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30+ Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin Terms

30+ Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin Terms

bitcoin-terms

Most of us heard or read stories about cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, blockchain and so on over the past few years. Few of us, however, understand what those terms mean. Given that those technologies are probably here to stay, writers and readers alike would benefit from a basic understanding of the terminology involved. Below you will find an initial list with 32 terms. We plan to update it as new ones appear.

1. Bitcoin
Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency. It is the first and most famous cryptocurrency, having being launched in 2009 by an unknown person or organization under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The main goal of Bitcoin is to create a currency that doesn’t rely on a central authority or government, as this feature should give it many benefits, including lower transaction costs. When it was launched the cost of one Bitcoin was only a couple of cents, and late in 2017 the price of one Bitcoin skyrocketed to almost $20,000, crashing after a couple of months to around $7,000. This meteoric rise and fall contributed to increasing the interest in this cryptocurrency around the world.

2. BTC
Each cryptocurrency has a 3-letter symbol that is used to designate it on trading platforms. This is similar to the symbols used on stock exchanges to designate specific companies and stock. BTC is the symbol of Bitcoin.

3. Blockchain
This is the core technology behind Bitcoin and most other cryptocurrencies. Some people argue that this innovation has more value than Bitcoin itself, because it can be used on countless future projects. The basic idea is to organize all the transactions of a system (i.e. Bitcoin payments) into blocks, and then to connect those blocks in a chain using cryptography. The cryptographic functions ensure that all the transactions on the blockchain are valid, and anyone can check this information, as it is public. On top of that it is impossible to remove or change past transactions, making the system secure. An alternative way of seeing the blockchain is as an open, distributed digital ledger.

4. Cryptocurrency
A digital currency which relies on cryptography to validate transactions, removing the need to have a trusted central authority reporting which transaction is valid and which is not. Bitcoin is the most popular one but today we have over 1000 cryptocurrency projects on the market.

5. Altcoin
A nickname given to all cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin, derived from “alternative coin.” Bitcoin was the only cryptocurrency on the market for many years, and that is why when new ones appeared they received this nickname.

6. ICO
Acronym for Initial Coin Offering. This event happens when a crypto project launches its currency or tokens in the market, allowing the first investors to purchase them. The process is similar to an IPO, where a company offers its shares to the public for the first time. Notice that when you invest in an ICO, however, you are not buying equity from that project. Instead, you are buying the coins or tokens of such project, and investors do so hoping that such coins will increase in value over time.

7. Ethereum
Currently Ethereum is the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. The goal of this project is to allow programmers to easily create smart contracts (see below) as if they were writing a simple computer software.

8. Cryptography
The study of strategies and technical implementations to guarantee the privacy and integrity of information exchanged between two or more parties. For example, if you want to send a message to a friend and want to make sure that only him will be able to read it you could substitute each letter on your message with a specific number or symbol. Only the person in possession of the substitution table (i.e. your friend) will be able to revert the list of numbers or symbols into the original message. Cryptography appeared thousands of years ago due to the need of private communications in military contexts and during wars.

9. Decentralization
This is perhaps the most important characteristic of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency projects. By not having a central authority (i.e. by being decentralized) cryptocurrencies have advantages over fiat currencies and other payment methods. Those advantages include a limited monetary supply (which can make the value of the cryptocurrency increase over time) and, in theory, lower transaction costs.

10. Wallet
Software that allows you to store cryptocurrency, and to send and receive payments.

11. Hot wallet
A cryptocurrency wallet that is connected to the Internet. It can be a web application or a mobile application. A hot wallet gives you more convenience, because you can instantly send and receive payments using it. That being said they are less secure because hackers can try to gain access through the Internet.

12. Cold wallet
A wallet that is not connected to the Internet. You can install such software on a USB drive, for instance. Cold wallets are not convenient to use but they are much more secure because the hacker would need physical access to try compromising the wallet.

13. Private key
A private key (i.e. a sequence of randomly generated characters) is what allows you to spend the cryptocurrency funds in your wallet. It is like a password that you need to make payments and send funds from your wallet. If you lose it you will not be able to access your funds, and there’s no way to recover it.

14. Network confirmation
Remember that Bitcoin (like other cryptocurrencies) is a decentralized digital currency, so there is no company or central authority confirming if a given transaction is valid or not. The Bitcoin network itself will confirm each transaction. Each node (see below) will check each transaction and confirm or deny its validity. The larger the number of confirmations a transaction has, the higher the probability that it is valid. Currently, with six confirmations you have 99.9% of certainty that the transaction is valid.

15. Node
A computer which is connected to the Internet and runs the software of a given cryptocurrency. Nodes are responsible for validating transactions and packaging those transactions inside new blocks on the blockchain. In other words, it is the network of nodes that keeps a cryptocurrency running.

16. Light node
It represents a computer running a light version of the cryptocurrency software which offers a limited amount of features, usually including payment verification. Some cryptocurrency projects allow light nodes to exist with the goal of increasing the total number of nodes available, possibly increasing the efficiency of the network and reducing the time to validate transactions.

17. Full node
A computer running the full software of a cryptocurrency project, which includes all the transactions (and therefore all blocks) ever registered for this particular cryptocurrency. Running a full node is the only possible way to verify a transactions without relying on a third party.

18. Consensus
Since cryptocurrencies don’t have a central authority determining which transactions are valid and which are not and in which order they took place, the network of nodes, relying purely on software and algorithms, needs to reach an agreement regarding those factors. Such an agreement is called network consensus.

19. Token
Cryptocurrencies were originally developed to be used as electronic cash. Over time, however, people realized that the same technology (i.e. blockchain) could be used for other purposes, most notably smart contracts (see below). Units of those crypto projects that aim to have functionality beyond those of a digital currency are usually called tokens.

20. Security token
This is a subcategory of tokens which usually represent real-life assets like company shares, real estate and so on. Security tokens are expected to make buying, selling and trading those assets much more efficient, even though they are subject to more regulation than other crypto projects.

21. Smart contract
A digital contract that gets automatically executed by software upon its completion. Suppose you want to make a bet with a friend about whether or not it will rain tomorrow. You could use a smart contract for such a bet. Both you and your friend would deposit the money into a temporary Bitcoin wallet, and the software itself would verify whether or not there was rain on that specific day. The software would then transfer the money to the winning party. As you can see, using a smart contract has some advantages, as it can give more security to both sides as well as impartiality when evaluating the results.

22. Mining
As explained above, network nodes are responsible for validating individual transactions. Once there are enough outstanding transactions a node can create a new block on the blockchain by solving a cryptographic challenge. The node that first solves such challenge will get rewarded a certain amount of units of that cryptocurrency (e.g. on the Bitcoin network nodes get rewarded Bitcoins for adding new blocks). The process of validating transactions and adding new blocks to the blockchain is called mining. This nickname was created because it is through this process that the amount of Bitcoin in circulation increases, similar to what happens with precious metals like gold.

23. Miner
A person, group of people or company involved with mining a specific cryptocurrency.

24. CPU
Acronym for Central Processing Unit. This electronic component is the brain of the computer, being responsible for carrying out logic and mathematical operations. If you are a miner, the more CPU power you have available the higher the chances that you will be able to solve the cryptographic challenges when mining Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

25. GPU
Acronym for Graphical Processing Unit. This is a special purpose component in computers which is responsible for processing graphics. Some cryptocurrency projects have algorithms that allow for GPUs to be used in the mining process more efficiently than CPUs.

26. Satoshi
Satoshi Nakamoto is the name of the person or entity that originally released the Bitcoin paper and software. Satoshi is also the name of the smallest unit of Bitcoin, representing one hundred millionth of a single Bitcoin.

27. Fork
This is a software development term that also applies to cryptocurrency projects. When a fork happens, the current source code of the software is copied and used to start a new, independent version of the software. Usually a different team of programmers is responsible for the new version, and they carry out the fork because they want to have the autonomy to make modifications and/or improvements that the previous development team didn’t agree with. In the cryptocurrency world the most famous case is Bitcoin Cash, which was forked from the original Bitcoin in 2017. The developers behind Bitcoin Cash wanted to increase the size of the blocks on the Bitcoin blockchain, so that they could contain a larger number of transactions and thus be more efficient. Since the Bitcoin development team didn’t agree with this modification, the fork took place, practically creating a rival to Bitcoin.

28. Exchange
An online platform where users can exchange one cryptocurrency for another. Some exchanges also allow users to exchange crypto currencies for fiat currencies and vice versa.

29. Stable coin
A cryptocurrency which is backed by a fiat currency (e.g. the US dollar) or a commodity (e.g. gold). The idea behind stable coins is to provide liquidity and security for users who wish to temporarily sell their cryptocurrencies without removing their funds from the exchange.

30. Tether
The largest stable coin in the market with a market cap of around $2 billion.

31. Double spending
A type of financial fraud or attack. It involves spending the same amount of money twice, hoping that the second entity receiving the payment will not realize or not be able to verify that the money has already been spent on a previous transaction. This type of attack has happened with smaller cryptocurrency projects, however there is no confirmation of this attack happening with larger projects like Bitcoin or Ethereum.

32. 51% attack
Since cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin do not have a central authority, it is the consensus of the network nodes that determine which transactions are valid and which are not. If a malicious user controls 51% of the network nodes he might be able to validate his own fraudulent transactions. The larger the number of nodes in the network, the harder it is to make this attack, and so far none of the popular crypto projects has suffered from it.

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Top 10 Online Tools for Book Authors

Top 10 Online Tools for Book Authors

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Writing and publishing a book is a huge (and wonderful) undertaking – and you’ll want all the help you can get.

There are loads of great downloadable tools out there for book authors, like Scrivener (for writing), Calibre (for producing ebooks) and KDP Rocket (for finding good keywords to use on Amazon).

But in this post, I want to focus on online tools – ones that you can use through your web browser.

Here are ten of the best, for different stages of your author journey:

Tools for Writing and Editing Your Manuscript

I’ve already taken a look at some useful tools to help you focus and get your writing done in Top 10 Online Tools for Writers – so here, I want to focus on a couple of tools that will help you edit your book manuscript:

#1: Visuwords (free)

Do you ever struggle to find the right word? If a traditional thesaurus isn’t helping, try using Visuwords, which shows you the links between different words (including opposites, related topics, and words that derive from your original word). It might just help you find the perfect word or phrase when you’re struggling. The map above shows the word “anarchy” and related terms.

Tip: By running your cursor over a word, you can view a definition – and you can double-click a word to see its related words on your map, too.

#2: WordCounter (free), Steven Morgan Friedman

It can be tricky to spot which words come up just a little too often in your own writing – but if you keep using the same ones again and again, readers will start to notice. That’s fine if you want to repeat a particular word for effect, but problematic if it’s unintentional.

Once you’ve got your list of potentially over-used words, you can do a “Find” in your document to check each instance and see whether you want to vary it. Here’s a list from my novella-in-progress:

(I’m happy with many of those – Flint, Jonathan, Corwin and Ruth are all character names, so it’s perfectly normal that they appear a lot. I suspect I’m using “go” and “just” a bit too often, though!)

Wordcounter is quite bare-bones, and I found that while it ignores punctuation like commas and periods, it includes quotation marks and apostrophe, meaning that some words will get listed twice, and also occasionally lists some odd words (I apparently have 60 instances of the word “ey” in my novella, which I haven’t ever used…!)

Tip: There’s also a WordPress plugin version of the tool, which you might want to use if you’re writing blog posts – either to check for words that you overuse, or to check if you’ve included keywords as much as you wanted to.

 

Tools for Publishing Your Book

I’m going to assume here that you want to self-publish your book – so if you’re planning to seek an agent and publisher, you’ll want to skip this section. (However your book is published, though, you’ll find the “Tools for Marketing Your Book” list useful.)

#3: Smashwords (free), Smashwords, Inc

Smashwords is a tool for self-publishers to format and distribute their ebook(s) to readers through a variety of different platforms (such as through Apple’s iBooks stores and through the Kobo store.) They offer loads of advice on self-publishing, too, particularly through the Smart Author Podcast.

You can also sell books through – and indeed buy books from – Smashwords itself. Most authors, though, use it primarily as an easy way to get their ebook into lots of different online stores. The one big exception is Amazon: you can’t easily get your book onto Amazon through Smashwords. That’s not too much of a problem, though, because Amazon’s own system (KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing) is straightforward and easy to work with. We’re going to cover that in a moment.

It’s completely free to create an ebook through Smashwords, but Smashwords will take a small commission on each ebook you sell – and the stores you sell through will also take a cut.

Tip: You need to format your manuscript carefully according to theSmashwords Style Guide. If you don’t, it’ll either be rejected, or you’ll find that it comes out looking a bit weird!

#4: Amazon KDP (free), Amazon

Amazon is the biggest ebook retailer there is … and they make it pretty straightforward to add your own ebook to their vast catalogue. You can sign up for KDP using your existing Amazon account (or you can create a new Amazon account).

The KDP dashboard allows you to publish (or update) your ebooks and to see reports on your ebook sales. While it’s free to use Amazon’s KDP to publish your work, Amazon will take a fairly hefty cut of everything you sell – paying you “royalties” out of your book’s cover price. If you price your ebook between $0.99 and $2.98, or above $9.99, you’ll get 35% royalties; if you price between $2.99 and $9.99, you’ll get 70% royalties. (You can’t price an ebook lower than $0.99.)

Tip: Before Amazon can pay you, you’ll need to enter your tax information. You don’t need to have this to hand to start selling your ebook(s), though.

#5: CreateSpace (free), Amazon

While it’s possible to publish a paperback version of your ebook through KDP, CreateSpace is a more established option. (KDP’s paperback publishing is becoming better all the time, though, and you might want to check out this article by Dave Chesson for a side-by-side comparison of KDP Paperback and Createspace.)

As with KDP, you can use your existing Amazon details for CreateSpace. You don’t need to pay anything upfront to publish a book through CreateSpace – but you’ll find that the printing costs eat up a fair percentage of the cover price. The paperback version of my novel Lycopolis, for instance, is priced at $12.99 in the US; I get a royalty of $3.32 on each copy sold.

Tip: Although CreateSpace offers a “cover creator” so you can design your own ebook cover, it’s not the greatest tool to work with. If you just want to publish a print version for your personal use, or perhaps to give to a few friends, it’ll do – but I’d avoid using it for a professional-looking book.

 

Tools for Marketing Your Book

Once your book is up for sale, the hard work really begins! Marketing a book, whether fiction or non-fiction, is a huge task … but these online tools can give you a helping hand.

#6: A-FWD (“Link Globalizer for Amazon Affiliates And Authors”), Woboq

If you haven’t already signed up to Amazon’s Affiliate scheme, I highly recommend doing so. You can earn a little extra on books you sell via your affiliate links (and you’ll be able to track how many sales you’re making through your own website, tweets, etc – as opposed to sales you’re getting through other channels).

Unless your book is very specific to a particular country, you’ll probably be selling it worldwide, on different versions of Amazon’s site. Ideally, you want potential new readers to land on their version of Amazon. That means using a special link that can direct readers based on their location.

And that’s where A-FWD comes in. Just paste in your affiliate link – the full version, not the short one – from your local Amazon, and you’ll get a single link that should direct readers to their Amazon (regardless of whether you have an affiliate account there or not).

Tip: If you have affiliate accounts for more than one version of Amazon, make sure you paste those in under “Tracking IDs” (or you may find that your affiliate sales don’t get counted).

#7: WordPress (free), WordPress Foundation

At some stage in your author journey, you’re going to want to have a website or a blog. WordPress is a great way to build either.

You can opt for WordPress.com aka “hosted WordPress” (which is easier and cheaper to get started with, but more limited) or WordPress.org aka “self-hosted WordPress” (which offers lots of flexibility and full control, but has a slightly steeper learning curve and means paying for a domain and hosting up-front). There’s a handy summary of the differences on the WPBeginner.com blog.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to blog as an author – you might simply want to use WordPress to create a straightforward websites that showcases your books.

Tip: You can set up a completely free blog using WordPress.com, so if you’re feeling a bit daunted by the idea of blogging (or having a website), why not create a “practice” one so you can try it out?

#8: MailChimp, The Rocket Science Group

If you read any blogs aimed at book authors, one key piece of advice you’ll come across is to “create a mailing list”. This allows you to email interested readers who’ve signed up to receive updates from you.

You might think you could simply email readers through your regular email account – but this is a really bad idea. First, it means collating email addresses manually, which is an administrative headache. Second, and most importantly, it could easily see you falling foul of laws like CAN-SPAM (in the US) and GDPR (in the UK).

There are plenty of online tools, though, that you can use to create an email list: readers can sign up and get added to the list at any time of the day or night, and you can create nicely formatted emails to send them. I’ve chosen MailChimp here as it’s free up to the 2,000 subscriber point … but there are plenty of other good options, like Aweber and Constant Contact.

Tip: Email marketing, like blogging, can seem very daunting at first. Do give it a try: you can always set up a small mailing list with just yourself (and maybe a couple of willing family members or friends) on it, so you can test out your emails before sending them to readers.

#9: Canva (free), Canva

You can use Canva to create almost anything that involves images and graphics – from book covers to posters, leaflets, and designs for Facebook, Instagram and other social networks. If you’re not yet at the stage of your author career where you can afford a professional designer, Canva could be a great option for you.

There are lots of premade templates that you can use and thousands upon thousands of images – creating the perfect Facebook cover or business card could be just a few clicks away. Note that not but all images are free: you’ll need to pay $1 in order to use some of them. Plus, some of Canva’s features (like being able to use your previous designs as a template) are only available at the premium, paid-for level.

Tip: While Canva is a great way to create promotional materials, it’s still a very good idea to go with a professional designer for your book cover itself (unless you’re an artist/designer and know what you’re doing).

#10: NovelRank (free), NovelRank LLC

NovelRank lets you track your sales across different Amazon sites (.com, co.uk, .fr, etc). It tells you where your book ranks in the charts, estimates sales made, and more. It’s free to use at the basic level – in fact, you don’t even need to create an account if you only want to track one book.

Note that NovelRank can only show your sales from the point at which you set it up, as Amazon doesn’t provide historical data.

Tip: As well as NovelRank, there are plenty of other tools that offer similar services, like BookCore (which is more basic, but works across multiple platforms).

 

I hope you’ll find the above tools helpful in your own journey to publication. Don’t feel that you have to use or even try all of them: pick and choose based on what you need right now, and take things step by step. Best of luck with your book!

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Incomplete Thought Writing Mistakes

Incomplete Thought Writing Mistakes

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Writers sometimes sabotage their efforts to express themselves by leaving key information out of a sentence, resulting in confusing statements. Each of the following examples suffers from obfuscation due to one of more missing words. Discussion after each sentence explains the problem, and a revision provides a solution.

1. It has been called one of, if not the best film Smith has directed.

This type of error, frequently committed by professional and amateur writers alike, is the result of an attempt to create a parenthetical parallel, one that fails because the sentence lacks all the necessary elements. In most attempts of this type, an additional comma would follow film, to set off the parenthetical, but the sentence is syntactically invalid when the supposedly expendable parenthetical is omitted; the result is “It has been called one of Smith has directed.” The flaw here and in similar erroneous constructions is that the key phrase must be repeated, appearing in both the main clause and the parenthetical: “It has been called one of the best films, if not the best film, Smith has directed.” (Remove the parenthetical, and the main clause is syntactically sound: “It has been called one of the best films Smith has directed.”)

2. Lenders should proactively assess their ability and success in providing capital to minorities and their communities.

The mistake here is the writer’s assumption that ability and success are parallel, but each word is merely the basis of corresponding phrases that must be extended and located appropriately: However, not only do they require distinct prepositions, but providing is the correct inflection of the verb only in reference to success, so the sentence must be further revised for it to make grammatical sense: “Lenders should proactively assess their ability to provide, and success in providing, capital to minorities and their communities.” (To avoid the parenthetical phrase, revise as shown here: “Lenders should proactively assess their ability to provide capital to minorities and their communities and their success in doing so.”)

3. The product’s naturally occurring electrolytes are significantly higher than other brands.

Other brands are erroneously compared with electrolytes; the comparison should be between the electrolytes in one product and the electrolytes in other brands, so either electrolytes or a pronoun representing it, plus the preposition in, must be inserted into the sentence: “The product’s naturally occurring electrolytes are significantly higher than those in other brands.”

4. Financial institutions are no longer required to implement the rule and retain the option of including mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.

This sentence does not intend to express that two requirements for financial institutions have been lifted; the intention is to state that one requirement has been lifted, while an option has been retained. To indicate that these are separate points, the sentence should be structured to consist of two independent clauses separated by punctuation and a conjunction: “Financial institutions are no longer required to implement the rule, and they retain the option of including mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.”

5. Most categories show decreased totals compared to our results from last year.

The equivalents here are not totals in most categories and results from last year; they are totals in most categories this year and totals in most categories last year. That equivalence is expressed simply by inserting the pronoun those and the preposition in before the phrase describing the comparison: “Most categories show decreased totals compared to those in our results last year.”

6. Machines are so much better at analyzing large volumes of data than people.

The implication is that machines perform analysis of large volumes of data better than they perform analysis of people, but the point is that machines outperform people in analyzing large volumes of data; to clarify the correspondence between machines and people, simply tack a verb onto the end of the sentence: “Machines are so much better at analyzing large volumes of data than people are.”

7. Contracting teams may also want to identify contracts just below that threshold but that would be profitable if renegotiated at higher rates.

“That is” or “that are” (or that followed by another “to-be” verb form), like that itself, are sometimes optional in a sentence, but if one of two corresponding phrases is preceded by such a phrase, the other must be as well: “Contracting teams may also want to identify contracts that are just below that threshold but that would be profitable if renegotiated at higher rates.” Alternatively, the sentence may be revised to convey correspondence with other wording: “Contracting teams may also want to identify contracts just below that threshold but potentially profitable if renegotiated at higher rates.”

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How to Focus When You’re Writing

How to Focus When You’re Writing

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Do you ever find yourself distracted when you’re writing?

I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who could honestly answer “no” to that question!

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, checking the news headlines, browsing a few webcomics, answering emails, ordering that book from Amazon you’d forgotten about … there are so many distractions just a click away.

The good news is, there’s plenty you can do to help yourself to focus as you write.

I’ve split my suggestions into three different categories, so you can tackle whichever area you feel is holding you back the most (or whichever is easiest for you to change right now). They are:

  • How to make your writing environment work for you
  • What to do before you write
  • What to do while you’re writing

I’ve also included a bonus tip on something you can do after you write, to help you gradually focus better over time.

How to Make Your Writing Environment Work For You

#1: Get Away from Home

If you normally write at home, try writing in a local coffee shop (or library, etc) instead. This cuts out a ton of potential distractions … and a change of scene can make it much easier to be creative.

Some of my best, most focused, writing happens when I get away for an afternoon, evening and morning at a local hotel. There’s no laundry pile, no dishes, no kids, no TV, and the wifi there doesn’t work on my ailing laptop. I can write for hours!

Even if you can’t get away for very long, just an hour in a coffee shop might be enough to help you get past a creative block that you’ve been struggling with.

#2: Get Rid of Intrusive Noise

When I’m in the writing zone, I tune out pretty much everything (including my long-suffering husband). But getting into that zone in the first place can be tricky if there’s a lot of distracting noise going on.

In our house, “noise” is normally the kids playing / fighting / singing at the top of their lungs. Maybe that sounds all too familiar to you – or maybe the noise you’re trying to block out is construction work going on nearby, or your roommate watching yet another repeat of Friends. Whatever the noise, a pair of headphones will help (I like in-ear ones, because they’re cheap and act a bit like earplugs to muffle external noise).

It’s entirely up to you what you listen to: some writers like to focus with ambient sound from a site like Noisli.com; others like movie soundtracks; still others pick a particular artist, album or even song that fits with the mood of their work-in-progress. Do whatever works for you.

#3: Sit at a Desk or Table

If you normally write while sitting on the sofa, or even while lying in bed, try sitting at a table or desk instead – even if that means clearing some space or rearranging a room. You might find it makes a huge difference to your concentration levels.

As well as feeling more like a “work” space, a seat at a table or desk is likely to be better for your posture than hunching over with your laptop on your lap, or lying in bed with your laptop propped up on your knees. (If you do decide to stick with your sofa or bed, though, you might want to  look into something like a laptop bed tray to make it easier to write there.)

What To Do Before You Write

#4: Make a Plan

Whatever you’re about to write, you need a plan. That might be a few words scribbled on a sticky note, or it might be a detailed document outlining your whole book. But whatever your plan looks like, it’s a vital tool for keeping you on track and focused.

If you begin writing without a plan, it’s all too easy to lose focus. You don’t know where you’re going next – and as soon as you come to the natural end of one train of thought, you’ll probably find yourself getting distracted by something that has nothing to do with your writing at all.

#5: Set a Goal for Your Writing Session

What do you want to achieve during your writing session? If you’re writing, say, a blog post, you might simply want to work through your plan – but if you’re working on part of a longer project, you may need to come up with a specific goal.

For instance, if you’re writing a novel, your goal might be “write the first 1,000 words of chapter 10” or “write the scene with Jo confronting Dwayne”.

If you find that setting goals can be daunting or off-putting rather than helpful, you might want to set a “minimum” goal and a “stretch” goal – that might be “write 200 words” as the minimum and “write 1,000 words” as your stretch goal. Even if you only achieve the minimum, you can still give yourself a pat on the back.

#6: Decide How Long You’ll Focus For

You don’t necessarily need to work with 100% focus for the whole of your writing session. You might decide to focus for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. (Those particular time intervals are part of the Pomodoro technique, which you might find helpful.) Set a timer to keep you on track as you write.

While the timer is running, your job is to only write – you can’t check emails, go on Facebook, and so on. It might feel surprisingly hard at first to stay focused in this way, but you’ll soon find it becomes more natural.

If you’re fighting a long-entrenched distractibility habit, you might want to use an app like Freedom.to to help you – you can block specific websites, or even the whole internet, for a period of time.

What to Do While You Write

#7: Keep a “Distractions” Notebook to Hand

One simple tool that I find very helpful is a notebook, diary or even scrap of paper where I can jot down distractions. These are often things I need to remember to do (“Order Le Guin book” is on my list right now, because as I was drafting this post, I remembered that the science fiction book group I attend is meeting in a couple of weeks…)

You can use a distractions list not only for “to do” items, though, but also for impulses that crop up. Stuff like “see what’s new on xkcd” or “look up next season of Lucifer” can go on your list, too! Once you get to a break, you can delve into some of those distractions, guilt-free.

#8: Don’t Stop to Look Things Up

How often are you writing a blog post (or a scene of your novel, or a chapter of your book) – only to realise that you need to look up a name or a fact or a link?

And how often do you stop, look it up … and end up spending the next half an hour in an internet rabbit-hole?

I do this more often than I’d care to admit! But as much as possible, I try to not look things up when I’m writing. Instead, I put a [note to self] in square brackets in my draft, so I can come back and insert the name/fact/link/etc later on.

Here’s an example from the draft of this very post:

#9: Don’t Edit While You’re Writing

I know you’ve been told this one already, but it’s a piece of advice that always bears repeating: don’t edit while you’re writing.

Is it okay to occasionally backspace and fix a typo, or restart a sentence that somehow came out wrong? Sure. (Though some “don’t-edit” purists might disagree with me!) However, if you draft a paragraph, change three sentences, draft another paragraph, cut everything you’ve written so far and start again … you’re not going to get far.

If you change your mind about something as you’re writing, just pop the section you’re unsure about into italics. Make a quick note about what you’re thinking about changing (e.g. “remove John from this scene”) and then proceed as if you’d already made that change.

That way, you don’t lose momentum – and you don’t waste time editing something that you might later decide to change yet again.

What to Do After You Write

#10: Record How Your Writing Session Went

If you’ve never tried keeping a writing journal before, give it a go. You could have a document on your computer where you jot down how you got on, you could make an entry in your diary, you could use a notebook … whatever works for you.

Each time you finish a writing session, take a minute or two to note what went well and what didn’t quite work out. For instance, “started well but got distracted half-way by answering an email from Jenny” or “took ages to get going but really got into the flow after a few paragraphs”.

If you keep up your journal for a few weeks, you’ll find that you can spot patterns – and that you become more aware of what does (and doesn’t) work for you.

 

All writers can focus, and often, being distractible is simply a bad habit. How could you make your next writing session a great one? Pick one idea – or more! – from the list above, and let us know in the comments how you get on.

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Points and Punctuation

Points and Punctuation

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Point and words and compounds containing that root, as well as terms with the element punct- and some similar (and not so similar forms), are all cognate, deriving from the Latin verb pungere, meaning “prick” or “stab.” Such words are listed and defined in this post.

appoint: officially fix or set, or assign or name, or equip or furnish as appropriate; an appointee is a person assigned to an office or position, and an appointment is such an assignment, or an office or position itself, or an arranged meeting (or equipment or furnishings collectively); someone who is self-appointed has taken it upon himself or herself to occupy a literal or (usually) figurative position of authority
ballpoint: a type of pen with a point consisting of a small rotating metal point from which ink is transferred to a surface on contact; usually called a ballpoint pen
bluepoint: a type of oyster
cashpoint: British English term for an ATM
checkpoint: a location, generally at a border or entrance, at which entry is monitored
colorpoint: a color pattern on a domestic cat consisting of a light-colored body with darker features
compunction: misgiving, anxiety as a result of feelings of guilt, or distress about anticipation of an event or outcome
contrapuntal: adjectival form of counterpoint (see next entry)
counterpoint: something that complements or contrasts with something else, the use of a combining or contrasting element in a work of art, or a melody independent of a given melody; as a verb, arrange or compose in counterpoint, or set in contrast
dew point: the temperature at which vapor condenses
disappoint: fail or frustrate; disappointment is the quality of failure or frustration, or someone who or something that causes such feelings
drypoint: an engraving made without fluid, or a print made from such an engraving
embonpoint: plumpness
end point: the point of completion of a process or stage; as endpoint, a point or value marking the end of a line segment, an interval, or a ray
expunge: mark for deletion, or destroy, eliminate, or obliterate
eyepoint: the position of placement of an eye in relation to an optical instrument being used
flashpoint: the lowest temperature at which vapors produced by a volatile combustible substance will ignite when exposed to flame, or a point at which something suddenly is created or takes place or someone takes action
goldpoint: the temperature equivalent to the melting point of gold
gunpoint: the muzzle of a gun (used in the expression “at gunpoint,” meaning “having a gun pointed at one”)
interpoint: a system of embossing braille on both sides of a paper
interpunction: see punctuation
knifepoint: the point of a knife blade (used in the expression “at knifepoint,” meaning “having a knife pointed at one”)
midpoint: the halfway point in a journey, a race, or a process
needlepoint: embroidery on a base of canvas, or lace on a base of paper, accomplished with a needle; also a verb describing the action of producing embroidery or lace
outpoint: outscore, or sail closer to the wind than another vessel
pen point: a metal attachment used for drawing or writing with ink
pink: perforate ornamentally or cut a saw-toothed edge on, or pierce or stab, or figuratively wound with speech (other senses of pink are unrelated)
pinpoint: a very small or insignificant thing, or a small or sharp point such as the point of a pin; as a verb, precisely aim, locate, or identify, or highlight
poignant: emotionally cutting, piercing, or touching, or apt or stimulating, or, in the context of smell, pervasive
point: a detail or essential point, the purpose or significance of something, a particular place or position or a geometric element marking a position, an exact moment or interval, a degree, stage, or step, a projecting part or marking, a unit for measuring or tallying, a compass position, any of various punctuation marks or other small marks, a short musical phrase, the head of a bow used with a stringed instrument, a small military detachment ahead of or behind an advance or rear guard or the foremost member of a military patrol, one of various positions of a player in team sports, or the credit or goodwill created by making a good impression; as a verb, sharpen or give emphasis, punctuate or mark with diacritics, direct attention to or indicate direction or position (as with a finger), turn to a particular direction, or indicate a fact or probability
point blank: at close range
point break: the point at which a wave breaks as it makes contact with a point of land
point man: the foremost member of a military patrol, or an advocate, spokesperson, representative, or person at the forefront of a movement or organization
point of view: a perspective or position for consideration or evaluation of something
pointe: in ballet, a position of balance on the tip of a toe (sometimes referred to as “en pointe”)
pointed: having a point, conspicuous, pertinent, or aimed at an individual or a group
pointer: a stick used to direct an audience’s attention to a particular part of a display; a hint or suggestion; any of various breeds of hunting dogs; or a type of computer memory address
pointillism: the painting technique of applying small dots or strokes of color to a surface that blend together from a distance; a practitioner of this technique is a pointillist
pointless: ineffective or senseless
pointy: coming to a point, or having various points that stick out
pour point: the lowest temperature at which a substance flows
punch: a tool for piercing or for applying pressure to a small area, or a hole or notch produced by a punch; a blow or the action of punching, or energy or forcefulness; strike or prod, or perforate or apply pressure as with a punch, or give emphasis or move forcefully; the sense of “fruit drink” is unrelated
punctate: marked with dots, points, or small spots, or an area so marked
punctation: marking of an area with dots, points, or small spots
punctilio: a detail in conducting a ceremony or observing a code
punction: a piercing
punctual: on time; the quality of being on time is punctuality
punctuate: mark or divide with punctuation marks such as commas and periods, divide into or interrupt at intervals, or accentuate or emphasize
punctuation: symbols used to separate and clarify meaning of units of written content, or the act of using such marks, or something that accentuates or emphasizes
punctulate: marked with small spots
puncturation: the act, process, or state of being punctured, or arrangement or form of punctures
puncture: an act of physically piercing or figuratively damaging, a hole or wound made by piercing, or a small depression; as a verb, pierce or deflate
pungent: painful or pointed, or having an intense flavor or odor, or creating an irritating sensation
silverpoint: a drawing technique using silver on a specially prepared surface
standpoint: see “point of view”
touchpoint: a point of contact between a buyer and a seller
viewpoint: see “point of view”
waypoint: a location on a route

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Games and Gambles

Games and Gambles

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This post lists and defines words stemming from game and gamble, both of which derive from the Old English word gamen, meaning “amusement,” “fun,” and “joy.”

A game is an activity for amusement or diversion, or a scheme or a tactic, and to make game of someone is to mock that person. In the first sense, the word may refer to an activity that has little or no equipment, such as tag, or to a game of chance or skill or a combination thereof—anything from a board game (one with a playing board with a design that facilitates playing the game, such as Monopoly) or a video game (also designed to regiment the procedure of playing the game) to an athletic or intellectual contest. (The second element of backgammon, the name for a particular board game, derives from gamen.)

Game also refers to various aspects of competition, such as a manner or aspect of playing (as in referring in American football to a “passing game,” which denotes a playing strategy focused on passing the ball rather than running with it). In plural form, it pertains to an organized set of competitions, as in “the Olympic Games.” Game also applies, by extension, to an activity on the analogy of amusement or competition, or as a pursuit that, like most games, has more or less established rules, such as in “the game of love.” (Game also serves as a synonym for specialty, as in “Office politics is not my game,” with the connotation that one has no interest in or talent for the referenced activity.)

Endgame refers to the latter stages of a chess game or, by extension, to the final stage of an action or process, generally with the connotation of a strategic goal. As an adjective, game means “motivated or prepared to participate” or “spirited” (gamely is an adverb that applies to engaging in an endeavor with one sensibility or the other), and gamelike pertains to something resembling or suggesting a game.

“Ball game” refers to a sport in which a ball is used, though, by extension, it pertains to any contest or any situation in general, as in the phrase “a whole new ball game.” (A game ball, meanwhile, is a ball used in a game and awarded to someone as a prize for their contribution to victory in the competition.) “Game play” refers to an established procedure for playing a particular game. A game face is an expression of concentration and determination shown by a competitor, a game plan is a strategy (the verb form is game-plan), and a game show is a broadcast program in which contestants compete in a quiz or some other activity or series of activities. A game changer (or game-changer) is an element or factor that alters the status quo. A gamer is a person who plays games, though the term almost invariably refers to someone who plays computer or video games.

Game is also the basis of a number of idiomatic phrases, which will be discussed in a future post.

From the notion of hunting and fishing as an endeavor carried out for amusement rather than or in addition to sustenance, wild animals hunted for both purposes, and the flesh of such animals, are called game.

Terms that include game and pertain to hunting or fishing include “game animal,” “game bird” or “game fowl,” and “game fish” (any species of various types of creatures that are hunted), as well as “game bag” (a sack for carrying carcasses of birds one has hunted). A game cock is a rooster trained to engage in cockfighting, and a game hen is a small species of fowl, while a gamekeeper is a person responsible for breeding and protecting game animals on a private estate or preserve. A game cart is a small horse-drawn cart, perhaps originally intended to carry game after a hunt. The adjective gamy (or gamey) can pertain to bravery or spirit, but it more usually applies to the smell of game animals or to an unpleasant smell in general, and it can mean “corrupt,” “salacious,” or “scandalous.”

To gamble is to play a game or engage in an activity in a game of chance, to bet, or to take a chance. A gamble is an act of taking a risk, or something risky, or the act of playing a game of chance; gaming also applies in the last sense. One who gambles is a gambler, and the activity of doing so is called gambling.

A gambling house, also known as a gaming house, is a place where gambling, legal or otherwise, takes place. (Such a location is also sometimes referred to as a gambling den or, from the notion of the addictive allure of gambling, a gambling hell.) A gaming room, meanwhile, is a room used for such purposes, and a gaming table is a piece of furniture, often customized to accommodate game equipment and game play, at which gamblers stand or sit to engage in gambling; a gambling device is a mechanism, such as slot machine, that facilitates gambling.

Gambit (“tactical move” or “topic”) and gambol (“frolic”) are unrelated, as is the sense of game meaning “lame,” as in the phrase “a game leg.”

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How to Write a Great Blog Post

How to Write a Great Blog Post

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Blog posts might look straightforward, but if you’ve ever tried to write one, you may have found it was harder than you expected.

Whether you want to start a blog as a hobby, as a step towards freelancing, or as a tool to promote your book … your blog posts need to be well-structured and well-written.

Of course, blogging offers a lot of freedom. You don’t have to write to a specific length, in the way that you would if you were writing a newspaper column or a magazine article. You can write short, newsy pieces, long, in-depth pieces, or anything in between.

You’ve also got the freedom to pick your own topics – and to develop your own writing style. Perhaps you want to write nostalgic, gently humorous blog posts drawn from your own life … or maybe you’d prefer to create detailed, reassuring tutorials for new WordPress users.

Whatever you’re writing about, though, and whatever your reason for blogging, your blog posts need to work. They need to have a recognisable structure … and they need to stick, more or less, to the point.

Here’s how to write a great blog post:

Step #1: Plan Your Post Before You Write

Your blog post should have an introduction, main body and conclusion (or, if you prefer, a beginning, middle and end). Here’s how those work:

  • The introduction should set the scene for your post and hook the reader. You might do this by asking a question, making a bold statement, or giving a quick anecdote from your own life.
  • The main body is the real content of your post. It’s where you develop a particular line of discussion, share a story, or give your suggestions or tips on a particular topic.
  • The conclusion wraps up your post. It’s easy to miss off – but it’s really important. It should sum up briefly and, ideally, offer the reader something to do next.

Step #2: Draft Your Full Post

While different bloggers work in different ways, I find that it’s usually best to draft a whole blog post from start to end (rather than writing a few paragraphs here and there to stitch together eventually). You could:

  • Imagine that you’re emailing a friendly acquaintance as you write. I find that thinking about one reader helps me to get the draft of my post down as smoothly as possible.
  • Jot down some brief notes for your introduction, then launch in with the first key point that you want to make. It’s often easier to flesh out the introduction once you’ve written the actual post.
  • Avoid editing as you write. If you need to fix a quick typo or restart an occasional sentence, that’s okay – but don’t start deleting whole paragraphs at this stage. When you’re mid-way through a draft, it’s hard to see what needs to go and what should stay.

Step #3: Redraft Your Post

Once you’ve got a rough draft of your post, it’s time to shape it for your blog. Since you’re writing for an online audience, it’s important to:

  • Keep your paragraphs short. It’s harder to read on a screen than in print, so if you’re used to writing for books or magazines, you may need to cut your paragraphs in half.
  • Keep (most of) your sentences short and straightforward. The occasional more complex sentence is fine – especially if you’re writing for an academic or well-educated audience – but mix things up with some short, simple sentences too.
  • Use a conversational writing style. That means using “I” and “you”. These aren’t appropriate in academic writing, so you might have been taught not to use them at school … but when you’re blogging, it’s fine to write as though you’re talking directly to the reader. (Just like I’m doing right now!)

Step #4: Format Your Post

Once you’re happy with the post as written, it’s time to move on to the formatting – how your post looks. You might want to:

  • Include subheadings and/or bold text. These help to “signpost” important parts of your post for the reader – for instance, in this post, the different steps each have their own subheading so you can easily figure out where you are within the post.
  • Add images where appropriate. Many bloggers like to start off their posts with an eye-catching image to draw the reader in. Images also help to create “white space” (the blank bits of the page around the words and images), which makes your post look more attractive and inviting.
  • Add links to other posts (on your blog or elsewhere). One great advantage of writing online versus writing in print is that you can link to other resources. That might mean linking to an explanation about something you mention in passing, for instance, to help your readers who are new to your subject area.

Step #5: Edit Your Post

While you could tackle the editing before the formatting, I find it’s helpful to do a quick edit, at least, after putting subheadings, images and links into place. When you edit:

  • Look out for typos and misspellings. Your default spellchecker won’t necessarily catch all of these. Some bloggers find that it’s helpful to view their post in a larger size, or to preview it live on their blog, to help mistakes stand out.
  • Check that your links are working. It’s frustrating for readers (and embarrassing for you) if a post goes live with broken links in it.
  • Look for areas where your post could be more polished. In this post, for instance, I went back while editing to make sure that each of the “steps” had three bullet points, so that they all matched.

 

Of course, writing blog posts is more of an art than a science – and I definitely don’t want you to think that there’s only one “right” way to do it. These tips, though, should help you to produce polished blog posts that are enjoyable to write and that are easy for your readers to engage with. (And if you’re looking for some more suggestions, check out Sarah’s post 10 Tips on How to Write the Perfect Blog Post.)

I hope you enjoy blogging as much as I do … and if you have a great tip to share about writing blog posts, leave it in the comments for us!

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Suffixes of Quality

Suffixes of Quality

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This post lists suffixes—any group of letters attached to the end of a word, a base, or a phrase to convey a meaning related to that of the root element—that pertain to qualities. Examples of nouns featuring a particular suffix are provided after the suffix.

Suffixes attached to words to refer to a quality of being or a state or condition include the following:
-acity: perspicacity, capacity
-an: partisan, urban
-ance: attendance, balance
-ate: apostate, reprobate
-cracy: democracy, theocracy
-cy: residency, privacy
-dom: kingdom, wisdom
-ence: sentience, abscence
-ern: western, cavern
-ery: bravery, effrontery
-escence: effervescence, adolescence
-ese: legalese, Chinese
-esque: burlesque, grotesque
-ete: aesthete, athlete
-ette: kitchenette, cigarette
-ful: handful, earful
-gamy: monogamy, polygamy
-gon: pentagon, polygon
-hood: brotherhood, neighborhood
-ia: absentia, dementia
-ial: editorial, colonial
-ian: pediatrician, patrician
-ine: canine, feline
-ity: gravity, hilarity
-ization: organization, fertilization
-less: fearless, homeless
-let: inlet, booklet
-ling: underling, stripling
-ness: kindness, darkness
-ocity: velocity, ferocity
-oid: spheroid, humanoid
-phile: audiophile, bibliophile
-ship: fellowship, governership
-sion: discussion, dimension
-th: length, strength
-tion: station, attrition
-tude: attitude, fortitude
-ty: frailty, liberty
-ure: failure, closure

Words pertaining to medical or psychological conditions, or analogous states, often have one of the following suffixes:
-algia: neuralgia, nostalgia
-emia: anemia, hypogyclemia
-iasis: psoriasis, elephantiasis
-itis: appendicitis, tonsillitis
-oma: carcinoma, hematoma
-opia: myopia, hyperopia
-osis: neurosis, psychosis
-path: homeopath, sociopath
-plegia: paraplegia, quadriplegia
-pnea: apnea, orthopnea
-trophy: atrophy, dystrophy

Words denote a place where something specific occurs, or an entity with a certain responsibility, are augmented by the following suffixes:
-ary: aviary, military
-ium: auditorium, stadium
-ory: laboratory, observatory

Many words for types of ingredients or materials end with the following suffixes:
-ing: clothing, writing
-ings: seasonings, leavings

An action or a process or procedure, or a belief, is expressed in words with these suffixes:
-ade: blockade, promenade
-age: storage, patronage
-ism: racism, sexism
-ment: measurement, movement
-oscopy: arthroscopy, colonoscopy
-ure: pedicure, closure

Many words describing a person with a particular skill or vocation or who engages in a specific activity, or a person who or a thing that has a certain quality or purpose, end with this suffix:
-ac: maniac, hemophiliac
-ant: servant, applicant
-ar: burglar, liar
-ard: laggard, wizard
-arian: disciplinarian
-art: braggart, boggart
-ative: preservative, derivative
-crat: bureaucrat, aristocrat
-eer: engineer, volunteer
-ent: president, absorbent
-er:hanger, teacher
-ess: waitress, heiress
-ian: guardian, Italian
-ic: workaholic, alcoholic
-ist: therapist, dentist
-ite: parasite, dynamite
-or: doctor, translator

Note that -ess, which generally signifies a female practitioner (other examples are adventuress and poetess), is widely considered dated because it denotes an unnecessary distinction between genders. A female author, for example, is simply described as an author, not an authoress, and if her gender is pertinent, it may be referred to otherwise in written content.

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Learning to Write by Reading

Learning to Write by Reading

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You might think avoiding other influences makes you a more original writer. But nobody can write in a vacuum. Even the meanings of words depend on how others have used them. You didn’t invent the English language. Everything you write, you learned from someone else, even if only from your first grade teacher. Only when you’re aware of your influences as a writer can you transcend them, instead of unconsciously copying them.

Instead, reading other writers (which you already do) and learning from their style will help you develop your own, original style. Besides improving your vocabulary, it will give you a wider array of tools from which you can choose. You may recognize your own style as you read someone else’s. Or you may learn what you don’t want to sound like.

Choosing your influences

Which writers should an aspiring writer read? You should read the great ones – there, that’s vague enough. Start with the classics of world literature, because many people over many years have confirmed they’re worth reading. You can search Google for “greatest writers of all time” to see a list. Include modern authors as well, because that’s what you are. My colleague Mark Nichol suggests four books that demonstrate specific writing skills.

But be warned: take advice on what writers to read, but not whom you must imitate. You can never be anyone but yourself. In 18th century England, everyone thought they needed to write like Lord Chesterfield, but that was a bad idea even in the 18th century. Imitate the writers you want to be like – it’s more profound than it sounds. As I’ve said before, you are what you read. Reading influences your style, and as you discover your true style, you have an obligation to keep developing it.

Even great writers might be imitated for the wrong reasons. Perhaps another writer’s uniqueness shouldn’t be imitated, since you have your own. Perhaps he or she can get away with breaking rules that you and I shouldn’t try to, not until we become more skilled. Until we do, no wonder our writing doesn’t quite work.

Or it might be a writer’s persona that draws us, rather than their skill. Many aspiring writers long to be irreverent free-spirits, but that doesn’t make them good writers. Mixing a drink like Ernest Hemingway will not make you write like him. (Hemingway himself retorted, “Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes.”) Some great literary figures were great partly because of their suffering, and you may not want that. Some of them were mentally ill.

Imitate writers because of how they write, not because of what they write about. Some writers became popular only because they landed on the popular side of popular controversies. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote about his fictitious novelist Kilgore Trout, “His prose was frightful. Only his ideas were good.” Other writers camouflage their bad ideas with excellent writing, but it’s dangerous to imitate interesting writers who write badly.

Developing your tools

Choose the writers who can do what you want to do, so you can learn how to do it yourself. Like many people, my favorite writer Connie Willis could never guess the murderer in Agatha Christie novels. She wanted to learn how to surprise her readers too, so she studied Agatha Christie’s plots to figure out how she did it, and it paid off. Now critics call her “a novelist who can plot like Agatha Christie.”

If you’re writing within a genre, you need to learn the genre, but it’s more important to learn the skills. In other words, don’t say, “Okay, I like J.R.R. Tolkien, so I want to learn to write about orcs.” Orcs have been done enough already. If you really want to give orcs a fresh face (and orcs are not known for their facial beauty), you first need to learn to write about evil, or danger, or enemies. So find authors who understand those things, whatever their genre. If you are organizing a dangerous quest, you don’t need to imitate the way Gandalf organized one in Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole. You could find inspiration for that in Moby Dick or Treasure Island. Professor Tolkien would be ashamed if all you learned from his writings was how to talk like an orc.

You can imitate the style of others as you develop your own, but there’s no need to imitate their ideas. If you’re writing about danger, sure, read how other writers depict danger. Read what they say, then decide what you want to say. It should not be the same thing. That is not the kind of imitation I’m talking about. How you feel about danger will be different because you’re different. That’s your unique contribution.

How to absorb a writer’s influence

Besides reading, what other ways can you learn from an author?

  • Copy out passages that you like. Copying focuses your attention by slowing down your reading. You can learn better by involving the hand as well as the eye.
  • Read out loud. While you’re at it, why not read regularly to those who can’t read for themselves? That helps you, the aspiring writer, as well as the preschool future reader, or the elderly person with failing sight.
  • Create templates from favorite sentences, similar to the Mad Libs game, and fill the structure with your own words. For example, based on the first line of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome:

    NAME VERB the NOUN, bit by bit, from ADJECTIVE NOUN, and each time it was a ADJECTIVE NOUN.

    Adapted original:

    I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and each time it was a different story.

  • Parody an author’s style while writing on a subject that he never would have. That’s how the “Bad Hemingway Contest” kept going for nearly 30 years. Parodying Ernest Hemingway is an attractive target that has tempted distinguished writers such as E. B. White, Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald and George Plimpton.

Imitation doesn’t need to be a form of flattery. You can learn a lot about a writer’s style when you make gentle fun of him or her. W. H. Auden, in his 1962 essay “The Poet and the City,” says that in his imaginary College for Bards, “the only critical exercise required of students would be the writing of parodies.”

Authors who learned writing by copying out passages, even entire books, include Jack London, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Hunter S. Thompson.

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Original post: Learning to Write by Reading

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5 Reasons to Get a DailyWritingTips Pro Subscription Today

5 Reasons to Get a DailyWritingTips Pro Subscription Today

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If you are still on the fence about becoming a DailyWritingTips Pro subscriber, here are five reasons that will certainly convince you to join today.

1. 50% discount ($3.99 per month)

The regular price of the subscription is $7.99 per month. For a limited time we are offering the subscription with a 50% discount, so you pay only $3.99 per month. When you join you will also lock your subscription price and won’t be affected when it increases in the future. If you think about it, you will be paying $1 per week for a service that will improve your English and writing skills over time. Beats buying some overpriced gum huh?

2. Daily articles + exercises

The Pro subscription is the only one that will deliver to you our writing tips and exercises every day. The free subscription (which is no longer offered but still honored for old subscribers) delivers our writing tips only twice per week and does not include our interactive exercises.

3. Easy to join

For many years we relied on PayPal to process the subscription payments. Many users complained about that because it forces them to create and maintain a PayPal account. For this reason we decided to migrate to a better solution. We are now using Stripe, which is the industry standard in online payments. Stripe offers you the same level of security (i.e. your financial information will never be available to us and only two Stripe) but it is much more user-friendly. In order to join you just need to provide an email address and a valid credit card, and the process takes literally 15 seconds.

4. Easy to try and cancel

We wanted to make it easy to join but also easy to try, and that’s why we offer a 15-day free trial. You do need a valid credit card to start your trial, but you will not be charged anything for the first 15 days. Canceling your subscription is equally easy, be it in the trial or after. All you have to do is send us an email and we cancel your account on the same day, no questions asked. It is also our standard policy to grant all refund requests. In other words, if you forget to cancel before your next payment happens we will be glad to refund it (after all we have been there ourselves with other subscriptions).

5. Three Awesome eBooks as a bonus

Finally, we have three awesome e-books to give you as a bonus right after you join. You will get access to download the eBooks on the free trial, and they are yours to keep even if you cancel during the trial. The first bonus eBook is titled “100 Writing Mistakes You Should Avoid.” It used to sell for $10 and always received great feedback. It will be yours for free.

Ready to give it a try? Click here to get all the details and join.


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Original post: 5 Reasons to Get a DailyWritingTips Pro Subscription Today

Blue Essays website is the place to order you assignments assignments for all subjects.

We have specialized and qualified writers to work on your assignments.

Get a quote from the calculator below.

Type of paper Academic level Subject area
Number of pages Paper urgency Cost per page:
 Total: