Podcast: Reanimated


So I’ve decided that telling myself that it’s lame to make new years resolutions is just another stupid excuse. True, nearly everyone makes new years resolutions, but very few people keep them. In this way I shall remain distinct and un-lame.

The Goal:
Get the podcast off the ground by making it simpler, better quality, and easier to maintain/edit

  • One podcast per month
  • Each month there is a theme, stories must be written within that month to capitalize on the whole “don’t edit too much” thing.
  • Entries are due by the 20th of the month so I have time to edit and record.
  • Send entries to podcast@drwicked.com either as an attachment or in the body of the email.
  • The theme for each month will be announced in the podcast as well as on my website.

Why this will work:

  • It’s simpler, I had delusions of grandeur about some kind of voting system where listeners could vote on what would be recorded. This was too complex. It may rise again from the ashes but for now we’re going for good old email.
  • I have access to excellent recording environs: I work in the media department of a church and they have a studio where they record things for radio broadcast, so it should be good enough for this podcast.
  • Another nice thing about this setup is I’ll be forced to just run through it and edit later instead of editing in between takes because the recording gear is in a separate room.

The first theme is
“Dark Lullabies for Strange Children”

I wanted something short and simple and I’ve been on a poetry kick lately so I wanted to flex those muscles. I’m looking for fairly short form pieces. Under 700 words. You definitely don’t have to do poetry, but if you do, bonus points for rhyme, meter and form.
I won’t elaborate too much on the theme because I want to leave your options open but the “for strange children” bit means that I’d prefer something which could conceivably be read to a young person. I don’t mind if it’s disturbing, but I’d prefer if it wasn’t profane. I am recording this in a church after all.
Entries are due on January 20th, 2010. Good luck


SUBMIT: podcast@drwicked.com

Back in Effect

Thank God!
My webhost is back online! Many apologies to the many hours of lost productivity, I can only hope that absence made your heart grow fonder of my devious schemes.
I’m working on implementing a backup solution in case this ever happens again. It totally blindsided me, the longest 1and1 (my webhost) has gone down before this was for about 2 hours. So I’m working on a backup hosting solution, probably throwing it on the same box that is hosting my new project, Noctur.nl, which you should check out by the way.
Just wanted to let everyone know that I’m sorry this happened and it won’t happen again.
Thanks!

NaNoWriMo begins! And their progress widget is broken!

Just a quick note of panic and celebration to say that NaNoWriMo has officially begun! And since it seems that their progress bar widget is broken, you are more than welcome to use mine. Just paste the code from the box below into your blog or website, replacing words=1667 with whatever your current wordcount is.

You can also pick a custom goal, but it is preset to 50000 to accommodate NaNoWriMo.



Good luck to all of you, brave NaNoNauts!

Announcing Write or Die Desktop Edition!

NOTE: This is the first day I’m redirecting traffic from the old URL to the new, if you have any difficulties with the new website or the improved functionality of the online version, tweet me or get help here

I am proud to announce the release of Write or Die: Desktop Edition! Now you can have all the procrastination-destroying benefits of Write or Die without the giant kitten of the internet pawing at you for attention! New features, new look, new sounds, same awesome!

Features:

  • Offline, unplug and write!
  • Custom colors
  • Custom sounds
  • Variable grace period
  • Statistics (high score, average wpm, total words written)
  • Save to file
  • Add to existing file
  • Publish to blog
  • Head to Head Word War!
  • And many more

 It is written in Adobe AIR so it works for Windows and Mac and it only costs $10. So unless you’re really attached to your writer’s block, you might want to check it out.


Click for More Info

The Morning Muse

I’ve decided to start a new regimen. I’ve got a new job, I no longer work at Starbucks so I never again have to wake up at 4AM, I usually get to work by 10:30 or so and stay till around 7. It’s a good job, so far, I love it. But in a way I miss the things that happened to my mind when I was forced to be conscious at an unreasonably early hour. I’ve been, overall, less creative and less productive with writing. Even my Tweets have suffered because I’ve got this blasted morning muse that I can’t seem to switch over.

So I’m off every Monday and Monday shall now be my creative day, the day on which I court my morning muse and get things done. I will not allow myself to eat or watch movies or leave the house until I have blogged and written. I’m starting with a goal of 500 words and intend to increase it. I find that it’s better to start small because otherwise one gets discouraged and falters right at the start.

So here’s the plan,

  • The newsletter will be far more frequent
  • The podcast will actually have new episodes
  • This blog will be a little more about my life and thoughts

That’s a start and a good one. And hopefully this inkling of productivity on Monday will lead to more throughout the week. Another perk of my job is that I get to sit at a desk with a computer with internet access so it is conceivable that I can create from there. UNMITIGATED JOY!

So I’d like to thank both of you that are still subscribed to this blog, there will be more, it will be better. I’ve felt like the biggest hypocrite, I made this thing that helps writers to write and I hardly write at all. The meandering tone of this blog post makes me want to delete it but it’s going out their and I’ll just have to keep adding better and better words to make up for these.

Thanks and stay tuned.

Write or Die Update

Minor but important update to Write or Die. It seems that Flash version 10 broke the autocopy functionality so I all but removed it and replaced it with a script that makes sure you want to leave the page before you navigate away and possibly lose your precious words.

Let me know in the comments if there are any problems.

Desktop Edition is coming along, I’m hoping for a March release.

Stay tuned

Writing and Technology: Finding Your Place

As writers, we have more available technology than is probably good for us. Technology can be useful or distracting. Technology can help you or hinder your creativity. Given the wide spectrum of options, it is the job of the creative person to carve out their own space in the continuum of technology. Artists must choose if they work best in charcoal, clay, sharpie, pen and ink, or on the computer with tablet and vector drawing program. Often times the writer will ignore the concept of different media that might be more conducive to his or her creativity. In this article I’d like to consider some options available to the writer.

Pen and Paper

This is the bottom of the spectrum, the way that people have been writing for thousands of years. Before 1873 when the typewriter was invented this was your only option for drafting prose. Current novelists like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman still write their first drafts longhand. Personally, I can type a lot faster than I can write, not to mention a lot more legibly. My hand also cramps up a great deal when I write for any length of time so this is not an option for me. In favor of the pen and paper option, besides the fact that some great writers swear by it, is that it’s a great deal more tactile, there is a sensory joy to writing on paper that you don’t get from keys on a keyboard. Another benefit is that you must keep writing forward, you can’t go back and effortlessly delete words or sentences, your only option is to throw away the entire page, which would certainly make me think twice. Write or Die wouldn’t be necessary in a world where everyone who wanted to write was writing in such a permanent medium. You also have the bother and benefit of needing to type up your written manuscript. This is time consuming but also allows you to catch mistakes and trouble spots
that are harder to spot on the screen. You’re also forced to re-read your entire manuscript, which, judging by many modern novels, most authors do not do.
The Typewriter
Ah that romantic machine-gun sound of the typewriter. Regardless of implement, many aspiring novelists fancy themselves toiling away in a small attic room in the city, slanted ceilings making it difficult to stand up straight,  hunched at the desk with their typewriter, a stack of clean white pages on one side of them and on the other side, a stack of paper stained with GENIUS! Typewriters share the benefits of pen and paper, once something is typed, it’s rather more permanent than words in a word processor on a computer. I have tried to draft stories on typewriter to keep myself writing forward, I dragged out my parents’ old electric typewriter and it whirred softly at me when I typed. The trouble with me is that I must fix things, it is a natural part of my
process to misspell words, use backspace and correct sentence structure as I go. I would very much like to achieve better accuracy but in the heat of composition I want to keep my inner proofreader silent. All that said, I recommend borrowing a typewriter to see if it helps you keep writing forward.

The Computer

This is the one we all know, the fact that you’re reading this means you’re fairly well-versed in your computer’s capabilities. Everyone knows about typing in a word processor but I’m going to discuss a few more options.

Word processor.

This is the default tool for modern writers. At some point I will do an extensive article on some tips and tricks for Word and its ilk, such as cutting down the clutter, but for now I will just assume that you’re all familiar with the function of a word processor. The drawbacks of word processors are that they are often bogged down with a great deal of unnecessary features. They are fairly good for editing but even when editing the
spelling and grammar check can give a writer a false sense of security. Spellcheck will not catch homonyms such as their/there/they’re and grammar check can be downright non-sensical. That said, if you’ve only ever used Microsoft Word I recommend giving OpenOffice.org a try. If you’re on a Mac I cannot recommend
Scrivener highly enough, it’s the best software for organizing story ideas and research. If you have tons of different documents all containing different versions and bits of your stories, you can integrate all of them into one document. You can’t go wrong.

AlphaSmart 2000

Now that we’ve covered the common
options, I’d like to introduce a new one. Consider dialing back your
place on the technology continuum to a slightly earlier era. You
don’t need to buy a typewriter, you don’t need to buy a fountain pen.
I am talking about the AlphaSmart series of word processors,
particularly the AlphaSmart 2000.
These little machines go for about $30-$40 on eBay and it’s the best money I’ve spent on a writing implement. It is a simple blue word processor, it’s like a keyboard with a very small brain. You get four lines of text and 8 different files in which to save your work. It requires no special software, compatible with Mac, PC and any computer into which you would plug a keyboard. When you’re ready to transfer your words to a computer for editing, you simply connect the AlphaSmart to your computer just like you would a keyboard and it simply re-types everything that you’ve typed into any document. Word, blog window, text editor, anything at
all.AlphaSmart have released models since the 2000 but in my opinion they have just added more distracting
features, thus negating the attraction of the originals. Not to mention the AlphaSmart Neo goes for about $300. For the additional $260 you get some PDA functionality and (I think) e-mail. But we don’t want those things, we want simplicity. One thing that I forgot to mention, you get upwards of 200 hours of use out of three AA batteries! That alone is reason enough to pick it up just to have on hand when your laptop dies and you’re far from an outlet. I love my AlphaSmart 2000, I love that I can take it into a field and write and not worry about losing it or damaging it as I would my laptop. The only somewhat specialized piece of equipment you need is a Male to Male PS/2 keyboard cord. That sounds more complicated than it actually is. While you probably won’t be able to find one at your local Best Buy, they usually ship with your AlphaSmart if you buy them on eBay, otherwise Fry’s or Micro Center will carry them. The easiest way is probably to get one online, Newegg is a great resource, here’s the cable you’ll need.
By the way, I have nothing to gain from this, I’m not selling them nor do I work for them, I just think they’re a great tool for writers. They’re usually available on eBay in droves because one of their primary uses was for schools so there were a lot of these made.
If you have any questions about AlphaSmart ownership or other suggestions for additional points in
the history of technology where you carve your niche, please make a comment or send me an e-mail.

Good luck finding your creative space in the technology continuum.

This is Dr Google’s Office, we’re going to refer you to a specialist.

I would love to hear the ways different writers do their research.  I always feel at a loss trying to contact different professionals for info.  Having web search is great, but some questions I need direct answers to so, is there any set rule on how to approach for info? 

-Novice writer

This is an excellent question. There are a couple of ways the researching writer can get beyond Google and Wikipedia in their quest for story fuel.

Reference Materials

The most surprisingly neglected place to go for research is the standby of writers of old, your local library and the librarians within. The people sitting at the reference desk have a degree in finding information and they have vast quantities of it at their fingertips. Not only do they know the best techniques for finding web data, they also have access to catalogues and archives that we mere mortals cannot access. Not to mention knowing where to find a great deal of data in the research books available at every library.

If you are a student or you know one you can do some digging yourself, colleges and universities subscribe to searchable archives of research and reference materials. One of the many underutilized resources for which your college tuition is paying.

Getting in Touch

If your question is not one that is easily searchable or your search proves fruitless, your next option is to find an expert. The internet can also help in this regard.

The first step that I would take is to look for an online forum. There are hundreds of thousands of forums on the internet and it is likely that you’ll find one that is related to your question. It’s best to read the FAQ on any given forum to make sure that you’re posting your question in the right place but there are a few rules one should Always follow when posting on forums

  • "I have a question" is a terrible topic title. Everyone has a question. Ask the question in the topic.
  • Think about the best way to ask your question. Be succinct and clear. Every person that asks "Please explain more, what do you mean?" is a person who probably could have answered your question the first time around if you’d asked it right.
  • Thoroughly search the forum before you ask a question, use the forum’s internal search as well as Google to make sure the information hasn’t been addressed already

Other alternatives to forums include sites like Yahoo! Answers and Experts Exchange.

The next step is to get in touch with a professional directly. Try a professional network like LinkedIn. LinkedIn even has an Answers section where you can ask questions of professionals. You could even try doing a Facebook search for a professional who you think would know the answer to your question and simply send them a message.

A service I recently discovered is Ether.com, which lets people talk to professionals on the phone for a set charge, either per minute or per block of time. Everything is arranged through e-mail and they can usually give you an idea of how long it will take them to answer your question.

A few guidelines to follow when contacting professionals:

  • Explain why you are contacting them, tell them you’re a writer doing research for a story. If you’re writing a murder mystery and send a doctor an e-mail containing only "What’s the fastest way to drain blood from the human body?" you can count on having your e-mail forwarded to the authorities.
  • Keep in mind, professionals are just people who know more than you do about a particular subject. Always be respectful but don’t be intimidated.After all, you probably know more than they do about dragons.
  • Thank them and offer to send them a copy of the book (upon publication), even if it doesn’t get published, it is a kind gesture they may well appreciate, though they may not want to give you their address if you’re writing about draining people’s blood 8).

I hope that gives you some more options for research, if anyone has any particular question that they’d like to ask the community, feel free to e-mail me and perhaps I’ll do a Pesky Research Question of the Week section.

Newsletter and Fame in 15 Minute Intervals

Due to popular demand I have added the option to set your Write or Die time goal to 15 minutes.

Good luck to everyone who is frantically finishing their NaNo novels! You can do it! Someday I’ll finish mine but I want to get the offline version off the ground first. Development is coming along, thanks all for your support.

I would also like to say how thankful I am for everyone who has written me and followed me and shared my site with their friends. This is the best I’ve ever felt about a project and I’m glad that I have helped some people with their creativity. In the month of November I had over 100,000 different people come to use Write or Die and I am grateful for each of them.

I have more projects in the pipeline, the largest of which will put your skills at writing good work, quickly to the test and I’d like to involve as many people as I can so please subscribe to my newly created e-mail newsletter for updates and writing tips. I will never spam you or sell your e-mail, not ever. What I will do is send you interesting links and writing advice in a weekly newsletter. Join in the conversation by entering your e-mail on the right side of this page or by clicking here.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped support Write or Die.

Write or Die on CommandN, Delicious, glee!

[UPDATE: They fixed my URL, they are fast and also awesome]
I got featured on the technology podcast Command N!

http://commandn.typepad.com/commandn/2008/11/commandn-156-november-7-2008.html
I am the featured web link towards the end of the show, but watch the whole thing, it’s nifty.
Seem like a cool bunch of people even though they got my URL wrong.
If only I could get writeordie.com, that would be nice.
Also of note today, Write or Die was featured on the Delicious.com front page!
For posterity:

Click to save to your delicious bookmarks