Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Battlecorps Process

Some may wonder what the process is that a Battlecorps story takes to get published. I think its time to reveal how a story goes from idea to published.

Jason Schmetzer is the editor of Battlecorps. He's the man who decides whether your story is good enough. If the story is no good, he'll reject it. I've been lucky that he has liked most of the stories I'm submitted, but make no mistake, he's rejected stories of mine and stories from other published Battlecorps authors. He may give my story a longer look, but if he doesn't like it, he will reject it. In addition, he will once in a while send out an email to the published authors soliciting for an anthology. The Operation Rat series of stories last year was such a solicitation.

But most of the time, I write whatever stories I feel like. I take an idea I have, decide on a time and place for it, read up on the events and anything else I need to know about that time and place. What information I don't have like a city's name or location, I invent. and thew first draft is written. Sometimes, I'm working on more than one story at a time, which allows me to sidestep the problem of writer's block.

My first drafts tend to be longer than the final published story, as I tend to write long passages and descriptions. I try to keep the first draft under 10,000 words, but sometimes they are longer. I double-space, and follow the Battletech style rules. (See the Battlecorps website for the style guide.)

(A note for any intrested authors: Keep your stories under 10,000 words. The shorter the story is, the better. Of course, if it isn't well written, being short won't help any.)

I then post the first draft to a writer's workshop that I am a member of. It's an invitation-only website, and a number of us have had stories published. They go over it, looking for weak points and grammer mistakes. Because of other comitments, this process can take a week, maybe two, depending on the time of the year.

(Another note for any intrested authors: There is no editing of story manuscripts done at Battlecorps; it is up to the author to be his own editor. There is no huge staff running the website, so it is the author's responsilbility to make sure mistakes are taken care of.)

I take the notes and corrections, go through the story and make chages. Sometimes, I take their advice, sometimes I don't. Once I make the corrections, I post the new version to the workshop and the process gets repeated. This may happen several times, as a story is refined and tightened until the opinion of everyone involved is that it's ready.

Only then is it sent to Jason and he decides if he wants it or not. If he rejects it outright, that's usually the end of it. Maybe he'll send it back with suggestions about rewriting something. If he accepts it, it goes to Continuity.

Continuity has killed many stories. At this stage, fact checkers with deep knowledge of the Battletech universe pour over the story, looking for mistakes. Details, as I said in an earlier blog, are vitally important to a story's sucess. Too many continuity errors or a massive error will kill a story.

(More notes for any intrested authors: if you are writing a story for Battlecorps submission, make sure you have a solid knowledge of the Battletech universe. If you don't, the fact checkers will pick up on them. For the WOB Jihad, there is one guy who had to keep track of ever single major military unit and Warship -- five to seven hundred indivudal units, their condition, where they where at every moment, and when they arrived on a world and when they left. It's very hard to slip anything past them.)

If changes are needed in the continuity stage, it's sent back to me with notes. I make the changes, send it back. If the contiunity people okays it, it goes to layout and most of the time, I get a copy after it comes back from layout and one last chance to make minor changes and check grammer. Then it gets sent back, finished off, and it goes up onto the battlecorps website. (I don't write the blurbs or have any input into that process -- I see it for the first time like everyone else)

Lenght of time from first draft to published? It isn't a fast process. For me, it's about a month to write the first draft, two weeks to a month or more in the writers workshop and rewrites, a week or so for Jason to decide whether or not to accept it, another month for the continuity people to look it over and two weeks or longer to get the complete story formatted as a pdf file and published on the website. It may take as long as three to four months from start to finish.

Why so long? In part, it's a time issue. When it comes to reviewing stories, either in the workshop or continuity, it has to be done whenever the reviewer can find time. No one in the process I describe above is working on these stories 40 hours a week. They have outside jobs, families, comitments, and other Battletech projects, some that have deadlines. I myself am a fact-checker and have done sourcebook writing, so I know what sorts of time management they have to have. They have to find the time to go over the story and check on things like location, events, units, how a 'Mech moves (They're walking tanks, not Gundam or movie Tranformers-style mecha.), and the overall athestics (the right ranks, the right unit sizes, even the right 'Mech or vehicle for the era). It isn't an easy or simple process, and it takes time.

So that's the process. It isn't easy, it isn't quick, but it a thrill the first time I open a Battlecorps story PDF and see my name as the author.

It's a good feeling.


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