Archive for March, 2011
I have a number of friends who are starting up blogs, and I’ve been giving the same advice over and over. So instead of repeating myself, I decided to make a post I can just point to. I talked about this when talking about my blogging goals for the year, but here’s something more concrete.
Less is Metal
I’ve said before that “500 words is the new black.” This is not just a cute idea. Start with short posts. It’ll get you used to blogging regularly — learn to climb hills and lesser mountains before you take on the Everest that’s a 3000 word post.
One Topic Per Post
You might have a dozen ideas that are related, but if you put them into one post, you’re giving folks commenting too many things to respond to. That way lies disjointed comment threads and people who feel too overwhelmed to comment. (I call this tl;dc — too long, didn’t comment.) Stick to one core point, and maybe three or four supporting points.
The side effect of this is that when you get to doing that, breaking that rule because a noteable moment.
Headers are your Friends
If you ignore the “three or four supporting points” bit, like I’m doing today, use headers. I still make sure there’s one core point for the supporting bits I’m writing, but then it becomes my job to easily segmented them. A trick I’ve learned by watching Chuck Wendig blog about things like yelling at writers’ bullshit.
Man, I cannot say this loud enough. Blogging often makes you a better article writer. This is something Rob Donoghue once mentioned, and lately I’ve been feeling it as well. I submitted a proposal for the upcoming Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide, and was able to turn around a couple thousand words pretty damned quickly–something two years ago I would have spent too much time overthinking before sitting down to write.
And every post you do gives people reason to read the post before. Blogging is like playing the supplement treadmill game. New posts gain new readers, some of whom will read your older stuff.
Fuck Up Aggressively
It’s okay to be wrong about stuff. Post anyway. Do not treat yourself like a guru on top of a mountain. You’re among people. You have commentors that’ll call you on your shit. You’ll change your mind as you get new data and perspectives. So don’t let the fear of being wrong get in the way.
As I said on Twitter a couple months back, “Failure is metal. Not failing due to paralysis is not metal.” Same applies here.
Focus on Topics
I suggest everyone starting out focus on two or three overall topics for three months, and see what ends up sticking — both with what your new readers like and (more importantly, to be honest) what you like writing about. I started with “RPG design talk,” “Social Media thoughts,” and “Podcasting.” I don’t talk about podcasting much anymore, and have added talking about editing, critiques of games as products and as text, and being a new creative professional in general (like this post).
I also have to occasional humorous post, another trick I learned from Chuck. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post about brainhacking. :)
Edit After Publishing
So you’re done writing your post. Awesome. And you want to give it a once-over…for the second or third time.
Stop. Click “Publish.” Look at it on your site and not in the editor.
Then go back and revise. This will get you in the habit of two things:
- Knowing how your posts will look to others while you’re writing it in the editor
- Becoming comfortable with posting something flawed.
These are blog posts, not professional articles. I only ask people to read articles prior to publishing these days if either it needs a subject-matter expert to check my facts or it’s a post that might be cockbitish to publish.
Above All, Experiment
Try new things. See what you like. If my advice doesn’t work for it, tell it to fuck the hell off.
Be welcoming. Get people to engage with you. That’ll help you be a more awesome writer, blogger, overall human being. It also helps get word of your blog out, as more people talk about it.
What Am I Missing?
I know a lot of bloggers. Old hats, tell me what advice you have for newbies!
Happy bloging, friends.
 Which I won’t be linking to until that’ve got a few posts and want more exposure.
 Follow the Almighty Penmonkey.
 “Bloging”? “Blogging”? “Bloggggggggggggginating”?
Chris Hanrahan & I have just released the second episode of our short podcast series on publishing RPGs & selling into retail, Concept to Shelf. In this episode, we talk about the math some, which we call “Not losing your shirt?”
Check out the episode here. It runs just under 26 minutes.
After letting the holidays and travel blow their production schedule out of the water, Chris & Ryan are back to talk about The Math of making and selling a print RPG book that’s priced for retail sale. They get into how to arrive at your book’s retail cost and where all that money goes, between you (the publisher), distribution partners, shipping expenses, and retailers.
As an aid for after listening to the show, here’s the numbers breakdown (and again, your numbers could be different):
Reading Influencer: The Power To Change Anything has changed how I see things in some places. Or, rather, has made me realize how I think about decisions on life. And there’s one that’s been really strange to have crystalize into a coherent thought. A bit ago, I mentioned some wisdom from Josh Roby about eating lunch. To take that a bit further:
I don’t need to follow my impulses. Whatever short-term regret I have for not doing so will be forgotten rather quickly.
I don’t need that third beer. I mean, sure, The Trappist has many tasty beers and I might want to try a third, but if I deny that impulse, twenty minutes later I’ll have forgotten about it. Or, to be more accurate, I won’t feel the regret.
Other things I won’t feel the regret of once the moment passes:
- Telling someone they’re wrong on the Internet. This one can be tough at times, especially when I don’t realize I just stepped into it, but in spite of the number of times people have seen me go aggro, there are quite a few times where I have been able to walk away because I thought “I’m not going to care about this argument in half on hour.”
(Related, if you haven’t checked out E Foley’s article about Twitter, you really should: No One Is Holding Your Face In The Twitter Stream.)
- Going to conventions. Missing PAX East sucked, but I was able to get through the jealousy of watching all the awesome being tweeted because I knew that a few days later, that would fade. Did I miss opportunities? Sure. But I’m playing the Long Game, and I trust there will be future opportunities, so I don’t need to chase after every one like a guy in a club desperately trying to get laid.
- Taking on that really cool project.I get approached at times for cool projects, to be an editor or writer or whatever. Or a really awesome idea for a project happens in the shower. Or I meet someone and want to jam with them. (I like working with people on projects akin to getting people together to make a single album. I have a band mentality with many of my projects these days.) But it’s okay. I can write down some quick notes in my journal, close it, and let the moment pass. If the project is grabby enough in the months to come when my bandwidth changes, it’ll happen. Or some other project will, and that’s cool too.
- Those Magic boosters will be there next week. Seriously.
- I don’t need that third taco, or that soda. I really fucking don’t.
We’re constantly bombarded with new stimuli, so it’s not as if we’ll have the mental space to dwell on such little regrets.
 Because I was asked to clarify, Influencer has made concrete thoughts I’ve had about how we decide things, particularly the example of the guy losing weight and the people dealing with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The idea of influencing by delaying an impulse and then seeing if the impulse continues to exist is powerful mojo.
Today I’ll talk about one of my favorite peeps, Chris Hanrahan, one of the owners of Endgame in Oakland, California. Chris, along with the other owners of Endgame, run one of the cleanest, brightest, most inviting hobby games stores I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. You can see pictures of the store, but they don’t do the store justice (and not because they’re bad pictures).
Chris is one of the sharpest minds when it comes to marketing hobby games, having been in involved in marketing in technology before spending years selling to consumers face-to-face. (If you like the fact that The Dresden Files RPG was split into two books rather than one large, heavy, more-expensive volume, thank Chris.)
He’s on the podcastosphere, notably 2d6 Feet In A Random Direction with Brian Isikoff, but also some episodes of That’s How We Roll with Fred Hicks, and Concept To Shelf with me (which is getting off the ground much slower that we expected). Wisdom flows from his mouth, as does passionate jackassery. *grin* He’s my kind of people.
And there isn’t another person I know who has stronger community building chops. He’s about to host the fifth anniversary Endgame Minicon. For five years, he’s built a community of indie/story gamers that flock to the store once a quarter to play all sorts of games. It’s an amazing event, and Chris puts a lot of work every time into getting people to run events, getting the word out, handling scheduling, all that jazz.
Hell, I moved down to the Bay Area partly because of the people I met at Endgame coming down for the minicons.
I bring him up because he’s got all this great insight into our hobby from an angle few of us have — meeting with gamers day in and day out for years. He’s pretty willing to share that with you, if you’re willing to listen. You can reach him at email@example.com or on the twitters @chrishanrahan. Seriously. He’s helped Fred & I. He works with other small-press dudes. He’s taken orders directly from folks.
Chris is good people, a man I’m proud to call ally and friend.
P.S. Dude can’t hold his liquor. Man alive, he can’t. :)
Eddy Webb, John Wick and I were on The Walking Eye podcast for one of their round table discussions. Kevin Weiser of said show wanted to talk with us about “drifting the rules of role-playing games.” From their site:
Kevin sits down with Ryan Macklin, John Wick, and Eddy Webb to discuss the pros and cons of drifting the rules in RPG’s. It’s a good discussion, and fair warning, the last 10 minutes or so are actually a tangent on the realities of being an internet microcelebrity, and how people act vastly differently to said celebrities when they meet them in person rather than how they talk about them on internet forums. Still a pretty interesting conversation, but if you’re here just to hear about drifting, you might wanna skip the last 10 minutes.
The episode clocks in at just over an hour. It was really fun to do, and to hear Eddy, John & I mostly agree but use very different language and experiences to back it up was pretty fascinating. The last bit, which started with Kevin making a joke about how he grabbed the of the most hated people in RPG land for this round table led to a bit of venting about Internet bullshit.
Anyway, worth giving a listen. And to restate a point I state twice in the episode: If you do that “you can drift X, but they you’re not really playing X,” you’re a fucking judgmental cockbite. Even if you’re the designer saying it. (Right or wrong, you’re a cockbite.)
Edit: Judd Karlman has a great fucking response on his bloggy blog. And the comments are on fucking fire, between folks like Rob Donoghue, Fred Hicks, Daniel Perez, Judd & myself.
 Which, while we recorded the episode last December, is awkwardly timely today. Or maybe it’s always that way.