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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Ghostwriting Blueprint to $2000 a Month


Ghostwriting Blueprint to $2000 a Month is a new report by American freelance writer Lina Trivedi.

It's currently being sold as as a low-cost (under $10) special offer on the Warrior Forum. The guide claims to show how any writer can accelerate their earnings from zero to $2000 a month from online ghostwriting.

For the sake of around eight bucks I thought it was worth a look, so I ordered a copy. Ghostwriting Blueprint (as I'll call it for short from now on) comes in the form of a downloadable 32-page PDF.

My first impression was that this is very much a hands-on, practical guide. I should clarify that it is about ghostwriting in the broadest sense - that is, freelance writing on behalf of business clients. It's not a guide to ghostwriting books on behalf of models and celebrities (although the work could certainly include this).

Lina has a particular method that she has used successfully to get work, and she takes readers through it step by step. There are certain websites you will need to register with to copy her method, but all of these are free to join.

Contrary to what you might think, the main site Lina uses is not the job-auction site Elance. It's actually a site I hadn't even looked at or considered as a source of freelance work before (although I will definitely be doing so now).

Lina explains exactly what you need to do to start getting work on this site. She reveals ways of getting over the 'no experience' problem when starting out, and (very importantly) shows how you can leverage your initial successes to get more, better-paid work.

One feature of Ghostwriting Blueprint I particularly liked is that it includes sample posts Lina has used to get offers of writing work, and also sample replies she has sent to people advertising for writers.

She also (very importantly) includes sample messages she has sent to clients in order to increase her rates. I have to say there are some great ideas you may want to copy here.

Overall, I recommend Ghostwriting Blueprint if you are keen to build your income from online business writing. In my view the methods Lina sets out would work perfectly well anywhere in the world.

You probably won't get rich from this type of work, but in my view a monthly income of $2000 (around 1300 UKP) as claimed in the title would definitely be achievable following the methods set out here.

Personally, I think Lina's approach would work well to provide a regular baseline income from freelance writing. You could then combine it with something a little more entrepreneurial - writing Kindle books, say - to bring your earnings up to a more exciting level. This is the portfolio approach to freelance writing I have advocated on this blog before.

Finally, note that the price of Ghostwriting Blueprint is rising slowly on dimesale, so the sooner you order, the less you will have to pay. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, so little to risk by giving it a trial if you feel it may be of interest to you.

Photo credit: Brainstorming by Marco Arment on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.

Disclosure: This review incudes my affiliate links. That means if you click through and make a purchase, a proportion of the fee you pay will go to me. This has not affected my review in any way, but you should of course perform your own due diligence and read the sales page (and this review) carefully to determine whether this product will be relevant to your needs.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Inspired to Write by The Olympics? Careful You Don't Get Sued!


It's unlikely to have escaped your notice, but this Friday the Olympic Games begin in London, England.

If the occasion has inspired you to put pen to paper - or finger to keyboard - be very careful, though.

The London Olympics have the dubious distinction of being the most heavily copyrighted event the world has ever seen, and some writers have already been caught out and threatened with legal action.

Back in 2007, Robert Ronson was told by LOCOG (the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games) to change the name of his forthcoming children's science-fiction novel Olympic Mind Games - because of the possibility he was trying to profit from London 2012 without being an official sponsor, presumably. Fortunately for freedom of expression he refused to be intimidated, and the novel was duly published.

Under no less than two separate acts of parliament, however, LOCOG could have prosecuted Ronson if it wanted to. These acts effectively turned all the elements of the London 2012 Olympics into a registered trademark. The draconian rules regarding what you can and can't do are set out in this 61-page document.

If you believe in freedom of expression, LOCOG's guidelines make chilling reading. They set out the many, many ways you could breach their copyright, even if you aren't trying.

For example, there are strict rules about anyone using "controlled phrases". Two Lists are provided, List A and List B. List A words include Games, two thousand and twelve, 2012, and twenty twelve. List B words include gold, silver, bronze, London, medals, sponsors and summer. Combining words from either or both lists might give rise to a "listed expression", which in LOCOG's view would be a breach of their copyright and could give rise to legal action against you.

All of this is being done to by LOCOG in the name of protecting the interests of its commercial partners. They appear determined that no-one shall profit from the Games except the sponsors - to the extent that a local community group in Surrey was recently banned from selling an Olympic-themed issue of its newsletter (price 40p, all profits to charity) because they are not official Games sponsors.

In my view LOCOG has gone way beyond what any reasonable person - or business - might expect in terms of protecting its sponsors. These companies, such as McDonald's and Coca Cola, must be rubbing their hands in glee at the publicity and protection they are enjoying in exchange for stumping up - according to this article from the Independent newspaper - around 12 percent of the cost of the Games. The rest of the costs, needless to say, are being paid by the British taxpayer, whose interests don't get a look-in.

Back when the Olympics were awarded to London, the huge cost was "sold" to the UK public on the grounds that everyone in Britain would enjoy the economic benefits generated by the Games. The truth seems to be that the organising committee - aided and abetted by the British government - is determined to ensure that nearly all the benefits go to the small number of multi-national companies who are sponsoring it.

Anyway, I'm sorry this post has become a bit of a rant. I do believe quite strongly that by attempting to co-opt words such as Olympics, 2012 and London, LOCOG has done a great disservice to freedom of expression, and a dangerous precedent for organizations wanting to take words and images out of public circulation has been established.

If you're a writer, and especially if you're planning on releasing any Olympic-themed fiction, I'd unfortunately have to recommend leaving it till after the Games, when presumably the 2012 Olympics brand police will have been stood down.

All this aside, I really do hope the London Olympics are successful and enjoyable for spectators and participants alike. It is only a shame that - like some of the sponsors' products - LOCOG's obsession with curbing freedom of speech in the name of protecting its sponsors leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

* So what do YOU think? Have LOCOG gone too far, or are their actions justifiable in terms of protecting the finances of the Games? I'd love to hear your views. Please leave any comments below.

Photo Credit: Censored by Eleanor Ryan on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence.


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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tips on Becoming a Better Writer



Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post from a newcomer to my blog, freelance writer Alayne Valentine.

Alayne has some good tips for any writer who is seeking to improve their skills and move their writing career forward...

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Writers are continually working on improving their craft. Becoming a better writer, however, isn't easy. You have to step outside of your comfort zone and be unafraid to try new things. Trial and error works for many, and here are more tips that will help you become a better writer. 

Write Every Day

Writing is like anything else – if you want to do it well, you have to practice. If you're truly committed to improving your skills, you should make time to write at least once per day. Spend as much free time as you can handle writing about anything, whether it's working on your manuscript or just journaling.

Read Voraciously

It's true that the best writers are avid readers. You should also be continually reading, and don't limit yourself to just one type of material. Read a variety of authors and genres. The more material you're exposed to, the more you can expand your own imagination and develop your own style.

Learn About Writing

There's no "right" way to write, but there are a lot of things for writers to learn: about language, plot development, grammar, word choice, and more. While you can follow the advice or not, you should learn as much about good, successful writing as you can.

Join a Writers' Group

If you have a local writers' group or writing critique group, join it. Meeting with other writers to discuss your craft and check out each other's work can be very beneficial and insightful. If you don't have a group nearby, there are plenty of online communities you can become part of. [For example, my own forum at myWritersCircle.com - Nick]

Edit Your Work

Your first draft is seldom perfect, and even if you think it's just practice writing that will never see the light of day, you should go back and edit. Read and revise your work, and don't just be your own spelling and grammar checker. Look for ways to improve what you've written, such as by restructuring sentences, choosing better words, or working on your organization and plot development.

Identify Your Reader

Whenever you write, it's a good idea to identify your reader. Who would read this work? When you consider the intended reader, you'll consciously write in a way that is most appropriate for them, which will result in better writing.

Get an Audience

Don't just imagine writing for your readers - actually get an audience for your work. Consider starting a blog and posting your work on it, or contributing to writers' forums and websites. Knowing that someone is going to read your work will help you do a better job on it. Your audience can even give you feedback if you choose to accept it, and their comments can shed some light on things.

Loosen Up

Finally, don't take your writing so seriously! Loosen up, relax, and don't always put so much pressure on yourself to write something amazing. Just write, and write as naturally as possible. If you try too hard to sound a certain way, it won't seem genuine. Writing is best when it's fun.

Byline: Alayne Valentine is a writer and literature expert who loves to write and always encourages others to write. She loves to write and covers anything from basic writing skills to using grammar checkers.
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Thank you to Alayne for some great tips - all of which I agree with, by the way. If you have any comments on Alayne's advice, or additional tips you would like to contribute, please do post them below.

Photo Credit: Fiona .::Big Girl, I'm Beautiful::. Photo supplied by the author.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

How David Robinson Really Did Write a Novel in a Week!

In my blog post a few weeks ago I revealed that my colleague David Robinson was planning to write a novel in a week.

Well, I'm delighted to reveal that he achieved his goal and produced a follow-up to his thriller novel The Handshaker (pictured).

In this guest post, he discusses how it feels to take on a challenge of this nature, and what he learned from the experience...

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Write a novel in a week. That's exactly what I did from 9-15 July 2012. I wrote a full novel. It's not ready for publication, but it is a solid first draft, something upon which I can work.

Believe it or not, it isn't that difficult to type out 60,000 words in a week. My typing speed is about 25-35 words per minute. A bit of arithmetic tells us I can (theoretically) type 1,500-2,000 words per hour, and 60,000 words comes to 30-40 hours of work.

What is difficult is putting together a 60,000 word story running in the natural direction: from beginning to end. My novel in a week may not be ready for the publisher, but as it stands, it can be read from start to finish as a complete tale.

The question most people are asking is, "Why bother?"

It wasn't for charity, it wasn't for a bet. It was designed to stretch myself, test the waters, see exactly what I could do, and from that angle, it didn't really matter whether I achieved it or not.

In this day and age of the small web-based business, more and more people are looking to work from home, even if it's only for a part-time income to supplement their main salary. Some do it by selling goods and services, others do it by producing web content, or offering website building services. I do it by writing novels. It doesn't matter what we're doing, we're all after the same thing.

Now ask yourself, how many hours a week do you put into the effort, and compare it to the number of hours you put in when you worked for an employer. For my last boss, I worked an average of 48 hours a week. No complaints. I was highly paid, the job was worth it.

As a novelist, I was putting in maybe 20 hours a week.

Is it reasonable, especially in the early days, to expect huge returns for less than half the hours? I'm not talking about silly incomes. We've all seen the ads promising telephone number pay: Work five minutes every Friday and earn $200,000 a week. I get a dozen or more spam emails from these people every day and we all know it's hot air. I'm talking about setting up and running a small enterprise and producing a sustainable income from it.

And there we have the catalyst for writing a novel in a week. What would happen if I upped my working hours from twenty to fifty? Well, I know what happened. I wrote a novel in a week.

It was tough going. I reached parts of the tale where I needed to go back to the drawing board. I made one change, which I considered vital, and it disrupted the whole chronology of the story. It took me four hours to put things right. But then I said to myself, "When I worked for a large company, and I was stuck in Birmingham at five o'clock in the afternoon, and the boss said he wanted me back in Manchester, what did I do?" That was tough going, too, but I had no choice. So I applied the same principle to novel in a week and carried on working.

There were times when I asked myself why I'd ever decided to do it, but I remembered asking myself exactly the same question when I worked for someone else. I had to carry on working then, I carried on working now.

We live in a world where too many people consider the word "work" to be a curse. They equate "working from home" with "easy life". It might be. One day. But before you can get to that stage, you have to work.

It's been an interesting experiment, I've had a lot of support and praise from other authors, for which I'm grateful. The novel will not be published until next year. A lot more work needs to be done on it before it's ready, and that effort will be more leisurely than the first draft. It's not something I'm in a hurry to repeat, either, but it has sparked one change in my approach. Prior to last week, my target was a modest 1,000 words per day. That's gone up to 15,000-20,000 words a week.

If I can produce 60,000 words in a week, 20,000 should be child's play.

If you'd like to know more about the week, I reported every day on a blog especially set up for the challenge. You can find it at: http://novelinaweek.blogspot.co.uk/
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Thank you to David for documenting his experiences so soon after completing such a gruelling challenge. As well as his Novel in a Week blog, do check out his main blog as well.

I am full of admiration for David for what he has achieved, not least as he is (nominally) retired. It is food for thought for all of us as to what we might really achieve if we put our minds to it.

If David's example has inspired you to try something similar, there are still two weeks left to run of JulNoWriMo (twice as long as David needed!).

And if you need a little help organizing and structuring your project, as well as my own Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, my blog sponsors, WCCL, also publish a course titled Novel in a Month (see banner below), which you might like to check out for advice and inspiration.

If you have any comments or questions for David (or me), please feel free to post them below.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Kindle Cheat Sheets



Kindle Cheat Sheets is a new product launch from Scott Stamper. It's currently available as a low-priced (under $8) special offer from The Warrior Forum.

As the author of Kindle Kash (and a published Kindle author myself) I have a particular interest in writing for the Amazon Kindle. So I decided to risk a few dollars to see what exactly Scott was offering.

Kindle Cheat Sheets is a package aimed at people who want to create and publish (nonfiction) Kindle e-books as quickly as possible. As well as the main manual, you get a bonus guide to generating ideas for e-books. You also get templates you can use to help create cover images and your e-book itself.

Both manuals are quite short (or maybe I should say concise) but they still cram in a lot of useful information. Much of the info, unsurprisingly, was already familiar to me. I still picked up some good tips, however, including an excellent (and free) screen capture tool I can see a lot of uses for in addition to the suggested use of creating cover images.

The templates are a very useful addition. The cover image template (in MS Word format) is about as basic as you could get, but will do the job for low-cost nonfiction e-books, with no need to fiddle about with Photoshop or GIMP. The e-book template (in Word .doc format) is also an interesting idea, and again should speed up the Kindle publishing process. Just don't expect any bells or whistles!

The other (shorter) manual has quite a clever suggestion for finding Kindle e-book ideas. I would probably want to back this up with a bit of keyword research before proceeding, but nonetheless it's an approach I've not seen before and certainly appears to have potential. There is also good advice on subcontracting some of the research/writing process, which again could be a considerable time-saver.

Kindle Cheat Sheets would in my view be most useful for people who have already taken the first step with Kindle publishing and are looking for ways to speed up and simplify the process. Those who are completely new to Kindle might do better to buy my Kindle Kash guide first ;-)

Overall, nonetheless, I think Kindle Cheat Sheets is well worth the modest asking price of around $8 (5 UKP) at the time of writing. Though it's worth noting that Scott offers a generous 90-day refund guarantee as well.

Disclosure: This review incudes my affiliate links. That means if you click through and make a purchase, a proportion of the fee you pay will go to me. This has not affected my review in any way, but you should of course perform your own due diligence and read the sales page (and this review) carefully to determine whether this product will be relevant to your needs.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Can Mike Essex Get "Free Stuff Everyday" Into the Kindle Top 100 List?

My colleague Mike Essex has launched an ambitious campaign to get his book Free Stuff Everyday into the Amazon Kindle Top 100 Best-sellers list.

On July 27, 2012 he is asking colleagues, relatives, friends, and anyone else who is willing to help, to mention his book on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and so on. Blog posts will also be much appreciated!

By this means, he says, he hopes to break through from the stigma of being an unknown author.

As Mike puts it in his latest blog post:

Being a new author is tough and being an unknown author of non-fiction is even tougher. In the Kindle chart, the number one non-fiction book only places 26th in all books. The 100th ranking non-fiction book ranks 762nd in all Kindle books. Even when scrolling through the non-fiction list, it’s mainly autobiographies or books by unknown authors.
It’s a tough market, and one that thousands of authors struggle to do well in every year. I’ve achieved a small amount of success - ranking 900th for a brief bitter sweet hour - but nothing that notable. My average ranking is currently around 20,000-50,000, which translates to a couple of sales a day and that’s it. But, that bitter sweet taste of the apple I had once makes me want more. Makes me want to see what I could achieve if I tried, if I threw all my hopes on one day. One amazing, dream fulfilling day: The 27th July.

I have agreed to help Mike with his campaign. That's partly because I had the privilege of editing the print version (see my blog post about this here) and partly because I think it's an excellent and original title that deserves to reach a much wider audience than it has so far.

For more information about Free Stuff Everyday and its author, you might like to check out this interview I published on my blog last year.

Briefly, however, Free Stuff Everyday is a guide to how anyone can get free products or services of all kinds, in exchange for offering something in return (reviews, publicity, constructive feedback, and so on). I found the book a real eye-opener, and in these cash-strapped days I think it's more relevant than ever.

Anyway, I'll be doing my best to raise awareness of Mike's title on 27 July (and before), and will be intrigued to see if he proves successful in his quest to achieve Kindle best-seller status. If you'd like to help Mike as well, please see this blog post for further information (and this earlier one too).

In addition to his undying gratitude, Mike is offering a reward as well:

To show my thanks for everyone who helps I wanted to offer a really unique prize, something that money can’t buy. If you help with this challenge I will include your name in a page of dedications in the Free Stuff Everyday eBook. Once the challenge is over, I’ll compile the names of everyone who helped and add a brand new page to the digital edition. Your name will be immortalised in the eBook and in all future online editions. Pretty unique right?

Incidentally, you can buy Free Stuff Everyday in Kindle format via this page at Amazon UK and this page at Amazon.com. You can also purchase the print version from this page of Amazon UK and this page of Amazon.com.

Good luck to Mike in his campaign. If you have any comments or questions, as ever, please feel free to leave them below.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

7 Tips for Finding Writing Inspiration


Today I'm pleased to welcome a new guest writer to my blog, freelance writer, blogger and web publisher Matt Keegan.

A prolific writer himself, Matt has some great tips for writers who need a shot of extra inspiration.

Over to Matt, then...

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I have long contended that there is no such thing as "writer's block." If you're a writer, there are always words you can put down on paper or in the case of most of us, words that you type on a web document.

That doesn't mean you don't need to find a source of inspiration from time to time. The "words" may be there, but your wordsmith muse has taken a holiday.

It would be one thing to simply close your laptop and take a break for the day. But, deadlines are looming, bills must be paid and by golly you just don't want to be stumped for the better part of the day.

When I am stuck in a rut, I force myself to relax and begin exploring sources of inspiration that have helped me in the past. Your method of finding your wordsmith muse may be different from mine, but if you're looking for inspiration you'll read on and consider the following seven tips.

1. Read the authors -- Who are your favorite authors? I have a few including C.S. Lewis, a Christian writer who wrote the "Chronicles of Narnia" and other works. A chapter from the "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" can help my creative juices flow as his vivid imagery stimulates mine.

You may also find inspiration by reading the sports pages, reviewing the news or from visiting your favorite blog. Some writers enjoy poetry or may find inspiration from magazine covers, newspaper headlines or even food packages.

2. Take in nature -- The leafy green suburbs of my area provide a pleasant distraction when I'm feeling stuck. Cities can too with interesting architecture, museums and stores to take in.

I can put on my running shoes, head down the street and make a turn past a home where the gardens serve up a riot of summer colors. If I need further inspiration there are few parks within driving distance, offering an amazing display of plant diversity and the occasional surprise such as a flying squirrel caught in midair.

3. Turn on the music -- On occasion, I write with the music blaring in my headphones, pulling up a song from my iTunes library and typing away.

Most times, however, I find music a distraction when I work. But, I also find music a source of inspiration when I am preparing to write. Likely, it is my mood of the moment that determines when I tune in.

Music and writing go hand in hand, with the former providing the beat and the latter the lyrics. I don't ever imagine myself as a song writer, but a "torch song" can help me think about love while a Viennese waltz may bring me to a faraway and long ago setting, ideal for writing a historical piece. You may prefer to listen to your favorite music or learn about something new such as a Gregorian chant.

4. Visit a friend -- Friends can be a strong source of inspiration and provide the impetus for fresh writing without them knowing it. It is the camaraderie between two people that trust each other that can quickly lead to you finding your writing muse.

Consider making a habit of visiting one or more people in a nursing home. Most residents get very few visitors and enjoy the company of people besides other residents. Cultivate a friendship and get to know this person's life and share your own. An individual who can tap 70 plus years of living experience is a wellspring of writing inspiration for you. You don't have to betray a confidence by what is shared, instead this person can help you flesh out a character for your book or article.

Other people that may welcome your company include a neighbor, the parent of one of your children's friends or even the stranger you meet on a bus or subway platform.

5. Take in a conversation -- Instead of being part of the conversation, listen in on one. Yes, I know -- you'll feel that you're eaves-dropping. You know what? You are.

Overhead conversations can stimulate the imagination and may range from chatter on an elevator car to the assembly of voices you hear while sitting in a mall's food court. You just never know what people will talk about or what conversations can stimulate a fresh wave of writing inspiration within.

Similar to taking in a conversation is sitting in a public place and watching the people that walk past. The elderly couple holding hands, the uncooperative child being pulled by his mother down the street or teenagers interacting in a gaggle of conversation.

6. Reread your best work -- If you have been writing for many years, then you have a repository of works available for your review.

You may prefer not to read what you wrote, but you can learn a lot about yourself as you sift through your published writings. Sometimes, there is a jewel that can be unearthed, an unfinished story just waiting for your follow up.

Once in awhile I'll find an old article and will update it to reflect current information. That task alone can spark new ideas, allowing you to transfer that thought to a fresh piece. There is a lesson here too -- examine your writing voice to learn how it has evolved.

7. Plan an adventure -- We took our family vacation early this year as we wrapped our trip around a wedding. Our next major trip is a year away, but we're already thinking about where we want to go and what we want to do when we get there.

I recall thumbing through a travel book when I was young, imagining myself in Ireland, Italy or in the tropics. In my mind, I could place myself by the ruins of some castle or imagine myself discovering seashell leis on a remote Hawaiian beach.

It may be the location, the bright colors or a combination of the two, but my muse soon rejoins me when I think of a major adventure that I would like to take. Yes, begin saving money now so that your dream becomes a reality.

Writing Considerations

If you find yourself regularly stumped for inspiration, your mind could be telling to take a longer break. Writers will often put off a break, needing to work on the next assignment to get paid. A longer break including an extended weekend or a full week away from home, can refresh you. Just as it is important to keep up with your writing goals, it is also important for you to recognize the signs that are telling you to set everything to the side and to get away from it all.

Byline: Matt Keegan is a freelance writer, an automotive columnist, a wordsmith and a web publisher. He enjoys finding fresh ways of gaining writing inspiration and sometimes imagines himself being part of a contemporary version of The Inklings.

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Many thanks to Matt for a truly 'inspiring' article! You might also like to check out his blog at http://matthewkeegan.com.

So what do you think of Matt's tips? And do you have any of your own for writers who may be blocked and seeking inspiration? Please leave your comments and suggestions below!

Photo Credit: Inspire by Miss Yellow on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.


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