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Overcoming writer's block – Part one

Overcoming writer's block – Part one

Recently I was helping one of my daughters with an English essay she was writing. She’s a terrific creative writer, but can get stuck from time to time – as we all do. As it turned out, I was a fairly stuck myself on one of my own pieces of ghostwriting work. And, as so often happens, helping someone else was just what I needed to help me realise the error of my own ways.

Between the two of us, my daughter and I had become bogged down in two of the most common quagmires a writer can find themselves in.

I’ll deal with one of these forms of block this week, and the other next time.

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Backup for writers. What's your plan for avoiding disaster?

Backup for writers. What's your plan for avoiding disaster?

Okay. If this blog post feels more like a dry lecture than an article, I apologise. Sort of. The thing is, on the topic of backup it’s hard not to come across all holier-than-thou. But believe me, if you ever have a hard disk crash, or your computer is stolen – and it does happen – you’ll be glad you read this and acted on it.

We’ve all heard sad tales of people losing an entire PhD thesis or book draft because their laptop was stolen or somehow failed. And we’ve probably also been guilty of thinking “that’ll never happen to me”. Today’s computers feel so reliable. But they’re not really. According to research done by backup service Backblaze, 20 per cent of hard disks fail before they are four years old; many more fail in the year or two after that.

How old is your computer and the hard disks inside it?

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Write your book in 2014 – Step 4: Writing tips

Write your book in 2014 – Step 4: Writing tips

No one – well, hardly anyone – drafts a whole book in a month. So at this stage on your journey I’d like to remind you of a few of things you can be keeping in mind as you write, and give you a couple of new things to think about.

Once you get into the swing of writing, it is easy to become buried in what you know and lose sight of what you want your book to achieve. It pays to constantly check yourself by revisiting the three major considerations raised previously:

  • Who is your audience? Who is this book for? Who will be reading it? How much do they already know about your topic?

  • What is your message? What is the single main thing you want to say with this book?

  • What is your purpose? What are you aiming to achieve with his book?

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Introduction, preface, prologue or foreword. Say what?

Introduction, preface, prologue or foreword. Say what?

Most book writers like to start at the beginning. It is, after all, a very good place to start. (Thanks, Maria.) However, like many aspects of writing a book, working out where to begin isn’t always as simple as it seems.

First-time authors often get stuck at the introduction. Until they have to write one themselves, most rookie book writers have never considered that introductions ain’t introductions. Some books have an introduction, but others have a preface, some a foreword and others still a prologue.

What’s the difference?

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Solving the he/she his/her dilemma once and for all

Solving the he/she his/her dilemma once and for all

There’s a bug in the English language that has been driving non-fiction writers – including this ghostwriter – barmy for many years. That bug is the lack of a simple ‘third-person gender-neutral singular pronoun’. In plain English, there isn’t a single word that covers both ‘he’ and ‘she’, or both ‘his’ and ‘her’.

This is a problem when you are making a point that applies equally to males and females, as in:

“When a person wants to maintain his or her weight, the best way for him or her to do this is to eat a balanced diet and to make sure he or she gets plenty of exercise.”

Okay, that’s a bit clumsy, but you get the point. In a long document like a book or even a decent article or blog post, no matter how good the writing, this can quickly become unwieldy if not unreadable.

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Think twice before choosing Microsoft Word as your writing tool

Think twice before choosing Microsoft Word as your writing tool

Back in the day, writers had two choices as writing tools: a pen and paper, or a clunky old Olivetti typewriter (or equivalent – mine was an Olivetti portable). Obviously, and thankfully (for most of us), the desktop computer changed all that. I think the first word processing software I used was WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. It was white type on a blue screen and not much else, but at least you could correct a misspelling without reaching for the Tipp-ex.

Eventually Microsoft Word took on the mantle of ‘go to’ writing tool, and it has reigned supreme for over 20 years. MS Word is ubiquitous to say the least, particularly in workplaces. ... However, there are hundreds of alternatives to Microsoft Word if all you want to do is write. They fall broadly into three groups.

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Write your book in 2014 – Step 3: Draft

Write your book in 2014 – Step 3: Draft

You’re two months into this non-fiction book-writing project and if you’ve been keeping up*, you should now have in front of you a reasonable outline of your book. Will that be the final outline? It might be, but it might not. At this point, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have some form of skeleton on which you can now start adding some meat.

By now you may have noticed a bit of a theme running through these ‘Write your book’ posts. For both collecting and outlining I was keen to emphasis the need for a Nike approach: ‘Just do it’That same approach applies to drafting.

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Demystifying ebook formats: what every self-publisher needs to understand

Publishing your own work these days is ridiculously easy compared with the ‘olden days’ (aka the twentieth century). Pretty much anyone can compile an ebook and have it for sale, or giveaway, within hours. However, if you have something you think would be worth publishing – an ebook, an e-brochure, a collection of blog posts – you will quickly find that navigating the e-publishing world can be like swimming in soup.

One of the most confusing aspects of e-publishing is the variety of file formats available. Do you publish your ebook or other e-work as a PDF file, an EPUB file or in ‘Kindle’ format? Or all three? Or something else?

It’s important to understand that there is no right answer to this question. The format(s) you choose will depend on what you are publishing and how you want it to be received by your readers.

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How to use threes to magically improve your writing

How to use threes to magically improve your writing

You may not realise it but your favourite number isn’t four, or seven, or 42. It’s three. Three is everyone else’s favourite number too, and you can use this simple truth to add punch to anything you write, from an email to a book.

There’s something magical about three. Pythagoras, who knew a thing or two about three-sided shapes, called three ‘the perfect number’. In Latin there was a saying – omne trium perfectum – which translates as ‘everything that comes in threes is perfect’.

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5 ways to capture ideas on a smartphone or tablet

5 ways to capture ideas on a smartphone or tablet

If you own a smartphone or tablet, you really should be taking advantage of its notetaking potential. Whether you are capturing and sorting your ideas as part of a book project, or simply want to grab  thoughts as they come to mind (and before they evaporate), today's devices are always with us and are perfect for the job. 

Notes taken on a device are easily backed up, easily shared and more durable than the back of an envelope. And no matter how you prefer to capture you're notes, there's an app (or ten) that will help you do so. Here are five different ways you can net those ideas. 

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