Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Last Chance Today!

It's the end of January, so I thought I'd just remind you that the opportunity to take advantage of my two great special offers on writing software ends today.

My first offer is on WCCL's brand new "Write a Movie in a Month" course. This is the top-selling CD course that has been making waves across the whole screenwriting community.

Regular readers will know I'm a big fan of this course, which has inspired me to write my first ever full-length screenplay. And to encourage you to buy via one of my links, I'm giving away the following as extra special bonuses: (1) my original report on how to make big money selling movie ideas, (2) my mini-report on how to write a movie treatment, and (3) my recommendation for a program you can try out for FREE which will help you outline your script and "automatically" produce a treatment for you. Not only that, I'm also throwing in a free, downloadable copy of my Short Story Acumen tutorial. Here's a link to my review of Write a Movie in a Month, along with details of my special offer and how to claim your free bonuses from me. Please remember - this offer MUST end today!

Secondly, my unique 25% discount on WhiteSmoke's writing software also ends today. As I've noted before, this is the biggest discount WhiteSmoke have ever given and there is no knowing when (or if) it will be repeated. So again, if you want to buy this popular software, which corrects errors in your writing and suggests ways in which it can be improved, see my review of WhiteSmoke for further details.

Happy writing!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

(Almost) Free QuarkXPress!

Many jobs in publishing require familiarity with the desktop publishing program QuarkXPress. This normally costs hundreds of pounds to buy, so I thought some readers might like to know that in the UK version 5 of the software is being given away free on the cover disk of March's PC Pro magazine. The cost of this is just 3.99 UKP with the CD version of the cover disk, 4.99 UKP with the DVD-ROM (Quark is included on both).

This is an earlier version of the program (they are now up to QuarkXPress 7), but it is full and unrestricted, not a demo or shareware version. If you want to try out the program and gain some experience using it (so you can add it your CV/resume?), in my view it's well worth paying the modest cost of the magazine.

I'm sorry non-UK readers may be unable to get hold of PC Pro. However, it's always worth checking the cover CDs/DVDs on computer magazines to see if this or other useful software is being given away in your country as well.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

The OED Needs Your Help!

The Oxford English Dictionary is enlisting the public to help them trace 40 well-known words and phrases. All of them are currently in the dictionary with a date of the earliest evidence of usage, but the OED's researchers want to know if anyone can do any better.

The results will feature in a new series of the BBC2 TV show 'Balderdash and Piffle', presented by Victoria Coren. Last year members of the public came up with evidence to update the history of words including ploughman's lunch, the 99 ice-cream, and the full monty. John Simpson, the OED's chief editor, said: 'Wordhunters made some remarkable discoveries in the last series. They found wordhunt words tucked away in football fanzines, LPs, school newspapers - just the sort of sources we can't easily get our hands on.'

The 40 words for which help is being sought this time include some whose origin is still unknown or uncertain, including shaggy dog story, loo, bonkers, Bloody Mary, take the mickey, bung and spiv. The dictionary is also hoping for more information on mucky pup, sick puppy, glamour model, hoodie, shell-suit, stiletto, marital aid, pole dance, and one sandwich short of a picnic. They emphasise that they are seeking documentary evidence for the use of these words and expressions: 'I remember my granny saying...' wouldn't be good enough. More information can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/balderdash.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Reviews from Rob

I was pleased to hear from British freelance journalist Rob Hyde in response to my recent post Join My Marketing Team. Rob took up my challenge and has reviewed both of my writing courses published by WCCL on his website. Thanks a lot, Rob!

You can read the reviews of Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing by clicking on the respective titles in this post. Overall, as you'll see, Rob has given a fair and balanced review of both courses, and I would not quibble with any of his comments (which are, on the whole, very positive).

I would just mention, however, that I have recently updated Quick Cash Writing and completely changed the section on using a pen-name that Rob criticises in his review. Everything is now fully up to date again, and ready for writers who want to earn "quick cash" from their words in 2007!

Incidentally, Rob spends a lot of his time in Germany, and he also has a blog called Brit in Germany which, as he memorably puts it, takes you "beneath the Lederhosen". The blog includes Rob's observations on life in Germany from a British perspective, and makes an entertaining and thought-provoking read.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

More About About.com

My post a few days ago about vacancies for Guides with the About.com network has attracted a lot of interest. So I just wanted to mention that a former About.com guide has recently registered at Mywriterscircle.com and has offered to answer any questions would-be Guides might have.

If you click on this link, it will take you straight to the relevant topic on the forum. If you wish you can contact Pat privately using the forum's Personal Messaging system, but personally I would prefer to see questions asked and answered on the forum itself, so we can all read and learn from them.

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City Bonuses Time for UK Writers

If you're a UK author with at least one published book and you're registered for PLR, you should have received your annual statement by now, with payment due in the first week of February. (It's one of the little ironies of the system that while you receive your statement in January, you don't get your hands on the cash till a few days after the 31 January deadline for paying your self-employed tax bill).

For those who don't know, PLR stands for Public Lending Right. It is a payment made to UK authors out of central funding to compensate them every time one of their books is borrowed from a public library. I recently saw the payments described as City bonuses for writers - though there isn't really much comparison, as the most an author is allowed to receive is 6,600 pounds (about $12,000 US), compared with the millions earned in bonuses by top traders. Most authors, naturally, get far less than the 6,600 pounds maximum.

Even so, if you're a UK author with at least one full-length book to your name, you should certainly register with the PLR office to claim what's due to you. The PLR website is at www.plr.uk.com, and you can apply online if you wish.

While you're about it, too, don't forget to register with ALCS (the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society). ALCS pays money to UK authors for a range of things, most notably when their books are photocopied. They also distribute fees paid by other countries in respect of library lending, photocopying and so in in the countries concerned. The ALCS site is at www.alcs.co.uk.

This year I'm getting about 500 pounds from PLR and a further 150 pounds (estimated figure) from ALCS. This is money in addition to the royalties I get from book sales, and though it's not a huge sum, it comes in very handy at this (expensive) time of year.

Non-UK nationals cannot claim from either of these bodies, but many other countries (though not the USA as far as I know) have similar schemes in place to compensate writers for library lending and so on.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Deadline 31 January...

A number of writing-related deadlines are coming up at the end of this month. It's only a week away, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to review them.

Firstly, if you want to take up my special offer for buyers of WCCL's new "Write a Movie in a Month" course, this will be closing at the end of January. In particular, I have been told I MUST stop giving away my Short Story Acumen tutorial to people buying the Movie course via one of my links.

So if you want to get your hands on this ground-breaking CD course, plus my two free reports, plus my software recommendation, plus a copy of my Short Story Acumen tutorial, you have just a week to place your order. Here's a link to my review of Write a Movie in a Month, along with details of my special offer and how to claim your free bonuses. If your ambition is to write for the movies, I guarantee it's the best offer you'll see all year!

Secondly, WhiteSmoke have told me that the 25% special discount on all their writing software must also end this month. This is the biggest discount WhiteSmoke have ever given and there is no knowing when (or if) it will be repeated. So again, if you want to buy this popular software, which corrects errors in your writing and suggests ways in which it can be improved, see my review of WhiteSmoke for further details.

There are also a few anthologies and other opportunities that are closing their doors at the end of January. Here are some details, along with links to the relevant items on my forum:

Erotic Short Stories
This e-publishing company is seeking erotic short stories of 12,000 to 15,000 words for publication in electronic and print form. Payment is by royalties on sales.

Literary Appraisers Wanted
Experienced writers and writing teachers are required to provide professional appraisals of work by new writers. You probably need to be UK-based for this.

Short Story Anthology
This new publishing house is seeking contributions of short stories in any genre.

As mentioned above, the deadline for all of these is 31 January 2007. Good luck!

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Short Story Writing Course in Ireland

If you're an aspiring short story writer, you may be interested in this. Brian Richmond, a long-time subscriber to my newsletter and blog, has asked me to pass on some information about a short story writing weekend he is running from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 March 2007 in beautiful County Donegal in the north-west of Ireland. Brian says:
It will be held in the Malin Hotel, situated in a pretty village on the way to Malin Head, the most northerly point in Ireland. The scenery around here is beautiful. We have long, deserted beaches; hills that are perfect for walking; standing stones; ruined castles and, of course, friendly pubs.
It's easily accessible by air; if you fly to City of Derry airport you can be in Malin in less than an hour.

The course will cost EUR 260.00. That includes 2 nights B&B, supper on Friday night; lunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday Lunch on the last day. Further info and bookings are at www.malinhotel.ie

Brian also sent me the following Course Information Sheet:
After years of saying he'd be a writer someday, Brian Richmond wrote and submitted his first short story to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 2004. It sold. So did his next one. Since that time, his short fiction has appeared in everything from 'Bullet, the magazine of rock'n'roll noir,' to 'My Weekly.' Next year, he has 2 stories appearing in the anthologies 'Next Stop Hollywood: 15 stories that ought to be movies' in the US and in 'Read by Dawn' in the UK.

The course: Writing Stories That Sell.

This residential course is aimed at the aspiring professional, the person who wants to place their work in paying markets. Using 3 of Brian's stories in different genres that have sold to different publications, it will help give writers practical advice on preparing their work for print. It will comprise 4 sessions:
Friday evening: informal get together; course outline.
Saturday morning: 'The Good Kid.' Anatomy of a sale; choosing markets; what editors want; extending the life of a story.
Saturday afternoon: 'Like Snow.' Placing more experimental fiction; matching the material to the market; one voice or many?
Sunday morning: 'Worried about Marge.' Writing to order; what do women want?; literary ventriloquism versus the individual voice.

Additionally, the course will allow time to meet your fellow writers, compare experiences and make contacts, all in the relaxing surroundings of scenic and inspirational County Donegal.

If you can find the time (and the money), it sounds like an idyllic opportunity to immerse yourself in short-story writing, and make some new friends (and useful contacts) as well. If you have any further queries, you can email Brian at brian-richmond-at-utvinternet.com (change the -at- for the usual @ symbol).

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Monday, January 22, 2007

My Concrete Poetry Challenge

I'm looking for an example of concrete poetry for an e-book I'm currently writing, and it occurred to me that this would be a good opportunity to set a challenge for readers of this blog and members of my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com.

For those who don't know, concrete poetry is a term used to describe poems in which the shape of the poem and the way the words are arranged on the page contributes to the overall effect. If you're unsure what I mean, a quick search for "concrete poetry" on Google should turn up plenty of info (and examples) for you.

The e-book will be aimed at teachers, and I'm looking for something fairly straightforward. Humour would be a bonus, but isn't essential. Basically, what I want is a good example of concrete poetry so that teachers understand what it is and can perhaps use the poem as an example for their pupils. It should also be something I can reproduce without too much difficulty in e-book format. Obviously, all entrants will retain the copyright in their poems.

The winning poem will be used in the e-book (which I'm co-writing with the poet Simon Pitt) and full credit will be given to the author, including a link to their website if they have one. And, naturally, the winner will receive a free copy of the finished e-book as well.

The deadline is next Friday, 26 January, at 12 noon GMT. For more info, see this topic on my forum:

www.mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=7160.0.

The above is also the place to post your entry. Note that to enter the challenge you will need to be a registered member of the forum and logged in, but registering is free and takes only a few moments.

Incidentally, even if you're not interested in contributing a poem, I recommend clicking on the above link to view the amazing entries that have been submitted already. There are some great examples in the shape of a ship, a human being, and a beach hut. I'm starting to think maybe I should also publish a separate anthology of concrete poetry!

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Could You Be a Guide?

Recently I've been updating my Quick Cash Writing course, and I happened to notice that the giant About.com website has a lot of vacancies for Guides right now.

About.com Guides take responsibility for a particular content area. Guides are expected to build up 'their' sites by sourcing (and writing) articles, adding links, hosting web-based discussions, and so on.

Payment is based on the advertising revenue generated by your site, but as long as you fulfil the company's requirements there are certain minimum guarantees. Maximum earnings are unlimited, based on a percentage of advertising turnover. The average time commitment is 10 to 20 hours per week. Good writing skills are required, along with knowledge of your chosen subject area, but training in the necessary technical skills is provided. Here is just a selection of topics for which About.com is currently looking for Guides:
Alzheimer's Disease
All-terrain Vehicles
Animal Rights
Arrhythmias
Astrology
Bicycling
Biotech/Biomedical
Bladder Cancer
Bowling
Buddhism
Charlotte, NC
Chicago
China Online
Classic Movies
Contraception
Customizing Cars

And that's just the A to C's!

Anyone can apply to be a Guide. Qualified applicants with proven expertise in a topic are accepted into Prep, which is a 17 day-long self-guided online training program. During Prep, prospective Guides become familiar with About.com's tools and demonstrate their knowledge by building sample sites. Experienced editors evaluate these sample sites and choose the most qualified applicant for the topic concerned.

If I was just starting out as a freelance writer, I would definitely want to look in to the About.com opportunity. It's a good chance to earn a steady income from researching and writing about a subject that interests you. In addition you'll immediately get a high profile in that subject on the web, and you'll learn some useful technical skills too. For full details, visit http://beaguide.about.com.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Opportunities for Self-Publishers

At one time self-publishing was seen as the last resort for people eager to be published but unable to find a conventional publisher to take them on.

In recent years all that has changed, however. The latest technology has made it feasible for any author to publish his or her book cheaply and easily, and with complete control over the finished product. A growing number of authors are now eschewing the traditional route and opting to publish and market their work independently.

I mention this today because a member of www.mywriterscircle.com, Nadine L, has just posted an item about a new opportunity for self-publishers. I've copied part of her post on the Writers Wanted board below:
Wanted 200 indie authors!!! During 2006 I have been a test subject for Jerry Simmons. He is an expert in selling books for NY publishers. Mr. Simmons and a group of talented people are looking for a way to increase indie book sales. Obviously, that rings a bell with all indie authors.

Jerry Simmons is at the point in his project where he needs 200 indie authors (self-published or POD) to test his program before it goes public. Participation is free.

An informational email will go out to everyone who signs up to be in the 200 test group. For now, I can tell you there is no fee to authors to be in the program or in the test group; it is international; all of your titles are welcome, no limit (except illegal books, porn, etc); in this program, indie books will not be competing with traditionally published books; the goal is to sell books to readers (not to sell a program to authors).

Click here to see the full topic, including details of how you can get involved. Obviously, I can't guarantee that anyone will make a fortune out of Mr Simmons' program, but if you've been considering self-publishing anyway, this looks like a no-risk opportunity to find out more.

Finally, I should mention that my publishers, WCCL, have recently released a comprehensive guide to self-publishing called Self-Publishing Secrets. I will try to publish a full review of this soon, but for now you can read all about it by clicking on the link above.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Should Writing Always Be Fun?

I saw an interesting item on British author Susan Hill's blog recently. Here's an extract from it:
I have just been browsing about some of the aspiring writer's blogs, creative writing websites. And in among all manner of different comments and counter-comments, confessions and questions and answers and pieces of advice, one thing struck me and this was how painful the whole thing seemed to be. How much angst, anguish, worry, striving, fear of failure, self-flagellation and goodness knows what else which indicated that almost none of these people are ENJOYING WRITING. Now if I had not enjoyed writing, from the age of 5, if I had not always and everywhere found it huge fun, stimulating, interesting, exciting, entertaining and surprising, I would have gone off years ago and done something else.
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I can see where Susan is coming from, but I can't say I agree with her. For me, the main fun of writing comes from rewriting. Getting the first draft of a book written can be a nerve-racking experience, even following the five-step process set out in my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. Once I have that under my belt, however, I feel that I can start to relax and enjoy polishing my work and bringing it up to a publishable standard. For me, anyway, this is where the real satisfaction in writing lies. OK, and seeing your published book in the bookshop, and collecting your royalty payments, isn't bad either!

So I just wanted to say - if you find writing first drafts hard, don't worry - you're not alone! And it certainly doesn't mean you should give up writing. We're all different, and we all get different things out of our writing. Maybe you're like Susan and really enjoy getting your first drafts written; or maybe you're more like me, and your real satisfaction comes from polishing and revision. Either way, you CAN succeed as a writer, and get a lot of rewards (both personal and financial) from doing so.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sell Your Photos on the Internet

Many writers enjoy taking photographs as well - and there is no doubt that modern digital cameras have made the task of taking good photos a lot easier.

If that applies to you, did you know that you may be able to sell your best photos separately via the Internet? ShutterPoint at www.shutterpoint.com is a leading website in this field.

Any photographer is welcome to join ShutterPoint for a modest membership fee ($12 for six months). You can then upload your pictures to the site for would-be buyers to browse. You set your own fee for each photograph, and when a buyer purchases you get 85% of the sale amount. ShutterPoint claim that this is the highest rate on the Internet - other websites typically charge 50% commission, compared with the modest 15% taken by ShutterPoint.

You don't have to be a professional photographer to join ShutterPoint (though many members are), but you should have at least a basic knowledge of photographic principles. ShutterPoint helpfully provide a quiz where you can test your knowledge of photography and see whether this is enough to indicate that you could benefit by becoming a member. There is no minimum pass mark - the test is simply provided for guidance.

I'm no expert in photography, but I took the test myself and got 10/13. The website told me: "Your results are very good. With this level of basic photography knowledge, it is no doubt that you can make very good photos that can deserve attention of photo buyers. While there is still some room to improve your skills, you are definitely well qualified to become a member of ShutterPoint."

Fair enough. I've signed up as a member and will be uploading some of my best photos soon. I'll let you know in due course how I get on!

Note: This post was sponsored by PayPerPost.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Randy Ingermanson Interview on WritersFM

The latest interview on WCCL's free online radio station WritersFM is with US author Randy Ingermanson. Randy describes himself as a physicist, novelist, speaker and "all-round troublemaker". He and WritersFM host Karl hit it off famously, and the interview ends up running a full 80 minutes as a result! It's a great listen, with lots of insights into Randy's writing methods. In particular, you will learn about the "Snowflake Method" Randy uses for building his novels, and find out how writing non-fiction books provided him with the opportunity to move into fiction.

Incidentally, one other attraction of this interview is that musical interludes are provided by Mywriterscircle.com moderator Carrie Sheppard and her band. I'm no musical expert, but I'd describe their sound as folk-rock. Anyway, it makes a great counterpoint to the interview!

If you haven't tuned in to WritersFM for a while (or ever) you may be surprised by the number of interviews now on the station. As well as Randy Ingermanson, you can listen to former British health minister Edwina Currie, copywriting guru Joe Vitale, biographer Lucinda Hawksley, first-time novelist Jeff Phelps, and many more (including yours truly). 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 karl-at-myhelphub.com (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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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Review: How to Make Money With Blogs

A topic that crops up regularly at my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com is how writers can make money from blogging. And obviously, as a blogger myself, it's a topic I'm always happy to read about! So I was very interested to receive a review copy of this brand new guide from Codrut Turcanu.

The main component of How to Make Money With Blogs is a 59-minute audio interview with Scott Paton, an internationally renowned expert on blogging and related matters. The interview is conducted by Heather Vale, Codrut Turcanu's business partner. It covers a wide range of topics related to setting up a blog and making money from it. The interview is provided as an MP3 audio file, and there is also a 29-page transcript in PDF format.

The interview is chatty and informative. Some of the topics it covers include where to host your blog for free, how often you should post to it, how to build your visitor numbers, and (of course) how to generate income from blogging. Lots of useful websites are referred to, and in the transcript there are hyperlinks to take you directly to the sites concerned. One slight drawback is that, being the transcript of an interview, there aren't any illustrations to bring the examples discussed to life. For this reason, I think the guide would be most useful to someone who already has some basic familiarity with blogging rather than a complete beginner.

On the positive side, there are lots of useful hints and tips here for getting the most from your blogs. Some of these ideas I have already put into practice myself, and am seeing a handy boost to my income as a result.

As well as the main guide, buyers of How to Make Money With Blogs also get four free gifts. These are: (1) a short report "How And Where To Sell Your Blogs For Six Times Their Worth"; (2) "Blogging Checklist", a seven-step list that details the exact steps you need to take to generate long-lasting profits from your blogs; (3) another short report "10 FREE Places To Get Top-Notch Content For Your Blog At No Cost"; and (4) a free consultation about your blog by e-mail with marketing expert Codrut Turcanu. Mr Turcanu values these bonuses at $410.

Overall I found this package thought-provoking and useful, and I'm happy to recommend it to any blogger hoping to boost his or her income. Codrut also has an affiliate program, so I thought I'd offer my own extra bonuses to anyone buying it via my link. First of all, you'll get my mini-report on how to get paid for blogging. That's right, there are companies that will pay you real money for mentioning their products or services on your blog, and in this report I'll tell you all about them. Plus I'll reveal how you can obtain a FREE tool that can help generate an avalanche of traffic to your blog, whatever its subject.

To get your hands on my bonus items, just click on any of the links to How to Make Money With Blogs in this review and order the pack, then forward your email sales receipt to me at e-writer-at-nickdaws.co.uk (change the -at- to the usual @ symbol). Give your email the title BONUS CLAIM. I will check your order details and send you download information for my free bonuses, normally within 24 hours.

Happy blogging!

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Get my Blog by Email!

If you enjoy reading my regular posts on this blog, you might like to know that you can now subscribe by email. All you need to do is enter your email address in the box near the top of the page and click on 'Subscribe'.

The service is provided by Google Groups. Obviously you can unsubscribe any time you wish (though why would you?!). You can also opt to have the whole of every post emailed to you, or just a summary. Naturally, your email address will not be used for any purpose other than sending you posts from my blog.

This is a great way to keep up to date with the news and info about writing I publish in my blog, some of which is time sensitive. By subscribing you can ensure you never end up kicking yourself for seeing something on the blog too late to take advantage of it!

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Free Photocopying Software

Thought some of you might be interested in this free photocopier program I discovered the other day. It's called Photocopier (original, I know), and it's from Nico Cuppen Software. You can download it via Nico's site, or via the shareware site Tucows.com.

Photocopier is designed for anyone who has a printer and a scanner connected to their PC, and wants a quick and easy way to use them to copy printed documents. Most scanners come with software that will do this, but often it is complicated and time-consuming to use. In my own case, when I upgraded to a new PC I wasn't able to use the software supplied with my scanner when I bought it (a few years ago), as it wasn't compatible with my new computer.

Photocopier is quick and easy to download. Once it's installed on your PC you start it in the normal way and a control panel pops up on your screen. This looks like the controls of a real photocopier, so you can change the number of copies, adjust the brightness, and so on. When you're happy with the settings, click on Start. The software automatically detects your scanner and printer, and produces a good quality photocopy in seconds.

I've looked for similar software in the past but never found anything that works as efficiently as this little program. I should add that there are no strings or hidden costs, and the program doesn't install any sneaky spyware or adware (as happened with a similar "free" program I downloaded a while ago). I don't get any fee for recommending it. I just happen to think it's a very nice piece of free software if, like me, you require a tool such as this.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Review: WhiteSmoke Writing Software

Recently the good folk at WhiteSmoke sent me a copy of their writing software to evaluate. So here's my review of this popular tool for writers...

For those who don't know, 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. WhiteSmoke is compatible with Microsoft Windows ME, Windows2000, Windows XP and Windows Vista. It will work in almost any text-based application, including word processors, email programs, web-based forms, and so on.

Once WhiteSmoke is installed on your PC, you use it as follows. First, you create your text in your chosen application (e.g. Microsoft Word). Select the text you want to analyze by highlighting it in the normal way, then press the WhiteSmoke shortcut key. This is set by default to F2, though you can change it if you like. In Word a separate "Enrichment" button is created on the toolbar, and you can click on this as an alternative to pressing the shortcut key.

WhiteSmoke will then open in a new window, with your selected text in a box in the middle. Spelling mistakes are highlighted in red and grammar mistakes in green. When you move the cursor over any item, suggested corrections (a range of them) appear in a box at the foot of the screen. You can accept or reject any correction just by clicking on it.

Perhaps the most interesting feature for writers, however, is the enrichment function. The WhiteSmoke software analyzes your writing and looks for ways it could be improved, e.g. by using an alternate word or phrase (thesaurus function), or by adding extra words. All candidates for enrichment are highlighted in blue in the WhiteSmoke window, and suggested additions and alternatives are shown in the boxes below. Again, you are at liberty to accept or reject any change. Once you have gone through all the program's suggestions, just save the changes and close WhiteSmoke, and the corrected and "enriched" version will automatically appear in the original application.

Overall, I was impressed with how easy WhiteSmoke was to use, and its effectiveness. Obviously Word does have its own spelling and grammar checkers, but WhiteSmoke's appear to work better. This is especially so with the grammar checker, which is far more user-friendly than Word's. The "Enrichment" function is particularly good for revealing ways in which text can be improved. Obviously not all the changes the software suggests will be appropriate, but simply seeing the suggested alternatives can jolt you out of using the same old words and expressions, and give your writing a new, fresher feel.

The version of WhiteSmoke I evaluated was the standard one, which is really aimed at business users. It would still be useful for writers, but WhiteSmoke also offer a version of the software specially tailored for use by creative writers. If you're a novelist or short story writer, this would probably be the version to go for. It has a larger vocabulary than the standard version, and is less likely to suggest inserting business-related terms such as inventory and turnover into your sensitive description of a woodland sunset...

Are there any drawbacks to WhiteSmoke? Well, a possible one for some users is that you need to have an Internet connection open while you are using it. WhiteSmoke say this is because the program's database is constantly updated via the web. For most users this is unlikely to present problems, but if you regularly use your computer off-line, it might be a bit frustrating.

WhiteSmoke is probably ideally suited for writers who are buzzing with ideas but know that they have a few shortcomings in grammar, punctuation, and so on. Even if you're reasonably confident in these areas, however, WhiteSmoke can give you a fresh perspective, and suggestions for improving passages of text you may have become "bogged down" on.

For more information about WhiteSmoke, click on any of the links in this article to visit their sales site. Watch out for their regular special offers!

Please note: My review of the latest WhiteSmoke 2011 version can be viewed here.

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An Interview with Karl Moore

I thought you might be interested to hear that an interview with Karl Moore has just appeared on Aneeta Sundararaj's site How to Tell a Great Story.

For those who don't know, Karl is the CEO of White Cliff Computing Limited, who via their Internet publishing arm WCCL publish my writing courses Write Any Book in Under 28 Days and Quick Cash Writing. But he is also a highly successful author in his own right.

In Aneeta's interview, you'll find out how Karl got started as a writer, when he does his best work, and his top tips for writers. It's a quick but informative (and entertaining) read. Incidentally, Karl also has his own blog at www.karlblog.com, and I highly recommend visiting this as well.

Finally, for those who are interested, Aneeta also interviewed me a while ago for her website. You can read the transcript by clicking here.

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Join My Marketing Team!

If you have a website and/or a blog, did you know that you can earn yourself a sideline income helping to promote my courses including The Wealthy Writer, Quick Cash Writing and Write Any Book in Under 28 Days? Not to mention the huge range of other courses and products sold by my publishers, WCCL.

The way you do this is by signing up as an affiliate with WCCL, which you can do on their affiliate sign-up page. Once you are a WCCL affiliate you can promote any of their products, and will receive a commission of up to 40% for each item sold to someone who arrives at the sales page via your link. Commission is paid by Paypal a month after the sale has been made (assuming the buyer has not subsequently requested a refund).

It's very easy to become a WCCL affiliate. You complete the simple application form on the affiliate sign-up page and submit this. Within a short time your application will be checked and (probably) approved. You will then be able to obtain the HTML code for a wide range of banners and text links, all with your affilate code embedded. All you have to do then is copy and paste this code into your web page in the appropriate place/s. Trust me, it's not rocket science!

If you decide to do this, can I offer a few quick hints and tips from my own experience:

1. Just putting a banner on your web page is unlikely to generate many sales. It's much better to put a review of the product in question with your affiliate link at the end, so that people wanting to buy as a result of your recommendation will click through this to the sales page.

2. If you're going to write a review, try to make it reasonably objective. Yes, you want people to click through your link and buy the product, but if your "review" appears to be more of an uncritical hype, some people are likely to be put off. So praise the product's good points, by all means, but if there is anything you dislike, don't be afraid to say so. People will trust your judgement more.

3. Consider offering an extra incentive of your own to secure the sale. For example, you could offer an extra mini-report on a topic not covered in depth in the product you are reviewing, or simply a list of relevant websites. See my review of Write A Movie in a Month for an example of how I have used this technique. Obviously, you will need to ask people to send you a copy of their email sales receipt so that you can send them their bonus after they have bought the product.

Finally, if you sign up to sell one or more of my courses AND publish a review, please do write and let me know (use my Contact Me link). I will then give your review page a mention in my blog, forum and/or email newsletter. This may or may not generate extra sales for you, but it will certainly bring you extra traffic you wouldn't have had otherwise.

Good luck, and welcome to my team!

NEW - WCCL have just announced that henceforth they will be paying affiliates commission on up-sells to customers they have introduced. So if a customer goes on to buy a series of other products as well, you would get a steady stream of affiliate commissions. As far as I know, this makes them pretty much unique among affiliate networks. You certainly won't get THAT from ClickBank!

Sign up to become a WCCL affiliate today here!

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Review: The Speed Reading Secret

The Speed Reading Secret is a new release from my publishers, WCCL. It offers the eye-catching guarantee that it will triple your reading speed within an hour. Failing that, WCCL say, not only will you get your money back, but they will also pay you $100 for your trouble. The course has been prepared by the accelerated-learning expert Dr Michael Masterman.

As with many of WCCL's courses, The Speed Reading Secret is available as an instant download. Once you have placed your order at the website, you will receive an email telling you how to download the course material. This comes as a Zip file containing twelve MP3 files, along with six bonus items in the form of PDFs.

The course itself is a series of twelve audio lessons. Each of these is quite short: the longest (lesson 12) is around eight minutes, whilst most are about four. As per the guarantee, the total duration of the course is just under an hour.

The lessons can be played on your PC or on a separate MP3 player. As most include practical exercises, however, I'd recommend listening on your PC, with a book to practise on near at hand. Your practice book can be anything you like, fiction or non-fiction, but (Dr Masterman says) it should comprise text only. You could listen to the lessons over a period of two or three days, but my advice would be to set aside an hour or so and go through all of them in one sitting.

The lessons are delivered by a gentleman with a laid-back, US accent (Dr Masterman, I assume). They are accompanied by some low-key background music which helps relax you but does not distract from the content. The lessons follow logically one from another, and (as mentioned above) many include short, practical exercises. Time is allowed for these in the audio, so you don't need to keep on stopping and starting the lessons.

The course teaches a simple but effective method for improving your reading speed. I tried it myself, and was amazed by the difference using Dr Masterman's techniques made. I'm quite a fast reader anyway, but using these methods I was able to read extracts from my test book at least twice as fast. And that was, literally, after just an hour spent listening to the course and performing the practice exercises in it.

One thing that surprised me at first was that no written transcript of the lessons is provided. Having worked my way through the audio files, however, I think I can see the reason now. If there was a transcript, it would be very easy just to say to yourself, "I won't bother listening to all these, I'll just read the transcript instead." If you did that, however, you would probably not absorb half as much of the content, and you would most likely skip the practical exercises. Listening to the audio files virtually forces you to do the exercises, and I think you learn much better as a result.

In fact, though, you do get plenty of written material with the course, in the form of the six free bonus items. One of these is an 83-page guide, "How to Improve Reading Speed and Comprehension". This actually covers many of the skills taught in the audio course, and also looks in a little more detail at the important matter of how to avoid sacrificing comprehension in the pursuit of speed. The other bonus items include two speed-reading hypnosis downloads, a guide to improving your memory, and so on.

The full-price of The Speed Reading Secret is $39.95, but watch out for WCCL's regular special discount offers on the website.

If you need to learn to read more swiftly - e.g. for work or college - The Speed Reading Secret should equip you with the skills you require. And you can, of course, keep on playing the lessons and repeating the exercises to boost your reading speed still further.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Crime can pay...

Crime writing, that is! If this is your genre, you might be interested to hear about a new opportunity to break into print. Creme de la Crime is a UK-based independent publishing company specialising in crime and mystery fiction. They are currently running their 'Search 2007' for talented new authors.

They say that at least five part-written novels will be selected by a team of experts from those submitted, and their authors will receive a detailed editorial report. Then at least two will be chosen for publication as part of Creme de la Crime's 2008 list.

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. The work must be unpublished, original and not under offer to any other publisher. The closing date for submissions is 28 February 2007.

For more information about Creme de la Crime's Search 2007, check out their website at http://www.cremedelacrime.com/search.htm. And yes, as far as I can tell this opportunity is open to anyone in the world, not just the UK.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Your New Year Resolution?

A very happy new year to you! I do hope you enjoyed the festive season, and are ready to get down to some serious writing in 2007!

According to a report I saw on the BBC yesterday, the second most popular new year resolution is to write a book (in case you're wondering, the most popular is giving up smoking).

If writing a book is YOUR new year resolution, I wish you every success in achieving your goal. If I may offer one piece of advice, it's to divide the task into a series of stages. Set yourself definite target dates for completing each of the stages and do your utmost to meet them. For example, you could set a deadline of the end of January to plan your book and perform any necessary preliminary research, the end of March to finish the first draft, and the end of May to complete your editing and have the book all ready to go off to a publisher or an agent.

Setting specific targets is important, because without them it's unlikely you'll ever complete a substantial project such as writing a book. Do your best to meet your deadlines, but if you still miss one don't beat yourself up about it. Just redouble your efforts to ensure that you make your next deadline and get back on track again.

Of course, if you'd like a specific method for planning and writing your book in the shortest possible time, you might like to consider ordering a copy of my course Write Any Book in Under 28 Days. This is my original, best-selling CD course published by WCCL. As well as my unique five-step method for blueprinting and outlining any book, fiction or non-fiction, the course is packed with hints and tips based on my experience as an author of over 40 books to date. Click here to read a lengthy extract from the course. You can also read a range of testimonials for the course here.

But whether you decide to invest in my course or not, I'd like to wish you every success in achieving your writing ambitions. Don't forget that you can always get advice, support and feedback on your work free of charge on my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com.

Happy writing!

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