How I build my vocabulary

If you’re interested in building your vocabulary, feel free to apply some or all of the technique I use:

  • Go to Dictionary.com and sign up to receive the word of the day by email.
  • Go to Flashcard Machine and create an account. You can, however, use any online flashcard website.
  • When you receive an email with a word of the day, copy and paste the word, pronunciation and the sentence examples  on the front of a card.
  • On the back of the card, paste the definition of the word.
  • Study the cards front and back, or do what I do and use the  quiz function of Flashcard Machine. I quiz myself on five cards a day.

After a while, you’ll realize these words have incorporated themselves into your subconscious when you come across them in your reading.

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A point of view on first person point of view

Well into a draft of my novel I realized I suffered from info-dump-itis. I know better than to do this, but I had such a great world I had created and felt the need to cram it down the reader’s throat. Every scene told the story from a different character’s viewpoint in third person. As a result, about seven different characters told the story and added details from their own lives.

I felt it got confusing.

I also sprinkled in excerpts from intergalactic journals in front of some scenes to explain the wonderland I had created. Inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune, I had textbook entries about life and history of the space empire I had created to explain everything. Seriously, who wants to read a textbook when you’re in the middle of reading a novel? I am not Frank Herbert.

It wasn’t working. So in my next draft, I decided to simplify. First, I dumped the info-dumps. Next, I decided to tell the story only from my main character’s viewpoint. All the wonderful facts about my galaxy-building can be filtered through conversations in which my protagonists engages.

Coincidentally, writer Jim Butcher inspired both of my approaches. My earlier draft with multiple viewpoints came from his Codex Alera series in which several characters walked through the story each from their point of view told in third person. My current draft is inspired by his Harry Dresden series. Dresden is a modern day wizard who shares his adventures in a witty first person.

I am not Jim Butcher.

But, I am enjoying this revision. I’m really exploring my character’s obsession with his ex-wife, with whom he lives next door and works with every day at the business they own together. Despite the urging if his friends to move on, he decides to give into his pining after her. His attitude is “What’s the point? She’s constantly in front of me. How can I move on, so why try?”

Some articles I found on writing in first person include one written by K. M. Weiland on her blog WordPlay:

“I would go so far as to say authors should never use first-person—unless they’re able to meet one very important qualification . . . first-person narrative voices have to be special. They have to be unique. They have to dazzle.”

Read more about what she has to say about writing in first person.

James Scott Bell contributes to a blog about writing called The Kill Zone and he wrote on the topic of first person. He said to avoid the “I’m So Interesting” Syndrome.

Here’s what he said about it.

Much advice on writing in first person suggests to avoid it until the writer feels comfortable in their writing style. I get it, but it’s such a vast improvement, I’m going continue for now.

Who has time to write a blog? No one.

I’m at the coffee shop eating my oatmeal with walnuts, brown sugar and raisins. I’m thinking, “I want to write that blog entry on why I switched to writing my novel in first person.”

But first I have a class I start teaching tonight and I haven’t outlined the syllabus. I need to mulch the yard and trim the bushes. I need to update a website for my day job. Oh, and I have a video to edit for the same job. I could go on.

So if I’m suppose to be a prolific writer, why blog?

The purpose of this blog is to monitor the progress of my novel. I’ve written about singing in the shower and a trip to Nashville. So, focus, Andy, focus!

I’m thinking of starting a blog for different areas in my life: my graphic design; my teaching; my spiritual beliefs; my running and eating habits. That way this blog can focus on my novel.

I really intend to write more pithy blog entries for now on. And link to helpful advice on writing.  Here’s one:

“Has this happened to you? You want to write some new posts for your blog, but nothing’s coming to you. You’re just sitting there, with those blank white pixels taunting you, until your eyeballs hurt.”

Read more . . .

Oh, and that blog entry on why I switched to first person? I’ll write that this weekend.