Anyone who’s ever forgotten a million-dollar idea will attest to the maddening tendency of the subconscious to forget things. For many people, this extends to dreams, where the best ideas can pop up and die before the morning. But why is it so difficult to remember them? At Salon, the neuroscience behind our chronic inability to remember dreams. Related: Blake Butler’s innovative Year in Reading piece.
"Start with the novel’s climax (often the first thing you know about it, its most striking moment) and work backward, asking why-why-why. Then write forward." Nell Zink at The Lithub on how to become a novelist in 10 easy steps. See also our interview with Zink from last week.
In a digital age, what’s the point of handwriting? It may seem like there isn’t much point to honing one’s penmanship these days. In Hazlitt, Navneet Alang suggests that handwriting, far from being a lost art, is in fact a “useful alchemy” that retains particular uses. You could also read our own Kevin Hartnett on writing by hand.
A scholar who has uncovered Walt Whitman's handwritten documents announced his findings Tuesday at the National Archives. These documents are from Whitman's time as a government worker, concerning civil rights, war crimes, treason, and western expansion. View the documents here.
In a piece reminiscent of Talk of the Nation's "You Can't Possibly Read It All, So Stop Trying" episode, A D Jameson tracks every film he's watched over a fifteen year span, and then discusses the data for HTMLGiant. Choice line (which could easily apply to literature, too): "The more you watch from the present day, the more garbage you’re bound to see—but your conclusions will be your own. Conversely, the further back you go, the more you’ll be guided by the opinions of others. (If nothing else, what’s available will be largely determined by what’s remained popular.)"
The Walter Scott prize did an analysis of prize submissions since its eight years of existence-with 650 novels submitted-and found that "38% of its submissions were set in the 20th century, while 19% were set in the Victorian era, between 1837 and 1901." They also found many of the submissions focus on World Wars II and II and that the number of women historical fiction writers submitting their work has gone up."The [Walter Scott] Prize celebrates quality, innovation and longevity of writing in the English language, and is open to books first published in the previous year in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth," the breakdown is fascinating.