Tag Archives: writer

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – should you write for free?

Actually, there is such a thing as a free lunch! My church put on a free lunch on the first Saturday of every month. They offer soup, fresh crusty bread and cakes, and it is very popular. Some of the homeless people in the town are waiting eagerly outside, at 12 pm, ready to come and eat and stay until the end, at 2. I have known people who are struggling, who are down on their luck, or just not making ends meet that month, come and enjoy a free hot meal. Not even a collection is taken – it is completely free.

However, when you are setting out as a writer, where do you find opportunities to write, if not for free? There are job ads everywhere, offering internships, voluntary positions, or even, the old chestnut, more paid work will be along soon! How do you know whether this is a position that will give you good experience and bring along better things, or whether you are just being taken advantage of? Here are three opportunities, where you might consider offering your services for free, and three where you would be well-advised to stay clear.

Take it!

  1. A local charity is looking for someone to help with writing some articles for the magazine. It is a subject that you know something about, and you would like to write more about. Yes – especially if you are looking for some clips for a portfolio. This kind of thing is fine, especially for smaller, local charities. The only time I would be hesitant, would be if this were for a charity that could afford to pay. Also, make it clear that it would take second place to paid work, and limit how much you produce for them.
  2. A friend is starting up a business and wants to set up a website. They are looking for help to put content together. You agree to write some pages for them, if you can link to their website on your portfolio. Yes – but with provisos! Not everyone chooses to work with friends – it can be a fast way to lose a friendship! Decide on the scope of the work before you start – how many articles, and know how long it is going to take you. Again, free work should only be done after paid work is done.
  3. You decide to join an article-writing website. The article titles are chosen by you, so you can write about what you want, and the website puts advertising on your articles. You can collect the money for the advertising, once it reaches a certain amount. Your articles are passed by an editor before being published. Again – a qualified yes! This is something that I did, when just starting out. I liked the idea that the article had to be passed by an editor, so that meant it had to pass certain style guides. It taught me how to write a headline and how to write for the web. I made a little money out of it – but don’t expect to get seriously rich from this kind of set up! Also do some research before joining such a website – some are better regarded than others. It’s best to check out reviews first.

Don’t Touch it!

  1. A company posts on a job board, looking for writers. They suggest that the opportunity will be great exposure and experience for a writer – but they can’t afford to pay yet. They say that there may be payment somewhere down the line… no! The problem is, that you don’t know the person and you have no idea about their circumstances. They may be telling the truth, but they may not. Stay clear or be taken advantage of!
  2. You are emailed by a person you don’t know, out of the blue. They offer minimal compensation, but ask for a free trial of your writing to check whether you are up to the right standard. Not recommended! If they receive enough writers willing to do a free trial – will they need to pay at all? They may have emailed you, but you have no guarantee that this work is going to be worth your while. I have occasionally sent over a trial piece – but on the understanding that if they want to use it, I want to be paid for it!
  3. You offer an article to a publication that pay for print and online pieces. Their reply tells you that they won’t be paying you because your piece will published as a blog post. You are a new writer, looking for clips – what do you do? This happened to an experienced freelancer who pulled the piece rather than give this publication free work. They would not have offered the work if they had thought that they would not be paid. This feels like a scam – and you should value your work too much to be taken in by it. If something doesn’t feel right – then walk away. There will be other opportunities.
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7 retro blog posts you might like to check out

7 retro blog posts

When you’ve put a lot of effort into writing your blog posts, it can be difficult to lose them off the top page and awkward for visitors to your page to find and read them, unless of course, they found them through searching a specific topic in Google. So it is good to occasionally write a blog post review to search through your blog and find some of the highlights that may enjoy seeing the light of day again.

I have enjoyed searching through my blog and finding some of my highlights from recent years. Many of these were from a 30 day blogging challenge I undertook in 2016. Definitely think it’s time for another one!

  1. Great Hero Character Names

In this blog post, I wrote about some of my favourite character names in novels and why I liked them.

2. My Top 10 Fictional Villains

What is a hero without a villain to try to foil them? These are some of my favourite villains, but I know there are many more.

3. Writing Prompts, Story, part 1 and Story part 2, and Editing a Story

I’m cheating here – there are actually 4 blog posts in one go: writing prompts and parts 1 and 2 of a story. I had fun creating this. Then I wrote a further blog post, explaining how I might edit the story, having read it back and analysed what I had written.

4. Procrastination and the Writer

This blog post was one of the most popular on my blog at one point. I think it chimes with most people who want to be writers.

5. 30 Ways to find Blog Post Ideas

For those days when procrastination is at its highest…

6. Six Girl BFFs in Fiction

I love a story with a really good girl BFF in it and here are some of my favourites.

7. Ten of the Best Bromances in Fiction

You can’t leave the boys out! Here my top ten bromances in fiction too.

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The Writer vs the Blank Page

Writing vs the Blank Page

“You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” (Jodie Piccoult)

It can be tough settling down to work, but there is nothing worse, as a writer, than settling down to write, then realising that you don’t know what you want to say. Facing a blank screen or blank page is almost guaranteeing that your brain will go blank too!

When I was young, there was something enjoyable at school about turning over a fresh new page to write on. I used my best handwriting, carefully drew the curliest ‘y’s and ‘g’s and tried to make sure that my work looked good. As a writer, there have been times when I have found myself with a little valued writing time, opened up a document and – nothing! All words have left me and it can feel very frustrating!

So why do writers put this pressure on ourselves? Why do we panic when faced with a blank page and what can we do about it?

There may be a few reasons why we freeze:

  • we genuinely don’t know where we want to go next in our writing
  • we are starting a new project but don’t know where to start
  • we need to do some research before we start writing
  • some other reason

Where do I go next in my writing?

You’ve opened up a blank document, but you really haven’t a clue where to continue on with your writing. How can you find a way around this and use your writing time productively? A good idea can be to always leave your work at a point where you have an idea where it is going to go next. So you are writing a story where the main character is going to visit her friend and chat about the leading love interest. If you leave your story where the main character knocks on the door of her friend, then you have something to start writing about straight away when you come back to your work. If however, you finish work at the end of a chapter, then it can be harder to come back in to a completely new one.

Similarly, if you are writing an article, try to write down some planning and research points rather than just plunging into the first paragraph. Of course, if a great idea for the first paragraph comes to you, then write it down, but if you normally find it hard to get going, then it is best to anticipate this and make sure that you are able to write something down. Often just getting going is a good way to overcome the blank page.

Starting a new project

Sometimes you want to start a new project, but you don’t know where to begin. You might have fragments of a story in mind, you could have an idea for a new blog post or you may have found a great title that you want to use in a piece of writing. The idea is sketchy and you are unsure where to go next with it.

Again, the trick is to release the pressure on yourself. No one is able to write a perfect first draft, so don’t worry if it’s a bit rough. Write notes, sketch out some characters or interview them, write some outlines, play with the concept. For blog posts, you can check out what other writers have written on the subject, to get some width on the subject, play with the title and list out the points you want to make. Try to always have something on the page, even if it eventually gets deleted.

Need to do some research

Some writers just go straight into a piece of writing, then they come up against a blocking point where they need to research in order to finish it. As a writer, you could look at the positive side – at least you wrote something down and are not faced with a blank piece of paper! By all means, go and find the answer to your question in a text book or search engine. Your work will be waiting for you when you come back. Sometimes it takes longer than you think to find the answer to something, so before you leave your work, write down some markers so that when you come back to it, you will be able to pick up your thought thread. Nothing worse than coming back to a piece of work, only to realise that you have absolutely no idea what you were going on about. Almost worse than that blank piece of paper!

Something Else

Insert your own reason here – for whatever reason, you find yourself facing a blank document with the blank brain to match. However, if you’ve been smart and paying and attention, you will have realised that this doesn’t need to be the case! You can leave yourself notes, character sketches, research notes and references or anything else that will help you pick up the work when you come back. If you are writing whole blog posts, then decide what the next topic is going to be and leave a title on a piece of paper along with a couple of references to remember where you planned to go next.

There is no need for a writer to be afraid of that blank piece of paper. It is just a blank page, waiting to be written on. If you find beginnings hard, then always start your beginning before ending your work for the night. Then you should always be able to spend that unexpected but welcome piece of writing time, productively.

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Six Best Girl BFFs in Fiction

Sometimes it’s not just all about the romance in a  novel. For me, there is nothing like a brilliantly defined girl friendship. Our friends can offer us a shoulder to cry on, good advice, sometimes bad advice, a cup of coffee and a much needed listening ear when we need it.

best friends by michael dornbierer
best friends by michael dornbierer

Here are some of my favourite girl BFFs in fiction – feel free to add your own at the end in the comments.

1.Beatrice & Hero – Much Ado about Nothing (play) by William Shakespeare

Beatrice is such a strongly written character – many of Shakespeare’s women were feisty and strong and Beatrice is her own person who believes in herself and is confident. Beatrice is a little older and wiser than her friend Hero. Hero is younger and inexperienced. She is not jaded in love, but in love for the first time, so she has an extreme reaction to being accused of infidelity. Beatrice is a true friend to Hero: in troubled times, she stands by her friend, comes up with a plan to redeem her good name and will do anything to help her – even charging her one-time enemy (and would-be lover) Benedick to kill the man who has accused her friend. We could all do with a friend like Beatrice.

2. Elizabeth & Jane Bennett – Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

These two sisters are very different people, but they get on so well. They are each other’s confidant and are able to talk about their feelings and their crushes very eloquently. They support each other completely. One of reasons that Elizabeth is so prejudiced against Darcy is that she believes that he separated her sister from her love, Mr. Bingley. The sisters are united in their embarrassment of their loud, match-making mother and rambunctious younger sister, Lydia. They commiserate with each other when it seems as though all is lost when Lydia elopes and they can rejoice with each other when it all comes right in the end. Thankfully, their men are BFFs too!

3. Glinda & Elphaba – The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Baum (based on the Wizard of Oz

The musical has taken the world by storm, and the unlikely friendship between Glinda, the good witch and Elphaba, the wicked witch of the west is at the heart of the story and the musical. Elphaba is green-skinned, an animal rights activist and not that interested in her appearance. Glinda is beautiful, aristocratic and very much concerned with how she looks, but these two girls find common ground and become good friends. Although they are only really together during their school days and are then separated for 20 years, they stay loyal to one another despite having different beliefs and their lives taking different paths.

4. Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy March – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The March sisters are a close-knit family whose story takes place during the American civil war. Their father is away, fighting and the family does not have much money. The girls make their own amusement by performing the plays that Jo writes. The girls all have their own personalities: Meg is grown-up and sensible, Jo is the creative one, Beth is musical and Amy is a very girlie girl. Although the girls bicker, their friendships endure and when things go wrong, they all pull together. This story and the three that follow (Good Wives, Little Men & Jo’s Boys) all follow the March sisters as they grow up.

5. Elinor & Marianne Dashwood – Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen

These sisters are very different people. Elinor is the elder sister, sensible to the point of almost losing her own happiness, a support to her family and always thinking of others. She wants to do what’s right according to the conventions of her time. Marianne is the opposite – giving in to her emotions and living in the now. These sisters do not really confide in each other – well, no one is left in any doubt as to how Marianne feels, but Elinor does not really share her feelings until she has no choice, but they love and support each other and rejoice when each finds her heart’s desire.

6. Anne Shirley & Diana Barry – Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

These two girls meet and are immediate friends. Mrs Barry, Diana’s mother, is not too taken with Anne, who is an orphan mistakenly sent to help Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert on their farm but Diana refuses to listen to her mother and the two girls have such a lovely friendship. They love and support each other right the way through the books and this is one of my favourite fiction friendships.

These are just a few of the girl BFFs that are found in fiction. Most of these are friendships from long-standing novels (and a play) that many people will have heard of and enjoyed.

There are many more, and if I have missed out your favourite girl BFF in fiction, then please do share in the comments below.

If you liked this post, then please share it on your favourite social media.

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Day 29: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – 30 Ways to find Blog Post Ideas

When I began this challenge, my biggest excuse for not keeping up my blog was that I didn’t know what to write about.

Blogging - what jolly fun by Mike Licht www.notionscapital.com
Blogging – what jolly fun by Mike Licht www.notionscapital.com

On beginning this 30 day blogging challenge, I wrote a quick list of ideas for blog posts so that I would have something to give me ideas when I needed something quickly. I have not often needed it, but it gave me confidence that it was there. As I come to the end of my challenge, I have decided to share this list as a reminder that ideas for blog posts are all around us and that we just have to look for them. Please add your blog post ideas in the comments at the bottom of the page.

  1. News headlines – in the papers or on digital news websites
  2. Facebook posts
  3. Tweets
  4. Pinterest topics
  5. Headlines specific to your topic – Googling your topic and ‘news’ will give you websites that offer news in your subject area
  6. A conversation, overheard or between you & your friends – just don’t get caught listening in!
  7. Questions from blog readers
  8. Solve a problem – either one of your own or one that you have heard about from someone else
  9. Share an experience
  10. Blog review – I love to share some of my favourite websites
  11. Book review
  12. Five best posts of the week/month/year
  13. Discuss a blog post that really struck you – but do say where the post came from and let the author know that you have continued the conversation
  14. Have a bath/shower – really good thinking space, also taking the kids to school
  15. Follow some forums – there are always some really good questions on there on real-life problems
  16. Answer a question on Linked In
  17. Listen to music. What pictures does it conjure up? Or can you just write an album review?
  18. See what other blogs are discussing – do you have your own take on it?
  19. Write a long list post
  20. Decide to do a really long list post and think outside the box for your ideas
  21. Use a TV or film character to discuss your topic – there have been some great blog posts out there using this. My favourite was  the Inigo Montoya Guide to 27 Commonly Misused Words on Copyblogger
  22. Find some famous person quotations to discuss or share
  23. Share a story or poem that you have written
  24. Run a competition
  25. Interview someone in your field. It can be an email interview. People are very happy to be interviewed – particularly if they have a book or product coming out soon
  26. Write about an unusual hobby or skill
  27. Go for a walk and browse a newsagents – see what the magazines are writing about
  28. Write a seasonal post
  29. Write a post about a new start, a New Year or new beginning – what are you going to do differently?
  30. Keep a list of possible blog posts, noting ideas down as they come to you, so that you always have something to work on
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Day 28: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Procrastination & the Writer

I would like to put my name forward for the title of ‘Writer Procrastinator Extraordinaire’ as I think that my talents for procrastination far exceed my talents for writing!

Time by John Morgan on Flickr CC
Time by John Morgan on Flickr CC

Today I have had little bits of time here and there, but no, it’s at 9.47 pm that I decide to start writing my blog post for today! I could have made a start earlier, except that I decided that I needed to ignore my Editorial Calendar and write something new and it would take a bit of time to decide what that theme should be. Now I have, and here we are.

I know that procrastination is not just my problem – as writers, who rely on the workings of our brain to tell us what to write – so often it can be really difficult to focus on what we have to do. There can be 100 other things that we need to get done – the washing up, the washing, the vacuuming – the beauty of working from home can also be its pitfall. We walk past these piles of dirty things and think that we’ll just do this or just do that – and before you know it, it’s time to pick the kids up from school and the time is gone.

Time is neither our friend nor our enemy – it’s just time. We all have the same amount of time and how we choose to use it is up to us. I am mostly finding time in the evenings to get some blogging done, but I am pleased with the way this has turned out. From finding about an hour to an hour and a half each night, I have gained 30 blog posts (well, nearly, but definitely hoping to achieve this) for my blog, I have found some different topics to write on and I have enjoyed checking out other people’s blogs and reading their comments on my own. This challenge has not been undertaken just under my own steam – I have had other people following, commenting and liking my Facebook announcements of my blog posts which has an effect of encouraging me to get my blog posts done and let others know that they are up.

When you start a blog, it is easy to feel that you are posting into a void, sending a message in a tiny bottle into a massive sea and that it is going to be a matter of luck whether anyone sees your message or not. Finding a group of people to join and share – that makes all the difference and it helps to put an end to procrastination. Knowing that there are people out there, willing you on, and that you can urge them on, helps to beat that little voice encouraging you to put things off, that no one will notice because no one is reading it anyway.

So, here I am, late on a Tuesday night, typing up my blog. The motivation has been strong to complete this challenge because I don’t want to fail. More importantly, knowing that the blog will be read and shared has been the motivation that has chased away the procrastination, so although sometimes I have not been able to get around to blogging until late, I have still managed (mostly) to get around to blogging.

If you have stuck with me thus far in my ramblings, here is what I have learned about the writer and procrastination during this blogging challenge:

  1. Find a reason to blog. Have a great book review, story to tell, interview or piece of advice to share. If it’s good enough then you will find the time to write it down even if it’s late at night.
  2. Promote your blog post. Read other relevant blogs and comment on them, tweet about them and share them on Facebook, Google + and anywhere else you want to share. I knew this, but I had learned to put it off until tomorrow – and tomorrow never came. How can anyone read your posts if they don’t know that you have written them? There is no worse thing than crafting a beautiful blog post that no one will read.
  3. Only allow so much procrastination. Find your motivation, the reason to write and do it.
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Day 26: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Author Websites Worth Visiting

These days it is recommended that authors have a website. Some are almost purely bibliographies, lists of their published books, a brief ‘About’ page and some contact details for literary festivals.

Mah Bookshelf by kreezzalee on Flickr CC
Mah Bookshelf by kreezzalee on Flickr CC

Other authors clearly enjoy the process: they add extras like FAQs, podcasts of interviews and reprints of newspaper articles. I really enjoy checking out these websites: they offer the would-be writer so much more than just a book list.

When I find a new author I like, then I love to head over to their website and see what they will be doing next. Here are five author websites that I really like and would recommend that you visit and take a look around.

  1. Philippa Gregory is an historian who writes historical novels including The Other Boleyn Girl. Her website is great for those authors who are looking to write historical novels because she includes fascinating bits of history research on it. To access them, check out the purple tab: News & More.
  2. Michael Morpurgo has a fascinating website, full of tidbits to click on and interesting items. He has an amazing back catalogue of written books, including the now famous ‘War Horse’ and his website is well worth a look.
  3. Joanne Harris has long been one of my favourite writers – I love her books. Her website talks about her job and gives some useful information for someone looking to book an author for a visit.
  4. Julia Donaldson has written about the Gruffalo, the Gruffalo’s Child, Room on the Broom and many others. Her website is great for sheer amount of many different things that she writes. It’s also a very bright and colourful website.
  5. Anthony Horowitz has written the Alex Rider series, and more recently a couple of books based on Sherlock Holmes. His website has some good advice for writers and is very enjoyable to read through. Again, the amount of different projects that he gets involved in is breathtaking. He has written film scripts and TV scripts as well as novels for both teenagers and adults.
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Day 25: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – 3 Quotes for Writers

There are some really great quotes from writers and here are 3 of my favourites.

Notebook by Kelly Sikkema on Flickr CC
Notebook by Kelly Sikkema on Flickr CC
  1. There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. Ernest Hemingway

Great quote that hints at the toughness of writing.

2.  The secret of being a writer: not to expect others to value what you’ve done as you value it. Not to expect anyone else to perceive init the emotions you have invested in it. Once this is understood, all will be well. Joyce Carol Dates

Great advice for any writer.

3. You only learn to be a better writer by actually writing. Doris Lessing

So many people say that they want to be writers and yet they never write. Making time for writing can seem like a selfish thing but it’s the only way to become a writer. Write down your story ideas, interesting news headlines and real-life stories. Keep notes on your phone and always try and find time to write.

What is your favourite writer quote and what does it mean to you? Let me know in the comments.

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Day 24: 30 Day Blog Writing Challenge – am I Mobile-Friendly?

Just a short blog today as the challenge was to check whether my blog would cope with being accessed through a mobile device.

HTC Desire Eye smartphone by Maurizio Pesce on Flickr CC
HTC Desire Eye smartphone by Maurizio Pesce on Flickr CC

I was writing a series of articles for a web developer a few years ago, and this was one of the articles I had to research and write. The overwhelming consensus of opinion when I was researching was that it was important for a website to be mobile (or accessed through a mobile device) and so when I had written the article, I looked into making my own website mobile too.

I am pleased to say that my website is still able to be viewed through a mobile device and that I can leave comments too. Sometimes you can learn a great deal from writing for a client!

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Day 22: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Third Week Review

Week 3 and I’m still here. I’m really glad that I took this challenge. Finding time to blog every day has not been easy, but I have managed to do it. Hopefully from here I can finish this challenge.

My public lands summer road trip by Bureau of Land Management Flickr CC
My public lands summer road trip by Bureau of Land Management Flickr CC

This week, I have:

  • continued to edit my story, looking at setting, plot, conflict and resolution, all of which are important parts of a story
  • Rewritten my ‘About’ page
  • Written up some of my testimonials which was quite nice to do
  • worked out how to use infographics and discovered a nice little free program to help me do it
  • finally set up that editorial calendar by adapting Sarah Arrow’s template
  • enjoyed reading and commenting on other blogs also taking part in the 30 day blogging challenge

This week, I am back into the full swing of school, college and work, so free time has been a little more limited. It is not always possible to post every day, but I am determined to have 30 blog posts by the time I have set myself.

This is what I have learned this week:

  • to keep chasing testimonials, because they are very nice to have. In the past, although I have asked for testimonials, clients sometimes forget to send them. I need to try and get them if I can.
  • I liked my ‘About’ page when I read it, but it did need some updating – apparently I last rewrote it about 3 years ago!
  • To keep finding time to blog – even small bits of time can be used productively if you are ready to go and know what you want to write.
  • initiating other calls to action rather than just inviting comments on the blog. I always try to ask a question for others to answer in the comments but asking for a social share was not something I had (embarrassingly) thought of!

Another week, another learning curve! Roll on Week 4!

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