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By: deluxeicoff, Adrian Grey Marsden
Aug 10 2010 12:34am
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Playwright - get it?  Ok, pretty lame visual cue - but I had to start somewhere.

I'm going to do my best to show the new-time writer, and maybe even some old veterans, some links and ideas for writing better articles here at puremtgo.  I'm always learning new tips and links so I thought I'd consolidate them into one article so that you as writers can use this as a one-stop resource for writing tips in the future.

Firstly you may be asking: Why should I focus on writing better?  (Actually you should be ashamed if your asking this!)
Try a legacy for one.  I know it sounds silly, but these posts, like the magicdojo of old, are going to be here long after we're all dust.  I don't truly believe that many will be being looked at or read in one hundred years, but they'll be there, for your kids' kids to read and laugh at, or hopefully marvel at our collective genius.  Not many of us have the skill or leisure time needed to attend all the Pro Tour qualifiers and go for gold, so leave your mark here, and make it a lasting one with a stamp of quality upon it.

Focus on quality and not quantity.
If your like me, you want to read articles that leave you with something.  It could be something as simple as leaving a reader with a cool new deck idea, or a new sideboarding strategy - whatever the case, this article will help you achieve those ends.   With this in mind, I'm going to go over the following bullet points to focus my intentions:

 

1 - Theme and/or Idea

This is what your initial gut urge is to write about, and should be very obvious.  So obvious I feel like a clown for even having to list it.  But remember, you're about to invest a few hours, if not more, (LET'S HOPE!) into something thousands of people are going to see.  So you better believe in it, and better yet, you better know something the average player doesn't about said topic.  If you don't you should simply wait until the muse hits you and you can answer yes to the above. 
For example, I tend to focus on constructed decks and tournaments, as most of my spare gaming time is devoted to this.  You may be an awesome draft player with interesting insight, or an artist wishing to showcase your new card images...whatever.  Point is...have a target that is special to you, and hit it.  Do your friends often tell you you're an amazing sideboarding strategist?  Well, perhaps that should be your focus...  


2 - Writing

This seems silly, but the bulk of your work is here.  Write, write and write some more.  

I learned a great trick in creative writing classes while in college: JUST WRITE.  Simply use Microsoft Word, or something similar, and go.  Don't worry about punctuation, grammar, spelling.  Just put down as much as you can, whatever you're thinking.  Your goal here is pure volume.  After this initial rush of knowledge is down, then you can carefully study it, punctuate it, check it for errors, and start copy/pasting paragraphs into a more logical order.



Good article?  Not yet, a more accurate and honest way to illustrate the above is a "Good Start."

Before I go much further, I must mention the error I just caught myself doing right now - which was writing a large portion of my article inside the puremtgo article layout.  

Why is this bad?  

Let me just say that I've written about a dozen of these now, and at least NINE times, I've lost my work by doing this - it's not something simple like forgetting to save, that's easy, but sometimes when you save you'll run into an error and BOOM, all your work is gone:



This for future sake shall henceforth be known as the "PINK BAR OF DEATH!"

It is a mystery to me who this "ANOTHER USER" is, perhaps a scrivener imp that exists only to swallow up ideas and call them its own..whatever the case,  AVOID THIS!  A simple fix - just don't type much in the layout section...and if you're working within it, whether it be inserting graphics, charts or video, make sure to save often.  This will save you about one hour per article if your anything like me!


3 - Layout

Unless you're writing for Vulcans, you're going to need something more than just text to have a well-received article.  Visual aids are of paramount importance here - not only for the topic in question or clarity of point, but for easing eye strain.  Nothing makes the eyes water like a wall of small text:



That picture has the intellectual aftertaste of doing taxes!

Get Photoshop, or
something like it.  The ability to modify images or make your own from scratch can really pull an idea or article together.  If you need a FANTASTIC source for learning just about anything, I'd highly recommend THIS SITE.  It isn't free, but it is worth every penny.

Find some art or make some!  

As I implied above, there is nothing more boring than just text.   Even if the writing is great, your readers' eyes will have no point of reference to focus on.  Give the eyes some relaxing visuals...and your reader will read longer, and stay with you.  You want to give your reader some visual stop/start points. 

Paragraph breakups via mana symbols is something I've used in the past.  If I'm
writing about red, then I use red mana symbols that dance across the page, as a visual break from the endless text. 
Google image is a great place for starting.  Any generic graphical text or symbols are a great way to break up the monotony of a page.  Another good tip is typing "CLIP ART" into a visual search engine.  This is great for arrows, plus/minus symbols etc..,

Once you've got an image you'd like to incorporate into your article, you'll need to know how.  This is where
image shack comes in.

Thanks to Doctor Anime for suggesting www.imageshack.com - this place is great, you just upload your art and link it, no need to log in or have a user name:

Once this is uploaded, just copy/paste the "Direct Link" into your puremtgo template, after selecting "INSERT IMAGE" (The little yellow icon in top left that looks like twin mountains) - now your article will point to this, and the image is now yours for the editing. Also, REMEMBER TO SAVE AFTER EACH ONE OF THESE!
 

Furthermore, if you're patient enough, you can simply use Google images to design your page.  Even a simple program like Paint, will allow you to crop photos so you don't have a bunch of images that are mismatched.  In other words; don't put a massively tall picture next to a long one as that just looks goofy.

Some links any MTGO author should never be without:
Click on the picture to link:


This is a quick html insert for any decklist you'd like linked to the vast cardpool on mtgotraders.  After you get your deck just right, copy/paste the html code (below the newly made deck) into your article.  Make sure to click on "SOURCE" at the top left of the article editor.  This will be confusing the first time, but remember ctrl+Z is your friend, and you can just 'undo' until you get it right.  If it's really difficult, just begin your article with this, so there is less stuff to sift through when deciding "Where" the decklist will go...that way you can just press enter above the article to shove it below, or just write after it to have text beneath it.


This is both a listing of current winning top eight decks as well as a schedule of upcoming events.  Valuable to even non-writers, this is the place to cross-compare decklists as well as see if you're going to be able to participate in the ever-strange, and ever-changing scheduling that is known as online tournaments.


This is a free site that requires no username/password.  Just upload something saved to your desktop and copy/paste the code as mentioned above.  Remember to save immediately, as it can be difficult to find your uploaded picture without a logged-in account.  If this happens, just reload it from desktop like it was your first time.


This is a great free resource for making charts.  Simply input your data, and save the file code or picture for your article.  Remember Google is awesome here, type in "Pie Chart Maker" and you'll see your options are wide open with regards to what tools you have at your disposal.



4 - Media

Nothing makes people stay at an article like a video.  As intellectual as we'd all like to assume we are, there's nothing like a tasty bite of 'real footage' to bring together an example home regarding your topic.  Video, (mostly via YouTube) adds that extra "wow" quality to any article, and it's VERY easy to do this.  First you're going to need a way to record your games.  There are many options for doing this online, but the one I prefer is free and can be downloaded HERE.

Once you have finished the video and uploaded it, simply copy/paste the embedded code of your uploaded video and select the "Source" logo at the top left.  Find the break in your article for the desired spot for your video, and then paste it there.  To see if the video worked, and more importantly where it worked, simply select the same source button once more. Once you've done this, SAVE.  You won't see anything but a green icon link like this:

Once you select "PREVIEW" at the bottom of the editor, you should now have a 'live link' that the rest of your readers will see.  Here's an old video from my last article, "Reloaded" -


 

The word "MEDIA" is being used loosely here, and doesn't have to just apply to video.  Some of my fellow pauper playwrights use pie charts and graphs to great effect.  There's nothing like driving home data with a visual punch in the face:



5 - Corrections

Get an editor!  This could be a friend, a scrabble-loving girl/boyfriend, or even someone who dislikes your writing, (the latter is especially helpful).  My editor is a great friend of mine that's one hell of a magic player too. 
That being said, it's time to end this with my ongoing thanks to my editor, Paul Grasshoff, who, as I've written many times before - has saved a lot of you from my horrible homonym misuse, rampant ellipses and many spelling errors.


____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for reading, I hope to see your digital visage across from me for a game or three:
-Adrian Grey Marsden-
aka: "deluxeicoff" on MTGO
_______________________________

 

19 Comments

I love this. Can someone by Paul Leicht at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 00:48
Paul Leicht's picture
5

I love this. Can someone please just put a tack in this and put it at the top of every page? K, thanks. #2 and #5 are both extremely important imho. Someone else to edit your mistakes is essential. The content manager here does usually spell check but it isn't his job to edit each paragraph for grammatical sense and punctuation. Nor should it be, though if I were doing that job I'd probably spend way too much time doing just that.

Write the bulk of your text in notepad or notepad++ and then spell check it before setting it into the site's rich text box for formatting.

RE: graphics/images. There doesn't have to be that much work put into this. Using the (pic=) and (tmb=) codelets is a big step towards breaking up the wall of text with appropriate splashes of color. I tend to be light on graphics myself because I take pride in doing them right and don't want to add mega hours to the articles I already have spent mega hours writing/formatting.

Also you can use (card name) to autolink cards for ease of reference when you are talking about a huge list of cards. (Or even just several obscure ones.)

Adrian Best article yet. Thanks for the service.

Just a couple quick notes on by jamuraa at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 17:17
jamuraa's picture
Just a couple quick notes on the autocarding: 1) If you want a specific card set, you can add the short code for the set and get the right one. If you wanted for example the Magic 2010 version of Duress you could do ( Duress:M10 ). This works for pics as well ( pic=Duress:M10 ) and the tmb too. 2) If you are writing for the FUTURE (for example, M11 cards when they aren't added yet), please still use the ( Card link ) syntax, because the links will be added automatically when the cards are added.
You just made my day with by Westane at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 17:45
Westane's picture

You just made my day with that set specification tidbit!

Really good stuff. I know by Leviathan at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 02:49
Leviathan's picture
5

Really good stuff. I know that I had to learn a bunch of this stuff through trial and error. My first article was just a huge wall of text, but people pointed out ways to improve, essentially most of the stuff you mention here. Having it in one place just to remind me about a lot of it is geat.

One more thing to keep in mind is that the cardlinks often take a few weeks to work for newly released sets. This means that putting parenthesis around Garruk's Packleader won't get you a link, so you will have to manually insert the link. Copy the link to the card on mtgotraders.com, then type the cardname in your editer. Highlight the card name, then use the "insert link" button. Viola! Instant card links!

Best article ever. Congrats. by J_G_L at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 05:24
J_G_L's picture
5

Best article ever. Congrats. I use to write articles from a long ago to a blog though, never had the concern in formating the text and images. This is a great help to put all the things together. Now I can try to post my first article on puremtgo.com.

Really good stuff Adrian.

Looking forward your next article.

Very helpful. I wish I'd by JMason at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 05:31
JMason's picture

Very helpful. I wish I'd known about the deck list builder years ago. I disagree on video, I hate the stuff, even when it isn't blocked by the firewall at work it only serves to attract unwelcome notice when you're supposed to be working not browsing ;-)

Your right, I can't bare by Splendid Belt at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 07:56
Splendid Belt's picture
5

Your right, I can't bare homonym eras ether.

I know you were getting frustrated at some articles on the site - this is a very constructive way of helping to improve them, so good one.

"Just write." Yes! But first.... by Longshot356 at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 08:28
Longshot356's picture

Great article but, as someone who writes for a living, I have an alternate view on your second point.

Its seems to me that too many articles on too many magic sites already follow this piece of advice. Mounds of amorphous preamble, distracting structure (where it exists at all) and a woolly conclusion often mean these pieces have almost no narrative flow whatsoever. The result? I find myself quickly giving up and skimming the article to see if anything remotely interesting is on the horizon.

By all means write, write, write. Its the only way to get better. But treat this like the gauntlet games you play when learning a new deck; necessary, but something you wouldn't want anyone else to see.

When are ready to expose your work to the wider world, a little investment in time developing a structure will pay great dividends. It needn't be complex. At least fix in your mind how you're going to draw your reader in during your introduction, how you're going to keep that attention while you make your points and what you want them to take out of the article. Sketching this out on paper will definitely pay off too.

This done, get writing. And rewriting... and rewriting...

To add a few more miles to an old clunker of a cliche... Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Here's hoping your fruitful seeds take root.

Ted

"Before I go much further, I by Flippers_Giraffe at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 08:44
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

"Before I go much further, I must mention the error I just caught myself doing right now - which was writing a large portion of my article inside the puremtgo article layout."

That's an interesting point, I write my entire article inside the pure editor and then afterwards copy it out into word to see my spelling mistakes etc. I've found that I've actually got better at writing this way rather than having word auto correct my errors for me.

Man, that's like Russian by deluxeicoff at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 12:33
deluxeicoff's picture

Man, that's like Russian roulette Flippers_G - I've written over half my articles twice due to doing that. It's always that "Changed by another user" error I get, and by then it's too late to go back/copy/paste. PLEASE, save yourself many headaches and reverse the order :)

The only time I've ever seen by Flippers_Giraffe at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 12:45
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

The only time I've ever seen that error is if you have two sessions open both with pure on the same browser.

The only time you should be by jamuraa at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 17:12
jamuraa's picture
The only time you should be getting that editor is if you have two articles open in the editor in different windows at the same time. If it's happening to you at other times, email me (jamuraa@puremtgo.com) and I'll take a look.
I can tell you it has by kalandine at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 19:22
kalandine's picture

I can tell you it has happened to me at other times.

If I double-click save due to a lag, it happens, but the article is usually saved as well.

I have had it happen other times as well, but no discernible pattern.

Happens quite often with me, by deluxeicoff at Wed, 08/11/2010 - 00:57
deluxeicoff's picture

Happens quite often with me, seems totally random. I've never had two versions of it opened either.

Well, I guess a just never by Westane at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 11:05
Westane's picture
5

Well, I guess a just never learn... Great read!

No worries, perhaps it was by deluxeicoff at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 11:25
deluxeicoff's picture

No worries, perhaps it was that white feline-familiar or yours jumping upon the keyboard :)

Actually she's my editor, by Westane at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 11:47
Westane's picture

Actually she's my editor, which is probably my first mistake...

Editor by Katastrophe at Tue, 08/10/2010 - 23:15
Katastrophe's picture
5

Back when spg used to write I used to proofread his articles first. Figures, too, because his first draft was 99.5% or 100% awesome every time. And then I'd laugh at "homonym eras" in other people's articles. Occasionally I'd catch something content related, like offhandedly mentioning that Animate Dead can reanimate fatties like Akroma. (Think about it.)

Hopefully every aspiring writer here has a friend in the game. Have that person read your article before you submit it. Then ask them what their comment would be. Most people can't help you with fixing a poor structure like what Longshot356 is talking about. But at the very least if they can catch a few "homonym eras" it will make this website a better place. A year ago I remember the articles here being really bad in that particular regard. Since then I don't know if the writing has improved, or if I've just become numb to it.

Thanks for the great by shizzz at Sat, 03/05/2011 - 10:44
shizzz's picture
5

Thanks for the great article!

I was really looking for a reliable pauper deck, and yours is really great.

I have played 5 matches so far, and won 3 of them (Mirror, Goblins, GW Aura). Both losses were against Affinity (1-2). One I lost due to a play error (this deck IS hard to play) and the other one was kind of chanceless.

Can you give some hints what are the key factors when playing affinity? For example I was totally ripped apart by krak-clack-(whatever-)shaman. My poor Ledgewalkers!

Cya, shizzz