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.