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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Best Writing Apps for Writers


Today's article is by social media and smartphone specialist David Sumner. David looks at some of the best smartphone apps for writers, which aim to ensure that lack of access to a computer need never present any obstacle to your creativity...

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For a writer, inspiration can come at any time. It could be that you've been suffering from writer's block all day and it's only in the middle of the night that you receive that spark of genius and need to put pen to paper - but by the time you get to your writing desk, the thought has gone.

Using writing apps on your smartphone, you will never need to scramble around for pen and paper again when your next brilliant idea comes. In a crowded app market there are various apps that can be used to aid your writing, so let's take a look at some of the very best apps that can help your writing flourish...

Evernote
Before an idea can take flight every writer will have to scribble down note after note. If you haven't got your journal to hand then the Evernote app is the answer. It allows you to collect your thoughts and musings so that you don't lose your spark of genius. If you don't fancy typing out your idea, then with Evernote you can save pictures and voice recordings. All notes can be tagged and found later through the search function. This app is an absolute must-have for any freelance writer, and should form the bed-rock of your smartphone writing career.

Availability: The Evernote app is available for a range of smartphone devices, including Blackberry, iOS and Android, and can be downloaded from the Evernote website itself.
Cost: Free.

Manuscript
An app such as the Manuscript app can be the perfect project management tool for your writing. With an in-built thesaurus and dictionary, along with access to Wikipedia and Google, you can organize, research and develop your text with ease. An easily navigable menu allows you to select, move, re-name and export your work (as a printable HTML or back-up XML file), while existing works can be exported to the app via Google docs. With the pitch and synopsis features, taglines and extensive descriptions can be written for every chapter.

Availability: Not available for Android; available for iOS here through the itunes store.
Cost: $3.99.

Dropbox
The beauty of the Dropbox app is that you can synchronize your writings with clients and colleagues effortlessly. Dropbox will store your work and allow you to access it at any time from your smartphone, laptop or computer. Thus, if you are writing for a client, then simply invite them to your Dropbox folder and they will be able to access your work at every stage of the process. This means that you can adapt your writing to the needs of the client faster than ever before, thus increasing the chance that your final submission is accepted without problems. In addition, Dropbox can act as a handy repository for all kinds of data, including client contact details, thus freeing up memory space on your smartphone itself.

Availability: Dropbox is available for the Blackberry, Android and iOS systems, and can be downloaded directly from the Dropbox website.
Cost: Free.

Swype and Swiftkey
For many writers, the keypad on a smartphone can never replace the sensation of using a full-sized keyboard. Swype is the perfect answer to this problem, as it allows you to write longer pieces of text on your smartphone easily. All you have to do is swipe your finger across the keyboard, making sure to swipe the letters of the desired word. Then, as the app learns what words you use more often, it will ignore all irrelevant letters that your finger also swiped and suggest the desired word automatically with a list of alternatives. The Swiftkey app works to the same principle, but can even suggest entire sentences based purely on your writing style.

Availability: Swype and Swiftkey are available for Android, while Swype is also available for the Symbian OS.
Cost: Swype is free. Swiftkey is free for a one-month trial, and the full version is $1.99.

Awesome Note
So it's another simple note app that allows you to make notes on the go, right? Wrong. Awesome Note is a comprehensive note app that allows you to customize your notes and annotate them with pictures or self-made drawings. If a specific location is crucial to your plot, then with Awesome Note you can take a picture of the location, plot it on Google Maps, and attach it as a note.

Awesome Note has a feature that allows you to create to-do notes, which can be viewed in a calendar format, thus helping to organize your working day. If you want to export your notes then you can easily sync the device via Google Docs, Bluetooth and other apps, such as Evernote. Additionally, you can easily send your notes via text or email to any colleagues or friends to receive instant feedback on your flourishing ideas. The one thing this app is missing, however, is the ability to take and collect voice recordings.

Availability: Only for iOS.
Cost: The latest 5.03 version costs $3.99.

The beauty of smartphone writing apps is that they can support your freelance writing, enabling you to be a truly mobile writer and share your work easily. I hope that I have whetted your appetite for some of these writing apps - so why not check some out today and bring your writing into the 21st century?

Byline: David Sumner is from twago, Europe's largest pan-European platform where freelance writers, programmers, web designers and translators can find work. He is a post-graduate with an interest in how freelancers can use social media and smartphone apps to revolutionize their writing and bring their creativity and inspiration to a wider audience.

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Many thanks to David for an eye-opening article on a subject about which - I admit - I previously knew little.

So do you know of any other good smartphone apps for writers? Please do post any comments or suggestions below!

Photo Credit: William Hook on Flickr.



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Friday, May 27, 2011

Guest Post: Can't Sell? Or Won't Sell?


Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post with a difference - it includes a video as well!

The article is from professional writer and editor Mike O'Neill, otherwise known as Mr Edit. He believes that writers need to work much harder to sell themselves and their writing.

I should mention that the video Mike refers to below is embedded towards the end of the article. If you are receiving this post by email or RSS, you may need to visit my blog to see it.

Take it away, then, Mike...

* * *

Two hundred and seventy two and counting. That's the number of rejections from literary agents and publishers I've collected in ten or twelve years of writing commercial fiction.

This number is, okay, spread over thirteen novels. And it's by no means a record. I've heard of writers who've collected thousands of rejection slips. Some, in fact, seem to be equally interested in establishing a rejection record as in getting a published deal (and I've got my suspicions that one or two serial rejectees, having abandoned all hope, are even subconsciously torpedoing their own query letters, hoping to satisfy their perverse cravings for inverse success).

But that's not you, of course. You want a publishing deal. You want an agent. You want to turn those long hours of keyboard slog into a bona-fide, cash-advanced, signed-in-blood contract offering you a two- or even three-book deal plus that all-important foothold on the rickety ladder to success, both financial and critical.

So far, however, it's just not been forthcoming - which is a mystery, because you know your writing's not bad. Your plots are original (or, at least, a not too unoriginal). Your characters are strong and well defined. Your dialogue is good. You've got a nice, easy-reading style. You've got good hooks, a strong title, an accelerating pace and a satisfying payoff. But those rejection letters are beginning to get on your postman's nerves, and even nailing shut your mailbox flap doesn't stop them coming.

So what's wrong?

Well, part of it is just plain bad luck. When you play literary roulette, the wheel doesn't always turn in your favour - and all you can do about that is stay at the gaming table and keep it spinning.

But overall, I'd suggest that the single BIGGEST problem facing all aspiring commercial authors is an ordinary failure to sell. That's it right there in that four-letter word.

SELL.

For years I made the capital mistake of underestimating this point. I kept churning out query letters and simply went through the motions of following the various submissions guidelines, oblivious to the implied sub-text (that even many agents didn't realise was there).

So okay, somewhere in my head I had the notion that I needed to interest an agent or editor in my work. But I was never really selling. I was merely offering. Submitting. Presenting.

If you're consistently writing what you feel is great, or even acceptable fiction, and after many years still can't get that deal, it might be that you too haven't recognised the importance of marketing.

How you sell yourself and your work isn't that important. The only rule is to clinch that deal. So put down your pen, push away that keyboard, and get some textbooks. Learn the mechanics of marketing. Read up on the importance of creating needs and satisfying those needs. Find out how to seize common ground, how to flatter, how to engage, how to intrigue, how to tempt and - most of all - how to close. Good selling doesn't merely encourage an agent or editor to read your work. Good selling changes the way they respond to it. It sets them up in the right frame of mind.

To help you, I've made a YouTube video (below) which might help stimulate your latent selling instincts (and trust me, those instincts are in there somewhere). The video's not too long and is hardly Cecil B. De Mille, but if nothing else, it will make you see agents and publishers in a new light. So watch. Absorb. Criticise. And remember that selling isn't part of the deal; it's the whole deal.

One final thought: Never give up. Die first.

Mike O'Neill
Mr Edit
www.mr-edit-literary-services.co.uk

* * *

Many thanks to Mike for his contribution. So what do you think? Do you have any tips for writers on how they can sell themselves and their work better? If so, please post them below!

Photo Credit: PinkMoose (Anthony Easton) on Flickr


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Monday, May 23, 2011

"Start Your Own-Home Based Business" Now Available!

Nick-Daws-Home-Based-Business
I'm delighted to reveal that my new (print) book, Start Your Own Home-Based Business, published by Lotus Publishing, is now available from Amazon.co.uk and other good bookstores.

You might remember me mentioning this title before, as I solicited feedback for possible cover designs in this post. I hope you like the version my publishers and I eventually came up with!

Start Your Own Home-Based Business is a comprehensive, practical guide to starting and running a business from home. It provides guidance on every aspect, from assessing your personal suitability to market research, raising finance and bookkeeping to setting prices, and ultimately deciding when (or whether) to expand.

The book is written primarily for a UK readership, but many aspects would be equally relevant worldwide. A chapter list is shown below.

Introduction
1. Why start your own business?
2. Requirements for success
3. The benefits of working from home...
4. ...and a few drawbacks
5. Choosing your business idea
6. Market research
7. Planning permission and Business Rates
8. Types of business organisation
9. Your business name and image
10. Business plan and financial forecasts
11. Raising finance
12. Help from the Post Office
13. Phones and faxes
14. Computers and the Internet
15. Tax, National Insurance and VAT
16. Pricing your services
17. Marketing and selling
18. How to get ‘free’ publicity
19. Book-keeping and accounts
20. Invoicing and credit control
21. Insurance
22. Where to get more help
23. Expanding your home-based business
24. Home-based business profiles
Appendix
Useful Organisations

I should perhaps add that Chapter 24 is a LONG chapter - it includes profiles of over fifty home-based businesses, from babysitting to computer repairs, picture-framing to freelance writing. Each profile includes a brief description of the business and what it entails, and sources to obtain further information.

Still want more? For a limited period, you can download a PDF of the opening chapters of Start Your Own Home-Based Business by clicking on www.nickdaws.co.uk/HBB_sample1-8.pdf. You can also right-click and choose Save Target As or Save Link As to save the file to any folder you want on your PC.

If you hope to join the two million plus people in Britain who are already running a home-based business, whether as a writer or something else, this in-depth book will guide you every step of the way.

Any comments or queries, of course, please do post them below!


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Thursday, May 19, 2011

10 Actions You Can Take to Improve Your Proofreading


Today I'm pleased to bring you another guest post from writer, proofreader and entrepreneur Randall Davidson.

Randall has ten top tips for writers on how they can improve their proofreading skills to create better, more professional-looking documents.

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Correct and efficient proofreading is one of the most crucial elements in producing quality advertisements, business documents and academic papers. Misspellings, poor grammar and/or improper word usage can create a negative impression that may overshadow your desired message. Additionally, these mistakes can reflect poorly on the individual or company responsible for the errors. Here are ten proofreading tips that can produce more professional results.

  1. Divide and conquer. By looking at the document in sections, proofreaders can often catch mistakes that might otherwise go unnoticed when reading a longer paper. Smaller sections can reduce fatigue and allow the proofreader to process the material more effectively while minimizing the chance that an error will be overlooked.
  2. Slow down. Many proofreading errors occur due to haste during the process. No list of proofreading tips would be complete without a recommendation to slow down and read carefully as you proofread.
  3. Sound it out. Reading the document out loud is one of the most beneficial proofreading tips and can help to identify mistakes in word usage and grammar that may not be apparent in the printed form. Additionally, any repeated or missing words are easily identified when the document is read aloud.
  4. Understand the limits. Spell check software can be useful for simple tasks but falls far short of the standards necessary for most business and academic documents. When reputations are on the line, there is no substitute for a deliberate and methodical proofreading process.
  5. Adopt a style. A number of excellent style manuals are available to provide standards and consistency for documents. The Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook are two of the best known, but any professional style manual can provide a uniform basis for proofreading purposes.
  6. Punctuate properly. Overuse of commas and the misuse of colons and semicolons can ruin the professional appearance of any document. Brush up on punctuation rules and apply them consistently for quality proofreading results.
  7. Break it up. Excessively long sentences and paragraphs should be broken into smaller segments for greater clarity. Proofreaders should ensure that splitting run-on sentences or paragraphs does not alter the meaning of the passage.
  8. Form follows function. Be sure that the document's voice is appropriate for the subject matter covered in that document. For example, academic papers should be written in an academic voice rather than a journalistic or informal style. Proofreaders can note significant variations in style for editorial correction.
  9. Summon backup. In many cases, employing multiple proofreaders for the same document can produce better results. Different proofreaders have different strengths and weaknesses, allowing a group of them to spot errors more accurately and comprehensively.
  10. Call in the pros. Professional proofreaders are trained in the elements of style, grammar and spelling that most often present difficulties in commercial and academic documents. As a result, they can produce more accurate and error-free documents.

By carefully integrating these proofreading tips into the proofreading process, companies and individuals can produce higher quality documents. The importance of deliberate, thorough proofreading cannot be overstated in creating a positive impression and delivering your desired message effectively.

Byline: Randall Davidson is a co-founder of ProofreadingServices.Us, an innovative proofreading services company based out of San Francisco, CA. Randall is committed to helping academics, professionals and small business owners operate more efficiently and achieve greater success. He demonstrates this dedication through the informative articles he writes for the ProofreadingServices.Us blog and as a guest blogger, as well as through the high quality professional proofreading services that his company provides.

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Thank you to Randall for another informative article. If you have any comments or questions about proofreading, as ever, please do post them below.

Photo credit: Richard Riley on Flickr.



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Monday, May 16, 2011

100 Stories for Queensland Paperback Book Launch


The paperback version of 100 Stories for Queensland, the charity fundraising anthology I helped edit, is launching tomorrow (Tuesday 17 May).

Copies of the book will be available to order from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (click on the image links below to go to the respective sales pages).




To quote from the book description...

100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND is a collection of flash fiction in aid of the survivors of the 2011 Queensland Floods. 100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND has something for everyone, from slice of life to science fiction, fantasy to romance, paranormal to literary fiction. Heart-warming, quirky, inspiring and funny, the stories between these covers will lift readers to higher ground. Contributors include NY Times Bestselling author Sean Williams, popular authors Anita Heiss, Janet Gover and Sue Moorcroft. Foreword is by Queensland Writers Centre CEO, Kate Eltham.

100 Stories for Queensland is being launched as part of an Amazon Chart Rush. The idea is to encourage as many people as possible to buy the book in the nominated 24-hour period, with the intent to capitalise on volume of sales to move the book up the Amazon bestseller list. The higher up the chart it is - and the aim is to achieve a top 100 spot - the more visible it will be to other readers, who may then go on to purchase it.

As the project co-ordinator, Jodi Cleghorn, says, it’s all about exposure, and the more people who come across 100 Stories for Queensland, the more copies are likely to sell, and the more money will be raised for flood victims. If you can buy it on Tuesday, therefore, this will really help the cause. If you can’t buy on the day, however, you can still add it to your wishlist. Every little bit counts!

As I said in my earlier post about the launch of the 100 Stories for Queensland e-book, I truly believe that this is an excellent anthology, with literally something for everybody. So please do consider ordering a copy (or more) on Tuesday. Not only will you be helping an excellent cause - all profits go to the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Fund - you will be getting an excellent and entertaining read as well!

PLEASE NOTE: The image links above are Amazon Associate links. Any commission I may earn from sales of 100 Stories for Queensland via these links, I will, of course, donate to the appeal.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Scribeslice: a New, Collaborative Website for Writers

I recently heard about a new site for writers called Scribeslice that encourages group projects and collaborations.

It sounded like a great idea, so I asked the founder, Harley Bailey, if he would like to write an article for my blog about the intention behind the site. Here's what he sent me...

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Writing together is more fun!

Do you often get ideas just as you're falling asleep? I often do and I usually force myself to scrawl them down. The test, of course, is whether or not the idea still makes sense the morning after!

I recently had one such idea as I was nodding off... why not create a place on the Internet that lets writers come together and write with one another?

I imagined this way of writing together to solve a number of problems.

First, writer's block could become a "non-issue". If you get stuck, there will be another writer who can take over at that point. You can then continue the writing once the mental hurdle is gone.

Second, its a great way to improve your writing skills. Everything you write can be reviewed by your peers, who can offer tips and constructive criticism.

Third, it would lead to better writing overall. As the saying goes, "Two heads are better than one". Multiple writers all working together on a common project could produce something better than just one person writing alone.

Fourth, because there are so many different writers you would get to see many different styles of writing across many different formats and genres. Your writing knowledge could be deepened, which would in turn improve your own writing.

And finally, writing becomes more fun when you are writing with other people! There's a social aspect added to the process.

But how would it work? One person starts the writing and then others can contribute to it. Over time the work is written by a whole community of writers.

So I set out to build something that would work in the way described above, and Scribeslice was born. Scribeslice has a simple mission: "Promote writers and writing".

To accomplish that mission, we created a site that lets you write with other writers and hopefully have fun in the process! You can also publish your work online in ebook format.

There is a place on Scribeslice for writers of all levels.

For novice writers, we want Scribeslice to become a place where you can practice and improve your writing, receive feedback from your peers, get noticed, and perhaps even start writing for a living!

For advanced writers, we want Scribeslice to become a place where you can meet other writers, showcase your work, and coach novice writers.

We would love for you to join us at Scribeslice - we want to promote you as a writer and promote your writing!

* * *

Many thanks to Harley for setting out his vision for Scribeslice.

Personally, I think the Internet has huge potential for promoting collaboration among writers, and Scribeslice provides a neat, simple method for doing this.

I would just comment that the site isn't really set up for commercial, money-making projects; rather, it provides a place where writers can practice their skills, encourage one another, try out online collaboration, and showcase their talents. I could - for example - imagine writers meeting on this site and going on to form partnerships, which might then focus on commercial projects.

In any event, the site is currently open to new members and joining is free, so why not check it out for yourself and see what you think?

* Do you like the idea of writing collaboratively, or do you prefer the creative independence of working alone? Please do post any thoughts you may have below!


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Thursday, May 05, 2011

100 Stories for Queensland Now Available!

100 Stories for Queensland, the charity fundraising anthology I first mentioned in this post, is now available in e-book form from the official website. All profits from sales are going to the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief Appeal.

Within the next fortnight, you should also be able to buy a printed version from online retailers such as Amazon and Book Depository - watch the project website or Facebook Page for more announcements.

In addition, according to the FAQs posted by project co-ordinator Jodi Cleghorn, within the next fortnight you will be able to take the ISBN to your local bookshop and they will be able to order the paperback for you.

As you probably know, I was closely involved in the production of 100 Stories for Queensland, from the original selection process, through the line editing, to the final proofreading. So I can categorically say that buying this book is not 'merely' an act of charity. Thanks to the dedicated team of editorial volunteers - and the generosity of the authors who contributed their work - the end result is a genuinely excellent and entertaining anthology. And, of course, one that has been professionally designed, edited and produced.

Speaking of which - to clarify one misunderstanding that has already occurred - 100 Stories does NOT contain real-life accounts of the Queensland floods. It is a collection of short fiction in a wide range of genres, including romance, literary fiction, fantasy, humour, science fiction, magic realism, paranormal, crime, historical, and slice of life.

The stories were penned by an international contingent of writers. According to the FAQs, a quarter came from Australia, a third from the UK, and the rest from across the globe, including the USA, Spain, France, Austria, Malaysia, Israel, Greece and Canada. Some of the stories - if you're anything like me - will have you in stitches, while others may move you to tears. As Jodi herself says, there really is something here for everyone.

I hope you will consider buying 100 Stories for Queensland primarily because it is - of course - for an excellent cause. Although the Queensland floods have been eclipsed in the headlines by other global events, there is still a desperate need for help in the areas affected.

But, quite apart from that, I'm confident that if you enjoy good fiction, you will enjoy reading these stories. None is longer than 1000 words, making the book ideal for dipping into on the bus or train or during your coffee break. And you can even try before you buy on the sales page, by downloading a free PDF or ePub sample, which includes the table of contents, foreword, and ten stories.

Happy reading!

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