July 30th, 2014
If you’re looking for a change of career and you have a keen eye for the smaller details, then working as a freelance proofreader might be just what you’re looking for. But do you really have what it takes? Here are some of our top tips for new starters!
It goes without saying that if you’re going to be proofing someone else’s work, your grammar and spelling need to be flawless. We all make mistakes, but as a proofreader you would be being paid to correct them, so it’s your job to make sure the finished product is absolutely perfect.
If you’re a little bit rusty when it comes to spelling and grammar rules – don’t worry! Our Proofreading and Copy-editing course includes a refresher in all the things you might have forgotten. It’s also worth investing in a good dictionary and an up-to-date grammar textbook, just to be sure. The first rule of proofreading is to check your work twice as carefully as you would any other piece of writing.
Any writer or proofreader will tell you that there’s more to the job than just scanning a final draft for the odd typo. Proofreading requires some serious concentration, and if you’re working from home then that might not be as easy as it sounds. If you had visions of getting your morning’s work done while you watch the news and help the kids get ready for school then think again – proofreading is a job that requires your full attention, so make yourself a productive workplace and keep things as quiet as you can.
We advise minimising distractions as much as possible, so that means no phone, no internet and definitely no TV! If you absolutely can’t work in silence, try listening to some music – preferably something without lyrics.
Finally, when it comes to finding your first clients, don’t be afraid to do a bit of work for nothing – it’s a great way to build contacts and secure some experience. Volunteering your skills might seem like a lot of hard work for no return to begin with, but it shows that you are pro-active and that you’re willing to work hard for your success, and this will get you a great reputation in the industry. To start with, try contacting non-profit organisations and charities to see if they have any advertising materials or leaflets that you could proofread for them. Most would be more than happy to offer a good reference and a recommendation in exchange for a job well done.
So, if you’ve been thinking about starting your career as a freelance proofreader, there’s no time like the present! With a bit of time and some hard work, you could soon find yourself with the job you always dreamed of.
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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?
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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.
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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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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!
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