So I hesitate to use this space to self-promote, but in this case I will make an exception, for a number of reasons, beginning with the fact that the project is online and free.
Exits Are is a series of collaborative stories that are also games. The games borrow their format and many of their conventions from text adventures (“interactive fiction”). From the about page: “A text adventure is a game that takes place in prose. The computer describes a world to you one room at a time, writing in the second person. ‘You stand in the center of a cool, dark cave,’ says the computer. ‘Exits are north, south, east, and west.’ The computer waits for you to tell it what you want to do. ‘Go east,’ you might say. Or if there is a key, you might say ‘take key.’ The computer parses your commands as best it can and tells you what happens next. . . . love text adventures, but they usually disappoint me. I wanted a way to make them more open-ended, less about puzzle-solving and more about language: its weirdness, its beauty. So I started playing a game with some of the writers I knew. Using gchat, I pretend to be a text adventure. The other writer is the player. We use the form of the text adventure to collaborate on some kind of strange, fun narrative. The only rule is that we take turns typing. We never discuss what we’re going to do in advance, so the results are improvisational and surprising/exciting/stressful/upsetting for both participants. Every time, the player does things I never could have seen coming.” READ MORE >
I have been really enjoying the interesting and insightful blog posts being written by the editors of Uncanny Valley. In a recent post, frequent HTMLGIANT commenter and Uncanny Valley co-editor Mike Meginnis offered notes on teaching an introductory creative writing class. He says really smart, practical things about teaching creative writing but I’ve been mulling over his first note quite a bit. He says, “1. Intro to CW should be more about ways of reading than ways of writing.” The more I think about this statement, the more I wonder if we rely too heavily on the notion that the best writers are the best readers. I think we offer this kind of advice more out of reflex than anything else. Hear me out. There is ample evidence that to write well, one must read well. Reading and learning how to read critically, exposes us to different writing styles, voices, and techniques. We can study styles we want to emulate. We can be challenged. We can see examples of how we want not to write. I cannot deny that some of my best writing instruction has come from reading everything I can get my hands on.
That said, I firmly believe while reading is important, it is not more important than writing and increasingly I worry we are sacrificing the practice of writing for young writers at the altar of reading. Without fail, almost every writer who is asked about what writers need to do to improve their craft states, first and foremost, that writers need to read. I’ve stated this myself, quite a few times, but either we’re teaching writing or we’re teaching reading and to have a creative writing class where writing is not foregrounded gets me thinking. Why isn’t it writing that is most important? Why don’t we say that to be a great writer, you need to, well, write?