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Monday
Apr142014

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man stealthy, Delphi, and... something

There was a great streak last year where I was up and at my desk by 6 or 6:30am. I wrote for at least an hour every morning, even if the output was not outputting. I sat. I pondered. I wrote.

I also drank a lot of coffee.

Now, most mornings, I can't seem to get out of bed before 8am. It's partially that I stay up too late. Maybe I'm getting complacent now that I'm seeing modest success as a fledgling playwright.

Maybe a lot of things.

Maybe my peak writing hours are not, in fact, right after I jump out of bed, but rather a few hours laternow? Maybe what I should try to do is get to work early, take a long writerly lunch, and stay late to make up the time?

I know that when I'm feeling stuck a change of venue and a limited amount of time in which to write will usually get me unstuckI'm never more productive than at a small table with a legal pad, a pen, and a large iced coffee (black, like a boss). I wrote most of my weekly challenges that way, and maybe I need to get back to it.

When are your peak writing hours?

Sunday
Apr132014

Getting back in the hobbit

[DISCLAIMER: This post has absolutely nothing to do with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien or Peter Jackson's movies... though while we're on the topic, how disappointing are these The Hobbit movies? I mean, those Lord of the Rings movies were a ten-hour masterwork, and though it's basically the same creative team, these new ones are just CGI spectacule junk, don't you think? I don't care about these characters, I'm never worried that they're in actual peril, and there are some sequences that seem to exist just to crank the goofiness up to eleven. Also it turns out that Legolas is an elf sepremacist, which, really dude, not cool. Anyway, this post has nothing to do with any of that... though, I guess, now it kinda does?]

Last season on the Unwritten Word, I wrote about how I knew I needed a newish direction for the blog, but wasn't sure what that should be.

Well, this will surprise no one, but two months later, I still don't know. Things have been going really well on the "being a playwright" front (check out www.brandoncrose.com if you're curious about that), but these days I'm submitting to opportunities much more often than I am writing new stuff.

And so I return to you, blog, even if your premise is flawed. I'm going to restart the weekly challenges, and you are all more than welcome to play too (please brag in the comments if you do!), but I'm going to stop the whole "Sunday deadline" thing. Who am I to give you deadlines? Really.

I need to get back into the habit/hobbit of writing every day, and hopefully you guys can keep me honest about that. 

So, where were we? Ah right: Story about God's favorite who falls, but doesn't know it.

I don't know the Bible nearly well enough to give this the literal treatment, so maybe I'll just play around with the following:

FOUL LANGUAGE ALERT!

...maybe I should have written that first? 

Thursday
Feb202014

The Unwritten Word turns two!

Because I did it last year and because numbers are fun, some selected stats from The Unwritten Word's second year:

Best month: July 2013, with 870 unique visitors and 1,523 total page views

Average unique visitors per month: 443

Average page views per month: 906

Most referrals: Squarespace 5 doesn't track this stat for longer than a month, but I feel confident that, second to Google, most of my traffic this past year came from the grammatically meticulous and always funny writing/copyediting blog Fangs and Clause, which is written by my friend Independent Clause. Thanks, Indy (IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME), for all the link-lovin'! Hopefully I can return the favor.

For year three, I'm trying to think of a way to keep the "hey! let's write something!" spirit of the blog while moving away from the writing prompts having "weeks" and deadlines (the deadlines especially were not really catching on). In a sense, I've accomplished what I set out to do here—I wanted to get myself writing again on a regular basis, and that I have certainly done. But the things I'm working on now require most of my writerly attention, and keeping a weekly pace with the challenges on this blog only takes time away from what I am currently writing. But, I also want to see this project through.

WHAT TO DO...! Do I keep posting weekly prompts for anyone interested in trying them, but excuse myself from having to try them too? Do I abandon the prompts altogether and move into more of a meditations on writing/writing advice direction? Or some other, much stranger, direction...?

What would you like to see?

Friday
Dec202013

Holidays: 1, Writing: 0

Great gluttonous gods, you guys. The holidays.

Between the many logistics and ever-changing variables of planning a holiday season with two families, plus a move to a new place and all the requisite unpacking that ensues, the writing has been not so much.

The ambition, though? STILL STRONG.

To wit: There's a two-year playwrighting fellowship I really want to do, and they need from me, by January 30th, a full-length play.

I don't have one of those.

(Well, okay, I do. But wrote it between 2003 and 2004, and it wouldn't at all be the best representation of how I write now. However it is I write now.)

So I need to write a full-length play, which is something I've been wanting to do for awhile anyway, but I'm only just getting comfortable with ten-minute plays. Full-length ones are a whole different beast.

They're much longer than ten minutes, for one. For another, the ten-minute plays people have been responding to lately feature characters who are kind of open to intrepretation, placed in a funny/tense situation that I know the director and actors will exploit to the fullest. If I've succeeded, there's a gut punch of earnestness and truth admidst all the bwah ha ha, and then it's over.

I could do that in a longer format, of course. But the pacing will be very different, and maybe the characters have to be more fleshed out, less open to interpretation. (For one, I'll probably have to give them names...)

Or maybe not. Maybe I'm just overthinking things, per usual. Maybe I should just do what I do and see what happens.

After the holidays. I swear.

Wednesday
Dec112013

NaNoWriMo Chronicles: Post mortem

I topped out at 5250 words.

Multiplied by 10, that's a victory! But no one, including and especially me, multiplied it by anything.

5250 it remains—another failed experiment in extreme output.

But the month wasn't a complete waste. See above re: 5250 words... that's a decent start!

And even more exciting is that, while it wasn't such a great month for the nonfiction book project, it was a goddamn stellar month for playwrighting:

Because I couldn't let a Boston Theater Marathon deadline slip by without submitting something, I expanded, revised, and submitted two plays from this August's 31 Plays in 31 Days effort: GOING VIRAL and THE FORMATIVE YEARS.

Now I had two more complete ten-minute plays, so for kicks I also submitted them to the Long Island City One Act Festival.

And then I learned about an opportunity that would be a perfect home for another of my plays, THE GAME, so I expanded, revised, and submitted that, too.

And, lastly, I joined a playwrighting workshop group called Write On! that meets once a month in downtown Boston. I met some supportive like-minded folks, workshopped THE FORMATIVE YEARS with them, and got terrific feedback.

(All the while, mind you, beating myself up because I was "failing" NaNoWriMo.)

So then! There's an announcement here about how one of those submissions turned out. And just last night I discovered an oblique mention of my play, THE INTERVIEW, in a review for Bridge Rep of Boston's newest play, NOT JENNY:

Bridge Repertory Theater was founded by a consortium of some of Boston’s most talented young actors and directors. Olivia D’Ambrosio, the Producing Artistic Director, directed what I thought was one of the most successful, and hilarious, productions in the Boston Theater Marathon earlier this year.

"Successful"? "Hilarious"? Well. WELL. Olivia, as I've mentioned before, did an incredible job with the material, as did the actors, Deborah Martin and Adam Lauver. The play, of course, started here on this blog as Week Seven and it keeps coming up now and again.

But better, even, than this praise (which I just now co-opted from a review of a play that I did not write) is the sense of momentum my playwrighting seems to have at the moment. It comes more naturally to me than other forms of writing do, and people are really starting to respond to my work. It's an exciting time.

So anyway, sucks to you, NaNoWriMo!

...And see you again next year.

Wednesday
Nov202013

NaNoWriMo Chronicles: The Choice

So I've been stalled out, per usual, had a strong start but am now discouraged by how behind I am, per usual, and I realized why this happened, and why it's happened every year I've attempted NaNoWriMo:

I don't like to choose.

Every year I've tried to do this near-impossible challenge, I've also tried to do everything else I would typically do in a month. I go out with friends, I have people over, I binge-watch Netflix with my girlfriend. 

A coworker at my day job is also doing NaNoWriMo, and now we're "writing buddies," so I can see her word count rising in a way best described as "meteoric." Folks, she is killing it. And how? She writes. Every night. We had a farewell party for another coworker recently. She came to the in-office part and skipped the raucous dive bar part. Instead, she went home. She wrote.

I went to the dive bar. I did not write that evening, nor the next morning, on account of the hangover. It was a great night, don't get me wrong. But I lost more of that momentum, while my coworker reinforced a good habit and added another 1,667 words to her already staggering word count. 

When you commit to something you have to make it a priority. And the only way to do that is to choose it over something else, over and over again.

I'll get there.

Tuesday
Nov122013

NaNoWriMo Chronicles: The Wordening

We're twelve days into NaNoWriMo, which means that I (and you!) should have jotted at least 20,004 words by midnight tonight.

I have written 4,716.

I am of two minds about this. One mind is all "4,716 words! That's pretty good! It's 4,716 more than zero, which is what you had written before November 1st."

The second mind is like "If you can't sit still long enough to write 1,667 words a day why the hell would you ever want to be a full-time writer?"

Second mind has a point.

And yet... you don't run a race to beat everyone else, but to beat yourself. (Okay, so some run to beat everyone else too; these people are, however, insane... and not to be trusted.)

This morning I wrote just under 700 words in about an hour. This means I'm getting close to the magical sweet spot of 1,000 words per hour. And if I can achieve that, and sustain it, was this year's NaNoWriMo still a failure?

(Here I am assuming, it would seem, that the full 50,000 words are not going to happen. Way to call the fight before it's over, Me!)

Anyway, I'm doing much better this year than the two years previous. The difference is that, twelve days in, I'm still forcing myself to that chair.

How's your writing going this month?

Tuesday
Nov052013

NaNoWriMo strikes again!

Distinct lack of updates? Calendar says "November"? Oh God... he's doing another National Novel Writing Month.

While I'm busy composing my 50,000-word masterwork, I'm going to try to focus on giving you more reflective, shorter entries like those that Independent Clause regularly posts.

If you're also attempting NaNoWriMo this year, add me as a "writing buddy!" My username is brandon.crose.

And be sure to keep your eye on the Facebook page for more regular quotes, interesting/funny articles, random blabbing, etc.

Monday
Oct212013

Creating major internal conflicts

From David Farland, a creative and easy way to create complex characters:

Give your character a major internal conflict. By that I mean, pick a word that describes your character. For example: He’s compassionate. Then find another word that can also describe your character, but make it a polar opposite—terrorist. Now, look for ways to reveal both sides of you character. For example, your protagonist might be at a French Restaurant. He sees a mother and a baby, and tries desperately to drag them away from the restaurant—just before it blows up. He saves them! But how did he know that the restaurant would explode? Because he set the bomb. Giving a character a dual nature creates an instability, a lack of balance, that probably can’t stay forever.

Read the rest here!

Friday
Oct112013

Writing advice: Triangles both efficient and enthusiastic

Since I got such a great response to my post "Don't write what you don't love to write," I thought I'd share with you the notes I took while reading Rachel Aaron's book.

The basic thrust behind 2K to 10K is that we can all significantly boost our daily writing output if we eliminate or significantly mitigate the parts of the writing process that make us want to beat our goddamn heads against our desks. (My words, not hers.)

Sounds suspiciously credible, right? Aaron uses the metaphor of a triangle:

Side one: Knowledge.

  • Before your writing session, spend at least five minutes writing out the broad strokes of your scene or chapter on a pad of paper. No description, no transitions, no dialogue—you're just working out the hard choices. Who does what and when? And then what?

Side two: Time. 

  • Make note of when you start writing, when you stop, how many words you wrote in that time, where you were writing, etc. Eventually, you may learn from this data (I refuse to use "data" in the plural sense) that your prime writing time is not, say, in the morning as you thought, but rather late in the evening. You may learn that you get a lot more done writing in your laundry room with underwear on your head than at a coffee shop. (The book did not say this. Here I am just being silly, and not at all speaking from personal experience.)

Side three: Enthusiasm.

  • Before writing the scene or chapter, play it out in your mind and try to get excited about it. Look for little hooks, parts that interest you most, and focus on those.
  • If the scene is not working for you, either revise or trash it and find one that does.

I charge you, intrepid writer, to try one or more of these out this weekend and let me know how to goes. Perhaps you might even attempt a story about God's favorite who falls and does not know it?

And if you found any of this useful, Rachel Aaron's book, 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, will cost you one whole dollar on the Amazon Kindle store right now. Well worth it, even if you don't have a Kindle. That shit also works on your computer. Didn't know that, didja?

...Okay, fine, you already knew that.

Have a great weekend, and see you either Sunday or Monday!