At the University of Worcester we host many guest speakers who give advice to the students, and share their journey through their careers as writers, publishers, editors (and many other careers linked to studying writing that our students might not have considered).
Due to lock down we had to cancel our reading series, masterclasses and career events so this week we will post some articles on those subjects. Today we have a guest post by writer and designer of games, Antony de Fault. Antony graduated with a first Class BA hons Major Screenwriting and Minor Creative & Professional Writing from the University of Worcester.
I use my CW degree on a daily basis. The idea generation, editing, and practical writing skills I learned are my bread and butter, but further than that, the degree also expanded my interests and developed my tastes. It introduced me to forms and genres I would never otherwise have considered, and which I now dip into to make my writing distinguished. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the care and attention afforded by the lecturers, small class sizes, and emphasis on evaluating and improving work at Worcester.
Tell us about your career path so far
Oh God. I so almost gave up. During uni I had been writing for small ‘jam’ games and attending networking events, but after uni I became an English teacher for a little while to pay the bills. I could feel the games path shutting itself to me, but luckily I’d made enough friends in the games scene through jams and events that they dragged me out of schools, where I was miserable, and into patchy freelance gigs working on small games projects. Then myself and a colleague pitched a game together to a regional fund, which we won, so we made that for a while before pitching it to major publishing partners. We didn’t get a publishing deal in the end, instead we got a deal with AMC Studios in the States to make an adaptation of one of their most successful shows. I started lecturing occasionally, and got a side gig writing the narrative design column for Wireframe magazine. Then we sealed a project finance deal with Northern Ireland Screen to make whatever the hell we wanted, basically a golden ticket, so right now that’s what I’m doing! We’re putting out a small game every month to build an audience up, then we’ll be publishing an experimental narrative indie release around April 2021.
My career is about 2/5ths futzing around in game engines doing narrative design (designing gameplay that helps deliver story), 1/5th actually writing content to go into those games, and about the remaining 2/5ths assorted business stuff. Business stuff includes: emailing with financiers, chatting with or giving feedback to industry peers, being a somewhat known entity on Twitter, dealing with accounting/legal stuff, doing odd favours for people (like writing this), mentoring/helping younger writers, doing paperwork, writing pitches and applications, doing general research, procrastinating. My degree helped me be better at writing/telling stories obviously, but it also helped me be better at a lot of the business stuff, like the emails, applications, pitching, research, parsing legalese, etc. It made me confident in my abilities to make a point, whether in fiction or in everyday life.
What do you wish you had known at the start of your degree?
Your degree will teach you how to do the job. It will not get you the job. Neither will it ingratiate you with up-and-comers or maybe-mentors in your specific chosen industry. Yes, do the degree, get better at writing, but also meet people. Go to local creative events, writer’s workshops, go to networking evenings, and the bar after an industry trade show. Meet people in your chosen field. They’ll tell you everything you’re doing wrong so you can start doing it right, they’ll tell you about jobs nobody else knows about yet, maybe they’ll give you a kick up the arse when you slack off, or maybe they’ll want to start a new company with you.
Me giving you any other advice here would be giving you a fish to feed you for a day. Telling you to go make your own friends in the industry, who’ll endlessly provide you with advice and support, is teaching you to fish to feed you for life. Do it.
Advise to a first year Creative Writing Student
Focus on finishing things. If I were to do it all again, every week I’d write a one-scene short story, closely based on a scene from a favourite book/film/show/comic/game/whatever, and I’d publish them online and ask for feedback. People who make lots of throwaway stuff again and again produce much better work and are much happier than someone who perfects one short story for months. The latter just doesn’t learn anywhere near as quickly, and several of the former’s throwaway pieces will be better. Plus, when you get to the point where you have a bunch of short stories sat there ready to go, collected online in a way that shows you have a decent body of work and are serious about this, getting your work published will be significantly easier.
Making games is great! It’s such a complex and dense artwork that the breadth of differently skilled people, and the breadth of roles you can try your own hand at, are enormous. It’s the defining modern art form, influencing the world more than any other right now. It’s also, most importantly, a day job. No spec scripts, no years of pitching to see if your film gets picked up, no massive multi-year novel deadlines without intervening motivation, no need to forever be applying to the Arts Council. You can get a job in a studio with other people, or you can do it remotely from wherever in the world with your pets, but fundamentally games writing can be a steady job without you needing to be some big hit famous writer. It’d help, but it’s not a prerequisite.