What Dreamation Taught Me About Writing, Editing and Business

This weekend, I attended Dreamation. Similar in some regards to Metatopia, this was a much bigger and broader-themed event, tending to be more about playing games and LARPing, rather than designing them, improving them or making an industry rock. 

But it was a good experience on the whole, and I come back to the blog a little dehydrated and sleep-deprived, but a little more savvy than when I was last here. I’d like to share some observations I made.

1. I am 100,000% doing the right thing by shifting my focus more and more into helping game designers and moving out of less-than-satisfying “traditional” novel-editing experiences. Yes, the game industry pays about half (or less) than the usual editing rate, but the upside of it is a far better experience and better turnaround. I know that I can expect quality and commitment from the jump in gaming (I might just be lucky and be surrounded by the greatest people and have the best experiences), and that there’s very little to none of the “throw-the-editor-under-the-bus syndrome” I see in traditional publishing. I’m still getting my feet under me as an industry editor, and working on my tone has SUPER helped, (as have many other changes), but I really feel good about this move. The lesson here – It’s totally awesome to pursue what you love to do (editing for me) in a field you love to be a part of (gaming).

2. Even at midnight, with very little buzz, I can turn out one hell of a seminar. If I were to speak ill of Dreamation, it’s that I shuffled off to one side. I’m not saying I need or warrant celebrity status, and this is not me playing the don’t-you-know-who-I-am card, this is me saying that I deserve the same opportunity, and the same publicity as anyone else who’s put together a presentation or a game or a whatever. A midnight to 3am slot Friday night into Saturday is great if we’re all hopped up on Red Bulls and we’re seventeen and the world is our oyster. But that’s not the case.

I understand the issue – that people shouldn’t have to choose between a passive sit-in-a-chair panel and an active game experience, and I respect that, but…what about the people who actually wanted a panel? I don’t teach…basket-weaving, I help people write better, and that’s not a very passive experience for them when I take questions throughout the seminar and give people really (well, I think) practical advice in a palatable way.

So ok, I had to jump on Twitter and do some in-person leg work to get people in seats. Yeah it was super late and people were super tired. But I had quite a few people (a lot of them shocked I was actually doing something both at the hour and about the topic) who I think really benefited from it.

The lesson here – I don’t mind doing the legwork to promote myself (I’m always happy to talk about myself, even if I have to work on my tone while I do it), but more important is the idea and actions to back up that I deserve the fair shake. I am good “enough”/ capable “enough” to do what I do, regardless of hour or audience. 

3. When I feel passionate about something, I should commit fully to it. I have a deep love affair with a game called “Night’s Black Agents” that runs about as deep for my love of superheroes, Doctor Who, the Dresden Files and peanut butter. I did my best to squeeze a 4-hour game into a 2-hour slot with a group about 3 players too large…and the results were not (in my opinion) the best. Yes, people had fun, but my concern is that they walked away from it with entirely the wrong sort of feeling for the tone of the game. Oh, and I’m way rusty on running a game. The plus side here? The brownies we ate were delicious. The lesson here – Had I just had trusted myself to do a better job, had I been a little more confident in something not-editing/writing, I could have asked for a slot to play the game, and really made a good show of it. Confidence and passion are going to carry me far, when I admit them and let them help rather than hold me back.

4. When in doubt, I need to go back to “fun”. I can, at times, take myself way too seriously. (See the above item where I just bitched that perhaps people didn’t play a game the way I thought they would). Sure, sometimes the world is all serious-and-business-face, but other times the world is all goofy fun with loud obnoxious barking laughs and imagination and helping each other have a good time. I didn’t play many games this weekend, both because I didn’t want to expose myself to “con crud” (happy to report that aside from tiredness and dehydration, I’m healthy) and also because nothing really jumped out at me – because I was taking myself WAY too seriously. The games I did play (Champions of Midralon, Technoir) were AMAZINGLY FUN TIMES, once I lightened up. The lesson – Stopping and laughing and enjoying myself is NOT an indication that I’m incapable of hard work, or somehow showing disrespect to the people who pay me to help them. I’m allowed to take days off and relax.

Okay, I’ve got about 70 pages left to edit today, so I’m wrapping up this post here.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about cliffhangers, ribbon endings and how to tie pieces together.

Happy writing.

PS – I’ve started using a new hashtag on Twitter lately “#helpushelpyou” aimed at freelancers to give advice to future clients/employers on how we can all make our lives easier working together. I strongly recommend it.

0 thoughts on “What Dreamation Taught Me About Writing, Editing and Business

  1. John,

    You know we didn't shuffle you purposely; we have unsuccessfully tried a writer's workshop for years. If the feedback is that it should be in a better slot because of you, so be it.

    Most importantly, I didn't want you to put a bunch of work into it and NOT have anyone show up because they were gaming.

    I'm sorry if you felt as though we were not promoting you properly; that was not the intention.

    >>>Vinny

  2. Vinny,

    I don't feel slighted in the least, and am as always grateful for the opportunity to hold a panel. I do think though that in order to make that panel successful, whether it's me running it or a squad of other writers, it will not be as effective at midnight.

    I do understand the idea that you don't want people to “have to” choose between panel or play, but there are going to be people who WILL choose it, because A) there's so many other times available to play and B) it's what they want to do and lastly C) I'm the one doing it, and they know (or want to know) what I can offer them.

    I'd very much love to continue offering panels and workshops, maybe even more than one per Con, I do think people benefit from the opportunity to at the very least, hear a presentation and get answers to their questions.

    As for promotion, I do think lots of parts weren't promoted fully – this workshop, a lot of new games…it felt choppy and I would call it “tangled” in trying to sort out what to do and when to do it (which is why I only signed up for a few games). I do think each game/panel/group/LARP/whatever should promote themselves, as long as it's not some huge grandstanding thing.

  3. Hello John,

    I was one of the attendees at your panel and it was quite helpful in refreshing my flagging interest in writing (and in being creative in general). Even the woman who was with me as merely an observer, with no actual interest in the subject, found herself interested and entertained. Thank you for your time and for letting me have the material you were working from when I had to depart the panel early. I hope to see you at DexCon.

    Michael Vapnik
    Arcane Circle Enterprises

  4. Michael,

    It was a great pleasure having you at the panel, and I'm glad my presentation and notes were able to kindle some sort of fire of creativity for you.

    I will be at DexCon, most assuredly. And thanks for coming to the blog, I hope you find more fuel for that fire here.

    J

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