Friday, March 9, 2012

The Dos and Don't of BattleCorps Writing -- The Don'ts

The last post was about the what to do when writting a Battlecorps submission. Now, here's a list of things you shouldn't do when submitting a story to Battlecorps.

It’s not easy to write a canon Battletech story. There are so many things that have to be right before Jason Schmitzer, the BattleCorps editor, accepts a story. Canon stories are a step above fanfiction This is the step from amateur to professional writing that a lot of writers cannot make.

I have written Battletech fanfiction, long before I wrote anything for Battlecorps. I written other fanfiction in other venues, like a lot of today’s writers started out. There’s a certain sense of freedom when writing fanfiction though unlike some, I tried to stay close to the character whenever I used would write a story.

But the Fanfiction mindset will not work for a Battlecorps submission. Keep that in mind.


Don't Send in Your Novel -- There is no way Jason would accept it, for a host of reasons, but the main one being that BattleCorps doesn't publish novels. Before anyone points out the Blitzkrieg stories, those are written by invitation only (I have not been invited to that select group and don't expect to be anytime soon.), You must prove to Jason that you can write short stories and do it consistantly.

Don't fall into the Mary-Sue (Or Gary-Sue) Syndrome -- A Mary-Sue is the authors’ avatar in the world – usually one based on the author themselves. The most annoying ones are the ones who are perfect – handsome, (or beautiful) charming, who know everything, and can do it all – pilot a ’Mech, speak any language, romance any canon character, etc.

In Battletech, that sort of person dies a messy death. All characters have flaws, else the reader can’t identify with them. In my first Battlecorps story, "The Lance Killer," Haig, the title character, has been the only person to survived the destruction of three different lances in some of the worse fighting in the FedCom War. He has become a pariah because of that luck and it has affected him in a negative way. People with flaws are always more interesting then perfect people.

Don't use unoffical 'Mech designs -- Part of the fun of Battletech is creating your own designs and testing them in battle with your friends. But there are close to 2,000 offical 'Mech and their varients. Yes, most have flaws, but that's because they were designed that way. In all the stories I have written, I have yet to use a design of my own in any of the stories. It is only now that I am considering using a one-off design in a story. Show that you know the universe by using cannon designs

Don't use your Homebrewed RCT -- I think anyone who has played Battletech for more than a few months has their own unit. Mine is (or was) the Antietam Guards, AKA, Mallory’s Headhunters, Household troops of the Mallory family of Antietam. You can find a story about them in Battletechnology #21. I've written other fanfiction about the unit, concentrating on a single lance in that unit. At its height, the Headhunters had two reinforced ’Mech regiments with infantry as scouts/special forces. But as a Battlecorps writer, I can’t use them in a submission to the website.

Why? Because they are too large and powerful. A unit like that would have shown up before any current or recent past setting, because two ’Mech regiments are two ’Mech regiments – they can’t be hidden, even if they’re the household troops of a Duke (A minor Duke on a world far away from any interstellar border). Some thing applies to any large Mercenary unit (Regiment+) – they can’t stay hidden in the canonical timeline UNLESS it is in the past, the First or Second Successor Wars, but they can’t exist in the Clan Invasion or Jihad era. Any original Mercenary in a story is going to have to be a company, maybe two a the most. All my stories so far have involved canon units. I am looking at creating a unit for a story, but it's not going to be anywhere near regimental size.

Uber-units are a no-no. New mercenary units with cutting-edge technology are almost impossible to pull off. All major house military units have already been set in stone. There are plenty of small mercenary units around, but most are one step ahead of the debt collector are are working hard to make a living. But there are some interesting stories, there if you know what to look for.

Don't Bring Homebrewed Weapons or Technology In -- Only one person decides when and if new weapons and technology are added to the Universe -- Herb Beas, Battletech's line developer. And he decides what, if anything, is added long before any product comes out with the items. No one is going to force his hand by trying to slip new technology into a story. Simple as that.

Don't Bring Aliens In -- Battletech is a human-centric universe, no alien races need not apply. Looking at so many other science-fiction or gaming universe, Battletech is one of the few that doesn't have spacefairing alien races. Only a very few, very primitive races are around the Inner Sphere, none with the intelligence or technical ability to be spacefarers.

Don't Get Angry or Discouraged if You Get Rejected -- If you do get rejected, look at the reasons Jason gives for the rejection. He has rejected my stories before, and I have learned from those rejections. Take those points he makes and apply them to the next story you write. Remember, Jason has a better idea of what works as a Battlecorps story, and what's happening in the Battletech universe that you, as a writer, don't know about

I cannot stress this enough; when you finish a story and send it in, start on the next story. Don't wait for a response. Keep writing and if you get rejected, learn from the mistakes and correct them in the next story.

Good Luck!


Monday, March 5, 2012

The Dos and Don't of BattleCorps Writing -- The Dos

Someone on the Battletech forum complained that they weren't getting paid to write Battletech fiction. I pointed them to the Battlecorps website. And yes, Battlecorps writers do get paid -- not enough to live on, but it does make a nice second job income.

However, the difference between fanfiction and pro writing (You get paid to write, therefore, its pro writing) is vast. In fanfiction, you can do anything. You can create super characters and have them run amuck through the Inner Sphere and beyond. You can have crossovers with other series (I have seen a BOLO crossover and a Battlestar Galatica [NS] crossovers) You can rewrite the Inner Sphere's history. Whatevery your imagination can think of, you can create in fanfiction.

But make no mistake, writing for Battlecorps is very diffrent and very difficult. Your imagination has to be reeled in and confined in a much smaller area than with fanfiction. So, what follows is a list of Dos and Don'ts to give you the best shot at getting published. Today it's the Do list, while the Don'ts will be in the next blog post.


Read the Submission Guidelines
-- The guidelines are at ( Reading them will save you a lot of trouble in the furure.

Know the Battletech Style -- Battletech stories have a certain style. For examples, all 'Mechs names are italized. (Identified as such by underlying the word in the manuscript.) The term 'Mech uses a closing ', and the M is always capitalized. Used the guidelines at ( to guide you.

Know the Battletech Universe -- A good percentage of Battlecorps submitted stories that Get past Jason get shot down in in the Continuity check. The people that goes over these stories have the knowledge of the universe and access to everything from the 100+ sourcebooks and other products that have been put out over the last twenty-five years. If the story has Battletech Universe "factual" flaws, they will find them and note them. And if the flaws are too big, it will crash the story. Research is the order of the day.

Keep the Stories Small (Word Count) -- This point and the next one are connected, but I will lay them out seperately. The first story I sold to Battlecorps "The Lance Killer," came in at 6,600 words, and was the largest one of the first half dozen stories Jason accepted. My later stories are a little longer, but only one has been longer than 10,000 words. ("The Blood of Man," which came in at 11,700 words, but we were given a special limit, as it was part of an anthology centered around the Jihad: Terra sourcebook release.) The best thing to do is keep the first few stories between 5000-7000 words. Once you have a track record, you can make the stories a little longer, but I always make sure my stories are less than 10,000 words.

Keep the Stories Small (Content) -- With only 5,000 - 7,000 words to tell a story, there's little room for complex plots, large numbers of characters, or events that have a major impact on the Battletech universe (Besides, major impact events are in the hands of a very small select group of writers, of which I am not one). So, the stories should have something like:

* Number of characters: A main character, two or three major supporting characters and the same number of minor supporting characters. For example, "The Lance Killer" had six characters with lines, two of which only appeared in the first scene. "Negotiation" had only seven characters that had a speaking part. Focus on a small group of characters.

* Limit POVs: Point of View is what the writer uses to frame their story with. I use a third person, limited POV when I write Battlecorps stories. I take a character, and follow the story as they see it. In "Hero's Bridge," I use two POV; one following the Federated Suns' side through the eyes of a young reporter, while the Confederation's side is seen through the eyes of a veteran CCAF NCO.

* Simpler plots: Because of the number of characters and limited words, there is no place for any grand star-spanning plots. Make the plot personal to the characters involved.
Proofread your work -- Or better yet, get someone else to do it. Jason doesn't have the time with all his other work to do it, and there are no Battlecorps proofreaders. It is up to the author to make sure that everything is spelled right, that commas and periods are in place and grammer is correct. Get two or three writers together and read each others work.

Continue writing  -- You complete a story, proofread it, and send it in. Great. Now, start working on the next story. Jason is not only looking for good stories, he's looking for authors with more than one story in them.

I'll post the Don't list later on in the week...