Monday, June 25, 2007

A Reactive Writer

I've had a semi-epiphany in recent days/weeks/months. I'm a "reactive" writer. I've spent many years in online posting with the vast majority of such posts in response to others. In any online mailing list, web-based BBS forum or Usenet newsgroup, I have rarely started new threads, but have often responded to others' posts. I haven't looked statistically, but no doubt the average poster has a higher thread-starting-posts to responding-posts ratio than I do.

The number of posts I've made on the AbsoluteWrite forums since registering there last December approaches 900. The amount of time I've spent writing fiction (what I joined there to learn to do) is probably between one and four percent of the time writing posts. That doesn't count reading other posts, which I do a lot of also.

I've been writing this way online for decades, by having back-and-forth "discussions" with others online (my first online forum/discussion board experience was in 1977). The Flash Fiction pieces I've written in recent months all start with the hosts posting a "prompt" that varies from one to five words or so on which a story is to be based, and I've usually been able to write something around those prompts. But writing on a blog, or especially into a word processor document where I need to do significant writing. yet no one will see it for a while. seems a little scary to me. I'm not sure where I'm going or if I'm "doing it right." . And especially on a blog, I've got this set up to where anyone can read it. Well, not my mother. She doesn't know anything about the Internet, or really anything that's not covered on hard-hitting news shows such as Entertainment Tonight.

I was prompted to write this very blog just a few minutes ago by seeing myself mentioned on someone else's blog. I just went to my first-ever meeting of a face-to-face "writer's group" last night, and met three really nice people, all of which have written a lot more (fiction) than I have. For another account of it, check out
Dominic's blog entry for today. I did think sometime while driving to/from the meeting last night of writing this and the title "A Reactive Writer" but I don't think I would have actually written this (at least not today) had I not seen Dominic's blog.

But I heard again last night what I'd read several times before about writing, "just write." It (allegedly!) doesn't matter how good or bad it is, one's writing (supposedly!) gets better with practice. I mentioned last night that I wanted to write a novel (and certainly longer works than the Flash Fiction pieces), and so I was "assigned" to start on something and write ten pages before the next meeting. There, I've written my assignment here.

I've read a lot about having "butt in chair" time typing away, and I've had a lot of that, but it's been writing message posts, not actual attempts at writing fiction or other works written with an eventual eye toward publication. As for those "other works," I also want to write a bio/memoir.

I really need to "prompt" myself.


Cheryl said...

You know, I use prompts a lot, too. I'll check out upcoming themes on and brainstorm things to write based on what's being looked for.

The biggest block for me is also the 'doing it right' thing. That's why I can't write that script. I'm not familiar enough with the form (and by form, I'm not just talking about format, but what needs to be included and what shouldn't be included), so I've spent a better part of the month reading scripts, reading websites about screenwriting, and not really doing much writing of my own.

One thing I used to do was keep an IDEA notebook. I'd sit down with it for ten minutes or so every day and just write down ideas. Just whatever came to mind: Someone is decapitating all the neighborhood snowmen./ All the children on the block disappear overnight.

Just whatever popped into my head. It was a great exercise, one I should go back to.

Dacula Dom said...


Prompting yourself is different for everyone. One technique that I use sometimes is I will look for three items and try to figure out how they would play a role in a story. This makes for some interesting stories, to be sure.

As for the writing makes writing better, it sounds like a paradox, but it is true. I thing most of it is because it makes us want to go out and figure out if we did it right. Then we come back with our new information and realize that we were doing it wrong so we correct it. At least that's how it goes for me.

At any rate, the bottom line is as long as you are writing, you have a chance to improve. Just like anything else in life, it's only finished when we give up on it.

Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

I was just thinking (having only stumbled upon your blog thanks to Absolute Write a few minutes ago) that it seemed lonely here. I guess this is why.

I've found, when it comes to blogging it's important to set myself a blogging schedule. The Writer's Round-About for example is updated three times a week, Tuesdays are Book Review days and Thursdays and Saturdays are regular entries.

I've also taken to using Google Calendar so I can plan ahead with specific titles and I have a notepad (electronic) where I scrawl swift idea notes and links to articles, blog entries or forum threads that are jumping off points for a blog post.

In a way this is like combining prompts with deadlines. I need both to write but there is no reason you can't give yourself both and develop the habit of sticking to it.

Rhonda said...

You should spend more time on this blog. I found your ramblings to be interesting and because I'm writing my memoir, I would highly encourage others to do the same. I can't w82 read more, so get back on here and post those reviews you put on AW, for ex.!! p.s. I blogrolled you too - hope that's ok.

benbradley said...

Hi folks, thanks for all the comments, especially Rebecca and Rhonda, I absolutely need my rear end kicked, add more blog entries and such. I read "Page by Page" as reviewed on Rebecca's blog, I found it intersting and inspiring, and I really should go back through it and do the exercises...

I'm still trying to get comfortable with the idea that people would enjoy reading my "published" writings, such as on a blog. Whip me with a wet noodle, make me write bad checks, or just make me write...

liss n kids said...

I did read your blog, all of it! I just started my blog a couple of months ago, and I know what you mean about spending a lot of time writing but needing a little kick in the pants to get it out. My blog has been a way to get the ink flowing, so to speak (or the little bits of code, I suppose). Personally, I can't put myself on a schedule (fiction Fridays, wordless Wednesdays, etc.), but it is my goal to blog daily, as long as I'm in town.

I used to have a book called The Writer's Book of Days that was full of some really good prompts and mini-assignments. As a writer, using those as a jumping off point helped. There are lots of sites online that do the same thing, of course. The Duotropes themes thing is great, too, 'cause then you're looking at a publication option.