In Spring, 2008 I experimented with writing for Helium.com. The website gets people to write for it by offering to pay them if their work is popular. Another part of how it works is by having many people write on the same topic. Writers have a chance to to read and rate the work of other writers, and earn some sort of credit for doing so. The basic idea is to get people paid according to how good their work is.
I never made any money, but it did help get the creativity flowing. Part of the reason I ended up giving up on it was that people didn't appear to like my writing that much. Some they did, and some of it really was bad but some pieces I think are quite good are rated near the bottom.
I am still a bit perplexed as to why most people tended to vote against some of my better work. If anyone else has experience with this site or similar ones, perhaps you could offer some insight.
Here is a link to a representative article on Helium.com, so you can compare it to the ones rated more highly.
How to improve your English Vocabulary–
Created on: April 17, 2008
The secret to improving your vocabulary is to love words and playing around with them. If you are not turned on by words like galoshes, charlatan, scald, tumult and frostbitten, then chances are you are not meant to be a word connoisseur or at least not ready to be one. Nothing wrong with that. We all have our tastes and preferences. But to really absorb words, your ears have to perk up when you hear a new one; it can't just flow between the ears, it has to rattle around inside the old noggin' for a while.
It also helps to be obsessively concerned with subtle variations between words. For example dream and fantasy are synonyms in your thesaurus. But you really have to pay attention to their uses in different contexts to realize that they have distinct characters and connotations. Fantasies tend to be less likely to occur than dreamsmore fantastical; they also are more likely to be sexual in naturethus fantasy is a sexier word. Attention to and awareness of these differences will feed your appetite: you will want to scarf up as much as you can, in order to have a full palette from which to paint your poetry and prose.
Word play is another huge arena for getting the vocabulary glands pumping and ready to fill your ears with digestive juices. If I didn't know that spit was also known as the much sexier saliva, and produced by salivary glands, I wouldn't be able to make a pun like I just did. If sentences along the line of the above (if not the above itself) tend to make you laugh, or at least smile, then you are probably already exerting your lungs blowing up an expanding vocabulary. Thus learning new words is really a natural process; once you've realized how much fun they are, you will begin reflexively reaching for the dictionary every time you hear a new one. No one wants to be scratching their head while everyone else is laughing theirs off.
This means that the task for those of us already addicted to words, if we want to help others improve their vocabularies, is not to simply explain where new words can be found. Instead it is upon us to push our nasty habit on our unsuspecting victims, giving them free samples until they too are hooked. Once they've experienced their first high, they'll be running for the scrabble board and the thesaurus, unable to satisfy that endless craving. So enough for the lecture on vocabulary inflation, next week we'll look at the decline in grammar production.