Watch a Hollywood screenwriter write a scene from scratch in 7 minutes

Our Boing Boing pal Joe Sabia made a video for Vanity Fair in which he gave screenwriter Emily Carmichael seven minutes to write a scene from a sci-fi thriller from scratch. Read the rest

Ottawa! I'll be at the Writers Festival this Saturday night (then Berlin for Re:publica and Houston for Comicpalooza!)

This Saturday, May 4, at 7:30PM, I'll be presenting at the Ottawa Writers Festival, talking about my novel Radicalized and how it ties into surveillance, monopoly, refugees, climate change, racism and oligarchy -- all the good stuff! Read the rest

Talking Radicalized with the LA Public Library: Trump derangement syndrome, engagement algorithms, and novellas as checked luggage

The LA Public Library's Daryl M interviewed me about my new book, Radicalized, specifically, about how my Trump anxiety (created, in part, by the platforms' relentless use of "engagement" tools to nonconsensually eyeball-fuck me with Trump headlines) led to the book's germination, as well as the specific inspirations for each of the four novellas, and the delights of working in novella form. Read the rest

A madlibs science fiction plot generator

Grether Labs's Science Fiction Plot Generator can sure pick 'em: "You are friends with a talking fireplace, and you are working to solve this ancient puzzle before the creatures consume you"; "You are a cyan-eyed cartographer who is finding the awful truth beneath this false utopia, and who is struggling with the terribly thick underbrush and terrible isolation"; "You are friends with a penniless government agent, and you are working to gather the spice before the computer system becomes self-aware"; "You are a science fiction writer and activist who has been made obsolete by a small perl script." Read the rest

Here are cognitive scientist Steven Pinker's 13 tips for better writing

In January on Twitter, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now, shared 13 tips for writing:

Reverse-engineer what you read. If it feels like good writing, what makes it good? If it’s awful, why? Prose is a window onto the world. Let your readers see what you are seeing by using visual, concrete language. Don’t go meta. Minimize concepts about concepts, like “approach, assumption, concept, condition, context, framework, issue, level, model, perspective, process, range, role, strategy, tendency,” and “variable.” Let verbs be verbs. “Appear,” not “make an appearance.” Beware of the Curse of Knowledge: when you know something, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like not to know it. Minimize acronyms & technical terms. Use “for example” liberally. Show a draft around, & prepare to learn that what’s obvious to you may not be obvious to anyone else. Omit needless words (Will Strunk was right about this). Avoid clichés like the plague (thanks, William Safire). Old information at the beginning of the sentence, new information at the end. Save the heaviest for last: a complex phrase should go at the end of the sentence. Prose must cohere: readers must know how each sentence is related to the preceding one. If it’s not obvious, use “that is, for example, in general, on the other hand, nevertheless, as a result, because, nonetheless,” or “despite.” Revise several times with the single goal of improving the prose. Read it aloud. Find the best word, which is not always the fanciest word. Consult a dictionary with usage notes, and a thesaurus. Read the rest

Ruminations on decades spent writing stories that run more than 1,000,000 words

Charlie Stross (previously) has spent most of his career writing two very long-running series: The Laundry Files, a Cthulhu-tinged series of spy procedurals, like HP Lovecraft writing James Bond, except Bond is a sysadmin; and The Merchant Princes, a tricksy medieval high-fantasy story that's actually an alternate worlds story that's actually a primer on economics, totalitarianism, mercantalism, and theories of technological progress. Read the rest

Dry highlighters are my favorite way to highlight text on paper

Rather than soak thru pages and make reading the flipside of whatever I just took notes on annoying to read, these dry highlighters are just great. Read the rest

Billy Wilder's 10 tips for screenwriting

Billy Wilder was the director of many excellent movies, including Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, and Double Indemnity. Here are 10 tips about moviemaking that he shared in the late 1990s with Cameron Crowe (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire)

From Open Culture:

Wilder was 90 years old when the young director Cameron Crowe approached him in 1996 about playing a small role in Jerry Maguire. Wilder said no, but the two men formed a friendship. Over the next several years they talked extensively about filmmaking, and in 1999 Crowe published Conversations with Wilder. One of the book's highlights is a list of ten screenwriting tips by Wilder. "I know a lot of people that have already Xeroxed that list and put it by their typewriter," Crowe said in a 1999 NPR interview. "And, you know, there's no better film school really than listening to what Billy Wilder says."

Here are Wilder's ten rules of good filmmaking:

1: The audience is fickle. 2: Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go. 3: Develop a clean line of action for your leading character. 4: Know where you're going. 5: The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer. 6: If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act. 7: A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever.

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An "e-ink typewriter" that can only do one thing

Lucian's SPUDwriter (Single Purpose User Device) was designed to help him focus on creative writing after a long day of staring at a screen in his engineering job: it uses an e-ink screen and a keyboard, and only outputs via SD card or thermal printer.

As a person who does all of their engineering work on or adjacent to a computer, the idea of coming home and spending even MORE time on the computer for creative writing isn’t super appealing. So I made an e-paper typewriter – no browser, no games, just you and your word count. It has a character LCD at the bottom for the current line you’re typing, to make up for how slow E-paper updates, and when you’re finished you can save your file to an SD card or print it all out with the internal thermal receipt printer for redline editing. I call it the SPUDwrite (Single Purpose User Device), hopefully the first of a couple of SPUDs. It’s built on MBED and the STM32F401 Cortex M4.

The SPUDwrite (Single Purpose User Device) for creating writing made with E-paper, MBED, and STM32F401 Cortex M4 [Adafruit]

(Thanks, PT!)

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LA Times demands that reporters sign away rights to books, movies and other works they create while working at the paper

The LA Times Guild has been negotiating a new contract with the newspaper, but has hit a wall thanks to an unprecedented demand from the paper's owners: they want writers to sign away the rights to nonfiction books, novels, movies and other works they create separate from their reporting for the paper. The newspaper is also demanding the right to use reporters "byline, biography and likeness" to market these works. Read the rest

Luke Skywalker on how to write a cover letter

Of course don't forget to personalize it.

(via r/StarWars)

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"Slow multitasking" is the good kind of multitasking

There's plenty of research that provides evidence to support the idea that multitasking is a fool's bargain: instead of getting two things done at once, you go slower on both, and do worse. But there's more than one kind of multitasking: texting while driving is a terrible idea, but what about juggling multiple projects at once? Read the rest

The Science Fiction Writers of America inducts William Gibson as its next Grand Master

What an excellent choice! Dr William Gibson, Grand Master of Science Fiction has such a nice ring to it. Go Bill! You can watch him get his award at the next Nebula Awards weekend, May 16-19, at the Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills in southern California. I have been to a Nebula weekend in at least a decade, but I'm putting this one in my calendar. (Image: Frederic Poirot, CC-BY-SA) Read the rest

Blame authors' fortunes on monopolism, not university professors, booksellers and librarians -- UPDATED

The New York Times weighs in on an Authors Guild survey that shows a "drastic 42% decline in authors' earnings over the past decade. John Scalzi offers some important perspective. Read the rest

Improve your handwriting with this simple daily practice

Despite taking pages of handwritten notes each day, my handwriting is hot garbage. After deciding that I wanted to improve the look of my penmanship, I set out to find a few ways to do it that wouldn't eat up a lot of my day. This video, featuring Nan Jay Barchowsky, is one of my favorites. Her suggestion to practice the up down motion we use to create most of the letters in our alphabet might seem kind of goofy at first, but it totally works. After a few days of practice, my writing is showing signs of improvement. Read the rest

Put an inexpensive gel refill in your fancy Fisher Space Pen

I've used the same fountain pen and Fisher Space Pen for years: I used to constantly lose disposable pens, costing me scads of money every year. The two refillable pens I own now cost enough that I'm always a little paranoid about their whereabouts, so I've yet to lose them. Filling the fountain pen costs pennies. To snag a refill for my Space Pen up in Canada, I can expect to spend around eight bucks, plus shipping. That's 12 different kinds of BS.

Earlier today, I ran across this video. After watching it, I picked up the Zebra refills at Office Depot. It worked!

With my ink budget sorted out, I can spend more money on fancy paper. Read the rest

reMarkable tablet: A software update makes this forgotten gadget incredibly useful

A couple of years ago, I was asked if I'd like to review the reMarkable tablet. If you're unfamiliar with it, the reMarkable is an E Ink slate and pen solution that provides a digital note taking and sketching solution that feels eerily close to writing on paper. I was excited to take it for a spin: despite the fact that I type for a living, my note taking and a good chunk of my writing is decidedly old school.

So far, I've had no luck in finding any hardware solution that serves me better than a piece of paper and a fountain pen can. Unfortunately, at its release, the reMarkable wasn't all that remarkable. While the latency of the tablet's E Ink display and pen were close to non-existent, the rest of its software felt under baked. The UI was far from intuitive. It functioned as an e-reader, but only barely. While you could export what you'd written to a smartphone or computer, there was no way to edit the text once it was there. It felt like a slog to use. I asked a colleague in Canada if he'd like to give it a try. I mailed it out to him and, a few weeks later, it came back to me, marked not "deliverable." I didn't have time to ship it out again as I was preparing to spend several months on the road. I threw it into the back of my workspace's storage cupboard. It lurked there until today. Read the rest

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