How blogs, fanfics, and message boards made me a better writer

PictureI am aware of how silly it sounds to say that posting online or writing romance fanfiction about my favorite characters has made me a better writer. After all, E. L. James wrote Fifty Shades of Grey as a fanfic based off of the Twilight series, and you’d be surprised to find many literary scholars who advocate for James as a “good” writer.

The truth is most of the fanfics we write should never see the light of day. But that doesn’t mean that writing them isn’t fundamental to our development. The ability to portray other people’s characters is an excellent way to exercise your writing skills.

I started out my writing career as a hopeful prepubescent child with no concept of literature other than what I had read in books. A friend of mine and I decided that the stories we read had more potential than what was on the page, and we began what I consider to be the most essential fuel to my fire: roleplaying. At recess, we would sit and write a line each of the story to each other, often focusing on one or two characters that we wanted to portray from our favorite stories. That grew into a story of our own, and from that, we discovered message boards. Message boards are used regularly for those that want to come together to write a collective story. The website is usually laid out by locations within the story and you post a message wherever your particular character is. You most often are asked to write in third person limited, past tense, and you only portray the character that you have chosen. Your character operates within this realm of locations and around other members that participate in the whole plot. All of this is the creative writing past-time called roleplaying.

When I was roleplaying on message boards, I was writing thousands of words a day. Anyone who writes knows that it’s difficult sometimes to even churn out 100 good, polished words of story in one day. But because other people were contributing to the plot and the story, because I was forced to think fast in situations I had only some control over, and because I was obligated to respond to a post I had become a part of, I was writing like the world was going to end tomorrow. And I never had more muse than during this period of my life.

By time high school came around, I no longer had free time to spend writing on message boards. My inspiration suffered, among many other things that suffer when you learn to become a functioning adult. I almost never wrote, and I was miserable. I asked myself, what happened to the fire of my youth? I wasn’t very old. Why was the flame of my inspiration burning out so soon?

I realized that I wasn’t feeding my creative soul anymore. And yes, I know that also sounds ridiculous. But I wasn’t. I was limiting myself to my homework and my jobs. I wasn’t allowing my mind to flow free anymore, and I didn’t have an outlet where I could get the feedback I needed.

So that’s just it: I needed feedback. I needed a community of writers who were as dedicated to the craft as I was.

It was time to get serious about my writing. And that’s where Devise Literary came from. By writing about writing, reaching out to the writing community, and providing an outlet for other writers to share their opinions and allow their minds to grow, I have opened the flood gates back up.

Maybe Faulkner didn’t have the internet at his disposal to reach out to other writers. But we do, and I intend to take full advantage of it.

I would say that message boards, fanfics, and blogs were absolutely necessary for myself to become a more disciplined and prolific writer.

There is this thing called prose poetry

I recently wrote a prose poem call “Tampa Raised You Up”, and it began like this:

You come to me on the 5:36 Tampa plane, suckled dry by sand and salt. You’re a husk of a boy, face drawn back across your skull after a stint as a homeless man. You’re a true criminal with beating hearts and shells in your pocket, stealing reminders of home. A second home, a third home, a never home, because I’m all you have now.

You first question is likely: what makes this a poem if it has no lines?

Well, if I am writing well, a prose poem will have poetic elements that travel to the edge of the page and only break lines when there is no more space at this proverbial end. So a prose poem is like this conglomerate of poetry and prose, as the name suggests.

Among scholarly people who sit around with monocles discussing the elements of poetry before a hearth, there is an argument:

Is prose poetry an actual thing?

What do you think?

 

OMG, HOW THE HELL DO I REVISE?!

Firstly, revising is not editing.

Secondly, revising means you must forgo your ego. Untie it, let it slip away like a stray balloon.

Thirdly, revising doesn’t mean making minor, syntactic changes.

Now, I can go on and on about what revising is for hours. But instead I’m going to share with you steps to help you revise. This will mean being truly critical of your work.

How to revise:

1. Print your work. Having paper makes it easier to see where your changes are being made and how your work functions on a printed page.

2. Have a pen – or pencil if you’re really that particular. It doesn’t matter what color.

3. Read your first sentence. Are you bored? Keep reading. Find the place that is the most interesting to you. That might be where your work really needs to begin.

4. Now read the ending. Do you resolve what you meant to resolve in the beginning?

5. Decide what your goal is. Is this a poem? Is this a short piece of fiction? Is this an essay? Each of these forms of writing require different approaches. Knowing the direction you need to go can help you organize your work accordingly.

6. Now read your whole piece without making any marks. Does it make sense?

7. Go back and read. This time actually make marks. Don’t be afraid to cross out whole paragraphs if they don’t work. Number the lines or paragraphs in the order they make the most sense. You can even cut up sections and rearrange them manually.

8. Take out unnecessary words and phrases that fluff up your language but don’t contribute to your work. These are the words that can make a sentence more complicated than it needs to be. We need to understand you to know how smart you are.

9. Make sure every word you are not familiar with means what it is supposed to in the context you use it.

10. Rewrite your work without looking at it. What is similar? What isn’t? What were you missing before?

Tips:

1. Being a part of a workshop forces you to examine the elements of good writing. You have to decide why something does or does not work. It requires work.

2. A fresh pair of eyes is a godsend. Anyone willing to read your work is your best friend.

3. Relax. You can’t get around revising. So take a drink and start tearing your work apart. The best writers are the ones most critical of their own work.

4. Don’t be overly critical or you will lose your momentum for the project.

5. Breathe!