On column writing

Rant time? Rant time. CFN rules apply. Also liberal cursing, because fuck you, I love the sound of the word fuck. 

On expectations

I said at the start: people thought I was fucking amazing, and my thought, after growing up through years of being  “fucking amazing” in academics and just about dying in college from performance fatigue, was one of horror: “oh fuck, now I’ll never live up to their expectations.”

I feel like it’s mostly true, despite what people try to tell me. I can’t tell if I believe it because it actually is true or if it’s because I’m still being pessimistic towards my performance like I always have. Figuring out whether you have a point or not is really fucking easy for me, but figuring out the truth about how awesome I am or am not is my kryptonite. People usually confuse me on the latter point, too, rather than helping me out.

On my stages of Blood Pact writing

Monday is brainstorm day. It is also new-column-posts day, and that’s no coincidence. I generally have a few ideas on my dry-erase board listed out, and the comments of the previous post give me a few more ideas, whether about method of writing (research, etc.) or actual topics.

Tuesday and Wednesday are spent writing the bulk of the post. I finish it up by 8pm on Wednesday because that’s raid time. I write in pieces & parts and rearrange the orders and themes around like puzzle pieces until they start to look like they flow together. The post is all fragmenty by 8pm, and half the sentences aren’t real sentences, but it goes idea A to idea B to idea C to “see how idea A connects to idea C to support idea C” to idea D to later on “and see how idea C and idea F play off each other to support idea G” to “see how idea G would be bad/awesome for WoW” … so I have an idea of where I’m going.

On my writing targets

I don’t like strict or anal outlines, but I also don’t like absolute freewriting. I lean on the end of freewriting, hence my style of many, many tangents, everywhere, all the time, and the blatant misuse of commas. But I like a few fences to keep me on track, especially when I have to hit under 1500 words.

One of my big struggles in high school academic writing in my Advance Placement classes was that I would assume my thesis and not explain it. It wasn’t until I got around to trying to teach fellow students algebra or physics — things that came very easily, almost naturally, to me — and seeing them struggle to put one concept and a later concept together… it wasn’t until then that I understood that you can’t assume jack in writing.

So I began writing like I how I try to teach people new things. I don’t like to waste people’s time when I teach them, and I also don’t like to discredit them. It’s Modern Physics taught to high school seniors, it’s College Physics taught to high school juniors, it’s Algebra taught to a guy twice my age but he didn’t have the circumstances and education I have. People are usually not complete idiots, despite what the internet would lead you to believe. There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. So I set up my arguments assuming you’re an intelligent person who can follow ideas, and I stop to explain where you need explaining. Stopping or going slow is not a bad thing. Assuming is the bad thing.

When I read, I’m one of those people who “hears” the word in her head. So I try not to sound like a pretentious asshole when I teach someone something via written stuff. Using smart-people terminology is fine and dandy (priorites vs. rotations) when your reader understands them, but if your reader goes by popular definitions (rotations <=> priorities), then you gotta play by popular definitions.

Sometimes explaining complex concepts requires stepping back and going over the simple shit first to make sure everyone is on the right page. That takes up column space. I have to plan for this column space, especially if I want to say a lot on the bigger topic. Most of the time, I don’t get to explore all that I want to.

(The brain-psychology of it kinda fascinates me. If I don’t know how to pronounce a word, it’s harder for me to learn what it means, and when I read it silently, it’s a sudden silence in my “aloud” reading that I “hear” in my head when I read silently. It trips me up more if I try to read a word I can’t pronounce than it does to try to read a word I don’t know what it means.) 

So when I write, I “hear” my words. I write my flow as if I was saying it to you. This ends up with having to edit out lots of “like”s and “y’know”s and even “y’all”s because, whatever, I use y’all all the time eye-arr-ell. It’s also probably why I abuse punctuation the way I do. I know the proper punctuation rules (most of them, anyway; semicolons, colons, and dashes still I get wrong half the time >:|), but I think when I use as many commas as I do, when I take breaths or go off on a side topic for a bit, it makes sense, so I can leave it that way.

So, fences. I need space to run, but I need fences to keep me on-point. Most of my read-overs are looking for the holes where I didn’t explain something fully. Where I didn’t connect idea A to idea B, so no, it doesn’t really make sense to progress to idea C now. Fences are my personal inner editor asking me how this supports my big idea, and me responding why, an my inner editor interrupting the first sentence without listening to yell at me, “THEN SAY THAT, FOR FUCK’S SAKE.”

I break from writing until Saturday, so I can absorb later research but also so I can distance myself from my writing. It’s that whole “kill your darlings” thing. I am totally rocking about my ideas when I’m in the middle of writing, but I will come back later a few days and rip out stuff, delete entire passages, that don’t contribute to what I was trying to say. Trying to edit directly after writing just doesn’t work for me. I have to fall out of love with my post and self before I can do that.

I’d actually been writing about destro before the warlock tanking glyph broke out. At which point I logged into Campfire and said, “destro’s cool and all, but HOLY SHIT WARLOCK TANKING.” Entire post is out the window and I need to research, understand, and write another one on a totally different topic I knew even less about.

My actual editorial deadline is Sunday at 9am. It’s basically have it done by Saturday night (2am counts as night, right?) or you’re being an ass to the editors. There’s no reason for me to piss off my editors; they make my shit less shitty.

So stuff that was released in the press release when I knew jack shit about what was in the press release (yes, same as you guys! Alex & Sacco told us nothing!) is really fucking stupid to post as comment. Way to not give me any sort of base respect for not being a total turd. Doesn’t matter that most of my column was actually on-target with the info released (FUCK YEAH, GO ME)apparently not being omniscient about every little thing (“how many boogers are in GC’s nose?”) is a crime to commenters (“he JUST NOW sneezed, so your answer is wrong, it’s actually zero! LOL L2READ”).

Give me a fucking break, will you?

What’s more frustrating is apparently people like to not post anything during the actual week — I actually watch & read as much as I can without going bonkers — but then post everything on Saturday or Saturday night when I don’t have time to write a completely different article and have it be worth publishing. Or even better, on Sunday when I’ve already sent my article to pending for editing.

Are you trying to be a giant asshole to me for shits & giggles? If so, keep going on, because you’re pretty fucking good at it already.

On critiques and tips

I’m open to critiques & comments — mind you, honest & constructive ones.

Telling me I didn’t read my shit isn’t constructive, and it’s rather insulting. I read everything I can find, but I can’t find everything. I’ve also been playing a warlock for four years. I’m not some old newbie who walked in with a golden pen of writing.

I play other toons and read other classes to strengthen my knowledge of trends in WoW design. I play a bear — it’s actually my alt, for some emailed comments to me who think it’s my main — so I can know all the tanking trends. I play healers to understand how healers do their shit, what they find annoying about DPSers, and see if I can tweak my DPSing to help them out. Looking at DPSing from a non-DPS perspective helps me out, and looking at changes to a spell from not only PvE but PvP and leveling also helps out, even if the developers balance it around only one or two of those areas.

So, not only do I read all the warlock stuff, but I read all the other classes, including monks, to make sure I’m not talking out my ass about what exactly is appropriate or overpowered for warlock gameplay. Cross-pollinate all the ideas!

That’s a fucktonne of information, by the way.

I wanna see you read all that in a week and stay on top of it while still having a WoW life (anyone who actually reads the WRUP knows I have no real life). So don’t tell me I don’t read, because I fucking do read. I just can’t read everything.

I would like to have beta readers for my posts. That would be awesome, particularly by email or IM where we can type big long paragraphs about why exactly my second argument is complete bullshit. I mean, I’ve tried doing it on Twitter, but it’s not really working, because I get info corrections that don’t really get expanded on why they’re wrong/right because LOL 140 characters.

Or I get the “you write the best post you can” comments. Those are great when I’m doubting myself, but most of the time I’m not actually doubting myself, you guys. I know I know the best of my shit that I can. I know I write well. What I want to know is if I’m writing complete bullshit on the spec I don’t normally play. “I believe in you” does JACK SHIT for me when I’m asking if I got everything right about How2Demo. Thanks for the kind thought, but really, ya ain’t helping me out, dawg.

Isn’t that what editors are for? No, not really, editors make sure that your column is actually kinda solid in writing junk like flow and how hard it is to read. Or almost plot-like things like “hey, you put the gun on the mantle in Act 1, but it’s, like, *holds up half the book*, Act 5 now and I haven’t seen it again WTF.” Editors are kinda like parents, actually. Editors assume you’re old enough to pick out your own clothes and dress yourself now, but editors will not let you walk out the door into public wearing THAT if you happen to dress pretty badly.

Copyeditors make sure you don’t fuck up the source code and formatting, as well as spelling/grammar guidelines for terminology. “AoE” ain’t a Merriam-Webster word, so there’s a whole WoW dictionary wiki page there for me to check this stuff multiple times over and to yell at the spellcheck function for telling me “DPS” isn’t an English word, & Lisa Poisso double-, triple-, quadruple-checks it after me. Also to make sure that no matter how much I love British spellings or metric things (it’s totally GREY and TONNE and SPECTRE to me), WI writes in American English, OK? (So, it’s actually GRAY and TON and SPECTER in WI posts.)

After I put my post in pending, I don’t hear anything about it until it gets published and the comments start appearing telling me which forum post buried on page 3 I missed. At least, I haven’t heard anything yet, and I really take silence as “everything’s pretty fucking spiffy, so go on with it.”

On shaping my class

Make sure you keep writing about your thoughts on Locks and deliver that feedback though. You’ve got the chance here to shape your class going into the expansion ^^.

– Matticuscomment on Leveling Data… by Cynwise

I think Matticus was talking to Cynwise. Cynwise is pretty brilliant in whatever he writes, first drafts or do-overs, and I feel like I keep floundering half the time. It’s the reason I don’t post when I’ve written up similar thoughts: well, he did it much better than I did, and even covered things I didn’t.

It’s possible Matticus was talking in a general sense to everybody everywhere, and that would be a really zen thing to do, but I’m going to pretend he was talking to Cynwise, because I don’t feel much influential at all about warlocks.

I feel like so far Blood Pact exists to have commenters remind me that I know jack shit about demonology.

A post-script: on thick skins, middle fingers, and haters gonna hate

So fuck you guys who assume the downvoting is because of lipservice.

On column writing

9 thoughts on “On column writing

  1. Saga says:

    I fully understand your frustrations when people are being douches in comments, just try to remember they’re idiots. *cough* Cause everyone not agreeing is an idiot.. okay, maybe not really. But the people who are commenting about you not having your facts right actually don’t have *their* facts right.

    The Demonology tanking possibility had me really excited and I was reading everything I could get my hands on. I’m quite certain I didn’t see anything explained well until late Sunday, before then it was all speculation and all we knew about the glyph was the tooltip. The reduced cd for taunting, all those extra things that weren’t actually obvious from reading tooltips or such.. no mention of them before then, I’m quite sure.

    So people hollering about you not knowing your stuff.. they’re just idiots for not realising you don’t sit there and write this column on Monday, you wrote it several days ago before all of the info was available. By now we know a lot more, and I’m sure your column would have been a little bit different had you written it now. But that’s kind of besides the point.

    No one is omipotent, no one knows everything all the time. You wrote a great article with the information that we had available at the time. Don’t let the trolls get you down.

    (Sorry if there’s lots of typos, writing from work and my browser is bugging out putting the textboxes for the mail/name etc right in the middle of the comment box *lol* Can’t see what I’m typing)

    In short, you wrote a great column with interesting data. Since you wrote it things have changed, but that’s going to be the case at times and there’s sadly nothing we can do about it. Ignore the haters, the rest of us know that you know what you’re writing about!

  2. Pon,

    Read your post today and I’m here just to say I think your doing great. Be who and what you are when it comes to writing. Write about what’s important to you, what your opinions are and what you think and it will shine through like I’ve seen on your blog so many times.

    Take the bad comments people make with a grain of salt. I view them like people in LFR (Looking For Rage) – I don’t know where they come from and I cannot for the life of me understand why they forget there are other people on the other side of the chat box / blog reply. The only reasoning I can see in their vile behavior is I believe it gives them a smug satisfaction or self-empowerment that they must not be getting in their everyday lives. I hate to quote Benedictus but I think it gives them a feeling of “Powah”.

    Sadly, I also think many of the WoW gaming community are always looking for that edge, that “Silver-Bullet” that will put them on top and make them shine as an OP player. If they see another player running with their class and their spec but doing it differently then that other player is doing it wrong. A good example is when I heal on my resto shaman. I choose to run with Telluric Currents and I’ve had a ton of players tell me I’m doing it wrong. When we’re on a fight like Ultraxion and things are getting in a pinch near the end of the fight and all my fellow healers are begging for me to drop my Mana Tide Totem, I look down smiling at my almost full mana bar knowing, “Yeah, I’m doing what works for me.”

    So keep up the hard work and keep doing what works for you. Trust me! 🙂

    My Best –

  3. elkagorasa says:

    Your other writing gig has both an enormous target on it and an unfortunate dark cloud looming over it. Considering, you are the Nth author taking on this post there is some major frustration. “When are we ever going to get someone as cool as ____ to take the reins??” QQ As a long time reader of THIS blog, I know, that you know your stuff (you’re on my warlocks to follow list!), that is why they chose YOU to write for them.

    We are all an enormous, shadow and fire flinging family. There will always be a crazy uncle that you want to avoid, because he’s absolutely sure his whatchathingamabob is better than yours. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it’s no excuse for him bragging 2 hours about it. My suggestion to you, hand him a beer, consider what he’s saying, then move on. After awhile, he’ll be inebriated and leave ya alone.

    If that doesn’t work, leave the speculative beta posts here and the hard-fact driven articles there.

    Keep up the great work. As I mentioned before, I had removed BP from my feeds list as I wasn’t impressed with the articles that had been posted there for several months. When you took over, I made sure it was added back.


  4. The vocal masses are generally a bunch of intraweb trolls, generally speaking you are much better off ignoring them. I enjoy your writing style and have thus far enjoyed your columns. For every assclown intraweb troll that complains about something, remember there is more than likely 10 other people who enjoy it and don’t feel the need to vocalize their enjoyment.

  5. Animalfarm says:

    I wouldn’t worry about it. People like to bitch and/or like to make other people miserable. Its like trade chat in WoW. Stick to your guns, they won’t go away and neither should you.

  6. mattticus says:

    So as one of the few ranking old guy blogger columnist persons out there, I’m going to offer you some advice. Some of it I have a feeling you’ll dismiss and the rest of it is probably stuff that you already know but just need a swift (but oh so loving) kick in the ass as a reminder.

    1: Don’t read your comments. Yes there’s occassionally good stuff in there. Yes you might find a gem or two here and there. Stuff in comments has the ability to absolutely crush your soul and desire to write (as evidenced by your predecessors). But seriously, if you have a hard time with that stuff mentally, don’t expose yourself to it. Solicit feedback from your colleagues or people that you trust (Basically anyone you know that isn’t me because I don’t know shit about Warlocks).

    HOWEVER, if you find that you cannot adhere to point number 1, then the fallback is following through with advice 2.

    2: Assume everyone reading your column is an idiot or a troll when proven otherwise.

    How that is proved is usually done after repeatedly examining their contributions and determining their level of idiocy. See what they’re saying. See HOW they’re saying it. Internet nerds, no matter WHAT gaming discipline, have the social skills of a rock. They have a difficult time echoing their thoughts with any sort of empathy and will make assumptions on certain things that you and I both know aren’t true (especially with stuff like our deadlines, information, etc). To be fair, I find that commenters in the past just have a hard time expressing their thoughts on paper.

    You might know them as SAPs. Or socially awkward pandas. I’d like to think our readers really mean well but just can’t really put down their feelings into something that’s really indicative (as opposed being to inDICKative).

    Now if you’re looking for a litmus test as to whether or not a column you write makes sense and has flow, you can definitely use me. If even *I* can understand what’s being written, I don’t fall asleep, or complain about a raging migraine, AND can regurgitate what you wrote back to you CORRECTLY, then you win and it’s game over.

    And yes, I was definitely speaking to Cynwise about the Warlock feedback. People have a tendency to treat alphas and betas and just brush them off. But this is the most CRUCIAL time to get the feedback and tests going. You might think you’re one person in the sea of many players, but even the tiniest drop of water can cause a cruiseliner to tip over. Even though it was addressed to Cynwise, it’s also a comment meant to indirectly encourage other players.

    This is your game and you can definitely help influence it.

    PS, I also know first hand how much it sucks to have a column all finalized and ready only to read a blue post that invalidates/changes many conceptions you already have down thereby causing edits or rewrites that go well into 4 AM.

    With great blogging power and influence comes great amounts of caffeine consumption.

    We have to work with the information we’re given. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and say that you did the absolute best job you could under the circumstances, then to hell with the haters because there’s nothing more you could do. However, if there was something else you could do, then your job is to figure out what that was, why you didn’t do it, and what you can do to ensure that you don’t repeat the error again next time.

    Also, I wouldn’t be Matticus without saying “lol warlocks” at some point.

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