Derby Writing 101 – an introduction

There aren’t many writers for roller derby out there. Most leagues assign part of their marketing or PR committee team – or maybe an injured skater – to say a few words about the bouts they took part in. With your basic startup league that has only just begun bouting, that’s understandable. You’re putting your energy into getting your corner of roller derby going.

However…it’s a little nuts for a league to have been around more than a year or two without someone steadily writing about what they do. Fact is, a roller derby league is important. Somewhere between 50 and 150 people get together several times a week to work on or practice this sport that we all have a part of creating. We bring hundreds of people – even thousands – to the same place for months throughout the year to see derby. Fans have favorite teams, favorite players…they don’t stay for the fishnets; they stay because roller derby is fantastic (ok, maybe as well as the fishnets). So why, then, do so few leagues not bother letting the public keep track of what they’ve done or what they missed?

I hope you get the gist of this. Roller derby – in its new, WFTDA/JRDA/MDC/[add-your-favorite-acronym-with-a-‘D’-in-it] form – is only getting started. We need a few good women and men to write about it. So. Who the hell am I? As the footer suggests, I write a lot about derby. In the course of the past three years, I have written recaps for over fifty games of the Minnesota RollerGirls alone. I do previews for most of those bouts. I do copy work for the website and programs. Hell, I even wrote copy for the local minor-league baseball team to read over the loudspeaker. They call it ‘having a common voice.’

Add to that the North Central regional coverage for Blood and Thunder Magazine for 2009 and 2010, recaps for the 2010 Championals on behalf of the Windy City Rollers, and I’m coming up on about 100 or so games. Now, all this means that I am an amateur writer that’s gotten a lot of experience with writing because I’ve made myself available and people like how I write. For a person like myself, it’s the best volunteer job in the world. The people I’ve met, the games I’ve seen…it’s the best way to see roller derby, hands down. And I want more people to experience this sport the way I have.

Therefore, we’ll be publishing over the next couple of weeks a series of articles about how to write for the roller derby. Your league could use someone to write about what you do. Yes, your league. Chances are that your league doesn’t have a writer – there aren’t that many folks who do this, and that needs to change at some point. I hope these articles will help you find the right person for the job, and assist that person to get started. Here’s how the articles will progress.

  • Getting started – This is mostly for the leagues. I’ll make some wild assertions about what to look for.
  • Getting ready for your first bout – Congratulations! You’re a derby writer. Now, what do you do?
  • Your first bout (note-taking) – I’ll walk you through a decent system that I’ve used over the past several years.
  • What’s next (more stats) – You know that system I just mentioned? It works very well. But after the first few bouts, you might want more shorthand to stuff more onto those pages of notes.
  • Your first bout (writing the damn thing) – You’ve got four pages full of notes. OH NOES. What do you do with all this stuff? You write a quick article. Nothing big. I’ll point out some good habits. We will use DNN’s excellent suggestions about recaplets, then crap all over them.
  • Keeping it going – Doing anything as a volunteer for more than a year or so can be pretty draining. I’ll talk about some past experience that I’ve had to help you keep enjoying what you do. If you work well with your league, you can have a ball doing this.
  • Final opinions – If you read this series to the end, I’ll bring up a couple of pet peeves and some thoughts about what our sport can do in the future to make keeping track of ourselves easier. If some good discussion gets going in the comments section, I’ll address some of the ideas there as well.

Let’s get started.

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