New Writers Resources

Finally, a topic about which I am almost qualified to dispense advice. Being still a new writer and all.

Slight detour…

I just returned with my family from Great Lakes Games, a four day annual invitational event for about 100 friends and family to get together and play boardgames. Boardgames and board game design is another of my frequently exercised hobbies (see “Other Publishing Credits”). This was the ninth year and we have attended all but the first. The timing is such that several of the folks in attendance have just returned from the Spiel in Essen… meaning lots of shiny new games unavailable yet here in the US. It also means getting together a number of game designer friends who are regulars. Exciting and notable this year was the placement of Hawaii by Greg Daigle on the FairPlay Essen scouting report – one of the more reliable predictors for commercial success of a game and pretty remarkable for an American designer. I am extremely happy for Greg – he has worked very hard at his craft and deserves the success and recognition for his work.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well not a whole lot really, but over the weekend I had a number of folks asking whether I had any games in the works. I always have games in the works, like stacks of half finished designs, however this time around they have all taken a back seat to this new writing thing. Several folks were surprised, several others shared their interests or desire to also write. The next question was how did I get myself up and going…

1) Preparation – I attended Michael Stackpole’s “21 Days to a Novel” seminar at Gen Con 2010. In an hour, he was able to explain in simple terms a number of writing exercises that would help prepare and construct a novel. Subsequently I found “The Secrets” podcast available at Stackpole’s site and iTunes. I listened to and enjoyed these podcasts. A portion of this podcast covers the 21 days process with examples. There is also an eBook available at his site and on Amazon.

2) Technique – Hands down the best source of information is the Writing Excuses podcast. Short, fun, and very educational. This should be recommended listening for anyone learning to write! Start at the beginning because they are that good.

3) Technology – I spent a great deal of time trying different writing applications. YWriter was the best application I found for the Windows platform. But hands down the program I prefer is Scrivener. I suffered through the Beta version of the application on Windows long enough to discover its true potential. Finally broke down and bought a Mac, the native platform for Scrivener. Haven’t looked back.

4) Encouragement – Wherever you get it, however you get it, it comes in handy. Give NaNoWriMo a try (adequate preparation is necessary to succeed), take a couple of Continuing Education classes at nearby community college, find a writer’s group, enlist your friends and family.

Enjoy! And best of luck.

Kilts are like Bacon? (and other #gencon highlights)

Gen Con never fails to deliver – and I did ultimately find the Stormtroopers (see previous post), though one was wearing a kilt.  I nice tartan if I do say so but a kilt on a Stormtrooper?  Indeed.  Scottish Stormtrooper or the kilts have become like bacon – they make everything better.

Another great trip to Gen Con this year.  I would have posted more but wifi continues to be a purchased commodity at the Indy convention center.  $14.99/day for internet access.  The opposite was true of the hotel.  Free, but connections maxed out.  I am betting the $14.99 pay internet was not maxed out.  So what is the right price for free internet?

So on to the highlights:

Elizabeth Vaughan was a treat.  She sat on a number of the panels I attended and though she writes a genre that I have never been interested in (romance) I found her engaging and interesting.  I met her afterward and thanked her for the enthusiasm and encouragement.  Just a real fun, nice, and energetic person.  The comment that she made that stuck with me (paraphrased): while writing you need to hear the things your pre-readers like as encouragement, when done with the draft, you need to hear all the things they don’t like.

I also enjoyed Maurice Broaddus.  He was on the Steampunk panel somewhat by accident from the sounds of it.  As it turned out, I think he had some of the most interesting commentary on the evolution of the Steampunk genre.  The overall opinion was that of an evolution of the genre to something of a Steampunk v2.0 that is more focused on the gadgets and less on the “punk” portion that emphasizes counter-cultural resistance and class warfare.  In that regard, I think my work on The West Wind holds more true to the original Steampunk genre definitions despite being a western mashup.  Overall, expansion of steampunk into other areas (aliens, magic, etc.) being the major trend.  His best story – an offhanded tweet on the needing to correct the racial bias of traditional steampunk by proposing to write “pimp my airship” followed by being forced to write it after hearing back from five editors that they wanted to buy it.

Rigormortis: A Zombie Love Story.  A romantic comedy musical about zombies.  It works and was a lot of fun.  Follow the link and watch for yourself.  I snuck in about half way through and found, after the movie, that I was sitting next to the director and his mom.  I love indie movie fests.

Unicorn City was the hit of the movies for me.  About a slacker gamer that organizes a LARP to prove he has leadership skills in order to get a management position at a game company.  It was superb.  Writing, acting, directing, camera and effects were all perfect for this level of a movie.  Hit al the right buttons for me with some extremely hilarious parts usually involving the centaur.  Check it out if you can at a local movie fest if you can while they are touring.  Their FB page is saying early 2012 for DVD/Blueray.  I’m in.

Aside from the traditional sleep deprivation, sore feet and legs, and too much junk food, it was a great trip as usual.

Gen Con Indy 2011 Goes Steampunk

I know when I am interested in something, I start to see it everywhere. I also know that I pick up on trends, some quicker than others.

In short, maybe it is just me. Then again, maybe not.

My point (I was getting to it…), I am amazed by the amount of steampunk I am seeing at Gen Con this year. Some truly amazing outfits and much more variety

Past years it seemed like you couldn’t swing a vorpal sword without hitting someone in D&D, Star Trek, or Star Wars costume. This year, I don’t think you could unholster a raygun without having several lords and ladies pointing theirs back at you. Next to the cosplay folks over at the Westin, it seems as if steampunk fashion is truly enjoying it’s turn in the spotlight.

Many more clothing booths featuring steampunk clothing. Many more booths adding accessories. Lots of people sporting goggles. Abney Park has a RPG (sold out of course. Gah. Limited shipment for con. I get it.)

Of course I couldn’t be more excited.

But I do somehow sort of miss the stormtrooper checking badges at the exhibit hall entrance…

Gushing fanboy

Ok, committed one of the sins of convention going… Met someone that I am a fan of and going all gushing fanboy. I was worse than a 13yr old schoolgirl, quite literally, she held it together a lot better than I.

I got to meet Howard Taylor of the often referenced here Writing Excuses podcast. I have learned a lot from him and his friends about writing. The encouragement and humor of the show also got me through the tough parts. Having been paying closer attention to his web comic Schlock Mercenary, I picked up the first volume and had Howard deface it.

A great first day at Gen Con.

Maker Faire Detroit & Steampunk Hatter

Sore feet, a bit of dehydration and, I am afraid, a bit more sunburn than I would have preferred.  Despite that, Maker Faire was a hit for me this year.  I was a bit concerned at first because the show looked smaller than it did last year.  Surprise, the added space in The Henry Ford (Museum) was a perfect touch.  What a better place than a museum dedicated to the greatest makers of the past.

I think the highlight of the show for me was meeting the nice folks from Steampunk Hatter.  They had a decent sized tent and the most extraordinary hats that I have ever seen.  All leather with varying amounts of steampunk decoration to your taste.  Of course, I couldn’t pass up getting a hat.  Call it a celebratory gift for finishing the first draft (ok, still a bit pre-mature, but it is going to be done this before I head off to Gen Con blast it all!).  I passed on the top hats and went for the black stoker.  If you have the chance to get one of these hats online, or in person from the fine folks at Steampunk Hatter… you will not be disappointed!