Monday, June 30, 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Affect vs. Effect

Photo credit: Sharon on Flickr.
Photo Credit: Flickr
I got another request for a grammar lesson.

This time, I'll be covering the difference between affect and effect. I'll try to keep it simple.

Affect is most often used as a verb. It means "to influence" or "to act in some disingenuous way." For example:
The average rainfall affects how much the plants will grow.

When asked about her husband's murder, she affected grief.
Effect, on the other hand, most often makes an appearance as a noun. You can think of it as another word for "result." Consider the following:
The sun's ultraviolet radiation can have several negative effects on your skin.
Sometimes, however, the rules for affect and effect can change (Isn't grammar maddening?). Although affect is usually a verb, it can be used as a noun when talking about psychology because you can never truly understand what another human being is feeling; only how they seem to be feeling. For instance:
She showed a frustrated affect.
Likewise, the word effect can sometimes manifest as a verb. In this case, you can interpret it to mean "to bring about" or "to cause." Check out this sentence:
The seminar effected donations for the local food pantry.
Grammar is confusing. There are so many rules and exceptions that sometimes it all feels overwhelming. That's why I want to help.

How do you remember the difference between these two? What other grammar topics do you struggle with?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writing Quick Tips: How to Write Something Every Day

Photo credit: Jonathan Reyes on Flickr
Photo Credit: Flickr
 My last Quick Tips post was a hit, so I thought I'd try another.

Today's tip has to do with writing something every day. I know I've mentioned the importance of daily writing several times before, but I'll mention it again. Your writing will absolutely not improve unless you're working at it every day.

With that in mind, however, sometimes it's difficult to fit writing into our busy schedules. No matter how we try to carve out time to write, the day slips out from under us. We fall into bed without having written a single sentence.

Here's the key to making sure you write something every day: Don't go to bed until you've met your goal. Do not get under the covers or let your head hit the pillow until you are finished.

Let sleep serve as motivation to get through your session. You may be sleep-deprived, but you will do the work.

What do you think of this tip? What others would you like to see?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Top 5 Must-Read Classics

Photo credit: Angelskiss31 on Flickr
Photo Credit: Flickr

I cannot stress enough the importance of reading in the life of a writer.

I'm not going to go on and on about it in this post, but yeah, you should be reading.

I can hear you asking now, "What am I supposed to read?" The short answer is everything you can find. Any book you can get your hands on will only help you improve your craft. Of course, it's also important to read books in your genre so you can avoid the tropes and cliches that come with the territory.

You also need to read the classics.

The classics are classic for very good reasons. They can teach you more about writing than most classes and professors can. If you'd like to start reading classic literature, I have a few suggestions for you.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you haven't read this book yet, what's taking you so long? This novel has some of the most captivating description and imagery that I've ever read. I'm also a fan of Fitzgerald's characters. Every one of them is clearly flawed yet still sympathetic. Read this book!
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Orwell's world-building skills are spectacular. He takes a world we think we know and turns it on its head, to terrifying effect. This novel is one of the earliest examples of a dystopian society in literature, too. If you like The Hunger Games and Divergent, you have Orwell to thank. Plus, after reading this book, you can correct everyone who thinks Big Brother is watching him or her.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. This novel is highly psychological and wonderful to read. It's in the same vein as Jane Eyre though a little less intimidating because it's more modern. I couldn't put this book down, and the twist... well, let's just say it will definitely keep you guessing. This novel is suspenseful, dramatic, and one of my all-time favorites.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. In his only novel, Wilde seamlessly mixes wit and humor with serious drama. It illustrates concepts of morality without being preachy and is overall one of the best books I can think of. Check it out.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Like The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre is a novel you've probably read already. Still, I would encourage you to read it with new eyes. It presents the Gothic romance and the Byronic hero in ways that echo even in the present day. Read it.

These are just a few classic books that I think you should read. Hopefully these novels will mark the beginning of your journey into classic literature.

What do you think of these books? How has reading helped you become a better writer?

Friday, June 20, 2014

That vs. Which

Photo credit: Daniel Silliman on Flickr
Photo Credit: Flickr
Since my last grammar post, I've had several requests for more.

I love talking to people about grammar, so I'm happy to help. Our lesson for today is when to use that versus when to use which. Like the rules for using between and among, this lesson should be pretty simple - or, at least, that's what I'm hoping.

Basically, which can usually be taken out while that is necessary to preserve the meaning of the sentence.

Consider the following example:
Wine that is imported from France is expensive.
Is all wine expensive? No, just wine imported from France (as far as this sentence is concerned). Therefore, that is the best choice to maintain the integrity of the sentence. If we take out the word that and replace it with which, the whole meaning of the sentence is changed. Check it out:
Wine, which is imported from France, is expensive.
Not all wine is imported from France, so this sentence doesn't make much sense.

Here's another one:
Plants, which generate energy through photosynthesis, need a certain amount of sunlight to survive.
Since all plants utilize photosynthesis, the word that fits best.

This post is short, but hopefully helpful! Just like everything else in life, remember that practice makes perfect when it comes to grammar.

Do you ever get confused with that and which? Did you find this post helpful? What other grammar concepts would you like to see covered?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Coffee Shop Etiquette for Writers

[caption id="attachment_2763" align="alignright" width="300"]Cup of Coffee Photo credit: Zach Inglis on Flickr[/caption]

I love writing in Barnes & Noble.

There's a big one in my hometown with a little Starbucks in it and I love to sit down there and get some work done. There's nothing like being surrounded by books and inhaling the scent of fresh roasted coffee while pounding away on my laptop.

I spend so much time in coffee shops that I've noticed an unspoken code of behavior for working from a coffice (coffee shop office).  If you like working in coffee shops, there are a few rules you should follow.

Share Your Space

Stick to the one chair per customer rule. Your butt gets a chair. Put your stuff on the floor. Don't hog the seats. Also, if you're sitting at a table and the coffee shop is busy, don't spread your stuff out all over the place. Share the table. Basic stuff.

Buy Something!

If you're sitting in a coffee shop, you're a customer. It's your duty to purchase something. You should be buying a drink or snack every ninety minutes to two hours. If you don't want to buy anything, try to keep your visit to an hour or less - just know that you're disrespectful for using the space without giving back,

Be Kind to Other Customers and Workers

Most coffee shops have tip jars. I encourage you to use them, especially if you spend a lot of time in that particular location. If someone asks you to watch their stuff, watch their stuff. If you need to listen to something, bring headphones. Take calls outside. Don't hog power outlets. Here's a bright idea - bring your own power strip and make some new friends.

When it comes to writing in coffee shops, these are some simple rules for human behavior to follow. It all boils down to this: don't be a jerk.

Do you like writing in coffee shops? What are some other unspoken rules for working there that you can think of?

Tweet tweet:

The key to coffee shop etiquette for writers? Writer @thecollegenov says, "Don't be a jerk." (Click to tweet)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Watch Your Mouth: Tips for Writing Profanity

[caption id="attachment_2785" align="alignright" width="300"]Photo credit: Christian Bucad on Flickr Photo credit: Christian Bucad on Flickr[/caption]

Many writers worry about putting swear words in their writing. For one reason or another, I’ve had several people tell me that they want to keep curse words out of characters’ dialogue. I believe in using profanity, but only when it’s needed. Cursing works well if it’s done correctly. Check out these tips for writing swear words without going overboard.

Moderation is Key

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I enjoyed reading the book, but there was too much profanity. It was distracting.” When it comes to using swears, a little goes a long way. When every other word sounds like sailor speak, you’ve ventured into dangerous territory. Try to use profanity only when it feels absolutely necessary.

Diction Reveals Character

The words that your characters use say a great deal about them. If a character would swear, let him swear; if not, you shouldn’t force it. In one of my short stories, a woman preaches against profanity and disciplines her son whenever he uses “off-limits words.” However, when the woman finds out that her husband is missing in action, she is so shocked that she curses: “You’re shitting me… what the hell does ‘missing’ mean?” In this example, the shift in diction shows the woman’s inner turmoil.

Consider Your Audience

You should probably steer clear of using foul language if you’re writing a novel for the Christian fiction market. Likewise, if you’re writing YA, make sure you’re aware of profanity guidelines. For example, words like f***, g*d***, c***, and m*****f***** are hot-button swears that a lot of YA publishers would prefer not to see. Also, just so we’re clear, Go the F*** to Sleep, is not actually a children’s book (though it is hilarious).

When in Doubt, Take It Out

If you don’t get the warm fuzzies reading something you’ve written, make some cuts. Most likely, your work won’t suffer if you take out some bad words.

You’re more than welcome to use profanity in your writing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The key is making sure you don’t use them excessively. Keep these ideas in mind the next time you write swearing and you should be good to go.

How do you feel about reading profanity? What about writing it?

Tweet tweet:

Afraid your swearing will scare off readers? Writer @thecollegenov has some advice about profanity. (Click to tweet)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Between vs. Among

Photo credit: Gwydion M. Williams on Flickr
Photo Credit: Flickr
I haven't talked much about English grammar rules on this blog. It's time for that to change,

As writers, good knowledge of grammar can only help you in your writing projects. I always assume that everyone has the same grasp of basic grammar rules as I do, but you know what they say about assuming things.

When I was in high school, a woman named Mrs. Landreth taught me everything I know about grammar. In fact, I still refer to the notebook I kept in her class. Not everyone has a Mrs. Landreth. I guess that's where I come in.

One of the easiest grammar lessons I can teach you is the difference between (ha) the words between and among.

You should use the word between when referring to two subjects. For instance: Mr. Brown lives between Mr. Pink and Mrs. Gray.

In contrast, you should use the word among when three or more different subjects are concerned. For example: "Always shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

Pretty simple, right?

What do you think of this little grammar lesson? What other grammar questions would you like to see answered?

Tweet tweet:
When should you use "between"? What about "among"? Writer @thecollegenov has the answer. (Click to tweet)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writing Quick Tips: Remove Names from Dialogue

Photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões on Flickr

Photo credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões on Flickr

I see a lot of mistakes in writing when it comes to dialogue.

Since I've worked hard to improve the dialogue in my pieces, it's easy for me to spot exchanges that don't work in other people's projects. For one reason or another, they just don't gel. The writing doesn't flow like actual conversation.

Luckily, there are several ways to keep dialogue from falling flat.

One of the quickest ways to improve your dialogue is to cut back on your usage of the characters' names.

What do I mean?

Consider the following:
"Sarah," Brad said, "don't you think this is a good idea?"

"No, Brad," Sarah said.

"Why not, Sarah?"

"Because, Brad, we're both married. Besides, Brad, we're first cousins. Think of the inbred children."
While this example isn't the best, it's clear that the dialogue sounds terrible (inbred children aside). It's unnatural. In real life, people don't refer to each other by name if they're addressing each other. When they do, it's usually out of anger or because they're speaking about something that is of the utmost importance.

Here's the same exchange with most of the characters' names cut out (the ones left in are left for emphasis):
"Sarah," Brad said, "don't you think this is a good idea?"

"No," Sarah said.

"Why not?"

"Because, Brad, we're both married. Besides, we're first cousins. Think of the inbred children."
If you're looking for a quick way to improve your dialogue, cut out characters' names in places where they don't add value.

What do you think of this advice? Would you like to see more writing quick tips?

Tweet tweet:
.@brianawrites shares a quick tip for improving dialogue. (Click to tweet)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Maleficent and Writing Villains


The other day my mother and I went to see Maleficent. In spite of not knowing much about the film going in, she and I both thoroughly enjoyed it. From the cinematography to the makeup to the characters themselves, everything was wonderful.

What captured my attention most of all was Maleficent.


Because she was portrayed as a sympathetic character rather than a one-dimensional villain.

I'll refrain from spoiling as much as I can. All you need to know is that in this version of the classic tale, we get much more of Maleficent's backstory. We see her as a young faerie and learn about the events that have hardened her heart. It is easier for us to understand her (otherwise questionable) actions because we know her past experiences and have a better sense of her wants and motivations.

Most importantly, Maleficent is dynamic. At the end of the film, she is a different woman than she is toward the beginning. Once again, I don't want to spoil, so that's all I'm going to say about that.

Maleficent was delightful, refreshing, and entertaining. While watching the film, I also learned a great deal about writing likable and three-dimensional villains. Whenever you want to add depth to your baddies, make sure they have a backstory, clear motive for what they do, and some kind of arc.

If the villain hasn't been changed by the events of the story, then what is the point for the story at all?

Have you seen the movie? What did you think? What do you think is the key to creating quality villains?

P.S. The 4 "A"s of Characterization, How to Develop Stronger Characters, and How to Get into Your Characters' Heads.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Twitter for Writers

Tweet Tweet

Twitter is one of the greatest under-utilized resources for writers at the moment. It's a great way to promote your work, communicate with other writers, find some writing advice, and have a fantastic time. I only recently started spending some serious time on Twitter, and I could kick myself for not using it sooner.

So why should you set up a Twitter account?

Well, this social media platform is a spectacular way to get your name out there and build up a following. You can promote your work, support other writers who want to promote their work, and link to content that you think other people might find interesting. I promote my blog posts and freelance work through Twitter and it's gotten me a lot more exposure than I would've gotten otherwise.

Twitter is also a great place to get in touch with other writers. I've met so many wonderful people on Twitter, most of them writers. They support my work and I support theirs. We talk about all things writing and non-writing. If you're not currently involved with groups of other writers, Twitter is the best way to meet like-minded individuals. Whenever I interact with other writers on the site, I feel as though there is a sense of community.

Another good reason to use Twitter? Writing advice. Seriously. There are so many amazing tips that get passed around for free. All you have to do is type "writing tips" or "writing advice" into the search bar and millions of helpful Tweets will pop up. The internet is truly a glorious place.

If you don't have a Twitter account, you need to sign up. If you already have one, you should be using it more. And you should definitely be following other writers (*ahem* ME). Tell me you followed me over from this blog and I will most likely follow you back.

What do you think of Twitter? How does it help you as a writer?

P.S Avoid Distractions While Writing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Don't Get It Right; Get It Written

Don't Get It Right Get It Written
When it comes to writing a first draft, the key is to avoid obsessing over each and every line.

If you feel your perfectionist tendencies kicking in, you need to be on high alert. The urge to rewrite every sentence you put down is a normal once; nevertheless, it should be closely monitored. If you focus on making your first draft sound perfect, you're going to get discouraged and might feel like giving up.

Here's the best advice that I can give you for finishing first drafts: Don't get it right; get it written.

What am I talking about?

When it come to writing a first draft, avoid editing as you write. The focus shouldn't be on making everything sound perfect--not yet, anyway--but on getting it all down so that you can fix it later, once you've moved on to the second draft.

You'll never finish what you start if you obsess over every little detail that you're putting down on paper. You want to finish that first draft? You need to get it down as soon as possible. Don't worry too much about how it sounds--you can always fix that later.

That's what second drafts are for.

Dump everything from your brain onto the page without hesitation. I promise you'll be much happier when you're not self-editing every step of the way.

Don't get it right; get it written.

What do you think about editing while you write? What do your first drafts typically look like?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Lovely Links 06.01.14 - 06.07.14

It's a new month, which means new links!  

I've gathered a bunch of different resources from the four corners of the globe to aid you in your writing endeavors. Some links are thought-provoking, others are useful, and still others might be just for fun. Regardless of their intention, I hope you'll enjoy.

Let's get right to it, then, shall we?

Here are a few things to tickle your fancy:
Tune in next month for yet another helpful roundup of links. Happy writing!

What do you think of these links? What writing resources have you found helpful lately?
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