Tag Archives: writing

Writing is fun. Here is how to write more…

I have been trying to shift my priorities of late. I write non-fiction for my day job – journalism, travel pieces and so on – but have always wanted to write fiction. This is Nanowrimo month after all. So far I have written some short stories but that has been all (look up and right and add to basket). I have recently been writing a lot more fiction and it has been a lot of fun. I highly recommend it, it is good for the brain. This website actually started as a kind of catharsis to unwind after writing about marketing trends and area guides and having to abide by ‘house style rules’.

A couple of things have really spurred me on of late. Maybe these will help someone struggling while trying to write their own magnum opus. This isn’t exactly a ‘writing tips’ kind of article, it is more of a blog entry from a personal point of view. I have noticed a couple of themes that appear in every writing tips article however and they are definitely true. If you are attempting Nanowrimo or want to try out writing a book, this might help a little.

Read a lot. I used to read at least a book a week. This was before Netflix and billions of channels. I then went down to a book or two a month. Recently, however, I have cut back on TV and social media and have set aside time to read. (Apologies for the irony if you linked to this through social media.) It has been superb. Inspiring even. The more I read, the more I want to write fiction. I cannot recommend reading a ridiculous amount even if it sounds a bit counter-intuitive timewise.

Write every day.  I do this anyway as I need to eat and buy beer. Even so, writing stuff for work is different from writing what you want. As I said earlier, I started my websites as a way to unwind. I also write a journal which is quite fun (I use the ‘Day One’ app if you fancy it) which limbers up my noggin and helps me get started in the morning. I have recently been writing 500 words of fiction a day and it has been a great target that seems easier to hit the longer I do it. I am thinking of upping it to 1000 a day. Stephen King does 2000 a day which is damned admirable but a while away yet.

Write purely for yourself. This advice really, really helped me. When I write normally, it is with immediate readership in mind, so when I tried fiction, I initially started to doubt if it was good enough. But both writers that I mention below point out that the first draft should be purely for you alone. Edits will follow, so just write for fun.

Read these two things on writing tips. Stephen King On Writing is a great book with a ton of great advice. If you have a short attention span (which doesn’t bode well for your career) or need some more succinct tips for short-term inspiration then Hugh Howey has a four-page guide. The first page can be found here and the rest are linked to from there.

I only thought about writing this post because I have a few friends and acquaintances who try the Nanowrimo thing every year and fail. It is possible that this is the same reason Hugh Howey’s article got in my news feed the other day. Frankly, the world always needs more books and if this helps even a minuscule amount, then I can feel good about myself.

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Travelling with just an iPad Pro and phone as a writer

When I was younger I used to travel with a pen, a writing pad and a small pile of books for both entertainment and work. Now I need a phone, a tablet/book (for entertainment) and a laptop because as a writer these days, everything has to be done right bloody now. I remember when I was 18, way back in 1990, one of my first jobs was covering a yacht launch. I just had a notebook and the magazine I was writing for hired a photographer. I wrote the text the following morning in the office and the rest of stuff was done by others. Simple times, let down a bit by the fact that I was 18, there was free booze, and I got drunk and lost my notebook. It is probably a good thing that I didn’t have an iPad Pro or smartphone back then.

These days you need to turn things around a bit more speedily but happily, laptops and phones now weigh nearly bugger all. Another great step is the rise of the hybrid laptop/tablet, which weighs slightly less. I am about to leave the hot and rainy Bangkok and go to the apparently warm and not too rainy UK. After that will be a trip to Germany and the towns of Kassel and Muenster for Documenta and a ton of art. I am a bit worried as I have made the momentous decision to travel with just my iPad Pro (for writing and entertainment) and a Samsung 8+ (for photos and the internet) and no laptop. I haven’t travelled without a laptop for over a decade and I will need to be writing things on a daily basis. There will be a lot of walking involved this trip and weight will be a key factor.

This may be of interest to very few people except other writers. I think my websites will be fine, it is everything else I worry about. In addition to writing articles, press releases, brochures, websites, a novel and so on, I also edit random things like doctoral theses and promotional posters. Will this combo be enough for everything? I have a huge power-bank that can fully recharge the iPad and phone, so battery power or lack of outlets won’t be a problem anymore. I save everything to the cloud, so if things get complicated I can go to an internet cafe. We shall see. If this is all possible, then my spine and editors will be happy. I look forward to a future with no wires needed and a single, unfoldable device that does everything. Hurry up technology.

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iPad Pro review for writers

1459847976151-170881345I have had my beloved iPad Pro for about 4 months now. I always said when I got the iPad 1 that I couldn’t wait until they brought out a larger one, so you can imagine my delight when a mere 5 years later I was able to upgrade. The original one still works – the hardware at least, the software is somewhat reluctant to run that slow. Poor old thing.

The iPad Pro was a pretty bastardly expensive device but I was able to justify it quite easily. For one thing, I had saved a fortune by skipping all the versions between 1 and Pro.

I should also point out that I am writing using the Logitech keyboard and writing about the big iPad.

Personal Writing

The iPad Pro satisfies all my personal writing needs. As in the stuff I do for fun, like this blog, www.scifiward.com, my short stories (see top right), and a couple of books I am writing. My personal preference at the moment for novels is to write all notes, characters, place description, plot drafts, etc, in One Note, and then write the draft on Ulysses. I know you can make notes on Ulysses but I find it distracting to have to switch out of what I am writing to check on something. As the iPad Pro has the option to pull in another screen from the right, it makes checking notes on One Note a lot easier. You can pull it just a little in, for a quick check, or go for full-on half screen action.

For everything else, there is Word or a ton of other writing apps. Sadly no Scrivener, but you can’t have everything. I am writing this on the iPad Pro, so WordPress is obviously ok.

Professional Writing

Sadly, for now, I still have a full-time day job and have the gloriously underwhelming job title of Senior Content Writer. My first ever job, when I was 18, was a ‘Reporter’, which sounds a lot cooler. Anyway, I have to write a variety of stuff. Sometimes it is on the Internet, Word, PDF, proofreading artwork, writing brochures, and so on. All of these are pretty much fine on their own, but I sometimes have to combine things from a variety of sources and double check facts on the Internet. That is where it starts to get tricky and I frequently have to bring my phone into play just to have a separate screen to play with.

So it is largely ok but sometimes just a bit quicker and much less confusing to go old-school and use a laptop if I need a lot of windows open. I should also add that the more I use the IPad Pro, the more I get used to doing things slightly different from a laptop. The feeling of being slightly restricted while on a tablet diminishes with use. You adjust. Mostly.

iPad Keyboard

As I said earlier, I use the backlit Logitech keyboard, and it is a delight to write on. I find it just as good as my 12″ MacBook Air to touch-type on. Obviously experiences vary. The only real downside is that with the keyboard attached, it is basically a laptop in relation to its size and weight. Although it is a laptop that has an incredible battery (over 10 hours if gaming or watching films, longer for writing) and I can fully recharge it using a portable battery bank. Also, this is what I have been wanting for half a decade – a MacBook Air where you can detach the screen and use it for films/books/comics/internet, etc.

Non-writing related stuff

Writing aside, the iPad Pro is just an incredible tablet. It is possible that I am easily impressed having come from an iPad 1 but for reading comics, watching films, surfing the web, or gaming, it is the best tablet I have seen or researched. The four speakers sound great and the screen is crisp and lovely. Basically, all the stuff you do on a tablet but with a bigger better screen.

I have also started drawing again. I’m not great but it was a something I enjoyed when younger and I have been carrying drawing pads and pencil sets from country to country for decades now. I am also going to use it to design book covers, so it all kind of ties in.

Conclusion

For writers, I think the iPad Pro is bloody superb. It takes a while to get used to but with the Logitech keyboard, it is surprisingly easy. If you are a business type and do presentations and need multiple media outputs or whatever the hell you people do, then this probably isn’t for you. Apple keep saying this can replace a laptop and I don’t really think it can. I do about 95% of things on my iPad but my needs are simple. I said earlier that this was what I had been waiting for but I actually want the full OS experience, perhaps with a button that switches to iOS. Make this happen Apple!

I don’t know if this review will help anyone but before I bought my iPad Pro I was looking for exactly this, so maybe it will help someone somewhere. If you disagree and think this review is flawed feel free to discuss it with your friends. I don’t care.

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Moving abroad – the final countdown

Well, it’s all happening here at the Word of Ward. In 10 days from now, on the 18th, I am undergoing a continent/country/career/lifestyle change. I am mentioning this not to gloat but just explain why blog entries maybe be a bit more haphazard over the next couple of weeks. And also to gloat. I plan to quit my half writer, half TV existence and become pure writer. There is a lot of opportunity out there on the interweb for someone who can vaguely string a sentence together, so it seems like a fun experiment to try and make a living doing that.

Writing on a beach. That's the dream.

Writing on a beach. That’s the dream.

Obviously the best place to try such an experiment is in a hot country with nice beaches,  and cheaper beer. All you need is an internet connection. I intend to put a lot more hours into my websites as well because the pittance I make from them cover the costs of hosting but are hardly helping toward my cocktail on a beach fund. I also intend to release more fiction on kindle and enter stories in competitions and magazines. And of course, there is always the freelance journalism which pays the bills and can be a lot of fun – but can also be quite restricting and frustrating.

So bear with me. I am still here. And soon I will be there.

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How often should you blog?

Write more!

Write more!

This has been a question that has been bugging me for literally 10-15 minutes. Maybe even slightly longer.

I consulted the all-knowing internet and discovered to my horror that opinions were divided on the matter. Some said several short posts a day, others a longer post once a week or two. The divergence ended there thankfully, this wasn’t a youtube comments section or anything.

I have read a few blogs that has one plucky blogger posting several times a day and it ends up feeling like a fairly dull diary or even worse – a twitter feed by a bored narcissist. Blogging is pretty narcissistic as it is (I also work as a journalist so my opinions count more, it’s official) so I wanted to avoid that.

On the other hand, anything more than a 10 day gap between entries ends up with a noticeable dip in readership.

As you probably know if you read this fantastic site regularly I tend to write slightly longer blog entries every five to ten days or so. This is mostly because I am busy with other stupid jobs/life commitments/exciting social events but also because I am lazy and overly verbose without an editor. Plus, this has always been a hobby.

One thing that most bloggers do seem to agree on is that inconsistency is bad. My website has slowly climbed to about 5000 hits a day over a period of years. Which is ok but not great. I want great. So I have decided to take the whole thing a lot more seriously and will henceforth try and be more regular. I am going to aim for twice a week. I will let you know how that affects things re readership in case you are a fellow blogger and are curious about this sort of thing. Which, if you are reading this, you probably are. (Apologies to everyone else, this may have been dull.)

This bound-to-be life changing decision will take effect in the middle of October. I am currently on holiday in Germany drinking litres of beer in preparation. You can’t blog during Octoberfest my friends.

 

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The Starving Writer

cutcaster-photo-100733092-Graduation-CelebrationI’ve done it! Five bastard years of broadening my already swollen noggin. A couple of weeks ago I sent off my final essay for my Open University degree in English Language and Literature (with hons). I am now totally educated and shit. It has happened at a weird time though.

Some background is needed as this site isn’t normally a blog (just occasionally). Mrs Wordofward and I wisely decided to go to Thailand for two months at the end of February and gave up our flat in sunny Belsize Park and put everything into storage. We are now back and have been working freelance in TV. My current client only books me a day or two in advance and as I write this I have nothing booked. Currently, we are staying in a friend’s lovely two bedroomed flat (she’s away for a few months) as are looking for our own place.

So now I finally find myself with a degree and I am technically homeless and unemployed. I’m pretty sure that is the opposite of what’s supposed to happen.

On the plus side, I am now realising I have no excuses not to write more. Before, I always had this nagging guilt that I should have been studying – a guilt I have to admit I was able to ignore a lot – but now there is no excuse. I am writing this in a sunny garden on a Macbook air with a cup of tea and an increasing portfolio of shares, so it’s a bit of a stretch to class myself as a starving writer but fuck it, I like the imagery.

Why am I saying all this? Firstly, it is my website so I’ll write what the hell I like. Secondly, I read a book called 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman that proves if you announce things publicly, you are more likely to actually do them. (I wrote about this before here.) I have been writing 1000 words a day as I vowed before but only on days when I wasn’t working and most of them were for my degree. I now vow to write more fiction and badger the hell out of  all of you lovely readers to buy it. Thank you in advance.

So, er, I had better dash. Next entry: something more interesting that isn’t so self absorbed.

5016875837_1012236936_self_absorbed_xlarge_xlarge

 

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The iPad for writing. One month on.

iPad landscape mode for writing

I have now had my lovely iPad for almost a month. A friend suggested I write about it, so here we are. How does the iPad work as a writer? How is it generally?

When I originally bought my iPad, I was actually on my way to buy a netbook. At least, I was going to look at netbooks with a view to getting something I could travel and write with. My main laptop is still superb and state of the art and I love it lots. It’s just that it is big and heavy. I wanted something portable that I could carry everywhere and had a decent battery life. In short, I’m very demanding.

Buying the iPad

At the new Apple store in Covent Garden you can have a play on the iPads. There is a whole section dedicated to it, largely peopled by tourists grinning in wonder at the iPad like small children staring at fireworks.

Having elbowed a few children and tourists aside, I had a go on one. I tried writing on it and was impressed. Very impressed. It seems to suit someone such as myself who types with the “two fingers and a thumb of each hand” typing technique. In landscape mode, I really can’t tell any difference in my typing speed. In portrait, it is slightly more fiddly but some people seem to find no problem with it at all.

Keyboard Docking Station

As well as the iPad, I bought a keyboard which also doubles as a docking station. This is what I am writing on now as it happens. For sustained periods of writing, this is a seriously good option. A few critics have complained that this means carrying around an extra bit of kit. They are right but I have found a cunning way around it – carry a bag. The keyboard doesn’t weigh much after all. The keyboard is great if you intend on writing for hours at a go. Plus, with the docking keyboard you can see more of the screen than with even a conventional widescreen laptop.

iPad Keyboard dock

iPad Keyboard dock

Another problem I was worried about was with writing for the internet. This isn’t the only site I write for and nearly every site requires you to write in a window in a piece of third party software. This site uses WordPress for example, and other sites like Suite 101 require that you write in these little windows. This is because a lot of writers aren’t savvy when it comes to things like HTML. We’re creative and all that crap.

For some reason Safari doesn’t seem to like these interfaces. There was no need to worry though. As it says on the adverts – there’s an App for that. One option is called ‘Split Pea’ which allows you to open a document in one half of the page and a non-Safari browser in the other. Another option for this site, is the WordPress App. Does what it says on the tin, although it is a tin with a few bugs in it. A third option is called iTeleport which allows you to control your PC/Mac through the medium of magic as far as I can tell. It’s a bit weird seeing your PC on your iPad, but it is cool being able to manipulate files and so on. It means your laptop has to stay on and there can be trouble with firewalls, but it is possible.

Conclusion – 1 month on
I bloody love this thing. My writing levels have increased dramatically. For some reason, it doesn’t feel like as big a deal to write on a bus or in the corner of a pub. Even with a net book you probably wouldn’t bother as it involves opening the thing and going through startup and so on. Maybe it is just me. If I want a more extended period of writing then the keyboard dock is superb. Otherwise the landscape screen does very nicely.

So writing is great.

Surfing the internet is superb too. Lots of sites seem almost designed for the iPad. An evening’s telly while surfing the web has never been so user friendly.

Is anything wrong with it?
Personally, I have come across two main issues. Only one of which is of concern to me and possibly none which will be of concern to you.
One is that it doesn’t have a camera pointing directly at your face so you can’t video Skype or anything. There is a microphone socket, so it will have to be audio only. I am pleased about this as I don’t even really like the phone, I certainly don’t want the added stress of a cam. Calling in sick for work will soon be a nightmare.
The other is that I can’t play poker on it. This might not bother some, but it pisses me off that Apple won’t let this happen. I can gamble on football or horses but not poker.

Otherwise, I am delighted with my purchase. Unlike my laptop, I no longer have to worry about whether it is worth bringing it along given the weight. I carry it everywhere. As a device for other things – apart from the poker thing – there is an App for that.

Lame though that sounds.

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Writing for the Internet

Writing for the internet

I feel like I have been neglecting this site a little bit of late. I feel bad about that. But, your honour, it isn’t my fault. In the past five days for example, I’ve worked 60 hours plus 10 hours commuting. That has pretty much been a constant for the last two months. I’m not complaining as I get paid by the hour and was able to buy an iPad which is fucking awesome. Unfortunately it hasn’t given me much time to write.

In addition to all this pointless toil (pointless in that I just provide shite for people to watch at home), I have started writing on the internet. I know you are thinking, ‘Hang on, but isn’t that what you are doing now? You handsome genius you.’ (Just guessing here obviously but I’m sure that’s what is going through your head.)

Well yes, but even though there are ads on this site, it is hardly making me lots of cash. See above – 60 hours TV work is what pays my bills. So I have decided to spend more time writing for sites that actually pay. One such site is Suite 101. It is a ‘content site’. There are lots of these around but Suite 101 seems fussier and you have to talk about what writing work you’ve done and submit a couple of samples. I assume that means more respect and fiscal reward but I doubt it.

Some of these content sites pay a small amount upfront. Also known as a ‘pittance’. About $15 or so. Others build on what you have written.

The amount you get for this latter type is also piss poor but the money you get grows with each piece you write. What’s more it keeps earning you money even if you stop. Unless the website goes under.

If you want to read some of the better articles on the site check out these three superb examples:

http://www.suite101.com/content/a-guide-to-pubs-in-south-end-green-hampstead-a277522

http://www.suite101.com/content/alternative-things-to-do-in-bangkok-a277101

http://www.suite101.com/content/gift-giving-in-thailand-a276529

These are coincidentally written by my own skilled hand but they are worth a look.

I’m not sure how long I will keep writing for the net. I will post an update here later. The advantage of writing for a website like Suite 101, is that your articles are readable for years and have the potential over time to make you more cash than something in print. On the minus side, I love having a portfolio of articles I have had published that I can touch and feel proud of. I know it’s vain but seeing your name and writing in a glossy mag is very satisfying. It’s even better when you open up a magazine and see your own face and bio on the writer’s page. As I said, it’s vain, but I write a blog so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The Word of Ward will keep going though. I like writing here. No style guides and I can swear. It’s really fucking liberating.

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iPad is now justified

Like the sad nerd that I am, I got filled with techno envy and impulse bought an iPad. I now need to justify this purchase by writing something on it. Plus, if I review it, then I can hopefully write it off against tax.
The review will follow at a later date when I have got to grips with the typing and interface and so forth.
First impressions though. Fuck is pretty. If I wasn’t me right now, I’d be looking over my shoulder riddled with pathetic jealousy. I was worried about typing on it but I only use four fingers when I type, so it seems surprisingly easy. I also bought a docking station that is a full-sized keyboard which is pretty god-damned awesome. Haven’t used it yet so I’m pre-assuming brilliance.
The first time I saw an iPad I thought, “What the fuck is the point of that? It looks like one of those futuristic clip-boards they use in Star Trek.” Now that I’ve had one for a whole 30 minutes I realized, “Wow! It’s like one of those awesome clip-boards from Star Trek.”
The big question is whether it will stand the test of time as a writing device. The even bigger question is whether my wife will kill me when I tell her I bought one.
Only time will tell. For now though, Trek on!