Daily Archives: September 6, 2011

Transcription of Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 20 (January 2011) – songwriting

The twentieth episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 3rd January 2011 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website so I hope you find this information useful. In the first nineteen episodes (see for earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit, erotica, ‘writing rules’, historical & the classics, name & characters, Christmas and opportunities. This podcast has a focus on songwriting.

Song/lyric writing

  • Wikipedia ( explains that “Lyrics (in singular form Lyric) are a set of words that make up a song, either by speaking or singing. The word ‘lyric’ comes from the Greek word ‘lyricos’ meaning “singing to the lyre”. The word lyric came to be used for the “words of a popular song”; this meaning was recorded in 1830. The common plural predominates contemporary usage. Use of the singular form ‘lyric’ remains acceptable, yet is considered erroneous in referring to a singular song word as a ‘lyric’.”
  • Molly-Ann Lieken says that the concept of popular music as opposed to classical music suggested that it would be a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ fad that chronicled the times and was then to be disposed of: ‘Yesterday’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper’ as Elvis Costello once put it. Yet songwriters can find inspiration via current events or even tabloid headlines which are often eye-catchingly snappy, and can make great starting points for songs. When John Lennon read about the heir to the Guinness fortune dying in a car crash, it spurred him on to write ‘A Day In The Life’. And other songs inspired by events, such as German rock group The Scorpions’ ‘Wind of Change’, for example celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, have proved they can live on, while The Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save the Queen’ inspired by the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, has since been played on BBC radio, having been banned from the airwaves on release: how times change. Classic songs have stood the test of time, and the work of classic songwriters may be heard performed by singers and groups of several generations. Becoming obsolete does not seem to be an option. New-wave giants The Police and Squeeze re-formed in 2007, doubtless heartened by the fact that The Who’s Pete Townshend was still performing ‘My Generation’ while in his sixties!” (The Rolling Stones would also be worthy of a mention here.)
  • Molly-Ann also explains that all songs have two distinct lyrical and musical sections, called A and B sections, that are repeated at least once. The most common contemporary hit song form is the ABAB form. The other is the AABAB form, along similar lines to writing poetry. There’s an interesting article involving Molly-Ann at and you can buy her book ‘’How to write a hit song’ (which I happen to have) but have yet to read in much detail.

If you write poetry you may find lyrics a fun exercise. ‘How to write great songs’ by Michael Heatley and Alan Brown is a lovely little 384-page spiral-bound book which highlights song-writing essentials (what makes a good song, song structures, music and melody, lyrics, musical styles and song-writing techniques), singer-songwriters (over 100) and biographies, further reading and internet sites. The edition I have is dated 2007 (first print) published by Flame Tree Publishing The lyrics section says “a lyric is not a poem. Make sure that the words work well with the music rather than worrying about whether Shakespeare would approve. Try to establish a context for your song within the first few lines; you may also want to include some original imagery and a character or two within the narrative. Write from the heart: sincerity in the lyrics can make the difference between a mediocre song and a great one. And be careful to keep the tenses, viewpoint and tone of the lyrics the same throughout the song. Ideally the lyric should get better as it progresses through the song. Many inexperienced writers think they’ve cracked it after the first verse and fall down on the second, resorting to clichés to get through. Rewriting may be necessary to solve this. Rhymes are needed to give the song a feeling of completion, while a middle eight after a couple of verses and choruses will pique the listener’s imagination; just as they feel they have a handle on the song, it adds another element, and sets the scene for a dramatic conclusion”. A ‘middle eight’, one of the BBC’s Radio 2 pages ( explains, is so called because it is a section in a song that tends to happen towards the middle of the song, and tends to be eight bars in length).

The next 350 pages of the book are snippets of info / tips from various famous songwriters and with its lovely chunky spiral binding is definitely a shelf-gracer. On Wikipedia’s page, whilst the body of the text itself isn’t particularly helpful, it does have some useful and hopefully interesting reference links at the bottom of the page including an article by Mark Bright entitled ‘How to pitch your songs to industry insiders’.

The Writers & Artists Yearbook lists two song-writing magazines: Founded in 1986 the ‘Song-writing and Composing’ is a quarterly magazine which is free to Songwriters Guild members – ( and ‘The Songwriter’, a monthly magazine founded in 1967 and published by the International Songwriters Association based in Limerick in the Republic of Ireland. Do take a look at their website ( as it’s packed with hints and tips from a variety of songwriters including John Lennon, Joni Mitchell and Ami Winehouse. There’s also the American Songwriter magazine ( which, as the saying goes, is available in all good newsagents.

‘How to write a hit song’ by songwriter Molly-Ann Leikin is “the complete guide to writing and marketing chart-topping lyrics and music”. Sections are ‘Song structure – the lyric’, ‘the melody’, ‘rhyming’, ‘the all important title’, ‘collaborating’, ‘making time to write’, ‘stimulating creativity’, ‘overcoming writers block’ (Molly-Ann claims that writer’s block is caused by fear or anger, or both!), ‘publishing your songs’, ‘making money in the meantime’ and ‘seasons’. Molly-Ann explains that “a hit song is usually less than two and a half minutes long and has a specific structure, a musical and lyrical pattern that repeats. It does however have to have a focus. We need to know what it is about. Each line of lyric in your song has to relate to the title. It should add something to embellish and enhance our understanding of the subject matter. If you were writing a song about shoes you wouldn’t suddenly throw in a line about a lawn mower unless the shoe was mutilated by one. One of the exercises that Molly-Ann offers is to write the words ‘little red schoolhouse’ and list every picture or feeling those words evoke in you; ask yourself 50 to 100 questions like these: “Is the school old or new?; In what county is it located?; Is it in the country or city?; How big is it?; Does it need paint? If so, where?; What season is it?; Is there a weathervane?; Is there a bell? If so, what kind?; Is the school on a hill?; What century is it?; What time of day is it?; Are there any animals nearby? If so, what kind?; Are there any flowers and trees? If so, what kind and what colour?; Are there steps into the school?; Are there children outside?; What are the children doing?; What are the children wearing? Describe every detail of their appearance – from haircuts to frayed collars to shoe laces.; How old are the children?; Are they happy? If not, why not?; What is remarkable about the sky above the school?; What kind of desks are inside? Are they new?; If not, is anything carved on them?; Do you hear anything? Smell anything?; Is the teacher old or young? A man or woman?” It may not make the most interesting song but it does make you think about a seemingly simple object.

Back in 1969 (and reissued many times since) Futura published, under the genre of poetry, a book of Beatles lyrics. It contains almost 200 of their lyrics “to form one volume of poetry”. It continues: “From the ambiguity of ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ to the surrealism of ‘Eleanor Rigby’, from the style songs of John Lennon to the psychedelic brainstormers of Paul McCartney.”

Radio 2 has another great page, this time of song-writing tips ( To the right there are a variety of songwriting related links under the headings of Songwriting Guides, Performing, Working with Other Writers, In The Studio, Publishers, Record Companies, Management and Staying on Track. is a great page. There are tips in a variety of headings including ‘Writing a song’, ‘Working with other writers’, ‘publishers’ and ‘staying on track’ which says “Success won’t happen overnight. Learn to keep your confidence and to take setbacks on the chin.” If you’ve had any rejections yourself then I’m sure you can relate to that.

Music-related publications

‘How to write great songs’ by Michael Heatley and Alan Brown mentioned earlier. Others include ‘Lyrics: Writing better words for your songs’ by Rikky Rooksby, ‘Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure: Tools and Techniques for Writing Better Lyrics’ by Pat Pattison, ‘500 Best-Loved Song Lyrics’ by Herder & Herder and ‘Successful Lyric Writing: A Step by Step Course and Workbook’ by Sheila Davis.

Music-related websites

There are hundreds, probably thousands of lyric websites (within the 309 million results for a ‘lyrics’ search on Google) and the first one is which has lyrics old and new, and is probably the easiest to remember and one I tend to refer to.

  • is ‘an anthology of fiction inspired by music’. It’s an American site run by Matthew Wayne Selznick who has appeared on, and been mentioned in, many podcasts that I’ve listened to. The anthology is available in paper book, electronic book and CD formats.
  • is the London-based British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors’ website.
  • by Peter Franklyn also has tips as well as a 6-min ‘You Tube’ video on writing lyrics (currently Lesson #4 on ‘hooks’) – his approach is to make things simple (sounds good to me). By putting ‘how to write lyrics’ into a Google search brings up many other websites packed with hints and tips.


Here I provide a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts which are listed on my ‘sentence starts’ blog page; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • Take a poem or song lyrics that you’ve written, fitting it to a piece of music you like;
  • Words easier to remember when to music. If you ever want, or need, to remember a poem short story off by heart then how about picking a tune that you know well and replacing the original lyrics with yours. 🙂 Alternatively, you can use lyrics as inspiration for your stories. Songs are quite often complete stories and there’s no reason why you can’t use the story (not the actual lyrics obviously) for your own purposes.
  • Have a look at song titles. Titles are not copyright so it’s perfectly fine to use them although you may be limited if you pick something too specific e.g. Wham’s ‘Wake me up before you go go’. Sometimes all it takes is a spark of an idea for a story to start and once you get started…

Other stuff

Looking on the National Association of Writers’ Group’s (NAWG) website ( some months back I came across a hilarious page entitled ‘The Writer’s Ten Commandments’ with a few embellishments from me (apologies in advance to anyone of a devout religious faith):

  • Thou shalt love, honour and respect thy Writing. Thou shalt not heed those who utter evil words or falsehoods about thy Writing but shalt uphold thy Writing by word and deed at all times.
  • Thou shalt abhor the virgin parchment and shall fill it daily with words from the depths of thy mind and thy heart and thy soul that others may marvel at the wisdom and beauty and depth of thy Writing.
  • Thou shalt strive for excellence in thy Writing. Thou shalt watch over thy spelling, punctuation and syntax in thy Writing with the eyes of a hawk. Thou shalt read and reread thy work, fearing errors shall evade thee, and make thee a laughing stock among thy peers.
  • Thy shalt not be envious of thy neighbour’s Writing, but shall devote all thine emotions to thine own Writing.
  • Thou shalt not harbour resentment should good fortune smile upon thy neighbour (when they get an acceptance), rather offer praise, so that praise may be heaped upon thee in thy good fortune (when you do).
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s quill, nor his ink, nor his parchment (or computer), but shall strive diligently with all thy might to gain sufficiency unto thyself.
  • Thou shalt not cast aspersions upon thy neighbour’s Writing (unless asked to do so in a critique group) but remain content that thine own Writing is beyond reproach and imputation (unless in a critique group).
  • Thou shalt remember thy good fortune and be charitable to those less gifted (practiced) than thyself. Thou shalt not hazard thy Writing by being solicitous over others, remembering at all times that thine own Writing shall take precedence over all things.
  • Thou shalt take up thy quill with a good heart, a cheery smile and an eager step, knowing thy good fortune to be thine own master as a Writer.
  • Thou shalt keep thy workplace seemly, knowing that it is as a glass to the byways of thy mind.

The Poet’s 10 commandments are the same (substituting writing/writer for poetry/poet).

The podcast concluded with On This Day in History and a poem by one of my favourites; Shel Silverstein called ‘Snowball’:

I made myself a snowball… As perfect as could be… I thought I’d keep it as a pet… And let it sleep with me. I made it some pyjamas… And a pillow for its head… Then last night it ran away… But first, it wet the bed. You can read this and more of Shel’s poems (my other favourite is ‘It’s dark in here’) at

That’s it. Thanks for visiting – a list of the other episode transcripts and summaries can be found at


Posted by on September 6, 2011 in podcast, recommendations, songwriting, Twitter, writing


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Transcription of Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 19 (Dec 2010) – opportunities

The nineteenth episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 27th December 2010 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website) so I hope you find this information useful. In the first eighteen episodes (see for earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit, erotica, ‘writing rules’, historical & the classics, name & characters and Christmas. This episode had a focus on opportunities for submissions and forthcoming competitions.

Writing newspaper and magazine articles

Should you have a hobby or sport that you are knowledgeable or practiced in, how about submitting an article to your favourite newspaper or magazine? Whether it be cooking, animal training or Octopush (the little-known international sport of underwater hockey that my brother is heavily involved in!), many publications pay freelance contributors, so why not be one of them? Guide book author Gordon Wells says “Anyone can do it. You don’t need to be a literary genius – that could be a disadvantage. You don’t even need to have done well at English in school. Editors are more interested in good ideas than beautiful phrases.”

Website ‘Suite 101’ has a network of over 1,900 freelance writers and is looking for more ( Study the site to see what they publish, you never know, you may get work out of it. Local newspapers often have weekend supplements with film, book or restaurant reviews so if you have seen, read or eaten something good, you could contact them to if they are interested in publishing it.

If you go on a holiday and want to tell the world about it, travel-writing is another outlet for non-fiction writing. Bill Bryson, Tony Hawks and Paul Theroux have made a successful living out of it. You could also submit to travel magazines such as Caravan Magazine, Condé Nast Traveller, Traveller and Wanderlust. The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2011 has 4 pages of ‘notes from a successful travel author’ (in this case William Dalrymple)., created by Australian Jennifer Stewart, has been “solving your writing problems since 1998” and is definitely worth having a look round as it has hundreds of pages about writing including which has various travel links including Suite 101’s ‘Become a Freelance Travel Writing’ (

Writing for the internet

There are many outlets for publishing your work on the internet. The trick, though, is to make money at it. Books on this subject include two by Jane Dorner, published by A&C Black. ‘Creative web writing’ (with a foreword by fantasy writer Terry Pratchett) is split into three parts:

  • Part 1 – ‘the web genie’: Chapter 1 ‘reading on screens’ includes a history of e-literature (electronic format books, the first ever being ‘Bag of Bones’ by Stephen King released at the same time as the paperback version in April 1999); and Chapter 2 ‘new markets’ contains sections on new e-publishers, submission guidelines, what’s in the contract, self-publishing, print on demand, out of print, protection.
  • Part 2 – ‘exploring Aladdin’s cave’: Chapter 3 ‘new lamps for old: captions to an exhibition’ includes sections on narrative, fantasy, avant pop and poetry; and Chapter 4 ‘digital dimensions’ includes topics of digital drama, digital writing for children, devices (plot advice) and principles (problems/opportunities).
  • Part 3 – ‘web-writing practicalities’: Chapter 5 ‘writing style’ gives advice on techniques to increase readability, planning, humour, punctuation, editing, style and online chat etiquette; and Chapter 6 ‘listings’ includes basic equipment needed, software for self-publishing/experimental writing, writing courses in the UK, experimental writers and word-artists, online communities and literary venues, and new media writing prizes.

Jane’s ‘The internet: a writer’s guide’ is packed with information, split into two parts:

  • Part 1 – The ‘Introduction’ explains how the book works and asks “why go online?” and discusses the worries of going or being online. ‘Getting connected’ has technical information including an explanation of what the internet is, the equipment you need and, interestingly, going online without owning a computer! ‘E-mail’ is split into 18 sections on the subject of e-mailing! ‘The World Wide Web’ is very in-depth. The 22 pages in this part includes ‘hyperlinking’ (to take you to a specific website), ‘how to surf the web’, ‘downloading’, ‘publishing’ and ‘advertising’. ‘Virtual communities’ mentions writers’ circles, newsletters, internet chat and writer’s block. ‘Electronic imprints’ covers internet publishing, print on demand, e-books, e-zines, e-newspapers and electronic publishing. ‘New writing opportunities’ includes interactive fiction, poetry, broadcasting/TV, non-fiction and writers-in-residence. ‘Internet publishing practicalities’ provides information on self-promotion, writing web pages, writing style for screen reading, publishing your work on the web, security and maintenance. The final section of part 1 is ‘issues in an online environment’ with topics such as copyright, plagiarism, censorship, eye strain and ‘the future’!
  • Part 2 is much shorter and explains ‘internet addresses’ and lists a variety of ‘online resources’.

On the subject of writing for the internet, says “It is no secret that authors write some of the very best blogs. Our editors have compiled a list of author blogs that they believe are truly outstanding. Although the styles and subject matter of the author blogs vary widely, they all share two important qualities: they are all frequently updated and interesting to read.” A few of the names I recognised under the heading of ‘Author blogs’ included Poppy Z Brite, Meg Cabot, Neil Gaiman, Holly Lisle and Jennifer Weiner. Below this list are ‘Group blogs’ (seven links), ‘Author blog directories’ (two links – ‘’ which is a directory of authors blogging while they write; and ‘Romancing the blog’ – a directory of blogs by romance authors), ‘Author blog search’ (seven links to search-style websites including the very popular Google, MSN and Yahoo as well as the lesser known,, and and General Blogging Resources (four links to websites with general blogging information). Below that (at the very bottom of the page) are four links to commercial websites ( where you can “earn revenues for your stories – write, publish and earn” and which has “Selected “Best of Web” by Forbes Writing classes online and in NYC”.

Puzzles and crosswords

Puzzles and crosswords are big business. If you enjoy completing them then give a thought to making your own! The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook lists two contacts for submissions:

  • The Puzzle House, Ivy Cottage, Battlesea Green, Stradbroke, Suffolk IP21 5NE (tel. 01379 384656 / e-mail More details from
  •, an article by British author Gail Miller, says “Anyone can earn good money from home writing short pieces for publication in various magazines or periodicals, but here we are going to look at selling quizzes, questionnaires, word games and puzzles. There are many publications which publish word-searches, games and puzzles, but did you know that many weekly and monthly news-stand magazines, not to mention regional and national newspapers and comics, publish crosswords and quizzes regularly? Over recent years ‘tabloid’ type, large circulation, magazines have blossomed, bursting with every type of puzzle.”
  • is an interview with author Joan Sweeney who, at “nearly 70” has spent the last ten years working from home writing children’s books for ages 3-8. I won’t go into detail here as there’s little advice on writing.
  • tells you how to create crosswords! “First decide upon your grid. You want plenty of crossovers but not so many that it will be hard to fill the grid with words. Then take your wordlist and try to fit them into the grid so that they form a valid puzzle. If you are working without a wordlist it will be easier to get a valid grid; from a set wordlist you will have to reform the grid to fit the words and their lengths etc. The difficult bit is writing the clues. In theory you could use a synonym dictionary and do a look up to create a simple quick crossword; for anything more complicated this stage definitely involves human intelligence to come up with some good clues.”

Recommendations – Publications

  • I mentioned Gordon Wells earlier and his book ‘The craft of writing articles’ is published by Allison & Busby. It tells you clearly and simply how to generate article ideas that will sell; how to identify the right magazine for your article; how to find out about your subject; how to plan, structure and write your article; how to illustrate it – with easy-to-take photographs; and how to submit your article to the selected editor.
  • A similar book is ‘Writing short stories and articles’ by Adele Ramet published by ‘How to books’. In less than 250 pages, it covers ‘mixing fact and fiction’, ‘constructing an article’, ‘getting articles into print’, ‘researching and filling systems, ‘rewriting to suit different markets’, ‘writing short stories’, ‘caring for your characters’, ‘creating a twist in the tale’, ‘signposting’, ‘twisting with little old ladies’, ‘fitting a specific plot’, ‘working as a freelance’, ‘marketing your manuscript’, and ‘keeping records’.
  • Another prolific guide book writer is Michael Legat one is ‘Non-fiction books’. It has four simple sections: ‘the purpose of this book’; 44 pages on ‘what to write about’; ‘how to write the book’; and ‘how to sell the book’.
  • I often hear Stephen King’s ‘On writing’ part-biography / part-writing advice being mentioned and explains it in more detail and concludes “On Writing is an encouraging but very honest look at what it means to be a fiction writer, and if you’re an aspiring author – especially if you secretly worry about not being clever enough or educated enough to write fiction – then I highly recommend it.”
  • To keep your brain active, Writer’s Digest books has published ‘Write brain workbook’ by Bonnie Neubauer. “When you have problems getting a writing session started and find yourself staring at a blank page, what you need is an exercise to get you going and to free up your writing. Bonnie offers you 366 such exercises that each provides the ideal warm-up.”
  • ‘Fiction writer’s workshop’ by Josip Novakovich, published by Writer’s Digest Books, is “designed to be a fiction workshop you can attend on your own. Each chapter represents a workshop lecture, and is followed by a dozen or more exercises you are encouraged to work…you will acquire the skills to self-evaluate your work…the book covers everything from idea-finding to style and writing voice. Along the way, it deals with characters, setting, plots, beginning and endings, dialogue and so forth.”
  • And if you fancy a break… ‘Five dials’ is a free monthly magazine from Hamish Hamilton (London’s oldest publishing houses, founded by Jamie Hamilton in 1931. They say “Home to authors such as J.D. Salinger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, W.G. Sebald and Truman Capote, our aim remains to publish the very best literary writers from around the world, from Alain de Botton to Zadie Smith”) for lovers of literature and has a mixture of poetry, short stories and articles. For a free monthly subscription visit website They will then e-mail you when the (free) copies are ready for you to download on to your computer (back copies are also available from the same website page). It’s in .pdf format so you can print it off and read it if you prefer.

Recommendations – Websites

  • The Writers & Artists Yearbook recommends which is a “UK-based free internet magazine devoted to good writing on any subject. No fees; forum of exchange” and which “explores writing on the web”.
  •, affiliated to publishers HarperCollins, is “much more than a community of book lovers”. They are “on a mission to flush out the brightest, freshest new talent around.” Aimed at writers, readers and publishers you are invited to “build a (free) profile, upload your chapters, stack up your bookshelf and go meet the neighbours”! Their FAQ (frequently asked questions) section explains all.
  • I mentioned Australian writer Angela Booth in last week’s podcast and her page contains tips including ‘writer for hire, freelancing for profit’, ‘avoid writing income disasters’, ‘the truth about selling your writing services online’ and ‘top ten writing tips to help you write more’.
  • is a page packed with links to tips on writing for freelance writers. Although it is a science fiction site, there may well be advice which is relevant to the genre that you are writing or the field you wish to work in.
  • which the Writers & Artists Yearbook describes as “useful for newspaper and magazine writers” is “the local guide for the global traveller”. You can explore their guides by country and city/resort as well as search through and watch videos of worldwide events including Germany’s Oktoberfest and Love Parade, Paris’ Bastille Day, Finland’s Wife Carrying World Championships and Spain’s Baby-Jumping Colacho Festival!
  • is a UK-based site which “offers a free database of current writing competitions containing details and contact information” and updates their database on a regular basis.
  • is the home of ‘The Write Idea forum: an international community of poets and prose writers’.
  • which is what it implies; an online resource and bookshop of all books Scottish.
  • The American site is a “review and literary calendar for the West and beyond”. The front screen of the website looks rather cluttered but only because it has so much on it and it’s worth a visit for anyone interested in poetry.
  • has a list of ‘10 books not to read before you die’. “The producer of television shows that you may quite like shares with us his definitive list of books that just aren’t worth the bother”. Cheery stuff!
  • US poet Kim Addonizio is quoted as saying “for a writer a feeling of spaciousness is crucial, ideas come from reading, experiences, TV, looking at art, dreams, eavesdropping and living in as many directions as possible”. Her website is
  • If you need to do some research then The Internet Public Library ( could be of some help. You can search resources by subject, newspapers and magazines, special collections, as well as ‘for kids’ and ‘for teens’ sections.
  • Online dictionaries include, (which includes a Scrabble checker!) and or if grammar is your weakness, has a load of links that may help.
  • For inspiration the has some interesting ‘fun facts’. It states that the research division of the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC) compiled a list of the top 1,000 titles owned by member libraries – the intellectual works judged to be the most worthy based on the “purchase vote” of libraries around the globe. Works by Shakespeare featured 37 times, Charles Dickens was the second most popular with 16 works, closely followed by 13 John Grisham novels.
  • has a similar article entitled ‘The top 100 library authors’ and is a blog packed with information and discussions about books.
  • Writing can be quite a solitary profession so you might like to take a look at which lists a variety of writers conferences, mainly in the US (three in Canada and just one in the UK – York).
  • has a wonderful hints and tips page with headings of ‘writing stories’, ‘competitions and prizes’, ‘web links and books’ and ‘writers’ residencies in Flanders and Brussels’.
  • has over 30 sections with tips on writing from a variety of topics from horror writing, novels and short stories, street slang for scriptwriting, becoming your characters and kick-start your writing with NaNoWriMo (the November 50,000 writing project I’ve done and mentioned a few times before). Left-hand menu options include book reviews, business writing, expressions, fiction writing, freelance writing, grammar, misused words, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, word of the day and writing basics.

Poetry opportunities


Here I provide a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas (or in this instance quite a few more) then list seven sentence starts which are listed on my ‘sentence starts’ blog page; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • I’ve mentioned colours briefly before and they do help imagery in any kind of writing. Think of ways that you can write different colours – (i.e. have a red car, how about a ‘falu red car’) 33 red shades and links to 40 explanations. has even more for blue (and no doubt many other colours/website links).
  • Describe a snowflake in a minimum of 100 words. may help but use your own words.
  • Obituaries may not be something that immediately strikes you as of use to writing but it details someone’s life in a short amount of words. Whilst you wouldn’t want to take the exact details it may help inspire you with your own characters. Many newspapers have online obituary sections and here are just a few
  • is a site run by a Lyndsay Marshall of Newcastle University. One of the many links on this is to which “is to catalogue all deceased authors, and all authors of books published before 1964, including their full name(s), date of death, date of birth, pseudonyms, sex & nationality (for non-EU citizens who died after 1920), and their books published before 1964”.
  • lists US and Canadian obituaries by newspapers. Listed by state, you can click on any of the names of the publications and you’re taken to their website’s obituary section.
  • is the website for ‘The National Hall of Records’ which “is your trusted destination for online obituaries and death notices. We provide a central location where family and friends can share memories, access helpful resources, and remember loved ones.” Cheery stuff.
  • American site has ‘tips for finding obituaries’.
    •, of the Darwin Awards books, currently lists a chronicle of 849 enterprising demises – “Honouring those who improve the species…by accidentally removing themselves from it!”
    • While we’re on quirky, explains that the bi-monthly title by John Brown Publishing in February 1997 was an immediate success and changed to monthly issuance a year after its launch with circulation peaking at over 120,000 in 2000. Bizarre is a self-described “alternative” and “non-mainstream” magazine and is the sister publication of British monthly magazine Fortean Times which describes as “The World of Strange Phenomena”.
    • Other bizarre websites include which lists the 15 most insanely titled books including ‘People who don’t know they’re dead’, ‘Italian without words’ and ‘Cheese problems solved’, and a site run by Michael Quinion who “writes on international English from a British viewpoint”. It has a very interesting ‘weird words’ page ( which lists about 500 unusual words.
    • One interesting life was who may (or may not) have been the inspiration behind Tom Hanks’ & Catherine Zeta Jones’ 2004 film ‘The Terminal’. Mr Nasseri lived in Charles de Gaulle airport from 8 August 1988 to July 2006 when he was admitted to hospital for an ‘unnamed ailment’. Wikipedia goes on to say that he’s been living in a Parisian shelter since 2008.

Elmore Leonard is quoted as saying in the ‘Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life’ 2002, “The most important advice I would suggest to beginning writers: Try to leave out the parts that readers skip.” Two other quotes I liked are…

  • “You make take up a dictionary to settle an argument, but you put it down, much, much later, with a sigh of pleasure, chuffed at the sheer exuberance of the world’s most exuberantly nimble language.’ Jeremy Paxman (in a foreword to the 11th edition of the Chambers Dictionary).
  • “One need not be a chamber to be haunted, One need not be a house, The brain has corridors surpassing, Material place.” Emily Dickinson

The podcast concluded with On This Day in History and a poem by Morris Bishop about prepositions which you can read on many websites including

That’s it. Thanks for visiting – a list of the other transcripts and summaries can be found at


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