Articles & Writing
You might be wondering how I ended up writing my own book, or considering to become a writer yourself? As part of this website, but also because a number of people have asked me about this subject, I thought I would add alittle about it.
I had always wanted to write a book! So initially (a few years ago) I wrote to a publisher and asked them about writing a book about a particular subject. At that time I didn't have any previous experience, but the publisher was still very interested in me writing for them. Unfortunately they weren't interested in the subject matter I had choosen. They asked me if I wanted to write about another subject, but I felt that even though I would be able to write something,it would be alot more hard work writing about something I know little about.....
So I left it a couple of years and initially gave up on the idea of writing a book. Some time later an opportunity arose where a new game magazine needed a game making article, so I jumped at the chance of writing it for them (I had previously been in contact with a few magazines asking them if they needed any articles so they remembered my query). Luckily for me, the game had already been written, and all I had to do was break it up into user instructions. The wait for the article to appear was agony, every day around the release of the magazine, I was in the local newsagents looking for it. Finally it was there in print, and now I was a published writer. This was the push that I needed and I continued to contact a number of magazines with regards to writing an article for them.
Each magazine had a different slant to it, so I approached each one differently, found out what type of articles they did and then wrote a HTML article on how to do it. I then rang them, and advised them I had an article about a certain subject, and if they were interested I would email them a download link to it. This was a simple and fast way of getting approval to have the article accepted. Some magazines took an article and only slightly edited it, others totally re-wrote them. As soon as I had been published just once, it was certainly alot easier to sell myself to other magazines (especially as I was doing this for free). Later on after appearing in a number of PC magazines, I then started to feel that I wanted to move to the next step and try and get a book deal. This thought was confirmed when visiting one of my favourite game forums www.clickteam.com. A number of forum users mentioned that a book on one of Clickteams products would be great. So the idea was sown. Clickteam were writing some new game programs and a couple of their older products were already featured in a number of books by Charles River Media. So now I had a publisher that was positive about the products I wanted to write about. After filling in the relevant forms online, I was then contacted by the publisher who was interested in the project. After a number of email exchanges, and sending of my previous work, a meeting was arranged at ECTS 2004 (September). I arrived at the CRM stand in London, and all was positive. Two weeks later the contracts were signed and sealed, and the work began on 350 pages of my first book.
Of course I would like to tell you it was straight forward and simple, but it was my first book and I think if you are looking at writing one, you should consider the fact that the first will always be the hardest. The book process started in September 2004, and the final pieces were being put into place in August 2005. So overall the book took nearly 12 months to complete. Of course towards the end of the project the amount of work reduced quite alot and was left to editing the book and creating the CDROM. But to put it into perspective I work full time, and I had to use all of my 22 Days annual work holiday to help me complete it. It certainly made 2005 seem a very long year. On retrospect things didn't go according to plan with my timings, but I learnt alotfrom those mistakes and tried to ensure the same mistakes didnt happen in my other book projects.
One important aspect you must consider when wanting to write a computer Games based book; it's not going to make you rich. You may make some money, and that will always depend on you target audience, but I would recommend anyone wanting to write for money, look at writing about popular products such as MS Server, PHP, Linux etc. But if you want to build up a "nice" portfolio of work on a particular subject, then its a good idea, as one bit of work can lead to another.
If you are wanting to write, some general advice would be:
- Try and create some published writing first, this could be either an article for a magazine or an article for a website. As long as you can put together a nicely written and formatted document, you can then use this as "Evidence" that you can write.
- Write about a subject you are comfortable with, this will make the writing flow more easily.
- You may need to write articles for free to get yourself published. Even if there is a payment for writing an article, you would only be looking at around £50 per page. You will be lucky to get more than 4 pages with a magazine.
- Check the types of magazines on the market and what type of subject matters they cover. Then write your article and contact them by phone to see if they are interested. If they are not interested (they may have covered it before) then you can always post it online for the benefit of others.
- Be aware that certain websites take ownership of any work you upload onto them, so dont post it all over the internet hoping people will read it, you might actually be signing it away to someone else.
- To help reduce any issues with copyright theft from other websites (the example above), put the article on your own site and only link to the page (not the document) on any other sites. This allows you to add copyright notices and permission statements on the page they are directed to.
If you are wanting to write a book, some general advice would be:
- Write your articles first (see above).
- Create your intended book outline before you even consider approaching a publisher. The outline is just an idea to show what the book will contain. Remember the book is unlikely to keep to this outline, Make Amazing started off with 13 Chapters, it ended up with 20. It is essential you think about it in depth first as the publisher will need to see the potential book flow. It took about 3 or 4 whole days (spread over a couple of months) to come up with the initial outline for the book.
- When you start a book and have a contract you must be fully commited to finishing it.
- Its not just just writing a few words here and there, an average book will have 350 pages, consider for a moment the amount of words needed to fill it.
- Dont write a book for money, if you are very lucky you might make a nice amount, if your book sells the normal amount, you would probably break even (considering time and effort put into it).
- Make sure you get any permissions for screenshots and software, as early in the project as possible.
- Find a publisher that has released similar books in the past. Remember if it wasn't that long since they did another similar project, you are going to need to show a different angle or they will lose business to competition from their own books.
- You might get some "not so nice" comments from your reviewer, take it positively, and remember they are human and not always right either. Take the things that are right about what they say and improve your book.
- Be excited about the subject matter you are writing about, otherwise it will be a long, drawn out process!
- You will get alot of changes to be made to your text by the editor, dont worry this is normal.
- Your going to spend alot of time writing, my average speed was around 35 pages a week, and this was when on holiday from full time work and committing to it full time. So work out how and when you are going to complete the 350 (or how many) pages you are contracted to.
- You will need to work in the evenings and at weekends, when there are other pressures on your time (family, tv, games), make sure you are ready for this.
- Be careful of the halfway stage, its a difficult time for any writer. You feel great that you have got halfway, but also feel bad because you still have 50% to go. Make sure you have a nice easy to write chapter when you get halfway. This helps push you quicker towards the final goal of completion.
- Understand the formatting requirements of the publisher early on, as this will save valuable time later on.
- Once you have completed the book, the timeframe for it to be published in various countries can be between 2-3 months. You really need alot of patience when waiting for the release of the book!
- Once your book is out, you may get "Book Released Depression" : ) This is when all of the excitement has happened and now its a case of "Now What". Consider getting some other time filling work to keep you busy (writing short articles etc) until you have decided on your next project.
- If you have written for a publisher outside your own country you may have to complete tax forms or documentation for that country.
- Make sure you have time. There is nothing worse that finding out that you have too much to do. Managing your time is essential if you want to ensure you don't burn yourself out trying to finish a book.
- Rest. When working too many late hours, I personally find that after doing this for a few weeks, that I am then unable to work for about a week on any books/computer work. This was especially the case when working full time doing something else. Try to manage your time, so that you can work effectively on the book/article, but also put in rest time (Family/TV/Listening to music). Ensuring you take time away from the computer is important if you want to stay fresh and productive.
- Above all, good luck!
Going to War - Creating Computer Wargames
Published March 2009. Started April 2008, Completed by January 2009
Originally this book was due to be published in September 2008, due to the complexity of making a wargaming engine easy for the user to understand but also to ensure it contained enough information for the more experienced programmer. Website can be found at www.computerwargames.co.uk.
Picture Yourself Creating Video Games
Published June 2008. Started November 2008, Completed by April 2008
My fifth book was aimed at the absolute beginner, someone who may not have much games making experience or in fact any experience. Using 4 colors and many images, this was a great book to be involved with.
Game Creation for Teens
Published February 2008. Started July 2007, Completed by November 2007
My fourth book is all about game creation, but from a Teen perspective. Taking content from Awesome and Make Amazing, 3 new games and work re-written makes for a nice introduction to games. Again this book is published by Cengage and the website for the book can be found at www.gamecreationforteens.com.
Awesome Games Creation - 3rd Edition
Published September 2007. Started February 2007, Completed by June 2007
My third book was published by Cengage. My job was to take the previous edition and update it. Little did i realise that actually i would be re-writing most of the book, as some of the software used in the previous editions no longer existed. You can find out more information on this book from our site www.awesomeprogramming.com
APC - 3 Page Game Article
Written December 2006, Vol 27 - Issue 5 - released May 2007
APC - an Australian magazine wanted to use the article that appeared in PC Plus. Of course i agreed, and they used the same article from that magazine. Unfortunately they also copied the fact my name was wrong in the magazine.
Power Users Guide to Windows Development
Published April 2007. Started September 2006, To be completed by January 2007.
My second book, published by Thomson Publishing (Now Cengage) . Book contains source to a number of multimedia and application projects, including CDROM's, Game, Screensavers, music player and a video player. More information about this book can be found at www.powerusersguide.com.
PC Plus - 3 Page Game Article
Written December 2006, Issue 254 - released 12th March 2007.
While working on my second book I was given the chance of writing an article for PC Plus magazine. I rewrote an article on a game I had used before, still tight deadlines did make it quite difficult to complete on time. Oh and they got my name wrong for the article, apparently my writers name is now Jason Davey :D
Make Amazing Games In Minutes
Published October 2005. Started September 2004, Completed August 2005.
My first book, all about making your own amazing games. Published by Charles River Media. Book contains the source to 6 games, from Retro, Platform, Bat & Ball, Side Scrolling and two advanced concepts.
Retro Gamer Magazine - Game Making Article
Published 23rd November 2004, Issue 7.
An article for the now defunct Livepublishing Retro Gamer magazine, my second article for them, all about game making programs. As the magazine hadn't done anything about the history of making games, I decided to write an article all about AMOS, STOS, and many other retro game making programs. Retro Gamer is now back from Imagine Publishing.
PC Format/GameMaker- 2 Page Game Making Article
Issue 162. 25th May 04
Francois Lionet of Clickteam wrote the original article. I provided additional assistance and localisation work. So can't claim much credit on the work, but I was involved in it (and helped it get published). Nano War Part 2.
PC Format/GameMaker- 2 Page Game Making Article
Issue 161. 25th April 04
Francois Lionet of Clickteam wrote the original article. I provided additional assistance and localisation work. The article was how to make a side scrolling shoot-em up game called Nano War Part 1.
PC Format - 2 Page Game Making Article
Issue 160. 25th March 04
I was again very lucky to be working from a game that had already been pre-made, called Choco-Break. This was an excellant (and unusual) slant on the bat and ball type of game. This was part of a three magazine issue deal that was agreed with Future Publishing.
PC How To - 1 Page Screen Saver Creation Article
Issue 26. 11th March 04
Having sent off a comprehensive article to the magazine, I was hoping for quite a good page spread. Unfortunately the article was used as a single page filler (which no one would be able to make a screensaver from). Still published but not in any recognisable form to show that it came from my work. Shame, but an important lesson to learn as a freelance writer, as this wont be the only time this will happen.
Retro Gamer- 7 Page Game Making Article
Issue 2. 25th February 04
An article I am very proud of. Using a pre-built game (made by someone else), I had the easier task of breaking it down, and producing a step by step guide. The magazine were kind enough to give me alot of page space (which was required to follow the example correctly).
PC Answers - 4 Page Screen Saver Creation Article
Issue 128. 16th December 2003
Another article I am proud of, due to the page space but also the editor didnt make too many text changes. A very comprehensive article on how to build your own screensavers.
The Game Maker -4 Page Game Making Article
Issue 1. 18th September 2003
I was lucky to get the chance to write an article for the very first issue of "The Game Maker" magazine. Unfortunately Future Publishing decided that the magazine was not viable in this form and began to include future issues into PC Format. After a few more inlay issues the magazine was scrubbed. The article was all about a scrolling snowboarding game.