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So You Want To Write An Editorial?
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Are you a fan of the editorials section at RPGamer that wants to contribute an editorial of your own, but are a bit confused as to how you might begin? Or maybe you have a conception about the editorial writing process, but you're stumped as to what you're going to write about? Look no further. Here, I'll attempt to flesh out the entire editorial-writing process, with a particular emphasis on the answers to the above questions. Think of this as an easily referenced "how-to" article for writing your first editorial or as a stimulus that will get you past the proverbial and much-dreaded "writer's block" that hinders neophyte and veteran editorial writers alike.

The Basics

So what exactly is an editorial? What distinguishes it from other written works? What is its purpose? How does it function within the subject of video games and, more specifically, RPGs?

Simply put, an editorial is an article that expresses an opinion. While this single sentence may not seem to do justice to defining what an editorial is, think about this brief definition. What other types of article available at RPGamer or elsewhere expresses this defining characteristic? What other articles actively promote the expression of an opinion? Reviewers are told not to let their personal opinions about a particular game to dominate a review, and news reporters attempt to give "just the facts" about a situation. Editorials are one of the few types of articles that celebrate the expression of opinion; they are wholly centered on the opinion being presented by the editorialist and the debate and discussion that the opinion incites. That being said, an editorialist thus often attempts to defend to the best of his or her own ability the opinion that is being presented; this defense employs the use of argument, logic, and other appeals to readers in an attempt to garner a desired effect. The purpose of any given editorial is entirely directed by the editorialist. Most often, however, editorialists seek to prove the validity of an opinion through argument, point out something that has been ignored, or simply create discussion about a topic. In sum, most editorials will inevitably involve the defense of an opinion in the hopes of advancing some goal that the editorialist has in mind.

Feel free to check out some of the editorials in the current column, as most will probably perfectly model the definition of "editorial" that was constructed above. However, please note that RPGamer also welcomes creative approaches to editorial structures. "Editorial" does not have to be written in a set, essay-like manner. Numerous editorials that find innovative ways to get the writer's point across have been published here in the past. The following editorials illustrate these creative and atypical approaches to the editorial-writing process:

Getting Started

Now that we have a general idea about what an editorial is, let's talk about how one begins to write one. The first question you might ask yourself is, "What am I going to write about?" That of course, brings us to the first step in writing an editorial.

1. Decide the topic of your editorial.

All writing is made more effective if the writer consciously decides on exactly what he or she is going to write about before placing pen to paper (or in our case, fingers to keyboards). While RPGamer certainly has published a few creative, stream-of-consciousness-style editorials, if you're a first time writer, your job will be made much easier if you sit down and establish exactly what you want to talk about or the point that you want to prove before you begin writing an editorial.

"What can I write about?" you ask? As editorials are opinion-driven pieces, the sky really is the limit for what you can write about; just make sure your topic relates to some aspect of RPGs. If that is too vague, here's a list of directions that are frequently taken in some form by most editorials found at RPGamer:

  • Aspects of RPGs such as analyses of plot, characters, etc.
  • Reflections on game experiences
  • Discussion of RPG mechanics, like battle systems, plot trends, translations etc.
  • Expression of opinions about the quality of a particular RPG or type of RPG, or some aspect of the RPG industry, or how RPGs influence people in real life
  • Reflections on what has happened in RPGs generally.
  • Explanation of conceptions and misconceptions held in the RPGamer community.
  • Reactions to events that have occurred in the RPGamer community.

You don't have to perform any of the acts above to actually create an editorial; the above is merely a list of suggested topics for stumped writers. But what if, after all these suggestions and guidelines, you still can't come up with a topic that you'd like to write about? There are a few things you can do to stimulate your brain to come up with a topic.

Overcoming Writer's Block: A Subsection on Tips for Picking a Topic

So you still can't come up with a topic? That's fine, it happens to the best of us. There's a few things you can do in the hopes of getting past your bout with writer's block and come up with something you feel enthusiastic enough to write about.

  • Remember the last time something in an RPG annoyed you. While rants aren't the best subjects for editorials, they can be refined and focused to become decent editorials. Think back to the last time a certain aspect of an RPG annoyed you, and try to generalize it or connect it to similar problems in other RPGs. In this way, you may be able to formulate a novel topic for an editorial.
  • Play a few RPGs. There is no single better stimulus for coming up with editorial fodder than actually sitting down and taking in games that you can use as subjects for analysis. Play games you've never played before. Play games you haven't played in a long time. Do this so that you might notice something that you can write about, some aspect of the games you're playing that intrigues you.
  • Read RPG-related news. The wonderful news staff here at RPGamer provides you with potential editorial topics daily. React to recent RPG-related news in an editorial; predict how current news will affect the future, describe how current events will have consequences on RPGs, argue that a current news report is proof of what you've been arguing all along, or simply formulate an opinion to what's going on.
  • Read past editorials so that you might respond to them with an editorial of your own. Go through the archives and see if someone's written an editorial that you disagree with, than respond to it with an editorial of your own. If you send your editorial to the editor in a plain text format, make sure you mention to the editor which editorial you are responding to and provide the link to it. Alternatively, if you are assertive enough to code your editorial into HTML, make sure you fill out the "rebuttal link" section so that your readers know which editorial you're responding to.
  • See what people are debating about on RPGamer's message boards. Visit the message boards, and see if any current debates inspire you. Then, formulate your response to them in the style of an editorial.
  • Be present for Editorials Night. Show up in channel #edscorner on IRC on Wednesday nights at 9 PM Eastern. Here, staff and fan editorialists kick around ideas for editorials and help goad each other into acting on them. If nothing else, if you're still really stumped, an RPGamer staff member can simply give you a potential editorial topic. If you don't know what IRC is or if you're unfamiliar with it, click here to get started and then for how to visit us on Editorials Night.

2. Decide how you will structure your editorial.

This is another basic skill that any writer should develop. Find a way to compose your abstract thoughts about what you want to write about and develop a means to focus them so that you might organize the general structure of your editorial. Whether you need to outline the general points of your editorial, take a few extra minutes to think about it, or just dive in and begin writing, do whatever you need to do to decide on a way to organize your editorial so that you can make it more cohesive and ensure that you are articulating exactly what you intend to express.

3. Begin writing.

Begin writing your editorial according to how you've structured it. This is where your editorial takes form. This is the bulk of the process, and most of the questions that prospective editorialists have involve this part. Consult the "Frequently Asked Questions" section at the end of this document if you're stuck at this phase of the process.

4. Proofread and revise.

This is probably the most overlooked step in the editorials-writing process. After completing a draft of your editorial, revising it before submitting it is critical for several reasons. For the editorialist, it is important because a coherent editorial that is as devoid of as many errors as possible stand a much higher chance of being published than does one that has not been revised. Along with making sure that easily-caught errors such as misspellings or grammatical errors are corrected, revision will focus your editorial; after multiple readings of your draft, you'll target various sections of your writing so that they more accurately reflect what you intend to convey.

5. Submit your editorial.

If you're confident that you've said everything you've wanted to say on the topic at hand and that what you've written is devoid of critical flaws, now it is time to submit the editorial. Review the Editorial Submission Guidelines. Compliance with this is important in getting your editorial online.

Tips

  • Explicitly state the point you're trying to communicate somewhere in your editorial. While editorials do not have to be essays, a statement within an editorial that would function as and be comparable to the thesis statement of an essay will do much to focus your readers and your writing.
  • If you ever get a great idea for an editorial topic, write it down immediately. There's no telling how many great editorial topics have been lost forever simply by virtue of natural forgetfulness. Write down any ideas you come up with, whenever you come up with them, so that you can write about them when you have time.
  • The topic of your editorial should be very personal and important to you. As editorials are opinion-driven pieces, if you are not at least somewhat enthused about the topic you're addressing, the editorial you're writing probably will not turn out to be that great. Find some aspect of RPGs that you feel inclined to write about, and then begin writing on it.
  • Be yourself. No tutorial will ever be able to teach you an "ideal way" to write editorials. This document itself is only intended to serve as a guide for those who know extremely little of the editorials-writing process and have not discovered their own voice in writing yet. Your editorial should express your voice, your style, and your arguments. Accordingly, the editorials that you will find the most satisfying to write will be those in which you have expressed your opinion. Give life to your editorial by making it personal.
  • Be proud and confident enough to defend what you write. Remember, in an editorial, you're most likely attempting to prove a point. The defense of the point at hand is key to the purpose of editorial writing, no matter what the purpose of any one editorial is. If an editorialist isn't willing to stand by what he or she has written, then no real debate can be inspired by the editorial. This severely limits the scope of what editorials are supposed to cover and what they are supposed to do.
  • Distinguish facts you present from your arguments. You don't have to begin each sentence in which you present an opinion with "I believe" or "I think." Nor do you have to provide citations for facts you present (although you certainly can if you wish). However, do try to make sure that, if an argument you present is reliant upon some fact you present, that your audience is aware of the validity of that fact. If you're not sure that your audience knows that the first game soundtrack that Nobuo Uematsu composed was not for Final Fantasy I and your editorial relies on this fact, make it clear that this detail is known, and try to distance it from your argument. If you're still unsure of what I'm referring to, reference the following example.

    In Superaielman's editorial "Fantasy Battles," the author's approach clearly makes a brief shift towards the end of the editorial from one of argument to one of description. Superaielman takes a few moments to make sure that his or her readers are conscious of the fact that "The tournament style format is by no means a new thing to the internet. The earliest known wide-scale attempt at such a website that encompassed all of RPGdom was Bobbin Cranbud Presents, which was located at www.bobbincranbud.com." Here, a claim that Superaielman makes is given factual basis, and this fact remains distinct from any argument that the author may make. Thus, the facts that Superaielman presents are true regardless of whether or not the reader agrees with the argument Superaielman derives from these facts. The more clear the distinction between the facts presented and the argument presented, the better chance the editorialist has to convince his or her readers of the validity of the argument presented in the editorial.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • I don't know HTML, can I still submit an editorial? Yes. As the submission guidelines section indicates, you can submit your editorial as plain text (text files with .txt file extensions).
  • Is there a minimum or maximum length for an editorial? The short answer is no. However, your editorial should be long enough to effectively communicate your point to your readers. The editorial shouldn't be so long that readers lose interest in the editorial before finishing it. Most editorials average around 1 to 2 pages in length, single-spaced. I believe the longest editorial ever submitted to RPGamer is around 29 pages.
  • How much will you edit or censor what I submit? As long as you stick to the submission guidelines and the advice outlined in this document, little editing of a submitted editorial should be required. Misspellings and grammar mistakes, if still present in the final draft, will be corrected by the editor (unless, of course, the editorial contains so many errors that the editor decides it does not need to be published). Substantial changes in the body of an editorial will be documented by the editor and presented to the reader. In terms of censorship, we don't really expect excessive use of profanities in editorials to occur that often. When it does, it often also suggests that the writer who submitted the editorial probably wasn't taking the process seriously, and thus we do not take the writer seriously. A few profanities are acceptable, but please keep in mind that RPGamer doesn't wished to be banned from institutions where content-sensitive web filters are in place.
  • I can't think of a topic to write an editorial on! What do I do? So you have a bit of writer's block. For a few tips on how to overcome it, scroll up and read the section I've devoted to this common problem.
  • What is this "editorials night" I've heard of/you've mentioned? Editorials night is currently scheduled every other week on Wednesday at 9 PM Eastern. Staff, fan, and prospective editorialists meet in channel #edscorner on IRC to discuss editorial topics, RPGs, or whatever else we want to talk about. Then, the staff members and interested fan/prospective editorialists each write an editorial within an hour or so. As a group, we then review each others' work, giving comments, criticism, and suggestions to each other so that the editorials might become more refined before publication. It's a blast, and you should show up sometime!
  • I'm a long time reader/submitter of editorials, how can I become a part of RPGamer? We only accept applications as we need them. If you sincerely wish to become a part of RPGamer, make yourself known within the community. Frequent the message boards, submit material, join us on editorials night on IRC, and demonstrate that you are an accomplished writer. If you want to be an editorialist, develop the skills we're looking for that will put you one step ahead of the competition; work with and learn HTML, make sure you know how to navigate an IRC client, and try to become involved in journalistic endeavors that you can cite as past experience on your application. Increased involvement in the community can only increase your chances of being hired when we're looking for new staff editorialists.
  • I've got this burning question you haven't answered. How do I get it answered? Sending an email to editor@rpgamer.com is a good way to go about it.
  • Status Levels

    • Novice: 1-4 Editorials
    • Copper: 5-14 Editorials
    • Mythril: 15-29 Editorials
    • Gold: 30-49 Editorials
    • Platinum: 50+ Editorials

    Original Author: Chris Snyder
    Last Updated: 04/20/07 by Michael Cunningham




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