“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
“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™.”
“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”
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.
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….
…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.
(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.
“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 …
…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….
…How do you find a needle in haystack? Get rid of the extra hay….
…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….
…The Classics are “classic” for a reason. They’ve survived the test of time….
…a book of quotes, sentences, metaphors and miscellany that he could use at a moment’s notice….”
“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:
…Get rid of all the thinking. Wipe your mind clean. Take a deep breath, and just go for it….
…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….
…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.
…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.”
“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….”
“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.
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!”
“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.”
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”).
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.
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.
“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).
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.
Capitalize the first and last words of the title and all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, 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:
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.”
“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.”
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