Thursday, 31 December 2009

Your New Year's writing resolutions

Why wait until tomorrow - create your 2010 writing resolutions today.

Make SMART writing resolutions; Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.


Not someday I'll write a book but - I'll write 2 chapters of my how to book on...(whatever is your topic).


Not I'll write 2 chapters but - I'll write 2 chapters of 2,000 words each.


Not I'll write 2,000 words by 2pm this afternoon but - I'll write 500 words each day for the next 8 days.


Not I'll write a world beating novel but - I'll write 2 chapters about something I really understand and can pass on.


Not someday I'll write a book but - in 10 days I will write 2 chapters.

So instead of some unconsidered dream of writing a book someday you'll have

By the end of January 2010 I will have written 2 chapters of 2,000 words each on how to create a stuffed toy.

Or whatever is your skill or subject.

As has been said many times a goal is a dream with a time frame attached.

If you want to write then stop making excuses, not to me, not to your family or friends but to yourself. That's the only person you're cheating on.

Until you begin, you have no idea where your writing road will lead you. Take your first step now and you'll go into the New Year of 2010 already primed and in gear.

Good luck and may the writing angels be with you.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

How to write - creating the environment

The aim is to enable you to write anywhere. The more focused you are on your writing, the less the surroundings should matter. Creating the mood in your mind is far more important than creating a perfect setting. That can be the thin end of the wedge to letting yourself off the hook.

If your words fizz inside your head, the back of an envelope is as effective a writing tablet as the most beautiful journal.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

How to write

"Writing is like any other learned process. You need to develop and strengthen your writing muscles by writing every day." Eileen Parr

Monday, 28 December 2009

How to write exercise

Shaking up your writing

Too often we write the same thing because we write in the same way. If you write fiction then try writing something else like instructions. How would you tell someone to thread a needle if they have never seen a needle?

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Generating ideas for your business book

Here's a quick way to generate ideas about how to write for your own business.

  1. Look at your business books.
  2. Choose 3 you have gained something from.
  3. Write down why you bought them, borrowed them or stole them from friends.
  4. Study them in more depth and jot down how you can use a similar method, way of writing or layout for your own topic.

This should get you started. It's always easier to say, that's interesting but I would do it a different way than have to start from scratch.

This is just one of 3 ways you'll find to generate ideas, in Writer's Little Book... with Big Ideas.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day blues

If you're not still catching up with different parts of your family, then Boxing Day can seem a bit flat mentally.

Here are a couple of game sites I've used that might sharpen your wits after too much wine and pudding.

My fried sent me the black cat game and it can be quite addictive.

I've tried the Storyman game and the 8 letters game

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas greetings

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
Dr Seuss

Wishing you all good for this day whatever your circumstances, whatever your faith, whatever your hopes.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas holidays

'I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday -- the longer, the better -- from the great boarding school where we are forever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest.' Charles Dickens

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Rushing up to Christmas

Ray Stannard Baker "I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays, let them overtake me unexpectedly, waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: 'Why this is Christmas Day!"

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Reading: the pleasures of the Christmas holiday

"Books to the ceiling,/ Books to the sky,/ My pile of books is a mile high./ How I love them! How I need them!/ I'll have a long beard by the time I read them." Arnold Lobel

Yesterday I staggered back from the library with a selection of books for my holiday reading. Despite us having several floor to ceiling bookcases full of books, I get that fluttering feeling in my tummy that might be the start of a panic attack because I might not have 'the right book' to read when I need it.

So what is the right book? That's the trouble; I never know till I need it. The right book in the middle of a sleepless night may not be the right book for a post dinner browse, glass of wine in hand.

Which means I have to choose a wide selection. I do like to tackle a BIG book, novel or biography at the festive season. One year I did the audio equivalent and listened to Suite Francaise, a wonderful tale of war time France.

Another year it was Mr Norrell and Mr Strange - eccentric and intricate.

This year I hoped to pick up Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. No chance in the library but a must read for me because when I did A level history, Thomas Cromwell was one of my favourite characters in the Tudor story.

Failing that, I've chosen two biographies, one of Voltaire and one about the relationship between Galileo and his daughter. Both big enough subjects to satisfy and learn something new at the same time.

For sheer indulgence, some thrillers including short stories by Peter Lovesey and Charles Dickens.

I'm hoping I've made the right choices but no doubt I shall sneak a look at other people's books... just in case.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Who are your writing buddies?

"What are you writing at the moment Eileen?"

Question was thrown at me by a business acquaintance recently. Before I could open my mouth and talk about the down to earth practical intro to web copy I was working on, he answered his own question.

"It'll be another book then I guess."

Mouth open again even more like a fish gasping for air as he rushed on and talked about the difficulties he had in writing.

And waving his hands at me he finished with,"Lovely to hear all about your work." and was off to the next poor soul to be lavished with his attention.

We all suffer from people like that don't we? And if you are a writer who might like to bounce ideas off on a possible reader, then they are the worst type of person to have around you.

Because what you want are people who are:
  1. Interested in what you do.
  2. Interested enough to listen to you talking what you do.
  3. Interested enough to listen and, ask interesting questions that stimulate further thought in you

Rare as hens' teeth in my opinion such people. And writers sometimes are no better at this for other writers than any other category of people.

So if you are looking for writing buddies choose very carefully. My criteria for buddies are the following:

  1. They consider the context of the writing.
  2. They won't say it's good because they worry about hurting my feelings.
  3. They won't say it's bad because they can't judge it, they're jealous or they're about to steal the ideas.

I'm fortunate in having a couple of people I know who are impartial enough and honest enough to give me critical but considered feedback. Stephen King has about 12 he uses for each book.

Find yours. Treasure them and reward them at regular intervals. They're worthy of your regard and respect.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

How to write for your business;fast and to the point

'The amateur worries about what he is going to put into his speech. The expert worries about what he should take out.' Edgar Dale

Talking to other writers at a networking event, we were swopping writing exercises we'd found useful. The timed exercise is a favourite, as is the unexpected subject. all of these are designed to stimulate your creativity without you having chance to censor your thoughts.

One of my favourite exercises is where you limit the number of words you write. If you really want to challenge yourself then try limiting time and word count.

For business writing in particular this is a valuable discipline because you never know when you might be asked for a 500 word article or a 150 word press release for a tight deadline. And of course you could practise these and have them in your back pocket ready for just such an occasion.

If you love your business, are proud of what you provide as a product or service then you should have a pool of information you can draw on and edit to fit an particular angle or theme.

What writing to a word limit teaches you is to focus on key points you want your reader to know. The fewer words you have the more important each word becomes.

Tweeting can provide you with multiple occasions to exercise this talent with keyword rich, focused statements about what you offer.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

How to survive writing a book

How's your book coming along?

Most people I meet feel either they have a book inside them or that they'd never dare to write one.

The first group I'm always intrigued to know how they're doing and the second group I always want to know what's stopping them.

I've no idea where you are with regard to writing a book but you may well have begun one, then given up. I'm sure for you that hurts and/or proves that you couldn't but it isn't an uncommon place to be.

Certainly I've been there and I've only made my way to becoming a published author because of stubbornness, bloody mindedness and a mad belief in myself.

How to survive writing a book: 5 strategies

  1. Be kind to yourself - award yourself, chocolate, warm socks, alcohol(not too much) or whatever it takes to keep up your motivation.

  2. Find support - if that doesn't exist around you because you're hiding it from your friends, family colleagues, then go online and join forums, (dare I suggest you join Writer's Little Book Club).

  3. Understand you need help - if not with the writing, then with the editing, printing, build your author's website etc etc.

  4. Remember Rome wasn't built in a day - you'll have times it's more difficult to write, times you want to take a break from the manuscript.

  5. Accept you're a hero - for beginning, for keeping going and for finishing.

95% of the population never make the effort to begin let alone to finish. So award yourself gold stars for every day you keep at it.

Whatever you do - keep on writing.

You can download a longer free article on the 5 strategies at

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Business writing;why it should be like looking at the bottom of a glass of water

'I've never met a human being who would want to read 17,000 pages of documentation, and if there was, I'd kill him to get him out of the gene pool.' Joseph Costello

I'm sitting in front of a brand new cooker, with a trout on a tray and a pudding(apple cake) in said oven which should be cooking.

In my hand I have the instruction manual and I'm checking(for the third time) the symbols, the instructions and the recipe book which came with the oven.

In the end I admitted defeat and finished off my meal in the microwave, which was okay but not what I had in mind.

When finally, after a visit from an engineer we discovered the clock has to be set... before the cooker will work I felt very stupid.

But in my defence, nowhere in the instruction manual did it say so. And the engineer did agree that it caught out a lot of people.

Yet again it confirmed my suspicions that instruction manuals are written by people who understand how to do what the manual is about and they don't think of starting from the beginning.

While this is vital for manuals, it's also something to keep in mind whenever you write for business because jargon, assumptions and dense text are dangerous if you want to connect with the reader.

As writers we're complacent at our peril. In a workshop I headed up, a 300 word newspaper article that was clear to me, was criticised by most of the group for being dense, boring and too long to wade through. Even though the subject was of interest to them all, it hadn't captured their attention well enough to make them persist to the end.

Always we should be thinking about our writing:
  1. Is it clear?
  2. Is it to the point?
  3. Is it relevant?

Whatever you write won't interest everyone but if the writing ticks those 3 boxes then it stands a better chance of not being tossed(literally or metaphorically) in the bin

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Imagination:a must for writers

'Imagination is the beginning of creation.You imagine what you desire,you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.' George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Why your first draft is unlikely to be your last

'If you never change your mind, why have one?' Edward de Bono

E-mail is great isn't it? It means you don't have to worry about postal deadlines and you can work on your writing until the last moment.

Which means multiple drafts... at least if you're wise.


That's because our first drafts are almost a spontaneous dumping of what is in our heads on to the screen or paper.

Now if you've done your research, it will be steeped in the subject and relevant. But you can always improve it.

Here are 3 ways to add polish to your first thoughts.
  1. Check out the order - can you be more logical, capture their interest faster or produce that well crafted example to offer the clincher of a proof.
  2. Check out the wording, cleaning out all the weak words and replace with strong images to glue themselves to the inside of your reader's brain.
  3. Check out the spacing. White space in abundance and in the right places makes it easier for your reader to navigate your text. And easier navigation means easier understanding and more connection.

Force yourself to read it again or find someone suitable to comment. It will pay dividends for all your writing.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Recommended reads

Ice Road by Gillian Slovo.

I'm part way through this book but already I've been drawn into the world of Leningrad in the 1930s. And if you think it's cold here, then Gillian Slovo's descriptions of the cold in Leningrad and the Arctic will have you reaching for a warmer jumper.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Candlestick Press Nottingham

Last week I bought a poetry pamphlet edited by Carol Ann Duffy then discovered the publisher is Candlestick Press in Nottingham.

Lovely tradition to start for Christmas, reading a poem for each of the 12 days.

Friday, 11 December 2009

On appreciation

Albert Schweitzer: "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Why writers should network

I've just come back from a festive networking event. (thanks to all at FocusZenith in Bingham for their hard work in organising it)

It's fun networking as a writer because as soon as you say what you do then out come all the stories. Of books imagined, or wished for or written.

Favourite today - father in law of attendee who had been in the secret service in the 1960s. Can't tell you any more of course.

Saddest - story to be told of the loss of a child.

Most intriguing to peek behind the scenes - someone who worked for Rupert Murdoch.

As they say, everybody has a story to tell. And I was discussing with several people how to use stories in business writing. One attendee worked for a charity where they need an emotional connection to stimulate giving.

Logic in selling has its place - but emotional logic beats it hands down every time. We're brought up on stories (oh and there was a proud grandad who'd received a story about a clockmaker, in an email from his 6 year old grandson) so stories about products or services we wish to buy make sense of things for us, help us to connect and put ourselves in the picture.

Monday, 7 December 2009

George Bernard Shaw

"What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn't come every day."

How to use your Christmas break to power your writing in 2010

If you're like me you're ready to take a break for Christmas. Whether you take the bare minimum or you're closing down for 2 weeks it will come as a relief after a challenging even though successful year.

So how do you make sure that you don't lose momentum with your writing over this period?
It's easy to lose focus whatever your ongoing projects but I believe with writing you can plan the holiday in as a positive time.

That's because to me there are 5 stages in any writing project.

  1. Research
  2. Writing
  3. Pause
  4. Editing
  5. Proofreading

It's the pause that we can use at Christmas or indeed any period you're away from your writing.

Robert Louis Stevenson talked about "my little brownies" by which he meant those unconscious promptings that happen to us. When we wake up and suddenly there's the next step in the project or the next chapter in our head just waiting to be written.

Wherever you are in your current writing project, as you move nearer your closedown, make some notes about:

  1. your progress (or lack of it),
  2. where you want your writing to go next and
  3. chose a couple of points you want to focus on.

Draw a diagram if that works better for you, but in some way give your unconscious some guidance on what you want to happen.

Then forget your work. Take pleasure in being with your friends and family.

If by any chance you receive nudgings during the holiday then jot them down in your notebook then they're ready for you to go back to them in the New Year.

You'll be amazed how fast your creativity will feed you results when you start writing again.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

E-books: how to write them for profit and pleasure

What's an e-book?

E-books are quick to produce, introductions to topics ranging from writing to knitting to training parrots.

Whatever your subject you can write an e-book on it.

Why write an e-book?

Writing e-books can provide you with an extra source of income whether you already have a business or not. As a business person they can provide others with proof of your expertise, mark you out in a crowded marketplace and give you a marketable product.

If you have a hobby or interest where you have built up considerable knowledge, why not share it with others. Teach them how you did it and you can grow extra income at the same time.

How do you write an e-book?

Fast, simple and with a method. It's not a long novel where you have to dream up characters and a plot.

An e-book is factual, should be easy to read and follow. The shorter you make it the better for the reader to understand and learn from it.

How do you sell an e-book?

The process is automated, fast and digital. You don't need to meet your buyers, unless you want to and they can buy at any time of the day in any time zone.

What's an easy way to write an e-book?

An easy way to write an e-book is using a simple method like the 5 day E-book Writing System.

Is it really possible to write an e-book in 5 days. Yes it is because I've done it using the system. That's how my e-book was written.

What do you have to do to achieve that?

1. Commit yourself to the project by allocating the time.
2. Follow the method as outlined.
3. Keep taking action.

So if you really want to have your own e-book then you need to head over to:

When you buy the book you'll also receive a bonus to help motivate and keep you going through the process.

Do it now and one week from now you'll have your very own e-book ready to sell.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Christmas recommended booklists

What's on your list of recommendations this year.

Mine include William Trevor and Alice Monro short stories; Susan Hill detective novel; an intriguing novel about paper; and as always a re-read of my favourite Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer novels.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Alvin Toffler

"Anyone nit-picking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it."

Monday, 30 November 2009

How do you write for business - using your senses?

'He'll see you now Eileen.'

The assistant held the door open for me and I walked in hand outstretched, deep breathing to stop the rising panic in my abdoment.

What's in your mind when you read those words? It's an interview? Or maybe a doctor's appointment or is it the dreaded bank manager?

In that case it was the bank manager, back in the days of 'real' bank managers, who weren't your friend who said yes but rather held you to account all the time.

Now if you've ever had any kind of interview where you felt nervous you could conjure up the same feelings as I had on that day. Newbie commercial manager, new company, new role. Out of my comfort zone by a factor of 10.

So in a few words I've made a connection - to a universal event and to a set of emotions which most people in business can share.

When people tell me business is factual, rational and emotionless I want to laugh. Because that's not my experience of being in business... or of how other people in business behave.

Last week I went networking. Small event which I like because it gives you chance to talk to people instead of threshing around trying to shower business cards around the room.

Let me give you 3 examples of emotion and passion I found in those business people.
  1. Manager of very successful local bus company in charge of their flagship route. The energy flying off him could have powered the room.
  2. Owner of a waste recycling company. So inside his subject and how he could help other businesses save money.
  3. Manager for a local business organisation. Passionate about using resources wisely to help sustain small businesses.

None of those fed me facts and figures. Instead they all connected at a level of how they could serve other people.

Yes businesses want to save money. They also want their problems solved.

That means we have look from the inside out as if can see it from their perspective. As if we can hear their moans as yet another problem lands on their desk. And as if we're they're when they go home the end of the day with a stress headache.

So when you write to connect with prospective customers write about how you can give them a good night's sleep because you've solved their most pressing problem. Write about how they can expand their business because you've blitzed an obstacle out of their way. Show them how they can't possibly live without your service.

If you're not passionate, why should they be?

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Learning to write books

"It's none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way." -Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Monday, 23 November 2009

Does reading make you a better writer

Somebody said to me recently that I have a big appetite and I quipped "That's why I eat so much chocolate then."

Chocolate aside, and I should never put chocolate aside (by the way there's some very tempting chocolate in the Delilah shop in Nottingham at the moment in exotic designed tins) having a big appetite is certainly true of my reading.

Sometimes I've hoovered books up at a rate that I couldn't tell you what I've read. However, as a writer do I read in a different way?

The great John Carlton always says that if you like something in a book, you should go back and work out why it appealed to you.

Why did it grab you, rock your world or bring you to tears?

Does that spoil your reading enjoyment? Well I tend to read the book through, then go back and check it out.

Does it mean that you'll end up writing like that person? Most of us are derivative as beginning writers. What's important is that we work through that stage to find our voice. That essential 'us-ness'. How long that take us depends on what we're trying to write and how passionate we are about reaching that individual voice.

I'll never write like someone who comes from a different culture, race or background. I admire those who can do that. Elizabeth George pulls it off in 'What came before'.

All I can aim for is to write from the honest core of me. Reading other people doesn't obstruct that. It makes it easier because the books I connect with all have that honesty.

Read on. Read wide. Read with passion.

Then spin off into space to turbo charge your writing.

What is genius?

Came across this quote from Goethe.

"What is genius but the faculty of seizing and turn to account everything that strikes us?"

Thursday, 19 November 2009

How to win a major book deal

The trouble with us writers is that often all we want to do is write. And these days that's not enough.

Item from Writer's Almanac about Christoper Paolini author of Eragon.

Self published a book it took him 2 years to write. Then he took it out on promotional tour. Not one event, not two, not even ten. No he went to 135 events. Then was offered 2 deals.

Now maybe you're saying well I couldn't do that. But the lessons I take from this story are these:
  1. He didn't sit there waiting for a deal to come to him.
  2. He believed in himself and his book.
  3. He had people round him to support him.

Now we may not be able to do promotion on the scale he did but then we need to think what tools do we have to use.

Social networking and what you can do on the internet has levelled the playing field for creative people.

Digital printing has brought down the cost of self publishing.

The knowledge and influence is no longer in the hands of the few.

If we believe in our writing, if we believe it can entertain, educate or help sustain people, then the tools are there for us.

All it takes is the will from us.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Paper-fascinating facts

1715 death of John Bagford, 1st authority in England on paper.Also book mutilator(Yah Boo)

How to write a successful book

I'm always fascinated by the process people use to achieve their goals. And it's no different when I look at writers. Every writer has their own method and as in NLP, adopting successful writing strategies from others might be just what you need.

I found these in an item from the Guardian Review, 14 November 2009 quoting research carried out by the Wall Street Journal.

  • lying in bed, speaking to a laptop computer with voice recognition software
  • taking on the clothes and appearance of a major character to get inside their mind
  • drafting in notebooks, typing drafts then revising, then make a tape recording of reading the book
  • reading books that characters might read
  • writing in longhand and computer
  • taking showers if you get stuck

To paraphase a well known quote,'If we always write in the way we've written, we may well always get the same results.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Enid Blyton - friend or fiend

I watched the BBC play about Enid Blyton last night and found myself saying 'what a vile woman' part way through it.

But you know when I was a child, reading an Enid Blyton books was a major event for me. And often they arrived as the Christmas book so became twice as exciting. Not for me Wind in the Willows. In fact I didn't read many of the children's classics till I was an adult.

I haven't re-read Enid Blyton since childhood so have no idea how they'd strike me now. But whatever her personal life, which may have been as self centred as they showed it in the play, she created worlds outside my own experience when I was a child.

For that at least, I have to thank her.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Amazon versus independent bookshops

It's that time of year again when I'm trying to find the best bargains for Christmas presents. I'm always torn between buying from Amazon for the convenience and if I'm truthful making my money stretch as far as possible or supporting local bookshops.

Just been catching up with some letters in the Guardian about the role of Waterstone's on the High Street and one of the letters came from Lynn Michell and Linen Press books in Edinburgh. She wrote about the economics of publishing and how the giants make it difficult for small publishers to do business via them.

As the publisher of my own books I know that if anyone buys my book via Amazon I'll just about break even. Buy direct from Writer's Little Book website and I make a small profit. The economics are driving me to create digital books for the future though I love and will continue to love 'proper' books.

The librarian is too much in my soul to want to move away from books on shelves but as a business person I have to be sensible.

So my Christmas mission has to be to support locals and small enterprises run by people with passion.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Paper - fascinating facts

1294 Paper money is noted by Marco Polo on his travels.

How to write a business book

Without losing your mind or taking years.

Every time I go to a networking event, I can guarantee at least one person says to me,'I probably should write a book to help market my business.'

My reply is always a resounding YES.

So what stops otherwise intelligent and market focused entrepreneurs from using this strategy?

Fear, procranistination and mental paralysis.

Trainers who wouldn't hesitate to come up with a speech lasting 45 minutes, or a workshop lasting 2, 3 or even 5 hours, freeze at the thought of... a book. What happens in their brains to cause such panic?

Well it's a book isn't it? Yes but we aren't asking you to write War and Peace are we?

What's required, in this instance is a practical book based on your experience doing what you are good at doing.

Which means that if you produce information as part of doing what you do, then you already have the basis for a book. In my experience, most trainers, coaches and mentors already have at least 50% of their book written. And people with businesses based on products or skills have a fund of information and expertise they can use.

It may need editing to fit into a marketable format but I'm sure you'd agree that's nowhere near as scary as starting with a blank page.

So come on - resolve now, not on 1 Jan 2010 but NOW, that you'll not only think about writing your book but TAKE ACTION.

Here's where to start to write a business book.
  1. Look at the construction of any workshops, coaching programmes or mentoring schemes you run. Or jot down 20 questions people always ask about your product or area of expertise.
  2. Write down any headings, segment titles or parts of your workshop or programme.
  3. Re-arrange to form the chapter headings of book
  4. Add Introduction at beginning, summary after each heading and Conclusion at the end of the headings.

Now you have a basic outline of your book.

If that doesn't generate some thoughts about what you can put in your book I'll be stunned.

Simmer it in your unconscious mind for a few days then get moving on collating all the material you need.

Let me finish by asking you a question?

If you could complete a book by focusing all your energy on it for only 7 days, would you do it?

If the answer is no then it's not the right time or activity for you.

If the answer is YES then I'll have something of interest to you in the next couple of weeks. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Being an author - the importance to your business

Yesterday I attended the Nottingham Women of Influence luncheon organised for the 16th year by that remarkable lady Carol Parkinson for the benefit of Macmillan Cancer Care.

As always it was fun to be with so many other competent and effective women. The level of sharing and support is a reminder of how great we are as a group. Sorry guys, there were a few men there and we love you really, but as Carol said, after years of being token people in a male business world we have to cherish these times.

What is pertinent for this site - a home and I hope an increasing refuge for writers, particularly women, is that both the speakers had books to promote.

It interested me that one of the speakers, a coach from the US had published her own book. Now in these days of celebrities heading up the best seller book list it's encouraging to think that an internationally renowned coach has taken the route of self publishing.

It underlines what I believe. That the playing field for us to be authors, be published and be internationally known is as level as it's been in years. With all the new technology, the social media sites and our own networks supporting us we're in a great position to do as good a job or better than traditional publishing companies.

Would I turn down an international publishing contract if someone offered me one tomorrow? Of course not. But and it's a big but - I'd want to know exactly what I was getting in the way of promotional effort from the publisher before I signed up.

Particularly as a writer of non-fiction, having control of your own material, being able to use it to promote your business in the way you want it to do, has to be key for us business people.

So if you still haven't written that book - honestly - what's stoppping you?

Will it be on your New Year to-do list - again?

Just make yourself a promise that you can and will do it. And if I can help you in any way I certainly will.

Being an author is great fun... and is a wonderful conversation creator.

What conversations would you like it to create for you?

Paper - fascinating facts

AD 105 in China the first paper is made by Ts'ai Lun. He is also ordered to correct history documents to fit contemporary thinking.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Following your dream

"In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia and ultimately become enslaved by it.
You have a dream; have you set your goals to make it happen?" Doppelit quote of the week

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Writer's block is?

Great post on about writer's block.

He's running a quiz (with prizes) but both me and you are too late for the prizes.

But the suggestions about what writer's block is are interesting.

For me writer's block is an excuse not to get on and write. Saying you can't write might make me seem interesting but there are enough different ways of writing and approaching how you write to spark off something.

What you do with the writing afterwards is a different matter.

Monday, 2 November 2009

How to become a writer if you hate to write

How do you learn about anything? We all have our own methods don't we and I was talking to my friend and web strategist Kirsty Farrelly last week about it.

She needs to hone in on a source of information right from the beginning and only when she has the nuts and bolts of a subject in her mind does she move out and read more widely. My method is completely the reverse of that - I start widely then hone in.

What I like about my method is that gives me a range of ideas, thoughts and inspirations that I can use for my work or as in this case pass on to you.

Yesterday I was listening to a speaker named Jean Houston. No I'd never heard of her before but she has been influential in the personal development movement for the past 40 years. Her greatest mentor was Margaret Mead the anthropologist; as a young child she met Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller.

More to the point for us though she's written 26 books. When asked how she did it, her answer was "I hate to write".

Now I'm really interested. Because if you like writing, you will write regardless of any other challenges in your life. But finding ways to help people who don't enjoy writing, is one of my passions.

So I'm all ears. And her method is quite simple and I guess if you've done any NLP or visualisation probably obvious.

Jean Houston loves to cook and is very good at it. Starting as a child in self defence so that she could eat properly, she taught herself to cook, became an expert and it's one of the joys of her life.

When she approaches writing a book, she therefore approaches it as a cook. In her mind she's creating a recipe with ingredients to produce a balanced result.

She includes good solid foundations, a mix to appeal to different parts of the reader's tastebuds and that essential extra of love that all good cooks mix in because onsciously it's what they're passionate about - feeding people and giving them a great experience.

Now the cooking analogy might not work for you. But you're great at something. Might be organising your family, might be painting or being a great friend.

Whatever it is try taking that expertise and passion into your writing and see what difference it makes.

What's my passion? Helping people to make the most of their talents. Love it and whatever I've done in my life I've always thought -"If only one person moves on because of what I've said, written or done I'm satisfied."

This week I'll be finding more out about Jean Houston. She sounds a formidable and unstoppable lady.

Rita Mae Brown

"One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory"

Sunday, 1 November 2009


"A vivid thought brings the power to paint it, and in proportion to the depth of its source is the force of its projection."

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Writing your book: what have you done today?

"Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action." Benjamin Disraeli

I wish those people who keeping tell us how many shopping days to Christmas would stop it. I usually allocate a couple of days to blitz my shopping, preferably not at a weekend, then forget about it.

But even leaving aside the commercial intensity shown by the retail sector to get us to spend money this year, they are right to keep nagging us.

Because time rushes on. Things get missed and then we wake up in a panic with a couple of days to go before Christmas because we've forgotten to buy something, or forgotten where something is that we'd been very organised and already bought.

Which on a different tack, but the same really, is why I'm asking "what have you done today towards that book you said you would write this year?"

Remember your New Year's resolution? Hmm - now what was it? This year I will write my book. Or at least start it.

If I'm making you feel bad, then you're in good company with some of my writer friends. This time last year one of them talked to me about a book he had planned. About a month ago he talked to me about the same book.

Not finished? Not even started. And this from a professional writer who isn't afraid of the blank page, meets deadlines for clients, and loves writing.

I set him a challenge. To start and finish it before the end of the year. Will he meet the deadline? I've no idea. But he won't get the celebratory meal I promised him if he doesn't.

If taking action on a large scale scares you, take a small step. Write the title, the contents page, the first line. Anything to convince your mind you mean business.

Then take another step, and another till as the Chinese say you'll have achieved the long journey.

Come on - I want you to do it - for you.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Ronnie Scott's jazz club

Happy 50th birthday to Ronnie Scott's. Renowned and still on my to do list to visit.

Angela Hewitt plays Schumann

If you like the music of Schumann and you've never heard Angela Hewitt play then I urge you to try her recordings. Or better, go and see her.

Last night was one of those rare evenings that you have sometime when time stands still and you know that what's happening is special and precious.

Yes of course we took the virtuosity for granted. Any pianist who receives the acclaim Angela Hewitt has received automatically has that. What she created though was something beyond my grasp of describing.

A sense of space, a meditation from beginning to end, a sharing of her love for the music which she covered us with like a silk cloak.

Amazing. And to boot or to shoe some wonderful satin high heel shoes in scarlet.

Check out her website - she writes an interesting blog

Nottingham Trent University - Ingenuity Programme

It's always good to get together in a group of women and share experiences.

Under the guidance of some of the women lecturers in the business school, we had a morning thinking of how we start in business, grow a business and survive in it.

Just when you think that you are the only person to have a particular problem, you find that others have faced the same challenge... and found solutions.

The fact that so many networks keep springing up is testament to our need as women to have support. Are we better at sharing ideas, strategies and comfort? Possibly. It is seen as natural female territory.

But we're as rigorous as men in wanting solutions. It may be that we want to solve our challenges in a different way. Whatever it is, I spent a life enhancing and supportive time at the event.

Di Slaney of DIversity (marketing) and Sarah and Mig Davenport of Sarah Davenport Designs (wonderful bespoke furniture and kitchens) spoke about how they'd survived to this point. Very inspirational.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Be still for a moment - if you can

My niece who lives in Malaysia sent me an email this morning, passing on to me a meditation she'd received from one of her friends.

It asked us to be still for a moment. Stop trying to make everything happen around you. Stop trying to think of all you have to do.

Just be - for a moment.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Saturday, 24 October 2009

What will your book do for your readers?

I was talking to a fellow business writer today and he said I wish I could sit in a tower and just write what I like.

Well we all feel like that when inspiration hits us, but we need to have one eye on the market and more likely three if we're writing for specific markets.

What problems are at the top of your mind right now?

Is the car, the house, the children, the partner, the work or what?

Because whatever is there, then you'll find it difficult to pay attention to anything else till you've dealt with that particular challenge. But if what I'm offering you to read doesn't cover that challenge, then no matter how well I've written or how good my offer to you is, then it will go down the to-do list.

Target, target and more target is needed. And the ivory tower will just have to wait a while.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Sunday, 18 October 2009

How to write in the therapy market

This week I've been writing an article to appear in a therapy journal in December.

I loved being a therapist- it was something I'd wanted to do for a long time so qualifying was one of the best experiences of my life. Then I had the chance to pass on my knowledge to others who wanted to be therapists. What I found was they didn't by and large qualify as business people.

Coming to therapy work from a background in business meant that from the beginning I treated being a therapist in the same way as anything else I'd done. Set out my goals, focused on the market and tried to solve problems. Often I found with students that they were so focused on the caring that they couldn't treat themselves as the product or service being marketed.

That's why so many don't prosper as they should. It's difficult placing a value on what you do to gain a decent reward for your services. It sounds clinical and I don't want to undervalue any therapist's work, but if you can't work out a price that allows you to receive at least a living wage then other people will set your prices for you.

Whether you're a therapist or in some other one on one service, there's no shame in being upfront about your expertise and experience. Training doesn't come cheap and it demands investment of time and energy on top of fees paid.

Be fearless about what you think you're worth - but then be prepared to give the value in return. And think about it always in terms of 'what solutions can I offer clients.'

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Richard Bach

"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however."

Friday, 16 October 2009

Essential reading for writers

I was looking up famous birthdays today and found Noah Webster on the list. Compiler of the first American dictionary and featured in the Road to Morocco movie song(by Johnny Burke)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

How to finish a project

This morning I walked into our kitchen, felt the sunshine soak into my skin and relished the smell and the look of our new kitchen.

It's felt at times like we've been camping out for months - I know that's an exaggeration because it's only been weeks. But goodness now it's over how glad I am that we did it.

Just like any project we've had the excitement, choosing the colours, the units and so help me even enjoying picking the taps! Then started the hard work of clearing the kitchen and gearing ourselves for the influx of workmen.

How lucky we've been with them - all helpful, all conscientious and despite the dust, all attempting to leave us as tidy as possible each night.

Then those last finishing touches - the decorating - and my neck is now recovering from the ceilings thank you. Plus some flooring and a couple of pieces of new equipment needed. We deserved that because the items we replaced had lasted over 20 years.

It's those last few polishes of the diamond that make the difference in any project isn't it? Those personal touches that make us individual. Whether it's a kitchen or a piece of writing.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Maxine Peake in Criminal Justice

Did you catch any of Criminal Justice last week? If not and you can see it on I-Player then have a look. Maxine Peake was wonderful reflecting the fragility of a woman under the control of her husband.

If she doesn't win an award for that performance then that will be unjust.


"There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts."

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Friday, 9 October 2009

Jane Eyre

Did you attend Sunday school as a child? I did and couldn't avoid it without a big battle with my parents. But I have it to thank for introducing me to one of the classics of modern literature.

Jane Eyre. Underdog and plain girl. As an adolescent there was plenty for me to connect with even though I had a loving family and comfortable home.

Won as a Sunday School prize, every TV, film or radio version has sent me back to the book to appreciate the strength of the writing. When I first read it, I didn't realise what a revolutionary book it was at the time. Female writer, strong character and radical concept.

It still moves me when I read it and just like the first time, my heart goes out to this child terrified by shadows in the Red Room.

Great literature.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Hilary Mantel

I'd like to pass on my congratulations to Hilary Mantel for her win. Thomas Cromwrell was one of my favourite people when I studied Tudor history at school.

It was probably that I identified with him as someone who had to make his own way in the world. Using his wits and his talents he gained everything. I guess he was unfortunate in working for such a capricious boss.

Looking forward to reading the book. It will be my Christmas holiday read I think because I love having a big story to get my teeth into over the quieter period.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Denis Norden quote

"It's a funny kind of month,October. For the really keen cricket fan it's when you realise that your wife left you in May. "


Saturday, 3 October 2009

Writing: what distracts you

For the last week, our household has been upside down because we have the builders in.

Now before I go on I must say that they have been great; arriving on time, working hard and even better clearing up after themselves. But isn't it odd how the slightest alteration of our routine puts us out?

And this isn't a minor alteration - we're having our kitchen re furbished. So we have been camping out and the contents of our original kitchen are distributed around the house.

On one level it's a reminder not to take anything for granted because one day we had no power all day and floorboards up and for a short time no water.

On another level it's an object lesson in focus and concentration. That's because my work didn't stop and since I work at home, then the normal 'office' conventions didn't apply. I found myself instead working in short, sharp bursts of activity.

The odd thing is that I rather enjoyed the challenge. I didn't have the luxury of taking my time so I powered through work that I might have spread out far longer in normal conditions.

Just as in office time management, the experts always say that a large percentage of working time is not effective, so my office suddenly because super efficient.

Made me feel smug at the end of the day how much I had achieved 'against the odds'.

Human nature loves a challenge doesn't it. Now my challenge is when we finally see the back of the workmen, how can I capitalise on that increased efficiency?

Friday, 2 October 2009

How to measure your progress as a writer

I'm old enough to realise that things go in cycles. Events, learning and in this case writing.

It's very easy to become discouraged by thinking your progress isn't fast enough. I've lost count of the number of times it's happened to me. Every time I set off on that journey of discovery I manage the beginner slopes easy enough.

Then comes a bit of an incline and whoa, I'm out of breath. Fortunately what happens then is that there's a plateau. Often we rail against the plateaux in our learning because we want to take another leap forward. . . immediately.

But just as we need to draw breath after a real incline, so we need to take stock in our writing progress. And we can turn to look back to assess how much we've learned that we didn't give ourselves credit for.

So if you're beating yourself up about not moving head, cut yourself some slack. My bet is you're further forward than you think.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

How to stop the time robbers

One of the biggest complaints I hear from would be or struggling writers is that they don't have the time. That their families or work or whatever stopped them doing anything.

I've heard people with children wailing that they can't even find peace in the loo because someone will be banging on the door.

Here's a story about the novelist William Faulkner that may give you an idea. He used to walk into the room where he wrote and on the way in, take off the door knob and put it in his pocket.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Inspirational quotes for writers

"When life seems overwhelming, take things an hour at a time - find comfort in the little triumphs." by Lee Woodruff

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

How to write for your website

How do you construct text for your website pages?(from How to write effective web copy) for more details

Before you write a word of text you need to decide what pages you want and the purpose of each page.

Pages shouldn’t be there because everybody else has them. Each of your web pages needs to work hard for you.

KEY POINT - Remember each page is a sales person who should work for you 24/7.

If you already have a website this maybe is the place to say you should get your head around using the analytics for your site. These will tell you how visitors arrive at your site, which pages they go to, how long they stay there and how many bail out without doing anything. The current phrase is “sticky”. That is to create pages that keep your visitor involved and on the site.

Not having a website really isn’t an option these days but you need to understand its position as a major part of your selling strategy. You need to work with a website developer who will explain all the technical underpinning of a site in plain English to help you with writing the text.

There are two variables you need to consider for each page.
your live animate visitor
your inanimate search engine visitor

Each of these visitors has to be satisfied and each has different needs.

For the inanimate visitor you need to identify the most appropriate keywords to use. For your live visitor you need to delve into the psychology of why they've visited your site and what they hope to gain from the visit.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Writer's block

If you want to write something but you’re scared, ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen to you by writing it?

If you think what you want to write is important then that should be stronger than the fear of writing.

Writers - a wake up call

If you haven’t written something in the last 24 hours why not?

You’re a writer aren’t you?

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Writing a book - reasons to do it


You have a passion for sharing knowledge.

What passions do you have that you can share? One of the facts the Internet has thrown up is that since we’re no longer restricted to the people in our neighbourhood the world is full of fans with interests.

You might be the one with the in-depth knowledge. You don’t know till you try. You can share knowledge on many levels. Let’s take an example of bringing up children. A book could be written from different perspectives.

Expert to beginner.
Paediatrician to mothers giving advice in a down to earth way.

Expert to expert.
Paediatrician to other doctors sharing findings of research.

Peer to peer.
Mum to other mums sharing their experiences, good or bad.

Lay person to expert
Mum to doctors telling them why in her experience some of their theories are wrong of unhelpful.

Mum to children
Talking about the problems of motherhood, or particular parts of it like dealing with teenagers.

For more reasons see The Writer's Little Book of .... Business Writing for Results

Business writing for results-key points

Key Point Summary From The Writer's Little Book of... Business Writing for Results (for more details about publication go to

Knowing what you want to achieve with your writing increases your chances of achieving it.
Remember this at all times when you write. Only one person will read your piece at a time
Keeping your radar tuned for opportunities for writing will pay results.
What do you want your writing to do for you?
Feature + that means for you = benefit
Time spent researching the market to find the gap is never wasted.
Does the title of your blog entry, or article or book create curiosity in your reader?
Writing for your website is simply another medium for marketing your business.
There’s always something you can do to move your writing on.
80% of the most effective writing relies on thorough editing. Never believe that your first effort will do the job – it won’t.
Use your blog as part of your complete marketing strategy and over time it will pay off for your business.
Tweeting may seem like a waste of time but it can have a power beyond what you can imagine.
Positioning yourself as an expert in your field produces opportunities to build your business profile
Writing has one purpose and one purpose only. To transmit the ideas, thoughts and knowledge of the writer across to the reader.
Matching your reader’s language can make life easier for you.
Clear layout can increase the chances of your reader understanding your text and responding to it.
Subheads make your case fast.
Headlines are your ad for your piece of text.
Having a system for your writing projects means you’re more likely to achieve your aim and less likely to miss out something important.
Clear notes are the key to efficient writing.
Writing business proposals that connect to your reader’s needs increases your chances of success.
Consider purpose of any report before you write it.
Minutes should be impartial and a factual record of events.
Always angle the text to what interests the reader not what interests you.
Expanding your ideas about what a book is will give you the key to how you can write a successful one.
Keep your sentences simple.
Making friends with grammar gives you freedom in writing.

And finally, enjoy your writing!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Writer's block

Here's a technique to kick you into writing

Set a timer for 15 minutes and write about yesterday. You can write what happened hour by hour, you can write as if you're telling a friend or you can choose one incident and concentrate on that.

When the timer buzzes, stop even if it is mid sentence.

Count how many words you’ve written, multiply by 4 and you have a measure of your writing speed per hour. If you can write 100 words in 15 minutes that equals 400 an hour. There's no right or wrong figure because we all work at different speeds.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


I love cats and this compilation made me giggle. Recognised quite a lot of the behaviour too.

and if you hate cats, watch it and have your prejudices confirmed.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Dorothy Parker

"Brevity is the soul of lingerie." Dorothy Parker, (What Fresh Hell Is This?)

Writing clinic

If you're struggling with writing with clarity and simplicity then here's a tip to help you.


Go to a bookshop or the library or wherever there are children’s books. Find one that is on the subject of your book. How do they put it across to a child?

More mud wrestling techniques in The Writer's Little Book of ... Business Writing for Results. More details at

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Integral Enlightenment

Over the summer I've been listening to an fascinating audio series on the future of spirituality in an evolutionary context. Since I always have my own challenges in meditating and overcoming ego I've found them very helpful.

You can download free meditation by Craig Hamilton - awakening to the great perfection.

Speakers in the series have included Ken Wilber, Michael Murphy, Andrew Hamilton and Genpo Roshi. All new speakers to me except Ken Wilber so it's opened up many lines of enquiry for me.
I hope you find it interesting too.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Scarborough Jazz Festival

Spending weekend at Scarborough Jazz Festival
Annual treat this time includes John Etheridge, Michael Garrick, Trudy Kerr and Liane Carroll. With the unique Alan Barnes as compere.

Still not too late to book a ticket. Incredible value - get it while it lasts.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Inspirational quotes for writers

"Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others." Marianne Williamson

Writing for your website

Here's another excerpt from 'Effective writing for the web'
When you ask these questions about your business it will concentrate your efforts and give you the focus you need to write targeted text.


These are your best friends. Before you do anything for your business they’ll work hard on your behalf and shortcut your path to a website that brings you the results you want.

Let’s wind them up and set them off working for you.

WHO are your customers?
WHAT do they want?
WHEN do they want it?
HOW can you deliver it?
WHY should they buy from you?

This is research I expect my clients to do before I start to write. They are in the best place to know it. My research is based on what they’ve already done though I don’t rely on it completely.

If I told you that doing this research can be the difference between having an okay site and one that brings you the business you want, how prepared are you to put in the effort?
Where do I start in writing the text?

At this point in the book I’m assuming that:
1. You’ve carried out all your research. If you haven’t go back and do it. Any time you spend writing before you have a clear focus in your mind will be wasted otherwise.
2. You’ve checked out websites in your market sector and worked out what you like what you don’t and found out how successful these sites are.
3. You’ve looked at the language they use on the sites and why you like it or don’t.

KEYPOINT: Never steal from them. Develop your own approach based on ideas you like. Making it your unique site is important in the long term.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Encouragement for writers

Did you hear about the miners who stopped digging 6 feet from a rich gold seam?
How close are you to your writing gold seam?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Inspirational quotes

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." Carl Jung

How to beat the blank page

Here is a way to take the terror out of starting to write.


Make a list of all the things you know about your subject. Now choose 2 and imagine you’re talking to someone about them. What would you say? Write down how you’d introduce the topic to them if they began with zero knowledge.


There’s always something you can do to move your writing on.

This is just one of the techniques, tips and strategies to improve your business writing that you'll find in my soon to be published Writer's Little Book of Business Writing for Results.

email me for more details:

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Today's writing challenge

Write 122 words about chickens.

What's the offer

This morning I was talking to a fellow writer who like me helps authors to edit their books. We were discussing some of the challenges writers face in reaching even a finished book.

It may sound very anti beginner writers but this is said with a wish to be helpful to them. And save them wasting their valuable creative energy.

Look I know exactly how much effort goes into creating a book, any book. So I think it makes sense to direct the creative energy in the best possible way. And when you think about writing a book, then my question is 'what's the offer' in the book.

This might seem to only have relevance to non-fiction books. But even in fiction there has to be something for the reader to get hold of. To hold onto even if the writer takes them on a roller coaster ride from the start to the finish.

And it's fundamental to any non-fiction book that doesn't have a monopoly of an audience. Unless you've reached the fortunate harbour of people waiting with excitement for your next book then that has to be a major consideration.

What's the offer of my books?

That if you work through the books they will help you develop a writing system, speed up your writing and negotiate all the different stages of a writing project.

So if you're thinking of writing a book or you've started and it's not going as well as you hoped, then go right back to basics.

What's your offer to your reader?

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Chocolate and good intentions

If you've dipped into this blog before you may have read about my love for dark chocolate. That intense taste, mmm.

Came across this site recently - it's American but interesting in what they're trying to do.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Terry Wogan leaves

Sad to hear about Terry Wogan leaving the BBC morning show. He's enlivened more than one morning for me in the past.

As a listener, even if you don't like his humour you can admire the style of speaking. So easy, so fluid and drawing in his listeners.

As a writer that's a style to copy. Even if you think you don't want to listen it's very easy to be pulled into to his stories and the relationships he builds up. Suddenly despite yourself you're hooked and laughing and having an opionion.

He's a great role model for broadcasters and writers. And the fact that he makes it look so easy just underlines how good he is at his job.

Don Beck and Spiral Dynamics

Recently I came across the work of Don Beck and Spiral Dynamics building on the work of Dr Claire Graves. He is speaking at an event in the UK in September. More details here-

September 19-20 Pennine Summit on the Future of the United Kingdom
Second 2009 Summit on the Future of the UK, organized by CHE-UK and led by Dr. Beck.
Venue: Wakefield, UKContact: Jon Freeman at Website:

Nottingham events

Women of Influence Award 9 November 2009

Storming event for women to get together. Takes place at the East Midlands Conference Centre. For more details email

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Writng effective words for the web

This is an excerpt from my digital download book called "How to write effective web copy." More details at

If you have to write for your website, maybe for your book, then here's a simple way to start off finding what are the most important points to include in your text.


Sit down and write out all the questions people have asked you about your business over the last few months.

Now answer them, clearly and in simple terms.

Then discard your frequently asked questions page and instead write your website based on the questions.

If there are constantly similar questions that come up when you’re out networking, or explaining your business to people, then that’s what’s important for your website to focus on.

They will be the core pages of your site. How you arrange the information within your site will depend on how you want your visitor to access the information.

Heritage Open Days 2009

I've just been looking at the places open during the Heritage Open Days next week in the East Midlands. For more information about what's available to see then go to and check for your area.

In Nottingham I'm going to make sure I go to the Bromley Library in the city centre. Open next Saturday and you don't have to book.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Inspirational quotes

"Whether you think you can write or whether you think you can’t you’re definitely right." Eileen Parr (with a nod to Henry Ford)

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Inspirational quotes for writers

“If you practise an art, be proud of it and make it proud of you. It may break your heart but it will fill your heart before it breaks it; it will make you a person in your own right.”
Maxwell Anderson American Playwright

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

How to manage any writing project

People keep asking me how I manage to write as much as I do, as fast as I do. Well without a system I'd fall apart so this is the method I've evolved over my 6 years as a business writer. And in case you think this won't won't for fiction, then I used it to spec out and write a novel.

No it's not published... yet. May never be if I don't think it works but that's for another day.

Take this system if you like, run with it, change it and make it your own. It's a place to begin if you're floundering at present.

Step 1

Decide what you’re writing.
Think audience/problem/solution.

Step 2
Decide who you’re writing to.

Step 3
Decide why you’re writing.

Step 4

Collect all the research you need to write your piece.

Step 5
Write your first draft.

Step 6
Run the grammar and spell check. When you see the Readability Stats, aim for no more than 3% passive sentences.

Step 7

Check the layout. Do this in “Print Preview” at 75% and look for blocks of text that need breaking up.

Step 8

More grammar checks: now for the following:
X “I/We” sentences – turn them into a “You” focus.
X should/would/could – turn wherever possible into shall/will/can.
X all forms of the verb “to be” – is, are, was, were.
Wherever possible replace with a more active verb.

Step 9

Print out corrected draft. Then read out loud yourself, or better still ask someone else to read it.

That will show up long sentences, inconsistencies, places where the text doesn’t flow.
If they hesitate when reading aloud, that’s where your reader will hesitate in silent reading and maybe will bail out at that point.

Step 10

Correct and then print another draft. Ask someone else to look for typos. Your eye knows the text by now so well that it sees what it expects to, not what’s there. Make any necessary changes then you’re done.

Having a system for your writing projects means you’re more likely to achieve your aim and less likely to miss out something important.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Inspirational quotes for writers

'One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.' Goethe

Monday, 31 August 2009


I've been playing about with IGoogle to create my new homepage. Quite fun but like a lot of other things I could spend hours playing with it each day and not achieving anything.

What I like though are the elements of it that you can create as random. It's always easy to say that I'm not interested in certain things when the honest answer is that I don't always try them out. So the more random influences swim into my vision, the more likely I am to enlarge my interests and widen my knowledge.

Years ago I remember the jazz singer Cleo Laine saying in a radio interview that she didn't like olives but every so often she tried them again in case she'd changed her mind in the meantime.

Since she's still enthusiastic and lively at 80 her mind is definitely not closed to new influences.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Bookthrift Bookshop in Ashbourne

As usual on my trips out I look for independent bookshops. I've been in Bookthrift several times and always found them helpful and with an interesting range of books.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Tissisngton Hall

Enjoyed a day out at Tissington Hall in Derbyshire. Privately owned in a small village famous for well dressings.

The room I liked the best was the library. Not just because of the books most of which were collected many years ago but because it was a room I could imagine spending many hours in. It felt comfortable with window seats, which I've always wanted and never had.

New to me about the family - Alleyne Fitzherbert, diplomat and traveller took his title St Helens from the family house in Derby and Mount St Helens in America is named after him.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Inspirational quotes

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful
servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has
forgotten the gift."
~Albert Einstein

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Enterprising Women event Nottingham

Annual dinner of Enterprising Women to be held 8 September 2009. For more information call Derbyshire and Notts Chamber of Commerce on 01132 851 280.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Inspirational quote

"People are where they are because that's exactly where
they really want to be...whether they'll admit that or not."
~Earl Nightingale

Thursday, 20 August 2009

International PEN: support for writers to promote freedom of expression International PEN was founded in London in 1921 by Mrs. C.A. Dawson Scott. Its first president was John Galsworthy.

It's an acronym they chose for the group after someone pointed out that the words for 'Poet,' for 'Essayist,' and for 'Novelist' in most European languages have the same initial letter (P-E-N).

'In time of division between countries, International PEN is one of the rare institutions to keep a bridge constantly open' Mario Vargas Llosa

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Inspirational quotes for writers

"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long
and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones
which open for us."
~Alexander Graham Bell

Monday, 17 August 2009

Bookshops:alive and well in Shrewsbury

Since seeing all those bookshops on my visit to Palma, I'm more consciously checking out bookshops when I go around the country.

A trip to Shrewsbury on Saturday (Flower Show and a look at the town) produced 3 that I saw, apart from the usual book chains.

And a bus trip to Buxton last week took me past the shop that calls itself the biggest bookshop in Derbyshire.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Effective Writing for the Web(No Nonsense Guides)

Announcing the publication of the first No Nonsense Guide Series established by my colleague Kirsty Farrelly of the Open Book Agency.

Because of the challenges her clients have faced in producing words to go on their websites, Kirsty has prodded me into producing this No Nonsense Guide.

What it contains:
  1. An easy 1,2,3 step method of thinking what you need to write to attract visitors.
  2. A structured way of writing text that will work not only for your website but also for other forms of online and offline communication with your clients.
  3. Strategies and tips to help you at each stage of the process that takes you from no words to ones that speak to your clients about what you can achieve for them.

The No Nonsense Guide to Effective Writing for the Web is a basic guide that takes all the fear out of writing for you.

Whether you're a beginner who doesn't know where to begin, or a more experienced writer who's got stuck, this book will move you on to writing effective and results driven words.

For more information go to INSERT WEBSITE ADDRESS

Monday, 10 August 2009

Anthony Trollope novels

It's probably unfashionable to say I enjoy reading Anthony Trollope. His style of writing isn't to everyone's taste but I find it full of sharp observation on human nature.

I've just read Rachel Ray - the story of a girl falling in love and sticking to her love despite opposition and the possible desertion by her lover. When they showed all the Palliser Series on television I raced through the books because I found them enthralling... and with regard to the political shenanigans, not much different from today's politicians.

Thinking about this blog I found a great site run by the Trollope Society.

What astounded me even before I wrote for a living was how disciplined Trollope was, writing for 3 hours before breakfast and going to work and completing all his books while working for the Post Office. That's definitely a rebuke to all would be writers who can't or won't find the time to write.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Inspirational quotes

'Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.'
~Chinese Proverb

Inspirational quotes

"When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly. "

-Edward Teller

Thursday, 6 August 2009

What is dumbing down in music? Part 2

Following on from my post about the Cadogan Hall, I heard about Charles Hazlewood's Play the Field festival to be held on August 29 2009 at his farm near Glastonbury. He has an article in Guardian Online about the need of musicians to engage with the audience and not believe that the audience is secondary in the equation of music, performer and listener.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Stanley Middleton -novelist of the heart

It was sad to hear recently of the death of Stanley Middleton one of my favourite novelists. I loved his novels, though superficially nothing much happened in them.

Like Jane Austen though, he found enough in the events of daily life to construct stories about real people. People who cared, hurt and resolved the situations they found themselves in. His novels were always so well constructed though never tied up in neat endings. Life isn't neat and people don't always behave to plan.

It's a loss to think that there are no more of his unassuming but wise books to look forward to.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

What's dumbing down in music?

Went to a concert at the Cadogan Hall featuring the Belcea Quartet. Very inspirational though I had to work at understanding some of the music.

The audience was what you might expect typically of a classical concert. Older, middle class and traditional. Behind me were a couple talking about the music now being performed at the Cadogan, which includes jazz and Rodgers and Hart. According to the woman speaking that meant that the Cadogan were 'dumbing down' to fill the place.

My instinct was to turn round and protest about Rodgers and Hart being less a work of art than the Britten quartet we listened to. Anyone who can encapsulate human emotion that captures the imagination and love of the listening public in the way Rodgers and Hart did in a 3 minute song can never be accused of 'dumbing down'.

No less than the match of the words and music in a Schubert song, a 'popular' song such as My Funny Valentine has wit, sophistication and real understanding of those quirky attributes that tie us to the ones we love.

'Dumbing down' Huh!

Monday, 3 August 2009

How to become the next J K Rowling

Today I received and email from a business colleague about a friend of his who is writing the next 'J K' success. He wanted to know what to do next.

My first thought was 'Oh no'. How do I inject some basic commonsense into this. I'm the first to encourage anyone to have a go at writing but I know from my own efforts that the first few pieces are often derivative.

It's a natural stage to go through and none the worse for that but we do need to go on from writing like someone else to writing like ourselves. In the long term that's what will work for us and what will give us the most satisfaction. I know that if I were trying to write like somebody else, I'd never know if it my own writing that was successful, or the writer I was copying.

My advice to anyone is the same regardless of what they are writing. Look at the market and understand it to see where or how you can fit in. Unfortunately, that's how most of us will be viewed by agents and publishers.

The true original will always rise to the surface because of the power of their writing. But we need to understand the reasons for rejection and deal with them. Sometimes they are nothing to do with our competence as writers, but more with the needs of publishers.

Here are two websites that are excellent sources of information for writers.

If you have the urge to write, then giving up shouldn't be an option. But I believe in giving yourself the best chance possible so arming yourself with skill and information is always a good thing.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Writing for the media

At a recent networking event, I listened to 2 journalists, one ex BBC and one current on the Working Lunch business programme. They were talking about what it takes for businesses to be featured in the media.

I thought it might be useful to summarise some of what they said.
  1. It's about the audience. Just as any business writing should be targeted to the audience's needs, so is any media coverage.
  2. Be interesting and most important. . . understandable.
  3. If you can't write the introduction to the story in a couple of sentences then it's a rubbish story. Like writing a clear, crisp elevator speech that reaches the heart of what you can offer people.
  4. What's the connection? To current events, what people need and how you can help them.
  5. Think about where is best for your idea/information to be seen. Many people think about only the top programmes and media. You might have faster coverage in industry magazines than in national newspapers.
  6. Journalists are now more prepared to use PR releases as they stand because there are fewer staff in newsrooms.
  7. Weekly newspapers are now in effect daily newspapers because of their online versions so are looking for more content all the time.
  8. And last but definitely not least, be passionate about what you have to offer. Enthusiasm sells faster than formal pieces.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Magic moments

'The clounds above us join and separate,
The breeze in the courtyard leaves and returns,
Life is like that, so why not relax?
Who can stop us from celebrating?

Lu Yu

Friday, 31 July 2009

Orson Scott Card on finding ideas for writing

The point to remember about selling things is that, as well as creating atmosphere and “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any.”

Orson Scott Card

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Writer's little book club chocolate corner

'Never mind about 1066 William the Conqueror, 1087 William the Second. Such things are not going to affect one?s life...but 1932 the Mars Bar and 1936 Maltesers and 1937 the Kit Kat - these dates are milestones in history and should be seared into the memory of every child in the country.'

Roald Dahl

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Integrating the spiritual into business writing

This has been a concern of mine this year. How to write for business in a way that doesn't jar with your own principles.

If this has been a concern of yours too, then I think that we can be reassured by the way that business communication is moving with Web 2.0 and beyond. Gone are the days when a business could put out a caring image and not live up to it.

There are now too many ways for customers to get together on the web and share information and feedback. A wise business takes account of all that and centres its communication around the principles that drive it.

We're all much more concerned now about separating out businesses that promise and businesses that perform. If you're like me, you're tired of being told you can achieve this or that overnight or without work. I've met some of the gurus of internet marketing and I can tell you they work ferociously hard and are extremely competitive. Plus they often have dozens if not hundreds of people helping them.

Let's be honest. If something is worth offering, it will take time, energy and or money to achieve it. What's important to me is that I'm honest in what I do. That may mean I make less profit but I like to be able to greet myself in the mirror each day without distaste.

However you interpret 'spirituality' in your life and business, I'd say put it at the heart of your business and if people think you're crazy that doesn't matter. As a writer for many businesses, if you're not comfortable in what you're offering and doing, it will show up in your writing.

So be passionate, be honest and you'll draw the people towards you who need your particular service or product.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Writing to deadlines in business

Having to produce words about their business - fast- is a challenge for many business owners. So what are the 3 keys to being able to do it?

  1. Being prepared. Assume that someone, somewhere, sometime will ask you for a few words about your business. Work out ahead of time 3 keypoints you want people to know. Make sure they are clear in your mind so that you can reproduce them in print, on line or face to face.
  2. Having a system. Part of your preparation should be to create a system which you can use to expand on your keypoints to 100, 200 or 300 words. If you know about Twitter then you know you only have 140 characters for your message. That forces you to be concise. Moving up from that you can then build a Twitter message into a blog entry maybe up to 300 words. From there you can expand it into a fuller article at will.
  3. Be flexible. Having set ideas about the way you construct text will limit the number of ways you can use it. If someone asks you for text but they want it in a specific way because of the format it needs to fit into, then help them by being flexible.

Once you've mastered those three approaches, you'll never be stuck again and you'll be ready to take advantage of many opportunities.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Marianne Williamson quote

'Our power lies in our clarity about the role our work can play in the creation of a more beautiful world. The miracle is to think of our career as our contribution, however small, to the healing of the universe.'

Friday, 24 July 2009

Are you a pragmatic visionary with your writing

I was re-reading a book by Arthur Joseph(The Sound of the Soul) about discovering your singing voice.

It's some time since I looked at it and I'd forgotten what great material he includes.

Since voice is the expression of our selves and soul, then anything that is wrong with us emotionally shows itself with the voice and how we use it. There are a lot of effective exercises in there to help release your voice and to nurture your soul.

He talks about the 'pragmatic visionary' which I think is a wonderful phrase. I've been having a conversation this week with a friend about people who are very spiritual but don't have a practical thought in their head.

It strikes me that there are a lot of would be writers out there with the same challenge. Recently I read an article about a writer who destroyed himself and to a lesser extent his family with his conviction that he would only be a 'real' writer if he could complete the novel of the century.

In the past I've put off doing things because I thought they wouldn't be perfect when I tried. Well of course they wouldn't and never could be. Perfection is subjective. The perfect novel, or poem or piece of music for one person is sadly lacking in some aspect for another person.

Having a vision for what you want to do and taking steps, even if they're tiny ones at first will create the conditions to help you achieve.

I can only offer my own experience to you. Have a go. Until you try you don't know what you can achieve. Your writing may take off in a different direction from the one you first imagine.

And much of the fun is in the doing.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Learning to write if you hate words

I watched a fascinating programme on Saturday evening. Paul Morley a music critic decided he wanted to learn to compose. The fundamental challenge he had was in not reading music.

Crotchets, quavers and semi-breves and the like were foreign to him and scary. He went through a year at the Royal Academy to come out with his own composition.

I've only watched the first part yet so don't know what he ended up with. But what fascinated me as a writer and teacher was the way they were teaching him to read music and understand the building blocks of what he had to use.

They turned what was a one dimensional scary concept into a three dimensional concrete process that had resulted by the end of the first programme in a very sketchy recreation of his ideas and thoughts and his music.

It sparked off ideas for me because often I talk to people who though they love the idea of writing a book, have a positive aversion to words which are the building blocks.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

What's stopping you writing the book you want to write?

How many times have you done what you thought you should rather than what you really wanted?

I can certainly put up my hand to that one. And it hits us as writers too.

Some of my clients want me to write a website for them that they think will impress other people. And more and more I ask them the question:

But is it you?

And when they've thought about it and we've worked on it, we come up often with something completely different from what they first thought of.

It's no different with books. You can't write a successful book, and here I'm not talking only about financially successful books, but ones that connect with people.

In fact you can't write a book at all until you've cleared out of the way what's stopping you writing the book that's in your heart. It might be criticism from others, criticism from yourself or just fear of what will happen if you try it.

Well I don't know what might happen but I do know that trying to write anything other than what's honest and true doesn't work. You won't be happy with the end result and it won't have the effect you want.

At the moment a fellow writer is struggling with this. And the longer he struggles the worse he feels. Only he can do anything about it and it's the same for you.

Stepping off a cliff never appeals. But remember Indiana Jones and your stepping stones will appear for you.

Monday, 20 July 2009

How to attract what you desire

I've been working this year for what I want in the next part of my life, clearing out some dead wood and holding clear focus.

I came across this quote recently that sums up what I'm trying to do to unite my business and personal desires.

"If we plant a seed in the ground we know that the sun will shine and the rain will water, and we leave it to the Law to bring results. . . Well, the desire you image is the seed, your occasional closing of the eyes in imagery is the sun, and your constant though not anxious, expectation is the rain and cultivation necessary to bring absolutely sure results..."
Frances Larimer Warren

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Maddening things about cats

"A mutilated mouse carcass is their idea of a present." (from 100 Marvelously maddening things about cats.)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Jay Abraham on selling

"Understand that you need to sell you and your ideas in order to advance your career, gain more respect, and increase your success, influence and income."
Jay Abraham

"The fact is, everyone is in sales. Whatever area you work in, you do have clients and you do need to sell."
Jay Abraham

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Quotes on ideas

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.
Linus Pauling

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any.”

Orson Scott Card

Monday, 13 July 2009

Why writers should edit

"The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. " Robert Cormier, writer

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Guardian Michel Thomas language teaching offer Offer via Observer and Guardian newspapers for many languages.

Tried his Italian course before and liked his method. No books, no homework and no trying to remember.

Before you purchase from there check out prices via Amazon - it may be cheaper there.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Chocolate feeds the writer's brain.

'Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.' Baron Justus von Liebig, German chemist (1803-1873)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Word junkie word


Combining the form of an animal with that of a man.

Very apt given I've just ploughed my way through the Aeneid.

Can't swear I read every single word but I did make it to the end. I'd forgotten how bloody it was. Imagine I used to have to translate bits of that for Latin homework.

Didn't make me blush as much as translating Ovid did.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

What I'm reading.

Clio Gray - Envoy of the Black Pine: an enthralling mystery of lost libraries, desperate men and macabre murder.

New author to me but already I want to read her previous two books.

plus Elizabeth Peters, Amelia Peabody series and Rachel Ray by Trollope.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Writing a crime novel - the importance of titles

Like many other writers I 've fancied in the past writing some form of crime novel. Certainly I've read enough over the years but reading for pleasure and reading with an eye to learning are two different things.

At the moment I have a plot going through my head which I've tried writing last year but abandoned because I couldn't get the structure sorted.

Three books I've found helpful about writing thrillers are:
Patricia Highsmith, Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction
Lesley Grant-Adamson, Writing Crime Fiction
K R F Keating, Writing Crime Fiction 2nd ed.

Just looking at Keating's book again today one thing struck me again is something I always emphasise to anyone I work with who is writing a work of non-fiction.

How important the title is.

Think of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Would that have been so runaway popular if it was called Inspiring stories of everyday people?

Mr Keating talked about sometimes having two complete pages of his notebook of possible titles, trying to find one to stand out from the crowd.

I've always loved Mary Stewart's romantic thrillers with such great titles, Airs above the ground and Wildfire at Midnight. A little dated now maybe but I still enjoy reading them.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

'Perfume from Provence by Lady Fortescue, illustrated by E H Shepard I love the word 'serendipity' that happy happenstance that comes out of the blue.

Last week my sister bought me a book while she was on holiday; a charity shop purchase. It was the title that attracted her knowing my interest in perfume and things concerning aromatherapy.

Perfume from Provence is a period piece, written in the 1930s by an Englishwoman who moved to France with her husband, bought a house and set about renovating it and the garden. With a background as an actress and writer she already had displayed talents and practicality beyond what might have been expected from her upbringing.

It's a delightful little book that made me smile, check my gardening books and gave me several hours of pleasure.

on looking her up on the web I find she wrote several books, had a fortunate escape from the Italians in the war and became a well respected local person by organising food aid to the place she loved after the war.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Sculpture park Yorkshire

'Fire is the origin of stone.By working the stone with heat, I am returning it to its source.'
Andy Goldsworthy

Wonderful place to go if you're interested in sculpture or artists working with nature. Saw Andy Goldsworth's work when I went a couple of years ago plus lots of Henry Moore.

Read recently about Andy Goldsworthy working in France to create sculpture out of existing but ruined buildings.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The writer's life

I was thinking yesterday what a lucky person I am. Not good in the heat so grateful that with a laptop I can wander round the house looking for the coolest spot.

No commute to an office, no traffic jams, and I can work the hours that make sense in this sapping heat.