Category Archives: On Writing

Vampire Fiction: A Beginner’s Guide

vampire fiction

Vampire fiction has exploded in the last three to four decades. There are now literally thousands of books, short stories, films and comics featuring our fanged friends. They’ve managed to inveigle their way into large parts of our society, almost to the extent that many people believe these fictional creatures really do exist.

Vampires have become so popular they’ve bridged the gap between genres. No longer a simple staple of horror, you can find vampires leaching horribly into romance, comedy, young adult fiction, sci-fi, gaming and even the odd serious semi-serious tome such as Let the Right One In.

So what makes vampire fiction endure? Why are we still so fascinated by these undead creatures? Has everything blood sucking been done to death?

Or does our friend the night crawler still have a few more tricks up his or her bony sleeve?
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The First Vampire in Fiction

The Vampyre by John William Polidori, written in 1819 is often put forward as the first blood sucker in literature. Our friends were part of folklore long before that, however. Precursors to the more modern vampire can be found in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt – creatures who came at night to pray on humans and drink their blood. Although we have some evidence the Middle Ages were rife with them,  the true essence of the vampire, however, appeared out of South West Europe in the early part of the 1700s.

In Voyage to the Levant, writer and traveller Joseph Pitton de Tournefort revealed a belief in the undead in the south of Europe including Greece. The word ‘vampyre’ was used in 1732 when the London Journal mentioned it in connection with Hungary.  The country appeared again in ‘Treatise on Apparitions of Angels, Demons and Spirits and on the Revenants and Vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia‘ published over ten years later.

People rising from the dead was not an unusual occurence in fiction and poetry at the time. Goethe in the Bride of Corinth talks of a young woman returned from the grave who says: ‘Still to love the bridegroom I have lost, And the lifeblood of his heart to drink.’ In England, Southey and Byron both penned poems that had vampirism at their heart.

Vampire fiction really began to gather pace with Polidori’s Vampyre, a short story that was immediately successful. It spawned numerous 19th century imitations that blended romance and sometimes eroticism as the genre began to evolve and come of age.

The daddy of them all, however, was Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897. Even now, over a century later, the Prince of Darkness remains one of the most enduring and memorable characters in literary history.

Without him, vampire fiction may well have disappeared into the mist instead of imbedding itself in our collective psyche.
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Dracula: The Ultimate Vampire

We certainly wouldn’t have the plethora of vampire fiction we have today if it wasn’t for Dracula. Published in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, the book introduced two major characters, Dr Van Helsing and the eponymous vampire himself. In truth, the book wasn’t an immediate success when it first came out and it wasn’t until popular movies were made in the 20th century that the character really began to capture the public’s imagination.

In fact, the book made hardly any money for Bram Stoker and he was to die in poverty in 1912. Over the years, Dracula and the vampire myth found it easy to penetrate society, whichever decade happened to be passing by. He gets repackaged every so often for a new audience but his appeal seems to endure. Perhaps, in a literary sense, he really is immortal.

The Vampire in Popular Culture

The vampire has made an impact on practically all areas of modern culture. It’s not just in vampire fiction that we see the fall of the blood sucker’s shadow. In comic books, music, film, and now even online games, the bared fangs and desire to feast on the necks of myriad victims has spread its satanic fictional tentacles.

There are people who profess to be real vampires, there are those who are fans of particular series or genres to the point of obsession, and countless indie writers can’t seem to give up the lure of blood suckers no matter how hard they try. And there are those who just love a good scare now and again.

vampire fiction 30 days of night

My Top 6 in Vampire Fiction

1. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

A personal favourite from the mid-seventies about the time when Stephen King was becoming popular worldwide. Salem’s Lot is traditional vampire fiction at its best, as the mysterious Kurt Barlow arrives in a small town and people begin to drop off the radar, only to return when night falls.

2. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I am Legend is another apocalyptic treat, this time from the early 1950s. There is a global pandemic that elicits the symptoms of vampirism and society has broken donw. For its time, the book was move away from the more gothic feel of the caped vampire with a dark secret to something more crude and threatening.

This is probably the point at which vampire fiction began to morph, slowly at first, into other genres. Indeed, Matheson’s book is sometimes credited with the rise of the zombie hordes we all know and love today.

3. They Thirst by Robert R McCammon

Probably lost in the shadow of King’s Salem’s Lot, They Thirst is another traditional vampire novel, this time based in Hollywood. The book is a genuine classic of the vampire fiction genre and if you haven’t read it yet, you should give it a try.

4. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Okay, so there were a whole series of books about vampires by Rice but this was the one that kicked it off. For the first time, we started seeing things from the blood sucker’s point of view and it spawned a whole series of gothic romance wannabes with everything from The Vampire Diaries to Underworld owing something to the anti-hero Lestat.

5. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

While vampire fiction has mostly sat comfortably in its own genre, Let The Right One In moved it into more literary territory. At the time this was hailed as the reinvention of the vampire novel and made into a successful film. It’s less about the blood sucking undead as the rights of passage of youth and the terrifying bloom of first love.

6. The Last Vampire by T M Wright

Seems to fallen off the book list in recent decades, Wrights book is a mini-masterpiece as his unwilling vampire sits at the end of the world in a post-apocalyptic future. One book to read if you can find a copy somewhere. Vampire fiction as it probably should be.

nosferatu vampire fiction

Nosferatu, Dracula and Other Vampires in Film and TV

1. Nosferatu (1922)

Apparently, they’re about to remake this silent classic. The big draw, back in the 1920s, was the actual vampire himself. Max Schrek is the perfect blood sucker and his shadow crossing the wall is one of the most memorable images in horror film history.

2. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931)

For a long while, Lugosi was the iconic vampire and became one of the most famous actors in Hollywood. While now the acting seems wooden and the sets a bit stagey, it’s still one of the most famous vampire movies on the planet.

3. Christopher Lee’s Dracula (1958)

Hammer breathed life back into the vampire legend in the late 50s and this film was an immediate box office success. It gave birth to a lot of sequels through the 60s and 70s, of course, before Hammer finally went under and Lee’s vampire was finally put to rest with a stake through the heart.

4. Fright Night (1985)

A surprise hit when it came out in the mid-80s, Fright Night continues to have a cult following today. Undoubtedly helped by the presence of screen legend (and former monkey in Planet of the Apes) Roddy McDowall, it was one of the highest grossing films of the year.

5. The Hunger (1983)

Avant guard meets vampire eroticism in Tony Scott’s film. Star David Bowie was the perfect choice for an 18th century cellist turned blood sucker. In truth, The Hunger is an acquired taste and have many found it too heavy on mood and with not enough plot. It remains one of the top vampire films of the last 30 years or so though and still has a decent following.

6. Near Dark (1987)

Another surprise hit despite its failure initially at the box office, Near Dark managed to mix Western influences with vampire delights and followed on from successes such as Fright Night and Lost Boys in the 80s. A more serious effort than its two predecessors, it too has gained a cult following over the years.

7. 30 Days of Night (2007)

While many other vampire films and books at the time were focusing on gothic romance and slightly comic book approaches to vampires, including the Twilight series, Blade and Underworld, 30 Days of Night went back to a more visceral approach to our blood sucking friends. One of the better vampire films in recent years.

8. Let the Right One In (2008)

I’ll throw in the film version of Let the Right One In as well, the original Swedish one, not the US remake. In truth, the film is a little better than the book and has some startling performances from young Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson.

9. The Strain

It largely disappeared under the radar as far as the popularity stakes are concerned, The Strain is a traditional good vs evil vampire epic. Forget trying to put a new spin on blood sucking, the makers have gone for an invincible master and destruction of all human life on the planet. What’s better than that?

The Future of Vampire Fiction

Have we said all that we need to say about vampires? In truth, these night dwelling creatures have actually become their own sub-genre over the last 30 years. They have an (undead) life of their own and it’s difficult to see them disappearing anytime soon. There have been some 170 different film versions just of Bram Stoker’s Dracula on its own so far and probably a good few more to come.

There have also been thousands of novels and short stories, as well as poems, produced, written and released over the years. The number is actually increasing, especially with the popularity of self-publishing and a growing band of indie authors who just love a bit on the neck.

Let’s face it, we’re never going to get rid of them. Vampire fiction is here to stay.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favourite vampire film or book? Why do you like vampires? Why do you hate them? Where next for our blood sucking friends? As always, put your comments in the bloody space below and I’ll try to get back to you.
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What a Photograph Can Teach You About Writing Success

writing success
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Whether you are trying to improve your prose, pad out those one dimensional characters or simply keep your ever expanding plot together, you can learn a lot about writing success from studying a good photo. Any great image, like a memorable piece of writing, needs to be well composed, create a mood and illicit the right emotion in the viewer.

Great photos stand out, get shared, make news, get made into posters and adorn walls. They get people talking and can even change the way we look at the world.

All the main components that make a brilliant image can be also be found in the memorable books that adorn our shelves. From To Kill a Mockingbird and Ulysses to The Great Gatsby, these seminal works all have certain characteristics in common.

Composition

The difference between an ordinary image and a truly inspiring one is undoubtedly found in its composition. It’s all about how the different elements are glued together and provide a feast for the eyes and brain. A book or short story, even a news article or opinion piece, is no different. In writing you might call this structure or plot but it’s a lot more nuanced than that. Just as the composition of a photo is about the overall effect, the small elements within the image and how they hang together are also important. In books, it’s not just the plot but the paragraphs and the sentences, even individual words.

The Difference Light Makes

Nowhere is the impact of light more important than in photography. Take a picture of a landscape iwhen the sun is high and you’ll probably end up with something fairly ordinary. Visit that same scene at dusk or dawn when the contrasts and colours are so much deeper and you could end up with a photograph that lives long in the memory. In writing too, the different shades of your prose are important. It’s the difference between bland, uninteresting text and words that come alive on the page. Writing success here is all about choosing the right words, the correct length length of sentences, the depths of descriptions, and the colour of the language.

Creating Mood

All the great photographs create mood. It can be seen in a piece of photojournalism that elicits a response such as fear, anger, anxiety. You find it in landscapes which leave you in awe or feeling at peace with the world and personal images that make you smile, laugh or cry. Photographs can give the impression of great distances, speed, energy and stillness. The same is true in writing. Your words are supposed to deliver a certain mood, make your readers feel scared, invigorated, worried, combative, joyous, even perplexed.

Right Place, Right Time

To take a good photo you have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to click that shutter button at exactly the right moment. Miss it and that perfect image is lost for all time. In writing it’s making sure that you choose the right devices for your plot to move forward, you pick the best characters to tell your story and you choose the right beginnings and ends.

Writing Success, Photography and Focus

Most great images will have one strong focal point, a part of the photo from which everything else seems to flow or is drawn into. Take this away and the image is nothing but an average snap of the world. Take any great piece of writing and there is a central focus around which everything else revolves. It’s an event, a location or a particular character or set of characters. To make your book or short story successful it needs to be clear, strong, vibrant, memorable. It can’t be watered down, veiled and weakened by unnecessary content.

It’s easy to snap a photo. Just look on Instagram if you want proof. It’s also pretty easy nowadays to write a book too. Is the image you’ve taken and posted online a great one? Are the words you write and the books or stories you publish going to inspire your readers? Have you done everything you can to make it stand out from the crowd?

I’ll leave you with an inspiring quote from F Scott Fitzgerald:

“You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.”

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It’s NaNoWriMo Time! How to Succeed for Beginners

nanowrimo

It’s that time of the year again: National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo (or NoNoMoreRymo if you’re dyslexic). The annual sprint to writing oblivion. The big prose cheese fest. The head honcho of writing achievement. The time when:

  • Authors and wannabes across our glorious planet suddenly decide they should write a whole novel in a month.
  • People all over the world randomly discover they are writers and that their lives, up to now, have been some mysterious prelude to a marvellous literary talent that hitherto has remained hidden.

It’s time to let the scribble hounds loose. Time to brush off that keyboard, power up the internet, put on dark glasses and pour a glass of wine as you reach out into the word ether and begin frantically pulling in ideas and pithy prose that will set the world alight.

Indie writers dream of getting published, changing the status quo with their dry, ironic wit, of becoming famous, giving up the day job, marrying their laptop, eschewing all human contact for ever and ever (delete where applicable).

New writers suddenly and happily decide to spend the rest of their miserable lives as angst-ridden, bleary eyed, introspective scribes who drink too much wine, think too much, spend too much time staring at walls and other inanimate objects, worthlessly spilling their recently discovered but long fermenting mental health issues onto clean, white pages that deserve better.

All this, and so much more, can be yours by the 31st November. If you’re not put off by the fact that what you are doing is essentially futile then simply follow The Feckless Guide for #NaNoWriMo success below:

Think Before you Begin

Are your fingers in shape? Is your brain in gear? Have you really, really thought this through? Writing a whole novel is a big undertaking. Before you start, meditate deeply on whether you want to start in the first place. Are you really going to finish? Is that what you really, really want? Careful consideration at this point could save you from wasting a whole month when you could be playing Assassin’s Creed every night or baking cupcakes for your nearest and dearest.

Name Your Lead

What’s your main character going to be called? Talula Poopdecker? George Facklebackle? Tristan Pissfoddle? Bohemian Bob? Barbara Bombstomper? Perhaps if you’re writing a PI style thriller it’s going to be something dynamic like Jake Trent, Cal Hooper or Fanny Fitzroy. Maybe you want something short and whimsical like Sophia, Perry or Lola. Choosing the right name for your lead characters is an important start if you want to be able to imagine them more deeply.

Map Out Your Story

Whether you are a pantser or a plotter, you’ll have far more chance of success with NaNoWriMo if you map everything out for the month. There are 30 days in November so that’s a pretty neat timeline over which to spread the creation of your novel, bite size pieces that all lead to a safe finish at the end of the month. You don’t want the plot piling up ahead of you, creating panic, when you only have a few days left. This is about discipline and getting all the way to end. As the saying goes: It’s best to have a plan, Stan.

Never Rewrite While You’re Writing

Stopping to rewrite is the surest way to put the kibosh on your NaNoWriMo efforts. Your aim is to finish the book in one fell swoop, the rewrites can come later. Yes, it’s tempting, but it will almost certainly meant that you fail to reach your target. Stopping to rewrite is a sinister form of procrastination. If you feel tempted, whack yourself on the head with a stick. Mumble ‘keep going, keep going’ every time you feel the need to look back. At the very least, it will scare the hell out of other members of the household.

Don’t Stop Your NaNoWriMo Half-Way Through

The biggest problem that NaNoWriMo’ers have is that they will suddenly stop, take a breath, get distracted by a shiny light across the way. Stopping is a bad thing. You have to keep going. The universe is full of half-written attempts to complete a novel in a month. There will be times when it is hard to sit down and write. Your brain is just not equipped to start that Friday evening, two weeks into the project. Force yourself to start again, scream at the writing gods if you have to, but begin, begin, begin…

It’s a First Draft Stupid

Don’t be too hard on yourself. What you are essentially writing here is a first draft. You are not going to produce the complete works of Tolstoy in one sitting. Your job is simply to get that story out onto digital paper and not worry about whether it works or not. NaNoWriMo success is not about being good, it’s about getting from beginning to end in 30 days or less. It’s about getting that stuff down.

Leave to Brew, Go Back to the Day Job

Your fingers bleeding, your brain a mix of alcoholic induced fog and paranoia, your family having left some days ago to begin a new life away from ‘that freak in the back room’, you reach the last day and finally type THE END. You’ve finished. You’ve completed your NaNoWriMo challenge.

For the moment.

Turn off your computer. Step away from the laptop. STEP AWAY FROM THE LAPTOP!

Go back to the day job. Re-engage with friends and family you may have lost contact with. Take a shower for Chrissakes! It’s time to leave your novel to sit and brew for a while. Don’t think about opening it up again before the end of January. In fact, forget you ever wrote it. Your first draft is finished and you need time to breath, reinvigorate yourself and return to normal society.

How to Feel Unjustifiably Proud of Yourself

Rejoice, for you have successfully completed your mission. You set a goal and you achieved it. You’re the big writing cheese. The towering new Hemingway of your street. You can call yourself a writer for you have completed the first draft of your novel. This is usually the time when depression sinks in. You wonder the streets at night whimpering like a half starved dog, gazing up at the dark sky and contemplating the futility of it all. Was it worth it?

Do not worry. This moment will pass. It’s part of the writing process.

The urge to scribble once more will return, stronger next time. It will build and build and scream in your ears and sear your bones until…around about November next year…when you thought it was safe to return to the laptop…you will suddenly decide that a sequel is on the cards.

Can you write it in just a month…sure you can. You’re a NaNoWriMo veteran. You know what to do.

Hashtags for Writers

hashtags for writers
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If you’ve been on social media for any length of time then you’ll be aware of hashtags. Including them in posts can broaden your reach but also offers a chance to connect with like minded individuals, other writers and their ilk.

Benefits of Writer’s Hashtags

  • If you send a tweet with a hashtag you’ll receive twice the engagement.
  • You are more likely to be noticed by non-followers who are using a particular hashtag.
  • You have more chance of being retweeted if you include a hashtag.

Pros and Cons of Using Hashtags for Writers

  • Number is important – one or two per post will suffice. Any more than that and you begin to see the effect dwindle.
  • Make your post relevant to the hashtag. So if you use #MondayBlogs don’t put in a plug for your latest product or book. That’s not what that particular hashtag is for.
  • Find the ones that work for you – it’s a good idea to experiment with different hashtags and at different times to see what sort of response you get.
  • Hashtags are not limited to just Twitter. You can use them on other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram too.

General Hashtags for Writers

#140Poem #1K1H #1K1HR #amediting #amwriting #AmRevising #AuthorLife #ASMSG #CopyWriting #EditGoal #Editing #IndieAuthors #nanowrimo #WordCount #wip #WriteGoodNews #Writer #Writers #WritersBlock #WriteChat #WriteGoal #WriterWednesday #Writing #WriteMotivation #WriteTip #WritersLife #WritersRoad #WritingBlitz #WritingParty #WritingPrompt #WritingSprint #WritingTip #wordcount #WroteToday

Hashtags for Author Promotion

#author #authors #ASMSG #bookmarketing #bookworm #editing #emerging #fictionfriday #fridayflash #followfriday #ff #novels #novelists #poem #poet #poets #99c

Also:

#99cents #AmazonKindle #AmReading #AuthorRT #BestRead #BookBuzz #BookMarketing #BookPlugs #BookReview #BookWorm #eBook #eReaders #FictionFridays #GoodReads #IndieThursday #IndieTuesday#iPad #Kindle #KindleBargain #KindleBooks #KindleeBooks #KindleTouch #KindleTweet #Kobo #LitChat #MustRead #Nook #Novel #Novelists #Novels #Paperbacks #PDF1 #Poetry #PoetryMonth #Pubit #Reviews #ShortReads #Smashwords #StoryFriday #StoryTelling #TeaserTuesday #GreatReads #WhatToRead #WriteQuote #WeekendReader #whattoread

Publishing and Editing Hashtags

#AskAgent #AskAuthor #AskEditor #BookMarketing #EBooks #ePub #ePublishing #GetPublished #HowTo #IAN #IAN1 #Indie #IndieAuthor #IndiePub #MSWL #PromoTip #Publishing #Pubtip #PubWrite #querytip #SelfPub #SelfPublishing #tenqueries #VSS #WebFic #WebLit #WriteTip

Niche Hashtags for Book Genres

#Crime #Comedy #DarkFantasy #Dystopian #Erotica #HistFic #Historical #FaithLitChat #KidLitChat #Literature #LitFic #MemoirChat #MGLit #Mystery #NonFiction #Paranormal #Poetry #PoetryMonth #Romantic #RomanticSuspense #TrueStories #ScienceFiction #SciFiChat #ShortStory #SteamPunk #Suspense #UrbanFantasy #WomensFiction #YA #YALit

If we’ve missed any out then let us know in the comments section below!

Finding a Good Content Writer for your Business

content writer
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Let’s face it, your customer doesn’t care about you.

They don’t care about your products, about your logo design, about your workload or your website, about your two point four children,  your staff or your ingrowing toenail.

They don’t care that your Skoda just got pranged by a Porsche. They don’t care that you want to save the environment, they don’t particularly care that you work 17 hours every Monday through to Sunday, and they certainly don’t care you haven’t pulled a sickie in the last ten years.

They don’t care that you prefer red wine to white, have a dog called Boo and your favourite colour is taupe or that you treat your staff with respect.

They’re selfish. They care only about themselves. That’s all. Nothing else.

Nada.

Only when you realise this can you begin to make sense of the purpose of content marketing.

Okay, we may have gone a little overboard here with the pathologically selfish thing. We’re talking about your customer in relation to your product or service, not their entire lives.

The point is this: You customer comes to your site to get something.

They gotta have it…right now. Right here. Okay?

What is good content writing?

There’s content and then there’s good content. You can fill your web pages with all sorts of wonderful stuff. You can wax lyrical on every topic under the sun.

But does it really give your customer what they want?

According to the Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

And just so you’ve got it, this is what WebSiteDesigns.com say about it:

Your audience don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves, their wants, and their problems. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your audience is passionate about, so they seek you out and actually pay attention to what you have to say.

Why you think you don’t need a content writer

You know how to write. Of course you do. You’ve been doing it for years – writing letters, emails, even the odd tweet now and again. You’re proficient at it.

Before we go any further: Yes, there are business owners who are good writers, know exactly what content marketing is all about and can deliver it without breaking into a sweat.

But there are plenty who aren’t good content writers. They fill their pages with too much stuff, confuse their customers with badly constructed sentences and half the time don’t even bother to check grammar and spelling. Then, to cap it all, they publish it to the web without even a hint of a proofread.

There are plenty of reasons why you might want to write your own content:

  • It’s cheaper.
  • Who knows better how to make your online pitch than you…the entrepreneur.
  • People don’t actually read that stuff anyway.
  • It’s just for show, right?

The benefits of hiring a good content writer

Notice I said GOOD content writer there. It’s an important point. With every indie writer and would-be marketing guru thinking they have the skills to write great copy, the major problem business owners have is sifting through the rubbish to find that one content writer who delivers quality work on time.

Here are the benefits if you manage to do just that:

  • You get better written, more focused copy for your website.
  • You get the right balance between features and benefits for your product or service.
  • You get expert opinion on what works and what doesn’t.
  • You get someone who has worked at their craft and knows what they are doing.
  • You get quality, okay?

If you want your business website to look professional and attract and retain more customers, then you need to employ the services of a content writer who can deliver.

Take some advice from copywriter Susan Green:

In today’s media-rich world, there’s no shortage of messages competing for your customers’ attention.  You don’t want to lose out because your copy is ineffective. Quality content written by a professional copywriter may cost you money up front, but your return on investment in sales should make it well worth the expense.

What you want your writer to do

You want your content writer to work with you closely and produce the kind of copy that attracts customers and keeps them coming back for more.

Business owners often worry they haven’t filled enough of that digital space with content – it leads them to throw everything but the kitchen sink onto each web page. Rather than making it easier for customers to buy their product it merely confuses the hell out of them. A good content writer can focus and pare down your content so that it is fit for purpose.

Another problem you find on many websites is that they are so feature rich it’s difficult to find the benefits. A good content writer will be able to look at your product and see it from the customer’s point of view – that old marketing mantra What’s In It For Me?

It’s not what’s on offer but how it can help transform your customer’s life that helps you sell and you need to bring that across in your online content.

Where to Find Your Content Writer

There are plenty of platforms that showcase freelancers available to work on projects for your business, including People Per Hour and Elance. Most platforms provide customer feedback and star ratings so you can find out who’s good and not so good, though it makes sense to start off with a small job before you part with too much of your hard earned cash.

Another way to find freelancers is to do a local search on Google, especially if you want that personal contact which is often lacking in the online world.

However you do it, our advice is to build a strong relationship with your chosen content writer and treat them with respect. Good ones are hard to find and even harder to replace.

The Difference Between Site Content and Blog Content

There is a world of difference between your main site content and the stuff you put into a blog.

Content marketing for your product needs to be slick and to the point, designed to give the customer what they want and not distract them with information that doesn’t matter. It’s about pushing the benefits of doing business with your company, not discussing the pros and cons of trout fishing or listing the top twenty things to do with a bar of soap.

When it comes to your main site the mantra is quick and easy to understand: KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

Your blog on the other hand is less about selling and more about providing value added extra information. It’s a key tool in attracting customers to your site with entertaining and enlightening articles.

They may not buy from your straight away (see the Moz video below) but they’ll keep coming back because your information is so darned good. And if they do that, they’ll eventually engage more profitably.

According to The Guardian:

The key to a successful business blog is giving your readers valuable content. That is how you establish your website’s authority in your industry. In addition, if you give your readers valuable content, they will reward you by becoming return visitors and also parting with their money.

You Get What You Pay For

If you are a business owner then you should know the old adage: You get what you pay for. Low cost jobs generally deliver low cost results and bad writing can be catastrophic for your business.

I’ll leave the last word on that to Contender Content :

In an increasingly content-centric industry, copywriting can be the decisive factor in determining the efficacy of your marketing efforts. Business blogging, website copy, landing pages, email copywriting and asset creation are the building blocks of a successful marketing campaign – and your copywriter has a huge hand in the creation of each. If corners are to be cut, content is not the place to do so.

Finally, if you feel like turning the concept of content marketing on its head and see how it really works then check out this video from Moz.

http://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/wpnh2biame

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How to Write Better in 2015

Write
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Writing, as we all know dear friends, can, on occasion, produce an explosive, passionate outpouring of meaningful words that takes the reader’s breath away. Other times it produces the kind of drivel that fills books like 50 Shades of Gravy and earns you a pay cheque of several millions and the derision of your indie writing peers who all wished they had written it first.

In truth, it’s rare that any of us write a perfect piece of prose first time. At best that work will need a little tweak here and there, at worst a complete rejig or whatever the digital equivalent of screwing up a piece of paper and sending it across the room in a fit of pique is. If you’ve ever written something whilst half-cut on red wine then you’ll know what disappointments generally await come the morning when you do a read through in the sober light of day.

The trouble with writing is that most of us have a day job. That means about 8 hours a day for five days a week is taken away from our valuable writing time. If you have a family there may be meals to cook, driving to be done for Tommy’s new tennis obsession, floors to be cleaned, parties to attend, bondage and kinky sex scenarios to work out before the weekend, all of which steal time away from your dream career as the next JK Rowling.

Finding time to sit down and write is pretty hard under these circumstances and even those brief stolen moments working on your next manuscript can be fraught with interruptions that scupper your efforts to work productively.

You may in contrast have too much time to write. In fact, you might have so much time that you often waste it. I’ll do it a bit later. I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll get on with it next week! The opportunities for procrastination are everywhere and, if you’re not careful, another year will have gone by without you producing anything much of substance.

So if you want to make 2015 your best year for writing, then here are the Feckless top tips to help you do just that.

Write.

Oh, did I mention? Write.

Oh? Are you watching EastEnders? Write.

Found a lump on your testicle that could just be a bit of old chewing gum but may be something more sinister? Write.

The time honored guide to writing – to write, you have to write – is about as useful as a gaggle of professors riding to apocalyptic oblivion on a poop filled kite. Apparently you have to write about a zillion words before you become ‘competent’ which is a highly apocryphal mantra that some poor wastrel, who never got published, wrote and everyone thought was pretty neat.

And copied. And copied.

Until it became truth.

In the last year I’ve written around 750,000 words, which equates to roughly three books and I still haven’t got a novel to speak of. In my defence, this has been done freelancing for blog sites as eclectic as how to keep your photocopier clear of jams, where to buy the best solar panels and how to cure your anal itching without putting a fecking gun to your head.

I’ve done my time, where’s my GODDAMN book…

Takes deep breath, scratches ball (yes, singular), and carries on drinking wine…

The truth is…YES THE TRUTH IS…that to write something that is successful you have to have something to write. You need a story. And you have to be writing it for a reason.

Your guide to writing success this year?

STOP WRITING IF YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY.

And let’s face it, most of us don’t…

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Indie Author: 5 Myths You Should Ignore

indie authorSince the rise of t’Internet, indie authors have been doing their stuff, scratching away with their quills and pots of jet black ink, getting it out there, and largely pretending they are writers. The same goes for photographers, painters, indie film makers, and fashion designers.
In fact, anyone with a hint of talent can now access the web and make a success of themselves. It’s as easy as logging on and writing a few lines.

Add in a fine Merlot and you’ve got the perfect recipe for being a literary superstar.

1. Indie author = Sad git who can’t get published

Back in the day (you know, way back when writers wrote under the flickering light of a candle or two) it was common practice to self-publish. It was only in later years that publishing houses came along and decided they would be the ones to choose who was worthy or not. Just because you don’t have some ponce in an office validating your work, doesn’t mean you’re less of an author.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re any good either.

2. Indie author = no chance of success

Okay, so you’re probably not going to sell millions of copies and become a world renowned scribe. But then most writers never get that chance and who wants to be famous anyway? There are, however, a growing number of writers who are making a reasonable at their chosen profession. They may not be earning the big bucks but they’re pulling in a sustainable salary, either to complement the day job or, for a lucky few, as their main income.

The trick? Good Story x Effective Social Media Marketing = Success.

Who are doing it well? I refer my friends to Amy Cross and monster aficionado Jake Bible.

3. Indie author = no one wants to read

Not true. There’s a growing audience out there for indie authors and it’s not just amongst the writing fraternity. E-readers are at their most popular and people can download what they want from a range of sites. Pique their interest and they’ll give you a go, whether you are famous or not, conventionally published or not.

4. Indie author = you have to sell yourself cheap

No you don’t. This is the big bug bear of many reasonably successful indie authors. If you want to give your book away, fine. But it’s so much better to charge a reasonable price for your work. Giving it away says: “Hey, this stinks, but go ahead and read it anyway.”
Value your work, charge the right price and be happy.

5. Indie author = It’s all down to luck

No, it’s down to hard work, research, and a host of fruitless endeavours that add up to something. If you’re not putting in the effort, stop trying to be an indie author and take up basket weaving instead. If you’re no good at basket weaving try pie eating contests. And if you don’t like that, maybe you should consider multiple murder or painting yourself the colour of sky.

Indie isn’t about luck. It’s about finding out how the whole thing works and applying that to your style and content. If you put in the hours, someday you’ll get something out. I’m not saying you’ll be the next JK Rowling, but you may just start to make a living.

10 Ways to Boost Your Writing Skill

writing skill

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We all want to be better writers, right? We all want that wow! factor when words and ideas come together in perfect synergy to make something meaningful and, dare I say it, beautiful. Your writing skill lies at the heart of all this.

You may have the greatest idea in the history of storytelling but if you don’t have the skill set to match, you’re scuppered. If you’re serious about being a good writer then you should always be trying to better your skills. It’s part of the dark process, the pain that we endure every day to make ourselves heard.

I’m going to run past the “writers write” tip. It’s been used so many times over the past gazillion years you should know it by heart. To get better, you have to write…yah-de-yah-yah…

Think for a moment that your writing self is a thing, hidden, wrapped in stone. Your process of discovering who you are is a process of chipping away that stone veneer and revealing what lies beneath. Sometimes large chunks of rock will fly off and reveal more than you ever expected, or hoped for; most times it’s tiny chips and flakes.

It’s a long process. This writing business. It hurts and it doesn’t come ready made.
These writing tips are not in any particular order and some may be useful and some not.

Tip 1: Read outside your comfort zone

I struggle with poetry in a lot of ways. Sometimes I don’t see the point of it and other times I really don’t understand what is being said. Which is the point of this tip. Poetry is way outside my comfort zone so my thinking is that it’s good for developing my writing skill.

Perhaps I just don’t like poetry. I have the same problem with Shakespeare. I really want to get to know him but I find him tedious.

And then I discovered a truth. Poetry needs to be listened to, not read. For me anyway. Benjamin Zephaniah is doing a programme on BBC at the moment about the legacy of Dylan Thomas in the Welsh poet’s home town of Swansea. Poetry makes more sense to me and elicits more emotion when it is read to me. I had the same issue with the The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner until I heard it read by Richard Burton.

Shakespeare only makes sense to me when I see it acted. On the page it appears dull and complicated, but when it’s up on a stage being spoken by talented actors I suddenly understand.

Reading outside your comfort zone promotes a greater understanding of language and its usage. It doesn’t only encompass literature that is ‘foreign’ or difficult to comprehend and dissect. It includes other genres that you might not have an interest in. Stepping into brave new worlds helps change perspective on your own writing and gives you new ways to develop your writing skill.

If you read, write and breath horror, then pick up a romance or some chicklit (seriously!). If you like thrillers then try something in science fiction. Step into Chekov or Joyce rather than pick up that latest instalment of Game of Thrones. Similarly, if you read classics, opt for something more modern and less of a brain tease.

Diversify your reading and you will further develop your own writing skill.

Tip 2: Walk and increase creativity

Exercise is good for the brain. Writers are often sedentary creatures, hunched over their desks, scribbling away to the detriment of health and good posture. A simple walk can help you be more creative. The Daily Mail recently reported that people are twice as creative if they are taking a walk in a park. Actually, according to the study they were quoting, it’s the exercise that promotes the creative thinking process rather than the location, but you get my drift.

I come up with most of my best ideas when I’m out walking. The trick is to take a notebook with you and jot the stuff down when you have a humdinger. My problem has always been that the idea that seemed so good up there on the mountain was suddenly diffused by the time I gott back to the car.

So notebook, pen, write it down when it occurs.

Doing some intense aerobic exercise just before you sit down to write also helps the creative process. All those endorphins and stuff, they say. Or maybe it’s just the extra oxygen being pumped to your brain. Try it. See what happens.

Tip 3: Write something different

You know how it is, trawling through your latest tome, struggling to keep the plot going, debating whether to have a glass of wine or two or three. It’s difficult. So why not start a fresh page and write something completely different? It often helps to get the cogs rolling again.

But this writing something different tip isn’t just about changing tack to get your juices rolling. Writing out of your comfort zone, like reading out of your comfort zone, can add another dimension to your writing skill. Never written a love scene before? Then do one now. How about a science fiction story if you have only ever written Westerns? Drop into a different genre or, more importantly, adopt a different style. If you like to cram your work full of description opt for something spare where every word counts.

Even better, write a news story or a blog post or something that’s not fiction at all. Changing the way you approach your writing can help you develop new skills and see new ways of doing something.

Tip 4: Write just dialogue

Honing the skill of writing dialogue is one of the most neglected areas amongst many indie writers. It may look simple but actually it’s one of the harder aspects of the dark arts.

“Why?”

“Because people simply don’t practice it enough.”

“Why?”

“Because they think it’s easy.”

There are plenty of how to guides for writing good dialogue but the only true way to develop your writing skill in this area is to practice, practice, practice. Cut out the extraneous descriptive content and just concentrate on dialogue. The more often you do it, the more competent you will become.

“Why is good dialogue difficult to write?”

“Because what is not said is often more important than what is said.”

“That sounds difficult.”

“Yup.”

“Is that it?”

Practice may not make perfect, but practice in this case certainly will make you better. If you want to see how dialogue really works then download some scripts from great films and read them carefully. Then watch the film. Then practice. Then take up juggling.

Tip 5: Build your vocabulary

I’m not talking about using big words in your novels and bamboozling your readers with over complex descriptions. Your writing skill depends on you being able to use the right word for the right moment. Most of us have pet words that we use over and over again.

Building your vocabulary is about finding alternatives that will give your writing a greater richness.

If you’re like me and new words have difficulty in staying between the ears (it’s an age thing, I think) then keep a notebook and write them down. Refer to your list when you settle down for bed at night and try to imprint those pesky words onto your memory.

Widening your vocabulary is perhaps one of the most important tips for developing your writing skill and there is no excuse except laziness for not doing it.

Tip 6: Develop your critical skills and learn to edit

As a writer you need to be able to stand outside your latest blockbuster and evaluate it critically. It’s a difficult skill to learn and some people are good at it, others not so much. The thing is, if you are an avid reader, which you should be, you are probably doing it already and have been for some time when you read other people’s work.

It’s a lot more difficult, however, when we come to look at our own stuff. I’ve written before on how to read like a writer and it’s one of the most important things that you will have to learn to do if you want to be a proficient scribe.

Buy some books on editing and do some remedial work on long forgotten prose that you have written. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the services of a professional editor once you are ready to publish but it does mean that you shouldn’t negate all responsibility.

The power of your book is in the rewrite and editing once you have completed that first draft. There are apocryphal stories of people who have written a perfect first draft and gone running straight into a publishing contract – that is not you. I’m fairly certain of that. Unless you’ve sold yourself to the Devil.

Tip 7: Embrace different mediums

Photography, painting, drawing, music, sculpture, they are all different mediums that can help you make sense of writing. Using the brain creatively is not just about sitting at your keyboard each day. Taking a step away and trying something else that uses your creative mind a little differently can add a new dimension to your writing skill.

Take up another creative hobby and become good at it. Work those creative muscles till they scream with joy.

Tip 8: Become a different person

Visualising yourself as a completely different person is more difficult than it sounds. We always bring who we are to the person we are trying to create (if that makes sense). It’s something that takes practice but can lead to great insight for character development if you can, indeed, step into someone else’s shoes. Mostly it comes down to changing the way you think.

Have a go at this: Pick someone real you are not getting on with, maybe a work colleague or boss who has not been too nice to you recently. See the world from their point of view. See yourself through their eyes and be as critical as you like. Like most things in this list, it’s something that takes practice.

But doing this often and as honestly as possible will help your writing skill when you come to flesh out your fictional characters. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

Tip 9: Warm up with a short, sharp burst of writing

Often the problem us writers have is getting ourselves in that chair and starting to write. We experience despair, fear, anger. We procrastinate. We stare into space. We can often do anything but write.

The trick is to begin. If you are having trouble getting down to the business of writing, open a blank page and speed write without thinking for 10 minutes. Think of it as a warm up exercise to loosen the cob webs and get you back on track.

Tip 10: Move forward, not back

If you’re like me, going back to stuff that has already been written is a comforting thing to do. It can also be a waste of time. I’m not talking about when you set out to edit and refine your first draft, I’m talking about getting stuck on what you have just written. Writers, as far as possible, should always be pressing forward. It’s the only way we get things done. If the editing can come later then leave it.

For the moment just write, write, write.

Advance as much as possible, shield of destiny in one hand, pen in the other. Push on and you will find yourself being more productive than you ever thought.

Some last thoughts on writing skill

If you think creative writing is easy then you are probably doing it wrong.

If you believe that your writing skill is honed to perfection now that you’ve completed a few novellas, then you are wrong.

And if you have ever spent more than half an hour staring at a blank screen, scratching your vitals and chewing your nails anxiously…you’re a writer.

If you have any extra tips then add them in the comments section below. Alternatively, if you found this article useful then please spread the love and share it on one of your media platforms.
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10 Ways to Liberate Your Blog Writing

Follow my blog with Bloglovin Blog writing has a lot in common with a Chicagoinsane asylum

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Now that I’ve kicked off as a freelance writer and have actually landed some jobs, I’ve been thinking of how to optimize my blog so I can get more relevant traffic.

Eeeeekkk!! The world screeches to a halt. Heads bow. Random nobodies burst into fits of rage. Screams of ‘burn him, burn him!’

That’s a terrible word: ‘optimize’. See, I even spelled it the American way. It’s OPTIMISE, dummy. And don’t you forget it.

By the way, there are no ‘10’ ways to liberate your blog writing here either. That’s another one of those apocryphal marketing notions. Someone, somewhere, probably on a night of weird sex and cocaine, wrote that people like lists. And then someone else saw it and plagiarised it. And then others came along, saw that the world was a list and did the same.

And so on, until it became gospel.

Lists will not make your blog more popular.

So, how do you liberate your blog writing?

Simple. You write the stuff you want to write. Scribble it from the heart, dear friends, and damn the literary consquences. There are too many people out there following the rules of blogging. The truth is: THERE ARE NO RULES!

Write something interesting.

Write fast and furious.

Don’t stop until all your blood is left on that digital page.

And, above all, stop pretending there’s a blog writing formula.

You want to write a post about peanut allergies one day and the malaise that is British politics the next? Go right ahead. You’re a writer, aren’t you? You’re supposed to wax lyrical on a whole range of different subjects.

Forget about being popular

You weren’t put on this Earth to be liked. You are here to create, to challenge, to muse. You are an individual. You don’t have to follow the rules. Not anymore. That’s what They want you to do.

They?

The people who make up the rules.

Writing is about freedom, not constraint. If you want to rail against the growing tide of inhumanity, go rail. Scream. Shout. Blaspheme.

Tell Them you can’t be bound by their rules. They’ll moan and wail, say that it will hurt your traffic; just kick them in the literary nuts and move on.

They are not worth your time.

Did Hemmingway worry about traffic? Does Stephen King care about keyword selection? Why should you? It’s all a load of horse cack and that’s all you need to take with you as gospel. Most blog writing advice ain’t worth spit, anyway. You want a list?

I’ll give you a blog writing list!

  1. 98% of visitors won’t read your blog entry. They’ll scan it, pick their nose and trundle off. Why? Because it’s dull.
  2. If you want to grab someone’s attention, you’ve got to surprise them and that means saying something new.
  3. 70% of blog writing is just a rehash of something that has been written before.
  4. Cheese selection says a lot about a person.
  5. And rats have a 60% chance of dying in the first couple of days of life.

Okay, I made that last one up. I bet it’s original though. No? Oh, okay.

The point I’m making is this: We’re only here for a short while so make those words count. Write what you want to write, fill your web pages with truth and wonder and forget all that marketing rubbish. It’s insincere bullshit.

That’s how you liberate your blog writing, with courage and conviction…

…and maybe a little wine.

If you liked this post, then please take a moment to share it with your friends by clicking one of the buttons below. Or all of them…hell, knock yourself out!

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Augmented Reality: The future of storytelling?

augmented reality
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Augmented reality has advertisers and marketing drones fawning over their lattes and popping mind enhancing drugs by the bucket load as they think of the implications. But is it just a gimmick used to sell a product, and give us poor consumers a moment or two of fun, or does it have wider and more intelligent uses?

Imagine the scene: Little Timmy, dressed in his Power Ranger pyjamas, has finished brushing his teeth and jumps excitedly onto his Thomas the Tank Engine duvet.

“Can I have a story, mommy? Can I?”

You pick up his latest toy and place it on the bed, hand your son a smartphone and leave him to it. Little Timmy points the phone at the toy at which point said toy comes to life and begins dancing across the bed sheets, singing songs and telling stories.

For those of you who don’t know, augmented reality is the power of your phone to alter or enhance the world around you. Starbuck’s famously did it with their Christmas coffee cups. Customers who bought the special cups only had to lift up their smartphone cameras to see a special animation dancing around their table top.

Developers are looking at using it to enhance our everyday experiences. Let’s say you are in the supermarket, shopping for the week’s food. You see a product, point your phone at it and augmented reality gives you details of what it contains, serving suggestions, calories, even what wine to drink with it.

Today is a special event. Your street is going to become a land of fantasy, filled with fighting gnomes and hobgoblins. You step into the sunshine, wearing a pair of special glasses and look at the car parked in front of your house. Out of the sunroof pops a great and powerful wizard. Behind him, over by the telephone pole, a little further down the street, monkey creatures peak back at you screeching horribly. In the sky above, prehistoric hawks swoop down.

Or imagine you visit Whitechapel and want to be entertained by the gruesome tale of Jack the Ripper. Instead of reading a guidebook, you let your smartphone drag you down those old streets, watching clever animations of the murders, and the killer, at first hand.

Augmented reality is in its infancy and we don’t quite know what it will bring. We oldies may see it as a quaint diversion to show off to our friends in the office, but there are some, like one CEO below, who think the future of this new technology will enhance our world, delight and educate us for years to come.

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