Saturday, March 26, 2011

An essential tool to succeeding in Freelance Game Writing

A Thick Skin…

I imagine that twenty years ago, maybe even ten years ago, the feedback a game writer got was limited and definitely not real time. Mainstream online interactions didn't exist two decades back and even a decade back products were printed and shipped old style. So you could have months from release to fan comments on the product.

Today, you can release a product electronically and by the time you've been to the coffee maker and back there are a 100 posts on the product. In this world of instant media you have to develop all the key skills of a regular freelance writer, but you also have develop an iron hard skin.

Now maybe Pip Ballantine needs a thick skin, what with her audio novels and tackling the popular Steampunk genre, but in Kristine Kathryn Rusch's very popular blog, on surviving as a writer in today's publishing economy, she doesn't mention thick skin.

She does list the following:
1. Flexibility                           6. Storytelling Ability.
2. Forward-thinking             7. Voice.
3. Business Savvy                 8. Risk-takers.
4. Entrepreneurial Spirit     9. A Willingness to Try
5. Write Fast                         10. Nonconformists.

These are all excellent pieces of advice and I would also recommend her Freelancer's Survival Guide if you want to tackle this crazy art.

But I think even more than self published authors, writers for an established game universe have to have skin so thick you can survive a trip through the sun. The BattleTech game universe is twenty-seven years old now and there are fans that have been following the game that long (twenty-five for me). With all that history your fans can develop some very decided opinions. Like every bad Star Trek convention spoof you've ever seen, gamers can have the same firmly fixed opinions and woe betide if the writers change the universe in a way that fan doesn't like.

Enter the age of instant media and the ability for the fans to express themselves isn't limited to a handful of conventions a year. They can respond quickly and in great volume. This can be wonderful, when some fan posts a heart felt thank you. This can be gut wrenching when another one declares how you've just destroyed the game.

Thick Skin.

You've got to have a mountain of self confidence, a healthy dose of patience and a wicked sense of humor won't hurt. With these in hand you can tackle the feedback, sort the wheat from the chaff and probably end up learning a few things from even the most vociferous of trolls. Mind you it may just be learning to add this person to your spam filter, but every little lesson has value.

Oh, and that skin comes in handy with the job itself. When you're the sole author of a book, you have the "power". You get to decide what happens and when. When you write for a game there can be dozens of other writers. Then there is a developer, a line developer, the fact checkers, the editors, the layout guys and so on. With that many opinions conflict is bound to occur (Management guru Mark Horstman likes to say "Conflict is two people in the same county", so get used to conflict it's a part of life.). So once again, a thick skin is very important. As is being professional, polite and calm, even if your fellow staffers are screaming bloody murder at you.

Thick Skin. You don't need to have it to be a game writer, but you probably won't last long without it.

Until next time,
Writer, Explorer, Learner

1. Flexibility
2. Forward-thinking
3. Business Savvy
4. Entrepreneurial Spirit
5. Write Fast
6. Storytelling Ability.
7. Voice.
8. Risk-takers.
9. A Willingness to Try
10. Nonconformists.

1 comment:

  1. Yep, couldn't agree more...

    Thick skin, Rhino grade or better, check.

    Sense of humour, or at least the ability to fake it, check.

    Humility, as one cannot know it all, and neither can one be right all the time.