Archive for July, 2010

Day 1 – The Dictionary Project

31 Jul

Starting a new habit is difficult.

On the 24th, I committed to a new project – read the dictionary and internalize as much as possible… 1 page a day.

Of course, now it’s already the 31st and so far I have only read a single page – the first night of my project. I was sick, and the bug bounced around the family, work is busy and stressful, etc, etc, etc – in short, life seems adept at discovering how to get in the way, but that’s how it usually goes right?

And while my goal is only 1 page per day, I knew it was going to take awhile to get to that point – and so far it looks like 1 page per week (hey, I’m interval training! I’ll build up to 1 page per day.)

I’m going to read my second page tonight though, so I am moving forward and that’s important. The positive side of spending a week, thinking about a single page of the dictionary is that page is now firmly planted within my noodle for posterity. I’ve always been pretty good at sponging up information and that is essentially what this project is going to be about, memorizing one page per day. I have no idea how many pages will actually stick – but that will be part of the fun.

Again, I’m only really interested in words I don’t know, words that I didn’t know correctly, words with interesting details that I was unaware of.

So, without further adieu, or stalling on my part, here is what I learned on day 1 – 7 days ago:

Aardvark thru Abalone

Aardvark – Everyone knows what an aardvark is so I won’t state the obvious points regarding long sticky tongue or sharp frontal claws, but did you know that aardvark means ‘Earth Pig’? Or that the other local South African name for these little critters is Ant Bear? Aardvark was also a two-fer as I learned a second new word in this definition: Edentate – which describes an animal with no, or very few, teeth. Now, most of my dictionaries specifically mention that edentate refers to South American animals, but my Collier dictionary claims the aardvark is one, so…

Aardwolf – Another South African animal, the aardwolf – or (you guessed it!) Earth Wolf – looks like a small hyena. Interestingly, they also live on a diet that largely consists of bugs – although they do have teeth (as any self respecting wolf would…)

Aba - A course cloth made out of either goat or camel hair or the sleeveless outer-garment made from this cloth. Often striped and originating in the Mid-East.

Abac – another two-fer, this is also known as a nomograph. I got to use this one at work this week! It is the name of a specific type of chart that connects several lines of data but can also be used to mean any graphical representation of numerical relationships

Aback – Yes, as in “I was taken aback by his appearance at the show.” But what I didn’t know is, this originated as a nautical term and referred to a wind hitting the front (prow) of the ship and pushing the sails ‘aback of the mast’. It could also refer to any sails that are physically hung behind the mast apparently.

Abacus – Everyone knows what an abacas is as a reference to that bead studded arachic calculator every public school has one of (and they like to parade it around occasionally to remind all the kids how badly ‘children used to have it’), but an abacus is also the flat piece of stone found at the top of a column supporting the Architrave (or support beam – last two-fer today)

Abaddon -I believe this was Hebrew in origin. Abaddon refers to a particular portion of hell – or the devil that rules there. By extension, also refers to The Devil as well.

Abaft – Another nautical term (I love learning new nautical terms – it helps on Talk Like a Pirate Day). This is essentially the opposite of Aback and refers to a point on the ship that is closer to the stern than any other – again, used in reference to the direction of the wind more often than not.

Abalone – an ear shaped mollusc shell. Prized for its richly coloured pearls – was often used as decoration in many cultures.

That’s it!

And no, I’m not copying this out of the dictionary. Part of this project is about only reading the dictionary page once. After that it’s all memory work.

I’ll let you know what I find interesting on page 2 in a couple of days!


My New Favourite iPhone App!

30 Jul

- Sent from my iPod Touch

I was searching for some decent apps for writers while working on another blog post and I came across a WordPress App!

Great score!

I wouldn’t expect to use it exhaustively (I type so much faster with a keyboard!) but it will be really handy to have for recording post ideas as drafts while on the go.

This is one of the best Apps I’ve come across lately – I’m not sure why I didn’t think to look for one sooner!

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The Dictionary Project

24 Jul

I am a Word Geek. I assume most writers likely are too; although I don’t yet know any writers outside the blogging world to ask.

What is a word geek exactly? Well, if you want to get technical, a Word Geek would be a Logophile; ‘Logos’ meaning ‘word’ or ‘reason’ and ‘-philia’ originally meant ‘love’ but in modern usage translates to something much more akin to  ‘geek’.

And I know that isn’t much of a description so far, so here’s something better: I love words. I love the nuance of words. I love knowing just the right word for the moment. I love the discovery of a new word, or another facet of a familiar one. I love reading words I don’t know. I love sudoku.

This is a Word Geek! You may think that last one is unrelated, but I would argue against it. You see, sudoku, while numeric based, is really a game of patterns and placement – so to, are words. If it makes you feel more comfortable with the connection, swap out the numbers 1 through 9 and replace them with A through I.

I don’t congregate with other Logophiles, but when I read, I do keep a blank sheet of paper, folded up, alongside my bookmark (or use it as my bookmark) so I can write down new words I encounter.

And now I have a new project.  I have had a crazy idea stewing in my subconscious for years, occasionally bubbling into my thoughts – only to be pushed back down again as unmanageable and outrageous. But, as I age and better understand myself, I’ve become aware that: A. I love crazy unmanageable ideas, situations and encounters and tend to perform well the more stressful the situation B. If the same thought, wish or desire keeps occurring to you, over a long period of time – you should embrace it!

So my new project is this: Read the dictionary.

… and not as in: a casual perusal. But rather: to digest and understand; to broaden my vocabulary and grasp of meaning; to study and learn.

I will attempt to consume 1 page per day, although I expect to read less in the beginning.  I have a number of dictionaries (as a Word Geek, Dictionaries are among the items I enjoy collecting) but there are 3 I tend to use the most and my goal is to read my daily page from each. These three dictionaries are:

  • Gage Canadian Dictionary – published in the 90′s
  • Collins English Dictionary – published in the 80′s
  • The New Century Dictionary – published by Collier in 3 volumes in the 40′s

Of course, these 3 dictionaries do not contain quite the same word count, so my definition of a page will be somewhat loose. Regardless, I will read 1 page a day, all entries from all 3 dictionaries (this is a minimum – I may reference other sources) and I will be recording anything that appears of interest to me. Words of interest will primarily be:

  • New words
  • Known words with a previously unknown meaning

Reading the dictionary…

…A simple thing to say – deceptively straightforward to write.

And I, before beginning, predict: Elephantine to accomplish.

Wish me luck!


Top 10 Books on Writing, by Writers

20 Jul

A writer may read for the enjoyment of it, as the enjoyment of reading is likely the incipient factor thrusting most of us naively along the writer’s path, but a serious writer no longer reads solely for the pleasure of reading alone.

Once we become aware of things like plot, and story, and characters, we begin paying closer attention to the forms and archetypes used by our favourite writers. Eventually we start picking up, or purposely examine the more in depth elements that make fulminate in a writer’s style – things like sentence structure, choice of wording, points of view, employed metaphors etc.

And eventually we understand that, to keep our imagination energized and our style fresh, we need to continue reading, and reading good material.

Enter this week’s PrefectWriting’s Tuesday Top 10 list.

PrefectWriting’s List of Top 10 Books on Writing, by Writers

In no particular order -

  1. The Elements of Style (aka Strunk and White) – William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (On Amazon, 50th aniversary edition: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link )
  2. A Writer’s Diary – Virginia Woolf (On Amazon: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link)
  3. On Writing – Stephen King (on Amazon: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link)
  4. The Art & Craft of Novel Writing – Oakley Hall (On Amazon: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link)
  5. How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy – Orson Scott Card (On Amazon: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link )
  6. Ernest Hemingway on Writing – Ernest Hemingway (On Amazon: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link)
  7. The Notebooks of Henry James – Henry James (On Amazon: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link )
  8. The Crack-up – F. Scott Fitzgerald (On Amazon: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link )
  9. I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau – Henry D. Thoreau (On Amazon: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link)
  10. The Notebooks of Anton Chekhov – Anton Chekhov (On Amazon: My Affiliate Link | Affiliate Free Link)
  11. Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You – Ray Bradbury (On Amazon: My Affiliate LinkAffiliate Free Link )



Free Writing – Outside My Window

16 Jul

Through the window he could see the wind howl. He watched the small trees and bushes bend in place and the larger ones shake and quiver as if afraid of the coming storm.

The swinging bench, a recent department store sale item, swung with regularity, the perfect image of why he had wanted it in the first place. It looked cold, that wind; although he knew it was a false thought, influenced by his air conditioner supplied surroundings on this side of the glass.

Outside his windows, despite, or perhaps in spite of the wind, it was one of the hottest, stickiest days of the summer. The wind was simply the harbinger of a coming storm, whispering of cooler things to come.

The lawn was scattered with kids toys; water guns and buckets, toy trucks and bubble sticks, and looked, he fancied, just like one of those empty ships found floating out of the Bermuda triangle – with dinners half eaten sitting on the mess table, with no crew in sight.

The kiddie pool water rippled in the wind, the water had been too cold right out of the tap and the only real takers were a handful of grass blades floating across the surface and a lone earwig, who may have been there first and was still wondering what it had done to bring down the wroth of a higher being as it thrashed around still – trying to find dry, solid ground.

He sat there, in a brief moment of peace at the kitchen table, listening to raspy murmurs in the baby monitor, staring out at the sunny blue, cloudless sky and listened as the wind found its voice.


Free Writing

16 Jul

Do you practice free writing? Also known as stream of consciousness writing, this method is often used by English professors to ‘loosen up’ her students at the beginning of a class.

But it is also useful for the aspiring writer, or anyone who has run into writers block. Free writing helps release the tension and apprehension of facing a blank page. To free write, simply pick a topic and set a timer for 10-20 minutes. The only real rules are, write, don’t worry about what you’re writing (it’s not meant to be reused), punctuation or mistakes, and don’t stop writing until the buzzer goes. That’s about it.

More often than not, especially when you first begin free writing, the end result of your 10 minute of subconscious vomiting will largely be an incoherent mess. On the other hand, sometimes you will be surprise by the lucid thoughts and feelings that fall out your head.

Free writing can help you write without worrying about the quality – a problem that plagues many new writers. When you are starting out, the most important thing to do is to simply write… at every opportunity. You can’t expect everything to be good, you shouldn’t even hope for it; instead concentrate on improvement – Improvement through practice!

For more information on Free Writing, checkout the Free Writing article on Wikipedia. To read some free writing, click over to my free writing column.

So let’s write!


Why do you want to be a writer?

13 Jul

If you read my Top 10 Tips for New Writers post last week, you will likely remember one of the most important things a new writer can do is to write every day. But life is busy and sometimes it takes almost as much time to think of something to write down as it does to eventually write that something down.

Well, Prefect Writing has come to the rescue with a new column designed to get your grey matter charged, your juices bubbling and your pen flying!

Posts in this column will ask a series of questions surrounding a specific topic, designed to get you thinking. Your job will be to go away and write something down – maybe it will just be a bullet list of answers; perhaps a blog post of your own; maybe it will only be a few notes in your writing journal. It doesn’t matter what form your answers take – just WRITE!

So, to launch this new column I thought I’d start with the basics. Todays topic is: Why do you want to be a writer!

  • Why do you want to write?
  • Is writing just an escape for you?
  • Do you want to help others?
  • Do you need someone else to validate your time?
  • Are you writing to inspire?
  • Or do you write because you have been inspired?
  • Would you like to inspire others?
  • Do you write to feel something different?
  • Or do you write so others can experience something different?
  • Are you writing for the challenge?
  • What other authors do you admire?
  • Are you in it for the art form?
  • Do you write because you have stories bubbling from within?
  • Or do you write to find a story?
  • Is writing a necessity?
  • Or do you struggle to find time to put pen to paper?
  • Do you write just so you can play God for a time?
  • What time of day is your writing the most productive?
  • Do you even know why you want to write?
  • Do you want to try and tell a story?
  • Or do you need to tell the world about a character?
  • Or has a plot twist idea been burning to come out?
  • Are you planning on trying to make money off of this?
  • Do you start with a plan?
  • Do you brainstorm?
  • Or are you a ‘free writer’ first?
  • Where do you do your best writing?
  • What are your writing goals?
  • Do you have any writing goals?
  • Do you read enough?
  • Do you have a support group or at least someone to critique your work?
  • How will you deal with your friends/family members who are not supportive?
  • Are you prepared to listen to your friends/ families views on your writing?
  • Do you carry writing material with you everywhere now?
  • Do you know how to keep yourself inspired?
  • Do you think better at a keyboard or with a pen in your hand?
  • What are the biggest struggles you have faced so far on your writing journey?

I could keep going, but now it’s your turn.  Start by leaving a comment below.

Happy writing!  :)


Top 10 Tips For New Writers

06 Jul

This ‘Top 10 Tuesday’ list goes all the way to 11!

So you want to be a writer? Where do you start? Where we all do… at the beginning.

  1. Decide to be a writer. Tell people you are a writer (you don’t have to be published to BE a writer!) This is the most important tip for new writers! Saying you WANT to be a writer just doesn’t cut it. Tell the world you ARE a writer.
  2. Read, Read, Read. Whether it’s a book, newspaper, blog post, flyer, or the back of a box of Cheerios, do not pass up an opportunity to read.
  3. Write, Write, Write. It may be for work or pleasure, character details or a shopping wish list but, as per tip #1, never pass up an opportunity to write something down.
  4. Keep a notebook with you at all times and write the smallest creative thoughts into it. Write something daily. It may be an interesting character name, some funny dialog you overheard in the elevator, an idea trigger, or a longer plot snippet; whatever it is, make sure you take the time to write it down.
  5. Pay attention to the stories that people share with you, jot them down, and analyze them from different angles – ‘Stories’ could be anything; from their experiences, from media, from the news – it doesn’t matter, the goal is to better understand what it is that catches someone’s attention and engages them enough to share the underlying idea
  6. If you ever get stuck for something to write – read some more; start with your own notebook once in a while!
  7. Find a fan. Your fan could be your wife, boyfriend, son, mother, or best friend. Find people who are interested in reading your writing and share as often as possible
  8. Listen to feedback and try to learn something from the review – even if it’s poor! Don’t be disappointed if your fans don’t like your latest turn of phrase or character or plot idea. As with any profession, or hobby where you air your inner thoughts out for public consumption, you are going to need to develop a thick skin and open ears!
  9. Find role models. Whether bloggers or authors or your college English professor – find writers to admire and study their work
  10. Believe in your talent, or embrace your curiosity to learn, experiment and try new things!
  11. Write some more. Remember tip 2 – never pass up an opportunity to write!

What do you think of this list? This is your opportunity to leave a comment!

(And thanks for reading)