Journalistic Investigations

“Every time I’ve had to do journalistic investigations, I’ve cursed, but later I discovered that it had helped me enormously with writing fiction. It’s the one thing that can save me from becoming an academic writer.”

— Italo Calvino

 

Find the Word, and Magic…!

[found on tameri.com]

“We believe the greater the vocabulary, the more concise the writing. Unfortunately, readers might not understand what you write. The definitions for some words listed are not the “common” meanings; we have chosen to focus on the words and meanings used to impress audiences.

Serious readers enjoy new words and writers love using the rare greats. Reading teaches vocabulary as we study context at all levels: elemental grammar, plot, setting, and more. Readers thrill at the discovery of new words; writers should thrill at using them wisely. There is more to words than winning at Scrabble™.”

Example of what you’ll find on their site:

abrogate (v) – void, do away with, repeal

abscond (v) – to depart secretly

abstemious (adj) – moderate in consumption

brook (v) – to endure, tolerate

bucolic (adj) – rustic, pastoral, natural; simple

celerity (n) – speed, rapidity

censure (v) – to rebuke officially

chary (adj) – wary, cautious

diffuse (adj) – spread out, wide-ranging; using too many words

dilate (v) – expand

dilatory (adj) – delaying

enervate (v) – to weaken, to drain, to take vitality from

engender (v) – to create, to produce, to cause

feign (v) – to pretend, act, deceive

fervent (adj) – emotional; zealous

fester (v) – ulcerate; rankle. festering (v)

garner (v) – gather, store up

garrulity (n) – talkativeness

impervious (adj) – resistant, strong, incapable of being affected

impalpable (adj) – imperceptible, intangible

jejune (adj) – poor; unsatisfying

jetsam (n) – object tossed overboard to lighten a ship

kinematic (adj) – relating to motion

knavery (n) – untrustworthiness; lack of principles

libidinous (adj) – lustful

licentious (adj) – sexually immoral

mellifluous (adj) – sweet like/as honey

mendacious (adj) – dishonest. mendacity (n)

nebulous (adj) – vague, cloudy, murky; lacking form

neologism (n) – a new word or usage

neophyte (n) – convert; beginner, novice

obfuscate (v) – to make confusing; to mislead

objurgate (v) – to scold

paucity (n) – scarcity; lack

pedagogue (n) – narrow-minded teacher

quaff (v) – to drink; to quench thirst

qualm (n) – misgiving, reservation

refutation (n) – disproof of opponents arguments

reciprocal (adj) – mutual, shared, exchanged in kind

sanction (n/v) – permission, authorized; a penalty

sanguine (adj) – cheerful; hopeful

sapient (adj) – wise; shrewd

taciturn (adj) – silent; not fond of talking

tantamount (adj) – equivalent in effect or value

taut (adj) – tight, tense

ubiquitous (adj) – everywhere, widespread

ulterior (adj) – unstated; hidden

venerate (v) – to respect. veneration (n)

veracity (n) – truthfulness, honesty

wangle (v) – bring about by manipulation

welter (n/v) – turmoil; to roll, to tumble

xenophobe (n) – one afraid of strangers

xyloid (adj) – like wood

yammer (v) – to talk with a sad tone

zymotic (adj) – of fermentation; caused by disease”

 

[found on http://www.tameri.com/write/coolenglish.html]

Be Thou Funny; Nay, Hilarious!

[found on thewritepractice.com; by Joe Bunting]

Joe Bunting’s Commandments to Writing Funny”

“1. Thou Shalt Not Worry About Offending

First and most important, if you’re overly concerned about what others will think, don’t try your hand at funny . . . . stay true to your voice and integrity.

2. Thou Shalt Pay Attention to the Mundane

Jerry Seinfield wasn’t funny because he could do impersonations, or was overly animated or creative. He was funny because he told the truth about the mundane….

3. Thou Shalt Take Clichés to Extremes

…when there was report after report about the Occupy Movement marching on streets all over the nation, I wrote Occupy Marches on Sesame Street—twentysomething angst taking on the puppets who lied to them first.

Taking cliches to the extreme is the bedrock to satire.

4. Thou Shalt Use Metaphors and Similes Like the Bubonic Plague

(First, see Commandments 1 and 3.) Metaphors and similes are to funny as Hugh Grant is to romantic comedy.”

To read the entire article by Joe Bunting, click here.

[found on http://thewritepractice.com/four-commandments-to-writing-funny/]

Research How-To…and Why

[found on copyblogger.com; by  ]

“I’m going to talk about research. No, research is not very fun, and it’s never glamorous, but it matters. A lot.

If you want to be able to make compelling case for something — whether it’s in a book, on a blog, or in a multi-million dollar VC pitch — you need stories that frame your arguments, rich anecdotes to compliment tangible examples, and impressive data so you can empirically crush counter arguments.

But good research doesn’t just magically appear. Stories, anecdotes and data have to be found before you can use them.

You have to hunt them down like a shark, chasing the scent of blood across the vast ocean of information. The bad news is that this is an unenviable task … but the good news is that it’s not impossible.

It’s not even that hard … once you learn what you’re doing — and I’m going to teach you those skills.

By the time I was 21, my research had been used by #1 New York Times Bestselling authors like Robert Greene, Tim Ferriss, and Tucker Max. Was I a slave to study? Did I have to become a library hermit to accomplish this? No, I did it all in my spare time–on the side, with just a few hours of work a week.

Here’s how I did it …

Step 1: Prepare long before gameday [sic]

…This is the mark you must aim for as a researcher, to not only have enough material — and to know where the rest of what you haven’t read will be located — on hand to do your work….

Step 2: Learn to search (Google) like a pro

…How do you find a needle in haystack? Get rid of the extra hay….

Step 3: Go down the rabbit hole (embrace serendipity)

…One of my rules as a reader is to read one book mentioned in or cited in every book that I read. It not only solves the problem of ‘what to read next’ but it sends you on a journey down the rabbit hole….

Step 4: When in doubt, turn to the classics

…The Classics are “classic” for a reason. They’ve survived the test of time….

Step 5: Keep a commonplace book

…a book of quotes, sentences, metaphors and  miscellany that he could use at a moment’s notice….”

To read the entire article from , click here.

[found on http://www.copyblogger.com/content-marketing-research/]

Get Your Mind Out of Your Way

[found on writetodone.com; by Ollin Morales of Courage 2 Create]

“What if I told you that the biggest threat to your writing is not your lack of passion, your lack of creativity, or your lack of skill?

What if I told you that the biggest threat to your writing is… your mind?

That’s right. Your mind is the biggest obstacle standing between you and all the work you are trying to accomplish.

Our mind is often the one that needs the most convincing that our writing is worthwhile. This is because our mind is hard-wired to protect us from any possible danger.  You see, in order to protect us, our mind initially perceives anything it encounters as a threat—including your writing.

If this sounds strange, and kind of primitive, as if your mind is trying to protect you from a tiger hiding behind a tree in a jungle—then you’re absolutely right.

Your mind is still pretty primordial. So, your job as a writer is to hack into this primordial, hunter-gatherer mind, and update its software so that your mind works for you.

Here are just 4 ways to hack your mind so that you can become infinitely more creative:

1. Bypass Your Mind

…Get rid of all the thinking. Wipe your mind clean. Take a deep breath, and just go for it….

2.  Trick Your Mind

…promise your mind that you will continue to worry about paying your bills AFTER you write a brief outline of that freelance article you’re working on….

3. Lower Your Mind’s Expectations

…If your mind sees that you’re making a big bet, then, it will immediately advise you against it—it may even try to thwart you from accomplishing the monumental task you’ve set up for yourself….

So, don’t make that big bet. Make a small one, instead.

4. Recalibrate Your Mind

…the return on your initial investment does not appear until much much later. This is something your mind has trouble understanding, and it’s your job to help your mind understand it….hack into your mind so that your mind works for you.”

To read the entire article from Ollin Morales at writetodone.com, click here.

[found on http://writetodone.com/4-ways-to-hack-into-your-mind-and-become-infinitely-more-creative/]

Your Plot Needs Planning

[found on fictionfactor.com; by Lee Masterson]

Effectively Outlining Your Plot

“Have you ever had an idea for a novel, and then just sat down and began writing without knowing exactly where the story was going?

It happens to everyone at some point, but most people begin to realize that the events in your plotline get confused, or forgotten in the the [sic] thrill of writing an exciting scene. There are those who continue to write on, regardless, fixing any discrepancies as they work, or (worse!) those who do not check that events are properly tied in place to bring their stories to a satisfying conclusion.

And then there are those writers who believe that creating a plot-outline is tantamount to “destroying the natural creative process”. The belief is simple; by writing it out in rough form, you’ve already told the story, so the creative side of you will not want to write it again.

Whichever type of writer you are, creating a simple, inelegant outline to follow s not the same thing as already writing the story, and it could save you an enormous amount of time and rewriting later.

The purpose of an outline in this case is to be certain that your storyline is not straying too far from the original idea. It is also a useful tool if you need to determine if your idea is big enough to be developed into a novel-length work, and not left as a short story or novella.

Your outline should be a simple reminder that, no matter how many events or characters or situations arise, your main theme will never get lost in the jumble of scenes.

Of course, this brings us to the problem to what was discussed above. There are writers who have a tendency to over-plot, thus really killing any spontaneity as far as the writing process goes. The biggest difficulty here is forcing your characters to go through motions that may not fit into their personality make-up simply to fit into your pre-existing, overly planned plotline.

So how do you strike a fair balance between aimless writing and over-plotting? There are several ways to accomplish this….”

To read the complete article from Lee Masterson, click here.

[found on http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/outlining.html]

Poems, Lyric Thyself

[found on songlyricist.com; by Carla Starrett]

“Poets in the modern world do not enjoy the elevated social status they did a century or two ago.

Wordsworth, Byron, Keats and Shelley were the rock stars of their time. Their poetic skills earned them adulation, celebrity and even the occasional touch of wealth.

These days, poems and poetry are sadly relegated to sparsely attended coffeehouse readings or the obscure pages of small literary magazines.

On the other side of the proverbial coin, there are wonderful opportunities in today’s music industry for talented poets – at least those who successfully adapt their writing style to song lyric writing.

Songs are the popular lyrical medium of our time. That’s where status and the bigmoney is for today’s poets.

Adapting Poems Into Song Lyrics

There are many examples of poets who have turned their personal poetry into successful song lyrics.

Most everyone’s heard of lyricist Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s famous co-writer. One of these talented fellows without the other may have labored in the shadows of obscurity.

Yet, by combining their specialized talents, they were able to write hundreds of great songs, and extrmely [sic] popular songs. In the process, they become millionaires!

The lesson is clear: ambitious 21st Century poets who wish to connect with the popular culture and mass audiences will want to learn how to write lyrics.

Which leads to this question: Can poets successfully turn their talents to writing song lyrics?

Answer: For talented poets willing to adapt their writing styles to the craft of lyric writing, the answer is definitely yes!”

To learn more from Carla Starrett on how to adapt your poems into song lyrics, click here.

[found on http://www.songlyricist.com/lyricorpoem.htm]

Two Words? Oops, One Word

[found on quickanddirtytips.com; by Bonnie Trenga Mills]

“Do you want to get ahead (one word) or are you cooking an esoteric dish and want to get a head (two words)? That one little space can make a big difference in meaning: Either you are moving past others in business or you are purchasing a skull…..

When it comes to pairs such as “apart” with no space and “a part” with a space, the spelling doesn’t matter when you’re talking; both sound the same. When you write the words, however, you might forget to add a space, or you might add an unnecessary one. This problem crops up with all kinds of words, but in this episode we’re focusing on words beginning with the letter “a.”

Words That Start With “A”

Here’s a short list of pairs like “ahead” and “a head”: “alight” and “a light,” “abuzz” and “a buzz,” “apart” and “a part,” and, lastly, “ahold” and “a hold.” As you can see from this list, the one-worders beginning with “a” can be various parts of speech: “ahead” is an adverb, “alight” is a verb,” and “abuzz” is an adjective. The two-worders, on the other hand, consist of an article—the word “a”—and a noun: “light,” “buzz,” “part,” and “hold.” True, these words can sometimes be verbs, but when something follows the article “a,” it’s a noun (unless something such as an adjective comes between the article and the noun, as in “a delicious cake”).

“Alight” Versus “A Light”

Let’s see these four pairs in action. The first two—“alight”/“a light” and “abuzz”/“a buzz”—are the easy ones. You could say, “That annoying bee wants to alight on my nose.” This means the bee wants to land on your nose, and there’s no space in “alight.” If you say, “He turned on a light”—with a space—that means he was no longer enveloped in darkness.

“Abuzz” Versus “A Buzz”

In keeping with the bee theme, here’s our next example: “I heard a buzz.” A quick test for those listening: Is there a space or not? Well, yes, there is! “A buzz” with a space means “a buzzing noise.” “Abuzz” with no space is an adjective that means alive with activity, as in “The room became abuzz when the grammarian entered.”

To read the entire article from Grammar Girl, click here.

[found on http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/a-hold-or-ahold]

Tips on Capitalization in Titles

[found on grammar.about.com; by ]

“Style guides disagree on which words to capitalize in a title (of a book, article, essay, movie, song, or video game). Here’s a basic guide to the two most common methods: sentence case and title case….

There’s not a single set of rules for capitalizing words in a title. For most of us, it’s a matter of selecting one convention and sticking to it. The big decision is whether to go with sentence case (simple) or title case (a little less simple).

Sentence case (also known as Down style)

Capitalize only the first word of the title and any proper nouns: “Rules for capitalizing the words in a title.” This form, recommended by the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for titles in reference lists, is popular with many online and print publications. In fact it’s now the standard form for titles and headlines in most countries–but not (yet) in the United States.

Title Case (also known as Headline Style or Up Style)

Capitalize the first and last words of the title and all nounspronounsadjectivesverbsadverbs, and subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that, and so on): “Rules for Capitalizing the Words in a Title.”

It’s the little words that style guides disagree on. The Chicago Manual of Style, for instance, notes that “articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor), and prepositions, regardless of length, are lowercased unless they are the first or last word of the title.”

But The Associated Press Stylebook is fussier:

  • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
  • Capitalize an article—the, a, an—or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.

Other guides say that prepositions and conjunctions of fewer than five letters should be in lowercase—except at the beginning or end of a title. (For additional guidelines, see the glossary entry for title case.)

So pick a form—any form. And then try to be consistent.”

[found on http://grammar.about.com/od/grammarfaq/f/capitalstitle.htm]

Die Not, My Adverb—Overwhelm Not

[found on huffingtonpost.com; by Maddie Crum]

In Defense of Adverbs

“Like like and other filler words, certain adverbs have saturated our speech and our writing, making once-meaningful phrases seem totally vapid. The idea that adverbs are just extraneous fluff has led to a smear campaign against them, and it’s become common to suggest axing the part of speech altogether in order to make writing more powerful. This forceful call for more forceful writing is misguided; adverbs can be phonetically pleasing, can imbue sentences with subtlety, and should not be entirely shunned.

First, a refresher: What does an adverb do? It tells us more about a verb. If a character is running from point A to point B, “he ran” is a description that doesn’t sufficiently set the scene. How did he run? Quickly? Scatteredly? “He ran quickly and scatteredly” is less powerful than “he scampered,” an adverbless sentence that conveys the same point more succinctly. And so, many writers have spoken vehemently against the use of adverbs.

This is unfortunate because when used well, adverbs serve an important purpose, and can enhance writing rather than detract from it.”

[found on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madeleine-crum/in-defense-of-adverbs_b_4860325.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063]