MeFi Writers Group? June 2, 2006 10:56 PM   Subscribe

This fun and useful thread made me think about how many great writers participate here. Some of us are published authors; some are unpublished (but great) wordsmiths. I've learned many things about writing from Metafilter members, and I admire the care with which they construct their clear, evocative prose.

Would anyone be interested in forming some soft of MeFi Writers Group? I have no idea what form it would take, but I though we could toss the idea around and see if it lands anywhere specific.
posted by grumblebee to MetaFilter-Related at 10:56 PM (57 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Only if it involves bashing Maya Angelou.
posted by gsteff at 11:36 PM on June 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Revision by hive mind.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:45 PM on June 2, 2006

We believe this is a good idea.
posted by Cycloptichorn at 11:48 PM on June 2, 2006

Will there be snacks?

What will said Mefi writer's groupd DO? Where will it go? Does the internet need ANOTHER writing group? Pehaps just invite Mefites over to an outside writer's group?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:46 AM on June 3, 2006

Sitting in the cafe, I could sense my laptop's batteries growing week. The angry eyes of the staff were upon me, but also upon the clock. I finished the coffee in my cup and raised it high in the air, motioning for a refill. I lit another cigarette to pass the time. The smoke slid roughly down my throat like a tired lover, both grown familiar and worn by time.

The pale glow of the moniter flickered at me imperceptibly. But I could feel it in my bones. And there was the cursor, ever blinking, ever asking: "What next?" And that was the question, indeed. My answer? You got me; I didn't know, man. The waitress brought the carafe to my table and slammed it down. I looked to her lithe body for inspiration, but I guess I looked to hard becaue she spun on me and shot me a look. It looked like she was weighing her need for her job against a desire to slap me. I can't say I blame her. You're a creep til your famous, till you've made it. Than everyone wants to know you, everyone wants a peace of you til you're torn down. But no one wants to help you get to the top; they never build you up.

So I break eye contact and start to whistle "Build Me Up, Buttercup." The waitress finaly gives up and stalks away, and I can see her fuming under her breath about me. I pay no attention as she tenderes her complaint to the nite manager. Now the manger is scowling at me too but I pay no mind. I've still got this blank screen stareing at me, and I've got to formulate some sort of reply. So I take the final drag off my cigarette, stub it out, and sip my coffee. It's lukewarm; the songs of biches didn't even bother to warm it up for me. I oughta get outta here before they calls the cops. But first, my answer.

I closed my eyes and visualized the screen filling up with text. I can do this. I know I can. And so, eyes still closed, I type out my reply to MetaTalk thread #12,000. It's a simple reply, three letters comprising: "Yes." I open my eyes and stare at my handiwork, the reply it has taken me 14 tortured hours of subjecting my body to caffeiene and nicotine poisoning, enduring stares from all quarters and silent, unblinking criticism. I feel a breath on the back of my neck, and it's the janitor of the place, reading over my shoulder.

I turn to face him, a fresh cigarette, the last of the pack, slightly crushed and maimed hanging from the corner of my mouth, to hear him say, "You know, you really are a shitty writer." And at that moment, my batteries die, before I can click the "post" button, sweeping away all my efforts as callously as the janitor was now sweeping the area around my table. Damn him. Damn them all.
Whaddaya think? Too forced? That was ridiculously fun to "right." I hope this thing, should it materialize, turns out better than the MeCha book club. R.I.P.
posted by Eideteker at 1:00 AM on June 3, 2006

I think this is a good idea, grumblebee.
posted by clockzero at 1:17 AM on June 3, 2006

I have written many unpublsihed short stories, but would love to have an avenue to share them, i,e. to be critiqued and reviewed by the metafilter public. I am all for a metafilter writer's guild of sorts.
posted by ozomatli at 1:19 AM on June 3, 2006

Only if we can smoke a lot of cigarettes while we pontificate.
posted by bardic at 1:41 AM on June 3, 2006

Could we have a MeFi Drinkers Group instead? The overlap'd probably be pretty close to 100%.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:14 AM on June 3, 2006

i don't want any tired lovers sliding roughly down my throat. if we can skip that, i'm in.
posted by Hat Maui at 2:31 AM on June 3, 2006

Yeah I noticed that bit too. Tired lovers sliding down my throat? More like tired throats sliding down my love.
posted by Ryvar at 3:27 AM on June 3, 2006

The click as eideteker shuts his laptop doubtless makes barely a whisper in the cafe, but its loud enough to kick up concentric ripples in the coffee mug of the technician sitting to my right here in the underground control center. "Dial the nanite activity level down to 10%" I order as I watch the subject rise from his chair on the 40 foot screen in front of us. As the poor bastard shuffles toward the door, the "janitor" helpfully repositions the donut tray/surveillance camera that we've been using to monitor subject April Fool for the past 14 hours, allowing us to watch his posture visibly improve as the serotonin level in his cerebral cortex plumets.

"You really don't want to just bag him let our guys try to deprogram him in the lab?" asks agent Ryazanov into the donut tray as she removes the body mikes from her waitress getup. "Negative," I reply. "That man is the trigger for those bombs, there's no telling what kind of a signal their computers are waiting for. It might be a passphrase, like 'These cats, they vibrate?', but it might be triggered by the absence of posting too. His dissapearance might be a booby trap, and I won't take that risk. Not until we've found those bombs, or the man who made them." The technician looks up from his monitor, and our eyes meet.

posted by gsteff at 3:32 AM on June 3, 2006

I wanna be 'soft of MeFi' and 'I though we' sez yea, put me in your basket and buy me.
posted by tellurian at 4:03 AM on June 3, 2006

Well, if you guys continue this, you're probably going to need some sort of Grammar Patrol.
posted by graventy at 5:03 AM on June 3, 2006

Not to be a party-pooper, but I considered making a MeTa thread when that AskMe devolved into everyone offering their rewrites of the guy's crappy paragraph. If there's going to be a separate MeFi writer's group, that's cool, but I don't think that's what AskMe is meant for or should be.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:41 AM on June 3, 2006

I'd be interested in this - the only non-journalism piece I've had published was art criticism/grotesquely pretentious textual masturbation/fiction. Would be nice to have a chance to attempt more of the latter in a context like this - considerably less daunting than passing stuff on to real-life writer friends, but with the same expectation of quality criticism and knowledge-sharing.

How would it work? Monthly deadlines, and we all post our stuff to a site each month, perhaps with the option of it being public or only viewable by other members, then critique each others' stuff, posting new drafts in response/howling with rage at the failure of others to recognise our genius? Plus an Ask-like section for practical tips?

Sounds like it might be a bit of a challenge to design a site that worked well for that kind of thing on a practical level. Though I suppose a simple 'post your story/novel chapter/poem/experimental word splodge, let everyone comment' system could work okay...
posted by jack_mo at 5:52 AM on June 3, 2006

And, on reading that Ask MetaFilter thread, we at least have an example of how not to do this!
posted by jack_mo at 5:55 AM on June 3, 2006

If nonfiction writers can get any love, I'm in.
(I'm a good writer with no imagination.)
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:02 AM on June 3, 2006

Maybe this would work best as a mailing list. I used to hate mailing lists, but now I just create a gmail account for them.

It could either be a please-critique-my-work sort of project, where members could post samples and other members could offer advice, or it could be sort of like, but for writing instead of drawing.

Each week, Illustration Friday posts a theme: kissing, violence, cake, water, garbage... and members draw a picture, based on the theme. We could do the same thing, except each member would, say, write a 200 word story or essay about the theme. And we could critique each other's stories.

This model really appeals to me, but I suspect others will prefer a more open format, where we posts real-life projects. The trouble there is that real-life projects can be LONG. And if 20 people submit 10 pages, that's 200 pages I have to read. I also am attracted to the restrictive nature of the illustrationfriday model. See how creative you can get when you're forced to stay within a wordcount and write based around a set theme.

Even without critiques, I could learn tons by comparing other people's attempts with my own. But I would love critiques, too. I would love down-and-dirty debates about word choice, metaphor, etc.

Maybe this could be done as with a main page and a message board. The main page would be a group blog. Each week, there would be a theme, and people would post their 200 words (100 words) on the page, below the theme.

Then, on the board, if people wanted, they could discuss certain entries. Also on the board, they could open discussion up to non-assignment topics: "Would anyone like to read my 10 page story?"
posted by grumblebee at 6:31 AM on June 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Each week, Illustration Friday posts a theme: kissing, violence, cake, water, garbage... and members draw a picture, based on the theme. We could do the same thing, except each member would, say, write a 200 word story or essay about the theme. And we could critique each other's stories.

What a good idea. I would participate.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:54 AM on June 3, 2006

We could a kind of Naked Came the Stranger.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:57 AM on June 3, 2006

I may be interested if more details are offered. up. I like the Illustration Friday idea.
posted by dobbs at 7:05 AM on June 3, 2006

I should note that, as an artist (I feel pretty stupid calling myself that, but whatever...), illustration friday has changed my life. I started participating as a lark. But the discipline of having to come up with a new drawing each week has been great for me. And the themes help me get past that "staring at a blank sheet of paper" syndrome.
posted by grumblebee at 7:10 AM on June 3, 2006

I'd love to see something like this come together. I'll probably throw in, if it does.

Speaking from recent experience, the best way to insure that something happens here is for someone to just get things started. Someone, then, will have to be this someone. If you've got the time and the interest to put in some work, suck it up: speak up!

Then go as lo-tech as you need to—start a freakin' blogger blog, or hand-compile a dirt-simple website on some hosting space.

Issue a theme/constraint/what-have-you. Do it in this thread, if you get this rolling pretty quickly. Ask people to run with it and submit some writing in the next however-soon-they-can. Throw it up on the site. See how it works, what sticks, what sucks, revise. This is rapid prototyping, and it will be (a) goddam informative if something good comes from it, and (b) less heartbreak by far than putting a ton of work into something that ends up not getting used.

Someone just needs to give interested folks an excuse to write. Get out of committee pronto and throw something together.
posted by cortex at 7:14 AM on June 3, 2006

I want to play, please.
posted by sugarfish at 7:18 AM on June 3, 2006

Damn it, I wanted to be the first to snark on the tired lover sliding roughly down my throat.

This sounds fun. My problem with attempting to write when I'm off the clock is motivation, and this might provide me with some.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:22 AM on June 3, 2006

The website was angry that day, my friend, like an old man sending back soup at the deli...
posted by blue_beetle at 7:26 AM on June 3, 2006

I like the theme idea, too - would be too loose without some constraints. Not sure about a mailing list, though.

the best way to insure that something happens here is for someone to just get things started

I could knock up a basic site today, if no one else (with more skill at that sort of thing than me) wants to....
posted by jack_mo at 8:02 AM on June 3, 2006

Someone do something. I'm tired of this lover sliding down my throat so roughly.

Damn, all the pure crap I poured into that comment, and that's the only thing people snark on? *cries*
posted by Eideteker at 8:15 AM on June 3, 2006

I would also like to play.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:19 AM on June 3, 2006

jack_mo, go for it.
posted by cortex at 8:22 AM on June 3, 2006

I'm in, definitely. Sounds like fun.
posted by brundlefly at 9:44 AM on June 3, 2006

go for it.

Okay then.

MetaFilter Writers Group - super-basic at the minute, with a crappy default theme, and a wee bit of dummy content, and assumes we're going to do a themed thing. It's done with WordPress, which is to my eyes very easy to use, but I'll do some posting instructions asap. If anyone knows of a pretty WP theme, do let me know - don't really have time to do the site from scratch (but should have it looking and working a bit better by Monday).

For some reason, it's not sending out passwords to new users when they register (probably my crappy hosting) so for the time being, if you mail me at the address in my profile with your preferred username, I can make you an account. If anyone (grumblebee?) wants to be an admin type person, let me know when you mail...

Everyone can comment, though, so you can leave suggestions, abusive missives, &c. on this post if you like.

Annoyingly, when I started this I'd forgotton that I have to go out in a minute to review a couple of shows and a nightclub, but will pop back here and add any accounts requested when I get home.

Oh, and the 'original sin' theme isn't a suggestion, it just popped into my head because a friend won a short story comp. with that theme once...
posted by jack_mo at 9:45 AM on June 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

I rarely read anything on here over 4 lines long.
posted by mischief at 9:47 AM on June 3, 2006

I rarely read anything on here over 4 lines long.

Don't see why we couldn't include flash fiction ;-)
posted by jack_mo at 10:00 AM on June 3, 2006

Oh, and ignore the above about registration not working, it does now - you can register here.
posted by jack_mo at 10:03 AM on June 3, 2006

Awesome, jack-mo.

Am I correct in assuming that entries should be posted as comments to the theme? Themes are top-level and writing based on the theme are comments?
posted by grumblebee at 10:26 AM on June 3, 2006

Hey Eid, you spelled "weak" incorrectly up there.

And try to avoid use of the passive, ie: "is scowling."

Is there a Meta Editors group?
posted by SassHat at 10:55 AM on June 3, 2006

Yes, but no one is allowed to join unless they understand poetic lisence!

I'll let myself out.
posted by Eideteker at 11:00 AM on June 3, 2006

And try to avoid use of the passive, ie: "is scowling."

I don't believe that's an example of passive voice.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:00 AM on June 3, 2006

Is there a meta irony group?
posted by Kwantsar at 11:08 AM on June 3, 2006

"Is scowling" is not necessarily considered passive; the context must be established.
posted by mischief at 11:10 AM on June 3, 2006

The sentence was:

"Now the manger is scowling at me too but I pay no mind."
posted by ludwig_van at 11:11 AM on June 3, 2006

btw, 12000
posted by mischief at 11:13 AM on June 3, 2006

That sentence has far more problems than the passive voice. And that's not even a passive voice.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:16 AM on June 3, 2006

This is why we can't have nice things a writer's group.
posted by cribcage at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2006

Thank you, jack-mo!

posted by sugarfish at 12:36 PM on June 3, 2006

Oh! I just thought of this -- is there an RSS feed? I know how to find the feed on blogger blogs, but not on Wordpress ones.

If it's okay with everyone, I'll set up a feed on livejournal, so if you have one you can read it on your friends page.
posted by sugarfish at 12:38 PM on June 3, 2006

sugarfish, the feed is here.
posted by sveskemus at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2006

Thanks, sveskemus!

If you have an LJ, you can add the feed to your friendslist here.
posted by sugarfish at 2:08 PM on June 3, 2006

'is scowling' is an example of the present continuous, and does not use the the passive voice in any way at all. An example of the (past) passive might be : the commenter was beaten to death for giving incorrect guidance on grammar.

Based on this (and all the other reservations I have about these kinds of things), I think I'll just keep to my solitary writing ways. You folks have fun, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:11 PM on June 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by ludwig_van at 6:31 PM on June 3, 2006

I've been involved in weekly online writer's groups before. My favorite flash fiction is always in response to assignments.

They all fall apart, however, when assignments fail to come regularly or there's no pressure to regularly contribute. Criticism and bickering at least gives people the attention that writers seem to crave.

If nothing else comes of it, at least I got to contemplate original sin for the first time since Catholic confirmation.
posted by Gucky at 12:39 AM on June 4, 2006

This will be different, it has MetaFilter in the name.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:05 AM on June 4, 2006

eee! yay! I'm in!
posted by divabat at 7:20 PM on June 4, 2006

Just in case anyone was wondering: real life, by which I mean free booze, got in the way of me doing anything more with the site - I'll get going on it tonight, and mail all the folk who've signed up with a few suggestions about how we might best proceed...
posted by jack_mo at 5:15 AM on June 5, 2006

The site is a bit prettier now (to my eyes, anyway) and there's a new post there suggesting a couple of rules for submissions...
posted by jack_mo at 11:01 AM on June 5, 2006

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