A Creator's Guide

A Creator's Guide: A Short Update

It's been just a bit over a year since the launch of A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling. Naturally time and technology have moved on, so I thought I'd take a minute to think about what's happened since then, and whether I have anything new to say.

As it turns out, I do.

Tumblr is Amazing and Facebook is Terrible

I didn't give a lot of time to specific platforms in the Guide, preferring mostly to talk about general rules for how to use a social tool. They're always changing; better to know how to critically examine a platform and decide how to use it for yourself.

But the social media landscape has changed in some very particular ways, and I'd like to address that a bit.

First: Tumblr is amazing. I wasn't very familiar with it yet when I wrote the Guide -- you could argue I'm still not -- but the way that fan communities develop and propagate on Tumblr is absolutely phenomenal. Tumblr is where people go to love things. And you want people to love you, right?

To a creator, I would say: Make yourself as Tumblr-friendly as possible. Make an account. Post art in various stages of completion. Share fan art and fanfic and inside jokes. Engage with the community -- not necessarily inside of your fictional world, but as the creator of your fictional world. You can put characters and in-story elements on Tumblr, but it takes a light touch and isn't the best use of the platform; it's fundamentally not in tune with how people interact with Tumblr.

On the other hand: Facebook has become a less and less useful tool to a creator. At this point I'd say it's close to worthless. Various policies have long made Facebook an iffy proposition... but in recent months it's become clear that even if someone likes or friends you, they may never see the bulk of what you post unless you pony up some steep cash. If your audience isn't likely to see what you put on Facebook, you're just wasting time, energy, and money by having a presence there at all. Don't bother.

Social Media is Not for Plot

There was a time when I felt that advancing plot through live action on social media was a good idea. I no longer believe this. The reason: volume.

As social media platforms has been more and more widely adopted, the average number of people any given person has friended of followed has climbed ever higher. That means the stream of updates going by is faster and faster. Which means it's very easy for any one update to be lost in the shuffle. And that means your fantastic, tight, tense action sequence may vanish into the ether, never viewed by man, woman, or child.

You don't want that. Better to stick to social media for what it does best... extras. Social media is still brilliant for characterization and for interaction. Use it to add depth and complexity to your characters. Use it as a place to let your audience and characters talk to each other. Use it for your non-load-bearing story elements; the decoration, not the stuff that holds the roof up.

The exception to this is if you know for a fact you already have a very highly engaged and attentive audience, and you've told them exactly when to be paying attention (or you can count on them to update one another later on.) But this is very strictly an advanced and late-stages move, not something you can get away with out of the gate. Be cautious. Be realistic.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I've long been predicting the onset of a transmedia "web series++," as I've been calling it: a web series with light transmedia elements that deepen the experience at a fairly low cost, and requiring a fairly low engagement. That project finally arrived in the guise of a modern-day adapatation of Pride & Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

I urge all of you to become familiar with the project -- I wish I could've written it up in the Guide. It's one of the landmark new structures of our day, and I expect a lot more along the same general lines, though likely with only varying degrees of success. And it won an Emmy, so that's nice, too.

Going Forward with A Creator's Guide

It's back-to-school season which means I'm seeing a spike in sales of the Guide -- thanks bunches! I really appreciate it! Please do reach out and let me know how you're using it; I'm absolutely tickled at the variety of schools and courses who have found it a useful resource.

I'm also starting to get back-to-school invitations to Skype into classes to speak. I did a lot of that last year and was flattered to be asked, but it played havoc on my schedule. And this year, on top of client work, I'm juggling production of Lucy Smokeheart while trying to break into genre print publishing... so my schedule is a little intense.

So... go ahead and ask if you'd like me to pop into your class on Skype? But please don't be mad if I say no. I don't love you any less, I promise.

I've also been asked if I'm planning on writing a new edition or companion to the Guide. The answer is no. I think I've said about all I have to say in the Guide. I could probably produce a companion volume with worksheets and what-have-you. But honestly I think it would encourage a formulaic result for people who use it, it would inhibit creativity in the space, and I'd only be doing it for the money and not because I thought it would be a contribution to the art.

I do not want to be That Girl. There may one day be a new edition of the Guide... but as this post shows, I don't have a lot of new stuff to say. So for now, we're cool.


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Closing Out 2012

That 2012, man. It's been a hell of a year, hasn't it? A hurricane in Manhattan, an election, the Olympics. Disney buying Lucasfilm. A South Korean pop star taking the world by storm. It's been one for the record books, I'd say.

A lot of people I know have had a terrible 2012, but actually... I think I had a pretty great year. I think? Let's boogie on down Memory Boulevard and take a look at all the stuff I did in 2012.

Invisible Projects

Through the first half of the year, I was incredibly frustrated, because I was getting a steady flow of projects... but nothing ever launched. 

A game for a Fortune 500 company that hasn't seen light of day, and as far as I know, may never; a prototype for a human rights game that never went on to further funding; a fair smattering of pitches that never went anywhere. It was kind of a downer, after 2011's eight launches in three months. It happens a lot, I know, but I'm not accustomed to doing much work that never makes it out the door. Spoiled rotten, I am.

All of the work in the world doesn't matter if you don't ship.

Bright Spots

But I did get to do quite a lot of work I'm proud of, particularly in the second half of the year. Perhaps the most notable was Is It a Deadly Affair? for Investigation Discovery. I'm still ridiculously proud of that structure, from both an implementation and a narrative perspective. I also got to contribute to a couple of Campfire projects, always a fantastic experience and a polished result -- The Wow! Reply for National Geographic's show Chasing UFOs, and Pledge your Allegiance for HBO's Game of Thrones. 

And this year, Naomi Alderman brought me in on a few things as well; another prototype, this one for an as-yet-unreleased fitness game (so many!), plus interval training missions for Zombies, Run! which also haven't been released yet, but I am 100% confident that it will happen!

Oh Yeah, That Thing

And then, of course, there was A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling. It's sort of cheating to chalk it up to 2012, because the writing was all done by Halloween of 2011. But in early 2012 there were still photo permissions and copyedits to sort out, plus June brought... promotion. Sooooo much promotion. Speaking and podcasts and interviews and articles. I'm going to have to properly collect some of that, eventually. And I guess update my projects list with stuff I've done this year, too. Wanion!

The book got a tremendous and flattering reception. I got to launch at Film Society of Lincoln Center! People tell me they like it! And I'm led to believe that it's on the curricula of courses at Columbia, Rutgers, USC, and several other universities. I'm secretly hoping that in next year's roundup, I'll be able to link to a bunch of projects made by people inspired or influenced by my book; helping people to make more and better work was, after all, the whole idea.

Original Work

In my heart, A Creator's Guide is linked with the idea of owning a stake in your work, flying your own flag, putting some skin in the game. This year, I made several steps in that direction -- more than I had thought myself until I started tallying up the score.

First, you may remember that Stitch Media announced the children's book Circus of Mirrors, my contribution to their forthcoming Imaginary Friends line, for which work is ongoing. You guys, I can't wait for the frabjous day when we can show it to you. 

Balance of Powers, the collaborative Kickstarted occult Cold War thriller, also finally launched in August after several painful and ultimately expensive months of trying to figure out how to make a small international business partnership on the legit. The plot has recently very much thickened, so it's a great time to take a look.

There is exactly one notable thing I did this year entirely on my own. Late in 2011, I ransomed a short story on Kickstarter. Early this year, I e-published the rewards from that as Shiva's Mother and Other Stories. This was a tremendous step for me. For all that I've professionally written hundreds of thousands of words, this was the first time I'd ever put just-my-own no-collaborators original fiction out in the world for other people to look at. It's a moody, kind of strange little collection of stories, which is fitting, because I am myself moody and more than a little strange. I'd be delighted if you picked it up and let me know what you think. It's only 99 cents!

Oh, and I, uh, started a vlog?

And last but by no means least, in late March, I started a blog series called Making Felicity, about my transmedia YA serial fiction project. I fleshed out the parameters in public view, but it took me a good long while to get rolling after that, because (see above) I had a lot on my plate.

That ball is inexorably rolling forward now. Behind the scenes, the cogs to make Felicity happen are turning, while I wait here and chew my nails and try not to obsess about it. I don't want to go into specifics because I don't want to jinx anything, but... the process has begun. 

And for 2013?

I'm still thinking about what I want for next year, and how exactly I'm going to go after it. I mean, obviously I want to land a fat nine-figure deal for Felicity and devote my life to her, but that's... shall we say... implausible.

I have a few very promising projects in my pipeline, too, though nothing set in stone (or writing, if you prefer), so if you've ever wanted to hire me, now is a good time to reach out.

Meanwhile, I think maybe I've earned a break. So for the rest of 2012, I'm going to read books, play games, and let the ol' brain-batteries recharge so I can do it all again next year.

Joy and felicitations to you. Here's hoping you had a wonderful 2012, too. Failing that, a colossal and magnificent 2013.


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A Much-Needed Public Apology

This year at ARGfest, someone pointed out to me a glaring omission from the Further Resources section of A Creator's Guide: ARGfest itself. There's a Conferences subhead, to be sure, but ARGfest is notably absent from that listing.

When this was first came to light, I was appalled. An editing mistake, I thought. Surely some accident, perhaps on the copy-editing side. I've since checked my manuscript, and the fault here is nobody's but mine. I remember writing the blurb for ARGfest, but it's plainly not there in my submitted draft. I can only speculate it was the victim of a cut-and-paste error when I rearranged the listings. It was by no means an intentional omission.

But none of that matters. What matters is: ARGfest belongs in that list as much as, even more than any other conference. It is egregious and terrible that I left it off, and I owe everyone who works to make it a great conference a tremendous apology. I'm sorry that I made this mistake; I'm sorry if I for a second made you feel terrible or like I hold you in anything but the highest esteem; I'm sorry that I failed you in this moment when I could have boosted your signal just that little bit more.

To those of you who are not familiar: ARGfest has introduced me to people who became clients, colleagues, good friends. ARGfest was one of the earliest places to give me a chance to speak. I've landed work because of ARGfest, something I cannot conclusively say for most events I attend. I've learned about craft and about business. I've expanded my horizons. There is no question that without this extraordinary, warm, and well-rounded conference, my career would not be where it is today.

I'm not sure what I can do to make up for this any time before a second printing, but I am determined to make it right. ARGfest 2013, if there is anything I can do to make you better or bigger or bolder or louder, let me know. It's the least I can do.


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Save the Date: July 31

Always wanted to attend one of my speaking gigs but never been in the right place at the right time? Or are you a new reader for A Creator's Guide and you're interested in hearing more of my nefarious wisdoms? Boy, are you in luck!

I'll be doing an online video chatting event on July 31 through a platform called Shindig. It's absolutely free, you just have to register to attend.

It's a very interesting platform -- I'll be talking to you guys, but you'll also be able to talk to one another in small groups. I'm still working out exactly what I'd like to do. Maybe a little talk, maybe I'll read from my book some... what would you like to hear about? The one thing I know for sure is that I'm planning on an extensive Q&A session. Frankly, I'd love to do the whole thing as one big Q&A and forget the formal stuff. Get ready to have a conversation!

Remember, that's July 31 at 6pm Eastern time. Register now, tell a friend, and start thinking up some questions! We're going to have some fun. 


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Me Around the Web

Last Thursday, Chuck Wendig ran what I think may be the best interview I've ever done. I talk about characters and voice and why you should use transmedia. As a bonus, it includes a 2000-word story about a mouse that is 100% factually true. Please do take a look!

Not to be outdone, StoryForward also ran an interview with me -- they were even kind enough to edit out the most egregious moments of my blather. Better yet, it's not just me on the line -- you can listen to JC Hutchins and Steve Peters say insightful and entertaining things about the wider world of transmedia entertainment. And best of all, you can win a copy of my book by listening to it! Go, listen!

Speaking of my book -- A Creator's Guide is in the wild, and I have high hopes for it... but I need your help to make it happen, you guys. If you haven't bought a copy, please consider doing so. People I did not even know before are using words like "phenomenal" and "inspiring" to describe it! If you're on the fence, feel free to read excerpts from Chapter 1 and Chapter 5 and make your own mind up from there.

If you HAVE read the book... please consider leaving a review on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, your own blog, wherever you're comfortable. And I do mean whether you liked it or not; it'll help other creators decide whether it's right for them. That said, if you did happen to like it, please consider recommending it to a friend or colleague, letting someone borrow your copy, and in general helping me to let the world know that this book exists.

And finally! It looks like my email newsletter through Mailchimp isn't always sending out the welcome email. This is a problem, because that email contains the link to download A Creator's Bundle, my companion piece of sample project planning documents.

If you've signed up for my newsletter, didn't get the welcome message after confirming your address, and you'd like to know where your copy of A Creator's Bundle is... please drop me a line on email or Twitter and I'll make sure to get that link out to you right away. Thanks so much for your patience!


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