July 28th, 2014
As much as you try to treat writing as a full time job, there are bound to be some days when you really don’t feel like sitting down at your desk to work. Work stresses, family problems, children and the general day to day pressures we all face can be detrimental to your creative thinking. We understand that you need to be in the right frame of mind to get some work done, so we’ve come up with a list of our favourite websites for de-stressing!
Rainymood – If you’re like me, you’ll know that there’s nothing better than a good rainy day. The sound of rain on a window is relaxing for so many people that they’ve even dedicated a website to it. Sit and watch the raindrops fall for a while, and let the sound soothe you.
Action For Happiness - Another one of my favourite websites when I need to get motivated. Action for Happiness is about creating a happier and more peaceful world, and their website is full of things that make you want to feel good and do good. In particular, their Happiness Posters never fail to cheer me up.
Gimme a Break – Gimme a Break is perfect for those workaholics who never know when it’s time to stop. This is an add-on for Google Chrome users that reminds you to take regular breaks. You can decide when to stop and what to do with your free time, and a notification will pop up when it’s time to step away from your computer.
Calm.com - Does exactly what it says on the tin! This site encourages you to take a short meditation break for between 2 and 20 minutes, and provides nature sounds and a narrated walkthrough of what you should be doing – or not doing – to make the most of your meditation time. No one can say they don’t have two minutes to spare to calm down and reflect, so why not give it a try?
July 25th, 2014
On my way to work this morning I was listening to the ‘Today’ programme on Radio 4. They were debating the fact that only 1 in 15 letters printed by the main newspapers are written by women. So, is there a bias in favour of men? Do women tend to send their views to the magazines that they read rather than to the daily papers? Or is it just a case that men are more opinionated and have more time to spare for airing their views?
If I’m being honest I would dismiss the first suggestion (newspapers don’t care who they publish providing the material is topical, well-expressed or humorous). I think there’s something to be said for the second, but lack of time is probably the real reason. Many women are so busy these days that they might have time to dash off a ‘Reader’s Tip’ to Bella magazine but sitting down to polish an article for The Times takes much more concentration and effort.
Incidentally – I think I heard this correctly – Iain Hollingshead (formerly of the Daily Telegraph) said that they receive up to 700 letters a day but print only 20. So, you can see how fierce the competition is!
Continuing with the daily broadsheets, the Guardian has recently introduced a monthly competition for self-published novelists. They say:
As DIY publishing gains respectability and established authors join the throng, the Guardian is joining forces with Legend Times to find the best self-published novels, in any genre, every month.
You can submit during the first two weeks of each calendar month, your book should be no less than 40,000 words and should never have been published by a traditional publisher. The latest winner is The Right of the Subjects by Jude Starling.
And while you’re waiting for the winners of our 2014 Short Story competition to be announced (not long now!) why not take a look at the NAWG Poetry and Short Story Competitions. The entry fee in both categories is £5 and the winners will receive: 1st £250; 2nd £100; 3rd £50. The closing date is 31st October and you can send your entries by post or email.
My guest next week is Vanessa Couchman who used to tutor the Writers Bureau Complete Copywriter Course. She’s about to have her historical novel The House of Zaronza published and she’ll be telling you something about the research involved in its writing.
July 23rd, 2014
Whether it’s a short story or a novel you’re working on, your opening paragraph is what will set you apart from other writers. If you’re sending work to an editor, agent or a competition then it could well be the only part of your story they actually read!
A strong opening is the key to getting your reader interested enough to finish off the story; so don’t rush it. You’ll reap the benefits later on if you spend a little time and care crafting the perfect opening paragraph.
To really grab your reader’s attention, you might want to consider starting your story ‘in medias res’ or in the middle of the action. You don’t always have to set the scene before something exciting happens, and starting off in the middle of an action-packed scene will immediately make your reader ask questions. As far as action goes, the bigger the event the more likely it is to hook your readers’ attention – so don’t be afraid to go for something shocking!
Once your action scene is over, you can allow your main character to reflect on the events leading up to that scene, slowly telling the story and answering those questions. There’s nothing wrong with starting a story with a little mystery – just make sure you solve it at the end!
If your talents lie more in descriptive writing than action-heavy scenes then you might want to use your skills to draw your reader in right at the start. When setting the scene for your story, make sure to use all of your senses and try to come up with something a little out of the ordinary. We all know that you’ll be able to see trees in the middle of a forest, but what about the smells and sounds? Extra details like this will create a lasting image for your readers, and you can use your words to create a multi-sensory picture to grab their attention.
Finally, as we’ve mentioned before, a short story or a novel is nothing without a memorable main character, so opening with a thought or some dialogue can be a great way to introduce them. Doing this places your character as the most important thing about the story, and it’s also a handy way to sneak in a short physical description without having to dedicate a new paragraph to it. If you decide to do this, then choose your words carefully. Think about the kind of language your character would use, if they might use any slang words or if they have any kind of accent or dialect. Try, as much as possible, to give information about your character through their speech without having to explicitly state it – remember “show” don’t “tell”. In a short story especially, this will save you precious words to use on advancing the plot.
A good opening can take hours of time and effort to create, so try different things and keep making changes until you’re happy with it. Trust us, you’ll be glad you spent the time on it when you get your first acceptance letter!
July 21st, 2014
If you’re a fiction writer and you’re more in to short stories than novels, it can be difficult to know where to start when you’re looking for markets for your work. Take a Break’s “Fiction Feast” is a great place to get started, and we have a really helpful article from one of their regular contributors, Linda Lewis!
Writing for Take a Break Fiction Feast
Have a great week!
July 18th, 2014
Last week I promised you that you’d be hearing from Susan Stevenson – unfortunately she’s been unable to provide a post so you’ll just have to put up with me again!
Rather than providing a miscellany, like I normally do, I thought I’d give you something more concrete – some sound advice on getting the maximum number of articles from your research. It’s the best way I know of making your time more profitable.
Here’s an example! Say you’ve researched Shea Butter for an article concentrating on the skin beautifying effects for publication in a women’s magazine. Once your first article is complete, you can use your research for other articles by changing the angle slightly. So think about who else would or could use Shea Butter and what magazines might accept an article on that subject. Off the top of my head, I can think of these different angles:
• health magazines – concentrating on the health benefits of using a natural moisturiser or warning about the need to buy pure, unadulterated Shea Butter. You can also target men’s health magazines and discuss Shea Butter as a substitute for shaving foam and as a moisturiser after shaving.
• pregnancy and baby magazines – looking at how to use Shea Butter to prevent stretch marks or how the chemical-free formula is great for babies and has a long tradition of use amongst the traditional people of Africa.
• green/eco magazines – emphasis on chemical free, good to the environment, less pollution, traditional uses etc.
• holiday magazines – highlight how Shea Butter can be used to treat bites, stings and sunburn in a natural way.
• fitness magazines – pointing out that it’s useful for easing fatigued muscles, caused by strenuous exercise.
• magazines for the care industry – showing how it can be used to ease tired muscles, stresses and strains and as a moisturiser for thin skin on the elderly or infirm.
• magazine for those suffering from skin complaints or allergies – highlight its use as an effective treatment for skin problems such as eczema.
• hair magazines – concentrate on using Shea Butter as a hair conditioner.
• cooking magazines – culinary uses of this versatile oil could be covered here.
• craft magazines – discuss the benefits of using Shea Butter as an ingredient in soaps and creams and the quantities needed.
That’s 10 additional markets you could aim an article at using the same research. You will need to tailor your work to each individual publication but the main bulk of your research has already been done.
Another way to get more than one sale out of the research is to send it to multiple magazines of the same genre. When you do this, you keep the main topic, such as the beautifying effects, but you alter the wording of the article so it’s different and, where possible, provide different pictures.
If you’d like to read more on this topic and various other aspects of improving your article writing skills, why not have a look at our Article Writing course. It’ll teach you how to research, write and send your articles for publication.
And finally, if you’d like to write a Friday ‘guest post’ then don’t be shy! All you need to do is contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your idea – it should be 3-500 words in length and on a writing related topic – plus a short biog and a picture of yourself or something relevant to your post.