Tag: Escapist (page 1 of 4)

Abandon All Hope

Courtesy despair.com

Once upon a time I wrote an article for an online magazine. It went over pretty well. The relationship I described therein has blossomed, and my wife and I work together on quite a few occasions to best the challenges of a particular game. I thought that might be worth writing about.

And then, along comes Chuck Wendig.

It was like practicing your kicks in the dojo and thinking you’ve got what it takes to achieve the next belt when this unknown guy smelling slightly of bacon and gym socks strolls in, crane-kicks you in the mouth, swipes your water bottle and walks out with your girl.

If you want to be a writer, you better get used to it.

One of the few things I carried with me from my brief stints of studying fencing & the martial arts (no, really) is that there will always be somebody better than you. Somebody will be faster, beating you to the punch. Somebody will have better, more powerful delivery. Somebody’s already hit the rhythm that’s been eluding you all the time, and once they’re in that groove they’re not getting out of it.

Because, in the case of writing, it’s going to pay them.

All writers deal with rejection, but on top of that is seeing other writers succeed. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s great for talented writers to be getting work. We know how much it sucks to go without food. Seeing people who actually know how to string words together feed their families on the power of their words is heartening.

It’s also saddening because we haven’t done it yet.

I was asked by a friend “How do you keep writing?” It’s a complex answer, and this is part of it. I’m motivated by ideas I want to put into words, by the notion of making a living with my chosen art instead of just living for it, and I want to be one of the people who actually makes it.

It might never happen. I may simply get one rejection after another until I’m laying on my deathbed still spinning ideas and outlining novels that will never get published.

But if I stop trying, I might as well ragequit now.

We can’t all be Chuck. We can’t just splatter gold onto the desks of editors and directors all over the place. And even if it looks that way, it probably isn’t. Every writer that seems to be effortlessly earning cash for words had to go through the same wringer of rejection and depression we are. And guess what? It’s persistence that got them where they are.

If we persist, if we work through those rejections and hardships until we finally get where we want to be, there will be other, lesser-known, unpublished voices looking up from their dayjobs and their pretentious little blogs wondering how the hell we make it look so damn easy.

How do I keep writing?

I see where I am, and where I want to be. There’s a gap in the middle that needs to be filled with words. They won’t always be the best words, or even particularly smart ones, but the more words that go into that, the closer I get to my goal. And yes, someone out there somewhere might have done what I’m trying to do better than I have. Then again, maybe my work will be just different enough to distinguish itself. As much as I admire George RR Martin, it’d be foolish for me to try and be GRRM. Same goes for Chuck, David Hill, Will Hindmarch and Marty Henley. They’re all great guys. And I can’t be them. I try to play in the same field they’re playing in, I’m likely to get blown clear out of the water.

I keep writing to carve my own niche. To push myself to stand out from the crowd. To become an author on my own merits, with my own ideas, distinguished in my own ways.

I keep writing because as much as the world is flush with stories, mine has yet to be told the way I can tell it.

And I keep writing because I have to. I’m compelled to. At least in choosing writing over heroin, I’m nowhere near as broke as I could be. And I’d be frothing at the mouth for reasons completely unrelated to my daily frustrations.

I’m not saying you should abandon all hope of succeeding, if you’re writing or want to be a writer. Far from it.

I’m saying you should abandon all hope if being able to praise a fellow writer without, to some degree, cussing incessantly under your breath.

Just remember: as much as your teeth might hurt today, tomorrow you might be the crane-kicker. Get up. Dust yourself up. Wipe the blood from your face. And keep hammering those words.

You won’t get anywhere laying there feeling sorry for yourself.

Be A Pitch Machine

Courtesy Kollewin

This is going to be yet another one of those “advice I should follow myself before I dispense it” posts.

I, like many other authors, have been rejected far more often than I’ve been accepted. From big publishing houses to small press folks, I’ve heard the word NO at least a dozen times before hearing a single YES. It’s something for you aspiring young novelists wrapping up NaNoWriMo to keep in mind when you have your shiny new novel in hand and want to see it get ink.

It applies to other writers, too, or writers between novels or edits of novels looking to keep the writing muscles in tip-top shape without engaging in exercises of long prose. Because let’s face it, you can’t run marathons all the time. The best way to stay in shape is sprints around the track. It keeps the muscles primed and ready for that long haul of 26 miles. For the writer, that means short works. Stories, articles, what have you.

That brings me to the image above. For the uninitiated, that is a pitching machine. And that is what you (and I) need to be.

Be it to anthologies of fiction or magazines like The Escapist or any other type of publication looking for fresh new work to populate their pages, you won’t get in the door if you don’t knock on it. Repeatedly. I’m not saying to be annoying, nor should you just fire off a pitch the moment an idea pops into your head. Your pitch should be just like any other work you produce: refined, edited, free of error and as note-perfect and punch-to-the-guttish as possible. That is to say, someone reading it should feel the wind go out of their lungs in at least a metaphorical sense when they realize what you’re getting at and what you can do for them.

Still, one pitch is never enough. It should never be enough. Find places to pitch, especially if they have multiple issues coming, and pitch as much as you can. Again, you don’t want to get to the point of being annoying or fire off pitches half-formed and smelling slightly of bacon grease and day-old coffee. Strike the right balance between camping outside of their place looking through their windows with envy and donning the black tie and white short-sleeved shirt with pitch in hand, ringing their doorbell over and over until they open the door to find you there with the creepiest smile ever on your face asking if they’ve heard your idea yet.

Okay, I’m straining metaphors to the point of them breaking so I think I’m making my point. At least, I hope I am. If nothing else, your pitches should be repeated, persistent, polite and nothing like this. They should not be rambling, off-the-cuff affairs with bad humor and superfluous language that obfuscate the fact that you have nothing to say.

Inception vs. Ocean’s Eleven

Courtesy Warner Bros

Once again a discussion on the Escapist has caused me to pit two films against one another in my metaphorical cage. Considering both are capers with teams of experts, I’ve had to weld extra grates onto the cage to contain all of the action. However, as I was hosing down the alien bits stuck to the cage from the last match, it was pointed out to me that picking the criteria myself waters down the credibility of the match. I know who I’d like to win, so objectivity is colored by choosing points of comparison where I know one film may be superior to the other. With that in mind, I turned to the Escapist and Twitter to help pick out the sticks I’ll be using to measure, and perhaps beat, these two films.

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Avatar vs. District 9

Courtesy respective studios

This is an interesting position for me to be in. It seems that last week’s review of Avatar had some people wondering what movie I’d actually seen, since I didn’t instantly fall in love with Pandora, nor did I gas myself into oblivion to be reincarnated as a Na’vi.

…Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still, a few folks at the Escapist thought I was mistaken in drawing a comparison between James Cameron’s latest money machine and a little film from last year called District 9. They further didn’t seem to get why I considered District 9 a better film, since it too is a sci-fi action drama with a message and a unique alien race never before seen by humans. I was going to fire up District 9 on the Netflix Instant Queue because I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an evening than streaming a film this good directly into my eye sockets, but someone very astute pointed out I’d already reviewed District 9 and while I haven’t given it the ICFN treatment, I’d just be repeating myself for the most part.

But you know what we haven’t had in a while? A cage match.

So let’s toss these two into the mix together and see which emerges victorious. I will attempt to remain as objective as possible for the benefit of all you Avatar fans out there.

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Ribs Without A Spine


I’ve been inspired to write the following due to Alex Macris’ latest Check for Traps feature on the Escapist. You can read it here. The Cliff’s Notes is basically that a GM in a tabletop RPG should be less of a directive storyteller, and more of an emergent one. That’s a great concept in theory, but it’s possible for some GMs to consider this an excuse to do no story work whatsoever and that, my friends, is a mistake.

Characters with no story to bring them together or drive them forward is like ribs without a spine. Now, as a food, ribs without a spine are mostly what you’re looking for. Lather those ribs in a delicious sauce and cook them just right so that the meat’s nice and moist rather than tough and dry, and you have yourself a delicacy for a discerning omnivore such as myself. But even in those ideal conditions, the end result’s a bit messy.

A less food-based example of what I’m talking about is Mass Effect 2.

Courtesy BioWare

For most of the game, you go from one hot spot in the galaxy to another, either picking up a new member of your crew or helping them with a personal matter to earn their undying loyalty (for the most part). This series of mini-stories is bookended with the whole Reapers/Collectors business, but the nature of the game leads one to believe that they’re more of a backdrop against which the characters grow, rather than being any sort of impetus for change or tension. If the plot had been more coherent or the threat more credible, we might have had a more full-bodied experience rather than a plate of (albeit tasty) character ribs.

When you have strong characters, the story holding them together should also be strong. However, it shouldn’t overwhelm the characters. I think that’s what Alex has been driving at in his last few articles. The guy behind the screen, the man behind the curtain, the puppeteer above the stage pulling the strings – it shouldn’t be all about them and the story they want to tell to the exclusion of everything else. Role-playing games involving more than one player should be collaborative experiences, with players bringing interesting characters to the table while the GM weaves their plots together and gives them something against which to struggle. That is unless you’re running a demo at a convention or something and just want to show off how cool this dungeon is or how that class works in comparison to that other class. Then you go straight for the mechanics and rules, and leave most of your story-telling and world-building and atmosphere-creating tools at home. I learned that one the hard way.

See what I mean here? Are you catching my drift? Or am I completely off my rocker because I told those kids to get off my lawn a bit too violently? Share your thoughts, Intertubes.

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