11.04: Newton’s Laws of Writing

In the interest of experimenting with metaphor, and our ongoing need to keep writing, we played with the idea of mapping Newton’s Laws onto the process of writing.

Because obviously a wordcount at rest tends to remain at rest…


Imagine someone is a serial art collector AND a serial artist killer.

Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho, narrated by Jenny Sterlin

20 thoughts on “11.04: Newton’s Laws of Writing”

  1. Is that promt, considered creative commons? I actually want to write that. Brandon its your idea, is that possible?

    1. Obviously this is an unofficial answer, but it’s a writing prompt, they definitely want you to write!!! And I want to read that one! So get going while you are inspired :)

      To answer specifically, creative commons is a copyright license. Ideas (like Newton’s succinct laws) aren’t protected by copyright, just specific expressions of ideas (like this podcast). So, writing prompts are fair game legally, although ethically it is good to ask.

      …I actually opened the comments to post that I want a version of Write or Die with the SkiFree monster chasing my cursor.

  2. I am really loving the energy of the group in the first episodes of this season. They bounce off each other so well, and they’re even more focused and eloquent than usual. And it’s great to hear how they can keep things fresh and insightful after all this time!

  3. The first NaNoWriMo I won I used Write or Die on kamikaze mode whenever I got behind on my daily word goal. Of course, the days I used that were also the days all my relatives decided they needed to talk to me while I wrote.

  4. This episode was fantastic! I’ve been trying to learn to focus and maintain writing momentum, but it’s been slow going, especially when I’m slogging through a depressed period. These were solid, practical tips.

    While we’re talking tactics, I’ve been using the ‘RescueTime’ program, which lets you set goals for your computer use. I get a virtual gold star if I spend more than two hours writing per day. It’s a low bar– no wordcount goals, no guarantee that those hours produce anything good– but it’s helping me learn to put my butt in the chair.

  5. I find that if I approach this new definition of Genre using Brandon Sanderson’s triangle, it makes more sense.

    1) SETTING is the dressing or bookshelf Genre (Fantasy, Military Sci-Fi, Paranormal Romance, Etc.) that creates your world.

    2) PLOT comes from the ELEMENTAL GENRE which they are doing wonderful with, though I feel like the 11 break down into Sub Elemental Genres

    3) CHARACTERS should come from both the dressing of Fantasy or whatever bookshelf Genre (Stock Characters) and from the Elemental Genre. For a Heist, you need a thief or theives, relationship needs two people minimum (three for conflict), and so on.

    After these three have a few points, you search for the conflict and create you book world. I love this season so far, and I cannot wait for details about each of the Elemental Genres.

  6. As I sit here sharpening my knives I can’t help noticing how many signed first edition Dan Wells books I own.

  7. An alternate format for the third rule as I have experienced it: To the extent you push into your PoV character’s mindset, so the character will pull you through the rest of the story.

  8. A lot of good advice in this one. I tend to use ‘Danning it’ quite a lot, although I know the tactic through another phrase, ‘to leave a rough edge’. Potters often advocate leaving a ‘rough edge’ when leaving pottery to come back to, as that way you know where you were, and you have something to start with immediately.
    I’ve also, increasingly, found myself re-reading the last 1-2000 words I’ve written before writing. Often that helps me out a lot with the final edits, because I’ve already caught most of the minor typos and things during the writing process (although it does rely on being able to resist the urge to endlessly tinker with the same patch of writing, which some people find tricky).
    Anyway, great advice as always.

  9. But what happens when you go from Newtonian writing to Einstein’s Relativity? Oh, just more characters getting happy, relatively? Good…

    So, here’s the laws of writing, in a transcript. Available in the archives or over here:


    And now we know what happens when Howard spends six hours in the zone. The equal and opposite reaction is hunger!

  10. One thing that gets me motivated is knowing there are other people out there doing what I’m doing. Does anyone know of an app or a website where writers can log in when they’re working and see other people working at the same time (it doesn’t need to be writers, but anyone of that creative/knowledge class). I’m thinking of something similar to the meditation timer Insight Timer, which lets you see who is meditating around the world and tells you when they log on or off. If no such app exists for writers, some computer programmer should come up with a virtual coffee shop office because I’d join it!

    1. Hey Rachel!

      I don’t think this is exactly what you’re looking for, but while Googling Write or Die I found this app called “Word War,” which gamifies writing a bit. I haven’t tried it but the stats and leaderboards (coming soon?) might help contribute to that sense of community and add a bit of friendly motivation?


  11. @Dan/Brandon: have you ever Dan’d a sentence rather than a chapter? It’s something I’ve been doing for the last year or so, and something that has definitely made it easier to get that initial momentum.

  12. Can I ask a highly specific question? How do I know which writing is in fact “Work” and which is anything else? I have a diary I write in, and no one would ever consider that work. Is it only what will earn us a paycheck and our families finally accept us as anything other than weird failures? Is Work measured by the individual story one is telling? Or is the specific skill of becoming a writer that we call work?

  13. I was so relieved to hear Mary talk about her depression last year and the toll it had on her writing. I’m just beginning to recover from the same. Listening to this podcast for the past few months has helped me rediscover how much I really do love writing, and what I can achieve when the chemicals in my head are properly aligned. Aside from the excellent advice and casual, conversation-style brainstorming, I love that this podcast offers a published author talking about the limits of depression. It’s good to remember that sometimes willpower isn’t enough!

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