Entries from March 2011 ↓

Never Apologize for Your Writing

Most of the time generalizations that start with “always” or “never” are to be avoided. There are very few true always and never situations in the real world.

As a general rule, though, I would suggest to aspiring Magic: The Gathering writers to never apologize for their work.

This comes as a reaction to the forums from World of Wefald – Kibler’s Extended Darling. Some forums denizens are complaining about Wefald’s latest article (a Frank Karsten-esque review of MTGO Extended performance). Personally, I quite liked it.

In particular I loved this quote, Wefald musing around the performance of certain tribal themed strategies:

“Really…? Elves and Faeries…? What’s this game coming to? Back in my time, we killed our opponents with Chuck Norris-caliber win conditions like Psychatog, Sutured Ghoul, and Bosh, Iron Golem. If the good people at Wizards continue along this path, I’m pretty sure that by 2014, I’ll be writing articles on Mono-Pink Control and Unicorn-Go, while being cuddled to death by Care Bear counters.”

In related news: “Death by Monkeys!” (from Toy Story 3 obv)

How evocative!


Good writing, Wefald!

But per usual, certain forums denizens are all “I paid for this” one click in.

Obviously Star City Premium customers are allowed to voice their concerns over perceived article quality. They are, barring the occasional contest winner (including future Flores Rewards winners, once I am done with the cryptic but superlative OMG) paying customers. I am pretty sure the right to bitch and moan about the contrast on high definition television sets is the fourteenth point afforded by the Bill of Rights, just after the rarely-enforced freedom from long lines at the DMV lucky number thirteen.

Of course they should be allowed to voice concerns!

In fact, it is sometimes the case that a Premium article is not — gasp — very good!

However, my suggestion…

And this is one of those rare not-wrong always / never situations…

Is never, ever apologize for your writing.

Let me tell you. I have been doing this for over sixteen years now. A good number of my articles have been stinkers. Not good. On more than one occasion I have been wrong (believe it!) … Even some of the ones that I put a ton of effort into have things like “Compulsive Research is Constructed Unplayable” in them. For months I railed against Tooth and Nail being a good card to play! It’s okay to be wrong. When you put out a high volume of articles, they can’t all be great.

Kevin Love is one of the best players in the NBA. He is the greatest rebounder on the planet, even better than Orlando’s Mr. Howard this season. He can throw up the long ball and score from three. He does nothing but score 20 points and pull down 15 rebounds game atfer game.

Love misses over 50% of his field goal attempts.

Over the course of his career, Michael Jordan, not just the greatest basketball player ever, but arguably the greatest sportsman of all, missed 12,345 shots and 1,445 free throw attempts (Michael, the most unstoppable scorer in the history of the game, was a career sub-50% shooter). Shaquille O’Neal, iconic center of numerous contending NBA teams, finalist with Orlando, LA, and Miami, has missed over 5,000 free throw attempts!

At a high level of usage, you simply don’t hit them all.

It is possible that some articles should never have been published, never have been accepted, never have been turned in… Maybe never have been attempted. But the fact is, once they are out there in the universe, there is no point in apologizing for them. No point at all.

At this moment in my writing career I have no idea which articles are going to turn out to be favorites. There is little correlation between what I think is good and what the audience thinks is good. I still can’t get over the time when I revealed the U/G Genesis Wave deck (which turned out to be a pretty significant deck)… To mono-horrible reviews at TCGPlayer.

An even more stark contrast may have been my first article [back] at TCGPlayer. It would be hard to find a more poorly reviewed article. What I said was perceived to be so controversial / wrong that TCGPlayer.com readers doubted I wrote it at all!

But do you know how many of my predictions ended up being dead on? Like 80%.

Nobody picked up Goblin Outlander, and Liliana Vess + Emrakul, the Aeons Torn didn’t suddenly become the go-to combo in Standard, but everything from the fall of Path to Exile to the adoption of Oust to people hard-casting Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre all turned out to be dead-on.

Did I kind of get mixed up over which Eldrazi had which ability? Yeah, whatever. But the the real thrust of the article was right, the people who spent so much effort trying to tear down my ideas those months ago are all wrong (unsurprisingly)… But who cares? They don’t even use their real names or whatever.

Do you see my point?

There is just no engaging with this brand of criticism.

I wrote an update to the article because Chedy asked me to, but I would have been fine doing nothing. There is no point in apologizing.

That said, I am lucky in that every single week I get messages like this on Facebook, Twitter, and so on:

… I get them on the same articles where I have negative comments from other areas.

Master McLeer a-liked this one so much he wishes he could have “Liked” it… But on the Twitters, on the forums, in ye olde inbox people are all up in my disk drive terminology or criticizing the fact that I like nice things. Am I supposed to apologize to one reader for something that another reader, commenting in another area loves?

I do, honestly, appreciate constructive feedback, but for reasons I have described elsewhere and often, try to distance myself from forum discussions for the exact reason that I am producing this suggestion today: There isn’t any point. The article doesn’t suddenly get better when I post in the forum. Players who can’t wrap their heads around a concept don’t suddenly agree with you when you try to explain the same thing a second time. In the cases you are wrong (and again, I have been, and more than once), that doesn’t suddenly flip like pre-game quarter because some faceless someone complained about it.

Wefald shouldn’t have to apologize for his article. Like I said, I thought it was fine. Better than fine, it had some useful information bundled together with memorable writing. But even if it didn’t, he isn’t doing anyone any favors by engaging in this way.

… That’s my opinion, anyway.



PS (not a suggestion)
PPS Be a pal and buy Deckade!