Thursday, March 28, 2019

Becoming a writer requires hard work

There are a lot of people that decides to become a writer with the philosophy that an artist must pours his soul into a piece of paper and does not pay a lot of attention to the commercial aspects of writing. There is some truth in this, as, in the end, writing a novel is a creative act and the ability to transmit our essence to the pages is what will make it honest and enhance its literary quality.
However, writing fiction is a business; writers create stories for readers to read, and there are all sorts of intermediaries between the writer and the reader, which encompass the publishing industry: agents, editors, publishers, distributors, book-sellers, etc.
In order to be successful in the literary fiction market you need to be a part of this industry, and even when creating a product that readers want to read depends on your artistic side, getting it known within the editorial market directly concerns with your professional approach.
This means to be organized and efficient in your writing routines (delivery of the product needs to be guaranteed). You also need to be responsible and pay attention in your meetings with agents and publishers, setting aside your creative side to make room for the business side.
This does not mean to “sell yourself to marketing”, but to establish a basis of responsibility as a professional that will encourage others to invest in your project and will keep your writing career spinning, feeding of money and respect. This is the job we have chosen.
The background also helps, that is why we need to have the tools to become a professional writer at hand. It is impossible to think of a carpenter without a hammer; that would give a clear impression of what kind of professional he is.

Managing our time also leads us to become professional.

Give it some time:
As we know, becoming a writer takes time. You cannot reach the objective with less time that it takes to walk the path; there are no shortcuts. That is why it is good to focus as experienced workers do, in small tasks, one at a time, doing them in the best possible way, without worrying how long they will take. This is the best way to make the process faster.
Quality time:
This refers to making the best of your writing sessions. By applying writing techniques, overcoming blockings, applying to detail resolution, you will unintentionally reach the goal in less time while enjoying the ride. You need to write intelligently.

Becoming a writer requires creativity.

It is time to discuss the third aspect (perhaps the most important one) that will help us sustain as writers: creativity.
The good news is that we all have some creativity and, if we take this as a basis, that creativity can be developed, amplified, strengthen, with different exercises, generating a constant flow of ideas to which professionalism will need to give form, without letting motivation fade, during the whole process.
The creativity we all have when we are children, that one which allows us to spend hours with a group of trees turned into an enchanted forest, or on some cardboard boxes that are to be our spaceship, grows rigid, and we tend to lose it while growing up, due to the false believe that it goes against seriousness and responsibility. This is false. You can be responsible and creative at the same time!
If you want to become a successful novel writer, it is key to learn to make the most of your creativity. Creativity will not only allow you to write much better, but it will also help you enjoy the writing process.
Inspiration, our writing muse, is derived from creativity, from that right hemisphere of our brain where imagination and emotions reside. Nevertheless, it is not possible to wait sitting for our muse to come to us, we need to wake it and call it.
Picasso said “I do not believe in muses, but in case they come down, I would rather they find me working”; and there are many creativity exercises that can be useful at different times.
A great grey cloud in our creative sky is the dreaded “writers blocking”. Do not be scared, there are many ways to overcome it and get on with our task until we complete our novel.

Now stop for a while and take the necessary time to absorb all the advice on this article. I know you are anxious to embark on this new adventure to become a writer, but you need to understand that writing is a career by itself, not a sprint.
Taking the time to get ready before starting,  can save you a lot of time later.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Essays’ characteristics

Free structure
•Synthetic and relatively brief
•A variety of themes
•Careful and elegant style
•Diverse tones, corresponding to the way in which the author sees and interprets the world.
•The tone can be deep, poetic and didactic, satirical, etc. There’s amenity in the exposition, which stands out above its systematic rigor.

It’s classified by: Personal character essays, where the writer talks about himself and gives his opinions about events, using a light and natural style. Another, more ambitious or extensive and with formal character or closer to scientific work, but always taking interest in the author’s point of view.
True essayists have to have perfect control of the subject, and a nice dose of general culture in order expand upon an artistic subject, and they need to have musical motivation expressed through rich and varied tonal relationships. The essay is a brilliant game in the world of ideas. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Exercises for reading comprehension: three steps for 50% more efficiency in a week

In this article, I will explain what you need to do to increase your reading comprehension by 50% in just a week, so that you can study for your exams or read your books of interest taking full advantage of the time you have available.
Once and for all, you will eliminate the frustration you used to experience when the day of the exam came, and you felt that you don’t remember anything.

Scientific studies have shown that if you do something regularly, your brain will include those things in your subconscious, which will allow you to create a reading habit. By practicing things constantly, you will see that, with each passing day, you will do them better and better. This is totally true. It worked for me, and it might as well work with you.
I started by asking one of my literature teachers for a piece of advice, and here is what she told me: “If you want to learn how to study and understand what you are reading, you need to get your brain used to the process of studying”.

! Every day, you will dedicate half an hour to reading, and once you finish the daily half-hour, you will write a personal commentary, using your own words, about what you have read. Write no more than five lines. This will exercise your brain even more, and will force it to remember what you read, and then transpose in onto a sheet of paper.
! Then, formulate a conclusion based on the things you already knew about that topic and write it down. Make the connection between what you read and your personal experiences, and see how relevant the text that you read is. Write your opinion about it. This step is essential for a real understanding of the text. So far, your brain has worked three times as much as usual.
! Remember that the brain is a muscle, and like any muscle, it requires exercising to keep it from atrophying. The steps above are the ideal activities for exercising your brain and slowly acquiring a better reading comprehension.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Things to be aware of when writing an essay

• Writing essays means checking. Using this genre, the author checks what he thinks, and manifests it in an informal manner, making it almost like a written conversation between himself and the reader, with the complicity of pen and paper.
• The essay is an open construction, and it’s known for being supported by the author’s point of view; it implies a responsibility to expose their own ideas and opinions, backing them with the compromise of their personal signature.
• It’s a subjective genre, and can even be partial. Usually, the author’s purpose is to persuade the reader of his particular views.
• It’s a free form and rebels against all rules. It makes space for doubts, commentary and even anecdotes and experiences of whoever is writing it.
• In the essay, the author is not trying to exhaust the subject, but rather to expose his thoughts. It’s a reflection.
• The author writes about something familiar to him, something that’s already part of him.
• The essay encompasses all of these alternatives, but also demands rigor. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Exercise your brain by reading more

What if you take action once and for all and you decide to exercise your brain now! If you don’t do it now, you may forget about it and lose your opportunity to increase your reading comprehension by 50% in just one week.
If you really want to end your frustrations, think no more: finish reading this article and get to read what you like. Always do this from today on. These 3 steps won’t take you more than 50 minutes. I advise you to make a daily schedule that allows you to complete these steps every day in the morning, because this is the moment when the brain is more fresh and ready to receive information.

1.         Half an hour of reading.
2.         Synthesis and explanation in your own words.
3.         Conclusion.

Reading is a process that implies a series of steps

The steps are:
1.         Perception
2.         Comprehension
3.         Interpretation
4.         Reaction
5.         Integration

Perception is the first step. It involves recognizing the graphical symbols, using any technique – composition, structural analysis, background, etc. The perception must be quick, precise, extensive and rhythmic. This means that during the stage of perception, our eyes must be able to perceive a word or phrase in just a split of a second, our mind must catch its meaning, at the same time guarding the precision and security of reading, despite the speed. For this, you must take full advantage of the visual capacity of your eyes. On a single glance, you must read three or four words; this involves a focused and alert psychical activity. The activities in this stage are predominantly motor, and they mostly involve the senses.

Comprehension is the stage when you recognize the meaning that the author assigned to his text. It requires the ability to understand the message, or the ideas behind the graphic symbols, in the light of past experiences or creating a mental image according to the idea evoked by the message. According to studies made on cognitive processes, this is a very complex cognitive activity, as this stage can comprise a simple codification, up to the elaboration of a synthesis.

Interpretation: interpreting something means assigning it a meaning. During the interpretative function, the reader is introduced into another personality, taking the place of the lyrical voice. Through interpretation, we get to know the author’s thoughts and feeling, that the reader can agree with, or not. Or they can simply serve for informative purposes.

Reaction: during this stage, the reader displays an attitude of acceptance or rejection of the ideas expressed by the author. This is the result of the similarity (or contrast) between the meaning assigned by the author and the reader’s previous knowledge.

Integration: the reader decides the value of the ideas that are expressed; that is, he takes and adds them to his flow of personal experiences, if he considers they are worthy. If reading is done orally, we must add the following steps: emission of sounds, hearing and self-control in regard to the string of sounds.


  • §  Address any visual problem that might appear.
  • §  Choose a properly lit place where to read.
  • §  Sit properly but comfortably while reading.
  • §  Hold the book at around 30 to 40 cm (11 to 16 inches) from your eyes.
  • §  When reading silently, don’t move your lips and don’t repeat the words in your mind.
  • §  Don’t move your head side to side.
  • §  Don’t follow the line with your finger or another object – they won’t help, they’ll just distract you.
  • §  Move your eyes from one group of words to another, not from word to word, and don’t repeat lines.
  • §  Try to understand what you read, as this stimulates permanent learning.
  • §  Make the connection between the topic you are studying and other lessons.
  • §  Practice what you have learnt (overlearning).
  • §  Try to find applications for what you have learnt; abstract as the topic might be, it can prove useful in everyday problems.
  • §  Think about the text and ask yourself questions in regard to it; it’s unacceptable to simply agree to everything the author says.
  • §  Draw the right conclusions. 


Usually, older students don’t read a text properly, but immediately try to reproduce its form mechanically, giving the feeling that they want to finish as quickly as possible – in other words, they read for the sake of reading. Actually, reading implies concentrating your personal resources in learning and retaining data, making connections and using techniques, aiming to master new knowledge. Most teachers agree that there is a relation between the students who can’t read appropriately and those who fail; therefore, if students lack healthy reading habits, it’s important to start acquiring them.
In the following, we will present a method proven to be efficient for reading comprehension. This method was developed by Thomas Staton, who named it PQRST (preview, question, read, state and test).
1. Preview – consists in superficially glancing through the material you need to read, localizing the essential aspects or ideas of the text, taking a look at the index, the introduction, the headers, the graphics and the abstract. It shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to revise a chapter. This helps you form an idea about what you are going to read.
2. Question – implies asking yourself – and answering – questions regarding the text before starting to read, so that later you can compare your answers to those offered by the author. This way, you are practicing your imagination and critical thinking. Some of these questions could be: What do the titles and headers suggest? What do I know about this topic? What am I interested in? What does the author want to say? What do I need to know after I have finished reading?
3. Read – after formulating and answering your own questions, you’ll find that the text seems more familiar and easier to understand. This is the moment when you actually start reading, always careful about the intonation, punctuation and spelling of the terms. Pay attention to the words, phrases and sentences that the author stresses out, and mark the relevant information using a yellow highlighter or by underlining it – do this after having read a paragraph, not while you are reading it. It is also advisable to write notes on the margins of the text, but only if the book is your own. If you don’t understand the meaning of a word, look it up in the dictionary. It’s good to make synoptic charts and summaries, formulate questions and conclusions.
4. State – this implies closing the book and presenting, with your own words, what the author said, so that you can see how much you understood and what you need to read again. Studies show that if you repeat a piece of information after having read it, you’re more likely to remember it, provided you clearly understood what you have read.
5. Test – consists in studying in advance, to avoid an exaggerated influx of information and the pressure of the exams. It’s useful to review the contents of the text you have studied, in order to consolidate learning and self-documentation. Also, seek to expand your knowledge.

The significance of reading and writing

It is pertinent to note, that this inquiry for the significance of reading and writing in the universities led the “National Conference on Institutional Policies for the Development of Reading and Writing in Higher Education”; they also concluded that reading and writing should be commitments backed up by precise and explicit institutional policies; that the meaning building processes have an essential role in the social and professional life of the productive sector of a country, and they also emphasized on the need for looking into new trends and theoretical approaches that are underlying the educational and curricular proposals on reading and writing on the Higher Education of the country.

These initiatives, in addition to the multiple dissertations and Master and PhD thesis, like the research conducted in the University in a study called “Teaching how to understand texts in the university”, invite us to recognize reading and writing as a process of discovery, inquiry, discussion, explanation; actions that are characteristic of research, understood as a social activity that leads to the production of knowledge. This way, research, assessment and the results, among them, the ones originated from the Quality Assessment on Higher Education, have put into evidence the existence of issues related to reading and writing that is necessary to expose and intervene.

Finally, it is worth noticing the impact that the educational and teaching national proposals on reading and writing have had. Within these, the ones proposed by the Research Group on Reading and Writing, the Linguistics, Spanish and Literature Departments and the programs of the bachelor’s degrees in Ethno-education, Primary school education with a focus on Spanish and English, Speech Therapy, among others, which, from many years, have not only explored and promoted the research on this field, but have also achieve that the students transform their practices of reading and writing and recognize these processes as needs of the contemporary human being. The results are shown in the number of academic programs that have incorporated to their curricular structure the subject of reading and writing, in some cases, many levels or classes; on the dissertations that have made on the topic students from programs related to Language Studies, in various university publications, in the existence of a Specialization program in the Pedagogy of the reading and writing, and on the results of the reading and writing tests, among others.

Reading and writing in an University level

The research, stimulation, promotion and mediation activities on reading and writing, have gained great importance in the national and international university contexts, thanks to the agreement of the academic communities about the essential role that the meaning building processes play in the development of knowledge, in academic life and in the integral formation of the students. Likewise, the constant transformation of the social and discursive practices on societies, leads the universities to face new challenges in the academic and professional life, especially in the reading and writing of diverse text types that evolve within the different fields of knowledge.

Another element relevant to this educational proposal is the inquiry within the research communities in the Colombian universities about: How to guide the reading and writing processes in the Higher Education? What should be taught? What kind of skills should be strengthened? What are the appropriate methodologies? How to offer the courses?

These questions have put into evidence the complexity and the need to start a permanent research and action process on reading and writing, from within the teaching and learning practices, which implies a laborious and committed work. It is important to note that the Universities have been aware of the questions mentioned, which don’t lead, necessarily, to unique and definitive answers.


Reading and writing have had, in the last decades, an important development on research from fields such as linguistics, semiotics, psychology, anthropology, sociology, literature, philosophy, pedagogy and education, among others. This has made possible the emergence of new theoretical and methodological perspectives that suggest the importance of effectuating changes in their understanding and practice, and in the way they are addressed in the teaching and learning processes, on the different educational levels.

In the Higher Education level, specifically, the encouragement of reading and writing skills is gaining ground due to the essential relations that these have with the academic success or failure and the connection it has with the institutional and State policies of quality assurance.

On this sense, the Linguistics, Speech Therapy, Spanish and Literature, Education and Pedagogy and Intercultural Studies Departments, present to the university community a proposal titled “GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR THE READING AND WRITING COURSE”, with the purpose of being developed within the policy framework of Integral Social and Human Training (FISH), on the line of Society, Art, Language and Culture in the various Undergraduate programs in the University of Cauca, following the institutional requirements stated on the Agreement nr. 1 on the 30th of January 2007.

The purposes behind this proposal are: to recognize reading and writing as complex processes that are essential for the university education; to transform the ideas and practices on reading and writing; to develop abilities for reading and writing in the university; to contribute to the processes and practices of research training through Reading and writing.

Choosing the subject

If the teacher asks you to write a paper on ethical values and justice, he’s asking you to research those subjects, because it’s very likely that you don’t have a solid grasp of legal matters, but if he asks you to write about children who dress like clowns and perform in the streets of many cities, in front of cars at red lights, then it’s very likely that he’s asking you to write an essay, because unfortunately, many Latin American people are familiar with these kinds of experiences. Essays require that you draw from your own experience.
When writing about these children, you might have your own opinion on their behavior. You’re free to write whether you’re for or against it, saying they’re victims of an unfair society, or you can say that they put themselves at risk if they don’t work. You might want to recount an anecdote, something that happened while they were doing their brief show; you might even want to talk about your feelings, and write that you don’t understand why, but when you see them, you get a knot in your throat, and you don’t know how you can help to solve the problem of the poor human rights in the country.
The essay can include all of these things, but above all, it demands rigor. 

Rigor in essays
1. Writing well.
2. Supporting the validity of your opinion:
– Comparing your text to other texts about the same subject.
– Providing an analysis that requires supporting a central hypothesis.
3. Whatever your opinion is, for example, regarding children working in the streets, you have to explain the objective reasons that they got to be in the streets in the first place.
– So, you have to do some research, data compilation and conjunction of opinions. 

Types of Essays

Literary essay
Some of the conditions the literary essay needs to fulfill are variety and a free selection of themes. The literary subject is more of a form problem than a depth problem.
Montaigne’s essays established the genre’s autonomy, and many times they derive from literary quotes, readings and works, but they also present many other themes motivated by the observation of customs, human behavior and vital experience. The literary essay can be defined beginning with the ideas encompassed in many disciplines like morality, science, philosophy, history and politics, which create a free and dynamic reading. In the essay, the author captures his ideas and thoughts about life; it is and should be personal, subjective: a vision from the writer’s own mind.
The essay is, by definition, a provocative concept that invites one to violate aesthetics and moral norms. Journalists say that people make essays every day as an informative note about reality. The essay is the quintessential critical product. On the other hand, philosophers defend the essay as a real form of expression of philosophical manifestations, calling it a treatise, discourse or retort. So, the essay can’t be boxed into only one concept, because the different disciplines adjust it according to their own needs, and use instruments to defend their genre.

Scientific essay
One of the frontiers between science and poetry is in the essay. It’s been known as the “literary-scientific” genre because it strays from scientific reasoning with its artistic imagination. The scientific creation has roots, like poetry, in the imaginative capacity, and it can’t be completely ignored. However, it doesn’t stray far from nature or logic. The essay shares one of its essential purposes with science: deeply exploring reality, approximating the “truth” of things. It shares originality, intensity and expressive beauty with art. 
There’s not really a defined style for essays. There are many styles, according to the author’s personality. But, there is one essential condition they must all meet: clarity of expression, the transparency that can help the reader get a better understanding of the authenticity of the thoughts captured by the essayist.   


Essay basics
The essay is a relatively modern genre, although its origins can be traced back to olden times. It’s developed importance to the modern ear. It’s possible that liberal thought and journalism have had a great influence in its development and hegemony.
Nowadays, the essay is defined as a literary genre, but the essay is actually reduced to a series of meanderings, most of the time in critical aspects where the author expresses his thoughts about determined subjects, or even without a specific subject.
What separates essays from other literary genres is a proper feature, and it’s suggested by its own name. The word essay comes from the Late Latin “exagium”, which means “act of thinking”. It’s also related to the origins of the word given to the testing of the quality of metals. Essaying is thinking, testing, recognizing and examining. So, the essay is a writing, usually brief, about diverse subjects. It’s not defined by its subject, but rather by the author’s attitude to it; deep down, it could be a hypothesis, an idea that’s being essayed. The essay is the product of long meditations and thoughts, and its sense of exploration, its audacity and originality are essential. The essay is the product of the mind’s adventures.

An essay is written in prose, it’s usually short, and expresses depth, maturity and sensitivity. It’s a personal interpretation of any subject, whether it’s philosophical, scientific, historical, literary, etc.
The way in which a subject is exposed and examined borders that of scientific work; didactic and critical. It doesn’t follow a rigorous and systematic order of exposition. The point of view taken by the author when dealing with the subject is predominant in the essay. The individual notes, the author’s feelings, tastes or aversions are what characterize an essay, coming close to lyrical poetry. What separates them is the language, which is more conceptual and expository in the essay, and more intuitive and lyrical in poetry.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

We propose the following steps during the reading process

1.      Pre-reading
2.      Reading
3.      Post-reading
1. The pre-reading stage: This is the phase that helps raise the reader’s interest in the text they are going to read. It is the right moment to revise previous knowledge and state prerequisites. The former are acquired in the environment students grow in, while the latter give us a formal education, such as: vocabulary, notions of the reality and the use of language. Moreover, this is an opportunity to motivate and generate curiosity.
Specific pre-reading skills are developed through activities such as:
& Denotative and connotative analysis of the images attached to the text. Denotative analysis invites the reader to observe and describe the graphics exactly as they are, while the connotative one implies interpreting them in a creative manner.
& Activation of the previous knowledge: ask yourself what you know about the topic and what you can connect it to.
& Elaboration of predictions about the content, starting from the factors that draw your attention: title, the year the text was published, author, graphical elements, keywords, prologue, bibliography etc.
& Defining the purpose of reading: recreation, practical application, finding information, critical evaluation.

2. The reading stage: This is the stage when you perform the actual reading of the text, which involves the mechanical aspects as well as text comprehension. The level of comprehension that you will reach depends a lot on the skills you demonstrate during the stage. This is the moment to put the emphasis on the global image that words, phrases and sentences create, avoiding syllabic reading and reading aloud.
Activities for this stage depend on the type of text you are reading.
3. The post-reading stage: For this stage, we propose activities that show how much the reader understood from the text. The type of questions that will be asked determine the target level of comprehension.
The post-reading stage is ideal for group work, since this way, students can compare their interpretations with their classmates’, and build the meaning of the read texts from different points of view.
The activities proposed for this stage must be varied and creative, to stimulate a positive attitude on the students’ side.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Reading activities to do at home

The objective of each family who wishes to help develop their young members’ reading abilities must try, above everything, to generate curiosity for reading and interest and attraction for books and the written language. You can achieve this by using different activities.
  • Read them a little each day. Choose a quiet time, like the moments before bedtime, and start reading your little ones stories appropriate for their age. This exercise will allow them to see reading as a pleasant activity and will start associating sounds with letters.
  • Help them see the usefulness of reading. The written word does not only appear in books, but also on various objects and spaces we use every day. Parents can start teaching the children to make associations between the written and the spoken language, if they involve the little ones in these reading situations. You can read the street and shop signs or the labels on food together. Another option is to place labels written in large font on different objects in the house.
  • Letter games: there are games that help children learn and recognize the letters of the alphabet, and associate them with complete words. Some interesting games that you can play with your child are “I spy…”, “Word chain”, or spelling names and words.
  • Reading with pictures: stories with pictures include images that are easy to understand for children, and that can be easily replaced by an appropriate word. This type of reading is very motivating, as the children, though still unable to read properly, become more than mere spectators of the process of reading.
  • Be an example yourself: growing up in an environment that encourages reading is one of the most influential background factors with direct implications on the child’s future reading skills. Parents must allow their children to join them when they read, talk to them about the text they are reading, help them create their own bookcase and introduce to them the public spaces where they can get books from – that is, libraries and bookstores.