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Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:09 pm

Some Good Online Websites for Grammar and Usage


Online Quizzes

GrammarBook
https://www.grammarbook.com

Pull down the “Quizzes” menu and select “Free Quizzes”. Scroll down a short way to see the list of free quizzes.

Or you can pull down the “English Rules” menu and select a general category of your choice. You will arrive at a list of specific topics. Select a topic. You will arrive at an explanation of the particular rule, followed by a quiz.



Getitwrite
http://www.getitwriteonline.com/archive/index.htm
In the left hand list, click on “Tip Archive”. You will arrive at a list of “Previous Articles”. Click on the topic of your choice. Each article includes a “Test Yourself” section at the end.



Free Online Editing

Grammarly
http://www.grammarly.com/
An online grammar checker


Pro Writing Aid
http://prowritingaid.com/
Pro Writing Aid is similar to Grammarly except that it identifies a broader range of errors besides just grammar. I haven’t used Grammarly much so I am not sure if it offers significant advantages over Pro Writing Aid.



Online Style Book

The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style
http://books.google.com/books?id=qC8XIEFdyYAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false
This is a Google book so of course it doesn't include the entire book. However I came upon it the other day and it answered my specific question. I browsed the rest and it looks helpful.

The Bear :)

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby glorybee » Tue Feb 11, 2014 9:39 pm

Thanks! I plan to take some quizzes tomorrow (with great trepidation).
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby RachelM » Wed Feb 12, 2014 12:38 am

glorybee wrote:You are allowed to have your work proofread before you submit it to the Writing Challenge (although substantive editing is not allowed)—find someone who is willing to exchange proofreading with you.


When I first joined FaithWriters, I tried to find a challenge buddy group to join, but nobody was interested. Shann kindly proofread a couple of entries for me and helped me immensely by pointing out some areas that I could improve in.

It doesn't seem like many people are still taking part in challenge groups, and I wonder why. Are they more trouble than they're worth? Is it hard to find the right people? Is there just not enough time? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. :)

glorybee wrote:Finally, the judges feel unsatisfied when they’re reading an entry and they know after the first paragraph how the story will unfold and how it will end. This overlaps with the creativity criterion; judges want entries that are unlike anything they’ve read before. There are certain motifs that show up very frequently in Writing Challenge entries: the parent with Alzheimer’s, the beleaguered mother, the dying character (among others). If you’re going to write one of these, you’ll need to come up with unique twists so that your readers don’t just skim. Yeah, yeah, I’ve read this a hundred times.


I was wondering why my "beleaguered mother" stories weren't rating very well. I think that you just nailed one of the reasons. I love the insight that you give!

glorybee wrote:A last piece of advice to cover grammar, craftsmanship, and predictability: read the works of excellent writers, and read them analytically.


I started doing this in January. I did a google search of the greatest novels ever written, and I'm working my way through them.

Thank you for all the time that you put into these great lessons!
My FaithWriters profile: RachelM FW member profile

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby Shann » Wed Feb 12, 2014 5:33 pm

Whenever I do a POV from a different or unexpected place, it seems to flop. I've done it from the POV of a wave, a bird, a dog, a cat. Those are just of the top of my head. Maybe it's because I like to have a twist? I have had people say you're a bird right out of the cage, but that seems to take the fun out of it. I leave clues like the dog growled, the cat batted something out of my head, the bird tweeted and the wave foamed at the mouth.

Sometimes I think I get too far out f the box. :?

You mentioned the different grammar sites and quizzes and perhaps this one has been mentioned. Other than Elements of Style, it's my favorite go to resource. The link will take you to the comma section because that's what I use the most, but it has quizzes at the end of every section.

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm

Jan you are doing a splendid job! :thumbs :superhappy
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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby glorybee » Wed Feb 12, 2014 6:19 pm

Shann wrote:Whenever I do a POV from a different or unexpected place, it seems to flop. I've done it from the POV of a wave, a bird, a dog, a cat. Those are just of the top of my head. Maybe it's because I like to have a twist? I have had people say you're a bird right out of the cage, but that seems to take the fun out of it. I leave clues like the dog growled, the cat batted something out of my head, the bird tweeted and the wave foamed at the mouth.



Shann, I can only speak for myself here, but maybe some of your readers share my opinion: I'm not fond of the non-human POV. For me, stories like that (and not necessarily yours, but ANY story with this sort of POV) more often than not seem like children's stories. I realize that many people really like children's stories--but some do not. I guess I'm too much of a realism fan; I find myself thinking, but tables can't think, or but horses don't talk to each other in English...

Even if non-human POV stories are intended for adult readers, it's difficult to pull off. And my thinking, after reading one of those stories is something like, why couldn't this same take-away have been portrayed with human characters? One would have to have a very compelling reason to use animal or inanimate characters, something beyond "trying to fool the reader."

Of course, when I was judging, I didn't let this personal bias influence my rating--we need to work very hard to judge each piece on its merits, and not on whether or not it was our particular cup of tea. Just letting you know, I guess, that this might be why some of those pieces didn't seem to register with readers.

When I mentioned writing from unpredictable angles, I guess I was thinking more about settings, non-stereotyped characters, twist endings--that sort of thing.

Don't worry, though, please. I know that there are lots of people who just love this sort of writing, and who don't care for the moody, dark pieces that appeal to me. Vive la difference!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby Shann » Wed Feb 12, 2014 9:48 pm

Although those stories are for adults, I guess I often think shat is my dog thinking? Do birds recognize each other when they are flying South and run into another flock, and how did my cat know I was in a dark place and pick the exact moment to pounce? Plus my favorite genre is kid's stories so well I'd never probably tell a kids story from an animal POV, it might translate in my writing. Thanks.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby amilli » Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:55 pm

Cinnamon Bear gave me this link and reminded me to check out this awesome lesson, and indeed it is.

For me, the ending of a story (Fiction) is always the hardest part to write. I am a fan of fiction, it allows me to push my imagination to the limit...and over! I normally just run with an idea & start writing, then, pulling it all together becomes a challenge. I love challenges, but is there something I'm missing? Do I need to have the end in mind when writing a piece? The ending is normally where predictability is being put to the test. Are there any tips for nailing the ending to a good story?

I love your advice about reading the works of excellent authors Jan.

I appreciate these lessons Jan. Keep at it :thumbs
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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby glorybee » Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:22 pm

amilli wrote:For me, the ending of a story (Fiction) is always the hardest part to write. I am a fan of fiction, it allows me to push my imagination to the limit...and over! I normally just run with an idea & start writing, then, pulling it all together becomes a challenge. I love challenges, but is there something I'm missing? Do I need to have the end in mind when writing a piece? The ending is normally where predictability is being put to the test. Are there any tips for nailing the ending to a good story?



Yes, and rather than re-inventing the wheel, I'll give you this link to a lesson on writing endings in fiction from several years ago:

viewtopic.php?f=67&t=31853

If you have any follow-up questions, let me know!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby lish1936 » Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:31 pm

... read the works of excellent writers, and read them analytically. I recommend reading critically-acclaimed classics in your chosen genre.


Jan, I think you have just perfectly diagnosed my problem. I'm ashamed to admit it, but not since my college days have I read fiction. Similarly, I have little interest in watching drama/stories on television. My first story was written when I joined Faithwriters, only because I discovered that fiction was the genre of choice for the challenge. From a "skills" point of view, it was a disaster.

I have two questions:

1) Will I, or can I ever expect to write fiction like so many of my fellow Faithwriters (including you) without developing an interest in that genre, even though some stories I've written have occasionally caught the judges' attention? Perhaps a better way to put the question: Despite all the wonderful lessons you so graciously share with us, if I don't enjoy READING fiction, will it affect my ability to skillfully WRITE it?

2) This question also applies to creativity and craftsmanship, but especially to word choices. I regret not reading more because I feel I've failed to expand my vocabulary by not doing so. Short of memorizing a Thesaurus, how can a non-reader expand his/her vocabulary?

Thanks,
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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Thu Feb 13, 2014 11:20 pm

Shann, I can only speak for myself here, but maybe some of your readers share my opinion: I'm not fond of the non-human POV. For me, stories like that (and not necessarily yours, but ANY story with this sort of POV) more often than not seem like children's stories. I realize that many people really like children's stories--but some do not. I guess I'm too much of a realism fan; I find myself thinking, but tables can't think, or but horses don't talk to each other in English...


Jan, when I saw this yesterday, I thought to myself there goes my entry for "Bookends". Then today I find that I came in first in Advanced :o with a talking cat:

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=47733

Are poems from an animal's POV more acceptable than fiction from an animal's POV?


The Bear

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby glorybee » Thu Feb 13, 2014 11:45 pm

lish1936 wrote:I have two questions:

1) Will I, or can I ever expect to write fiction like so many of my fellow Faithwriters (including you) without developing an interest in that genre, even though some stories I've written have occasionally caught the judges' attention? Perhaps a better way to put the question: Despite all the wonderful lessons you so graciously share with us, if I don't enjoy READING fiction, will it affect my ability to skillfully WRITE it?

2) This question also applies to creativity and craftsmanship, but especially to word choices. I regret not reading more because I feel I've failed to expand my vocabulary by not doing so. Short of memorizing a Thesaurus, how can a non-reader expand his/her vocabulary?


Lillian, I have no idea how to answer this question--you've got me totally scratching my head. Why would you write in a genre that you do not enjoy? Are you entering the Writing Challenge only with the goal of winning? If that's your only goal, it seems as if you (and indeed, everyone who enters with that goal) will be disappointed nearly every week. Only a few pieces are singled out each week, and every week some excellent writers will be passed by. But if you enter the challenge with the desire to improve your own writing--you'd do better in a genre that you actually want to write. You'll be more motivated to write, you'll feel more comfortable, and the comments and suggestions that you get will be more likely to help you to improve in writing that you actually enjoy. If you're writing a fiction piece with the thought, "I don't enjoy fiction" constantly in your mind--no amount of writing tips will keep that mindset from influencing your writing. Why not work to write such excellent nonfiction that the judges will sit up and take notice?

I can't help but think of a cooking analogy. I'm not a fan of Asian food. I suppose I could learn to cook Chinese food better than I do now--but why should I bother? My heart won't be in it, and I'll resent having to buy the rice steamer and the fish sauce and the wasabi; it's a waste of time, since I'll never really appreciate it, and I won't be motivated to be excellent at it.

But I love Italian food, and if I could learn to make an authentic tiramisu or fettucini alfredo, I'd be a happy, happy gal. I'd work very hard at it, and I'd listen carefully to experts in Italian cuisine. Well, I could draw this analogy out for several more sentences, but you get the idea. Put your resources toward doing something that you love.

To improve your vocabulary:

1. Read. If you don't like reading fiction, read non-fiction. Find works that are challenging to your reading ability, in topics that interest you, so that you'll be motivated to learn the meanings of new words that you encounter.

2. Go to freerice.com and take their daily vocabulary exercise. Not only will you be improving your vocabulary, but you'll also be helping to provide rice to hungry nations.

3. Google "increase your vocabulary." You'll find all sorts of resources--games, workbooks, flash cards. Find one that appeals to you, and go for it. Devote 5 or 10 minutes each day to vocabulary exercises.

4. Merriam-Webster.com has a word of the day email, and I'm sure that you can find other sites that will email you a word to learn every day. Here's the link, and you can find the signup at the bottom: http://www.merriam-webster.com/word-of-the-day/

5. If you don't want to do an online or email vocabulary exercise, you can go to your local bookstore and find word-of-the day calendars. You should be able to get a pretty good deal on a 2014 calendar by now.

6. Read, read, read, read, read.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby glorybee » Thu Feb 13, 2014 11:48 pm

Cinnamon Bear wrote:
Shann, I can only speak for myself here, but maybe some of your readers share my opinion: I'm not fond of the non-human POV. For me, stories like that (and not necessarily yours, but ANY story with this sort of POV) more often than not seem like children's stories. I realize that many people really like children's stories--but some do not. I guess I'm too much of a realism fan; I find myself thinking, but tables can't think, or but horses don't talk to each other in English...


Jan, when I saw this yesterday, I thought to myself there goes my entry for "Bookends". Then today I find that I came in first in Advanced :o with a talking cat:

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=47733

Are poems from an animal's POV more acceptable than fiction from an animal's POV?


The Bear


You misunderstood me--I hope that Shann did not misunderstand me, also. It's not a matter of being acceptable; it was purely a matter of personal taste. Regardless, personal taste doesn't affect the judging. Your poem certainly appealed to the judges this week--congratulations!
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby lish1936 » Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:39 am

Jan wrote:Lillian, I have no idea how to answer this question--you've got me totally scratching my head. Why would you write in a genre that you do not enjoy? Are you entering the Writing Challenge only with the goal of winning? If that's your only goal, it seems as if you (and indeed, everyone who enters with that goal) will be disappointed nearly every week.


Jan, thanks for all the leads for improving one's vocabulary. When it comes to why I write fiction, it's a matter of doing it to prove that I can. I guess I take the word "challenge" seriously. It's more of a learning experience for me than anything else, If my goal was to win, I would have focused on non-fiction, as you have suggested.

Writing is not the only area in my life where I attempt to do the impossible. :D For me, success is in the trying, win or lose.

Lillian
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby amilli » Fri Feb 14, 2014 8:08 pm

RE:
viewtopic.php?f=67&t=31853

Thanks for the link Jan (Story endings), the lesson really put things in perspectives for me.
Amelia

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Craftsmanship, and a CONTEST

Postby Toni Hammer » Sat Feb 15, 2014 3:33 am

I'm very new to FW and Shann as well as Vonmie encouraged me to check out these lessons. This is the first one I've read and it's quite challenging! I don't even know where to begin in terms of commenting. Thank you so much, Jan, for doing these.

I feel a bit conflicted now as I wrote a poem for this week's challenge and am second guessing myself now. It's not emotionally weighty for the most part. More of a fun, rhyming short story. I'm glad I read this lesson before submitting the entry in hopes I can add a bit more figurative language and flair to it.

Looking forward to catching up and participating more!
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