Always Rolling the Dice: Monica Valentinelli on Taking Risks in Writing

Monica Valentinelli is the project manager for the horror webzine She’s been working as a freelance writer and game designer since 2005. Her e-book, The Queen of Crows, features an enhanced short story about a Navajo elder and the queen of crows, Mahochepi. Valentinelli writes a column for both the Apex Book Company and for the How to Write Shop. She is also one of the contributors to Will Hindmarch’s The Bones: Us and Our Dice.

I first met Valentinelli at GenCon three years ago.  I was immediately struck with her ability to distill a complex project down to its core elements and by her seemingly undying enthusiasm for whichever creative project she was working on.

Both as a gamer and as a freelancer, Valentinelli has rolled a lot of dice. Here’s what she had to say about the importance of taking risks in writing and freelancing.

What is the importance of taking risks, of rollin’ them bones, in writing?

Monica Valentinelli: I feel that one of the ways a writer improves her craft is to first learn what the rules are and then figure out how to break them. Just as one example, think about how many different types of short stories that you’ve read. There’s the way you learn how to tell “a” story, and then there’s the way you figure out how to tell “your” story. Big distinction between the two. The first one means you’re playing it safe by writing within the boundaries that have already been established. The other forces you to really stretch your limits as a writer and roll them bones. Sometimes your efforts will work and sometimes they won’t. The important thing is that you learn from it.

Can you tell us about a time when you rolled the dice in your career and won?  Lost?  Were utterly baffled by the results?

Monica Valentinelli: I feel that every time a writer submits a story or writes a pitch they gamble on what’s going to happen next. There are two sides to my writing career: work-for-hire and my original work. With my original work, everything I do is a roll of the dice. There’s no guarantee that an editor or a publisher is going to enjoy my stories or articles. Take The Queen of Crows for example. Highly experimental and one of the first enhanced e-books with a Native American theme. Reviewers loved it, but it was a big risk and the format brought its own challenges. For my work-for-hire writing, I’m always rolling the dice to find a new client or opportunity. That’s the fun (and frustrating) part about being a writer. You can plan and be as careful as you want to be, but you really don’t have any idea what’ll happen next–until it does.


Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher.  He is the staff Interviewer for Clarkesworld Magazine and a frequent contributor to Kobold Quarterly.  He teaches at Wofford College and Montessori Academy in Spartanburg, SC.  He is also the director of Shared Worlds, a creative writing and world-building camp for teenagers that he and Jeff VanderMeer designed in 2006.

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  1. Pingback: My Guest Article at Rolling the Dice in Freelancing | MLV Writes

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