Summary of “Neverwhere” (Neil Gaiman)

Written by Maria Anwar

Neverwhere

Plot Summary

A young boyish looking man named Richard Mayhew, who lives in a small Scottish town, has to move to London for his new job. The night before he had to leave, he and his friends celebrate with drinks at a pub, Richard who was now drunk and sick, comes out and sits on the pavement for a breath of fresh air. Here he meets an old woman who initially mistakes him for a homeless person. The old woman offers to read Richard’s palm and predicts that he will go much farther than London. She also warns him to beware of “doors” and says that though he has a good heart; it doesn’t guarantee he’ll be safe wherever he goes.

Once in the capital city, Richard is absorbed by the hustle and bustle and becomes a ordinary worker drone. Richard owns a small flat, has a mundane job and a demanding fiancée Jessica, who keeps him around only because she sees in him a certain amount of potential; not in the sense what Richard can become but in what she can manipulate him into becoming. Jessica has expensive tastes, a penchant for architecture and shopping. She owns a luxury apartment in a posh area. Jessica is bossy, ambitious and materialistic.

Once when Richard had to accompany Jessica on a dinner with her boss Mr. Stockton, he forgets to make reservation for it at the restaurant. The dinner is very important for Jessica’s career so she gets angry and impatient with Richard’s forgetful careless attitude. Later that evening while hurrying towards the restaurant for the dinner, they come across a wounded girl lying on the sidewalk. Richard tries to pick her and finds that she’s bleeding; he decides to take her home so that she can be treated. But Jessica threatens him that the dinner is more important, and if he will prefer a homeless beggar to Jessica’s career, she will break the engagement. Richard feels it’s cruel to leave a bleeding person lie on the road, so he ignores Jessica and heads back to his flat.

After the injured girl spends a night at Richard’s flat, she looks fine in the morning. She tells Richard that her name is Door and she belongs to a parallel world London Below which lies on the underside of the London Above. Door reveals that London Below occupies the lost corners and hidden places of the London Underground, has magic and monsters, and is inhabited by the homeless and lost people. Door tells Richard that she is being hunted by some very dangerous people Vandemar and Croup, who have murdered her family and now aim to kill her for some reason.

Door has a mysterious way of talking to rats and birds, she asks Richard to locate a man named Marquis de Carabas for her help. Richard encounters Marquis de Carabas in a dark alley, who agrees to help Door as he owes her family a favour. Marquis convinces Richard to follow him down a sewer through a ladder, which leads them to a rooftop, where they meet a seemingly insane bird-obsessed man named Old Bailey. The marquis tells Old Bailey that he owes him a big favour, and hands him a silver box to keep safe for him. Later Richard returns to his flat with the Marquis, Door thanks him for his kindness and leaves. Richard expecting life to be back to routine discovers that people on the roads cannot see him anymore; coming to his office he finds that none of his colleagues including Gary recognize him, as if he never existed. Jessica seems to have forgotten him and the Realtors show his flat to potentials buyers. He has actually been touched by London Below and is now no more a resident of what Door called London Above.

Richard thinks that the only option to get back to his life is to find Door; who must know a solution to his problem. Looking for Door in the dark corners and alleys of the city, Richard descends into London Below, where a man Lord Rat-Speaker, who worships rats, assigns a rat-speaker girl Anaesthesia to accompany Richard to the floating market, where he can find Door.  Almost everyone seems to know Door because her father, the late Lord Portico, was head of the House of Arch. On their way to floating market, Anaesthesia tells Richard that she came to London Below when she was orphaned. Since she had no place to go, was homeless and lived under flyovers; the rats found her and brought her to this place. During their journey a beautiful Amazonian woman named Hunter also joins them. Hunter is a professional; warrior and bodyguard who helps Richard find the floating market. While three of them pass through the terrifying Night’s bridge, Anaesthesia is swallowed by the living darkness; Richard is grieved and keeps a bead from her necklace to remind him of her. Meanwhile Door and de Carabas go to Door’s house, where she cries in memory of her murdered family, especially her dead father Lord Portico. She locates his journal in which her father is asks her to go to Islington, who knows everything.

Reaching the floating market, Richard comes to know through Old Bailey that the Marquis is holding auctions to hire a bodyguard for Door. Hunter fights all candidates, and wins. She easily gets the job of Door’s bodyguard. Richard learns that in London Below a watch is useless, there’s no currency and people buy and sell like barter trade. Richard is tired of walking in the dark sewers and tunnels. When he complains about how he is going to go back to his life, Door promises him that after her troubles are over, she’ll definitely find a way out for Richard too. Door somehow feels that Angel Islington might have an answer to why her family was killed. Next they meet an aging half-mad noble called Earl in the “Earl’s court”, which is a train that travels along the Tube lines in London Below. The Earl gives them directions to the Angelus. Carabas goes to Old Bailey again. He shows Bailey the statue of the black boar he had picked from Door’s house, Bailey tells him that it’s the Great Beast of London, which has been living in the sewers for more than three hundred years, nobody has ever been successful in killing it.

In British Museum Door locates the Angelus on the stage and opens it with her magical powers. Angel Islington is something Richard had not seen before, he never believed in angels. The angel gives them a quest to retrieve a special key which is hidden somewhere in the strangeness of London Below. Richard, Hunter and Door proceed to the Abbey of the Black Friars. There they come to know that each of them has to go through a trial in order to earn the key. Richard is faced with the most difficult trial called the “Ordeal.” The Ordeal is an hour, though it seems like an eternity to Richard. Richard is locked in a room, where his mind is toyed with. He’s made to question his sanity repeatedly; he cannot differentiate between reality and hallucination and when he’s at the verge of committing suicide he hears Anaesthesia’s voice telling him to stop. He survives the Ordeal by coming back to his senses. The Black Friars congratulate him, and hand him the key. Richard joins Hunter and Door who feel Richard doesn’t look boyish anymore; rather he has grown up in some sense.

Meanwhile Marquis tries to ask Vandemar and Croup who they’re working for and why they’re after Door, both cut-throats give him dodgy replies and eventually kill him. They throw his body in the sewers. Right at this point, the silver box which Marquis had given Old Bailey starts glowing with a red light, signaling that he’s in trouble. Islington calls Croup and Vandemar that Door has the key that he wants to break free from prison, thus she should reach him unharmed. At the market Door makes a duplicate of the key, and then Richard, Hunter and Door leave for Angel Islington’s place. Old Bailey comes to floating market and buys de Carabas’ dead body from Sewer folk’s stall. Later he brings Marquis back to life through the silver box. Hunter, Door and Richard encounter Vandemar and Croup on their way, who beat Richard up. At this point Hunter reveals she was the traitor in their group. Since she has brought Door to the cut-throats; she gets a metal spear as a payment. Richard is angry on Hunter’s betrayal. Vandemar and Croup leave with Door, while Richard and Hunter are left behind.

Suddenly Marquis appears there and gets hold of Hunter, who drops the spear and reveals that she is working for Islington. Marquis then makes her lead him and Richard through a marshy labyrinth which is known to harbour The Great Beast of London. Hunter had hunted many beasts and had always wanted to slay this beast with the special spear she received, so when it appears she draws the spear and attacks it, but instead gets injured and drops to the ground. She asks Richard to pick up the spear and attack the beast when it charges again. He attacks it from its side and succeeds in killing it. Hunter calls him the great warrior of London Below and gives him her antique knife as a gift before she succumbs to her wounds. Richard and Marquis then move on to Islington’s prison, where he has captured Door. Vandemar and Croup get hold of Richard and Marquis and ties them up with chains. Islington then confesses that he needed Door because of her power to open any door; he killed her family because her father refused to help Islington in his malicious aims of spreading violence and bloodshed.

When Islington asks Door to hand him the key, she gives the fake duplicate key to him and since he needs her hand to open the door of Heaven, she instead opens the door to a faraway place more like Hell. After Islington, Vandemar and Croup are sucked into that opening and Door closes it. The Black Friars tell Richard, that he can go back to London Above because the key he had secured was the key to all reality. Door asks Richard to stay in London Below as she liked him around, Richard tells her he likes her but this is not where he belongs. Richard leaves for the train station that will drop him off in London Above. The Earl on the train knights Richard with the knife Hunter had given him, he also tells Richard that he doesn’t look boyish anymore and is a Warrior.

Next, when Richard gets out of the train he is happy to find that people can see him; his ATM card is working again. He goes to his building and rents a penthouse, he starts going back to work where people think he was on a vacation. One day Jessica comes to see Richard in his office, and asks if they can be together again but Richard refuses to have her back in his life, as he has changed. In a few days, Richard feels that life in the city is boring; it lacks meaning and excitement of London Below. He tries telling Gary about how experience in London Below changed him, but Gary calls him insane. Rather Gary states that the reality that Richard should acknowledge is that poor always lie at doorsteps of the shops in streets, and even die there when it’s cold in winter. Richard thinks if this is all that people call sanity, and if he is crazy to think otherwise, then he doesn’t want to be sane. He then tries scratching the street wall with his knife in the shape of a door, and calls Door to come and take him back. The moment he starts banging the wall with his hands, he sees an opening in it, where Marquis welcomes him back to London Below and Richard leaves with him for another world.

“Neverwhere” was made into a serial by BBC America.

Summary of “The Graveyard Book” (Neil Gaiman)

Written by Maria Anwar

The Graveyard Book

Plot Summary

On a dark cold night, a mysterious man in black enters a house and kills the inhabitants including a man, a woman and a little girl with his sharp long knife. When he climbs up to the second floor to kill the eighteen months old baby boy belonging to the same family, he finds the crib empty. The baby being awake with the noise in the house had crawled out of the house to a neighbouring graveyard. The man Jack desperately goes out into the graveyard to look for the baby, he has to finish his job but the baby seems to be lost in the fog. In the graveyard, a ghost couple Mr. And Mrs. Owens find the baby and feel pity for it, they never had a child of their own in their life time. Meanwhile three ghosts of the dead family come to the graveyard, one of which being a woman tells Mrs. Owens to protect her son from the man who can harm him. The ghost inhabitants of the graveyard all gather up around the newly arrived living baby and indulge in an argument as to how dead people can raise a living child. Mrs. Owens remains adamant that she’ll mother the baby; it will be given the ‘Freedom of the Graveyard’, so that inside the graveyard it will be invisible to most of the living people of the world. Since the ghosts cannot leave the graveyard and run errands for the baby’s food and other requirements Silas being a vampire, neither dead nor alive, agrees to be its guardian. He tells Mrs. Owens that he can go at night in the outer world and return in the morning with baby food. Since the baby’s name is unknown to the ghosts they name him Nobody Owens, as it looks like nobody but himself.

Nobody is called ‘Bod’ by the denizens of the graveyard, when he turns four he’s talkative and inquisitive. He starts leaning to read and write from the letters and numbers on the gravestones, Silas gets him books and crayons and helps him trace it all on paper. One day a living girl named Scarlett Perkins comes to the graveyard to play, while her mother sits on a bench nearby and reads. Scarlett comes face to face with Bod and both become friends, Bod shows her around and tells her he lives in the graveyard. Scarlett and Bod visit the oldest grave through a chamber-like mausoleum inside the hill, where they see a monster-like Indigo Man who claims to be a ‘Sleer’ guarding a treasure for its master. Bod sees that the treasure is just an ancient brooch, a knife and a goblet. Few days after this incident, Scarlett comes to say good-bye to Bod, she tells him her family is moving to Scotland as her father switched job.

One day Silas brings a substitute guardian for Bod, a grey-haired serious looking woman called Miss Lupescu. Silas tells Bod that he’s going away for some time; meanwhile Miss Lupescu will teach Bod some new skills and lessons. Bod doesn’t like Miss Lupescu as she makes him eat bland home-cooked food and teaches him how to call for help in different languages. He thinks it’s useless to learn the lists she gives him. He feels unloved and ignored and goes away. There’s a ghoul-gate in every the graveyard, and that night Bod falls asleep near the ghoul-gate, through which ghouls go in and out of Hell. When Bod wakes up he sees three ghouls, but doesn’t recognize them as dangerous creatures. They tell him that inside the Hell he’ll have good company and great food, while actually they plan on killing him and eating him up. Once inside Hell, they take him prisoner and put him in a sack, that is when Bod senses danger and calls for help in the language of the night-gaunts. Night-gaunts were huge flying creatures; they let Miss Lupescu know that Bod is in danger. Miss Lupescu then comes to save Bod in the form of a werewolf and takes him back home to Mrs. Owens. Bod is grateful to Miss Lupescu and learns the value of home and family, whom he complained about lately.

It was common knowledge that a witch was buried at the margin of the graveyard, Mrs. Owens too had told Bod about it. He thinks of sneaking into that area but is suddenly joined by Silas, who then tells Bod that this particular corner is potter’s field, which is unconsecrated and is used to bury criminals, suicide attempters and those not of faith.  Bod then heads towards Mr. Pennyworths grave, who tries to teach him some ghostly skills like Fading, Sliding and Dreamwalking but Bod finds it hard to learn them being alive. Bod being hungry and curious finally steps into the corner of the graveyard where there’s an apple tree too. He climbs up the tree for an apple but falls down on the ground and hurts his leg. It is then that he hears the voice of a ghost girl, a bit older than him who soothes his leg with her hand. She tells Bod she’s Liza Hempstock, the witch who was drowned, burned and then buried without a headstone. Now she lays in the potter’s field with nothing to mark her grave, and it makes her sad not to be remembered. Bod feels sympathy for Liza and decides to make her happy by getting her a headstone, but for that he needs money. So he breaks the rules of the graveyard; he goes to the old mausoleum, finds the Sleer and snatches the ancient brooch from it. Bod goes to a pawnbroker’s shop to sell the brooch. The pawnbroker named ‘Bolger’ gets greedy and wants Bod to lead him and his partner Hustings to the grave where he got the brooch. He locks Bod up in a storeroom, and tells Hustings how Bod can get them rich by leading them to the grave full of such ancient brooches, after they get to the grave they will hand him over to Jack for more money. In the meantime, Bod tries to fade and slide like a ghost but to no avail, suddenly he hears Liza in the storeroom and she makes him disappear from the men’s eyes when they come looking for him. They head back to the graveyard, where Silas replaces the brooch in the Sleer’s grave. Bod learns how greedy and untrusting the outer world is, he had brought a paperweight from the pawnbroker’s shop on his way back which he puts on Elizabeth’s grave as a headstone. In the middle of the novel the narrative shifts to a meeting in a hotel lobby, where hundreds of men wearing black suits have gathered and are listening to a speaker making announcement. The man Jack is also there and is arguing with another man Mr. Dandy, who’s telling Jack that he has to get rid of the boy soon as he poses danger to their organization.

When Bod is eleven years old, Silas feels it’s time he should be told where he came from. So he tells Bod that a man killed his family when he was a baby and that man is still out there in the world looking for Bod, that’s why Silas doesn’t let Bod leave the graveyard. Bod thinks it’s okay if that man kills him, being dead means he can come back to the graveyard to his friends, but Silas explains that Bod must live his life, because life means infinite potential. The dead are done with the world; they cannot change anything while Bod being alive can change the world. Bod hears this and realizes that Silas is right. Bod decides that he wants to go to school if he has to survive in the outer world; he has learned all that the dead could teach him, now it’s time to learn from the living. Bod enjoys going to school and learning, he spends most of the time near book shelves and in the library. Then one day he comes across a pair of bullies in school and they hurt him, Bod in the process to fight them get’s prominent as a weird kid who has no friends. Silas gets extremely upset over this, and asks Bod to leave school to which Bod retaliates. Silas feels hurt and Bod goes stomping out of the graveyard. But when Bod is walking on the street lonely at night, Liza joins him and says he shouldn’t have left the graveyard. Bod realizes he has been rude and wrong. At once they hear a police car approaching, a policeman with the bully kid Mo comes down and arrests Bod for vandalism. Silas get’s Bod out of trouble by playing a trick with the policemen, and tells Bod it was Liza who called Silas to help Bod. Silas admits he was wrong to prevent Bod from experiencing the outer world. The only way to survive out there is by preparing Bod with knowledge and skills; and then leaving him to live with his own kind.

When Bod is fourteen, Silas starts disappearing for longer spans of time, as he and Miss Lupescu are both Honour Guards who fight a secret brotherhood named Jacks of All Trades. In the meantime, Scarlett Perkins moves to the town again with her mother, and one day when she misses her bus and is lost, she stumbles into the graveyard. Here her childhood memories of Bod reawaken and her friendship with Bod rekindles. In the graveyard she befriends a kindly man Mr. Frost, who tells her he’s a historian. After learning about the murder of Bod’s family, Scarlett goes to a library to see old newspapers and finds that this murder happened in the house in which Mr. Frost lives. She asks Mr. Frost to help her and Bod with the mystery solving. Mr. Frost takes Bod to the attic where he once slept as a baby, and reveals that he’s the man Jack Bod is looking for. The man Jack then tries to stab Bod, but he fades and takes Scarlett with him out of the house.

They both run into the graveyard, while the man Jack and his four friends follow them. Bod tricks one of the Jacks and he falls into a deep grave, he corners three of the Jacks near the ghoul-gate and threatens them to tell why they want to kill Bod. Here Jack Dandy reveals that they all belong to a secret fraternity ‘Jack of All Trades’, they know Old Knowledge or black magic. They have been there for thousands of years, and long ago someone from their brotherhood had prophesized that a boy who could walk between the living and the dead would end their existence. Bod is that boy, and it’s time to kill him so that the brotherhood can survive. Bod then pushes them into the ghoul-gate which leads them to Hell. Scarlett, whom Bod has hidden in the mausoleum of the Sleer is now caught by Jack Frost. Bod tells him to leave Scarlett and tells the Sleer that Jack is the Master he’s been looking for. Jack is lured by the word ‘master’ and thinks that the Sleer will bestow him with immense power, right then the Sleer entwines Jack in its tendrils and Jack cannot escape. Scarlett instead of being grateful shouts at Bod that he’s a monster because he got kindly Mr. Frost trapped into the old grave. Bod is astonished, he tells her that Jack had killed his family and he has done himself justice by getting rid of him but Scarlett leaves him.

Time passes and Bod turns fifteen years old, he continues living in the graveyard after he defeats the Jacks of All Trades, but he finds that he cannot see the ghosts anymore. He starts losing his supernatural skills like sliding, fading and dreamwalking. One day the denizens of the graveyard begin saying good-bye to him, and Silas explains that it is time for Bod to go out and experience life. At first, Bod is frightened to realize the graveyard can no longer be his home; he has to venture into the dangerous world. However, he soon gets excited when Silas hands him a passport and other things in a bag. He decides to travel everywhere, meet as many people as he can, and get into and out of trouble. His ghost parents say farewell to him and cuddle him, his mother sings to him how life has to be faced with its pains and pleasures and no path should be left untaken. He bids good-bye to his mother at the graveyard gate, and goes out to join the living world. He knows that life has to be lived to the full before he dies and eventually comes back to join the dead in the graveyard.

“The Graveyard Book” was read by Neil Gaiman for Harper Kids YouTube channel

Summary of “Coraline” (Neil Gaiman)

Written by Maria Anwar

Coraline

Plot Summary

Coraline is an eleven years old girl, who moves into a new house with her parents Mr. and Mrs. Jones. She loves exploring and that’s what she does for the first two weeks in the new area. She pays visits to her neighbour’s Miss Spink and Miss Forcible who are retired actors from theatre and the crazy old man Mr. Bobo, who claims to be training mice for a circus. Coraline explores for animals in her surroundings including a black cat, and also checks out the bottomless well that Miss Spink tells her to be careful of. On another visit to the old ladies’ flat, Miss Spink reads Coraline’s future to her from the leaves in her tea cup, and warns her of an impending danger. She also gives Coraline a grey stone with a hole as a protection against bad things. Coraline generally is bored of her life, her toys and her parents who never pay much attention to her. Both her parents stay home, but spend most of their time working on computers, instead of playing with their daughter. Coraline usually eats microwaveable food as she doesn’t like the food her father makes. All in all, Coraline doesn’t find her world interesting enough, her parents loving enough and is dissatisfied with everything she has.

Once when she’s exploring the flat she lives in, she comes across a mysterious door which her mother tells her, leads nowhere. The door is blocked with a bricked wall and used to lead to the neighbouring flat in the past. At night when Coraline is on her bed, she hears something like a rat or a spider scuttling about her room, when she follows it, she’s led to the same mysterious door in the drawing room of her flat, which is open. On another day, when her mother isn’t home Coraline unlocks the same strange door and surprisingly finds a passageway leading to another flat. On going through the corridor, she lands in a flat just like her own and finds a woman almost like her mother standing in the kitchen. The woman tells Coraline she’s her other mother, and that the lunch is ready so she should call her other father from his study. Coraline feels odd, because though everything about the other flat is similar there’s still something very strange about it. The other mother and other father have black buttons for eyes; they are very attentive and loving towards her and provide her interesting toys to play with. While exploring the other world, Coraline finds that the other Miss Spink and other Miss Forcible run a theatre where talking dogs sit as audience. The other Mr. Bobo shows her a rat circus and a black talking cat accompanies her for walk. The cat has a male voice, and it tells Coraline that there’s no “other” version of it, nor it has a name. The cat also reveals that it knows a lot about the other mother and her world. Coraline feels if the cat’s voice is coming from the back of her own mind, and that it can be trusted.

Coming back to the other mother later that day, Coraline admits that she likes it in the other world and enjoyed all it had to offer. Hearing this, the other parents say that she can stay here forever and be part of their family. They’ll love her, play with her and give her all she wants but on the condition; that she will have buttons sewed into her real eyes. This terrifies Coraline, and she decides to go back to her real home but reaching there she finds that the other mother has kidnapped her real parents to make Coraline come back to the other world. She recalls an old memory, and tells the cat that once her father had saved her from yellow wasps. Though he knew it was scary to be stung by wasps, he remained at the bottom of the hill amidst the wasps and got more than thirty stings but asked Coraline to run up the hill and be safe while he distracted the bees towards himself. Coraline says that her father was brave and, “being brave is when you’re scared but you still do it anyway”; this gives her the courage to face the other mother and rescue her parents.

The other mother is happy to see Coraline coming back, but refuses to set her real parents free. She sees that Coraline cannot be easily fooled and is adamant at taking her real parents back, so she punishes her by locking her up in a wardrobe. In the wardrobe Coraline finds ghosts of three lost children, they tell her that they were trapped here by the other mother long ago. She took their souls and joy away so as to leave them lifeless and forgotten. They warn Coraline not to give in to the evil beldam, and continue finding her parents. Coraline promises them that she’ll find their souls as well and rescue them from the shackles of the evil other mother. Here Coraline also hears a voice, which tells her to see through the stone with the hole, as it will help her with her search.

Once she’s released from the wardrobe, the black talking cat tells Coraline that she should challenge other mother to play a hide-and-seek game with her. Coraline is scared but she makes the offer to the other mother who agrees that if Coraline failed in her quest, she would stay in the other world forever. To the other mother’s surprise, Coraline successfully finds the souls of three children hidden at scary dark places with the help of the stone which Miss Spink had given her. Coraline finally figures that her real parents are trapped in a snow globe on the mantelpiece in other mother’s flat. She finds the other world going flat, becoming limited and unreal as time passes. At this moment she comes to know the truth or reality of the other world, which is nothing but an illusion constructed by the beldam to trap children. The other mother only bears ill-will and doesn’t love her like her real parents do. Coraline then tricks the other mother by distracting her from the door to Coraline’s real home and throws the black cat at her face. The beldam yells as the cat scratches her face with its paws. Coraline meanwhile escapes with the snow globe, the cat and the souls of the ghost children. During her struggle to lock the door with the key, the other mother’s hand gets stuck in the door and is cut. The cut hand scuttles along with Coraline. Coraline then runs through the passageway with the souls and the snow globe, she hears her mother’s voice exclaim, “Well done Coraline!” which makes her feel proud and significant. Coraline feels as if now she knows who she is and what means the most in her life.

Without Coraline being aware of it; the cut hand of the beldam follows her to the real world and hides itself in her home. She hugs her mother and kisses her father, and happily eats the pizza her father has made for dinner. Her parents too love her back. She realizes that they are loving towards her in their own way and that happiness is not getting all that one wishes for. Later when she sets the souls of the ghost children free, they thank her and warn her about the beldam’s hand that can cause her danger. She knows that the hand wants the black rusty key so that it can unlock the door to the beldam’s world. So she tricks the hand to follow her to the old bottomless well, and lets it drown in it along with the key. She covers the well’s opening with wooden planks and happily goes back to her home.

“Coraline” was made into a movie in 2009

How Writers Can Earn Millions Sitting At Home! A Foolproof Method to Thrive During Hard Times

The pandemic has led to a recession world-over, learn how to earn a living from home using NOTHING but your writing skills and Wifi!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Are you a victim of unemployment that has swept all over the world for the last couple of months? Have you lost your job to the Coronavirus pandemic? Do you want to increase your income by doing something on the side? Are you a freelancer who has just stepped into the digital workforce? Do you love writing but don’t know how to put it to good use? Are you sick of your boss and want to work independently? Do you want to spend more time with family by staying home and earning money at the same time? Do you want a vacation without taking time off?

If yes, then I guarantee that you’ll learn something very useful and lucrative from this blog post. Fret no more, and read on!

I’ll just quickly give you an idea of what is “Copywriting” and then we’ll proceed to the procedural steps and resources.

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is basically about advertising a product or service, so that profits can be earned through their sale. It helps in brand recognition and awareness and persuades people that the thing being sold is worth their money. You see ads everywhere nowadays, T.V, newspaper, internet, billboards.

Let’s look at some technical definitions:

According to Oxford dictionary, copy writing is “the activity or occupation of writing the text of advertisements or publicity material.”

In the words of Steve McKee, the president of Mckee Wallwork + Co, “Copywriting is the act or occupation of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy or sales copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action.”

Traits of a good copywriter

In order to become a good copywriter, you need to have some qualities. Some of these qualities might be inborn in a lot of you, but some need to be developed.

  • You need to read successful copywriters, and study their tactics.
  • You need to have good research skills in order to find credible information from the internet.
  • You need to have good listening skills, so that when you are out socializing you can quickly pick what problems people are having to which you can provide the solution as a product or service.
  • You really need to know your audience or readers, what will grab their attention and what are they looking for.
  • You need to have a problem-solving attitude, show empathy for the people who are seeking solutions to certain issues/problems.
  • You should be willing to test and try new things, new ideas, strategies to promote a certain product or service. Some ideas work, some don’t, so be ready to face failure. Failures are good because they tell you what to try next, and how to improve your approach for maximum response.

3 Basic steps of stellar copywriting

There are three essential steps of copywriting, and you may spend time on one step more than the other depending on your capability and pace. REMEMBER that anyone can learn this, and that persistence plus dedication can help you master any craft on the face of this earth!

STEP 1: Discover the compelling idea or the Big Idea behind your product or service

You need to discover the “unique” quality that your product or service has, and then promote it in your copywriting. You have to show or prove that what you’re offering is worth getting, and why should someone choose to read your ad and accept your offer.

For example I’m selling a laptop that doesn’t over heat, I’m selling a perfume that lasts for 48 hours, or I’m offering a course in digital marketing that will make you a pro in 7 days! This Chinese medicine can relieve your back pain in two days, get a sample for FREE!

Be HONEST, whatever you’re promising through your product or service, you have to deliver it. Do not lose credibility with lying and cheating, the trick is in “persuading” the prospects, not forcing them.

Offering a money back guarantee can strengthen your ad campaign significantly!

STEP 2: Plan your promotion step-by-step

Every website, ad copy, sales letter must include the elements mentioned below:

  • Headline (The hook that will grab/hold attention)
  • Salutation
  • Introduction (Introduce the product/service)
  • The body (Story or reason why should someone buy the thing you’re selling, forge a powerful bond with your prospect with the brand story)
  • Bullets (Features that are turned into benefits)
  • Call to action (Offers your prospects cannot refuse, Buy my product, click here, subscribe here, limited time offer etc.)
  • Post script (“High traffic” part of your ad/letter/email to practically force readers back into your ad copy. Guarantees that remove all risk!)

You also have to thoroughly plan if your ad will be designed around a certain person or personality. You need to decide what proof or credibility you can add to your promotion, and what are the benefits of your product or service that need to be highlighted through appropriate words.

For looking at some successful ads I recommend you to go to Swiped.co, here you can see the ads which are reverse-engineered to show how they are made effective for marketing.

According to a well-known freelancer/mentor from Fiverr Mr. Oren Ben-Ami, the ad must follow a formulaic structure, he calls his formula AIDA:

A for Attention

I for Interest

D for Desire

A for Action

You have to grab the attention of your audience and evoke in them an interest, and a desire to buy what you are selling, so much so, that they are convinced that they have to take an action in order to get it!

STEP 3: Model successful ads or sale promotions

Once you have discovered a certain promotion or ad that was successful, you can design YOUR ad around the same model. This is called “swiping.”

All pro ad writers or copywriters do this all the time and have increased their sales exponentially.

Now you’ll ask me, how can you swipe? Simple.

Take your market or product category and search proven ads that have garnered immense sale. Get on the e-mail lists of your competitors, sign up for E-zines of certain big brands, make a purchase of a product to see what kind of ads you’re bombarded with from that website! Use other ads as guides, and you’ll NEVER face writer’s block again!

This is how you play your game by finding secrets of your competitors!

Craft an effective ad just by modelling other successful ads of the same category, and maximize your sales.

Resources to refer to for studying copywriting

A person who reads is a person who writes well!

If you think you can become a successful copywriter without investing time in learning the skill, you’re doomed.

Listed below are some web resources and books that you must check out and study to master the craft of copywriting:

Blogs to follow for learning copywriting

Copyblogger.com

Backlinko.com

Makealiving.com

Copyhackers.com

Neilpatel.com

Mozblog.com

Books to study copywriting tricks and techniques

Breakthrough Copywriting

Everybody Writes

Made to Stick

The Copywriters’ Handbook

Influence

Great copywriting can earn you around $3000 to $16000 bucks per month, all you have to do is to invest in your skill and stay dedicated.

I’m sure that by now you’re much more interested in learning the craft of copywriting, and that you believe you can shatter sale records with the written word! Good luck 🙂

How Cleanliness Relates to Mental Health

Photo by Skitterphoto

We are quite familiar with phrases like “home sweet home” and “no place like home,” but the homes these phrases refer to are clean and organised homes that give a sense of comfort and not stress.

 It is very important from a hygienical point of view to live in a clean house, that is free of pathogens and nasty rodents. It always feels very good and welcoming when you enter a clean and well-organized house. Your house is more like a heaven with everything neat, clean, and properly managed!

The biggest benefit of having a clean home is that you enjoy good health and feel happy. Scientifically, cleanliness has a very profound relation to mental health and researches have proved that it reduces levels of stress and fatigue. A house or room that is full of clutter is not a pleasant sight to see, plus it subconsciously reminds you that you have got work to do. People who are in a habit of cleaning their houses regularly, are physically active and are not that prone to mood swings compared to those who live in messy spaces. Psychiatrists say that the way a person lives in a house tells a lot about their personality and that there are psychological reasons behind it.

Let us look at the importance of regular house cleaning and its benefits:

A clean house improves mental health

Messy and disorganised spaces cause stress and fatigue. It takes you longer to find things in a place that is not tidy, and the mess hinders your physical activity. When you’re not mentally at ease in the space you call your home, you become a victim of mental health issues. The stress and fatigue from the clutter you’ve accumulated seriously affect your immune system and you become prone to illnesses. You must take out time to tidy up your cupboards, cabinets, and other storage areas to reduce the spread of pests, and treat problem areas immediately. Principally, a house must be restful and not teeming with clutter.

A study conducted in 2010, that involved “linguistic analysis” found that women who lived in cluttered environments complained of depression and fatigue, and had higher levels of the stress hormone “cortisol” in their bodies.

Sweeping other outer parts of the house like the patio, yard, or garden also helps in keeping dangerous insects like mosquitoes and spiders away. Unclean and messy spaces give a sense of chaos and discomfort to our minds and impact our lives negatively. Hence, keeping a house clean and your rooms tidy has immense benefits regarding your psychological and physical well-being. A cleaner house makes you feel happier and lighter! Dr. Ralph Ryback in his blog “Truisms of Wellness” explains that there’s a powerful psychology behind cleanliness, and suggests methods that help reap the benefits of health by living in a clean house.

Cleanliness also keeps, germs, allergies, and asthma at bay

A clean environment is germ-free and therefore regularly cleaning your house can keep dust-mites and bed-bugs away. There are fewer chances of getting allergy from dust or other allergens when you frequently vacuum your floors, carpets, sofas and other upholstery. Doctors always advise patients of allergy to keep their living spaces clean, free of pet dander, and pollen. Deep cleaning a house every weekend is essential for a healthy and active life. We must hang our wet towels, bedspreads, and quilts outside in the sunlight.

Doctors say that it’s very important to keep bathrooms and kitchens clean as bacteria and viruses grow very fast in damp and unclean places. The kitchen counters and dishwashing areas should be thoroughly cleaned with bleach and disinfectants. Kitchen towels must be sanitized after every use and the use of cleaning sponges should be avoided. There must be a proper way of waste or trash disposal, and eatables in the kitchen must be kept covered in airtight containers.

You must ensure that your bathrooms should are kept dry, free of mold, and contaminants. It is advisable to use a disinfectant that kills 99% of germs to disinfect the faucets, flush, and sinks of a bathroom.

Tidying living spaces and cleaning the home thoroughly every week helps stop the growth of bugs, rodents, and other insects. It makes your environment ideal for your family members and loved ones, and it saves you from getting embarrassed when guests stop by your house unannounced.

Organized and clean spaces ensure safety and reduce the risk of injury

Safety should always be a priority with you, and keeping your family safe has a lot to do with the way you manage the cleanliness of your house. If your children’s toys are always all over the floor, and you have boxes tucked in under your sofa and couches then you are more prone to injury. Several people have reported tripping over wrongly placed furniture or getting injured by loose items falling on them from the top of disorganised shelves. A healthy lifestyle can only be adopted through clean living space. The benefits of a clean house include safety and reduced risk of injuries.

A clean place keeps you physically fit and increases your overall productivity

Everybody wants to stay physically fit by losing those extra pounds. People who are in a habit of cleaning up their houses daily get to exercise their body, and hence improve blood flow. Doing a physical activity like sweeping, brooming, or vacuuming makes the brain release hormones like dopamine and serotonin in the bloodstream, which results in stabilizing our mood and fighting depression. Whether you work from home or you go to an office, a clean organized environment improves your ability to accomplish your tasks timely and with greater productivity. People who work in cluttered spaces procrastinate more and often feel demotivated.

It is very important that we keep our desk and physical environment of workplace tidy and organized. Workers who frequently lose documents due to cluttered desks, gain a lousy reputation at work, and end up losing their jobs. An IDC survey conducted in 2012, found that many workers in the IT field waste a lot of time looking for misplaced documents and reports. This wasted time cost the organizations a loss of around 21.3% in their total productivity.

Another research article titled “Procrastinators and Clutter: An Ecological View of Living with Excessive Stuff” published in 2017 mentioned that there was a co-relation between chronic procrastinators and their environment. The researchers concluded that “clutter in one’s living space, negative emotions, and impaired social ability all predicted high procrastination scores.”

Our brain inherently likes order and a study conducted by Princeton University of Neuroscience shows that “constant visual reminders of disorganization drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus.” It also proved that people who cleared the clutter from their environment were better able to focus on their work.

Hence, a healthy life goes hand in hand with clean environment and this fact cannot be denied on any premises. I would finally quote another study conducted by Dr. NiCole R. Keith which proved that people who live in clean houses were more healthy, than those who lived in messy houses.

So turn up some radio, and start cleaning your house for a healthier and safer life!

To Write or Not to Write!

Who said that everyday should be productive?

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

Everyone here who talks writing, tells you to write, write more, write daily and write spontaneously. Nobody tells you that it’s okay “not to write” sometimes!

Being a freelance writer can be tough at times. Those deadlines, your pending writing projects and your valued clients, all make sure that you’re mentally occupied but there are days when you don’t feel like doing anything, and there are days when you would rather like to read, than write.

Don’t compare yourself to others, everybody is different. If you really want to compare something, compare your unhealthy routine with that of a healthy one. Are you a well-rested person? Do you eat healthy? Do you exercise? Whatever we’re going through because of a global pandemic, calls for deeper understanding of our priorities and habits. Stress is mostly the cause of a weaker immune system and hence all ailments!

I say take it easy folks! If you take a break for a day, the world won’t come crashing down on you! After all we are human and not robots or machines that keep on running non-stop. Our bodies and minds need rest, self-care isn’t about being selfish. Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.

Whether you work full-time or part-time, are a single parent like me who is a freelancer, or even if you’re just a housewife, you MUST look after yourself so that those you are tending to and are working for, find you in a healthy sate of mind. Eating well, exercising and resting will all improve your overall health and will in turn increase your productivity. You will finally come up with a writing that shines, glows and inspires!

We often hear about writer’s block, procrastination and lack of motivation from people who write for a living. The causes behind such issues are usually a lack of routine and work-life balance. Make it a rule that you’ll take break from work, will go for a nature walk and enjoy a family activity often.

There’s no need to get overworked, so much so that it takes a toll on your health. Keep as many clients as you can handle as a writer. Prefer quality over quantity and you’ll see yourself making progress. Deadlines and projects won’t be a headache once you achieve balance by taking care of yourself first.

Avoid squeezing the last drop of energy out of yourself by consuming tons of caffeine, or smoking like a chimney! Replace the junk and unhealthy stuff with fruits, herb teas and fresh juices that are good stress-busters and nerve relaxants.

Read something nice and light to stabilise your mood and stay happy! Life is a blessing, and it is too short to be spent fretting and worrying. Take good care of yourself, create a balance and everything will fall into place 🙂