Ed Smith has established his career as a successful freelance videogame critic. Ed writes for a variety of publications including The Guardian and has worked as a full-time technology correspondent for International Business Times UK. Here is the first part of Ed’s advice on getting into writing.
Write Your Own Blog
When it comes to starting a career in writing, you have to begin, I’m afraid, by working for free. Start your own blog and update it regularly. What will someone find if they ‘Google’ your name? It’s really important to ensure that they will find evidence of your writing capabilities!
Find websites that publish untested writers and pitch to them. There are plenty of film, theatre, TV and music journals that accept contributions from unknown writers and beginners. Search for them and then, fashion your pitch. If game criticism is something you want to try and get into, here are a few sites to start out with.
Some of these are free. Others offer small payments for writing. All require pitches!
Carefully craft your pitch
If you want to get a pitch accepted, you need to be aware of the publication’s output and tone and the kind of thing they normally run. You need to be able to describe it under 200 words. If your pitch email is running longer than that, condense or rework it. It helps a lot if you can provide a potential five word headline.
Be polite, friendly and jovial. If you know the editor’s name, use it. Get as much information in there as you can and be clear on how your article will progress: “I want to start by discussing X before moving onto Y and finishing by saying Z.”
Think about your readers
Make it clear why your writing will appeal to readers. If you’re talking about a current, maybe contentious topic, your idea should reflect that urgency and relevance. If you can take a niche idea and find in it a broader point, for example ‘how the violence in Call of Duty reflects a changing gaming industry,’ or something like that – that’s great, too. A pitch that has a lot of information, as well as a mainstream hook is always strong.
Once you’ve sent off your pitch, it’s a matter of waiting. Some sites will take a long time getting back to you. Others will do it very quickly. You have to remember, editors get dozens, maybe hundreds of pitches every day, so be patient. If you haven’t heard anything in a fortnight then it’s okay to send a follow up email.
Use the ‘one at a time’ principle
One important piece of advice: don’t pitch the same article to multiple sites at once. You run the risk of two editors saying yes, and then you have to choose between them and let one of them down. Next time you have an idea that editor might not be so quick to agree to it. It’s frustrating and it can be a slow process, but at least when you’re starting out, free websites should be hungry for your work.
Use Social Media
Get a Twitter account and start following as many gaming publications, pundits, developers, writers and editors as you can. This will provide a ticker-tape service of industry news and talking points. Also, conversations over Twitter can create lots of new contacts and potential employers. If you download a service called Tweetdeck you can customise Twitter’s layout, spreading different feeds into different columns so you can see dozens of publications, people and information sources updating in real-time. It’s fantastic tool used by basically every critic and journalist. Utilise it!
For more of Ed’s tips see Videogames Writing – Top Career Tips Part 2.