Archive for category Writing

Two New Books for Writers

By now the initial excitement of New Year’s resolutions will have passed and keeping up that writing habit may have become a bit of a slog again. But do not despair – as always, your fellow writers are here to help and re-enthuse you.the-business-of-writing-by-simon-whaley

Simon Whaley is on a mission to make us all become more businesslike about our writing. If we treat our writing seriously and as a source of income, then our family and friends will adopt that attitude too – essential if you want to turn that ‘nice little hobby’ into a publishing empire! Simon’s blog about The Business of Writing is full of useful tips and many of you will recognise Simon’s name from his regular (and wise) column in Writing Magazine. He’s gathered together many of those articles into a handy e-book, also called The Business of Writing. It covers things like tax, record keeping, legalities, pseudonyms and much more, plus there are lots of tips and advice from writers across the genres.

start-a-creative-writing-class-by-helen-yendallTeaching writing is one way that many authors top up their income but the thought of getting a class up and running can be daunting. Helen Yendall has years of experience as a writing tutor and she’s just published an e-book sharing the knowledge that she’s built up – Start a Creative Writing Class: How to set up, run and teach a successful class. The book focuses on the nuts and bolts of setting up a writing class for adults, covering everything from finding a venue and arranging insurance, to marketing the class and giving feedback. There’s also plenty of advice on dealing with students and ideas of what (and how) to teach. It contains 100 x 5 minute writing exercises plus icebreaker ideas to get the class warmed-up and ready to learn.

 

So let 2017 be the year you fulfill your ambitions and take your writing more seriously – with the help of Simon and Helen.

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Open Source Office Software

I’ve been looking at laptops. Until now all my writing’s been done on desktop PCs and, if I’m out and about, in notebooks and typed up later. Currently our household has two desktops, one on Windows 7 and one on Windows 8 but no tablet or other ‘on the move’ device apart from smartphones. But I like coffee shop writing and my husband fancies sitting with his feet up in the lounge when he’s on the internet, rather than at a desk upstairs – hence the decision to look at laptops.

A new Windows 10 laptop demands a new version of Microsoft Office. Microsoft are trying to move towards an annual subscription model but there is still, currently, the option of a one-off fee version, which will not get any software updates. Both of these are expensive on top of the laptop cost. So I’ve been looking into the free open source alternatives.

There are two main free open source alternatives to Microsoft Office: OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Both contain a Word equivalent and an Excel equivalent. Both can read and write in .doc and .docx formats (making them Word compatible) and have similar capabilities to Word. Both are compared to Microsoft Office in this useful article by Techsoup.

I decided to give LibreOffice a try on the Windows 8 desktop PC prior to making any laptop decisions. Downloading and installing was straightforward and the install automatically put a nice little icon on my desktop. I created a document in LibreOffice Writer and saved it as .docx and then opened it in Microsoft Word, amended it, saved it and opened it in Libre. Everything seemed totally compatible (that was one of my worries about not using the ‘proper’ Word) within the simple document that I used as my initial test.

LibreOffice Writer feels like Word but without the final ‘polish’. I haven’t tracked down how to do everything yet but I’m sure a quick question to Mr Google will get me the answers. First impressions make me think that LibreOffice Writer will do the job on our new laptop – especially since I’ll still have access to Microsoft Word on the desktop PC to give manuscripts a final once-over before submission.

Does anyone else use ‘free’ word processors?

I put ‘free’ in inverted commas because LibreOffice does encourage donations towards the software’s further development and support. I didn’t donate on download but if the software turns out to be as useful as I hope then I will return to their donation page. But first we have to make a decision on which laptop  to buy…

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712 More Things To Write About

I’m not good at Christmas shopping. The more I walk around looking for things to buy for other people, the more things I find to buy for myself. 712 More Things to Write About

The latest was a book I found in Waterstones (and it’s also available on Amazon).

712 More Things to Write About is full of ideas to help when that well of inspiration is empty. It’s put together by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto and is in a large paperback journal format with room to write beneath each prompt. There are things like, ‘You look out the window and discover a body floating face down in your pool’ and ‘Write a haiku about your underwear’. The prompts in this book will keep any writer going well past the end of 2017. And prompts are often just what I need!

So, I bought the book and gave it to my husband to wrap up for me. Roll on Christmas when I can get it back in my greedy mitts again!

 

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Editing Advice

I picked up a great piece of editing advice on the internet this week courtesy of short story writer, Dan Purdue.

Dan’s blog post on Editing is worth reading in full but I particularly liked the tip that Dan gives in the very last paragraph of his post. He tries to read his work as though it were written by someone he doesn’t like or by someone who’s won a competition in which he was unplaced. The aim is to tear the piece apart and show what a terrible writer this other person really is.

I’m not good at cutting out chunks of prose or ‘killing my darlings’ but I think Dan’s tip is definitely worth a try. I shall get myself into ‘nasty’ mode before I start editing next time.

Incidentally, Dan’s stories have won many competitions and feature in his collection Somewhere to Start From, which is available in all e-formats from Smashwords.

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Catching Up

Over the past couple of months I’ve mentioned a few of my writing-related activities and I thought it was time to give an update.

At the beginning of April, I announced that I was going to use April as a ‘private’ NaNoWriMo and try to write a rough first draft of my next novel.  This actually took longer than planned. Partway through I realised that one of my minor characters had much more potential than one of my main protagonists. So I had to re-work much of what I’d done. I killed off the boring main protagonist (when he was only a baby!) and brought the minor character to the fore. I now have 58,000 words and a LOT of work to do.

At the beginning of June, I wrote that I’d uploaded Bedsit Three to Smashwords in order to get it into the Overdrive store, from which many public libraries purchase e-books. Once I could see it available in Overdrive, I went to my local library to ask for the contact details of Birmingham’s e-book buyer so that I could make myself known as a local author. Unfortunately, I was told that there was no budget at all for new books – not even e-books. On the plus side, they were receptive to the idea of an author event and (fingers crossed) will be contacting me in September when all the school holiday activities are over.

A couple of weeks ago, I launched a price promotion on Kindle for Bedsit Three. I reduced it from £2.25 to 99p for 2 weeks. I calculated that I needed to sell 4.5 times as many books at 99p as at £2.25 to make it a viable long-term price point. That number of sales hasn’t materialised so, barring a sudden surge today (30th June 2016) the price will rise again tomorrow.

And finally, I was pleased to receive a gift from Iain Pattison this week – a paperback copy of That’s Why The Lady is a Vamp. It’s a collection of off-beat comedy tales, full of unexpected twists and lots of humour. Plus, the high spot is a guest appearance by yours truly! If you’d like a free e-copy of one of Iain’s books pop along to his website now.

So that’s me. Anyone else got any news?

That's Why The Lady Is A Vamp

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Creative Writing Prompts

This week’s post is prompted by a writing acquaintance who was asking for suggestions of websites that have good creative writing prompts.

Creative writing prompts are useful for those times when the ideas just won’t come. Using a prompt focuses the mind and encourages the words onto the paper. It doesn’t matter if the story then goes off at a tangent from the original prompt – the prompt has already done it’s job by starting the process.

There are various sites offering creative writing prompts. Here are a few to get you started:

Many writing competitions supply a prompt in the form of a subject or theme. These prompts have the added advantages of a ready market to which your story can be submitted and a deadline to work to.

My writing buddy, Helen Yendall, is currently running one such short story competition, it’s free to enter and only requires 100 words! It closes July 12th 2016. Why not have a go?

Do you have a favourite way of generating prompts and ideas?

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What’s Your Musical Era?

What’s your musical era? When did you transition from child into young adult and have all those special first experiences: first teenage party, first visit to a pub or club, first kiss, first date etc. ?Record Player

For me it was the early 1980s. Songs by Adam and the Ants, Soft Cell, Human League and Frankie Goes to Hollywood always whisk me back to that time and I feel again the strong emotions that seemed to accompany everything I did. If I close my eyes when I hear ‘Tainted Love’, I’m at the university Union disco, dancing on a floor which is sticky with spilled beer. I feel the excitement and anticipation of a time when so many things were new and responsibilities were few.

Re-capturing this mood through music enables me to write from the heart about being young and in love. When I get in this zone it’s great – the words flow and I get lost in the story. Pete’s Story was the result of one such emotional interlude and my inspiration came (very loosely!) from a boy I went out with in my teens who was a member of a band.

What songs whisk you back to that heady time of new independence and experiences? And do they help with your writing today?

Pete’s Story is available as an individual ‘short‘ or as part of The Museum of Fractured Lives boxed set.

This blog post is part of a music themed blog event organised by Elaina James, a guest blogger on Mslexia. Her author page on Mslexia can be found at www.mslexia.co.uk/author/elainajames.

Details of participating bloggers in this event can be found on Elaina James’ blog.

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