Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Lack of Battlecorps Stories


I've addressed this a couple of times in the past, but I feel I need to address this again, in a calm rational manner. Mainly, the lack of Battlecops stories.

I am well-aware of the complaints -- I've answered a couple of times when the threads pop up. I am also frustrated, as a Batlecorps subscriber. I also want stories; Short stories, novellas, novels, I don't care.  But it's not as easy as some readers think, and I think it's time to sit down and explain the problems in a calm and forthright way. These aren't excuses --- I don't call for new writers to try submitting to Battlecorps out of some sadistic amusement to hear writers crying at being rejected. (I don't see any submissions outside of the ones that go through the writers' workgroup). I call for new authors to try for the simple reason: the poll of Batttletech writers is shallow. Mind you, they are good writers, writers who write great stories, but they are few.

It's not just one thing; its a number of interlocking factors. The first one is what I mentioned above: A small number of Battlecorps writers. And why is that?

A small pool of freelance Battletech writers. Most of the writing for Battletech is done by a dozen or so people, most of them freelancers. That's it. And of that group, some are good at writing the sourcebooks (The events, rules, sidebars, etc.), but can't write a story. So that's a reduction in the pool to draw from. Look though the pass couple of years of Battlcorps stories and you see the same names popping up again and again. that's because it's that small group of freelancers.

Where are the old guard -- Stackpole, Milan and the rest? Moved on to larger markets and their stories set in their own universes. Could they make guest shots? Maybe --- as far as I know, the door is still open for them to come back and write a story or two. And should there finally be Battletech novels once again, I'm sure some will come back to write those.

So, without them, there has to be new blood to take up the slack, and not may have taken up the challenge and made it through the process.

Stories are not a high priority. Before anyone take it the wrong way, what I mean is that writing for Battlecorps is not a high priority for many of the writers. If Jason Schmitzer, Battlecorps editor, received a dozen quality stories at once, I doubt you find anyone happier in the US than him. But the simple fact is that a slew of thing take a higher priority. Things such as:


  • Real-life job
  • Family 
  • Social responsibilities (Church, organized activities, meetings)
  • Health
  • Other writing (Including original writing, sourcebook writing [with deadlines])


Take my case, for example. I am writing another novel for a non Battletech series. That is my priority at this time. I have a few completed first-draft of stories, but this novel must come first. When I take a break from the novel, I work on editing the stories I've completed. But its a slow process.

Stories submitted, well, suck.  This happens to everyone -- Jason has rejected more than one of my stories over the years, and I know he's rejected stories from other established Battletech/Battlecorps writers. The main criteria to get a story accepted, in my opinion, boil down to two things:

  1. Is it a good story, with solid characters, a plot that holds together and an ending that satisfies the reader in some way?
  2. Does the story fit in the Battletech universe in style, details and tone?

If it doesn't meet both items, Jason's going to reject it. Doesn't matter who the author is, if it's a bad story, Jason's not going to accept it.

I wrote a couple of posts on this blog back in 2012, called the "Dos and Don't of  Battlecorps Writing." They are Here for Dos and Here for Don'ts  If you're interested, go look at them; they will help you with both criteria above.

Time Lag -- preparing the story to be published. So, say a story of mine is accepted today to be published on Battlecorps. I can see it on-line next week, right?

Wrong.

Getting a story accepted isn't the last hurdle; it's the first. After Jason accepts a story, he sends it to a small group of fact-checkers, who check for continuity and look for problems in the story. Everything has to match seamlessly with everything else in the Battletech Universe --- 'Mechs in the wrong time period, wrong unit, wrong terminology, something impossible technology-wise, and anything else that's wrong with the story. Any problems and the story is sent back to the writer with a list of things to correct. The writer makes the corrections and sends it back in. This stage is the most dangerous for a story. I know of stories that were sunk because something vital to the story did not conform to continuity.

Next step (sometimes) is editing. Again, someone goes through the story and looks for mistakes -- this time in grammar and spelling. Sometimes the story is corrected by the editor, but major problems and the story is sent back to the writer for corrections.

Finally, it goes to the layout person, who takes the story and formats it to fit on a Battlecorps story template. They then go through and make sure the formatting is consistent before converting the file into a PDF file. Then it's ready to be published.

Each step takes time, because it's pain-staking work and like the freelance writers, it's done when the person has time to do it. So what sounds like a process that should take a couple of days takes upwards of a month or even longer. with such a small group, it's difficult to get things done quickly.


So, those are the reasons why. It isn't simple, and it isn't right, but its the truth. Catalyst Game Labs is not a monolith company with hundreds of people working in one or two buildings in one location. Instead, it's a few core employees and small groups of Freelancers (writers and artists), volunteers, and Catalyst agents scattered across the world. To most of those who work, they work for love of the game with occasional paychecks for work done. It's a hobby, a hobby they take seriously, but one they must fit into their life that has its own demands.

Writing for Battlecorps is a way to get your foot in the door, to become one of those freelancers I mentioned above. Jason is always looking for good stories and good writers. The more of those he has, the more often there'll be stories on Battlecorps. There's no group of writers outside the current freelancers Jason can consistently call on to write stories. He's managed to get a couple outside writers to write stories, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

That's where the new blood has to come in. Jason need stories, good Battletech stories to publish. Without them, it will be a slow slog for stories. I and the other Freelancers are doing the best we can, and stories are being submitted, but the more the merrier.

That;s all for now.

Craig

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