inspiration

Ten Top Tips for Winning Short Story Contests

Ten Top Tips for Winning Short Story Contests

As well as being fortunate enough to win several short story contests, I have been asked to judge a few. So I thought today I would share some tips that come at least partly from my judging experience..

1. Most important of all, obey the contest rules. It they say the maximum is 1500 words, don’t submit 2000. An entry that clearly breaks the rules has no chance of winning.

2. Don’t enter the same story in more than one contest at a time. It will be embarrassing to both you and the organizers if the same story wins or places in both contests, and you may end up forfeiting your prize (or prizes).

3. Try to come up with an original idea or angle. Remember that your story will be competing with many others, so avoid the predictable plots that have been done to death, or at least give them a fresh twist. A clever double-twist ending that surprises the judges and subverts their expectations can be a winning formula.

4. Twist endings aren’t essential, though (unless that is specified in the rules). A story that engages with the reader on an emotional level and leaves him/her something to ponder can also be a strong contender in a short story contest.

5. Other things being equal, avoid submitting stories that are laden with doom and gloom. As a judge I’ve been amazed (and depressed) by the high proportion of miserable, downbeat tales that are entered in competitions. That’s not to say such stories can’t be good, but judges are only human. Faced by story after story brimming with misery, when we come across a tale with a bit of humour it really stands out. So go easy on the negativity. Witty, humorous stories (even dark humour) are far more likely to catch the judge’s eye, partly because they are so unusual. And even if you don’t end up winning, my fellow judges and I will be grateful to you for brightening our day!

6. Avoid cliches such as ‘she was a mine of information’ or ‘he was as cool as a cucumber’. These are signs of lazy writing and won’t impress the judges.

7. Likewise, try to avoid stereotyping. Just as judges are familiar with all the usual plot twists, so they can recognize flat, two-dimensional characters. Admittedly short stories don’t allow much space for characterization and character development. But if you can go beyond the standard stereotypes and present readers with interesting and surprising characters who spring to life off the page, it will greatly boost your chances of success.

8. Check and double-check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. No story that demonstrates a lack of attention to the basics of good English is likely to win a contest. Ideally, have someone else who is good at this check your entry for you before submitting it.

9. Don’t be too despondent if your story doesn’t win or even place. In most competitions there are hundreds of entries, and luck and the judges’ personal tastes inevitably play a part. I have had a story come nowhere in one contest and win another. If you are confident of the quality of your story, give it another polish and send it out again when a suitable opportunity arises.

10. If possible, though, take the trouble to read the stories that do win and see what this tells you about what the judges were looking for. Compare your own story honestly with those of the winners and see what they did that you didn’t (although bear in mind my comments above).

Good luck, and I wish you every success entering short story contests!

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writing

Time to Start Planning for NaNoWriMo 2016!

Once again, it’s that time of year 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 2015 431,626 people took part, and the numbers this year are expected to be even greater.

There is no entry fee for NaNoWriMo (though donations are always 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 a number of members of the myWritersCircle forum (which I co-founded) have registered for NaNoWriMo already, and more will no doubt follow. 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 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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Today is Your Day

Today Is Your Day: a free resources set for entrepreneurs from Aweber

My colleagues at the leading autoresponder and mailing list service Aweber have recently released a new (and free) set of resources aimed at entrepreneurial businesses and individuals.

These resources are collectively called “Today Is Your Day”. Each one provides a checklist for completing one particular task to help boost your bottom line, from creating a YouTube video to growing your email audience, creating captivating images to growing your podcast. Banners linking to each resource are published below…

 

 

 
Take the first step towards growing your podcast

 

 

These resources are provided free and without obligation, although obviously Aweber hope that you will sign up to their service if you haven’t already. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I do recommend Aweber if you are looking for a service to help run an email list or newsletter on your behalf.

The checklists are quite concise but provide a practical step-by-step guide to what you should be doing to achieve each of the objectives listed. Links are provided to other useful resources as well.

As ever, if you have any queries or comments, please do post them below.

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working together

Should Writers Work With a Collaborator?

Periodically I get asked my opinion about writers working collaboratively.

It’s a topic that interests me, so I thought I’d set out some of my views here.

In principle, I like the idea of working with a collaborator. Writing can be a lonely business, so the prospect of working with someone else is attractive for the human contact aspect alone.

Plus you have someone else to bounce ideas off (many of the most successful comedy writers work in duos and I’m sure this is part of the reason). And, not least, having a collaborator means that they will do some of the work instead of you!

Of course, there are drawbacks to working with collaborators too. If you don’t get on with your partner or constantly disagree with them, the savings in time and effort may evaporate. Instead of being entirely free to pursue your own artistic vision, you may sometimes have to compromise. And any payments resulting from your labours will have to be shared with your partner instead of all going into your own pocket.

I have worked with writing partners on various occasions over the years (and am still open to the idea if the right project comes up!). The person I’ve worked with most often is my old friend, the poet and performer Simon Pitt.

One of our first collaborations was a sketch show called The Naked Apricot (a satire of the then-famous book by Dr Desmond Morris, “The Naked Ape”). This was performed by a local amateur theatre company, and in financial terms anyway was their most successful show ever (admittedly, it probably helped that we didn’t get paid a fee for it!).

More recently I collaborated with Simon on a couple of non-fiction books: Fifty Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching and How to Invite Any Writer, Artist or Performer Into Your School (currently out of print).

The way Simon and I work is to take a project, divide it into chapters or sections, and then allocate each of these to one of us or the other. When we have completed our assigned chapters, we pass them over to the other one to read, edit and add his own input. In addition, I tend to handle the IT-related aspects, as I’m sure Simon would agree that this is not his strongest suit.

One thing we don’t do (or at least hardly ever) is sit down together and go through our draft manuscripts line by line, word by word. Apart from being horribly time consuming, I could imagine this putting our friendship under strain. In my experience anyway, it’s easier to accept (and give) criticism in the form of a quick note rather than face to face.

My number one advice to anyone thinking of working with a collaborator is to agree how you will work together first. If your collaborator expects you to sit down and write together while you prefer to work alone and just meet for planning, marketing and so on, it’s doubtful whether the partnership will succeed.

Likewise, it’s important to discuss the proposed topic of your book, screenplay or whatever in detail, to ensure you don’t have totally different perspectives on it. That’s not to say you have to agree in advance on every point, but unless you have certain basic assumptions in common, the writing process is likely to become a test of endurance. This applies especially in fiction-writing projects.

One other important consideration is how much each person can contribute to the project. This is partly a matter of time, and partly one of skills and expertise.

Clearly, if one person has more time available for the project than the other, this could be a problem if the ultimate rewards are to be divided 50:50. You could, of course, agree a different division of the returns, but this really needs to be discussed beforehand and agreed by both partners. Attempting to negotiate a change mid-project if you think your partner isn’t pulling their weight is not an attractive prospect for either party.

As regards skills/expertise, I’ve sometimes turned down offers of collaboration when I couldn’t see what particular contribution I would be able to make to the project – how I could “add value” to it, in other words.

I think it’s important to know how your skills and expertise are going to mesh with your writing partner, and what input each of you expects from the other. Ideally there will be a synergy when you have complementary skills and expertise. But if one partner doesn’t have any distinctive contribution they can make, the project is unlikely to survive through to completion.

Finally, if you do decide to go ahead, it’s worth looking into the growing range of online resources that can facilitate working collaboratively.

One tool I have used quite a bit is Google Drive. This free platform lets you publish documents on the web where they can be viewed and, if you allow it, edited by other selected individuals (i.e. your writing partner/s).

This means it is feasible to work collaboratively with people in other countries and even other continents. I used Google Drive when planning and writing The Wealthy Writer, the downloadable course on making money writing for online markets I co-wrote with Ruth Barringham, who lives in Australia. The Wealthy Writer is a little outdated now, by the way, which is why I don’t actively promote it any more.

So what are your thoughts on collaboration? Do you actively seek out writing partners, or does the idea fill you with horror? I’d love to hear your views and experiences! Please post your thoughts below as usual.

Note: This post is an updated version of one first published a few years ago on my old blog at www.mywritingblog.com. 

Nick Daws Course

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Dear Michael Love Dad

Keep Believing! One Day Your Dream May Come True

Today I am pleased to bring you an inspirational guest post by UK freelance writer Iain Maitland.

Iain is an old friend of mine, whom I first met many years ago when he was editing a newsletter called Personal & Finance Confidential, for which I was a contributor.

In his article, Iain reveals how, after many years as a struggling freelance, a book deal catapulted him into the big time.

Over to Iain, then…

*

This is an article for aspiring writers, especially those with a dream.

This is not a how-to article.

It is not going to make you money.

What it will do is to give you hope – it’s never too late to achieve what you want.

I’ve been a freelance writer for 30 years, turning my hand to all sorts of articles, from curing hay fever by putting Vaseline up your nose to making money from Forex trading. What I’ve always really wanted to do is to be a ‘proper’ writer with a literary agent and a big-time publisher.

I had a go at various books now and then over the years and time passed by and nothing ever worked. I turned 54 last year and thought I’d drift into retirement with, between you and me, plenty of regrets.

And then something rather magical took place.

I’d written this book, Dear Michael, Love Dad – it’s a funny, sad and emotional story of my relationship with my eldest son. Think Dear Lupin or maybe Love Nina.

I sent it to lots of agents. They all turned it down. I sent it to every publisher I could find. They turned it down too. I then pretty much gave up.

Cue a magical moment. An agent, Clare, suggested we meet for breakfast. She loved the book and would pitch it to publishers. The next morning, within an hour or two, a publisher, Hannah, said she loved it as well. They’d publish it.

This was the same book that so many agents and publishers had turned down. Rejection after rejection after rejection; to the point where I doubted that I had any writing ability at all.

Yet now, same book remember, I was a wonderful writer, capable of moving people to tears and to laughing out loud.

Roll forward nine months to today, early July 2016, and I’m not sure if the book is going to be a best-seller, but it’s certainly going to do rather well. Charlie, ‘Dear Lupin’, Mortimer has said it is, ‘wonderful, moving, humorous…extremely poignant’ and that has been a big boost.

We have lots of interviews and features coming out across the press later this month, with an appearance on ITV This Morning booked on 27 July. There will be plenty of media coverage going through the summer.

I am now, almost overnight, that ‘proper’ writer I always wanted to be with an agent and a big-time publisher who has optioned a follow-up to Dear Michael, Love Dad.

I am about to start writing a stage play with a well-known actor (who may well play me) and this will see the light of day later next year.

I have a thriller, Sweet William, coming out next year too and that, it’s been suggested, will be a best-seller.

So it happened – is happening right now – for me; and, who knows, it could happen for you too. You just need to believe and keep going. And one day…

Find Out MoreIain Maitland

Here is the book: http://geni.us/2TT5o (universal Amazon link)

Here is the story: http://www.yellowkitebooks.co.uk/parenting/your-child-depression-what-you-need- to-know/

And here’s me if you want to get in touch: www.iainmaitland.net and www.twitter.com/iainmaitland

Iain Maitland

Nick Daws again: I really enjoyed reading Iain’s original article, and asked if he could follow it up by setting out some tips for writers wanting to follow in his footsteps. Once again, he came up trumps. Here is what he wrote…

Here’s my ‘how-to’ advice based on my own experiences…

* Write the whole damn book. If you don’t have a track record, the agent and publisher will want to see the complete manuscript.

* Discover similar books, either online or in Waterstones etc. The closest books to mine were ‘Dear Lupin’ and ‘Love Nina’.

* Google – you may have to dip deep – to find the agents and publishers of these books; I found leads on Linkedin and Facebook.

* Approach agents and publishers by email, with an outline of the book and a sample chapter. Keep it short and to the point. Don’t try to be smart or clever.

* Learn to accept rejection. You need a thick skin! Most will not reply. Those that do will send a template response. Few will engage.

* Take advice – when an agent does engage, listen to what they say. Dear Michael, Love Dad was rejected as a funny book but accepted once I’d woven in the bittersweet story of my eldest son’s depression and recovery.

* Remember the good news – you only need to be accepted once. You will get ignored and rebuffed over and over again. You may well doubt yourself. Your heart may break. But you have a talent and a story to tell. You only need one agent and one publisher; it will all roll on from there.

* Don’t get cross with agents and publishers who seem dismissive. They get bombarded. Publishing is a small world and you will cross paths again; not easy if you’ve called them a flipping idiot (or similar).

* Assume you are right and they are wrong and keep going – whisper it quietly, but one Hodder publisher turned my book down, another later accepted it with enthusiasm.

I am happy to chat! You can email me at Imaitland@aol.com.

Join me at www.twitter.com/iainmaitland

*

Thank you very much to Iain for an interesting and inspirational article. Do follow him if you are on Twitter, and check out his book and homepage.

And, as ever, if you have any questions or comments, for Iain or myself, please do post them below.

 

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Money

How One Blogger Made £100,000 Working from Home on the Internet

I saw an interesting article last week about a UK-based blogger called Emma Drew who is making an impressive income working from home on the Internet.

A little surprisingly, the article was on the Daily Mail (UK) website. It opens as follows:

A blogger who turned to online money-making schemes to make ends meet while unemployed has been able to quit her job after earning £100,000.

Emma Drew, 28, from Littleforth, Cambridgeshire now makes around £3000 a month from activities such as mystery shopping, risk-free betting and online lotteries, which she documents on her blog From Aldi to Harrods

Her husband Tony has also been able to given up his job to work alongside Emma, and the couple were able to splash out almost £30,000 on their dream wedding and honeymoon last year without a second thought.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3553368/Blogger-earns-100-000-money-making-schemes-quits-job.html

Working from home is a particular interest of mine, and of course I write about such opportunities for my clients at More Money Review.

Quite a few of the money-making opportunities Emma pursues I also do myself, or at least I have some knowledge of.

I thought it might therefore be of interest to add my own thoughts, and also include hyperlinks where appropriate (for the most part these are not included in the Mail Online article). I have adapted the list of headings below from Emma’s Top Tips list in the article. Note that not all of these may be suitable for people living outside the UK.

  1. Blogging

Obviously this is something I do through my Entrepreneur Writer blog. I also ran My Writing Blog for nearly ten years on behalf of my publishers, WCCL.

Like Emma, I make money from my blogs in various ways. The most important is affiliate marketing. I do this in (I hope) a fairly low-key way, with occasional banner ads and affiliate links to products I recommend.

I don’t make a fortune from this, but some reviews have undoubtedly been remunerative. One review on my old blog (for the Brain Evolution System by Inspire3, if you’re interested) has made me over £5000 in commission since it was written.

I also have Google AdSense ads on my blog, although as they aren’t very prominent you would have to look quite hard to find them! Nonetheless, they earn me a few pounds a month as well.

I notice that Emma has about six different blogs, all targeted at extra income seekers. That seems a good way to boost your earnings, although of course it does involve a lot of extra work.

2. Matched Betting

This is one of those methods you can only apply if you live in a country where online gambling is legal. The idea is to make use of bookmakers’ special offers to generate a guaranteed profit. This is tax free in the UK.

To give you an example, a bookmaker might offer a £20 free bet as an incentive to sign up for an account on their website. Using the matched betting method, you bet on the opposite outcome as well on a different website, adjusting the stakes so that whatever happens you are guaranteed an overall profit. Emma has a more in-depth explanation of how the method works on her blog, incidentally.

I have only ever used this method in a small way myself, but it is perfectly do-able, and gives the lie to the oft-repeated claim that you can’t take money from the bookmakers. You do need to be well organised and resist the temptation to place any speculative bets, however. In addition, over time the number of opportunities may diminish as you use up more and more of the bookies’ introductory offers.

Nonetheless, Emma seems to be making this method work for her. As well as the service she mentions, many members of the More Money Review website recommend another well-established advisory service called Bonus Bagging.

3. Complete Online Surveys

This is another genuine online moneymaking opportunity, but the rates of return vary considerably. In some cases you can end up being paid as little as 50p for a survey that takes over an hour to complete.

As I value my time more highly than that, I don’t generally do online surveys now. Still, if you have the time to spare, they can certainly provide a bit of pocket money. Here are links to Prolific Academic and MintVine, two survey sites recommended by Emma in the article.

4. Mystery Shopping and Research

This is a money-making method I haven’t tried, but the opportunities are certainly there for those who are interested. Nowadays they are typically based on smartphone apps, so if you don’t have one of these your options may be limited.

There are various apps you can download free of charge to help you make money. You are unlikely to make a fortune from any of these, but they can generate a useful sideline income for you.

Yoobic is one of a number of apps that pay smartphone users for performing simple research tasks in shops and other retail outlets. For example, you might be asked to take photos of products or rank a store’s marketing displays.

Missions (as Yoobic refer to them) typically pay between £4 and £8 for 10 minutes’ work, with payments via PayPal. If this prospect appeals, download the app from the iTunes store or Google Play, create an account, and search for missions near you. You can reserve up to ten jobs at a time, and must complete them by the stated deadline.

Streetspotr is another app for both iOS and Android that connects market research clients with users who carry out small tasks. Most tasks pay about £5, though some offer as much as £15. Jobs can involve anything from photographing supermarket product displays or checking restaurant menus to ordering a hot drink in a muffin shop!

Some apps are for iPhone users only. One such is Field Agent. Missions are sent via the app, and can include checking product prices in stores, taking photos, writing reviews, and so on. The company typically pays £4.50 per task, but it can be between £2 and £10.

Task 360, another iPhone app from the same firm, offers a wider range of tasks, and typically pays £5 to £10 for 15 minutes’ work. To download Field Agent and/or Task 360, just search for them in the iTunes store.

If you enjoy sharing your opinions, VoxPopMe could be for you. They will pay you for recording short (15–60 second) video clips on set topics on your smartphone. Payment is via Paypal once you reach £10. Both Android and iOS versions are available. One possible downside to VoxPopMe is that they say that they may use your video for their clients or themselves, and that they own the intellectual property in your video the moment you upload it.

Finally, Quostodian pays you to read offers and occasionally download an app onto your phone. You can earn extra by referring your friends and family too. The minimum payout is £10 via Paypal or BACS, with payments processed weekly. Unusually, in addition to iOS and Android, this app is available for Windows phones and Blackberries too.

  • Emma’s number one recommendation for mystery shopping gigs is Market Force. She also recommends the website usability testing service What Users Do.

5. Write an E-book for Sale on Amazon

Clearly this is something that I do and recommend myself. You are unlikely to make a fortune publishing Kindle e-books (though it’s been known), but even a moderately successful title can generate a useful sideline income for you for years to come.

Two of my own Kindle e-books you might like to check out are my humorous sci-fi novella “The Festival on Lyris Five” and my guide for writers “Three Great Techniques for Plotting Your Novel or Screenplay“.

Basic advice on how to write a Kindle e-book can be found on the Kindle Direct Publishing website. For more in-depth advice, my number one recommendation is (of course) Geoff Shaw’s Kindling.

6. Free Lottery Websites

A growing number of websites offer the opportunity to enter free daily or weekly prize draws, with the prizes financed by advertising. You simply register for each site and enter the details required, whether it’s your postcode, your birthdate, your phone number, or whatever. Then all you have to do is check them every day to see if you have won. Here are some of the top such websites:

Free Postcode Lottery

The Selfie Lottery

Lucky Phone

Ashleigh Money Saver

Date of Birth Lotto

Note that these lottery sites are generally open to UK residents only, but if you live elsewhere a search for “free online lottery” may prove productive.

7. Investment

The main site Emma refers to in this category is RateSetter. This is a person-to-person (P2P) or crowdlending service. In the case of RateSetter, you will be lending money to businesses rather than individuals (as with Zopa).

With all such services, your money is lent to a number of borrowers, and you receive interest plus return of your capital as the loan is repaid. Lending to businesses is arguably riskier than lending to individuals, but the potential returns are greater.

I don’t actually use RateSetter, but I do belong to a similar service called The Lending Crowd. I currently have around £1000 lent out to about 40 businesses, at an average interest rate of around 11%. So far there have been no defaults, but if this did happen I would still be doing a lot better than with a bank savings account.

Of course, the drawback of this type of service is that if you need all your money back quickly, it won’t be as straightforward as with an ordinary savings account. Nonetheless, in my view (and experience) if you have a bit of money you can afford to lock away for a while, this type of service can offer much better returns than a standard bank account.

  • As mentioned, my own experience is with The Lending Crowd, and I am therefore happy to recommend them. However, RateSetter (as mentioned in the article) are a well-established company and currently offering a bonus of £100 with investments of £1000 and over, so they are definitely worth considering as well.

8. Buying and Selling

Although this is referred to in the article, it doesn’t say very much about it. But of course buying and selling, typically using online auction sites such as eBay, is a very popular way of making money from home.

Many people (including myself) start by selling things from around their home that they no longer require. If you want to turn this into a sideline business, of course, you will need to buy products cheaply (e.g. from a wholesaler) and sell them on for profit.

An excellent resource I recommend for online auction traders is Salehoo. This is both a directory of suppliers and a comprehensive training programme. You can read my full blog review of Salehoo here.

9. Reviewing

I’ve already mentioned that I make some money publishing reviews on this blog. In addition, I am paid by my clients at More Money Review to review home business opportunities.

Additionally, I am an Amazon Vine reviewer. That means Amazon offer me a wide range of products to review. In exchange for doing this, I get to keep the product in question. Over the years I have received some quite valuable products, including a lawnmower, a vacuum cleaner, and a £1000 mattress.

Unfortunately you can’t just apply to become an Amazon Vine reviewer. You have to wait for the call! However, if you regularly post product reviews on Amazon, there is a good chance you may be asked.

One thing I discovered from the Mail Online article is that there is a growing number of websites where you may be able to get free or heavily discounted goods in exchange for reviewing them on Amazon. The site mentioned in the article is AmzReviews. This is only open to UK residents, but you can find a long list of sites seeking reviewers for Amazon on this webpage.

10. Freelance Writing

Finally in the article Emma mentions freelance writing. This is obviously something I do as well, and it is still by a distance my largest source of income. I have a small number of regular clients, and others I work for occasionally when required.

I can’t really go into detail here about how to get freelance writing work, but one tip would be to apply proactively to any publishers or other potential clients you think you could provide a service to. To sustain a career as a freelance writer you really need a few clients who will keep you going with regular work rather than an endless stream of one-off projects. Any of the latter that arise will then be icing on the cake for you.

This post has gone on rather longer than I anticipated, but I hope you found it interesting. In addition, I do recommend reading the Mail Online article that inspired it, and also clicking through to read Emma Drew’s blog.

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

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Writing

Five Things I Wish I Had Known as a New Freelance Writer

I’ve been a full-time freelance for twenty-five 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!

My American friends 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 at www.mywriterscircle.com 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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Guest Post: How to Write Your Single Book Into a Wildly Successful Book Series

Today I have a syndicated guest post for you from author and writing coach Earma Brown. In her article, Earma looks at various ways you can turn one (non-fiction) book into a money-spinning series…

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Are you planning to write just one book? Wait! Before you decide, at least let me show you how easy it is to make your single book into a series of books. By the way, publishers love book series and readers become fanatical over a serial of books.

Begin to change your thinking. Don’t look at your book as a one time thing or a one title event. Begin to look at it as the beginning of your successful author journey. If you are looking for an easier journey, more rewards and more profits with a series of books, follow the tips below:

1. Slash your huge book into separate books. The easiest way to do this is to separate your book into chunks, chapters, sections and parts. Writing this way will allow you to divide and conquer. You can easily take the chunks or sections and divide them into several books. Your readers will love that you made your book such an easy read and buy each one of them.

2. Put your overflow information into a second book. Gather all the overflow research material. You know all the extra information discovered that wouldn’t fit into your first book. Put it in order and develop it into a separate book. For example, if one of your chapters is becoming bloated with information overload consider marking it for book two. There’s no better time to start collecting information for book two than when you are organizing book one.

3. Poll your readers for a key point they want to know more about. Expound on a point your readers show interest in knowing more about. If you don’t know already, try to discover their problems and write the solutions in the next book. Handle this well and your sequel may sell better than the previous book.

4. Select a sub-topic to do further research. Do more research on one of your book’s sub-topics. Take a sub-topic that you only touched on in the first book and cover if fully in the sequel. Your readers will love the additional information and anticipate buying the next volume.

5. Write a companion book for the original book. You can excerpt sections from your first book, insert groups of checklists, discussion or reflection questions and voila you have a study guide or workbook.

6. Develop a meditation or journal book. Gather quotes related to your book’s topic and pair them with excerpts from your original book to put in a meditation book or devotional. Or create a journal with quotes from your original books in the corner of each lined page of the journal. You can number them according to weeks, days or lessons. For example, 52 weeks of inspiring thoughts or 365 days of inspirational thoughts from your book’s topic.

7. Repurpose your material for a different audience. Plan another edition of your book for a different audience than the original book. Remember the Chicken Soup for Teen-Agers, Prisoners, Mothers and so on sold better than the original Chicken Soup for the Soul. The original book was for a more general audience. Find out how you can target your audience even more and you may discover a better selling market within a general market.

If you don’t change your thinking, your book could end up being a tiny drop in the scheme of life. Instead plan a wildly successful series of books and make the splash you’re destined to make. You may feel you can’t dream that big. No worries; start with the simple tips above. Expand your thinking. Dream a bigger dream and write your single book into a plethora of books. I look forward to seeing your name in print many times.

Byline: Earma Brown, 12 year author and business owner helps small business owners and writers who want to write their best book now! Earma mentors other writers and business professionals through her monthly ezine “iScribe.” Send any email to iscribe@bookwritinghelp.com for free mini-course “Jumpstart Writing Your Book” or visit her at How to Write a Book

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Earma_Brown

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Thank you to Earma for a thought-provoking, inspirational article. There are some great ideas here any non-fiction author can apply.

You might also like to read the recent guest post here by Iain Pattison on how he turned a book of short stories into a successful series when his original book stopped selling. This principle works with fiction as well!

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

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Beat Stress With This Free MP3 From Inspire3

I’m a bit off-topic today, but I wanted to tell you about a special promotion being held by my friends at the self-development and brainwave-entrainment company Inspire3.

Among other things, Inspire3 produce the popular Brain Evolution System and Brain Salon products (both of which I use myself and recommend).

Right now they are giving away a free “Eliminate Stress” MP3, a free copy of the (excellent) e-book The 18 Rules to Happiness by my old friend (and former publisher) Karl Moore, and a 10 percent discount voucher for any purchases you may like to make. Just click through this link to claim this free offer.

There is no obligation to buy anything. The aim of the promo is simply to raise awareness of the Hypnosis Live online store. Through this site you can buy self-hypnosis MP3s designed to assist with a huge range of issues, from boosting intuition to stopping smoking, improving your self-esteem to overcoming stage fright.

  • There is even a session titled Be a Better Writer, which uses the power of hypnosis and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) to boost your writing skills and “unleash your inner Shakespeare”.

There are almost 200 different sessions on offer in the Hypnosis Online store, in the following categories:

  • Mental Skills
  • Mindset
  • Emotions
  • Fear, Worry, Anxiety
  • Health
  • Self Growth
  • Personal Improvement
  • Body Improvement
  • Adult

All sessions are professionally recorded by qualified hypnotherapist and master NLP practitioner Julie-Ann Amos. They are available as instant downloads as soon as you’ve purchased. Most last 40 minutes, and you can listen to them as many times as you want (or need).

Naturally, as the sessions take the form of audio MP3 files, you can play them on any computer, tablet or smartphone, or on a dedicated MP3 player. The use of headphones or earphones is recommended.

There is an FAQs page here if there is anything else you need to know. Otherwise, here again is the link to click to claim this free offer.

As always, comments or questions are very welcome – please do post them below.

http://www.hypnosislive.com/a/mindpower
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Give It a Week

“Give it a week” is a piece of advice I heard many years ago when I was starting out as a freelance writer.

I believe the phrase is commonly used in advertising agencies, though as I’ve never worked in one of these myself I can’t confirm this – I simply read it in a book, the rest of which I’ve long forgotten.

Anyway, the idea behind the advice is that, before signing off any piece of work, you should put it to one side for a week. When you return to it, with fresh eyes you are almost bound to see ways in which it can be improved.

Of course, in our frenetic world, you may not always have a week to spare – but even if you can only give it a day, the principle still applies.

I have always tried to apply this guideline in my writing, and when I haven’t I’ve often regretted it. I think there are two reasons why it is such a worthwhile principle to follow.

First, you return to the project with fresh eyes. It’s a well-known fact that if you spend hours continuously working on a project, you become so close to it you no longer see “obvious” mistakes and infelicities – e.g. repetition of the same long word within a couple of sentences. This is otherwise known as the “can’t see the wood for the trees” phenomenon.

But, even more important, if you leave the project for a while, you give your intuitive right brain the chance to come up with its own suggestions. Readers of my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days will know that I’m a big believer in the right brain, left brain theory – the idea that we all have in effect two brains, a rational, logical left brain and an intuitive right one.

The right brain cannot communicate directly the way the left brain does – instead it works by sending ideas bubbling through in dreams and moments of inspiration. Giving the right brain time and space to work often results in better ideas than if you just sit down and try to complete an entire project in one sitting.

Personally, I find that a lot of my best ideas come when I am doing something totally unconnected to writing. Best of all, for some bizarre reason, is gardening, but shopping, walking, driving and washing-up are also good.

On the other hand, I can’t say I have ever had any especially good ideas whilst watching TV – I think it’s because TV occupies all our senses and drowns out any attempt by our intuitive right brain to communicate with us.

Anyway, my main point is, when you think you’ve finished any writing project, if you possibly can, set it to one side for a week, then return to it for a final revision. I’ll be amazed if you don’t find mistakes you didn’t notice before, and sections you can polish and sharpen.

If you don’t have a week, give it a day at least, but any break before tackling the final version is better than none. Otherwise, I can guarantee that, soon after pressing the “Send” button, you will think of at least three ways the work in question could have been improved!

Note: This is an updated version of an evergreen post originally published on my old blog at www.mywritingblog.com..

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