Tag Archives: writer

Why Have a Guest Blog?

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website ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Guest blog posts are becoming more popular as the demand for website content grows. Introducing a blog to your website can help increase your traffic and bring more customers to your business, but maintaining a blog can be hard work. It can be difficult to constantly think of fresh ideas and easy to put off writing your blog until the last minute. One solution to this problem is to have a guest post.

There are two types of guest posting: one where people get in touch with you and offer to post. This is usually the case with a very popular website such as Copyblogger which is big in its own right. My comments on posts on Copyblogger rank higher in the search engines than my own website. If you are getting offers of guest posts, then my guess is that you have a highly ranked website in a popular topic.

More usually you might offer to swap blog posts with a friend in a similar field. You exchange like for like in return for links that might bring more traffic to your website. If you don’t have anyone that you think would offer suitable links, then there is a Blogger Link Up newsletter where you can post your guest blog requirements and see if there are any you could offer.

Then there is paid blogging where you hire someone to blog for you, usually if you really aren’t finding the time to write and keep your blog up to date.

Paying a blogger to write guest posts for your websites will give you a ready supply of blog posts to keep your website updated. A professional writer does this for a living: they are able to write new and engaging content that your readers can identify with. A good guest blogger will be able to write using a style similar to your own so that your readers feel that they are still getting the information from you, and of course, the final say over the content is yours. You need to feel that the post could have been written by you and that you can relate to the writing that you are posting.

A paid blogger is often writing in your name. Yours’ is the byline – they just happen to have written the words. It is happening more and more and if writing isn’t your strength, then it might just be the solution you need.

Guest blogs offer a painless way of bringing fresh content to your website and keeping it updated. Whether you accept guest blogs in return for links or money, they can offer a fresh perspective, a new voice and further opportunities to link up with other small business owners and increase your social network.

Sarah Charmley is a UK-based blogger who offers interesting blog posts for your website. If you would like to discuss your guest posting requirements with her, then please use the contact form or email sarahthecreativewriter(at) gmail.com.

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Book Review – Creative Writing: The Essential Guide by Tim Atkinson

Published by Need2Know

Thinking of starting a career in creative writing? Then this book might be for you. It is easy reading and at just over 100 pages, not too long.

As an introduction to the world of creative writing, this book works well. The author writes with a light touch and self-deprecating humour, and his style is easy to read. He also has a taste for unusual similes which become more obvious after his discussion on stereotypes and clichés in Chapter Two which discusses the writer’s voice. It made me think more about the clichés I use without thinking because they have become such a part of our language.

There are chapters covering getting the writing habit, reading as a writer, fact and fiction and editing as well as a basic introduction to different kinds of creative writing such as short stories, poetry, playwriting and novel writing including genre fiction. There are other books covering these kinds of subjects in greater detail, but this book gives the reader an overview of creative writing and the kinds of avenues that they might like to explore further.

I like some of the quotes in the sidebars – they are always relevant and often funny in a true kind of way. The author takes some examples from his own work (well, at least he owns the copyright) and is not afraid to show the nuts and bolts of writing in that the examples can be less than perfect. I also like his advice about not deciding too soon which genre you would like to write in – as you develop you may find more than one genre suits you whereas if you limit yourself too soon to one particular genre then you may miss out on some of your best work.

There is a great list of resources at the back for aspiring writers to try, and they include both web resources and books so you don’t have to be online to find some of them. At the back of the book more published books by Need2Know will offer more in depth reading on some of the subjects.

As an introductory book for a novice writer I would highly recommend this book: the writer mentions the well-used saying that ‘everyone has a book in them’ and I know several people who would like to write who might enjoy reading this book as a way of inspiring them to begin.

Even for writers who have been writing for a while but are beginning to feel that they might like to try different kinds of writing, it might also be worth a read as it does offer a good overview of the world of creative writing.

Favourite Quote:

‘Basically, if you’re writing a novel (as opposed to, say, a short story) you’ve got to take the reader on a bit of a holiday: short stories are away-days; novels are the full vacation and War and Peace is the year-long round-the-world cruise.’

(Creative Writing: The Essential Guide: Chapter Six: The Novel)

This book review is entirely my honest opinion of the book. I have no affiliate links with Need2Know or Tim Atkinson.

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What to Do with Your Business When Life Gets in the Way

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It’s been a while since I posted.

We’ve had Easter Holidays and a Royal Wedding in the UK. Then our family had a French student for a week, a week in Guernsey then two weeks of working frantically to catch a deadline or two. It’s been a busy time and this blog has suffered as a result. I have genuinely not found time to update it. So today’s post is all about what you can do when life gets in the way.

For me, I need a way to kick start my marketing again. The summer holidays are around the corner. The advantage of summer holidays is the lack of need to get out of bed too early to take the kids to school. The disadvantage is the fact that the kids are at home!

As a UK copywriter, working from home, I do need some semblance of peace and quiet. It is easy to get distracted from your work by the children. Finding some work-life balance can be even more difficult. Thankfully, my children are old enough to amuse themselves for a short while. I normally trade with them – a morning’s work for an afternoon of fun and we make sure we get out and enjoy ourselves. Any work that I do not complete in the morning I finish in the evening when the children are in bed and this seems to work for us.

After a long time when you have been snatching hours here and there to keep up with your business, it can be difficult to organise your thoughts and decide what to do first. A copywriter’s business is mainly marketing in order to find new and existing clients that need some work doing and it can be difficult to carry this out in bits and pieces.

I enjoyed reading this post by Laura Lake at About: Marketing today. I am subscribed to her newsletter and always enjoy her posts. She suggests a 90 day marketing plan to help keep you on track. This time period suits as it will take you through the summer holidays and out to the other side. Check it out and see what you think.

Could a 90 day marketing plan help you?

Do you have any tips to share about working at a small business during the summer holidays?

 

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SEO Basics – Choosing Your Keyword Phrases

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Keyword phrases help to define your blog and explain to the search engines what your blog is all about. If you want to lift your blog above others in the same subject, then it is important to get your keyword phrases right so that when customers search for a subject, then your blog is the one they find.

There are two aspects to choosing the correct keywords for your blog: the frequency of the search and the competition for the keyword. You can easily use the Google Adwords tool to search for your keyword phrase. Google Adwords will show you the volume of searches, based in your country for your keyword phrase. It will also give you an idea of the competition for the keyword, grading it as high, medium or low. It is a good idea to write down the information in a spreadsheet so that you will know which keywords will be the best for you.

Checking Out Keyword Competition and Volume

The competition tells you how many other people are trying to rank for that keyword in the search engines. It is generally best to look for medium-ranked keywords which a reasonable search volume. This is not an exact science, however and it is possible for low ranked keywords to have a high conversion rate despite reasonably low searches. It may be best to leave such experiments until you are more familiar with the process.

Once you have a list of keyword phrases that you would like to rank for, then try and work out a list of potential articles that could include one or more of your keyword phrases. I tend to do them in groups of ten. You can use forums, internet questions and the phrases themselves to help you work out a list of articles.

Write  a Natural Article Around Your Keyword Phrase

When writing an article, keep your chosen keywords in mind, but don’t overuse them. Write naturally, in a readable style about the subject, including useful information, bullet points and sub-headings. Once you have finished writing, then go back and check over your work. You are looking for an easy to read style with the words you are aiming for used four or five times over the work. The writing should be between 400 – 600 words. You can use your keyword phrases in the sub-headings and picture captions as well as in the body of the text. It should be obvious what the article is about, just not unnaturally stuffed with the words that you are trying to rank for.

Write Frequently

If you are able to write two or three posts, so much the better. A website will rank better in the search engines if content is added frequently and regularly. This blog is updated three times a week. Other blog owners prefer to post every day. You should at least aim for once a week, but bear in mind the more frequently you post, the more likely it is that your website will rise in the search engines.

Check Your Stats

Keep an eye on your website statistics and check regularly on the search engines to see how you are doing. You may have to adjust your keyword phrases if they do not seem to be working for you. Expect this to take a little time. The older the website, the more likely the search engines are to trust it.

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Defining the Words You Use 2

Photo on Flickr by akqp 2

Words are the tools of a writer’s trade. It can sometimes be helpful to know more about your trade in order to improve your work.

CLAUSE – a group of words which make sense and contain both a SUBJECT and a VERB. A simple sentence is a CLAUSE, but a more complex sentence may contain more than one CLAUSE.

E.g. The dog ran.

This is a CLAUSE. It can stand on its own without further explanation, so it can also be called an INDEPENDENT CLAUSE.

If we make the sentence longer:

The dog ran because Billy scared it.

The second part of the sentence is known as a DEPENDENT CLAUSE because it could not stand on its own and be understood.

‘because Billy scared it’ – does not make sense.

However sentences are not always that simple or they would be boring. We prefer longer, more descriptive sentences to enable us to keep the reader’s flow going. Short jerky sentences can break up the text too much.

To enable the sentence to be more descriptive, we can use ADJECTIVE CLAUSES or ADVERB CLAUSES.

An ADJECTIVE CLAUSE gives us more information about the SUBJECT in the sentence. Remember, the SUBJECT is the NOUN that the sentence is about.

James is a great magician and he can make his assistant disappear.

This sentence tells you more about James, but it reads in a rather stilted way.

Try this:

James, who is a great magician, can make his assistant disappear.

The words in bold italics have been changed so that they modify the noun they describe in a neater way. The sentence still maintains its sense, but it reads so much better.

This ADJECTIVE CLAUSE will not stand on its own – it only makes sense in the context of the sentence. It is a CLAUSE rather than a PHRASE because it still contains a NOUN and VERB.

Usually an ADJECTIVE CLAUSE will start with one of three RELATIVE PRONOUNS:

WHO – always refers to people

WHICH – always refers to objects

THAT – can refer to people or objects

Find the ADJECTIVE CLAUSES in these sentences:

The girl slid down the hill and tore her dress.

The girl, who tore her dress, had to go home and tell her mother.

The girl’s mother, who had to sew the hole in the dress, was very cross.

Answers

The girl slid down the hill and tore her dress. (No ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

The girl, who tore her dress, had to go home and tell her mother. (ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

The girl’s mother, who had to sew the hole in the dress, was very cross. (ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

Punctuation

When do you use commas in ADJECTIVE CLAUSES?

You do not use a COMMA when THAT is used in a sentence:

E.g. The race that was abandoned was rescheduled for Thursday.

If the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is essential to the sentence then you do not need a COMMA.

E.g. Children who have mud on their legs will need a shower.

Balls which have gone soft will be put in the bin.

Not all balls are to be put in the bin – just those that have gone soft. Equally not all children require a shower – just those with mud on their legs.

If the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, then use a COMMA:

The dogs, who had been washed and brushed, were going to a pet show.

The boys, who couldn’t stop laughing, were sent to detention.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by akqp

  • How to Define the Words You Use (thecreativewriter.co.uk)
  • 40+ Tips to Improve your Grammar and Punctuation (dumblittleman.com)
  • Lesson Plans on the Complex Sentence (brighthub.com)
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Copyright

Photo on Flickr by jcarlosn

Copyright laws can be strange and complex – there have been a few famous authors taken to court accused of stealing their story from another book – but the point made is serious. You can be sued for wrongfully using another person’s work.

Copyright is traditionally the way that authors can protect their own original work. It enables them to protect their writing from plagiarism which is defined as the work being used by other people who claim it as their own. This is particularly important on the internet, because it can be so easy to take someone else’s work by cutting and pasting it on your own website. This applies equally to graphics, photos and any other work that someone has created. Once you have created a piece of work then it is protected by law and another person cannot take it for their own use.

How do you ensure that the work you are using is legally unique?

You can write it yourself. If you take a subject and put it in your own words, then you own the copyright on that work and can do what you choose with it. Of course then you have to look out for someone else stealing it…

When you hire someone else to do the work, how do you know whether the work is truly written by them or if they have just copied and pasted it from another website? There is some free software out there to help you check out the writing, but you can also do a quick check yourself by searching for websites using your preferred keywords. The work is likely to come up on the first few pages if it has been taken.

You cannot copyright ideas – those are available for anyone to use. This can be difficult when two writers submit the same idea to a magazine. Sometimes that can be why they are rejected. The copyright is in the way that you write it using your own voice and style. Two people will write an article using the same title in two completely different ways.

Using photos and images is also subject to copyright. There are plenty of free sites out there. You can search Google images, looking for pictures that are available for commercial re-use if you use the advanced search. When you are writing for a commercial website, then you may be best advised to buy the right to use a photo from a stock photograph website. This gives you the widest possible choice so that you can find the photo you are looking for.

Even if you believe an image is free to use, you should always check that there are no limitations on how it can be used and it is polite, where possible, to let the owner of the picture know that you have used it and include a link for them to check it out.

If you are in the business of regularly providing content such as a website owner, a blog writer or email newsletters, do be careful that what you write is 100% unique content. That way you can be sure that you will not have a lawsuit landing on your doormat.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by jcarlosn

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How to Tell if Your Writing is Good

Photo on Flickr by Janos Feher

You’ve written a story. It may have flowed easily from your pen, or it may have come in fits and starts. You have got it in front of you: on a laptop, a notebook or a piece of paper. Now what?

Leave it for 24 hours. Or 48, or for a reasonable amount of time. You want to lose the immediacy of having written the story and to have forgotten some of the details. Then read it through again, trying to read it as a reader rather than the author of the piece. You will pick up on annoying phrases, repeated words, spelling mistakes. Ignore them for the moment and read through the story as a whole. Jot down impressions, ideas. Did it all work or was the thinking behind it a little woolly?

Go through the story again and pick out the weak points. Mark them out. Check out discrepancies, spellings, grammar. On a computer this can be easy as most desk top publishing packages will help you pick out any glaring errors. Make sure that you are working in the correct language so that the spellings are correct as English and American spellings can vary.

Your story is as good as you can make it? Now what?

Some people are happy to leave it there and just keep their stories in a file on the computer or in a drawer. Others want to know: is it any good?

The easiest way to know is to ask someone else to read it through. Did I say ‘easy’? Actually that is one of the hardest things to do! We all own our writing and can be very sensitive about it. Choose someone you trust and who knows you well. You may find that they have something that they would like you to read as well. The main thing when critiquing someone else’s work is to be kind and gentle, but fair. It is a difficult thing to learn.

Another way to find out if your writing is any good is to join a local writing class or group. Many local colleges offer creative writing courses these days and it can be a good way to get to know people with similar interests and a way to have your stories read. It can be a real confidence booster when you come up with a story that everyone enjoys.

There are also online groups which allow you to post stories to be critiqued and to give you the opportunity to critique someone else’s story. Be warned, however that the anonymity offered by some of these sites can be seen as an opportunity to be blunt.

It is good to take risks. Sometimes the result is a pleasant surprise. If you want to get serious with your writing, then seeking others’ advice is a good way to take. It can be difficult to get your confidence at first, but can also become addictive.

Try showing someone else your writing today and add in the comments if you were brave enough to do so.

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What Do You Write About?

Picture by StaR DusT

There are many different kinds of writing. The first division is between fiction and non-fiction. When people think of writers, the automatic job description is of a fiction writer, a story teller, an author. The other ways of writing for a living can also bring you satisfaction.

Where do you use writing in your everyday life? Do you tell stories to your children or grandchildren? Do you write articles for small, local magazines? Do you write letters to your local newspaper or reviews on Amazon? Every piece of writing helps to build your confidence and if it is accepted by others, then that confidence is worth it.

Writing Stories

This is the obvious one, I know! But have you thought about short stories? Women’s magazines accept short stories, there are plenty of short story competitions on the Web or for collections of short stories. There are lots of opportunities to create short stories for and if you search, there are websites that will give you story starters and a reason to write.

Writing Poems

Who hasn’t written an angst-filled teen poem when they were younger? Yeah, ok, yes I did! And it wasn’t much good! Some people can really express themselves through poems, though and find that they can end up with lots of scribbled poems in battered notebooks. Just as there are short story competitions out there, there are also poetry competitions. There are poet websites, and small poetry publications if you look. So Google, Yahoo or Bing or whatever Poetry today and see what you can find.

News Stories

These days everyone’s a journalist! Well, maybe not everyone. I’m sure that professional journalists deserve their money, but again, some websites are actively seeking news stories written by ordinary people. Including photos can help your story to be used.

Letters

The power of the written word can inform newspaper editors, be offered in council meetings and complain of unfair practices. Go, write and make a difference!

Reviews

When you have really liked something, or really disliked something, then you might review it. The review is there to inform other potential customers and can be a really useful tool.

Writing Articles

You might contribute to a small newsletter or local publication. This is good experience for paving the way to being a more established writer.

Take a moment to think through what you write and the reasons you write. From your writing experiences, what do you think you could do as part of your writing career? What would you not wish to do? Note down your strengths and weaknesses and search the Web for your chosen forms of writing. See what others are doing and take inspiration from them.

Photo Link: Writing Words

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