Halloween Costume Ideas From Famous Writers

This light-hearted infographic, created by Essay Mama, offers readers and writers some unusual ideas for Halloween costumes.
Source: Essay Mama

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

How Five Annoying Email Habits Would Appear In Real Life

Email has come a long way in its young 21 years of existence. It is a useful communications tool. On the other hand, as we all know, emails can also be annoying. 

You know the guy who marks everything as urgent, even when it’s not? Hopefully, that’s not you! And, there’s always that one junior staff member who adds multiple exclamation points and emoticons to every email.

Don’t be the Jack in the Box intern, no matter how “chipot-cray!” your day is. (Image 

Poor email etiquette is not just annoying, it can lead to problems communicating with your co-workers, missed deadlines, cause perception issues about your competence, and it could even lead to HR issues. 

I hope this list will make you double check your next message and consider if you are getting your point across the right way.

1)   Poor Grammar

Poor grammar is probably the most common issue in email fails. The right idea, written the wrong way, can completely change the meaning of your message. Common mistakes include spelling and punctuation errors, typos, ALL CAPS MISTAKES, and auto-correct issues.

Using all caps in your messages comes across as loud and self-important. Remember, caps lock = yelling. (Image) 

Make sure to double check common spellings like “your” and “you’re”; “they’re”, “there”, and “their”; and “its” and “it’s”.

Run on sentences are tedious to decipher and show a lack of understanding of basic grammar. (Image)

2)   Misleading Subject Lines

Do not say urgent in your subject line, unless the message is urgent. Avoid subject lines that include 'Re:re:re:re:'. Once a chain gets past about three to four emails, it becomes unwieldy. As a rule of thumb, email correspondence should stick to one or two topics per thread, and email threads should be kept short.

Do not abuse subject lines or people will try to avoid your messages. (Image)  

3)   Emails with the Wrong Attachment

Everyone has been in a situation where they have sent an email that was supposed to have an attachment, but didn't. That’s not good. Even worse, there are situations where people attach the wrong thing. This is detrimental because attaching the wrong document can result in legal action being taken against you, or cause hours of extra work trying to correct the situation.

4)   Signatures that Read like Deepak Chopra Manifestos

Email signatures are an area of contention in many offices. Incorrectly used, they serve little-to-no purpose and reek of self-inflated importance. At most, they should contain your name, title, contact info, and maybe ONE helpful link.

No one likes people who preach, and “deep” quotes often come off as shallow, giving off a forever-alone “cat lady” vibe. (Image) 

5)   Unprofessional Embellishments

Email is an uncomplicated medium. Most people want plain text messages that they can quickly scan through. Adding colourful letters, using multiple creative fonts, and cluttering up your message with a lot of emoticons is a good way to appear tacky and unprofessional. 

This is your email on “flair”. (Image)  

Special thanks to Solar Winds for their hilarious Email in Real Life video series, from which we got these animated GIFs. 

by Taylor Wright

More business writing resources

If you are looking for help with your business writing skills, read these posts:

  1. Begin at the end - the one essential email trick every business writer should know
  2. The Top Seven Tips for Writing Emails
  3. How to Deflate those Inflated Phrases
  4. Seven Reasons to Communicate Clearly
  5. Writing Truths - Why everyone in business IS a writer

If you would like to find our more about our business writing courses, email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

Join the dots – How creative stories come about

On a history programme a few nights ago, a documentary illustrated just how synchronicity works in creative people – the right idea, at the right time.

  1. As a child, Jack Cover loved the young adult novels about Tom Swift, a young genius inventor – his favourite was Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle
  2. Many years later, Jack had become a physicist and was reading a newspaper at home. On the front page ran a story on the protests over the Vietnam conflicts of the late 60s and the need to find a non-lethal method to subdue angry crowds.
  3. As he paged through his morning newspaper, Jack then came across a small article about a man who had been shocked by an electric fence but had survived unscathed. 

These three elements – his childhood hero, the need for a new type of weapon, the incident with electricity – sparked the idea for the first Taser gun.

Source for Image

How does this work when we write stories?

This is exactly how it works in writing - if we open our minds up to the possibilities of the stories around us, if we live with an elevated sense of awareness, and if we are prepared to join the dots. That’s why writing prompts and daily writing exercises work so well — they allow you to explore these possibilities right there on the page.

 by Anthony Ehlers

(If you enjoyed this post, you will love Five 10-Minute Fixes for Your Short Story)

Anthony has facilitated courses for Writers Write since 2007. Published both locally and internationally, he was twice a runner-up in the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa short story competition. In 2013, his crime short story was included in Bloody Satisfied, an anthology sponsored by the National Arts Festival SA. As a scriptwriter, he has written three television features. In 2014, his short films were short-listed for the Jameson First Shot competition, as well as the European Independent Film Festival. Follow Anthony on Twitter and Facebook.

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

How To Own Your Story

One of the first things we do on a Writers Write course is ask you to list the last five books that you have read. The rule (of the very big thumb) being that you will probably write what you like to read.

I always smile when people list all these wonderful literary works, Pulitzer Prize winners, and Man Booker Prize winners, and then somewhere, usually around number four, they add something like a good old bodice-ripping romp. This is always done with a lot of blushing and explanations like, ‘It's a fun read’ and ‘It’s for when I really need to relax’.

Why are we embarrassed by these books? I like reading and writing romance, but it is frowned upon. The books are supposedly badly written, with unrealistic plots and flat characters. And I agree, some of them are atrocious, but it has nothing to do with the genre. I have come across the same problems in all genres, including the literary ones. Bad writing is bad writing in any genre.

One of our biggest obstacles to overcome as writers is fear. We have enough holding us back. I love this quote by Stephen King:

“I have spent a good many years sincetoo many, I thinkbeing ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that's all.”

Well said, Stephen, but it is easier said than done. 

Try this exercise:

  1. List the last five books that you have read.
  2. Write down the genre of each.
  3. Write down what viewpoint it was written in.
  4. What timeframe was it set in? Past, present, future?
  5. Gender of the protagonist.
  6. What did you like or dislike about them?
  7. Gender of the antagonist.
  8. What did you like or dislike about them?
  9. Description: Too much, too little.
  10. Dialogue: Good, bad, too much, too little.
  11. Setting: Was the setting integral to the plot?
  12. What was the inciting moment?
  13. Identify the three surprises or twists.
  14. Identify the friend and love interest.
  15. What did you like and dislike about the book?

Spot the similarity. Even if every book was written in a different genre or if they seem completely random you will find similarities that will echo in your writing. Maybe three had female protagonists and two were male, but what was a commonality between them? Were they all detectives? Were they all strong leaders? Did they refuse to give up? 

Pull the books you read apart. Dissect them. What did you love about them? What kept you turning the page?

Life is too short to write stories that don’t excite us. Write what you love, not what you think your mother, your professor, your spouse or your friends expect you to write. Forget about the opinions of others. Silencing your internal critic is hard enough. Don’t let them take the joy out of your writing (or reading).

 by Mia Botha

If you liked this post, you will enjoy Do Not Underestimate NaNoWriMo - Five Life-Saving Tips for Writers

Mia Botha facilitates for Writers Write. She is also a novelist, a ghost writer, and the winner of the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa Competition. When she isn’t writing, she is the mother of two children and the wife of a very lucky man. Follow Mia on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Persuasive Writing Checklist

    What is persuasive writing?

    Persuasive writing uses words to convince the reader to listen or to act. Great business writers use persuasive writing in proposals, articles, newsletters, memos, emails, requests for meetings, speeches, and reports

    Persuasive writing has to sway your reader intellectually and emotionally. You should use it in everyday business writing.

    Here is a checklist for longer pieces of persuasive writing, such as essays or opinion pieces..

    If you are interested in learning more about persuasive writing, we suggest you read these posts:

    1. Three Steps to Better Business Writing - Ethos, Logos, Pathos
    2. Persuasive Writing Brainstormer Template
    3. Seven tips for writing a brilliant opinion piece
    4. Persuasive Writing - Emotional vs Intellectual Words
    5. Remember Your Reader - Persuasive Writing Tips

    Join us for our business writing course, The Plain Language Programme.

     by Amanda Patterson

    © Amanda Patterson
    Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate



    How to Deflate those Inflated Phrases

    We receive many emails every day. We are bombarded with adverts, proposals, requests and reports. Why do we respond to some and ignore others? 

    As I have said before, I ignore messages that are full of meaningless rambling words and phrases. I also cannot take anyone seriously if their writing is littered with errors in spelling and grammar. I respond to those that are courteous, catch my attention and ask me a simple question. 

    Simplicity is the magical ingredient in communicating. Have a look at these examples. How many of these mistakes do you make every day?

    Source for Image

    If you want a response to your written communications, you need to learn how to structure your writing. It should be clear, easily understood, and concise.

    [If you enjoyed this post, you will love Begin at the end - the one essential email trick every business writer should know.]

    Join us for The Plain Language Programme if you want to improve your writing skills.

     by Amanda Patterson

    © Amanda Patterson
    Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Writing Inspiration - Secret Worlds

    Always remember...

    'Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe.' 

    ~Neil Gaiman

    Image: Painting by Matthew Weatherstone

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    17 Ways To Make your Novel More Memorable

    I have been posting articles about writing novels for a long time. Regular Writers Write contributors, Mia BothaAnthony Ehlers, and I add weekly blogs about writing techniques and writing routines, but some things never change. There are always certain ways to make your novel more memorable. Here are 17 tips for writers who want to do just that.

    1. Build your plot around the decisions you want your protagonist to make.
    2. Structure your book as a roller-coaster ride. It should be a physical journey that forces you to vicariously experience a series of emotions. Pace it. Give us moments of respite and then throw us back into the action.
    3. Keep it simple. Tell the story. Make sure you have a clear beginning, middle and ending
    4. Write from your heart. Don’t pretend to be something you are not. Readers will sense if you’re not being genuine. You do not have to know what you are writing about. As Nikki Giovanni says, writers don’t write from experience. They write from empathy.
    5. Start your novel at the end of the backstory you’ve created. Begin with a breath-taking inciting moment. Something should happen that leads to a revelation of a shocking fact, a surprising insight, or a unique perspective. The protagonist’s status quo must change and he or she needs to act or react. Move your story forward. Don’t look back.
    6. Include only the most important parts of the story. Your novel is a lot like a highlights package of an episode in a person’s life. Cut out the boring bits. Move us from one exciting scene to another. Don’t constantly review your characters’ actions and feelings because nobody cares.
    7. Always remember the end. Where are you taking your characters? You should keep them on the path to that finale. If you don’t, you risk losing your readers along the way.
    8. Use body language. Use simple descriptions with lots of sensory details. Describing through the senses ensures that you show and don't tell.
    9. Remove excess slang and buzzwords from your manuscript. Words that seem so ‘with it’ now, will age your book in one year’s time.
    10. Limit the use of gimmicky viewpoint techniques. Stick to three viewpoints for an 80 000-word novel. It is also a good idea to use a viewpoint that works in the genre and a viewpoint that you are comfortable writing.
    11. Practise techniques to keep your readers on the edge of their seats. How do you keep the suspense going? Make them want to turn the page. You want their full attention.
    12. Check your techniques well in advance. Have you learnt how to write? Have you completed at least one year of daily writing practice? Have you practised writing dialogue so that characters sound different?
    13. Never let your protagonist remain a victim for long in your novel. A powerless protagonist is not a good idea. Most readers feel powerless enough in real life. They want to read about characters who make a difference. Characters who could be them, if they decided to act.
    14. Don’t add unimportant bits and pieces to the plot just to fill in gaps. Rather decide if you need to revise your plot. Is it strong enough? Are your characters motivated enough? Are your characters strong enough?
    15. Give your protagonist and your antagonist story goals. These story goals should be in conflict with each other. Tell a story where your readers can empathise with both your hero and your villain. Make both of them memorable and interesting.
    16. Don’t drag out the ending. Once the question that started the story has been answered, let your characters and your readers get on with their lives.
    17. No matter what, revise and rewrite your manuscript at least three times.

    I hope these tips help - whether you're starting a novel, stuck in the middle, or finishing one. I wish you hours of Happy Writing.

    [If you want to learn how to write a book with Writers Write, email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.]

    © Amanda Patterson

     by Amanda Patterson. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand. Follow her on Pinterest,FacebookGoogle+Tumblr and Twitter.  

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Five 10-Minute Fixes for Your Short Story

    A conservation journalist friend jokes – at least I think she’s joking – that she keeps an emergency bottle of vodka under the seat of her 4x4 for her field trips. Sometimes we all need that metaphorical quick fix for our writing. (We all know drinking is a bad idea for writers, don’t we?)

    Maybe you’ve written a short story for an upcoming competition and it requires an emergency edit. Perhaps you’ve dusted off a story that has been languishing in a drawer and feel it needs some spark. 

    Here are five 10-minute edits for your short story to get you to the deadline:

    1. Stop and check out the view. Spend 10 minutes freewriting on the world of your story. Describe the setting around your characters. A messy teen’s bedroom. The smell of an empty church. Be as specific as you can.
    2. Get quirky. Spend another 10 minutes focusing on your main character. Give him a quirk – maybe he buys a paper from a street vendor every day. He doesn’t read it – he just feels sorry for the guy on the side of the road.
    3. Think bad thoughts. Take 10 minutes to vent on the page. The catch? Do it the 1st person in your antagonist’s viewpoint. List all the nasty things you want to do to the hero. Don’t hold back – let it all out.
    4. Plant a bomb! Squeeze in another 10 minutes brainstorming some radical plot points for your story. Does your character find a suspicious parcel on a park bench? Does she burn her soufflé just before a first date? Shake things up for your character.
    5. Arrange the flowers. Take 10 minutes to skim through your story and highlight the parts you feel are working. These are your best blooms – could they be a clue as to where the story could be stronger?  

    Keep all these notes with you when you do your final edit and see if your story doesn’t emerge as tighter, quirkier and more vivid.  You may not have time to write a new story from scratch but you may be able to give an existing one a second shot at life. If not, just reach for that vodka under your seat.

    [Anthony will be teaching Short Cuts - How to write short stories - this Sunday]

     by Anthony Ehlers

    (If you enjoyed this post, you will love Cut to the Chase - Three ways to get your short story started)

    Anthony has facilitated courses for Writers Write since 2007. Published both locally and internationally, he was twice a runner-up in the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa short story competition. In 2013, his crime short story was included in Bloody Satisfied, an anthology sponsored by the National Arts Festival SA. As a scriptwriter, he has written three television features. In 2014, his short films were short-listed for the Jameson First Shot competition, as well as the European Independent Film Festival. Follow Anthony on Twitter and Facebook.

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    The Writers Write Interview - Jassy MacKenzie

    Jassy Mackenzie is a South African author who has written seven novels. She lives in Johannesburg with her partner, Deon, two horses and two cats. She writes crime and erotica and still wrestles a day job. She is witty and kind and has trouble saying no to carrot cake. 

    She says it’s funny that when she wrote crime no one ever asked if she had killed someone, but now that she writes erotica everyone asks about her sex life. She explains how she did her research, "I find lots of information on the internet. I read a book written by a mistress, which was very educational. I did have a similar background to Emma Caine, the protagonist in Folly." 

    About her latest book, Breathless: "All of us have been involved with abuse in different forms. I wanted to show how easy it is to be manipulated into believing it was your fault. I wanted to show a toxic relationship."

    The Writers Write Interview 

    Author: Jassy Mackenzie
    Date of Birth: 19 May 1970
    Date of Interview: 3 September 2014
    Place: Lonehill, Johannesburg
    The Book: Breathless

    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    Jack Reacher.

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    My immortal nail file. I do a lot of nail filing when I think of words.

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    Anyone who seeks to gratify their own needs at the expense of other people or the environment.

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    Spiders.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    Deon, my partner. 

    6. What is your greatest regret?
    Having only one life. 

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    The assassin in Kill your boss by Shane Kuhn.  

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    A short history of almost everything by Bill Bryson.

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    Any road trip. 

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    It is from The Lord of the Rings: All that is gold does not glitter 

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    Cats. 

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    Empathy.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    The ability to be artfully manipulative.

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    I always love the most recent, because it is freshest in my mind and I have a very special place in my heart for Folly because it was so much fun. I started writing crime because I was reading a lot of crime. I did Folly because I wanted to try something different. Romance is more fun than thrillers. Falling in love is so enjoyable. 

    15. What are your favourite names?
    For a writer: the first one that comes conveniently to mind that doesn’t begin with the same letter as any other character’s name and that suits the character. 

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    I ride horses and bicycles and, occasionally, I run. I also love to cook.

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    I am going to choose three South African authors instead of books. They are Fiona Snyckers, Kgebetli Moele, and Louis Greenberg.

    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    It is impossible to say. Ideas don’t come when they are called, they pop into you head when they feel like it.

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    I get in front of my computer and I stay there. I prefer writing in the morning, but I write whenever I can. 

    20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

    1. Try to write at least two or three times a week.
    2. Set a word target per session. Don’t stop until you’ve reached it.  
    3. Find something in the writing to get excited about.  
    4. If you need to make notes, do it before you start your session so that you know where you are going and won’t get stuck. 
    5. Try to keep going no matter what because it is always easier to rewrite. 

    Visit Jassy MacKenzie's Website to find out more. Follow Jassy on Facebook and Twitter.

    Interviewer: Mia Botha (Follow her on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter)

    Mia Botha facilitates for Writers Write. She is also a novelist, a ghost writer, and the winner of the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa Competition. When she isn’t writing, she is the mother of two children and the wife of a very lucky man. 

    (We have started a new interview for guests called The Writers Write Interview. This is based, in part, on Amanda Patterson's old format of 17 Questions and Answers for Authors. We've added a few more. We hope you enjoy it.)

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate