Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: Learning to Write

Writer and game designer Will Hindmarch is an occasional contributor to WWdN and constant mooncalf. In a good way.

When the writing is tough, I doubt a lot of my words and think hard about whether I really know what I’m doing or not. Where do I get the nerve to try to be heard or read?

As David Simon once put it, who died and made me Storyteller?

Thinking back to some of the lessons I’ve learned as a writer and narrative designer, I think about all the hours I’ve logged — through doubt and confidence, pain and passion — writing things I thought I might not be able to write. A lot of my knowledge was given to me by teachers and mentors but I think maybe none of it really made sense until I dared to fulfill or defy the lessons given unto me. I could train and train but only while I was writing did the full substance of the lessons make sense to me.

When the student is ready, the blank page shall appear.

It takes many forms. I’ve logged a gazillion hours telling collaborative stories through tabletop RPGs, which are a great way to learn adaptation, improvisation, and quick development of ideas as they happen. It’s a great medium for learning — you can imagine how excited I am by the prospect of a tabletop RPG show from my friend, games master Wil Wheaton. (So do fund the hell out of that, if you please.) We can all glean lessons from that kind of play.

Combine the experience points I’ve earned from RPGs with the  time I spent in the authorial batting cages of Ficlets (where I got to write stories in tandem with Wil) and you get my newest game design, which itself combines narrative gaming with actual writing.

That’s Storium.

Storium is my effort to cultivate and give back some of the lessons and inspiration I learned as a student, as a gamer, and as a professional writer. I want to make a community where we write for fun, earning our writerly experience points through collaborative storytelling online with a bit of a gamey layer to provoke and inspire us. Storium makes it easier to face the blank page. Together, through play, we can level up our skills.

Through the Storium funding campaign’s new educational milestone, we’ll be able to build something that flexibly and interactively helps all of us players explore new narratives, new worlds, and new points of view.

No lesson in writing can substitute for actual time spent writing and reading. Our goal for Storium is to make storytelling — including writing and reading — more social, more playful, and powerful in unique ways. It’s by writing that the lessons become real.

So who made me Storyteller? I did. I had help from friends like Wil, who encouraged me when I was adrift, but it was playing games and writing stories that made me a writer.

Who makes you Storyteller? You do. You are. Go play.


6 thoughts on “Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: Learning to Write”

  1. When you say “storytelling”, do you mean long chapter books or short prose or short stories? Or, any writing project? I struggle with pre-writing and pre-planning. I hate it. With a passion. I made it through college by writing my assignment (reports, journals, what ever) at the last minute. Well, not quite the last minute, but i think you get my gist. While I hate writing to produce looong pieces, I absolutely looove short stories. Even better, quick writes for 1000 words or less. With a deadline. My struggle there is topical. I draw blanks on what to write about. Give me a sentence starter and I’m off and running. I wrote a short story horror piece in high school that was revealed to be an violent, over-producing spewing electric popcorn maker. Now that type of project? I’m hooked. The work you guys put into bigger pieces leaves me with a profound sense of respect for the tenacity at which you are able to finish a piece regardless of how long it takes. I will never produce such a piece as respectable as yours, but i commend those of you who are able to see it through to the end!!!

    1. Writing is a skill, which means all that stuff you’re not good at yet? You can get good at it. It’s not always easy — and it might not be worth it if you can make it on the stuff that suits your inherent style — but I’m a big believer in learning lots of forms and techniques for the page. I’m good at a few forms of writing that aren’t easy for me. I think we too often correlate what’s easy with where our talents are strongest.

      Put another way, do not stop! :)

  2. Beta backer here! Haven’t really played yet, but looking forward to seeing what’s out there.

  3. Also, I love this:

    “So who made me Storyteller? I did.”

    So true. I’ve recently fallen off the writing wagon and the Voice of Self Doubt is loud lately, so I’m hoping to dust off the skills with Storium. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks for making us a place to play.

  4. Thank you for the outstanding blog post about writing. It’s a struggle every day to be the Storyteller but so worth it. (and just explored and backed your Storium kickstarter for me and my storytelling friends. Super excited!)

  5. This comment is so late that you might never see it–I’m very, very far behind on my RSS feed–but I just wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying Storium. A friend backed the Kickstarter and convinced me to play and it’s been so much fun. We’re currently wandering around a jungle somewhere–I’m holding a mysterious crystal that must be good for something! But we’re also already talking about what our next stories will be–space? super-heroes? a sedate murder mystery? It’s the first time I’ve ever collaborated with other people like this and it’s so entertaining. Thank you for creating it!

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