Category Archives: Writing

Writing in a bookstore window–I am fascinated by the story of Harlan Ellison

I am fascinated by the story of Harlan Ellison.

I wrote a post about him five months ago.

And I am really interested in his writing in the window of a book store.  He wrote stories in the from the start of the day to the end of the day and he would put the pages up in the window as he finished them.  And the pages would be clean and error free.

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He did this many times over the years.  Apparently some of those stories he wrote in a window won awards.  But as of this moment I am not sure which ones those are.  Now Ellison won a lot of awards for his short stories.  I just wish I knew which ones where written in a store window.

One story I do know that he wrote in a window was Objects of Desire Are Closer than They Appear.  And the premise for the story was given to him by Chris Carter.  Carter gave him the phrase a 102-year-old pregnant corpse.

Some began to believe that Harlan was cheating by already having ideas for his stories planned out before he sat in the bookstore window, so eventually he would get people to give an idea.  Robin Williams gave him the phrase “Computer Vampyre”  and Ellison wrote the story Keyboard.

I find that fascinating.

Ellison did not let writers block get in the way.  Writing is fun.  Writing in enjoyable.  And more than anything else, writing isn’t about rewriting to get it perfect, a lot of his stories he taped to the window as he finished them.  Remember this was on a typewriter, not a laptop.

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Harlan writing at the Booksmith in May of 1994 at the Booksmith in San Francisco. 

Just cool as all get out.

NaNoWriMo–11,635 words down. A little behind.

I am still attempting NaNoWriMo.

But I admit.  This week was tough.

I’m feeling the pressure.

My daughter was off from school for two days this week.  So that changes the schedule just a little bit.  She did spend a fair amount of time at her baby sitters, but the change in schedule just threw me.  It happens.

And then I got sick the last couple of days.  I got some stomach virus, and as I write this I think I got it from the children’s museum I took my daughter to on Tuesday.  I’m surrounded by dozens of kids, there’s bound to be a rogue germ around there.

So, I’m behind.  By about 5,000 words.  On the 10th of November I should be at 16,670 words.  So I’m behind.

I’m going to keep trying, but we’ll see.

NaNoWriMo Day 4 only 263–That’s cool

Day 4

Not a big writing day.

263 words

263 words. There is more to life than NaNoWriMo. At least that’s what I tell myself to keep from curling up and crying in the corner.

Did other things for business today.

Also tried to mow the lawn before it started to rain.

You know regular Saturday things.

I pulled out the laptop and went through I what I wrote yesterday and added some new things.  That got me another 263 words.

That won’t get me to 50,000 words in 30 days.

But 250 words a day, over a year gets you 91,000 words, which is enough for two small novels a year.

Which is two more novels a year than 99% of people who say, “I want to write a novel.”

NanoWriMo Day 3–2083 words passed 6,000 words total

I got started later today.

My choice of Starbucks to write at was poor.  It was too crowded.  I went to write on their outside porch.  It was too cold outside to write.

So I drank my coffee and did some morning pages, where I just write in a stream of consciousness to clear my brain before I begin writing a novel.

I then made it to my normal writing spot the library.

There was no world series yesterday, so I got more sleep, and therefore I cranked through til 1 pm.

Ended the day with 2,083 words.

Bringing my total to 6313.  Which is cool, I am over 10% through.

I don’t I’ll write as much on the weekend.  I like hanging out with the family.

But we’ll see.

NaNoWriMo Day 2 1883 words–stayed up too late with the World Series

I got 1883 words done today.

That’s above the recommended pace of 1667 words per day.  But it’s less than what I want to hit of 2,500, that allows me to skip Saturday and Sunday if needed.

More than needed, but not what I was hoping for.

Today was a fun writing time, because I was able to get all these words done, between 9:45 and noon.

I stopped at noon.  I’ve been running on too little sleep watching the world series.  Congrats Houston you deserved it.

(I am useless…)

today was fun too because I also added Dragons to the story.

I needed a reason for why things are bad in the future.  So why not aliens that attacked earth and call them Dragons.

Me writing:

Okay, I need something to have attacked the world from space.

Bugs…

No that’s been used in Starship Troopers and Ender’s Game…

Dragons from space.

Sounds good to me.  Keep going.

Remember this is play.

The writer that wrote stories in bookstore windows

Could you write a story on demand?  In a store window?  With a first draft that is error free?

Harlan Ellison writing in a bookstore window.  Source

Apparently that is what award winning sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison did.  And he didn’t do it once.  He did it several times over the years.

I first heard about this feat from Dean Wesley Smith’s blog, and then I decided to do some research on it, and I found this post on Mental Floss.

Ellison would sit with a typewriter.  A TYPEWRITER—not a laptop.  You see you little whippersnappers you couldn’t always go back and remove a letter or a word.

Ellison says that he did this because:

“I do it because I think particularly in this country people are so distanced from literature, the way it’s taught in schools, that they think that people who write are magicians on a mountaintop somewhere,” he told NBC after one such performance in 1981. “And I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s so much illiteracy in this country. So by doing it in public, I show people it’s a job … like being a plumber or an electrician.”

After doing this several times people began to question if he already had the stories in his head.  So, he started taking prompts from people.  One came from none other than Christ Carter, the creator of the X-Files.  His prompt: There was a 102 year old corpse.  Harlin would hand the pages as they finished and a clerk would post them in the window.  The pages were immaculate, double spaced, and error free.

I would love to be at this level.  

But as I think about this, I contemplate how many myths of writing Ellison takes down here.

Outlining–He doesn’t outline here.  He writes.  He stops to read and research, but there is no outline here to his process.

No rewriting—Have you ever heard of such a thing!  No rewrites!  Try telling that to your English teacher.

Writing taking a longtime—These are short stories, but he didn’t slave over these stories for years on end.

Ellison shows that writing doesn’t have to be a big esoteric exercise.

Solid creative writing is work—just like a plumber.

(This post originally appeared on my Steemit blog.)