Tag Archives: writing

Expand Your Vocabulary With Android Apps

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As writers, having an extensive vocabulary is a great tool in our toolbox. The right word choice can excite a sentence and shift it into nuances that can create a memorable passage. Learning new words and how to best use them comes from reading the classics and books in your chosen genre, but in our modern age of electronic learning, apps can be of assistance as well. Being an Android user for the most part, I took a look at various apps that help with learning vocabulary. The reviews are my own and none of the app creators compensated me for my opinions.

Cram
FREE

This android app brings your custom flashcards to your phone. They have an apple version too. It allows you to study your chosen subject on the go and works hand in hand with cram.com. At the website, you can find educational resources to load into the app. You can learn a foreign language, practice your math tables, or pop in new vocabulary to memorize. Memorization is a good way to bulk up your word choice or to beef up your knowledge on a subject you might be writing on. One of the fun aspects of their website is the essay topic generator. When you have writer’s block, it is fun to look through this repository for inspiration. As a blogger, I find this to be helpful.

Quizlet 
Free or Pro ($19.99 annual fee)

This is another flashcard app that can help you memorize a variety of subjects such as languages, history, science, and vocabulary. The basic version is free. You create your own flashcards using the Quizlet flashcard maker or choose cards from fellow users. Part of the fun of this app is the Match game where you beat the clock to gain the right answer. There is another function called Test that helps you prep for a pop-quiz in whatever class you are studying for. If you find you like the app, you can go pro for a small fee and upload your own images, get faster customer service from quizlet, and study ad-free. It would be easy to create vocabulary flashcards with this app and then take it on the go with your phone.

Vocabulary.com
$2.99

I really enjoy this android app. Vocabulary is learning designed to be a game. As you answer the questions, the algorithms conform the game to you as you go along to help make the learning process more fun. It can become addictive! You accumulate points, achievements, and badges as you compete with other users around the world. The app has won a few awards such as Time’s 50 Best Websites of the Year, PC Magazine’s Top 100 Websites of the Year, and more. While this is not a free app, the value it offers to expand your vocabulary is worth checking out.
Words, Words, Words
FREE

While this vocabulary builder is not as fancy as some of the others or as extensive, I like that it included audio pronunciation of the new words along with the text. This is a great aid in learning how to use the words for speaking, not just for writing or reading.

Test Your English Vocabulary
FREE

This vocabulary app is more for people learning English as a second language than for native speakers. It is geared toward helping you master language so you can pass tests such as TOEIC, GMAT, SAT, GRE, MCAT and more. It gives you the correct pronunciation and translation of the words into your mother tongue. It has word games to keep things fun. Play games such as Anagrams, Codewords, Millionaire, Puzzle and StopWord.

As a writer, it pays to become a wordsmith and develop your vocabulary. The best way to do this is to read more books, but these apps should be a great way to supplement your practice of finding and using new words as you interact with the world around you. I hope you check out the apps and find them useful.

Author Interview: Erin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown

Erin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown live and write in rural Georgia. Together, they are the writing team known as Dragon Authors, writing fantasy and science fiction for teens and adults. Please welcome them both to No Wasted Ink.

Author Erin Michelle SkyWe are Erin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown. We live in rural Georgia on a couple of small farms, we both love writing, and neither one of us can resist a good story! Together, we are the writing team known as Dragon Authors, writing fantasy and science fiction novels for teens and adults.

When and why did you two begin writing?

When Steven was nine, he started writing stories for his younger brothers. They got to be the main characters and had grand adventures! Eventually, he turned these stories into plays, which they put on for the neighborhood kids, charging a quarter each to fund future productions.

Erin always loved books, but she didn’t start writing until she read Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. Devastated that she couldn’t grow up to be a dragon rider, she decided to be an author instead, which seemed like the next best thing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Everyone is a writer. Telling a story about your day or about your childhood, whether to entertain, to share, or to inspire—that’s writing!

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Definitely! The Intuitives is a story about six vastly different teens (well, five teens and one tween) who are recruited by Homeland Security to attend a summer program in an isolated lodge in Wyoming. But the program isn’t what it appears to be, and they have to band together to figure out what they’re really doing there. The thing that stands out to us about writing it is how real the characters felt. It was almost as though they wrote the story themselves.

What inspired you to write this book?

We both love writing stories, so that’s always inspirational! But for this particular book, we wanted the story to reflect the tremendous value we see in teamwork—and also to show that no matter how different you might think you are from someone else, that doesn’t have to stop you from being friends and maybe even accomplishing something amazing together. Neither one of us could have written any of our books without the other. We write as a team because our stories are much stronger when we bring our skills, experiences, and perspectives together.

Do you have a specific writing style?

That depends so much on what we’re writing! We have a young adult rewrite of Peter Pan on Patreon. It’s set in 1790 England with Wendy as the hero. The writing is lighthearted and playful, with elements of action and danger and romance for tension. The Intuitives, on the other hand, is written in a modern, straightforward style, with hints of a more lyrical influence. And we have a few projects we can’t talk about yet that are entirely different again. Each story provides the reader with a unique experience, and we want the voice of each book to match that experience.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Intuitively! But seriously, all six of the kids in the book are highly intuitive, each in his or her own way. The team is the most important thing, rather than any individual character, and the title spoke to us because it captured that essence. As a bit of trivia, the book originally had a subtitle, but we decided it was too much of a spoiler so we cut it at the last minute. We’d tell you what it was, but we hate spoilers!

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

First and foremost, we hope The Intuitives will be a fun and entertaining read. That’s always our main goal! But it’s also a story about how people can work together to accomplish something much bigger than anyone could have done alone. We hope it inspires readers to realize that no matter how small anyone’s role on a team might feel, every single one of those roles matters. What you bring to the world matters. What every single person brings to the world matters.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Of course! And at the same time, emphatically no. All good writing borrows from your own life. A sarcastic comment might remind you of a sarcastic friend, a bubbly outburst might remind you of your bubbly cousin, etc. And yes, a few of the specific things in the novel were taken from our own lives, but you’ll have to guess which ones!

At the same time, none of the characters in The Intuitives is based on any particular person. They are all very much their own individuals, and we can’t help but feel it was the characters themselves who came together to write the story.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

For Steven, J.R.R. Tolkein, R.A. Salvatore, Terry Brooks, and Margaret & H.A. Rey, the creators of Curious George. They all sparked his imagination with magic and adventure, fueling his love of fantasy. For Erin, Anne McCaffrey set her on the path to becoming an author, and Janet Burroway, author of The Truck on the Track, showed her how much fun playing with language could be.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

We mentor each other. It’s one of the best things about being a writing team! Steven says he learns a lot from Erin about making a fictional universe feel real. Erin says she learns a lot from Steven about capturing the reader’s attention and building that tension throughout the novel.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

We held a contest on 99designs.com for original cover art, and the winning design came from an artist named Eugen Zhuravel. We felt that it best captured the essence of the novel, with a sense of magic and ancient mystery.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find people who are positive about your writing, support each other, and don’t give up. They don’t even have to be writers! Create your own group of intuitives, and decide together to accomplish your dreams, whatever they may be. Don’t try to do it. Decide to do it. Then work together to make it happen!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you! You’d be surprised how big a part YOU play in the creation of any book, and no author ever made a living at writing without readers. Every single one of you matters, and we thank you all from the bottom of our hearts!

Intuitives Book CoverErin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown
Georgia farm country, USA

PATREON
TWITTER
FACEBOOK
INSTAGRAM

The Intuitives

Cover Artist: Eugen Zhuravel
Publisher: Trash Dogs Media LLC

GOODREADS 

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Here we are, Link Day!  This week, No Wasted Ink has a grab bag of articles to help authors figure out how to do their work more effectively from convention tables, podcasting, distribution efforts, and creating relationships with other authors.  This is a fun one and a must read.  Pour your coffee.  Ready.  Set. Read!

Want to be more productive? Don’t go paperless.

How to Develop Relationships with Other Writers

Podcasts for SF/F Writers

DISTRIBUTION 101

8 1/2 Tips for How to Write Opening and Closing Lines Readers Will Love to Quote

Tips for busy bibliophiles who have trouble finding time to read

The Engine of Fiction—Meet the Antagonist

How Deep Work Makes You A Better and More Productive Writer

Hand-Selling: How to Kill It at Book and Comic Conventions

WORKING WITH PROJECTS IN SCRIVENER FOR IOS (W/VIDEOS)

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Welcome back to another Monday of writer’s links on No Wasted Ink.  This week I have articles about editing, fountain pens, and general writing tips.  I hope you enjoy them!

Fountain Pen Guide For The Left-Handed Writer

20 Deadly Grammatical Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

5 Analog Tools I Can’t Live Without (and Why)

The Other Side of the Desk: What I Learned as a Writer Editing a Lit Mag

Paralyzing Fear and Creative Professions

8 Ways to Write Better SFF

THE ADVANTAGES OF SELF-PUBLISHING

5 Rules for How to Write a Sequel to Your Book

ADVICE FOR YOUNG WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS

The Single Best Way to Become a Mega-Author

Using Ideas to Start A Story by Alicia Rasley

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Thanks, Wendy, for inviting me to talk today about “idea” as a way to start a story. Some stories, especially those classified as “speculative fiction,” start not with anything concrete like character or setting, but with an idea to be explored.

As science fiction writer Orson Scott Card explains, “Idea stories are about the process of seeking and discovering new information through the eyes of characters who are driven to make the discoveries.”

That’s really the appeal of an idea story. No matter what it turns out to be, it starts as an intellectual puzzle. In the spirit of that sort of intellectual mission, let’s consider some ways an idea can start a story.

Questions. For example, many mysteries start with a scene that presents a question, one of the oldest questions of all, “Whodunnit?” But most authors add some additional complication, like, what could kill a man alone in a locked room? (Edgar Allan Poe’s seminal detective story, “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” was perhaps the first to pose that question.) The point of these “idea-mysteries” is to challenge the intellect of the sleuth (and author and reader) to go beyond the expected and familiar to speculate, innovate, and interrelate clues to come up with possible though unlikely solutions.

What-ifs. This is a specialized question that truly is speculative, as it seeks to imagine something that hasn’t happened (and probably won’t). This is more of an experiment than an exploration. A good recent example is The Martian, which poses the question, “What if an astronaut was left behind on Mars?” A great classic example is Oedipus the King, which asks, “What if the detective learns he’s actually the murderer?”

There’s also a what-if variety that experiments with the past, in alternative histories like Harry Turtledove’s The Great War inspire the author and reader to consider how the present might be changed if an important past event were changed. These alternative histories have a point beyond the mere alteration, however. Philip K. Dick’s “Man in the High Castle” takes the question “What if the Nazis had taken over the United States?” to pose the deeper question, “Would Americans resist?”

Themes. A theme is a message, a “moral to the story,” that can usually be stated in a sentence, but is better developed through story events. The film Chinatown, for example, uses the “water wars” of southern California to explore the theme of “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The difficult task in theme-based stories is to avoid being preachy. I’d suggest having the theme in mind and creating characters who have to discover that truth, but only at the END of the story. That way, the theme evolution will be a more organic process.

Perspective. A perspective-based story requires, you guessed it, an alteration of perspective, demonstrating that what you see is dictated partly by where you’re seeing from. Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities juxtaposes the experience of the French Revolution in Paris with that of London, that of a victim with that of an observer. A variation of this perspective-test is the “fish out of water” plot, where our world is viewed through the eyes of an alien or stranger.

In my opinion, this is one of the most socially important genres, as it forces our notoriously solipsistic species to examine ourselves objectively—something more and more essential in a diverse culture.

Concepts. A concept is the simplest and yet most profound of ideas, often expressed in a single word— Freedom. Dispossession. Exile. The speculative aspect of this comes from recognizing that simple concepts are actually the opposite of simple and that only a story and a character can truly portray the complexities. For example, the film Casablanca explores the concept of “neutrality” through the cynical and detached character of Rick, a symbol of the isolationist United States trying to stay isolated in those dark months before Pearl Harbor.
Starting with the concept but developing it through the complications of a 3-D person within a culture is a good way to avoid the sort of closed system that readers of speculative fiction loathe.

Twists. This story takes something conventional and twists it to produce something both familiar and exotic. You’ll often see this in novels aimed at teens and pre-teens, as connecting the normal with the unusual trains them in the important mental skill of skepticism and imagination.

The trick here is to make the base story perfectly plausible (Harry Potter really is going to boarding school and taking courses, but they’re about incantations and potions), so that the twist is more fun, making the familiar unfamiliar.

All of these idea types pose the risk of becoming just tricks. To avoid that risk, consider that each of these should lead to a deeper question, and that is in the end what we want to explore in the story.

When I read Ender’s Game, for example, I found the deeper question to be, “Why do we sacrifice our children for war?” That deeper question leads to the plot development that the adults deceive the children that this is just a game.

Another way to make an idea into a full-fledged story is to embody the idea inside a character’s journey. Ask yourself who needs to learn this theme or experience this twist? Oedipus, for example, is an arrogant man who will not accept the power of the gods over him. So he has to be forcibly confronted with the fact that they control his fate.

The most successful idea stories start with an idea… but they don’t end there. The idea is more than just a statement or speculation, but rather a process whereby the reader and characters experience the idea and come to understand what it really means.

alicia by dmac croppedAlicia Rasley would rather write about writing than… well, write. Nonetheless, she has written many novels, including a best-selling family saga and a contemporary mystery novel. She teaches writing at a state university and in workshops around the country and online. Her website has articles and posts about the craft of writing. Sign up for a writing newsletter and get 13 Prime Principles of Plot and other free plotting articles!