9 Things That Can (& Will) Go Wrong When You Conduct An Interview

Guest Post

Interviewing is an integral part of journalism, and sometimes things don't always go as planned. I call it the Murphy's Law of Journalism. Here's a look at some of what can go South during interviews and just what you can do about it... 

The Murphy's Law Of Interviewing
  1. Scheduling problems. Interviewees, especially those in the world of business or entertainment, are busy and have very little time to waste. Time is precious, so find a time that works for both of you - and be willing to bend around theirs to get the job done. How much information can you cram into a ten or twenty minute interview? Often, more than enough. Once you've set a time, the absolutely most fatal mistake you can make is to miss it without explanation. Don't. 
  2. The Wrong Questions. I always prepare interview questions beforehand and advise students to do the same. I also tell them to treat the questions as preparation - with proper background research - and a guideline. You can't script a conversation, and you're never going to get the best results from the interview if you stick to the script. Treat interviews like a conversation and you'll never have to be nervous about it. You're just talking. If it veers off-topic, that's okay: You can subtly direct the conversation back to what you need to know without disrupting the conversations natural flow. 
  3. Signal Issues. Issues with connectivity and signal are a bitch when you've got an important interview scheduled. Before conducting an interview via phone, make sure you've got sufficient signal to do so - if not, you might be forced to do the interview where reception is better. 
  4. Equipment Malfunctions. In the old days, recorders could run out of tape. Now, things are a little different. If you're running a recorder, make at least three test calls to ensure it's working as it should; make sure you can hear yourself and the other person clearly, and check where these files are being saved. There's nothing worse than relying on a call recorder for an interview and finding out - twenty minutes and questions later - that nothing recorded. 
  5. Volume. I've transcribed thousands of interviews for both myself and other journalists, and a common issue is the playback volume: Sometimes an interviewee just tends to speak softly, other times it was due to the recording environment. Short of investing in a separate microphone (which is not necessarily a bad idea), you can use simple audio editing software like Audacity to increase the volume (or decrease the noise) of recorded interviews. 
  6. The Great...Mondegreen? Mondegreens, if you don't know, are misheard lyrics. Right now, I'm not sure if there's a word for misheard names or responses, but they're going to happen a hell of a lot. When they do, politely ask the interviewee to repeat what they just said or start from the top. If it was a recording and you only notice it afterwards, a call or e-mail asking them to clarify is fine. 
  7. Backing Up. Always back-up what you're working on, and always store it for the long-term afterwards: Consider cloud storage, or hard copy backed up every six months or so. There are many reasons you might need to refer back, and disputed quotes are just one of them. Writing full-time means you're running a business, and I advise people to treat their back-ups just like they would any other business records: Safe, long-term storage. 
  8. Memory Matters. What the hell does memory have to do with interviewing? Well, I'd say everything: Memorising interview questions cuts down on having to apologetically leaf through pages of notes. Knowing some facts and notes before an interview can't hurt either. Speaking of notes... 
  9. Pre-Interview Notes. While memory is great to rely on, a couple pages of notes are a great help. Write up a background research sheet along with your outline of questions: On it, write important facts that you'll need to remember about the interviewee’s life and the topic you're talking about. It's your interview cheat sheet. 

About the Author: Alex J. Coyne is a freelance journalist, author and language practitioner. He has written for a diverse range of international publications, blogs and clients including People Magazine, Funds for Writers, The Dollar Stretcher, The Investor, CollegeHumor and Great Bridge Links, among others. Find more information about his writing and courses aimed at journalists at Alex J Coyne


    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

    7 Things To Do When You Need Inspiration And It Just Won’t Come

    Guest Post

    Not having the inspiration to write is one of the most common problems most writers complain about. Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person in the traditional sense of the word, it’s very likely that you have creative capacities within the right context. The trick is finding what makes your creativity tick. 

    Here are seven things to do when you need inspiration and it just won’t come.  

    1.  Cook, Read, Paint, Or Learn Something New
    Cooking is a great way to distract yourself, and it can help to put you in a positive mindset. Putting ingredients together requires inspiration, and following new recipes can help you to experiment in a creative and useful way. Other creative pursuits such as painting or writing give you an outlet to express yourself, which helps you to bring new ideas to the fore. Learn a new language. A 2012 study carried out at Mashad University in Iran showed that when monolingual and bilingual students were asked to carry out a set of tests for creative thinking, the bilingual student performed better on every task.
    2.  Try Some Physical Activity
    Get outside and get those legs moving! According to a study carried out by a team at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, when lab animals were exposed to environments that allowed them to exercise, their general well-being and cognitive functions increased. By 'enriching' the animals’ environment, their brain function was improved. Enrich your environment by making time to get outside once a day. Physical activity is directly linked to improving memory and thinking skills. You can try running, yoga, or trampolining if you need more ideas.
    3.  Talk About It
    Call a friend, or chat with a colleague if the issue is work-related. Conversations and group discussions on a topic get your creative thinking going. Input and ideas from others can inspire you because they can challenge or reaffirm your own ideas, or even make you look at the task from a totally new angle. Trying ideas out on someone else can also get you to really listen to what you’re asking them, perhaps leading to ideas and conclusions that you hadn’t seen before.
    4.  Listen To Music Or Lectures
    TED talks or Youtube can be a good way to find out more about a topic or to explore new concepts and ideas. Challenging yourself to find inspiration removes the passivity from waiting for inspiration to come. Listening to music raises cognitive activity and regulates your mood. Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of listening to music for inspiration. Music can reduce stress and anxiety and improve memory, increasing the brain’s potential for finding inspiration.
    5.  Set Limitations
    A blank canvas is daunting. Setting yourself some goals or limitations can make a task seem more achievable. Cutting a project into sections allows you to focus on the nitty-gritty, and makes it easier to pluck ideas from thin air. Whether you measure your limitations in pages, time-spent, topics covered or setting out what you need to do in a plan, this technique is useful for almost all kinds of work and is necessary for most creative pursuits.
    6.  Take A Break From The Task
    Get up from your desk and make yourself coffee or tea, or pour a glass of water - whatever it is you need to gather your thoughts. Sitting in one space for hours on end agonising about being unable to find inspiration is probably the worst way to get inspired. Breaking up your working day with different projects allows you to review ideas with a fresh mind. Other tasks or projects may offer ideas that relate to whatever you’re stuck on. Making sure you put aside time to have a break, work-out, sleep, eat, rest, and socialise is important. It allows you to maintain a healthy lifestyle, ensuring that you can work to your best capabilities.
    7.  Don’t Overthink It
    Now this is easier said than done, but it’s really important not to get obsessed in the search for inspiration. Stress and anxiety brought about by criticism from yourself or others can have a really damaging impact on your physical health, mental well-being, and ability to work creatively. There is no quick solution to being stuck, but keeping check on the voice inside your head is essential. Give yourself time, and be reasonable with your expectations.  

    by Janet Miller. Janet is a former Fortune 100 executive, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of JenReviews.com. She writes extensively and has been featured on Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post and MindBodyGreen.


      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

      A 5-Part Story Structure For Beginners

      Guest Post

      One of the first things we are taught in the 1st grade is how to write a good story. It makes sense because our lives are made up of stories. Each of us has a unique tale. Every day is a story with a plot, characters, and a beginning, a middle, and an end. So, why not tell a good story with a great structure?

      Many would support the idea that a good story ought to have these three main parts. Those who agree are professional writers, movie directors, and professors. Without these three fundamental divisions, any given story would appear jumbled. It causes the reader to give up on engaging with the author’s thoughts.

      1. Introduction
      The beginning of a story is where the author introduces the five important questions: WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHEN and WHERE. They familiarise the reader with the characters, the plot, and the time zone. They give a general idea of what the reader has to expect from the narrative. 

      In this first part, also called the exposition, the author creates a bond with the main character. It is possible to reveal the character’s aim and ensure a ‘hook’. That means to provide an incentive and a reason for the reader to continue pursuing the story.
      2. Doorway No. 1
      Good narrative structures also contain a delicate shift, or, as some call it a ‘doorway’. It is the section where the author puts the character into a complicated situation and forces him or her into an irreversible circumstance. This is the part of the story where the action starts to brew. The main character may end up in a difficult position and he or she develops the story goal here. This is the best time to hook the reader into your plot.
      3. Middle
      The first part (or introduction) serves as a section where everything is set up. The second part of the story is where the story line develops and becomes complicated. We call it the "middle". More intricate layers of the characters become clear. Secret intentions and relationships start to surface. Needless to say, as conflict ensues, tension adds to the story. 

      It is a good trick to keep the reader on edge. The author also has the option to weave in subplots to add to the main plot. The middle is the part where the story starts to move towards the climax. That's the segment of a narrative, also referred to as the development, that gives the reader the sense of the inevitable conclusion.
      4. Doorway No.2
      As the level of conflict builds throughout the story, doorway No.2 opens. The writer can make use of it to thrust the main character into a final conflict. Let's call it the pinnacle of the narrative. This climactic moment is where a major blow or crisis usually occurs, which later sets up a potential final solution.
      5. End
      The end or the denouement is the climax of the story. This is the part where everything comes together and starts making sense - in case it didn't make sense before. This is the section where the author writes about the final confrontation and the inevitable aftermath. 

      A good story should not have any loose ends. The denouement is the perfect place to answer all unanswered questions. Respond to inquiries that may have appeared throughout the story.

      The ending can also include poetic justice or an element of sacrifice. It depends on the theme and subject matter the author chooses to write about. This elevates the already scandalous atmosphere that reader has been sucked into. 

      We have an innate desire for happy endings. Often times, writers choose to provide the readers with what they know the public will generally like. Yet, the story can also end on a negative or ambiguous note. This in turn leaves the reader wondering and perhaps feeling a bit dazed.
      It doesn't matter what type of story you choose to write. The most important thing to remember is to start at the beginning, continue in the middle, and finish at the end. And like a good recipe, every story should contain a little bit of spice, whether it’s love and romance, or revenge and power.

      By Laura Carter. Laura is a former educator who is now an academic writing and higher education blogger. Laura’s passion is great fiction and short story writing. Follow her on Twitter.


        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

        5 Ways To Keep Your Writing Safe

        Guest Post

        Prevent Plagiarism With Ease

        I once spent weeks writing a comprehensive article, doing my best work, and I was happy when my editor published it soon after I submitted it. 

        Yesterday, I cried in despair when I saw my article on another site, credited to another author. Can you believe it? I decided to write this article on how to identify your content thief and how to avoid having your work plagiarised. 

        Below are five precautions that should help you out: 

        1. Identify Content Scrapers
        The first and the best way to check out whether any other sources post your article is Google. If you type in the title of your article, you may not see any results. What to do instead? Copy some extracts from your work and then search the results. Google Alerts helps to monitor your content after you create and set up an alert with specific words. The best way to check whether your article is plagiarised is to insert some sentences from the middle part of your work, as the initial part and the ending are usually paraphrased.

        It has become much easier to detect plagiarised content with a plagiarism checker such as Unplag. It scans your piece of work against the Internet. This checker will not only highlight similarities, but provides links to sources from which the content might have been stolen.
        2. Be Unique
        The best way to avoid other people claiming your work as their own is to be as original as possible. Let your unique thoughts become words. Try your hardest to develop your own writing style. This way you will definitely stand out in an overcrowded space. You must guard against just laying out the facts, because similar facts, thoughts and ideas may be found everywhere. This can make your content too easy to copy. A unique style discourages cheaters. Consider downloading a right click and content select disabler. Nobody can copy the content if you have this.

        3. The Text Length
        The longer, the better. To keep content thieves from scraping your writing, fill it with details, facts, ideas, or explanations. It will take too much time to paraphrase the text, so they are likely to leave it unchanged. Once they copy it and post it elsewhere on the internet, you will find the wrongdoer in a matter of seconds. To copy a new post or article and claim it as their own, thieves tend to search for concise and precise texts, rather than longer ones.
        4. When Your Work Is Plagiarised
        If you discover your article has been plagiarised, contact the offending site and politely ask them to remove your content. If you do not get any response, go to DMCA.com. They can help you compose takedown notices to remove your content.
        5. Be Authentic
        If you like someone else’s idea, do not steal it. Instead, paraphrase it, or, if it is someone’s point of view, you need to use a quotation. The most important thing that you need is to be knowledgeable about the topic of your writing. You should reference all sources from which you take information. Resources such as Google Books can help you find various citations.It is every writer’s responsibility and duty to follow the rules of proper quotes, citations, references, and paraphrasing.
        To Wrap It Up

        It is wonderful when you are a talented writer and you create unique and original texts that attract other people’s attention, but it is unpleasant to find out that your precious work has been stolen. Thanks to rapid technological development, it has become easy to detect plagiarism and to have stolen content removed.
         by Nancy Lin. Nancy is a freelance writer and editor from Kansas City. Her articles have appeared in a number of writing-related websites, including DIYAuthor, Cultured Vultures and Bang2Write. You can always find her on Twitter:  @nancylin90

          Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

          What Fiction Writers Can Learn From A Child's Mind

          Guest Post

          Stuck in a rut? Unable to get the next plot of your story together? All that might be missing is a little bit of creativity. 

          Writing is a passion of the heart that flows through the writer’s pen, hoping to leave an eternal mark on readers’ minds. However, growing competition in this area of creative expression has made it more difficult for writers to stand out.

          What can you do differently? One answer is to look in unusual places for inspiration. Unusual does not have to be something mystical. It can be as simple as child’s play. Fiction writers and children both have fanciful minds. Observing children in their routine games can prove to be an excellent lesson in creativity.

          Children dream. Children imagine. And children love. For a child, nothing is impossible. And that's what separates them from us. They do not think that they will fail. They invent things and they look at things differently. 

          If you're looking for a creative plot for your next story, you need to think out of the box by looking at life in a simpler, more imaginative way. 

          Here are three things writers can learn from children:

          1.  Observe children at play
          Children don’t need much to imagine a whole new world. You can learn a lot just by observing how children play. Children have the ability to create worlds and characters. They see the fantastic in the most humdrum things. When you see a cereal box, you see just that. However, when a child sees it, he sees the next mega structure in his expanding world.
          2.  Let go of mental boundaries
          When children play, nothing is out of reach. In a child’s imagination, he could be the king of the world or a wizard in a parallel universe. A child’s mind has no limits of logic, reasoning, or absurdity. For a fiction writer, this quality could be the edge you need. You can take your readers on adventures unthinkable for the ‘rational’ adult brain. Surprise yourself by not restraining yourself by the mundane. You're writing fiction, and the world's realities can be moulded any way you want.
          3.  Write without limits
          You can write about anything under the sun. Or if that is too run-of-the mill for you, then construct a whole new world from scratch. Children do exactly that. They believe in dragons and fairies and they talk about mythical worlds with no hesitation. Such unbridled creativity can prove to be a boon for your writing.
          We are easily amused by a child’s fantastical stories. However, if we take them seriously, they are a treasure trove of inspiration. Hand over your pen to the child in you, bubbling with enthusiasm to create something exciting. Do not shy away from challenging Tolkien or Rowling if you believe in your make-believe. Nothing is wrong in the world of fiction. 

          by John Cabrera. John is a freelance writer, web content writer, editor, blogger, content strategist, and ghost-writer. He is the co-founder of Freelance Writer Opportunities, a blog dedicated to writers’ financial growth. Follow John on  Twitter.


            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

            3 Reasons Why Creative Writers Make The Best Content Writers

            Guest Post

            You’ve just opened up a position in your company for a Content Marketer position and are already flooded with applications. One of the standout resumes is a new graduate, but their university major is in Creative Writing, with a minor in commerce.

            Their application is great, but you can’t get past the fact that their education in business is minimal. Even though their background might be useful for tasks such as running the company blog, you still have your doubts.

            What reasons should consider to determine whether or not you call the applicant in for an interview?

            1.    Writers Wear Other People’s Shoes
            So here’s the thing: if you’re a writer, you’re used to putting yourself in the shoes of another character. You imagine that character’s wants, needs, pains, motivations, etc.

            We do the same thing in business. We must put ourselves in the shoes of the customer, and try to understand their buying motivations, their psychographics, and more.

            If you put a creative writer in charge of communicating with customers, they will be able to think from the client’s point of view. Therefore, they will be able to construct messages in a way that is easier for the reader to understand.

            In business, we are so used to assuming users understand the value of what we are trying to offer. However, writers don’t assume; they get behind the character’s story to truly understand them.

            By understanding the user, we are able to convey value in a way that they can understand. This means they are more likely to buy into what we are trying to offer.

            2.    Writers Are Storytellers
            Writers are natural storytellers. They are able to show, and not tell.

            When you show something, it becomes a lot more convincing and inviting. Simply telling or dictating an option to a customer does not actually compel them to make a buying decision or believe in your company—in fact, it probably repels them.

            Whether it’s a blog post, video, or infographic, writers think in the mind-set of creating a customer’s story involve a given product or service. If users can picture themselves engaging with your business, they’re one step further along in the client's journey.

            3.    Writers Can Write Like Humans
            Content marketing is the one place where the phrase “if you've got it, flaunt it” does not apply. So gag your inner Ross Geller and suppress the urge to use all that fancy jargon and lingo you know.

            Creative writers understand that they must write in a language everyone understands; they also understand the importance that tone and style play in content. This is a simple fact that we tend to overlook every day.

            When users read your content online on your social media pages or website, it should not take effort or be complicated. More importantly, the tone, playfulness, etc., of your content should be used to give an indication to your company values and culture
            Imagine if you’ve just released a new video advertisement, and are cross-posting it on all your video channels. A regular message might look something like:
            Hello, everyone! We’ve just released our new video; please have a look when you get the chance #campaignhashtag.”
            Or, you could say:
            Hello, [insert affectionate nickname for organization community citizens, i.e., Googlers, Snapsters, Starbers, etc.)! We’ve got something new for you; we can’t say exactly what it is, but it involves a lemur playing the trombone. Have a look! #campaignhashtag.”
            Which message is more compelling? I don’t know about you, but I’d probably want to see what the lemur playing trombone looked like. While not every example is as wonderfully weird as this one, you get the idea. Language, tone, playfulness—they are all important in letting your audience know about your organisation. Writers are good at that.

            Unsure of what type of candidate makes a good content marketer, or not sure if your creative writing talent is relevant to a marketing job? Think again. Knowledge around SEO, digital communications, etc., is easy to teach; soft skills like creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking are inherent, and cannot be taught. 

            Happy writing! 

             by Arash Asli. Arash is at the forefront of business growth. As Co-founder and CEO of Yocale, he has a unique blend of technology, business development, corporate, and finance experience. Arash is honoured to have been named the Business in Vancouver’s Top Forty under 40 business executive.


            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

            How Writers Write Changed My Life

            Dear Writers Write

            Almost a year ago I started my journey with your team. I walked into a room feeling nervous, not because of the Writers Write course, but out of my own fear. “Should I be here? What am I doing here?” These were a few of the thoughts that darted inside my mind like little fireflies stuck in jar, desperately trying to get out.

            The room slowly started warming up with bodies, not the dead ones we would eventually write about in an exercise, but the kind of human bodies that spoke my language. Other writers. The course was brilliant and our teacher, Mia was something else. Digging up and divulging the darkest corners of our lives and chewing on the sinew of our own fears became our daily doings.

            And just like that, the lid of the jar popped open and the fireflies escaped. I was fearless and the journey Mia took us on took me to the edge of my mountain. I jumped. 

            I resigned from my job the following Monday. I knew I couldn’t spend another day of my life not writing. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to create a void. You know the saying “make room for something else”? So I did.

            That something else came very quickly. I needed a job where I could write creatively, change the world, have a positive impact, and make money. Not a lot to ask for is it? Well, there seemed to be no job opportunities that filled my request. Standing on the edge of that mountain, with the confidence of Writers Write behind me, I created my own company!

            I am now the passionate owner of Doodle Your Future. We write good news stories for companies. Our vision is to transform and enhance the lives of all people and children through corporate good news storytelling. We offer companies a meaningful and creative solution to corporate social investment initiatives.

            “How bloody marvellous!” yup! I just whispered that out loud.

            This deep desire to enhance the lives of orphaned and abandoned children in South Africa, my passion for writing and good news has always been inside of me. It took the unknowing nudge of Writers Write to give me the confidence and understanding of my purpose.

            Now, I spend my days being creative, writing, and changing the world one story at a time. I have my wonderful author’s club right behind me - a group of powerful women writers from my course. Not to mention the best business partner anyone could ask for, my sister.

            To think it all started with that very scary thought of “What am I doing here?” to jumping off a cliff and flying.

            Thank you, Amanda and Mia, and Writers Write. What you offer the world of writers is life changing. I hope that all the students that dip their ink with you will allow magic to happen too!

            Much Love 
            Tammany Barton

            Have a look at my website

            Facebook: Doodle Your Future
            Instagram @Doodleyourfuture
            Twitter: @Doodlefuture


            If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 


            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

            10 Writing Contests You Should Definitely Enter

            Guest Post

            If you’re a new writer, chances are you’re not quite sure how to kick off your career. Should you get an agent? Write to publishers?

            Writing contests are a great way for beginners to get noticed. By definition they attract more amateurs than professionals, giving you a chance to compete with writers close to your own level. And if you’ve already started your career but want to take it up a notch, a well-known writing prize can really make your portfolio stand out.

            It’s scary showing your work to the world. But you have to bite the bullet eventually, so you might as well do it for a cash prize!

            1.  Writers’ Forum Fiction Competition

            Category: Short Stories
            Entry Fee: £3 for subscribers, £6 for non-subscribers
            Prize: First Prize £300, Second £150, Third £100.
            Deadline: Ongoing

            This monthly competition is run by the Writer’s Forum, with winning entries published in their magazine. Entry is rolling; if you miss the deadline you’ll simply be entered for the following month. You can also get feedback from the editors for £5, so even if you don’t win you can still improve your writing skills.

            2.  Just Back (The Telegraph)

            Category: Travel Writing
            Entry Fee: None
            Prize: £200 in currency from the Post Office
            Deadline: Midnight on Wednesday

            This competition runs every week, so there are endless opportunities to win. If your summer holidays aren’t really inspiring you then you can always write about a weekend trip to the country or even your own city. Submissions should be under 500 words. 

            3.  Write On-Site

            Category: Short Stories, Flash Fiction
            Entry Fee: £4
            Prize: £50
            Deadline: 6pm every Saturday

            This terrifying competition publishes three themes at 5.30pm on a Saturday evening and then gives you half an hour to bash out a few hundred words. Judges choose the three best entries, which are voted on during the following week. If you like the adrenaline rush of tight deadlines you’ll love this.

            4.  The Winchester Poetry Prize

            Category: Poems
            Entry Fee: £5 for first poem, £4 for subsequent poems
            Prize: First Prize £1000, Second £500, Third £250
            Deadline: 31 July 2016

            Any subject and any style is welcomed by this poetry competition, and the winners not only get a cash prize but the opportunity to read their poetry to a captive audience at the Winchester Poetry Festival in October. 

            5.  The Prolitzer Prize

            Category: Prose
            Entry Fee: £4.00 for first entry, £3.00 for any subsequent entries
            Prize: Winner £200, Runners-up £50
            Deadline: 1 October 2016

            No, not the Pulitzer. That might still be a little out of your league. This annual prize run by Prole Magazine is open to any kind of prose writing, fiction or non-fiction, so you can write pretty much anything that takes your fancy.

            6.  Cinnamon Press

            Category: Novels, Poems, Short Stories,
            Entry Fee: £12
            Prize: £300 for poetry, £500 for novel or short story
            Deadline: 31 May (Short Story), 31 July (Novel), 30 November (Poem)

            Cinnamon Press run a clutch of annual competitions as well as numerous mini-competitions throughout the year. The real prize here is not the money but the publishing contract they offer to the winner of every category. It’s only open to the unpublished, so perfect for amateurs looking to break in to the business.

            7.  The Notting Hill Editions Prize

            Category: Non-fiction
            Entry Fee: £20
            Prize: Winner £20,000, Runners-up £1000
            Deadline: 9 January 2017

            Absolutely any kind of non-fiction is accepted by this biennial essay competition. If you’ve got a political essay, scientific article, travel story or memoir to share this could be the place. An anthology of the winners will be published in hardback by Notting Hill Editions.

            8.  Spotlight First Novel Competition

            Category: Novels
            Entry Fee: £16
            Prize: A mentoring package worth up to £990
            Deadline: 14 February 2017

            If you’re struggling to finish your novel then this competition is perfect for you. Instead of a finished draft, all you have to submit is a synopsis and the first page. The prize is to have your work appraised by a literary consultant and a development plan worked out to help make your work really shine.

            9.  The Terence Rattigan Society Award

            Category: Plays
            Entry Fee: Free
            Prize: £2500 plus guaranteed production in a professional theatre
            Deadline: 31 August 2016

            The judges for this year’s prize include Poirot actor David Suchet and Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes, so it has some serious celebrity cachet. The competition is incredibly fierce, but the chance to have your play actually performed by professionals is not to be missed.

            10.  The Bridport Prize

            Category: Novels, Poems, Short Stories, Flash Fiction
            Entry Fee: £8 - £10 per submission
            Prize: Up to £5000
            Deadline: 31 May 2016

            Yes, it’s the most prestigious writing prize in the UK. Yes, we’re seriously suggesting you enter. Okay, the chances of winning are slim, but even just taking part in such a respected competition will improve the quality of your writing. What have you got to lose?

            Even if you only enter small monthly competitions, the regular practice will make you a better writer. And if your novel or short story has been pushed to the bottom of your to-do list recently, a deadline and a pot of gold at the end might inspire you to polish up that old draft into something spectacular. So get writing!

             by Julie Martin. Julie is a student, freelance writer and blogger. She manages to fill her life with her favourite work and hobbies. She is an editor on MyMathDone, and she writes for resources like GettingSmart, YourStory and ELearningIndustry. You can follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn for more interesting stuff.


            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

            Selfie And Other Words Ending In –ie

            Guest Post

            How long ago do you think the first selfie was taken? 

            Was it five years ago or ten? Could it have been closer to 20? I’m afraid if you guessed any of those dates you are way off. The first selfie was taken all the way back in 1839, which is more like 180 years ago. 

            The camera at the time was so slow that the photographer, a gentleman named Robert Cornelius, didn’t have to hold it at arm’s length at all. Instead, as explained on PetaPixel, he simply took the lens cap off, put himself in the frame, waited for the required minute and then put the lens cap back on.

            Of course, it wasn’t called a selfie at the time. That was just a ‘self-portrait’.

            The word ‘selfie’ only entered the common lexicon about 160 years later. In 2002, a young man by the name of Nathan Hope wrote about why he had several stitches in his lip on an online forum: ‘Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer (sic) and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.’

            That was how a word was first recorded and how a young man went into the history book – unable to lift his feet over steps while drunk and spell the word ‘over’ while sober. What a way to be remembered! At the same time, Oscar Wilde did say, ‘There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about,’ so perhaps he’s rather proud of his scar today. 

            The question then is how did the word actually get created and why does it so easily resonate with us English speakers? Australians have a practice of shortening words and then adding ‘ie’ or ‘y’ to the end. By that rule, a ‘beer’ becomes a ‘beerie’ and a ‘fireman’ becomes a ‘firie’. Be sure to check out this fantastically funny video for more examples.

            Etymology of the suffix –ie

            Australians are not alone in doing this. The –ie suffix, is, according to dictionary.com, a noun-forming ending, which makes all the words it is added to informal, and it often (but not only) notes endearment.

            It is often used for personal names, common nouns and adjectives, such as:
            • Billy
            • Susie
            • Birdie
            • Doggie
            • Granny
            • Sweetie
            • Tummy
            Recently, however, the tone has changed slightly with more modern coinages lacking this endearing quality, with such words as ‘cabbie’, ‘hippy’, ‘groupie’ and ‘rookie’ apparently not having inherited this trait.

            The roots

            At the same time, nobody really seems to know where this practice originated. The freelibrary.com says, ‘One of the etymological mysteries of contemporary English historical linguistics is the origin of the diminutive suffix -y, -ie, which first appeared during the Middle English Period. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the morpheme derives from English renderings of Old French names like Davi, Mathe (i.e., Davy, Mathy), "which have the appearance of being pet forms of David, Mathou" …  However, as Marchand (1968: 298) objects, "'For whom?' we naturally ask. When there was no suffix and accordingly no possibility of hypocoristic interpretation of the final -y, the termination was hardly capable of being transferred to other names.’

            You get a gold star if you follow all of that. Basically, they say that though there seems to be some commonality with French, it isn’t clear that the suffix originated there as it wasn’t used in the same way. They then argue that perhaps it came from Scottish, though it did not start out as having this endearing quality there.

            So what about that other –ie word we keep hearing, the zombie?

            That word came to us by a completely different route, totally unrelated to the ‘ie’ suffix. That is why there are no ‘zoms’ walking around.

            The word ‘zombie’ is one of those great examples where English has borrowed shamelessly from another tongue. In this case, the word has two roots in the West African language of Kikongo, where the word ‘nzambi’ means ‘god’ and the word ‘zumbi’ means ‘fetish’. 

            The word entered the English language by way of Haiti, where it was connected to voodoo magic. From there it spread throughout western society by way of cinema and popular fiction. That has to be a better way for it to spread than bites and scratches, right?

            So both words come from completely different roots and routes but still have the same ending.   


            It is true. English can be hard sometimes, as well as strange and often confusing. For example, why are there so many words that are pronounced differently than they are written? At the same time, it’s such an interesting language with all its outside influences and internal idiosyncrasies.

            It’s an adventure not just into the way words and sentences are formed, but into the very history of the language, which, because of its globe-trotting nature, is more varied than most. I hope I have managed to give you a little taste of that in the paragraphs above, where we’ve explored both the ‘ie’ suffix, as well as one of the thousands of borrowed words – like ‘tsunami’, ‘schadenfreude’ and ‘smorgasbord’ – that suffuse it. If you want to know more, be sure to check out the other posts on this site!

            Source for image

             by Patrick Cole. Patrick is an entrepreneur and freelancer. He is also a contributing blogger for several websites. Patrick loves self-education and rock music. Connect with Patrick via  Facebook,  Google+  and  Twitter


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            The Marshall Plan For Romancing Your Story

            Guest Post by Evan Marshall, author of The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing

            Spring is in the air (in the Northern Hemisphere) and we want to talk romance. We have noticed a trend in fiction writing: adding a romantic subplot. Publishers tell us this technique is especially popular with readers right now.

            We’ll take a look at it and discuss some examples in three genres: cosy mystery, mystery, and historical fiction.
            1. In cosy mystery, Karen Rose Smith, in her popular Caprice De Luca Home-Staging cosy mystery series, places romantic upheaval in Caprice’s path in Silence of the Lamps. Will Caprice finally find love? Then there’s bestseller Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen cosy mystery series. For years, Hannah has not been able to make up her mind between Mike and Norman. In the latest in the series, Wedding Cake Murder, Hannah meets Ross and must decide among the three men. Whom will she marry?
            2. In the mystery category, novelist Elizabeth George made a big mistake when she married off Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley in her bestselling Inspector Lynley mystery series. Lynley had turned into a fuddy-duddy after he and Helen got married and were on the verge of becoming parents. We weren’t surprised when Elizabeth George reversed course and killed off Helen and the unborn baby. Another example of a single detective series with a romantic subplot is detective Joe Cashin in The Broken Shore by Peter Temple, set in Australia.
            3. Romance is at the core in historical fiction by Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl, The White Queen). Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale mixes equal parts romance and history (and also hits the trending “sisters” category). Romantic suspense in Harlequin Intrigue and Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect mix equal parts romance and suspense.
            Today, we even recommend that clients consider adding a genre-appropriate romantic subplot in hard-core thrillers. Instead of tying up the romantic subplot with the traditional sugary bow at the end, we advise showing how the couple might get together.

            To sum up, a romantic subplot adds 3-D texture to your story: depth, dimension and drama. It enables you to reveal intimate character traits in your protagonist and others you might not otherwise have any way to show. It also opens the door to adding conflict, flirty dialogue, misunderstandings, mystery, twists and surprises.

             by Evan Marshall. Evan is president of The Evan Marshall Agency and Indie Rights Agency, an independent literary agency based in New Jersey, USA. An expert on fiction writing, he has served as a contest judge for Wattpad. He is author of The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing, now How To Write A Novel-The Marshall® Plan Software, co-created with Martha Jewett. Evan is the author of ten traditionally published mystery novels in the Hidden Manhattan and Jane Stuart series, called “Miss Marple lite” by Kirkus Reviews.


            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.