Industry Interview – Ashley Warren

We’re back to interviews this week, and we’re reopening with a HUGE guest; Ashley Warren! I have another few interviews cued up with some amazing people, but if you have any ideas for other people you’d like to hear from, just let me know in the comments or through social media.

Ashley Warren is a popular DMsGuild Adept who recently broke onto the scene in a big way with her RPG Writer Workshop. This workshop helps new authors get their footing in the field of RPG writing and has been a huge success. Beside the writer workshop, Ashley is probably best known for her A Requiem of Wings adventure saga, which starts with the electrum best seller A Night of Masks and Monsters.

What drew you to publish on the DMsGuild, and what was your first published product?

I first considered writing for D&D 5e almost exactly a year ago (fall 2017). While on a trip to Italy with my family, I was inspired by the beautiful ancient history around me and had an idea for an adventure featuring angels and demons. When I started looking at these creatures in the Monster Manual, I felt overwhelmingly inspired! But it was my DM, John, who encouraged me to post my work to DMsGuild. My first product there was A Night of Masks and Monsters which I conceptualised in Venice and published in December 2017. I had no idea that publishing Masks and Monsters would kick off the most amazing year ever!

What inspires your projects?

Travel, food, music, language, culture. Atmosphere excites me as a writer and whenever I travel I am always inspired to write. I try to infuse a lot of that into my stories. My angels and demons series, A Requiem of Wings, is inspired by my Italian and Russian heritage, so I pull a lot from folklore and mythology. I’m a visual person and tend to come up with stories based on “tone” or “aesthetic.”

What’s it like writing as a Guild Adept in contrast to before?

It’s challenging! I do not have decades of experience playing D&D or writing games, so I’ve been playing catch-up on learning the lore, especially for my Eberron adventure coming out in November. I’ve had to learn all the rules for Adventurers League. I feel like I’ve come into this as a complete outsider; I’ve been a writer, professionally, for more than a decade, but I’m still relatively new to game design and RPGs in general.

But I love it! I’ve tried to jump in with both feet. It’s so exciting working on projects that coincide with the new releases. I love getting a peek into the work that Wizards produces. It’s given me such a greater appreciation for everything Wizards does. Hours and hours of hard work go on behind the scenes. I’m so grateful to be involved but definitely fight impostor syndrome on the daily.

How did you come up with the idea for the RPG Writer Workshop?

I have my Masters degree in Literacy Studies and used to be a college English teacher. I am really passionate about helping people find a love for reading and writing.

To be honest, there is an overwhelming amount of information about RPG writing on the internet. I kept seeing people ask a question about adventure writing on Twitter or Facebook only to be sent a deluge of articles and YouTube videos and books, without any sort of advice or structure. That is daunting and can be a deterrent to people new to the community.

I felt like a workshop that was both a collaborative space and a step-by-step primer to adventure writing could be a useful resource. I was only expecting a handful of signups and couldn’t believe the interest the first pilot workshop received. That’s when I knew for sure that the idea had potential. I was starting to see success as a game designer, and with my background in education, I felt comfortable that I might be able to offer a different approach.

On a selfish note, I love any chance to teach and mentor, especially when it comes to writing.

What are the major challenges you faced when designing the workshop?

There are so many aspects to game design and I wanted to cover as much as possible. However, I know that new writers can get easily overwhelmed by too much information presented at once. So, I wanted to make the content bite-sized and approachable but also actionable. I wanted it to be released over a set schedule so that people could realistically complete their adventures in the midst of their busy lives. I strongly believe that a big part of being a successful writer is having a rock-solid writing process.

My biggest challenge is: how can the workshop help people actually complete their adventures and see their ideas to fruition? I’ve tried to make the workshop informative and engaging and motivating, all in one. I brought in amazing creators (like you, JVC!) to help me accomplish this.

What do you hope will be the biggest takeaway from the workshop this year, and are there plans for its future?

I have so many dreams for the workshop! I’m just excited that people enjoyed it and that this incredible community of writers now exists. Like I mentioned before, a writing process is important, so my biggest hope is that people will find a way to make writing an important part of their lives.

I hope to offer more classes in the future. My goal is to host the full workshop twice a year, and then have smaller classes available at any time — classes taught by experts and specific to narrative design, cartography, playtesting, etc. The workshop is a good overview of the whole process, but I know there are many writers who want to get better at one aspect of game design and would enjoy delving into that specific topic. So, I’m hoping to make that happen in 2019!

Have you got any advice for new authors on the DMsGuild?

These are the three things I often tell new authors:

  • Just get started. Don’t wait for perfection — it doesn’t exist! Write something and share it. Then write something else and share it. Then go back and improve what you’ve shared with what you’ve learned.
  • Let the act of creating be as fulfilling as the act of publishing. I think many writers get excited about their big picture dreams: the money they think they’ll make, the glowing reviews they’ll receive, the beautiful art they’ll commission. They skip over the hard work and focus too much on the end “vision,” but when they sit down to write, they get discouraged and can’t finish a project. I see this happen time and time again with new writers. So when you can make writing something that fulfils you, and not a hypothetical audience, it remains exciting and motivating. Publishing is a fine goal, but sometimes aspiring for fame and glory is a deterrent.
  • Unless you’re a prolific author who has a track record for finishing projects, don’t announce the projects you want to write unless they are almost finished. We get a false sense of accomplishment from announcing our intentions, but that wears off when the work begins. It’s OK to keep your ideas and aspirations private. There are no shortcuts to writing or any creative endeavour. Do the work.

Check out Ashley’s amazing adventures on the DMsGuild, or look her up on Facebook and Twitter. If you like the sound of the RPG Writer Workshop, check it out on Twitter or Facebook, and go sign up using the offer code JVCParry to receive $10 off. Registration closes on the 31st October 2018 so don’t miss out!

Remember, if you want to help support my blog and my writing, you can buy my adventures on DMsGuild, or join my Patreon. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

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