Tips For Academic Writing

Blog posts are the only things I know how to write, but even that is questionable. It depends who you ask.
So whenever I have to write for academia, you can imagine the ensuing panic. And if you can’t, I’ll try to describe it.

Never mind, I can’t.

Safe to say I’m no expert when it comes to writing research papers or literary essays. But somehow I’ve gotten by.

How? I have no idea.

Do I have any business giving advice on writing? Nope. Will that stop me? Never.

Follow instructions. Follow rules. Follow whatever your professor says.

I hate following with a passion. But I’ll do whatever it takes to pass. Academic writing will never be as kind to you as creative writing is.

If you’re ever unsure about a fact, double check.

When you’re unsure of the meaning of a word, look it up. It’s always better to err on the side of caution. Always.

When in doubt, cut it out.

Try to delete anything you don’t need. It’s hard to detect sometimes, especially if you’re editing your own writing. But you’ll thank yourself later. Besides, everyone is better off without unnecessary adverbs. Seriously, your lovely teacher will totally understand that your really amazingly awesome point is very important.

Know your weaknesses.

Also, try to learn the words you fall back on as a crutch. You know what words I’m talking about. In elementary, my teachers pointed out my love for the word “then.” Then this happened. Then I did that. Then you get the idea. Now for some reason, I have a mildly unhealthy attraction to the word “that”. It’s more obvious in my essay writing when I’m not careful. Using the same words again and again becomes redundant. If you use them too much, the word loses power. After all, not every sentence needs to begin with “then” followed by “that.”

Even if you follow nothing else I’ve said, hopefully you’re able to do this:

Write about something you care about, something you’re passionate for.

It doesn’t have to be a topic you know like the back of your hand either. That’s why research exists. I realize students don’t always get a say in the matter. Still, finding an interesting subject that makes you want to write is half the battle.

Advertisements

My Goals For The Rest Of 2017

Since it’s somehow October, I figured I should lay out some goals for myself for the end of the year.

Schooling

I’ve been meaning to be a better student this year. I’m not sure if I’ll do anything differently, though. Work hard, work smart, and work well.

Reading

When I have busy, hectic days, reading tends to suffer more than anything else. I have sort of a binge mindset with books. But it’s tough to block out an entire hour or two to read. My lowball goal is to post at least two reviews a month, meaning I’ll need to read two books. I wish I was a faster reader and reviewer, but when it comes to reading for fun, I want to enjoy the experience. I rather not rush myself for no real reason.

Writing

Honestly, writing sometimes falls by the wayside as well. I’m not too sure what my goal is. I’ve been writing short stories and poems. All summer long, I’ve spent my mornings transcribing old work and editing current projects. I keep sending my babies out into the world. People keep rejecting them. It’s the life of a writer. In a way, I feel a bit lost. I have a lot of doubts, and so I’m not sure what I want right now.

Dancing

I don’t talk much about dance on here, although I really ought to. I’ve been having some great dance sessions as of late. When I told someone about it, she asked me if I’ll ever take dancing to the next level. I won’t. I’ve always danced for myself, and I’m mostly a self-taught dancer. But I’d like to continue stretching, dancing, and conditioning. I feel great. It’s fun. Besides, exercising my body doesn’t hurt my brain.

Blogging

Of course, I save blogging for last. It’s not something I talk about with people in real life. I have my reasons. I also have hit a bit of a weird phase creatively. I seem to fall into routines, ride the same wave over and over again. I hope I’m making sense. I’ve always wanted to write longer posts, but it doesn’t sit right with me. It’s just not who I am to be verbose and wordy. When I edit, I cut out a lot. I’d love to keep posting every day.

These are my goals. What are yours?

Storytelling, Timing, Writing

I love writing and hope to publish a book someday. If that doesn’t happen, I really hope I can at least help to improve literacy rates around the world.

I can’t imagine not being able to read or write. I’m beyond grateful to be in the position I am.

Oh, writing. I love it. I want to dedicate my entire life to telling stories.

The times I want to give up, I tell myself I’m closer than I realize. Besides, if I give up, I won’t make it. I can’t reap all the seeds I’ve sown in the last several years if I throw away all my pens and never buy any again.

Every professional writer was an amateur, an aspiring writer who didn’t quit even when they experienced rejection, failure. They kept going.

I like to believe I’m on the right path, heading in a direction towards a destination I will arrive at one day and be blown away. That’s some sentence, huh? The poet in me is coming out.

I can’t wait.

Wherever this life takes me, wherever I go, I’ll look ahead and regret nothing.

In my twenty years of life, I’ve learned that life is messy and ugly.

I tend to expect perfection from myself or something close to it. But if life isn’t perfect, how can I be?

I’m hard on myself, so hard. I’m trying to loosen up, take things easy. That doesn’t mean I don’t expect great things from myself. It just means when I do inevitably fail, I won’t beat myself down when I’m already on the ground.

I’ll pick myself up and carry on my way. Brush the dirt off. Keep walking.

I truly believe this world needs stories. We need art. Maybe I can supply both to the people who need it most. I’d be happy with changing one person’s life. In a good way, of course.

I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of storytelling. I know how powerful stories are. The right story at the right time can be life-changing.

Timing really is everything. Right place at the right time. When the stars and planets align.

One of these days the timing will be close to perfect. I’ll know with all my heart I’m where I should be. Then all this will be worth it. After all, I’m worth it.

Why Editing Is Hard Work

Even though I love writing, I don’t know if I love editing.

It’s messy. It’s hard work. And that’s why I’m a hardcore procrastinator anytime I have to make my first drafts better.

I tend to leave comments telling other bloggers their poem or post is well-written. Maybe what I really ought to say is they’re well-edited. After all, first drafts are ugly. How do you make them beautiful? You clean them. Fix the mistakes, the errors.

How time-consuming, huh? I’d argue that sometimes it takes more time to edit than it does to write. At least in my experience.

I don’t know if I’d call myself a perfectionist, but I am quite particular with words. I’m constantly looking for a better one.

With writing, I try not to worry about being perfect. I focus as much as I can on getting my thoughts or ideas down. Dump the contents on my mind onto the page.

I’ve gotten better at separating writing from editing. They’re two separate processes. They’re tough enough to do on their own. So imagine trying to write and edit at the same time.

I procrastinate editing for obvious reasons. It’s a lot of work, especially if I know I wrote an exceptionally terrible first draft.

I think editing requires more energy than writing. Maybe energy isn’t the right word. Editing asks more, demands more. You need to be alert and attentive rather than divide your attention or try to multi-task.

I like writing later in the day when I’m tired. In the mornings, I feel more awake, less exhausted, so I’ll edit. Besides, I catch mistakes better when my eyes aren’t threatening to close on me.

Just like writing, editing in my opinion is toughest at the start, usually right before you begin. But the more you edit, the better your piece will be. And the closer you’ll get to being done with editing and moving back into the magical phase of writing.

Do you find editing hard? If so, why?

How Being A Blogger Made Me A Better Writer

I don’t know many things, but I know that blogging has improved my writing. So I figured after four years of managing this blog, I should write a post explaining how being a blogger made me a better writer. And continues to. Let’s see where this goes.

Brevity

Before blogging, I used to be somewhat lengthy and wordy at times. But I’ve cut down on that. Get my point across. Use as many words as I need to. No more, no less.

Grammar

I try to use good grammar all the time. Blogging isn’t an exception. I’ve also run into instances where I’m unsure of a grammatical rule while I’m writing a blog post and had to look it up. It never hurts to have greater exposure to grammar.

Style

Everyone has their own style, even though it takes plenty of time to develop.

Voice

Being on WordPress allowed me to discover myself on many fronts. And because I aim to blog every day, I have had a lot of chances to figure out who I am.

How has blogging helped you as a writer?

Writing As A Way Of Appreciating

Writer’s block. I believe in being blocked, but I don’t believe in using it as an excuse. Do better. Be better.

When baseball hitters go through slumps, they hit their way out of slumps. I think the same goes for writing. You don’t break out of a writing slump if you don’t write. You have to write your way out. Write a hundred terrible words. Write a thousand. Write until you’re not blocked.

Life isn’t perfect. Never will be. At any given time, the conditions are less than ideal. You need to do things before you’re ready to every now and then. That’s part of living and learning.

Obviously, some days are better than others. Be proud you’ve written even if you don’t love what you wrote. You can always make your first drafts better. You can’t improve non-existent stories however.

I’m trying not to take life too seriously. Besides, I got into writing because it was fun and enjoyable. I’m not letting anyone or anything steal my joy away.

Finding that balance between work and play is a challenge. But it’s doable. And even though I’m going to be busier, I have no plans to stop doing what I want: writing, reading, blogging.

A part of me misses the routine I established over the summer, although school hasn’t been too bad. I’m excited for what’s to come. I love learning. Always have, always will.

When I think about my schooling so far, I realize I never had many problems academically. I went to class, I did the homework. But everything else associated about school was tougher. The social aspect especially.

Mentally, I’m doing better than I have in a long time. It’s not such a terrible time to be in university for me.

Despite the one plus hour commute being a pain, it also provides some much needed time away. I don’t have any data. I can only access wifi at certain stops along the way. Which means I spend my commutes reading, writing, blogging. I get to disconnect temporarily.

This year I have a goal for myself to enjoy the little things in life. I think I take a lot for granted every day. So I hope to appreciate what I have through writing.

Advice For Aspiring Writers | A Q&A About Writing

Wherein I answer a bunch of questions I’ve probably already answered before and hopefully some new ones.

How long have you been writing?

Not long enough. I started penning my first novel right before high school. I’m currently in my third year of university. So about 8 years give or take.

What was your first novel called?

Breaking Ground. Don’t ask.

Read the book or see the movie?

The book obviously. Once a reader, always a reader.

Favourite word?

Contemporary. I really like modern art, dance, design, etc.

Least favourite word?

Filler words.

What do you drink while writing?

I can tell you what I don’t drink: coffee. Or tea for that matter. Water works perfectly fine for me.

What do you eat while writing?

Most likely some kind of fruit. Grapes probably.

What music are you playing?

I write in silence or I write to rock songs. There’s no in between.

The pen you prefer you use?

I’m not too particular about my pens.

When do you write best?

Probably at night because it’s not as busy.

What kind of paper do you prefer?

Lined.

What type of notebook do you use?

Spiral. They’re easier to hold with one hand.

Your favourite room to write in?

My room. My bed is comfortable and cozy.

Natural or artificial light?

I’m all for natural lighting when I’m reading. When I’m writing, it doesn’t matter as much to me. More often than not I write with the help of artificial light.

Hair up or down?

Up in a ponytail usually.

The hardest part about writing?

Not getting distracted. Editing is another story entirely.

The easiest part about writing?

Nothing. I kid. Personally I enjoy writing the first draft.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Start writing.

What have you sacrificed in order to write?

A social life. A love life. A life essentially.

Feel free to answer the above questions in your head or in a post.

A Letter To My 30 Year Old Self

Dear 30 year old Herminia,

How are you?

I hope you’re happy. Doing what you love, loving what you do.

Are you well? Healthy?

I like to think you’re still dancing. Maybe not to the extent you used to. But maybe you’re even better.

What book are you reading? You’re reading something, aren’t you? You won’t abandon your first love or neglect reading, right?

I wonder how you feel about dating and relationships. I’m sure 10 years will change your perspective, especially if you’re with someone you love. If you aren’t with someone you love, remember you deserve better. Don’t settle. Don’t ever settle. If you aren’t with someone, in which case I’m not surprised, again don’t settle for just anyone.

How’s the blog, huh? 20 year old you hardly went a day without blogging.

I want to believe with every fibre of my being that writing is still a big part of your life. At least it has some role. Perhaps you’re writing more, maybe getting paid to.

That’s the dream. A recurring one for years.

If you’re stressed or sad, breathe. You’re going to be okay. Whatever you happen to be going through, it will pass. And come on, you’re Herminia Chow.

Also, have you gotten better at dealing with ink stains? Or do pens still get the best of you?

Is there any chance you wish you could go back to being 20 years old when things were simple? I so badly wish you love life with all your heart. That you’re happy where you are.

Here’s to living with no regrets. Don’t panic. Do you. You’re not anyone else.

Keep going. Your hard work will pay off. A lot of your work has probably already paid off.

I don’t know what else to say except good luck. Remember why you started when you want to give up. The only person holding you back is yourself. Go after your goals. Say yes. Roll the dice. You may be surprised, Herminia.

Sincerely,

A not nearly as wise 20 year old

Being A Bad Blogger Again?

I have said I’m a bad blogger on many occasions. I’m not sure how many. I don’t keep track of all the truths I tell. But as this school year kicks into high gear, I feel the need to claim my bad blogger status again.

To be fair, you can blame my time management, well, lack thereof, for my shortcomings as a member of this lovely community. Still, I will do my absolute best to be my best.

Creating my own original content will always be a priority to me. I appreciate all of you who respect that.

I struggle, some days more than others with writing, editing, etc. I certainly don’t know everything there is to know. With each and every day, I’m learning. I am a student. I will always be one.

I’m well aware blogging is a two-way street. You give and take. You reciprocate. I’m not the best at reciprocating. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve probably gotten worse at giving back.

So with that being said, I want to take the time to thank all of you.

When I first started this blog four years ago in 2013, I never thought I’d still be blogging in 2017. Like with most things I figured I’d get bored and drop blogging like a hot potato. But I haven’t. Part of the reason why I haven’t is because of you.

To all the people who read my posts back when I had no idea what I was doing, not that I have any idea now, thanks for giving a new blogger a chance. Thank you to those who showed me the ropes and then allowed me to grasp them on my own. To everyone who reads and comments, I wish you knew how much it means to me. Your support, your encouragement kept me going even during the darkest winter nights when I thought about giving up.

I can’t make any promises or guarantees, but I can do better. And I will. Not just for me but for all of you who have stuck around.

How To Ask For Feedback And Apply It

I’m going to focus more on feedback for writers. But the following advice could be applicable in general as well.

Write down your worries.

In other words, what’s holding you back from asking and receiving help? Getting your fears on the page might make you realize you have nothing to be afraid of. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

Find someone you trust.

You’re more likely to apply someone’s remarks if you respect the person. Which isn’t to say you can’t approach a stranger for help. Do what works for you.

Ask.

The answer will always be no if you don’t. Imagine how much your work will benefit if you have someone look over your writing for mistakes. Or at the very least, places for improvement because you’re a perfect, flawless writer.

Set boundaries.

Let the other individual know what kind of feedback you want. That way, he or she can focus specifically on your flow, grammar, structure, etc. Better yet, you get the advice you want, and you won’t be blindsided by a curveball out of left field. I hope my baseball analogies and similes don’t bore you all to tears by the end of the year.

Listen.

Don’t be dismissive, especially if you solicited their suggestions in the first place. Hear them out at the very least. They might say something useful. They might not. But either way, you have nothing to lose.

Thank them.

For their time and feedback. After all, they didn’t have to provide you with comments or a critique for that story you’re working on. Unless you’re paying them to be your editor.

Don’t take anything personally.

Easier said than done, I know. But remember no one is attacking you as a person or your work either. Most people are just trying to help.

Use what works. 

You don’t have to use every suggestion.You’re more than welcome to, obviously. But ultimately it’s your story, and you’re the writer of it. Not your computer. Not your cat. Not your chicken.

That’s all my tired brain can come up with. I hope this post is useful or at least not entirely useless.

Good luck asking and applying feedback to make your work better. That’s the goal. I believe in you. Put your ego aside. Improve your writing abilities. I like to think life gets easier. But maybe nothing ever does. Either way, you have what it takes.