Guest Writer Spot

My Friday Guest Writer Spot is returning! If you’d like to feature on this page, please contact me here or by e-mail: esthernewton@virginmedia.com. I accept stories, poems, articles – in fact, anything and everything. All you have to do is make sure your prose is no longer than 2000 words and your poems no more than 40 lines.

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Friday

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Take A Look Around You…

One of my recent writing workshops focused on how to generate ideas from around you. In the case of the workshop in question, it was about taking a look around your home for ideas. But you can also apply this to the outside world, be it nature, work, school or the shops…

Bombast and Beauty

 

As writers, we’re often told that flowery, ornate language is a thing of the past. But it seems that in the case of beauty products, the more exaggerated and elaborate the better. 

Here’s a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the slogans and descriptions which can be found at the beauty counter:

One Eau de Toilette spray can boast of the following description, ‘Seductively spicy coriander and addictive fig surrounded by smouldering leather patchouli’. On its own, you’ve probably never thought of coriander as seductive. Neither is fig known as being particularly addictive. Chocolate, maybe. But for that matter, does the patchouli plant actually smoulder? Nonetheless you have to admit, that in using this sensuous description, it does rather conjure up the image of Colin Firth in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, which can’t be a bad thing.

Some fragrances have ‘feelings’ attached to them. For example, ‘Exhilarating, sexy, alive’. Is that in contrast to dead? And does that apply to the fragrance or you?

Another ‘feeling’ associated with a fragrance is, ‘Radiant, rare, intriguing’. But surely if it’s available in hundreds of stores nationwide, it can’t be that rare. Though, from the price tag, perhaps you could be forgiven for thinking so. What’s more, do you really want its delectable scent to make you feel rare, too, like a one-eyed, one-toed, triple horned sloth or some such creature? The word ‘intrigue’ is also an interesting one. Can a perfume truly transform you from an unexciting, green cardigan and beige trouser wearing bore into a person who’s mysterious and fascinating?

As well as ‘feelings’, some products actually seem to have a mind of their own. On using one mascara, apparently, ‘Lashes seem to multiply, magnify, grow to extremes’. So if you see anyone with two-foot long lashes, you know what they’ve been using. Though the attempt at alliteration is good.

Another exercise in alliteration can be found with, ‘Constant comfort for body’. This could be taken to mean that your body is so awful it needs comforting continually.

Still on the subject of alliteration comes, ‘Dramatically different moisturising gel’. Now, surely you’re expecting something surprising here – perhaps a gel that does a little song and dance? And what about a product that’s, ‘So much more than a body lotion’? At the very least you’d want it to double up as a washing up liquid.

This light read finishes full circle and takes you back to a product for the male counterpart and a, ‘Creamy bath and shower gel for real men’. Presumably this is in opposition to creamy bath and shower gel for fake men.

You can probably think up numerous ones of your own far more distinctive and extraordinary than these. So if you’re writing a passage which calls for a little bit of creativity and purple prose, pick up your perfume and be inspired.   

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Markets For Writers

The London Magazine is holding a short story competition for stories of up to 2500 words.

Here are the all important details for you:

Entry fee: £10 per short story (this may seem steep, but you can send in as many entries as you like)

First Prize: £500 plus publication in the magazine
Second Prize: £300 plus publication on the webite
Third Prize: £200 plus publication on the webite

Closing Date: 31st October 2017

Entries are accepted from around the world. To find out more, visit the competition page.

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knock

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Funny Of The Week/Silly Signs Part Seven

My latest series is all about double meanings. If you missed them, here are part one, part two, part three, part four, part five and part six. Here is part seven:

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Writing Workshop…Top Tips

Now for the ninth instalment in my writing workshop series. I’ve covered the short story ending as well as the opening.  I’ve guided you through dialogue and focused on the importance of taking time to do things properly. I’ve also given you a competitions refresher and some general advice on the art of the short story. The seventh instalment was about tips on writing humorous pieces and last week helped you with generating ideas. This week turns to the art of copywriting:

A Copywriting Career

 I hadn’t ever thought about becoming a copywriter. I’d had a love affair with article, short story, competition and filler writing for years, but the idea of becoming a copywriter was non-existent. My back therapist thought otherwise.

“You write, don’t you?” she said, cracking my back into place one day. “I need someone to provide the copy for my leaflets. Would you be interested?”

I found myself nodding, obviously outwardly giving a professional, reassuring smile that I was the woman for the job. Inwardly, I was panicking. A leaflet? I wrote articles about collecting cricket memorabilia and stories about cute little kittens for children. I couldn’t do a leaflet.

But somehow I found myself doing just that – and I loved it. So did my back therapist. The rest they say is history and I can now add copywriter to my CV.

I have to admit that before ‘the leaflet’, I wasn’t even really sure what a copywriter did. So here’s a brief insight into the world of the copywriter. And the good news is, whilst it’s seemingly becoming harder and harder to break into article and fiction markets, skilled copywriters are always in demand. A good copywriter can also expect to be paid very well.

What is a Copywriter? 

A copywriter produces ‘copy’ i.e. the writing for commercial purposes. Journalism is about informing, whereas copywriting is concerned not only with informing but also advising, influencing and persuading, with the primary aim of selling a company’s services or products.

What does a Copywriter do?

A copywriter’s role is a varied one. Here are a few examples of some of the work a copywriter undertakes:

Advertisement Writing

Take a look through your local paper or Yellow Pages and you will find numerous adverts ranging from dental practices to flooring services to restaurants. Some companies may write their own adverts but others need a copywriter to make their ad stand out from all the others on the page. If you leaf through the ads you’ll see that some of them are cluttered with too much information and others seem to miss the whole point of what they’re trying to sell. If you find yourself thinking, ‘I could come up with a catchier heading than that’ or ‘They clearly haven’t thought about what the customer is looking for’, then copywriting may be just the job for you.

Sales Letters and Direct Mail

Sales letters and direct mail regularly drop through our letter boxes. Sales letters are sent to customers for many different purposes from trying to tempt a customer with a new offer, to keeping the customer informed and thus making him feel special, promoting loyalty to the company.

Direct mail or mail shots are used to stimulate sales. Take a look through your own mail. You’ll find sales letters and mail shots from insurance companies, magazine subscriptions and dazzling business opportunities. All of these will have been written by a copywriter with the aim of firstly attracting your attention, then arousing your interest, before stimulating your desire to buy the service or product and then finally, prompting you to take action straight away.

Have you ever filled in a coupon or rung the number detailed, fuelled by an urgent desire to take immediate action? If you have, then the copywriter has succeeded in his job.

Brochures and Leaflets

These give more details about a service or product than a sales letter and often accompany one. Many of them feature lavish illustrations of the product or service to catch the eye. Nonetheless, it’s the words that build on the sales letter and persuade the reader to take action. It’s no good having beautiful pictures and then large passages of long, wordy sentences that bore. If the reader has to work hard to get to the point, glossy pictures or not, he will switch off and put the brochure and letter in the bin. If you can write using familiar words, in short sentences and paragraphs, in a friendly style, you’re likely to captivate your reader. When you next receive a sales letter and brochure, see how successful you think it is in its aim. How has the writer achieved this? If he hasn’t, why not and could you improve on it? 

Writing on the Internet

The Internet is expanding all the time and can offer a copywriter numerous opportunities. The websites themselves are usually put together by a web designer, but there is hug demand for online copy including, home pages, sales sites, newsletters and e-zines to name just a few.

Press Releases

Public Relations writing is a little different as the aim isn’t to sell anything but to promote a company’s good name. Often a company will require a press release to be written for the local paper if they’re launching a new product/service or if they’re opening in a new location.

Here, any journalistic experience will be very useful as this is the style that’s required i.e. informing rather than selling. This latter point highlights how varied the role of a copywriter can be and how it overlaps with other types of writing.

Copywriting jobs can be time-consuming. Therefore, they slot in well with other areas of writing. Sometimes a client may take a while to get back to you concerning a draft copy that you’ve submitted. In the meantime, you can be working on your articles and short stories, as well as your next copywriting project.

If you now find that you’re looking at adverts, leaflets and sales letters in a whole new light, then it’s worth considering a copywriting career.

Further Information

Useful websites:

https://www.writersbureau.com/courses/copy-writing/

www.copyblogger.com/copywriting-101/

Books:

The Copywriting Sourcebook: How to Write Better Copy, Faster – For Everything from Ads to Websites by Andy Maslen.

Brilliant Copywriting: How to Craft the Most Interesting and Effective Copy Imaginable by Roger Horberry.

Both can be bought from Amazon.

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Markets For Writers

This week’s market is for poets and for those who enjoy writing about nostalgia. Writing Magazine are inviting entries of up to 40 lines for their poetry competition, which ends on 15th November 2017.

The top prize is £100 and there’s £50 for the runner-up. Both winning entries will appear  in the magaazine.

The entry fee is £5, £3 for subscribers to Writing Magazine. For further information, visit the competition page.

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Writing Workshop…Top Tips

Now for the eighth instalment in my writing workshop series. I’ve covered the short story ending as well as the opening.  I’ve guided you through dialogue and focused on the importance of taking time to do things properly. I’ve also given you a competitions refresher and some general advice on the art of the short story. Last week covered tips on writing humorous pieces and this week helps you with generating ideas:

Inspiring Ideas From The Comfort Of The Couch

 

Sometimes you can find yourself staring at your computer screen, for what seems like hours, and the ideas just fail to come. Yet, there are ideas all around you – if you’re open to them. What’s more, you don’t even have to move from the comfort of your favourite chair. Cast your eyes around the room and you’ll be surprised at the amount of ideas lurking in your living room.

The TV

In many houses, the TV is the focal point of the room and we spend a lot of our relaxation time watching it. Visit your local newsagents and you’ll see a lot of shelf space taken up with TV magazines. Most of these have letters pages so if coverage of a documentary programme has inspired you to take a course, this is just the sort of letter which will stand out. Or if a soap opera’s storyline has touched you or irritated you, write a letter about it and earn yourself some cash. 

TV programmes are also an excellent source of ideas. Have you ever watched a TV drama which doesn’t end the way you thought it would? Was your ending better? You can take your ending idea and work it into your own story.

A funny incident on a video clips show may stir a memory of something funny that happened to you. Lots of magazines publish humorous anecdotes.

An historical programme about a time past can start you thinking ‘what if that didn’t happen?’ An alternative history could make an interesting and compelling book.

Family Photos

Photos of loved ones, including the beloved family pet, can often be found on our mantelpieces, windowsills or walls. The women’s weeklies all publish photos of babies, pets, special anniversaries and parties. You may not want to send your precious picture to a magazine but perhaps you could take some new ones or you might have some already stored on your computer, ready to send at the click of a mouse.

Wedding photos, whether it’s our own, a family member’s or friend’s could be amongst the photos on show. Many of them have ideas for articles behind them. Was the wedding cancelled first time round because one of the wedding party was taken ill and rebooked when the person was better? Perhaps that made the day all the more special. One of the women’s weeklies or monthlies would be interested in a true-life story along those lines. The planning of the wedding itself has potential for a wedding magazine; whether it was a wedding with a difference, which deviated from tradition or the magical day took place on a shoestring budget, a wedding magazine is certain to be interested in taking a look at an article about it.

Most of us have been on special holidays, which are captured on camera and displayed in our rooms to remind us of treasured moments, whether it was meeting Mickey Mouse in Disneyland or snorkelling in the Maldives, or jumping out of a plane in Australia. Even if your holiday seems ordinary to you, a magazine may not find it so. A number of the women’s weeklies publish readers’ holiday stories. All sorts of destinations are covered, from Bognor to Borneo. If your holiday involved something a little different e.g. ten bungee jumps in ten different cities or uncovering the lesser-known delights in a particular country, there’s potential for a travel piece for a newspaper or travel publication.     

Books and DVDs

Bookshelves and/or DVD racks are commonly found in our living rooms, featuring all manner of titles, e.g. ‘The Grudge’, ‘When Will There Be Good News?’ and ‘Robin Hood’. Think about each title in turn and you should find all sorts of ideas for short stories or even something longer start to come to mind.

Let’s take ‘The Grudge’ to start with. This is a well-known horror movie but your fiction piece doesn’t have to be in the horror genre. You could write a romance, perhaps about a long-term grudge held between two neighbours. How they resolve it and get together is up to you. Or perhaps the title starts you thinking about a crime story where a grudge gets out of hand.

‘When Will There Be Good News?’ is a book by best-selling author, Kate Atkinson featuring the loveable but always in trouble, private investigator, Jackson Brodie but the good news or lack of it doesn’t have to relate to a crime story. What ‘news’ ideas come to mind? Happy news – an engagement, passing an exam, getting the all-clear from the doctor, a missing child found…any of these can be turned into stories. What about bad news? The possibilities are endless and will make for an equally compelling story.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Robin Hood. What about a Robin Hood story with a twist? Maybe it’s the Sheriff of Nottingham who’s the good guy or why can’t Robin be a woman? Re-writing well-known, classic stories can make for very entertaining reads. They’re always popular in small press magazines and a well-known tale will stand out in a competition.

These are just a few examples but from three books/films, several ideas have sprung to mind in a matter of moments.

Antiques/collectables

Most of us have ornaments/treasures/things we collect and display in our main room. Perhaps you have an heirloom that’s been handed down by a much-loved family member or you found a quirky item that took your fancy at a car boot sale. You may not know how much it’s worth. Some of the women’s magazines have slots inviting readers to send in their treasures to find out what they’re worth. Most pay, either for all items printed or for the item worth the most.

Or if you have a special interest in collecting antiques, there are lots of magazines which specialise in antiques and which would be very interested to hear about your collection.

You might be a collector of items other than antiques and have your beloved collection out for all to see whether it’s Russian Dolls, die-cast cars, tea-pots, teddies, thimbles or sporting memorabilia. You could find out a little background information and send it, together with how you first started collecting, to a hobby magazine or a publication that’s all about collecting.

These are only a few ways for generating ideas without having to move a muscle (well, barely a muscle). So take a deep breath and look around your room with your eyes wide open.    

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tomorrow

 

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