Skills Of A Writer II

Yesterday was the beginning of skills I think writers should have or at least be aware of. Today, is the continuation of that post. Keep in mind, these are skills I think writers should possess.

Command of the Language

How is your personal lexicon? Pretty big, I hope. Varied, I hope. Learn the language. Learn the rules of the language. Understand why the language is used the way it is, because when you understand why you can break or bend the rules in a way that is accepted by readers and not rejected by readers.  Learn new words. Learn variations and alternatives to the words you use most. Learn, about the language you choose to write in.

Spelling

I should not have to write this, but know how to spell or know how to use spell check and hope that the suggested word is the word you were hoping for or even better, learn how to use a dictionary. Today, there is no excuse for a misspelled word, unless you mean it on porpoise (see what I did there?).

Grammar and Punctuation

I am horrible with punctuation. I scored in the bottom of my class every time. I know this. I also know how punctuation is supposed to be used. A good writer, even if they are weak with punctuation or grammar, needs to know how and why they are used. Funny thing about grammar and punctuation, readers will allow mistakes. Readers will fill in the missing bits on their own as long as the mistakes are not to glaring or to many in a row. Just like command of the language, make the time to learn the rules of grammar and punctuation. Oh, for those people who think they “know” grammar and punctuation, you do not. There are too many rules for one person to know all of, unless that is your chosen specialization and career. Worse case scenario, you get a refresher.

Editing and Drafts

There is no such thing as “one and done” with writing. Every single thing a writer puts to paper or screen can be revised. The best piece of advice I ever read about good editing went something like this, roughly half of the words written in any paper can be safely removed. This make writing tighter. Makes the job of the writer more difficult, but if you think about the amount of filler in any given sentence that advice is right.

If there is no “one and done” what is there? Drafts and revisions is the answer. A writer should go through a series of drafts and revisions before declaring something done. By the way, done, means into the hands of an editor, not finished. The first few drafts will be a mess. This is part of the process. Write down anything and everything. Just do it. Do not think about “what next” or “this is a mess,” just write everything down.

Then after a day or so, go through what you wrote. Pick out the good, set the bad aside (some stuff is going to be bad and other stuff will merit another look at and potentially find a home in some future written work), and revise. Keep doing this until you are happy. There is no set amount of drafts and revisions, to each their own. However, the more work you put into your drafts and revisions before handing it off, the less you will have to do and less work you will make someone else do for your writing.

Know Your Weaknesses

Learn what you are good at and get better at it. Learn what you are bad at and get better at it. Above all, know where your writing weak spots are and know people who are good at those skills.

 

 

 

Skills Of A Writer I

A writer, to me, is more than someone who puts words together. That skill is at the heart of who a writer is. However, the modern age…mostly due to technology…has expanded the skills that a writer can have and in many cases should have. To be clear, this is my list. That being said, a good writer has many skills to bring to the table.

Read

Writers read. Read anything and everything that they can get their hands on. Read things related to their interests and not related as well. If involved in a particular field or area of expertise, make sure to read as much as they can about/from that field. Further, if possible read as many different sides as possible to have a complete view, to keep writing from being overly one-sided.

Write

Writers write. All of the time. Even if the writing will never see the light of day, writers write. Paper or screen does not matter. I have a preference for paper and then screen, but I know plenty who prefer to write straight onto the computer. Word count, doesn’t matter to me-some days a few thousand, others 500 for a post. Schedule, this I do think matters. Good practice comes with regular application of the skill, writing. How you schedule is up to you, but at a minimum pick days that you will write on and stick to them.

This is where the optional stuff begins, optional from the stand point of many people, but for me, a good writer should know about these skills.

Design and Layout

Design covers a whole lot of areas and skills, including much below. That being said, a good writer should understand the basics of document design. Document does not mean formal. Document means any piece of writing. Basic document design is understanding how to organize a document for the reader.

  1. Does the document have a flow that makes sense?
  2. Does the document include eye breaks and eye movement to direct readers where the writer wanted them to go?
  3. Does the document look better than a wall of text?
  4. Does the document show a good use of bold, italic, underlining, quotes, and picture layout?

Those four points, to me, are the basics of document design. Desktop publishing makes knowing those four points integral to writers.

Fonts and Color Scheme

Fonts are a big deal. Most writers pick one or two and stick with them. These choices are rarely interesting, standard fonts used by everyone. There are thousands of fonts and the choice of font can impact writing in ways that the words alone cannot. Fonts are a visual element that cue readers to the written content. Good use of font can turn an ordinary document into an extraordinary document.

Color scheme is another skill/tool for writers. Beyond spicing up a document, colors give eye-breaks and give readers cues about the writing. Such as red, could emphasize anger or action. Writers should learn about colors, which to use, when, and why.

More Skills Tomorrow

Previous “Writer” posts

here, here, and here

 

Rain, Rain Go Away and Take My Headache Away

I went to bed with a plan to continue the “Writer Series,” (start here) even made notes, but woke up with sinus headache this big…trust me my hands are held wide apart. I hoped that the headache would go away when the rain fell and moved on. The rain has neither fallen nor has the front moved on. Just ouch.

However, there are plenty of people who are having worse days than me (I know at least two personally) So I acknowledge that my headache while inconvenient to my writing plans, is by no means huge, despite how far apart my hands are; amazing I can still type with them this far apart.🙂

What do you do when bright lights, turning your head, and looking at the monitor hurts the eyes. If you are me, you write in notebooks. Some of you may remember a recent post where I talked about all of the notebooks with one or two pages written in them and then nothing, sure you do, if not here is a reminder. Well, this writing is nothing like that…so far. What I have been working on all day is taking notes from other notebooks and putting them together in one notebook.

Creating a master notebook. That sounds really lame. But trust me this is much more useful than I initially thought. I was working on a story and needed some names and creatures. Flipping through notebooks, I found names and some creatures from another project. This happened a few more times before it hit me to comb through the notes in an effort to put old ideas to use and to bring a lot of unfinished thoughts and ideas together into something new.

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this earlier, say pre-move. I know my back would have appreciated that. Ah well, at least I am doing something with the mess now. Speaking of mess and writing, having a desk (two now) has allowed me to look at projects started pre-college and during college. There is stack of papers with sticky flags for each one of them.

I honestly believe, that FU! Slowcooker is dead as a book. With that in mind, I am going to pull out the last few that are mine and publish them here. After that, who knows, I come up with a few new recipes (is there really such a thing as a new recipe) each year, maybe down the road I will have enough for a pocket sized cookbook. 500 Words looks great. I got a lot of work done before the move. Now, I am picking up where I left off. I doubt I will reach my original goal of by Christmas, but I might be able to hit early next year. The fiction and gaming stuff, is being handled in a new way, nothing definite yet. Writing has commenced.🙂

Transitioning to something different, despite being a recent graduate and looking forward to having nothing to do with school or classes, seems I forgot that I have children and they do have school and classes. Ugh. Never ends.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Buyers Guide II

A while ago, I wrote the first Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Buyers Guide. After moving and setting up for play again, and on the eve of Mummy’s Mask I thought it would be a good time to revisit that post.

Before making a purchase, I suggest that you visit here and download a rulebook. Plus you can see the support continually offered for Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. If you can, find a local game to try before purchasing. I suggest this because Pathfinder Adventure Card Game can become an expensive hobby. Best to try before buying.

Step 1: Where to Buy

The first thing that you need to decide is where to purchase. There are two options:

  1. purchasing through Amazon where the price tends to be cheaper
  2. purchasing from your local game store (we do not have a local game store)
  3. purchasing from Paizo, where if you sign-up for a subscription you get a 20% discount, promotional cards, and earlier access

Ultimately where you make your purchases is determined by your funds. If you can, I recommend signing up for a subscription through Paizo for the promotional cards, discount, and earlier access.

Step 2: What Do You NEED

For home games you will need one of the following Base Sets to play Pathfinder Adventure Card Game:

  • Rise of the Runelords: standard fantasy adventure (best set for introducing the game)
  • Skulls and Shackles: pirates
  • Wrath of the Righteous: war against demons
  • Mummy’s Mask (October): mummies

A Base Set is a large box that comes with the following:

  • Cards that you will use throughout all six Adventure Decks
  • A starter adventure consisting of 3 to 5 scenarios.
  • Adventure Deck 1. An Adventure Deck is 110 cards for 5 scenarios composing that adventure
  • 7 characters who are suited for the Base Set
  • Dice

Step 3: What Next

After a Base Set, there are plenty of accessories and add-ons to purchase:

Red: Necessary; Blue: Optional

Character Add-on Deck: Each Base Set has a Character Add-on Deck (110 cards) consisting four new characters, and extra cards that are immediately added to the Base Set cards. Character Add-on Decks expand the number of characters available to choose from and allow for players over four.

Adventure Decks: Each Base Set has five additional Adventure Decks 2-6 (remember 1 comes with the base set). Each Adventure Deck continues the adventure with new challenges and rewards.

Class Decks: Class Decks focus on one class, such as Paladin, giving players between 3 (first releases) and 4 (newer releases) characters and cards to support characters of that class. Unless you are like us, and love the game, start with Class Decks for Classes you like or use a lot. Class Decks are necessary for Guild Play.

Play Mats: Each Base Set and Character Add-on Deck has a set of play mats. These colorful foam mats show where cards are placed, making organization a bit easier. In addition, when using a play mat a player may discard a card to draw a card once a game.

Game Mat: A large foam mat with spots for a 1 to 6 player game. The mat does not have spots for everything; such as new card positions that have been introduced since the mat was released (Skulls and Shackles ships come to mind). This mat is very helpful for keeping the game organized.

Iconic Miniatures: A box of six miniatures from the Pathfinder line. Each figure/character has a unique card that is specific to them. The miniatures replace the character tokens, making for a cleaner play area. The cards are nice, nothing game breaking. There is NOT a miniature for every character released to date. Since the original post, Iconic Miniature came to a close after 6 sets.

Digital Game: I wrote about my experiences with the iPad version of Pathfinder Adventure Card Game here.

Step 4: Re-Playability

Okay, so you read all of that and may have thought, “What good is all of that if there are three, soon to be four, base sets?” Pathfinder Adventure Card Game has huge replayability.

  • Characters from any Base Set, Character Add-on Deck, and Class Deck can be used in any Base Set. On our second play through of Rise of the Runelords was completely different because of character choice.
  • Cards from sets can be used to create your own adventures-there is a card creator for people who want to design their own cards and sites hosting fan made adventures.
  • For players with a local game store or group at home to play with, Paizo has Pathfinder Society Adventure Card Guild.  Official adventure Paths are made available for use in Guild play or at home. If playing in a Guild Game, a Class Deck is necessary.

Since the original post, plenty of material has been added to the game expanding the options and replayability. In October, Mummy’s Mask will be released adding another Base Set and more characters to the mix for more fun and options.

What Is Your Time As A Writer Worth? Answer: More Than Exposure

Start here and here, if you are interested in catching up with this series of posts about writing, value of writing, and what writing is worth.

What is your time as a writer worth?

or

nuq ‘oH writer worth poH?

-Thank you Klingon translator…come on writer? Really, no Klingon writers?

Think about that before firing off an answer. When you have an answer, check your number against going rates for people in your area of writing expertise and in your region of the world. How did you do?

Worth is something every writer, thinking about making money, should be thinking about. Sure, nobody wants to talk about money, especially when seeking to get that foot in the door. Why? You did the work, you have bills to pay, you need and deserve compensation for the work you do. So while the convention, may to avoid talking about compensation, TALK about it. Wait for them to offer a number first if you like. Always a good negotiation tactic, but and I cannot stress this, have a top value and a bottom line number for yourself.

Shoot for the top, but go no lower than the bottom line. I can’t give you advice on how to get that top money other than the following common sense: Have your facts lined up. Do not go into a negotiation for your services without knowing the following:

  • your value
  • industry entry level pay rate
  • industry top level pay
  • background information about the people who you may be working with/for (yes, do some damn research before you start looking for a job-I can name ten game companies for writers to avoid off the top of my head because I did the research on how they treat and pay writers)
  • what you want for compensation beyond money, such as benefits if it is a long term gig or a portion of the profits
  • rights. Who owns your work? Who owns the intellectual property you may or may not create while on the job? These are important considerations for me and should be for most writers. If you are banging out little pieces here and there, I am fine with the payer owning them. However, if you create something new, who owns it and how much. Should you leave, do they get to keep the thing you created and run wild with it. Related to that, is your name going to be on everything you write, even after you are gone? What about revisions to your writing? How much control over your writing do you have?

So, you want to be a writer. How much is your time worth? How much are your words worth? You should know that. I do. However, my value is not your value. If you do not know how much your time and words are worth, how do you know when you are getting proper payment or giving it away?

How can you determine your value? This can be tricky, but here are some things to consider:

  • Education, do you have a demonstrable education or degree in your field of writing
  • Expertise, can you demonstrate through samples, and presentation of yourself and your work, that you are an expert
  • Experience, how long have you been writing as a general concept, how long have you been writing about this particular area, have you been employed as a writer, and other measures of experience

A good way to demonstrate all of the above is to have a portfolio. A portfolio is a selection of your work that shows your range, expertise, and experience. Having a portfolio is more than having a collection of stuff. A portfolio is a well thought out process of selecting the best of your work. Each sample should quickly and easily demonstrate your skills as a writer and beyond. Writers, thanks to technology, are expected to be able to do more than just put word to paper. How are your layout skills? Giving any thought to color scheme, fonts, and pictures? If not, I have given you three things to think about. Because when push comes to shove, a writer who can do more than write is worth more than a writer who just writes.

Once again, what is your time worth and what skills do you bring to the table beyond writing?

 

 

 

 

Now That Exposure Has Been Exposed, What? (Edited)

You want to become a famous writer or at least a profitable writer, what should you do?

Develop a thick skin. While you are writing and dreaming of better days, develop a thick skin. People will criticize your work. People you know and don’t know. People who are writers and people who are not. Learn to listen to the advice (actually learn to filter through the advice). Learn to let the garbage go. The sooner you develop a thick skin the better you will be.

Get over writer’s shyness. There are writers who like to share and those who don’t. If you want to see your writing in print/published you are going to have to show your writing to a lot of people. Which means that you will have to be able to present your writing and yourself in a professional (or as close as you can get) manner. This does not mean suit and tie, but does mean being able to put thoughts together in a coherent fashion, being able to explain why you made the choices you made, and if necessary defend your work.

Go to school and get a degree. Yes, I wrote that. Speaking as an older individual who went to college thinking he knew enough, there was plenty that I learned. One of the things I learned was how to write in several different styles and forms, valuable experience. I am not saying go only for a degree, although a piece of paper that says you are indeed learned and knowledgeable in your field does help. I am saying go for the knowledge, the degree will be the by-product of going for knowledge (provided you pass your classes). Writing is a skill and there is a lot to learn about writing that goes beyond noun, verb, and adjective.

Okay, let me tone that down. First, college is not for everyone. Second, college is expensive and time consuming (don’t believe me, hit up my 500 Words posts). Third, there are other ways to learn about writing. I believe that a writer will gain more from some form of structured lessons versus self-taught, but I understand that everyone is different and has different levels of resources. While, I suggest attending college for a degree, if you cannot attend college do yourself a favor and find other ways to learn about writing.

Do not focus solely on writing. A writer has more skills than putting words together. What skills? Layout, design, font, pictures/images, color schemes to name a few. A writer, needs to more than putting words together.

How could you learn about writing without attending college? Off the top of my head:

  1. Online courses. Paid to free. There are all sorts of resources online for writers.
  2. Read. Good writers write. Great writers, read a lot and write. Read anything and everything. When you find a writer who you want to write like, do just that, copy their style. Trust me, eventually, your voice will shine through and you will have your own style.
  3. Writer Groups. Find your local writer group. Hopefully there are one or two people who have and are willing to share their knowledge. I know, sharing your writing is tough. Get over it. If you want to see your words in print/on-screen you are going to have to share and you will have to get used to commentary from anyone who reads what you wrote.

Practice. What does writing practice look like? You are reading some. Write as often as you can, but whatever you do, try to write on a regular basis. I know, schedules suck and word counts are for chumps. I know, I know. I have had this discussion/argument many times as part of the “what is a writer” conversation. Here is what I know, the best writers, the writers you enjoy, who you want to be like, write often.

Have a goal or three with your writing, but do not write everything with the plan of it getting published. To many writers, at least the ones I knew, plan from word one that whatever they are working on will get published. When this falls through, for whatever reason, they get into a funk. You will start more writing projects than you will ever finish, just the nature of the beast. Be happy you were writing, consider that practice, set the project aside and maybe one day you will be finish the project.

Good goals are realistic, something you can do and attain with a reasonable chance of success. When you complete a goal, you feel good and are encouraged to try again. Bad goals are unrealistic, such as “everything I write is for a book and that book will get published.” When you do not complete a goal, you feel like a failure and are less likely to try again. Set reasonable goals, such as “Rough draft of Chapter X by end of week” or “Submit to X publishers/websites” or “Self-publish X by the end of X.”

Alongside having goals, have a plan. Great, you can sit down in front of the computer and bang out 3,000 words a day. Can you after a few days or weeks of doing that keep everything in order and together in a coherent fashion? If you had a plan, even something as simple as a rough outline drawn out on a post it note (my preferred method), keeping all of those words consistent becomes easier.

Find someone who is not family to read and edit your writing. A writer should be able to edit a rough draft into a good draft, but writers should not final edit their own work. Just an observation, writers are too close to the material; often so used to seeing their work that they do not see the flaws or they see flaws where there are none.

More thoughts to come.

See here and here.

 

 

Exposure? I’ll Show You Exposure!

I am a writer. I write for a living…well I did before I went off to college. For the niche I wrote in, independent roleplaying games that never got published, I was a well paid writer. I knew I could get paid more, a lot more, but I was writing for a few reasons:

  1. Pay check, no lie I want to get paid for writing. If you do something well you should get paid for it in some form of remuneration (cash, barter, or whatever terms we work out)
  2. Love writing, I love writing. While I have not been able to write nearly as much as I used to, school is out and the keyboard calls to me. When I got paid, I was writing because of love.
  3. Exposure, back when I was getting paid, I was new to the whole writing for a living thing, and thought, rather incorrectly that I, via my writing, needed exposure. That, through the act of writing, getting paid, and getting published people would notice me and offer me more work. It does not work like that.

Never did. A lot of my early writing was done for less than it was worth, because I believed that exposure was needed to hit the big time. Something that will never happen again, unless I choose to, such as this blog. I have a blog not because I am seeking exposure. That I get exposure is a by-product. I write here because this is my outlet, my hobby place, my relaxation, and from time-to-time I have something I want to share with more than just the voices in my head.

Because I write and blog, I have gotten opportunities that I would not have gotten if I did not write or blog. I did not get them because of exposure gained by posting. I got them because when I put my skills to use, I am very good at my chosen career, writer and blogger. People seek me out for my expertise. I blog, for free, for me. Nothing more.

Which bugs the shit out of me when people want my writing and offer up exposure as compensation. What is exposure? Tell me. Someone? Anyone? And while you or whomever is explaining to me what exposure could mean to me, allow me to retort with, “Will exposure pay my bills or put food in my belly?”

Exposure means, dick. More views or more contacts does not mean more work; it means the possibility (potential, chance, percentage, or whatever term that means not concrete) for more work or job offers. In the same way that Linked In offers me a chance to network for work or Facebook offers me a chance to meet people, which could mean…blah, blah, blah. Exposure is a promise of nothing.

Writing is hard enough as it is. Yes, I know everyone can write. Thus, everyone is a writer. Bullshit! Time for the truth to be handed down, just because you can string together some words that approximates a sentence, does not mean you are a writer. Let alone that anyone other than someone who has too wants to read what you put to paper or screen.

Being a writer means dedication and time at a minimum. For example, these blogs I post everyday, do not magically happen. There have been plenty of days where I have not wanted to write a post, yet I do. Why do I? Because I am a writer. From here we can get into all of the usual BS that writers have on what is a writer and what it means to be a writer and what qualifies you as a writer…blah, blah, blah…

What matters to me, is that you believe that you are a writer and you put the skills of a writer to use. What matters to me, is that if you believe you are a writer, you understand your skill has value and that value is worth more than exposure. Expose yourself in other ways, but before you handout some bit of writing for free (exposure is free), have an idea of how much your time is worth. If at that point, you think it is worth handing out your work for free, then good on you. However, if the cost analysis does not add up, ask for something in return. There is nothing wrong asking for what you are worth. Exposure, by the way is not something you should have ever have to ask for or be offered.

  • Are they printing/publishing your material?
  • Will your name be attached to your writing that they will be printing/publishing?

If the answers are yes, then there is your exposure. Now pay me what I am worth for what I do.

Brought to you by the various people and organizations that keep offering bloggers and writers exposure instead of remuneration for work.

See here and here for more.