The Ecstasy Of Hope

I write this post on the eve of the possible Mayan apocalypse and days before Christmas. I’ve prepared for both. (Translation: I bought snacks and am wearing a bathrobe). This is also the time of year people look back and reflect on what they’ve done – highlighting successes and distributing pats upon backs. I want to do that too, only I’m also going to look forward.

On The Editing Fronts
2012 was a HUGE year for me. My first works as an editor went out into peoples’ hands. I attended my first GenCon. I was welcomed not as an outsider but as a friend upon my return to conventions. I had my hand in a lot of products, everything from vampires to wizards to comic book heroes. And that makes me tremendously happy.

2013 looks to be even bigger, though the number of projects I can tell you I’m involved in is larger, I just can’t yet give up any details or specifics. I know, that’s like a weird teasing move, and I don’t mean it to be, but you’re going to be amazed by quite a few projects that will be out in the coming year.

Okay, twist my arm. Here’s a taste –> vampires, wizards, comic book heroes, lots of kickstarter-y goodness. (yeah, that’s more of the same from 2012)

On The Writing Fronts
I made a big shift this year to get away from writing and move into editing, creating and helping produce other people’s work. Part of that was a time decision, but it was also carefully made decision to play to my strengths and my happiness. I love to write, I still think I’m good at it, but I think I’m better at editing. (Though editing contains its own share of writing – it’s different: writing for a purpose than writing for yourself)

It was not an easy decision, and contrary to what a lot of people may believe, not an economic one. As I’ll talk about below, 2012 was the year I found out what it’s like to be happy, and happy became the new currency of the realm.

So writing became the back-burner, with editing and consulting taking on a larger and more important role. Rather than being the somewhat clueless writer who occasionally edits, I’m the far savvier editor who sometimes writes. The shift in identity has been huge for me.

On The Personal Fronts
Wow, what a year. To put it bluntly, everything changed this year. I got my head screwed on straight, and I took steps towards being the kind of person I always used to talk about being – now I just am that guy. It’s loads easier, far less stressful and I get to focus on the things that make me happy, rather than pander to other people and their goals that may lead me to being unhappy. A huge weight came off my shoulders and for the first time in about half my life, I have a sense of who and what I am. It’s very empowering.

I feel less alien, less disconnected to people (though at times I will totally admit to being somewhat lost) and more comfortable as myself. I look for this to continue in 2013. Go me.

The Future
I want the Pay What You Want / What It’s Worth workshops to really take off. I want them to be a success.  Not because I expect to make a truckload of money, because I’m not in this for the money, I’m doing this to share my passion, expertise and joy at helping writers come out from behind their shields and out from under rocks so that they can discover truly who and what they are. And make them better.

There’s not a gimmick here, I’m not doing this to trick people, I’m going to offer whoever wants it a chance to get better, at whatever price-point works for them and their budget. There’s a measure of honesty involved here, because people could very easily get jaded and just hand me a dollar, but if that’s really what my time is worth to them, then chances are I’m not really going to change their minds, am I?

Also going forward, I’m going to work really hard at keeping my personal life (things not related to work and craft) off this blog. I am the occasional over-sharer, and have realized that it’s not fair to other people to have what they may consider personal anecdotes or statements shared with the world at large. Hope you don’t mind.

So what do I want out of the future? I want to continue going forward and up the path towards more success. More recognition. More talking about the process of editing and writing. More helping people. More getting good games and books and projects out to people who enjoy them.

I have the greatest respect for my colleagues, peers and friends, and it would be a travesty to not mention them here. A very large dose of gratitude, thanks, appreciation, and respect go to (in no order) Amanda Valentine, Ryan Macklin, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Brian Engard, Fred Hicks, Rob Donoghue, Shoshana Kessock, Cam Banks, Ken Hite, Jeremy Morgan, Brianna Reed, Jenn Steen, and the doubtless others I am forgetting to mention and link to. It would not have been the year it was without you in my life to some capacity. Thank you so much, for everything.

2013 is going to be amazing.

Happy writing

Post #121 – How You The Writer Can Help The Process of Editing

I talk a lot about how editing is a conversation between writer and editor designed to make the product (be it a book, a game, a script, a whatever) the best it can be. What that conversation looks like is this:

1. You send me the document (aka the manuscript, the MS, the thing, your draft)
2. I open it in Word and via applications of comments and Track Changes, begin to mine the good content from the bad.
2b. This includes deleting extraneous elements
2c. This includes adding, changing or reconfiguring existing material into a new position.
2d. This also includes leaving questions in comments that need to be addressed.

Here for example are two such questions: (the first from one edit, the second from a novel edit)

a) “Are you saying that you have three events occurring simultaneously, an X, a Y and a Z? Which one does the mechanic apply to?”
b) This sentence is unclear. Either chop off the beginning or make the ending refer back to the person in question. 

Throughout the revision/editorial process there’s a back-and-forth established. I say something, you respond; you say something I respond. Ideally this back-and-forth treats us both like adults and colleagues working together, and it should never devolve into name calling, passive aggressive pissing contests or outright arguments.

Why? Because edits are suggestions. Yes, they’re suggestions with good intentions, experience, and expertise behind them, but they’re still suggestions. And we (editors) know that. We hope you take them seriously, since we’re giving them for the benefit of your project, but there are going to be times when we disagree.

So what can you do to make the process of editing less about our disagreements and more about getting things done and accomplished? Here are a few tips:

i. It’s not about you! When I edit something, even something one of my friends wrote, if I edit it, nothing in their personal life comes into play. Not who they’re married to, what they’re doing Tuesday for dinner, not what they said to me on Twitter this morning…it’s all about the work. And if I call them out for making an error (or making the same error repeatedly) I trust them to see and realize that it’s not a condemnation of who and what they are, just a bad writing habit I’m trying to excise. An edit in your manuscript is not somehow a mark or slight against you, it’s an edit…in your manuscript.

ii. Be ready to listen to a new point of view. When you hand over your MS for editing, be prepared for me to come at it with new eyes. I wasn’t in the room when you wrote it, I likely didn’t have any input on its genesis or growth. It’s also possible that outside of this particular project, you and I have never spoken, so I may not fully grasp the nuances of your humor or dig your taste in metaphors. I’m going to go through your work as a totally new reader and editor, so that may mean I don’t get your joke, or understand your explanation the first, second or fifth times. If you’re not ready to have someone potentially mark up, flag and question your work, understand that you may need to talk to the editor before you submit to the process.

iii. Editing is NOT reading!The editing process is so much more than spellcheck-ing a document, reading it, and pronouncing it “nice” or “good”. It’s also not pleasure reading. In fact, I’m not really “reading” your work at it. The process is finer than that. I’m looking for errors, I’m searching for clarity in concept and execution, I’m often looking at the relationship from word to word — that’s of a higher scope and detail than just reading the MS to see if I like it.

iv. Don’t lose your temper! Sometimes, it can feel like you’re under siege while getting edited. Your hard work, your words, your creation is under a sharp knife wielded by someone who “doesn’t get it”. It can be frustrating to get back ten, twenty or thirty pages of marked up draft and feel overwhelmed and indignant that someone found so much fault with what you’ve done. Remember though, it’s not personal (i) and what we’re having is a conversation, not a lecture. If you’re able to rein in your frustrations and express your side of the discussion civilly then the writer-editor relationship will prosper. If you’re frustrated, confused, annoyed, bothered….speak up. It might be momentarily uncomfortable, but in the end it will be worth it. Just do so civilly.

I think four items is a good start. If any of my editor friends want to jump in: What can writers do to make the process easier? Leave a comment or two.

Happy writing. We’ll talk soon.

Post #120 – The Pay What You Want Workshop(s)

Okay, so this is a big announcement.

As I talked about on my recent Jennisodes interview, I hear two major reasons why people can’t attend a workshop or class I teach:

a) It’s too expensive
b) The workshops are held in places that people in other states can’t get to.

Today, I’m announcing that both of those reasons are invalid. Today I announce the Pay What You Want / Pay What It’s Worth series of workshops.

Here’s How This Works
In a week or so, there’s going to be a list of dates and a Paypal button next to each of them on this blog. If there’s a date that works for you, and you want to take whatever class is offered that evening (they’ll be evenings), you click the Paypal button and pay some amount of money that works for you.

That’s right. You pay what you can. Sure, the sky’s the limit and you can go hog wild breaking the bank, and yes, you can be a jerk and pay a dollar. But I want you to pay what you’re comfortable paying. What your budget allows for. What you feel it’s worth.

Once you pay, you’ll need to be online that particular night, and available for a Google+ Hangout.

That’s it.

The Truth
I don’t want anyone to have to choose between paying for groceries or taking a workshop. I don’t want my work to be a “luxury” item for people. Believe me, I’m flattered when people save their cash and splurge on coming to panels or workshops, but what I do shouldn’t be limited to rare occasions. Part of the reason I do it is to give back to the community of people that helped me get to this point in the first place.

The reason why the Paypal button and the calendar isn’t up already is because I’m still working on the details. But here’s what I’ve got so far:

1. The workshops will cover (in no particular order): Game Design Writing, Simple Edits You Can Do Yourself, Character Building, and Working With An Editor. If those four do well, I’ll do four more
2. I need your help to make this work! Tell your friends, share the news. I want this to be a big deal, not just some small attempt at what could be something greater. Help me make this a big damned deal.

There will be more details to come. And more conversations to be had.

We’ll talk soon.