When you’re frustrated with a project, or you can’t quite think of what to do next, schedule some “play” time. Play allows you to be creative and free–whether it’s playing with kids, playing a game, playing with art supplies, etc.–to recharge your creativity. Play is especially important if you’re doing editing work; flipping out of “editor” mode for an hour or two will give you the chance to “reboot” so when you do get back into it, you can “see” the big picture a lot better. The trick, of course, is to play, relax, recharge, and then motivate yourself quickly to get back to the task at hand. Too much play will work against you; not enough will burn you out.
Most publications know what they’re looking for and offer writer’s guidelines either posted on their website or will mail them to you upon request. These guidelines are specifically put there to weed out what the publication doesn’t want; they have also been written to provide formatting guides so that if you’re work does get chosen it can be published with little to no difficulty. Any deviation from these guidelines will be at your own risk; most editors will simply ignore your submission but if you repeatedly ignore their guidelines you’ll quickly earn a bad reputation.
If you exchange angry words with one editor, you run the risk of tarnishing your reputation with other editors. (Just like writers befriend other writers; editors talk to other editors.) That’s not to say you shouldn’t stand up for yourself if you feel you are in the right about something. Speak up carefully, politely, and succinctly. Back up what you say, especially if you’re arguing about payment or copyrights. Eventually you’ll ferret out misunderstandings and, by remaining calm, you’ll eventually come out on top.
No matter what you are writing, or how many words you have, you always need to plan. Outlining, pre-writing, even brainstorming is a key to making the writing process easier. You would not plan a driving trip without looking at a map. You should not starting writing, without knowing not only what you are writing, but where your writing is going to go.
About Richard Iorio: Since 1996, Richard has been a freelance writer and designer and has written for Atlas Games, Guardians of Order, Hogshead Publishing, and Zeitgeist Games (just to name a few). Currently, Richard is the Operations Manager for Goodman Games, as well as the co-owner and co-founder of Rogue Games, Inc.
Even though you’re smart enough to tell good advice from bad—professional advice can work against you if you’re inexperienced. Professionals are providing invaluable insight based on their experiences spanning a great number of years and publications. If you’re just starting out, though, keep in mind that when they were a “new writer” the industry was completely different and conventional wisdom may not apply. Remember that professionals’ experiences are as widely varied as your own; so the best thing to do is to be respectful, listen, and have fun learning about their writing.