Wednesday, April 3, 2013

10 Writerly Riddles

One of my very favourite books is Alice in Wonderland. Therefore, in the spirit of the Mad Hatter and his unanswerable riddle (although scholars now have come up with an answer)*, here are ten somewhat unanswerable questions that many writers wrestle with on a daily basis. No order. No judgments. Just questions.

10. Where did that idea go? I had it last night...

9. When did my coffee get cold?

8. Why do I write characters who are experts in fields that I am not?

7. What happens next? Seriously. What happens next?

6. Why don't I have three hands? (two to type and one to hold a tasty snack)

5. How did I not notice I have characters named Jim, Tim and Kim? (Unless they're triplets, I've got a problem...)

4. Why did no one tell me that it takes a long time to write 80,000 words?

3. Why did no one tell me it takes even longer to write 80,000 good words?

2. Why did no one buy more coffee?

1. When will this d**#$ed thing be finished?

* During the Mad Tea Party, the Hatter poses the question, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?".  Scholars agree that although the characters find it unanswerable in the book, one possible solution is 'Because Poe wrote on both'.

Massive personal agenda: If you too are an 'Alice' fan, please check out my murder mystery game 'Curiouser and Curiouser'! You and your guests play characters from the books and discover who has killed the Knave of Hearts with a poisoned tart.

Elspeth Antonelli is an author and playwright. Her murder mystery games A Fatal Fairy Tale and Deadly Ever After are among the top-selling mystery games on the web. All thirteen of her murder mystery games and two audience-interactive plays are published by She has also contributed articles to the European writers' magazine Elias. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Antonelli, Author.


  1. I can relate to many of those questions, except:

    I gave up coffee a long time ago.
    I never eat snacks near my computer, because I hate keyboards with crumbs lodged in them.

    I have been known to write similar character names, especially ones starting with the first initial, and have had to change them.
    Also, I always have a difficult time getting my word count up. Also, it seems when I edit better words come to me, so I always need to edit many times!

    Morgan Mandel

  2. I can relate to many of these Elspeth! One of the most common questions I ask after coming out of a writing stupor didn't make your top ten.

    It is: What day is it?

  3. I can really relate to number nine and number seven. My coffee is always cold and right now I am struggling with the plot line of my latest book. Seriously, what happens next?

    To solve the coffee problem I've discovered the benefits of iced mocha. (smile)

  4. This sounds a lot like a typical day's thought processes for me. And you've created a tongue twister, try saying "many writers wrestle with" three times fast. : )

  5. One my list would be the question, "what can I clean next... before I sit down to write?"

  6. Morgan; I've had similar problems with naming too many characters with names starting with the same letter. It is sigh-inducing.

    Kathryn; LOL! And, may I say, if you can be that focused, then you are to be admired.

    Maryann; Iced mocha...mmmm.....

    IndyWriterGirl; That's my actor-background coming to the foreground - I love alliteration!

    Dani; I identify with the cleaning habit! Back when I was in high school my room was never cleaner than when I had some deadline looming.

  7. You know, talking about those same-letter names. It is SO confusing for a reader, and yet aspiring children's book authors often do exactly that, especially with siblings. I reject manuscripts for that issue alone!

  8. Do they think it makes the characters more accessible? I understand the logic in a way for that genre it adds to the 'cuteness' factor. I don't agree with the logic, but I see it. It would be part of the 'writing down because I'm writing for children' school. In my opinion, of course.

  9. Very good questions. And I had answers for all of them. Not good or logical answers, mind you, but answers nonetheless.

  10. Helen; You win. But then again, you were a mermaid. That must give you some sort of advantage. I'm not sure how, but it must.

  11. My big question of the day is, "Why are there so many other things I have to take care of before I can tackle the WIP?" And I'm not talking housework. Today I had to deal with setting up 2 pages for a website, edit and test my newsletter, write my own blog post for tomorrow, deal with "crisis" emails, and I still haven't opened the WIP. And it's after noon here. And I got up and started working at 6:15.
    Where are the 30 hour days?

    Terry's Place

  12. Terry; That's what comes from being such a success!

  13. I have another one to add to the list. Sonar brush the teeth and then add two minutes of gum massage. Beat that for a procrastination technique! Ha - I win, right? :D

  14. Dental health as procrastination. There's a needlepoint motto for a velvet pillow.

  15. Sounds like we've graduated from the "what-ifs" to the journalistic "who, what, when, where, why." And good questions they are!

    My problem often involves the use of similar names. You'd think by now this wouldn't be an issue; however, that doesn't seem to be the case.

    Great post, Elspeth. It's nice to know I'm in excellent company. :-)


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.