With the ever-growing world of eBooks, the lifespan of printed books are dwindling. As a frequent bookstore visitor, I loathe the day printed books die out. I think it’s still a long time coming, but it stills gives me panic attacks whenever I think about it. (And then I proceed to run to the nearest Barnes & Noble and breathe in the soothing smell of freshly printed books – seriously, that needs to be a body spray or something.) But in the meantime, we need to focus on the benefits of physical books versus the cheap imitations of the real book-reading experience. Nothing beats the feel of quickly fanning the pages of a new book or hearing the spine crinkle when you open it or perusing the aisles of an entire building dedicated to only books. And then there’s the satisfying feeling you get when you close a book after you’re finished reading. EBooks just don’t quite live up to the experience that is reading a physical book. Read the complete list of reasons at Thought Catalog.
As a writer, your job seems to be simple: write stuff and people read it. But it’s the constant, daily struggle that’s difficult – figuring out the sweet spot between writing what you want to write and writing what actually sells. Sometimes, those are the same thing, other times, not so much. A lot of times, it depends on the market that year: what genres and topics are popular right now and what people are talking about. But most importantly, you need to know what you want out of writing. If you’re in it for the money, then all the power to you, the answers are on the bestseller list. If you’re writing because you love the craft but you also want to be able to eat, then either make a compromise or try to find the happy medium. More than likely, there will be a group of readers out there that will want to read your writing. The catch is do you care about how big that group is or is the fact that they exist at all enough for you? Check out what novelist Chuck Wendig says about this on his blog, Terribleminds.
Envy. It’s one of the seven deadly sins. It’s said to turn us into “green monsters”. There are thousands of articles online and in self help books telling us how to let go of it, get rid of it, or rise above it.
To be concise: It’s got a bad reputation.
But, as always, it comes with a silver lining. Envy can be a strong motivating force, for both good and bad. And, as Pahrul Sehgal points out in her TED talk, it can be a force of innovation. Getting from point A (what someone else has) to point B (having it) can take some creativity, and envy is just the motivation for that creative thinking.
Envy is also an act of storytelling. We tell ourselves all about what someone else has, why they have it, and what it all means to us. This, the creativity and the narrative, may be why literature is obsessed with envy. Sehgal even argues that without envy, we might lose literature all together: “No faithless Helen, no Odyssey; no jealous king, no Arabian Nights. No Shakespeare. There goes high school reading lists because we’re losing the Sound and the Fury, we’re losing Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, we’re losing Madame Bovary, Anna K. No jealousy, no Proust.”
So while envy may bring out the worst in us (as Sehgal acknowledges) maybe there is something to learn from it. Instead of trying to beat the envy out of ourselves, maybe we can leverage it into something more.
“We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.”
“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”
Whether you believe in 10,000 bad drawings, 11 lifetimes, or 10,000 hours, it’s commonly agreed: Practice makes perfect.
750words.com seeks to make practice even better. The premise is simply. You go online, write 750 words, and the website keeps track of whether you do it or not. It keeps track of your running streak, and it assigns points.
Simple. But apparently very effective, according to the Wall of Awesomeness on 750words’ website. The Wall of Awesomeness keeps track of the people who take and successfully complete the 1 month challenge. The 1 month challenge is exactly what you’d imagine, of course – write 750 words every day for a month. If you’re struggling to stay motivated, or if you’re planning on a “write every day” style New Years resolution, 750words.com might be worth a shot.
All you need to do is serve the pudding before sprouts, remember that similar birds fly conjointly, and try not to be afraid of nizzards and glikkers. Yes, yes, Dr. Seuss tends not to make sense at times, but he always reveals the moral of the story at the end though. He knew how to captivate even the most unruly of audiences – his writing had the power to make kids sit down and listen. The most important lesson to learn from Dr. Seuss is to first give the readers what they really want before you unload all the detailed important stuff. You need to paint the picture before you try to haggle the price. Lure people in with verbs and active language, then slowly work in the point of your content. This is what Copyblogger tries to drive home: If you can create like Dr. Seuss, you can make it like Dr. Seuss. Okay, I really just wanted to make something rhyme… how about this:
He rhymes, he writes, he sets kids right; you read, you need, click here with speed.
Professional Writing is an undeniably unique program. This uniqueness is manifested in many wonderful ways, but it can be hard to explain, even for a practiced rhetorician. Thanksgivings and family Christmases come around and the less up-to-date family members invariably ask “How is school?” and “What are you studying?”. Then, if you’re particularly unlucky, you get the follow up:
“And what are you going to do with that?”
Professional Writing doesn’t come with a convenient answer, unlike job-title ready degrees such as Nursing or Accounting. The same quality that makes PW amazingly flexible is what makes this question difficult to answer concisely.
But while you can’t predict your own personal future, you can learn from the past and present. Alumni with a PW degree are living proof that the answers to “So what are you going to do with that?” are varied and personal and sometimes even completely unexpected. So while there may never be a perfect one phrase answer, there’s hundreds of examples to show off and learn from.
One such example comes from Angela Shetler, 2005 graduate. When she graduated she tried a few jobs where she got the chance to get some editing and publishing experience. Unfortunately, it still seemed like something was missing. And that’s when Shetler took a risk and moved out to Japan, where she taught English for three years. “If you had told me back in 2005 that this would be the path my career would take, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s definitely been an adventure.” Now Shetler is teaching rhetoric and writing at the University of Sydney, as part of a program that she calls “the first of its kind in Australia.”
Other Professional Writing alumni have taken their skills abroad as well. Ryan Wyeth, class of 2010, relocated to China for a contract where he worked as an English teacher. He now works as a freelance translator, an undertaking that he describes as demanding, but also rewarding. “I enjoy the satisfaction of being able to look over a completed translation project and see the quality in my own work. I know that I produce translations that convey the intended message but do so in a fluid, stylish manner.” (more…)
Yelling, shouting, jumping – these are all verbs that are used to describe gripping headlines. A string of words that can compel a reader to continue reading are essential. However, writing headlines isn’t easy at all. Just like many things, it comes with practice. Focusing on the headlines that catch your eye aren’t a bad idea though. Usually headlines that have credibility, a source that you trust to back them up, are the ones that draw people’s attention. Scientific research or studies are seen in our society as reliable sources. But that’s not the only thing that matters. Context also has influence over the reader, if they aren’t interested in scientific research, then there needs to be a targeting element to the content that will draw them in. For example, if the scientific pull of a research project doesn’t get them, then perhaps the fact that it’s on puppies and kittens will. Who doesn’t like puppies and kittens? Maybe they’ll continue reading for the promise of pictures or maybe the reader is genuinely interested in the outcome of the research of adorable, baby animals. Either way, in order to capture the attention of readers, there needs to be thought put into the credibility of the content as well as who is the target audience. Head over to Copyblogger to learn more about crafting irresistible headlines!
It may appear that fiction authors have more leeway in their writing and storytelling. Not true. The Writing, Rhetoric and American Culture (WRAC) department at MSU offers many doors in which students can open and step into professions that involve a variety of non-fiction writing. What opportunities lie in non-fiction? Memoirs, diaries, documentaries, journals, textbooks, photographs, newspapers, magazines, instruction manuals, flash fiction essays, and writing for WRAC are all examples of non-fiction works. Surprisingly, this list is short compared to the many opportunities related to non-fiction that are out there.
Before we walk down the yellow brick road and discover the different stops WRAC has to offer towards non-fiction, let’s take a look at Webster’s definition of non-fiction, “writing that is about facts or real events.” If we go off Webster’s definition, non-fiction may appear boring. Instead we will use “Dr. Bump” Halbritter’s definition, “Not suspending disbelief, but inspiring belief about things that are accepted.” Well said. Now let’s continue walking down the yellow brick road and begin to explore the possibilities in WRAC.
First Stop: Which Character Are You?
The Scarecrow: The Undergraduate: “Dr. Bump” Halbritter finds excitement in teaching WRA425: Advanced Multimedia Writing, which allows students to uncover the documentary side of non-fiction. Students are given the opportunity to challenge their brains and create amazing videos, for instance, “For the 25” was made by PW alumni. Research and use visual and audio technology to mediate, create and remix text. You will be able to collect, process and edit information to create dialogue and script. This course is offered every spring semester. It is a continuation of WRA225: Intro to Multimedia Writing taught by Alexandra Hidalgo every fall semester.
The Tin Woodman: The MA Student: AL854: Nonfiction Writing Workshop is taught by Dr. Leonora Smith. She provides a set of assignments, experiments and challenges that explore non-fiction techniques and apply strategies of poetry and fiction to non-fiction writing. You’ll develop practices that lead you to write rich, powerful, satisfying non-fiction. With all my heart I was able to compose pieces that were ready for publication or presentation this semester. I am looking forward to reading my piece at the Conference of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature in spring 2014. Students are free to choose any topics and write collective pieces that will allow you to tell your side of the story. This course is offered every other year in the fall semester.
The Cowardly Lion: The PhD. Student: WRA853: Academic Writing is a new course that is going to be taught by Dr. Malea Powell. This course has a curriculum that will allow students to take strategies from creative non-fiction writing into their academic writing. This course is currently known as the Development of the Essay, starting spring 2015 it will be a new course on academic writing. Build the courage and be the first to take this course and take writing techniques and strategies from various creative writing fields, such as poetry and fiction, and use them as ways to make your academic writing better and use other techniques to break through writing blocks. Look forward to this course every spring as a required core course for PhD students and an elective for MA students. Another similar special topic to look forward to in 2015 is WRA891: Workshop in Rhetoric & Writing.
It isn’t uncommon for students to come into college not knowing exactly what they want. There is a variety of creative and imaginative faculty in WRAC that are dedicated towards helping students make the right turn on the yellow brick road. There are great staff and advisors who listen and cater to what you need. Don’t be afraid, college isn’t intended to be a lonely experience. Professors are here to encourage a variety of all kinds of work. Do like Dorothy, network and meet remarkable people along the yellow brick road and establish an amazing team that will help you pick courses and create a concentration. WRAC may not have a concentration geared towards only non-fiction, but once you established what you want, on your crossing towards the end of that road, you can pick out the stops you will make along the way. (more…)