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First Impressions Count!

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!




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Writing for Fiction Feast

July 21st, 2014

Hello All!

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!




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Making Your Research Work For You

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 (dianan@writersbureau.com)  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.




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“But I don’t read magazines like that…”

July 16th, 2014

This is a sentence we hear a lot, and it’s not hard to understand why. When you first get started as a freelance writer, your first instinct is to pitch to the publications you already read regularly because you know a lot about them. There’s nothing wrong with this, and actually it makes a lot of sense. After all, everyone always says you should write what you know.

The problem comes when you realise that the publications you usually read only make up a very small part of the whole industry. Most of us will regularly read maybe three or four magazines or newspapers, but if you restrict yourself to writing for just these publications, you aren’t giving yourself the best chance of earning money for your work.

We find that a lot of our students have successes with women’s magazines like Take a Break, Pick Me Up and Chat! – and we can completely understand why magazines like this might not be your cup of tea. However, would it change your mind if you found out they were willing to pay you up to £50 for sending in a letter, photograph or short filler? It could be your first accepted piece of work, and it’s an easy start to your portfolio of published work. You don’t necessarily have to enjoy reading a magazine to be able to write for it – in fact, you don’t even have to believe what you’re writing. Just like any job, there are going to be parts of being a freelance writer that aren’t much fun, but they will help to pay the bills.

To help to kick-start your market research, we’re going to give you a bit of a challenge. We’d like you to look at the selection of publications available in your local newsagent or supermarket and pick up a copy of something you’d never dream of reading for fun. It could be anything from Your Cat to Yachting Monthly, the more obscure the better! Then, have a read through and start to think of a few ideas for articles you could write for the publication you have chosen. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about the subject matter, because you’re going to do some research and find out. Use the internet, your local library and anything else at your disposal to find out what you need to know.

You could write the articles in full if you feel like you can, or just draft a few outlines before you start doing your research. When you’re confident that you could write up the article in full and do a good job of it, send off an email to the editor and see if they might be interested in printing your article. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!




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Top Ten Tips for Submitting to an Agent or Publisher

July 14th, 2014

Most published writers would agree that the hardest part of the process is finding someone in the industry who is willing to take a chance on your book. Agents and publishers receive hundreds of submissions from unpublished writers every day, so what can you do to give your work the best possible chance? Read the rest of this entry »




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