Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Fear


“Fear” by akirakirai on deviantART

When you sign up to be a writer you expect lots of difficulty. First drafts, redrafts, long days, sleepless nights and the full gamut from corrupt Word files to the plot not making any sense. If you know the game, you know that’s what you’re in store for whenever you set fingertips to keyboard. What you may not be anticipating, however, is the fear.

You’ve probably felt it if you’ve ever submitted your work to others, be they publishers, agents, beta readers or even just friends and family. It’s the fear that you’re no good. The fear that you’re a terrible writer. The fear that, even if your readers come back to you with praise, in reality they’re just trying to mask how God-awful you work is.

I’ve never really known that fear before now. Yeah, I’ve had things read by a whole range of people, and I’ve submitted plenty of stories to publishers and agents. For me the entire process feels too detached to inspire anything like genuine worry. Out of sight, out of mind, that’s me. Normally.

The thing is, it’s different when a publisher asks you to write something for them. Usually it’s the other way round. I submit things, unbidden, and they get accepted or (mostly) rejected. That’s the writing world. Responses take months, and one way or another you just forget to get too worked up. But when a publisher specifically commissions you, well, let me tell you, that’s a different game entirely.

It happened recently to me. I’m so glad it did. It’s literally a life goal realised. And yet, with it comes The Fear like I’ve never known it before. The first draft is done, dusted, sent. The waiting has begun. The silence is stretching. Against all advice, that first draft has been re-read half a dozen times already. Pointless now that it’s already been sent, right? That doesn’t stop me looking at it. Is it good? Is it terrible? I can’t tell. I’m now totally blind towards it. For all I know it’s no better than my early teenage fanfic, and a poor editor is currently trying to work out how to salvage something, anything, from the wreckage. Maybe, heaven forbid, it’s so bad I’ll never be commissioned again.

These are worst-case scenarios, but a writer’s mind should always be a febrile place, and mine has a habit of concocting disaster. There’s other work to be getting on with, of course, but I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t refreshing my inbox every 10 seconds.

Hopefully these are just newbie jitters. Hopefully I’m underestimating myself. Hopefully I haven’t blown my big break. Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, there’s always The Fear for company.


Filed under Writing

Total War: WARHAMMER – A Match Made in Heaven



I’ve often found that, like buses, good news comes in pairs. A few days ago I shared the good news about me and writing for Games Workshop. Then yesterday there was annother announcement which blew my proverbial, smelly student socks off – the Total War PC gaming franchise are teaming up with Games Workshop for their next game.

I primed you last time on just what Games Workshop is and why I love it, so I better do the same with the Total War series. Since 2000 Creative Assemblies have been producing historical strategy computer games based on the great wars and empires of history. My love for history (bearing in mind I’m on the cusp of starting a History PhD at University) first began around the age of 5 when I played the seminal strategy game Age of Empires, so when I discovered the delights of Total War I was instantly hooked. There’s even a super-awesome TV show where families have to refight historical battles.

Over the past 15 years the Total War series have produced award-winning games covering history from the Roman era to the Middle Ages, the 18th century, the Napoleonic Wars and 17th century Japan. I’ve loved every single one of them (don’t ask me for a favourite, we’ll be here all day). Imagine how ridiculously over-excited I got, then, when I found out that for their next production Total War are departing from purely historical strategy and are teaming up with Games Workshop to produce Total War: WARHAMMER! It’s literally the synthesis of my two most favourite things! Now I can enjoy the epic clashes of Chaos and the Empire via the engrossing strategy style of my favourite PC games.

Thankfully the guys at Creative Assembly aren’t moving completely towards fantasy – they’re still going to make their historical games . But how could anyone say no to the synthesis of these two brilliant franchises? I’m actually going to have to take a full gap year when it comes out.

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How a 13 Year Old’s Dreams Came True

GW It’d be incredibly predicable and dull for me to start this post with an apology for not having produced any new content for eight months, so I’ll save the grovelling for next time. Suffice to say life’s been busy (starting my postgraduate War Studies MLitt at Glasgow University, finishing my postgraduate War Studies MLitt at Glasgow University, getting a provisional offer for a History PhD back at Edinburgh Uni), but you don’t want to know about all that, you want to know how a 13-year-old’s dreams came true, right?

My first published short story hit the e-shelves five years ago, when I was 18. Despite that little landmark, my adventures as a writer-wanna truly began five years earlier when, aged 13, I decided to enter a Games Workshop short story competition.

Before I go any further I should probably offer up a quick primer to the uninitiated. If you haven’t heard of Games Workshop you’re no true geek. It’s the world’s most successful miniature wargaming company, and yet it’s so much more than that. Over the past four decades its twin franchises, Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, have been the subject of hundreds (it may be over a thousand) of novels, audio dramas, short stories and gaming rulebooks, including New York Times bestsellers. There are well over a dozen award-winning computer and console games, and one straight-to-DVD movie. In terms of fan base popularity the scifi setting, Warhammer 40,000, ranks only behind Star Wars and Star Trek, and when it comes to depth of background I would be so bold as to call it the most detailed and immersive setting ever created.

How’s that for some fanboying? I got hooked on Warhammer at a ridiculously young age, and I’ve been painting, gaming and digesting the lore ever since. Reading the stories put out by Games Workshop’s publishing wing, Black Library, had a huge influence on my own developing writing style, and they still do today.

Now, I didn’t win that competition I entered when I was 13.I didn’t win the one I entered when I was 14 either, or when I was 16. In the intervening decade between then and now there have been at least seven Black Library contests or open submission windows, and I’ve entered them all. I didn’t make the grade. That, however, is what happens to writers. My entries were just a few of the many thousands which bombarded Black Library during open season, and none of them were sufficiently eye-catching.

Regardless, every year I soldiered on, faithfully submitting something whenever Black Library opened the blast-doors. It became something of a hollow ritual, divested of real hope. I would fire and forget my submission, not really thinking my work would glow sufficiently to light up the darkness of that monumental slush-pile.

Two days after my 23rd birthday, just last month, Games Workshop again announced they were going to be adding fresh faces to their seasoned cadre of existing authors. I went through the motions and submitted my writing credentials. This time I got a response. Not a massive response. Not a “yeah you’re what we’re after” type email. Just the offer of moving onto the next round. I received two short writing tests, which I completed and sent back to them. I still wasn’t unduly excited. I knew other people who had also gotten as far as the tests, and I couldn’t see Games Workshop taking us all on.

I was on the commuting train from Edinburgh to Glasgow when I got an email say that, actually, they’d enjoyed my test responses and they’d be happy to include me in the Games Workshop author pool. Just like that. Too good to be true, I thought. Maybe they’ve added loads of people. I probably won’t get commissioned for any work for months, if ever.

But I was wrong. The very next week they sent me my first professionally-paid freelance short story commissioning form. The details of what I’ve had to write must of course remain ultra hush-hush for now (rest assured I’ll unleash exterminatus-level hype when the work actually comes out), but suffice to say I absolutely loved writing it. I’ve also no idea whether it’s truly good enough. I’ve never seen the first draft of a professional writer’s work. The quality of Black Library writing is right up there with the Big Publishers, so needless to say my biggest emotions after Excitement are Fear and Worry, but in a way that’s not important. What matters is that Games Workshop, the company that kick-started my writing dreams, have given me my first ever professional break. Even if I never get the opportunity to write for them again, I’ve completed a straight-up life goal. It’s proof positive of the fact that, if you set yourself a goal and keep working towards it, you can achieve anything.


Games Workshop, setting the standard for badass military scifi since 1975.


Filed under Writing