Metatopia Panels, Part 1

I’ve got part of my schedule for the upcoming Metatopia Game Design Conference aka John’s One Year Anniversary In Heavy Duty Game Design.

Friday Night 11pm – 12am (in the Cairo Room) How To Work With An Editor — where Amanda Valentine, Brian Engard and I will be talking about how to build and cultivate the best writer-to-editor relationship possible.

Saturday Night 7pm-8pm (in the Headquarters A room) The Writing Workshop — where I’ll be talking about the 4 -ations of the creative process as well as other topics of writing. Questions of course will be answered.

I don’t know the rest of my schedule yet, but I can tell you I’ll be around Friday night and all day Saturday at the conference.

I’m so looking forward to this. I hope to see many of you there.

Happy writing, and good luck in the coming storm. Be safe. Stay dry. Rock on.

**when I get more schedule information, I’ll add a Part 2**

How To Tell You’re Working With A Good Editor

Good afternoon everyone,

Today’s blogpost is a result of my reading Amanda’s excellent explanation of how a bad editor can be a huge hindrance for your work and your craft. This prompted me to think about how you can tell good editors from bad editors. I thought of four main distinguishing characteristics.

Now if you’re working with an editor already, and these things aren’t happening, I’m not saying you should kick the editor to the curb, but definitely have a talk about the relationship you have, how it’s working and where you want it to go. Your work ultimately should be the best it can be, and the people you bring on board should help, not hinder this process.

I. They’re willing to explain not only WHAT’S wrong, but WHY it’s wrong – I’m probably going to draw flak for this, since a lot of editors decry “I’m so busy!” or “I shouldn’t have to hold hands!” but I’m not talking about this in terms of walking a writer through every tense shift and incorrect verb. I’m talking about the bigger picture issues of plot structure, word choice and paragraph construction. That’s not hand-holding, that’s doing the job you’re paid to do. If you explain why it’s wrong, then the writer can learn to not make the mistake in the future, and everyone wins.

II. They do more than proofread – Editing is more than pressing F7 or skimming something and looking for obvious typos and errors. Proofreading is ONE part of the editorial toolbox (as is wonderfully explained by this handy infographic), and sadly a lot of “editors” (note the quotes) are glorified proofreaders. You have to go past just the correctness of the words and get into the context and subtext of what’s written, looking to see if what’s meant is being said (and vice versa). Editing is as much an art as writing, albeit with different brush and color palette.

III. They can distinguish between different types of editing and can tell you what sort of edit best benefits the manuscript in question – As that infographic points out there are different types of editing (I would go one further and distinguish line editing from copy and substantive, but that’s just me, and I’m old school), and knowing which to apply to a manuscript is as much experiential as intuitive — yes for big, bloated, error-filled manuscripts you want to dive in substantively and rebuild it from the foundation, but when a manuscript isn’t so error-plagued, an editor shouldn’t suggest a purgative and reconstructive effort when all that’s off is a few words every now and then and maybe a strange flashback that needs massaging.  An editor too eager to rebuild what isn’t broken shows inexperience and a lack of respect for a project.

IV. They make the manuscript sound the way the manuscript is meant to, NOT make it sound the way THEY want – Rewriting (gasp!) is something that happens in editing. Words get put in, chopped out and shuffled around. Yes, there are suggestions for changes in tone or tenor, but there’s also going to be an editor’s changes in-text. It’s a dangerous power for sure, as someone can blot out a whole page and rewrite it in an entirely new way…but before panic takes you, remember these are just suggestions (and they should come with a reason, see above) and if they’re trying to rewrite it the way they think — then they’re not doing their job. Editing isn’t writing. Editing is making existing writing better. I don’t mean that there should be zero rewrites within a manuscript (that’s just not possible, especially in early drafts), I mean that the tone of the rewrite should reflect the original text, not take it on a Mr Toad’s Wild Ride to some new arena that isn’t the manuscript’s intention.

Authors, I hope this demystifies a little what an editor should do, can do and is capable of doing. Editors, I hope this educates a little and reins in what I’ve seen to be as overstepping boundaries and doing harm to author-editor relations.

Happy writing.

Building a better NaNoWriMo

Good morning everyone. It’s October, which means it’s practically November, and you know what happens in November — I spend thirty days decrying the alleged goodness of NaNoWriMo, the month long event that turns people into writers and screeds into manuscripts.

But what if the event was different? What if I were in charge of it, how would it operate? Well, I mean, honestly, I’d do away with it at the first available second, but if I just had to have it, how would it be changed? Let’s look at a few changes:

1. I’d remove the false hope that all you need is time, not talent. For too many people, NaNoWriMo is a hopeful time, where they race to smash words next to each other everyday for a month and in the end have a finished product. Not a good product. Not a demonstration of their talent. Not a showing of skill. Just words next to each other, hammered out day after day without too much thought because didn’t you know novel-writing is basically a 5k race and it’s enough just to finish? The false hope here is deadly, as people start thinking that all you need to write a “perfect” story is thirty days and a box to vomit words into. So the first thing I’d remove is that hope, and point out that writing is a skill and a process, and that writing a draft is PART of the longer series of events.

2. I’d elevate the status of the other parts of the process. Absent in NaNoWriMo are steps like editing and revision and getting unbiased eyes to look critically at your work. Gone are the steps that turn a stack of written pages into a cohesive manuscript, as if they’re unimportant. Being that my livelihood is made in those steps, I’d say they’re quite important. And they’re not easy, but they will make you a better writer (ask anyone who has received editorial feedback).

3. I’d thin the herd. The FAQ for the site even goes so far to say this: “Aiming low is the best way to succeed” Pause here a moment, because that sentence infuriates me more than it should. The problem isn’t that people should aim low, that’s not the point in pursuing your dreams. You should aim high, but if/when you fall short, it should do two things: a) challenge you to work harder and smarter b) possibly make you readjust your goal. Everyone could use more (a), and in the NaNo case, a lot more people should make use of (b). Not everyone is cut out to be a writer. Not everyone is cut out to be a novelist. It takes talent, skill, time, and discipline (more discipline than 30 days of writing once a year), and the bar is set high so that people who do cross it have really accomplished something, not just churned out 50 shades of fluff and called themselves an accomplished novelist any more than if launching a bottle rocket on the fourth of July makes them a rocket scientist.

Is there anything wrong with spending November writing? No, but why aren’t these people doing it during the other eleven months out of the year? If they really want to be writers, why is the rest of the year off-limits for their efforts?

And if you counter all this with “NaNoWriMo is for new writers, not really experienced writers” why teach new writers to aim low, churn out word vomit and not educate them on craft or the other steps in the writing process?

To me NaNoWriMo is not the best route to produce your best work. It won’t train you to be better. It won’t teach you about rejection or discipline or editing. It is a poor man’s accelerated lesson in bad writing habits, and it needs to be changed from the ground up.

Happy writing.

Audio Blog Post #3 Carpe Minuten! Seizing Your Minutes!


I can’t believe it.

In today’s audio post, I set up some ground rules for how I’ll audio-blog and then dove into one of my favorite writing/life theories – Carpe Minuten!

And then I explain my strategy to take advantage of your time and be its master not its puppet.

Listen! Enjoy!

AND….now you can download it! There should be a link on the bottom of the track.

Happy listening (and writing and dream achieving).