imageWriting for a living throws up an odd dichotomy. On the one hand writing is at its best when it is left to go where it will, when you can let the pen guide you and take you places you might not have thought about visiting, like an endless train journey with each daily destination chosen at random. On the other, you need to earn money and so have to be discipline enough to follow a, sometimes very precise, brief.

The middle ground, however, is an interesting place. It is the middle ground where I do most of my writing, which these days generally falls into one of three areas. Music, travel and games, all of which, to some degree or another, allow you to build worlds in which your writing can flourish.

Music is easy, you are guided by the sonics but the interpretation of the music is the key and it is when you look for context in which to set the music that you find yourself building small scenes and scenarios to explain it, real or imagined. You can find new angles of attack and new arguments to make. After all, no one wants to just read a lame journalistic description of the music…and anyway, no-one has been dull enough to do that outside local journalism since 1987. A music review should be used to call the tribes together, to share the passion, to connect with like minded souls, a literary stone dropped into the still waters to ripple outwards, it should also tell the reader just why they need this record, how it will change their life, what the artist was trying to do, even if said artist didn’t realise that was what they were trying to do. Why you can not live without this album in your life! That’s the bottom line.

Also, any review containing the word Beatle-esque should be burned immediately…even if you are reading it on your lap top.
Travel writing might take place in the real world but it can heighten the focus of your attention to otherworldly altitudes. I was recently commissioned to write a series of articles designed to promote various locations in Montenegro to the western tourist. The resulting pieces were a cross between a TV travel show and a field guide to the less mystical parts of Middle Earth. Why describe and dictate when you can amuse and amaze?

Games writing is the best. When someone says to me, I have built these games mechanics for my RPG (sadly most are just re-inventions of the D&D wheel) but need someone to flesh out the world it is set in, my eyes…and occasionally my bank balance…light up. It’s like writing the background to your own novel without having to worry about a convincing plot line. I get to literally build worlds – ¬†describe cities, explain the history of the place, set up backstories and complex political relationships, invent religions, evolve new races and fallen gods, narrate past wars and conflicts set to happen, travel the oceans and climb mountains. And with the next job I get to clean the slate and build a different one.

I think what I am saying is that even piece-work such as mine can revel in the extraordinary…if I get it right at least, words can build worlds. That’s a t-shirt slogan right there.