Writing Resources

 

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Whether it’s for an academic essay or your first novel, the writing process is often long, grueling, and filled with equal amounts of writer’s block, procrastination, and caffeine. Luckily, I’ve compiled some resources that will help you write and edit efficiently.

GET INSPIRED

Random First Line Prompts: Exactly what it sounds like. Generate a random first line to kick off your story.

StorySpark: Randomly generates crazy story plots.

Read high-quality writing: Sometimes a good story or poem is all it takes to refresh your creativity. Plus, reading quality writing on a regular basis is the best way to improve your own writing.

Do nothing for two minutes: Close your eyes, take a break, and let your worries melt away. When your mind is calm and clear, you may find that writing becomes a breeze!

Read some inspiring quotes: Learn from all the writers before you, and know that if you’re struggling, you’re not alone!

GET WRITING

ZenPen: A minimalist online writing zone that allows you to quickly get writing without distractions.

Written? Kitten!: One of my personal favorites! This website will display a picture of an adorable kitten for every 100, 200, 500, or 1,000 words you type, depending on your choice. You’re motivated to write more and those kitties will make your heart melt. It’s a win-win. If you’re not a kitten guy/gal, there are puppy and bunny settings too! :)

Typewriter: This app silences your inner critic by not allowing you to use the backspace tool. You can’t delete miskates mistakes, only strike them out. So instead of worrying about fixing things and rewriting a sentence seven times to make it perfect, you can focus on just continuing to write. It’s perfect for first drafts.

WordWar: You’ll need a friend for this one! This website allows you to hold a virtual race with other people to see who can write a first draft the fastest. Great if you and a pal both have a dreaded essay you’ve been complaining about for weeks.

Write or Die: Finally, for the most extreme one of all… This website puts pressure on you to write by threatening you with consequences if you’re writing too slowly, such as unpleasant sounds, terrifying images of spiders (*shivers*), or even deleting what you’ve already written if you stop. If it sounds extreme, that’s because it is, but it’s also remarkably effective at getting you to pound away at those keys.

These tools are best suited for first drafts, not for conducting your entire writing process. The idea is to get a rough draft done as efficiently as possible, because that’s the hardest part. If you have a first draft, however crappy, making it better is all downhill from there. Editing and rewriting should be saved for your regular Word/Pages/spider-devoid word processor of choice so you can fix your writing as carefully as possible.

GET IT RIGHT

Dictionary/Thesaurus/Reverse Dictionary/Rhyme Dictionary: All rather self-explanatory. Make sure the language you’re using is accurate and appropriate.

EditMinion: Copy and paste your writing into this website and it’ll point out common mistakes, passive voice, and clichés in your writing. It even shows words of Greek, Latin, Germanic, and/or Shakespearean origin, if you’re a total nerd interested in that.

Hemingway: Similar to EditMinion, but it’ll highlight sentences that are hard to read or unnecessarily complicated so you can make your writing more clear and succinct. It’ll also calculate a readability score, estimated read time, and character/letter/word/sentence/paragraph count.

And that’s it! With these tools, you should now be able to fight off writer’s block and write an awesome finished piece.

Thanks for reading! All of my reader interactions and personalized advice can be found on my Tumblr. If you have questions, feedback, or post requests, feel free to drop a Tumblr ask or contact me.:)

—Sophia

Spaced Repetition with Anki

Hi guys! Today I’ll be sharing an app that’s drastically improved my active studying process, increased the rate of my learning, and saved my butt before countless vocabulary quizzes— Anki. Anki is essentially a flashcard app, but what really separates it from others such as Quizlet and StudyBlue is that it takes advantage of the concept of spaced repetition to maximize the effectiveness of each review session.

WHAT IS SPACED REPETITION?

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The graph above shows how your retention of learned material declines over time when you don’t review it again. The more you review something you’ve learned, the slower you’ll forget it, and the more likely it is to become permanently ingrained in your memory.

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Each time you answer a flashcard on Anki, you rate how difficult it was to come up with the answer: Easy, Good, or Again. If you answered correctly and quickly, choose Easy. If you were incorrect, unsure, and/or took a long time answering, choose Again.

The key is that rather than going through all of the cards in the deck in order, Anki will have you review each card at the specific point in the forgetting curve you’re most likely to forget it. So the more challenging a particular card, the more frequently you’ll review it. If you labeled a card as Easy, you won’t see it again for a while, because the curve of forgetting will be less steep for that card. Focusing on the cards you struggle with most, instead of devoting equal time to all of them, allows you to spend less time studying and/or to learn more things.

For more information about the science behind spaced repetition and instructions for the app itself, click here.

PROS

  • Extremely efficient: Thanks to the spaced repetition algorithm, I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my vocabulary test scores, as well as a reduction in study time.
  • A form of active learning: Great for long-term retention!
  • Highly customizable: Anki can be as simple or advanced as you need it to be. It can handle decks of 100,000+ cards. There are lots of add-ons available to extend its capabilities. You can add pictures, audio, different colors, and scientific markup via LaTeX within your cards. You can adjust the algorithm to change the frequencies of cards. If you know how to code, you can even change the cards completely to suit your needs. For example, with some basic code, I changed the default “see answer” to a field for text where I can actually type in my answer and check my spelling, which is super important while learning foreign languages. (see picture below) But it also works great immediately upon downloading with the default settings, so don’t be intimidated by all the customization options if you don’t need them.
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  • Tons of decks of cards already made by other users that you can download
  • Very easy to search, edit, replace, and delete cards
  • Save time + paper with digital cards
  • Syncs between all platforms for easy on-the-go access

CONS

  • Not ideal for cramming: Spaced repetition works best when you’re consistently reviewing a few cards every day over a long period of time. While Anki does have a “cram” setting if you’re in a rush, the app in general is not made for last-minute studiers.
  • There’s no social component with fun games like the type Quizlet has. However, you can make your cards in Quizlet and use an add-on to easily import them into Anki if you want the best of both worlds!

GET ANKI

Note that the Anki software is open-source, so there are many versions made by different developers. The above links are to the ankisrs.net apps I personally use, which I’ve found to have the best spacing algorithm and the least bugs. But a huge drawback is that their iOS app costs a whopping $25. If you want a free iOS app, consider ankiapp.com, but keep in mind that Ankisrs and AnkiApp will not sync between each other, and AnkiWeb is only available for Ankisrs!

Thanks for reading! All of my reader interactions and personalized advice can be found on my Tumblr. If you have questions, feedback, or post requests, feel free to drop a Tumblr ask or contact me.:)

—Sophia