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Category: Writing about writing

Invisible ink (a word sprint tip)

As a kid I thought invisible ink was awesome. The stuff of mystery books, to be sure, but still very cool and with its potential uses in real life. I never did get around to using physical invisible ink, but I’ve happened upon a rather funny way to utilize it in the digital space. On the theme of “trick thyself into creativity,” here’s a tip for maximizing the effectiveness* of your word sprints: If you can’t…

“I want an idea like that!”

When I’m perusing Half Price Books and spot a book with an amazing cover and jacket text to match, I often find myself muttering the title phrase of this post – half out of rage, and half out of sheer awe. How did I not think of this? Oh, right, because I’m not as brilliant as the author who conceived of it, actually wrote it, and then got it published. I say this despite having done this…

Dogfooding your art

For a while, when I was a wee overachiever, I was often called a perfectionist. It wasn’t true, though. I was (and am) just good at spotting things that could still be improved. A perfectionist can’t bear to put something out into the world until it’s perfect, and thankfully I’ve never really had that problem. (I’ve been posting my drafts online since 2001.) When I started working at Microsoft nearly five years ago (!!), I…

Tensing up

I used to write short stories by sitting down and starting. Blank page, rough word count in mind, and go. These days, I’m less inclined to begin without knowing where I’m going. (Yes, I traded in pantserdom for plannerdom.) I’ll start in my notebook, jotting down character or setting notes, poking at plot points. I might even start writing a paragraph or two by hand, to see if it feels right, before I transition to a…

Riding the wave

I’m starting to learn my own creative wave, my rhythm. It’s not exactly aligned to the mountain seasons, but it sticks pretty close. For me, the cold, dark months are for curling up and digesting heavier stories, more thoughtful fare, including non-fiction. They’re also for browsing through full notebooks and harvesting old ideas, and shuffling virtual notes around to experience them all again. Then the bright, rainy months are for slow, quiet progress, and revisiting…

How bots make good storytellers

I love bots. My career is about natural language and language generation, and bots (will) sit right in that realm, when they’re done well. And it turns out that having a bot as a co-author creates a unique marketing opportunity. I know a lot about designing bot-like things, but not so much about building them. So when I decided this summer I wanted to experiment with a storytelling bot for the Damn Shames characters, I went…

Rolling the story dice

I’m really grateful for the online community I built as a kid interested in the Redwall series. I might talk about it more at length another day, but for now, know that I grew up alongside a diverse group of creative people of all ages, many of whose art I still follow today. Carolyn Paplham is one of those people – she makes delightfully whimsical, imaginative art that could have come straight from my childhood stories. She’s…

Irresistible

I’m sitting down with a “Now Write!” exercise book for speculative fiction (thank you, Half Price Books!) in front of me, and I’m having a little writercrisis. See, I love brainstorming. And taking notes. And organizing those notes. And then brainstorming based on the incidental connections firing in my imagination. But I guess I don’t really let myself call that “writing.” As I was doing one of these exercises, I got that grippy hoarding feeling…

The best kind of theft

Until recently, I would start the process of creating a character by addressing a need: a genre need (like “strong heroine,” “handsome lover,” “funny sidekick”), a plot need (such as “someone to give my hero advice”), or a world need (as in “this stable needs a groom”). Then I would sketch out the vaguest outline of a character, and fill in the details as they became relevant. As you might imagine, one-dimensional characters were a…

Cheatsheets

Not so long ago, we Damn Shames took on an interesting project that lasted about a year. We love writing about digital spaceships, and so when a client wanted us to make some buyer’s guide-style content for their website using Star Citizen game assets and our imaginations, we went for it. First, we created something we thought the client might like and sent it off for feedback. Then we incorporated the feedback and got the…