Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Christmas!

Christmas is only three days away now, so I'd just like to take this opportunity to wish everyone reading this blog a very happy Christmas and new year.

If you're at a loose end at all over the holiday period, do drop into the forum at www.mywriterscircle.com and join in the discussions with your fellow writers. Recent discussions have concerned favourite books of 2005, best writing websites, writers and reality TV shows(!), and much more.

And, of course, if Santa has left you a few spare dollars, you might like to consider investing in one of my courses to get 2006 off to the very best possible start. Quick Cash Writing, my guide to completing short writing projects for the fastest possible returns, is available as an instant download, so you can get started straight away. You can read more details, and an extract from the course, on my site at http://www.nickdaws.co.uk/qcw.htm, or click on the link to the right to go straight to my publisher's sales page. My other course, the top-selling Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, is provided on CD. More details are on http://www.nickdaws.co.uk/writeany.htm, or again click on the link to the right to go to my publisher's sales page.

Due to other commitments I shan't be online very much over the next week or so, but if you need customer support for any reason (lost passwords, problems installing software, etc.), this is available 24 hours a day via http://www.myhelphub.com. And yes, they are even open for business on Christmas Day!

Once again, have a great Christmas, and I'll be back with even more regular postings in the new year.

Nick

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Science Writing Query

Here's an email query I received recently along with my reply (I've not included any details of the sender, to preserve his privacy). Obviously I'm not an expert in this field, so if any science writers out there have any additional ideas, please feel free to post them as comments!
I have a daughter at university just finishing a PhD in social psychology. She is being advised to look into a career of science-based writing. I'd be grateful if you have any ideas/suggestions, etc as to how she could get into this niche.

My reply was as follows: I have to say I'm probably not the best person to ask about this, not being a science writer myself. However, my first comment would be that as soon as possible your daughter should start researching training opportunities with science magazines such as New Scientist and scientific publishing houses such as Blackwell.

I'm afraid I don't know exactly what training schemes are on offer for science writers, but a few emails and/or phone calls should soon unearth some possibilities. The National Union of Journalists (www.nuj.org.uk) would be another resource well worth trying.

I would add that this is a very competitive field, and any relevant experience your daughter has (e.g. editing a university science magazine) will be important. She must also expect to start on a very modest salary, maybe even just a training allowance.

I would NOT recommend that your daughter starts off by trying to launch herself as a freelance science writer. At her age it would be far better, I think, to get some solid experience under her belt working as a science writer or journalist for a scientific magazine or book publisher. Over time this will also help her develop a range of useful contacts, which should stand her in good stead if she ever decides to go freelance.

One professional science writer I do know is Ray Girvan, who writes for New Scientist and other magazines and newspapers. You should be able to contact him via his website at http://raygirvan.co.uk/apoth/. This is actually a very interesting resource for science writers (and others) in its own right.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Writer's Block CD

If you ever suffer from the dreaded writer's block, a product from my publishers WCCL might be of interest to you.

The Writer's Block CD doesn't actually provide advice or ideas on rediscovering creativity, nor is it (simply) a relaxation inducer. Rather, it uses a psycho-physiological phenomenon called binaural beats to help 'entrain' the mind into a creative state. To explain this, I need to start with a bit of theory.

If you've studied psychology (which I have - a long time ago!), you'll know that scientists can measure the electrical activity in our brains using a device called an electroencephalogram (EEG). It has been known for a long time that different mental states are associated with different patterns of electrical activity. For example, someone who is fully awake and alert will probably exhibit relatively high frequency electrical activity patterns (13-40Hz), known as beta waves. Someone in deep sleep will display low frequency activity (below 3.5Hz), known as delta waves.

The frequency most associated with creativity is alpha (7-13Hz). Alpha waves are typically produced by people in a relaxed, but receptive, frame of mind. It seems to follow that, if you can encourage your brain to go into a high-alpha state, it should give your creativity a boost.

Unfortunately, though, you can't achieve this simply by playing sounds at 7-13Hz. The trouble is that this is simply below most people's hearing threshold. However, the Writer's Block CD attempts to get around this by using 'binaural beat' technology. Stick with me, because I'm almost through with the theory now.

It has been discovered that if you play tones of slightly different frequencies to each ear, they combine within the brain to create a low frequency resonance. For example, if you play a tone of 320Hz in one ear and 330Hz in the other, it will create a resonance at a frequency of 10Hz - the difference between them. By using this method, the brain can be entrained into a high alpha-wave state.

So how does it work in practice? Well, the CD comes in a jewel case, and you simply load it into your music center or PC and play it. It's best if you listen through a pair of headphones rather than loudspeakers. As I mentioned above, the CD works by producing slightly different frequencies in each ear, and if you listen through speakers inevitably the sounds from the left and the right side will get mixed up.

I would also advise turning up the bass quite high: some of the sounds on the CD are quite low-pitched, and it seems to me you get better results if you boost them. And finally, close your eyes while you are listening to the CD. From the occasion when, as a psychology major, I was wired up to an EEG machine, I know that the simple act of closing your eyes can greatly boost your alpha-wave output!

There are two tracks on the CD: a brief intro (which you can skip if you like) and the binaural beat track, which is 35 minutes long. It starts with a low-pitched throb - a bit like having a ten-tonne truck standing on the road outside – and gradually other, higher-pitched tones are introduced over the top of this. I wouldn't recommend playing this CD at a dinner party, but it is not unpleasant to listen to.

The advice provided with the CD is to try to relax as you listen - don't fight against it, in other words! Personally, I use it at the start of my writing day, though impatience sometimes gets the better of me before the CD has finished and I start work while the tones are still playing.

Does it work for me? Yes, I think so. To be honest I don't often suffer from writer's block, but sometimes it takes a while for me to 'get into the groove' at the start of a writing session. I find that listening to the CD relaxes me and helps me to focus on the job in hand. Would it work for everyone? I'm not sure, though there is plenty of evidence that binaural beats do have a real effect, and the phenomenon is increasingly used in treating (among other things) sleep disorders and chronic pain.

For more information about the science involved see, for example, http://web-us.com/thescience.htm.

If you'd like to give the Writer's Block CD a try yourself, the following URL will take you straight to the relevant web page: http://www.writers-block-cd.com. As with all WCCL products, 24-hour customer support is available, and there is a 100% money-back guarantee.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Article idea?

Here's a possible topic for an article for you, especially if you ever write about cinema and/or historic buildings. A year ago The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, England was restored by Thomas Lawes, who is the son of an old friend of mine. The building has been restored to its 1930s Art Deco look (rather than the original Edwardian)

The Electric Cinema is currently the oldest working cinema in the UK (it first opened on December 30th 1909). It is also the only independent cinema left in Birmingham, England's 'second city'. Among its many unusual features, it offers luxury sofa seating with waiter/waitress service. It's not really my territory, but I'm sure there's scope for some very interesting articles to be written about the cinema, and I'm equally sure that they would welcome any additional publicity!

Here's bit more background for you. The restorer of the Electric Cinema is also a professional musician, and he runs the cinema's previous second screen as a sound studio. And as if all that wasn't enough, he has also produced and directed a series of low-budget horror movies, in one of which I had a small part myself (I appeared in three scenes, in the last of which I met an untimely end at the hands of a deranged gardener!).

More info about The Electric Cinema can be found on its website at www.theelectric.co.uk. If you get a definite commission, drop me a line stating the name of the publication you are writing for, and I should be able to provide you with some additional info/contact details.

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