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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Write a Movie in a Month - Secret Discount!

Write a Movie in a Month is WCCL's blockbusting new course for would-be movie screenwriters. You can read my original review by clicking on any of the links in this post.

Write a Movie in a Month is a massive course. It was written by three professional screenwriters, two in the US and one in the UK. As well as the course material, you also receive over 850 (count 'em!) screenplays, teleplays, treatments, and so on. Along with full advice on how to set out your screenplay, a list of agents, free screenplay writing software, and much more, it really is a complete kit for breaking into this lucrative field.

I'm a big fan of this course, but I do appreciate that at $97 it costs a little more than some folk feel comfortable spending. So I was delighted to discover recently a way that I can offer readers of this blog a twenty dollar discount on the full price. That reduces the cost to just $77, or around 41 UK pounds.

I won't explain the exact method here, as it's all set out at the end of my original review. However, I would say two things. First, it's fully legal and above board. But second, it uses a "back door" method and I'm not sure how keen WCCL will be for me to be publicising it here. That means I may have to withdraw this offer at any time - so please, if you're interested in buying Write a Movie in a Month and want to take advantage of this extra discount, do it sooner rather than later!

And finally, I'm still giving away three extra bonus items of my own to anyone buying Write a Movie in a Month via this blog, even at the discounted price. Check out my review for more information.

That's it. See you in Hollywood!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Plot Devices in Agatha Christie's Novels

I am grateful to my colleague (and devoted Agatha Christie fan) Karl Moore for drawing my attention to the excellent Wikipedia article by the above title.

I should perhaps warn you, though, that the article (and this post) describes plot devices and twist endings used in many of Ms Christie's novels, so if you are planning to read a Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot story shortly, you might want to look away now!

Here is an example plot device from the article:

The murder proves to be an opportunistic crime complicating a complex one

In Murder on the Links most of the confusing elements of the crime are discovered to have been part of an elaborate plan by the victim to stage his own death and disappear. It is when he is happened upon by the real murderer that the final elements are added to the puzzle.

Similarly, in 'The Mystery of the Spanish Chest' the victim himself plans to hide in the chest and catch his wife with the man that he suspects of being her lover. The murderer kills him while he is in the chest, resulting in a more complex situation to be solved than might otherwise have arisen.
As the opening paragraph of the Wikipedia article says, Agatha Christie's reputation as 'The Queen of Crime' was built by the large number of classic plot devices that she introduced, or for which she provided the most famous example. In my view, any would-be crime writer could not fail to be inspired by reading this article.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Closing Soon...

It's nearly the end of another month, so I thought I'd highlight a few opportunities that close at the end of February.

First of all, the 25% discount on WhiteSmoke's writing software comes to an end. Just to remind you, WhiteSmoke is a program that aims to help its users produce better-written documents. It does this by analyzing the spelling, punctuation and grammar in any document, and then suggesting corrections and possible improvements. You can read my full review of WhiteSmoke's software here, and you will also find details of how to claim your 25% discount.

Secondly, the Creme de la Crime opportunity for aspiring crime writers also closes at the end of the month. This UK publishing house is looking for new crime writers whose careers they can help launch. Applicants have to submit a 500-word synopsis and the opening 5,000 words of a crime novel which will eventually total 70-80,000 words. Check out also this article I wrote about Creme de la Crime last month on this blog.

Finally, the I Publish Press contest also closes this month. This is for a full-length work of fiction of 60,000-120,000 words, including novels, short story collections and long narrative poems. There has been some discussion of this contest at this topic on my forum, or you can go straight to the info page here.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rolling Stories

I recently received an email from Bob Whittington, a UK-based buyer of my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days.

Bob said in his email, "I am spreading your gospel on a new website I have launched today to encourage creative writing - particularly among schools - - I would value your comments."

I took a look at the site and was duly impressed. Rolling Stories is designed to promote and encourage fiction writing. It's free to join, attractively designed, and members (schools and individual writers) can get involved in various ways. One of my favourites is the "Rolling Stories" concept of the title. In this section the opening paragraphs of a story are provided, and members are invited to log in and continue the narrative with their own 250-word contribution.

Also on the site you'll find a five-minute writing challenge, for which Bob kindly gives me credit.

Rolling Stories has only just been launched, so some parts of the site look a little empty at the moment. However, as the word spreads, I'm sure it will get busier. If your interests include fiction writing, you should definitely check Rolling Stories out. In addition, if you're a teacher, you might like to consider applying on behalf of your school.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Review: The Online Writing Wealth System

The Online Writing Wealth System is a new (2007) downloadable manual by professional freelance writer Christina McDonald. As the name indicates, it's all about making money by writing for online markets.

The manual is in the universal PDF format and weighs in at 128 pages. OK, that's double-spaced (as is common with e-books), but it's still quite substantial. The good news is that it's well written and informative, and in my view any aspiring freelance would benefit from reading it. As I'll explain shortly, I do have one or two reservations about some of Ms McDonald's advice, but overall I'm happy to give the manual my recommendation.

A large part of The Online Writing Wealth System is devoted to a discussion of how writers can get work from online job sites such as Elance and Guru. For those who don't know, these operate as "auction" sites for writers (and other freelances) seeking work. Would-be clients post details of their assignments, and writers can then bid on any project that interests them.

Ms Macdonald has both good and bad news for writers about these sites. The good news is that, in her opinion, any half-way competent writer can get work in this way. The bad news is, because you are bidding against hundreds of other writers (many in low-wage economies), earnings are likely to be on the stingy side.

The author has a lot of experience in this field, however, and she explains in some detail how writers can get better-paid work via these sites. She recommends starting with low-paid work and making a good job of it, however, so as to obtain a good feedback rating. This is undoubtedly the best discussion I have ever seen about getting freelance writing work via job auction sites, and if you're thinking of going down this route, I'd say it was essential reading.

Other aspects of making money from writing online are covered in less detail. There is some discussion of blogging, for example, but no mention of services that will pay you for mentioning specific products and services on your blog, such as PayPerPost. Neither is there any discussion of specific techniques for online writing - the unspoken assumption (which may or may not be correct) is that the reader will know this, so the emphasis throughout is firmly on marketing your services.

On the plus side, there are some great resources listed here, including a long list of job sites for writers. Many of these I was unaware of, and I will definitely be adding them to my Favorites list. She also goes into some detail about a website where you can post articles on any subject and sell them, either exclusively or multiple times. This could be a good little earner if you can write the sort of articles website owners require.

As I indicated earlier, I can't say I agreed with every word in the manual. For example, the author says that it is not important for a writer to have a website. This very day I have been approached out of the blue by a marketing company which wants me to write an e-book for them for a fee of around $5,000. Without my website, it's highly unlikely they would have found me. So I think she is wrong about this, and I do rather disagree with one or two of her other comments too.

Nevertheless, I don't want to sound negative about The Online Writing Wealth System. There is a lot of very solid information here, from a writer who has clearly "been there and got the tee-shirt". I would only say, read it with an open mind, and don't take every word she tells you as Gospel!

Finally, I should mention that buyers of The Online Writing Wealth System also get a range of bonus items, and these are actually well worth having in their own right. In particular, you get The Camera Dollars Income System, an illustrated 119-page e-book about how you can create and sell photographs for profit. This e-book could easily be sold separately for the same price as The Online Writing Wealth System. It opened my eyes to how anyone with a modern digital camera could make a very handy extra income selling photos to "stock photography" websites.

* Special Bonus! Buy The Online Writing Wealth System via any link in this review and I'll send you a copy of my free mini-report on how to get paid for blogging. Just forward a copy of your email receipt with the subject line FREE GIFT CLAIM to (change the -at- to the usual @ symbol), and I'll email your free report to you once I have verified your order.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, WritersFM!

Yes, it's true! WCCL's free Internet radio station for writers, WritersFM, is one year old this week.

I had the honour of being the radio station's first interviewee, and still hold the record for the longest interview at around 120 minutes. I conducted the interview over the phone, and my ear hurt for several days after that call! Nevertheless it was great fun to do, and you can still download my interview as a podcast if you wish, or catch it on the normal rotation. Incidentally, as it was the station's first interview it doesn't have quite the same high production standards as more recent ones, so in the next few months the station manager Karl Moore has asked to interview me again.

Of course, since my original interview many others have been added. They include US writer and writing teacher Randy Ingermanson, former British health minister turned author and broadcaster Edwina Currie, copywriting guru Joe Vitale, biographer Lucinda Hawksley, first-time novelist Jeff Phelps, children's author and illustrator Stephen Jackson, and many more. You can either just tune in to the station and listen to whatever happens to be playing at the time, or download individual interviews as podcasts. Note, however, that you will need to have a broadband Internet connection in order to listen to WritersFM.

Finally, just a reminder that WritersFM is always on the lookout for more writers to interview. You don't have to be famous, just have enjoyed some success in the writing field, e.g. a book published or a script performed. If you're interested, send the station manager (and interviewer) Karl an e-mail at (change the -at- to the usual @ sign). Tell him a bit about yourself and your publishing history. If Karl feels you would make a suitable interviewee, he will get back to you to arrange a time. Interviews can take place over the phone, on Skype or in person, so it doesn't matter where in the world you live.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Million Penguins

...That's the title of an experiment in collaborative novel-writing currently taking place at

A Million Penguins is a joint project of the publishing house Penguin and DeMontfort University, Leicester, England.

So far the project has been running for around three weeks. From the initial sentence "There was no possibility of taking a walk that day", a substantial, if somewhat incoherent, novel is now taking shape.

Anyone interested in joining in is welcome to go along to the Million Penguins website and open an account (which is free, of course). A Million Penguins uses the wiki format that powers the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Anyone who has ever written or edited entries on Wikipedia should find the interface familiar, therefore.

Even if you're not interested in contributing, it's well worth taking a look at the project to see how it evolves. My view is that there is some good writing in there, along with a lot of poorly written nonsense. The novel has also been hijacked to some extent by one contributor who seems obsessed about bananas, and a live topic on the Million Penguins Blog is whether or not they should be banned. The novel is also lacking any overall theme or direction, though there are some promising stories embedded in it. Maybe wiki-novels are not the future of publishing, but I could see smaller wikis with membership by invitation only as an interesting possibility for future collaborations.

Anyway, do visit A Million Penguins and see what it's all about for yourself!

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Review: Seven Dollar Secrets

Seven Dollar Secrets is a brand new e-book by Jonathan Leger. I heard about it via The S-Files, the writing blog of my friend and writing colleague Suzie Harris.

The sub-title of Seven Dollar Secrets is 'How to sell infoproducts for only $7 and make a lot of money doing it'. As you'll gather, the price of the manual is just $7, or around 4 UK pounds.

In Seven Dollar Secrets, Jonathan Leger makes a persuasive case for writing and selling low-cost e-books for profit. He points out that, if you are selling your report for just $7, it doesn't have to be very long (Leger suggests around 30 pages). He also argues that you don't have to be a hotshot copywriter to get people to part with just 7 bucks, and the rate of refund requests is far lower than with more expensive products.

One thing Leger doesn't go into any detail about in 7 Dollar Secrets is how to actually devise and write your e-book. If you need advice on that subject, I'd recommend my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, or the excellent 24-Hour E-Book Writing System by Melanie Mendelson.

However, where Leger's guide really does score is in providing a very clever marketing system you can use to sell your e-book and have others sell it on your behalf. Let me try to explain...

Anyone buying Seven Dollar Secrets gets the right to become an affiliate for the report themselves and earn 100 per cent of the profits from any sales they generate. That means if you buy this e-book and sell a single copy of it via your website or email newsletter, you will get the entire $7 you spent back. Sell more than that, and it's pure profit. All payments are made instantly using the online payment system Paypal.

Not only that, however, if you buy Seven Dollar Secrets, you also get the scripts needed to set up a similar promotion for your own e-book. These are quite straightforward to set up, or you can pay a modest fee to get the job done for you (details are in the report). You can then set up an identical promotion for your own e-book, giving buyers the chance to sell your report themselves and keep all of the profits.

At this point you might be saying, "OK, I can see that's a good incentive for people to buy my report, but doesn't it mean I won't get any money from the sales generated by my affiliates?" Well, yes, in a way it does, but Leger makes two important points about this. First of all, you can embed affiliate links to other relevant products and services in your report. If a buyer purchases via one of these, you will get your usual affiliate commission. And secondly, for every sale that is made by you OR an affiliate, you will receive an e-mail address which you can subsequently use to make other offers.

Overall, Seven Dollar Secrets is well written and sets out a method any writer could use to start selling their own information products. For $7 it's well worth a read, but possibly the main value comes from the scripts that are bundled with it. Anyway, I definitely plan to give the method a try, so watch out for my first $7 e-book, coming this way very soon!

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Chinese New Year!

Just wanted to wish all my readers a very happy Chinese New Year.

Jayne and I went to a special event at our local Chinese restaurant The Ruby last night (see pictures). As well as a delicious meal, we were entertained by the traditional dragon dance, which you can just about see going on in the second picture.

One thing we learned was that not only is the new year that began yesterday (lunar year 4705) the Year of the Pig, it is the Year of the Golden Pig - a very lucky year indeed!

Golden Pig years only happen once in six decades, and Chinese people believe it is a particularly auspicious year for a child to be born - so in Chinese communities across the world, a boom in marriages and births is expected in the coming months!

Whether or not you take such things seriously, I hope this year brings you everything you hope for, in your life and in your writing. Gung Hay Fat Choy!



Friday, February 16, 2007

WhiteSmoke's Weekend Sale

Just when I thought WhiteSmoke's writing software couldn't get any cheaper, they've gone and shaved another 5% off the price. That means for this weekend only, you can buy the standard version for just $55.96 instead of the standard $79.95. For British buyers, that's around 30 UK pounds.

That really is a very competitive price for this popular software that will analyze the spelling, punctuation and grammar in any document, and then suggest corrections and possible improvements. I don't honestly see how they can cut it any further.

Anyway, if you'd like to read my full review of WhiteSmoke's writing software, just click here. Or you can click on the banner below to go straight to WhiteSmoke's main info page. Note that to get the full 30% discount, you will need to enter the coupon code 3030 when prompted. However, this will ONLY work till Sunday 18 February.

Whitesmoke's Writing Tool

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

One Way You Can Get Paid to Blog

From my forum I know that there is a lot of interest among writers right now in how they can make money from blogging. So I thought in this post I'd reveal just one of the many possible methods.

First, of course, you'll need a blog. Setting one up with a provider such as Blogger is actually very easy (and free). It takes just a few minutes, and requires no programming skills. You could nip over there right now and set one up if you wanted.

But just having a blog doesn't mean anyone will pay you for posting to it, does it? Well, actually, it does! A number of networks will indeed pay bloggers to mention specific companies and services on their blogs. As long as you do this as specified (e.g. there may be minimum word limits, and you may have to include a particular link code in your post), you will be paid a set fee (up to $40 or so) a few weeks later.

The network I have most experience with is PayPerPost. This is also the best-known network, and the one with the most advertisers. You can see one of my PayPerPost articles on this blog by clicking here. In fact, this was a great one to do, as the website in question is an excellent online dictionary I think all writers should know about anyway. So I knew I was giving useful info for my readers, and I also picked up a nice little fee for my trouble a few weeks later!

Unfortunately you can't just start a blog today and start earning tomorrow. PayPerPost require that any blog must be at least 90 days old, and it must have at least 20 entries in the past 90 days. Other networks have similar rules. However, that does of course mean that the sooner you set up your blog, the sooner you can start earning.

If you'd like more info about paid-to-blog opportunities with PayPerPost, just click here to go straight to their main info page, then click on any of the 'Bloggers' links.

Happy blogging!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Resources for Romance Writers

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope you got at least one card!

In view of the occasion I thought I'd share some of my top resources for romance writers. I don't put myself in that category personally, though I've had my moments. For example, my first published book was How to Find Your Ideal Partner, and my first published short story was a teenage romance. I also co-wrote the scripts for the Cyberbabe and Cyberboyfriend entertainment CD-ROMs published by Lagoon (these were both quite sweet and innocent, I must emphasise!).

There's no doubt that there is a huge appetite for romantic fiction, and with electronic publishing now starting to take off in this field as well, the prospects for romance authors have seldom looked brighter.

First up then is Charlotte Dillon's Resources for Romance Writers. I realise I'm cheating a bit by including a site that lists resources, but Charlotte's site is beautifully written and designed, and it also includes lots of useful, practical advice for budding romance authors. Highly recommended.

My next site is eHarlequin. This is the website of Harlequin, Silhouette, Spice and various other romantic fiction imprints operated by the oldest romance publishing company of them all, Mills & Boon. I'd particularly direct you to their Learn to Write page. This includes writing guidelines and submission samples for many of their imprints, as well as writing articles, updated monthly, from editors and authors. Check out too the current romance writing challenge - deadline 21 February.

Finally, if you are interested in writing the more explicit type of romance, you should visit the Erotica Readers and Writers Association website. This does include some "adult" material, so please read the warning before you click through to the main part of the site. Inside, you'll find all manner of information and resources for writers of this type of fiction, along with pages of calls for submissions from publishers.

Good luck, and good romance writing!

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Monday, February 12, 2007

How Long Should It Take to Write a Movie Script?

I've mentioned WCCL's new Movie in a Month course a few times on my blog recently (mainly because I'm a big fan of it). Someone ('Anonymous') left the following comment the other day: 'What kind of film can you write in a month? This has got to be a con. You couldn't even write Scream 7 in a month. What can you write - How to Boil an Egg - the 28 day way?'

Well, everyone's entitled to their opinion, of course, even if they're not prepared to put their name to it. But a recent article by Joe Eszterhas, the world's highest paid scriptwriter, takes a different view. Writing in UK newspaper The Independent, he offers the following advice:
Write six pages of script a day

Stick to this schedule no matter what. You'll have a finished first draft in roughly twenty days. Then go back and edit what you've written. Spend no more than five days on this edit.

Then rewrite your script from page one - with your edits. Spend no more than one week on this rewrite - that means putting out 20 pages a day.

Put the script away for a week; don't even look at it. Then edit it once again. Spend no more than four days on the edit this time. Then rewrite it again from scratch with your edits - taking another week. This will be your third draft. Now begin the process of trying to sell it - this, your official first draft.

So Joe recommends writing your first draft script in twenty days - eight days LESS than the title of WCCL's movie-writing guide! OK, you'll have to go back and polish it before sending it out, but the same would apply with a book or any other literary work. You certainly can, and according to Joe Eszterhas you should, write a movie in a month!

To see my full review of WCCL's CD course by that title, just click here.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Winter Comes to Burntwood...

Here in Burntwood in the English Midlands we've had a blast of winter over the last few days. Here's a picture from my office window this afternoon...

At times like these I'm grateful I work from home and don't have to battle across icy, treacherous roads and pavements to get to work.

My partner, Jayne, isn't as lucky in that respect. As an IT teacher working at two local colleges she normally has to drive to work whatever the weather. However, in the last couple of days her classes have been cancelled, so she's had a bit of spare time for other things.

I thought I'd let you in on what she's been doing. For starters, she's updated her writers' website with a few more useful resources. Also, she's given it a whole new Valentine's Day look. I'm not kidding, there are even links to romantic books you can buy on eBay! Do check it out - it's at

The other thing Jayne has been doing is working her way through the fiendishly difficult online quiz game called Qwyzzle. This free, interactive quiz involves solving a series of puzzles, many of which require lateral thinking skills and/or research on the net.

If you enjoyed reading the Da Vinci Code, you're likely to love Qwyzzle. I've had a little go at it myself, but I'm not usually as quick at solving the problems as Jayne (who is currently up to level 84). Do be warned if you try it, however - Qwyzzle is highly addictive!



Thursday, February 08, 2007


Have you heard of ficblogs? I must admit I hadn't, till I read an article about them by Addy Farmer in the UK magazine Writers News.

It transpires that a ficblog is a fiction blog, or fiction presented in blog form. Addy's own ficblog is called Wilf's World and describes the thoughts and adventures of a nine-year-old boy (Addy is a children's writer and teacher). It uses the popular Blogger platform, and is illustrated with many colourful photos.

One obvious drawback of using a blog to publish your fiction is that the most recent post always appears at the top. Addy's ficblog gets round this by using a diary format. You can go back to read earlier instalments by clicking on the navigational links in the right-hand column, but in general you can read the chapters in any order.

There are some advantages to the blog format too. If you enable it, your readers can leave comments and suggestions on any of your posts. And, of course, a blog is a quick and easy site to set up and run. Setting up a Blogger blog, for example, takes literally five minutes, and no technical skills are required.

And finally, publishers are increasingly turning to blogs as a source of new books and writers (see, for example, this post I made last year). Obviously there is no guarantee that you will be "discovered" this way, but if nothing else writing a ficblog could be a great way of practising your fiction-writing skills and getting feedback from readers across the world.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

WhiteSmoke Discount Offer Extended

Here's some good news if you were interested in buying the WhiteSmoke writing software but missed the 31 January deadline for their 25% discount offer. I've just heard from WhiteSmoke that due to the amount of interest the promotion has generated, they are extending the offer to the end of February.

To remind you, WhiteSmoke is a unique program that aims to help its users produce better-written documents. It does this by analyzing the spelling, punctuation and grammar in any document, and then suggesting corrections and possible improvements. It will work in almost any text-based application, including word processors, email programs, web-based forms, and so on. You can read my full review of the WhiteSmoke program here.

By the way, I've had some good feedback from readers who have bought the program, including the following in an email:
"...I did purchase the WhiteSmoke Software, and would say that it is very helpful in use. I bought the Creative Writing Software as well. Obviously it does not grasp the sense of the prose and dialogue, and can make some silly suggestions, but it does also pick up on errors which are not immediately obvious.
"One drawback was that it did not highlight where I used the same word twice in adjacent sentences. I thought it should have picked up on that. But there again, I had overlooked this myself, and noticed it because of other prompts from the WhiteSmoke Software.
"Overall, I thought it was a good additional help, and with the discount, not overpriced."

Anyway, if you want to find out more, and perhaps take advantage of the massive 25% discount right now, just click on the banner below and enter the discount code 2525 when prompted. If you're an email subscriber, you will probably need to visit my blog on the web to see this.

Whitesmoke's Writing Tool

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Why You Should Never Rely on a Thesaurus...

I'm grateful to my colleague Karl Moore for drawing my attention to this excellent article by Michael Leddy at It's quite short, so I've reproduced it in full.
Reading an essay from a college freshman many years ago, I came across a sentence that baffled me - it referred to "ingesting an orange." I crossed out "ingest," wrote "eat," and wondered why anyone would've written otherwise. At the time, it didn't occur to me that my student had very likely started with "eat," only to cross it out and substitute a word that seemed somehow better - lofty, less plain, more imposing.

Since then I've taught many students who seek to improve their writing by using "better" words. Their revision strategies focus on replacing plain words with big, shiny ones. Such students usually rely on a thesaurus, now more available to a writer than ever before as a tool in many word-processing programs.

But dressing up a piece of prose with thesaurus-words tends not to work well. And here's why: a thesaurus suggests words without explaining nuances of meaning and levels of diction. So if you choose substitute-words from a thesaurus, it's likely that your writing will look as though you've done just that. The thesaurus-words are likely to look odd and awkward, or as a writer relying on Microsoft Word's thesaurus might put it, "extraordinary and uncoordinated." When I see that sort of strange diction in a student's writing and ask whether a thesaurus is involved, the answer, always, is yes.

A thesaurus might be a helpful tool to jog a writer's memory by calling up a familiar word that's just out of reach. But to expand the possibilities of a writer's vocabulary, a collegiate dictionary is a much better choice, offering explanations of the differences in meaning and use among closely related words. Here's just one example: Merriam-Webster's treatment of synonyms for awkward.

What student-writers need to realize is that it's not ornate vocabulary or word-substitution that makes good writing. Clarity, concision, and organization are far more important in engaging and persuading a reader to find merit in what you're saying. If you're tempted to use the thesaurus the next time you're working on an essay, consider what is about to happen to this sentence: "If you're lured to utilize the thesaurus on the subsequent occasion you're toiling on a treatise, mull over what just transpired to this stretch."

Good advice this for all writers, not just students!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

New Collaborative Writing Project at

Thought you might be interested to hear about an exciting new writing project at my forum. It was proposed by 'jeanette', a relatively new member of the forum. Here's the start of her post:
Recently while shooting the breeze with some other members, I came up with an idea which won't leave me alone. My working title is "the Station".

Every writer has stories that they've started but not finished, for whatever reason: lack of time, lost interest, or maybe they simply got stuck with how to move the plot forward. The stories languish at the bottom of drawers or in forgotten Word files, their characters caught in a timeless limbo.

Now imagine all those characters, all in one place, a giant Grand Central Station, stuck there unable to move on until their writers pick up their pens once more. And the place will be HUGE. (imagine the millions of abandoned stories!)

They will come from all genres: there will be starship captains and spies, romantic heroines and pimply teenagers. Some of them will be sitting in the pub complaining about their lazy writers, some might be in the newsagent, thumbing enviously through bestsellers. Others will be sitting quietly on the platform, waiting for a train that never comes.

I think this idea has masses of potential, and here's the challenge: write a story based round The Station. Let your imagination run wild! I've seen lots of talent on this site, and know there are some wonderful stories out there, just waiting to be written.

Jeanette's idea has captured members' imagination, and already there is talk of an anthology of the best contributions. If you'd like to find out more, the original post can be viewed here. There is also a new topic where further stories for the project can be posted called Station Shorts.

Of course, you'll need to be a member of before you can join in, but if you aren't already a member, it's quick and easy (and free) to join. If you need a helping hand, however, please visit and read the article 'My Blog and Forum'. See you there!

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Friday, February 02, 2007

New Website for Comedy Writers and Performers

Aspiring comedy writers and performers might like to check out a brand new website from the BBC. Comedy Soup lets users create a portfolio on the site to which they can link their own comedy material, including videos, animations, audio and images.

You can also include information about yourself on your profile page. This could include links to sample comedy scripts you have written, though as far as I can tell you will have to arrange hosting for these elsewhere on the web. Comedy Soup isn't really set up as a scripts archive.

Comedy Soup is probably going to be of most interest to comedy writers who also perform their own work, and to writers who have the skills to create videos, animations and so on. Even if that doesn't apply to you, however, don't be put off. If all else fails you could simply read out your work and record it as an audio file, then upload it to your portfolio page (full instructions are on the site). Once it's there, your work will be viewed (or heard) by talent-spotters, comedy professionals and fans. If comedy is your thing, Comedy Soup could provide a world-wide shop window for your talents.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

The New ISBN System

Yes, I know that title sounds like a cure for insomnia. However, a major change to the ISBN system was implemented on 1 January, and it's important for all writers to be aware about it, especially if they have at least one full-length book published.

As you may know, every published book is allocated an ISBN number. This is used by bookshops, libraries and wholesalers to refer to the book and place orders for it, so it's a very important figure!

Anyway, as from January 2007, the big news is that all ISBNs will have 13 digits instead of the 10 digits used before. The purpose of the change is two-fold. Partly it's to make more ISBN numbers available, and partly to make the system fully compatible with the barcode system widely used in product packaging. The new 13-digit ISBNs are identical to the 13-digit barcode number that is normally printed on the back of a book.

All new ISBNs issued from now on will begin with the number 978 (the product number currently allocated to books), and when 978 ISBNs are exhausted, the 979 prefix will be introduced. Older books will have a new 13-digit ISBN applied to them, and this is where writers need to be clued up.

Basically, your book's new-style ISBN will be its old 10-digit number prefixed by '978' and with a recalculated check digit at the end. As an example, the first edition of my book 'Living and Working in Germany' has the ISBN 1901130355. Its new 13-digit ISBN will be as follows: 9781901130355. Note that in this case the final check digit stays the same, but in many cases it will change.

The check digit is derived from a mathematical formula that includes all the preceding digits. The idea is to provide an internal audit of the ISBN's consistency. If performing the calculation results in a different check digit from the one in the ISBN, that means someone, somewhere has made a mistake (probably by copying a digit of the ISBN wrongly). You can read about the maths behind this in this Wikipedia article if you are so inclined. However, if you don't want to get your calculator out (and who could blame you?) the following website will automatically convert any old 10-digit ISBN to the new 13-digit version:

Although during the transitional period bookshops and libraries will still recognise 10-digit ISBNs, if you're sending out publicity for any of your books from now on, I highly recommend switching to the new 13-digit ISBNs straight away.

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