Sunday, February 3, 2013


It's been a long time since I added anything here, mostly because I was discouraged. You all seemed to come here for one article, and one article only ("Freelancer Best Practices"). Hey, I'm glad you liked that one, but there's a lot more here that you should be reading. I can tell you how to deal with your stressed-out, demanding editor, but if you write crap you're never going to get to the point of having to deal with an editor.

Case in point. I've been contacted several times through Facebook by aspiring game designers asking me to look over their game, or give them advice on how to self-publish. First of all, this kind of information ain't free. I got bills to pay. I'll gladly review any game sent to me, but it's going to cost you money. Because spending a few days looking over your work, and then writing a design document takes time. Time is money.

Second, when I'm asked by a fresh-faced, eager game designer to look over their game, I ask them "have you seen my blog?" Now, these are friends. They know about this blog, because I promote it on Facebook. They're not reading it. Or, they went to "Freelancer Best Practices" and stopped there. Don't know what a signature is? It's here on the blog. Along with why you should care, before you launch your Kickstarter. Don't know what a heading level is? It's here on the blog.

Seriously, people. There's thousands of dollars of free advice here on the website. You really should read it.

Anyway, today I want to talk about focus. Or "writing what you need to write."

I have a friend who is running a Kickstarter for their game supplement, and, as is standard, he included contributor levels. That's great. You get to see your name in print. You maybe even get noticed. They get good material they can use. And maybe find a good, steady freelancer. So it's a good idea to write well. 

The first way to do this is to stay focused. If you've paid for the privilege of adding a character, then you should, first of all, contribute a character. Don't include a paragraph about the kingdom from which he comes, because this likely won't fit in with the rest of the book and get cut. If you're going to contribute a kingdom, don't send in 500 words about the king. That's a character. 

Sure, you may think it's vital that we know everything about the king (after all, he's the king), but not really. You only need to include the information as it applies to the kingdom. Is he a despot? Fine. That applies to how the kingdom is run. We don't need to know he's a despot because he was beaten by his father as a child. We don't need to know his entire life's story. We need that information as it applies to the kingdom

The phrase here is "Write Tight." Know the subject of the sentence you're writing, and write that. Know how that sentence fits in with the overall subject of the paragraph. Know what the subject of the paragraph is. Ask yourself "why is this here?" and "what am I trying to say?" If you can't answer that, or if the answer doesn't fit, then you're wasting time and energy. Writing tight is about organization, knowing what each element is supposed to do, and keeping extraneous information to a minimum. 

For example: From village to hamlet, they go, the Swift Ones, carrying letters and packages all over the land. No place is too far for them, and nothing too large to deliver. They’re the fastest things on land or in the air. Hares and bats make up most of their membership, though there are more than a few kestrel-riding mice and geckos. If you need a message to get someplace, the Swift Ones can carry it for you. And you can be sure they’ll deliver it, too.

First, this is from my own work. It's for a game of furry animals, which explains the hares and geckos. But let's break it down:

* First, it's written in a conversational style, because someone is talking to you and telling you about the Swift Ones. 

* Second, the first sentence, the thesis sentence, tells you the subject. We're reading about the Swift Ones. Who are they? Letter carriers. Where do they go? From village to hamlet. 

* The next sentence builds on this idea. They'll deliver anything, anywhere. 

* They're the fastest. They're like the FedEx of this world. This builds on the reason why you'd want to use them to carry your letter. 

* Who are they? Hares and bats, and bird-riding smaller animals. 

* The last two sentences are a summary. The second-to-last one spins the paragraph to the resolution -- you can count on them. The final sentence wraps up the paragraph neatly, and suggests that they'd do anything to deliver your package. 

So, I can tell you why each sentence is in that paragraph, which is a summary of the Swift Ones. I don't talk about the leader, or their methods, or their history. This is an introductory paragraph. It gives the broad overview. The next paragraph, in fact, describes the leader. This paragraph does its job. It's focused, and it doesn't provide a bunch of extraneous information. 

It's important to stay focused on your work. Know what each paragraph is supposed to do. Make sure each sentence contributes to that. Most importantly, know what it is you're writing, so those paragraphs cover what we need to know, and not something else. A paragraph can be well-written, but if it's about the king, and doesn't fit in with the rest of the work, then it's a useless paragraph. Write tight. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again for yet another excellent post. In fact, I really needed that. It should allow me to cull my setting materials better.

    And know at least some of us read the other stuff.