Just Words

May 15, 2017– I’m about to reveal a big secret. I am a writer who is terrible at crossword puzzles, and who doesn’t have a huge vocabulary.

I love playing Scrabble, which is sort of like crosswords if you use your imagination, and I can do cryptograms with the greatest of ease, but when it comes to vocabulary and those five-dollar words often associated with crosswords, I panic. I appease myself with the fact that I was taught to write clearly and simply, on a level that everyone can understand.

Of course, you could argue that a writer with a limited vocabulary is like a painter who is colorblind. But I’m not that limited.

When I read “11 word games writers love” I wondered if the author considered writers who are crossword challenged. Even though she refers to the relationship between the writer and crossword puzzles as iconic, we must exist. Surely I can’t be the only one. I’ll give her a pass this time because she compiled a nice list of games aside from crosswords that will please even the mightiest of literary snobs.

And I’ll add one suggestion of my own:

If you’re mad about cryptograms, you can play to your heart’s content at www.cryptograms.org.

Muses at My Beck and Call

inspireJanuary 20, 2017 — No matter how much you love what you do, there will always be days when you need a little extra kick to get started. When the writing process becomes difficult, for example, a little Internet surfing does wonders to spark my creativity—or shock the hell out of me, which also works.

Sometimes I turn to great quotations from published authors to get me started. They act as a muse and provide instant inspiration to get writing juices flowing again. My favorite is a quote by author Tom Robbins. More clever than inspirational, it always puts things into perspective for me:

“I have been sick ever since I started working here, but I’m well today and I won’t be in anymore.”

Here are a few “more traditional” quotes that do the trick to round out an inspirational top 10:

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” – Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” – James Michener

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” – Agatha Christie

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” – Cyril Connolly

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” – Tom Clancy

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”  – Lawrence Kasdan

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” – Ernest Hemingway

 

Celebrating the written word

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October 14, 2011 – Next Thursday, October 20, is The National Day on Writing, and this year, it won’t pass me by without a celebration.

Selecting a day to honor writing began as a project by the National Council of English Teachers to encourage people to share why they write. The site also asked writers to tweet why they write, and last year over 60,000 writers participated. Join the conversation on Twitter with #WhyIWrite.

Here are a few responses that caught my eye:

1. “It’s cheaper than a shrink.”
2. “I can’t always say what I want to be heard.”
3. “To retain sanity.”
4. “To become a better person.”
5. “It’s the first thing I was good at.”
6. “There are restless characters clamoring to get out.”
7. “Because I can lie things into existence.”
8. “It comes out a heck of a lot better than when I speak.”
9. “It’s the least destructive addiction I could find.”
10. “Who says I have a choice?”

While I can relate, especially to #8 my answer is simple: it makes me happy.

My biggest fear for the future of writing, and why it’s so important to celebrate a national day like this, is that social media has turned many of us away from proper spelling or grammar. Aside from the occasional LOL, I’m not even able to use shortcuts or dominating abbreviations. I follow a simple rule when writing anything, from an email or text, a short story, or a speech for the CEO where I work: anyone who puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard should care about the outcome.

Thank you to all of the writers who have fulfilled me, shocked me, made me laugh and cry, and thoroughly entertained me through the years.

Three More Clever Writing Tools

March 11, 2016 Whether you’re trying to write a term paper, the church bulletin or the great American novel, writing can be a challenging process. Here are a few tools (or games) that get the juices flowing and make the process fun.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator
I discovered this gem when out of desperation I Googled, “what the heck can I blog about today?” Simply type in a word or idea in the subject line and the generator will provide you with a unique topic and a possible title.

portent generator
I typed in Philadelphia Phillies, and it generated an interesting idea: How Twitter can teach you about the Philadelphia Phillies. I never wrote about the topic—although Twitter probably could teach me a thing or two about my favorite baseball team—but it certainly started the idea process in my mind’s generator.

A few of the suggestions also gave me a chuckle. Since I’m in total political mode these days, I typed in two of the presidential candidates’ names and received the most amusing responses. You can’t argue that either topic would make juicy writing!

– You haven’t seen this Hillary Clinton list on Buzzfeed
– 20 ways knowing about Donald Trump will land you in jail

First Line Generator
Writing fiction may seem easier that nonfiction (because you get to make it up!) However, completing that first sentence is tough. Here’s a unique tool from across the pond that solves the problem. You don’t even have to type an idea. Just click and go!

first line

This is a great tool for setting the wheels in motion. It also helps you understand the importance of hooking your reader with that first sentence.

The site also has features that can help writers with plots, characters, the names of towns and more.

writing exercises

Writer’s Block Generator
Itching to write a story but don’t have a compelling plot? That isn’t a problem with this handy tool. Again, it comes to us from across the pond—no wonder those Brits can write!—and offers plot ideas, character names, and more.

plot generator

Bonus: the site also offers helpful tips on the writing process!

You won’t likely use one of the prompts to write a complete novel – or maybe you will – but it serves as the perfect brainstorming tool to generate your own ideas and get past an attack of writer’s block.

To find more of these fun tools search “Writing Generators” in your browser and explore!

Three helpful tools that making writing fun

toolsMarch 4, 2016—Like public speaking, a common phobia many people share is the fear of writing. Adding words to a blank page can be very intimidating whether you’re an aspiring or professional writer, or anyone who needs to compose an email, letter, term paper or a post on social media.

Today’s technology offers tools that will not only calm your fear but also make you a better writer. Here are three of my favorites:

1. Both Microsoft Word and Outlook have a built-in writing tool known as the Flesch-Kincaid Scale that takes the spelling and grammar feature to the next level. Along with count and average readings, the scale offers a readability test that shows you how difficult your words are to understand. It grades your work on a scale of 0-100 (the higher the better with a score of 60 to 70 the most desirable for the average reader). The scale also gives you the percent of passive sentences in your copy, since the more active your writing is the more readable it becomes. I aim for a score of 15 percent or less whenever I use it, but I’ve reached my real goal if 0 percent pops up in that area. The Flesch-Kincaid Scale for this article, for example is shown below:

Fletsch

2.  grammarly.com offers a handy plug-in tool that you can download to your desktop so you can check spelling and grammar and improve your writing. Their basic service is free and is available either by the plug-in or by copying and pasting text at their site. See example below. Or, you can pay for their premium feature that offers helpful tips, suggestions and more. Plans start at $11.66 per month.

grammarly

3. Another tool, known as the Hemmingway App, is by far my favorite because it actually makes editing fun. The Hemmingway App is an editor that points out potential problems in your writing by highlighting adverbs, passive voice and dull, complicated words—which Hemmingway despised—with a rainbow of colors and easy to follow advice and explanations. Download it to any PC or MAC for a one-time fee of only $9.99.

Hemmingway

Crazed and Confused

modern fairytaleFebruary 19, 2016 —Once upon a time in an urban kingdom nearby lived a girl who enjoyed the art of politics. She was always up for a good debate during family dinners and soon she became addicted to the variety of political news programs on television. Soon she realized that politics was actually a scary bedtime story—with nothing real or pure about it—and she grew sad. The current presidential primary, for example, was one of the most ridiculous and bizarre races she could remember, and it seemed never ending. There was still nine more months of campaigning before the kingdom elected anyone from the mediocre list of candidates! Not only had campaigning become too negative for the girl, it was excessively long and expensive.

One day, she leaped out of bed and began her morning ritual. She was almost ready to leave for work when she accidentally applied moisturizer too close to her eyes. Oh, how they burned! She prayed that if they stopped stinging, she’d be more careful next time. The burning sensation threw her day into a tizzy, and although she wanted to stay home and with a cool towel on her eyes, it was not possible.

The girl’s watering eyes made the drive to work difficult, especially with the blinding sun glare. Even though her vision was compromised, she noticed the troll driving in front of her throwing trash from his car window. She laid on her horn to show her displeasure. Why would anyone think it was acceptable to follow such a hideous practice? Maybe TV executives should rerun those commercials from the 1970s that showed the Native American running through the woods with a tear rolling down his cheek when he happened upon the littered woods. That would make any litterer think twice. However, this troll, she realized, had no soul.

Things didn’t get much better when she walked into her office and turned on her computer to read the daily news. Yikes! The state of Philadelphia sports, her home kingdom, was getting worse by the minute. Between the Eagles falling apart because of the actions of their former coach to the Phillies’ expectations to finish the season in dead last according to the latest MLB Power Rankings, things looked bleak. She closed her eyes and wished for a bright side, and then remembered that pitchers and catchers reported to training camp a few days before. She hoped that the new crop of young players would at least make the season interesting.

She plowed through her morning frustrated and plagued with negative thoughts about politics, burning eyes, littering and baseball. It was all too much for one morning. Then she realized that the day could only improve from there, so she smiled and lived happily ever after.

Ranking the Best

featherNovember 5, 2015 – Who are the best writers of all time?

According to those who rated them on Ranker.com, here is the incredibly long list.

It’s interesting how far you have to scroll down to find a female author, or someone who is alive. It’s even more interesting how much more scrolling is required before you find a mainstream author. There aren’t too many on the list.

Looks like I’m in the minority because I enjoy modern fiction more than the classics.