2K to 10K 31 Plays in 31 Days 750 Words A Newbie's Guide to Publishing a room of one's own Aaron Sorkin Adam Lauver Aimee Mann Alden Jones Alexander Masters All Things Considered alphabetical order amazing Amazon Ang Lee Angels in America animation Ann Patchett Ann Voss Peterson Anne Lamott Anne R. Allen AOL Instant Messenger Apartment Therapy audio drama Austin Kleon author pages avalanche thinking baby bump Barnes & Noble basement cat Belgariad benonsensical Big Fish Bill Watterson Bird by Bird Blake Snyder blogging book porn books Books-a-Million Boston Boston Playwrights' Theatre Boston Theater Marathon Brain Pickings brainstorming Brandon Sanderson brevity Bridge Rep of Boston Buffy the Vampire Slayer BuzzFeed C.J. Redwine C.S. 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Scarborough scheduling schizophrenia science fiction Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America Scientology scrivener self-doubt self-publishing sequence Shadowrun Shakespeare shared sacrifice Sherwood Anderson shitty first drafts short films short plays short stories short-short stories singing single parent Sir Thomas Malory sketches smart phones smartphones Songs of Innocence and Experience soundtrack South Portland Spider-Man SPIN Magazine Starbucks steal like a writer Stephen King Stephen Marche stories submitting success! suicide Susan Sontag Tad Williams Tasslehoff Burrfoot teaching technology telekinesis ten-minute plays terribleminds thank you in advance The Atlantic Wire The Berenstain Bears The Boston Globe The Business Rusch The Chronicles of Narnia The Chronicles of Prydain The Creative Habit The Creative Penn The Divine Comedy The Formative Years The Game The Getaway Car The Girl in the Garden The Grinder The Interview The LIfe of Pi The Lighthouse The Manuscript Factory the new normal The New York Times The Old Reader The Other Side of the Story The Passive Voice The Rumpus Thelonious Monk thinking patterns This American Life Three-Minute Fiction time travel timed writing Tony Kushner Torch transcript Trinity College Tuesdays with Morrie Twitter Twyla Tharp undefined Vericon vignettes Virginia Woolf Voltron Wall Street Journal Whatever Where the WIld Things Are Wikipedia Wild William Blake William Shakespeare Winesburg Ohio Wool workaholic workflowy Working Writers world building Write or Die Writer... 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Week Twenty Five: Why is there an alphabetical order?

But why? WHY?!

I honestly still don't know. And without the project I might never again have thought to find out. 

To Wikipedia!

Alphabetic order as an ordering device has been already used in the 1st millennium BCE by Northwest Semitic scribes using the Abjad system.[1] The first effective use of alphabetical order as a catalogizing device among scholars may have been in ancient Alexandria.[2] In the 1st century BC, Varro wrote some alphabetic lists of authors and titles.[3] In the 2nd century AD, Sextus Pompeius Festus wrote an encyclopedic work with entries in alphabetic order.[4] In the 3rd century, Harpocration wrote a Homeric lexicon alphabetized by all letters.[5] In the 10th century, the author of the Suda used alphabetic order with phonetic variations. In the 14th century, the author of the Fons memorabilium universi used a classification, but used alphabetical order within some of the books.[6]

In 1604 Robert Cawdrey had to explain in Table Alphabeticall, the first monolingual English dictionary, "Nowe if the word, which thou art desirous to finde, begin with (a) then looke in the beginning of this Table, but if with (v) looke towards the end."[7] Although as late as 1803 Samuel Taylor Coleridge condemned encyclopedias with "an arrangement determined by the accident of initial letters",[8] many lists are today based on this principle.

So I guess the answer is "We've just always done it this way for as long as anyone can remember." Groovy.

Make what you will of this. We're climbing back up the word count minimum ladder: 200 words, Sunday, that's my fun day.


Week Twenty Four: Planned!

Yep, another play. Last last week, I'm doubling up my Unwritten Word prompts with my 31 Plays in 31 Days challenge

Read it here. Read it, I say!

So, whatcha got? Where izzit? 100 words! Write 'em now if you haven't. Anyone can write 100 words. Especially you. You moreso than most. 

Give 'em here!


Q&A, Part II: Online resources essential to the working writer

Nick Fox asks:

Q&A time: Are there any other websites/online resources you consider essential to being a working writer?

Depends how easily distracted a working writer is! For instance, I went just now to my Google Reader replacement, The Old Reader, to see which of the writerly blogs I follow I wanted to mention here, and I saw that Rock, Paper, Shotgun posted a review of a PC version of Space Hulk, which is a board game that seems to have a rabid following and one I suspect I might like...

Damn it. You see? For the easily distracted working writer, the best online resources are probably those that prevent said writer from accessing websites at all: something like Freedom (a Mac app) that prevents you from accessing the internet during a time you specify (there's almost certainly a Windows equivalent). Personally, to train myself to focus more I've been using the Pomodoro Technique I learned about from Ryan Casey's blogfree if you use a timer that's already on your iPod, cell phone, computer, kitchen stove, sundial, etc.

If this working writer is still undeterred, determined to gain inspiration and swears it's not procrastination, I'd say that the Wall Street Journal of the publishing industry today is The Passive Voice. It is biased somewhat toward the self-publishing movement, but once you read a few entries you'll have a hard time finding fault with his logic. It's through The Passive Voice that I discovered many of my other favorite blogs: TERRIBLEMINDSDean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch... It's a compulsively readable rabbit hole, my friend. I've learned a lot, but I can't tell you with a straight face that any of that time wouldn't have been better spent just writing. I think the authors of all those blogs would agree.

As for online resources, I will recommend this without reservation: Workflowy. It's a web-based to-do list that you can format any way you like and access from any computer with internet access. I use this to get track of everythingstory ideas, web project ideas, rough onlines, idea dumps, freewriting, websites/books I want to check out, even chores (the most-neglected category). It's replaced the tired old notebooks I used to carry with me everywhere. God help me if the site ever goes down...

A writing/organization program I frequently use but wouldn't yet swear by is Scrivener. If you're already someone who will spend too much time planning when you ought to be just diving in, Scrivener will not sing to your better angels. It is made for planning. But it has a lot of great featuresthe ability to rearrange your ideas and chapters on the fly and output the final product in any format you can imagine (docx, pdf, epub, etc.), a character name generator, an easy place to throw all your random research and notes, etc. etc. The website has a trial version so it's worth checking out if your interest is piqued! 

I'm sure I'm forgetting things. Any other websites/online resources I should have listed, intrepid readers?


Q&A, Part I: Ice cream trucks and literary journals

Victoria Athena asks:

ok, I'll bite...What's it like to drive an ice cream truck? (Who knows....someday I may have a character who does that...) Do people ask if you sell drugs? Does the truck need to be hosed down at the end of each working day? How much stickiness can you tolerate?

Driving an ice cream truck is, at first, as awesome as you'd imagine, and then just okay, and then utterly, soul-crushingly boring. Imagine driving something like a really old U-Haul truck at less than 5 mph up and down the same streets every day, the same 11–13-second song blaring on loop out of a small, tinny speaker. I think one guy (or several) did deal drugs out of his truck. All anyone ever asked was if I had beers in there. (They were joking, but they also weren't.) Everything came in wrappers (no soft serve), so hosing was not necessary.

I hope you do write about it! I've actually tried many times, but the days of an ice cream man/woman are long and solitary. I needed plot and all I had was setting. One day...!

Here's a REAL question: How do you choose which literary journals to send your stories to? I've always thought that one should have a good knowledge of what each 'zine specializes in genre-wise but other than that I just don't know how to go about it; how to choose the right level of "literary" (clearly I'm not thinking of submitting to The Paris Review or McSweeney's). How many places do you submit a story before you give up?

Really good question. Websites like The Grinder do an awesome job of building a searchable database of who accepts what and when. (And there is of course the annual Writer's Market that everyone seems to swear by.) I think you're right that it is essential to have a good grasp of the journal or magazine itself—after identifying a few possibilities, definitely read a couple issues of each before you decide to submit. (And this doesn't have to break the bank—get a coffee at your local Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million and sit down with a stack of them, or request a towering pile of them from your local library.) Maybe you'll decide that your story doesn't quite fit, but now you have an idea for one that would.

As for how long to submit, have you heard of Heinlein's Five Rules? The fifth rule is "You must keep it on the market until it has sold." If you believe in the story, keep it circulating. But I think it also depends how much of a timesink submitting and resubmitting the same story is. Your time and mine is almost always better spent writing something new than sending the same story out for the fiftieth time.

I guess my stance is that writing is priority one, but if you have the time, keep 'em out there. The fifty-first editor might be the one who says "yes."



Here I am, up on my writerly soapbox, "Do this challenge! Do that one!" And I've never thought to ask what you guys want to hear about.

So today is question and answer time. Are you considering pursuing a degree in Creative Writing but are on the fence? Are you considering pursuing a second degree in Creative Writing and are wondering if you've gone insane? Do you suffer from crippling writer's block? Are you just curious about Emerson College, or Boston, or about having a full-time job and/or significant other and/or a pet of some kind while also chasing down the writerly dream? Want to know what it's like to drive an ice cream truck? Or to have a paper route? Or to be a real estate agent? Or a college professor? 

All these and more are things I could tell you. 

Whatcha wanna know?


Week Twenty Four: "I get into trouble..."

What trouble might this have been? I do not know. Most likely the existential kind. 

Okay, only 100 words this time. A mere 100 words!

Those five sentences above were already 25 words and took me one minute to write. 

100 words is nothing! Nothing, I say! 

Midnight, Sunday, 100 words, Sunday, midnight. 

Spread the (unwritten) word.


Week Twenty Three: Intelligent'ed!

I decided to use this prompt in conjunction with this August's 31 Plays in 31 Days challenge I'm attempting.


You can read my stab at Week Twenty Three's prompt here, and you can read the other plays I've completed so far here at my professionalish website.

(Because one impossible writerly challenge is not enough—he needs two.)

But back to Week Twenty Three: Share 'em! Link 'em! Write 'em! (Possibly not in that order.)


On running and writing (righting?)

From the always excellent blog Fangs and Clause, some Friday inspiration for the writers, runners, and writer/runners among us:

Even a little bit of writing/running is amazing. You are awesome. You ran two miles/wrote four pages without stopping? You are a superhero. A million people never even get that far. Sure, if you want to write a book/run a marathon, you might want to be more focused. But even super-runner Dr. Cougar started somewhere.

Read the rest here!

While punishing ourselves for all the words we definitely should have written by now but haven't, it's easy to forget that we're still in the lead compared to everyone else who does not write. (If writing were a race... which it is not... OR IS IT.)

Small, achievable goals, folks. Like, oh, say, 200 words on Week Twenty Three's prompt, perhaps?


"The fact that you write is a passport everywhere"

From an essay by L. Ron Hubbard called "The Manuscript Factory":

It is so easy to get good raw materials that most writers consider it quite unnecessary.
Hence the errors which make your yarn unsalable. You wouldn’t try to write an article on steel without at least opening an encyclopedia, and yet I’ll wager that a fiction story which had steel in it would never occasion the writer a bit of worry or thought.
You must have raw material. It gives you the edge on the field. And no one tries to get it by honest research. For a few stories, you may have looked far, but for most of your yarns, you took your imagination for the textbook.
After all, you wouldn’t try to make soap when you had no oil.
The fact that you write is a passport everywhere. You’ll find very few gentlemen refusing to accommodate your curiosity. Men in every and any line are anxious to give a writer all the data he can use because, they reason, their line will therefore be truly represented. You’re apt to find more enmity in not examining the facts.
Raw materials are more essential than fancy writing. Know your subject.

The article starts here. The right margins seem to be on vacation; I had to highlight the text in order to read it. Let me know if there's more reader-friendly version of this somewhere!

No one finds me more surprised to be linking to L. Ron Hubbard than myself, believe me. But this essay was mentioned in a recent post by David Farland that I enjoyed, so I hunted it down, and thought it was still relevant and interesting.

Particularly this above. On the one hand, too much research can kill the writing before you've even written a word. But on the other... I could take a class on sword fighting, or interview a medievalist, or visit a musuemthere are any number of ways for me to get a better grasp on my epic swords and sorcery saga that one day you'll hear about but, for now, is still in the wishful thinking stage. And mostly I do not even consider them. 

What kind of research do you do before/during/after your writing?


Week Twenty Three: "I'm too intelligent to enjoy life"

Blerghghgh. Blahhh. Urg. Ick. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

That's me putting into words how this prompt makes me feel. Also: Eugh.

Note that it is in quotation marks. Freshman-Me did not feel this way; it was a sentiment that Freshman-Me thought worthy of writing of some kind. 

Today-Me is less certain, but willing to roll with it anyway. 

Have I disclaimered this sufficiently?

Sunday! Midnight! Let's say... minimum 200 words.

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