Archive | August 2010

Struggles with writing.

In keeping with my series this week of formal writing, I have collected a series of quotes from other writers that may or may not be applicable.

For all those people who stare at the screen, not sure where to start.

A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.

–Sidney Sheldon

For all those wondering what on earth you’re suppose to cite.

When you take stuff from one writer, it’s plagiarism. But when you take it from many writers, it’s research.

–William Mizner

Now, in case you were wondering about the editing part of it.

There is no great writing, only great rewriting.

–Justice Brandeis

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.

–Thomas Jefferson

And then if you are ever wondering if you will get it right.

The moment of recognizing your own lack of talent is a flash of genius.

–Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I’m one of the world’s great rewriters.

—-James A. Michener

So just remember, all writing takes time, patience, energy and a good portion of you wanting to learn and edit.

And if you want some more help “Things I’ve Learned From Editing Other People’s Papers” is advice I’ve written up from one of my jobs, and may be of help.

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Research paper–meet Wikipedia!

Wikipedia's articles are longer than any other encyclopedia out there, with fewer mistakes, so why can't we use it?

With the rise of the internet, wikipedia has become a popular source of information of all kinds. An often-heard statement may be, “According to Wikipedia” or “I looked it up on Wikipedia.”

However, one of the first thing that people are told when writing a formal college paper is:

You cannot cite wikipedia as one of your sources!

Well, why not? And if we can’t, what good is it?

The general answer to why not is that it is user-created content. But what does that possible mean?

Let’s say you are to do a research paper on fezzes. So you start reading:

click to read.

Now, since you know nothing about fezzes, that sounds reasonable. Maybe slight unprofessional but reasonable.

However, what it should read is:

Click to read.

What happened with that?

Someone edited the wikipedia article. That is what it means by user-created content. Anyone can create anything. Not only might have you put in your paper that fezzes’ name may come from the word “cool” in Greek, but you might have mentioned that fezzes are worn with bow-ties.

Another example, with less pictures. My brother and mom were having an argument about the word “bloke“. Bloke is an English term for basically a regular man. My mom did not like the sound of the word, and did not think that it was appropriate  for use in South Dakota, USA. So my brother edited the wikipedia artile to say:

Usage notes

North America, except Quebec and South Dakota: dated, rare.

Now, since my mom was originally citing wikipedia, wikipedia now agrees with my brother’s side and thus, she loses.

Now that we’ve gotten it cleared up as to why we cannot use wikipedia as a source, what good is it in formal writing? There are actually several good uses for it.

1) A starting point. Say that you need to write a paper on a topic you know nothing about. You might not have even heard about the topic. You can go to wikipedia and get a background of the said topic.  Say, also, that you are writing a position paper and you aren’t really quite sure what the other side is saying. On at least some topics, wikipedia will give a good foundation for what the opposition says, so you can counter their arguments.

2) A point of reference. Just because you cannot cite wikipedia does not mean that you cannot cite wikipedia’s citation. Now, this doesn’t mean that we can take a section of an article, say, here:

The Turkish word “fes” may refer to the city of Fez in Morocco, or to the name of the crimson berry, which was imported from that country and was used to dye the felt.[2]

Go to the 2 source here:

  1. ^ Fez in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary
  2. ^ a b Rugh, Andrea B., “Reveal and Conceal: Dress in Contemporary Egypt“, p.13, (1986) ISBN 978-0815623687
  3. ^Byzantine and Modern Greek studies, Volumes 1-4” (IngentaConnect) p.91 (1975)

And type that up in MLA or APA or whatever format you need for your paper. I’m sorry, but you do need to actually read the source you are citing, because sometimes people will misconstrue the article’s meaning. But, if you are having a difficult time finding sources, sometimes wikipedia can be there to give you options.

3) Pictures. There are some terms that are really easy to do a search for. Say, beagles. I do a search for beagles and I get quite a few. However, if I do a search for fezzes I get some.  Not that many however.

However, I do a search what the official weight of the kilogram stored in France looks like and I get nothing.  Not a clue. However, I go to wikipedia, look up kilogram and I get:

Which is apparently called the international prototype kilogram. I didn’t know that.

Now that  I’ve seen the picture, if I can’t include it in what I am writing (and most images on wikpedia are either licensed creative commons or public domain, so you can use the picture.), I can at least describe what it looks like.

So, wikipedia does have its place and is a valuable research tool, both to understand the topic at hand, and to get places to do further research. So now you know how to use wikipedia when writing research papers.

Happy Wikipeding.

Short stories versus novels.

So, with the possibility of a writing contest coming up again at school, and myself trying to write a novel, it got me thinking on this topic and I want to hear what you all think about it too.

Do you prefer to write short stories, novels or in some other format and why? Also, do you find it difficult or not to switch between two formats?

Carry your writing wherever you go.

So, I thought I knew what I would write about today, but then after having a couple people remark about my backpack, I figured, “Hey, why not share it with everyone else?”

Going to school everyday by bike means that I need to have an easy way to transport my laptop. And (I’m going to sound like an advertisement) but so many of those backpacks out there are too heavy and strain your back and are just difficult to carry.

Click here to go to Amazon.

So, I bought my pretty backpack.

Now, honestly, mine is really the olive green color.  I just haven’t had a chance to take a good picture of mine to share with you, so I stole it off of Amazon and figured that they wouldn’t mind because I’m also linking to their website. :)

Anyway, this backpack is great, because it is really slender. You can fit about a computer and a folder in the main pocket, and that’s all. The front pocket can be used to fit a charger, but it isn’t much good at fitting anything else, thanks to the small side pocket. Then, on the front there is a strap pocket that can be used for a cellphone, an itouch, or a cellphone to computer cable. (I use it for option number three, although it’s large enough I can fit the cellphone in there too.)

Best of all, you can hardly feel it. I have walked out of a place without the backpack on because I forgot I needed to wear it. I can still walk straight and tall with it, and, except for the fact that it’s a little on the too big size for me for the summer months, it fits great.

A large negative with it, is that I really think it needs a rubber bottom, because it doesn’t really sit well on the floor or anything. If I knew how to put one on mine, I would as well. But for now, it’s as i have it.

No, I do not use a windows computer. I use a mac. This is a stock photo that looked good because I'm too lazy to take my own.

I wish I could say that if you bought it from my link, I’ll get a couple dollars from it. However… I could not get an amazon affiliate  account set up, so I don’t get anything. This is just one person who found something wonderful on the internet and wanting to share it with another.

So for all those times when you go to the coffee shop and want to bring your computer, but it’s just too inconvenient, those are all gone. Because this little backpack is that awesome and comfortable.

Medical supplies in the battle field.

Personally, I like military science fiction. If I had a clue about how to write good military stories, I would. I don’t know what it is about them that I like, but if I can find one, I will read it.

That being said, any information that I can find on  how they provide medical aid in the battlefield is also interesting, because someday it’ll be in my military sci-fi novel. And after America has spent so many years in Iraq, they have found some very interesting methods of helping an injured soldier get from the battlefield to the home alive.

Disclaimer really quick: All this random facts are from my student nursing convention notes I took in February, where we had a speaking who helped implement  some of the recent medical changes in Iraq.  So if they aren’t right, I’m sorry, but feel free to correct me so everyone has accurate information. I have not ever been in the battlefield, nor will I probably ever be. (And before you have any nasty thoughts about me not wanting to be, the US government won’t let me enlist, so it’s not by my own choice.)

First of all, the uniforms have built in tourniquets, so instead of people needing to pull out a tourniquet and put it on, you can just pull a string and let it tie up. They encourage people to do this as soon as there might be a problem, and the tourniquet can stay on for up to six hours, I’m thinking without much tissue damage.

There is also an Israeli bandage it is called. This is rather simple so far as I understand. The injured person can place the bandage padding on the arm, then wrap it around the arm once, lace it through a thing so then it can wrap back on itself and be pulled tightly.

Fluid loss is one of the most serious concerns of anyone injured in the field. In order to combat this, they trained everyone to insert an IV so they can provide saline while in the battlefield.

If a person loses the pulse in his/her wrist, that usually means the top number in the blood pressure is less than 90. If you don’t know anything about the blood pressure, that is really, really bad.

There are five levels of where an injured soldier is in, and they vary from least safest, to most safest.

  • level one: This is the front line. An EMT would be the person’s medical provider at this time.
  • Level two: this is when they pull back slightly, so patient is in slight safety, and can stabilize him/her for transport.
  • Level Three: a place of safety, where they can do more serious surgeries.
  • LEvel Four: out of the country that the current war is in. this location can vary, but it is basically safe.
  • Level five: When the injured solder is back home.

Lastly, there is this drug called Factor IA I think, that’ll stop microscopic bleeding that they can’t find. This is really good, if you have microscopic bleeding, but it is also about $5000 a shot. The dosage is based on the INR, and the INR is a blood test that’ll check how well a person is clotting.

So, that’s about all I have. I hope that encourages your creative juices.

The Burden of Writing

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.
Z.N. Hurston

How School Helps Writing.

This would be school. And me.

So, I’ve talked about two things with school. First, I’ve discussed how school doesn’t help me write. The stress and the homework are suitable enough distractions that I do not wrong nearly as much as I should. The other thing I’ve mentioned with school is how I don’t want to go back. And if I haven’t, well,  I just did.

School started for me today however. Again. And although it’d make more sense for me to boast on here how in one year from now, I will be a published author, it is fair for me to say that in one year I will be a registered nurse. But this recent entry into school again got me thinking on the benefits of school and writing.  So let’s see what I can come up with.

!) There are more information sources while at school. See, if I’m having a hard time, with something, I can always talk to the English Teacher I work with. Or. one of my writing center mates. At least as far as grammar and such go.

2) I need to sit down and actually do something. During the summer time, I might sit down and start to do some writing, but then I get stuck, it’s too hot, I think that I need to give the dog a hair cut and fix the desk drawer and paint the bedroom and all sorts of things. While at school, I have to sit down and focus, and sometimes it helps to focus on writing instead of homework.

3) More brain stretching. However much we may not like homework, we do get our brain stretched.  Brain stretches mean our brain is more active and we should, in theory , be able to produce better stories.

4) In the same idea as number 3, introduction of new ideas. My Wednesday posts are basically things I’ve learned in class that I give to you all. But they are things that I think might someday work well into a plot, or even as a subplot, or should probably be something considered in some circumstances. However, without school, these new ideas would never be found.

5) There’s not a lot of time. This may seem like a contradiction of ideas. After all, seriously, if we are to be in school, we’re not going to have time, which is why we like summer, we have loads of free time. But this works actually in our favor.  Reason being that if we have ten minutes on the computer before dinner is finished, which are we more likely to do? During the summer, we’d figure that we would have plenty of time after dinner to write, but during the school year, we can probably figure that we should take that extra ten minutes and use it to our advantage.

So there we have it. Five reasons why school helps, instead of hinders, writing. So maybe that’ll make me a little more optimistic about starting.

Summer Goals

Summer is always full of goals. And goals tend to not always be met. So here is my quesiton of the week for you.

What summer writing goals did you have, and how well did you do on it?

See my Friday Post for my reply, since I did basically answer this there.

The Summer of Failing the Writing Goals.

I’m disappointed by this summer.

I had all these goals. I was suppose to make some serious headway into my new novel.

I was suppose to work on writing a synopsis for Shad and hopefully try sending that around.

I was suppose to work on editing some of my smaller works.

And I did absolutely nothing.

This is very sad for me, because it shouldn’t have been that easy. And maybe I did lack some motivation, and some time. But school really wasn’t that hard. So maybe I’m slightly depressed. I don’t know. But whatever the reason, I didn’t get it done.

Now how bad is that?

If I was paying you for everything that I said I would write but didn’t, I’d be broke. (Though that’s not saying much, considering that I’m almost broke as it is.)  Maybe I’d need to take out a loan.

I think part of my problems is really that I don’t know what to do. I don’t. I think that I need to write a synopsis for Shad and I just stop and think, “What on Earth am I suppose to do here?” Maybe I should ask the english teacher at my school. I’m slowly getting a clue and thinking maybe just writing an outline, and then adding on, and all that would work but I honestly don’t know.

The other problem is all my creative juices are leaving. That quote I posted earlier this week from Orsan Scott Card is pretty much the exact opposite of my life at the moment. I walk through the whole day and get almost no plots.

Or maybe, I’m just walking through the day and I do get plots, but I’m understand all the more that I don’t know how to expand a plot, or do research, or anything like that, so I discard them, because I don’t want to write a bad story.

Anyway it goes, I didn’t write what I wanted to. And I think I sound some like my friend, who said that she’s going to work like frantic this weekend and try to get to her goal of 10,000 words for the summer, when she’s at just 800.

The sad part is, I’m even less than her. 5000 words is all I’ve written this summer.

So maybe I’ll join her on Sunday, when I can write again.

So long as I wake up.

Typing is Vital

Since so much of writing is typing, it seems appropriate that writers have a clue about how fast they can type. I don’t think this is as important in the sense that the faster you can type, the faster you can whip out books. It’s more that the faster you can type, the better your hands can keep up with your head.

That being said here’s a fun little distraction for you to practice your typing. OH, and you just keep typing the next word; don’t bother with hitting return.

85 words

Typing Speed Test

Sorry about the sporadic posting this week. I was painting my room and that left time for about nothing, including anything computer related.