Nathan McGrath: spam or fan?

Nathan McGrath is, by all accounts, an author. His site (to which I am not linking shows he has written 3 books. So why is he scraping out content?

I first noticed Nathan McGrath when I saw an unusual ping on another WordPress blog I write for. What was unusual was that the ping title and body were content I had written.

When I followed the link home, I discovered that Nathan McGrath (or whoever runs Nathan McGrath’s website) had taken articles from Thanet Creative Writers and reposted them on his blog. As he kept the links intact his blog pinged the links. Which is where we came into the story.

It did not take me long to realise that Nathan McGrath’s blog had a lot of our content. Some of it seemed to fit while other parts made no sense for him to have. I’ve worked with things like this before and every time it is the result of something called automated scraping. How that works is a script pulls the content and then posts it.

I’d be tempted to think Nathan McGrath was a fan of our charity had he bothered to link to the source of his article but that, of course, would ping the people he was stealing content from.

I’m really not sure what to do next. On the one hand Nathan McGrath’s books sound somewhat interesting but, on the other hand, I refuse, point blank, to support content theft.

What do you think?

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Hmm, we need a new idea

I am not always the fastest when it comes to realising something just in not working. I’m more of the “must try harder” school of thought.

That said, I can see that my big idea for the grand finish is not being run up too many flag poles for a salute.

I figured combining Reddit (which can be great for traffic) with the final vote was the best option. Reddit, I reasoned, allows anyone to sign up. We can all post our stuff and all vote for a winner.

Like I say from time to time:

I’m moving to theory. Everything works there.

Reddit, for all I think it is great for platform building is not a place you guys seem happy to play.

Maybe, if I had been paying a bit more attention, I might have figured this out sooner.

I am at a bit of a loss as to what to suggest for the final vote. There was so much great content written during the contest that it seems a shame not to have a vote for a winner.

The floor is open. Who would like to take the mic and make a suggestion?

Why does your copy contain so many grammatical errors?

I recently threw down the gauntlet and invited you to ask us the hardest questions you could think of. You can ask questions by using the “ask” link.

Nickie asks:

Why does your copy contain so many grammatical errors? Why do you not proof read before publishing? Even the first paragraph on this page for instance. ‘No really, ask us the about the’

That is a good question and it has a clear answer. The reason for many of the errors on this site is me. I am dyslexic and dyspraxic (and also easily distracted) which causes me to make spelling and typing mistakes despite my best efforts. I wrote about being a dyslexic writer on my personal blog, give it a read if that interests you.

This is also the exact same reason why our Writers’ competition posts are not always up on time. As I said in my blog post.

I also struggle with planning and organisation. I screw up, frequently. It does not take much for appointments, deadlines, and commitments to pile up into each other and chaos to ensue.

This is why we have reporting forms. There is one specifically for reporting errors (and typing mistakes and all that) because I know they are going to happen no matter what I do.

chimpanzee_seated_at_typewriter

The photo of a monkey at a typewriter that you sometimes see around the site is actually a photograph of me on a bad hair day.

You can help me out by reporting mistakes when you find them so I can fix them. I appreciate every correction that gets reported to me because I know that I will make mistakes and those reports help me to catch them and make them right.

Thanks to Nickie, a silly mistake has been corrected. There will, I have no doubt, be more. Feel free to report them to me so I can fix my errors.

The other way to reduce the number of errors here is to become one of our writers. Thanet Creative Writers has always been a group project and while I seem to do most of the blogging, I am happy to have others do that instead. If becoming one of the Thanet Creative Bloggers appeals, we have a form for that.

I refuse to give up and stop doing the things that I love just because my brain is not optimally wired for doing them. If a dyslexic, dyspraxic, arthritic, geeky weirdo like me can write, I am pretty sure anyone can. I hope my faults and failing give you hope.

Ask us hard questions on anything you have wondered about and we will try to answer your question.

Click here to ask a question

Ask us hard questions

I want to throw down a challenge to everyone who reads our blog – ask us hard questions.

What do we mean by “hard questions”?

What makes a question hard is that it is not easy to answer. So, in today’s world, an easy question is one that you can answer by doing a quick search. Five minutes later you’ve had your answer and are now looking at cat pictures, or whatever you do when relaxing on the web.

Hard questions are those topics that your struggle with. areas that you don’t have a definitive answer to or just things that you have long wondered about and would like someone, probably me, to write about for you.

What can I ask about?

This is a blog about writing and about the charity called Thanet Creative Writers. We are a relatively new blog and a very new charity so there are probably a lot of areas that we’ve not covered particularly. Some of those topics have not been covered because no one is interested in the answer but sometimes it is because it just never occoured to ust hat people could be interested.

Likewise, when it comes to writing there are some things that we writers take for granted, like “what is a story?” or “how do I construct a plot?” – we engage with these areas so frequently that sometimes we forget that once upon a time we knew nothing about them too.

So ask us anything. Ask us about us. Ask us about writing. Ask us about Thanet (it’s where we live after all).

Will you answer all questions?

In an ideal world, yes, we would love to answer all questions ever. But the truth is that there are some questions that are not going to get much priority. For example, if you were to ask about our favourite chicken noodle soup recipe that question might languish in obscurity until the end of time. Mostly because it is wildly off topic and a better answer can probably be found with a quick Google search.

For example, if you were to ask about our favourite chicken noodle soup recipe that question might languish in obscurity until the end of time. Mostly because it is wildly off topic and a better answer can probably be found with a quick Google search. But if you have a burning desire to know about our preferences for chicken noodles, don’t let us stop you. Ask away.

Give us some examples

Okay, we will. These are all topics that at least one of us (mostly me at this time) really wants to write about already. I probably have a post sketched out in a notepad file somewhere for most of these but if you want to ask them anyway, be or guest.

  • How do I write interesting and engaging female characters?
  • How can I get better at dialogue?
  • What is the three act structure and should I worry about it?
  • Where do you stand on the monomyth?
  • Do I really need an author platform to sell books?
  • How do I get more diversity in my stories?
  • Should I plot or pants my novel?
  • What is this plotting vs pantsing thing anyway?
  • How do I avoid accidental plagiarism in my work?
  • What is the right length for a novel?

You get the idea. There are a lot of different topics I could be covering and only a limited amount of time for each of our contributors (mostly me) to cover them.

Despite my writing style, there is a lot I don’t know and I spend much more time researching than I do writing these days. Your questions help me understand what matters to you fine people. Whatever that might be from noodles to character building, I want to try and write something that really helps you as a writer.

Ask us anything

What stops me writing?

This week our competition hits the half way mark and comes with a twist in the tale. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

As with every week, there is a theme. As with every week, there will be three winners. This week, however, things change a little.

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but there will not be a winner for the most comments. Instead, it is time for us to push ourselves and enhance the platform we have been building with our blogs. Entries that take part in this new section will be given preference in the event of a tie (and let’s be honest, you are all very good).

Additionally, to get “best post” you need to have linked to this post (unless you write something which is unequivocally orders of magnitude better than all the rest combined. If you need help with links see this post and if you need general WordPress help see this post.

But first the theme, this one is a sequal:

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 17th.

What stops me writing?

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to.

A bonus will be awarded to any writer that manages to link back to their own “What gets me writing” post (week one) in a way that fits with the post and seems natural. If judging is as hard as it normally is, that bonus could help.

How to really win this week

In preparation to our big finish, you will need to step out of your comfort zone once more. This time, however, it is not such a big step. If you can sign up for Facebook, then you can do this too.

Have you ever used Reddit? You will need an account there. It is free to sign up and free to use (just like Facebook or Twitter).

On Reddit is a section called Thanet Blogs. I created it a few months ago and it has been mostly dormant for a while now. That makes it perfect for our new competition element.

Once you have published your blog post, you will need to post a link to the Reddit. WordPress users, that means making sure you post the public URL and not your private one.

The winner will be the post with the most up votes (down voting by competition entrants is not allowed). Aside from us, anyone who uses Reddit could come and vote. You could, for example, get your friends to come and vote for you. You might want to be sporting and vote for each other too.

If you use WordPress (or Google analytics on Blogger) you may see traffic (that is visitors) being sent to you from Reddit. This is good. Once you are comfortable posting on Reddit you might feel like extending out from the sandbox of this particular subreddit and finding larger communities. Writers of Thanet, for example, or the global Writers, if you are feeling brave. There is even a Thanet Creative Writers (which is just about Thanet Creative Writers).

Getting your links out into relevant places is part of establishing and growing your platform. (The opposite of getting your link in irrelevant places – which is spam).

The answer to the question “what stops me writing?” might now be “reading reddit”. You have been warned.

You will be needed your Reddit account for the total lack of grand prize and the Overall Winner selection at the end.

Have you considered becoming a Storyteller?

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin. Once-upon-a-time there was a person who told a story. That person could be you.

Storytelling is more than just reading out a story that you have written. Stories define us and help us explore the world. They enable us to look at old things in new ways. The storyteller is the artist that guides us on the story’s journey.

Since the first people sat around the first campfire, stories have been told. Although it is an ancient tradition, storytelling is still relevant today. Why do you thing films, books, and computer games exist? Stories are part of who we are.

Everyone has at least one story in them waiting to get be let out. Some of us, have many, many stories. Sometimes that is what drives us to become writers.

Jonathan Gottschall calls us the storytelling animal. In many ways we are, we live in stories. We create stories. We define our world with stories.

Professional Storytelling

Have you considered becoming not just a writer but a storyteller? Perhaps a professional storyteller?

The Society for Storytelling has a number of excellent resources including a guide to Becoming a Professional Storyteller and Telling Tales: A beginners Guide to Telling Stories.

What Great Storytellers Know with Matt Chan is a TEDx video that takes a novel look at storytelling.

If you decide to set up a storytelling event then the Society for Storytelling has a guide on Promoting Storytelling Events. Members of our charity can expect our full support in promoting local events and storytelling is no exception. We’d be delighted to get behind local storytelling events.

Next year, National Storytelling Week takes place from January 27th to 3rd February. So there is plenty of time to plan something (if you want to).

Talking of running events, have you considered setting up a Storytelling club or monthly storytelling gathering? Again, members of our charity can expect our full support in promoting such an event and the Society for Storytelling has guidance on Organising a Storytelling Club.

After all, we are wired for stories, says Lisa Cron.

Have you considered storytelling?

Who do I admire?

In our ongoing competition that builds your author platform as you participate, we have looked at a lot of different topics. This week, we are looking at admiration.

Who do you admire?

Today we are asking who do you admire? Thanet has a wide range of literary influences for you to chose from, but don’t let your choices be limited to just the local greats. It can be a good way to build a bond with readers to talk about the people that inspired you to write thus the topic of the week. As always, don’t feel you have to limit yourself to non-fiction. If you have been enjoying creating fiction from these prompts then do that if you wish.

As always, don’t feel you have to limit yourself to non-fiction. If you have been enjoying creating fiction from these prompts then do that if you wish.

This week’s theme, in case you missed it, is:

Who do I admire?

Remember, these themes are jumping off points, do with them what you will. See the competition FAQ if you are joining us late.

Don’t forget to link back to this post (and perhaps comment on it) to make sure people can come and find you when you have published. Have fun and may the muse be with you.

If you are not taking part in the competition (or you just have more to say) let me close with this same question to you: Who do you admire?

Where is poetry going in Thanet?

Does poetry in Thanet exist in a bubble or is it more outward looking? Is it something solid that is growing or something that is over-inflated and will soon go pop?

I think most of us would probably answer that poetry in Thanet is substantive, outward looking, and has a bright future. I know that I would.

What is that bright future? Do we know? Can we know? Even if we can’t know, can we help decide what that future is?

Thanet Creative Writers is holding a Council of Poets to combine the sharing of verse with discussion about where we want to see poetry in Thanet going next. This gathering, I hope, will be the first step towards establishing what form the proposed new Poetry Circle will take.

The council of Poets will take place at our usual venue (address at the bottom of most pages) at half past seven on the 30th March. Places are limited and they are going pretty quickly. So make sure you reserve a space by asking me in person or just set yourself as “going” on the Facebook event.

We will consider the following questions (in between sharing our own poetry).

  • What do we poets in Thanet need?
  • Does poetry in Thanet have a future?
  • What is the future of Thanet’s poetry?
  • How can TCW help enhance the local poetry scene?
  • Do you want to make this a regular event?

Mostly, I imagine, we will be sharing rhymes and drinking tea.

Where do you see Thanet’s poetry going in the near and not so near future?

Why I write in my genre

Here is this week’s theme for the writing competition that also builds your author platform. For full details please see week one’s post.

Week Four: Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 27th.

Why I write in my genre

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. Bonus points (which don’t count towards anything other than enhanced bragging rights) if you can include both the original Greek classification system and the art history usage of Genre Paintings without it seemingly the least bit forced.

Ideas

This theme was designed to give you an opportunity to share your love of your preferred genre (or genres) with your readers. Talking about the general classification of your work can help you show up on the radar of the type of people that want to read that sort of work. However, feel free to argue that genres are a terrible idea, and show why your genre-busting novel is amazing without them. Or, you know, find some awesome way to spin a fiction around the theme. It’s your blog after all

However, feel free to argue that genres are a terrible idea, and show why your genre-busting novel is amazing without them. Or, you know, find some awesome way to spin a fiction around the theme. It’s your blog after all.

You can probably guess my favourite genre from the picture I chose this week. It was that or an image of zombies.

Don’t forget

Don’t forget to link to this week’s post so your entry is (much) easier to discover. You may find it easier to get more comments if you also share your post to your Facebook friends or on Twitter. There is now a guide to linking (and link sharing), if you need it.

Competition FAQ

Our competition has raised a few questions on the Facebook group. Here are as many answers as possible. All in one neat and tidy list.

Who can enter?

Anyone at all. Absolutely anyone. Charity members, group members, people who go to other groups, people that write, people that might like to write one day… Anyone who would like to can join in.

I’m not from Thanet, can I join in?

Yes, please do. Admittedly, when the theme is Thanet related you might need to do some homework but please don’t let that put you off.

How do I enter?

To enter the contest you need somewhere to post your entry. There are a lot of free sites that are ideal for this. By the end of the competition, you will have laid the foundations for a strong presence as a writer.

I already have a blog, can I use that?

Absolutely, yes. You will get the most out of this competition if the blog is wholly or mostly about you as a writer but feel free to use whatever you have.

I don’t have a blog, where do I post my entries?

There is a whole load of free services that you can use. They all count but some are easier to use than others.

Here are some ideas:

  • WordPress (will ping us with your entry)
  • Tumblr (remember to enable replies)
  • Quora (very easy to use)
  • Blogspot (popular but not always the best place to start)
  • Medium (the Facebook of blogging)
  • Weebly (a popular newcomer)

Do I have to write for all 12 themes?

Not if you do not want to. Although you will get the most mileage out of this competition by making an attempt at all 12. Each week is a sperate contest so there is no commitment to take part every week.

Do I have to comment on other people’s entries?

Of course not, however, this contest is all about building a sense of community and by giving a little love to others you will be more likely to receive love back. Love, in this context, being helpful feedback and nice comments.

Can I post a video instead of writing my entry?

Yes, if you want to. A video can be a great part of an authorial presence. I recommend posting a transcript if you can but you don’t have to.

Do I have to link to Thanet Creative Writers?

Linking is not an obligation as such but it does make it more likely that your platform will ping us to let us know about the post. A link also explains to your readers what you are doing and why you are writing for that topic which saves you from having to explain each week.

I’ve just made a WordPress blog for the contest, can I post other things too?

Absolutely, yes. The idea of this contest is that you get to build up a presence. If you have additional ideas then you should run with them.

Can’t I just post to my Facebook page (or my wall)?

You could and I will probably see it, but you will miss out on establishing a wider reach that owning your own content space provides. It is not very hard to set up a free blog or content space and publishers look for writers with an established presence so this should help you down the line.

I chose a platform that doesn’t ping, how do I make sure you see my entry?

Don’t panic. If you are not sure I have seen your entry at judging time, you can always share a link in the Facebook group or use the contact form to give us a heads up.

What do the winners get?

Winners get what everyone else gets – the joy of writing with the added benefit of building something to help you find a publisher down the line. Winners also get bragging rights, a prominent link, and probably everyone (or at least a lot of people) taking a look at their work to see what was so great about it.

What happens at the end?

When all 12 themes have had their winners announced I will explain how we are going to vote for an overall winning post. More on that later.

Do I have to keep my blog going after the competition?

That is up to you. Even if you post something once a month until the next contest you may find that having a creative outlet like that helps you stay focused on writing. Try it and see how it works out for you.

Any more questions?

If you have any more questions, please do feel free to ask. I will do my best to answer them all.