Writing Tips and Tricks

3 Writing Tips and Tricks From College

Hey, hey, hey! (Dad watched Fat Albert with us and people can tell somehow…) Thanks to #snowpocalypse2019, I am inside, sweater-clad, and sitting next to the warmth of a simmering fire, Lindsey Stirling’s “Elements” playing inside my headphones. Ahhh, the life. I also have the majority of the homework I wanted to get done, well, done, so there’s that wonderful, relaxing feeling too.

Anyways, I wanted to post the top things I learned from my first (and part of my second) semester at college. Things pertaining to writing that is. And also, notice my fancy-smancy title? So I suppose, things that pertain to my web design/social media class too.

Tip and Trick #1

Have you ever heard someone tell you to just write? To not worry about what you were writing or about whether it sounds good or editing it? Yes, me too. In fact, my one class last semester, Essay Writing, forced us to. Which was painful, oh so painful! First, I should probably mention to those of you who are currently shuddering, no, these are not academic essays, but personal, creative nonfiction essays. So, in other words, fun essays. And yes, for every essay, we had to type, just type, not edit, and bring it into class. Ouch.

But guess what I found out? You can actually write a lot that way. And yes, it’s terrible. It’s a horrible draft, really. Feel free to burn it when you’re done. But it’s basically a brain dump, and then you have all your thoughts there for you to sift through and edit what you like. Maybe all the sentences were horrible, but you had some really good ideas. Maybe, and this is me here, you had a good idea, but your inner editor told you to fix things above, and so you focused on that and forgot said good idea.

Through this painful process, I’ve been able to actually finish short stories, which I’ve always had trouble with. It’s always been murderous to get passed halfway because that’s about where my editor kicks in, yelling, “What in the world do you think you’re doing? This is terrible work and you know it! Fix that dull sentence already!” and there goes my writing. Whoosh.

But by not caring and just writing, I’m able to force the editor away until I need her, and write things past halfway. And that, my friends, is a wonderful feeling.

Tip and Trick #2

This is more from my second semester, from Intro to Creative Writing. Our professor is having us keep a Bits Journal. Basically, it’s a journal, or notebook, or binder, or whatever, full of story bits and pieces. Confused? Here’s an example from mine:

At first, I was dreading the assignment. After all, we have to keep these things through the entirety of this semester. A note every day. Every. Single. Day. That involves a lot of inspiration, don’t you think?

But it turns out, it’s not actually that hard. A line of poetry really connects? Jot it down: “Once you lose someone it is never exactly/ the same person who comes back” — Feared Drowned by Sharon Olds. Have a sassy conversation with your sisters that you think a characters could totally use someday? Scribble it in: “Are you guys ready for the blizzard?” “Blizzard? What blizzard?” “You know, the one coming tomorrow! There’s going to be a whole foot of snow!” “Girl, don’t talk to me about blizzards until you open your door to a wall of snow.” Somehow, I have something for every day.

And I love looking back through it! I would highly, highly suggest it!

Tip and Trick #3

This I didn’t learn so much at college as learned myself. Take time for yourself. Breathe. In. Out. Yes, that’s good. I didn’t do that much for myself last semester. I did no writing for myself. But, y’all, that’s why I’m going to college, to learn how to write better. But what good is it when I don’t apply it?

But how? When things are as crazy as they are, how am I supposed to take time for myself? Take a pen, take your planner, and mark it down. Then hold yourself to it, just as if you’d planned something with your friend. And write. Breath in, out, and write.

So hey! How was your Christmas break, or if you’re beyond all that, how was Christmas? What have you learned about writing recently?

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The Extraordinary Ordinary

Welcome, 2019!

Happy New Year 2019! Hopefully y’all had a good celebration!

I’m currently trying to decide if the windstorm last night was a forebearer to how 2019 is going to go. It was a wicked wind around 10:30 when I left my live-in pet sitting to head for Grandma’s to watch the ball drop. On the half an hour drive, I counted two downed trees and a branch big enough I had to drive in the other lane to pass. On the way back to the pet sitting at 1 am, there were two trees down on the highway and another three down on the back roads. This morning, when I went to get brunch and a mocha at Sheetz, there were powerlines across the road.

So, a foreboding omen? There will be windfalls blocking your path but just keep an eye open and you’ll scoot on by? Don’t go driving in windstorms and bypass all that ridiculous jazz? 2019 will be crazy and reckless and more than likely dangerous? Probably all of the above. But thank goodness I don’t have to worry about that! God’s got His hand on my future and the windfalls can only be part of His plan to make me the person He wants me to be.

Can you believe that it’s already 2019? I feel like Fall semester is just about to start instead of Spring semester. (The current weather of no snow and 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside isn’t helping much.) Or maybe it’s the last half of my senior year of high school? Wait, I’m an adult? Sheesh. Time is flying by! I just barely remembered to write ’19 on my paperwork today instead of ’18.

I can’t end this post without talking about New Year’s resolutions, now can I? Well, it might be slightly difficult since I honestly didn’t actually make any. The month of January, I want to sit down and think about what I really want to pursue. If 2018 taught me anything, it’s that I have so little time that’s actually my own–I need to make it count. I also need to take moments to breathe, something I didn’t do much of at all last year (and which is probably why I’m just now starting to feel slightly less worn down, a feeling that has followed me with a deadly passion since before Thanksgiving Break). I know that I want to focus on writing this year–writing for myself, not for school assignments–but I have to figure out how to do it without wearing myself thin after writing school assignments and working all day. Work. Yes, work. I also have to figure that out: college is expensive, but internships are important and also mainly unpaid–how do I find a balance? And family? How do I fit them in my hectic schedule? They are important to me, as are my friends, but I had very little time for them last year.

So I suppose my goal for 2019, or my “New Year’s Resolution” is to simplify. To go through the goals and dreams I had/have/will have for myself and decide which ones I truly want to follow and then simply my life as much as possible to make those few–keyword: few–happen. Also, to find some form of exercise that I enjoy (if y’all have any suggestions, please let me know!) and can actually do since I’m basically going to college to learn how to sit at a desk and use my fingers.

So what about you? How did 2018 treat you? What are you looking forward to in 2019? Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? If so, what are they?

Books/Authors

BOOK REVIEW: Second-Chance Dogs

The cover for the book. You can find it at Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and of course, Revell Publishing’s website.

Well hello there! It’s been a long time since I’ve written a review, hasn’t it? Have no fear– I’m currently pet sitting with plenty of time on my hands and hopefully I’ll be able to get all three of the books I brought along reviewed! (Although none of them are fiction, but whatever.)

This review is going to be a little bit different. Since I am a, well, English major and a major wanna-be writer, I thought it would be helpful to review books in order for me, and those who read my posts, to learn from them. Because of that, my reviews are going to tend to focus on two aspects: my rating of the book/why I came to that rating and then a more learning based approach–what did they do amazing that I really loved? What did I think they could do without? What made it strong? What was a weak point? That sort of thing. But like I said, this one is going to be different.

Why?

Dogs.

Big dogs, little dogs, in between dogs. Black dogs, white dogs, pink and purple who am I kidding? There were no pink and purple dogs. Pink and purple dogs would stick with the plan.

Dogs never stick with the plan. It’s all their fault. It’s always their fault. If anything is exploding, on fire, broken, or out of schedule, blame the dogs. Therefore, the blame doesn’t get shifted to the rightful owner of–me.

Second-Chance Dogs: True Stories of the Dogs We Rescue and the Dogs Who Rescue, edited by Callie Smith Grant, is a collection of 36 stories by multiple different authors about dogs that they had, many that have been rescued and about how their owners lives were changed or saved because of those dogs.

There are all kinds of stories, all about dogs. There’s a story about smuggling dogs home after war, a story about the only real dog in the world, a story about the dog who only pointed once, a story about a guardian dog, about energetic dogs, life-giving dogs.

I had no favorites. They were all really good, and best of all, true. They all involved dogs and they were all heartwarming. I do have to warn you though. If you only like reading sci-fi or horror/thriller, you may not be fasinated with this book.

I do have to mention one story by name, being, ya know, hard of hearing and also an ASL lover, it’s my duty. “Two Rotties and a Toddler” (page 81) almost made me cry, watching the little girl make that connection between sign language and communication. The picture in my brain of two Rottweilers listening to this little special needs girl absolutely melted my heart, just like it will melt yours when you read it.

Becaue y’all are going to read the book. Even if you don’t like reading (first off, this post requires reading AND it says book review at the top so good luck explaining that to me) or don’t think that you have time for another book (they are all short stories, just read one a day for your daily dose of happy), you will read it. I command you to.

Also, just a heads up, Revell Publishers sent me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed here are totally and completely my own. Y’all are laughing at my total lack of legalese there, but hey, you get the point.

That being said, my rating is this: 5 out of 5 stars.

School Writing

A Thousand Stories

There are a thousand stories I could tell right now. I could tell of how a classmate and I forgot our Gen 100 folders and so he had to walk all the way back to his dorm just so we could know what questions to ask each other. I could tell how a friend and I occupy our little niches in the library and how we always know which way to look to see a familiar face when we feel lost in the sea of unfamiliarity. I could tell of  my first friend at college and have we been in college long enough to have “close” college friends? I could tell you of the utter exhaustion of last week, when I worked 35 hours in three days and tried to keep up with homework on top of that. On a lucky night last week, I was able to get six hours of sleep. I could tell of the girls who sat behind me in Intro to PR, and how I felt so lost in the sea of upperclassmen until I met them. I could tell of how I study in the library by taking out my hearing aids to make it silent. I could tell of how the red tailed hawk was standing on the edge of a campus building and how I stood like a fool in the rain just watching it. 

I could tell a thousand stories, but since I have so many, I’ve pushed off writing. “What to write about? How to pick?” All of them clambering in my mind, all fighting for the same amount of attention. All of them overrun by the thought of the short story due tomorrow and the quiz coming up and the fact that somehow midterms are in the wind.

Yet, still. 

“I write to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.”

– Essayist Joan Didion

I am a writer. You are a writer. Joan Didion is a writer. Each of us has the urge to write, the calling to write. Oftentimes, it gets pushed aside by other, more important things. Job, college, homework, bills, people. But so often, we forget ourselves. We forget that we need to write.

Something else I think we forget is why we write.

There are two whys, of course. Why #1, because, um, we’re writers, and, duh, why not? The second why is:

Why Bother?

Because right now, there is someone
out there with
a wound in the exact shape
of your words

We write because someone needs to hear. Not all work, of course, is for someone else’s eyes. But, right now, there is someone out there who needs to hear what you have to say. And as a writer, the best way to say it is to write it.

So go write it. Start on your thousand stories one by one. You might have to carve out time you didn’t think you had, or schedule time into your calendar so no one else can take it, but do yourself a favor, and go do what you were meant to do.

Write.

Writer's Problems

Writing at Midnight

Midnight writing. Late night writing. Last minute writing. It goes by many names, but you all know what I’m talking about. That thing that happens when there’s an assignment or deadline the very next day and this piece of writing MUST be done, but as you stare at the screen, everything gets fuzzy and your head starts to drop and your eyes start to close and

zzzzzzzzz….

Yep. You feel me.

There was once when I wrote a paper at night, quickly edited it through blurred eyes, and submitted it just a couple minutes before the deadline. When I  read it the next day, there was a sentence in my conclusion that just

I don’t even know what it was supposed to say. It just… stopped. And it was IN MY CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH. Somehow, in my sleep depraved state, I completely and totally missed that. Yeahhhh, that was a good grade alright.

I figured that it might be helpful to have a couple tips on how to better write late night, last minute papers, so, here we go.

Tip #1: Just don’t.

The best way to avoid all the pain and agony and suffering is to just not do it. Be a good person. Write your assignments ahead of time. Submit them early. Sleep well and don’t become addicted to coffee. Have a wonderful life.

Don’t we wish.

But sometimes, that just isn’t possible. Like this weekend, for example, when I was called in twice to my two different jobs and in the span of three days, I worked 35 hours. It’s gonna be a good paycheck, but assignments did NOT get done and as a result, there was a last minute, late night writing spree. That leads us to

Tip #2: Just Write

When it’s that late at night and we’ve already worked hard that day, words just aren’t going to come out coherently. Don’t try to make them. It will only take longer and leave you feeling more frustrated at the end of it. Just think of your writing prompt or subject and let loose. Write over your word count too if you’re able. That way, when you cut out all the incoherent mumble jumble, you don’t have to figure out how to add 184 words.

Tip #3: Edit Out Loud

Yes, I mean exactly that. Read your paper out loud. When you are exhausted, things are blurring on the page and your brain isn’t thinking much more than, “can this please be over now????” But when you read it out loud, you bring more of your senses to the table, (eyes, ears, brain processing words to speak), and you will be able to catch more mistakes that if you’d just read it. I use this technique even when I’m not falling asleep and I always, ALWAYS, catch mistakes that I missed by just reading.

Tip #4: If Possible, Have Another Reader

I understand that’s not always possible. It may be 2am in the morning and your roommate (or sister in my case) is happily sleeping away. This is the time where you shake them awake in punishment for being a better student than you are and make them read it anyways. Yeah, no. It’s not always possible, but WHENEVER it is, always have another reader. Things are fresh to them and they may see things that you don’t. Also, they aren’t in love with that one paragraph that you just spent half an hour on and may tell you that it’s the worst paragraph they’ve ever seen. Clobber them over the head with a pillow, then go fix the paragraph because they’re probably right.

And then they were all masters and never got a grade under an A- again. 

The End

Don’t we wish.

But hopefully, if for some reason, you have to do any more late night writing, you’ll be a little better at it and have more success. Don’t worry. There’s only three more years of college to finish and then all of your career. 😉 

Do you have any funny late night writing stories? What happened? Do tell!

Uncategorized

Annnnnd I’m back!

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

Yeah, yeah. I’ve been away for a little bit, sadly. Okay, yeah, it was a long while. But ya know what? It’s never too late for a restart. Thanks to my lovely and published friend, Dawn Dagger (click here to learn more about her), I’ve gotten a nudge to get out of my little funk and get back to what I love.

To those of you who’ve been around for a little bit, you might have noticed that the name of my blog changed. The URL is still the same (jayleemorgan.wordpress.com), but I thought that with a revamp, a new title was appropriate. The title comes from an essay by Cynthia Ozick called Introduction: Portrait of the Essay as a Warm Body. It’s the introduction to The Best American Essays 1998 which we had to read for my class on essay writing. In the essay, she’s discussing what makes an essay and a few of her sentences read like so, “An essay is a thing of the imagination… it is the movement of a free mind at play. … The marvel of it is that out of this apparent causelessness, out of this scattering of idiosyncratic seeing and telling, a coherent world is made.” “Well, shoot,” I thought to myself, “that sounds an awful lot like a story too!”

A couple things in my life have changed. First off, I’m no longer a high school writer. Nope. I’m a college writer now.  I graduated this spring and am now studying English at a local Christian university. College has also started for me, meaning that I have assignments and homework piled up high around me. This means, of course, that writing a blog and my fun writing will be difficult to do, but I will do my best. I enjoy writing here. Also, From Causelessness to Coherent will no longer be just about writing, but about books, about interesting things I may have learned in my English classes, to free ways to have fun with your friends, to the ups and downs of being a commuter, to the latest Bible verse that touched my heart. I also have a PR class I’m taking this semester, so let’s see how that affects my blog. 😉

Studying English, eh, Jaylee? To become the biggest and bestest creative writer on this side of the Mississippi? Well, kind of. I’m studying English so that I can work in a corporate setting, which is a fancy way of saying that I want to write newsletters and blog posts and stuff for Christian or nonprofit organization. From there, I would have the ability to write truth and life to the people that the organization comes in contact with. I would be able to support an organization that is trying to “change the world,” even in some little way, and then, like the guy in the poem, I could change the world. That being said, I will most definitely keep writing stories, short and long, and you will absolutely hear about them here!

So there it is! A new season, a new start, an (almost) new blog. Stick around for the ride, y’all, it’s gonna be fun!

NaNoWriMo

NaNo has Begun!

How many of you are participating in NaNo?

Well then… you’d understand if I quit this post right here and now and went off to write, eh?

Hehe.

But hey, those of you who are doing NaNo… tell me about your project! Now that we’re… 17 hours and 49 minutes into it, have you chosen your story? Did you plan? Are you winging it? Are you excited to start or can you feel your heart sinking?

I wanna hear from you!

How is it going?

NaNoWriMo, Writer's Problems, Writing Tips and Tricks

Tips for Preparing for NaNo

If you’re like me, you are watching the 1st of November come up a mixture of excitement, dread, happiness, sorrow. No doubt on Nov. 1st, we’ll all shout in both exhilaration and overwhelming fear. To help feel more excitement and less dread, here are a couple tips for surviving NaNo that I will be putting into use… Continue reading “Tips for Preparing for NaNo”

Beautiful People, Stories

Beautiful Books 2017 – NaNo Prep

Hey guys!! Can you believe it?? NaNo is almost here! It seems like the time has flown waaaaay too fast.

This year, I’m going to do Paper Fury’s Beautiful Books again, and introduce you to my NaNo Novel. This year, I’m going traditional and starting off with an entirely new story. Continue reading “Beautiful Books 2017 – NaNo Prep”