Finding What Works for You

Hey, look! A post!

Let's talk a bit about online presence—how writers and other creatives are told (or expected) to have one whether they like it or not. You gotta be on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and blogging (well, maybe not blogging anymore, but I will! Sometimes! Screw you, conventional wisdom!).

So the two of you who pay attention know that I've been streaming on Sunday nights for *checks calendar* about a year now. I started because it looked like fun, because I thought it would be a good way to play games I couldn't play around my kids, and because I saw people gathering an audience and I thought, "Hey, maybe I could do that."

Understand, I know how hard it is to build an audience, and I know nothing makes that happen overnight. I never expected to have hundreds of viewers who would all run to buy my books. I figured I'd just build something small—like I did here and on Twitter and Facebook—and maybe, maybe when I had something to sell or to say, that would be another platform for it. And I'd get to play games in the meantime.

Anyway, it turned out not to be as fun as I thought.*

* For me. Other people have fun with it, and that's awesome, but it just wasn't meshing with my schedule or personality.

I am no longer streaming. Could I have built an audience? Sure. But I realized I was no longer looking forward to it, and the idea of not streaming felt like... relief.

And that's my point. When you're looking at ways to build an audience or online presence, you have to HAVE TO evaluate what works for you—what do you enjoy, what comes naturally, what do you look forward to (at least most of the time)? Because otherwise... it just won't work no matter how hard you bang your head on it.

And besides, streaming (and blogging and tweeting and instagraming and... tumbling?) doesn't sell books. Books sell books. And now I have a little bit more time to do that.

So anyway, there's your conventional wisdom for today. Also your general update: I'm still working on stuff for you to enjoy, but I've got nothing finished or announced yet.

I do have a progress chart for the mobile gamebook though (I post updates for this on Twitter and Facebook occasionally). Here's where I am:

I hope to have this thing turned in by early July. We'll see.

So what are you working on?

Editing Tip: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

I know it's been a while. I've been ridiculously busy, but as promised, here's a quick editing tip on something I always wished I had known and now I do.

So, I'm a very meticulous human being (most of the time). I like precision, accuracy, and the difference between the two. I like knowing the right way to do things, and I very much like doing things that way.

Which is why the English language drives me absolutely nutty.

One space after a period or two? Leaped or leapt? Jesus' or Jesus's? God damn it, God dammit, or gorramit? How the hell do you pronounce gif? Lots of people have opinions on these things, and many will tell you there is a right answer to them. And there is a right answer, but it's much more wibbly-wobbly than we want to hear:

The correct choice for most spelling, punctuation, and style questions is the choice that is used consistently.


Really, really.

It honestly doesn't matter whether you use one space or two after a period so long as you do one or the other consistently. How you spell "damn it" doesn't matter so long as you do so consistently. Whether you italicize foreign words or not doesn't matter so long as you do so consistently.

"Hold on," you say. "Does that mean I could choose not to capitalize any words at all, and that would be correct so long as I'm consistent? Isn't that objectively bad grammar?"

There is surprisingly little that is objective when it comes to language. But yes, that is usually considered bad grammar...

And yes, you can do it so long as you're consistent. E. E Cummings was famous for doing exactly that as well as screwing with punctuation and word order in general. And lest you think "Well, that's poetry," R. J. Palacio did the same thing for some chapters of the wonderful Wonder, even eschewing basic punctuation like periods and quotation marks.

So even grammar is just like the other "rules" of writing—you can break them so long as you do so intentionally and consistently.

Will it work? Well, that depends on what you're doing and how difficult it is for the reader. But there's nothing that says you can't try.

"Okay, wait. My editor told me I have to put one space after every period, regardless of what my typing teacher taught me. Why can't I do it my way like you're saying so long as I'm consistent?"

That's because your editor is following what's called a style guide—a list of rules they follow to make sure that everything they work on is consistent not just within each work but across every work they publish. Style guides are lovely because they do tell you what is right and wrong (kind of), allowing you to have that feeling of being Right (usually).

Most publishers have their own style guides, which are likely (but not necessarily) based on the Chicago Manual of Style. They are also probably using a specific dictionary (and a specific edition of that dictionary) to determine how words should be spelled to be consistent.

For example, the CMoS recommends one space after a period, serial commas in lists of items, and capitalizing words the way you learned in elementary school. If you're talking about what's "objectively" correct, the CMoS (along with other, similar style guides) is the closest thing you're going to get.

But even the CMoS only "recommends" certain things, stopping just shy of laying down the law. I hope to write more of these posts, exploring some of what the CMoS says about certain rules (rules I always wondered about but have become much more clear on lately), but in the meantime, you can find the answers to a lot of rules' questions with a little Googling, the full content of the 16th edition of the CMoS, or if you're really hardcore, a subscription to CMoS 17.

Or ask me! What questions have you always had about what is objectively right or wrong? If I don't already know the answer, I probably should (given my current, primary means of business), and I am more than happy to research it.

[UPDATE: I am a horrible person because for some reason I had typed that CMoS recommends two spaces after a period when I know, I know it does not. This has been corrected, and I have been self-flogged severely as a result.]

March Update

I've got a writing tips post for you next week, but here's where things stand with me now:
  • I'm writing dialogue for a game I can't announce yet (but will as soon as I'm allowed). There should be a reveal trailer soon, though I don't expect the actual game to be done for several months or more.
  • I'm writing a gamebook-as-mobile-app (I'm doing the writing and choice design; the publisher is doing the systems design and actual functionality). So far, I've turned in three chapters out of ten. I hope to have it all done within two to three months, at which point... we'll see.
  • I recently finished a crapload of big editing projects (hence the silence here), which is kind of nice because I feel like I don't have to worry about money for a few weeks. Some of them are exciting too, like a major RPG rulebook and a couple of tie-in novellas to a major MMORPG.
  • I've been streaming Cuphead (stream is here, archived videos here). This is a ridiculously hard game, folks, but it's fun to be forced to work my way through it in public. I've also recently streamed Portal 1 and 2 with my parents alongside me and River City Ransom: Underground with my family and friends.
  • My brother roped me in to Sea of Thieves, and although I don't have a lot of time for it, I'm awfully glad he did. I love everything about it so far, but nothing more than concertinas and hurdy-gurdies.
Image result for sea of thieves hurdy gurdy
I know there are a lot of vagueries in those earlier bullet points, but that's because there are a lot of NDAs in those bullet points. I have a feeling I'll be announcing a lot of things all at once one of these days. Until then, vagueries are what you get.

So how are things with you?

Brief Work Notice

My last, large editing project has come in, and I have a new game design gig starting on Monday. Consequently, I will (probably) be too busy to post here until the editing project is done sometime in March. You know, for the two of you who care about such things.

When I do post, I have some writing/editing tips for you—things I always wish I had known and now I do.

Books I Loved in 2017

Late, I know, but meh. Here were some books I read and enjoyed in 2017. As with my games post, I'm mostly leaning toward books you are, perhaps, less likely to have heard of.

HAMMERS ON BONE by Cassandra Khaw
John Persons is a private investigator hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid's stepdad. But he finds that something much worse is wrong with the stepdad . . . and the town. Fortunately, John Persons is a bit more than a, uh, person, and therefore qualified to handle creepy night horrors.

I am so glad to have learned of this author this year. She twirls words around her like a gymnast's ribbon. Hammers on Bone is a delicious combination of noir, cthulhu-style horror, and beautiful prose, and I can't wait to read more of Khaw's work.

BACK OFF, I'M A NINJA by Natalie Whipple
This is the final book in Natalie's Relax, I'm a Ninja trilogy about a Japanese-American teen ninja named Tosh, who discovers he's one half of an awesome, demon-hunting duo. I won't spoil the third one if you haven't read any yet, because you should really read all of them.

Tosh manages to be cool and geeky at the same time, and in the last two books in particular, I loved his relationship with Amy. Honestly, Tosh and Amy make me want to be a better husband, which is a weird thing to say about a young adult book about ninjas and demons. I love the Japanese mythology used throughout the trilogy, too. These books are just tons of fun.

THE NIGHT CLAVE by Monte Cook and Shanna Germain
Set in the world of Numenera, a group of friends make a desperate attempt to rescue their people from a mind-controlling tyrant. (Full disclosure: I proofread this book.)

Aside from the Numenera world (which is so much weird and fun), I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters. The heist aspect was great, but the relationship and banter between the two main characters just made me so happy.

ON THE EDGE OF GONE by Corinne Duyvis
A comet is scheduled to hit the Earth. This is the story of a young girl named Denise and her struggle to survive—and find her sister—both during and after impact.

What I love most about this book is how Corinne makes an impact apocalypse in Amsterdam feel just as real as Denise's autism. I really enjoyed experiencing both.

An awesome, classic, fantasy adventure starring an unlikely group of adventurers trapped in a city about to be wiped out by feuding gangs and ancient demons. This is such a fun world, and the story feels like a D&D campaign gone very, very wrong in all the best ways.

Even though the novel screams D&D, the story rests heavily on the characters and their personal struggles, and so it doesn't fall into any of the classic RPG traps. So it's a novel screaming D&D (which I love) while telling an awesome story about conflicted characters (which I love). So yeah, awesome.

Next up, I hope to finish Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy. What are you reading these days?

On Being Late to the Party (and a Quick Update)

So far, my months of too much work are going well. I've finished editing one novel and one novella, and the other projects have been sufficiently late in coming that I've had time to do so. I guess I made a good decision saying yes to too much!

Also, the gamebook is definitely going to be a thing now (meaning I've signed a contract). It's going to be several months coming, but it will come. So that's something to look forward to.

The other day, I had a mini-rant on Twitter about being late to the party. Let's all agree to stop using this phrase and just enjoy things, yeah?

When Things Fall Through

I got some hard news this week. The editor who was looking at Sea of Souls decided to pass. I still have a lot of good things going on, but this one just . . .

So that was a hard day. But to my surprise, it was only a day. Maybe it's because I still have other things on the horizon or because I've been focusing on being thankful and redefining success, but this loss didn't kill me like it would have years ago—maybe even a year ago.

When I lost the Nexon gig last summer, I scrambled to find work, e-mailing everyone I knew and following every thread. And one thing I learned is that like 80% of those threads—even the ones that came with promising words at the start—also fall through, but it doesn't matter so long as one or two of them sticks.

Heck, even my surfeit of work is not a sure thing until I have projects in hand. But that's okay; the whole reason I take on so much is so I don't have to freak out when some of it disintegrates.

So yeah, I'm thinking maybe I don't (yet) have what the Big 5 publishers are looking for (yet), but I have what Broken Eye Books, Scribendi, [redacted game company], and a few other clients are looking for—and I have an amazing family with enough money to feed them for a while yet. So things ain't so bad. I even briefly imagined life without any writing at all, and you know what? It was still a pretty good life.

(Don't worry. I'm still going to write.)

A part of me (a very, very small part) is even glad Sea of Souls dropped, because now I have more time for other projects people do want. And, man, if there's one thing I need, it's more time.

If those fall through, too? Well, I'll figure that out later. Until then, I'll keep enjoying what's in front of me.

A Look at 2017 and the Alleged 2018

2017 was . . . an interesting year. Aside from the dumpster fire, I went from four years of reliable, steady work to juggling chainsaws.

Don't misunderstand me. Before Torment, I had no work at all, and our enormous family was slowly hemorrhaging money. Torment was literally (in the literal definition of literally) a Godsend, and although freelancing has been bumpy as hell this year, the connections I've made in the last five years are the only thing that has made any of it possible.

So! Looking back at 2017:

1) Torment was released. Not unlike the first one, sales have been unimpressive (so I hear; it's not like I see any financial reports), but the critics love it as do most of the people who have played it.

If history is any indicator, we can expect its successor to be the next crowd-funded success in another fifteen years.

2) I worked for Nexon . . . and now I don't. I realize now I didn't talk about this much on the blog, but yeah, I was doing game writing (and a little design) for a prototype for Nexon which the high-ups ultimately passed on. They not only passed on the prototype, but also the whole team, which unfortunately included me. But hey, I got paid for several months and had time to write on the side, so I ain't complaining.

3) I became a professional editor. I have begun editing for both private clients as well as the online editing firm Scribendi. The combination of these has made for steady work (private clients aren't always there, but they pay great and are super fun; Scribendi is always there).

When I started, I was somewhat hesitant about my editing abilities. I knew I had great attention to detail and a lot of experience with plotting and world-building, but I felt like there was a lot I didn't know about the editing world. Now, thanks in part to Scribendi's training courses, I super know what I'm doing. I edit. I'm an editor. And I love it.

4) I started streaming. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I've been able to play games I've been meaning to play, hang out with my family, and meet other gamers all at the same time. Streaming is a lot of fun, and I expect to keep doing it for a while. (I wish I could do it more, but making money on streaming is a lot more work than advertised.) If you'd like to join us, I stream most Sundays here or you can catch up on previous streams here.

As wacky as this year has been, I'm pretty happy with the state of my life. Torment was fun and amazing and I regret almost none of it, but I also essentially ignored my family for four years with a single credit to show for it. As a result, I learned important things about freelancing that have resulted in me making more money (or "enough" money, which really is better) with less time.

With that, here's a quick look at what 2018 might look like:

It starts with a lot of work. Like too much. But it's all awesome work, and some of it might lead to more work, and most importantly it means I don't have to worry about money for a while, which is always nice.

Cunning Folk. I've been talking with publishing folks about a book that long-time readers will recognize. I recently read my first draft and . . . yeah, I definitely wrote it a long time ago. There's a lot of dust to blow off it, and a lot of pieces that need a writer more experienced than past-Adam was, but there's also a definite possibility to publish some version of this book. I'm looking forward to that.

Blogging. Perceptive readers will notice that I've posted regularly for six weeks in a row now. Will this return to the glory days continue? Stay tuned to find out!

Streaming with my parents. My parents come to visit us a few weeks every year. This year, I'm going to see about introducing them (and myself) to a little game called Portal, and you can watch the fun.

Sea of Souls? The outline's on the editor's desk. We'll see.

Post-Apoc Ninjas? Also on editors' desks, but keep in mind it's been there for a while.

Gamebook? There are some unknowns here, so I can't say much about it. More news when there is news. (But, man, is it fun to write!)

So how are you all? Highlights from 2017? What are you looking forward to in 2018?