Training

Sign up now for this free screenwriting course

Sign Up Now For This Free Screenwriting Course

If screenwriting is something that interests you, you might like to sign up for the free introductory course currently on offer via FutureLearn (a UK-based educational initiative that advertises short online courses from British and international universities).

The course title is An Introduction to Screenwriting and it comes from the University of East Anglia. It starts on 8 May 2017 and runs for two weeks with an estimated time commitment of three hours per week.

An Introduction to Screenwriting is an online course for anyone new to scriptwriting and for more experienced writers who wish to raise their scriptwriting to a professional level. It does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

You’ll learn from a mixture of basic theory, script analysis and practical exercises. We will explore key principles as they’re expressed in great films, then immediately apply these concepts. Videos, articles and discussion steps will offer you the opportunity to learn and engage with other learners on key concepts and ideas.

By the end of the course, you will understand the key concepts necessary to write an effective screenplay and be fluent in the language used to discuss the form.

The course is run by screenwriter Michael Lengsfield and his colleagues at UEA’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing.

An Introduction to Screenwriting is free of charge and open to anyone anywhere in the world. There is, though, a paid-for upgrade as well (costing 49 UKP) with a few extra features. In particular, you get a certificate at the end and can continue to access all the course materials indefinitely. With the free version you only get access for up to a fortnight after the end of the course – so if you don’t want to pay the fee you may need to do a bit of copying and pasting to keep all the materials for future reference!

For more information about the course (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Introduction to Screenwriting information page of the FutureLearn website.

FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally, on subjects ranging from anatomy to physical theatre, cyber-security to discovering dentistry!

I have taken a number of Futurelearn courses myself and always find them stimulating and thought-provoking. Another big attraction is that you get to interact with fellow students from all over the world.

  • If you are interested in screenwriting, you might also like to check out Movie in a Month, a high-quality CD-based course from my publishers WCCL. As well as in-depth advice on screenwriting, this also includes over 800 actual movie scripts and treatments you can learn from.
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Puzzle Publishing Profits

Review: Puzzle Publishing Profits by Amy Harrop

Puzzle Publishing Profits is the latest writing product to be launched by my prolific colleague Amy Harrop.

Amy is a successful self-published author, and 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…

Puzzle Publishing Profits is a guide to making money by publishing puzzle books of all types, probably using Amazon’s CreateSpace print publishing platform. It is being sold via the popular and well-established WarriorPlus platform. The main guide is a 60-page PDF.

As you would expect with any of Amy’s publications, this is well written and attractively presented. It is illustrated with graphics and screen captures where relevant.

In the manual, Amy explains how you can capitalize on the huge market for puzzle books. She starts by discussing the wide range of such books and reveals the various target audiences for them, from children to the elderly. She also discusses current trends in the puzzle books field. The manual covers crossword puzzles, Sudoku, logic puzzles, maze puzzles, word-search, graphic puzzles, math (or maths) puzzles, brainteasers, and many more.

The latter part of the manual then discusses how readers can write, publish and market these books themselves. Amy recommends publishing in print rather than Kindle e-book form, as in general people like to complete puzzles using a pen and paper, not on a tablet or e-reader. As mentioned above, she recommends using Amazon’s CreateSpace POD (print on demand) self-publishing platform.

Clearly covering how to do all this in detail would require a much longer book, so what Amy has done is link to useful resources throughout the manual. Some of these resources she has produced herself, while others are from external websites. An example of the former is a six-page spreadsheet listing sources of online puzzle-making software (free and paid for), puzzle-making resources, forums, Facebook Groups, Yahoo Groups, and Pinterest pages. The forum, groups and Pinterest pages strike me as being more relevant for puzzle aficionados than for puzzle-book makers,. but the software and resources websites are certainly worth knowing about.

There is some good advice on publishing your puzzle book using CreateSpace, again with links to other resources for finding out more. The manual closes with an 8-page discussion of how to promote your puzzle book. This focuses especially on writing a good description of your book for the Amazon store, and using social media to build your following and help spread the word. I thought there were some very good tips here.

When preparing puzzle books, Amy advises strongly against referring to actual product and brand names. While I understand her caution, personally I think it’s a bit excessive. While I would agree that producing a Frozen puzzle book is a bad idea and would likely attract the attention of the Disney company lawyers, simply mentioning the name of a movie or TV show in a broader-based book is unlikely to cause problems. If that were not the case, most trivia quiz books (such as the one pictured below that I wrote a while ago for my clients at Lagoon Games) would never see the light of day. The key thing is to be sensible and only refer to high-profile, trademarked productions in a broader context. In a themed puzzle book about movies, for example, you could (in my view) have a wordsearch puzzle featuring the names of well-known characters from children’s films.

TV trivia quiz book by Nick Daws

As well as the main manual, buyers of Puzzle Publishing Profits get two bonus items. I didn’t actually receive these with my pre-launch review copy, but here are the descriptions from the sales page:

Amy Puzzle Book Bonusese

It sounds as though these will add value to the main manual, especially the CreateSpace publishing guide.

In summary, Puzzle Publishing Profits is an eye-opening guide to a field that appears crammed with potential right now, and it has definitely inspired me to think about trying it myself. It is currently on a launch special offer for $17 (about £14), after which – as is Amy’s usual practice – the price will be rising to $27. If you want to broaden your publishing portfolio with something that is fun and not too time-consuming, it is definitely worth a look.

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

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screenwriting

Free Online Screenwriting Course

If you’re interested in screenwriting, you may like to know about a free online Introduction to Screenwriting course that starts next month.

It’s being run by the University of East Anglia, under the auspices of FutureLearn. Details from the website are copied below…

The course is a must for anyone new to scriptwriting and for more experienced writers who wish to raise their scriptwriting to a professional level. It will establish a common vocabulary for approaching the screenplay and form the basis for upcoming courses in dramatic adaptation, the crime screenplay, and other genres and skills.

What and how will I learn?

You’ll learn from a mixture of basic theory, script analysis and practical exercises. We will explore key principles as they’re expressed in great films, then immediately apply these concepts. Videos, articles and discussion steps will offer you the opportunity to learn and engage with other learners on key concepts and ideas.

By the end of the course, you will understand the key concepts necessary to write an effective screenplay and be fluent in the language used to discuss the form.

Source: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/screenwriting

The course is free to join and starts on 29 February 2016. It lasts two weeks and involves a commitment of three hours a week. The course is open to anyone in the world.

For more information, and to sign up, visit the Futurelearn web page for the course. You might also like to check out the other free online courses currently available from Futurelearn here.

Good luck, and see you in Hollywood!

 

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SBI! for WP homepage

SBI! for WP – A New WordPress Training Program and Plugin

Regular readers will know that I am a writer and bizopps reviewer for the UK-based More Money Review website.

Many of the products I review are average at best, but occasionally I come across one so good that I feel it is worth drawing to the attention of readers of this blog as well.

SBI! for WP is one such case. It comes from the Canadian SiteSell organization, who also produce the long-established SBI! website building and training product. As the name implies, SBI! for WP incorporates the best of SBI! into a new product aimed at new and fledgling WordPress users.

WordPress is, of course, a hugely popular blogging platform. And because of the ease with which it can be customized, it’s also used to create many other types of website, from sales and marketing pages to review sites, online stores to authority sites. Entrepreneur Writer and More Money Review both use WordPress to power them, incidentally.

One drawback with WordPress is that there can be quite a steep learning curve. SBI! for WP aims to get round this by providing an in-depth, structured training program, divided into ten “daily” lessons (though some lessons may well take longer than a day to complete). You also get access to a huge online library of “Tips and Tricks” articles, and another library of ways of making money from your WordPress site.

Apart from the training, you also get access to BrainstormIt! This is a powerful research tool which helps you research concepts for your site and then specific keywords you can target in your content. It also shows you which keywords (and phrases) may have the best money-making potential with Google AdSense.

SBI! for WP is reasonably priced, and what I really like is that you can try the entire course (and plugin) free of charge for 30 days. You don’t even have to hand over your credit card number.

If you have any interest at all in learning about WordPress and setting up a WordPress website, in my view SBI! for WP is well worth considering, therefore. Even as a moderately experienced WordPress user, I have picked up a lot of useful tips and information from it.

If you would like to read my full, in-depth review of SBI! for WP on the More Money Review website, you can do so by clicking on this link. Note that you will need to open an account on MMR and log in to read the full review, but this is free and only takes a moment.

And if you want to take up the current 30-day free trial offer, just click through any of the SBI! for WP links in this article.

As ever, if you have any queries about SBI! for WP, please do post them below.

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Review: Writing Columns That Editors Can’t Resist

I was recently offered the opportunity to review this online course by Luuk Koelman, a professional columnist from the Netherlands.

The subject of column-writing isn’t widely discussed, and yet it has many attractions for writers. Most importantly, if you get a gig as a columnist, you have a guaranteed source of work for weeks, months, perhaps even years.

In addition, unlike journalists, columnists have a licence to write about pretty much anything they like – as long as it entertains readers, of course. Neither are columnists expected to perform in-depth research, interview people, and so on. As indicated above, their role is primarily to entertain, as opposed to journalists, whose job is to inform.

Writing Columns That Editors Can’t Resist is hosted on Fedora, a course-building platform I hadn’t come across before – it’s not as well-known as Udemy, for example. It has a smart, professional-looking interface, however, and I found signing up quite straightforward.

Once you have enrolled as a student, the course content is set out in a menu on the left, while the actual learning materials appear in the centre of the screen when selected (see screen capture below).

 Columns01

The course content is delivered through  a series of short, whiteboard-style video lectures. After watching these, you can then read (though not download) a PDF of the script. Luuk advises students to watch the videos initially, then read the PDFs, then perhaps watch the video again.

He suggests studying no more than two or three lectures per day. As there are 37 lectures, that means it would take you around 12 to 18 days to complete the course. I must admit my own inclination would be to proceed a bit faster than that, as many of the lectures are no more than two or three minutes long.

The course content is well written and interesting. Luuk obviously knows his field well. He explains clearly what is (and is not) a column, and the best way to approach writing one. There is lots of good advice on planning and structuring a column, which I found particularly interesting (I will read my favourite newspaper and magazine columns with a much more analytical eye in future!). His advice on polishing and editing is very pertinent as well.

Luuk makes no claim that this is an easy route to fame and fortune, though he does set out various approaches to marketing yourself and your columns. He also suggests applying for columnist positions on websites – not for the money (most don’t pay anything) but for the practice and to help get your name known. It does seem to me that this is closely related to guest blogging. My own inclination would be to combine it with maintaining a blog of your own, which you can then monetize if you wish with Google AdSense, affiliate ads, and so on. Just my personal perspective, I guess.

As well as the lectures, there are various bonus materials, including an e-book of the entire course content. This is very useful for reference, although again you can’t download it (I assume for copyright-protection reasons). You also get a list of 24 writing tools, many of which I hadn’t come across before and definitely intend to check out. And finally, there is a step-by-step checklist against which to evaluate your own columns.

Overall, I liked Writing Columns That Editors Can’t Resist and found it practical and informative. For anyone interested in becoming a columnist, it will undoubtedly provide a lot of valuable advice and information.

In addition to the teaching materials, it would have been good to see some actual example columns by Luuk himself. I would also like to have seen more practical exercises for students. And finally, it would be nice if there was some way for students to interact with one another, as would of course be the case with a “real life” course.

As it is, I can’t help feeling that what you have here is basically an e-book which has been converted into bite-sized video presentations. It’s a very good e-book, but I’d like to see it made a bit more interactive and “hands on”. The bonus checklist does do this to some extent, but maybe Luuk could also offer to provide feedback on one sample column submitted by each student. Just a suggestion, obviously!

Nonetheless, if column writing is something that appeals to you and you would like to learn more about it from a successful, professional columnist, I definitely recommend Writing Columns That Editors Can’t Resist. It should give you all the grounding you need to get started in this exciting and enjoyable field.

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

Wordcloud courtesy of Word It Out.

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Passive Publishing System

New Launch: Passive Publishing System

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Amy Harrop, a successful Kindle author and publisher of many guides and software products for authors.

I thought you might therefore like to know that her latest product, Passive Publishing System, has just gone live. Written with Rob Howard and Deb Drum, it reveals how authors can cash in on two alternative publishing platforms to Kindle, the iBookstore and Scribd. PPS is a combination software tool and training course that finds 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 complete training on how to easily publish to both, as many people have no idea how to get their content into these marketplaces.
 
I hope to review Passive Publishing System here before too long, but because I am currently undergoing some medical treatment time is a bit short at the moment. PPS is currently available at a launch price of just $27. This will be going up to $37 very soon, so it’s definitely a good idea to check out the info page now if you think this product may be of interest to you.
 
With Kindle becoming ever more competitive, and recent changes to Kindle Unlimited potentially making it less remunerative for authors, all e-book writers owe it to themselves to investigate alternative publishing platforms. Kindle is definitely NOT the only game in town now, and in future you may well find that other platforms such as the iBookstore and Scribd (not to mention Udemy) prove more profitable. In any event, they represent additional potential profit streams no entrepreneurial author should ignore!
 
If you have any comments or questions about Passive Publishing System, as ever, please do leave them below.
 
UPDATE MARCH 2016Passive Publishing System has just been updated and relaunched. See my new blog post and review here.
 
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Review: No Writing Needed: How to Profit From No and Low Content Books

No Writing Needed: How to Profit From No and Low Content Books is the latest product for writers to be released by the prolific Amy Harrop.

No Writing Needed (as I’ll call it for short from now on) reveals how to create, publish and sell books that require little to no writing. It’s just been launched at a low offer price of $17 (about 11 UKP), and will be available at this price till May 11 2015, after which the price will rise by $10.

Amy was kind enough to allow me pre-launch reviewer access to No Writing Needed, so here’s what I found…

The main course content for No Writing Needed takes the form of a 41-page PDF. This includes plenty of links to additional resources. Some of these are provided by Amy herself, but most are on external websites.

As you might expect from this experienced author, the PDF is well written and presented. The table of contents at the front has active links, a feature which is always much appreciated. There are one or two screengrab illustrations, although perhaps not quite as many as you might expect.

The manual starts by taking you through an impressive variety of low- and no-content book categories. They include such things as homework and wedding planners and colouring books (children’s and adults). One important thing to emphasize is that these are all print books, not e-books. These are products where the buyer provides much of the content themselves, so they do have to be in hard copy form really.

Having taken you through the (many) options available, Amy then discusses how to go about producing such books yourself. This is clearly a subject she knows well, and she lists numerous suppliers and resources she has used personally.

For some types of book she recommends Amazon’s own CreateSpace print-on-demand service, although she does point out that other bookstores often refuse to stock CreateSpace titles. Nonetheless, she recommends this option if you want to target Amazon customers exclusively. Even in other cases, however, she suggests making use of the free templates on CreateSpace.

Design is also covered in some detail, and there are links to various templates you can use and adapt. If you want a wedding planner template, for example, there are links to six different ones. Amy also includes links to resources for creating colouring books, including free software you can use to create colouring book images. But there are links to specialist designers on Fiverr.com as well, in case you prefer to outsource some or all of the design work.

Finally, the guide talks about how to market and sell your books. Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) is one of several options that is discussed. Amy also has an optional extra module that goes into much more detail about FBA, with lots of extra tips and hints. She was one of the first authors to use FBA for selling books, so she really does know what she is talking about here.

Overall, I thought No Writing Needed was another high-quality product from Amy Harrop. If you’re only interested in writing Kindle e-books, obviously it won’t be relevant to you. On the other hand, Kindle is becoming an ever more crowded and competitive market. Writing and selling the type of book described in this course, while it will undoubtedly entail a bit of a learning curve initially, could potentially provide you with a steady and substantial income that continues over a long period. Once you have your systems and suppliers in place, publishing additional low- and no-content books should then be a quick and simple process. It’s definitely an approach any entrepreneurial writer should consider.

If you have any comments or queries about No Writing Needed, as always, please feel free to post them below.

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Start Writing Fiction

Start Writing Fiction – A Free Course from Futurelearn and The Open University

If you’re quick, there’s still time to sign up for a free online fiction writing course on offer via FutureLearn (a UK-based educational initiative that advertises short online courses from British and international universities).

The course title is Start Writing Fiction. It comes from The Open University, a well-respected UK distance learning institution. It started on 27 April 2015 and runs for eight weeks, but they are still accepting enrolments at the time of writing.

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:

This practical, hands-on course aims to help you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters.You will listen to established writers talk about how they started writing and 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 Start Writing Fiction course is run by Dr Derek Neale. It requires a commitment of around three hours a week.

The course is free of charge and open to anyone anywhere in the world. 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 am quite tempted by the one promising to teach you to develop a mobile phone game in seven weeks, although Discover Dentistry also possesses a certain weird fascination!

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