Posts by Nick:

Some Thoughts on Turning Work Down...

Some Thoughts on Turning Work Down…

Last week I had to turn down a writing job I was offered.

I never enjoy doing this, but sometimes there is no alternative. So today I thought I would share a few thoughts about turning down work.

Of course, for those of you who are just setting off on your writing careers, turning down an offer of paid work might seem unimaginable. But soon enough you will find yourself in a position where you have to consider this.

One common scenario is when you already have lots of work on and another offer arrives. This has happened to me on various occasions, typically just after a period when work dried up! It’s frustrating, but there can be ways around it.

One thing I have sometimes done is subcontract the work (or part of it) to another writer. This is not something I do with any great enthusiasm, though.

For one thing, I know I will still have to edit that writer’s work carefully and possibly even rewrite it. Also, I will have to pay the writer out of the fee I am getting. By the time you allow for all the extra admin involved and the time spent editing their work, there will be very little money in it for me. If I do this nowadays, it is generally to avoid disappointing the client and try to ensure they don’t stop offering me work in future.

The other thing you can sometimes do is negotiate a longer timeframe. This is easier with regular clients who understand that as a solo freelance I have other jobs that need to be fitted in. With a new client a request for more time may not be so well received – but you can’t put a regular client on the back burner just to accommodate a new one.

The other situation that can occur is when you look at a job offer and realize it’s not something you feel confident or competent to take on. That was actually what happened last week. The job was for a regular client, although it came to me via a new contact there.

The clients in question are novelty publishers. While I can’t go into detail about what they wanted, essentially it involved coming up with a number of “challenges” for a book they were producing (pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time, and that sort of thing). I thought about it and my mind went totally blank. I tried a few online searches, but they produced very little I could use.

I quickly realized that this had the potential to be the job from hell. I might have been able to come up with some ideas eventually. But it would have taken me a long time and I couldn’t quote a fee that the client would have regarded as reasonable. So I had to reluctantly turn it down.

Since then I’ve heard nothing from the clients in question. That’s obviously disappointing and a bit worrying, as they have been good clients over the years. I just hope they found another writer who was able to take the job on. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they come back to me with something else eventually!

To sum up, turning down work is never something to do lightly, but sometimes as a professional writer you have no alternative. If you can’t do the job to a good standard and in a timely way, it is better to decline the work, and maybe suggest another writer if you happen to know someone who might be suitable.

* Have you ever found yourself in this situation and had to turn down work – or conversely taken on a job and wished you hadn’t? I’d love to hear your views and experiences!

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Review: Planner Publishing Profits

Review: Planner Publishing Profits

Planner Publishing Profits is the latest writing guide to be launched by the prolific Amy Harrop.

Amy is a successful Kindle author, and the publisher of many guides and software products for authors. She was kind enough to allow me a review copy, so here’s what I found…

As the name indicates, Planner Publishing Profits is a guide to making money by publishing planners (primarily printed, though downloadables are also discussed). The main guide is a 117-page PDF.

As you would expect with any of Amy’s publications, this is well written and attractively presented. It is illustrated with pictures, screen captures (e.g. of Amazon sales pages) and examples.

The manual talks about the huge (and growing) market for planners, and reveals how self-publishers can capitalize on this. The content is organized into eleven chapters, as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Why Print Planners?
  3. Opportunities for Publishers
  4. Formats for Planners
  5. Niche and Audience Selection
  6. Planner Elements
  7. Designing Your Planner
  8. Publishing Your Planner
  9. Selling Your Planner
  10. Getting Sales
  11. Conclusion

Among other things, Planner Publishing Profits covers wedding planners, garden planners, diet and fitness planners, school-year planners, student planners, baby planners, Christmas planners, business planners, prayer and bible study planners, and many more. It also discusses related products such as bullet journals, which (I am told) are extremely popular right now.

An example planner (taken from the manual) is shown below. Clicking on the picture should take you to the Amazon sales page for this product at your own national Amazon store.

Bile Study Guide and Planner

Creating this type of product has a number of attractions for entrepreneurial writers and publishers. For one thing, much of the content is supplied by the user him- or herself – you just have to provide an attractive, well-designed backdrop for the user.

The product appeals to a broad (though predominantly female) audience which is constantly renewing itself, as by its nature you can only use a planner once.

And with self-publishing/print-on-demand services such as CreateSpace, you can design and upload your planner free of charge and then receive a fee from Amazon every time a sale is made.

Obviously if you haven’t done anything like this before there will be a learning curve, but Amy sets out a range of free and low-cost resources you can use to design and publish your work. Once you have completed your first one, you should be able to adapt it to create new planners on different topics quickly and easily.

As Amy points out, although you can sell these products as stand-alones, they can also make great add-ons or bonuses for other products (the bible study planner referred to above is an example of this).

The manual is particularly strong on methods for marketing and selling planners, including Amazon, social media, blogging, and so on. Apparently planners also sell very well using video. Who knew?

As well as the main guide, there are various bonuses. These include a 12-page companion guide which provides a concise, step-by-step checklist for publishing your first planner, from research to design, publishing to marketing. There are three training videos featuring Amy herself and two planner templates in Microsoft Word format. Other bonuses include a guide to using the online design platform Canva and another guide to marketing using Instagram.

In summary, Planner Publishing Profits is a comprehensive guide to making money as a self-publisher in the popular ‘planner’ niche. As is Amy’s usual practice it is currently on a launch special offer, after which the price will rise to $27. If you are an entrepreneurial writer/publisher looking to add another income stream to your portfolio, it is definitely worth checking out.

If you have any comments or questions about Planner Publishing Profits, as always, please do post them below.

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Four Top Tips on Working with Editors

Although I am primarily a freelance writer, I do sometimes work as an editor as well. Among other things, I have edited newsletters, articles, short stories, books, training courses and promotional materials.

This has given me some valuable insights into what editors do and don’t want from writers, so today I thought I would share a few of them.

1. Be Reliable

This is one of the most important qualities any editor needs in a writer. He (or she) wants to be confident that you will deliver your article (or whatever) by the agreed deadline. If the deadline arrives and your article doesn’t, it can create all sorts of problems for the editor.

If you can see you’re going to have problems meeting a deadline, therefore, DON’T just cross your fingers and hope for the best. Tell the editor. Given sufficient notice they may be able to make alternative arrangements, e.g. bringing another article forward and postponing yours till next month. But if you don’t tell them in advance, it may be too late for this. Don’t then expect them to offer you any work in future.

2. Be Available

Editors sometimes need to contact authors at short notice, e.g. to check a fact or request a partial rewrite. You don’t have to be always just a phone call away (though that won’t hurt), but it should be possible for an editor to contact you by some means and get a reply within 24 hours. Always aim to have your mobile with you, therefore, and check this and your email regularly, preferably at least twice a day.

And if you’re going away on holiday for more than a day or two, it’s a courtesy to let the editor know, especially if you have just sent them some work!

3. Don’t Argue!

OK, this one is a bit controversial. If you disagree with an editor’s decision, you can say so. But don’t push it. At the end of the day, it’s the editor’s neck on the block, not yours, if he publishes your article and it goes down like a lead balloon with his readers.

Here’s an example from my own experience. In my capacity as a newsletter editor I was pitched an idea by a semi-regular contributor. Normally I liked his ideas, but for various reasons I couldn’t use this one, so I turned it down with a polite explanation. I then received a long, aggrieved email telling me quite forcibly that I was wrong and he was right, concluding with words to the effect, “I think I know our readership by now.” As you might guess, I didn’t commission many more articles from him after that…

4. Be Friendly but Professional

It’s good to build good relationships with editors. Over a period of time you will inevitably get to know one another quite well, and genuine friendships often result.

However, remember that the editor is also your client and – in effect – your employer, so it’s important to remain professional in all your dealings with them. Don’t assume that because ‘John’ or ‘Mary’ is your buddy, they won’t mind if you palm them off with inferior work or take other liberties with them.

Another example here (all names changed to protect those concerned). A few years ago one of my regular clients, a guy I’ll call Phil, was looking for an additional freelance writer. I recommended a woman named Clare to him, whom I’d worked with on a couple of projects.

All seemed to go well at first, and then I heard that he had dropped Clare quite suddenly. As I knew Phil pretty well, I asked him what had happened. He was a bit reticent at first, but then he told me, “We’re a family company, Nick, and we choose the people we work with very carefully.”

A little more probing finally revealed that he had been on the phone to Clare one day, and she casually dropped the F-word into their conversation two or three times. Phil hadn’t said anything to her at the time, but I guess he was a bit shocked by this. Anyway, he decided that he couldn’t work with her any more.

I must admit, I don’t know why Clare did this. Maybe she wanted to show she was “one of the lads”, or maybe she’d just been watching too many Hollywood movies. In any event, it was exactly the wrong tack to take with Phil, who abhors bad language in any form. And so it cost Clare the opportunity of a continuing source of well-paid work.

That’s perhaps an extreme example, but it does illustrate an important point. A good, friendly relationship between author and editor can be very rewarding for both parties, but you should never let it become an excuse for behaving unprofessionally.

So those are some of my top tips for working with editors. Do you have any more, or any comments on the ones above? Please do post them below!

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SEven Top Tips for Hiring a Freelance Writer

Seven Top Tips for Hiring a Freelance Writer

I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for over 25 years (I’m semi-retired now). 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.

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 Upwork 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. 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 or she 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, deadline, 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, 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.

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.

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Why Now is the Season to Start Promoting More Vigorously on Amazon

Why Now is the Season to Start Promoting More Vigorously on Amazon

The festive season is fast approaching, so I thought it was time to publish my usual reminder about promoting your Amazon Associate (affiliate) links extra vigorously.

If you’re reading this blog there’s a good chance you have one or more books/ebooks on Amazon. There are various reasons why promoting them as an Amazon Associate is a good idea. The obvious one is that any sales generated through your link will attract commission from Amazon. Assuming you’re earning royalties on sales as well, in effect that means you’ll be getting paid twice over for every sale.

But there’s another particular reason to promote extra hard via Amazon at this time of year, and that’s because you will receive commission from Amazon for ALL purchases made by a customer who visits the store via your link.

And in the coming weeks, in the run-up to Christmas and Hanukkah, many people will be buying multiple items as gifts. If they do some or all of their gift shopping via your link, you will earn multiple commissions.

Admittedly, Amazon doesn’t pay a fortune to Associates. Commission starts at just 5 percent, rising to the dizzy heights of 15 percent for some products. By way of comparison, affiliate commissions paid on downloadable products are often over 40 percent, and in some cases up to 100. See my recent post about the WCCL/Kaleidoscope Global affiliate program, for example.

Even so, if someone spends a lot of money on a visit (and it happens at this time of year) the returns to you as the referrer can be substantial. Darren Rowse (aka Problogger) regularly lists surprising products people have bought from Amazon on visits via his links. Here’s one eye-opening list he posted a while ago.

If you’re not an Amazon Associate already, you can easily join by scrolling down to the foot of the Amazon homepage, clicking on Associates Program, and following the instructions to sign up. Note that you will need to join each national store’s Associates program separately to promote there.

Once you’re in, Amazon have a huge range of banners and widgets you can use on your blog or website. They include, of course, simple image ads such as the one below for my latest Kindle e-book on Amazon.com…

You can also have all manner of other widgets, including slideshows, word clouds, best deals boxes, and so on. Here’s an example of an Amazon UK deals widget that is automatically updated.

Of course, it’s possible that all you want is a simple text link. You can get this via the grey Amazon Associates Site Stripe that appears at the top of the screen when you are logged in. The Site Stripe will give you affiliate links for whatever Amazon page you happen to be on. As an example, here is my text link for the All-New Fire-TV with Alexa Voice Remote on Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2hzPz5N

You can also access image and text-and-image links via the Site Stripe, and social media (Facebook and Twitter) posting links as well.

And finally, there is a new, free Amazon plugin that self-hosted WordPress blog owners can use to quickly insert formatted links and images into their posts. More information can be found by clicking here.

One slight drawback of the methods above is that if your visitor is located somewhere with a different national Amazon store, they won’t automatically be redirected. If you are targeting a multinational audience, you might therefore like to consider using the Geniuslink or Booklinker services.

Both of these are run by the GeoRiot organization. They create a single link that detects where visitors are and automatically forwards them to their own national store, with your affiliate link if you have entered one for the store concerned.

I wrote about Geniuslink in this recent post, and Booklinker in this one. Geniuslink has more bells and whistles than Booklinker. There is a monthly fee starting at $9, although you can try it free of charge for 14 days. Booklinker is a more stripped-down service, but it is free however many clicks your links attract.

Here is a sample link created with Booklinker for my Kindle e-book on plotting: http://mybook.to/ThreeGreat. Click on this and it should take you straight to the appropriate page of your own national Amazon store. Try it and see 🙂

Good luck on Amazon, and I hope you sell lots of book, e-books and more expensive items as the festive season approaches!

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Important News for Affiliates of WCCL (My Publishers)

Important News for Affiliates of WCCL (My Publishers)

As many of you will know, at one time I wrote a number of courses for the electronic publishing house WCCL. Probably the best known of these is Write Any Book in Under 28 Days (also known as The Nick Daws Course).

I stopped working as a writer for WCCL a few years ago, and the company has since been taken over at least twice. The current owners are a company called Kaleidoscope Global. They are still selling my courses (along with many others). They are within their rights to do so, as WCCL purchased all rights in them a number of years ago. I remain an affiliate for the company, as basically it would be mad for me not to.

I know that a number of you are also affiliates of WCCL, which enables you to earn substantial profits (typically 50%) by marketing the company’s courses and other products. So I wanted to draw your attention today to the fact that the old affiliate platform is closing down and a new one has been launched at http://affiliates.kaleidoscopeglobal.com/.

I have been in touch with Kaleidoscope and they have told me that affiliate links created using the old platform at selfdevelopment.net will not go on working for much longer. So if you have banners or text links to any WCCL products containing your affiliate code, it’s essential to register on the new Kaleidoscope Global platform and get new links there.

If you are an active affiliate you should have received an email about this from the company a few weeks ago, but if not you can contact their affiliate manager via the website.

If you are not yet an affiliate and wish to join the program, you can apply via the Kaleidoscope Global website. The company is planning to launch a range of new products in the coming months, so there should be plenty to promote.

You can also, of course, promote any of their hundreds of older products (including my courses), but be aware that some of these have been on the market for ten years or more and I don’t know when they were last updated. Of my own courses, I am only actively promoting Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Essential English for Authors currently, as these are basically evergreen titles. You can see a sample banner for Essential English for Authors at the foot of this post.

If you have any comments or questions, as ever, please do post them below.

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KDP jumpstart

KDP JumpStart: A New Resource for Amazon Ebook and Paperback Authors

Recently I got an email about KDP Jumpstart. This is a new training resource for Amazon authors using the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) platform. I thought I would take a look to see what it was all about.

KDP Jumpstart is a section of the KDP Help pages. At the start it says, “New to Kindle Direct Publishing? Want a simple, step-by-step guide to publishing on Amazon? We’ve created KDP Jumpstart for authors like you. KDP Jumpstart is a streamlined, sequential approach to the steps required to go from finished manuscript to published book.”

The KDP Jumpstart section is organized in four main categories, as follows:

  1. Getting Started
  2. Book Details
  3. Manuscript and Cover
  4. Rights and Pricing

Each of these categories contains between two and five pages. They provide a concise, step-by-step guide to the topic concerned, with short instructional videos as well as text (see example screen capture below). There are also companion PDFs you can download, which sum up the content in the form of a checklist.

KDP Jumpstart example

An important point is that KDP Jumpstart is based around using Amazon’s new (and free) Kindle Create tool. You can download this via KDP Jumpstart. Both PC and Mac versions are available. I downloaded the PC version and found it easy to install and intuitive to use.

I hadn’t actually seen Kindle Create before, so assume it is fairly new. Essentially, it aims to provide an easy-to-use software tool to format your Kindle e-books and make them look good before uploading them to Amazon. Among other things, it lets you apply enhanced typesetting to make text easier to read, and you can also select from a range of design themes to make your book look more professional.

There is also a Microsoft Word add-on you can download to help format paperback books for KDP. As I wrote in this post a few weeks ago, KDP paperback publishing looks set to replace Amazon’s old CreateSpace print-on-demand publishing service in the fairly near future.

I will look at Kindle Create in more detail in a future post, but my first impression is that it is well worth trying, as it should allow you to create Kindle e-books (and paperbacks) with better, more attractive formatting. A potential drawback may be that you will have to work within the constraints of the software – so if you have very specific formatting needs, it may not be for you.

If you have any comments or questions about KDP Jumpstart (or KDP Create), as always, please do post them below.

 

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Why All Freelance Writers Need Regular Clients

Why All Freelance Writers Need Regular Clients

A question I am asked quite regularly is how I have managed to sustain a freelance writing career for over thirty years.

There are various answers I could give to this, but probably the single most important factor has been having regular clients.

Over my career I have had somewhere in the region of thirty regular clients – people and companies who have supplied me with work over a lengthy period. As a matter of interest I have listed some of my main clients over the years below:

Maple Marketing (UK) Ltd – books and ebooks, distance learning courses and email newsletters

Streetwise – newsletter articles and training course content

Lagoon Games – puzzles, games, novelty books, quiz books, and so on

Agora (Fleet Street Publishing) – newsletter articles and web content (currently I am contributing two articles a week to their Creating Wealth email newsletter)

Hilite – newsletter articles, distance learning courses and web content

WCCL – distance learning courses, website content and copywriting

The Writers Bureau – distance learning courses and copywriting (I was also for several years a tutor and assessor for them)

Some of the above I’m still working for, others not – though my door is always open, of course!

Having regular clients has meant that almost every month I know there is some money coming in. Obviously I have also had other occasional and one-off clients, but I’d hate to have to rely on that to pay the bills.

For one thing, you get to know your ‘regulars’ and build a relationship with them. Good clients can be guaranteed to pay you for work done (even if once in a while their accounts department may need a prod). With new clients you simply don’t have that reassurance. They may be good, or nit-picking nightmares, or at worst downright crooks. When a potential new client approaches me these days, I am quite cautious before taking them on!

Regular clients are a lot less worry and hassle, and over the years I have developed strong working relationships and even friendships with some of them. This is great when, on occasion, you  need a little extra flexibility (over a deadline, say).

And of course, it makes work less stressful and more enjoyable.

And finally, if you have a core group of regular clients, you don’t need to spend so much time marketing your services. You can therefore concentrate on your writing, which is presumably what you enjoy doing, and also what you get paid for.

So my top advice to any writer starting out today would be to make every effort to build long-term relationships with clients. For me anyway this has been the key to sustaining a long career as a working professional freelance writer.

If you have any comments or questions, as always, please do post them below.

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Time to Start Planning for NaNoWriMo 2017!

Time to Start Planning for NaNoWriMo 2017!

The nights are drawing in now and that can only mean one thing. It’s time to start planning for NaNoWriMo 😀

For anyone who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s 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. In 2016 384,126 people took part, and the numbers this year are likely to be even greater.

There is no entry fee for NaNoWriMo (though donations are always welcome), and no prizes either. Essentially, it’s 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.

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 of a novel you should be able to polish and submit for possible publication (or publish yourself).

There are lots of useful resources on the NaNoWriMo website, including wordcount widgets, web badges, flyers for downloading, motivational articles, and much more. There is also a busy forum where you can compare notes with other participants.

NaNoWriMo is also, by the way, a great opportunity to apply the techniques taught in my publisher WCCL’s 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 do post a note below if you succeed in completing the challenge!

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Start Writing Fiction

Free Fiction Writing Course Starting Soon

I have mentioned FutureLearn on this blog before. It’s a UK-based platform for short online courses from British and international universities. All FutureLearn courses are free and open to anyone in the world.

Anyway, I thought you might like to know that a course titled Start Writing Fiction begins on Monday 25 September 2017. It comes from The Open University, a well-respected UK distance learning institution. It will run for eight weeks and you can enrol now if you wish. It is also usually possible to register for a few days after a course has started.

This particular course runs regularly via FutureLearn and I have mentioned it on this blog before. If you can’t fit it in this time, you can put your name down on the website to be notified the next time it is scheduled.

Start Writing Fiction is intended for anyone with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing. There is a particular focus on creating interesting, believable characters. The course does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

Start Writing Fiction focuses on a skill which is central to the writing of all stories and novels – creating characters.

You will listen to established writers, such as Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tim Pears, Michèle Roberts and Monique Roffey, talk about how they started writing. You’ll consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal.

You’ll learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing, and you’ll hear other writers talking about their approaches to research and consider ways of turning events into a plot.

You’ll also have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story, learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback.

The course is run by short-story writer and novelist Dr Derek Neale. It requires a commitment of around three hours a week.

The course itself is free, but optionally you can pay £39 to upgrade. Upgrading entitles you to receive a Statement of Participation when you complete over half the course. In addition, you get unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, and quizzes). With the free version, your access ends 14 days after the end of the course. You can, of course, sign up for free and upgrade later if you choose.

For more information (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Start Writing Fiction information page of the Futurelearn website.

FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally. I recently took one called Secrets of Successful Ageing from Trinity College, Dublin, which was informative and thought-provoking. As well as the teaching itself, another big attraction of FutureLearn courses is the opportunity they provide to interact with fellow students all over the world. You can see all upcoming courses on this web page.

If you have any comments or questions about FutureLearn, as ever, please do post them below.

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