OVERTURE (3-4 Time)
The respected and the revered Mr. Dariani (Omeed) wrote a fetching twin-set of articles a (good) while ago discussing how to write Magic articles – actually, I think he was a bit more generic than that, but it’s pointless imparting wisdom about transcribing vegetarian recipes to an audience baying for tech, spoilers, and the word ‘ass’*. Anyway, I digress and am in danger of flooding this page with footnotes (That’s a problem? – The Ferrett), so onward.
While I was Editor of ‘Fun & Games’ on Meridian Magic, it was not uncommon for me to get e-mails from aspiring writers asking me to visit their sites, read their articles, etc. – this was never a problem (I was happy to oblige), because everyone needs to start somewhere. Finding your audience, the forum to get your audience, or even the vague directions to the building containing the forum to GET to your audience is a tough job and requires sheer persistence (some luck, but mostly persistence).
This article, therefore, is a summarisational distillation of my personal experiences as an Internet scribbler.
FIRST MOVEMENT (Austin Allegro)
About a year ago now, I discovered the joys of USENET and, quite by chance discovered a UK-based trading cards newsgroup (uk.games.trading-cards.misc – by chance because it doesn’t contain the key-word ‘erotica’) and lurked. Pretty soon I felt brave enough to respond to a few posts, and then began posting longer rants, raves, and general commentaries myself. Since no one told me to bugger off, I continued and started sending stuff to the few websites I regularly visited. By October 1999, I was being semi-regularly published on BRAINBURST. In February this year, I was approached by Omeed at Star City with the chance to become a Feature Writer (woo-hoo!) – this after six months of activity and nearly thirty ‘chunky’ articles!
The more astute among you may have noticed how other recently-discovered Feature guys started life by bombarding everyone and anyone with ‘submissions’ – believe me, it can work! As I said before, persistence is the key. (He is correct – The Ferrett)
But enough retrospective onanism, on to the secrets…
SECOND MOVEMENT (Andante’s Inferno)
In this section, I shall be discussing the "SIX S" theory of authorship because:
* There is a six-point plan with each point being succinctly summarised by words beginning with the letter ‘S’, and
* ‘SIX S’ sounds a lot like ‘SUCCESS,’ which is a great tagline for the tie-in video and lecture tour
[Stating-The-Bleedin’-Obvious-Mode = ON]
It’s good to have something to write about.
[Stating-The-Bleedin’-Obvious-Mode = OFF]
How you actually say it is determined by your eventual structure (q.v.) and, in fact, you may find (as in this incestuous article about writing articles), the other five esses may guide the whole clown’s car down the yellow brick highway. Granted that the current M:TG environment determines much of what is written about at any given time (although I search ever onward for new and different angles to spin on this wretched pastime), so a non-exhaustive list of possibles might look like this:
* Deck ideas for various tournament formats
* Evaluation of a New Set
* Tournament Reporting
* Canned Meat Products
* "Everybody Look At ME!"
* Rule Clarifications
* Commentary on Events and Incidents
* "It’s either this or car-crime"
* "I’m Locked In The Basement And Have No Actual Human Contact"
* Good Ideas For the Future – "Listen To Me, W.O.T.C"
* Casual Play
* "OH-MY-GOD! IT’S BEHIND YOU!!!!!"
* Rule / Play Variants
In addition, good sources of ‘inspiration’ include: Attending Magic clubs, talking about Magic, reading about Magic, playing Magic, looking at your Magic cards etc.
Bad sources of ‘inspiration’ include: the naked belly of a… nope, I shan’t go there. I won’t even look in the same direction.
"I CAN’T HEAR YOU ! LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LAH !"
PhugginTony: <——–Nobody noticed, so swiftly onward…
This may or may not be directly-related to your style (q.v.), but obviously any sort of aimless ramble is going to turn readers off (unless it’s funny, of course):
* "Get to the point," they will cry, or maybe
* "He has no point! I’m off to ‘open some boosters’," or even:
* "Call that a point? I’ve seen better points on a drawing pin!" (laughter follows, as does immense shame and loss of self-worth)
Decide what it is you are trying to say and then plan the piece around it. Some structural templates to consider might include:
* Rising To The Occasion (CRESCENDO)
In English: building up to the point; to reach a literary climax – this is particularly satisfying for the reader (and we’re concerned about what they get out of the experience, aren’t we?), and allows you to spring surprises along the way, e.g.. most tournament reports, decklist discussions, ‘"How To…" guides, etc.
In this case, it is best to entice the reader through the article with tidbits, rather than give the game away from the start, as with:
* Premature Ejaculation (DIMINUENDO)
You can start at the end, if you see what I mean i.e., launch right in there at the start; slapping the point home as quickly as possible and then coherently arguing and supporting it to a gentle and smug denouement. Can misfire, as people may be turned off before you’ve gotten past metaphorical ‘first base’ e.g., ‘Invasion Is a Pile of Dog Doings – and Here’s WHY!’
* Purely Platonic (or Can We Still Be Friends?) (CONSTANZIA)++
The point is not something to be reached or justified, it is (like Everest) just THERE (or maybe it isn’t – deep, huh?); pervading the whole of your wordy soup like a blob of swirled cr?me fraiche – or something e.g., lists of Magical puns in a children’s television type-way, M:TG musicals, etc.
This style includes the aimless ramble that I dismissed out-of-hand previously – consistent me, eh?
Some structural templates to avoid might include: random placement of the point in the context of its supporting sub-points; forgetting to put the point in altogether and having to e-mail it to everyone afterwards (which is distinct from dribbling, nonsensical piffle), or encoding the article in the body of a completely different, unrelated article about the menopause.
You should endeavour to create a identity within your writing, an underlying picture of yourself that the readership can form in their well-endowed, sensible, and discerning minds – this doesn’t necessarily have to be true-to-life, just distinctive (then you will be recognised wherever you are published). Styles to avoid include the person who is allergic to punctuation, the style of an existing writer*****, "white space is therapeutic" guy, or in the guise of a Tourette’s Syndrome sufferer+++.
4. Spelling and Grammar
In the high-tech aeg of spill-chockers and gramma chekcing, there is absolutely no excoise for shoddy punmanship and bad worting. You have been warmed!
5. Self-Restraint (Succintness)
I’ll be a bit quicker on this point because I know some of you have milk boiling over. Avoid the following: rudeness, abuse (as in bad [DELETED] language), personal abuse and/or slander, over-stating your case (as in harping on and on about the same thing even though it should be clear to a mollusc), repeating yourself, straying from the point, repeating yourself, arrogance******, not letting something lie (as in milking the point until it’s metaphorical teat is blistered and bleeding), pushing a piano up a hill, and repeating yourself.
Remember always that you’re being read by people from all over the world – they have different language nuances, some have no equivalent of the word ‘nuance’, different/no sense of humour, and/or bigger brothers with hairier palms and small firearms.
Just keep it up (*snigger*), bang away constantly (*snarf*), and maybe something will pop up (*snort*).
But seriously, just keep doing it – write and write and write. As I said I said before, persistence is the key (I keep saying this, but that’s a piece of intellectual and cleverly conceived wordplay – don’t attempt this until you have completely disappeared up the arse of Pretension++++).
THIRD MOVEMENT (Volare – woh-oh, Volare – woh-oh-oh-oh)
General Hints That Will Stand You in Good Stead
* The eventual title of your typographic masterpiece is a powerful tool. An excellent technique to exploit is to make your title as obtuse, controversial, and/or stupid as possible e.g. "William Shatner Buys Porn" (a particular favourite of mine), "Thairth A Thong To Be Thung" (WTF?), or "Richard Garfield Ate My House – Sorry, I meant to say Nut Cutlet"
* What do you do when you’ve written something? In an allergy-resistant nutshell, you can post to a newsgroup (anything goes; ignore those pompous buggers who think they’re moderators: "How do you become a moderator anyway? I didn’t vote for you…" etc.); send to a major website (all have submission pathways and are always on the look-out for new talent – some will actually print ANY OLD SH*TE, provided it’s chocolate-flavoured, etc.); or you could set up your own website and post there (no editorial problems!).
Anyway, I think I’ve rather over-stayed my welcome as Mr. and Mrs. Attention have put the cat out, loaded and set the dishwasher, performed their ablutions, and gone to bloody bed.
P.S. If you want to send stuff to me to read, then feel free. I have a large stove and winter is setting in!
* This is a gross assumption**, seeing as the word ‘ASS’ appears in so many articles with nary a blink of the censorial eye****
** Actually, it’s not that bad – wiping snot*** over your grandma’s face with a cement trowel is gross
****Censorial Eye, Creature – Bird, 2U, 1/3, Flying. When Censorial Eye comes in to play, each player reveals their hand to all other players; each player, starting with the caster of Censorial Eye, may then pick a card from any hand and remove it from the game.
***** Plagiarism is an ugly word+
****** I’m right on this point, I assure you
+ Actually (again), it’s not – ‘DISFIGURED’ is an ugly word, and so is ‘UNGUENT’
++ Not a real musical term, but it sounds good
+++ Poor [DELETED]s
++++ Arse of Pretension, Artifact, 4, Tap, Make A Really Clever Statement: Receive 2 damage square on the nose from target opponent.