There can be fewer more embarassing things as a writer, than to realise that something you have written and published contains a glaring error. It's especially embarassing when it's a simple mistake or if it makes you look stupid. One of the greatest pitfalls, and sources and of potential embarassment, is when you get a figure of speech wrong, either through ignorance or just through a plain old typo. How many times have you seen an e-mail, or heard someone speak, and realised that what they've said doesn't look or sound just quite right. In everyday speech we use metaphors, euphemisms and sayings that can be misheard or misconstrued by anyone who isn't familiar with them already. In writing, the situation is just the same; only with a more embarassing effect for the writer. When you're writing or editing your work, think of phrases or sayings that you may have used. Think whether you've used them or expressed them correctly.

While the meaning or sound of the expression may be fine in your head, has it translated onto paper correctly? To illustrate the point, think about these phrases: batting down the hatches v batten down the hatches damp squid v damp squib mute point v moot point adverse to v averse to auger well v augur well alterior motive v ulterior motive barred wire v barbed wire butt naked v buck naked on tenderhooks v on tenterhooks one foul swoop v one fell swoop short shift v short shrift In each case the first one shown is incorrect, the second one is the real phrase. Would you have known this? The reason that many people have difficulty with them is because most of them are homophonic, that is, they sound the same or very similar. Most people will not be able to tell you the origin of some of these well-used phrases but most will readily understand what you are…

With more and more writers using the internet as a source of information and facts, it has become imperative to ensure that what you read, use or cite is actually accurate. Few things can be more embarrassing for a writer than being told that the information you've based your writing upon is flawed. The internet can be a risky place to look for information these days. Despite there being many excellent, authoritative and reliable sites that writers can use with confidence, there is an even larger number of sites with little or no credentials whatsoever. These need to be treated with a degree of scepticism. Blogging has seen a significant rise in the number of sites and accessible pages purporting to be giving us the truth, the bare facts or that elusive scoop story. In truth, the writers of these blogs, in the majority of cases, will have no more authoritative sources or knowledge on the subject than you or

I might have. Many blog pages have been created for the vanity of the blogger himself or simply as a platform for advertising revenue, making the quality and accuracy of the content less important to the website owner. Looking further afield, sites like Wikipedia, while being excellent sources of detail and background information should also, and possibly suprisingly, be treated with a note of caution. While Wikipedia appears to be a very authoritative source and is fast becoming the definitive look-up encyclopedia of the web, we need to remember how it is produced and maintained. Anyone can edit a page on Wikipedia. You must therefore look to verify anything you read wherever possible. You will see though, that Wikipedia can sometimes show pages as being in need of proof of claims or or requiring verification. The site is somewhat self-regulated, but anyone can still provide content. In recent times, it has been common practice to look for corroboration of facts…

A lack of confidence in your own writing can be quite common when you first start writing professionally, and can still occasionally hit even the most hardened pro. As with writer's block, writing confidently is as much to do with your state of mind as your ability; there are techniques that can help relax your writing anxiety and help you compose words in a flowing, lucid manner. Here are ten ways of learning to write more confidently, because writing should be a pleasure and not just a profession: 1) Read a lot. Read widely in new genres and formats, and not just within your own area of expertise. Seeing how other authors formulate their paragraphs and project meaning will help formulate structures in your own mind. The more widely you can read the more expansive your points of reference and the influences you can draw on when you sit down to put pen to paper. 2) Write a

lot. The more you write the more you'll relax, and agonize less over every sentence. Write even if your not getting paid for it. Start a blog, write articles for free distribution or write for a charity. Rekindle the feeling of writing for pleasure and remind yourself why you choose to do it in the first place. 3) Overcome your fear of people reading your work. If you're not yet yet writing professionally, share your writing with friends or post it on writing community websites. Stage fright at the thought of exposing your words to others can often hold back many from taking the jump into the professional arena. The fear of criticism of what you've poured out onto the page has to be conquered if you want your talent to be appreciated. 4) Understand why you want to be a writer or why you became one. Was it from friends enjoying your short stories, work colleagues commenting on your writing or…

Virginia Woolfe said that all women need a place of their own to write. Jane Austen might have disagreed, since she wrote all of her wonderful novels on a small table in the drawing room, with her family carrying on activities all around her. Your place to write should fit your needs as a writer. Think about what you need. Quiet? A door to shut? A cork board to pin up pictures and notes? A filing cabinet? A window? Nice, neat little desk accessories? Many homemakers have made do with the kitchen table, but other writers prefer a desk that doesn't have to be cleared at meal time. A few writers have even taken over a corner of the furnace room, that being the only private spot in the house that no one else had laid claim to already. Don't spend too much time arranging the "perfect" space, either, if you use its lack of perfection as an excuse not

to write ("I can't write today -- I have to find colored binder clips."). Rather, think of your space as a work in progress just as you do your writing. "Edit" your space as an ongoing project. Who has access to your writing space? Do your kids feel that your things are theirs, too, and constantly make off with your pencils, staplers, and tape? Can your domestic partner look over your shoulder and critique? Are these things okay with you, or do you need stronger limits to your space? If your writing time involves statements such as, "Okay, NOW where is the stapler?" it may be time to set aside a box or cabinet of writing supplies for your use only. No place in your house that works? How about turning a briefcase into a writing case and taking it to the library? At least you'll have unlimited research material at your fingertips! You'll also find quiet spaces where you…

So you did it. You carried your manuscript all the way to the post office, you paid for the postage, you got your SASE stamped, you sealed the envelope, and you handed your precious creation to the postal worker, who tossed it in a bin. It's on its way to the publisher. Now what? Waiting It's easy to go neurotic while you're waiting, hovering over the mailbox, hoping that today will be the day that the reply comes. Instead of obsessing, get to work directly on your next project and let the ones that are out in the world go. If you keep several projects out at once, you won't fret so much over any one of them. If you've read the submission guidelines, you should know how long of a wait to expect before you should look for a reply. If you haven't heard from the publisher in that time, you can write a polite note requesting to

know the status of your manuscript. Don't call; neither the editor nor the secretary will have the information that you need at his or her fingertips. A note will do. Rejection About 98% of all manuscripts that are submitted to a publisher are rejected. Of those, a huge proportion are simply wrong for that publisher: wrong genre, poorly written, badly submitted, or any of a number of other submission sins. Nevertheless, of the 10% or so of remaining viable submissions, only a small number can be accepted into a publisher's list. Even a very good piece of work may be rejected if it simply doesn't fit the publisher's current needs. That said, it should be plain to the writer that rejection is simply a part of the writing life. It's not personal rejection: the editors aren't rejecting you. They're only saying that they can't use one of your works right now. That still may not take the sting out of the…

Many new writers find that writing for children's magazines is a good way to break into the children's market. However, some writers -- especially writers who don't care much for reading magazines -- don't care for the magazine market and prefer writing books. While writing for magazines is never a prerequisite for writing and publishing books, it is certainly one way to break into the market, and can provide experience in working for editors. Fiction Did you like reading short stories when you were a child? Did you love getting magazines in the mail? Can you still remember some of the stories you read? If so, you might find your niche in writing short stories for magazines. Magazine fiction, like all children's fiction, needs to be lively, original, and well-grounded in the child's world. In general younger the child you are writing for, the more real the story needs to seem. Very young children like stories about the things they're

most familiar with: mealtime, bath, bedtime, going to the library, playing with friends. A story about losing a favorite toy at the grocery store and finding it again under the vegetable bins can be an exciting adventure for a toddler. A story showing another child or animals in their bedtime routine can be a soothing read for a child who is getting ready for bed. These stories may or may not be written in rhyme, but they should have a cadence and rhythm to them. If you want to write for toddlers, read magazines geared for toddlers, such as Babybug. Think about your own experiences at that age. How did you view the world? What was important to you? What were your fears? Jot down these ideas and compare your ideas to what you see in the magazines. How could you turn these ideas into short stories? Five-to-seven-year-olds are learning to read, and need stories that they can read with…

Scam artists make their living by telling people what they want to hear. And what unpublished writers want to hear most is, "We want to publish you." An intense desire to be published combined with lack of knowledge about the publishing industry leaves novice writers vulnerable to scam artists, from the "We'll publish your book!" vanity publisher ads in the backs of magazines to full-scale rip-off artists posing as agents. Educate yourself The best way to protect yourself against scams is to educate yourself about the publishing industry. Read the articles on this site and other legitimate author sites. Read the books we recommend that appeal to you. Be sure you are getting advice from either real authors whose books you can find in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, or real editors with major publishers: that is to say, people who are truly experts in their field because they live it every day. Find out how the industry works, find out the

rules of the road, and use the information to help you get published. Along the way you'll run into many people who will tell you that the advice we're giving here is bunk, and that they know the "real" secret to getting published. Some of these are well-meaning but naive people who may have had a bit of luck to begin with, perhaps a nibble from an agent, or a book "published" by a vanity publisher that has sold a few dozen copies. Others are professional scammers. Both can get you into trouble and cause you to waste time and money on fruitless pursuits. It's also wise to educate yourself about the scam artists that are out there. We recommend these websites: Preditors and Editors (yes, that is how they spell it, for alliterative purposes): an extensive site with information on many, many editors, agents, book doctors, publishers, and more. Writer Beware: a service of the Science Fiction and Fantasy…

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Getting an idea, once you've practiced idea generation, is the easiest part of writing. Turning the idea into a finished book -- that's the hard part! Creating a plot requires a certain amount of organization. Some writers can simply start at the beginning and write all the way to the end, but most writers find that they need some kind of organizational tool or underlying plot theory to keep their stories coherent, whether they are writing a short picture book or a long, involved novel. There are as many ways to craft a plot as there are writers, and each new project may require a different approach. While some writers of "how to write" books may insist that some particular method is the "right" method, most writers acknowledge that what works for them may not work for others. Outline or no outline? Horror writer Stephen King says that he never works from an outline. Other writers insist that good writing

can't be done without an outline. Even those writers who claim that they never use an outline may in fact have an outline in their heads, holding the structure of the plot in their imagination as they work. Not all of us have that kind of genius, and need some kind of written structure to keep our stories from wobbling out of control. By "outline" we don't necessarily mean the standard Harvard outline that we all learned in English class, with its Roman numeral headers, sub-topics, and all. While the Harvard outline can be extremely valuable in structuring nonfiction, fiction often requires something more flexible. An "outline" can be any kind of visual device that you use to organize your plot. It may be a spider-web-like mind map. It may be a series of storyboards, such as movie directors use. It may be a series of ideas written on index cards or sticky notes and stuck to a wall, where…