Monthly Archives: June 2014

Lovely Links 06.30.14 – 07.06.14

Photo credit: Berit Watkin on Flickr

Photo credit: Berit Watkin on Flickr

Happy July, everyone!

June felt like just a flash in the pan. Where did the time go?

Here are this month’s links:

You may have noticed that I’m giving you five more links than usual. From now on, I think I’m going to do ten! Isn’t that exciting?

What do you think of these links? What other articles or resources should I be aware of?

Tweet tweet:

Check out these lovely writing links via @thecollegenov. (Click to tweet)


Affect vs. Effect

Photo credit: Sharon on Flickr.

Photo credit: Sharon on Flickr.

I got another request for a grammar lesson.

This time, I’ll be covering the difference between affect and effect. I’ll try to keep it simple.

Affect is most often used as a verb. It means “to influence” or “to act in some disingenuous way.” For example:

The average rainfall affects how much the plants will grow.

When asked about her husband’s murder, she affected grief.

Effect, on the other hand, most often makes an appearance as a noun. You can think of it as another word for “result.” Consider the following:

The sun’s ultraviolet radiation can have several negative effects on your skin.

Sometimes, however, the rules for affect and effect can change (Isn’t grammar maddening?). Although affect is usually a verb, it can be used as a noun when talking about psychology because you can never truly understand what another human being is feeling; only how they seem to be feeling. For instance:

She showed a frustrated affect.

Likewise, the word effect can sometimes manifest as a verb. In this case, you can interpret it to mean “to bring about” or “to cause.” Check out this sentence:

The seminar effected donations for the local food pantry.

Grammar is confusing. There are so many rules and exceptions that sometimes it all feels overwhelming. That’s why I want to help.

How do you remember the difference between these two? What other grammar topics do you struggle with?

Tweet tweet:

Confused about “affect” and “effect”? Writer @thecollegenov illustrates the difference. (Click to tweet)

Writing Quick Tips: How to Write Something Every Day

Photo credit: Jonathan Reyes on Flickr

Photo credit: Jonathan Reyes on Flickr

My last Quick Tips post was a hit, so I thought I’d try another.

Today’s tip has to do with writing something every day. I know I’ve mentioned the importance of daily writing several times before, but I’ll mention it again. Your writing will absolutely not improve unless you’re working at it every day.

With that in mind, however, sometimes it’s difficult to fit writing into our busy schedules. No matter how we try to carve out time to write, the day slips out from under us. We fall into bed without having written a single sentence.

Here’s the key to making sure you write something every day: Don’t go to bed until you’ve met your goal. Do not get under the covers or let your head hit the pillow until you are finished.

Let sleep serve as motivation to get through your session. You may be sleep-deprived, but you will do the work.

What do you think of this tip? What others would you like to see?

Tweet tweet:

Writer @thecollegenov has a quick tip to help you write something every single day. (Click to tweet)

Top 5 Must-Read Classics

Photo credit: Angelskiss31 on Flickr

Photo credit: Angelskiss31 on Flickr

I cannot stress enough the importance of reading in the life of a writer.

I’m not going to go on and on about it in this post, but yeah, you should be reading.

I can hear you asking now, “What am I supposed to read?” The short answer is everything you can find. Any book you can get your hands on will only help you improve your craft. Of course, it’s also important to read books in your genre so you can avoid the tropes and cliches that come with the territory.

You also need to read the classics.

The classics are classic for very good reasons. They can teach you more about writing than most classes and professors can. If you’d like to start reading classic literature, I have a few suggestions for you.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you haven’t read this book yet, what’s taking you so long? This novel has some of the most captivating description and imagery that I’ve ever read. I’m also a fan of Fitzgerald’s characters. Every one of them is clearly flawed yet still sympathetic. Read this book!

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Orwell’s world-building skills are spectacular. He takes a world we think we know and turns it on its head, to terrifying effect. This novel is one of the earliest examples of a dystopian society in literature, too. If you like The Hunger Games and Divergent, you have Orwell to thank. Plus, after reading this book, you can correct everyone who thinks Big Brother is watching him or her.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This novel is highly psychological and wonderful to read. It’s in the same vein as Jane Eyre though a little less intimidating because it’s more modern. I couldn’t put this book down, and the twist… well, let’s just say it will definitely keep you guessing. This novel is suspenseful, dramatic, and one of my all-time favorites.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

In his only novel, Wilde seamlessly mixes wit and humor with serious drama. It illustrates concepts of morality without being preachy and is overall one of the best books I can think of. Check it out.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Like The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre is a novel you’ve probably read already. Still, I would encourage you to read it with new eyes. It presents the Gothic romance and the Byronic hero in ways that echo even in the present day. Read it.

These are just a few classic books that I think you should read. Hopefully these novels will mark the beginning of your journey into classic literature.

What do you think of these books? How has reading helped you become a better writer?

Tweet tweet:

Want to get into classic literature? Writer @thecollegenov has five novels that you should check out. (Click to tweet)

That vs. Which

Photo credit: Daniel Silliman on Flickr

Photo credit: Daniel Silliman on Flickr

Since my last grammar post, I’ve had several requests for more.

I love talking to people about grammar, so I’m happy to help. Our lesson for today is when to use that versus when to use which. Like the rules for using between and among, this lesson should be pretty simple – or, at least, that’s what I’m hoping.

Basically, which can usually be taken out while that is necessary to preserve the meaning of the sentence.

Consider the following example:

Wine that is imported from France is expensive.

Is all wine expensive? No, just wine imported from France (as far as this sentence is concerned). Therefore, that is the best choice to maintain the integrity of the sentence. If we take out the word that and replace it with which, the whole meaning of the sentence is changed. Check it out:

Wine, which is imported from France, is expensive.

Not all wine is imported from France, so this sentence doesn’t make much sense.

Here’s another one:

Plants, which generate energy through photosynthesis, need a certain amount of sunlight to survive.

Since all plants utilize photosynthesis, the word that fits best.

This post is short, but hopefully helpful! Just like everything else in life, remember that practice makes perfect when it comes to grammar.

Do you ever get confused with that and which? Did you find this post helpful? What other grammar concepts would you like to see covered?

Tweet tweet:

Avoid confusing “that” and “which” via @thecollegenov. (Click to tweet)

Coffee Shop Etiquette for Writers

Cup of Coffee

Photo credit: Zach Inglis on Flickr

I love writing in Barnes & Noble.

There’s a big one in my hometown with a little Starbucks in it and I love to sit down there and get some work done. There’s nothing like being surrounded by books and inhaling the scent of fresh roasted coffee while pounding away on my laptop.

I spend so much time in coffee shops that I’ve noticed an unspoken code of behavior for working from a coffice (coffee shop office).  If you like working in coffee shops, there are a few rules you should follow.

Share Your Space

Stick to the one chair per customer rule. Your butt gets a chair. Put your stuff on the floor. Don’t hog the seats. Also, if you’re sitting at a table and the coffee shop is busy, don’t spread your stuff out all over the place. Share the table. Basic stuff.

Buy Something!

If you’re sitting in a coffee shop, you’re a customer. It’s your duty to purchase something. You should be buying a drink or snack every ninety minutes to two hours. If you don’t want to buy anything, try to keep your visit to an hour or less – just know that you’re disrespectful for using the space without giving back,

Be Kind to Other Customers and Workers

Most coffee shops have tip jars. I encourage you to use them, especially if you spend a lot of time in that particular location. If someone asks you to watch their stuff, watch their stuff. If you need to listen to something, bring headphones. Take calls outside. Don’t hog power outlets. Here’s a bright idea – bring your own power strip and make some new friends.

When it comes to writing in coffee shops, these are some simple rules for human behavior to follow. It all boils down to this: don’t be a jerk.

Do you like writing in coffee shops? What are some other unspoken rules for working there that you can think of?

Tweet tweet:

The key to coffee shop etiquette for writers? Writer @thecollegenov says, “Don’t be a jerk.” (Click to tweet)

Watch Your Mouth: Tips for Writing Profanity

Photo credit: Christian Bucad on Flickr

Photo credit: Christian Bucad on Flickr

Many writers worry about putting swear words in their writing. For one reason or another, I’ve had several people tell me that they want to keep curse words out of characters’ dialogue. I believe in using profanity, but only when it’s needed. Cursing works well if it’s done correctly. Check out these tips for writing swear words without going overboard.

Moderation is Key

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I enjoyed reading the book, but there was too much profanity. It was distracting.” When it comes to using swears, a little goes a long way. When every other word sounds like sailor speak, you’ve ventured into dangerous territory. Try to use profanity only when it feels absolutely necessary.

Diction Reveals Character

The words that your characters use say a great deal about them. If a character would swear, let him swear; if not, you shouldn’t force it. In one of my short stories, a woman preaches against profanity and disciplines her son whenever he uses “off-limits words.” However, when the woman finds out that her husband is missing in action, she is so shocked that she curses: “You’re shitting me… what the hell does ‘missing’ mean?” In this example, the shift in diction shows the woman’s inner turmoil.

Consider Your Audience

You should probably steer clear of using foul language if you’re writing a novel for the Christian fiction market. Likewise, if you’re writing YA, make sure you’re aware of profanity guidelines. For example, words like f***, g*d***, c***, and m*****f***** are hot-button swears that a lot of YA publishers would prefer not to see. Also, just so we’re clear, Go the F*** to Sleep, is not actually a children’s book (though it is hilarious).

When in Doubt, Take It Out

If you don’t get the warm fuzzies reading something you’ve written, make some cuts. Most likely, your work won’t suffer if you take out some bad words.

You’re more than welcome to use profanity in your writing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The key is making sure you don’t use them excessively. Keep these ideas in mind the next time you write swearing and you should be good to go.

How do you feel about reading profanity? What about writing it?

Tweet tweet:

Afraid your swearing will scare off readers? Writer @thecollegenov has some advice about profanity. (Click to tweet)