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Letters That Didn’t Make The Alphabet (via Mental Floss)

Ampersand is still around, though not considered a letter.
But what about Ethel, Thorn, Long S and others?
This Mental Floss article is about twelve characters which fell out of English spelling.
Interesting background for language wonks and perhaps a useful illustration about things which lose relevance falling out of usage and being forgotten.

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Neil Gaiman’s Eight Rules For Writing

I posted the video featuring Gaiman’s advice to creatives some time ago.
Here are eight rules for writing from Gaiman.

  1. Write
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

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Worth Repeating: Aaron Sorkin’s Dialogue

I like the dialogue Aaron Sorkin puts in the mouths of characters in the movies and television shows he’s scripted.
Turns out that Sorkin likes various phrases of his own dialogue so much that they just keep turning up in different works.
As this playful tribute video demonstrates.
Must be time to start watching West Wing again.

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Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Speech On Creative Careers

Neil Gaiman, author of comics, novels, screenplays, and an episode of Doctor Who gives a twenty minute speech to graduating students.
It’s engaging, funny and wise.
I won’t spoil anything more about the content, just have a listen.

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Ira Glass On Creative Work: How To Close The Gap Between Good Taste And Personal Skill

Composing and delivering sermons is just one expression of creative work.
Here’s a helpfully animated clip of two minutes of opinion on storytelling by Ira Glass.
I think the point he makes translates to any creative work.

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Joss Whedon On Writing And The Creative Process

Joss Whedon is the director and writer of The Avengers, which will probably end up the third highest grossing movie of all time.
Which means that he’ll get his next movie project made, whatever that will be.
And that his thoughts on creative process may prove interesting.
In a feature interview with Wired, (which contains all sorts of pop culture references and the odd bad word, you have been warned) there’s this interchange on the discipline of writing (a current interest of mine):

Wired: Do you have writing rituals? Do you work on a computer? Do you have to be by yourself? Do you put on music?
Whedon: I do listen to music. Movie scores, exclusively, because it’s all about mood and nonspecificity. I love the way modern movie scoring is all about nonspecificity. You know, if I shuffled the tracks from Inception, I challenge you to tell me which is which. But … you feel incredibly heightened during all of it. I don’t know what I’m very excited about but I’m very excited. Or worried. Or sad, I’m not sure which, but it’s all happening. And that’s really great. Whereas, you know, your old-school, very theme-specific music, which is the kind I like to actually use in my movies, is useless to writing.

Wired: Can you listen to music with lyrics?
Whedon: Only if it’s supervapid. Very beautiful and supervapid and I’m not listening to it. It’s been like two albums ever, and I don’t even want to say what they are because it’s embarrassing.

Wired: And does it have to be in a specific place, or can you just go somewhere and type?
Whedon: I need to create that space. And very often I write in restaurants. Lately I’ve been trying to write more in cafes and not go to restaurants as much so that I don’t become enormous, turn into Orson Welles. But I like to be in a public space, which is part of why music is great, to shut things out. And I think part of it is embarrassing, like I need a reward, you know, like my tea or my wine or some nice food or something. And I think part of it is even more embarrassing — I think I just like to be seen writing. I’m not positive, but I feel like it’s like if you get hurt you want a boo boo so you can get a Band-Aid. It’s not like I want to engage with anybody. Or it’s not even showing off exactly, I think I just want someone to know it’s hard work that I’m doing.

Wired: If I write in a café then a certain number of hours of writing costs me a certain number of dollars in coffee or cookies.
Whedon: I can nurse a cup of tea for a while. And I can only drink so many before I go, oh, my heart is exploding.

Wired: And are you just head down and go or does the internet beckon?
Whedon: If I’m at my desk the internet might beckon. Although I’m so bad at it that it doesn’t last very long because I only know like three sites. Like the other day I was like, what is this, Amazon, you can buy books? It’s like a bookstore, but it’s virtual! Wait until I tell everybody. But I only do that after years of going to bookstores and recently realizing that they weren’t there anymore. But when I’m writing, it’s just a few minutes to sort of lock into the zone. Then it doesn’t matter where I am. If I’m there, I’m in heaven.

Wired: And is that the outlining and structural stuff too, or when you’re into a script?
Whedon: No, outlining and structure is a pain, it’s pain and bricklaying. And to me is completely essential. There have been two things I’ve ever written without an outline. One of them worked so I tried the other one. On Buffy, nobody ever went to script without an outline, so nobody ever came back with a script where we had to rewrite the story. The structure is god to me. But the fun is when you first get the idea, or you’re just floating in, “Oh, what if this, what if that?” That’s amazing joy. And then once you have the structure the fun is getting the meat of the scenes and finding the voices and actually writing it. That in-between part that takes the longest, that’s some rough sledding.

The notions of outline and particularly editing intersect with other material I’ve been reading lately.

And there’s this closing answer about objectification and identification:

Wired: Fundamentally, aren’t movies just putting people up on a screen for other people to watch? There’s objectification built into the model.
Whedon: Objectification and identification are at war but they’re at war in the way that people are, that narrative is, that creates art and humanity and life. Like they have to be at war. You have to root for the girl and the monster. It’s something nobody wants to admit. Nobody ever wants to admit that there are two sides to anything. They either want to be right or — no, they just want to be right. Sorry, I don’t know of that many people that want to be wrong. But the truth almost always lies somewhere in the middle.

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Ten Writing Tips From An Editor (via Nathan Bingham)

Nathan Bingham has posted these ten points about writing gleaned from a presentation by Greg Bailey, Director of Publications for Reformation Trust Publishing

  1. Know what you’re trying to say.
  2. Never assume your audience knows what you’re trying to say.
  3. Find a creative way to approach / introduce what you’re trying to say.
  4. Write an initial draft quickly.
  5. Be a great revisor.
  6. Get rid of unnecessary words.
  7. Maintain an active voice.
  8. Use simple sentences. “Simple sentences are beautiful.”
  9. Let it rest. “Sleep on it.”
  10. Let it go. “Let it do its job, for good or bad.”