Question: how do i start writing 'professionally'


#1

so… im not really a particularly book smart dude. i did one semester of college before being sent home due to no money and sadly my only english class was remedial… that was now almost 6 full years ago and since then the only things i’ve written are social media posts… where propper grammer, pacing and format go to die

if you’ve been on twitter at all tonight you’ve probably seen that tweet from that one freelancer who made a terrible joke… it stuck with me long than it should have to be honest… but the only thing i can do right now is ask… how can i do better… how can i stop complaining about the problem and go be a writer that is a useful and positive alternitive to this sea of voices who are often toxic?

the trouble for me is im often a realist to a crippling degree… espcially today in 2017… there’s no fucking way i’m good enough to even get noticed by someone to do ‘exposure’ work… let alone ask for real money

i’ve thought about in the past just making audio recordings and paying a person to dictate them and then help me edit them, but i have no idea what the fair value of that stuff is… but it would still be faster since my cerebral palsy limits me to about 15-17 WPM

also fun fact the grammerly add on for chrome wont let me edit things… so now yall get to see how terrible i really am

thank you in advance for any feedback… im off to bed to hopefully work this rage into an idea in the morning


#2

I anticipate that a lot of the replies here will be “Just start writing anything and take it seriously.”

It’s definitely hard to get noticed. I’m only professional in the sense that I have been paid to write. But I doubt anyone really “knows” me in the professional world. Finding those paid gigs can be nearly impossible; the place I’m at now I’ll probably never leave, because everything else in its range is all unpaid volunteer work.

I started writing GameFAQs reviews. Those, embarrassingly, are still online. It would be six or seven years after I wrote those that I got my paid writing gig, and another eight years before I really started to feel “comfortable” about my writing skills.

Unfortunately, you’ve just got to put the time in. The more you read, the more you write, the better you will get, and maybe along the way you will make friends that will help you get a foot in the door. Finding someone to proofread your stuff will help a lot, too, though in my experience that can be incredibly hard to do (a lot of my writer buddies either conveniently vanish or ask for money if something I’ve written is too long; it’s tedious work).

Between getting friends to occasionally proofread my stuff and opening a tumblr blog, I think that’s contributed the most to me maturing as a writer. Now I write something like 900-3000 words a day, depending on the day. Like any skill, practice makes perfect. The more you write, the better you will be, and I write a lot now.

Dan Ryckert famously opened his own blog and reviewed something like a hundred games a year, at his own expense, for two solid years, which lead to his job at Game Informer. Develop, improve, and get your name out there.

Which is another thing: a lot of news sites nowadays take pitches. I know Waypoint takes pitches. GiantBomb has a program for guest writers. Even if you aren’t specifically looking for gaming work, I’m sure there’s plenty of other sites that have an ear to the ground in some fashion. Find out where and bide your time (and while you do that, never stop writing). If it looks like, even for a second, they are accepting pitches, pounce. Or, worst comes to worst, just ask if and when they are taking pitches.

Hopefully this helps and doesn’t sound too discouraging. It looks like you already have an inkling of how crowded this market can be, so if you’re still up to give this a go, then there’s a good chance you’ll get where you want to be eventually. You just have to keep at it until you find somewhere to stick to.


#3

Hi, Blackie62, Creative Writing major, failed writer. Sorry you’re getting notified of my sulking reply.

To your point of “I anticipate that a lot of the replies here will be ‘Just start writing anything and take it seriously’”: So help me I would do so much for better advice than just this. I’m frequently paralyzed at the moment of writing because it’s hard to cohesively and coherently put ideas to words, I always worry about the right way to write and feel blocked by my inability to think of even sentences that I can feel confident in–the time I’ve spent stressing over attributions alone. It’s put me in a place where even if I have an idea I’d like to write about I feel like I’m wasting it on my poor ability so that only further hampers my ability to practice.

Is it like killing? Do I just need to keep writing until it’s easy and I feel nothing? Is that analogy good and contemplation inducing enough that I should feel proud having written it?


#4

To your a11y question: how are you finding the standard dictation tools you’ve got? The ones baked into operating systems (and powered by the cloud on mobile devices for voice assistants) are generally ok has been my limited experience. A long time ago I was always being sold on how quite good they were (SpLD seem to mean endless advice about dictation software) and it certainly will be way ahead of 17 WPM, even if you may have to slightly change your intonation to get the best results. That should give you a start but check with any specialists for specific advice that might help.

I definitely find writing is something I need to keep at to develop so just writing for yourself helps. Blog, edit your forum posts as best you can, make it as good as you can or just get your thoughts down (TBH, I haven’t edited much outside my day job - where I have to do a load of editing - for quite some time so everything is very much a first draft but I’ve also not been pitching for work for years [wow, it really is over 5 years since I did freelance writing about games now - time flies]).

I started out in a very different time (end of the '90s) and got into paid writing via running a fansite for Sacrifice, ending up on GameSpy, and the editors there looking to talent via that. So by 2001 I was seeing Blizzard reveal World of Warcraft at a big event and writing a preview. This was still as a kid and looking back my work was both not great and lent on my editors to actually knock it into the shape it was published in. Somewhat embarrassing stuff but it paid (better than freelance work does now - so just consider that, almost 20 years later and every time I’ve seen freelance rates discussed they’re less than I got then, even ignoring inflation) and I pitched a few places based on my stuff that was already published (and editors talk to each other so clearly I wasn’t terrible compared to the average). I eventually ended up working semi-full time (per-piece not salaried but enough to live on) for a small site until the global crash wiped out funding and everyone was laid off.


#5

It could be that I’m just crazy but for me writing is just transcribing my inner monologue. If something captures my attention long enough, enough coherent sentences form in my head that it just sort of spills out on to the page naturally. Maybe it’s the writing equivalent of loving the sound of your own voice. I do have a tendency to obsessively re-read things I’ve written. If you see any given forum post here on Waypoint it’ll probably say I’ve edited it at least once, because after making the post I re-read it like four times and usually change some wording to make it sound better.

I can sympathize with you a little bit because I also do indie game development and I went through a long perfectionist phase. You can get trapped in a lot of mentally-unhealthy loops trying to be perfect. Eventually I realized nothing will ever get done that way and that it’s more important to finish than it is to be perfect. Perfection can only really be achieved by actually doing things and finishing projects. So you just… start. And force yourself to keep going. Don’t look back until you’re near the finish line.

That’s actually advice I’ve gotten a lot recently; I got the dumb idea in my head to try writing a book about video games, and from more than one person, from more than one source, I have been told to finish the book first because only in retrospect are you going to know what it’s really “about.” Only once a full, complete, finished “draft” of the entire thing is done should you go back and start editing things to improve their quality.

Nothing is set in stone until it’s published, and even then there’s plenty of wiggle room. You can always go back and fix it later. But you can’t have a journey unless you start walking somewhere. So, don’t sweat WHERE you get started, just start.


#6

I don’t know much about how to break into the ‘industry’ of writing, so I won’t try to address that. However, I do want to note what you said here:

But social media does matter! It’s a great way to practice your writing, grammar and style in a short form.

  1. The Twitter 140-character counter is like an automated editor. What it says on the screen is “-13 characters left”, but what it’s really telling you is “How can you formulate your message in a more clear, concise manner?”

  2. You’re writing in a medium, for an audience. If you’re practicing your writing in an empty Word document, you can do whatever you want, but it won’t necessarily match up with what the editor of an outlet wants from you.
    When you’re writing for Twitter, you probably have a different audience than on your Facebook, so consider how the same text should be adapted to best reach them. The same goes for the medium, Twitter and Facebook have different character limits, different ways of formatting text, images and links, and so on.

PS: Anyone you pitch to will definitely look up your social media profiles.


#7

thanks for the advice guys… maybe one day i’ll get off my ass and do work