An exercise every writer should try

NaNoWriMo & Google Docs
NaNoWriMo & Google Docs

We can do some pretty amazing things with technology these days. We can build self-driving cars and 3D-print chocolate, but technology also gives us more outlets and tools for what we can accomplish with pen and paper: creative writing. NaNoWriMo is one example. Google Docs is another.

Last month, Google for Education partnered with National Novel Writing Month to help three authors from across the country write a short story together — in an hour.

At over 1,600 words and with three illustrations, the story about a memorial service set on an emu farm combines the imaginations of Edan Lepucki, Tope Folarin, and Mike Curato. The video below shows how it was done — in Google Docs, with the authors taking turns and a Google Docs user named Lauren providing the opening line. You can read the full story here.

 

The result is a great exercise for growing writers: Have someone think of the first sentence for you, and then work together with one or two other writers for an hour and see what you get. This teaches us to work without worrying about what we’re putting on the page and to allow our imaginations to roam free, uncensored. After all, the writers involved don’t have time to be afraid of what the others might think of their ideas. Their only job is to respond to what the person before them wrote to keep the story going.

So have fun, and give it a try! Free up an hour some afternoon — or better yet, do it tonight when you would otherwise be watching TV. Let me know how it goes in the comments. It’s good practice, and you might find that you and the other writers have a lot to teach each other, both while you’re writing and when the story’s done.

Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens!

Google and the book world are celebrating Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday today. Why not honor the literary great by reading one of his classics? He’s written fiction, non-fiction, short stories, and even a play (No Thoroughfare, a collaboration with detective novelist Wilkie Collins). And hey, many of them are free for Kindle (and priced low for Nook)!

English Victorian author Charles John Huffman Dickens lived from 1812–1870 and was born on February 7 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England (now the Dickens Birthplace Museum). Often considered a spokesman for the poor, Dickens is famously remembered for his characters and his contemporary depictions of social classes, mores, and values. Critic and author Gilbert Keith Chesterton, who wrote several introductions for the author, described him as “the voice in England of this humane intoxication and expansion, this encouraging of anybody to be anything.”

His first book, a collection of stories, was titled Sketches by Boz (“Boz” was his pseudonym) and published in 1836. He and his wife Catherine Hogarth welcomed ten children to the family—that’s ten little Dickens running around. Charles was busy at the desk and in the bedroom.

He later left Catherine for actress Ellen Ternan, whom he met while performing in Collins’ The Frozen Deep. “The good, the gentle, high-gifted, ever-friendly, noble Dickens—every inch of him an honest man,” the Scottish historian and author Thomas Carlyle called him upon hearing of Dickens’ passing—but not so much for the marriage bonds.

For a full bibliography of Dickens’ works and a biography of the author, visit The Literature Network.

Cassie at the blog Books and Bowel Movements shared a link to an article about how college students who grew up reading Harry Potter are more prepared for classic literature, especially works by Dickens.

Blogger Caorthine wished Dickens a happy birthday today, too. And Literary Wonderland sent him a birthday letter.

Love Dickens? Feel free to drop a link to your happy birthday post or share a memory of reading his books in the comments.