Update: My Writing Blog and My Writers Circle

I am still getting a lot of correspondence about these two websites with which I have been closely linked, so I thought I would take the opportunity to clarify how things stand now.

My Writing Blog was a blog that I ran from 2005 to 2014. The blog was sponsored by my publishers, WCCL, who also owned it.

The blog reverted to WCCL in January 2015 and it has not been updated since. By a quirk of the software I still receive comments that are submitted to the blog, but I no longer have the power to approve them or reply to them. I am not sure whether anyone at WCCL is currently doing this.

I would therefore suggest that you refrain from posting comments on My Writing Blog, as I will not be able to respond to them myself and cannot guarantee anyone else will either. If you wish to write to me directly, please use the Contact Me facility on my Entrepreneur Writer blog, or else leave a comment on any post here.

I also receive queries from time to time about the WCCL affiliate program, which allows website owners to earn commission promoting my writing courses such as Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, and other WCCL products. It appears that the link on my old blog for information about this is no longer working, so please click through this link to learn more about the WCCL affiliate program and sign up.

The My Writers Circle forum is still active, and a great place to get feedback and support from fellow writers across the world. It is, of course, entirely free to join. I am no longer involved in the day-to-day management of MWC, but remain a member and continue to actively support it.

I hope that clarifies a few things, but please feel free to post a comment below if you’re still confused about anything!

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Three Great Fiction Writing Contests for UK and Irish Writers

With apologies to my readers elsewhere in the world, in this post I’m sharing details of three current fiction writing contests with big cash prizes that are open to writers in the UK and Ireland.

The first of these is the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller 2016, run by the Richard and Judy Book Club. On their website they say:

‘Search for a Bestseller’, supported by WHSmith, will be accepting manuscripts from unpublished authors from 10th March 2016 – 31st May 2016. Richard and Judy will then be leading the selection process, helped by editors and agents, to choose a winner who will receive a £50,000 publishing deal with Bonnier Zaffre and specialist advice from literary agency Furniss Lawton.

Richard Madeley commented: “Judy and I are so excited to host the “search for a bestseller” competition, it gives us a chance to keep doing what we both love- reading and discovering a fantastic title for our devoted Book Club audience. We can’t wait to read the submissions!”

To enter Search for a Bestseller, aspiring authors must submit 10,000 words of original fiction aimed at adults, as well as a synopsis of the full novel, via the entry form below. Good luck!

For anyone who may not know, Richard and Judy are UK TV personalities Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan. Their book club is said to be the largest in the UK. As well as the huge cash prize, the winner can therefore expect to get lots of publicity!

The closing date is 31 May 2016. For more information, here is a link to the contest website.

The second contest is the Daily Mail First Novel Contest. The winner of this one will receive a £20,000 advance fee, the services of a top literary agent, and guaranteed publication by Penguin Random House UK.

To enter this competition you have to send the first 5,000 words of your novel plus a 600-word synopsis of the complete work. The story can be a romance, a thriller, a sci-fi adventure, a contemporary tale or a historical one, as long as it is aimed at adults (not children) and is previously unpublished.

The closing date for this one is 16 April 2016. Full information, including how to submit your entry, can be found on this page of the Daily Mail website.

Finally, if you’re a young writer between 18 and 35, you might be interested in entering the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award.

The top prize of £5,000 is awarded for a full-length published or self-published (in book or ebook formats) work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, by a British or Irish author aged 18-35 years. There are also three awards of £500 each for runners-up.

The work submitted must have been first published in the UK and/or the Republic of Ireland, in the English language, between 1 July 2015 and 1 May 2016. Ebooks must be submitted in PDF format.

The closing date for this one is 1 May 2016. For more information, click through to this page of the Society of Authors website.

Good luck if you decide to enter any of these contests. If you win, remember that you heard about it here!

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Passive Publishing System Relaunch

In this post last year I talked about Passive Publishing System, a new course and software product from my colleague Amy Harrop.

Passive Publishing System reveals how authors can cash in on two alternative publishing platforms to Kindle, the iBookstore and Scribd. It is a combination software tool and training course that aims to identify popular niches with high interest and low competition on these platforms.

  • iBookstore – The iBookstore is now the #2 digital publishing platform (behind Kindle) but it has about 1/10th of the competition (depending on the niche/category). Amy claims it is easy to make sales on this platform, with no marketing needed.
  • Scribd – Scribd is now a subscription platform similar to Kindle Unlimited and Oyster. Amy says that publishers who place their books on this platform (you can’t do it directly for their subscription program, but Amy shows you how in the training) make easy sales, again with no marketing needed.
The included PPS software does keyword, niche, and competition analysis specifically for these two platforms. The product also includes training on how to publish to both, as many people have no idea how to get their content into these marketplaces.
 
Amy recently relaunched Passive Publishing System, and for the next few days it is available at a $10 discount on the normal price of $37.

I have just reviewed Passive Publishing System for my clients at More Money Review. You can read my full review on this page of the MMR website if you wish. You will need to be registered with the site and logged in to see the full review, but this is free and only takes a moment.

Overall, though, I thought this was a pretty good product. The manual makes a good case for publishing on these two platforms, in particular because there is a lot less competition than on Kindle. I thought there could have been a bit more detail on the practical aspects of publishing, but the general advice is certainly sound.

The software doesn’t have too many bells and whistles, but it does an excellent job of searching Scribd and the iBookstore for your chosen keywords and showing how much competition there is for them. It should be a valuable tool for identifying potentially profitable niches on these two platforms. You can see a demo of how the software works in the video below.

It is worth noting that if you don’t have a Mac, publishing on the iBookstore will be more challenging. Amy suggests two alternatives, one of which is using an aggregating service that will publish your work to various platforms simultaneously (and no, it’s not Smashwords). I will definitely be looking into this further myself.

Passive Publishing System will probably be of most interest to writers who already have some experience publishing to Kindle, who are now looking to add additional (or alternative) income streams. In my view it is well worth a look.

If you have any comments or questions about Passive Publishing System, as ever, please feel free to post them below.

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How to Apply the Advice “Show, Don’t Tell”

Show, Don’t Tell is a mantra frequently repeated to new fiction writers. It’s good advice, but can cause some confusion unless it’s properly explained.

I was reminded of this by a question posed a while ago on the forum at www.mywriterscircle.com. The question was as follows:

“I’m a new writer and I know that the main thing new writers do is that they tell and don’t show. I get that. I just don’t get how you would show things. Not really.

Okay, this is hard to explain. I have seen instances where it’s shown, I just don’t get how to do it.

For example: I want to show that someone is quiet and doesn’t talk a lot about herself. How would I do that?”

I thought this was a great question, and one that deserved a reasonably in-depth answer.

I wrote about this subject at some length in my CD course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. I’ve therefore adapted the relevant section in my answer below, starting with a couple of examples…

(1) It was nine o’clock on the night of Sunday 16 October 2009. This was also the date when, six years earlier, a young cashier named Nicola Smith had been murdered in the bank. Tonight another young cashier, Catherine Nicholls, was working late in the bank on her own.

(2) Catherine gazed up from her report to the desk calendar. The date showing was Sunday 16 October 2012. She sighed. Working alone on a Sunday night was bad enough, but the fact that it also happened to be the sixth anniversary of Nicola Smith’s murder in this very building was giving her a bad case of the jitters.

In the first example the writer is simply telling the reader things. This is sometimes called reportage.

Much the same information is conveyed in the second example, but here all the events are portrayed through the eyes of a (third-person) viewpoint character, Catherine. The second example works much better at bringing the character of Catherine, and hence the story, to life.

Show, Don’t Tell can be expressed in another way: Write In Scenes. Think of your story as a movie or TV show. Rather than telling your readers what happens, your story will be much more entertaining if you show it in a series of vividly portrayed scenes.

Many new writers have difficulty grasping this concept. So they write material such as the following:

George Johnson was in the dining room. He was a tall, thin man with a permanently mournful expression, aged fifty-two. He had spent all his adult life working in local government. He sat at the table and looked at the kitchen door expectantly.

Rosemary, his wife of twenty years, knew he would be expecting his usual Thursday night steak. George lived by his routines, and normally Rosemary was happy to go along with them. Someone else might have resented it, but she was normally very easy-going. That day, however, she had had the urge to try something different, so at the supermarket she had gone past the meat to the fish counter, and bought red mullet instead.

When George saw the fish, he wondered for a moment whether he had become confused and today was Friday rather than Thursday. He asked Rosemary what was going on. A few moments later he would lose his temper.

Written (correctly) as a scene, this might look more like the version below:

“Is it ready yet?” George shouted from the dining room.

“Nearly,” Rosemary shouted back. Six new potatoes were neatly stacked on the dinner plate, topped with a sprig of mint and a dollop of butter. The garden peas steamed appetizingly in a little mound alongside them. The fish was almost ready to come out of the oven.

Everything looked perfect, but she hesitated. George could be such a stick-in-the-mud. He liked his routines. But just for once, she had decided to do something different. Oh well, it was too late to change now. She put the fish on his plate and took it into the dining room.

George looked down at the plate in front of him. “What’s this?”

“It’s fish. Red mullet.”

“But today’s Thursday.”

Rosemary noticed a pinkish tinge creeping up from his collar. Inwardly, she sighed.

“I know it’s Thursday. I know we always have steak on Thursday. But just for once, I thought we’d try something different.”

As these examples demonstrate, Show, Don’t Tell is closely linked with the principle of writing from a single viewpoint.

In beginners’ work, the viewpoint is often vague and constantly shifting – from Character A, to Character B, to the omniscient author, back to A again, and so on. By contrast, in a story written in scenes, consistency of viewpoint is usually maintained throughout each scene (though different scenes may have different viewpoint characters).

Look again at the examples with George and Rosemary. The first begins with a few sentences of explanation from the author’s perspective. Then the viewpoint shifts to Rosemary, then to George, and finally back to the author again.

By contrast, the second is written as a scene, portrayed from the first word to the last from Rosemary’s point of view. I hope you will agree that the second version is more vivid and entertaining for the reader than the first (and, incidentally, helps and encourages readers to identify with Rosemary).

One other thing to watch is when a large proportion of your story consists of one character telling another about something. This is telling rather than showing in another guise. If the action described is important, show it to the reader as it happens, rather than have a character in the story tell someone else about it later.

Returning to the question reproduced at the start of this post, saying that someone is quiet and doesn’t talk much about herself is – of course – telling.

If you wanted to show this instead, the key would be to portray the story in scenes from either her viewpoint or someone else’s. The action and dialogue (and thoughts if you use her as a viewpoint character) will then convey the desired impression to your reader. Something like this, maybe:

The hands of the clock crept slowly but inexorably toward five. Susie logged off her computer and closed it down.

Her colleague Clare was way ahead of her. Her computer was already off, and she was touching up her lipstick. She caught Susie’s eye and grinned. “Friday night at last! I suppose you’ll be out clubbing it again tonight.”

“No.” Susie picked up her handbag and headed toward the door.

“Oh, come on. I know you’re out every night really. That Goody Two Shoes schtick is just an act, isn’t it?”

“See you on Monday, Clare.”

Susie closed the office door behind her and headed out into the high street. She took a deep breath, relieved that another week was over and she didn’t have to pretend to be sociable with her colleagues till Monday. And her favourite dance show was on TV tonight! Despite what Clare might have thought, a night in watching the stars twirl, her ginger cat Darcy purring on her lap, suited her just fine.

As characterization goes, that’s about as subtle as a brick, but in a short story for the popular market, it would serve to establish your viewpoint character as a quiet, stay-at-home type. And it does so by showing rather than telling.

To sum up, here are a few tips to help you follow the Show, Don’t Tell principle throughout your story…

* Write in scenes portrayed through the eyes (and other senses) of a viewpoint character.
* Don’t switch viewpoints in mid-scene.
* Don’t include asides or other information that can only come from the author.
* Aim for as high as possible a proportion of action and dialogue.
* Keep reportage and reminiscence to a minimum.
* Aim to write most of your story in your characters’ present.
* Avoid having characters tell one another about events – if something is important to the story, show it happening instead.

If you have any comments of your own about “Show, Don’t Tell”, please do leave them below!

Photo credit: CC BY by Akuppa

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