A new keyboard layout has been designed to increase the speed of typing. It’s called the “KALQ” keyboard. The most commonly used letters have been moved closer together to make it easier to type at speed. The inventors claim it is far better than the standard QWERTY keyboard – which is no doubt true because the QWERTY keyboard was never designed for speed. It was designed by Christopher Sholes in 1875 to slow down typing so the keys didn’t get stuck in old-fashioned typewriters. At the time the idea was a good one – as jammed keys had to be forced apart with a crow bar before the typist could continue – but the QWERTY keyboard should have been phased out when computers arrived. The ABCDEF keyboard is a much faster layout. It isn’t perfect – but it is faster to use.
The QWERTY keyboard is the most illogical arrangement of keys imaginable. Every day I make typos, tarnopsing letters that are near to each othre.
I once bought a new computer with an £100 “ergonomic” keyboard that was supposed to reduce the chances of Repetitive Strain Injury. The keyboard was split into two sections – that’s probably where the “ERGH!” in “ergonomic” came from because my left and right hands were in different time zones. I felt like a concert pianist whenever I sat down to type. After trying to use it for a year – hating it for every second – I replaced it with a normal QWERTY costing £1.99. Best two quid ever spent!
I’d like to see a new keyboard designed for making writing much quicker. My keyboard would have “THE”, “AND”, “WAS” and “THAT” keys. I’d probably add a few more word keys like “COULD” and “SHOULD” at the top to save extra time. “Q” and “U” would be all combined into the “QU” key. Speech marks and apostrophes would not require the use of the “SHIFT” key. The “SHIFT” key would not be next to the “CTRL” key so I’d never accidentally reformat or delete a document. The space-bar would be nice and big. The function keys would have actual words on them to explain their functions instead of baffling icons. There would be an “ANY” key so that if the message “PRESS ANY KEY” appears on my screen I would have something to press. Numbers would have their own keys so they didn’t have to share space with !”£$%^&*(). I’d probably like a row of emoticons too – so I’d know how to make them so people would know when I’m joking:)
My ideal keyboard would also automatically clean trapped gunk and dust, never have letters wear off through heavy use, and it would not have removable keys that could be swapped around as a joke.
Alas, until someone invents my ideal keyboard, I’ll have to make do with my very QUIRKY one.
John Moralee (C) 2013
Flashes of Inspiration
Here are some 25-word flash stories. I wrote them in response to a fiction thread asking for stories of exactly that length. I thought it was impossible to do that until I gave it a go. Each had to include a specific word in story used as the title. I hope you’ll find some of them amusing.
The chameleon met his old friends for their high-school reunion.
They all said the same thing.
“You’ve changed a lot.”
A street poet offered me a poem for ten bucks.
“No thanks. Anything cheaper?”
“If you don’t need it to rhyme, I’ve some free verse.”
Warning! Never press this button!
He pressed it anyway.
The screen emitted hypnotic lights and sounds.
His mind ceased functioning.
The television claimed another victim.
His adversary was in the mirror, mockingly copying his every move.
So he smashed it.
Unfortunately, the shards sliced his throat
He died, too.
The vampire children gathered in the cave entrance, their feral eyes shining in dawn’s half-light.
The sunlight frightened them back.
But tomorrow they would feed.
She waved goodbye to her husband at the station, tears streaming – until the train had gone.
Then she smiled.
Her new lover was waiting.
Marisa filled her basket with everything for a great dinner party: fine wine, delicious food, scented candles.
The only things she forgot were the guests.
I cracked the egg and tasted the creamy orange yolk. Yum!
My comrades were appalled.
“NO!” they cried.
“What?” I said.
“That’s the last dodo.”
Spring started with rain. And more rain. And even more rain.
The downpour was endless.
Noah looked up at the dark, cloudy sky.
In the spring Laura loved watching the tulips and daffodils growing, but they made her sad, reminding her that life was beautiful outside her cell.
Every Halloween several children gathered outside his house – hurling eggs and yelling abuse. He didn’t care. Ignoring them was cheaper than paying the alimony.
The arrogant man showed off his multi-million-dollar house to the famous painter Picasso.
Picasso drew the man’s key and smiled.
“That’s worth more,” he said.
The safe contained all of his valuables.
“Where’s the key to the safe?” his wife asked.
“Er … locked inside.”
Yeah, he thought.
He should have put her in, too.
He did not know why everyone panicked when he produced the key for the door.
“Wait until we’re back on the ground!” the passengers shouted.
Josephine noticed everyone staring at her on the crowded Parisian street.
“Why are they staring?” Josephine asked Marcel.
“Oh – we’re on Rue Du Glare.”
Something strange happened as I was messing around writing those tiny stories. I found taking a few minutes to write some 25-word stories turned out to be a excellent way of getting my creative juices flowing for that day. If you become stuck writing something, I’d recommend trying it. It inspired me to write some longer stories with much larger word counts.
John Moralee (C) 2013
Writer’s Block and Edititis
Some writers get the dreaded writer’s block. They can’t write a word. I’ve never had that horrible problem – but, for many years, I’ve had a similar condition. If I had to give it a name, I’d call it “edititis” because I have a debilitating desire to rewrite every sentence until I lose all enthusiasm for what I’m writing about.
I start writing something with a huge burst of excitement – convinced my new idea will make a good short story or novel – but eventually, often after a few days, I lose confidence in what I’m writing. I go back to edit it. Yuk! I hate every word. The beginning needs work. I start making changes. Ah – that’s better. Now the beginning is improved. Temporarily happy, I move on to improve the piece in other places. I add and delete paragraphs. I edit and edit and edit … and never finish the first draft.
After a week or month, I end up abandoning the manuscript in disgust.
I start a new project, hoping this time I will at least finish the first draft before I want to edit it. Sometimes I’ll get the compulsion after just writing a few sentences. Sometimes I’ll write 20,000 words. Sometimes I’ll write almost a 100,000.
Then the “edititis” strikes.
The manuscript enters a limbo state of rewrites.
It wouldn’t be a problem if it had happened just once or twice – but “edititis” has affected me for years.
Looking back, I have over thirty incomplete novels and over 800 incomplete stories on my computer.
That’s a lot of time and effort wasted on unfinished material.
I decided to do something about it by writing stories to self-enforced deadlines. A deadline gives me a motivation to keep on going when I want to edit something to death. It has helped me finish a number of manuscripts.
I’ve also found entering competitions is another way of focusing on finishing before editing. Last week I wrote a short story in a couple of hours that would have taken forever if I had not needed to finish it urgently for the contest’s deadline. I don’t care if the story wins the competition. Sending off the finished story felt fantastic.
I also found finishing enough stories to make an ebook collection is a great way of beating the self-doubt and procrastination.
Recently, I’ve managed to finish some of those first drafts abandoned long ago. Of course, I’m never completely satisfied with the final version of anything that I write – I always want to change things – but at least I feel better having written something to its conclusion. That feels like an accomplishment.
I still write countless incomplete manuscripts to every one that I finish – but finishing some is better than finishing none.
I used to think I’d never finish writing those thirty novels and 800 short stories – but I don’t feel so pessimistic any longer. If I set myself reasonable, achievable goals, I will finish them. Then I’ll edit them – but not too much.
Writing things like this blog help me keep on track. For example, I’m tempted to rewrite this as I’m writing it. But I’m forcing myself to go to the end first.
There. It’s done.
Now I’ll go back for a rewrite.
My Writing Shelves – Books On Writing (by Stephen King and Others)
My shelves groan under the weight of the heavy books stacked on them. I know they’ll collapse eventually with a loud crack – shooting broken rawl plugs across the room like little blue missiles – but I lack the basic DIY skills to prevent that. Before the inevitable collapse, I’ve taken a picture of some shelves containing the books about creative writing and other writing-related information.
You’ll see Stephen King’s book On Writing is there – an essential reference for any horror writer or writer in general – along with many others I’ve found useful for improving my writing. His book provides valuable advice about his writing process – including draft samples of his work with his notes and corrections. Seeing how Stephen King edits his work is greatly informative for anyone aspiring to write popular fiction. He shows his methods for turning a rough draft into publishable prose. Excellent tips by the master of horror.
Some of the other books about writing that I keep on my writing shelves are listed below.
How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by JN Williamson
Probably out of print by now. This book includes chapters by many famous writers.
Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook
Lists valuable markets for writers. Includes lists of agents, publishers and competitions. Updated annually.
Collins Good Writing Guide/Penguin Guide to Plain English/Cassell Guide to Writing English
These all contain excellent tips for writing.
Fowler’s Modern English Usage
Fowler’s book on grammar usage is very useful when I’m not sure if a sentence is grammatically correct. There are so many “rules” about writing good and bad sentences that a book like Fowler’s is a valuable resource. It provides advice based on real examples of great writing by the masters of literature.
The Good English Guide by Godfrey Howard
Another good book on English usage. Not as formal as Fowler’s.
Make Your Words Work by Gary Provost
This is an excellent book for writers with some solid advice on writing style.
Writer’s Digest Series
I find the books in the Writer’s Digest series a handy tool for researching a subject from a writer’s POV. They publish a mind-blowing number of books covering nearly every aspect of writing.
I must really like this book because I appear to have three copies.
I hope this information is useful for other writers.
Appy Memories of Deathtrap Dungeon
This week the BBC’s Click programme talked about a new app based on the Fighting Fantasy game books that I loved as a kid. Now a whole generation of tech-lovers can read Ian “Deathtrap” Livingstone’s choose-your-own-adventure books without the need for a pencil, paper, eraser and some tiny dice that always got lost under a piece of furniture.
I hope these new apps are a huge success like the original books. They turned me from a reluctant reader into a voracious one. Until I discovered them, reading was a chore I did at school. I didn’t read anything at home – until one day I saw Deathtrap Dungeon in my local Woolworth’s. The cover was incredible. It showed a frighteningly ugly monster with rows of razor-sharp teeth. It was covered with slime, wallowing in a pit of green acid like Jabba the Hutt’s nastier brother.
Amazed, I had to buy it with my pocket money.
Reading that book awoke my imagination – making me excited to read for pleasure.
Those FF books were my literary introduction to horror, science fiction and fantasy.
I’ll never forget reading them.
And now, thanks to the new app, a new generation won’t either.
Adventurer, you are about to read the end of this blog post.
What will YOU do next?