East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Writing: at night, every day, in public

The bit about using Google Docs and sharing the link for people to watch is turning into something interesting.
So interesting, in fact, that I plan to do this at least three nights a week, starting this week.

No, OK, I know, I know… I’ll start tomorrow…


But I will. Continue reading

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Killing procrastination

One thing we learned, or a suspicion we confirmed, during our experiment last night, is that writing in public (or editing) forces us to be focused, and work fast.
It kills procrastination.

What I mean is, I have a story to write.
I fire up Scrivener. Then I go fetch a bottle of water.
I read what I wrote in the last session. The trick is always stop when you’re hot, mid-sentence, so it will be easier to pick up speed when you start again.
I make some adjustments.
I drink a gulp of water.
I get an email notification.
I check the mail.
Write some more.
Browse my mp3 collection for a suitable soundtrack.
Delete what I wrote previously and re-write.
What about some tea? And maybe a biscuit?

And time gets wasted.

But not when your writing file is public, and you have people looking at the page over your shoulder. You don’t want to look like a lazy slob, right?
The sort that wastes time and writes and deletes the same sentence five times over one hour.
You want to show off.
You want to be the Man with the Red-Hot Typewriter, like John D. MacDonald.
Fast and focused, like Harlan Ellison.

This morning Hell said to me (I paraphrase)

Man, 4000 words and a full edit in five hours! Were we to keep that sort of rhythm, I could edit a novel in fifteen hours, and you could write one in thirty.

And that’s true.
Who knows, maybe this is the reason why some people write in pubs and other crowded places.


Now the question is, could I keep it going for thirty hours without crashing and burning midway through?
There’s only one way to know, of course.

But before I set myself up for thirty solid hours of writing on a public file, I think I’ll do a few other experiments.
This morning my friend Angelo posted me two open calls for two anthologies that are looking for 2000-4000-words stories.
My genres, professional rates, close deadline.
But I know I can do a short in that range in one evening.
So tonight I’ll give it a try.
I’ll post the link at the bottom of this post after dinner, and I’ll spend the evening writing the first of my submissions.
I’ll just make sure I lock out unrequited contributors.


[started at 9.15, ended at 11.15 – 2000+ good words and a complete first draft]


How did it go?

Do how did it go?, you ask.
And I say, my experiment of online writing, followed by an in-depth editing session by my friend Hell was quite instructive.

As I said in my previous post, to give myself some constraints, I picked up the Smith-Waite tarot I received a few weeks back as a gift, I shuffled it1 and picked three random cards: The King of Cups, Temperance and Death.
Nice start, what?

Then… Continue reading

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Authorial exhibitionism

In the last few months I did a few session of public writing. I did two online, using Google Docs, and one in public, with my friend Fabrizio Borgio on the other side of the table, both of us pounding on our respective typewriters1.
Some compared this to exhibitionism, but I say, if it was good enough for Harlan Ellison, it’s good enough for me.

image typewriter

And the experiment was rather successful, so we decided to up the ante.

Continue reading



So this is the day – in a few hours, as the thermometer reached 94°F, I’ll sit in front of a local bookstore with my mother’s typewriter and spend four hours (more or less) writing a story, based on prompts randomly picked from a bowl, where readers have put them.
I will not be alone, because Fabrizio Borgio will be with me. We even made the local news.


What were we thinking when we proposed this?
Four hours for a story?
Using mechanical typewriters?
On the hottest afternoon of the year?

But we’ll make it. Continue reading


How to write without inspiration (sort of)

she who maulsMy friend Yuri hates me, or so he says.
The problem emerged after my public writing session last week. Basically I sat down for five hours typing, and two days later I had a story to sell1. Yuri mentioned on Facebook the fact that he’d been staring at a blank page for a while, and therefore he hates me.
My answer to that was that he’d spent too much time thinking. You’ve got to start typing, I said. If after five pages you still don’t know where your story is going, then you have a problem.
Another friend of mine, Paolo, butted in, saying that following my rule, he’d never have written one of his recent stories – a big hard sf tale.
A good starting point for a discussion, but Facebook is not a good place for discussions of writerly survival. So, let me see if I can put this thing in some order here, and try to explain what’s going on.

This might be the first of a series of posts, I don’t know. Continue reading

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Of Seances and Egyptian Goddesses

And so we did it.
Oh, what a night! (yes, just like the old Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons hit.)

Part 1 – The Seance

Google Hangouts acted up a bit during my hangout session with my Italian supporters from Patreon. A lot of

“Can you hear me?”
“Are you there?”
“I can Hear you, can you hear me? Give me a sign if you can…”

Next time we’ll use a Ouija Board. And there will be certainly a next time, because it was a lot of fun and, for me, a mighty injection of good cheer and positive attitude.
Writing, we have said it before I think, is a lonely business, and we often wonder at what’s happening out there, with our readers. Well, Patreon and this hangout thing is certainly helping bring writers and readers together in a fun way.
We’ll do it again.


Part 2 – The Boy’s Night Out

In the end that guy was right, and three thousand words were on the page after about two hours.
In the end, I ditched my plan for a 2-characters/3000-words story, and let Nennius Britannicus and the boys take the story where it needed to go.
End result: 6000 words in 5 hours, making lots of pauses. Good going.

This, despite a 2 AM call from a call center somewhere, with a guy trying to sell me a table & chairs set for my garden. Continue reading