Free Online Creative Writing Resources

If you love to write, but aren’t a creative writing major, or if you are an English student, but you don’t have a workshop class this semester, it can be difficult to find time to write. Without the support of a teacher or your classmates, it can also be difficult to come up with new ideas, commit to writing regularly, or get helpful insight on your work. Luckily, there are a lot of free resources online for creative writers. Here are just a few: 

Poets & Writers: https://www.pw.org/ 

Poets & Writers is the resource for creative writers. They have tons of helpful articles, a magazine, podcasts, and directories of publications, university-level writing programs, reading venues, literary agents, presses, and more. There is so much stuff here, we can’t even describe it all; suffice it to say that if you’re a writer, P&W has something that will be beneficial to you, whether you’re looking for MFA programs, trying to get published, or just looking for inspiration. 

Association of Writers & Writing Programs: https://www.awpwriter.org/ 

Not only does AWP put on the biggest conference in the Western literary world, their site is also a great resource for finding writing contests, other conferences, and writing programs. They have a monthly magazine, Writer’s Chronicle, and a regularly updated calendar of literary events, literary news section, and podcast series. 

New Pageshttps://www.newpages.com/ 

Like Poets & Writers and AWP, New Pages is chock-full of writing resources from calls for submission, writing contests, writing programs, literary magazines to book reviews and literary links. They even have a guide to bookstores in the U.S. and Canada (a great resource for when you’re on a book tour—or just looking for a bookstore while on vacation)  

Writer’s Digesthttp://www.writersdigest.com/free 

You may have already heard of Writer’s Digest, but if you follow the link above, you’ll have access to free downloads of helpful writing exercises and informative writing tips. Plus, you can check out the rest of the Writer’s Digest site (as we mentioned a few weeks ago in Creative Writing Blogs You Should be Following, they have some good blogs)! 

WKU’s Writing Center bloghttps://wkuwritingcenter.wordpress.com/ 

Our reputation is that of an academic writing resource, but we love creative writing too! Many of our consultants are creative writers, themselves. While not all of our content is specifically relating to creative writing, we do regularly post CW content, and content about writing in general that can be applied to creative as well as academic writing. 

Interested in creative writing resources or a consultation with a writing tutor on a creative piece? Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays). 

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An Admonition on the Employment of Thesauruses

A Catechism 

What’s wrong with the following sentence?

This sentence may not adumbrate what it is putative to augur in behalf of I’m employing commodious lexemes that resonate sumptuously but that don’t concur in the censure.

If you guessed that the sentence was written using a thesaurus, then you are correct! Here’s what I actually intended to say:

This sentence may not mean what it is supposed to mean because I’m using big words that sound impressive but that don’t fit in the sentence.  

That’s a lot more clear, right? I’m using language that makes sense and fits the sentence’s meaning while also considering my audience.

An Exposition for Why We Manipulate Thesauruses 

If you’re like me, you were told in high school to use a thesaurus to strengthen your vocabulary. This was so engrained in me that I still use a thesaurus on occasion to learn different ways of saying the same things. However, thesauruses can be dangerous if we simply pull out words without knowing their true definitions. We see this all the time at the writing center. A paper will be going smoothly until we come across a word that just—doesn’t fit. Most of the time, not even I know what the word means. When we look it up, more often than not it doesn’t match what the writer intended.

So why do we keep using a thesaurus? To learn new words? To sound impressive? If it’s the former, great. Find a word and look it up in the dictionary. Better yet, look up how it is used in a sentence to make sure that it is being used in the same way you want to use it. But know that you are at risk of using a word that your audience will not have known before either.

If you use a thesaurus to sound impressive, let me take the pressure off your shoulders. Teachers most likely are not concerned about how many letters are in your words or how fancy they sound. What they are looking for is accuracy, clarity, and depth of thought. They are much more interested in what you have to say than in how you say it, so it’s okay to use the words you are comfortable with.

(Note that I have used the word “used” multiple times in the last two paragraphs. That’s okay! I don’t need to pull out the thesaurus so I can replace them with words like “utilize” or “employ” or “adopt” to sound more fancy. That would actually be pretty annoying, wouldn’t it?)

There is a third reason to use a Thesaurus that I think is more helpful, and that is for recalling words you can’t remember. Sometimes I’m writing and realize—for instance—that I’ve used the word “pleasure” ten times. I know there is another way to say it, but I need a little help dislodging those words from my memory. So I look up “pleasure” in the Thesaurus and find words like “delight” and “happiness.” I also find words like “delectation,” “gluttony,” “diversion,” and “fruition.” I know that those latter words do not mean what I intend, so I go with the words that I do know and understand.

In Culmination 

Thesauruses can be helpful in the right settings in helping you recall words or even learn some new words with the help of a dictionary, but make sure you are using words that fit your meaning and your own voice.

Setting up a professional email signature

Email is a cornerstone of communication on the college campus as well as most workplaces, but the truth is, we’re rarely formally taught email etiquette. Since students are communicating with professors, classmates, potential job or internship sites, campus staff, organization leaders, and others, having a professional email presence is critical, and an important component of a professional email presence is a good email signature. 

What does a professional email signature look like? 

A good email signature has four basic components: your name, your title, your organization, and your contact information. At its most basic, your signature can have this information, in the same size/font/format/color as your email body text. That might look something like this: 

[First name] [Last name] 
[Major] student 
Western Kentucky University 
[email address] 

You can choose to add additional information to your email signature, such as a link to your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio, as well as your phone number or other contact information. It’s important to remember who you will be communicating with, however. Make sure you don’t provide a link to your personal social media accounts like Twitter if you’ll be communicating with potential employers (unless you’re applying for a position in social media, of course) or that you don’t include your address if you have to communicate with strangers, for personal safety reasons. 

It’s also up to you whether you choose to make the signature stand out from the text with formatting different from your body text, though you won’t want to do anything too crazy (e.g., rainbow colored text, unreadable font, size 80 text). Here’s another example of a professional signature: 

pic1

Here’s a free tool for creating a customized, professional-looking email signature: https://www.hubspot.com/email-signature-generator 

How to set up an email signature in Outlook  

  1. Select the Settings tab in the upper right corner of the window.  pic2
  2. Search “signature” and select Email signature from the results. pic3.png
  3. Enter your email signature in the text box provided. pic4
  4. Select OK to save the signature. 

If you have questions about writing and communicating in a professional manner, the Writing Center can help! Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).

Listening to Books: Why and How

Sometimes I get funny looks from people. Not necessarily bad looks. They are more like split-second flashes of surprise or confusion.

There have been a few occasions when I have gotten those looks after saying a sentence similar to, “I was listening to this book the other day…” And there it is–the look. The look that says, “Don’t you mean ‘read’?” And I have to explain that I really did mean listen, as in an audio book. And then I may hear things like, “That’s cheating!” or “That’s not the same as reading.”

I started “listening to books” when I was old enough to go on road trips with my family. On a twelve-hour drive to Florida, before DVD fixtures were put into every mini van, audio books were the best way to make the time pass other than my parents’ famous hand-puppet theater.

There are pros and cons to audiobooks. The cons are that you don’t get to experience the classic feel and smell and mind-consuming bliss of reading the pages of a book. That, and sometimes the reader’s voice is so obnoxious or dull that you can’t stand them past the first chapter. If you are studying the book for class, you run into the problem of not being able to bookmark pages or underline significant sentences, which is why having a hard copy available is a good idea.

However, there are several pros as well. First, I would never consider it “cheating” to listen to a book. For a child learning to read, yes: that would be cheating. But I know how to read. I can pay attention to the language, story, metaphors, and other literary devices and themes of a book as much with my ears as with my eyes. Second, listening is a great way to get your readings in while driving, cleaning, walking, or working out.

I am a slow reader, so this is especially useful when I am assigned a lot of books at once. I once listened to Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. As a five-part book with quite a few chapters about politics, history, and philosophy, (not to mention hundreds of confusing French words to struggle through), I would never have been able to read this book in the time I did without listening to it–even as an English major. Plus, I got to hear the French words pronounced and go around thinking in an accent for a month. Lastly, listening to books allows me to be productive with my hands while simultaneously developing my mind through literature. Sometimes, being lazy and reading all day is fantastic. Other times, there is simply too much to do to spend hours on the couch.

Listening to books is easy. Simply download the OverDrive Media app onto your iPhone, find your local library in the app, and log in using your library card. Then, you can download books for free!

You can also find copies of audio books at the WKU library. Also, the Warren County Public Library–which you can sign up for as a student resident of Bowling Green–has thousands of books available on the OverDrive app and the RBdigital app., and hoopla. See more information here: https://warrenpl.org/online-catalog/#ebook-audio

You can sign up for a digital library card for the Warren County Library here: https://warrenpl.org/forms-and-policies/digital-services-library-card-request/.

So next time you go on a road trip or have long commute to drive every day, I encourage you to use that time to read–that is–listen to books.

Happy Reading (and listening)

 

Academic writing blogs you should be following

Improving your academic writing skills doesn’t have to involve musty textbooks, terse grammar tomes, or innumerable style guides. As a student writer, you have a lot of resources available to you to help improve your academic writing; one of those resources are blogs, and there are plenty of blogs on academic writing. Here are some of our favorites:

Explorations of Style: https://explorationsofstyle.com/

This blog has great, in-depth blog articles on all things academic writing, from the technical (“Transitions“) to the practical (“Can You Have Too Much Writing Time?“) to the existential (“Yes, you are a writer!”). There are posts on key writing principles and key writing strategies, plus, the author, Rachael Cayley, also lists the sources she uses.

patterhttps://patthomson.net/

Pat Thomson’s blog patter has a wealth of information on academic writing, from dissertations to conference papers to finding the angle for your research paper. It also has interesting posts on academic writing-related topics, like the phenomenon of the academic “poison pen.”

Scientific Academic Writing: https://www.scoop.it/t/scientific-academic-writing

This blog focuses specifically on science writing, which many students struggle with, but it also has applications for other forms of academic writing. While many of the posts are scientific academic writing-specific, there are also posts on general academic writing topics, such as how to improve your writing by reading, or why academic writing is so stilted and stuffy.

James Hayton, PhD: https://jameshaytonphd.com/everything/

While this blog is specifically geared toward PhD students, it has great information on academic writing general. Some of our favorites include “Metaphor and Analogy in Academic Writing” and “What goes in the Introduction, what goes in the Conclusion?

The WKU Writing Center blog: wkuwritingcenter.wordpress.com

Our blog is full of information about academic writing and we post every Tuesday and Thursday!

If you have questions about grammar and would like to learn how to identify the patterns of grammatical error in your writing, the Writing Center can help! Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).

Self-Editing Techniques

Everyone Edits

While we at the writing center are here to help you revise your papers, it’s always a good practice to review your work before turning it in no matter how good of a writer you are.   Sometimes not worrying about surface level errors is a great way to let your thoughts flow when drafting, so going back to edit is necessary to making sure your ideas are clear and free of mistakes or errors.

Revising Content First

Revising and editing are two different things. Editing looks at sentence-level errors such as grammar, punctuation, syntax, and formatting. Doing this first would only lead to frustration later if you decide to remove or re-write a fully polished paragraph. Revising happens when you look at the paper as a whole, make sure everything flows coherently and follows the guidelines you have been given as well as the goals you set for yourself, and then make changes to the content.

Use Your Rubric 

If you professor has given you a rubric, use it! Lay it beside your paper and check off items you have gotten right. If something is off, mark it and make the edits.

If you don’t have a rubric, use any other material your teacher has given you, including your own notes. Or, you can write down what you know should be included (i.e. a thesis, topic sentences, conclusion, etc.) and compare your paper to that.

Reverse Outlining 

This is one of my favorite techniques, and it can be done in many ways. I like to read over a hard copy of my paper and write down on another sheet of paper (or in the margins) my thesis and the topic or topic sentence of each paragraph. Whether or not I tried to follow an outline from the onset, whatever I write through my reading is my new outline. Next, I ask the following questions:

  1. Does every paragraph match the thesis? If not, should I adjust the paragraphs, or should I add to the thesis?
  2. Is every paragraph or topic necessary? Is there anything to cut?
  3. Does every paragraph contain one topic?
  4. Is anything missing that should be added?
  5. Does my conclusion sufficiently reflect on all of the points?

Sentence-level Edits

Print the Paper 

If you can, print the paper double-sided or even on the back of used sheets to save trees. You are far more likely to catch errors and look at your paper as a whole if you are holding a physical copy and reading carefully with a pen in your hand.

Read Out Loud 

Our minds have a way of subconsciously correcting sentences, putting words and letters and even punctuation where it should be without realizing that something is missing. Reading out loud slows down the process, enabling you to catch the tiny errors that you might skip over if reading silently. Reading aloud may also help you hear where commas need to be added for pauses.*

Utilize the Internet 

If you are not sure about a grammatical or formatting issue, look it up. With so many resources at our fingertips, we shouldn’t be guessing whether or not we should use a semicolon. Each thing you look up could be something you won’t have to look up next time. Of course, it’s hard to remember all those rules, and I still look things up constantly to make sure my writing is correct.

Conclusion 

Self-editing is not just for struggling writers. Everyone–even J.K. Rowling–must edit their writing.

As usual, the Writing Center is here to help you in every stage of the writing process. Feel free to set up an appointment or stop by any time!

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*Disclaimer: Don’t believe the idea that commas go wherever you pause. Commas are used, rather, to separate phrases.

How to become more comfortable sharing your own work 

At times, writing can feel like an intensely personal act, and because of that, it is often difficult for writers to share their work. As a student, you’re required to share your work in a variety of ways, whether with your professor, a writing tutor, your classmates, a workshop, a conference audience, or the readership of a journal. If the idea of other people hearing or reading your writing makes you nervous, here are a few ways that you can become more comfortable sharing your work with an audience.

Practice

You knew that we were going to say this, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If reading your work in front of people makes you nervous, practice! You can do this by finding a good practice audience, like a group of friends: people who you aren’t afraid to speak in front of and who you’re not afraid will judge you. It can also help to read in front of an audience of your peers who you don’t necessarily know, so that you can get comfortable sharing your work with strangers. An open mic event (like the one hosted by students of the English department—one will be coming up soon!) can be a great opportunity to share your work in a low-pressure environment. No one is grading or judging, and often, the audience members are equally nervous about reading their own work.

Remember that people are self-centered

Rarely is this a comforting truth, but in this instance, it can be. When you’re nervous about sharing your work, remember that people are generally self-centered; that means that they’re thinking about themselves, not thinking about or judging you. When was the last time someone shared their work with you? Were you judging or mocking that person? Chances are that you weren’t; you were probably wrapped up in your own concerns. The same applies when you share your writing with others.

Don’t take it personally

If you’re sharing your work in a workshop or a tutoring session, you’ll probably receive some critiques and suggestions for improvement. In these instances, it is important to remember that the comments are on the piece of writing, not on you as a writer or as a person. Additionally, none of them are designed to hurt your feelings—they’re intended to help you make the piece better. Again, practice can be useful here; the more you hear commentary on your writing, the more accustomed to it you’ll become.

Getting comfortable with putting yourself out there and sharing your writing can be scary, but just like putting yourself out there in other ways, like making friends, professional networking, or getting involved in your community, is necessary to having a fulfilling academic experience, so is sharing your work. These three strategies can help you become more at ease when sharing your work, and that can only be a good thing!

Want to polish a paper before sharing it? Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).