Episode 21 - Ambien Fiction
In this episode, we discuss sleep-writing, how a bot can write your autobiography, the hardware you need for writing, and some ways to manage research for your stories.
Works in Progress
[00:00:36] Mike put together 380 words for a flash fiction/short story. He'll flesh it out this week but wants to keep it under 1000 words. Sometimes Mike just feels like writing and getting something done in a thousand words is satisfying. It does have a beginning, middle and end, so it is an actual story.
John wrote another 2500 on his Drone/Hobo/Mob story. He did some research via YouTube on trains, shipping and tramping.
He's also starting to marinade an idea about generation ships for a possible NaNoWriMo story.
John wrote a few critiques to build up some karma so he can post his own work. There's been several other pieces of work he has critiqued for the Saint Charles Writers Group.
Eric continues his rewrite of Don't Wake Up. He submitted part 3 of the first chapter of Faith, Love and Rust on the Google Plus Saturday Scenes group. He also posted it to Penflip.
What's happening online
Draw better maps
[00:05:04] In the last episode, we discussed the bad maps people draw. In a follow up to that, John found an article Learn to Draw World Maps from one of D&D's Best Cartographers. The article is a review of Jared Blando's book How to Draw Fantasy Art and RPG Maps: Step by Step Cartography for Gamers and Fans.
[00:05:39] In Episode 16, Mike gave a list of creative writing competitions for 2016. As he went through the list to see if there were any he wanted to submit to, he discovered Mash Stories for which authors create a 500-word story including the three random words provided by the contest.
The winner, selected quarterly, receives $100 and a one-on-one coaching to discuss obstacles to their writing aspirations.
The last round of words were Art, Congress, and Jealousy.
The current contest's words are Taxes, Vinegar, and Carpenter.
The deadline for the current competition is 15th October 2015, and the winner will be announced on 15th November 2015.
[00:07:20] Also in Episode 16 we were talking about using Artificial Intelligence to write stories. Now there's an idea for an app to write your autobiography.
An App Concept that Writes Your Autobiography talks about using public APIs and the data collected on your smart phone to create a basic autobiography around what you've done.
John talked about using If This Then That (IFTTT) recipes to build a journal entry in a similar fashion. He created recipes to pull the current weather, his Twitter stream, Swarm checkins, and Facebook posts into a journal entry in Evernote. It's not as descriptive as what the article suggests, but is along the same lines.
[00:09:22] John picked up a "how to" book on writing by Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game.
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy is a short, 5-chapter book.
Chapter one defines what is and is not speculative fiction(SF) SF is the genres of science fiction and fantasy.
Chapter two discusses world building - defining the rules of what is and is not allowed in your SF. Because SF readers are smart, you need to set the rules and follow them consistently in order to keep your readers.
Chapter three breaks down the story itself, where to start and stop the story, and who should tell the story. The best piece of advice in this chapter is the acronym MICE - Millieu, Idea, Character, and Event. These are the four areas on which a story can focus; and how the story changes based on which of the four the writer focuses upon.
Chapter four is the most hands-on writing advice chapter in the book. Here Card discusses using exposition, diction, jargon, and a bit of mystery to keep readers interested in your work.
Chapter five is about the industry and life as a writer. It is, admittedly by Card himself, the part of the book most likely to go out of date, and at 25 years old, the information certainly is. While the manner of sending queries, finding agents and publishing have all changed drastically since the dawn of the web, the advice on being a human being and a writer is still spot on.
The book was a short and easy read, and John enjoys reading books on the writing process by authors he admires. He values getting into their minds and see how they think about writing. There are more up-to-date books on writing, but this one has value, especially in chapters 2-4.
[00:12:30] Mike finished Abomination by Gary Whitta. He loved it and hopes for more books in the style.
Mike also finished The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.
Mike is at least halfway through The Martian by Andy Weir.
Eric don't read no books this week.
Tech Focus - Hardware
[00:15:26] The Amstrad Word Processor just turned 30. Typewriter, you're fired! How writers learned to love the computer. Today's writers don't consider a word processor anything but banal normality, but the initial response was mixed until writers realized they were spending more time retyping than writing.
For this week's Tech Focus, we talk about what we use to work on the hardware side.
John uses a little bit of everything. He has a Windows-based desktop computer running (gasp) Windows 7. He has three monitors, a center 28" and two 17" side monitors set up in portrait mode. He uses a wireless Logitech mouse. He uses a CODE mechanical keyboard, because he feels he can type more quickly and accurately with a buckle spring keyboard. Very loud, but the action is tremendous.
He also uses a Ubuntu (Linux) on a 15" HP laptop on which he does some writing and development. The laptop is really a "dumb" device, in that he keeps no files on it that he couldn't lose since it is all backed up to the cloud in some fashion.
Furthermore, he has an iPad mini and an iPhone 6. At any given point in a day he may use any of these four devices for writing.
Mike has a PC running Windows 7 with dual monitors that is his primary work machine. He also has a Toshiba Satellite lightweight laptop running Windows 10. In addition, he has a Nexus 7 and an Android phone. He is definitely not a Apple guy. Mike uses Google Docs for all his writing so none of it is on his machines. It's an advantage that it's always available unless the internet is down or he's offline.
But he uses Evernote that allows him to write on the devices in the case that he's not able to get connectivity. Because Evernote also syncs to the cloud, he can then move that to the appropriate places as needed.
Eric also runs Windows 7 with a triple monitor setup. He runs Scrivener for all of his "final" edits. He has a Windows 7 laptop that comes into play when. He uses StackEdit and Gist. Eric is a big fan of working with pen and paper to capture ideas as well as using the paper editions to edit with various colored pens. His handwriting is pretty bad, though, and it makes it hard for him to read what he jotted down earlier.
Eric talked about the time he fell asleep while at the keyboard and wrote all sorts of interesting, non-coherent things. Ambien Fiction, as Mike put it. John fell asleep once and filled his screen with the letter "o".
Back to technology, Eric has an iPhone 6. His wife has a Macbook Pro and he has one at work that he loves as well. With the iPhone 6, he has been using the speech-to-text features in the notes. To get away from the handwriting, he'd like to use the voice-to-text.
John talked about this reddit thread /r/writing Cheap laptop for writing saying most authors just need something with a keyboard and a connection to the internet. Unless you're tied to a specific app like Scrivener, you don't need much more than a Chromebook.
Remember, we are all software developers, so our needs are based on that background. Authors shouldn't need multiple monitors for a manuscript, and multiple monitors might even be a distraction.
John mentioned in passing the tactics of Jonathan Franzen, Great American Author
Franzen works in a rented office that he has stripped of all distractions. He uses a heavy, obsolete Dell laptop from which he has scoured any trace of hearts and solitaire, down to the level of the operating system. Because Franzen believes you can't write serious fiction on a computer that's connected to the Internet, he not only removed the Dell's wireless card but also permanently blocked its Ethernet port. "What you have to do," he explains, "is you plug in an Ethernet cable with superglue, and then you saw off the little head of it."
Craft Talk - Research
One of Eric's writing friends Karen Smith pushed out that one of her writer friends went to the Writer's Police Academy. The academy is for writers to learn about Police, Fire and EMTs to make their novels better.
Author Amy Stewart was interviewed on NPR about her novel Girl Waits with Gun. In Novelist Amy Stewart Turns 1914 Traffic Accident int Girl Waits With Gun, she talks about the research she did built on real events. The excitement Amy had in her voice about the research she did for the story was amazing. When the author went to antique shops, she found things her character would have liked and she'd buy the item to have in her home as inspiration during writing. She also shopped the whole home of the sisters through the Sears catalog from 1914.
Writing that Pays
13 Calls for Submissions in September for horor, sci-fi and more.
[00:32:22] Pitmad for September is on the 10th using the Twitter hashtag #pitmad along with subgenre tabs. When an agent favorites a tweet, it is a sign to an author to query that agent with the work.
Do not do this unless you have a manuscript that is ready to be published.
Look in the past to see how other people have done pitches.
See the official PitMad rules
[00:34:08] Eric posted out on /r/writing to see what tips writers have for NaNoWriMo. A few comments:
Sethned: "This is my first time doing nanowrimo in November. I attempted Camp NaNoWriMo this past July but didn't finish."
"I use the 3 Act, 9 Block, 27 Chapter outlining method for mine."
Sethned provided a link to a YouTube video on how the outlining method works.
"I think it helps a lot to be around other people typing away at their keyboards. If I go to a write-in"
"I'm not a super fast writer like other people. I have to write consistently, doing around 2k per day to get my goal done with a little left over."
Mike is going to participate in NaNoWriMo. Eric won't, because he has a lot going on in November.
Eric turned a new pen in his workshop. He drew a name from the hat of justice and Lou (@ByzantineRoads) wins the pen! Congratulations, Lou!