Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How Writing is Like Being a Wizard in Dungeons & Dragons

Big congratulations out to Richard!

He not only received a couple option offers, but also a manager (!) via InkTip, within a few days of posting something there again for the first time in a while.

Richard has recently done well in some contests, had a short produced, and done some writing on assignment: Dog in Space. He's a terrific example of how putting in the time, i.e. constantly writing, can make something happen, even in the wilderness.

If you clicked on the "Dog in Space" link above you'll likely see a somewhat disturbing looking dog. And it certainly sounds like Richard had his doubts about that assignment as well. But he soldiered through it, made a little money, and gained some invaluable experience (and perhaps a writing credit).


In Dungeons & Dragons it can be awfully tempting for a low level wizard to sacrifice two of their wizard levels to pick up something like some monk training. You get a +3 to all saves, good skills, and the always valuable evasion. Moreover, all you sacrifice for these benefits is maybe one magic missile spell and a cantrip.

And, assuming you're playing that character for a while, that'd be a terrible mistake.

Because once you hit 17th level you'll realize you traded all that off for a power word, kill or timestop.


Writers are in a similar situation. As a beginning writer (either novels or screenwriting) even if that book/script does pay off, it'll likely be around a few thousand dollars. And getting that couple thousand dollars will take months of work.

Clearly, working at practically any other job for a few months will earn you a bunch more money than writing, so the rational choice would be to scrap the writing. I imagine more than a few of you have been told this repeatedly by your relatives.

But the value of that first sold book or screenplay is like the value of that first wizard level -- it makes everything you do later more valuable. Moreover, for novels, the book itself becomes more valuable as you build your career. If it's decent, even a moderately successful pro writer can earn money off it for years.

Even if what you're working on doesn't sell, it helps push you through to where you write stuff that does get published/picked up. Then, once you do establish a career, all that stuff you wrote earlier gets a second chance. Some of it won't deserve a second chance, but I'm confident that some of it will.

So, if you have some confidence in your ability to make a career at writing, and have an opportunity to trade off a little extra money now for the time you need to get an additional novel or couple scripts written, I think choosing the writing is not just a starry-eyed matter of following your dreams, but a rational long term investment.


Alan Kellogg said...

Of course, it helps to actually write. Get words down on paper or in (electronic) memory. Don't matter what you write about, as long as you write.

Hell, start a journal if you prefer pen and ink. If you're comfortable with computers, make it a blog. Do a search on Gigablast for "Blogs" and try out a free host or low cost hosting service. The WordPress blog hosting service is one I recommend. You could even use it to write a book, much as Professor Rudy Rummel of the University of Hawaii is doing (and no, I can't remember the URL).

Good luck.

brc said...

...and read during a few of the hours you're not writing. My prose visibly improves while I'm reading good literature. Or so I've convinced myself :-).

Steve Peterson said...

I do stuff like read The Illithiad... : )

Thanks for posting all those interesting links on your site! My wife and I have pointed some people we know towards TerraPass (and we'll be purchasing one next month) and I enjoyed Accelerando so much that I named a character in my most recent script Stross.

ScriptWeaver said...

Amen, brother!

It takes baby steps, but you have to stand first!

Systemaddict said...

I can relate to that, though I never played D & D.

I'm a Canadian, and though I've managed a couple options and a couple assignments- they're seemingly for funny colored money that no one down South likes to accept...har.

I work 40 hours a week as a hardware technician...then come home...and write, write...research...rinse, repeat.

You gotta put in the time, no matter your monotary obligations like rent and food...cause if you keep working, there's some light at the end of the tunnel...or so I'm told.

Steve Peterson said...

Thanks for dropping by, SA!

It's an interesting point about getting paid in funny-colored money (though U.S. money is getting more colorful too now). For this script I was approached by a company based out of LA and a slightly larger company based out of Germany. The German company also had a small but well-received recent release.

Despite these advantages I was still felt like I had to weigh the benefits of this slightly bigger place against the benefits of making more LA based contacts and the advantages the LA company would have in getting the film distribution and attention.

The LA company's offer has turned out quite a bit better, so that over-ruled other considerations -- but, as hypocritical as it is for someone in TX to be talking about a company being in or out of LA, it is I think a valid concern.

The director they picked for THE SOUND made a film in Hungary that featured Gabrielle Anwar, Greta Sacchi, and Peter O'Toole (!) Unfortunately, this film has never gotten U.S. distribution, not even into video stores, and I'm sure he'd have buckets more directing opportunities if the film company could ever work that stuff out.