Wednesday, June 6, 2012

FREE WITH EVERY ORDER: How to Write the Way I Write, Part 1

When I first started this blog way back in the distant past (also known as “two weeks ago”), I figured it would mostly be about the experiences I’d had coming up through the ranks as a freelance writer, sharing what “knowledge” and “wisdom” I might have gathered over the years with anyone who’s just starting out or curious about how freelance writers do what they do. I didn’t realize at the time that I’d be writing a freaking memoir along the way, but there it is.

I also put a (so far ignored) bit in the blog description about how anybody with any questions concerning the creative or the business side of things could feel free to ask me.

And, sure enough - no one has asked me anything.

But am I going to let that stand in the way of my ego-driven pontificating? Of course not! Starting tonight, interspersed with the autobiographical stuff, I’ll be posting a more or less step-by-step guide exploring the technical aspects of writing scripts and prose. This new “series,” if you want to call it that, will begin with comic book scripts, because that’s what I first got paid to write, and it’s the format I know best.

Time to put on my metaphorical tweed jacket with elbow patches. Maybe smoke a pipe.

As professorial as I'm likely to get
Now, first things first: am I saying I know everything there is to know about writing? No, of course not. Not even remotely. I learn new things about writing every day. I hope to keep on learning new things about writing until I die. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve become a completely different writer over the course of a week, or even a day or two.

In fact, I would say that if a writer DOES tell you he knows everything there is to know about writing, that’s an excellent indication that he is filled to the eye sockets with crap.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. I’m hardly a household name. Outside of a few overtly nerdy circles, the best descriptor I can hope for as far as recognition goes might be “obscure.”

So why would you listen to what I have to say about writing? Well, I can think of two decent reasons.

  1. 1)Despite my obscurity, I have been a working freelance writer for 21 years now (22 this summer), and have been steadily published in one medium or another for about the last 15. So, name recognition aside, it is an objective truth that I have written and had published a freaking boatload of stories. Some have qualified as “best-selling.” Some have even won awards.
  2. 2)It’s free.

So, since this is the first “class,” or “session,” or whatever you’d like to call it, I guess I should lay out what I intend to talk about.

  1. How to approach them
  2. How not to approach them
  3. Resources for inspiration and insight

(Remember how I said I was still learning stuff? I thought I had a handle on story structure. Then I read Brian McDonald’s book Invisible Ink, and it was as if I’d been slapped right back into writing kindergarten.)

  1. Outlines, and why they’re your friends
  2. The “plot layout,” or how I reinvented the wheel
  3. The script format that has served me well for 2 decades

  1. Why you should love them
  2. What’s worked for me

  1. The different tasks that go into video game scripts
  2. The mindset necessary to write games

I think that covers it - though, as I stated earlier, this is what I INTEND to talk about. Don’t be surprised if it goes off the rails, especially if somebody puts a good question in the comments, ‘cause I’m sure I’ll stop and answer it.

And now, to wrap this first session up, a haiku to explain why this particular column isn’t longer:

Work lost in Word crash
Almost caused stroke. Thank God for

(I don’t know jack $&#@ about writing poetry.)

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