Statistics: How weird are the #pitchwars authors?

FYI: The amazing REBECCA MCLAUGHLIN has put together graphs! Many of the Pitch Wars mentees got together and shared our vitals and our not-so-vitals, giving Rebecca the ammunition to make these quirky graphs.

So hop on over and check it out!

Main #PitchWars Statistics Post (Brenda Drake’s site)

#PitchWars Supplemental Statistics (Rebecca’s site)

And look forward to more #PitchWars news soon!

Balancing life and writing

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Image courtesy of Ashley West and Gangfeather.

Ok, so you’re here for the secret, right? That ever-elusive trick to finding that perfect balance between doing all the things you need to be doing in your daily life and getting that book that you’ve been dreaming about for so long down on paper? The key to finding the magical place on the dial that will allow you to zoom forward with your work and finally telling your story to the world while still doing all the same things you’ve been doing?

Well, my friends, here it is: stop. The answer to finding the right balance is to stop looking for it, because it likely doesn’t exist the way you imagine it.

So many aspiring authors are looking for the way to have their cake and rub it on their face, too. They think that writing–profitable writing–is something that will come if they just find a place to fit a little in here or there, and then go back to their day jobs, chit-chat at the cooler, watch a little television, etc., and in the modern era that kind of balance is very, VERY hard to find.

It may exist somewhere for a few people who were lucky enough to have found themselves far outside the standard deviation and for whom the normal rules don’t apply, but for the rest of us making our writing truly happen takes one thing: sacrifice. If you want to get it done, and get it done well and in a way that in beneficial to both you and your readers, something has to give. The modern era is too packed for us to think otherwise. Especially in the U.S., where I am. I have found that the unscheduled moments of my life are stolen from me by a myriad people, responsibilities, and opportunities. The only dependable way to make my writing happen is to say “no” to things or people I’d rather not deny, and to devote myself wholeheartedly to the work.

So, if you’re looking for something to help you move along with your writing, or with anything, the best suggestion I can offer you is that you be willing to sacrifice something good for the sake of what you want to accomplish. Say “no” and mean it, reclaim the time that would otherwise be stolen from you, and turn it into something worthwhile.

You should be writing.

Ok, I admit, I’m an RPG Game Master…but there’s a method to my madness

You got me. I’m a nerd. An incredibly geeky, RPG-playing nerd. And I love it. And it has a purpose. A grand, epic, life-advancing purpose.

I started really playing tabletop RPGs only a few months ago. Prior to that, I had only dipped my toe in a couple of times with games led by another friend of mine. And, to be honest, even then I felt stigmatized. (Interesting that I seem to gravitate to stigmas: nerd, indie-publishing, religion…). But it wasn’t until I discussed game mastering for our own campaign that i discovered the value of tabletop RPGs. Imagination.

I’ve always loved stories. My parents tell everyone that when I was three, I was enthralled by The Wizard of Oz, and that soon after I pushed to learn to read so I could find all my favorite shows in the TV Guide. I wrote poetry in third grade. I wrote shorts in middle and high school. I played video games for their stories only, and I’m basically an evangelist for whatever story has me currently hooked.

So imagine my joy to find that I could create an imaginary world for my friends to interact in. Infinite possibilities for characters, each with their own ambitions and desires. Protagonists that respond to the world that I’ve set up according to their own will, rather than following the rails of a complete story.

Needless to say, the hooks went deep.

After more than six months going through our campaign, the players are drawing closer to the end of Act 1 in this story. I’ve had to reevaluate, had to react to characters who didn’t respond the way I expected them to, had to build whole family trees of people and create a world where everyone wants something, and those wants create grand conflict and tense drama. And…I’ve learned a LOT about storytelling.

You see, at the end of the day, the story is really meant for the person who is experiencing it. People go on and on about the integrity of the art, telling the story as it should be, and ignoring what people want for the sake of being true to the tale the author wants to tell. But there’s a problem with that.

I started my world with an idea of where I wanted to take this story. I had planned for the players to fail at particular points, for people to die, all in service of this wonderfully-crafted tale I had concocted. Then, they stomped on my dreams. They beat me, took the story in a different way, and I worried about the story I had crafted.

But then I realized that their successes, their choice, made them far happier than me having the opportunity to tell my story. They were engaged, had a stake that was bigger than anything I could have prepared for them. I didn’t get my way, and that was awesome.

People read, watch, and play games because they want to acquire something. A fuzzy feeling. An intellectual challenge. Useful information. A statement about humanity. Engaging a story will always be a selfish endeavor.

And this is as it should be. Authors should always remember that storytelling is not about them; it’s about the audience.

A lot of indie-publishers don’t look for input before they make their stories go wide, and that’s a problem. They say, “I’ve written the story I want to tell, I don’t want someone telling me to change things.” And I say those people are stupid. Sorry guys, but you’re missing out.

You know those stories that have lasted throughout the ages and become legend? Beowulf? King Arthur? Batman? So many of these endure because they have had the benefit of many many people putting their own hearts and souls into their worlds. They’ve been edited, re-edited, revised, re-envisioned, interpreted, changed, stomped on, born again. And they are stronger for it.

Do you really think your story wouldn’t benefit from other eyes and minds before you try to make money off it? If so, you’re likely either a fool or incredibly arrogant (though the two aren’t mutually exclusive). Submit yourself to review, listen to input, and play around in the story with people you know and trust. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.

And give your imagination a little workout. I found RPGs to be a great workout…what’s yours?