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Where do authors get their ideas?

July 30th, 2010

I’ve been away for a few days to sunny Dorset – and yes, it was sunny.  Showers were forecast but we seemed to dodge them.  We did a splendid walk from Thorncombe Beacon taking in Golden Cap and Seatown.  Sitting outside the Anchor Inn with a plate of fresh whitebait and a glass of chilled wine is as good as it gets (if you can ignore the aching legs and sore feet). I’m already planning the next great escape…

Diana Nadin's Holiday

Diana Nadin's Holiday

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‘How To’ win yourself £200!

July 23rd, 2010

This year’s Writers Bureau annual Poetry and Short Story Competition closed a couple of weeks ago and we’ve been preparing the entries ready to send off to the adjudicators (Alison Chisholm – poetry and Iain Pattison – short stories ).  I can’t help looking through a fair selection and I’m always amazed by the quality of some of them.  There really are some talented writers out there! By the same token, there are some absolute ‘stinkers’ – boring, badly written and lacking any kind of plot.  You’re lucky – you only get to read the best ones on our website.  We should have them posted there, for your delectation, by mid-September.

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Your chance to break into writing for TV!

July 16th, 2010

Thanks to Rachel for last week’s blog and her very practical advice on how to find work as a freelance copywriter.

This week I’ve been interviewing to fill a vacancy in our Student Services department.  As you can imagine, we need someone with a good command of English, who is interested in writing and can empathise with students.  The six people that we chose to interview were all great and any one of them could have done the job to a high standard.  Choosing between them was far from easy but I think we’ve made the right decision.

What did worry – and depress – me was the fact that we had in the region of 350 applicants for the job!  Many were graduates leaving university this year with good degrees, or graduates who had left last year and been unable to find a job.  Others were highly qualified people who had been made redundant.  It’s being faced with such stark reality that makes you realise that times are still difficult in this country – and our young people are taking the brunt of it.

OK, onto a more cheerful topic.  Phaebus Media Group, who produced the videos on the Writers Bureau site, are in the process of producing a mini-drama aimed at introducing new learners, aged 16 to30, to the English language. They’ve asked The Writers Bureau to run a competition to come up with story outlines. The drama will consist of 12 episodes, each lasting five minutes. Your job is to write the story and character outlines and suggest the location or setting for the drama. If possible, the winning idea will be put into production, you’ll be credited on the final product and invited along to see the filming of some of the episodes. Full details of the competition are here . It’s a great way to break into TV, so why not give it a try?

Finally, don’t forget our latest 21st Birthday Competition which gives you the opportunity to win an Article Writing course




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Earn your share of the £19 billion spent in the UK every year on writing advertising copy!

July 9th, 2010

This week, my guest blogger is Rachel Newcombe who is on of the tutors on our Writers Bureau Complete Copywriter Course.

Rachel Newcombe

Marketing Yourself as a Copywriter

One of the common questions from students finishing the Writers Bureau Complete Copywriter course is, “How can I find work as a copywriter?” It can be hard when you’re first starting out, but one of the important ways in which you can find work and potential clients is to start marketing yourself as a copywriter.

There are various practical methods you can use to market yourself, including creating a portfolio, setting up a website and developing promotional postcards.

Create a Portfolio

When you’re making contact with potential clients, or applying for work as a copywriter, you’ll no doubt be asked for samples of work or if a client could see your portfolio. It can be a bit of a ‘chicken or egg’ situation at first, as you need work in order to build up a portfolio of samples. In the first instance, some of your course assignments can be used as examples, plus it’s useful to create some sample copy to show off your copywriting skills, such as writing a dummy press release or copy for a website (although never try and pass this off as actual commissioned work if you are asked – admit that it is a sample).

If you have friends, family or colleagues who run businesses and could benefit from your copywriting services, consider offering to do some work for free or a discounted fee, in return for a testimonial and a good example of copywriting to use in your portfolio. As soon as you’ve got commissioned and published samples, then add these to your portfolio.

Set Up a Website

A website is a great way of letting the world know you exist and of marketing your copywriting services. In many ways it goes hand-in-hand with creating a portfolio, as you can use a section of your website to show off examples of your work.

If you’re technologically minded, find someone to design a simple website for you or consider using a blog platform, such as WordPress or Blogger, to host it instead. Many people successfully use a blog to create a simple website and find it an easy way to upload and display examples of their work (for example, I’m using a fairly simple WordPress blog that was designed for me to promote my latest book – http://www.skincancerandsunsafety.com/).

Sun Safety The Essential Guide

Promotional Postcards

If you’re keen to let people in specific organisations know of your copywriting services, then consider creating some promotional postcards to send out or deliver to local businesses.

Much larger than a business card, a postcard has plenty of room to sell your skills and advertise yourself as a copywriter. Companies such as Vistaprint frequently offer very good deals for printing postcards, so it won’t cost you too much to do, and they provide lots of free graphics you can use on your design too.

Rachel Newcombe is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and researcher and tutor for The Complete Copywriter course. Her latest book, Skin Cancer and Sun Safety: The Essential Guide has recently been published by Need2Know (£8.99)




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Closing date for Writers Bureau Poetry and Short Story Competition extended to 9th July!

July 2nd, 2010

This week’s blog is a bit of a hotchpotch (or, so my dictionary tells me, a hodgepodge if you’re American or Canadian).

So to start with, if you love words, some useless facts!  An average six-year-old knows 9,000 – 13,000 words.  This rises to 40,000 – 50,000 by the time they reach their teens.  Though, as you’ve probably noticed, they only use a fraction of this on a daily basis.  According to Global Language Monitor a new word is created every 98 minutes and last year English acquired its one millionth words. (Though how they work this out is beyond me!)  So, if you’re sitting down to write that novel you’ve got lots of words to play with.

But what if you’re writing for children ?  You obviously need to take some care ensuring that the level of language you use (vocabulary and syntax) is suitable for the age range you’re targeting. We all have four vocabularies.  Listening is our largest – we often hear words that we can only understand in the context in which they are spoken.  Next comes speaking, followed by reading (again we sometimes guess at the meaning from the context).  The fourth is writing which is more precise and we have to think before putting pen to paper. A quick tip here:  when writing for children, if you need to consult a thesaurus, use one designed for children rather than the somewhat ponderous adult versions.

And finally, as a self-confessed Luddite, I couldn’t resist this quote from Joel Achenbach in The Washington Post that I saw recently in a writers’ magazine:

“The best feature of print is that it doesn’t interrupt you.  It doesn’t try to link you somewhere else.  It doesn’t talk back…Interactivity is a great virtue sometimes, but there are other times when you want to read a story that doesn’t try to heckle you…”




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