Archive for category Non-fiction
We all know not to copy chunks of other people’s stories or articles. Similarly, we all know that there’s no copyright on ideas, so we can write a story or an article about the same subject as someone else, as long as we don’t use the same words. In fact people do this all the time (I believe there are only seven basic plots?) but the finished manuscripts are usually all quite different.
By the way, although there’s no law against it, it’s not a good thing to ‘steal’ an idea, especially if it’s unusual and the originator is likely to recognise it after publication.
But what’s the ruling on recipes?
I’ve just sent a couple of recipes to Take a Break’s My Favourite Recipes magazine. However, I’m not the world’s best cook. When I was 14 my cookery teacher wrote on my report, ‘Sally’s written work is much better than her practical work‘ – I think it was her way of politely saying that I was useless in the kitchen!
So, I don’t invent recipes from scratch. I start with something from a cook book or magazine and make slight adjustments. At the very least, I always omit the garlic because my husband doesn’t like it, I often replace celery with carrots and I never have the right herbs so just throw in what I have.
Therefore the recipes I submit are not exact copies of those I started with it. But I was still a bit dubious about whether I might be breaking a law or ‘stealing’.
I did a quick internet search and found this useful article on the Paleo Living Magazine website. basically it says that copying a list of ingredients and basic directions for cooking the dish is OK. However, what may be protected by copyright is any ‘creative narrative’ with the recipe, such as how the dish was invented or suggestions for wine to go with the meal.
So it seems that I can continue sending off my slightly amended recipes in the hope of winning £25 if they’re chosen for publication.
Now I just need to practise my food photography so that my accompanying photos look at least a little bit mouth-watering!
Emma runs the fashion/shopping blog Size15Stylist and I asked her to share with us the lessons she learnt during her e-publishing experience.
This is what she told me:
Lesson One – Format
Keep it clean; don’t worry about tables and images, unless they are really necessary. There are books to help if you want to incorporate images and tables (Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide; Steve Scott’s Kindle Publishing Package) but when you are converting your Word document to HTML (web page) to upload to Amazon, a lot of your formatting will be lost. To emphasise your points, use different font headings and use spacing well. Amazon Author Natalie Penna uses spaces beautifully in her YA novels, encouraging readers to read on.
Or, put simply:
An e-book screen is smaller than a paperback.
You don’t want to read too many chunks of texts.
It halts your story.
Spaces keep the reader reading.
Lesson Two – Front cover
I spent precious writing and editing time searching for a cover (and trying to get my head around rights’ issues) and even tried to create a front cover on Publisher software; silly me. Sally rightly points out that Amazon’s Cover Creator offers thousands of options and I created my front cover, for free, in less than a few minutes.
Lesson Three – Triangul-edit
I detest editing, although I realise this is how you shape your words to reach your readers. I am always more motivated to write during the planning stages; coffee, computer, no deadlines. I learned how to reduce the editing process so that it’s manageable and now triangul-edit:
1 – Content (do I have enough words, and are my words explained?)
2 – Grammar (can I say my words better in another way?)
3 – Typos and Format (has spell check picked up a wrong word? Are there problems with spacing?)
My ebooks so far have been around 10,000 words (a novel is around 80k, depending on author) so when I have accumulated around 30 pages of single space text then I start to edit. I head for the nearest coffee shop with my print out and trusty pencil-case.
Lesson Four – Technically, you’ll be okay
I put off self-publishing for years, because I just didn’t know if I was technical enough. But I bumped into Sally’s book, Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners and after I read the book a few times, I realised the technical details were within my capabilities. On publishing day (pyjamas and no distractions), Sally’s book sat by my laptop, so I could refer to common sense during the uploading process.
When it comes to converting your Word doc to a web (html) doc, as per Amazon’s requirements, you cannot check formatting enough – after 10 saved web documents on my hard drive, I still discovered a wayward additional space in the final Amazon published version. Note: delete each copy of the web document as you amend, and save under a new name if necessary – you don’t want 10 copies of a web doc lurking near the upload button.
The paramount wisdom I unearthed – You are Your words. Do not rush your self-publishing journey in a hurry to see your name listed as an Amazon author. And, pressing the (self)Publish button is only the start of your journey. You are also your own Marketing department.
Emma Jordan is a freelance writer and creator of the Size15Stylist blog.
When she’s not blogging or writing, or entertaining her toddler-daughter, she can be found undertaking research in the shops.
David St John Thomas founded Writers’ News 25 years ago and still wrote a regular column for the magazine right up until his death. Prior to that he ran the publishing company David & Charles.
A lot of writers will remember him for his work with the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust. The Trust was created with some of the money from the sale of David & Charles. It ran a wide range of writing competitions and also provided bursaries to students taking part in useful work in the developing world.
It was through the competitions organised by the Trust that David briefly touched my life. I was the winner of the 2006 David St John Thomas Charitable Trust Letter Writer of the Year Award. I met David at the presentation event in Harrogate. He was very friendly and it was a lovely event.
It was the final year that the competition ran and so I was able to keep the silver cup that went with the £100 prize.
This Letter Writing Competition was a wonderful way of encouraging new writers. It entailed compiling a portfolio of letters published in magazines and newspapers over a 12 month period and so was accessible to a wide range of people who may not yet have had success in any other area of writing.
So I’d like to say my own personal thank you to David St John Thomas for the encouragement that that competition win gave to me.
Finally, and in the spirit of encouraging other writers, if you’d like to try out your letter writing skills, this competition offers £30 each month to the writer of the best letter of complaint.
Whilst wandering around Wotten-Under-Edge looking for the Town Hall (where tea and cakes were being served) I spotted this competition in a travel agent’s window.
Entry is FREE. Prizes are vouchers for Bob Books. First prize is £75, second £50 and third £30. ALL entries receive 15% off the usual photo book prices.
Entries should be a minimum of 100 words and be accompanied by a photograph. The judges are looking for either a unique experience, a cultural encounter, a trekking tale or a piece of advice. A selection of entries may be published on Mountain Kingdoms’ website.
Full details are available on the Mountain Kingdoms Blog. Closing date is 30th September 2014.
I don’t think my tale of a wet bank holiday will be a winner – but maybe you’ve been somewhere more exciting?
As most of you will be aware by now, I am very interested in e-publishing and have been building my own e-publishing empire(!) for the last twelve months. I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge along the way and have also had many people say to me that they wished they were ‘technical’ enough to do the same.
A couple of months ago Helen Yendall asked if I would talk about e-books and e-publishing to the writing class that she tutors at Moreton-in-Marsh. Whilst sorting out what I might say, quaking in my boots and being glad that I made the effort to join Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ Club, I realised that I had enough material to write a short e-book for beginners who want to publish their first e-book via Amazon KDP.
And so Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners was born.
It starts with the definition of an e-book and moves on through topics such as choosing what to write (if you don’t have a manuscript ‘ready to go’), how to get your book cover, basic marketing and much much more.
Once I’d finished, I followed my own advice and found a beta reader who matched my target audience i.e. a writer who is contemplating e-publishing for the first time. Peter Hinchliffe is an ex-journalist and news editor who has also completed a novel. He gave my manuscript a big thumbs up and said in his review, “This book shares the skills needed in a detailed, easy-to-follow way. It could be the most rewarding book you ever buy.”
The launch of Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners took place yesterday, following my talk to the lovely writers of Moreton-in-Marsh. There was Bucks Fizz, chocolate cake, coffee and one of the writers celebrated her new grandchild by providing cream cakes for the class – so no one went home hungry! It was really nice to be able to involve other people in the launch instead of doing everything virtually.
So, if you’ve ever fancied seeing your work for sale on Amazon, go and take a look at Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners – it might help you on your way!
A couple of weeks ago I told you about a Guest Posting contest organised by Nick Daws.
Well, I took my own advice, entered – and won!
My guest post was about the benefits of writing a fiction e-book series and some tips on how to go about it. The post is now available to read in full on Nick’s blog.
And I’d like to congratulate Sharon Boothroyd, who is a follower of this blog, she also entered and was one of the runners-up. Her post too will appear on Nick’s high-traffic blog.
The Page is Printed Creative Writing Prize
Now here’s an unusual writing competition based around a single A4 page. The website says:
“Submissions are invited in any genre, it could be a love letter, a short story, a poem, a court summons or a shopping list … the only rule is that your entry must be contained on one side of A4.”
Closing date is 1st may 2014. There are first, second and third prizes of £200, £100 and £50. Entry fee is £4 or three for £10.
Full details can be found here.
I’ve got a few bits and pieces to share this week.
Do you fancy a free ‘Start Writing Fiction’ course?
The Open University are running an eight week course, three hours per week starting on the 28th April. It’s all on-line and the blurb says, “This practical, hands-on course aims to help you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters.”
The full details are here. The course is part of the FutureLearn programme which offers lots more free on-line courses in all sorts of subjects.
And talking of courses, a fellow member of Lichfield and District Writers, David Gough, is running a ‘Photography for Writers’ course at Weetwood Hall in Leeds from April 11th to 13th, as part of the ‘Relax and Write’ 2014 programme. We all know how important it is to offer photographs as part of an article submission package and this is the course to help you take those photographs and thus, hopefully, sell more articles (by the way, I stayed at Weetwood Hall last October and the accommodation is lovely).
If you like filling your Kindle with free and discounted e-books, take a look at Debbie Young‘s Facebook group, Debbie Young’s Kindle-loving Friends. If you like what you see, drop her a message to join the group and be notified of the latest offers – or maybe even promote your own Free Days or Countdown Deals.
Finally, has anybody else read ‘The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul’ by Deborah Rodriguez?
Kirkus Reviews said, “As if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner.” I totally agree with that description. The book is about Sunny, an American woman, who runs a coffee shop in Kabul and the women who come into her life. The story touches on the difficulties and atrocities facing Afghan women today but I felt it glossed over them, rather than allowing the reader to fully appreciate how terrible life can be for females in that country today.
The book is very readable but definitely more Maeve Binchy than The Kite Runner.
This week I’ve been thinking about my entry for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition.
As I’m sure most of you know, the first prize is £500 and an Arvon writing course. So it’s a prize worth winning and it’s also free entry – which makes it doubly good! But the closing date is 15th February 2014 – so it’s time to start getting my entry together.
Iain judges a lot of competitions. In the book he gives the following reason for why a lot of stories fail in competitions:
The stories were obviously written for a women’s magazine and failed to find a home. Therefore they often have a domestic setting, a female protagonist, a twist ending and the plot is a variation on a theme. The stories lack an individual voice.
As a judge, Iain wants to be taken somewhere he’s never been before. He doesn’t want to read about office life and how the junior is plotting revenge on the boss who passed her over for promotion.
So, it seems there’s no point in me going through my rejected womag stories to find one that might fit a theme of ‘The Visit’.
Incidentally, Iain suggests that this may be why men might seem to do better in writing competitions. Fewer of them write for women’s magazines and therefore they compose a fresh story for a competition without the restrictions of womag writing.
What does anyone else think? Have you ever won/been shortlisted in a competition with a story originally written for a womag?
And talking of competitions, Nick Daws is running a Guest Post Competition over on his blog. First prize is $50 (or the equivalent in UK pounds). The post must be on a topic of interest to writers and be 500 – 1000 words long. Closing date is 31st January 2014 and entry is free. He ran a similar competition last year and then I was lucky enough to be the winner – this time it could be you!
Finally, the first anniversary of the publication of One Day for Me is almost upon us and next week I will be announcing a special offer …
As you’re probably all aware, next year is the centenary of the start of the First World War.
I’m sure that as the date gets closer there will be a lot of publicity about the multitude of events arranged to mark the occasion.
There’s going to be plenty of opportunity for us, as writers, to get involved with this anniversary – as long as we don’t leave it too late to get started!
I’ve just done a quick trawl of the internet and found the four writing competitions listed below with a ‘war’ theme.
- Mardibooks First World War Centenary Short Story Competition – winners will be published in an anthology and up to 12 entrants will receive feedback on their stories. Word count 1,200 to 5,000. Closing date 29th November, 2013. Entry is FREE.
- Bard and Muse War Poetry Competition – prize money is currently under review and the closing date is March 24, 2014. Line count: 40
- Tower Theatre First World War Play Writing Competition – closing date is September 27th, 2013 – so you need to get your skates on! The winning play will be performed in London in November 2014.
- Curry Mallet First World War Short Story Competition – this competition is not yet open for entries but watch the website or use the contact form on there, to get more details. But this gives you plenty of time to do some research!
Also, don’t forget all the opportunities for magazine articles with a nostalgia or unusual factual slant.
Why not pick up your pen and have a go?
Remember all those men who gave their lives in muddy, wet, stinking trenches so that we might live in peace.
- Harrogate’s Lessons from the First World War (weayorkshireandhumbertutorblog.wordpress.com)
- News story: One year to go to First World War centenary (gov.uk)
- The poppy: still a potent symbol after all these years (telegraph.co.uk)