The Scout Report
November 7, 2014 -- Volume 20, Number 43
Every week at Internet Scout, we scour the web to bring you the best of STEM, humanities, social science, and other inspiring resources. Variety is, indeed, the spice of Scout. But sometimes a special month calls for a special issue. And November, which has been named National Novel Writing Month, is just such a time. Now, we know that most of our readers aren't aspiring novelists. But we also know that every one of our readers writes, whether it's for work or play, for business, academia, government, tech, or some other field. The following links touch on fiction, as well as science and technical writing. They link to novelists, poets, and scientists who have captured the public imagination with their words. We've also included a pair of tools we think will help anyone who aspires to put themselves at a desk and write something down. We hope the resources listed here will inspire you as much as they have inspired us. In the great words of C.S. Lewis, "You can make anything by writing."
If you know of other great resources fitting this special edition theme, please let us know on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/InternetScout ), by Tweeting @IntScout, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Publication of Internet Scout
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
National Novel Writing Month
Writing and Publishing Solutions
How Writers Write Fiction
Fiction Writers Review
The Official SCBWI Blog
Introduction to Technical Communication
The Purdue OWL: Conducting Research
Scientific Reports - The Writing Center
National Association of Science Writers
Sentence Structure of Technical Writing
LabWrite for Students
The Official Site for Alice Walker
The Official Site of Richard Feynman
Charles Dickens at 200
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 78, James Baldwin
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Freelance writer Chris Baty declared November as National Novel Writing Month in the fall of 2000. Since then, the number of participants has grown from 21 aspiring authors hacking away at manuscripts to over 300,000. The project's "No Plot? No problem" slogan tells it all. No perfectionistic haute culture here. Participants are simply encouraged to put at least 50,000 words on paper between 12:00 am on November 1 and 11:59:59 on November 30. Scout readers can explore this official website via section subheadings such as, About, How It Works, Press Information, and Testimonials to find out all about the process. Signing up to participate in the challenge is easy and free, and the website will help track your progress, link you to support in your geographical area, and provide platforms to meet fellow writers in person and online. NaNoWriMo, as it's called, is a great resource for encouraging novice and veteran writers alike to work through their writer's block and delve into their creativity. [CNH]
Anyone who has ever tried to write a novel will agree on at least one basic fact: it's deceptively difficult. This site, from novelist Harvey Chapman, provides beginners with helpful step-by-step advice. He lays it all out in simple, digestible categories including, The Writing Process, Becoming a Writer, Elements of Fiction, and How to Write. Each category includes helpful, targeted articles designed to take some of the sting out of putting words on screen or paper. For instance, How to Write a Novel Step-by-Step breaks down the novel writing process into eleven linear stages. Prose Writing 101, found under How to Write, is another great feature of the site that details the importance of writing with a clear, concise, and uncluttered style. [CNH]
The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa is often considered the best fiction writing program in the United States. Not everyone can dedicate the blood, sweat, and two years it takes to complete the program, but this new MOOC series allows fiction writers to engages with the material over a few short weeks. The course is free and the teachers are extremely well known literary novelists. After signing up, access to videos, transcripts, assignments, and tools will be at your fingertips. Through video lectures and various writing assignments, the series is a great way to learn about the writing process and interact with other students/writers working on their craft. [CNH]
If you want to write, read. And if you want to read about fiction writing, a good place to start is the Fiction Writers Review. Completely free and jam packed with writers writing about writing, this continually updated online periodical will fill you up with ideas and images. Start with the homepage, where you can explore numerous Features, ranging from interviews to essays. Then explore Popular Posts to see what other visitors have found valuable. There is a lot of fantastic stuff on this site, and author Philip Graham's praise is quite illuminating: "I no longer much bother reading The New York Times Book Review, and your site is one of the reasons- what great work you're doing for literature." [CNH]
There are many great resources for those who want to write stories for adults. But what if your market is more in the seven to twelve range? Well, then this site, the official blog of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), is for you. Continually updated, blog entries offer a variety of topics ranging from interviews with award winning children's book authors, editors, and publishers to advice on innovative marketing techniques, writing, and networking in children's literature. It is a must for anyone looking to engage in the wide world of writing and publishing for kids. [CNH]
What if you could take a technical communication class with a world class professor at a leading university? What if it was all laid out for you - the readings, the lectures, the assignments? And what if the only thing you had to pay for was a couple of books? That's exactly what Dr. Donald N.S. Unger and the MIT Open Courseware system are offering here. On this site, viewers can browse the syllabus, have a look at the required readings, and ponder the ten assignments that form the foundation of this writing intensive class. Self-directed learners who want to improve their technical and scientific writing need look no further than this web-based adaptation of an MIT classic. [CNH]
Good research and good writing go hand in hand. This site from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) introduces students to the principles of conducting good research. The clear and helpful information on the site is divided into six digestible categories: Research Overview, Conducting Primary Research, Evaluating Sources of Information, Searching the World Wide Web, Internet References, and Archival Research. Within each of these categories are numerous informative subcategories, such as Research Ethics and Searching with a Search Engine. This last area is a great tool for students learning how to conduct better searches, including information on Boolean operators. [CNH]
Learning to write a good scientific report is no easy task. Thank goodness this handout from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center provides you with everything you need to get started. Beginning with Background and Pre-Writing and proceeding with explanations of the Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections of research reports, the site answers such burning questions as, "What should I do before drafting the lab report?" and "When should you use a figure?" In all, students new to the art of technical science writing will be much comforted by this detailed and user-friendly explanation of the entire report writing process. Also of interest, the Other Resources section links out to more useful resources around the web. [CNH]
Founded in 1934, the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) has always sought to "encourage conditions that promote good science writing." Today, the NASW boasts a roster of over 2,000 members, almost 300 of them students. The site itself is a panoply of bustling information. Featured articles (for instance, "Coming soon to this planet: More of us") touch into issues relevant to science writers and bloggers, but also will appeal to anyone with an interest in empirical research. A Twitter feed, ripe with science-y links and hashtags, is available on the homepage and more than a dozen writer resources are on bold display. If you think science writing might be in your future, look here for the latest on how it's done. [CNH]
This visually clear treatise outlines "Good Tech Writers Practice" in three pieces of sage advice: Plan your project, understand good technical writing, and know that writing is a habit that takes time to develop. Presented as lecture materials from Nicole Kelley at MIT, this 24-page PDF leads students of technical writing through seven steps (planning, clarity, brevity, simplicity, word choice, active voice, committing to writing as a process), and is ripe with graphs, charts, tables, and other compelling visuals. Adapted from The Craft of Scientific Writing by Michael Alley and "The Science of Scientific Writing" by Gopen and Swan, this is a great resource providing the basics of technical writing in an easily digestible format. [CNH]
This National Science Foundation funded site from North Carolina State University "guides you through the entire laboratory experience, from before you walk into the lab to after you get back your graded report." Start with How to Use LabWrite for a comprehensive Powerpoint overview of the program. Then, navigate slowly through the steps of PreLab, InLab, PostLab, and LabCheck, each of which provides careful instructions on everything from formulating a hypothesis to presenting results. Teachers will especially recognize this tool as a welcome supplement to in class discussions of best lab practices. [CNH]
Alice Walker, who has won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, is one of America's best known and well loved writers. Since publishing her first book of poems in the late 1960s, she has been churning out books of essays, novels, short stories, and poetry at a prodigious clip. Productivity, however, is not her real calling card; what Walker is known for, above all, is her compassion and clarity. This official site contains dozens of Walker's recent blog posts on a wide range of literary, artistic, and social issues, from her thoughts on books and paintings to her fierce musings on the state of the Palestine/Israel conflict. The About section provides a great biography of Walker and her work. Additionally, Books and New Books allows viewers to browse her ample collection of literary achievements. [CNH]
William Faulkner was born in 1897 in Oxford, Mississippi and toiled away in relative obscurity until unexpectedly winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. His novels henceforth earned him two Pulitzer prizes, and several of them are almost always listed on "best of" lists for 20th century literature. This University of Virginia site is a Faulker treasure trove. From the homepage, visitors can navigate to Contexts for an overview of Faulkner and his times. Next, the Browse section provides a list of Faulkner's recorded lectures and classes at UVA - a rare and wonderful peek at a man from another era. Readers can also search the site by Tapes & Transcripts and Rest of Archive. Selected clips, organized by the author's novels, are also available. [CNH]
The video on the homepage of the Official Site of Richard Feynman is reason enough to visit. It features Feynman, the theoretical physicist, Nobel Prize winner, and best selling author, lecturing to a group of undergraduates on the topic of scientific and unscientific understandings of nature. The talk is wildly entertaining, vivacious, and intellectually clear; viewers are left with a vivid sense of who this man was and why he so deeply impacted the popular imagination. A detailed About section provides information on Feynman and his work, as well as quotes and a small photo gallery. The Notable Works section lists his writings for scientific and popular audiences, though, sadly, none of them are available on the site. [CNH]
The Christmas Carol, which Dickens wrote in the six weeks leading up to the Christmas of 1843, has continuously been in print ever since, spawning adaptations into the forms of plays, films, TV specials, mime performances, abstract performance art, and opera. This online exhibition, hosted by the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, features a leather bound manuscript of the author's first draft, presented to his friend and debtor, Thomas Mitton, just before it's publication. This excellent site allows viewers to visit half a dozen pages of the original document, replete with cross outs and scribbles, corrections and revisions. The accompanying essays cover topics such as Dickens at Work, which explains the sense of Dickens "writing at a fast pace, usually enacting second thoughts and changes of mind in the heat of original composition." [CNH]
Born in Harlem in 1924, James Baldwin moved to France in the late 1950s because he didn't want to be read as "merely a Negro; or, even, merely a Negro writer." He lived the rest of his life in Paris and the French Riviera, publishing fiction and essays that deeply influenced American literature from afar. This interview with Baldwin, published in the Paris Review a few years before the author's death, touches on such topics as his choice to permanently leave the United States for Europe, his writing process, and his thoughts on race and racial justice. It's a rare gift to find a freely available window into this revered writer's thoughts and feelings in his later years. [CNH]
Whether you're writing the Great American Novel or just trying to finish a term paper by tomorrow morning, the biggest threat to productivity is distraction. And the biggest progenitor of distraction is the very machine you are working on to write that novel or term paper. This open source app blocks access to distracting websites, as well as mail servers and everything else on the internet. Just set the timer, and write. [CNH]
Every writer needs a dictionary. The Merriam-Webster app provides "America's most useful and respected dictionary," plus synonyms, antonyms, example sentences, and many other bonus functions. It's free, it's easy, and it's available for iPhone and iPad (iOS 7.0+) as well as Android (2.3.3+). [CNH]
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