Author Archives: Steve Aedy

Want To Become a Better Writer? Check How Others Do It

become a better writer

Looking to become a better writer and not too sure where to start? Well, we’ve gleaned the advice of some successful authors and emerging writers to see what they offer for developing successful habits and routines.

So, let’s get right to their inspirational words of wisdom.

Turn off the TV and read as much as possible

From ultra successful author Stephen King, this is his No. 1 tip. Describing TV as “poisonous to creativity”, Mr. King urges new writers to look within themselves to find their creative muse. And in order to be a writer “you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

So, turn of the TV (and the online shows) and let your imagination run free.

Be willing to write really badly

Writer Jennifer Egan suggests allowing yourself to purge all the “bad writing” inside as a preventative measure for writer’s block. She makes the key point that a writer will need to “give yourself permission to do that because you can’t expect to write regularly and always write well.”

Acknowledging that you have some “bad stuff” inside doesn’t make you a bad writer. And permitting the bad writing to surface clears space for the good writing to emerge. Don’t make the mistake of trying to hide or stuff the badness, because it will emerge in other ways. Just allow it to come forth, then let it go and move on to your natural brilliance.

Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs

This is advertising giant David Ogilvy’s recipe for simplicity. To cut through the white noise clamoring for your readers’ attention, be concise, to the point, and clear in your writing – in as few words as possible.

Chunk down your writing project into manageable bits

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott instructs the aspiring writer in the practice of chunking. This is the process of breaking down large projects or goals into their main components, and those components into smaller individual tasks.

By whittling down the project down to bite sized bits, you’ll arrive at the starting point. And then it’s simply a matter of methodically tackling each task individually, then moving on to the next. In this manner, you always know the next step to take which is key in busting overwhelm.

Be honest

We found this thread over at Quora.com on how to become a better writer. Blogger and author James Altucher gives us this gem on being honest in our writing: “Tell people the stuff they all think but nobody ever says.”

Giving voice to those inner thoughts can be controversial for sure, but writing isn’t for the squeamish. If you can’t be honest, you’re not delivering value, and without value your readers will flee.

Use definitive deadlines

In the same thread, bestseller Ben Mezrich uses the practice of personal deadlines to “stay out of trouble and avoid procrastination”. Another sound practice to avoid the daze of overwhelm with all its delay tactics, excuses and unfinished pieces. Determine a page or word count in advance and finish writing when you’ve reached it.

It’s like having a mental countdown clock; as you reach each interim milestone you know progress is being made. This is particularly effective when used with the chunking practice in point #4.

Read everything you write aloud

Another answer on the Quora thread, this time from Ethan Anderson. “Why? Because punctuation is for breaths, and paragraphs are for discrete units.”

Reading aloud is a very effective method to recognize when you’re getting too wordy. If you find your mind getting to the point before your eyes do, it’s time for some discerning editing. It’s also a great way to improve the rhythm and pace of your writing.

Drop the “thought” verbs

Again from Quora, this time from Gurshabad Grover who shared this tip from writer Chuck Palahniuk. “From this point forward — at least for the next half year — you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: ‘thinks’, ‘knows’, ‘understands’, ‘realizes’, ‘believes’, ‘wants’, ‘remembers’, ‘imagines’, ‘desires’, and a hundred others you love to use.”

Seems harsh, doesn’t it? But, Mr. Palahniuk asserts that by using “specific sensory detail”, actions and sensory details, your writing will become stronger. This is the basis of “show, don’t tell” concept for writing – let your characters physical actions and words show what they’re thinking.

Brush up your observation skills

A solid majority of the writers we’ve researched for this piece have a variation of this one, but Margaret Davidson sums it up nicely in A Guide for Newspaper Stringers: “A good writer is a good observer — of people, surroundings, ideas and trends, and the general flotsam and jetsam of the world around.”

Without keen observation, you can’t capture the excitement and interest of life. Use it to broaden the emotional nuances of your words and convey depth and understanding to your characters’ actions.

Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously

And finally to wrap up the post, the above tip from author Lev Grossman seemed appropriate. Take what works for you and throw away the rest – with perseverance, you’ll find your own voice and develop routines that work for you. And you never know, maybe someday a blogger will be quoting your tips for becoming a better writer.

Don’t Spoil Your Headline: 10 Mistakes Writers Make

headline mistakes writers make

Are headlines really that important for a successful online presence? Well, according to the opinions of the experts, a well written headline is absolutely mandatory for engaging your audience. They are your one and only chance of making a good first impression, one that will induce your readers to continue, sentence by sentence, right through to your call to action.

Online readers are a savvy bunch, with amazing abilities to filter any material irrelevant to their quest. If your headlines don’t immediately convey the benefits of reading your post, they’ll quickly move on to content that holds the promise of greater value. And with no readers, you can’t share your ideas, no matter how great they may be.

Effective headlines are based on market formulas that have been tested by industry giants over the years. So, to become proficient it’s a simple matter of study and then adapting an outline to your specifics. Sounds easy, right?

Test your headlines knowledge by seeing if you’re making any of the following 10 common mistakes. If you are, the solution already exists, so please, read on…

1. Treating your headline as an afterthought.

A great headline takes time, attention and focus. It needs to convey an idea, emotions, conflict and resolution. An outstanding headline is bloggers’ poetry, concise and evocative, whetting the appetite for more with promises of satisfaction.

To give the headline is proper due consideration, Brian Clark of Copyblogger recommends writing the headlines first, with this explanation: “Why? Your headline is a promise to readers. Its job is to clearly communicate the benefit you’ll deliver to the reader in exchange for their valuable time.”

By tailoring your content to fit the promise in your headline, you have the benefit of writing content specifically for keeping that promise, making the content focused, on topic and compelling.

2. Are you trying to be completely unique and original with every headline?

If so, please stop. This is an exercise that would stretch even the most creative of writers, and there’s simply no need. Headlines that work are based on tried and true methods that have been tested over and over, and continue to get great results regardless of the medium used.

Make your own compilation of swipe files for ready reference, and learn what makes an effective headline effective. Here are a couple of very helpful reference guides available for free download: Brian Clark’s Magnetic Headlines from copyblogger.com and Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks report from boostblogtraffic.com.

3. Headlines without keywords.

Keywords are important. And keyword research is like a crystal ball, giving you the ability to see what your target audience is looking for. It also endows the ability of talking their language. “Keywords matter, because when you speak the language of the audience, you attract more readers, more links, more retweets, more social bookmarks, and yes… more relevant search traffic.”

4. Are your headlines too passive?

If they are, then buff up for greater impact with an “active voice and strong present-tense verbs.” Neil Patel’s infographic on Hubspot gives a formula for creating effective headlines that demonstrates this principle very well.

5. Headlines without authority.

To establish the perceptual position as an authority in your niche, learn to master the ‘list’ and ‘how to’ headlines.

How do these types of posts bestow authority? List and how to posts are formatted to educate or entertain in a quick and easy manner, so if your content matches the headline’s promise you can quickly establish expert status. Plus, as Chris Lake at eConsultancy points out, if these posts are of value they can become “opinion magnets” and “share worthy”; a superb way to be seen as an authority.

6. Headlines that stretch credibility.

Overexposure to the fantastical, adjective driven headline has caused a certain amount of reader scepticism.
Ideally, the claims in your headline should be exciting, but believable. Provide useful content relevant to your readers’ needs and wants. If you’ve promised excitement, don’t let them down with empty content.

7. Headlines of vague benefit.

This is the flip side of the above point, to make that WOW impression on your readers: “Overpromise and overdeliver.” This advice is from Upworthy co-founder Peter Koechley, where they “use breathless headlines to set the bar for content high. “

8. Drone headlines.

If headlines are too familiar, carbon copies of others in your niche, your readers programmed reading habits will simply filter them out. Your headline should have a unique twist reflecting your personality or angle to set it apart from everyone else’s.

Neil Patel and Joseph Putnam of Quicsprout offer a good explanation on how to make your headlines more distinctive in their Definitive Guide to Copywriting.

9. Non-targeted headlines.

To be compelling, headlines must be specific. Let your readers know that your headline’s offer is what they’re interested in. If content is king, specificity is queen – they go together hand in glove.

10. Headlines with no sense of urgency.

If you can create a sense of urgency in your headlines, you may be able to convince your audience to continue reading so they don’t miss out on what you promise. However, use this tactic with some discernment. Not all headlines need urgency to work well, and for those that do, discretion is advisable to maintain credibility. A headline that urges action unnecessarily can be seen as empty hype, making it less likely to be successful.

The goal of all headlines is to draw the reader into your post and engage them all the way to the conclusion. And when you can do that on a consistent basis, you’ve mastered the art of the compelling headline.

8 Techniques To Structure Your Writing Ideas

creativity warning for freelance writers

Whether you’re writing a novel, a textbook or a short article for your blog, proper structuring your ideas can certainly make your work go more smoothly. Different techniques will work best for different people, so why not try a few and see what is best for you? Perhaps the combination of the approaches mentioned below will help.

Brainstorming

If your mind is full of ideas, you need to get them down fast, so you don’t forget anything interesting! Get a large piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind with regards to your writing project. Don’t worry about details or even about spelling. This is all about ideas. A single word or short phrase will do. Space the ideas out on your paper so you can add to them. This is a very useful tool if you’re working on a project with others as you can jot down your thoughts and ideas as you talk through the work.

Brainstorm bubbles

A brainstorm bubble diagram can be created during a brainstorming session or you can create one afterwards using the notes you gathered during brainstorming. When you have the concepts you want to write about, write down each idea and draw a bubble around it. This keeps each concept separate and it allows you to create the links between them. Draw lines between related concepts and you’ll find an order for creating your final piece of work. This really helps to create a flow for your work when you understand the relationship between the concepts you wish to discuss.

Bullet Points

When you’ve got a piece of paper full of ideas from a brainstorming session, or if you’ve got a pocket full of scraps of notes, get them all together and summarize them all into a list of bullet points. Seeing your ideas condensed like this can really help you to get organized. You can then rearrange your bullet points into the best order and have a great guideline for writing your article.

Flowcharts

Flowcharts are very useful for bringing your concepts together. Learning about the intricacies of flowcharts is time well invested. All written work has a flow and an order, and it can be very useful to create a chart to organize the flow of your document and will help you in the writing process. You’ll find plenty of guides to creating flow charts online and many books have been written on the subject too.

Intro, Body and Conclusion

You are probably familiar with this approach from writing school essays, but don’t dismiss it. It’s not just formal writing that can benefit from being divided up into these three segments. Think about which of your ideas fit best within each area and make a note of them. This process is a good natural progression from a bullet point list.

Word Web

Word webs are similar to brainstorm bubbles and are a popular method of gathering all your information in one place, so you can see the outline of your work at a glance. Write the concept name or main theme in the centre of a piece of paper. Your ideas and relevant points can then be written around the centre. It’s a good idea to write the most important points closer to the centre, this can give you a guideline later as to how much time to spend writing about each point.

Mind Maps

Mind maps are similar to word webs, but with more focus on visuals. Again, the main concept features in the centre of the map, with linked ideas radiating from the central point, attached the centre by a line. The use of colour, drawings and diagrams is common with mind maps, over time you’ll devise your own style of mind mapping. Search online for examples and you’ll find plenty of examples to inspire you.

Mass Collating

If you’re writing an article with information taken from many sources, it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to forget a point you’ve read if you’re looking at a lot of information. A good way to get organized is to take a piece of paper (or open a separate digital document) for each area of your article. As you read through your source materials, add notes to each page. This is in easy way to compartmentalize all your data. When it comes to writing your document, everything is in order for you.

Whichever techniques you use, structuring the ideas is always the key to a good piece of written work. It should make the whole process easier and help prevent the dreaded writer’s block!

These Things Will Kill Your Creativity: Warning for Freelance Writers

creativity warning for freelance writers

Creativity can be a blessing and a curse. Riding the wave of inspiration can feel like the most glorious sensation in the world. However, when inspiration wanes and the work becomes more an exercise in brute force, it can be difficult to push on and continue being productive.

It’s not a secret that being a freelance writer requires something akin to a monk’s caliber of self-discipline. However, even the most disciplined writer is prone to moments of slacking. As writer John R. Perry describes in his book The Art of Procrastination, it’s possible to develop habits that will inspire you to work again by enhancing your mental stamina and imagination. On the other hand, there are some common habits that will only serve to deaden the senses and keep you even further from meeting your deadlines.

Here are some habits to avoid when you’re blocked:

1. Watching television

As American writer Gene Fowler once stated, “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” With all that mental stress and concentration, it can be very tempting to turn off the brain for a while and turn on the television. Don’t do it.

There are enough studies that have proven that watching television lowers intellect, dulls the senses and even impairs the metabolic system. According to a study published by professors at Tohoku University in Japan, it’s even been held responsible for producing brain damage in children. So, come on, put the remote down. There’s nothing for you there.

2. Surfing the internet

In this age of digital technology, with constant status updates and tweets providing a never-ending source of news and entertainment, many writers (like George RR Martin and Zadie Smith) have opted to chop temptation off at the knees by writing on computers that have no access to the internet. Writing and staying motivated to write are hard enough tasks, without adding to it the task of self-monitoring your internet addiction. Take advice from the experts and get rid of the internet while you’re writing.

3. Don’t allow interruptions

Zadie Smith advises “Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.” And Susan Sontag claims, “One can never be alone enough to write.”

Whether you realize it or not, taking a phone call from a friend or spouse, replying to an email, or attending to your children all take you out of the mental space you’ve created for your writing. It’s hard enough to create that space in the first place. Harder still to get back in once you’ve left it for the noble task of scrolling down your Facebook newsfeed (see rule #2).

4. Clutter/Ritual

Clutter can be as much a temptation as the Internet. When you sit down to write and the mind starts to wander, it will find any excuse not to write, including cleaning up clutter. Before you know it, you may not only have cleaned up your study but set about defrosting the freezer or degreasing the floor under the stove (which hadn’t been done since you moved in). And there’s nothing wrong with that besides the timing and motivation for doing it which is to put off writing.

Many writers create a ritual where they prepare their space for work before sitting down to write: removing clutter, sharpening pencils, putting on some classical music. Find anything that works for you. Friedrich Schiller kept a drawer full of rotten apples that he claimed inspired him. Collette picked fleas off of her dog and hunted them around the room until she was inspired to write. Alexandre Dumas had a rigorous color-coded system where he wrote his poetry on yellow paper, fiction on blue paper, and articles on pink. Woody Allen used to write while standing up in the subway in New York. Whatever works.

5. Don’t be a perfectionist

As Anne Lamott puts it in not so mild terms, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” Everyone wants to do well and get it right. But perfectionism rarely leads to good work, and most often leads to the abandonment of potentially wonderful work. Just get the words out. You can change them later.

Don’t try so much to control the flow, otherwise you’ll end up strangling it completely. Every word you write is practice. By censoring and editing before there’s even something to censor or edit, you’re not only failing to write but depriving yourself of the practice you need to write well.

There you have humble advice of professional writers to get you creating and keep you creative. Use it well and good luck!

5 Self-Publishing Myths Debunked by Writers

self-publishing myths debunked

It’s confusing, isn’t it? There’s so much written on both sides of the fence about self-publishing, it’s hard to know fact from fancy. Myths and stories abound about the pitfalls and pinnacles of the independent authors’ efforts to publish their creative expression.

There’s no doubt that self-publishing has gained enormous popularity. In May, 2013, Publishers Weekly reported that “Total e-book sales rose 44.2% in 2012, to $3.04 billion and accounted for 20% of trade revenue”. Impressive, for sure, but just how difficult is it for the average writer to have a measure of success as a self-published author?

We’ve turned to the experts for some answers – writers who have published traditionally and self-published, to see what we can glean from their experiences in busting through some of the more persistent myths about self-publishing.

Myth # 1: Success in self-publishing is a lottery, and you have to be lucky

Not True. In a post on Problogger, authors Johnny Truant and Sean Platt refer to this myth as “one-title thinking”. It’s the idea that in order to be successful you need to have a smash hit, a blockbuster that will bring fame and fortune.

Messrs. Truant and Platt refute this idea, believing that you don’t need a mega hit in order to be a “successful” author. Rather, a work ethic based on consistency, perseverance, and sound business sense will bring success over a period of time. Not the overnight, mega-hit success of celebrity pop culture, but the success that comes from focus, persistence, and constantly moving toward your goals.

They don’t really see it as a matter of luck, and offer a formula for producing consistent revenue: produce a book that earns just $200 per month, and repeat 20 – 30 times. What independent author wouldn’t enjoy an income of $4,000 – $6,000 a month?
As Emerson pointed out “Luck is tenacity of purpose.”

Myth # 2: You have more control as an independent author

True. In a recent article on the Huffington Post, hybrid author Holly Robinson gives this myth a “somewhat true” rating.

Ms. Robinson’s experience as a self-published author supports the position that you’ll have complete creative control over the writing and publishing process. The independent author has the final say in everything from writing to formatting, publishing and promotion schedules, release dates, pricing, design and cover art, marketing and branding – without interference. You’ll never have to compromise your work in order to suit a market that’s been chosen for you.

However, with that control comes all of the responsibility of making solo decisions. Yes, mistakes will be made, but with a bigger slice of the revenue pie, they’ll be easier to accept and learn from.

Myth # 3: You don’t have the right to be published if you’re not good enough to get an agent

Ouch. Not True. This myth drives right into the heart of many writers’ low self-esteem issues, and is cited in an article by Joel Friedlander, author and self-publisher. Mr. Friedlander lays this myth of unworthiness at the feet of hierarchical thinking, the concept that others are better qualified than the individual to determine what does and doesn’t get read. And that this “gatekeeper mentality” has been a cornerstone perspective of old business models, including those of publishing houses.

He goes on to point out that with the changing of the guard in the publishing arena, each individual writer is now responsible for what does and doesn’t get published. And this leaves the decisions of worth to the readers, who will have the final say in which author “rises to fame and fortune”.

Myth # 4: It costs more money up front to self-publish

True, but qualified. Posting a rebuttal in her blog to Kensington Publishing’s CEO Steven Zacharius’ article in the Huffington Post, hybrid author Laura Kaye agrees that initially, it can cost the self-published author more money to set up.

Covering the traditional publishing costs of cover art, formatting and editing are expenses that “most of the self-published authors pursuing publication of their books as a business are paying for”. But, as she explains, the upfront costs are compensated for in higher royalties; and gives us a detailed accounting of sales percentages for ebooks priced in the “sweet spot”, between $2.99 and $5.99.

Myth #5: Indie writers can’t get their books into bookstores

Not true, according to hybrid author Dean Wesley Smith. In his blog series Killing the Top Ten Sacred Cows of Indie Publishing, Mr. Smith refers to this as “the biggest myth to hit indie writers”. According to Mr. Smith, it’s simply a matter of knowing what to do; and lays out the following steps as being key for the independent author to get their books into bookstores:

  • Have a great cover, branded to genre.
  • Have a great sales blurb.
  • Have a publisher name. (Not your writers’ name, which bookstores will shy away from.)
  • Have a publisher website, and a separate author website.
  • Publish the discount schedule of a major bookseller on your publisher site.
  • Ensure your paper books are priced correctly.

Based on his experiences, following these basic steps is the secret to getting onto the shelves of bookstores – but it does require the willingness to learn and apply these techniques to enter into standard trades channels used by booksellers. And, as Mr. Smith points out “It’s easy, but it isn’t.”

There you have the opinions of five successful authors on some of the pervasive myths that surround self-publishing. Some debunked, others upheld. But one thing is certain: all of these writers believed in themselves enough to push past the stories and determine for themselves what is and isn’t true.

40 Web 2.0 Tools for Geeky Educators and College Students

Education tools

There are a number of resources that can make it easier for you to get information across to the students and help them share what they have learned. These Web 2.0 tools will help you save your time and stay organized throughout the school year. Here is a list of the top 40 best tools to make life easier once class is in session:

Classroom Tools

  1. Engrade is a platform that allows you to access your curriculum, grade book, seating chart, and connect with parents from your desktop or mobile device.

  2. Animoto is a simple tool that is used to create, customize and share video.

  3. Would you like to be able to make a worksheet or a class page and publish it online? Web Poster Wizard is a free tool with all of these capabilities.

  4. Check out Teacher Planet for lesson plans, rubics, worksheets, teacher tools, and custom certificates.

  5. If you’re not sure how to pronounce something correctly, Forvo can provide the correct way to say words in several languages.

  6. Online Stopwatch is a web-based tool you can use to time tests and assignments.

  7. Crocodoc allows you to convert PDF and Microsoft Office documents to HTML5. You can display students’ work in your browser and edit as required.

Aggregators

  1. FeedReader lets you search, subscribe and view all of your feeds in one convenient place online.

  2. Download RSSReader and display any Atom or RSS news feed. You also have the option of downloading RSS Publisher to create your own podcasts, blogcasts, vblogs, or photoblogs.

  3. . Awasu is a feed reader that is packed full of features for personal and professional information management.

  4. Get your news on your desktop with Aggie, a desktop application that downloads and displays it in a webpage.

  5. WikiNews allows readers to contribute stories for a global audience. Consider incorporating it into a class for your students.

Bookmark Managers

  1. Pinterest is like an online bulletin board. Use it for anything from lesson plans to crafts. You can also use it to network with fellow geeky educators.

  2. Don’t discount Twitter as a tool for managing bookmarks. Not only can it be used as a way to connect with a variety of people, but it can help you and your students keep track of bookmarks when conducting research.

  3. Diigo allows users to collect bookmarks, notes, screenshots and pictures and access them from a desktop computer, iPod, iPad, or Android.

  4. del.icio.us is a free online tool to save and organize bookmarks. Share it with your students so that they can keep their bookmarks organized, too.

Course Management

  1. Use Bubbl.us for class discussions. Students can see the ideas their classmates have mentioned and use them to fuel more interesting concepts.

  2. StudySync is marketed as “the ultimate reading and writing solution.” It helps students read at progressively higher levels using multimedia assignments.

  3. Use RCampus to build a personal or group website, build a virtual community, and manage your courses.

  4. If you want to create, collaborate, and present your ideas with your colleagues, Prezi is just the tool to help you do it.

  5. Foreign language teachers will find dotsub to be a very useful tool. It will help you caption and translate a 10-minute video.

Productivity

  1. If you need to manage multiple tasks, Remember the Milk can help you keep track of it all. Access it from your phone and manage your tasks offline.

  2. TiddlyWiki is a reusable, personal web notebook. Create documents and send them by e-mail, store them in Dropbox or store them on a USB thumb drive.

  3. Convert files without having to download software with Zamzar.

  4. Add 30 Boxes to Google’s Blogger or your Facebook page. You can share it with your friends, family members or students who need to keep track of project due dates.

  5. While you can’t get away from deadlines, HiTask’s drag and drop feature makes it easy to keep on top of the stuff you need to get done. Set meetings or reminders onto a calendar based on your schedule. You can also assign tasks to a certain person by name.

Content Management

  1. Do you have something to say? Start a free blog on the EduBlog platform. Add videos, photos, or podcasts quickly and easily.

  2. SchoolNotes allows you to create notes for class information or homework and post them online in just a few seconds. Parents and students can look for your notes by entering the school zip code into this free resource.

  3. Would you like to be able to share only a specific portion of a YouTube video with your students? TubeChop allow you to make a snippet for a lecture or classroom use.

  4. TeacherTube is your source for video, photo, and audio content. You can search for just the right item by subject, grade level, or how recently it was added.

Storage

  1. Your favorite three-ring binder lives online at LiveBinders.com. Use this resource to organize your resources and store them in one place.

  2. Streamline your lesson plans and collaborate with others using Planboard. It’s a free resource that allows you to select the days of the week and number of periods you will be teaching.

  3. Geeky educators can get up to 15 GB of storage at 4Shared. Use if for files, video, photos, books, or games.

  4. Upload and share photos, flash, audio files, video, and software with HyperFileShare. Anything up to 500 Mbytes can be uploaded, and you also have the option of sharing your files with the HFS community if you wish.

Collaboration

  1. Edmodo is a lot like Twitter, but it was developed for students and teachers. Share content among classmates or another school district.

  1. Skype in the Classroom is available as a free resource to teachers, and it can be used to connect one group of students with learners in another city, state, or country. It can also be used to connect with guest speakers for a project.

  2. Web surfing can now be a team sport with Twiddla. Browse through websites on a shared whiteboard in real time. Try it for 30 days for free.

  3. LiveText is a paid service that offers a solution for lesson planning and student assessment.

  4. Suggest that your students share their notes with each other by posting them with NoteMesh. This free service works by creating a wiki for each class that users are free to contribute to and edit.

  5. Consider Vyew for meetings or student projects. The free version is unlimited for up to 10 people. Continuous rooms are saved and always available. This service is compatible with Mac, PC, powerpoints, images, documents, videos, flash files and mp3s. The best part is that no installation is required.

There are even more kinds of Web 2.0 tools to help you on the job. With the variety available to choose from, you won’t have any difficulty in finding help to stay on track during the school year.

How Writing Can Make You Happier, Healthier and Emotionally Strong

how writing can make you happy

“Tears are words that need to be written.”

― Paulo Coelho

Writing is gut instinct communication at first. For the unpolished it’s rather rough and guttural, unsweetened. For the polished and seasoned writer, a road far less traveled, it often becomes easier to speak through the sounds of typing/scribbling than verbal conversation.

In whatever manner you write, and for any reason, it is an act of necessity. Some people only write in their checkbooks, but those brief descriptions and numbers provide a mental blanket of safety every month.

Others, they only write their prayers, to all manner of unforeseen forces but this uncertainty and mysticism adds flavor to what they perceive to be an otherwise mundane existence. Writing becomes the ultimate outlet of emotional baggage. Or, it can become a rather lucrative career, and through that writing becomes a great source of contentment and personal satisfaction.

Let’s take a look at how writing can promote emotional stability, happiness, and a greater degree of health in your life.

Writing Makes You Happier Individual

The next time you’re incredibly scared or worried, stressed that life may be turning down a dark road, write out a plan for survival and redemption. Before you finish the first sentence you’ll feel better. Why? Because writing is just a bunch of mini-tasks. This word then this word. One sentence at a time you begin to take back control.

You start to map out your ideas. You start writing out your asset list. You begin to craft a plan of attack! Writing makes you a happier person because there’s little else that can plausibly spawn from self-awareness.

  • Fiction writing can allow us to experience things that provide tremendous psychological benefit. Most of the time, it’s about escape and entertainment. Being someone, or somewhere that we might not ever really get a chance to be.
  • Non-fiction can become a way of teaching, training and helping other people. This in turn always makes us feel better, deep down in our core, to be alive. Imagine all the folks out there changing the world through modern self-publishing.
  • Web-writing and composing for a digital crowd can be quite the experience as well, allowing us to connect with people all over the world.

Being able to reach out and impact others, or just being able to make an impact on ourselves through writing is one of the reasons it has the potential to make us much happier human beings. Oh, and remember that the foundation for every major modern blockbuster movie started out as words on the page. Or, in the white.

Writing Makes You Healthier Person

In general, modern emerging philosophies tell is that we are what we think. Vast studies far and wide from all corners of the globe going back to when humans were first transplanted on Earth from Mars, show that happiness produces positive biological/physiological results.

From head to toe, why just the very act of flexing your “smile muscles” causes your brain to release pleasant neurochemicals.

  • For many people writing becomes a void where they deposit all the things that bog them down. As they uplift themselves, they smile more, exercise more, interact with others more and so on.
  • One of the very first things that every serious physical trainer, or fitness trainer, prescribes to their clients is a diet journal. Through writing down their foods and exercises they learn and craft for more perspective.
  • One of the first things that most psychologists and psychiatrists ask their patients to do is keep a life journal, or diary. It relieves stress and provides personal insight that leads to a better quality of life.

Writing Makes You Emotionally Stronger

Right, so as you may have already guessed this all adds to a bit more mental stability. For many fiction writers, it’s safe to explore insanity on the page, and it is in most cases. For non-fiction, the ability to be solidified in their knowledge is assuring, and inspires more confidence.

  • Writing makes you stronger the way lyrics empower a song; the way verse molds a poem; and the way notes can embolden a speech.
  • As writers gain experience, the tools they have at their disposal become more versatile. They’re able to express things is deeper, fulfilling and more interesting ways.
  • In school, all of the emotionality we envelope into our studies and performance is optimized through the act of writing. From research and term papers, to our essays and test answers.

The truth, nearly everyone writes in one form or another these days. As the virtual realm continues to explode, writing itself is taking on many new forms that serve many unprecedented purposes. Writing makes the human world go around, both on and offline. Whatever you can imagine it, write it, and begin it.

Put words into the white!

College Writing Prompts: 7 Hacks to Boost Your Productivity

college writing prompts

Whether you’re working on your mid-term paper or just a regular essay, writing can be a difficult job. Creativity doesn’t always flow when it should and plenty of writers sit down with every good intention, only to find themselves an hour later having accomplished nothing aside from trolling around online, playing games or suddenly feeling the need to reorganize their entire office. Although writing can be a daunting task, these 7 college writing prompts will help you get your creative juices flowing and get you on track to producing better papers without sweating the deadline.

Go Old School

When you’re stuck with that blinking cursor on your screen, it may be time to switch back to old school pen and paper. Several studies suggest that writing by hands helps to boost comprehension and improves the ability of writers to develop ideas. Many authors – including the likes of Truman Capote and Susan Sontag – have gone on record with their preference for writing in longhand and science has found there’s a reason why. One study out of the University of Washington had two groups of elementary students write an essay. The group writing by hand completed their essays more quickly and used more complete sentences than their keyboard using counterparts. Additional studies have found that writing by hand can:

  • prevent writers from being distracted
  • improve the flow of ideas for outlining
  • actively engage more areas of the brain, including motor skills and memory

Break Free From the Internet

When it comes to potential distractions, the internet reigns supreme. While having the internet on hand for on the fly research can be useful, it also proves too tempting for many people who find themselves distracted by incoming emails, instant messages, news feed updates and other routine distractions. Even a simple mission to do pure research can easily lead to skipping from one article to another, then another, then another, resulting in information overload. The best way to cut the habit even if your willpower is the size of a gnat? Applications that prevent you from hopping online. The problem of internet based distractions is common and there are several applications that can come to your rescue.

Anti-Social – If you find yourself scrolling through FaceBook, YouTube, Hulu, Twitter or any other social based website, Anti-Social is the answer you’ve been looking for. The program blocks any set of websites you determine and keeps you from logging onto them for a set amount of time.

Stay Focused – This addon for Google’s Chrome browser offers users the same option – name the websites you want to have off limits and set a timer.

Self Control – This open source program was originally programmed only for Mac OS systems, but has since been coded for both Linux and Windows users. It can be used to block websites, email or to keep you off the internet completely.

The Three B’s of Creativity

German psychologist Wolfgang Köhler originally wrote about the “Bed, Bath, Bus” phenomena in terms of its relationship with creativity. Inspiration tends to strike at the most unlikely times, but understanding why this happens can help you set the stage to get those ideas flowing. Scientists, researchers and writers who should be finishing their work have come up with several reasons why inspiration tends to hit during the most impractical moments. First, these activities tend to require little, if any, actual brain power, leaving your mind free to wander. These activities also make us very relaxed which increases the release of dopamine in our brains and throughout our nervous system.

Dopamine is responsible for just about every happy emotion you can imagine – including creativity. While the 3 B’s have become the standard list for helping to boost creativity, the truth is that any mindless but relaxing task can produce the same effect. When you’re stumped on where to go with a piece of writing take a walk, do the dishes, go for a run or head to the store to do some grocery shopping. The trick is to be sure you keep a pen and paper on you or use the voice notes function on your smartphone to capture those ideas when they hit.

Write About What You REALLY Want to Write About

Sometimes, no matter how good your intentions, all you really want to write about is the time you got beer drunk at your cousin’s wedding and professed your undying love to the bartender. If your brain is stuck on a particular theme, scene or story, just get it out. Writing about whatever has your mind so preoccupied will help to clear the slate and get the ball rolling. Just because you write it doesn’t mean you have to show it to anyone and the process of simply getting it down on paper (or screen) can get your creative juices flowing as well as giving your brain a chance to stretch, so to speak.

Break Out the Right Music

The effects of music has become one of the more popular areas of research in recent years. This is due, in part, to how portable music has become. Many people now carry entire libraries of music with them and can, at any time, call up favorite albums or playlists with the simple swipe of a finger. Researchers have found that music has a direct impact on our brains and have broken it down to music that is over 60 beats per minute (BPM) and that which is under that threshold. As you might imagine, the higher the beat the more energizing the effects. High energy techno, dance music and hard rock all quicken the heart rate, breathing and can even increase blood pressure. Slower music produces a calming effect and can reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. Mix up your favorite music to keep yourself going – keep up the beat, keep up the work!

Time Yourself

Tim management skills are sometimes seen as only useful for those in the corporate world but the truth is most people could do with some help when it comes to prioritizing and getting things done. There are a number of ways to go about this and one of the most popular is the Ten Minute Blitz. Simply set a timer for 10 minutes and focus on getting one task done. Ten minutes may not seem like much, but you’ll probably be surprised at just how much you can get accomplished. For more involved tasks, such as research or writing, many people prefer the Pomodoro Technique, which sets up time in 25 minute intervals, with a 5 to 10 rest period between cycles. The cycle is repeated four times in a row, with a longer break (15-30 minutes) after the fourth round of focused, 25 minute work. This can be done easily by using a kitchen timer or you can use applications such as Time Out to track how long you’ve worked and build in automatic reminders to take a break in order to keep your mind sharp and avoid burn out.

Burn that midnight oil. Getting up early is one of the best ways to stay ahead of the game and increase the chances of you getting into the flow of essay writing.

7 Writing Tips You Will Never Hear in College

Writing Tips College

Most students learn how to write by composing essays, term papers and research projects for history, literature, political science and other classes. Writing classes themselves tend to be filled with people who already love to write and who simply want to find ways to hone their craft more fully.

While there’s nothing wrong with being attracted to the writing life, others simply need to find ways to compose papers that communicate effectively and stand out just enough to score a few extra points. There are plenty of standard tips on how to write more effectively, but here we’ve unearthed seven unconventional tips you won’t likely hear from your professors, but which can easily help you impress them.

1. Play to Your Strengths on Subjects

The old adage of ‘write what you know’ may work for struggling artists, but college students don’t always have that option. When your class is studying the colonization of the Americas, you can’t exactly turn in a paper about how to survive a zombie apocalypse. However, usually students are able to choose which specific story or slice of history their paper will focus on in addition to the type of paper it is. For example, early American history may still be new to you, but you can use your interest in post-apocalyptic movies to write about the challenges, obstacles and life threatening viral outbreaks settlers had to contend with.

2. Find Your Voice

When writing an essay, you’ll typically choose between writing a narrative, descriptive, expository or persuasive paper. In some cases, the tone of the paper may be assigned, but when you have the opportunity to choose the type of paper yourself, once again, play to your strengths. If you grew up arguing with brothers and sisters, a persuasive essay will be an easy approach for you. Conversely, if you’ve been described as having a Vulcan-like personality, an expository essay will allow you to deliver the facts and leave readers with the opportunity to draw their own conclusions. Choosing the right approach and the right topic can make your essay writing experience much easier.

3. Go Old School

The most difficult part of any writing project can be simply getting started. Recent studies in the field of neuroscience have suggested that writing in longhand stimulates different areas of the brain and can even have an impact on editing and even writing style. One study asked participants to write creatively both in longhand and using a keyboard. Participants changed the style in which they wrote with each change. Overall, writing in longhand appears to encourage more creative thinking and brainstorming than typing on a keyboard.

4. Watch the Jargon

Writing on a difficult or complicated subject at the college level lends itself to using plenty of jargon. Although you want to establish that you understand the subject and the field you’re writing in, stuffing an essay with too much jargon can cloud your message and make it hard for readers to understand what you’re saying. You don’t need to impress your professor with a jargon filled paper. Instead, use industry related terms and phrases sparingly and prove that you can discuss this complex issue or intricate topic in a way that makes it accessible and easy to understand for any audience.

5. You Don’t Have to Start at the Beginning

It’s human nature to feel as though we need to start at the beginning but writing doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you’ll know where you want to end up, so beginning with your conclusion gives you the chance to set the stage for your destination, then you just need to get there. Other times, you’ll have the perfect wording for the body of your essay even though you have no idea how you want to begin or where your essay may lead. That’s fine – start with what you know or where you feel more comfortable, the rest will come naturally as you write.

6. Write Drunk, Edit Sober

This bit of advice was originally made famous by Ernest Hemingway, who also warned that “The first version of anything is shit.” The art of writing has long been linked to the love of drinking and, for some, it’s the best way to loosen their tongue and get those creative juices flowing. Drinking lowers inhibitions and silences your critic long enough for you to pound out that all important first draft. Once you’ve gotten the bones of your essay written down, begin tweaking and revising at least a day later.

7. Read Out Loud

Reading through your final draft a few times is pretty standard advice. Reading through that final draft out loud, however, can highlight clumsy phrasing and awkward word choices that would otherwise get glossed over. Read your paper aloud or, better yet, have someone else read it for you. If they stumble over something or pause as they’re reading, chances are you need to tighten up your wording.

How to Use Comma in a Sentence with Because

comma in a sentence with because

Communicating effectively is as much about punctuation as it is about vocabulary. Knowing which words help you to express yourself clearly is important, but how the message gets across can be hugely impacted by choices in punctuation.

Understanding this and mastering proper grammar usage can help to make communication more effective and more entertaining since it frees you up to express yourself with clarity and humor. In many cases, understanding basics, such as comma usage, is fairly straightforward. Sometimes, however, it can become a tricky issue, depending on the words you want to use.

Because, Commas And How They Go Together

Understanding when to use a comma when using because means understanding exactly what you want to say. Simply put, comma placement can determine the message your writing conveys. Consider these two examples:

Michael did not win, because he changed lanes.

Michael did not win because he changed lanes.

In the first example, Michael lost because he chose to change lanes during the race. In the second example, however, the meaning is less clear. Did Michael lose because he changed lanes? Or did he win, but for some reason other than changing lanes? In this case, using a comma makes the sentence more readable and helps to improve clarity.

A sentence beginning with the word ‘because’ will often require a comma as a way of separating the two independent, but connected, clauses. Because we use so many sentence structures, it is important to understand how grammar helps to improve communication. See how that works? In this example, the use of a comma is the same as it would be for any other sentence – it simply makes the sentence read better.

Because Changes! Linguistic Evolution in Action

The word because has evolved from a simple conjunction to a prepositional phrase. The used of ‘because’ with a noun, as in “I didn’t get my paper done in time because Internet” has become increasingly popular thanks to internet memes and online usage in order to assign blame or determine an origin. A few examples include:

  • Evolution is real, because science.
  • I made this picture because procrastination.
  • Students today can’t spell, because spell-checker.
  • No work Monday because holidays!

This new and evolving use of the word ‘because’, referred to commonly as ‘Because + Noun’ brings with it a whole new level of comma usage – one that hasn’t fully been worked out yet. As a rule, this new usage doesn’t hit the mark in terms of proper usage for papers, tests and essays. Watching how this new usage evolves, however, gives people the chance to see linguistic evolution in action, much in the same way people were able to see the evolution of ‘friend’ from common noun to verb after the advent of ‘friending’ someone through social media.

Using a comma in a sentence which uses ‘because’ as a conjunction is determined by the message you want to convey. Simply put, when ‘because’ is used to establish information which cannot be separated from the main idea, leave the sentence comma free. A comma should be used in order to improve readability and meaning or to separate two independent, but connected, sentences. As with any sentence, the inclusion or exclusion of a comma can later the meaning significantly, so read it both ways in order to determine if your comma is necessary.