Podcast: The Fourth Wall, Storytelling in Videogames, Books and Extended editions

Wow, I’ve doubled my total podcast count and the hits just keep on coming. This is unprecedented.

This week we banter about Rango and the storytelling techniques within, discuss writing in videogames, I leak some vitriol regarding Avatar and James Cameron and we discuss books and special features. Hope you enjoy.

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Links in this episode:
The Brainstormer by Andrew Bosley 

Podcast, New Email, Short Stories?

I found an accountability buddy and podcast co-host in my friend Dave Hilden.

He’s writing a graphic novel series with his cousin who works at Jim Henson Co. He’s a pinball afficianado and all around hilarious dudefella.
More of Dave’s antics can be found at his three blogs:
Words Making Sound
Crap That Dave Says
Crap That Dave Dreams

It’s our first time so bear with us if there are awkward silences that weren’t edited out. In this podcast we ramble about writing, graphic novels, childhood, and why we don’t always like the things liked by people we like. It makes more sense when I’ve had more sleep.

We hope you enjoy it.

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I would like to do another short story podcast, I think that iteration died because the second suggestion wasn’t very useful. If there’s a topic you’d like to see, let me know in the comments.

In other news, I’m moving my email from Gmail to Google Apps so if I’ve missed an important email from you, please re-send it to drwicked@writeordie.com

Dr Wicked Interview at Near Miscellany

Recently I was interview by Glyph a.k.a. Foxee for her blog Near Miscellany, here’s an excerpt:

Has the software come together quickly or has it been a long process of development?

I’m a bit like Sherlock Holmes without the opium when it comes to creative endeavors, I have periods of manic productivity which punctuate long stretches of inaction. The online version of Write or Die didn’t exist in September 2008 and was finished by October 25th, 2008. The same goes for the desktop edition, that came together in October 2009. It will likely be the same way for the iPad version I intend to write. Everything’s been finished just in time for NaNoWriMo. I need to be right up against a deadline to have any hope of finishing anything. I expect I’m not alone in this.

Read the rest of the interview.

Introducing the EditMinion

I had some important and pressing things to do recently so naturally I had to find something to work on while I was procrastinating. I decided to tackle the editing process.

I created a new tool called EditMinion.com.

EditMinion helps you refine your writing by searching your text for some common grammatical, spelling and diction mistakes that spellcheck won’t catch. It looks for adverbs, bad dialogue attribution, commonly misspelled words and ending a sentence with a preposition. It will also count how many times a given type of mistake is found.

It’s obviously no replacement for a human copy-editor but it will give you an idea of what areas you might need to focus on revising in your writing. If there are features you’d like to see implemented, please feel free to comment below.

Procrastination as an Extreme Sport

Much ink has been spilled in regards to procrastination: how to avoid it, how horrible and detrimental it is, people speak of it as a fierce affliction. Few people, if pressed, could give a rational explanation for their own procrastination. I have found one for myself and if you’d like to pilfer it for your own self-justification, you hereby have my permission.

Procrastination is my extreme sport.

Professor Wikipedia says…
An extreme sport is a popular term for certain activities perceived as having a high level of inherent danger.

Writing has few inherent dangers, apart from the twin specters of carpal tunnel and the paper cut. Both Goethe and Nietzsche say that we should live dangerously so, if our chosen avocation is found to be lacking in danger we find that our interest flags and we may be left unfulfilled.

One way of judging an experience is how well it converts to a story after the fact. It’s hard to make an exciting story out of getting your work done on time; the bomb squad guy has a much better story to tell at the end of the day than the office worker, even if it’s been the most productive day of the office worker’s life. The danger makes the difference. This brings us back to the topic…

I procrastinate to feel alive.

By this definition, procrastination is not just putting off work until a later time, but the act of starting work on a project at the latest possible time. When you do this, you are living on the edge of your abilities, your focus is much keener than it would be if you had the warm, soft cushion of time between you and the cold, hard deadline.

This is why NaNoWriMo works. If you had 30 days to write 5,000 words, when do you think you would start? Knowing myself, my answer is 5PM on November 30th. It’s 50,000 words because 1,667 words a day is putting you on the highwire, over lions, flaming, zombie lions.

This is the philosophy of Write or Die. The most common criticism I hear is that “I don’t respond well to punishment” or “I don’t want anything to take my words away” or “I don’t need more stress”. News flash, if you’re good at getting things done on time, Write or Die is probably not your best bet. The goal is not to hit you with a stick or steal your words, but to instill in you a sense of danger so that, in the act of creation, you can feel alive.

So my advice for you today is to know where your capabilities end and spend as much time there as possible. Find yourself a deadline and make friends with it. Don’t beat yourself up for putting things off, but revel in the adrenaline of starting something as late as you can and finishing it just in the nick of time.

Google Scribe as Muse


As you may have surmised, I’m a big fan of devices that improve your creative process by strategically short-circuiting detrimental bits of your mind, in that spirit, I submit a challenge:

Use Google Scribe to write a story

Google Scribe is a tool that harnesses the power of Google’s autocomplete technology to guess either the next word you’re going to type or the rest of the word you’re currently typing. Some of it’s suggestions are complete bunk. I will type the next sentence using only what Scribe suggests. “There are no comments for this question was copied to your clipboard and paste it into your website.” Kindof like a VCR instruction manual. But the upside of this approach, potentially, is that if you simply can’t find the next word, Google will suggest what you should type.

Another unanticipated side effect is that I find myself typing faster just to keep the autocomplete window from coming up. I have it set to the default setting which will suggest as I type. The other options is “On Demand”, where it waits for you to press tab before it intrudes upon your thoughts with suggestions.

The challenge today is to use Google Scribe; in either mode, but I recommend trying the default mode; to write a story. You can either use this as a warm-up challenge for NaNoWriMo or you could try pasting a story in which you’ve come to an impasse into the Scribe window and see what it suggests. It might not give you the right words but it will give you options which might suggest a direction you might not have thought of on your own.

If you would care to submit your creations I will gladly read them and I might even do a podcast if there are good ones, though I make no promises. I’d also be happy to hear in the comments tales of where Google’s suggestions took you that you weren’t expecting. Most importantly, have fun, there are no consequences.

Writing Hacks: The 48 Minute Rule

One of the biggest problems I’ve been having lately is my internal (or infernal) editor sitting on my back looking over my shoulder like a highly literate monkey. This monkey is hungry for words but it is very selective about which words. That’s often the problem with writers, something inside them gives them immense guilt if they do not produce anything but the same force seems to be employed in rejecting what few words they do manage to crank out.  I’ve been plagued with this and I’ve hardly written anything this year because of it. So instead of lamenting this fact in private, I’ve opted to share it with all of you along with a few solutions for combatting the evil editor monkey. This is the first in a series of newsletters dealing with the topic of motivation and productivity in writing. If you have any ideas you’d like to share on this topic, please feel free to drop me an email, I’d love to hear your solutions.

The 48 minute rule

Often times the problem with getting things done is the simple tendency towards distraction. As creative people, we simply cannot be trusted to remain on task. It is no easy thing to sit still and do the same thing for a set period of time each day. Let’s say you’ve managed to snatch from the jaws of your busy life 2 hours in which you plan to work on writing. I’m sure you’ve had this happen, the 2 hours seem so vast and full of potential but before you know it you’ve wasted an hour and a half simply distracting yourself. Either you’re folding socks or reading the news or God forbid you turn on the TV and your time is gone.

Those 2 hours loom too huge in your mind, I personally cannot imagine myself typing for 2 hours straight, as much as I’d love to be that productive I simply cannot work with that large of a chunk of time. On the other hand, when I’ve worked on NaNoWriMo I’ve been very productive in much less time because it’s all the time I have and I can easily work all the way through a shorter period of time.
The answer, therefore, is to break the time down into smaller chunks, and the magic amount of time is 48 minutes. Get a countdown timer or egg timer, either software or hardware. I recommend ChimooTimer for Mac or EggTimer for Windows. Or just use the timer on Write or Die.

Break each hour into 48 minutes of productivity and 12 minutes of break time. You’ll find that it’s much easier to write this way rather than trying to force yourself to write constantly for several hours, or even one whole hour.

Your brain likes structure and digestible amounts of time. This is why it’s easy for people to get sucked into watching hours and hours of television, because it’s broken down into small chunks. The 12 minutes of break time also helps you put off anything else that might interrupt your writing because you can say to yourself “I’ll do that on my break in x minutes” instead of “I might as well do that now, it’s not like I’m going to get anything done.” So all of the sudden your writing gains a greater importance in your mind. You can put off checking your mail and twittering till you’re done with your current bout of writing.

Think of it as breaking your work time into mental chapters. When you read a book there are logical stopping points where you can put the book down and do something else. If you plan these logical stopping points within your writing time, you’ll find yourself being more productive by far.
Next week I’ll give you another tip on motivation and productivity, and it most definitely will be next week because I’m going to write and schedule the darn thing right now because I’m on a roll. Thanks everyone for joining and I look forward to being more frequent with my newsletters.
Godspeed and good writing.

Creator, Critic; Process, Product: In Defense of Writing Quickly

Recently, Ian Shine from TheThingIs.co.uk contacted me asking for an interview. I’m not going to post the whole interview here because Ian hasn’t yet posted it on the site so if you’d like to read the whole thing you’ll either have to wait or else subscribe to the newsletter where I posted it in full. I welcome your comments.

IAN:
What is the point in churning out 50,000 words without any kind of editing process?
Your Write or Die tool, like NaNoWriMo, promotes writing without procrastination. Do you think this really has any merit? All of the world’s greatest novels took years to write, so what’s the point in trying to churn out writing as fast as possible, just for writing’s sake?
 
DR WICKED:
If you had the apparatus to look inside the head of any creative person you would find twin beasts; we will call these the Creator and the Critic. In the well-organized mind they grow together: the more one creates the sharper one’s eye becomes to the details in the creation of others, the more one looks critically at the works of others the more one is driven to create something better. The problem occurs when the Creator sits down to create; the Critic cannot differentiate between the process and the product and therefore begins to make loud comments about how horrible this creation is and how it could be so much better.
The goal of Write or Die is to get the Critic to shut up during the process and wait for the product. A lot of people criticise NaNoWriMo, saying that it’s about nothing more than churning out reams of bilge. These people have the same problem as the Critic, they do not see that NaNoWriMo (and Write or Die) is about the process, not the product.
So, these things must be separate: Creator and Critic, Process and Product.
It’s true that most novels take years to go from inception to publication, it is foolish to argue that point. I simply posit that the answer for the writers toiling in obscurity is to first take away the toil and then tackle the obscurity. Writing Does Not Have To Be Hard. The creature inside you that makes it hard is not the Creator, it is the Critic, holding you back and telling you it’s not good enough. Make the Critic wait for the product when it can be used for things like editing, and by the time you’re ready to edit it will have plenty of things to say.


A Wicked Christmas Greeting, Write or Die Offline Development

First and foremost I’d like to thank you all for your kind responses and feedback regarding Write or Die. I’ve been overwhelmed by how it has spread and how many people it has reached. So thank you very very much.
I’d also like to wish you a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holiday, whichever you prefer) and give you this by way of a greeting card. I usually write a Christmas poem around this time of year and this is it, please feel free to share it with friends.

The Grinch’s Mother

A Sequel
The roast beast had been sliced the last toy was silenced
but that was not yet the end of the violence
Here is a tale that goes back up Mount Crumpit
To meet the she-fiend, the worst kind of strumpet
Though her son’s heart was two sizes too small
The Grinch’s mother, as you’ll see, had no heart at all
She lurked in the depths, in the deepest of caves
Plotting to make all the Who’s into slaves…

The other announcement I would like to make at this time is that, due to overwhelming demand, I am starting development on an offline version of Write or Die. It will include some new features, some fiendish, some helpful, but watch this blog for updates.

Thanks again to everyone for all your support.

Rust and Ashes : Excerpt

The night is quietly rumbling. Snowfall and gaslight illuminate the Loop and sparks fall like hellfire on the white drifts. He is looking out the spider frosted windows of his laboratory and wondering where she is now. He looks at the quite curious cat which is all that remains of the adventure. Having received the desired attention, the cat meanders elsewhere, twining its way through the shining copper tubing of the apparatus like a blue black thread. The darkened and cracked chambers, concoctions spilled from beakers like wax from an acid candle eating into the metal leaving a verdant patina. There is an anguished squeaking as he moves his desk from the dark corner where it, and several other less savory things, were living. He places it in front of the window, even though it is cold, so he can watch the snow, perhaps it will be warm by the time the tale is done with its telling. Assuming that winter ever ends, which seems increasingly unlikely.