Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Surviving 30 days of noveling

How to make it through National Novel Writing Month

Setting out to write a novel is a daunting task: you have to come up with characters, plots, settings, themes. And then there’s the ultimate obstacle of actually sitting down and writing it. Yet for the last several years, come every November 1st, thousands of people have not only given it a shot, they've tried to do it in a single month.

That’s National Novel Writing Month in a crazy-sounding nutshell. The premise is simple enough: write 50,000 words of a novel between November 1st and November 30th. It doesn't have to be finished. It doesn't have to be good. It just has to be 50,000 words. If writing a novel under normal circumstances is a marathon, then NaNoWriMo is more like a sprint that just happens to go on for 26.2 miles.

While you may not be able to produce The Great American Novel, Part II in just thirty days, that’s not really the point of NaNoWriMo. It’s an excuse, a reason to actually sit down and translate that story you've always wanted to tell from thoughts and half-cooked ideas into actual words and, at the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, sentences.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tips For Writing Thank You Letters

It is proper business etiquette to send thank you letters, but many people overlook this matter of courtesy. A thank you letter can make you stand out from the other candidates competing for jobs, and in this tight job market, it is wise to consider every tool that will give you an advantage.

To be effective, a thank you note should be sent before the hiring decision has been made, so it is best to mail it as soon as possible after the interview. When you send a thank you letter, you give the interviewer a chance to remember you (imagine having interviewed 10-15 candidates for a position, and then trying to distinguish each one after the interviews and trying to remember the specifics about each person). It is your opportunity to mention any important information you forgot to discuss during the interview.

A thank you letter allows you to explain, restate, or clear up any potential misunderstandings. In addition, you can redirect your marketing campaign by focusing on something that you learned during the interview and re-emphasizing your strengths, accomplishments and skills. Sending a thank you letter shows the interviewer that you are a professional who is concerned about details. In the end, the thank you letter is your last chance to leave a good impression!

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Writers get chance at writing novels

Like a lot of people, Ted Boone had always wanted to write a novel but didn't think he had the time.

"I think people can sit down and watch a television show and think, 'I could have written that,' or 'I would have written it better,'" Boone says. "And I think we do that with books, too. There's a temptation to compete with the creative forces that are out there."

With one recent study showing more than 80 percent of Americans would like to write a book, it's obviously a common goal for many.

So if you're one of those who wants your own novel, get your laptop fired up - November is National Novel Writing Month.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Novel writing tips: what tense should i use?

Novel writing tips: Learn when and where to use the first-person third-person tense in non-fiction articles. Found here will be tips on drawing your reader in, and including them in the article.

How can I write well without using the first person pronoun?

  • There are many ways to make your article appeal to the reader without using first person. Using you or we is one example.
    A good way to do this is to think in the third person frame of mind. First of all, refer to yourself in the article as "we" helps. Just replace I with we. It is amazing how a simple switch of pronouns comes off so clean and professional. Observe this comparison:
  • I always am looking for brand new ways to make my articles better.
  • We writers are always looking for brand new ways to make our articles.
    *Notice that the latter sentence just sounds cleaner and crisper- much more professional!
Can I use first person in some cases?
  • Yes, you can use this technique when you ask questions that the reader would probably ask. There is a good example of questions and answers right here in this article.
    NOTE: Try to use first person pronouns very sparingly.
  • Try to use passive voice sparingly. Many writers feel that it can add the right flow to the sentence structure at times. Just don't overdo it.
  • Avoid the use of boorish testimonial writing in non-fiction.
  • Use Action verbs whenever possible.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Using the Bible for Writing Ideas

Dwayne Phillips commented on my post How to Generate Hundreds of Writing Ideas to say:

I find lots of short story ideas in the Bible. As someone once said, “The copyright has expired, so you are in no danger.”

I agree that the Bible can be a very rich source of ideas. This doesn’t just apply to fiction writers – a blogger could adapt a Biblical parable as an anecdotal-style part of a blog post, for instance.

Christian Fiction is a big market, with expanded versions of Bible stories and novels based on Christian themes, but that’s not what I’m focusing on here. This article is about finding inspiration from the Bible for your own writing, whether or not you’re a Christian.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Essay writing and formating tips for improvement

Essay writing is a technical process; it is not as easy as it seems.

Essay Writing is a technical process; it is not as easy as it seems. People perceive essay’s importance and technicality to be very trivial but it is not like that. Unless and until a person writes an essay of his own he can not understand its importance, methodology and mechanics.
If a person needs to improve his essay writing and formatting style he needs to follow some tips with which he can make a drastic difference in writing style. Following is the discussion about the Tips to improve essay writing and formatting:

First of all there should be a brief introduction of the essay topic which is an overview of the whole custom essay. Introduction is the mirror of essay through which the reader can see the whole essay, so it should be given special attention. After intro, the discussion should wrap up thorough information about the topic. Discussion not only needs information but it also needs critical analysis of the topic along with your personal comments whether you agree or disagree. The criticism should be healthy; it should not be written in such a way that it hurts any body’s ego because people may have a different opinion. Finally a conclusion or sum-up paragraph has an importance of its own; it also needs future recommendations. Writing style and language should be easy and simple that it can be easily understood by the readers.

Finally comes the formatting, if words and sentences are the food of essay, formatting is the clothing; it makes an essay presentable which can attract the readers. There are certain types of formatting; for example: APA, MLA, CHICAGO, TURBIAN etc; formatting can easily be learned by some practice and it is very interesting to learn. Apart from referencing you can also incorporate a bibliography page in order to give credit to those whose books you used for information.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tips for Writing Your Biography

You must have a good bio to represent yourself on the website. A good bio will bring life to you the author, build credibility, and leave an impression with the reader. The impression you make is important and will develop a relationship of respect and admiration for your work. Don’t forget to keep your audience in mind when writing your bio. You will discover when people are touched or moved by something you said they are more apt to be a potential customer.

Make your bio shine using these creative tips.

Introduce yourself
Your introduction should include you name, profession and marital status if you wish.

Sell your strengths
A good bio allows readers to have an idea about your strengths and achievements

Add a personal touch
Revealing a few personal tidbits makes you real to the reader. Include information such as married with children, or share an interest or hobby. Do not include facts that won’t enhance your reason for writing. Add a quote of your own or a related verse/topic. Show your personality, are you humorous, down-to-earth? Define your profession or area of interest and why you choose to write about it.

Use descriptive words
"evocative", "inspirational", "love of music", "children", "profound" etc.

Write in a third person
People trust what others say about you more than what you say about yourself.

Keep your bio down to one small paragraph.
The reader checks your bio briefly to make an evaluation of your work.

Be honest and to the point
People can read into subtle hints and weaknesses. Lies break trust and can cause irreparable damage to your reputation

Make readers remember you
Can you mention a hobby or a special award?

Groups and memberships add credibility
It is worth a mention if you belong to associated groups. It let’s readers know you have a connection somewhere.

Experience and references
You can list work that is unpaid, however if your list is long keep it to a few good ones.

What you are, not what you want to be
Do not list what you think about yourself, like a fabulous writer. The reader will judge that for themselves Say you write as a hobby. Don’t say you want to become full time.

Be positive! You are marketing yourself and your work.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Writing Project - Ongoing Article Writing Requirement

Looking to work Writing Project? Find here new projects everyday. is the easiest way to find right partners across the world.

Tender Detail:

Id : 32700769

Category : Writing / Content Development Services

Title : Ongoing Article Writing Requirement

Estimated Budget : 1500 USD

Description :

We are an India based looking for service provider for an ongoing article writing work. We are looking for companies to write 1500 articles of 350 – 400 words on various topics with required keywords. Keywords will be provided by us. Articles must be unique; copy scape verified and without any grammatical mistakes. Our budget is approximately 1500 USD will be paid by pay pal on monthly basis. Interested companies are requested to contact us with their portfolio.

Country :

Status : Closed

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Email Writing Tips

Here are some quick tips for good email style:

Provide your reader with the right information and writing approach:

  • Quote the email to which you are responding (you can set this up on your email program)
  • Avoid the use of them, they (use I, we and specific names)
Make your page easy to read. Use:
  • Short paragraphs
  • Lines under 25 words
  • Email under twenty-five lines
Find different ways to express emotion, body language, and intonation. Use:
  • Smileys (Emoticons)
  • Asterisks
  • Capital letters
  • Lower-case letters
  • Creative punctuation
  • Typed-out thoughts and reactions
  • Whitespace
Why Is Email Different than Regular Mail?

Email is more conversational than traditional letters. Because, if its speed electronic communication is also shorter because people can quickly answer any questions the receiver of the email might have.

In a regular letter it is important to make everything completely clear because your reader may not have a change to ask for clarification. Although you should always try to spell words correctly (as this helps communicate your message), it is not necessary to make sure your grammar is perfect. Don't slave for hours if all you want to say is, "I'll meet you at the movie theatre."

Because email is not face-to-face, the receiver of your email may have difficulty telling if you are serious or kidding, happy or sad. Be warned that using sarcasm can be very dangerous as it is difficult to understand without body language or tone of voice.

Essentially, email tries to combine aspects of informal speech, formal written communication, and new ways of showing emotions and body language.

Writing Approach

Always quote your replies, unless you are sure the receiver of your email knows exactly what you are talking about.
  • Do not send email that says simply says "yes" to some mysterious question. Include the question, or say, "Yes, I can meet you at the airport." Always provide your reader with enough information.
  • A good rule of thumb is to look very carefully at all pronouns in your first three sentences. If they don't refer to something explicitly stated in the email, change them to something concrete. For example, at the start of your email.

    Don't say: "They asked me if I could go with them, but she wouldn't let me."

    Say: "My office friends asked me if I could go with them, but my wife wouldn't let me."
  • When answering questions, you don't need to include the entire question. Quote the most important part of the question. Instead of quoting:

    > I was thinking about taking a trip at the end of the month after I finish the term, would you be interested in going to Guam?"


    >About Guam trip?

    Sure, sounds like a good idea. But I'll have to check with my parents about finances.
Page Layout

Usually people find it hard to read words on a computer screen than on paper. The font may be too small. The screen may flicker. The screen is not as sharp or as clear as paper. To make your email easy to read, your page layout should be a little different.
  • Use Shorter Paragraphs - Consider breaking up paragraphs to only a few sentences a piece. That way readers can easily see new paragraphs as they end and begin. They don't have to scroll.
  • Use Less Words - Long wordy sentences are not appropriate for most email, especially business email. If people want more information, they will ask for it. A good rule of thumb is to keep everything on one "page" or one "screen." In most cases this means about 20 to thirty lines.
Expression & Intonation

In writing, you cannot make your voice louder or softer, higher or lower, to create emphasis or let others know how you feel.
  • Light Emphasis - If you want to give something light emphasis, enclose it in asterisks. This is the same as using italics in a paper document. E.g., "I feel really *sad* to day."

    Or instead of:

    I said that I was going to buy it Friday.


    I *said* that I was going to buy it Friday.


    I said that I was going to buy it *Friday*.

  • Capitalize for Strong Emphasis - For greater emphasis, add some EXCLAMATION!!!! marks.


    Oooooooh, I LOVE that.

  • For EXTREME Emphasis go Wild - Use >>, !!, and ** for dramatic affect.

    If you forget my birthday this, I swear that I will never, *never*, *NEVER*, >>!!**NEVER**!!<< make you Bulgolgi again (ha ha).

  • Other Strategies - Use lower case letters ( to indicate a whisper) and . . . to indicate anticipation or a sigh:

    I failed my TOEIC again, which *totally* sucks . . . I will have to skip Guam and STUDY . . . AHHH!


    hey Sumi!

    guess what?

    HE PROPOSED!!!! :-) :-) !!
Emoticons, Smileys, and Body Language

To make your emails more like a face-to-face conversation, try the following strategies:
  • Use Smileys (Emoticons) - Facial gestures can be represented with a "smiley": an ASCII or text drawing of a facial expression. The most common three are:




    (To understand these symbols, turn your head counter-clockwise and look at them sideways.)

  • Pauses - In a face-to-face discussion if you ask someone a complicated question, they might pause a long time, scratch their head, check their watch, or make a face before answering. In email you can create these pauses by adding whitepace, and "I'm thinking" (repeating letters):

    Weeeellllll.... errr hem.... Okay but *only* if you come too!

    Well . . .
    (clears his throat)
    Okay but ONLY

    if you come too!

  • Creative Punctuation - "Question Marks" and "Exclamation Marks" can be used to help add expression to your emails. The question mark is kind of shorthand for "huh?" while the exclamation mark can be used to express amazement or even anger. Punctuation can also be used as a placeholder for swearing e.g., That #@#$%. Asterisks can also be used to represent missing letters e.g., that son of a b****!

    ???!?! I don't understand why you talked to her first instead of *me*.

    THERE YOU GO! Email writing 101. I hope these suggestions have been *helpful* :-). Try a few next time you send an email.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Essay Writing Tips

This article contains three parts:

  1. Step One: Brainstorming
  2. Step Two: Selecting a Topic
  3. Step Three: Writing the Essay
Step One: Brainstorming

The most important part of your essay is the subject matter. You should expect to devote about 1-2 weeks simply to brainstorming ideas. To begin brainstorming a subject idea consider the following points. From brainstorming, you may find a subject you had not considered at first.
  1. What are your major accomplishments, and why do you consider them accomplishments? Do not limit yourself to accomplishments you have been formally recognized for since the most interesting essays often are based on accomplishments that may have been trite at the time but become crucial when placed in the context of your life.
  2. Does any attribute, quality, or skill distinguish you from everyone else? How did you develop this attribute?
    Consider your favorite books, movies, works of art, etc. Have these influenced your life in a meaningful way? Why are they your favorites?
  3. What was the most difficult time in your life, and why? How did your perspective on life change as a result of the difficulty?
  4. Have you ever struggled mightily for something and succeeded? What made you successful?
  5. Have you ever struggled mightily for something and failed? How did you respond?
  6. Of everything in the world, what would you most like to be doing right now? Where would you most like to be? Who, of everyone living and dead, would you most like to be with? These questions should help you realize what you love most.
  7. Have you experienced a moment of epiphany, as if your eyes were opened to something you were previously blind to?
  8. What is your strongest, most unwavering personality trait? Do you maintain strong beliefs or adhere to a philosophy?
  9. How would your friends characterize you? What would they write about if they were writing your admissions essay for you?
  10. What have you done outside of the classroom that demonstrates qualities sought after by universities? Of these, which means the most to you?
  11. What are your most important extracurricular or community activities? What made you join these activities? What made you continue to contribute to them?
  12. What are your dreams of the future? When you look back on your life in thirty years, what would it take for you to consider your life successful? What people, things, and accomplishments do you need? How does this particular university fit into your plans for the future?
If these questions cannot cure your writer's block, consider the following exercises:

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to Be Sincere when Apologizing

The word sorry is believed to be the hardest thing to say. And I believe that. I for one would always struggle when it comes to making apologies and excusing myself. When I make a mistake, I hesitate to apologize because it hurts my pride to admit that I’m wrong. But then if I don’t say sorry I’d feel more miserable because I know I’m wrong and I’m not acting mature about my actions.

So when I do make mistakes, I know there’s no escape for me but to apologize. And there’s only one way to do that and that’s to be sincere. Here are ways how you can be more apologetic and mean it.

Ask yourself why you’re saying sorry in the first place. Feeling apologetic means you’re guilty. Whether you were wrong or right, if you feel guilt, it means you know you’ve hurt the person.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Summary Writing Tips


General guidelines

  1. Read the whole passage through once to get a general idea of what it is about. Do not worry if you come across unfamiliar words. Sometimes, it is not necessary to understand every word you read.
  2. Do read the passage a second time, if necessary. The second reading helps you take in the details and improve your understanding.
  3. Read the questions carefully. Use cue words in the questions to help you answer them. These can be the “wh” words (what, when, where, why, who, whose, how) and action verbs (identify, find, list).
  4. Questions sometimes contain words found in the passage. Use these words to help you identify the part of the passage where the answer can be found.
  5. You do not have to answer questions in complete sentences (look at the sample answers given).
  6. You can lift words, clauses or sentences from the passage to answer questions. You do not have to use your own words unless you are told to do so. Be careful not to alter/distort the meaning expressed in the passage and hence lose precious marks.
  7. For questions on vocabulary, if you are asked for a word, then give only ONE word and nothing else. Make sure you spell the word correctly. If you are asked for a phrase, then give the relevant phrase. If you copy the sentence where the word or phrase are found, you must indicate the chosen word or phrase by underlining it or putting it within quotation marks.
  8. Some questions require you to use your own words and you must do so.
  9. Do pay attention to the tense (and sometimes, pronoun) used in the questions when formulating your answers.
Read More Article...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Writing a Biography

Your bio. It's what greets the eyes of industry professionals, while your music, hopefully, meets their ears. It's a vital part of your press kit, and may be your first introduction to the person reading it. First impressions are important. As a freelance writer who has written bios for various Ottawa musicians, I have five tips that may help you with writing, or improving, your bio.

  • The lead - the very first words (sentence or paragraph) of your bio - is vital. This is the first thing anybody reading your bio is going to see. Hook them, tease them, grab their attention and most of all, make them want to read more.
  • Beginning your bio with something to the effect of "Band X is an Ottawa-based..." may not be the best idea. Do you want them to think about geography, or do you want them to know about you? What makes you stand apart from the other bands and musicians out there - what will blow the industry away - is what's important. Where you happen to live is secondary.
  • Be clear in your meaning. Choosing words that sound impressive by their length or number of syllables can, and very likely will, backfire. If it's a word that would only come up on the American SATs or in an academic thesis paper, it doesn't belong in your bio. If the reader's eyes have to glance at the word for a longer time than most words, or if the meaning isn't immediately clear, at least some of their interest will be lost while pausing to think about it, even if it's only for a moment. Writing with words you wouldn't normally use in everyday conversation can also come across as arrogant.
  • Words, like music, have the ability to convey a certain energy. They can evoke moods, images and atmosphere. What image are you trying to capture? What impression are you trying to make? High-energy or dark and edgy, certain words can create a lasting impact. Be conscious of this while writing a bio, or let your writer know what kind of tone you're after.
  • Simple as it seems - and this applies to Web sites and CD liner notes too - nothing comes across as less professional than spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. If you're writing your own bio and aren't absolutely clear on where something like an apostrophe goes (for example, it's vs. its, or plural vs. possessive), get someone who does know to look it over. It's all about presentation.
Jennifer Farwell is a freelance writer and Web designer. For information on writing and design services, visit her Web site at

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Writing A Professinal Biography - Useful Tips

  1. Keep it short

    When writing a bio, remember the difference between bio and biography.
    Bio = short. Biography = long.

    A good bio is short. If it's too long, people won't read it.

    Most of the time it's best to limit your bio to three or four sentences. This is particularly true for a professional bio that you would use when being introduced as a recitalist or at the end of an article you have written, or if you are writing about an artist.
    When writing a bio for your website, you can make it a little longer.

  2. Write in the third person

    Write your professional bio as though someone else is talking about you.
    Use your full name (first and last) the first time. After that, it's up to you whether you want to refer to yourself by your full name, just your first name, or just your last name.

    Here are some tips to keep in mind about the use of your name:

    • First names are friendly and informal, while last names are more conservative and formal
    • Use your first name if you are trying to develop a relationship with your reader Use your last name (e.g. "Smith graduated from" instead of "Tom graduated from") if you want your reader to be impressed by you
    • Use titles (Professor or Dr., for example) if you think the use of them will convey more to your audience. Whichever form you decide to use, keep it consistent throughout your bio

  3. Briefly highlight your main achievements

    The key word here is "briefly." It's really important to understand that a professional bio is not a résumé.

    Think of your professional bio as a little advertisement for you or your artist. Remember, the best advertisements are memorable because they get the message across with very few words.

    Ideally, your professional bio will address:

    1. who you are
    2. your expertise
    3. how to contact you

  4. Personal information is optional

    It is completely optional whether or not to include personal information as to where you're from, whom you live with, and what you like doing in your spare time.

  5. Let your personality show

    Since your professional bio is an advertisement for you, make it reflect the real you. If you're a down-to-earth person, use unpretentious language. If you have a particular passion, let the reader know. If you love to joke around, include some humor in your bio (but be careful; humor can be tricky).
Source :

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Writing Project - Novel Translation Requirement

Looking to work Writing Project? Find here new projects everyday. is the easiest way to find right partners across the world.

Tender Detail:

Id : 97750878

Category : Writing & Translation

Title : Novel Translation Requirement

Estimated Budget : Need Best Proposals

Description :

I am India based looking for translators for my Novel Translation requirement. I have a novel in English with approximate 220 pages need to be translated in various Indian languages like Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam. Novel details will be provided via email and we are looking for best proposal per page basis, payment will be on weekly basis via cheque. Interested translators are requested to contact with their portfolio.

Country :

Status : Closed

Are you interested to work on this project? Post your contact details Now! Click Here

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Top 10 tips for productive, creative, fun writing

Well whaddaya know: It’s only been three months since I wrote and posted the first chapter of the happy at work book and now the whole book is up on the blog (minus one chapter which is almost done).

I’m having trouble believing it myself: Not only did I write a book in three months, I’ve also taken a holiday in that time, worked on other projects and done a serious amount of blogging. This means I actually wrote the book in twenty writing days, writing only before lunch.

So how’d I do it? Well the answer is obvious isn’t it? Clear goals, hard work, perseverance, sticking to it, eliminating distractions and writing no matter what, right?

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Writing a Testimonial Biography

  1. Do you know why gossip is popular? People love talking about and hearing about other people. We are curious about their lives. When an author writes a book about someone's life, it's called a biography. When a person writes about his or her own life, that is called an autobiography. Biographies and autobiographies are popular books.
  2. There are many different kinds of biographies. One type is the testimonial [test-ih-MOAN-ee-uhl] biography. When people testify in court, they have to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A testimonial, then, is the truth concerning what a person thinks about another person. A testimonial biography will be filled with the thoughts of other people about the person who is the subject of the biography.
  3. For example, if an author were to write a testimonial biography about your local mayor, the author would speak to the mayor's family and friends. The author would also speak to people who had worked for or with the mayor. Most of the article or book would focus on what all those people had to say about the mayor. The author would probably add his own comments between the statements made by family, friends, and co-workers. In the end, the reader would get a good idea of what a lot of different people thought about the mayor.
  4. Today you will begin to write a testimonial biography. This will be an article, not a book. Whom will you choose to be the subject of your article? Think about the people you know. You may want to write about someone in your school. You may write about someone in your family or neighborhood. You may want to write about a person involved in sports, such as a coach or an athlete. You may also choose a subject from your place of worship. Whomever you choose, the person should be well-known by a number of people who are available to talk with you.
  5. To begin, list the names of at least three people about whom you would like to write.
  6. Of those people, which one is known by the greatest number of people? Which one would you most like to write about? Think it over and make your choice.
  7. Next, decide which people to interview. Who knows your subject well? Who will be happy to talk to you about that person? Who will give you some good material to use in your article? For our purposes, you will need to interview six people. List possible candidates for the interview here. You may list more than six and decide later which ones to approach.
  8. You need to plan some questions to ask. You don't want to ask questions that can simply be answered with a yes or no. You want details! For example, you could ask, "Do you like Mayor Smith?" You are likely to get a "yeah, sure" response. Instead, you could ask, "What do you like about Mayor Smith?" The response you get will be longer, giving you more material for your article. It will also be more interesting because each person you speak to may have different reasons for liking Mayor Smith!

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Achieving Your Dream: Writing and Publishing a Book

Palm Springs, California - Many Americans would like to write a book, but think they don't have a prayer of getting published. But sharing your work with the world is not only possible, it's easy and inexpensive. By harnessing the reach and power of the Internet, millions of people with a passion to communicate their ideas have achieved the dream of becoming a published author.

How do you turn your ideas into a book? Here are some tips to get started.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

College Essay Writing Tips

Write an Effective Application Essay

A great application essay will present a vivid, personal, and compelling view of you to the admissions staff. It will round out the rest of your application and help you stand out from the other applicants. The essay is one of the only parts of your application over which you have complete control, so take the time to do a good job on it. Check out these tips before you begin.

Keep Your Focus Narrow and Personal
Your essay must prove a single point or thesis. The reader must be able to find your main idea and follow it from beginning to end. Try having someone read just your introduction to see what he thinks your essay is about.

Essays that try to be too comprehensive end up sounding watered-down. Remember, it's not about telling the committee what you've done—they can pick that up from your list of activities—instead, it's about showing them who you are.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Writing An Effective Fiction Query

I’d rather write a 60,000 word novel than a one-page query letter, but I know that a query letter is my chief tool for winning the attention of a literary agent.

Here are some things to consider when pitching your novel in a query letter.

Keep It Brief
One page is best. Two pages are acceptable unless the agent’s guidelines ask for one page. Then it had better be one page. Using 8-point type to fit more on a page is not an option. Use at a minimum 10-point type in a standard font such as Times or Times Roman. Bookman is good, but keep in mind that 10-point Bookman is larger than 10-point Times.

NOTE: Many editors and agents prefer manuscripts to be typed in 12-point Courier. That’s what I said, COURIER, the font that looks like old-fashioned typewriter type.

Keep it Professional
Some agents accept email submissions, but they will not accept attachments. That means everything you send must be dumped into an email. Unless the agent specifies email submissions only, I prefer to send my query packet the old-fashioned way so I can control the formatting and presentation.

• Letterhead: With a computer you can make your own letterhead, but if you send a lot of queries, you might want to treat yourself to a professional print job on quality paper. Even if you make your own letterhead, use quality paper for the query you send, and not the cheap copy paper you use for drafts.

• Content: In a query letter you have about five paragraphs with which to pitch your project. The agent doesn’t want to know how much your mother likes your book, or how many cats you have. The agent wants to know:

  1. What the genre of your novel is, its title, its word length, and the gist of the story.

  2. Why you are competent to have written it.

    Observe my choice of tense here (to have written): if your project is a novel, don’t query an agent until the novel is as complete and as error-free as you can make it and has been critiqued by at least three competent fellow writers from your writers’ group. You don’t belong to a writers’ group? Why not?

  3. Your writing background and experience. If you don’t have any published writing to mention, then include some other indication of your professionalism: writing conferences attended, writing courses taken. If you have absolutely zilch, remain silent on the subject. Your writing will have to speak for you.

  4. How they can contact you if they are interested.

    Believe it or not, some people send queries and even entire manuscripts to agents without including a return address.

Keep it on a Rational Plane

Avoid being either arrogant or subservient. Don’t announce that your novel is the next DaVinci Code or that you write better than Toni Morrison. On the other hand, don’t whine about how little you’ve had published, or how deeply, earnestly, eternally grateful you’ll be for the agent’s consideration.

After you have provided a brief synopsis of your project (paragraphs 1 and 2), an indication of your novel’s genre and length (paragraph 3), some information about yourself and your writing credentials (paragraph 4), close the letter with a final paragraph in which you thank the agent, offer to send your completed manuscript, and sign off. If you are sending queries to several agents, you may wish to tell the agent that your query is a simultaneous submission.

NOTE: Before writing your query, while writing your query, and after having written your query, study the agent’s submission guidelines. Make triple-sure that your query conforms to them, and that you have spelled the agent’s name correctly.

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