Writers Workshop: Advice from Award Winners | UFOP: StarBase 118 Star Trek RPG

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Writers Workshop: Advice from Award Winners

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We’ve just seen the 2394 Fleetwide awards ceremony celebrated at the end of June.  It’s a time of celebration and inspiration for writers of all levels.  Maybe you’ve won a few awards or maybe you will be working hard to win your first award next year.  No matter where you are in your writing you can always learn something from your fellow players!

In celebration of the fleetwide awards ceremony, I asked awards winners for some advice to share with newer players.  I hope everyone can take something from these wonderful words of wisdom, and once again congratulations to every player who won an award this year!

Lt. Commander Oddas Aria has been playing on the Duronis II Embassy for a little over one year.  She is currently serving as the Embassy’s First Officer and was recently awarded with the Rising Star award in recognition as an up and coming officer as well as the Phoenix Award for her excellence in portraying an Engineering Officer.  Oddas’ player Nicholas had the following words of wisdom to pass on to new players:

When I started a little over a year ago I had never done any PBEM before and had no idea what to expect.  The academy really helped me get started, but I recognized pretty early on I was not really good with the descriptive bits of a sim, the parts that ‘set the scene’.  Part of this is personality, part is I’ve spent all of my professional life doing technical writing and stripping non-necessary description from my writing, and some of it is my total colorblindness.  In event, some of my crewmates, my mentor Jorey in particular, really had great descriptions and scene settings and I knew I wanted to do better.
 
One technique I stumbled on to was to start setting a scene and describing it before I begin pasting in the existing sim from another player.  Typically, I think we all open an e-mail, paste in another writer’s sim, and start working with it to get what we want by changing descriptions, thoughts, adding dialog, etc.  One day I was about to write a sim and I just started writing in some opening description of how Aria saw the scene in front of her, I don’t remember what the scene was but I’m sure it was in Main Engineering.  I do remember that once I had done that it gave me a solid foundation for how to describe everything else around her.  This became something I not only did and do on a regular basis but became something I regularly recommend to Cadets who seem to be having a similar issue.  This bit of ‘anchoring’ almost seems to get me in the mood of how things are going for that sim.
 
This is a great bit of advice, one that we hear a lot from mentors and Commanding Officer, but put in the words of a fellow player makes it so much more meaningful.  Nicholas’s second bit of advice is pretty self-explanatory, but oh so important to remember:
 
Another thing that I has helped me with this tremendously is simply practice.  Full time on the Embassy, and I assume most ships, is three sims a month, this does not mean you can only sim three times a week.  I just started simming more than minimum.  I can’t imagine most of the COs or FOs out there that are going to ask you to stop simming so much. Getting in there and writing is going to help you overcome whatever hangups you might have.  I don’t think I’ve resolved all of my rough edges yet, but I think they’ve gotten better and a large part of that is just trying to work past them.  If your ship doesn’t seem to be a place you can get a lot of practice in, join the training team, there is always room for more trainers.
 
Our second writing tip comes from Lt. Commander Rustyy Hael.  Rustyy has also won the Phoenix award for his incredible portrayal of an engineer, as well as the Luminary Award for being a strong up-and-coming player.  Rustyy now serves as chief engineer of StarBase 118 Ops, and his writer Noelle had the follow tip for new players:
 
A great tip to remember, when just starting out is to have patience and to learn to pace yourself. We’ve all been new to something before and it takes time to get into the groove of things.  So it’s really important to not get to overwhelmed. That’s where patience comes in. Take time to breath and to take a break when things get stressful. Anyone who’s been around the block can tell you it really does get easier. Asking for help during times that everything seems to be going fast will show that we’ve all been there! You’re not the only one who faces these issues, and many of your crew-mates are happy to help you through them. But you have to be patient, and not get too worked up if things don’t go perfectly right the first time.  Everybody starts as a beginner, so don’t beat yourself up too much if you make a mistake.
 
Going along with this is pacing yourself.  Find a comfortable writing speed.  There is no need to out write anyone or get the most sims out in a month, and you don’t have to do everything or try everything at once.  It’s too easy to get burned out when trying to do everything right away. When you pace yourself, you’ll find a groove to fall into. Spread out the task of reading and writing so you’re not cramming everything in one night. Take time to enjoy the story your fellow writers are laying out, and take time to enjoy that parts that you’re adding.  That makes is so much easier to realize that this is a fun activity, this is something you’ll want to continue to do for a long time.
 
Very true!  Burnout is something that gets to a lot of players, and it’s why so many players attempt to sim, leave the game and end up coming back after a few months or years – it takes time to learn how to moderate your posting and playing habits.  Hopefully this advice will catch someone before they burn out and help with that!
 
Our last writing tip comes from Lt. Commander Maxwell Traenor.  Maxwell is serving as the First officer for the USS Constitution-B and has been awarded with the Rising Star Award, The Strange Award for his excellent portrayal of a First Officer and the Cochrane Award for his excellent portrayal of a science officer.  Maxwell Tranenor’s player Jay had the following writing advice for all players:
 
When I write my sims, I do my best to stick to one cardinal rule – show as much as I speak. Dialogue and tags are easy to write, but it really is such a one-dimensional piece of storytelling. It is the descriptors that show everything else. Not only do descriptors describe the setting in terms of what the characters see, touch, smell, or even taste, but it describes the intangibles of conversation. Hearing the spoken word is a surprisingly small component of communication. Just think: when was the last time that tone and intent was lost in an email or text you sent because the reader couldn’t see the context that we would normally convey via body language? A raised eyebrow, a heavy sigh, a twinkle in the eye… these are part of speech that define conversation, and we use descriptors to really flesh out and humanize the spoken words our characters say. I really try to get as close to a one-to-one ratio of dialogue to descriptors as I can. For every empty tag I fill or new line of dialogue I add for my character to a scene, I write one paragraph of descriptor between those double sets of colons. It doesn’t have to be much, even just a short 4 or 5 word sentence can sometimes do the trick, but I’m not satisfied with the composition of my sim until I try to get that balance of ‘saying’ and ‘showing’.
 
And this really shows in Jay’s writing!  The more you can engage your audience the more your fellow crew will be drawn into the drama of your characters.  And the more people are interested in what you write the more you will all play off one another, interact more and create better stories.
 
Thank you once again to all our award winners who contributed tips, and I hope that every player, new and old can find something of value from these words of wisdom.  And congratulations to all our award winners from across the fleet!