“It Took Me at Least Seven Years to Call Myself a Writer”

Murmel Clausen is a German writer of screenplays, scripts for TV shows and series as well as novels, most of them in the comedy genre. Among other things, he collaborated on the western parody “Manitou’s shoe” which was one of the most successful German movies since 1945. His first novel was made into a film by the German actor and director Matthias Schweighöfer.

Murmel, could you please tell us how you got around to doing what you do?

Murmel Clausen
Murmel Clausen

I have to blame and thank my old friend Max Witzigmann for that. He worked for a radio station in Munich after graduating from school and asked me in 1994 to do a comedy show with him. So I had to write my first skits and had a great time doing so. Some of the stuff is still pretty funny. Then Max introduced me to a TV producer who hired me for a comedy show as a writer. But I have to admit that it took me another, well, at least seven years to call myself that.

Have you always wanted to do this, or did it rather happen by chance? Or let me ask the other way round: Have your ever considered an “ordinary” profession such as clerk, baker or teacher?

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“I fell in love almost immediately”

Neil Dixon
Neil Dixon

Please tell us something about you: Who are you, what is your profession and what are you working on?

For the day-job, I have been a web developer since the late 1990s, sometimes freelance, other times employed. I am based in the North Cornwall coast in the UK, while my current main work focus is based in Los Angeles. This makes for some interesting—and many long—evenings.

The rest of my time is split between two main projects. Firstly, what I aim to become my main activity next year: art. I began working life as an illustrator in publishing and retail, but found a more technical side as computers took over from imagesetters and airbrushes (yes, I am that old). I am long overdue getting back to my core creative pursuits as something more than a pastime. Earlier this year I was accepted as an associate member of the Society for Graphic Fine arts, which is a valuable validation of my drawing skills.

Secondly, writing. From short stories in horror and speculative fiction, to novels and in particular a thriller series set in 1902 London. Far too many in-progress or planned, all too few ready for publishing. In addition I write intermittently to several blogs, both personal and business-focused.

When time and weather allows, I am either walking my large scent-hound, Jasper, cycling the far-too-hilly country roads around home, and when the Atlantic is in a temperate mood, bodyboarding in the surf.

"The Line" graphite, pencil on Canson
“The Line” graphite, pencil on Canson

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“The moment when I fell on my knees was the very moment that changed my life.”

Janice Jakait made the headlines in 2012, because she was the first German woman to cross the Atlantic ocean in a row boat. After coming back she wrote a book about her experiences: “Tosende Stille” (“Roaring Silence”, available in German only).

Janice in her boat, shortly before arriving in Barbados, February 12, 2012
Janice in her boat, shortly before arriving in Barbados, February 12, 2012

The blog you wrote during this adventure is called “Row for Silence”. What does this refer to?

When I rowed alone across this ocean – just two oars, no sail, no motor – I was aiming for more silence. More silence in my head and more silence beneath the ocean’s surface. Together with the swiss organization OceanCare, we tried to raise awareness for the dramatic impacts of man-made ocean noise pollution, which results in the death of countless sea dwellers. 

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Why Plain Text Will Boost Your Productivity as a Writer

Plain Text Producitivity

Plain text writing may sound like a complicated concept to someone who grew up with text processors. But it is actually what writers did before text processors even existed: sit down in front of a typewriter and type words. When preparing for print, the text of a manuscript was then marked up by hand to indicate what typeface, style, size etc. should be applied by the typesetter.

When text processors first were invented, they seemed to considerably empower writers, who were now able to format their texts right away. Over the years, these programs constantly evolved and gained more and more functionality. The problem is that meanwhile their original purpose faded into the background: writing.

Authors can choose to return to WordStar – which was the was the very first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor – to escape the bloat of modern text processors. Or they can write plain text.

The concept of writing in plain text gained many fans with the rise of blogging, but I think many of its benefits apply to any kind of writing. Here are some ways how plain text writing can help to boost your productivity.

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Writing a Novel With Ulysses, Reloaded

Writing a Novel With Ulysses

Yes, we’re a little proud that bestselling author David Hewson is a loyal user of Ulysses – and we’re still very pleased that he wrote a book about it. “Writing a Novel With Ulysses” was now completely overhauled and revised for Ulysses 2.0, and we’re taking this occasion to recommend it by heart.

David illuminates Ulysses’ approach to writing and offers assistance in making use of its features, based on his own routine as a highly productive author. Writers who are just discovering Ulysses for their work will find it especially helpful, advanced users are likely to find inspiration in it as well. The explicitly non-technical perspective and the conversational tone make it a joy to read. What else could you expect?

David Hewson The updated edition of “Writing a Novel With Ulysses” is now available for Kindle, iBooks and Nook. For existing readers the update is free. For more information please pay a visit to David Hewson’s blog.

The British author David Hewson has published more than 20 mystery novels and several guidebooks for aspiring authors. His work has been translated into more than 25 languages and his latest series, set in Amsterdam and launched with The House of Dolls, is in development for Dutch TV. Also, read our interview with David here.

“I Had to Learn to Really Love Writing”

Niko Formanek quit his job as a PR executive to become a stand-up comedian. Joking about his family life is now what he does for a living. In our interview he talks about how he got there, the up- and downsides of the funniest job in the world, and why for him Ulysses offers a close-to-perfect writing environment.

Niko Formanek
The Austrian comedian Niko Formanek, performing at a show. At the time of publishing this interview he is on board of the cruiseliner AIDA, making its passengers laugh.

Comedian is a rather exceptional profession. How did you become one?

Pretty late. I began my career on stage at the tender age of 44. Before that I had been working in many other fields. After studying communications in the US, I worked in politics, managing parliamentary and presidential election campaigns in Austria. Then I got into public relations and was Vice President of Communications for Bertelsmann, a German media giant. When my wife and I had children, I started my first own company trying to be part of the online gold rush. Well, I did not make millions. But the project turned into a rather large photo agency which I sold to the Austrian Press Agency. Then I felt the urge to do something completely different: become a stand-up comedian.

“I began my career on stage at the tender age of 44.”

Since my college days I have been an avid fan of stand-up comedy. So I started couple of satirical side projects. One of them was an Austrian satirical website, similar to the US magazine The Onion. It ended up with more than 12 indictments, two police searches in my home as well as fines and court costs adding up to more than 180,000 Euros. Yes, Austria has a limited concept of free speech.

Anyway, at some point I just had this crazy idea of doing comedy on stage. So I took a seminar in Germany and invited myself to a comedy club in Hamburg. After returning to Vienna I set up a new company called gagster comedy AG and started a regular comedy show. Today I am still hosting our comedy club style show all over Austria and also in Germany. We represent major artists in Austria, and I have managed to get a “comedy career” going for myself. Last year I reduced my involvement in the company to focus more on my career as performing comedian.

On stage I perform regularly and mainly in Germany, either as guest or host in big comedy shows and on cruises, or I do my solo show.

Are there specific topics you especially like to joke about?

Yes. I will turn 50 this year, I have been together with my wife for 30 years, and we have a daughter (17) and a son (13). This is my topic, or rather theme: all these minor or major catastrophes and the craziness of family life. This is where my jokes and stories come from. My feeble attempts to be cool in the eyes of the new boyfriend of my daughter, the inspiring efforts my wife and I went through to have some kind of sex life after having kids. Or when my son’s teacher explained that my son was smart but lazy, and I jokingly replied: “No, he is just dumb and stupid. Just like me. I am happy if he remembers his name in the morning.” This was prompted by a text message of the teacher to my wife saying our family should go to therapy. My wife was not happy. I am actually a very lucky guy, because my wife and my family have not abandoned me yet, although I repeatedly broadcast private and embarrassing matters on stage.

“I am actually lucky that my wife has not left me yet.”

People who come to my shows often are or have been in similar situations, confounded by the challenges of family life. They’re pleased that there is someone on the stage complaining and joking about those things, so they don’t have to do it themselves. I am acting the lovable fool for all of them.

Could you give us some insight into the daily routine of a comedian?

Of course we don’t work all alike, although there may be some similarities. First off, it is not a hard life. Yes, we nurture the image of a struggling, hard-working creative genius, but this doesn’t reflect my daily routine. And I suspect there are more like me out there in the comedy world.

Niko Formanek

Basically we split our lives in two. There is the time on tour, which is exactly as one would expect according to the cliché. Travelling by train, plane and ship. Hotels which merit this name, and hotels which must have had some other purpose in life or already committed suicide. We do our shows, go to bed late at night and get up when the housekeeping staff runs the vacuum against the door to dislodge the Please Do Not Disturb sign. If we are not on stage, we try to catch up on sleep in trains, cars or planes, try to eat one healthy meal per week and, if possible, think and write up some new material.

When I am not traveling I am at home being a good husband. I try not to get up too late, giving at least the impression of being productive while my wife is working hard and successfully on her career. So I do the dishes, the laundry and the other household chores I am authorized to do according to my wife.

“The comedy lifestyle has its downsides, but I have never had a better job.”

Obviously, the most important thing for a comedian is to think up a couple of funny things and write them down. This works just like any other job in the world. You have to do it every day, relentlessly – and if you are lucky, one in ten ideas will have some kind of comedic potential. I try to get a “regular-job” feeling by doing my writing in the national library, away from home. I go there like to an office, turn off all connections to the outside world, and try to force myself to write. At least two hours a day, sometimes up to four. Honestly, most things I write are not exactly stage material. But if you don’t do those, you’ll never get to the good stuff.

I have worked in “real jobs” for many years, and I don’t want them back. The comedy-lifestyle has its downsides just as anything, but I have never had a better and more fun job in my life.

Are you funny in private life, too? Do friends and family expect you to joke around?

It depends. My wife and kids do not expect me to be funny – they fear it. Friends and other people do, but that is what people expect comedians to be. I am often baffled to meet colleagues who are hilarious on stage, full of life and energy, but seemingly turn into a completely different person as soon as they get off stage.

“My family does not
expect me to be funny – they fear it.”

For me there is no difference. I am the same Niko on and off stage. Yes, I take the risk to embarass or even annoy my family and friends with a stupid joke. But every good joke is worth it, and they know me. Though I am afraid not everyone finds me funny when I try to be. I can only hope they do – and count on goodwill if they don’t.

Which role does writing play in a comedian’s life? Do you write a lot and do you like to write?

It is impossible to overstate the importance of writing if one wants to do this job. Ideally, you would write like a maniac. The first thing after waking up should be writing. Before coffee, before breakfast, before going to the loo. Before your daily life starts, you should already have written for at least 15 minutes. And it is not important what you write. Just do it.

I wish I had always written as much as I should have. But it took me more than three years to really get rolling. I do write every day, minimum 30 minutes, but usually more than two hours. I had to train myself to be able to do this. And I needed to find the right tools.

“I wish I had written more. It took me more than three years to really get rolling.”

I have never written by hand, since I cannot read my own handwriting. I possess an impressive collection of notebooks, keyboards and tablets. Honestly, I expected each new toy to propel me into a new writing paradise. Well, it took a while, but now I have found my perfect setup: an iPad Air with a Logitech Ultraslim Keyboard. I use it everywhere, and this portability has greatly increased my output und ultimately made me more productive.

Yes, I like to write. But I had to learn to really love it.

Niko Formanek

Could you describe what you use Ulysses for?

I use Ulysses for almost every word I type. I do my notes in there, my books, my ideas, my ranting, my freeform writing in the morning. Everything. I have been using many apps over the past years. On Mac and on iPad. And there is great software out there. But after discovering Ulysses via the web I have gotten very close to a perfect writing setup.

Why did you choose Ulysses? What are the benefits of Ulysses for your kind of writing?

Before I had different apps for different projects: Day One on iPad for random thoughts and ideas, iA Writer to write up material and jokes, Scrivener on the Mac for complete shows and books. Yes, it worked and the world was okay, but not perfect.

“With Ulysses, all I have
to do is to take a sheet
and create.”

I have always been looking for the one and only solution for all my writing, no matter on what platform or hardware I am on. With Ulysses, I found it. Its biggest benefit? I don’t have to think about my setup. I write if, when and where I want. And lo and behold, I am able to find and retrieve the things I wrote, no matter where I am or what machine I use. I do not have to think about saving a file, where I have saved it to, how to get it from iPad to Mac or to convert it into a PDF or an e-book. No problem, Ulysses does it. All I have to do is to take a sheet and create.

Congrats, Wrimos! And Thanks for Writing Your Novel With Ulysses!

Congratulations to all succeeding NaNoWriMo participants! The writing feast is over, and for many writers it was a great leap forward towards the fulfilment of a dream: writing a novel, and in the best of cases publishing it and even finding a glowing readership.

Attained Writing Goals

2014’s NaNoWriMo was special for us, because it was the first time we supported this event as sponsor. It was exciting, not only because we were in good company of well-established applications such as Scrivener and Storyist. Would novelists make use of our offer to give Ulysse a try? Would they like working with it?

“My writing production
has increased. It’s a
pleasure to use.”

We have always thought of Ulysses as an application for writing all sorts of texts, not only novels. Because, honestly, least of us do write novels all the time – but a great deal of less eminent texts, such as blog posts, diaries, love letters. We want Ulysses to be a place – although a virtual one – where writers love to go to every day and feel at home.

A prominent Ulysses user: mystery author David Hewson. He published a book about the app.
A prominent Ulysses user: mystery author David Hewson.
He published a book about the app.
“3k words in and already loving this one. It’s my new favorite place to write!”

So, did writers like working with Ulysses? Quite a few novelists downloaded our dedicated trial version, and from their feedback we take that they liked it! The success of our first NaNoWriMo as sponsor confirms that Ulysses is well suited for novel writing. So does David Hewson, whose book inspired many Wrimos to give Ulysses a whirl or, if they already have been working with the app, to use it for novel writing for the first time.

Tweet Robert W. Boyer
Robert W. Boyer wrote his NaNoWriMo 2014 novel with Ulysses.
“Ulysses occupies that space between too sparse and too much!”

We also got a lot of positive responses by writers commending Ulysses’ focus on the essentials and reporting how they benefit in terms of concentration and productivity. Thanks for your nice words, we appreciate them a lot. And for your suggestions, too – they are going to help us make Ulysses even better.

Thanks to anyone who wrote her or his novel with Ulysses, and congratulations to all NaNoWriMo winners! If you want to make Ulysses your permanent writing environment, you can buy it on the Mac App Store.

The Secret of Winning NaNoWriMo: “Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard”

Tweet Robert W. Boyer

Robert W. Boyer Was Possibly the First to Win NaNoWriMo 2014

On November 17, 2014 you hit the 50,000 words goal for this year’s NaNoWriMo. We know, because you used Ulysses’ goal feature to share your word count. Many writers are struggling to get there by November 30, if they succeed at all. How did you do it?

I’ve toyed with the idea of committing to NaNoWriMo the past few years, but I’m scared of commitment. When I make one I keep it, damn the torpedoes, never mind the collateral damage. This year I decided to commit.

Short answer is butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Don’t wait for a good day, or a mood, just start typing, even when it feels horrid, even when your voice sounds lousy in your own head, just start moving.

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“Ulysses Most Beautiful Feature Is Its Willingness to Get Out of the Way”

Novelists, journalists, academics, screenwriters – all kinds of authors are using Ulysses for their writing. We asked some of them to share their story. In this post, Patrick Pittman explains why for him Ulysses is the perfect place to “just write”.

Patrick Pittman
Patrick Pittman, Photo: James Horan

Which role does writing play in your professional life? What are you writing and how much?

I’m an editor, journalist, playwright, sometime fiction writer, sometime writer for hire. I freelance for various international magazines, writing everything from political briefings to longform features. I also do radio work of the sort that requires scripting. In the evenings, I’m writing the more fun kinds of things that don’t pay anything of note, but that I enjoy the most. Fiction. Love letters. Idle musings. Plans for projects that may or may not ever come to fruition.

Let’s just say, making words on the screen is most of my life, interspersed with flying all over the place to record other people’s words, and propping up bars scribbling notes.

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Out Now: “Writing a Novel with Ulysses”

Bestselling author David Hewson’s new book is now available for Kindle, iBooks and Nook.

During the past few years David Hewson sent us an email every now and then. Usually, they were about support questions: The British author is a long-term observer of the market for writing software, and he also bought and tested the two precedent versions of the current Ulysses. But only the latter was finally able to convince him.

Mail by David Hewson

Another email that also came in August was rather surprising: He approached us with the proposal to write a book about Ulysses. Needless to say that we were particularly pleased. David is a renowned author, writing makes for a great part of his daily routine, after all he is making a living of it. It is an honor and a recognition of our work that a professional writer like him counts on Ulysses and even shares his insights and experiences in a book.

David Hewson

David’s mystery novels are read by millions of people all over the world. As a master of his trade, he also passed on his knowledge in several succesful guidebooks to aspiring authors. “Writing a Novel With Ulysses III” is the latest and now available for purchase. It is helpful to get a grasp of Ulysses’ approach to writing and its particular benefits for fiction authors. As suggested by its title, the book offers hands-on advice to get out the most of Ulysses for novel writing. The way Hewson approaches that specific task might even deliver some inspiration to those who consider themselves advanced users of the app.

Cover Writing a Novel With Ulysses

The time of the release is about right for the book to assist one or the other NaNoWriMo writer reaching the 50.000 words goal. This year, we are sponsoring NaNoWriMo, and if you’re interested you can get a free preview sample of David’s book on our dedicated page.

“Writing a Novel With Ulysses” is now available on Kindle, iBooks and Nook. Look in your territory store, or follow these links for Amazon US, Amazon UK, iBooks, Nook.