Month: April 2014

8 Online Games for Writers

If you’re looking for a little break from writing or if you just like online games for writers, then this list is for you. Here are 8 online games for writers that I think you’ll enjoy! If you have another that isn’t listed here, please share it in the comments!

Free Rice Vocabulary Quiz

For each correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated through the World Food Programme, so if you have some free time and want to test your vocabulary, why not help feed those in need? You can also learn other ways to help fight world hunger on the website.

Free Literature Quizzes

These are pretty difficult quizzes… or maybe I just haven’t read some of these books lately. You can take quizzes based on the books of your favorite authors and see how well you do, and compare yourself to the average.

The Los Angeles Times “How To Be A Writer” Online Game

Experience the writer’s life without the risk! Get published in a literary magazine, write two best-selling novels, get an MFA, or a teaching position somewhere.

Language is a Virus Website

This website has writing prompts, games, and resources (such as a tool that allows you to count how many times you’ve used a word). Browse through the many options and enjoy!

The New York Times Crossword Puzzles

Unless you purchase a package, you’ll only get a few for free, but if you love crosswords and want to enjoy them online, you can via the online site.

Merriam Webster’s Vocabulary Quizzes

You can never have enough vocabulary quizzes! Take this series of quizzes and see how you rate against others!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Online Game

Remember that old Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy computer game? You can now play it online! Maybe you can make it further than my sad 10 out of 400 point score.

The New Yorker Caption Contest

Each week, the New Yorker provides a cartoon in need of a caption. Sign up, enter your caption and see if you’re one of the three finalists chosen!

Writing Update: Happy Spring & 5 Reasons I Love Writing

Lovebirds_602x292

I wanted to give a brief (but wondrous) writing update, since I haven’t in awhile. This month has been crazy busy for me, and one of my best friends got married over Easter weekend, another friend was proposed to over Easter weekend, my sister recently became engaged and is now planning her wedding, and I’m heading off to a dual bachelorette party next weekend for two more friends who are getting married this spring. Love definitely seems to be in the air in 2014 for the people I know, which made me think about how grateful I am to do what I love every day. So for today’s post, I wanted to share 5 Reasons I Love Writing.

5. Writing is my therapist.

I’m pretty sure if I didn’t write, I’d talk to myself a lot more. As it is, I have conversations with my dog already, so let’s just leave it at that. But ever since I began journaling in fourth grade, (yes, I still have those journals and they are BRILLIANT) writing has allowed me to work through the ideas, thoughts, and dialogue tumbling on permanent press in my brain. There’s a quote I remember from Leo Rosten that stuck with me: “The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it.” I love writing because it helps me organize my thoughts and allows me to work through the ideas I generate daily.

4. Writing helps me express myself.

Sometimes my friends tease me because I, especially when excited about an idea, tumble over my words. “Aren’t you a writer?” they say as I fumble over that expression that would be perfect to explain what I’m thinking. But that’s exactly it, I want to tell them. I am a writer. Give me 2 minutes, a pen, and a pad of paper and I’ll write down exactly what I’m trying to verbalize. That’s what I love about writing: it allows me to express myself comfortably by giving me the time (and the ability to revise!) to reflect, and think through what I want to say.

3. Writing makes me love books that much more.

I love reading and can devour a book in one sitting or read multiple stories together, sampling each one to experience different flavors and tones. Being a writer helps me appreciate other writing more – I often pause and marvel at the beauty, complexity, or subtle simplicity of a sentence, or give props to a writer’s clever use of a certain word. I often note sentence length and variation, and find myself reading aloud when I feel a phrase has a beauty in its rhythm. I mark books up (which is one reason I do enjoy an e-book reader) with highlights on passages that ring true to me, words I want to look up later, or ideas I want to research further. And sometimes I just read, immersing myself in a story; but knowing that my love of that story also derives from my love and appreciation of writing.

2. Writing makes me money!

Yes, it’s true – as I recently told some bright-eyed, eager undergraduates at a writer’s panel, writing can actually make you money – but maybe not in the way you imagine. My path to becoming a professional writer has been told before: I always wanted to be a writer, and at some point, someone (perhaps my parents, perhaps a well-meaning English teacher) gently told me that writing might not be a lucrative career path; that perhaps I should consider it more a hobby. Well, I’m not the best at taking advice and plunged forward stubbornly. But lo and behold, I have been able to write as my profession, and I love what I do. I’m also grateful that writing can be what makes me money. Maybe not as much money as say, becoming a brain surgeon, but (1) I do okay and (2) it’s really in everyone’s best interest to not have me be around brains or scalpels, especially together.

1. Writing helps me dream.

I love writing because it not only helps me (and has helped me throughout my life) set goals for myself and dream big. Yes, I still want to publish my novel, and I love the feeling when a piece of mine goes to print. But I also love how the writers I know are also dreamers. We have big ideas and envision bright futures for ourselves and those we care about. While we also experience those crushing moments (or months) of self-doubt and fear, we more often than not rebound and decide to push forward, to pick ourselves up from lying facedown in the dirt after receiving that last rejection letter, dusting ourselves off, and resubmitting our piece… a piece of ourselves… out again to complete strangers, asking them to judge us and it. I love my writer friends for their bravery, honesty, and for being like me: a dreamer and someone who is never done.

What do you love about writing? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

8 Great New Words

8words

Have you ever thought that a word didn’t exist in the common lexicon, but should? I recently read an article on 13 untranslatable words, and also listened to a radio segment about imported words and how we could replace a few with made-up English versions, and that got me to thinking. Words have often been added to our language after prolonged usage, and words that the younger generation might take for granted (think “defriend,” “flash mob,” or “young adult”) were added to the Oxford English Dictionary as recently as last year. So here are 8 great new words that I think we should add to our shared vocabulary.

8. Sad and Joy

This was a suggestion made by Ralph Keyes, who asked his readers to create English words to replace foreign words that we use instead. “Sad and joy” was suggested as a replacement for schadenfreude.

7. 2-3’s

This came up in a discussion about what to call women, ladies, young ladies, girls, gals, chicas (see what I mean?) who are in their 20’s or 30’s. Twenty-somethings or thirty-somethings is too long, and we wanted an informal title that didn’t have sexist baggage or sound too stilted.

6. Schmoodle

I found this word on a Huffington post blog while researching this article, and out of the 15 made-up words they suggest we start using, I liked it the most. They define Schmoodle (noun) as “a state of over-ornamentation. But almost in a tacky sense. Sch-moo-del.”

5. Riddikulus

Yes, the classic Harry Potter spell that changes something you fear into something funny, so that you lose your fear. Best described as, “the triumph of laughter over fear” – I like the idea though I’m not exactly sure how you would use it in a sentence…

4. Doughnuts

This again comes from the NPR article on replacing foreignisms with new English slang. This would be to replace the word simpatico, and I just liked how Ralph Keyes described it: “Doughnuts for the kind of warm, sweet feeling that simpatico suggests. So you might say that person’s really doughnuts, in a slangy way.”

3. Wackadoodle

Okay, so this actually made it into the Oxford English Dictionary last year, but I had to bring it up, because it’s a great word. In her notes, Katherine Connor Martin—the head of OED’s US Dictionaries—said this about the definition, “Wackadoo and wackadoodle are elaborations of wacky, wack, or wacko, used to refer to people regarded as eccentric. The silliness of the words themselves contributes to their mildly contemptuous effect.”

2. Antenexum

Suggested word for “pre-Internet” – a time before the Internet. As described in the discussion board on Quora, Curtis Cee explains the word this way: “Literally, nexum is Latin for “the act of binding together”… The Internet era is at its root defined as the age of interconnected networks, including physically wired and wireless, social, informational, and many other types of networks. So the Latin phrase antenexum or ante annos nexum ideally signifies this age before the world became connected.

1. Hand Slap

This might just be me, but I like saying “hand slap” more than “high five” – I think it could catch on! (If you’re interested in learning about some of the origin stories of the term “high five,” RadioLab does a great segment on it in its episode titled, “Patient Zero.”)

Do you have any suggestions for new words to the English language? Or at least the common lexicon? Share your thoughts – and words – in the comments section!

4 Tips for Writing YA

HelpfulTips_580x281

Young Adult fiction is pretty hot right now – popular enough that MFA programs are teaching classes on it and it seems like every other film or series that comes out is YA or is based on a YA property. So how do you write Young Adult fiction? I recently read the Publisher’s Weekly article written by Seth Fishman, where he gave a few tips for writing YA, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject from someone who has read and enjoyed YA series since I was actually in the 12-17 age range.

(By the way, Publisher’s Weekly notes that a new study cites, “55% of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17… are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44” – the group accounted for 28% of YA sales alone!)

4 Tips for Writing YA

Your Protagonist’s Life Cannot Be Peachy

This goes for almost all stories, but your main character’s life, especially at the onset, should not be full of rainbows and wishes-come-true. Even if you want your character to be taken down a few notches, something needs to be missing in his/her life. For a reader to invest, you need to give your character a mission, which means all cannot be well in the land.

Young Adult Doesn’t Mean Dumb

Seth Fishman mentions this, but I think it’s important enough to mention again. Just because you’re writing to a young audience doesn’t mean you should skimp on the smart. While you won’t be writing scenes with graphic descriptions of sexual content or violence, that doesn’t mean you can’t tackle complicated issues. Be on the lookout for any moments where you might feel inclined to “dumb down” a word or an idea – and ask yourself whether it’s necessary.

Avoid Product Placement

All right, I admit it. Fishman mentions this one as well, but since almost every professor I’ve had in a writing workshop has also mentioned this, I feel it’s necessary to reiterate. There have been several times in books or short stories where I was ‘bumped out’ momentarily by the mention of Facebook, or some inevitably dated pop culture reference. When I’ve worked with high school students and their creative writing stories, I see this often. Name-dropping galore and references to the latest fad. Consider while you’re writing whether you need to be that specific. Do you need to mention the specific artist’s name or the television show your character loved so much, or can you concentrate on other specifics that build your character and his/her motivations.

Your Characters Can Be Strong & Smart

Something that always bothered me growing up was that it was oftentimes difficult to find strong female teenage leads. I didn’t want to be the girls in some stories that sat on the sidelines while the battle raged on, and I definitely didn’t identify with female characters that acted that way. Nowadays the strong female leads are popping up like springtime daisies, and I’m all for more! Just because your character (female or male) is young doesn’t mean she/he has to be completely naïve or inexperienced. You can be street smart, not book smart, or a brainiac with no real-world experience. Don’t fall into the “passive” trap, where your character is told what to do, or waits to take action. Your character can be strong and make decisions on his/her own, even if those decisions turn out to be the wrong ones. Keep advancing that plot!

What other suggestions do you have when writing YA? Check out the comments section and happy writing!

A Great Copyeditor Interview and 3 Takeaway Tips

Copyediting_602x292

I often save articles that are recommended to me or that I see in Twitter feeds or elsewhere on the Internet in a “To Read” bookmarks folder on my browser, and then I return to those articles when I have some down time or am looking for something interesting to read.

One such saved article was The Millions interview titled, “Style Sheet: A Conversation with My Copyeditor” by Edan Lepucki. She interviewed Susan Bradanini Betz and I thought the interview was incredibly interesting and brought up some great points for both copyeditors and clients to keep in mind. Here are three tips pulled from the copyeditor interview that could help both writers and copyeditors with their work.

Use Style Sheets When Copyediting

Betz mentions that,

“I am obsessed with my style sheets. I keep a word list, a character list, a list of places (fictional and real), a chronology, a general style sheet, a list of hyphenated modifiers, and any other list that helps me keep track of everything.”

I think this is a great point. You have to get to know the writer of the work, and a good copyeditor is going to keep track of the details, and be on the lookout for any inconsistencies – not in the writing versus what that copyeditor might write – but inconsistencies in what the writer is trying to convey.

Ask Questions and Query Before Revising

Another piece of advice Betz gives that I wholeheartedly agree with is that you should always ask a question to a writer if you’re unsure of intentionality. I think too many times copyeditors or proofers try to change something in a piece without checking with the writer as to whether whatever it was (passive voice, unique capitalization, a certain spelling of a word repeated) is intentional. I think if you’re able to quickly communicate with the writer, you should save those questions and ask the writer about them before you revise the work. Because it might just be personal style.

Be Comma Conscious

Betz gives 4 tips on comma usage, and aside from not 100% being behind her first tip (just because avoiding commas between elements of a series connected by a conjunction makes my eyeballs twist a bit), I agree with her #2-4, and also her general note to be aware of when commas are necessary for clarity, but that “A comma isn’t always needed to make the reader catch the pause in dialogue or narrative; often the syntax does just fine, and an unnecessary comma slows the reader down too much.”

You can read the full interview here. And please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Last updated by at .