How do you become a writer?

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Bill Loguidice's picture

I was asked a question this morning on the professional networking site, LinkedIn, which moved me to a somewhat long-winded response that I thought I would share, unedited. Maybe it answers this gentleman's question, maybe it doesn't, but it certainly had me reflect on the good fortune that I've had since January 2004, when Armchair Arcade officially launched. While I was doing occasional freelance writing prior to that, it was really the co-founding of this very site that kicked off the most interesting projects I've worked on, including the books and feature film, with the promise of so much more to come. The question was, "Beside writing, how does one really get started as a author and or freelance writer?". My response follows:

|BEGIN|"Simple. Build credibility and status in a particular field or fields, which will then allow you to open doors. Most notably in my case, I co-founded a videogame and computer Website back in late 2003 that became popular. I was able to leverage that into related paid work. I also constantly wrote, of course, and constantly worked to improve my writing and style. I also always conducted myself professionally and in a friendly manner online, even pre-World Wide Web, even before I was out of high school. As a result, I've never done anything anonymously online. What you see online is always what you get with me and I believe that's a lesson that others would do well to heed, since some seem to think you can act differently online than you would in the "real world".

With all of the above in mind, it hasn't been easy and certainly luck has been involved, as has the good fortune of being able to align myself with similarly like-minded and talented individuals. It's been a slow, gradual rise and something I still work very, very hard at. I've had to give away a LOT of my time, energy and effort for free or minimal tangible return, but I do it because I choose to and want to accomplish great things. Since I have a regular job that pays the bills, I can work only the freelance projects that move me and that I ultimately don't mind doing for little financial gain or just for the fun or prestige of it. It's a good, if tiring, position to be in.

With a full-time job and steady freelance work, I also make sure I spend plenty of time with my family, and keep balance in other areas of my life like taking care of myself physically. That to me is important, as becoming a one dimensional person would be detrimental to my ultimate goals.

So, long story short, keep writing, practice your craft, gain credibility, act professionally at all times, and keep going after opportunities - sometimes creating your own. If you have at least some talent and keep plugging away, more often than not good things will happen for you and more and more opportunities will present themselves as it all snowballs. Good luck!"|END|

On a side note, I've often been asked things like, "How do I get a book deal?". That's a discussion for a different day, though it's certainly not how the average person thinks, nor - as with most things in life - does it typically result in fame or riches. It does have a lot to do with what I've talked about above, though!

Comments

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Wow, excellent stuff. I

Wow, excellent stuff. I think I will use this as part of my lesson today.

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Interesting, Matt. I'd love

Interesting, Matt. I'd love to know what kind of comments you get if you do indeed discuss it.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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stevefulton (not verified)
I could not agree more

Bill is right about this. For anyone who does not have some kind of "connection" to the book industry, this is pretty much the way you have to do it these days. Make a blog or website. Use your unique abilities and knowledge to create a body of work that can be indexed by Google/Bing. Gain a following by being a reasonable, level-headed, and helpful online...but at the same time speaking with authority. Use your body of work and authority to try to land a book deal. I have now have a deal to produce a game development book with major publisher following this exact attack vector.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I might write more on this

I might write more on this later on, but in general I think Bill is right on the money with this one.

I might add a few other practical tips and guidelines, though. Some of these are easier than others.

1. Study successful writers. If you want to write books about games, get the ones that exist and figure out what is good and bad about them. Figure out their intended audience and whether they sold well (and think about why). Try to envision what the proposal for this book must have looked like, and you might even consider getting in touch with the author. Ask him or her for advice and a copy of the original proposal (if they're willing). You might also ask them about your own idea, but don't be disappointed if they don't have time. Above all, imitate what worked (don't plagiarize or copy directly, of course!), change what didn't.

2. Find an appropriate publisher. As with #1, look at who published the books in the field and look at their other books. Try to find a "theme" or "niche" that they are publishing and you can contribute to. The publishers we worked with are very specific about their audience and its needs (game developers). Don't try to argue that your book will be enjoyed by everyone; publishers often want you to cater to their chosen market(s). This is something that Bill and I have had trouble with (between us and potential publishers). If a market isn't already proven to exist, expect a hard time from wary publishers.

3. Think it through and plan carefully. This seems obvious but is actually quite hard. It is hard, for instance, coming up with a reasonable time frame and how many pages, images, and so on you will need. My experience is that you should take Scotty's approach from Star Trek--double or treble your initial calculations. If you think it will take you six months, ask for a year. Pages are a bit trickier--make sure you understand their template and how much text or image will actually fit on a page. If you say something like, "200-300 pages," it sounds like you have no idea what you're doing because the range is too wide.

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