Every month, I post a story for The Pictonaut Challenge – a writing challenge set up to inspire people to stop procrastinating and make a story happen. But Pictonaut is far from the only scheme of this sort – writers, it seems, are a lazy bunch and they need all the help they can get. One similar scheme is Write in for Writing’s Sake, a website that posts a new topic once a week to get the creative juices flowing. I spoke to site editor Laura to learn more.
My name is Laura and I live in Glasgow with too many books, one kakariki, two chinchillas, one goldfish and a very patient partner!
I wish I could take the credit for setting up the site, but it was actually a gent called Aaron Gow who is based down in Manchester. Aaron and some friends were emailing pieces of writing to each other and passing on feedback, he decided to build on it, and Write in for Writing’s Sake was born.
Over time, he came up with the beautifully simple idea of a stimulus comprised of a word or phrase, an image and a music playlist. As the words have become more niche I had to lose the playlist aspect of WifWS, but it’s something I would consider bringing back. Could someone write a song with the word ‘gasconade’ in it, please?
The site started in 2009. One of my friends contributed to WifWS, which is how I found out about it in early 2010. I had submitted some little pieces of writing and rather liked the aim of WifWS: providing deadlines for lazy writers (like me). In November 2010 Aaron announced that, due to other commitments, he was no longer able to run the site. I had just finished my Masters, was working at a boring part time job and had got back into writing again. On a spur of the moment decision, I emailed him and offered to take over. Since then, I’ve never looked back!
It is very easy for someone to say “I’m a writer,” what is much tougher is sitting down and actually putting pen to paper. Writing is seen as a very self-indulgent activity in our society which can make it difficult to make that commitment. I still find it hard to justify the time to write when hoovering needs done.
Writing can be an isolating activity as well. Writers can collaborate on projects but it needs to be you, the individual, that starts making all those little marks on a notepad with a pen. That’s why I really enjoying working on WifWS. When I read people’s submissions I feel like I’m part of a larger writing community.
A good opening line, pacing and character development always seems to hit my buttons. I would urge any new writers to read the magnificent On Writing by Stephen King. It’s part memoir, part writing manual and is better than some of the writing classes I’ve attended!
I quite enjoy collecting words. Sometimes an unusual word crops up when I’m reading and I add it to my collection. I also subscribe to some ‘word a day’ mailing lists which can help me along the road. Then I head over to Flickr and search for images that relate to the word I’ve chosen for that topic. I try and create posts a month in advance so it can be a nice surprise when a word pops up that I have completely forgotten about!
One of the pros of the site is that writers get the chance for their work to be seen by a worldwide audience. The majority of WifWS’s visitors come from the UK but we’ve had visitors from the United States of America, Australia, Ireland, Thailand and Argentina. Also, it’s easier to give feedback to writers online than it is in the printed medium. Feedback is instant, rather than getting printed feedback three months later. Speaking from a management perspective, it’s easier to manage submissions electronically. I can sit in the comfort of my own living room, mug of tea in hand, kakariki squawking in the corner, working away at the site.
So far I haven’t found any cons in WifWS as an online adventure. Some contributors to the site mix up their writing settings. For instance, I sometimes write in a little notebook lying in bed, with the duvet tucked around my feet. Sometimes I go to one a local cafes with my laptop. Other times I make notes using my iTouch. For those who suffer from internet procrastination, I’ve found tools such as Write Or Die or the Stay Focusd app for Chrome extremely useful.
I can be a bit picky about word counts. If a submission rocks in well over the 3, 000 word limit, I do ask contributors if they can trim it down. This is for a couple of reasons. Writing magazines, journals, other writing websites – all of them have a set word limit so it helps contributors get used to writing to those specifications. Also, I feel it helps people tighten up their writing. I’m quite guilty of writing pages and pages of prose that doesn’t really go anywhere. People are not going to read that style of reading.
Grammar is important too. It acts as a calling card, a way of introducing yourself to the reader. I do some minor editing of submissions, such as the odd missing full stop here and there. Checking your grammar and structure is another good habit for the writer to get into. Poor grammar makes the reader think ‘You haven’t bothered to proof read this. Why should I bother to read it?’ Now I’m getting worried about all the flame emails telling me that my grammar skills are appalling!
I like the idea of discovering a new piece of writing that makes me sit up and go ‘Wow!’ I’m a greedy reader, always on the hunt for something new to feast my eyes on. Plus I think contributors get a little thrill out of seeing their name in print. I know I certainly do. I try and give feedback on every piece of writing that hits my inbox, even if it’s just to say ‘I really enjoyed reading that.’ Writing is like running – the more you do it, the better you get. I’ve seen some great improvements in people’s writing style since they started using WifWS. That makes me quietly content.