Hone your Writing Skills – Take a Free Class!

When I was going to college, online courses were not really accessible to me as a student. The channel I could go through to “try before I decide” was either the local technical college or places like the UW-Extension office, both of which you have to pay for.

One of the great debates about building a career in writing, is the question of whether or not an author, editor, or freelancer needs a formal education in the craft. I have a BA, and several of my colleagues have Master’s degrees in the field. This whole idea of “formal education” may not work for everyone (universities are not very tolerant nor kind to “genre” authors), but at the very least it’s a good idea to hone your craft and “try” things out.

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Highlights from Previous Seminars: Freelance Writing 101

Digging through the archive of handouts and seminar presentations, I thought I’d post the notes from one of the roundtables I participated in.

What is a freelance writer?

  • An independent contractor “for hire”
  • A savvy business owner
  • Has great “time-management” skills
  • Knows what they are worth
  • Has realistic expectations and goals
  • A qualified individual performing a service
  • An “expert” in their field

How do I promote myself?

    Online

  • Establish your identity
  • Follow-up emails and thank yous
  • Be professional
  • Avoid “flame wars”
  • Distinguish yourself from fans
  • Network through social media
  • Use proper “grammar” (avoid L33t or LOL-speak)
  • Referrals

    Offline

  • Non-Gaming Seminars
  • Business groups
  • Community organizations
  • Conventions
  • “Best” Time to talk to publishers
  • Dos and Donts of what to say
  • Portfolio/Resume or not to Portfolio

How do I find work?

  • Develop your Own criteria
  • What will you accept as payment?
  • What do you want to write?
  • Who do you want to work for?
  • Be realistic based on experience

Marketing 101: What has Changed for Novelists Selling their Books

Straight out of the comments from this previous post about writing unconventional fantasy settings, author Joe Cooke asked:

If we write stories that are outside the bounds of the tried-and-true, how do we get them to market?

Dear readers, that is the million dollar question and one that I have heard many, many times. It’s also the reason why I’ve been extraordinarily hesitant to make leaps and bounds into the foray of (what has been described by some) as “writer’s purgatory.”

How the Market Has Changed

Before I talk about how to bring an unconventional work to market, I’d like to first cover why and how much the market has changed. Simply, three factors have reshaped the industry forever; the internet, the rising costs of publishing, and new forms of electronic media like the eBook readers. No longer do publishing houses have hosts of “readers” who glance through slush piles; several have “closed” submissions to first-time authors and even more prefer “named” authors only. There are a few that still have an open door policy, and agents do still exist.
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Blog Update: New Functionality

Just wanted to let you know that we’ve been working on ensuring the blog is up to technical snuff (so to speak)…we’ve added a “contact” form and have an updated RSS feed. I’m a bit behind on the re-categorization of older posts, and I thank you for your patience.

I would like to feature other author blogs and content; if you have a blog you would like included, feel free use the new “Contact Form” or post in the comments.

Happy scribing!

System vs. Setting in Game Design

One of the biggest arguments I’ve heard over the past, few years is, “Does system matter more than setting?”

The answer is, “Both do.”

Here’s why:

Game mechanics, for any platform (PC, video, tabletop or card game) handles the pacing of the game, attributing to its mood or what I call “game aura.” If you’re creating a “fast-paced zombie hunting game” for example, your mechanics should facilitate that feel. A good example of relevant mechanics is the card game Gloom, which was produced by Atlas Games. In this game, your goal is to make your “family” as miserable as possible. Whoever dies first, in the most horrific way possible, wins. Now, this game may sound truly terrifying but the art and the writing of the game give it an Edward Gorey-like feel, building the setting.

The mechanics are really inventive; you have see-through cards with points that stack on top of one another. In this way, the mechanics allow you to “make” your family member miserable by directly placing modifiers on top of your character. Hence, the mood is not detracted and the overall feel of the game remains intact.

Another good example of mechanics is the exceedingly popular Star Wars: Legos series. Star Wars, a science fantasy setting, is taken to a humorous level by playing off of the Legos setting. The mechanics are simple because they needed to be; who wants to “build” characters through stats if you’re playing Legos?

“New” game mechanics from upcoming or independent publishers are not as integrated with their setting, in many cases, because game designers often strip out the system to playtest it and make sure the system works. If your system has a “theme,” (i.e. fast-paced, larger-than-life), then this can be a good idea. If it doesn’t, you may want to “test” different parts of your game with the mechanics to ensure that the pacing and flow is not interrupted by say, your vampire needing to feed before making it through your next scene (Bloodrayne).

So if you are working on game mechanics, there are really two questions that are important for you to ask: One, does this system work with the game I’m designing and two, have I tested it in all of its forms to ensure it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the game.

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