Tag Archives: writer

Day 21: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Infographics

This blog has been challenged to make some infographics so I decided to have a go. The infographics package that was recommended was not suitable for me as I don’t have Java, so I have taken a look round to see what other possibilities there are.

I found Daniel Soper who offers a small infographics generator. You just copy and paste some text into the box and click the button to generate the infographic – couldn’t be simpler! I have had fun playing with it and this has been the results.

Here is the infographic for my ‘About’ page:

Free Infographic from http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/
Free Infographic from http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

I had so much fun that I decided to try another one! Buy one, get one free!

A few years ago, I wrote a post on Crazy Business Ideas so I put that through the word cloud generator too:

http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/
http://www.danielsoper.com/wordcloud/

I think I’m hooked!

If you have enjoyed this post, then please share to social media.

If you have made some great infographics, then let me know about them in the comments below.

 

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Day 20: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Story Plot, Conflict & Resolution

On Day 11 and Day 12, I posted a short story for the purpose of showing you how I edit a story.  Here I finish my discussion of the story and will be talking about the plot, the conflict in the story and the resolution.

Paper and Pen by Orin Zebest on Flickr CC
Paper and Pen by Orin Zebest on Flickr CC

Plot

The plot is probably one of the most important parts of the story. The plot is all about what action actually takes place in the story. In the case of The House on the Hill, the answer is, “Not much!”

You could actually explain the story in a couple of sentences and everyone would understand what it was about, but it is the inner story – Joseph’s memories and the story of his friend that brings it to life. Short stories are often better if they contain some sort of ‘twist’ or surprise at the end that creeps up on the reader. This can be quite hard to do, as it can seem that pretty much every twist has been done to death.

As an example, I remember when the film, The Empire Strikes Back came out and that plot twist shocked audiences up and down the country – that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. It was pretty momentous and everyone was shocked. In those days, we didn’t have spoiler trailers like we do now. That was an absolutely amazing plot twist at the time which the makers of the film managed to keep secret until the film was actually released. However if a film was pitched today that had the villain turning out the be the hero’s father, it would be laughed at – what a cliche!

I’m not convinced that this plot holds up to scrutiny. I think it needs work to turn this into a good short story. I have to admit that I just sat down and wrote with the intention of pulling it apart so it’s not a problem. I know it needs more work. If it is going to have a twist, then it needs to be a better one that will surprise the reader.

Conflict

The story could not be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be exciting, but there is a certain tension created when Joseph starts feeling unwell. There is a sense that not all is well, but the estate agent is oblivious to anything but herself and the sale. The conflict could do with being built up more to bring a bit more action to the story. Joseph sees his memories of his lost childhood friend everywhere, in the faded photo, in his own memories of the incident that led to her death and even in the cry of the seagulls as he steps away from the house.

Resolution

Joseph has come with the intention of buying the house, but he finds too many memories and decides that the visit around his former friend’s house is enough. He will not be buying the house, but he does have a sense of closure as he leaves it.

Looking back through the story, I feel that it would need some rewriting to include more events happening to make the story more readable and interesting. The initial characters are good, but there needs to be more tension created between them and there needs to be a more definite conflict and resolution. At some point, I will rewrite the story and repost it, so you can see if it has improved at all.

If you have enjoyed this post, please comment below and share to your social media of choice. Thank you.

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Day 19: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Short Story Setting

My blog posts on Day 11 and Day 12 were two halves of a short story, written quickly to use as an example for editing. Here, I would like to discuss setting.

Sea Cliff 2 by Mary Penny on Flickr cc
Sea Cliff 2 by Mary Penny on Flickr cc

The setting of a story discusses where the story takes place. In The House on the Hill, the action all takes place around an old empty house.

The House on the Hill is a house for sale on a cliff side. The house has clearly been loved, but now it is empty of people, although furniture remains. There is a photo that clearly brings back memories for Joseph as he goes back to look for it.

The house is described as:

  • mail swept from the floor – unlived in
  • coloured window panels and tiled floor in the hall
  • double fronted – so a large house (double fronted is when the house has a room either side of the front door)
  • 3 bedrooms
  • sea-facing lounge with high ceiling and carved plaster
  • faded wallpaper
  • furniture covered with dust sheets
  • threadbare rugs
  • furniture not wanted – if buyer does not want then will be put in a skip
  • old-fashioned Quaker kitchen with quarry tiled floor
  • water still connected
  • patio doors from kitchen leading to an ‘unruly’ i.e. overgrown garden
  • smallest bedroom – a girl’s room with girl’s books

There is quite a lot of information about the house, and one thing as author I need to check – that it does not conflict. The house seems to evoke a number of different eras and perhaps it might be better if it were all tied to one era, the one where Peggy died.

Setting also includes atmosphere. The story tries to be mysterious. Does it succeed? I’m not sure it does. It needs to decide if it wants to be a ghost story, a memoir or something else. The setting of the house needs some minor tweaks, but I need to decide exactly what kind of story it is going to be and perhaps add some more clues to enable the reader to follow along.

If you have enjoyed this blog post, then please share it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you.

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Day 17: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Testimonials about my Work

What Others Say

I decided to go into freelance writing following a change in physical circumstances and a realisation that I needed something that meant I didn’t have to stand all day.

The happiest place on earth by Peter Dutton on Flickr CC
The happiest place on earth by Peter Dutton on Flickr CC

I have a steady but not spectacular stream of work and a supportive husband which enables me to keep freelancing. I have enjoyed talking to lots of different clients over the years but have only met 3 in person. I have always tried to ask for testimonials, but not everyone responds. However those who do are very kind and complimentary. My paid work is as a freelance copywriter, writing blogs, web content, product descriptions and anything else that my clients require. The variety of the job is the thing I love about it.

One of my first jobs was for a local website developer. I worked on blog posts and articles on a number of subjects. Lee Davies was a small business owner who built and developed websites local to me and he first asked me to do two articles – one on marble and one about granite. I asked him for a testimonial at the end of a job where he asked me to write some content for his new website and he kindly agreed:

“I have utilised the copywriting services of Sarah Charmley on numerous occasions, and have found that the standard of work has been excellent. Sarah has provided articles and web copy on a wide range of subjects, the content has been focussed and well thought out. Without exception, deadlines for the copy have always been met and in most cases arrived ahead of schedule. Highly Recommended.”

Lee Davies, WebPageOne Solutions Ltd

Thanks, Lee, I enjoyed working with you too. This recommendation has long graced my Portfolio page.

A number of people I have worked for, have never got around to putting pen to paper to give me a recommendation, although I usually try and ask. One who kindly did, has put a review up for me at freelancers.net:

Sarah has freelanced for us on a regular basis since the beginning of 2014 to create product descriptions for our ecommerce website. We have always found Sarah to be a diligent and speedy copywriter, who produces content to a consistently good standard. I would recommend Sarah without hesitation if you are looking for a reliable and good value freelancer.

Clare K.

I began by uploading product descriptions to the website, but was offered the job of social media manager for the website last year. I really enjoy the job, researching and writing regular blog posts on health and promoting them via social media.

I got some great praise about two months after I had started work. They had previously had an SEO company writing their blog posts for them, but they had to come up with the ideas for the posts. I research and write all the blog posts myself. I got this great praise passed on from their other director:

Btw our blogs are WAY better than before, i actually read half of them now, genuinely interesting…

To those of you out there who work with freelancers, if they ask you for a review, do take time to let them know you appreciate them – it can really make a freelancer’s day!

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Day 16: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Halfway

Wow, suddenly it’s day 16 and I‘ve been blogging consecutively for 15 days! I’m really glad that I took up this challenge and I’m learning a lot from it.

April 2012 Art Challenge Tulips by COLOURED PENCIL magazine Flickr CC
April 2012 Art Challenge Tulips by COLOURED PENCIL magazine Flickr CC

So far I’ve learned:

  • that finding topics can be fun and that it’s important to choose a topic that I feel I can offer some information on
  • that I need to think about keywords more
  • that prioritising time to blog pays off in terms of the pleasure of seeing this blog grow and improving it with new content

This challenge has reminded me how much I do like blogging about my own subject (as opposed to writing blogs for clients) and that it is really pleasing to see the number of blog posts increase substantially. I also love getting emails each day.

Could do better:

  • need to set up that editorial calendar – I can see the benefit of it, but unfortunately it’s been a bit of a frustrating week at work. No excuses, though, should’ve done it!
  • Keep improving SEO. I use All-in-One SEO and I am finding that I understand it better so I can use it more effectively. I may investigate some other options when I have time, though.
  • it would be nice not to be blogging so late at night sometimes, but when you’re running other jobs alongside, better to blog late than not at all.

All these things will help me to blog more effectively and enable my blog posts to be found more easily when the challenge is over. It will also help me to continue writing blog posts more regularly.

What next?

  • I’m in the middle of a series of blog posts on writing a short story and editing it. I intend to continue that
  • Take some of Sarah’s email challenges. This is something I have not been so good at – usually because I already have some content in place
  • Try and be more organised with my blog posts

It’s amazing how fast the first half of this blogging challenge has gone. As I said, it has not been easy: I have had issues at work to contend with and this week the family have been around because of half term. However I am doing my best to keep blogging and I am determined to finish the challenge.

If you are reading this, thinking, ‘Shall I?’ then I would encourage you to sign up for the 30 day blogging challenge. Your blog will thank you for it.

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Day 15: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Editing a Story – Characters

On days 11 and 12 I published two halves of a story. This story was written for the purpose of showing you what I do when I edit. I have deliberately published a first draft, with very little editing apart from immediately spotting spelling mistakes etc so that you can see how it will change from first draft to the finished story.

Grungy girl in photo booth by simpleinsomniaWhen we are children, we write a story and it is done, but as adults, there is always polishing that can be done. Sarah (Arrow) has said that your blog posts don’t have to be perfect – no, they don’t, it is good if they are as close as you can make it in the time that you have.

Today, I’m going to focus on characters. In this story, there are two main characters: Janice Jones and Joseph. I don’t usually make all my characters in a story begin with the same name, but today, I have!

The characters are rather sketchily drawn – only small details about their appearance are mentioned in the story.

Janice:

  • smart and professional
  • has bright blue eyes

Her personality has a few more hints:

  • an estate agent – immediately conjures up a picture of suit and briefcase/laptop bag
  • has noted that the client is a cash buyer
  • purses her lips when annoyed but does not show anger
  • thinks of the money
  • finds Joseph a glass of water
  • Feet hurt – does this indicate high heels?
  • Needs a cup of coffee – addicted to caffeine?
  • mutters under her breath

Joseph

  • elderly gentleman

I am amazed that this is the only description of the appearance of Joseph, so I think I would add a few more details, but would try to make sure that they add to the story rather than just inform the reader.

His personality is:

  • a little impatient with Janice
  • Attuned to the house – he feels warm
  • has a funny turn where he seems to hear voices – twice
  • used to have family in the area
  • looking to buy in the area
  • cash buyer – so has some money
  • has memories of the house in happier times but also in sad
  • has lost his wife

So, there is more about Joseph’s personality than his appearance. This perhaps makes him a little mysterious which was probably my intention in the first place.

The final character in the story is Peggy. Her story is told in flashback and through a photograph that Joseph finds. She is a young girl who knew Joseph as a young boy. We know that she died young and that her death affected Joseph. The story ends with Joseph saying goodbye. Was he saying goodbye to the house, Peggy or both? The story leaves it to the reader to decide.

So to sum up, I need to edit:

– the characters need small details about their appearance adding

  • the details given need to add to the story
  • the details should be ‘shown’ rather than ‘told’
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Day 13: 30 Day Blogging Challenge – 10 Ideas for Writer’s Inspiration

My story was written by using a picture as a prompt. I keep a folder called ‘Writer’s Inspiration’ on my Pinterest account. Any picture that looks like it could come in handy as part of a story some day is saved there. Using picture prompts is a great way to inspire a story.

143:365 Come sail away with me by martina15 on Flickr CCHere are ten other ways to find your muse:

  1. News headlines. LM Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables when she saw a headline in a local newspaper that told the story of a couple being sent a girl orphan instead of a boy to help on their farm. News headlines can offer all kinds of interesting possibilities for stories, so it’s worth checking them out.
  2. A song title or listening to music. Some song titles tell great stories. Why not take a song title and use it to inspire a story? Listening to music can put you in the mood for creativity.
  3. Take a walk. Exercise can help to inspire you too. If you have come to a sticky point in your story, then go for a walk to wrestle with it and sort it out.
  4. What about using unusual place names as either somewhere to set your story, or as the name of one of your characters. Develop the story around it.
  5. Fan fiction is very popular these days. Take your favourite TV show or book and develop the story of a minor character or just write them another adventure.
  6. Agatha Christie suggested washing the dishes helped her to sort out her plot points.
  7. People-watch. When you sit in a cafe, ride on a bus or train, even walk through town – watch the people around you. When you find an interesting character, think about their story and their character and use it to tell an interesting story.
  8. Overheard conversations can often bring an interesting idea for a story – just don’t get caught doing it!
  9. Dreams can sometimes provide imaginative if slightly surreal ideas for a story.
  10. Stories involving your family’s past or memories can be really interesting – just change the names and some of the details if it’s a fictional story.

As you can see, inspiration can be found anywhere if you are looking for it. How do you get your inspiration for either a story or a blog post? Let me know in the comments below.

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Day 11: 30 Day Blogging Challenge: A Story, Part 1

The Old House on the Hill

The estate agent turned the key in the lock. The key was large, wrought iron and it took her two goes to turn it. The heavy lock clicked open. The woman, smart and professional, pushed open the door. It swept two months of mail to one side as it opened.

Lincombe Barn, Downend, Bristol 1968 by Robert Cutts on flickr CCJanice Jones, the estate agent, stood to one side to let the elderly gentleman inside. He didn’t look like a typical buyer, but the form had said that he was a cash buyer and customers like that had to be offered only the best. The late afternoon sun threw coloured panels on the tile floor as they entered the house. Apart from the mail, the house looked almost as though it were still in use. Joseph felt the warmth as he stood in the hallway, getting his bearings. The estate agent was still in full professional mode.

“ The property is double-fronted,” she explained. You have the main reception room through there, and the kitchen and second dinning room through the other side. Upstairs…”

“Three bedrooms, thank you, I have read the particulars,” Joseph said.

Janice pursed her lips, then thought of the commission. “Where would you like to start?”

Joseph took a step towards the main reception room. “How about in here?’

He led the way and walked into the room. The lounge was facing the sea with high ceilings and carved plaster. The wallpaper was faded but had clearly once been an expensive pattern. The furniture was covered in dust sheets and the rugs were looking a little threadbare, but he could see that once the house had been loved.

“The furniture can come as part of the house,” said Janice, “but if you decided not to take it on, the current owners are happy to pay for two skips to remove the rubbish.”

Joseph eyed an old oak dresser and bureau. It was beautiful furniture, but he doubted that he would have a need for it. He took two steps towards the back of the room and suddenly his head swam. It felt as though he had suddenly transferred to another time, another place. He heard children’s laughter, a woman shouting then the sound of crying.

“Mr. Lawrence?”

He turned and jumped.

From being near the door, Janice was suddenly right behind him.

“You gave me a fright.”

“Sorry, but you looked as though you might faint. The colour drained from your face. What is it?”

Joseph couldn’t answer her. The experience had left him shaken.

“I don’t know,” he said, “perhaps the heat…”

“Come through to the back,” said Janice, “it’s cooler.”

This is what I have done with the writing prompt that was published yesterday. It is the first part of a story. It is a first draft. The second part will be published tomorrow. If you like the beginning of the story, you are welcome to guess how it ends. Don’t forget to post links to your own stories from the writing prompts.

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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 9 Book Review: Writer Time Management Book by Kathleen McGurl

I interviewed author Kathleen McGurl on my website last year. She has written hundreds of short stories and moved into writing full novels in the past few years. Her website is interesting and talks about her writing life, and among the books she has written, there is a time management book called, Give up Ironing – a Writer’s Guide to Time Management.

The number 1 reason people give for not writing is that they don’t have time. Kathleen has taken note of this and written a short time management book, so that excuse does not get in the way of reading this book. Her aim is to show would-be writers that if writing is important enough to them then it is possible to find time to write. Her first section talks about freeing up time to write and encourages the reader to look at what they do with their time and decide their priorities.

The second section deals with making the most of your writing time, encouraging good preparation and ensuring that when you find time to write, you are able to do so. There is nothing worse than finding that you have half an hour to write, then finding that you are unable to decide what you want to write. These days, you can find yourself turning to social media or constantly checking emails rather than settling down to write. Personally, if I’m trying to get things done, then I find it best to turn off the notifications. Kathleen suggests ways to maintain your discipline to ensure that your writing time is used just for writing rather than other things.

Her final section talks about motivating yourself to write. She suggests ways to help yourself make the most of each writing session and ways to treat yourself when you have achieved what you have set out to achieve. She covers finding time to exercise which is essential as writing is such a sedentary activity and the importance of finding time for your family as well as reading which is so important for a writer. As you may be able to gather from the title of the book, however, Kathleen does not consider ironing as a vital activity that she should be doing instead of writing, in fact she is quite happy to give it up and makes here opinions quite clear. Finally she does emphasise that not all her tips will work for everybody.

Give up Ironing is a very readable self-help book for writers. It is full of good advice, short and to the point and written by someone who has a full-time job and a family but who is managing to write as a career. I would recommend it for people who want to find more time to write and who may feel that they need a push to get their fledgling author career off the ground. Kathleen herself is very approachable and down-to-earth and her website is well worth checking out too.

Note: The image above is an affiliate link.

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Day 5 – Embarrassing Writing – Need to Keep My Work Secret

Embarrassed by Sarebear (smilie) on Flickr ccI want to talk about something that I touched on yesterday in more detail today and that subject is: embarrassing writing. It’s something that I suffer from quite a lot. I am probably going to find that it is just me, and that everyone else is loud and proud about the fact they write, but I have always tended to keep it a secret.

I enjoy writing, I feel compelled to write, particularly when I have had a really great idea that I just have to get down, but when it comes to actually sitting there, notebook open and pen out, then I just have to hide it – I am embarrassed to write!

It’s crazy really, I have great feedback from clients – they all appreciate my work and like what I do. I have written for all kinds of people from all walks of life and written well, but I don’t like to let my family see me write. Perhaps it’s because there I feel there is something else I should be doing, perhaps because I feel that my writing is silly, that no one could possibly want to read it and that it should be locked away in a cupboard somewhere and I should throw away the key.

However the longer I am in this, the more I feel that I am being silly to feel embarrassed about getting involved in a new writing project. I need to learn to let go a little more and be upfront about who I am and that person is a writer.

So, if you can identify with this and you too feel embarrassed to let friends and family know you write, here are some tips that are beginning to help me overcome this problem:

  • Don’t put off your writing. Make notes on your phone or tablet, buy a notebook or whatever else it takes to get writing but start writing today.
  • Pack a notebook or tablet for your holidays. Reading is one of these holiday pleasures and so is writing. Take the things you will need away with you to write.
  • Find a time when you can talk to your partner about it. They expect gaming time, don’t they? Well it makes it a fair swap if you tell them that you need writing time too!
  • Expect to be a little selfish. The thing about writing is that it is a solo activity, so you will need time to yourself. Send the kids out to play with their friends, the husband out to darts night and the girlfriend out for the night, then enjoy the peace and quiet and write.
  • The next time you feel like hiding your writing, bring it out into the open. Just mention it casually and hope that your partner takes their cue from you. Partners can keep secrets from each other (I’m thinking shopping habits here) but if writing is that important to you, then you will want their support.
  • You don’t have to share everything with everyone. When you’re a business owner, then you will want as many people as possible to know about your writing, but when you are just starting out as an aspiring author, then only let the people know who you want to know.

This is something I have struggled with in the past as a writer. I am beginning to be able to talk to my family a little about what I am doing and learning to negotiate writing time, but there are days when I would prefer not to talk about it.

Comment below if you understand what I mean about ‘embarrassing writing’ or not! Then I shall know whether I am truly alone and should just go back to my hidey hole.

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