You all know I write stuff. ‘Course I do, I write this blog for one. Had some stuff published. Done posts for other blog sites.
So, what’s this TTRPG Writing all about Alex?
Table-top Role Playing Games. As opposed to LARP- Live Action Role Play (kind of like historical re-enactment societies, but with fantasy, and monsters, and probably more drugs!) or RPG in relation to video games (which I also spend quite a bit of time on)
It does what it says on the tin – you play it on your table, like a board-game, with dice and little pewter figures (painted or not), and maps, well some maps, sometimes.
I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons for nigh on 30 years – oh, my wasted youth!
I have been DMing campaigns for about 10 of those.
What? People get paid to write gaming stuff? Thinks me. Of course I knew people wrote all the initial games books – Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Rulebook, Monster Manual, blahdy, blah blah – but get paid?
To write new ideas?
To create new monsters?
And magic items?
But how do you do it? How do you actually go about writing a game for others to play? To sell? What’s the process? How should it look or be presented?
Who does what to whom and when and how?
I haven’t a feckin’ clue!
I have been trawling the internet for three days – and it seems there is some sort of D&D gaming conspiracy going on! *Sh! Don’t talk about it otherwise more writers and creative types will muscle in on our patch.
and I thank those guys (John Bennet, Keith Ryan Kappel, and Christopher Hunt), for sharing their experiences and suggestions.
I’m going to start putting a few posts up here as I go along to share what knowledge and experience I gain on my path to becoming an #RPG writer.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey – who knows where we will end up – roll a D10 and we could run into a brick wall and fall at the first hurdle, twisting our ankle and hobbling back home shamefaced – or – we could vanquish the mummy of apprehension and discover the giant glow-worm of enlightenment!
The blogosphere is an exciting space online for people to build communities and express yourself. You might be a manager of a corporation, a student with a passion for communication, or a hobbyist. Building a blog is relatively easy.
The first thing to know is – what kind of blogger are you?
You may not have the technical skills necessary to start a blog, or you may think you do not have the skills to start a blog – there are plenty of free, open-source systems that guide you through the process, allowing you to design your site how you wish, including WordPress, Wix and Blogger.
If you can use e-mail, you can blog!
Each system has it’s strengths and weaknesses, reading other people’s blogs and playing around with one or two will quickly show which you feel most comfortable with – by the way – don’t be put off when you see some ‘amazing’ layouts and designs that others have produced, you do not have to have all ‘bells and whistles’ for your site – it’s the content that will keep you and potential readers interested.
I assume that you are reading this on some sort of computer, which means you already have some of the skills necessary.
Don’t assume that because a person’s blog has amazing graphic content, it will be an amazing read, similarly, do not assume that the more simple layouts are dull – remember, it is content that matters most.
Who is your blog for?
In the media industry, they call this your ‘Target Audience‘. It maybe that you are writing a blog as an alternative to keeping a diary, in which case, what you write and how you write and display it only matters to you.
You also do not need to base your blog on the job/career you have. If you are a chef, you may want to post recipes or amusing anecdotes about your experiences in the industry. However, you may not want to write about the industry you work in, but release a hidden passion onto the blogosphere – you may whittle small celebrity figures from pine wood, you might be a huge sports fan and provide commentaries on the latest games with an alternative angle to broadcasters, you might have a penchant for designing wacky alternatives to the morning alarm clock – whatever your thang, make it interesting and fun for you, first and foremost – otherwise, what’s the point?!
Take your time.
You don’t have to go charging ahead with layout design, business links, marketing, social media link-ups, images, audio, video – heck, you might never want to do some of those things. If you are after a reader following, this will take time too – be patient.
If you get yourself into a pickle, press the back-button, delete, undo – it’s not the end of the world. The thing that got me when I first started blogging, was when I changed the style (WordPress calls it Theme), of my page. Suddenly everything was in a different place, some stuff wasn’t there anymore; as far as I could tell (it was, just under different headings!).
You might yell “Aw shiiiit!” if things don’t go as you expected – but you can’t break anything – unless you throw your laptop out the window – remember to use your Delete button, or just go back using the tab arrows on your internet page.
Set up your blog. Write your first post. Log out. View it as a reader. What does it look like? I know, mine did too!!!!
It may have been noticed by one or two of you, that I myself only have a very loose theme to my posts – hence the blog name – Flailing Through Life – this is how my brain works. I am interested in too many things for me to whittle it down, plus, I enjoy having a broad brush to paint with – and that’s the first and last reason to blog –
– enjoy it.
And here’s a little bit of Bowie to set you on your path….
Due to current ‘heat-wave’ blogger offers shortest post.
Newspapers present information and ideas about topics – and must constantly battle with each other to gain customers – headings need to be attention-grabbing.
Of course, layout, headings, subheadings and pictures play a part in this, but as writers, we could learn something from journalistic lingo.
What types of papers? (UK)
Tabloids are papers such as The Sun, The Mirror and The Express. They are smaller in size containing, usually, light-weight stories or articles written in simpler style. Often have a lot of celebrity gossip and very local articles.
Broadsheets are papers such as The Times, The Guardian and The Independent. These are the larger papers containing more serious stories in depth articles. The broadsheets will also contain news from other countries.
Short Words Headlines often use very short words to make an impact, this applies to broadsheets and tabloids alike, although the tabloids are more likely to employ eye-dialect – we’ll cover that in a mo’. The shorter headline has more impact – as does the shorter sentence in your novel/short-story writing. For example, Hitler Dead. Everyone knew who was being written about so no need for a full name. The sentence written fully could read, Adolf Hitler is Dead or German Chancellor Has Taken His Own Life, but it doesn’t have the same impact as two words.
Newspapers have the advantage (or disadvantage in some instances!) of having a photograph accompany their text. As a writer, you don’t. So to pack more punch into an action scene. You might. Just might. Want to use shorter words. And shorter sentences.
This is the use of non-standard spelling and pronunciation. What some refer to as ‘not speaking properly’. It’s not RP (Received Pronunciation). You will all be familiar with eye-dialect, and may even use it, without knowing what it is called. Innit?
(See what I did there?!) It is used to add impact to a headline, or add definition to your characters. Let’s imagine a conversation between two:
English Middle class friends –
Bill- Hello, Ben, How are you?
Ben – Hi, I’m pretty good, thanks for asking. How are things with the wife and kiddies?
Working class friends–
Bill – Y’all right mate?
Ben – Sound, how’s the missus and sprogs?
As an opening conversation, this immediately allows the reader to know something about Bill and Ben, without telling. It also adds some realism to your characters.
Examples of eye-dialect you will have seen in newspapers include – Gov’t, Grab ’em, Libs, Wot, Cor, and so on.
Word Play You find this is a big part of the language of many newspapers. Words with two different meanings in English can be used in an amusing and entertaining way. This is called a pun. The English language is littered with puns, innuendo and double entendres. TV shows and films like the Carry On series were built around this peculiarity (I’m not too sure about other countries/languages) For example, Be Leave in Britain. This headline, from The Sun, plays with the word believe. The Sun is renown for it’s patriotism; some would say nationalism, and urging it’s readers to believe in their country – however, they deliberately misspelt and divided the word (much like has happened to the UK and Europe ironically!), and now they ask their readers to believe in leaving the EU.
Poets amongst you may be more familiar with this, (though all serious writers should be too). Alliteration is mostly used for humorous effect as well as grabbing the readers attention. It’s essential for the newspapers to stand out from it’s competitors, so you will see a variety of styles depending on the paper and it’s target audience.
Alliteration is the repeated use of the same letter or sound in a series of words. Tongue-twisters are alliterative. e.g. She sells sea shells on the sea shore. The poem of Beowulf has, Hot-hearted Beowulf was bent upon battle. In the second instance, we can almost feel the breathy quality as we say hot-hearted, we pant the words as Beowulf himself might have, then the hard ‘b’s add another quality, harder, punchy.
Similarly the headlines might say – Pasties, Petrol and the Politics of Panic, or, Cannibal Cop Finds Killer’s Kit. I would say you couldn’t make this stuff up, but you can, they do!
Okay, the laptop is pretty hot now. The temperature is 26º(that’s 78.8 Fahrenheit for old people and Americans). My brain is overheating. I’m done.
If you’re a writer, whether that be fiction, non-fiction, blogging, or similar, then you probably have a ‘real’ job too. By ‘real’ job, I mean one that you do on a day to day basis (or nightly if it’s shift work), the one that pays your bills, that (just about) keeps the wolf from the door, the boring one, the one you don’t want to do but are forced to.
So how do you find time to write (other creative/art forms are available)? When you have laboured at your regular employment, you need a break, you WANT a break, you have to shift gears mentally and often emotionally before you begin to scribble.
There is really only one answer –
Edward Rickenbacker was an American Fighter Pilot in WWI. After surviving the war, he started an auto company, became involved in the aviation industry and wrote a comic strip (Ace Drummond), amongst other things. He is also known for this quote – “I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through – then follow through.”
Often, these sound-bites are nothing more than that, snippets of chat to gain attention, look at how newspapers, and blogs, title pages, it’s intentional, to draw the reader in. But Rickenbacker’s is more than that, it is practical: Think things through – then follow through.
It’s another way of saying – Get organised.
But if you’re anything like me, getting organised is harder than we all think. I understand we all have other things to do, the problem, I have found, is other people. Colleagues probably think that, like them, when the weekend comes, or when you finish work for the day, or have a day off, that it is just that – a day off. Hah! Creative types rarely, if ever, get a day off. Once the paying job ends, that’s when the real work begins for us.
So how do we get organised?
By thinking things through -then following through.
Can you see that there are only 2 slots when actual writing is being done? There is so much more that you could add to this, depending on your personal life, family size, days you work in paid job, other hobbies you try to maintain.
So when do you write? And don’t forget, writing is not just the act of setting down words – just like painting is not just the act of laying down colours. For me, a huge amount of the work is done in my head; thinking of ideas, plots, characters, events, moral issues, inventions, possibilities, to misquote Jarvis Cocker, “It may look to the untrained eye like I’m sitting on my arse all day.”
Get a piece of paper and pen – coloured pens if that’s your thang.
I recommend handwriting this for two reasons – 1.It’s easier to think without feeling rushed when you hand-write, and 2.You probably spend enough time on a computer as it is.
Sketch a table of your week; Monday to Sunday. And write in the hours you ‘go to work’ – that’s your paid work in the ‘grown-ups’ world, not your writing.
Now look for the empty spaces. You may only have Saturday and Sunday free, and even then you have to spend some of that with the kids. Into these empty spaces jot down what you want and or need to be doing in regards to your creativity.
Arrange your empty spaces so you have a balance of work and play, as much as possible given the time you have remaining. Remember, you need time to sleep and play and do nothing – unless you’re really a robot, in which case, meh.
After days/hours/minutes have been allocated as you want, break these down into smaller sections. For example, if you’re a blogger it might say, Monday 4pm to 6pm – writing/Friday 1pm to 4pm writing.
Break this down to, Monday 4pm to 6pm – research/planning/generating ideas. Friday 1pm to 4pm – write blog post.
Try it for a while and stick with it if it works, otherwise, re-jiggle your week. If you have trouble organising yourself, then don’t just read this – do it! Otherwise, you’re wasting time.
Think things through – then follow through.
Before you even do the organising activity, Think things through – do you want to carry on the way you have been? If you like your way of working, then who am I to tell you otherwise?! Are you lucky enough to be financially independent so as to not have to go to work? Or, like me, are you stuck in low-paid work with no option of advancement? Does it suit you, does it give you time to write/paint/sculpt/blog?
Then follow through – If you don’t like your working week try a change. If you hate your job, can you move, or find a different one? No-one is going to make the changes for you.
Whip it up in a couple of hours (or so some clients believe!) and hey presto, there’s a witty post. We wish. Bloggers must allocate time for generating ideas – researching – learning about new stuff (that may be technical or other) – deciding what you are going to write in advance. There is tons of advice on the internet to help Bloggers, you might want to spend a little on one of the numerous pre-made Blog Planners out there to help you get organised. Bloggers work to deadlines – whether their own or someone else’s.
Just float through life collecting ideas by some sort of osmosis which then transfers itself to the page by another kind of osmosis – Right? – Wrong! Writing the story, whether short, novella, trilogy, is the easy and fun bit. Don’t forget, you need to edit, and this can take as long as writing the bloody thing in the first place! If you are submitting work for an open competition, then you’re working to a deadline. If you’re submitting a MS to a publishing company, you’re working to their guidelines. Do read all the rules. Do make time for your Author Bio and Plot Summary.
Probably the most organised of the creative bunch. This lot typically arrive here from an academic background and so are used to working to deadlines and briefs. But if you’re a free-lancer who also hold down a day job, you will need to arrange times that suit you as well as enough time to complete the brief. A diary, actual or E will be your friend.
Think things through – then follow through.
On each of my days off, I go through a similar process.
Write a To-Do list, this will include writing, research, mail, laundry, check for potential submissions, blog, editing.
Work through this list – in any order – do laundry first as it’s like eating your greens before your meat.
Take a break in-between each activity – especially between writing and everything else: this allows my brain to shift gears into the realms of fantasy.
It looks on the To-Do list like I do the same thing over and over, but because I write, then it doesn’t feel like that at all. I write my blog, I write stories; variety of genres, and I am NEVER, ever bored.
How do I write? Let me count the ways…. [to paraphrase Elizabeth Barrett Browning]
I write from the depth of my soul and the bottom of my heart
I write daily (sort of) from dawn to dusk
I write for writings sake alone
I write with passion; using emotions from my own experiences; like a child
There are literally thousands of blogs, websites, books, amateurs, professionals, businesses etc., telling writers how to write. How you write is up to you. How often you write is, yes you guessed it, up to you. You are master (or mistress) of your word world.
My writing is divided (in my head at least), into sections –
Fiction novels – these are stories that I work on over long periods of time, perhaps a year, which then take another year to edit. Depending on my head-space, I may work on a novel daily, for 6 hours or more as I am submerged in my created world.
Competitions/Submissions – I regularly look for short story competitions; simply to hone my writing skills. These short stories (sometimes poems) are completed within the time-frame the submission process sets, this could be two weeks or two months.
Blogging – I blog twice a week. Currently on Tuesdays and Fridays, as these are my two days off from my day job. Sometimes I plan what I write, but often; as the title of my blog suggests, ‘Flailing Through Life’, it’s what comes to mind in the run-up to posting. If I am writing a guest blog, then there is a schedule/procedure to follow – compose draft, submit, receive feedback or requests for changes, re-write, re-submit, post.
How do you write? However you do it, and whatever you write, here’s a little link to writing markets; gathered together in one useful place. Enjoy.
Okay, heads up people, this is going to be a short one – I have a tonne of editing to do, illustrations to make, and a cover to design – so, for your delectation I have compiled a short list of 13 (lucky for some) online sites looking for writers and/or bloggers.
Many are paid jobs, some are not, but there is a real mix of technical, specialised, general and fiction sites you can go visit and see what you fancy.
But remember – read the guidelines!
I repeat – READ THE GUIDELINES, don’t get pissy with anyone who doesn’t like your pitch because you didn’t pitch correctly; especially when applying to guest write on someone else’s blog, it’s their blog, you’re a guest, play nice!
So you still want to write? (you mad impetuous fools *chuckles)
What exciting times we live in, when the opportunities for writers is so huge, huger than it’s ever been, huger than the hugest thing you can think of…
Blogging. Fiction. Travel. Educational. Analyst. Content. Legal. Finance. Freelance. Journalism. Technical. Copy-writing. Marketing. Ghost-writing. Et cetera, et cetera.
WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!
Why are you writing? (Been here before haven’t we?!) What are you writing? Plan your working days and promotional days. Who is your audience?
And when you’ve written your stuff, you need to get it ‘out there’. You need a client, a market – an audience!
A lot of writers today have blogs or web pages to self-promote. What, you thought that would be done for you?!
WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!
Assuming you managed to get your thing written… And assuming someone was interested enough to publish it… It doesn’t mean they will promote it for you…You have to do some of this yourself (unless of course you are lucky enough to get a contract like some woman called Joanne Rowling!)
Also, to help you plan – your posts, your writing schedule, whatever, Kate at Small Paper Things, has created a digital and printable calendar for bloggers to help get organised. Just click on the plus sign next to the words Google Calendar at bottom right corner of screen.
WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!
And when you have posted, printed, published your lovingly crafted stuff, keep on top of it. Revisit it, no not every day, don’t overwhelm people, back off! And it isn’t a cactus either, watering twice a year won’t cut the mustard! Social media is a two-way conversation, so keep the conversation going, pay a visit every other day (I would recommend) to wherever it is you like to ply your wares.
You probably already have at least one account on a social media site – use it to promote and connect with other like-minded idiots, I mean creative types!
If you have more than one social media site, then connect them all up; it is made really easy to share stuff from platform to platform.