Writing Tips

Resource Links for Bloggers

A couple months ago, someone asked me to post about blogging, and now that I am mentoring a new blogger (which is great, by the way– I would highly recommend this), I thought that I would post a list of my favorite blogging resources. There are a ton of articles about blogging circling around the internet, and I am sure you have heard most of the tips: post consistently, focus on serving your readers, etc. So I wanted to share some links and tools that I have found to be extremely helpful. Then I realized that I only had three tools that I really use, so I asked my fellow bloggers. Here is our collaboration of some helpful resources for blogging!

*Please note that all of these resources are free 🙂

Resource Links for Bloggers: Write for the King Blog

  • Regarding Pictures:

Having beautifully edited pictures to go with each blog post really helps to draw in readers and to keep readers interested. Also having pictures allow your posts to be easily shared on Pinterest (which is where most of my traffic comes from). So here are a few resources to help with finding good, legal pictures and editing them:

Gimp: Gimp is a free photo editing program. It takes a little while to learn, but it is much more professional than Paint. If you cannot afford Photoshop, then download this program. I have been using Gimp for a couple years now, and I would highly recommend it! Katherine also suggested Pixlr, but I am not as familiar with this program, so I can really only mention that I have also heard it is good.

Pixabay, Flickr, and Unsplash (Recommended by RachelElizabeth, Katherine, and Samuel): It is important for bloggers not to infringe on any copyright laws and most photos out on the internet are copyrighted (even if you attribute a photo as “found on Pinterest,” you are still in violation of copyright as Pinterest is not the artist and many artists do not allow edits on their work.) What you need to find is public domain pictures to edit for your blog. I would suggest Pixabay because all the pictures there are Public Domain and the site is easiest to use. However, Flickr has a larger collection of picture, but be careful: not all the pictures there are Public Domain so make sure to check. Unsplash has a smaller selection of photos (all public domain), but they are much more– beautiful? hip? professional looking? Anyways, you can check out these websites for yourself 🙂

  • Editing Posts:

Hemmingway Editor: Now, I have a couple problems with Hemmingway Editor (such as their definition of a hard-to-read sentence and their abhorrence of adverbs), but this is a great tool for putting your posts into and checking sentence length variation, passive voice, and just seeing your writing in a different format (this can really help you find typos.) Yep. I should really use this resource more often.

Grammarly: Bethany and Samuel both recommend this add on to help with grammar and spelling. If you have read any of my blog posts, you probably know that I need to get this. Thanks, guys!

  • Finding (and Organizing) Inspiration:

Pocket: Samuel recommended this for saving ideas to use for later. I am not entirely sure how this works, but it seems cool and handy, and it looks like it works on multiple devices.

  • Other:

Rainymood: Faith and I both love this website. It isn’t super useful, but it does play thunderstorms while you work! I have even listened to it while listening to music. Highly recommend 🙂

– Buffer: (Recommended by Samuel) Buffer helps bloggers do social media marketing. I think you can schedule tweets which can be really helpful to take advantage of the most popular hours on social media.

I hope these resources are helpful for your blog; I know that I use many of these for almost every post. And if you have any resources that you use frequently, comment below! I am not opposed to adding to this list 🙂

God bless,

Gabrielle

Open Pen

Science as Art: An Open Pen Critique

For today’s critique, we actually have a fun non-fiction piece from Kikyo! Kikyo is hoping to get this piece published in a magazine soon, so she would love for us to be picky and look at details. Though she is mostly looking for a stylistic critique, she is willing to hear any feedback you might have.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to comment on this piece! Even short, simple comments can be very helpful. So please do not feel obliged to give a long, comprehensive critique.

God bless,

Gabrielle

Open Pen is a critique opportunity  on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.

 

 

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Science as Art by Kikyo

It was the last class before Christmas, and the atmosphere was strangely relaxed: the contrast with last week’s exam frenzy was astounding. We had our results now, and those who had passed were triumphant, while those who had failed were resigned to a resit. The teacher handed round a box of chocolates, and one girl had brought home-made cookies.

This was not what physics class usually looked like.

As he went over the answers to the exam, explaining where we had lost marks, our teacher came to the topic of surface tension. He suddenly paused and then scurried across the room to open a cupboard.

“I’d meant to show you this.”

He took out two test tubes, and at once we sat up and turned to see. People often think science is all about test tubes and chemicals. In fact, it is usually about textbooks and lectures and health and safety forms. When the test tubes come out, something interesting is going to happen.

What he showed us was a tube of water and a tube of mercury. Holding them up, he explained that the meniscus – or curved surface – of the water pointed down, and of the mercury pointed up. He then went along the rows so that everyone could have a look, and I watched the people beside me look intently, give quiet exclamations, and ask questions. It occurred to me then that, a few years ago, I would have thought we were crazy. I would not have understood how examining a tiny glass of water and a tiny thermometer could be exciting, because I did not know why this apparent phenomenon happened or what it meant. It was sitting through lectures and writing notes from textbooks that taught me to find it interesting.

This, I realised, is what the real scientists work for. The life of a science student is not full of these moments. Mostly it is full of getting to lectures on time and typing out lab reports for a deadline and trying to fit a presentation into a specified number of PowerPoint slides. Every so often, though, we get this glimpse of something: we “see” the molecular bonds we have studied, we watch a chemical reaction take place, or hear the waves we drew diagrams of.

Doing this gives us another ability: to look at the world around us and see more. To hear the noise the train is making and hear, not a sound that interrupts our conversation, but a real-life example of wave interference; to look at the night sky and see light travelling towards us at the fastest speed we know of; to see a baby learning to walk and gaining control of motor neurons. This does not replace the normal pleasure of an experience, but adds to it.

I think scientists are often stereotyped and misunderstood. A love of patterns and explanations is seen as an obsession with data. The need to know becomes something to separate us from other people. Delight in logic is depicted as something cold that is incompatible with emotions.

On the other end of the spectrum are artists, who are shown as over-emotional or sentimental, with that “artistic temperament” which makes treating people badly natural.
Maybe, though, scientists and artists are not so different.

I recently read a book by a physicist, and it was the first time I read someone describe science beautifully. Why not, though? Why must we communicate what we find only through bland reports? Is the human mind capable only of analysis or creativity?

Perhaps science can be treated as a form of art. We are on a quest, not to explain everything with an equation, but to understand what surrounds us. Some part of a scientist never grows up, and a child inside continues to ask: “Why?”.

But is there not a child inside the artist as well? The child whose face lights up at seeing colours and patterns and laughs with delight at something beautiful?

The difference I see is that, while the artist creates something beautiful, seeking to bring what is in their mind outside for all to see, the scientist finds something beautiful, and seeks to bring it into their minds to understand it.

Why does that seem strange to those who do not share the passion? Because they do not understand.

I remember a friend telling me: “I never liked classical music until I learned to understand it”. I think this is the key.

I admit that I do not understand art. I have read passionately-written explanations, and it means nothing to me, but an art expert can be carried away by what only they can see.

For scientists, it is the same. We can’t make you feel the wonder of the mini thermometer and tiny glass of water, because you haven’t learned to understand it. Maybe some people can’t learn it, and that is okay.

What would happen if we could understand that we lack understanding? Could the artist see science as the scientist’s art, and the scientist see art as the artist’s science? We could delight in the beauty that we see, and know that others look through different facets of the crystal. After all, we all use human minds, and it is the same world we look at.

It is these moments that we seek, that make the hours of lectures and the ton-weight books worth it. To have them, we must gain the knowledge that past generations worked for, then we can build on their work and discover beauty for ourselves.

So, the image is imprinted on my mind: an old man holding up two test tubes, and a girl with bright eyes leaning forward to see them. They look at each other through the glass as he explains what they are seeing, handing on the information he has so that she can use it to discover more, and the quest for beautiful knowledge continues.

Writing Tips

Fantasy Cliche: Prophecy

Many fantasy books have some type of prophecy. The Lord of the Rings boasts a prophecy about how the King of Gondor will return with healing in his hands. Harry Potter speaks of the “chosen one.” Star Wars has the one who will balance the Force. Most fantasy (and some science fiction) includes a vague prophecy about a future hero who will help good or evil triumph in the world. But why is this? And are prophecies now clichéd and too old-fashion for modern fantasy?

Fantasy Cliche Prophecy: Its purpose and 6 practical tips

Some History of Fantasy Prophecies

Historically fantasy was wrought with prophecies, and this tradition of prophecies probably translated into the modern cliché. Before Tolkien published The Hobbit and launched the genre into modern times and popular view, he drew from Old Norse and other ancient cultures’ myths. From Anglo-Saxon and Norse myths, such as Beowulf and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, to Greek epics like the Odyssey, prophecies have helped drive the plot. Notably, all of these prophecies were directly tied into religion and dealt with the relationship between gods and humans. Later myths such as the Legends of King Arthur drew inspiration from the prophecies of the Judeo-Christian Bible in addition to Anglo-Saxon myths. J. R. R. Tolkien, who truly popularized fantasy in the modern world, also included a many prophecies and the tradition continued as he led the way for modern fantasy.

But are prophecies now cliché?

Most bloggers, authors, agents, and publishing companies certainly think so, and in most cases, I have to agree. There are countless fantasy novels that contain mediocre to bad poetry that tells some vague and useless prophecy which either we see right through or it makes no sense and is completely useless. When a bland and boring prophecy is used to move the plot along, many readers don’t even notice the lazy writing. But now, readers and publishers are getting more picky. Do we really need a doomsday prophecy to motivate our hero?

But are we just misunderstanding of the purpose of prophecies?

Historically in fantasy and religiously, prophecy has a very specific purpose. In the Bible, the prophets were neither primarily focused on the future nor sent to perform miraculous signs. The prophets were sent to reveal sin and encourage repentance at the present time. Threats of judgement (prophecy) and demonstrations of divine authority (miracles) were the methods to bring about repentance. The biblical purpose of prophecy is to call the people to repentance or to make the way for the Savior.

Interestingly enough, most fantasy throughout history has the same purpose for prophecy. The prophecies in Homer’s Odyssey warn of dire consequences to Odysseus’ actions and set the path for Odysseus to take back his home. The prophecies in the legends of King Arthur make the path for Arthur to become king and warn of the consequences of sin. Lewis’ prophecy in The Silver Chair deals with warning against disobedience, and his prophecy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tells of the coming of Aslan. Tolkien’s prophecies in The Silmarillion are simple: don’t do that or you will die/suffer something much worse. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien uses prophecies to encourage the people of Middle Earth to support Aragorn and Frodo.

So Here are Six Rules for Writing Proper Prophecy:

1. Your prophecy must primarily serve as a call to repentance or as a way of preparing the people for a savior

As covered before, this is the purpose of prophecy. If you want to write a “prophecy” that does neither of these two things, then you have the wrong narrative technique. You may be looking for foreshadowing instead….

2. Don’t use prophecy as foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is a fantastic literary technique, but it does not belong in prophecies. Prophecies are supposed to serve a purpose. If your prophecy does not clearly call the people to repentance and clearly warn of the consequences, then it is useless. If the prophecy does not clearly identify and pave the way for the savior, then it is also useless (Note: Not all may recognize the savior, but it must be clear to at least some of the characters and your rational readers.) Prophecy is just too obvious and crude for foreshadowing– try symbols or dialogue if you want to foreshadow.

3. The initial prophecy should not be vague and hard to understand

Note how I used the word “initial.” If a prophecy has be distorted over thousands of years, then it might be hard to understand (especially if a god has not intervened to preserve the prophecy.) But since prophecy is given for a reason to communicate something to your characters, then rational, educated characters need to understand the message. And above all, the reader should understand the message. Characters may be blinded by emotions, but you don’t want to insult your readers by tricking them with something impossible to understand until afterward.

4. Prophecies can have hidden meaning but should have immediate value for the characters

Again, prophecies are communication. It is great to have prophecies with hidden meanings that are discovered afterwards, in fact, many of the best do, but have there be a practical and understandable message as well.

5. Prophecies should involve the divine

Biblical prophecy and prophecy in historical fantasy has always come from God or gods as communication to man. If you don’t make this explicit, then the prophecy will feel like a cheap plot motivator. Now, this doesn’t mean that only religious fantasy can have prophecies. A lot of fantasy deals with gods without messing (much) with religion: think The Odyssey and The Lord of the Rings. You can even just barely mention the god that inspired the prophecy and leave it there. Though, I mean, why not address some fun questions about divine and human relationships? But that is up to you.

6. If you are not a master of poetry, then write your prophecy in a different format

Not much is worse than a having bad poetry shoved down your throat. It doesn’t matter the purpose of your prophecy if you put it in a terrible poem. There is no shame in having a prophecy written without meter and rhyme. If it seems to dull, then carve it in stone or put it in a sealed scroll. But if you can’t write poetry, then please don’t. Spare us all.

So what do you think about fictional prophecies? What did I get wrong? Any revisions that you are thinking about for your fictional prophecy? I know that I will be rewriting mine in the next few months. Also do you have any other cliches you would like me to tackle?

God bless,

Gabrielle