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Writing For RPGs (Part 2)

Image courtesy of anankkml, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of anankkml, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Last week, I posted on becoming familiar with an RPG and developing ideas (Part 1). Today, I’m going to walk through the process I’ve experienced in submitting for a text-based RPG to give you an idea of what might happen, but every game is different.

It’d be helpful, first of all, to differentiate what types of submissions there are. For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming that the RPG you wish to write for has open submissions (as is in my case). If that is so, there are a couple types of submissions:

  • Unsolicited Work
  • Solicited Work

Let’s go over the differences.

Unsolicited Work – Climbing From the Ground Up

Unsolicited work is writing that the game admins (hereafter called GAs) may be open to receiving, reviewing, and possibly implementing into the gaming world (read: publish!!) but they have not advertised specific projects that they are looking for.

You’ve come up with an idea that you think they’ll like and what you’re essentially doing is cold-calling the GAs with your idea via email (or sometimes, in-game communications), and praying to the writing gods that it gets in. It’s a crapshoot, basically.

So what happens in that process?

You might hear back from them, you might not. Don’t expect to. If the idea is worth using, it may just appear one day already in the world without any notification that it’s been added (Yay you, you did it!). The GAs are busy folks, they may not respond to every email.

If your idea is rejected, there are several things that could be factors:

  1. Your writing isn’t at the level of quality that they’d like to see.
  2. You ignored the submissions guidelines.
  3. The work didn’t match what they’re looking for.
  4. It got lost in someone’s inbox.
  5. You sent it to the wrong person (uh oh, did you miss/ignore the submissions guidelines?)

If you’ve followed all the guidelines, and you’ve got quality writing, and the work matches what they’re looking for, and you sent it to the right person and they actually read it, it still could be rejected, if:

  1. The GAs are back-logged with work and your idea is too low of a priority to take on right now.
  2. Your idea requires too much custom-coding to implement quickly.

Unsolicited work can be a challenge if the GAs aren’t familiar with your work yet. Don’t be discouraged if your first idea is rejected, or if you’ve had work accepted and this latest idea doesn’t work. Not every idea will be GOLDen, remember?

How do they get introduced to you and your work?

Hint: One way to make yourself known prior to submitting unsolicited/solicited/commissioned work is to look for writing opportunities within the game environment itself that are player-submitted and player-implemented. If your game has an internal-editor, there may be ways of submitting your work in GA-approved areas that aren’t reviewed/edited as heavily and that get your work “seen”.


  • GA or player-run writing contests (like bardic poetry, for example)
  • Help files that are maintained by players, not staff
  • Character biographies/histories or descriptions that you can add of yourself
  • Well-written contributions on public forums

Cream always rises to the top and by putting yourself out there, eventually you’ll get noticed and if you do, you may be approached with solicited work.

 Solicited Work – Having a Leg Up

Solicited work is a writing project that you’ve been approached with doing by a GA who may be familiar with your work already and thinks you have the requisite skills to complete well.

An example of a piece of solicited work from Spring 2015:

lectern example

This is a view from my writing editor with a side by side comparison of the submitted work and the finished product. As you can see in the revised version, the yellow highlighted portions were added in the final copy by the editor. I’d call this a minor edit that compliments, rather than compromises, the creative vision I had for this solicited work.

One major benefit of this type of work is there’s a face (so to speak) that you can contact about the project. What sorts of questions should you be asking?

  1. What are you looking for?
  2. What is your vision for the end-result?
  3. How much creative license can I take?
  4. Where/how will the project fit into the gaming world?
  5. Who is the target audience?

This is just a tipping point, depending on your contact, there may be more/less you can ask related to the project but what you want to do is a get a clear idea of what the project entails, what the desired result is, how much “room to breathe” you have (what I call creative license), and anything else that factors into the writing/creative process. Target audience is important because if you’re making an object (e.g. a sword), it probably ought to look different if it’s an orcish sword versus an elven blade. So think about the intended use (if an object) or placement in the world.

With solicited work, you’ll likely write a finished draft and send it to your contact. If there’s a screening process (such as levels of editors), it could be sent back to you for additional changes before being sent on to a higher-up editor for a final pass before publication. With solicited work, I’m usually notified when the work has been added into the game, but it can be fun not to know and just “discover” it published on your own.

Good solicited work will often bring on more solicited work, but even if it doesn’t, you’ve begun the process of building a reputation as a budding RPG writer and the next time you submit unsolicited work, the GAs will have heard from you now!

Unsolicited and solicited work (and don’t forget about the player-submitted, player-controlled stuff) will be the bulk of what you write and is rewarding in of itself. If you’re lucky though, you might get approached about commissioned work.

Check back next week for Part 3 in this series where I talk about commissioned work!

This entry was posted in: Writing
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Lauren Miller is a Midwestern born writer with a passion for Jesus, the written word, and dogs. She has seventeen years of experience in the library field and reviews books for the Historical Novels Review (UK). Lauren is the Managing Web Editor and writer for The Scribe, a web publication of the St. Louis Writers Guild, where she also serves as their Director of Communications. She likes to spend her free time enjoying period films, discovering new reads, and being surrounded by other people’s pets. Lauren, her husband, and their wily Maine Coon (who isn’t quite a dog) live in Missouri. You can learn more about Lauren’s writing at LaurenJoanMiller.com.

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