Resources for Writers

Angela Crocker
Angela Crocker

Writer. Author. Editor. No matter your title in the world of words, there is a continuous search for inspiration and a lifelong dedication to professional development. With my Resources for Writers series, I intend to share some of my favourite tools, references and activities. These things fuel my own writing. I trust that other writers will find this series inspiring and encouraging as they sit to put pen to paper or fingers on keyboard.

Truth be told, I struggled to declare myself a writer, even though I’m a published author and a communications professional who has written thousands of pages of press releases, grant applications, reports and articles. My self-perception started to change in May 2014 when I attended Ann Douglas’ inspiring How To Be a Happy Writer workshop in Vancouver. My fellow participants were insistent. “You ARE a writer, Angela.” and somehow, by the end of day, my thinking began to shift. Now, when people ask what I do professionally, I tell them with pride that I am a writer.

Most of the time.

I’m my own work in progress.

When I combine my background in marketing, performing arts, teaching and books with my writing experiences and the transition to declaring myself a writer, I came to realize just how much of sharing thoughts through words is a personal journey. Sure, anyone can take a course in grammar or essay structure or research techniques but those who choose to be writers are passionate about words in unique and personalized ways.

As I started writing this series, it suddenly occurred to me that I inadvertently skipped the market research step. Chalk it up to enthusiasm! A quick Google search for “resources for writers” returned thousands of results.

The top result comes from the admirable and lauded Margaret Atwood offering sound advice that made me laugh out loud. There is a also a wonderful crowd-sourced list of resources on Lifehacker from 2013.  The Writers Union of Canada looks at the topic more broadly including links to organizations of interest to writers, funding agencies, advice on publishing plus much more.  Writers will also find a multitude of resources available at the cost of providing an email address or simply for sale along the lines of the offerings from Writers’ Digest and from the wonderfully personable Joanna Penn on The Creative Penn.

Now, I will add my voice and quirky perspective on resources for writers. Please, let me know how my eclectic, personal collection of resources has been helpful to you. And I’m interested to know what your go-to resources are. You can leave a comment here or on any post in the series that catches your attention or email me.

Write on!

Don’t Write Said, Use Synonyms Instead

Think back. Do you remember a high school teacher or university professor whose lessons stuck with you? One of my most influential teachers was Mrs. Carol Murray. She taught me both English and Journalism classes in Grades 11 and 12. She was kind, thoughtful, encouraging and didn’t let us get away with anything. Much to my Mum’s delight, Mrs. Murray assigned Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice as winter break reading and was the catalyst to my lifelong love affair with the novels of Austen, the Brontës, Dickens and their contemporaries.

Mrs. Murray, like me, found grammar lessons to be a necessary evil and worked with us to do a grammar intensive once each semester. While we both understood the importance of grammar, months long discussions didn’t inspire either of us. Those two weeks were a “swallow the frog” moment for sure!

One of the lessons I most remember is Mrs. Murray’s ban on the word “said”. Said. Say. Says. Saying. All were verboten. Characters in our stories and people in our articles never “said” anything. Instead, we had to use more descriptive synonyms.

At some point in those classes, I started a list of alternatives in the margins of my notebooks. Some came from examples in our text books, others from articles or novels I read. I’ve continually added to that list and here, for the first time, I’ve typed them all out in one master list. A Resource for Writers I hope other writers will find useful over and over again.

What “not said” words would you add?

  • accused
  • acknowledged
  • added
  • admitted
  • admonished
  • advocated
  • affirmed
  • agreed
  • alleged
  • announced
  • answered
  • apologized
  • approved
  • argued
  • asked
  • assented
  • asserted
  • assumed
  • assured
  • avowed
  • began
  • begged
  • belittled
  • blurted
  • boasted
  • bragged
  • broke in
  • cautioned
  • challenged
  • charged
  • chided
  • chuckled
  • cited
  • claimed
  • commented
  • complained
  • conceded
  • concluded
  • concurred
  • confessed
  • confided
  • confirmed
  • contended
  • contested
  • continued
  • contradicted
  • contributed
  • countered
  • cried
  • criticized
  • cursed
  • debated
  • declared
  • decreed
  • defended
  • delivered
  • demanded
  • denied
  • denounced
  • directed
  • disclosed
  • discussed
  • divulged
  • elaborated
  • emphasized
  • enumerated
  • estimated
  • exclaimed
  • explained
  • exploded
  • expressed
  • faltered
  • frowned
  • fumed
  • gasped
  • giggled
  • gloated
  • groaned
  • guessed
  • hastened to add
  • hastened to say
  • held
  • hinted
  • implied
  • implored
  • indicated
  • inquired
  • insinuated
  • insisted
  • instructed
  • interjected
  • interrupted
  • intimated
  • jeered
  • jested
  • joked
  • lamented
  • laughed
  • maintained
  • mentioned
  • mumbled
  • murmured
  • mused
  • muttered
  • narrated
  • noted
  • objected
  • observed
  • offered
  • ordered
  • persisted
  • persuaded
  • piped up
  • pleaded
  • pledged
  • pointed out
  • posited
  • postulated
  • praised
  • predicted
  • presumed
  • proceeded
  • promised
  • pronounced
  • prophesized
  • proposed
  • protested
  • proved
  • queried
  • questioned
  • quibbled
  • quipped
  • quoted
  • ranted
  • reaffirmed
  • reassured
  • recalled
  • recited
  • recommended
  • recounted
  • reiterated
  • rejoiced
  • rejoined
  • related
  • remarked
  • remembered
  • reminded
  • repeated
  • replied
  • reported
  • reprimanded
  • requested
  • responded
  • restated
  • retorted
  • resumed
  • revealed
  • said (Remember Mrs. Murray’s rule!)
  • scoffeed
  • scolded
  • shouted
  • shrugged
  • sighed
  • smiled
  • snapped
  • sneered
  • speculated
  • stammered
  • stated
  • stipulated
  • stressed
  • suggested
  • swore
  • teased
  • testified
  • thought
  • threatened
  • told
  • urged
  • uttered
  • ventured
  • volunteered
  • vowed
  • warned
  • wavered
  • went on
  • wept
  • whispered
  • yelled

Write on!

Swallow the Frog: Overcome Procrastination

For everyone, including writers, there are always necessary tasks that we don’t really want to do. We may procrastinate or never accomplish these “to do” list items.

What’s your nemesis?

  • Have you delayed writing a first draft?
  • Are you behind in your self-editing?
  • Have you got an abundance of neglected ideas?
  • Do you put off updating your biography?
  • Neglect your blog?

I’m certainly guilty of this last one.

Research* suggests we waste time and energy keeping these items on our to do list, and rescheduling reminders and, maybe even, worrying about what’s not done. Somehow we have to find the motivation or, maybe, overcome our impulse control. How can we overcome procrastination?

* See Association of Psychology ScienceForbesThe New Yorker and many others.

In my opinion, the best thing to do is just do it. Get it over with and move on to other things. Finding the motivation to take action isn’t always easy but I’ve never regretted taking care of the distasteful task first.

Woman holding a toy frogI first heard this about this approach at a Canadian Women in Communications luncheon in Vancouver back in 1990-something. I wish I could remember the speaker’s name because he was compelling and dynamic. He described a mindset to tackle procrastinated tasks as moments to “swallow the frog” and that description has stuck with me. The phrase is now so commonly used that most don’t know its origin. It’s often attributed to Mark Twain but has its origin with French politician M. Gambetta circa 1872.

Swallow the frog. If you have to do something distasteful, just do it and be done. By making it the first item you accomplish for the day, you can get on with enjoying the rest of the day. No need to waste energy and time, wondering what the frog will taste like or how it will feel sliding down your gullet. Once you’ve done it, you know the answers to all these questions first hand.

Have you swallowed your frog today?