Call for Writers Update

Earlier this year I announced that Gamers With Jobs was holding its first call for writers in quite a few years. Honestly, what I had thought would happen next is that we’d get a dozen drafts, maybe as many as twenty, and I would review them over the next week or two and come to some decisions.

That is not what happened.

What happened was that some 80 or so drafts landed in my inbox, which in the long run — hooray, we’ve got a lot of talented people interested in writing for us. In the short run, however, it meant this process was going to take some time to finish. But what I did next was the part that really put the brakes on. I decided I was going to send everyone feedback. A decision, by the way, that I’m still glad that I made, though we are now more than a month out since the call closed, and if I’m completely honest I still have twenty something drafts to go.

At this point, some of you have heard from me, and some of you have not. By the end, all of you will have heard from me one way or the other, and hopefully what I will have to say will be, if not an invitation to our writing community, at least valuable thoughts on what I saw and thought while reading your draft. It’s been good, because this exercise has gotten me thinking about writing in a way I haven’t done for a very long time.

The downside to that is that ultimately what I’m saying today is: Thank you for your patience, but I’m going to need a little more of it. However, as long as we have this time together, let me tell you a few of my general thoughts as I’ve been going through the process.

One of the interesting things I rediscover whenever I enter this kind of critical analysis mode is how many different plates a talented, professional writer who is on their game can keep spinning. Writing prose that makes people want to keep reading is precarious to the nth degree, and the slightest misstep can in an instant move an article that seemed to be developing nicely enough into shambles.

And it’s not just the obvious things like spelling, proper grammar and punctuation. Those are the given that you have to get right just to be qualified to play in the game. It’s the much more difficult things that are almost intangible and unquantifiable, things like the way you structure an argument, the rhythm and pacing of the language you choose, the organization and crafting of sentences. It’s about being able to know at an almost instinctive level why two sentences that say exactly the same thing with almost identical words can evoke two extraordinarily different feelings from the reader — just by the way the sentence is organized. It’s about getting your reader to the place where they aren’t exactly reading your article, they are almost absorbing it.

And, as I have read these drafts, it has made me appreciate anew how challenging it really is. A lot of the pieces so far that I’ve turned down weren’t bad by any means. They simply seemed to me to be missing one of the numerous puzzle pieces necessary: an overall argument that never coalesced, paragraphs that seemed unconnected to each other, word rhythm that would start and then stop again, drafts that spent the first few paragraphs trying to discover what to say only to reach cruising speed at the very last. The writing I’ve gotten to enjoy over the past few weeks almost always has more right with it than wrong, but like one or two drops of ink in a bucket of water, one thing that’s off enough in a sea of otherwise decent work can change the entire color of an article.

In all honesty, I’m being hard on the drafts I receive, and relatively uncompromising. It would be pretty easy to say, “You know, GWJ is mostly a fun blog about gaming and adults, we really don’t need to be so picky.” Actually, no. That wouldn’t be easy to say. That would be hard, nearly impossible for me to say, because some of the best works I’ve read on the internet have been crafted by our writers, both present and former. I don’t think that’s by accident.

The Call will be over soon(ish), and I do not know what the result will be. It’s possible we might bring on a couple of voices. It’s possible we’ll decide that we didn’t find what we were looking for out of this round. But again, a sincere thanks to all of you who submitted your work. Not only am I enjoying hearing what you have to say, but I’m proud to see so many people who want to be part of what we’re doing here.

Comments

It’s the much more difficult things that are almost intangible and unquantifiable, things like the way you structure an argument, the rhythm and pacing of the language you choose, the organization and crafting of sentences. It’s about ...

The master at work.

You know, Carlin's interest, understanding of and manipulation of language was brilliant. He understood words and their power at a fundamental level, and he could use them like surgical scalpels or nuclear bombs, but it was always on his terms and under his control.

I don't agree with everything Carlin said, and didn't always find him funny when he became nihilistic, but I never stopped being amazed at the way he crafted and delivered words.

Man, even if I don't get picked, it was a great impetus to get off my ass and write a focused piece. I haven't really felt the urge to do that in a while, and it was great to just have something done to completion in my outbox. Kudos to you for reading through all of them, and I hope mine provides some enjoyment at the least

In all honesty, I’m being hard on the drafts I receive, and relatively uncompromising.

I've been on the receiving end of this quite a few times at this point, including situations where editors have cut the entire article except for a single paragraph and told me to rewrite it based on that idea. If you aren't used to it or don't have naturally thick skin, it can sting a bit.

However, the articles that come out of it are ultimately much, much better than what they would be originally. I would encourage everyone to really try to internalize the feedback you receive, whether you are selected or not, and try to glean widely-applicable maxims from them. I can definitely say that the feedback I've received here has sharpened my copywriting at my day job considerably.

What's the expression? "In writing, you have to be willing to kill your babies." … Or something like that.

What's the expression? "In writing, you have to be willing to kill your babies." … Or something like that.

Oh no, we'll kill your babies for you. You just have to watch.

That editing process, I think, is valuable. Sometimes when I'm busy (like, say, now), I find it hard to go back and edit and rewrite stuff for my blog. I end up saying "screw it" and just toss the first draft up.

It's become harder for me to do this ever since I made my first video where I wrote and recorded a single draft. Nothing communicates how valuable a well-written statement, argument, or anything can be until you hear it spoken back.

I'll second Minarchist's statement, and internalize that feedback.

I just wish I had gotten my submission idea before the Call for Writers ended.

Hey I don't care if I get the call or not. I'm just glad I participated. It was fun, and way more interesting than the writing I usually have to do at work.

Tanglebones wrote:

Man, even if I don't get picked, it was a great impetus to get off my ass and write a focused piece. I haven't really felt the urge to do that in a while, and it was great to just have something done to completion in my outbox. Kudos to you for reading through all of them, and I hope mine provides some enjoyment at the least

Yeah, this is pretty much how I feel too. I really do hope you bring on multiple writers, since trying to be the best out of 80 candidates is brutal. But even if I don't get picked, I appreciate being given the chance at bat. Also, thanks for offering the feedback - as an editor, I recognize that's a huge undertaking.

Just wanted to add my thanks, Sean.

It's a huge undertaking you've tackled, and I appreciate the opportunity and the time you've dedicated to consider each submission. Whether mine is up to the standard for selection or not, I appreciate the opportunity to submit. There's always something special that sparks when I write for more than just myself, and that's the feeling that keeps me coming back.

I look forward to receiving your feedback; it's difficult to improve without some uncompromising feedback now and again. So, thank you. Thank you for the hours, the thoughts, and the words. Here's hoping you found a few gems among the drafts to bolster the ranks. Cheers.

I hoop I get pikked. I kant speel gud but I have lotz two say!

Tanglebones wrote:

Man, even if I don't get picked, it was a great impetus to get off my ass and write a focused piece. I haven't really felt the urge to do that in a while, and it was great to just have something done to completion in my outbox. Kudos to you for reading through all of them, and I hope mine provides some enjoyment at the least

Agreed on this front. It's a little nerve-wracking waiting, but the exercise of writing the article was definitely worth the effort, and I thank you for putting out the Call again, Elysium.

You're reading and critiquing 80 submissions?! You, sir, are overqualified for both journalism and book and magazine publishing!

Really, I commend you for doing this. The only way writers are going to get better is if they get some decent damned editing.

I'm really grateful for all of your time and energy - I enjoyed writing my piece, I hadn't written in years, and writing for your call kickstarted a project of almost daily writing, which I'm so glad I've done.

Thank you in advance for all of your feedback.

Enix wrote:

The only way writers are going to get better is if they get some decent damned editing.

*yoink*

I really appreciate that you are putting so much time into this. I know I am not a great writer (read as engineer who skipped college english), but feedback from someone with actual talent and experience even when we weren't expecting it is just more than I could have hoped for.

Great to hear that you are still working on this Sean. And we all appreciate what you are doing. Going through all 80 of them is truly insane and wonderful. I am just happy I submitted something. Keep up the good work!

I have no idea if I'm still in the running or Elysium is about to shoot me a "please don't ever touch a keyboard again for the sake of humanity" rejection letter. But after sitting in line for hours trying to get PAX tickets, I really, really hope I get picked as a new writer so I can get a press pass next year.

Now that it's May, I can't help but think I'm not in the running for this any more, though I never did get an email. I sure do hope I sent it following all the rules correctly-- it'd be a shame if I messed that up.

Of course, if I'm still part of the unfinished pile, I'll be thrilled whenever I hear back, whatever the result. Thanks for all the work on this, Elysium. That certainly is a lot of work!

Antichulius wrote:

Now that it's May, I can't help but think I'm not in the running for this any more, though I never did get an email. I sure do hope I sent it following all the rules correctly-- it'd be a shame if I messed that up.

Of course, if I'm still part of the unfinished pile, I'll be thrilled whenever I hear back, whatever the result. Thanks for all the work on this, Elysium. That certainly is a lot of work!

Everyone's getting an email.

Well, got my reject letter tonight. Want to thank Sean and the writing team for their hard work and consideration.

Also looking forward to seeing who won.

Yes, thanks for all your hard work running this event.

I had mixed feelings throughout the competition. I would have enjoyed being part of the writing team but I realised I'd probably end up spending too long on writing articles when I should really be growing my business.

There is a tinge of disappointment not getting through but also a fair amount of relief. I'll look forward to reading the articles that won.