Tag Archives: Writing

Learn to Write, Stem Majors

Just last week I watched one of my friends trod through grading some assignments. For anyone of you who is familiar with the pain that is grading, you know how horrible it is. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure I will say this, it’s worse than actually doing the assignment. No matter how much you suffered writing that paper or finish that lab I can guarantee you that grading it was worse. Why? Because the person who graded it had to do it 20 times while you only had to go through that hell once.

As I watched my friend grade those papers I felt nothing but sympathy and gratitude. Sympathy that he had to do that and gratitude that I only had to grade lab assignments and not papers. Because I’m going to be honest, there’s nothing worse than grading papers. When you grade a paper you’ve got to not only grade for content but also for grammar. Which is annoying and time consuming. Papers are often peppered with mistakes, some serious and some small. The line between too harsh and too lenient is blurry, making it difficult to know how many points to take off exactly.

The reason I bring this up is because I see the worst offenders for this sort of poor writing is STEM majors. We STEM majors have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to our ability to write, it’s almost sad. The worst thing about it all is that we make fun of the humanities while we do it. A majority of science majors can’t string three words together into a cohesive sentence but we delight in making fun of the people who can. I’m guilty of that myself, I’ve got at least a dozen English major jokes in my arsenal ready for use at any time.

But honestly? We STEM majors need to get it together. Either we have to stop making fun of the people who can do what we can’t and treat them with the respect they deserve. Or we need to stop scorning the skills altogether and learn how to do it ourselves. A lot of STEM majors will claim that they don’t know how to write, that their brain doesn’t work like that. Coming from the same group that’ll look down on an Art major who can’t do calculus. It’s funny because that Art major is going to need calculus way less than the STEM major will need to be able to write.

Pull yourselves together STEM majors and learn to write!

6 Crucial Things Every Aspiring Writer Should Do in College

English majors, whether you are one or know one, are among some of the most belittled and questioned students (right next to art and theater majors), facing a massive amount of competition. English majors may think they are at a disadvantage, but there are a lot of steps that they can take in college to build themselves as a writer. With all the online exposure to articles today, there is a need for English majors to practice their creativity and style. They should take full advantage of opportunities to improve their skills if they want to overcome the hardships of being a writer. Below are opportunities, inside and outside of college, that all English majors should strive to partake in.

Join an online platform for writers

It will not only help you express your creativity with writing, but it will help you practice it overall. Writing essays for classes certainly helps, but not always being able to pick a topic and having to write with an often harsh set of rules doesn’t allow for much freedom. Writing something because you have to is what we’ve all been doing throughout school, but the difference in your thoughts, style, and imagination when you write something you want to is amazing. Every English major has been used to writing because they have to, and although they enjoy it, it’s nothing compared to freely writing on your own schedule. Even if you don’t intend to have it published, and it’s just for fun, every English major needs to try to do this when they can. Additionally, writing for multiple websites can help you adapt to taking on different kinds of writing and developing a better feel for how to write for an audience.

Study literature

Many writers don’t pay attention to or consider how important the history of English was. It will help you appreciate English’s meaning and potential once you look at how it has changed over time. Many feminist writers, for example, had to work ten times harder than female writers today to get known, and some even had to pretend they were men to get their work really well recognized. Learning about the differences of making it as a writer back then and today will make you appreciate the new opportunities us writers have today and you will know to take advantage of them more. Shakespeare might seem redundant to most people, since none of us today will ever be writing in that form, let alone writing plays. However, Shakespeare goes to show that writing can be impactful for hundreds of years. Many of his works are relatable today, despite the fact that the writing is extremely outdated.

Don’t sell yourself short

Every English major will hear “What are you going to do with your degree?” or “Don’t you know how hard it is to make it as an English major?” at least a few dozen times throughout college. You may feel, at times, discouraged, but research all the different careers English majors go into, and you will feel a lot more hopeful. Many English majors go to law school, and many get jobs completely outside of the typical English specific workplaces. You might be thinking in terms of simply writing for magazines or online publications. Many English majors have been conditioned to think they will be working solely among other writers, whether by society or their classes, without thinking how useful an English degree can be in many other branches of work. Many writers work alongside engineers, scientists, and software developers, so don’t think you’re not capable of doing beyond what you thought you’d do.

“Writing for multiple websites can help you adapt to taking on different kinds of writing and developing a better feel for how to write for an audience.” Photo from: https://0.s3.envato.com/files/134116777/Writing%20Lines%20Preview.jpg

Be as opened minded as you can

When they are first starting out, a lot of writers unintentionally write for themselves, when they should be writing for their audience. What this means is that you’re focusing too much on what you want in your article, rather than considering what a reader would want. Our perspective on our own writing is completely different from a reader’s point of view. While you might like using fancy words to make your text look more sophisticated, your readers might get distracted or annoyed by the unnecessary amount of SAT words. Practice figuring out who your audience is going to be, and look at it from their perspective as you write what could either change lives or merely look good in your eyes.

Read everything you can get your hands on

Reading is obviously important for virtually anyone who wants to broaden their knowledge. For English majors, it’s also important for that, but even more important in helping them develop as writers. It’s incredibly important to expand your vocabulary, no matter what kind of writing you want to do. It’s optimal to read the writing that you aspire to do one day, but it is also beneficial to read all kinds of other styles. The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post are all great examples of legible sources that display unique and concise styles of writing. It’s also important to look at what the popular news sources focus on, how they deal with controversy, and how they (sometimes) organize such complex thoughts. Similar to writing outside of school, reading outside of school is important in the way that your view on it is different. As writers, we need to consider all types of writing, what we want to be as a writer, and how we can be unique among other writers.

Learn to accept criticism

If you want to be a successful writer, you need to learn not to care what others think of you. Being an English major is similar to an art major, in that you’re expressing yourself to the world, often times to many people you don’t know. You need to expect that there will always be people who disagree with your work or who don’t understand its purpose, all while learning more and more about communicating your thoughts in the most effective way. Knowing your potential, but also being aware of the possibility of criticism is essential when writing. Overcoming this will help you see past this. What you should focus on as a writer is simply the audience that acknowledges and appreciates your work because those are the ones who will help you advance, not slow you down.

With the amount of competition and creativity that comes with being an English major, it’s important to get as much practice outside of school as you do inside school. Being well rounded in different kinds of writing and on a range of topics is essential to becoming a writer. Classes definitely challenge us as writers, but outside of class, we have the opportunity to expand in ways we can’t with school. Following the above steps will get you well on your way to becoming a more confident writer who recognizes the potentials and challenges that every writer will face. Doing all of the above does not guarantee a higher-level job, but it will definitely advance you further into the writing industry.

Fanfiction is Good Fiction

Movies, TV shows, and novels have become one of the largest, if not the largest, form of entertainment in the world today. Millions of people enjoy the Harry Potter franchise, the Star Wars franchise, the Game of Thrones franchise, and the Twilight saga, just to name a few of the more popular ones. Most of them are so popular that they are still going strong even after 20 or 30 years. One of the biggest contributors to their continued popularity is the creation of fanfiction.

Fanfictions, for those of you who do not know, are stories that use characters, settings, and backgrounds that already exist. The vast majority of fanfiction is published online and is available for free. The writers (i.e. the fans) can change any part of a character, story, or background, for almost any reason. They can do so if they simply like a character one way over another or if they want to add a trait that’s necessary for telling their story. Fans do this because they enjoy writing, because they wish to see more of their favorite characters, because they are interested in seeing what may happen if they changed a crucial plot point, and so on; the reasons are countless.

Some of these fanfiction stories are of a very professional quality and are novels in and of themselves. On the other hand, some of them can be rather subpar; it all varies between writers. However, there is some controversy over the creation of fanfiction, regardless of its quality. Some consider it a breach of copyright and critique the writers for being unoriginal. Some believe others shouldn’t borrow the hard work of professional writers, directors, and screenwriters. But the situation isn’t as simple as that.

“Fanfictions, for those of you who do not know, are stories that use characters, settings, and backgrounds that already exist.” Photo from: sourcemygarment.com

Fanfiction writers don’t claim to own any of the characters or stories that they base their work on nor do they enjoy any financial gain from it. Many make a point of letting their readers know that they do not own the characters they are writing about. They aren’t mooching off the professional story tellers’ financial gain or reputation; they gain nothing but the satisfaction of writing and having people read and enjoy their work. There is no breach of copyright because there is no claim of ownership.

As for criticisms of unoriginality and lack of talent, those are nothing but a blatant ignorance of all of the hard work, effort, and skill that goes into the creation of any creative work. There is no denying that some fanfiction is just bad; it’s poorly conceptualized and poorly written. Those stories are typically the works of inexperienced writers who are working to improve their writing abilities. Then there are also the writers who simply don’t put much effort in. But there is just as much, if not more, fanfiction out there that is well thought-out and well written, with original plots and ideas. Even the way a person writes can be well-executed; they can give great details and create vivid descriptions. Fanfiction writers can develop new and interesting storylines that can really make you think about and feel for a character.

To suggest fanfiction is merely unoriginal and poorly written is simply ignorant of the skills and creativity needed to make great stories; these are the same skills and creativity that the original creators themselves use.

Creativity is never easy

How do you deal with wanting to be creative but not having any idea on how to bring your thoughts to life? You know when you have these great ideas for a song, a story, a drawing, or anything in between but you have no clue as to how to write them down or draw them out? Those are the kinds of struggles I deal with on a regular basis. Creativity is what drives my soul, my thoughts, my passion for life. Creating things from scratch, putting your own mark on something that you make is one of the create joys in this world. But what do you do when you’re stuck, when you don’t know how to create?

Never give up. Who know what will happen. Gif from Tumblr
Never give up. Who knows what will happen. Graphic from tumblr.com

When it comes to creating anything, you can’t be a perfectionist. My main issues when creating is hating almost everything I make, throwing it away, and then becoming frustrated with myself to the point where I just give up. That’s the exact opposite of what you want to do. In my situation, when I write, I hate it. I stop writing for weeks at a time because I become discouraged. However, the way to become better is to never give up, to keep writing and never throw anything you create away. Someone once told me that when you write something to never get rid of it because in a month or two from now, you’ll come back to it and maybe you’ll realize it isn’t as bad as you thought and you could, potentially, build on it and use it, resulting in something amazing.

When you create something, it’s never going to be easy and that’s the part I struggle with the most. I think that it should be easy, that I should be able to do this instantaneously and be able to whip out some song in the matter of minutes, but that just isn’t realistic. I don’t think any singer, writer, producer, director, artist, or anyone is field of arts has ever had it easy, has never been frustrated or mad at themselves. But, from what I know, the outcome is worth the pain and frustration you go through. You should never give up. I should never give up because what can happen with a little determination is incredible.

5 things that happen when you do something creative instead of watching Netflix

Twenty episodes into a new season of that show you’re addicted to, you start to feel a guilty sensation every time you press that “Next episode” button. So turn off the TV and put down the remote and do something creative like writing a story (or maybe a script for your own irresistible show) or reading a book or drawing a picture. Here are seven things that happen when you decide to hit “Power off” instead of “Ok”.

1) You have more energy

While watching Netflix is highly entertaining, it doesn’t make your brain work like being creative and using your imagination does. Netflix will lull you into a lazy mood, but doing something creative is like a work out for your brain. You know those amazing endorphins you feel straight after a great workout? Your brain gets those too. Being creative will make you more alert and feel far more productive.

Put creativity above your Netflix habits. Graphic by Katie Gibson
Put creativity above your Netflix habits. Graphic by Katie Gibson

2) It will defeat mental blocks

Netflix is an easy way to avoid writing when you have writer’s block or reading when you can’t focus. However, those are mental blocks that you need to work through, not put off. I tried to put them off one time and ended up going two years without writing a word or reading outside of school. Don’t let your brain get lazy.

3) You’ll be happier

I know, I know, nothing will make you happier than *insert favorite show here*. But think of all those days you spent staring at your TV without moving, forcing poor Netflix to make sure you were okay fifteen times. After days like that, you’re bound to feel pretty crappy. That’s just human nature. People want to feel like they’re getting stuff done. Do something with your brain will give you that sense of productivity and keep you from feeling miserable after a day of binge watching TV.

4) You’ll become more creative

If you run a mile every day, you’ll likely to be able to start increasing your distance and times. The same goes for your brain. That mental workout mentioned early, will help you generate creative ideas faster which will help you in all aspects of your life.

5) You’ll be a more interesting person

Next time you go out into the real world, keep track of how many people are talking about Netflix and TV shows. That’s completely cool, but it will make you seem far more interesting when people find out you can write a novel or draw a killer picture or compose an amazing piece of music. Personally, I feel like I’ve lost my “sparkle” in college mostly due to being overworked and stressed constantly. But I get a little bit of that “sparkle” back when I can talk about a book that I’m reading or a novel I’m trying to write rather than just discussing how subpar season two of “Orange Is The New Black” was in comparison to season one.

Once again, absolutely NOTHING is wrong with watching television. However, you will be a happier, more well rounded human being if you break that bubble every once and a while and shake things up.

Best ways to seamlessly pull a novel together

Writing is easily one of the most challenging hobbies. Even if you come up with a stellar idea, there may still be huge plot holes. If you’re sitting at your computer beating yourself up over the flow of your novel, never fear, here are some tips to pull that hot mess together.

1) Collaborate

So many writers are too proud to ask for help, but collaborating with fellow writers is sometimes the easiest and most effective way to fix your work. Lots of times, you see your story playing out a certain way so you don’t even bother coming up with alternatives, leaving you to force something that may not work. Outside eyes critiquing your work, while scary, is infinitely helpful and can send you in a direction that you never would have thought of, but really makes your novel pop.

2) Combine story ideas

Lots of writers, myself included, have a list of potential story ideas- most of which get thrown out because they’re too broad or would have far too many technical problems. Before you retire them completely, see if you can merge any of those ideas into your current novel in order to fill plot holes and expand the plot. I’ve used this technique before and it worked like a dream.


beautiful journalist looks typewriter
“Here are some tips to pull that hot mess together.”

3) Introduce a subplot

You finish your first draft, but there are so many little things that made sense in your mind but don’t add up on paper. What do you do? A great solution is to create another subplot. Come up with a new character and write them in a way that will fill in every gap. While doing this may alter the storyline, it’s very helpful if you need a motive for a character’s actions or something.

4) Change up characters

Don’t be afraid to mix up your characters. Maybe you’ve had the idea for a specific character for a while, but now they don’t one hundred percent make sense with the story. Just switch them up. Personality traits, physical appearance, even main character status are all factors easily changed into the process. Veronica Roth, author of the bestseller, Divergent, originally started writing her now famous book from Four, the love interest’s, perspective rather than Tris, the female protagonist. Halfway through, she realized it didn’t work so she switched it up. It’s your imaginary world, you can do whatever you want with it.

5) Walk away

This is the hard one. When a novel is almost perfect, it’s tempting to log insane hours trying to find that brilliant idea that will make everything magically come together. Unfortunately, that’s not how real life works. So take a break. Walk away from the novel for a week or so. Jot down any ideas that might come to you in a journal, but don’t obsess. Sometimes just taking a step back from a project will generate more ideas than any other writing method.

Use some of these ideas by participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month! Go to www.nanowrimo.org for details.

Happy writing!

Why you should be participating in NaNoWriMo (if you’re not already)

November 1 marks the start of “National Novel Writing Month” a.k.a. “NaNoWriMo”. While the idea of writing an entire novel in a month seems daunting, the NaNoWriMo process is extremely fun, social, and easy.

So how does it work?

First go www.nanowrimo.org and make an account. Next create your profile and register your novel. As you write all month, log onto the website each day to log your word count. The minimum number of words you need to have a “complete novel” is 50,000. If, at the end of November you have achieved this goal, you log your final word count, paste your story onto the website so that your win can be verified and then you are eligible to receive all sorts of cool prizes including a free printed copy of your book and free e-book publishing.

Look, NaNoWriMo's logo has a viking's helmet. How could you NOT want to get involved with that coolness? Graphic from NaNoWriMo
Look, NaNoWriMo’s logo has a viking’s helmet. How could you NOT want to get involved with that coolness? Graphic from NaNoWriMo

When you create your NaNoWriMo account, you specify your exact location so that fellow participants in your area can connect with you. Each region has a leader who schedules meet and greets and writing sessions which usually take place at coffee houses or bookstores. Some of these sessions even turn into overnight lock ins, encouraging writers to collaborate and share ideas.

If you’re not into the idea of writing in public, the website also has numerous message boards so you can talk to writers from all over the world.

Even if you don’t “win” a.k.a. meet the 50,000 word minimum, the whole experience of meeting new people to bounce ideas off of is terrific. Plus, it’s a great way to get into a writing routine so that you never get too busy to write.

While NaNoWriMo is an awesome thing for all writers to take part in, it’s especially important if you’re suffering from writer’s block or feel like you’re too busy to write. The encouragement that you receive members is unparalleled. The website even e-mails inspirational quotes and messages to your WriMo inbox daily.

In addition to nurturing the novel process, NaNoWriMo also hooks you up with people who can help you find out what you want to do with your novel once it’s been completed.

So if you have an idea, but need that push, start writing today! It’s never too late to get to work.

Why the hamburger bun writing style will stick with you

In elementary school, I’m sure everyone learned about the hamburger writing style. Your teacher had you, and the rest of your class, draw the outline of a hamburger. The burger consisted of a top bun, lettuce, cheese, a patty, and a bottom bun. It was fun and it made the class more interested in whatever they were about to learn. The teacher then proceeds to tell you that you must now right an opening to a paper in the top bun, 3 middle sections where the lettuce, cheese, and patty reside, and a closing paragraph in the bottom bun to end the paper.

Remember the hamburger writing method? Graphic from Hamburger Me
Remember the hamburger writing method? Graphic from Hamburger Me

Now, whenever I write a paper I am struggling with, or one I am having trouble separating the paragraphs or putting in order, I resort back to my hamburger bun. It seems silly, drawing a hamburger and writing inside of it. Especially for a college kid, if anyone else saw you doing that they would think you were a little off, but it really does help. It helps you focus more on one section of the paper at a time than the entire overwhelming 4-5 paragraphs or 4-5 pages. I also draw out my hamburger outline and focus on my top bun first, my opener. Then I move onto the detail and examples in my paper, which is the middle of my burger, and I draw that out too. It seems excessive to draw it all out but I feel this writing technique really improves my writing.

Another way this tool from my elementary school days helps me is that it lets me think of a topic to write down for each paragraph. I think of a few key points for an introduction paragraph and then give more detail and explain what I mean. Next, I move on to my examples within my paper and I write down examples but don’t do anything with them until I start to write the entire paper. The hamburger bun writing outline seems silly but it is something I will use and go to for help for the rest of my life.

Five of the biggest problems that all writers face

When you think of “writing problems” everyone jumps straight to writer’s block. While writer’s block is a huge problem, it’s certainly not the only one that writers face when trying to complete a project. Here are some serious struggles that writers have to deal with.

1) Character names.

Coming up with unique and catchy character names is nearly impossible. Names are either too common or you know someone in your life with a name you like. You can’t name the love interest of your story after the guy you sit next to in math class. What if he takes that to mean you have a crush on him? At the same time, you want to set your character apart from the rest. That’s why names like “Hermione”, “Katniss”, and “Tris” work perfectly. It takes hours of scrolling through names on babynames.com to find the perfect fit.

2) Knowing only one part of the story.

This is especially prevalent with novelists. You figure out the characters and the background and the PERFECT plot twist….but the rest of the story is a complete mystery to you. It’s the world’s biggest frustration.

Photo By: Danielle Johnson. Student: Destini Newman

3) Distractions.

You finally get a chance to sit down and be alone and write and then…your roommates walks in, your significant other comes home and wants to talk about their day, your phone starts blowing up with phone calls and texts from friends. You can never have enough love in your life, but for the LOVE OF GOD LET ME HAVE MY WRITING TIME.

4) Emotional attachments.

You knew you wanted to kill that one character before you even started writing the story. But now you’ve written them a rich backstory and an epic romance and you have feel like this character is your kid so when it comes time to do them in….it’ll leave you in almost as much emotional turmoil as you would have if you had been the reader.

5) It doesn’t make sense.

Don’t lie, we’ve all had that one idea that sounded totally awesome in our heads, but didn’t translate to paper, leaving our readers confused. Having that seemingly great idea crumble is even more heartbreaking than killing off a beloved character.

Writing takes a lot of time and focus and energy. Luckily, the finished product is almost always worth it.

Ways to become more creative

My whole life, I’ve thought of myself as a creative person: I was a writer, I was a reader, and I had a crazy imagination. One day all of that went away. Technology started dominating my life to the point where I had no real use for my imagination anymore. I didn’t read or write or do anything remotely creative for a while because I felt like I had such a mental block in my brain.

This semester, for my Marketing minor, I had to take Marketing 101: Creativity and Innovation. In just the few weeks that we’ve been back at school, this class has really helped me open my mind back up and let the creativity back in again.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ever suffered from a creative block so I’m going to share a few tips that have really helped me out.

1) Stop writing boring notes

“Shut off the laptop, turn of the television, and step away from your phone. Instead of staring at a screen all day, read a book or draw a picture.”

We’re all so conditioned to write our notes in perfectly straight, black inked lines. This standard formula definitely hinders creativity. In class, we were instructed to get an unlined notebook and colored pens and pencils to take class notes in. Because of this, we’re able to create colorful mind maps and it really helps think out of the box.

2) Say everything that comes to your mind (within reason)

The most helpful thing I’ve learned all semester is that you have to fail in order to succeed. That means if you have a thought, say it. This can apply to anything in life, but it will especially apply if you’re doing a group project and want to share an idea, but are afraid of sounding stupid. If you can get over your fear of failure then it’ll be a million times easier to truly be creative.

3) Turn off the electronics

Shut off the laptop, turn of the television, and step away from your phone. Instead of staring at a screen all day, read a book or draw a picture. Actively using your imagination this way is like exercise for the brain. Creativity is very “use it or lose it”. If you don’t keep your brain functioning on a high level then it won’t work when you really need it to.

Everyone is born into the world with an active imagination and the ability to be creative. This is why children have imaginary friends and can play with dolls for hours. Along the way, the rigidness of the school system, stress over every day life, and technological advances shut out the creative parts of our brain until they barely work anymore. The good news is that you can always get your creativity back. You just have to be willing to break out of your comfort zone and think outside the box. Once you achieve this, you can do anything.

5 best websites for aspiring writers

Being a writer is a very difficult thing. Showing your work to other people and allowing them to critique it is a very intimate and let’s be honest, stressful, experience. In addition to this, once you’ve gotten your poem, short story, or novel perfect, finding an agent who will help you get published is borderline impossible.

Luckily, our generation has the internet which has tons of great websites for writers to read each other’s work, workshop their own pieces, and even find agents.

Here are five of the BEST (free) websites that the internet offers to aspiring writers.

1) Figment

With Figment, you can share all writing from poems to full length novels. The website gives your fellow authors the option to “heart” your work. As time goes by you collect these hearts and those top pieces end up on the front page which is terrific publicity for any writer. Most everyone on Figment is extremely professional and offer very constructive criticism. Figment also has discussion boards so that users can ask for suggestions, collaborate with other writers, and advertise their work.


Graphic from SmileyMe
Be happy about your writing, and use these websites to let you express it. Graphic from SmileyMe

2) FanFiction

Okay, so fan fiction in general gets a bad rap considering most people associate it with crazy fangirls writing erotic scenes between them and Edward Cullen. However, while this is the case sometimes, most fan fiction is pretty interesting to read. FanFiction, the website, has millions of fandoms that writers can choose to write about. Believe it or not, diving deeper into someone else’s story is a great way to defeat chronic writer’s block. Since you already know the characters, it’s very easy to get straight to writing what you want to write. Another bonus is the fact that every time someone “Favorites” or “Subscribes” to your story or your account, it is a HUGE ego boost. Even if it’s “just” fan fiction.

3) Agent Query

Agent Query is more or less a searchable database for agents. Anyone who is serious about writing knows that having an agent is the best way to find a credible publisher. The website also advertises when events such as writing conferences are coming up so that you can make as many connections in the literary world as possible.

4) National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO)

For the writer with the million dollar idea, but who lacks motivation, this one’s for you. Every year, November is “National Novel Writing Month”. Simply make an account, create your story, and get to writing. The goal is to have at least a 50,000 word draft by the end of November. Along the way, the website tracks your progress, offers inspiration, and allows you to converse with fellow writers. When November is over, don’t be sad, because a newer feature on the website is “Camp NaNoWriMo,” which is a similar concept, except it takes place over the course of the summer.

5) Writer’s Digest

Writer’s Digest is a highly valuable resource. Not only do they put out books and an amazing magazine, their website also contains the latest writing tips and information about competitions.

As a writer, any chance you have to get your work out there, you should take advantage of. Also, remember that Whim is accepting poetry and short story submissions so take the opportunity to show off your writing chops with your fellow Highlanders!

Tips for writing short stories (we want yours!)

Hey Radford! So this year the good folks at Whim want to start publishing YOUR short stories in the Arts & Entertainment section. Not only is being published in an online magazine a great way to get your work out there, but writing for Whim is a terrific thing to put on future resumes. Do you want to write a short story, but you’re not sure how to get started? Here are some tips to get your minds on a roll:

1) Pick a subject that isn’t extensive

Short stories are mostly hard to write because people pick novel ideas and try to condense them into a short story. Trust me, I’m very guilty of having done this. To combat this common problem, simply pick one moment, one scene, or one idea to write about. Make sure your idea has plenty of action right off the bat, since you don’t have the time as you would in a novel to build up to climaxes.

2) Use your own memories

Of course, you could always write a personal essay based on one pivotal moment in your life, or you could lend that memory to a character. This is a great way to get writing because you’ve lived through the experience so you can already describe the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. Turning reality into fiction opens the door for you to doctor that memory to be anything you want it to be and then apply it to your fictional character’s life. Once you have that one great idea, the rest will come naturally.

pen and paper
Photo by: Danielle Johnson










3) Work in a quiet space.

If you live in the dorms, I’d suggest going to Young Hall in the evening. Young Hall gets really quiet as the day wears on and it has everything you could possibly need- cozy nooks and chairs, numerous charging outlets, a computer lab with a printer, and vending machines. Young Hall is the whole package for those who want to get work done. Young Hall works well, but if you need a change of scenery the river is also a great place to go to be alone with your thoughts and characters. If you live in Greenhill especially, you should take advantage of the river.

4) Use a pen and paper.

If you’re drawing a blank while watching the cursor blink on Microsoft Word, shut down your computer and whip out your trusty notebook and pen. Sometimes just jotting down your thoughts instead of typing them makes all the difference in the world.

5) Write in the first person.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people like writing in the third person. While there’s nothing wrong with that, sometimes it’s easier to get into your character by writing in the first person. If you’re really set on having your story take place in the third person, but you’re not able to get anything down on paper, write scenes in first person from each character’s perspective. This simple exercise will really get you into your characters’ shoes and will definitely make writing your story easier.

If you’re interested in submitting a story, shoot me an e-mail (mgibbons3@radford.edu). I’m also more than willing to read your work and offer suggestions before you formally submit your work, if you’re unsure of anything.

Why COMS is the Best Major

I can say wholeheartedly my major is the best major around and I wouldn’t change it for the world. And no, it’s not because I get to write for Whim (anyone can do that–hint hint)!

Coming to Radford for music therapy, I thought I was set. I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and what I wanted to do when I graduated. That changed very quickly. I was calling home every day; I was homesick and I no longer wanted anything to do with Radford. In my second semester, I decided music therapy was not for me (even though I still love everything it can accomplish). I was going home and never looking back.

Communication students. Graphic from Radford University website
Communication students. Graphic from Radford University website

After taking some regular gen ed courses, I knew what I wanted to do:journalism. I always had a knack for writing,  and I have no problem talking to people. My public speaking class really drove it home for me.

After coming into the School of Communication here at RU, I have to tell you, it’s one of the best. The professors are always available, willing to help no matter what it takes, and working together to make this experience what it should be for students. I had professors who wanted to see me succeed and helped me in every way possible, even if it didn’t have to do with a COMS class.

Although journalism isn’t necessarily a major for everyone who loves to write, it fit perfectly for me. I think there are some criteria that really work if you want to be a journalism major.

  1. You have to enjoy writing
  2. You need to work well with others
  3. You need to have a moral compass
  4. You have to have a passion for helping others or getting them the information they need or want
  5. You have to be good with time management (deadlines come faster than you think)

I know, that’s not the most detailed list but it’s a start.  I’ve had days where I just wanted to quit or  change my major. People have days like that all the time, but I am going to tell you that it’s so worth it. You push through all the deadlines and see your work published in The Tartan or here on Whim and it’s a great feeling.

I  love knowing that even if people don’t read what I have to say, I have a voice — and I can be that voice for other people as well. This semester we have talked a lot about how journalism is a service to help the community and I believe that 100 percent. I wouldn’t change anything about how these last 3 years have gone and I highly suggest looking into journalism or the School of Communication if you’re still undecided on a major!

Knowing a writer is a unique experience

People who read get a lot of credit as deep thinkers whose intelligence is unparalleled. They visit and visualize worlds inside their minds simply by looking at words and absorbing the information in front of them. There’s something beautiful about a person who can sit in complete silence and ponder the meaning of and visualize a world outside their own, or feel the feelings a first-person narrator describes. However, has anyone ever thought about the beauty in the person who can create those worlds?

Sure, authors make a lot of money for popular books, but in daily life and in movies, people who read are always these mysterious, deep characters with big hearts. No, this isn’t some ploy to get my friends here at Whim laid (sorry, guys). I think people who prefer to read and those who prefer writing are kindred spirits, but us writers deserve more credit than we get.

I think there’s something to be said about those who can observe things around them and use words to touch the souls of an audience. Reporters get a lot of negative coverage these days . Sometimes journalists are accused of being nosy and overbearing. Recently, Brian Williams was suspended for exaggerating details of his coverage of the war in Iraq.

It’s disappointing, as a student of journalism, to see someone who so many look to for news abuse his position. It also makes me worry that this incident will increase the distrust that many have towards media. But for those who approach their job honestly and creatively, there’s a world inside their mind which holds immense beauty.

In one of my classes, my professor stressed how the use of words and language in general can paint many different pictures. News stories that would be bland from one perspective can be deep and thought-provoking in another. It takes a lot of skill to write something that will truly stick in the reader’s or viewer’s mind.

If you come across the opportunity to befriend, date or simply know a writer, do it. We see things in many different perspectives because we have to. Being a good writer means being able to comprehend that your perspective isn’t the only one possible. Good writers have empathy and a desire to understand the feelings of others so that we can project them in our writing. Whether someone’s a creative writer, a news writer or someone who simply writes in a journal, there’s something beautiful and sane about someone who can take feelings and put them into words.

This article will change everything you know about HuffPo

There’s no denying that Facebook has permanently changed the dynamic of marketing. Any marketing director for any business knows that they cannot thrive without a strong social media presence. This could be great for selling products, but what if the product is professional journalism?

Huffington Post always delivers top-notch cat videos, which is why it’s hard to criticize it over the fact that it always delivers cat videos. The problem with Huffington Post is that they have a brilliant marketing strategy, pandering to a society that has an increasing aversion to knowledge. Using clickbait headlines and breaking from objectivity, Huffington Post played all of their cards right to draw in exactly the crowd they want.

There’s no problem with entertainment journalism. That’s what we do at Whim every day. Frankly, with the integration of Facebook, you need to have an entertainment aspect or you won’t be able to keep an audience. However, you have to make the distinction between what qualifies as news and what doesn’t.

“Do you like doing things a certain way? Huffington Post says you’re wrong for doing so. They post a ridiculous amount of articles about why a certain way of thinking is wrong.”

What doesn’t work is glossing over the beheading of an American journalist at the hands of ISIS in favor of posting numerous times about why looking at leaked nude photos of celebrities constitutes rape. It’s essentially selling out journalism for more clicks. It’s expected from Buzzfeed or Upworthy, but not from Huffington Post.

It’d be nice if that was the end of Huffington Post’s crimes against journalism, but it isn’t. They go the extra mile and hire the most hyperbolic examples of left-wing lunatics and give them a forum to shred the liberal ideology. I believe feminism is a great thing, yet when Huffington Post writers tackle the subject, it makes me temporarily revert back to the “make me a sammich” days of my middle school career. Their feminist articles go out of their way to make men seem like the worst thing on the planet, while women cheating can be written off as the man’s fault for failing to satisfy his woman.

Do you like doing things a certain way? Huffington Post says you’re wrong for doing so. They post a ridiculous amount of articles about why a certain way of thinking is wrong. More often than not, it’s about why society isn’t politically correct enough, but every now and then an interesting article pops up telling me that I’ve been eating cookies wrong this whole time and I can’t resist the click.

Then there’s the overwhelming number of seemingly pointless sections. One would wonder how they bother to keep them maintained, but it helps to explain the quality of their content. Sections like politics, world news, crime, or tech make sense to have in any publication. I’ll even admit to subscribing to their weird news section just to see what outrageous things happen in the world. Is there really a need for a section on divorce that can’t be lumped in with a less specific section? Or what about the sideboob section, which at the moment of writing this article features an article of Jennifer Lawrence flashing a sideboob at a film festival? I understand different writers can have different opinions, but it seems extremely hypocritical for a publication to leave that featured while blasting people for searching for the nude photos.

Huffington Post can be a powerful news organization like the Washington Post, or they can be a great entertainment publication like Buzzfeed, but currently they’re trying to be both and it’ll never work. They can sacrifice their journalistic morals for more subscribers, but they have to stop pretending like they’re still interested in being the news.

The Creative Writers Guild and English Club kickoff NaNoWriMo

The English Club and the Creative Writer’s Guild will be holding a NaNoWriMo kickoff party on Oct. 28th in preparation for National Writing Month; all students are welcome to join.

NaNoWriMo, a phrase that haunts writers every November, refers to National Writing Month, an annual writing competition celebrating the art of writing and the social aspects of participating against and with other writers.

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