It’s been a bit quiet on here recently. There’s a lot of reasons for this. The main reason is the lack of time, but there’s another contributing factor: I’ve had to slow down a little.
So what’s eating my time? Put simply, work is largely responsible along with poor health and trying to do too much. I’m very much aware of how stress can manifest itself, having suffered it to a great extent last year. I’ve talked before about managing my time, but last year it really became an issue, especially as I developed discoid eczema over 75% of my body. This in turn fed my stress levels which pushed them even higher.
At the time, I was running two RPG campaigns, attending ELG, attending Leiththeatre (amateur dramatics), running ORC Edinburgh, being a “gaming ambassador”, working 9-5, and doing freelance RPG work in my spare time. I’d also just left a toxic relationship, which – although brief – had affected me more than I thought. Looking back, something was bound to give sooner or later.
Since last year, I’ve managed to strike a work-life balance. My RPG freelance work does not impinge on my day job (it never did, though). Plus, I’ve been receiving photo-therapy which has cleared much of the discoid eczema. I’ve sadly had to wind down both my RPG campaigns as found I didn’t have the prep time. I stopped the am-dram stuff as it was two nights a week, which meant I didn’t really get to stop until 10pm.
So what the hell, you may ask, has this to do with gaming?
It’s about managing expectations.
Working on RPGs and managing expectations
It’s been said to me several times that I’m “living the dream”. From a certain point of view I am, but there’s a cost involved – which I’ll come to in a minute. I love writing for RPGs. There’s a fantastic buzz to seeing a finished product with your name on it, no matter your contribution. I think there’s a lot of folk out there believing RPG writing is a dream job giving them a chance to make a lot of money doing what they love.
It’s not quite like that.
The folks that write RPGs work hard, at every level – we’re talking editors, proofreaders, artists – not just writers and designers. The full-timers have to make a living from their work, and freelancers often have to work as hard. What you put in, you get out – and the currency is time. So here’s my thoughts for anyone considering becoming a freelancer or full-time writer on RPGs (some is common sense, but…).
- Be professional, if you want to be taken seriously. Treat it as you would any paid job. If you do get a Non-Disclosure Agreement, honour it. Conduct yourself as a business-person, rather than fan-person.
- Hit any deadlines set. Even better, get your work completed well before the deadline.
- You will be edited: accept it. I worked on a project with Forgotten Realms’ Elminster himself, Ed Greenwood, who told me “We ALL get edited.”- if your work is cut, deal with it.
- Always get a proofreader, and get used to “red ink” or comments. Someone who’ll read over your work – this is less relevant for established publishers who will have their own proofreaders, but if you’re self-publishing, this is a must.
- Treat it like a job, not a hobby. Set yourself proper goals to complete your work – milestones like “1,000 words by Friday”. Don’t be too stringent on yourself – you need downtime (see below).
- It’s in the nature of the RPG industry (just like real-life!) that people move on to other projects and roles. While you’re working on a product, keep your loyalty to the product – not a person. There’s nothing personal in it.
- Make sure you have some downtime to deal with Real Life™. Family, friends, films, a book…. whatever! Make sure you take some time out. If you’re going to sleep thinking about your work consistently, you’re overdoing it. Stop. Chill.
- Do what you can, not what you want. Manage your time: to use a cliche, under-promise and over-deliver if needed. For example: I’ve been involved with almost the entire Mutant Chronicles line for 3rd edition. Much of that was indexing and caption writing, but I also helped fine-tune some of the writing and proofread. I am fine with that. Since then, I’ve found myself doing more and more on the product line.
- Keep to the assignment. If you’ve been asked to keep to 20,000 words, keep to it. You may not get paid for any extra words. It can have a knock-on effect in layout, so be careful! If in doubt, ask. Some publishers may want to keep extra material for future products – so keep it in mind.
- Deal with rejection. If your work has a problem, publishers will let you know. If you have to redo something, then do it. Don’t sulk about it.
- Negative feedback is still feedback. What went wrong? So fix it, next time. Not everyone will like your work, so don’t worry about the one Dislike among a hundred Likes. Take ANY criticism and use it positively.
- Believe in the product. You may not need to know the rules set, but turning in a half-arsed draft because you can’t be bothered with the canon is a shot in the foot. Also be preapared to talk about it on social media etc. (but honour any NDA!).
- Invoice promptly. Budgets can be tight so make sure you invoice for either your time, or the assigned word count.
Have I missed anything? Probably. But anyhoo… I’ll be at the UK Games Expo in June. If I’m not running a game, I’ll be at the Modiphius stand (or the pub)!
UK Games Expo Games I’m Running/Ruining
10:00-14:00 Mutant Chronicles: Ice Cold in Eden
15:00-19:00 Conan (2d20): Seethers in Darkness
20:00-Midnight: Achtung! Cthulhu: A Light on the Mountain
10:00-14:00: Conan (2d20): Seethers in Darkness
20:00-23:59: Mutant Chronicles: Ice Cold in Eden