Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Tie-in writing life update

Pitching a new universe is tricky. I know I've blogged about thi before, but it was long ago and I can't find the entry. We'll pretend it's new. Pitching, getting the foot in the door of a new market, is probably the one aspect of writing that I don't share with the rest of you. Media tie-in writing is a different sort of beast. (Which is why I usually only post about my original fiction.

The pitching process is the opposite of trying to sell a manuscript. The pitching write is trying to get an editor to pay her or him to write a manuscript.

An example of the process: I met the editor for a game company at GenCon -- the big gaming convention. He represented one of the big ones, a company that publishes some of the top-selling titles in role playing games. Which means lots of fiction and in-universe "nonfiction" (reference books for role players to look up the particulars about a given setting, character type, or mission). He invited me to send some published pieces from a variety of IPs so he could get a sense of my voice and craftsmanship. I obliged a bit over two months ago and am now checking my e-mail daily for an invitation to pitch. The stressor is, I don't know which of their many universes he's going to ask for. I can't invest heavily in all of them. I've researched enough to be able to tell them apart, but that's about it. If and when he asks for ideas relevant to game "x" I'm in for some pretty intense self-education and fast writing.

In some cases the research is done for me. When the shot at The Seeker/The Dark is Rising website came along, my daughter, who loved the series of novels, filled me in on all the characters and forces involved and you lovely people helped me with all the details of a setting I'll never see in person. (Of course, as often happens in this business, my success led nowhere. The movie tanked and the interactive adventure website never got off the ground.)

Of course with IPs like Doctor Who or Star Trek, there's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to information. The problem there is choosing which information is reliable. Then you find an overlooked bit of the overall universe to give you an in.

Of course even the most thorough research and most professional presentation does not guarantee a sale. It's something of an open secret I've been pitching to Black Library for 2 years now. The editor likes my writing and we get along well-- we've exchanged over 100 emails and 4 or 5 transatlantic phone calls discussing various projects. But so far she has not liked a single novel treatment or short story I've sent her enough to buy it.

In a few rare cases there's nothing to research, I get to be part of making it up. Jordan Weisman, game designer/developer I've worked for in the past came to me and another writer a year or two back with a concept for a mystery/adventure game. He wanted to bundle it with a series of young adult novels. We brainstormed a six-novel arc which we developed into six 3,000-word synopses and Jordan went off to wow financial backers with our combined genius. I'm pretty confident something will come of it eventually. As you may remember from back in the days when I first introduced myself around here, Jordan is the guy who developed Cathy's Book . I had nothing to do with writing that one, but if you call the phone number of the mysterious fortuneteller in the book, you get a recording telling you to visit Lucky Fortune for You -- and all the words on that site are mine.)

Sometimes -- like tonight, which is why I'm writing this post instead of writing writing -- doing the right research is problematic. A British show called Primeval d├ębuted on BBC America a couple of months back. Interesting characters, thought-out through-plots with consequences for actions, and very creative premise. Lots of good stuff to work with -- and they've published four young adult novels that tie into the show. Sounds like fertile ground. Except -- I discovered in response to my opening inquiry -- what I've seen is the first 2/3rds of season 1. A lot changes in season 2 and season 3 is already "in the can." Everything I know about the show is woefully out of date -- particularly since there's a major shake-up in the third season. There are of course websites -- official and fan -- with all sorts of information. But unless I move to that side of the Atlantic or borrow the TARDIS all of my ideas will be too far behind the curve. I want to write for the Primeval universe, so I'll figure a way to pitch eventually.

1 comment:

Captain Black said...

This tie-in writing and related areas is a whole part of the business I hadn't really considered before. Thanks for the eye-opener KeVin, I'll certainly consider this kind of thing from now on.

The closest I've come to this area is fan-fiction. Plus Insight, the co-authoring project that's nearly finished its first draft, was originally based on a live-action role playing game system called Nexus. We've diverted somewhat from that, due to potential copyright difficulties, but that's how it all started.

Good luck with your pitching.