Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
Receive this blog by e-mail!  Enter your e-mail address:   

Friday, June 29, 2007

Earn Extra Cash Promoting My Writing Courses!

If you have a website, did you know that you can earn a steady sideline income (plus my undying gratitude) by promoting my writing courses on it?

All you need to do is sign up as an affiliate with my publishers, WCCL. This is a simple process and won't cost you a bean. Just click here to go to the sign-up page, and select "Nick Daws Course" from the drop-down list of products as the first one you want to promote. This is the best-selling course also known as "Write Any Book in Under 28 Days". It's designed for anyone who wants to write a book, fiction or non-fiction, in the shortest possible time.

If you prefer, of course, you can choose one of my other popular courses. Quick Cash Writing explains how anyone can start earning money from writing as quickly as possible, while How to Win Contests is my brand new guide to winning cash, free holidays and consumer goods from entering competitions, contests and sweepstakes.

The only other thing you will need to become a WCCL affiliate is a Paypal account, which the company will use to send your commission payments. If you don't already have a Paypal account (they are widely used on the auction site eBay), you can sign up for one free of charge by clicking here.

Once you are an affiliate, you will have access to a wide range of banners and text links you can use on your site. Each will include your special affiliate code, so for everyone who clicks through to the sales site via your link and buys a course, you will get a commission payment. WCCL pays generous commissions of up to 50% of the sales price. They send you an email every time you make a sale, and (assuming a refund hasn't been requested) you get your commission 35 days later. Again, you will receive email notifications of payment from both WCCL and Paypal.

What's more, once you are a WCCL affiliate, you don't just have to promote my courses. You can, if you wish, promote any of WCCL's other courses (e.g. the blockbusting Write a Movie in a Month), not to mention their wide range of self-development products, Windows utilities, hypnosis downloads, privacy software, driving guides, and much more.

If you do decide to promote my courses on your website, here's a quick hint. By far the best way to get people to click through to the sales site is to tell them a bit about it in your own words, or even write a review. The advertising banners look pretty cool, but they work much better when accompanied by some text as well!

Even if you don't have a website now, you can easily set one up using the free Squidoo service, as I described in this post a few weeks ago. Or you can open a Google Adwords account and place ads for the courses on Google and other search engines. This will involve a certain amount of expenditure, but with WCCL's generous commissions it's not difficult to generate a net profit (I've been using this method myself for several years). I recommend the top-selling Googlecash manual if you would like a step-by-step guide to this.

Finally, I should mention that WCCL operate a two-tier referral system. Whenever someone visits one of their sites through your affiliate link and signs up as an affiliate themselves, you automatically receive 5% commission on ALL their future sales. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain, so why not click here now to sign up?

Good luck, and thank you very much for helping to promote my courses!

Advertisement follows/...

college degrees online

Get your online college degrees at the Capella University and Walden University! Learn about education courses and writing programs.

Labels: ,


Thursday, June 28, 2007

One Step at a Time

A theme I keep returning to in this blog is the importance of taking any writing project one step at a time. This applies especially in the case of a longer project such as a novel or a screenplay. Almost certainly it won't be written in a day, but if you set yourself daily targets and keep to them, it WILL be finished, probably sooner than you think!

I was reminded of this principle yet again by an inspiring story that was forwarded to me. It's one of those tales that can be found on various sites across the Internet. In this post I've linked to the version on a blog by S. Raamakant, because his post includes pictures as well. The title is The Daffodil Principle. It's not directly related to writing, but it is highly relevant to writers. Do click on The Daffodil Principle, and read the story through to the end.

The comments on the above post are interesting as well. One person writes, "The best time to plant a tree was 35 years ago. The second-best time is today." So it is with writing a book. The best time to have started your book might not necessarily be as long as 35 years ago, but the second best time is definitely today!

Labels: ,


Monday, June 25, 2007

Fifty Tools Which Can Help You in Writing

Fifty Tools Which Can Help You in Writing is a set of articles on how to improve your writing published on the website. I discovered them recently with a little help from my StumbleUpon toolbar.

The articles are written by Roy Peter Clark from the Poynter Institute. They are aimed primarily at journalists, but any writer could benefit from studying them, and many are relevant to fiction writers as well. To give you some idea of the quality, here's an extract from Writing Tool #6: Play With Words:

Play with words, even in serious stories. Choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands.

Just as the sculptor works with clay, the writer shapes a world with words. In fact, the earliest English poets were called "shapers," artists who molded the stuff of language to create stories the way that God, the Great Shaper, formed heaven and earth.

Good writers play with language, even when the topic is about death:

"Do not go gentle into that good night," wrote Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to his dying father, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Play and death may seem at odds, but the writer finds the path that connects them. To express his grief, the poet fiddles with language, prefers 'gentle' to 'gently,' chooses 'night' to rhyme with 'light,' and repeats the word 'rage.' Later in the poem, he will even pun about those "grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight." The double meaning of 'grave men' leads straight to the oxymoron 'blinding sight.' Word-play.

One thing I particularly like about Fifty Tools Which Can Help You in Writing is the way that every 'tool' is illustrated with good examples of its use. I'll be surprised if you don't find something here that can help improve your own writing.

Incidentally, as mentioned above, I discovered this site with the help of the StumbleUpon toolbar, which I started using quite recently. This is a free toolbar you can download for the Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers. Once you have the toolbar installed, you can vote up sites you like and vote down sites you don't. You can also click on the Stumble icon and will be taken to a random website others have voted for, and which - based on how you have voted in the past - you are likely to enjoy.

I recommend StumbleUpon as a great way of discovering new and interesting websites. If you install the toolbar, don't forget to vote for this blog and my forum, to help spread the word among other writers!

Labels: , ,


Friday, June 22, 2007

Review: How to Get a Free Cruise

If you've listened to the interview with Anna Rushton on WritersFM, you'l know that Ms Rushton regularly enjoys free cruises just for giving talks about creative writing to the other passengers.

As a cruise enthusiast myself, this idea holds considerable attractions for me. But I've never done anything about it until now because I wasn't sure how to apply or what exactly the terms were.

However, I've just been reading a guide which sets it all out in black and white. How to Get a Free Cruise is a downloadable e-book by Daniel Hall, who has cruised the world as an online speaker and is now teaching others to do the same.

From reading Daniel's guide, I now know that most cruise lines employ guest speakers to give between two and four one-hour talks during a typical seven-day cruise. Apart from when you are lecturing, you are treated exactly like any other passenger, so you get free food, free entertainment, and unrestricted use of the ship's leisure facilities. OK, you aren't paid a fee, but in effect you get a free holiday worth thousands of dollars.

One other thing that had put me off applying before is that I assumed only the lecturer would get the free cruise (and I could hardly leave Jayne behind!). In fact, however, Daniel reveals that you are normally allowed to bring at least one travelling companion with you free of charge. They have no duties, and are free to lie back and enjoy the cruise.

How to Get a Free Cruise is in the universal PDF format and weighs in at a quite hefty 138 pages. At its heart is an eight-step plan for getting work as a cruise ship speaker. This covers pretty much everything you need to know, and if you follow it to the letter, in my view it would be hard to fail to get an offer of work.

Incidentally, this isn't just an opportunity for writers. It seems that cruise ships need people to give talks and presentations on all sorts of subjects, from real estate investment to arts and crafts. They also need speakers who can talk on subjects related to the destinations the ship is visiting.

How to Get a Free Cruise has an extra chapter about how to get work via cruise speaker agencies. These agencies can provide a shortcut to finding work as a speaker, though with the drawback that you have to pay them a fee for their services!

Buyers of Daniel's guide also get a range of bonuses, including tips on preparing and giving talks, and audio interviews with the proprietors of five (yes, five!) leading cruise ship speaker agencies. These are useful and interesting to listen to, even if you plan to apply under your own steam rather than via an agency.

How to Get a Free Cruise is well written - in a slightly homespun way - and is packed with useful info, including details of all the leading cruise lines that employ guest speakers, along with website URLs, contact details, and so on. One other thing I like about it is that - unlike many PDF e-books you buy - it makes good use of the left-hand bookmarks pane. This makes it very easy to navigate (no pun intended) from one section to another.

Clicking on How to Get a Free Cruise will take you to a website where you can apply for a free 18-page report which explains this opportunity in more detail. Once you have received this, you then get a link to the main info page. If you'd rather see the free report before you provide your details, however, I've saved a copy on my website: just click on Free Cruise Speaker Report and it should open immediately in Adobe Acrobat Reader, or right-click and choose Save Target As to save the report to the folder of your choice.

I appreciate that this opportunity won't appeal to everybody - I wouldn't recommend cruising if you get sea-sick, for example! But if you like the idea of enjoying regular free luxury holidays in exchange for a small amount of enjoyable work, How to Get a Free Cruise will almost certainly provide you with your "passport".

See you on the high seas!

Late Addition - I've just found out about a new website that, for a small fee, will submit your CV to over 300 cruise companies. They also have a free email newsletter with vacancy information and so on you can sign up to. Please click here for more details.

Labels: , , , ,


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Opportunities for Writers

Several new opportunities for writers have been posted recently on the Writers Wanted board of my forum, so I thought I'd quickly run through them.

First up, my regular clients Lagoon are looking for a UK-based maths teacher or educational author to write a multiple-choice quiz book based on National Curriculum requirements. You will need a good knowledge of Key Stage 2 Maths.

If you are interested, apply to Nikole Bamford at Obviously, change the -at- in the email address to the usual @ symbol.

Lagoon are leading publishers of novelty and quiz book titles. They pay a flat fee rather than royalties. I have written dozens of products for them over the years, and they are always a pleasure to work with. If you apply to Nikole, do say hello to her from me!

The second opportunity was posted by our long-standing member Smiley, and again it is most likely to be of interest to UK authors. Indeed, it will only be relevant if you live in the south-west (or are willing to move there), as the job is in Exeter. The advert is copied below:

Experience of creative writing? Strong proof reading skills? Passionate about the English language? If so read on...
We have an exciting and highly unusual opportunity for someone with strong language skills to join a growing company in their Exeter offices. You will be providing assistance to the Editorial Manager, and ideally will have some creative writing experience. A strong team ethic is required, along with some previous office administration experience for this busy and varied post. You will be liaising with clients, planning work schedules and writing short stories/activity books, etc. for a children's market. This is truly a unique opportunity for Exeter, and if you have a natural ability with words, or perhaps an English degree - don't delay - apply immediately!

Click on this link - kindly provided by Smiley - to visit the job site where this vacancy is being advertised. If you're looking for a full-time writing position and are lucky enough to live in the Exeter area, it should be your dream job, I'd have thought!

The next opportunity is open to anyone in the world. A US-based publishing house is currently seeking submissions of short stories from 2000 to 5000 words for a new anthology to be titled One Step Beyond: Rocking Tales of the Fantastical. As the name suggests, stories should be in the fantasy genre, with a rock 'n' roll element. This is a paying market, and the final deadline is October 1 (submissions by August 1 preferred). For more info, click here to visit the relevant topic on my forum.

Finally, my colleague Suzie Harris is in the process of launching her own online women's magazine. Quite a few forum members have already signed up as contributors, but if you're interested I'm sure it's not too late to get in touch! The magazine will be called Perfume and Lace, and the website is already up and running. Here's a link to the topic on my forum where the magazine is being discussed.

Good luck if you decide to apply for any of these opportunities!

Labels: , ,


Monday, June 18, 2007

Navigating Around Long Documents

You learn something new every day. The other day on my forum a member asked, "I'm writing a novel in Microsoft Word and it's rather large, 250 pages so far, and I was wondering if there is a simpler way of finding simple pages rather than using the side scroll thing to scan the document..."

As you would expect on MWC, various members leapt in to try to help. However, the answer I found most interesting came from a member named Justin. He wrote: "Below the scrollbar on the right you will have a button in between two arrows. These two arrows allow you to scroll quickly and the button selects how you scroll. By pressing this button you can select to browse by page or chapter (section) as well as a whole other bunch of options. Check it out."

I must admit, I've used Word almost every day of my life for the last ten years, but I've never really looked into these scrolling options. Anyway, I decided to follow Justin's advice and check out the buttons concerned. Here is a screengrab of the bottom of the right-hand scrollbar in Word. You will see the two buttons with double arrows that move you quickly up or down the document, and the button in the middle that selects how you scroll.

If you click on the button in between the two double-arrows, the following box appears...

This box allows you to choose how you want the double-arrow buttons to work. As you hover your cursor over each of the icons, the message in the box below changes to describe what that particular button does (e.g. 'Browse by Heading').

By default, the double-arrow buttons allow you to move up or down through your document one page at a time. But by clicking on the appropriate icon in the box above, you can elect to browse by section, by heading, by graphic, by table, and more. You can also choose the 'Go To' option to go directly to a particular page number. Just remember to click on the button again once you are finished and choose 'Browse by Page' to return to the default setting.

If, like many writers, you regularly find yourself working on long documents, using these controls should make it much quicker and easier to navigate them. I can see myself using these features quite regularly in future, so thanks a lot for the tip, Justin!

Labels: , ,


Friday, June 15, 2007

Review: Copywriting for the Web

Copywriting for the Web is a new mini-guide by professional copywriter Mario De la Cruz. It is one of the growing number of low-price $7 guides that has hit the web recently, largely as a result of Jonathan Leger's Seven Dollar Secrets e-book and script that I reviewed in this blog a few months ago.

Copywriting for the Web is a 39-page e-book in the standard PDF format. You can download it immediately from the website. The content is divided into 15 short chapters, as follows:

Chapter 1 - Why Writing Copy for the Web is Different
Chapter 2 - Visitors Are Important to You
Chapter 3 - Plan in Order to Succeed
Chapter 4 - How to Write Effective Copy for theWeb
Chapter 5 - How to Find Effective Keywords and Keyword Phrases
Chapter 6 - Keep it Short and Sweet
Chapter 7 - Other Essential Components for GoodCopywriting
Chapter 8 - Get a Headline that Grabs
Chapter 9 - How to Go About Writing a Headline
Chapter 10 - Test the Tone of Your Headlines
Chapter 11 - Make Your Text Links Look the Same
Chapter 12 - Be Positive from Beginning to End
Chapter 13 - Adding Value with Copywriting Articles
Chapter 14 - Make Money with This Report

The guide is aimed principally at entrepreneurs and Internet marketers who need to write copy for their own websites, but most of the advice would also be relevant to writers who wish to branch out into copywriting.

Although it is a concise guide, there is plenty of useful information here. The author is a successful website copywriter, and he clearly has a good grasp of what does and doesn't work online. I thought the advice on how to format website copy was particularly useful, and the chapter about the importance of giving your text links a consistent look is something every website designer and copywriter should be compelled to read!

Do I have any criticisms? Well, a few. One is that the author assumes that the reader will have some basic knowledge of website building. If you don't know what meta-tags are, for example, you will need to seek elsewhere for this information. Mario does discuss meta-tags, alternate text tags, heading tags, and so on from a copywriting perspective, but he doesn't explain what they are or where in your website HTML you would expect to find them.

In addition, the guide suffers from a severe lack of examples. Obviously in a $7 product you shouldn't expect too much, but it would have been nice to see a few examples of good and bad website copywriting. Some illustrations wouldn't have gone amiss either.

If you are starting out as a website copywriter, this guide will give you some useful tips. It's a long way from being comprehensive, but at least it sets out the main points to aim for and points to avoid. There are also links within the guide to other useful resources for copywriters.

Finally, in common with most of the $7 guides, Copywriting for the Web includes an affiliate program paying 100% commission. In other words, once you have bought the guide, you can if you wish sell it via your own website and keep 100% of the purchase price. Note that you will need to have a Paypal account before you can do this.

Labels: , ,


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Some Thoughts About Writing Courses

A regular topic arising on my forum concerns writing courses. Indeed, here's a (slightly edited) post made by a new member a few days ago:

" concern I do have is the writers' courses offered on the site. Have these courses been checked for quality of content and has the money back offer for non-satisfaction ever been confirmed? I would welcome any feedback, albeit good, or BAD. Are these people just affiliates? Are they genuine? I am looking for a good quality writing course."
I replied on the forum, but as this seems to be a topic of considerable general interest, I thought I would expand a bit on my comments here.

I guess I should start by saying that writing courses are a subject that (modesty aside) I feel pretty well qualified to write about. In my younger days I took three correspondence courses, two with the London School of Journalism and one with a short-lived outfit called Successful Writers. More recently (in geological terms) I was a tutor for three different writing correspondence schools. The best known of these was The Writers Bureau, based in Manchester, England. I also wrote some sections of their comprehensive creative writing course.

And finally, of course, I have written a range of writing courses myself, including most recently Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing, both published by WCCL.

I'm assuming that the new member whose post I reproduced above was talking about The Writers Bureau. Not only is this a very well-known organisation (in the UK at least), they also offer a money-back guarantee if you haven't earned back your fees from writing by the end of the course.

And yes, as a former WB tutor, I confirm that their guarantee is genuine, but they do - not unreasonably - request that you make some effort to get your work published before claiming your money back. My colleague Suzie Harris - who is a current Writers Bureau tutor - says on my forum that "all you have to do is give them 10 rejection slips to prove you have been trying to get published."

In fact, though, The Writers Bureau are obliged to make relatively few refunds. There are two main reasons for this. One is that (again in my experience) only a minority of students complete the whole course, and many drop out after only completing one or two assignments. And, of course, unless you finish the whole course, you are not eligible to apply for a refund. And secondly, those students who DO complete the whole course recognise that they have actually had good value for money and may not be inclined to claim their money back even if they are eligible.

As a fairly neutral observer these days, I think The Writers Bureau (and similar distance learning operations, which I'll refer to as writing schools from now on) offer a worthwhile option for people who want the discipline of a series of exercises and feedback from a tutor. However, if you just do one or two exercises and then give up, you will have wasted at least part of your money. In effect, such individuals are subsidising those students who go on to complete the whole course.

There are two other points to consider before enrolling with a writing school. First of all, it WILL be hard work and quite time consuming. And the assignments you have to complete will not always result in anything you can offer to a publisher. Some may do, but others are just exercises, designed to develop skills such as description or characterization. So you must be prepared to complete some tasks that you may not enjoy especially and have no realistic prospect of selling.

My second caveat is that an awful lot depends on your tutor and how you get on with him/her. You have to be realistic here: writing schools can't afford to pay their tutors a fortune, so you're not going to get Martin Amis or Tom Clancy assessing your work. The tutors are generally moderately successful part-time or full-time writers who do this to supplement their income. Most genuinely enjoy the work and do their best to help students, but some are undoubtedly better than others. One very important point I would make: If you're not happy with the tutor you've been allocated by your writing school, never be afraid to ask for a change.

In my time as a Writers Bureau tutor, I had a few writers who really did seem to benefit considerably from their studies. I always felt that the students who benefited most were those who had some basic aptitude for writing and a willingness to learn. As a tutor I was then able to assist them by providing constructive feedback, correcting little points of grammar and punctuation, and suggesting possible markets for their work. It was very exciting and satisfying to observe as the writing careers of some of these students took off.

On the other hand, some students who enrolled on the course lacked basic skills in grammar, spelling and punctuation, and would really have been better off taking a course in English first. There were also some students who had all the skills they needed to succeed, and really just needed to apply themselves to writing and submitting their work. I did sometimes feel that these people would have been better just getting on with writing rather than completing a long series of set assignments!

Finally, what about my own writing courses? Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is for anyone who wants to write a book in the shortest possible time, whilst Quick Cash Writing is for people whose priority is to start earning money from writing at the earliest opportunity. My courses do include exercises, but they are self-study. You don't therefore get feedback from a tutor, though as a consequence of this (and the electronic delivery) the prices of the courses are much lower.

In addition, because my courses are written entirely by me and delivered electronically, I can update them quickly and easily, so the information in them is always bang up to date. Inevitably this may not always be the case with large writing schools, who can only update their course material at irregular intervals.

I suppose my courses are really designed for people who want to "get on with it" with the least delay. The writing school courses I have been talking about here may be more suited to students who want to take a more leisurely approach, perhaps trying their hand at various different fields of writing to see which they enjoy best. Of course, there is nothing to stop you enrolling with a writing school AND buying one (or more) of my courses if you want to!

So there you are. I've run on a bit longer than I expected in this post, but it's obviously a topic I have a particular interest in. If you have been thinking of signing up for a writing course, whether one of mine or with a writing school, I hope these comments may help you decide how best to proceed. Good luck, and happy writing!

NEW! See my latest post here about The Writer's Bureau's new, free-to-enter article-writing contest for current and former students. Closing date 31 December 2008.

Labels: ,


Monday, June 11, 2007

Smart Writers Newsletter - a Reminder

Just wanted to remind you that my publishers WCCL are still running the special promotion on their Smart Writers newsletter. This twice-weekly email newsletter includes articles about writing, product recommendations, inspirational quotes, special offers, and so on. You even get an extract from my latest blog post, whatever it might be!

Smart Writers is attractively formatted and a quick, enjoyable read. Not only is it free to subscribe, WCCL are also giving away a selection of e-books, audio interviews, writing software and so on, as an extra incentive to sign up.

They put a value of almost $4,000 on the freebies, which (as I've said before) you might want to take with a pinch of salt, even if they do include several items from me! It's all good stuff, though, and free, so there's no real cause for complaint.

What's more, WCCL are constantly adding new items to the giveaway. For that reason, it's worth bookmarking the download page after you've subscribed and returning there regularly. You are very likely to find new items that weren't available the last time you looked. Of course, you can pick and choose whatever items interest you to download.

You can subscribe to Smart Writers via any of the links in this post. And don't worry, you can unsubscribe at any time if you find it's not for you. WCCL is a reputable company and it has no interest in spamming anyone. They also sponsor my forum, as well as the world's first free Internet radio station for writers, WritersFM.

Labels: ,


Friday, June 08, 2007

Google Documents and Spreadsheets

In a couple of posts recently I've mentioned the free Google Documents and Spreadsheets service. I thought perhaps I should say a bit more about it.

Google Documents and Spreadsheets is one of the ever-growing range of free services from the search engine giant. In recent months I've been using Google Documents quite a lot.

Google Documents is the new name for what used to be called Writely, Google's free online word processor. Essentially, it lets you create documents using your web browser instead of a word processor such as Microsoft Word. The documents are then saved online for as long as you want them. There are several advantages to this.

1. It means that you can work on your document using any computer with an Internet connection. No need to keep switching disks or USB drives if you want to do some writing at home and some at the office.

2. Your work is automatically backed up on Google's own servers. Even if your own computer is damaged or stolen, the documents won't be lost.

3. Google Documents auto-saves your work regularly. If your computer is prone to occasional random crashes (as mine is), this can be a life-saver!

4. You can also allow one or more other people to access and edit documents using the 'Share' facility. I have used this for working collaboratively with my friend Simon, my co-author on 50 Great Ideas for Creative Writing Teaching.

5. In addition, you can publish your documents on the web for anyone to read. I did that very thing in my post about AGLOCO yesterday. There is no need to have your own website or know anything about HTML or FTP.

6. Finally, with Google Documents you can save easily to and from Microsoft Word, HTML, Rich Text Format (.rtf), and plain text (.txt).

I have found Google Documents especially handy for creating blog posts, and for the last few months all my posts (including this one) have been written on it. One reason I like using it for this is that Google Documents makes it very easy to create hyperlinks to other websites. You simply highlight the text you want linked and click on the 'Link' icon in the Google Docs toolbar. A pop-up box then appears for you to enter the URL of the site you want to link to, whether you want it to open on a new page, and so on. Once I have written my post, I simply copy and paste it into my Blogger account.

Are there any drawbacks to Google Documents and Spreadsheets? Well, obviously it doesn't have nearly as many formatting features as a word processor like Word. Also, as it's web-based, if you lose your Internet connection, you won't be able to access any documents stored on it. For this reason, I highly recommend that if working on your great novel, you save a copy on your own PC as well. Personally I tend to use Google Docs mainly for short documents such as blog posts, articles, outlines, notes, email newsletters, and so on. It has largely replaced the text editor I previously used for many of these purposes.

I don't know much about Google Spreadsheets, as I haven't yet had occasion to use this facility. If you regularly use spreadsheets, however, most of the above advantages will also apply.

To get a Google Documents and Spreadsheets account, click on any of the links in this post (or click here) to go to the homepage. If you click on Take a Tour of Google Docs and Spreadsheets, this will give you an overview of all the features on offer, including some I haven't mentioned. If you already have a Google Account, you can sign in from the homepage and get started straight away. If not, it is easy (and free) to apply for one - just click on Create a New Google Account on the far right of the screen. You can use your Google Account to access other free services such as Google Calendar as well.

You should find Google Documents and Spreadsheets quite easy and intuitive to use, but if you get stuck at any point, click on Help at the top right of the screen to access the extensive Help files.

Happy (Google) writing!

Labels: ,


Thursday, June 07, 2007

AGLOCO Viewbar Now Available

A few weeks ago in this blog I mentioned a new sideline opportunity called AGLOCO. AGLOCO were offering people the opportunity to get paid for having low-key adverts displayed in a viewbar at the bottom (or top) of their screen any time they were browsing the Internet.

Well, it's taken a little longer than expected, but at last the AGLOGO viewbar has been released. I received an email from the company this morning with full download instructions. I've saved it on this Google Documents page if you wish to read it.

I followed the instructions and downloaded the viewbar without any difficulty. Here's a screengrab showing how it looks on my PC (click on the image to see a larger version). The viewbar is down at the foot of the screen, just above the Windows XP taskbar. I think you'll agree it's not too intrusive.

Adverts aren't yet being served (to me, anyway), but AGLOCO assure me I am already starting to earn hours. The ads will appear in the main area of the viewbar, to the left. There is also a search box, allowing you to search using Google or a range of other search engines, whatever page you may be on. The 'gear' icon on the far right gives access to your Internet Explorer and Firefox Favorites lists, as well as tools such as Calculator and Calendar. Finally, the down arrow lets you minimise the viewbar so that it no longer appears on your screen. Of course, with the viewbar minimised, you won't get credited by AGLOCO for your browsing.

Overall then, everything seems to be going well. The maximum you can currently be credited for by AGLOCO is 5 hours a month, which certainly won't be a problem for me (I'll do that in a day or two!).

If you've already joined AGLOCO and received their email, I recommend you go and download the viewbar as soon as possible - the quicker you have it, the quicker you'll start earning! If you've not received the email, it's still worth logging in to your AGLOCO account and seeing if a link to download the viewbar is available. Read the email I saved here for full instructions. If there is no download link visible when you log in, it just means you will need to wait a little longer to get your viewbar.

Finally, if you haven't yet joined AGLOCO and you're looking for a painless, cost-free way to earn a sideline income, do read my original post and click through one of the links in it, or click here to go directly to the AGLOCO application page. Even better, join The Marketing Pond and join AGLOCO through this - AGLOCO is one of the top programs they recommend. Here is a link to my original post about The Marketing Pond.

Happy browsing!

Labels: , ,


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Free Stationery Offer

Thought you might be interested to know that the Internet printing company Vistaprint is running a range of free offers in the month of June. The products on offer include:

* 250 Free Business cards - 42 designs to choose from, with a glossy finish included

* 140 Return Address Labels - a great time saver, easy and convenient to use

* Rubber Stamps - high-quality, self-inking stamps

* Note Pads - full colour, as in the illustration above

* Letterheads - great for creating a professional look for letters, quotes, and so on

* Folded note cards - ideal for short messages for family, friends or colleagues

For this month only, you can order any of these products free via the Vistaprint website - all you will pay is a small sum for post and packing. Vistaprint are doing this as a way of introducing new clients to their services.

This particular offer applies to UK customers only. However, Vistaprint has branches across the world, including the USA, France, Australia, etc. Just click through to the homepage, then scroll down to the bottom of the screen, where you will find links to the other national Vistaprint sites. You can then check what other offers may be available in your own country.

I regularly use Vistaprint for my own stationery needs, and last Christmas took advantage of their service to get some personalised Christmas cards printed! I have found them quick and reliable, and generally excellent value for money. You do just need to watch out for the optional extras, as if you accept all of these it can push the price up considerably.



Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ten Quite Interesting Things About This Blog

Here are a few things about My Writing Blog you might be interested to know...

1. The blog was started in November 2005, since when it has been visited around 22,000 times. This will be the 194th post I have made on it.

2. The largest number of visitors (38%) come from the United States. After that comes the UK with 34%. The country with the next highest visitor numbers is Australia, with 4%.

3. You can subscribe to My Writing Blog by entering your email address in the box near the top of the screen. All my posts will then be sent to you by email as soon as I make them. As of today, 242 people subscribe by this means.

4. If you use an RSS feed reader such as Google Reader, you can also subscribe to my blog using the links in the right-hand column. Using a feed reader removes the risk of emails being blocked by an over-zealous spam filter.

5. Comments are welcome on any of my posts. Just click on the 'comments' link at the foot of each post and enter whatever you wish to say in the pop-up box that appears. You can log in with your Blogger/Google account if you wish, but anonymous comments are also allowed.

6. You are also welcome to include a link to your own website in your comments. If you want the link to be clickable, it will need to be written in HTML. Note that all comments, especially those with active links in them, must be relevant in some way to the post concerned.

7. There is now a large amount of content on my blog. If you wish to search for a particular keyword or phrase, one method is to go to and enter your chosen search term followed by the phrase Any posts from my blog (and only my blog) that meet your search requirements will then be displayed.

8. If you have a Squidoo site, as discussed a little while ago in this post, you can enter the RSS or Atom Feed URL in Squidoo's RSS module, to have the most recent posts from my blog displayed on your site. This is very cool ;-)

9. Since the start of 2007, all posts on this blog have had labels. You will see these at the foot of each post. Click on any label (e.g. blogging ) and all the posts which have that label attached to them will be displayed.

10. Finally, if you think a certain post would be of interest to a friend or relative who isn't already a subscriber, you can email it to them by clicking on the 'email post' icon at the foot of the post concerned. A new window will open allowing you to enter your friend's email address and a covering note, e.g. 'Thought you might be interested to see this'. Click on Send Email, and away it will go. This is another very cool feature!



Monday, June 04, 2007

24-Hour Short Story Contest

If you enjoy writing short stories, here's a contest with a difference that may interest you.

The contest is run by the freelance writing ezine Writers Weekly. The difference (compared with most such contests) is that the topic will not be made known to writers until 24 hours before the deadline. In other words, once you know the topic required, you will then have just 24 hours to write and submit your story.

There are a lot of things I like about this contest. One is that it is limited to just 500 entries (once that figure has been reached, no further pre-registrations will be accepted). In addition, there are over 85 prizes, so you really do have a decent chance of winning something. And finally, the entry fee is a modest $5 (about 2.50 UK pounds), and anyone in the world is welcome to enter.

As with the contest theme, the word count will not be revealed until 24 hours before the deadline. The organisers say that this is to stop people writing their story in advance, then just making a few minor changes to incorporate the set topic.

The start time for the next quarterly contest is 28 July 2007 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) Central Time. If you fancy a writing challenge - and know you will have some time available on 28/29 July! - in my view it's well worth checking out this contest. Don't forget, though, to scroll down the contest information page to read the FAQs and tips for entrants.

Labels: , ,


Friday, June 01, 2007

Bernard Cornwell Interview on WritersFM

As mentioned recently on this blog, Bernard Cornwell is the latest big-name writer to be interviewed on WritersFM, WCCL's Internet radio station for writers.

Bernard is a prolific and popular British historical novelist. His best-known books feature the adventures of Richard Sharpe, an English soldier, and are set in the Napoleonic era. Many of the books were filmed for a TV series starring Sean Bean as Sharpe, produced by Central Independent Television for the ITV network. Other series written by Bernard Cornwell include 'The Starbuck Chronicles', set during the American Civil War, and his latest series 'The Saxon Stories', set in 9th century England.

The WritersFM Interview with Bernard was conducted by Karl Moore as usual, via the phone to Bernard at his home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The interview runs to about an hour and is entertaining as well as being informative (it's actually the first WritersFM interview where I've laughed out loud in several places!).

Fans of Bernard Cornwell's books will particularly enjoy listening. Historical fiction isn't really my thing, but I was still fascinated as he talked about how he wrote his first novel. I won't spoil the story here, but it begins in the least likely way imaginable, with an American travel agents' trip to Northern Ireland. Bernard's story contains coincidences and strokes of fate (I won't say luck, because Bernard clearly grasped the opportunities fate threw at him) so amazing that if you read them in a book you would dismiss them as utterly implausible - yet in Bernard's case they actually happened. The story of how he met his agent is pretty amazing too, and reveals the importance to a writer of being persistent!

You can either wait for Bernard's interview to be broadcast on the station's normal rotation, download it as a podcast, or (probably the easiest option) stream it from the Podcasts page. And if you'd like to find out more about Bernard, check out his web page at - not, as you'll hear explained in the interview, .com!

Labels: , ,