FiYoShiMo Day 31 By The Numbers and Thank You

So, we’ve reached the end of FiYoShiMo. Wow.

THANK YOU

Thank you for taking this ride with me. I hope it has proven helpful. What you’ve done is shown me that the big fancy dreams aren’t wasted. Get up every day, put up over a thousand words on average on topics ranging from characters to chronology, and watch people respond. It really makes me so happy to read tweets and emails where people have been helped by the last thirty days.

As many of you know, I’m not a well man. On top of a terminal heart condition, I’m currently fighting pneumonia, which is a really craptastic one-two punch. But I got out of bed every morning for the last month and put up a post. I did it because I had a goal. And yeah, sure, I went back to bed after, or I sat in the chair and caught my breath, but I did what I set out to do. There’s nothing so valuable to me as the confidence this last month built.

It’s okay to have goals. It’s okay to have big dreams. But you have to go after them. Not wait for them to be brought to you, not only visualized, not waited on until stars, moons, and other people line up for you. These are you opportunities, these are your goals, so you take your dream, you make a plan to make it happen, then one word, one action, one step at a time, you chase your dream.

Some days you’re gonna make huge strides, some days you’ll run for miles on the adrenaline or excitement of reaching that goal. Other days you’re gonna crawl like you’re pulling yourself forward by your fingertips. But you’re making progress. And it’s that progress that separates the people who wish for things, and the people who make things.

There are going to be days where you just plain don’t want to do it. You’re not going to want to write. You’re not going to want to try and tweet. You’re going to sit there and find every excuse possible, manufacture some new ones, and still not get anything done.

And that’s when you need to get your ass moving. That’s exactly the moment where you need to be making that choice to get up and go after your goal. Your biggest obstacle isn’t the difficulty of your plan, it’s not the loftiness of your goal, it’s the person looking back at you in the mirror. The person who maybe doesn’t think you deserve the success. The person who thinks that since you’ve never done anything like this before that it won’t work. The person who thinks that if you do this thing, you’re gonna get judged or shunned or shamed for it.

You gotta believe in yourself. You gotta find whatever small spark you can fan into a flame so that you don’t give up on your dream. You gotta build a plan out of a steps that you can do, even when there’s a challenge in there every now and then.

That’s what Fix Your Shit Month has taught me. It’s solidified that. It’s the biggest blog thing I’ve ever done. And I’m proud of every word on the page. I’m proud to have sat there and tweeted out links. I’m proud of myself.

Here are some numbers, if stats are more your jam:

The number of words (not counting this post) written during FiYoShiMo — 38,828

The average length of each blogpost per day during FiYoShiMo — 1,294.2

The number of posts I wrote mid-FiYoShiMo to rewrite the Star Wars prequels. You can read them here, here, and here. I had been saying I’d rewrite them one day, and I’m glad I did. I just didn’t think I’d be doing it while writing the biggest blog-project of my life – 3

The number of times I doubted that FiYoShiMo had any value to anyone – 8

The number of times that doubt stopped me – 0

The number of hours spent giving myself “This is going really well” peptalks about FiYoShiMo – 14

The number of posts WordPress ate, resulting in them being written a second time – 6

The average number of times per week I would look see the blog stats, hoping for any numbers greater than 3 – 13

The number of people who asked for FiYoShiMo to be produced in a single volume – 57

The number of nights where I got less than six hours sleep worrying about FiYoShiMo being produced in a single volume – 3

The number of jokes about bikini car washes that got cut from the Day 13 post – 2

The number of jokes about 80s montages that got cut from Day 6 – 9

The number of times I thought I erased the entire blog post archive thanks to WordPress UI elements being poorly laid out – 5


 So What Did I Learn?

With a goal and a plan, anything is possible if you take action.


 

I may not have the most interactive audience, I may not have a blog fat with comments, but I know that people do read what I post, and I’m comforted by that. Too many times I find myself struggling with some notion that a blog is only as good as its comments, even though so many comment sections are cesspools of spam and hateful things. I suppose it comes from a longstanding thought that as a writer or producer of things I’m only as good as the people who tell me I’m good. When I write that out, it does sound really shitty, and I know I deserve better than that. Part of today will be spent reflecting on that for sure.

When there’s been a response to FiYoShiMo, it’s been positive. And that makes me happy. Now more than ever, I believe that learning the craft of writing isn’t supposed to require years of abstract study in miserable classrooms, and that the writers who choose to spend their time teaching craft have somewhat of an obligation to present the material in ways that don’t only demonstrate their genius, but instead make the material accessible to people. It’s not alchemy. It’s not rare magicks that only the royal court wizard should know. It’s storytelling. It’s creativity. It’s universal.

There’s tens of thousands of words on what I think the principle elements of writing are, and I worked hard to make them not suck. After so many unpleasant academic experiences, after reading crappy vague books and brag-heavy blogposts by “experts”, what began as something I thought I might do ballooned into this sort of challenge. First, it was getting started, then it became about getting it done. The middle bit, those middle ten days, I don’t think I ever plateaued, more like I hit some sort of stride. This month very much changed the way I approach writing.

The big discussion now is turning this into something more than blogposts. With this damned pneumonia, my momentum and energy level are cut way down, but I do want to turn this into something. A book. A thing you can have for yourselves. The hard part is that my Smashwords reach is capital-T Tiny. Did you know I’ve got material for sale? I admit to sucking at marketing my own stuff, usually out of fear that buying my stuff after reading it seems unnecessary or that you need that $3 for something more pressing. But, if you want to buy some books, I’d appreciate it.

So I’m strongly considering trying to get this mass of words traditionally published. The downside there is the time it would take to get it published is time when it wouldn’t be available to you. And I want it to be available to you. It should be available to you, since you know, it’s FOR YOU. I’ll give it some more thought today.

Would I do this again? Yeah, yes I think I would. As crazy and as taxing and stressful as it was, it was a challenge I rose to. It motivated me, it helped me sort out my thoughts, and I like to think it made me a better coach and blogger.

This is the last blog post of 2015. I’m taking a few days off next week, and then I’ll resume the Monday/Wednesday/Friday posts. But I earned the hell out of some time away from the blog, and I’m going to take it.

Thank you, truly thank you, for reading FiYoShiMo. It means so much to me that even 1 person came to my little slice of the internet and read my words. If I could, I’d drive to each of your homes (or, if you want something less creepy, we could meet somewhere) and thank you in person. You’re the reason I do this. The potential of your work is worth sharing. Seeing you succeed is a good thing. And you deserve to succeed.

See you in 2016.

A Whole Mess of GenCon Thoughts

I’ve been home now about two hours, which for me is just enough time to really begin the deeper marination process of feelings and memories. I’ve put some of my thoughts already up on Facebook, but those are the first blush at these ideas. I’ve had delicious lasagna and a pint of iced tea, so I think there’s more to say.

I want to start by saying this was a good convention for me. I came home with far fewer business cards than I left the house with, and I’m hopeful that with all the people I’ve met, the horizon will have some good work ahead. While I didn’t walk the convention floor nearly enough for my liking, I have to recognize that lengthy periods of walking, even with a cane, aren’t easy for me anymore. I had quite a few moments of exhaustion and “Let’s just sit down/lean right here” and I am sure that I should have done it more than I did.

This was the first year I didn’t have some rushed sense that I was running out of time or that I should have been doing something else (more on that in the next paragraph), and this was the first year I didn’t have something looming over my head while I was there. There wasn’t a big spectacle at an awards show this year, I didn’t have to spill too many guts out for the first time at panels, I didn’t have to worry about staying high or drunk or anything like that. I just got to be me, and I liked that.

A funny thing happened when I stopped living and acting for other people and made myself a priority – I started having a lot of fun. I started laughing at jokes again. I started making jokes again. I started liking things that I somehow convinced myself were “beneath me”. Like peach cobbler. Like pickled jalapeños. Like 90s music. And all this liking gave me a renewed sense of purpose towards what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I don’t think I lost sight of that entirely, but I know it got obfuscated by a lot of people and paranoia and pettiness. Without a feeling like I should be doing something else because it would have been boring for other people to stand around and watch me hand people business cards or chat with people I see once or twice a year, I let myself enjoy things. And that’s … good. It felt good. Also, it saved me a ton of money in bar tabs and loads more in frustration.

I’ve never had a good sense that my panels help people. Sure, I get a few people who follow me on twitter after a panel. I get maybe some passing bit of information that so-and-so did something, but more or less, I leave a seminar thinking I’ve reached no one and left no evidence of an impression. It can be tiring to think about the days of prep and the hours of rehearsal all amounting to nothing, so I try to make sure that I did do something that helped, even if asking or thanking people grows annoying. This year though, I am confident, so absolutely confident that I helped people. Not just because I gave them a place to sit for an hour, but because they got answers to questions, or they made new friends or they got to put a voice to something they had been sitting on for a while. I watched people get hugs (seriously, hugs happened). I watched people do a lot of nodding to the people seated next to them. I attribute this to two things – I stopped making panels about me and how great I am, and I didn’t overload the panels with information.

See, I used to think that my panels were boring, so I’d jam them with material, far too much material, and leave people in an overwhelming cloud of “what do I take away from this”. Partnered with a sense of “Yeah I just spent sixty minutes talking about how cool I am, this is sure to bring me work”, I am pretty sure this often made me an asshole, and as I step away from that now (somewhat, I mean, leopards and spots, guys), I realize that the panels are there to help people. And I like helping people. So I did.

Oh! That brings me to the awards portion of the blogpost. Something I worked on, the Designers and Dragons industry encyclopedias, was up for a few awards. I was very eager to win one, as I was closer to this project than many of the other things I’ve done. And I’m happy to say, the book won an award.

It's a pretty sweet certificate. It comes with a medal too.

It’s a pretty sweet certificate. It comes with a medal too.

I could not have won this award without the hard work of so many amazing people at Evil Hat Productions, but I would be lying if I said this award didn’t also feel like some personal recognition too. These books had A LOT of words in them, and they took time to edit. No, don’t take that to mean the words all sucked, just that there was a lot of reading and checking and little corrections like commas or unclear sentences to trim up. And yes, I did ask for my own copy of the certificate and medal. Call it an early birthday gift to myself.

((At this point in the writing, I’ve written and deleted a few paragraphs about something that happened about the awards show (didn’t involve me), and I’ve decided that warrants its own post, probably later in the week. So instead of paragraphs of words, look at these doughnuts))

2015-08-02 10.09.38

I miss my friends. I miss the family I left back there. I miss being woken up early. I miss the way the shower I used all week creaked underfoot. I miss the stink of sewage that seems to drape over downtown Indianapolis but no one ever seems to be talking about it. I miss the sight of 61,000-something (!!) people milling around a few blocks in a city I’ve come to really like (except for the smell).

But, I am glad to be home in Jersey. I missed my dog. I missed my garden. I missed my iced tea and my video games and my music.

The inbox is crowded and dense, and there are many thank-yous and replies to messages to write. Better get to it.

Be good to each other, and make awesome things.

What Finishing Noir World Taught Me About Life, Writing, and Everything

I finished Noir World on July 4th, and today while I celebrate my independence from putting new words or pages into it, I’m looking back at what writing 37k and making a game has taught me. It’s taught me a lot.

1. As a guy who doesn’t like when things end, I can actually finish things. I’m not a fan of endings or finales. I’ve never had a relationship end well (as in without some form of fallout). I’ve never seen a lot of last seasons or series finales, because if I don’t watch the ending, the characters and show can still go on. Yes, sure, I can finish things for other people, but that’s because it’s not my thing. I never thought I’d finish Noir World, I thought I’d be forever tinkering with it, since finishing a thing must mean that I must be good enough to do a job from start to finish, and I seldom comfortably think of myself as being “good enough”.

Finishing didn’t mean the ideas stopped, it just means the words stop. I still have plenty of mechanics I could write in. I still have loads of alternate ways to accomplish the same things. But putting them in there doesn’t do anything. It bloats the manuscript. It could confuse the reader, making it unclear which method they’re supposed to use to do something. It takes this idea I’ve worked hard to build and turns into an exercise of “Look how smart I am, see all these words I’ve written? Therefore you must accept me as one your cool kids!” and that’s exactly the feeling I’ve been trying to get out from under.

I’m proud of myself for finishing.

2. A project goes through so many twists and turns before it gets where it needs to be. This game started as a paean to Sherlock Holmes, involving far too many dice and far too many mechanics. It evolved into a competitive gambling game. For a few hours it was almost a card game. It wasn’t until I found a set of mechanics (that weren’t mine) that I liked and understood, that I could see the pieces coming together.

Once I gained the momentum of writing section after section, once I made the decision to go forward, I never came back to Sherlock Holmes. I’m sure I will at some point, but this game isn’t it. I don’t feel particularly broken up over letting the starting concept go, because the end result and its creative process have really produced good work that I absolutely stand behind. I thought I’d be more angry with myself, that I had somehow “failed” as a creator because the finished manuscript doesn’t really anything to do with the idea I first had fifty-something drafts ago. I thought that if I didn’t stay “true” to the genesis, that I could never finish the thing.

It was that rigidity that was keeping me from finishing. I was trying to force the idea into the text, trying so hard to show I was good enough (see below), that I forgot what was really important more than a few times – that I wanted to make a game people enjoyed playing, in an atmosphere and genre I’m incredibly passionate about.

I learned to trust myself creatively, but more on that later.

3. I’m a public guy with a private life. If you follow me on Twitter, and you compare different posts in my history, you’ll see a very changed guy. And not just because I’m not on drugs or drunk anymore, but because my life has had some ups and downs. I used to talk a lot about my personal life, who I was dating, what we were doing. I put a lot of that out there for reasons ranging from bragging to celebrating to pride. But it took this manuscript to teach me what real investment of time and energy is. I didn’t talk about all the nights I came home from dates and wrote a section to help me work through my feelings or my frustrations. I didn’t talk about the number of times I wrote and re-wrote a paragraph because I was distracted by some fight I’d had, or some rough night where my sobriety was tested by toxic people or some social politicking circus.

If you look at my Twitter feed now, I tweet less about my personal life. My health isn’t so great, and there’s only so many times you can mention a heart condition before it gets dull. It’s not that my personal life is all applesauce and buckets of awful, it’s just that I made a very conscious decision to avoid the pain that comes with sharing the vast and sundry details of one’s personal life in an occasionally hostile media climate. Wrestling with that transparency and the decisions of what to tell versus what not to have been difficult for me, but in erring on the side of privacy, I’ve found that I’m happier now. I can work on stuff without worrying about some fragile relationship erupting into stress, and I am altogether far healthier mentally than I thought possible. I like to think that because I spent more time dating (and being intimate with) this manuscript, I really found myself, and dating myself has been a good experience.

4. When you trust yourself creatively, you’re good enough. There are a lot of times I struggle with the idea that I’m good enough: good enough to be loved, to be hired, to be paid, to be cared about, to be listened to, et cetera et cetera. I’m coming around on the idea, thanks to some amazing people in my life and thanks to some tough decisions about cutting out unhealthy relationships.

Working on a game, and working pretty regularly on it, I found a real power in making sure every word and idea on the page were mine. And that they’re written in a way I like. And that they’re easy to understand. In making sure I was happy with everything on the page, and not rushing to “just get it done” or “just get it out there”, I had to learn to trust myself. That I was making smart choices. That I was capable of making smart choices. That my work didn’t suck. Sometimes that meant I had to think about the people who played my game, 99.9% of whom all had a great time. Sometimes that meant I had to think about the comments other people left on the draft, ranging from “Fuck yeah!” to “This is a really cool part.” Sometimes I just had to do that to myself, taking a second to applaud a really sexy paragraph or concept.

The end result is a sense that I do trust myself creatively, and that when i make a thing, it’s a good thing. In that way, I’ve finally found that “good enough” permission slip and access code I’ve always thought I was missing due to some irrational or low self-esteem issue. I can say that Noir World is a really good piece of work, and I have a lot of good proof to back that up.

5. My writing voice is clearer now. I know I can write snark. I know I can write profanity. I know I can write all kinds of stories or characters or plots. I know I can edit. I know I can help other people take their ideas and turn them into stellar projects that win awards and praise. I have been doing all that for a while now, and never really thought about how I sounded.

I can sound how you need or want me to sound when I’m editing. Often that means I’m sounding like the author when I’m patching up grammar and sentences. Sometimes that means I’m sounding clinical or dry. Sometimes that means I’m lobbing jokes in margins and sidebars.

Bits and pieces of that form my actual voice. When I speak, for instance, you get a little bit of everything. I curse. I make jokes. I make good points. I sound friendly. I sound authoritative. I wanted to make sure that all ends up in whatever project has my name on the cover. I choose every word and every sentence deliberately, crafting exactly the ideas I wanted. I know that some people will take my book and dissect it into components they’ll steal or discard, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you read Noir World, you’re reading me. My love for the genre. My sense of what’s important. My enthusiasm. I wasn’t always clear about my voice. But thirty-seven thousand words has a way of polishing a voice.

* * *

It makes me happy to think about the fact that not only are those my words in that document, but that they work when you give them to people, they can have the experience I intended. I didn’t sort of make a thing that kind of works, sometimes, when stars align and it’s a particular day of the week. I made a thing that people in THREE countries have tested, and loved. That’s a huge deal for me – proving that this thing I made works when I’m not even on the same continent.

It’s good to do things. It’s good to find yourself as you do them. It’s good to be true to yourself.

Happy writing, creating, relaxing, and partying.

The Story Of Storium And How I Tell Stories

While I’m in the middle of a crazy sale you should be taking advantage of, and while I’m about to start a weekend that has full potential to be rather emotionally wrenching (yes, you can totally check up on me throughout the weekend), I thought I’d wrap the week with a positive note.

I work in gaming. I make a good living working with a lot of people and companies to make incredible games. These games allow people to tell fantastic stories, and through their stories, I draw a lot of satisfaction. Regrettably, the amount of work I do and the emergence of new projects and people in my life mean I get to tell my own stories somewhat sporadically. Sure, I do a lot of my own writing, but that’s a different facet of the gem: there’s too much control, and the variables other people represent are at times a critical part at telling really meaty stories. Like so many things in life, sure, you can do it yourself, but other people take the experience to whole other level.

This post is my love letter to Storium. They’ve got a Kickstarter going and quite a few of my dear friends have been talking about it, and I thought I’d chime in. Hopefully this won’t read like I’m hopping on a bandwagon or beating a near-dead horse.

I first encountered Storium through Brian Engard, he introduced me to a small 2-player game with some horror elements. I played an identity thief who inherited a creepy Lovecraftian hotel. The game didn’t last long, but it was the start of something. It felt better than reading recaps people posted online about their games. It felt a lot like being around the table with my friends. It made me miss doing that less. I was hooked. From there, I tumbled into a science fiction game, this time with more people, people I am frankly intimidated to game with, despite working and chatting with them regularly. Gaming with people who write games and run companies about games feels a lot like playing a pick-up game with Lebron or Jordan – yes, it’s all basketball, but seriously, those guys ARE basketball. It often makes me want to make huge, brave risks in play, which I guess is the best thing it could do, aside from sending me running from my keyboard and hoping people won’t tell me I suck.

That science fiction game lasted a little longer, I was playing a totally new character for me – the immature hedonist, which I enjoyed because aside from the sci-fi elements, I am a pleasure-seeking addict and spent half my life with the emotional maturity of turnips. It was in that game I came across the first of several storytelling elements: Challenge is fluid.

Making that discovery was like discovering the piano has more keys to play. Too often when I write or run a game or think up a story, the obstacles are fixed things, they’re benchmarks for when more things happen: Okay, the character gets into fight #1, that leads them into the second act where they discover X. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not the only way to have obstacles for characters. To challenge a character, one of the greatest ways a creator/author/player can tell the story and use all their available tools is to surrender some part of the control.

Storium encourages and mechanizes this through a card system.

Here's a sample challenge from my own Storium game, Noir World

Here’s a sample challenge from my own Storium game, Noir World

What this does is shake loose the assumption that your character is going to triumph stupendously over the challenge. It doesn’t change the fact that the character is competent or empowered to, it instead affects the development of action. As in the case above, if the players accomplished the challenge with a strong outcome (as they did), they move the story in a specific way. If they didn’t, the story would go down a different fork in the road. In each case, I stipulated that they need to describe the actions they take or fail, which both alleviates the burden of me doing it and encourages their participation. Which brings me to another great element: Investment isn’t something you force on story participants, it’s something they bring in.

Here’s a sample move in a game I’m in.

Yes, that's Christopher Lambert as Tarzan, just go with it.

Yes, that’s Christopher Lambert as Tarzan, just go with it.

In this case, I’m playing human bait in this sort of Moby-Dick-Meets-Kaiju world that is at once both modern and primal. The “Law” I talk about? I made that up. I could have just written a paragraph, or two really long sentences. I didn’t. Each move is a scene unto itself, I like to think about a move in terms of the camera that’s tracking and zooming and focusing in on my character’s moment. So why not put on a good show? I really enjoy the attention and the spotlight and I’m a sucker for an audience, so why not really play it up? Because I have the camera on me, I get to be invested. I didn’t get told to do that. I didn’t read that anywhere in the game’s instructions – I brought this to the move.

Getting your players or actors or readers to invest is a function of giving characters agency and keeping the focus on them. The reason we care about Hamlet or Harry Potter or Harry Dresden is because the story’s focus follows them. We’re over their shoulders, we’re seeing what they do and how the see the world. Their eyes and thoughts are ours for the story’s duration. Because they’re given considerable power within the story: to talk, to act, to cast spells, to be heroic or tragic, we want to see them succeed, we want to see how the story works out, so we keep turning the pages.

As stories go, I like all the games I’m in. I’m of course biased, being that I run a large game and that I’m in a popular one and I’m playing a support role in a third. But the fact that I can play and run really diverse characters:

  • Pike Gordon, average man in a no-longer average world, recently empowered by one his ex-love interests against his will while trying to solve a murder that happened behind the apartment building he lives in
  • Al-Torr, morose and lonely man whose inherited the mantle of Beacon, the human bait that runs out and lures Kaiju into killing range

and that I can build an entire world to tell tragedy:

  • Noir World (Episode 1: Dinner Parties and Dames), a world forever stuck in the past, where every bright light is partnered with a dark shadow

but all this reinforces one more incredible element: Stories live and die not by their creator but by their characters.

Admittedly that first scene in Noir World was a HUGE mess. I stretched things out too thin, let things gloop together and overplayed my hand, giving away too much and slowing things down. In trying to figure out how to run a game (see the above mentioned pressure), I blundered more than a little. I regret quite a bit of that, and really worry I had killed my game off and disappointed people. It turns out I didn’t. At all. It did teach me what not to do, that it’s easier to slow down and parcel things out, but also it taught me that even though I’m in control (well, not like full control, but I’m steering the vessel), the lifeblood and pulse of stories remain the characters who populate them.

For these lessons and hours of enjoyment, I so firmly believe in and happily backed the kickstarter. My great regret is that I lacked the courage or initiative to offer Noir World as a stretch goal, but that’s likely do to me not asking if it was even possible or the assumption that no one would like it. That second bit will probably be a blog post.

Have a great weekend. Tell the people who matter that you love them. Do something that makes you happy. Chase your passions. Check in on people who are hurting, alone, scared, or overwhelmed. Be awesome.

Happy writing.

The ‘Welcome To Writer Fight Club’ Sale

The road to publication is a tough one. Putting aside for the moment the fact that you actually have to write a book, the expense of getting it looked at, edited, and published can be far more than a simple “this is just something I wrote on the weekends” budget can bear. It’s not uncommon for edits to cost hundreds of dollars or more. And those might be hundreds of dollars you don’t have.

So what can I do to help you, writer?

How about a deal for the next 30 days?

The Welcome To Writer Fight Club Sale

If you’re writing and come to me for editing or developmental advice**, your first 9000 words WILL COST YOU A PENNY EACH.

(** “editing and developmental advice” is defined as ANY kind of edit, from copyediting to developmental)

What Happens After 9000 words?

Starting with word 9001, the rate returns to its variable amount, based on whatever kind of editing you need (so anywhere from .02 to .11 on average) – but that’s something we work out. You’ll know well in advance.

How Do I Know What Kind of Edit I Need?

Here’s a quick guideline:

  1. If you need the sort of grammar/punctuation/continuity edit that you’d receive from an English teacher (commas, periods, quotations, sentence fragments, vague sentences, etc), that’s a copy edit.
  2. If you need a deeper edit that looks at dialogue, pacing, and just a little plot and all of the above, that’s a line edit.
  3. If you need a deeper edit than that, one that looks at character development, plot development, actions, genre appropriate material, mood, tone, POV, and all of the above, that’s a developmental edit.

To give you a frame of reference, without this sale, these edits would normally cost you:

  1. Copy Edit of 9000 words = $180
  2. Line Edit of 9000 words = $360
  3. Developmental Edit of 9000 words = $540
  4. 9000 words edited during this sale = $90

BUT FOR THE NEXT 30 DAYS (until May 22, 2014) YOU CAN GET ANY OF THESE EDITS FOR $90.

$90 to get your novel off the ground isn’t a bad deal.

How Do I Get Started?

If you’re interested, send me an email (thewriternextdoor@gmail.com) and let’s talk. Don’t let budget be the obstacle keeping you from telling your story and making art.

Welcome to Writer Fight Club.

2013 In Review, Part 1: Believe

It’s the day after Christmas. Five days remain in 2013. This seems like a great time to get introspective. Rather than do it chronologically (which I had wanted to do initially, but that didn’t feel very cohesive), I want to do it thematically, by talking about one of the big elements 2013 taught me. Part 2, which I’ll probably write on New Year’s Eve, will cover another theme.

This seemed to be the year for gifts with meaning. The gifts I received were payoffs to inside jokes, or items long treasured and finally delivered. So, once this post is up, you can rest assured I’m going to be watching the hell out of Murder She Wrote, and perusing writing guides. But that doesn’t account for what I’ll be reading tonight. To explain it, I need to back up a step or so.

My mother is devoutly religious. Not like in that extremist way we so often mock, by comparison she’s greatly subdued. Church every Sunday. Bible study groups twice a month. She enjoys old hymns and I think misses the old-fashioned ways of a church with sermons that promoted kindness and compassion over donations and awkward revelation. Her church of choice, the church  of my youth, is in total disarray, having fired or forced out all the people she knew and claiming “budget cuts” as the reason for drastic changes to services and practices. This didn’t drive my mother’s faith away, just more insular. More personal.

Now she knows my faith, which in my teens was admittedly quite strong, has long since warped, cracked and faded. In the throes of illness, I didn’t go running to a god in the sky, and I was rather vocal in how shitty it seemed that a benevolent loving deity would afflict something he created in his own image with madness and depression. My mother was patient with me, enduring all my lengthy bouts of paranoia and depression, my spontaneous angry explosions and hypersensitivity. She never pushed Christianity back on me as the answer, and did her best to intercept the people who thought (apparently seriously) that maybe I had been taken by demons or that mental illness was a test from a god.

As I grew older, and began to coexist with my illness, her faith was hers, and my lack of faith was replaced with logic and science, and depending on who I was dating, either an amalgamation of Buddhist thought, New Age positivity or whatever snake oil a particular business was shilling. My faith was over there, in the corner, as disused as dress pants.

Come forward to this year, and this Christmas. She bought me the entire Murder She Wrote series, remembering how I adored the show and thought my grandmother WAS Angela Landsbury and that she did solve crimes in Maine when we weren’t visiting her. (They really were dead ringers). As we’re concluding the festivities, and preparing to go our separate ways, she slips one more gift, still wrapped, on top of the pile in my arms. She tells me to open later. I promise I will, since she looks serious about it.

Hours later, after watching television and DVDs, I head up to bed, and unwrap her gift. It’s a softcover book, a collection of thoughts and ruminations not just of Christian thought, but also Islamic, Jewish and Taoist thought. Quotes and short essays, organized by theme. She’s placed a gold silk bookmark in the inside cover. She’s inscribed it very simply

It’s okay to believe again, just believe in something.

And in that moment, I realized that in 2013, my beliefs have been all over the map. So I lay there in bed last night, with sleep punctuated by random nightmare vignettes (people turning to stone chickens; a slow robotification of pets; my arms falling off on a date with a Cthulhu cultist, you know, that sort of thing), trying to sort out my beliefs. I continued this process over breakfast, and what follows are my beliefs.

  1. I believe it is the fundamental undeniable right of all people to live as who and how they like without one shred of shame or persecution.
  2. I believe it is the fundamental undeniable right of all people, no matter circumstance or perceived barrier, to be able to speak, write and express themselves, and receive help in doing so better.
  3. I believe in my friends, no matter where their lives take them: to new places, to new jobs, to new things they make, that they’ll be absolutely successful in those efforts, because all my friends and smart and talented.
  4. I believe in my work, in my ability to develop thoughts into words and paint pictures on mental canvases
  5. I believe that 2013 was the year I realized that my heart was broken and my trust in people a little banged up, but I’m willing to have either or both of them mended.
  6. I believe that 2014 is the year I will have my name on a creation of my own where I’m not the editor.
  7. I believe that given the opportunity, people are at their core, good and kind and just, and it’s only fear and expectation and doubt that leads them to act selfish or cowardly.
  8. I believe that 2013 was the year where I pushed myself to new avenues and new activities, and found some I want to do again in 2014, and others I would only do in extraordinary circumstances with extraordinary people.
  9. I believe that 2014 I will continue to do more, achieve more and experience more, and learn from it all.
  10. I believe that I have an undeniable, unavoidable mission and purpose to help people create things, be it games or books or movies or whatever – I’m here to help, facilitate, educate, clarify, amplify and broadcast.

I have no idea what 2014 will bring me, but I imagine it’s got some ups and downs and good things and tough things. I know what I want, I know what I’d like to experience, even if I don’t always know how to get it. So, as 2013 closes, let’s make 2014 the year we believe again. In ourselves. In each other. In what we do. In what we want to do.

And let’s be there to help each other. To teach each other. To celebrate. To mourn. To accomplish. To learn.

Here now, at the end of the post, let me tell you a secret: I’d really like 2014 to be a year where my eyes are a little less sad, and my heart a little less heavy. Wouldn’t mind my fingers still churning out the work though, I like that part.

Happy writing and celebrating.

Post-GenCon – The Ups and Downs

I’m writing this after spending 2 hours in traffic (it’s normally about 15-20 minutes in the afternoon), so if this is a little plodding, it’s entirely because I’m tired and am torn between the age-old debate of eating versus sleeping. I’ve decided to eat something (egg whites) while I figure out what else there is to eat (I think I should go grocery shopping).

So, I’m home from GenCon. It was such an amazing and wonderful and overwhelming experience that I’m not sure I can chronologically track it all. I mean, I wanted to, but there was just SO much going on and so much that happened (all of it good, even if at times it was a bit more and a bit new), that I’ll just hit you here with the highlights in a semi-broad sense. The personal details, well, those are just going to be for me and the people involved.

I disclaim right now that I’m going to cover a lot of topics and speak personally here. If that’s too much for you, or you’re not interested, just know that I had a good time and we’ll talk more soon.

1. I benefited from a space to getaway. There’ s a lot of things going on at this convention — tens of thousands of people make a lot of noise and generate a lot of sensory overload. Really critical for me was the ability to get away from that, even for an hour or so and head back to the hotel room, where the environment was more stable and I could unwind.

2. I can’t say it was flawless, but I am really proud of myself. Okay, honesty time – I had some ups and downs. The specifics aren’t really for this blog, but just know that they weren’t anything catastrophic or ruinous, and I still have all my fingers and toes, and my heart and soul are still kicking. Several of the events, being big huge anxiety-triggers (few things make me go all shallow-breathing and fidgety like the idea that I’ll meet ALL the people I admire in rapid succession), did lead me to pop a pill, but that’s what I have them for right?

And sure I pushed quite a few comfort zones for five days straight. But I came out okay. I made great new wonderful beautiful fantastic friends, made great incredible memories (some of which I’m not sharing with anyone who doesn’t already know), and in general had a great experience.

Order and structure prevailed. Those days where I made sure I ate regularly, stayed hydrated, got rested and took charge of my thoughts and moods were days I was this great new me that I am really coming to love. That’s not to say that when my head got the best of me, or when I didn’t eat and got all fidgety and wan I was sub-human…but there was a clear difference between John-in-charge-of-his-shit and John-at-the-mercy-of-rising-mental-floodwaters.

I did it. I fucking did it.

3. In the face of fears, I took the chances. I can cross quite a few things off my bucketlist after this weekend. I won’t give you the whole list (that’s not for you, gentle readers) but I’ll give you some highlights:

a. Ran a game at GenCon (for people I didn’t know) — I don’t know why I waited so long to do this…I should have been doing this sooner. Okay, yeah that would have taken more prep, but seriously, to have absolutely new people get so into a game and enjoy themselves sincerely (it’s hard to doubt people screaming “Hell yeah” and “That was awesome!”) is deeply gratifying.
b. Ran a game (for people I did know) — Yes, I do this all the time, but here it was different. I ran a hack of a game I am deeply in love with. And it was a HUGE HUGE success. Again, I cannot believe I was so afraid to be expressive with my friends.
c. I went out to eat with people. Sure, that’s not a big deal. No, that’s a very big deal. I tend to eat with, at best, one or two other people. Maybe three on weekends or holidays. I tend to prize my meal times since I’m actually a little embarrassed by how fast I eat (well, ate, I’ve slowed down since beginning treatment). There was a group of people, sometimes upwards of 8, and we all ate together. Indian food, grilled meats, whatever. It wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t scary, even though those people do somewhat affect my livelihood and I do answer to some of them on occasion. But this…this was a meal. With friends. Together, and happy. I could seldom ask for better.
d. I saw my name in A LOT of print. There were piles of books that all had my name in them, and it was very humbling (I admit now that after seeing my name in 2 piles of books and watching people buy them like mad, I did walk away crying happy tears)
e. I was recognized. People sought me out. And not in that we’re-going-to-find-you-and-chase-you-away style I was expecting. I had a lot of great people come tell me that the blog is wonderful, that I’m a good person, that they’re happy for me, that they’re following my progress and it’s inspiring them to do things. Better still these people were happy to see me and put a an actual personage to my online presence. I even signed a few autographs and got a shout-out in an acceptance speech.

Speaking of which….

4. I WON AN ENNIE. (There’s a photo of me with said ENnie floating around Facebook). If you go here, then scroll down to “Fans Favorite Publisher” you’ll see that Evil Hat took the silver. Evil Hat is one of the companies I work for. It was also pointed out to me afterward that I was entitled to go up on stage and receive the award, but at the time it didn’t register (much of the work I’ve done hasn’t really come out yet in full force) nor did I feel like I really did anything to deserve it.

And then the scope of the award was explained to me, as was my role. I shall spare you a lot of that summary, suffice to say it was incredibly moving to know just how well I am regarded and how people I respect see me in such positive ways.

So yeah, it was a great first GenCon.

Have a great evening. I’m off to eat something and crash out on the couch.