting off. By registering with NaNoWriMo, you are joining a world-wide community of writers who are all seeking to achieve the same end, and are thus able to encourage and support one another.

This year quite a few members of my forum at have registered for NaNoWriMo 2008. If you are looking for some 'buddies' to share notes and compare progress with, check out this forum topic.

Although there are no prizes for completing a novel for NaNoWriMo, if you do (and you have to prove it by uploading your work to the NaNoWriMo site), you will be able to download an official 'Winner' web badge and a PDF Winner's Certificate, which you can print out. And, of course, you will have the first draft at least of a novel you should be able to polish and submit for possible publication.

NaNoWriMo is, by the way, a great opportunity to apply the techniques taught in WCCL's new Novel in a Month course, or indeed my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

I'd like to wish you the very best of luck if you do decide to register for NaNoWriMo. Please let me know if you succeed in completing the challenge!

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

How Can Writers Survive the Credit Crunch?

The world seems to be in a topsy-turvy state right now, with banks folding left, right and centre, or else being propped up uncomfortably by national governments.

The knock-on effects of the 'credit crunch' are hard to predict, but one thing that's certain is that sadly a lot more jobs are going to be lost in the coming months.

I'm no economist, but I'd like to offer my 2c worth here on how writers can best survive and even prosper in these tough times. In particular, I'd like to offer two pieces of practical advice...

The first is to diversify. In times of recession (which is where the world seems to be headed right now) no business is safe. And in the publishing world, many are already feeling the pinch as people cut back on 'luxuries' such as books.

So it must make sense to have a variety of sources of income. If books are your main writing interest, then, consider trying your hand at articles and short stories as well. Conversely, if you're mainly an article writer, why not look at other options as well, e.g. writing an e-book and selling it on the Internet?

In my view, every writer should have a broad portfolio of projects. This might, for example, include books, articles, short stories, Internet writing, comedy writing, TV scriptwriting, advertising copywriting, and so on. That way, if a particular market vanishes or a regular client goes to the wall, you still have plenty of other irons in the fire.

And, of course, there is no reason why you can't have some non-writing-related sidelines as well. When I started out as a full-time freelance writer, many moons ago, I also sold copyright-free artwork packs by mail order. That business eventually died as electronic clip-art became the norm, but in my early days I was very grateful for the extra income it provided. Nowadays, the Internet offers lots of potential sideline-earning opportunities - check out my Pseudotube site and my Squidoo Lens which explains about it, for example.

Moving on, my second piece of advice is to invest in the best and safest place you possibly can: yourself!

In uncertain times, you need to build up your palette of skills, to increase your employability (if you're seeking a job) or offer a wider range of services (if you work for yourself). Learning new skills can also provide a means for earning extra cash in its own right.

So it's important to invest some time - and, yes, money as well - in developing your skills. A writer seeking to diversify might want to build (or improve) their skills in other areas of writing, such as comedy writing, self-publishing, TV or movie scriptwriting, copywriting, travel writing, and so on. If you're interested in any of these, by the way, you could do a lot worse than check out WCCL's WriteStreet website.

It's also worth developing skills in related areas, e.g. HTML and website design. These days I do a lot of work writing content for company websites. While I'm never going to be an expert web designer, I know enough HTML to insert formatting codes, check hyperlinks, and so on. Allying this with my writing skills has helped to generate a lot of extra work for me. There are courses you can take at many local colleges, or by distance learning, or online. One free resource for learning HTML I highly recommend is PageTutor.

But whatever method you choose, the returns from investing in yourself can be far greater than any stock market investment, and with far less risk. I think that the twin methods of diversifying and investing in yourself should be at the heart of every writer's strategy for surviving the current economic crisis.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Review: The Best-Seller Secret

The Best-Seller Secret is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Essential English for Authors, Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

The Best-Seller Secret is written by Dan Strauss, Senior Editor of the WCCL Network, and successful author Mel McIntyre. It's provided as an instant download in the universal PDF format, and is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

Like all WCCL products, The Best-Seller Secret is beautifully produced, and it has obviously been professionally written and edited. I should make one point clear right away, however. Despite the title, The Best-Seller Secret will NOT show you how to write a best-seller (for that, try Novel in a Month or my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days).

Rather, The Best-Seller Secret is for anyone who has written a book, or is on the way to doing so, and wants to know how they can get it into the Amazon online bookstore's Top 100 Books list, with all the benefits that can flow from this.

You might perhaps think that only a major publishing house would have the resources (and budget) needed to propel a book into best-sellerdom. But, as this guide reveals, the Internet has changed all that.

The main manual - I'll get to the bonuses later - sets out a ten-step strategy to make your book an Amazon best-seller. It would be unfair to the publishers to reveal too many of its secrets, but they include getting celebrity endorsements, building up a pre-launch network of people who will help to promote your book, and using free bonuses to encourage people to buy.

The Best-Seller Secret really does make this whole process seem realistic and achievable. Yes, it will involve you in doing some work, but the returns (both direct and indirect) from having an Amazon best-seller should justify this many times over. It definitely can be done, and the guide includes several case studies of successful campaigns.

One thing I particularly liked about The Best-Seller Secret was the 'Campaign Flow Chart', which shows visually over several pages how to organize your publicity campaign. It's good to see WCCL using a few more diagrams and illustrations in its products these days. I was also impressed by the way the authors weren't afraid to discuss potential pitfalls and what to do if a particular aspect of your publicity campaign goes wrong.

In addition to the main guide, you get three additional bonus items. These are as follows:

Guide to Promoting Yourself & Your Book - This is a list of twenty 'quick-and-dirty' techniques for getting news of your book out to the world.

What's It Worth?- This mini-guide looks at pricing your book and, more importantly, easy techniques you can use to justify giving it a higher price tag.

Sample Letters & E-mail Templates - This is a set of templates you can use for e-mail messages to help market your book. It includes sample messages for endorsement requests, joint venture proposals, sales letters, and so on.

Really, my only reservation about The Best-Seller Secret is that it won't be suitable for every writer. As mentioned above, it's only likely to be relevant to you if you've written a book, or are well on the way to doing so. And it's likely to work best with non-fiction books, although many of the strategies would be effective with novels too.

I also think that the methods set out in The Best-Seller Secret would work best - or at least be easiest to apply - if you are self-publishing. It could undoubtedly work with conventionally published books too, but you would need to liaise closely with your publisher. Of course, it's hard to imagine that your publisher would have any objections if your efforts result in your book becoming a best-seller!

In summary, if you're writing a book or have written one, this guide to turning it into an Amazon best-seller could be one of the best investments you'll ever make. If you haven't yet written a book, a guide such as my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days might be more useful to you now, and then buy The Best-Seller Secret once your book is well on the way to completion!

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Writing Tips Competition

Recently my friends at SpellCheckPlus wrote to me offering two more annual subscriptions to their premium service, SpellCheckPlus Pro, for use as competition prizes.

For those who don't know, SpellCheckPlus is a free online spelling and grammar checker. I wrote about it a while ago in this blog post, though since then it has been considerably enhanced.

SpellCheckPlus Pro, as mentioned above, is the premium (paid-for) service. It offers a number of advantages over the free version, including unlimited text length (the free version has a limit of 500 words), no ads, and an 'enrichment' tool that allows users to find alternatives to common, often over-used, words such as nice, good, bad, happy, and so on. The winners of my competition will get a year's free subscription to this service.

So what does the competition involve? Well, I thought I'd ask readers to submit their best writing tips of under 250 words including the title. Tips must be original (I will check this online), and they must be posted as comments on this blog. Only one tip per person, please. I'd also be grateful if you would give your tip a title so that I can identify it.

Tips can cover anything related to writing. Some possibilities might include beating writer's block, generating ideas, creating believable characters, making dialogue life-like, boosting your writing income, improving your grammar/spelling/punctuation, and so on.

As an example, here's a tip I submitted recently to the WeBook blog:

Write With All The Senses
by Nick Daws

The art of writing is bringing your words to life on the page. And one of the best ways to do this is to write with all the senses. In other words, don't just write about what your characters see. Describe what they hear, smell, touch and even taste as well. This is a guaranteed way to make your writing more vivid and exciting.

Here's a quick example:

Tony offered Malcolm one of his roll-ups. Malcolm had previously refused, but because he felt guilty about dropping Tony's paintbrush, this time he accepted. He didn't enjoy it at all though.

Now here's the same scene again, with the senses of taste and touch added. By the way, this paragraph comes from the published novel Painter Man by UK author Jeff Phelps:

Malcolm had already refused one of Tony's roll-ups, but now felt so bad about the brush that he accepted. Between his lips it had the texture of toilet paper. It tasted disgustingly of Tony's Old Spice aftershave.

No prizes for identifying which of these descriptions brings the scene more vividly to life! Writers are always taught to show, not tell, and writing with all the senses is one of the very best ways you can do this.

The closing date for this contest is Friday 31 October, so you have plenty of time to come up with your tip. I will announce the winners on the blog on Wednesday 5 November, so be sure to check back here on or after that date to see if you are a winner. One prize will go to the tip I consider best, while the other will be allocated at random by my cats ;-)

Naturally, contributors will retain the copyright in their tips and are free to offer them elsewhere after the competition closing date. They will, of course, remain on this page of my blog, however.

Good luck, and I look forward to reading some great tips posted as comments below!

* Just a quick reminder - when posting your competition entries here, try to avoid using 'smart quotes' and other special characters from Word, as they won't display properly online. It's best really to compose your tips in the Blogger comments box, or alternatively use a text editor such as Notepad and copy and paste from that.

The contest is now closed. Results will be posted shortly!

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Free Contest for Writers Bureau Students

If you are, or ever have been, a student with The Writers Bureau (the UK's largest distance learning college for writers), here's an opportunity you should definitely check out.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, The Writers Bureau are offering 2000 UK pounds' worth of prizes in their new article-writing contest.

The main condition is that entrants must have taken a course with The Writers Bureau at some point in the last 20 years.

Entry is free, and the prizes are 1000 UKP for the winner, 500 UKP for second place, 200 UKP for third place, and 50 UKP for six runners-up.

Article must be between 700 and 1400 words, and reveal how the author's Writers Bureau course has helped them develop as a writer and how it contributed to their writing career. No prizes for guessing that The Writers Bureau are hoping to get some good new testimonials out of this!

For more information, and to print out an entry form, click here to visit the competition website. The closing date is 31 December 2008, and the winners will be announced on 1 February 2009.

By the way, I used to be a tutor for The Writers Bureau, and also wrote some of their course material. If you want a writing course that includes one-to-one feedback from a personal tutor, in my view they are well worth considering. For more of my musings on this topic, see my blog post Some Thoughts About Writing Courses.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale

I heard about this new book by Doctor Who writer/producer Russell T. Davies and journalist Benjamin Cook on the BBC Breakfast Show this morning. I've immediately added it to my list of 'must-read' books when it is published on 25 September.

I am just about old enough to have watched Doctor Who from the very beginning, and it's a show I will always have a great deal of affection for. It gave me a life-long interest in science fiction, and undoubtedly inspired some of my own writing.

Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale covers, I gather, a year in the life of the series, as told by the show's Head Writer and Executive Producer. Here's an extract from the description at

...the book explores in detail Russell's work on Series Four, revealing how he plans the series and works with the show's writers; where he gets his ideas for plot, character and scenes; how actors are cast and other creative decisions are made; and how he juggles the demands of Doctor Who with the increasingly successful Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures spin-offs.

Russell's scripts are discussed as they develop, and Russell and Benjamin's wide-ranging discussions bring in experiences from previous series of Doctor Who as well as other shows Russell has written and created, including Queer as Folk, Bob & Rose, and The Second Coming. The reader is given total access to the show as it's created, and the writing is everything you would expect from Russell T Davies: warm, witty, insightful, and honest.

Fully illustrated with never-before-seen photos and artwork including original drawings by Russell himself The Writer's Tale is a not only the ultimate Doctor Who book, but a celebration of great writing and great television.

Even allowing for the hype, this book sounds like essential reading for anyone interested in TV scriptwriting (and Doctor Who fans, of course!). Anyway, I've added image links below to the title on and for those who would like to find out more.

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

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FieldReport: A New Market for True-Life Stories

If you enjoy writing (and/or reading) true-life personal experience stories, FieldReport is a new website you should definitely plan on visiting soon.

FieldReport, which is run from San Francisco, is partly an ongoing writing contest, partly a growing community of writers.

As mentioned above, FieldReport publishes true-life stories, with a maximum length of 2000 words. Stories are rated by other members, and the top-rated story in each category every month receives a $1,000 prize. Winning category stories also become eligible for the annual grand prizes of up to $250,000. The categories are as follows:
  • Breaking News
  • 36 Hours
  • Teen Report
  • Animal Beings
  • Brush With Fame
  • Crisis Mode
  • Food & Drink
  • Friends & Family
  • Home & Garden & Auto
  • Love & Hate
  • Life & Me
  • Music & Arts
  • Oddball Events
  • On the Job
  • Parenting & Pregnancy
  • Spirituality & Religion
  • Sport & Challenge
  • Style & Beauty & Body
  • Travel & Nature
  • Witness to History
  • Adult Experience
Teen Report is restricted to teenagers, while the Adult Experience category is open only to those aged 18 and over.

Perhaps the best - and most surprising - thing about FieldReport is that no entry fees are required. You do, however, have to earn 'review credits' by reading and rating other members' work before you can submit a story of your own.

With its generous prizes and membership-based judging process, FieldReport is definitely well worth a look. I was also pleased to see that, although they only want original articles, you can still submit work if it has only previously been published on a personal blog or in a print publication with a circulation of under 1,000.

There is a lot to view on the FieldReport site, so a good place to get your bearings is their Quick Start Page. I also recommend reading the comprehensive list of frequently asked questions.

Finally, in accordance with my usual policy on this blog, I would like to disclose that I am receiving a small incentive (an Amazon voucher) for writing this post. This has not, however, influenced my review of FieldReport in any way. I do strongly recommend checking the site out.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Short Story Radio Update

About a year ago I wrote this post about Short Story Radio, a new web-based radio station operating from the UK and devoted to recording and broadcasting original short stories.

Since then, I'm pleased to say, Short Story Radio has gone from strength to strength. The website now looks more professional, and they are starting to pay writers of stories featured on the site. Here is an update I received recently from Ian Skillicorn, the station manager...

Over the past year we have been developing relationships with writers and many writing organisations. The latest additions to the website are recordings from three winners of the New Writing Partnership's Escalator Prize, for writers in the East of England. This summer we redesigned the website and added some new features.

I am pleased to tell you that we are now in a position to pay a writers' fee for stories that will appear on the site. At present we are approaching writers ourselves rather than taking unsolicited stories, but hope to be able to have an open submission round in the near future.

Our next project is a series of short stories that have been recorded specifically for hospital radio and will be available to hospital radio stations around the UK and beyond. The first four stories will be available for radio, and on our website, later this month. They are by award winning writer Sue Moorcroft, whose stories have appeared in many national magazines, and are read by Tamara Kennedy, whose acting career includes 14 years in Take The High Road and roles in Taggart and Monarch of the Glen.

In addition, I noticed that Short Story Radio is currently running a competition for a short story of under 3000 words in one of the following categories: drama/romance, historical fiction/memoir, humour, magic realism, mystery/thriller, science fiction.

The first-prize winner will get their story professionally recorded for broadcast on Short Story Radio, a free website worth 250 UK pounds (around $400), and five CD copies of their story for personal use. The closing date is 31 October 2008.

There is an entry fee of 8 UKP (around $14) per story in this competition, which in my view is a bit on the steep side. However, stories for Short Story Radio are recorded by professional actors, and I guess their services don't come cheap!

If you enjoy writing - and reading/listening to - short stories, Short Story Radio is well worth checking out.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Getting Customer Support for My Courses

I shan't be around a great deal over the next couple of weeks, so I thought it might be a good time to remind you of the best way to get customer support for my writing courses and manuals and other products published by WCCL.

If you have any queries, either before or after buying, by far the best thing to do is visit WCCL's customer support website at and raise a ticket there.

This is very easy to do - just click on 'Contact Us For Support' and fill in the online form, then click the box at the bottom of the form to submit it. You will be allocated a unique ticket number, and can log in to Myhelphub at any time using this number to see if your query has been answered.

The kinds of question Myhelphub routinely answer include:

* I've lost - or never knew - my password.
* I can't access the contents of the CD.
* When was my CD sent out?
* What do I do if my CD doesnt arrive?
* Will [name of product] work on a Mac?
* Will you supply CDs to my country?
* How long will it take my CD to arrive?
* I have an idea for a new WCCL product.
* And so on...

Myhelphub is staffed 24/7, and they aim to reply to all queries within 24 hours (most are answered much sooner than that). If you need help with any WCCL product - and certainly if you need technical support - I strongly recommend that you contact them rather than me!

Just one other point I'd like to stress, though - you must use the ticket system to contact them. Myhelphub are not set up to receive emails. The reason for this is that nowadays email is simply not a reliable enough medium to use for this purpose.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Some Thoughts on Professional Jealousy Among Writers

I enjoyed reading this blog post recently by Mitzi Szereto. It's about 'precious' writers, and one in particular Mitzi has had dealings with recently. Judging from the number of comments the post has attracted, it's struck a chord with more than a few readers.

The post made me think of another unattractive characteristic displayed by a few writers. That's professional jealousy towards another writer or writers, which in turn can lead to backstabbing and worse.

I've experienced this a few times in my career, so I thought I'd share a couple of instances here...

The first happened a few years ago. It concerns another writer whom I'll call Mary. We originally met when I became a contributor to a newsletter she was then editing. Later she went freelance and we kept in touch. We were both able to put some work the other's way, which is something I always like to do.

Anyway, a client for whom I had written a correspondence course was looking for someone to act as a tutor on it. I didn't fancy doing this myself, so I recommended Mary for the job. At first all went well, and she was earning a steady if not spectacular monthly income from the work. I assumed she was quite happy with this.

But, though I didn't know it at the time, resentment towards me was obviously building up in her. This culminated when she wrote a letter to my client pointing out what she felt were a few shortcomings in my course, and suggesting he scrap it and hire her to write a new one. At the same time, she started putting snide comments in the feedback she was giving to students, causing several raised eyebrows.

Fortunately I had - and still have - a great working relationship with the client concerned. He copied all the relevant correspondence (both Mary's letter to him and some student complaints about her) to me. We agreed that in the circumstances there was no way either of us could go on working with her, so my client told Mary that her services were no longer required. We found someone else to take over as course tutor - actually someone who had taken the course herself - and she is still doing the job today. No prizes, then, for seeing who came out of this situation worst.

My other example is more recent. A fellow writer I have known for many years and recommended to others on various occasions took it upon himself to 'expose' me on someone else's blog. I can't remember all the details now, but among other things he criticized me for claiming to be a local celebrity and saying I had a lot of holidays (both, incidentally, things written about me by a publisher rather than me personally). Yes, it really was that petty!

This is, by the way, someone about whom I'd never previously written a bad word, and have even recommended in this blog (and still do in the relevant archived post - I wouldn't be so petty as to delete it). I can only assume his action was brought on by professional jealousy, arising from frustration that his own writing hasn't achieved the recognition he thinks it deserves. But clearly, I won't be recommending him or his websites in future.

On a brighter note, these are isolated incidents. Most of the other writers I have met during my career, for all their little foibles, would never dream of backstabbing a fellow writer in this way. This applies especially in regard to my forum at I am pleased to say that we have a growing core (corps?) of writers who will go out of their way to help other members, and genuinely rejoice in their successes. This in turn has resulted in many collaborations, joint ventures, publishing projects, and so on.

So while professional jealousy is a particularly unattractive quality in writers, I hope and believe that it is a rare one. But what do you think? I'd love to hear about YOUR experiences!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Review: Novel in a Month

Novel in a Month is the latest in WCCL's range of products and courses for writers, which also includes my courses Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing.

Novel in a Month is written by Dan Strauss, Senior Editor of the WCCL Network and a successful author/novelist himself.

The course is provided on CD-ROM in the universal PDF format. It is therefore suitable for all computing platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

Like all WCCL products, Novel in a Month is beautifully produced, and it has clearly been professionally written and edited. The main manual (I'll get to the bonuses later) takes you step by step through everything you need to know to write a novel in the shortest possible time. Not surprisingly, I guess, the method set out in Novel in a Month bears a close resemblance to the one I set out in Write Any Book in Under 28 Days (though, of course, the latter is aimed primarily at people who want to write a non-fiction book).

I don't suppose I'm giving away too much if I reveal that the system described in Novel in a Month involves writing your first draft in three weeks, then editing it in the fourth. There is also a preliminary stage of planning and outlining, which takes up the first day or two.

Novel in a Month is packed with hints, tips and guidelines for novelists. Among the things I particularly liked were the 'population index' chart for developing characters, and Dan's P.L.O.T. plotting method, neither of which I had seen before.

Indeed, I thought Novel in a Month was particularly strong on plot and plotting methods. As well as the P.L.O.T. system, the course includes five top tips for plotting your novel, six universal plot archetypes, and so forth. My only slight reservation concerns the index card system that Dan advocates as an aid to plotting. Don't get me wrong, it's a great system, but personally I'd much prefer to work on my PC rather than start fiddling about with bits of cardboard. Still, it wouldn't be hard to adapt Dan's system to something a little more 21st century.

Other areas discussed in depth include dialogue, characterization, pacing, editing, viewpoint, writing in scenes ('show, don't tell'), and descriptive writing. Dan (correctly) emphasizes the importance of economy of style and resisting the temptation to overwrite. I can't help thinking, however, that he might have chosen a better example of this art than the late US science fiction author Isaac Asimov, entertaining though some of his short stories undoubtedly are (have you tried reading any of his 'Foundation' novels, though?). Perhaps I'm being a bit picky, however!

In addition to the main guide, you get five additional bonus items. These are as follows:

1. Getting Dialogue Down - a mini-guide to writing convincing (and correctly punctuated) dialogue.

2. How to Get Free Publicity for Your Novel - a 15-page guide showing how to get your book promoted on a shoe-string budget.

3. How to Get Celebrity Endorsements for Your Novel - if you've bought my Write Any Book in Under 28 Days course you'll know this already - but if not, the advice in this report will tell you exactly how to put this powerful technique to good use.

4. The Hottest Agents in the US and UK - this bonus guide contains over 40 pages of agent contact details, e-mail addresses, websites, guidelines, requirements, and so on.

5. 33 Techniques for Fine-Tuning Your Fiction - personally I think this is the most important and valuable of the bonuses. It shows you how to fine-tune your novel so that it stands out from the competition. Applying these 'advanced' techniques could make all the difference between having your book rejected and getting it accepted for publication.

Overall, Novel in a Month gets my recommendation as the most comprehensive course I have seen on writing a novel in the shortest possible time. If you are thinking of joining in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November, it could be the ideal guide to have at your side and on your PC. But even if you don't intend to try writing a complete novel in a month, it would still be a very useful guide to plotting and writing your first best-seller!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Writer Wanted for Rude Books

One of my regular clients, Lagoon Games, is looking for a writer with teaching experience for a new project. Here is the ad they asked me to publicize:

Publisher compiling funny translation book of rude words and phrases for kids. If there is anyone who has experience of teaching younger kids languages and what falls within the boundaries of acceptance for an age group under 13, please contact Nikole Bamford at

The languages will be French, Spanish, German and Chinese - you don't have to know all these but a knowledge of phonetics would also help. This is a paid project.

Good luck if you decide to apply for this. Lagoon are regular clients of mine, and nice people to work with. The company is UK-based but their biggest market is the US, so I would assume that as long as you have the skills they want for this job, you could be based anywhere in the world.

Update 28 August 2008: Nikole tells me this vacancy is still open. It's a good - and paying - opportunity for any writer with some language teaching experience. Even if you're not sure if you qualify, it's well worth emailing Nikole to enquire. I can confirm that she doesn't bite!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finding a Publisher for Your Novel

I've had a few queries recently from writers frustrated by their inability to get a publisher to look at their novel. The one below is typical:

You know, I think the one biggest need for the writing community is a primer on how to actually get printed. I have written four novels now. I have submitted one to several companies (with no answer), one to an agent (with no discernible activity), and have two waiting in the wings. It seems I can get no one to look at any of them.

How do you find a publisher that is willing to work with you? I've most often heard that "it's all in having the right contacts" but how do you establish those? I resist vanity press and don't know the first thing about web publishing. I just want someone to publish my books. I am very frustrated. Writing the book is by far the easiest part of the whole thing...

I do have a lot of sympathy with the frustration expressed here. For a new writer today (who isn't already a 'celebrity') even getting a publisher to look at your work is a challenge. For what it's worth, here are a few suggestions that may help overcome this problem.

1. Try a Range of Agents and Publishers

The old days when you were told to avoid multiple submissions are long gone - life is simply too short to wait for some lowest-of-the-low junior editor to pluck your manuscript out of his/her in-tray and condescend to read it.

For checking out publishers and their requirements, I particularly recommend the annual Writer's Market and Writer's Market UK. These are comprehensive guides to the US and UK markets respectively, and both list a range of publishers in other countries as well.

There are nowadays some great interactive websites where you can search for agents who handle the type of book you are writing, and read comments by other authors about their experiences with them. LitMatch and QueryTracker are two such sites I highly recommend.

And by the way - don't just limit yourself to the country you're in. Publishing is nowadays very much a multi-national industry. If you're a UK writer specialising in hard-boiled detective fiction, you may find you get a better reception from some US publishers. Or if you're an American author specialising in historical novels set in 19th century London, you could most certainly try some British agents and publishers as well.

2. Enter Writing Contests and Competitions

I can speak from personal experience here - winning a high-profile contest really can open doors for you. A few years ago I won a short story contest run by a top UK women's magazine. As part of my prize I was invited to an awards ceremony at London's Dorchester Hotel. I was seated with (among others) a BBC producer, a literary agent and a book publisher, all of whom were keen to find out what other literary gems I had in my locker. In many ways the contacts I made through winning that competition were more valuable to me than the prize itself.

3. Get Testimonials in Advance

Anything you can do to help your book stand out from the rest will help. And one way of doing this is to get 'testimonials' for your book from published authors and/or celebrities, which you can submit to an agent or publisher along with your manuscript. My course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days goes into some detail about this, incidentally.

4. Make Your Novel as Good as It Can Be

You really do need to ensure that your novel is as good as it can possibly be before you submit it.

If you know that grammar and spelling aren't your strong points, therefore, ask someone you trust to go through it for you, or pay a professional editor. In any event, there is a lot to be said for getting your work checked over by someone seeing it with fresh eyes.

Be sure, especially, that the opening pages of your novel grab the reader. The days of long, rambling introductions are long past. You need to capture readers' interest and attention in the first few pages, either with the quality of the writing or an exciting scenario (preferably both).

Don't assume that publishers will overlook a few little mistakes either - they won't. You are entering a highly competitive arena, and only your very best work will do if you hope to succeed.

5. Don't Expect It to Be Easy

Perhaps I'm stating the obvious here, but getting a novel published is not - and never has been - easy. Even J.K. Rowling had her first Harry Potter book rejected by twelve publishing houses before a then-small independent publisher called Bloomsbury decided to take a chance on it.

Neither does it necessarily get easier once you've been published. I was talking recently to my friend Jeff Phelps, the award-winning novelist and short story writer. He told me that he had just sent his latest novel to his publishers and received a reply showing polite interest but asking him to rewrite the entire book and then re-submit it (still with no guarantee it will be accepted). And Jeff is a meticulous writer, so I'm sure there was nothing wrong with the book stylistically.

Looking at it from a publisher's point of view, publishing a first novel from an 'unknown' writer is a huge gamble. Publishers know that most first novels lose money, though there is always the hope that, like J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter novel, one will succeed spectacularly. As an author, your task is to demonstrate to a potential publisher that your book has that added 'X factor' that will make it stand out. And publishers also want to see that you have the ability to write more books, preferably lots of them. Even if your first book fails to make money for them, then, hopefully your second or third may be the 'breakthrough' novel that catapults you into the big time.

6. Consider Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is not the same as vanity publishing. It just means you take the financial risk of publishing your book yourself.

Print-on-demand services such as allow you to publish your book yourself and only pay when an order is actually received, so the risk is far less than the traditional method of getting hundreds or even thousands of books printed in advance.

As a self-publisher, you will have to handle everything from design to publicity yourself (or pay someone to do it on your behalf). However, all the profits will go to you as well. And a growing number of books that were initially self published are subsequently picked up by mainstream publishers.

7. Use the Internet to Promote Yourself and Your Work

This is a huge topic, and I can't go into great detail about it here. But there are lots of ways you can use the net to raise your profile and generate interest in your book, both from readers and potential publishers.

Here's just one example: You could publish extracts from your novel on a blog or website. Indeed, some writers have put their entire books online. If publishers can see that your work is attracting interest from readers, it may provide the encouragement they need to offer you a contract. At the very least, it means your work is being read and enjoyed by others rather than gathering dust in your desk drawer.

Finally, though, I would say: persevere. If you believe in your work and are sure it is worth publishing, keep sending it out. Eventually there is a real chance that someone else, an agent or a publisher, will read it and agree with you.

Good luck, and enjoy your writing.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Contributions wanted for The Forever Story

I've just heard about a new collaborative writing project called The Forever Story.

The project launches today and aims to create the world's longest collectively written story. There are no fees on offer for writers, however; instead the project aims to raise a large sum of money for children with autism.

The money will be donated by the telecoms company TalkTalk. For every contribution to the story via the website at, TalkTalk will donate 1 UK pound (around $2 US) to the British children's autism charity Treehouse. The project press release explains:

There are around 100,000 children with Autism in the UK, with around half a million family members directly affected by the condition. We want to raise awareness of the work Treehouse does to alleviate the often huge financial and emotional pressures associated with looking after a child with Autism and raise the much needed money so their work can continue.

TalkTalk's donation target is 50,000 UKP, and to achieve that they are giving people the opportunity to write alongside some very well-known writers. The first 35 words have been written by Nick Hornby (author of About A Boy and other popular books and novels) and are as follows:

For the first nineteen years of his life, Johnny Razor wasn't Johnny Razor at all. He was Malcolm Weatherly, and he was born in Mile End Underground station on the night of 17th September 1940.

Anyone is welcome to continue the story by adding another 35 words or so at the website Do just be sure to read (and/or listen to) as many of the preceding contributions as possible, so that your contribution fits in and makes sense.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Free Guide to E-book Writing

For a writer, creating and selling an e-book can be one of the best ways to make money from the Internet.

Many writers, however, are put off by the prospect of writing for this 'unfamiliar' medium, formatting their book, setting up a sales site, attracting buyers, and so on.

I recently discovered that a comprehensive guide to this subject called Make Your Knowledge Sell is currently being given away free of charge.

Make Your Knowledge Sell is by Ken Evoy (the man behind the popular Site Build It business opportunity) and successful e-book author Monique Harris. MYKS covers everything from choosing your subject and producing your e-book, through to marketing it and automating the sales process.

MYKS formerly sold for $49.95 (and was great value at that price). It's currently available free, with no strings attached. I don't know how long this offer will last, however; so if you're at all interested in e-book writing, I strongly recommend visiting the MYKS website and picking up your free copy today.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Format a Manuscript for a Publisher

A question that probably arises more than any other on my forum is how to set out a manuscript for a publisher.

I was going to write a post about this myself, but then I discovered this excellent article by Moira Allen, the editor of, which says everything I would have said and more.

Helpfully, Moira's article covers submitting to both US and UK publishers. I also like the way she takes a sensible, straightforward approach to some issues that cause writers to agonize unnecessarily. Here she is talking about fonts and formats:
Amazingly, people get into heated discussions over what types of fonts editors prefer. Some folks claim that all editors want manuscripts in Courier (the font that looks like your typewriter font). Lately, some editors and writers have come to prefer Arial. So what do editors really want?

The truth is, most editors really don't care, as long as the font is readable. (I can state this with confidence, having done a survey of about 500 editors; 90% expressed "no preference" with regard to font.) Very few editors will reject your manuscript because it happens to be in New Century Schoolbook, Palatino, or Times Roman. Generally, it's best to use a 12-point font size, and to choose a font that doesn't "squinch" letters together too closely.

If you're thinking of submitting a book to a publisher, I strongly recommend giving Moira's article a read. She even covers electronic submissions as well!

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

More WCCL Sites on Writers Digest Top 101 List

As many of you will know, this blog is sponsored by the electronic public house WCCL, who also publish many of my writing courses.

In this recent post, I mentioned that another WCCL-sponsored site, my forum at, had just been voted into the Writers Digest Top 101 Websites for Writers list for 2008.

Well, I've just discovered that two other WCCL sites are also in the Writers Digest list. In case you've not seen them, I thought I'd mention them both here.

WritersFM is WCCL's free online radio station for writers. The station broadcasts 24/7 via the Internet, with a mixture of interviews with successful writers, laid-back music, and writing tips and advice (and, by the way, no advertisements).

Among the writers you can hear on WritersFM are historical novelist Bernard Cornwell, British politician-turned-writer Edwina Currie, US screenwriting guru Syd Field, and many more (including yours truly).

You can either just tune in to the station and listen to what is currently playing, or download most of the interviews from the podcasts page. Note that either way, you will need to have a broadband/DSL Internet connection. WritersFM doesn't work on dial-up, unfortunately.

The other WCCL site in the Writers Digest 101 list is WriteStreet, or Trent Steele's Write Street as it's described on the list. This is actually WCCL's writing portal. Here you can find details of all of the company's writing products and courses, along with other book and product recommendations, inspirational quotes, articles about writing, and so on.

Also from WriteStreet you can subscribe to WCCL's free Smart Writers email newsletter, and help yourself to a range of valuable free gifts just for signing up. Smart Writers includes articles about writing, along with reviews of the latest writing products. Of course, you can unsubscribe any time if you don't like it and still keep all the free gifts.

I hope you will try visiting both these sites, to see why they were voted on to the Writers Digest list by writers themselves.

And if you'd like to vote to keep any of them on the list for 2009, you can do so by sending an email nominating the site in question to with "101 Websites" as the subject line. The closing date for nominations for the 2009 list is 1 January 2009.

And yes, a vote for this blog would be very much appreciated too!

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Read me on the WEbook blog!

I thought perhaps you might be interested in checking out this mini-article I wrote recently for Melissa Jones's WEbook blog.

As you'll see, it's a tip that's relevant mainly to fiction writers, though there's no reason why non-fiction authors can't use it as well. Not long ago I ran a workshop on this topic for the Lichfield & District Writers, and their members were impressed by the improvement that applying this one piece of advice made to their work.

The article also gives me the opportunity to highlight WEbook again. WEbook is a collaborative writing project that gives authors the chance to work together in a wide range of writing projects centred around the WEbook website. You can read all about it in this article by Melissa Jones which I published a few weeks ago on my blog. And yes, they are still very much open to new members.

I'd also like to give a quick plug for the book I used as an example in my piece for the WEbook blog. Painter Man is the first novel by my old friend and sometime collaborator Jeff Phelps. You can hear Jeff being interviewed about his book on WritersFM, and read my blog post about it here.

Painter Man, like What Was Lost which I raved about recently in this post, is published by Tindal Street Press, a small, Birmingham-based publishing house which regularly punches above its weight in literary awards. Painter Man is quite different from What Was Lost, but both books are well observed and beautifully written, and I'm disappointed that Painter Man has not (yet) received the recognition it deserves.

Anyway, I've included links to Painter Man on Amazon (com/uk) below, in case you're interested in finding out more about this excellent novel. As ever, if you're receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see the image links.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008 makes Writers Digest 101 Best Websites List!

I just found out that my forum at has made the prestigious Writers Digest Magazine 101 Best Websites for Writers list for another year. Huge thanks to everybody who voted for us!

The list is actually a great resource for discovering the best and most popular sites for writers. Even if you've been online for a while, there's a good chance you'll find some writing sites here you haven't seen before. I'm certainly planning to check out some of the less familiar names myself.

We still need your votes for 2009, however! If you agree that is one of the top online resources for writers, please send an email nominating the site to with '101 Websites' as the subject line. January 1, 2009 is the deadline for the 2009 list.

Many thanks!

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Great Advice on Being More Productive

Just wanted to share with you an article I read on this subject by Collis Ta'eed. It's a guest post on Leo Babauta's Zenhabits blog.

Collis's post is titled How to Get a Lot Done - Seven Tips to Achieve More. In fact, there are really more than seven tips, as several of the items have 'sub-tips' listed under them.

Here's one tip I found particularly interesting:

2. Plan, plan, plan!

If you want to make the most effective use of your time, you need a plan. Without one, trying to do a lot will give you a major stress attack. Whether it's daily to-do lists, business plans, or a productivity system, choose your weapons and put them to use.

Personally I have two planning tools that I use constantly. Next to me I keep a notepad with daily to-do lists. They usually span two A4 pages because I like to do some serious multi-tasking.

I also carry a Moleskine notebook with me literally everywhere I go. I spend a couple of hours a week writing ideas, goals, plans, and lists in it. What's coming up next, how to increase income on a website, lists of actionables to launch a new project, the chapters for a book, points to write in an article. You name it, it's in there, combined with enough squiggles and doodles to impress the most idle mind.

All this planning means that my time in front of a computer is spent purely executing. There's less wondering 'what next?' or 'what should I write?' and more getting things done.

I can really relate to this. When you're a busy working freelance writer with a number of regular clients, it's easy to spend all your time working to other people's agendas, and not focusing enough on your own goals and priorities.

Anyway, having read Collis's article, I'm determined to spend a bit more time on planning my own schedule in future. And I'll be doing my best to apply his other productivity advice as well!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bad Grammar in a Holiday Brochure

Here's a sentence from the current 'Manos' Greek holidays brochure. Can you spot the mistake?

Unwind amongst the tranquil setting of the Anaxos Hotel

And yes, as you may have noticed, this happens to describe the place where Jayne and I recently enjoyed a week's holiday!

Anyway, full marks if you noticed that the problem word is 'amongst'.

'Amongst' (or 'among') is normally used to introduce countable, plural nouns. So it would be fine to write:

He knew that he was among friends.
They reached an agreement among themselves.

He delved among the dusty papers for his father's letter.

But 'among' cannot, in standard English, be used for uncountable mass nouns, such as 'the tranquil setting' in the holiday brochure. An alternative is the word 'amid', as in the examples below...

Amid the confusion, she heard Jim calling her name.
The rescuers searched frantically amid the wreckage.

The hotel is located amid unspoiled countryside.

and, of course,

Unwind amid the tranquil setting of the Anaxos Hotel.

Or, as Jayne suggested when I mentioned this to her, you could simply say 'in'. But I must admit to liking the word 'amid', even if it does have a slightly literary ring to it!

Incidentally, 'among' can also be used with singular collective nouns such as 'herd' and 'audience' which consist of countable individuals.

There was panic among the herd.
A murmur arose among the audience.

Although where there are just two items, 'between' is normally preferred to 'among'.

She divided the pie between [not among] Robert and Philip.

'Amongst' and 'amidst' mean exactly the same as 'among' and 'amid'. They are, however, less concise, and also rather old-fashioned (especially 'amidst', which could also be seen as a bit pretentious). In most cases, therefore, I think it's better to use the shorter versions. Here's an example from What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn, an otherwise excellent book which I reviewed recently in this post.
Her home was in the only Victorian block of houses left in the area, a red-brick three-storey outcrop which looked uncomfortable amidst the grey and white council cuboids.
'Amidst' isn't actually ungrammatical here - amidst (or amid) can be used with plural nouns, as it simply means 'in the middle of'. In modern usage, however, 'amongst' (or among) is normally preferred in this context. I would therefore change the word in the sentence above to 'among' (also losing the archaic -st ending), so it reads:
Her home was in the only Victorian block of houses left in the area, a red-brick three-storey outcrop which looked uncomfortable among the grey and white council cuboids.
Just my opinion, of course, but I think that reads much better!

* If you need advice on bringing your writing up to a publishable standard, check out my new course from WCCL, Essential English for Authors.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Writers Bureau Poetry & Short Story Contest

There is still just time to enter the 2008 Poetry and Short Story Competition run by my old friends at The Writers Bureau.

For those who don't know, The Writers Bureau is the UK's leading distance learning college for writers. In days gone by I was a freelance tutor and assessor for them, and I also wrote some of their course material.

The competition is for short stories no longer than 2000 words and poems of up to 40 lines. There is an entry fee of 5 UKP or 9 USD per entry, unless you also happen to subscribe to their newsletter Freelance Market News, in which case reduced fees of 4 UKP/7 USD apply. Work may be on any subject or theme, but should not have been previously published.

The top prize in each category is 1,000 UKP (almost 2,000 USD). There are also nine further prizes in each category, comprising 400, 200, 100 and six prizes of 50 UKP.

The judge for the poetry competition is Alison Chisholm, while for short stories it is Iain Pattison. I know Iain in particular quite well (buyers of my Quick Cash Writing course can read one his excellent stories in the Short Stories module), and you might perhaps be interested to check out this old issue of my E-Writer newsletter, where I set out some of Iain's own advice to people entering short story contests. It's always useful to know what the judge of a writing competition is looking for!

Finally, the closing date is 30 June 2008, so you'll need to get your entry in pretty soon. Here's another link to the full competition details.

Good luck!

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Top US Market Guide for Writers

In this post last week I reviewed the three top UK market guides for writers.

Well, as promised, in this post I'm doing the same thing for the US market. But this will be a much shorter post, because there is actually only one major annual guide to the US marketplace for writers. That's the blockbusting Writer's Market, from Writer's Digest Books.

Like the UK guides I mentioned last week, Writer's Market is published annually. The 2008 edition - the most recent currently available - weighs in at a massive 1176 pages, and claims to include over 4000 listings for book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, literary agents, and so on.

The current (2008) edition was published on 1 July 2007, so I would expect the 2009 edition to come out very soon. Till then, here are links to the book's pages at and As ever, if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see these.

Although I am UK-based I do a lot of work for US publishers, and until recently I bought Writer's Market every year. This year, however, I decided to subscribe to their online version at instead. This is reasonably priced at $29.99 a year (around 16 UKP), for which you get everything in the printed version and more, plus the market listings are continuously updated. I might still buy the printed book occasionally in the future, but actually I find the online version meets my day-to-day needs very well, and it takes up less space on my bookshelf ;-)

Finally, I should mention that although it is primarily a guide to the US marketplace, Writer's Market also lists publishers and magazines in other countries, notably Canada, Australia and the UK. It also has an excellent selection of articles about all aspects of freelance writing. If you write for the huge US market, or hope to, either the printed or online version of Writer's Market is probably going to be an essential for you.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Writing Tuition Service

I thought some of you might be interested to know that stalwart John Craggs, aka Gyppo, has just launched his own online writing tuition service at As he says on the site:

Let me ask you three questions, so you can decide if you're interested in becoming one of my students.

Would you like to see the world differently?

To see it with a Writer's Eye?

Write copy which makes the reader sit up and take notice?

If so then you're already in the right place. My main aim in the early stages is to help you discover your abilities as a writer before getting too hung up on the finer details. To help find your own niche as a writer, your strengths and weaknesses. I'll help you develop the essential Writer's Eye, and Writer's Ears, a major boost for fiction writers. It will also help the writer of non-fiction.

Members of will already know John well in his Gyppo guise. He regularly provides feedback and constructive criticism to forum members, a number of whom have already signed up for his one-to-one tuition service.

Even if you're not looking for personal tuition, however, it's still well worth visiting John's new site, as he has a range of useful resources for writers on it, and is constantly adding more. One of his latest additions is an article on guns and how they are used, from a writer's perspective.

John has a varied and colourful history, having worked at various times as a baker/confectioner, writing and crafts tutor, postman, storyteller, and arena showman. He is an expert knife-thrower, axe-thrower and quarterstaff fighter. And he's also a prolific writer. You can read all about him in his own words in a fascinating article on Linda Jones's Freelance Writing Tips blog. Check it out!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Best UK Market Directories for Writers

We may not even be half-way through 2008, but already the 2009 market directories are coming out.

So I thought in this post I would take a look at the three main UK directories. I'll save the US market guides for another post.

As a UK-based freelance, I buy at least one of these guides every year. The content varies between them, but they all include comprehensive lists of UK publishers, agents, magazines, newspapers, and so on. Nowadays, as well, they include a growing range of articles and ancillary information. If you're serious about making a living from your writing, and UK-based or want to write for UK markets, having a current edition of one of these guides on your bookshelf is, in my view, essential.

The best known, and longest-established, guide to the UK market is The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, published by A&C Black. I've posted a link to the 2009 book's page at below. As ever, if you're receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see this.

The 2009 WAYB is published on 15 June 2008, and has a foreword by Kate Mosse. It weighs in at 832 pages and is available for 9.89 UK pounds from Amazon.

The WAYB is still the favourite UK market guide of many writers. It has a good range of publishers and markets, and unlike the other guides includes information specifically aimed at freelance artists and photographers as well. It has a website at, which includes a free search facility (although the only info given for a magazine or publisher is its website and email address). You won't go far wrong with the WAYB, but its two main competitors are ahead in some respects.

The WAYB's longest-standing rival is The Writer's Handbook, published by Macmillan. You'll have a little longer to wait for this one - the 2009 edition is due out on 25 July 2008. Here's a link to its Amazon page...

The 2009 Writer's Handbook also has 832 pages and costs 9.89 UKP on Amazon (what a coincidence!). It is edited, as usual, by Barry Turner. The Writer's Handbook has been my favourite market guide for a few years now. There's more information on writing for newspapers and magazines, and more on radio, TV, small presses and theatre companies. The new 2009 edition also apparently includes free online access to The Writer's Handbook website, offering a directory of markets and some additional resources and advice for writers. I don't have a URL for this, however, and assume the site is not operational yet (unless you know otherwise?). The obvious URL at seems to be owned by someone else and is currently up for offers. I assume some frantic behind-the-scenes negotiation is going on!

The last of the three UK directories is the 'new kid on the block'. Writer's Market UK comes from David & Charles and is edited by Caroline Taggart. The 2009 edition was published back in April this year at a slightly cheaper price of 8.99 UKP on It weighs in at an impressive 976 pages.

I bought Writer's Market UK for the first time this year, and was impressed by what I found. The presentation is more attractive than either of the two rival guides, who will have to start looking to their laurels. There are nearly 100 pages of articles on most aspects of writing, as well as a particularly wide range of publishing houses. There is a also a good selection of writing websites.

One thing I found a little bit confusing was that some magazines were listed under Publishers - so having looked for, and failed to find, the details for Readers Digest under Magazines, I fortuitously discovered them later under Readers Digest Association in the Publishers section. To be fair, I could have looked up Readers Digest in the index at the back of the book and found it there, but at the time I assumed it just wasn't listed.

Buyers of Writers Market UK also get a one-month free trial of their online service at After that, I assume you have to pay, but despite my best efforts I haven't been able to find out what they charge.

These are all excellent guides, but my overall recommendation goes to Writer's Market UK at the moment. When The Writer's Handbook 2009 comes out, with its promised free website, that may also be worth considering. The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook is slightly behind the other two in my view, but if your interests also extend to photography and art, it may nevertheless be your best choice.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Guest Post: Stop Making Excuses!

Today I'm pleased to welcome a new guest author to my blog, Ruth Barringham.

Ruth is a prolific and successful author and publisher, and I'm also very pleased to count her as a friend and collaborator. Here she offers some good advice for everyone - which includes me on occasion - who claims that they don't have time to write.

Stop Making Excuses! - by Ruth Barringham

The biggest complaint of most would-be freelance writers and authors is that they don't have time to write.


Everyone has time to write. We all have the same 24 hours in every day. The difference between us all is how we spend our time.

Some people do actually manage to squeeze in a couple of hours to write during their busy day. But instead of focusing on their work, they waste their time reading unimportant emails or online articles that are irrelevant to what they should be doing.

Does this sound like you?

Well, don't worry, you're not alone.

Most writers are the same. We all say we love to write and will even spend all day thinking about it. Yet when it comes to actually sitting down and beginning to write, we'll look for other things to distract us.

But to be a successful writer you need to be able to write quickly and be as productive as possible, and you won't be able to do this if you constantly allow your attention to be diverted when you should be writing.

So here's a word that is the most important to anyone who wants to be successful in anything and everything they do. Knowing this word and having a complete understanding of its meaning can change you from a reluctant writer into a hard working and profitable writer.

And that word is - FOCUS.

When you know you should be writing, focus on it. Force yourself to apply bum-to-chair. Once you're sitting comfortably, begin the task of writing immediately. Don't check your emails or surf the net. Just sit down and begin working.

It will help you stay focused if you know exactly what you have to do. So at the end of every day make a list of the writing tasks you have to do tomorrow. That way, when you sit down you just have to check your list and you'll know where to begin.

If you find you work better in the mornings, then get up early and write. If you work better in the evening, work late when the house is quiet and the rest of the family is asleep.

Just make sure you allocate a portion of every day to write. Then focus, and don't let your mind be distracted by anything else.

Once you get into a routine of writing regularly, you'll find that focusing and writing becomes extremely easy, and will be a habit you never want to break.

Ruth Barringham is a freelance writer, author and publisher. She has two websites to help writers at and Her publishing company website is at

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Friday, May 30, 2008

An Interview with Paul Kilduff

As previewed in this post a few weeks ago, I'm delighted to welcome Irish author Paul Kilduff to my blog today. Paul is visiting as part of a Virtual Book Tour (VBT) to launch his new book, Ruinair, a tongue-in-cheek account of his experiences travelling round Europe with low-cost airlines. Without further ado, let's get down to the questions and answers...

1) Is this your first book, Paul?

No, I have written four financial thrillers previously for Hodder Headline in London. Ruinair is my first work of non fiction and is published in Ireland.

2) How long have you been writing and what started you off?

I began writing in 1998 - what started me was when I read a financial thriller where the author got a large advance and I knew I could write a book at least as good as his.

3) How would you describe the writing that you're doing?

It's vaguely funny travel writing at present, full of informative content, fast paced, lots of variety, topical stuff, with amusing anecdotes and some insights.

4) Who is your target audience? Who influenced you?

Passengers of the Irish low fares airline Ruinair and its CEO, Mick O'Leary! And all those who love travel writing and having a go at large corporations.

I was influenced by Bill Bryson, Pete McCarthy, Tim Moore, Don George, Simon Calder, Alain de Botton and many good guide books and maps over the years.

5) Is your fiction writing autobiographical at all?

My fiction features the work environments, places, cities, people, scams and scandals I had encountered in real life when I lived and worked in the City of London.

6) What are your biggest challenges as a writer?

Converting from writing fiction to non fiction was a big challenge. Also balancing a writing career as well as holding down a day job in a US investment bank.

7) Do you write every day, and how do you begin and end the process?

No, I work every day until I can retire! I write on weekends, holidays, Christmas, Easter, time off, and on my sick days off work!

8) What aspects of your writing do you enjoy most?

I enjoy the creativity, of producing an end product and seeing it on book shelves in shops, such as being the No. 1 non-fiction bestseller in Ireland right now. I enjoy being taken for slap up meals by my agent and editor in Dublin's top restaurants, and I enjoy PR work where I meet some of Ireland top radio personalities!

9) What is your book about and what inspired it?

My book is about travelling around Europe on a cheap Irish low fares airline called Ruinair and seeing the good and bad of a most amazing continent - all for a 1 cent fare!

10) What sets this book apart from what you've written in the past?

I think this current work of fiction is much more populist than my former financial thrillers. also I think non fiction is easier to write than draining your imagination for fiction.

11) How long did the whole process take, beginning to end?

I was abandoned by Ruinair in Malaga, Spain for 10 hours in August 2004, I began the book in 2005, finished it in 2006, sold it in 2007, and it was published in Feb 2008.

12) Did you begin writing for the love of it, or did you always aim to become published?

It was always my aim to have my books published - I really believe that's the main aim of any writing - I want to share my half-decent writing with as many people as possible.

13) What's your most significant achievement so far?

I think seeing the book enter the Irish non fiction bestseller list at no 1 and stay there for the past 7 weeks since publication has been fantastic.

14) Where do you get your ideas? Do you build characters and events slowly or do they come to you in a flash?

My ideas for travel books come to me when I am on the road - I have to travel and fly frequently to get my observational and literary powers humming.

15) What's next for you?

Next up is the sequel to Ruinair - this will be a book about travelling on low fares airlines to the 12 countries of Eastern Europe - the book is called 'Ruinairski', due Feb 09.

16) Do you have any advice for other budding authors out there?

I would say read all the books you can in your chosen genre, write often, read books on 'how to write', attend writing classes and workshops, persevere, be realistic, enjoy...

17) Finally, as we're conducting this interview online, I wondered if you could tell me what are your three favourite websites, and why?

A great site for low fares travel on a friendly flexible Irish airline run by a shy retiring chief executive named Michael O'Leary. 'I'm probably just an obnoxious little bollocks. Who cares? The purpose is not to be loved. The purpose is to have the passengers on board.'

An extensive site about airlines and airports. Before I travel anywhere on any airline, I can check out what other flyers experienced and advise.

I built my own site myself, using FrontPage. It's basic but full of content and often updated, and readers of both my fiction and non-fiction like it.

Many thanks to Paul for visiting my blog on his VBT, and for taking the trouble to answer these questions in forthright and entertaining style! If you have any further questions or comments for Paul, please feel free to post them here.

If you're inspired to try to follow Paul's example, dare I mention it, my CD course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days will help you get a book of your own completed in the shortest possible time. And my publishers, WCCL, also produce an excellent introductory guide to travel writing, written by my colleague Mel McIntyre.

For more information about Ruinair, clicking through here will take you to the publisher's sales page. I have also included an image link to the book at below. Note that if you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to see this.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Guest Post: Readers are Doomed!

I'm pleased to welcome another guest blogger today, Nigel Edwards from

As you'll see from his article below, Nigel has some strong views about what the future holds for readers - and, by extension, writers. I'll let you read what he has to say, then give my personal response to his comments.

Readers are Doomed to Extinction!

That's a bald statement to read, isn't it? As it stands I imagine many, if not most writers would call it a ridiculous notion - but is it? Let me explain my thinking.

Ask this question: why is the written word so popular? The answer is that books provide the medium for people to indulge in their fantasies. They bring us escape from the drudgery and indifference of modern living, and have done so for a long, long time. Stories have entertained us for thousands of years, though only comparatively recently has the written word replaced the narrator. Imagine in pre-history a camp-fire was lit, and around it huddled a hunting party, squatting by its glowing warmth to hear their leader recount the time when he single-handedly bested a wild and enraged boar? That was perhaps the beginning of an oral tradition that was long appreciated, and indeed still is in some dwindling corners of the world; but this is the important point: where in modern society are the oral story-tellers now? What happened to that tradition? It's virtually gone. Why?

Once upon a time, someone figured out a way to capture thoughts and ideas in a physical medium and, to cut a long story short, invented writing. At first it was crude and limited, but over time it grew in sophistication until it came to a point where you didn't specifically need a story-teller with a great memory and a good voice; all you needed was to have someone write the words, thereby replacing the memory, and someone to read them - and remember, reading can be done silently. At first, as we know, the art of reading and writing was rare, and only a few had the skill. The old story-teller still had his place, perhaps as the reader of narrative, but by the time we come to the present day his presence is virtually nil, made redundant by education which spread the ability to read and write far and wide. When the general populace finally reached the point where the majority could read, I can imagine that there would still have been many people who remembered the enjoyment of the camp-fire and preferred to be read to, rather than read for themselves; but gradually their number declined, and with the advent of mass book production they all but disappeared.

And it's going to happen again. Sort of.

Who reads for pleasure today? According to many reports that I have come across the number of people actually reading books for pure enjoyment is on the decline. The reason is new technology. As the introduction of writing resulted in the death of oral tradition, so will the presence of new, more exiting methods of communication replace the book. It's a spreading canker. Take the cinema. A really good writer can construct a story that is gripping and thrilling, and can compete well with the cinema, except on one front - the reader has to interact with the story, become involved with it, and this requires the active use of their brain. You actually have to do some mental work to get the best out of a book. Now compare that with the cinema. What does it take to simply sit in a seat and let the mesmeric film envelope you. There's no need to read thousands of words to imagine the final confrontation at the OK Corral - there it is in glorious colour and surround sound, dished up for your gratification for the price of a ticket.

Do you see where this is leading, yet?

Take television. You don't need to go to the cinema to see and hear the movie; today it gets piped directly into your home. Press the button and there it is. You can record it, or buy the DVD, and play it over and over without having to exercise your interpretive powers one little bit. Then there are computers. You don't even need a television any more; just download the feature or film you want onto your laptop or desktop, or even your mobile phone! Entertainment wherever you go, and no more need to cart cumbersome volumes to your deckchair on the beach. Just pick up the phone and enjoy.

What this means is that the reader, the one thing over which no author has any control, no longer needs to read to get their pleasure. And if they don't need to, they won't. It's because they- we - are lazy. We always look for the easiest way to do something, and if we can get our thrills passively, why should we bother with getting them in any other way? The story-teller died out because he was old-fashioned, because people either had to go to him, or wait until he came to them; and people today are taking the next step, which is to discount the written word in favour of the instant gratification of immediate explosions of light and sound pulsed almost directly into their brains. You might say that technology has become the new story-teller. Could it be that we are coming full circle?

Not convinced?

The demographics for reading are changing. The days when our children all enjoyed the delight of a bedtime story are disappearing. How many youngsters now will pick up a book when there is the alternative of television, computer games, and the internet? Here's a bold prediction for you: within my lifetime the average age of a regular reader will rise to 60. Within 100 years the number of books being sold will drop to a point where the supermarkets don't even bother to stock them. Within 200 years the only people to read for pleasure will be the few remaining authors themselves, devouring each others' words in sad, cannibalistic indulgence. Let me know if I was wrong! ;)

So, not only the end for readers, but authors too in the general sense. Only those who can successfully adopt the skills needed to produce stories for translation into multi-sensual experiences will be able to make their way to public acclaim, and reap the rewards thereby associated. Why bother writing the intermediate step of a book when you can go straight for the final product? It's a corporate world we live in, and the money that is its blood will demand economies to maximise profit. The old fashioned, traditional writer of words for pleasure will become redundant, and virtually extinct.

Of course, I could be wrong...

Nigel Edwards, founder of Let's Get Published ( ) and author of PRISM - EXILES ( - ).

Thanks for a thought-provoking piece, Nigel. I largely agree with the points made above, although I think it will be a while yet before books become a thing of the past. Yes, people increasingly want their entertainment in multimedia formats. But equally, you only have to look around any beach or swimming pool on a hot summer's day to see that books still have something going for them. And it's still the case that popular films and TV series are spun-off into book form.

But Nigel is definitely right about one thing - writers today need to become (multi)media savvy. Even 'literary' authors can longer afford to focus exclusively on producing fine prose, when in many cases it is the potential for a book to be adapted into a variety of media that determines whether or not publishing it will be viable.

Anyway, those are Nigel's thoughts, and my responses. What do YOU think? Feel free to post any comments below!

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Guest Post: All About WEbook

I'm pleased to introduce a guest post today from Melissa Jones, Content Manager of and author of the WEbook blog.

For those who don't know, WEbook is a community writing, editing and publishing project. It aims to use the power of the internet to bring writers together and get them to pool their talents in collaborative writing ventures.

I'm convinced that projects such as WEbook are going to become very big indeed in the years ahead, as new ways of working together creatively with the aid of the net are explored and developed. WEbook offers any writer the opportunity to get involved and see for themselves how online collaboration can work in practice. But perhaps I'd better move aside and let Melissa explain more...

WEbook: The People's Publisher - by Melissa Jones

It's no secret that the traditional publishing industry is - how can I put this? - a bit behind the times.

Every year, a handful of editors select a handful of books and, through massive marketing and PR, attempt to turn them into blockbusters. How they decide which books to promote heavily is largely guess-work; as William Strachan, editor in chief at Carroll & Graf Publishers said in a 2007 New York Times article, "Nobody has the key." That same article points out that, while publishers use the internet to market to their readers, "information rarely flows the other way - from readers back to the editors."

Enter, the people's publisher. Founded by Itai Kohavi, author of two novels and a children's book, WEbook is based on a radically different model, bringing together the best elements of social networking, crowd-sourcing, and web technology to change the way books are written and published. At WEbook, essentially, the readers are the editors.

So what can you do at WEbook?

  • Read and Review. WEbook has hundreds of active projects, including collections of articles on everything from the first year of teaching to the first sexual experience. Find a project you're interested in, and read and give feedback to others' work.
  • Write. Contribute a new story, poem, or article to an existing project. Or, if you have a book idea of your own, start a new project. You'll be able to decide whether you want to write your book by yourself, get feedback from other WEbookers, or invite your friends to contribute.
  • Connect. Project forums allow you to brainstorm about your ideas, solicit research or other assistance, or just chat about writing. You can also connect with other writers on the site-wide forums, and by joining a group.
  • Get Published. When a book is completed, it can be submitted for publication. WEbook isn't about choices made by one or two folks behind their desks. Instead, the entire WEbook community votes on which books are worthy. WEbook will consider the highest-rated books for publication, and authors get a 50% share of profits from book sales.

While community votes will ultimately determine what goes to press, we're particularly excited about a few projects that are creating a lot of buzz, both on and off the site. Ex-Pat Journal chronicles the adventures of WEbookers in Thailand, Korea, Costa Rica, France, Cambodia, Nigeria, and - wait for it - Canada. 101 Things Every Man Should Know How to Do is the ultimate guide to guydom, covering cooking a steak to fighting a bear. And Nano Stories challenges writers to create a dramatic arc in 500 words or less.

For a low-pressure entry point to the site, try Haiku Life Stories or The Writing Salon. If you feel like settling in for a good read, you'll be pleased to find quite a few brave souls writing novels on WEbook. I recommend checking out The Open, a tale of vengeance and golf; A Case of Judgment, which puts a modern spin on a classic horror tale; and In the Wake of the Enchantress, a historical novel set in the early days of World War I.

WEbook recently published its first book, Pandora, a romantic thriller written by 34 writers, editors, and other contributors - including me! (once you buy the book, flip to chapters 17 and 26 to read my contribution). If you want to check out the first few chapters for free you can read them here or text the word "webook" to phone number 41411 on your mobile and read them on your very own web-enabled phone. WEbook launched to the public in mid-April. Since then, the number of active projects has grown at a feverish pace, with more new work added every day.

We'll be opening our first voting cycle in the coming months. For now, drop by the site to read, give feedback, and write, and to connect with a fast-growing network of like-minded folks out to revolutionize the publishing world.

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