Entry One: Unruly Works

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

With the exception of a few hours, I’ve barely touched my rewrite. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve written much this year at all.

It’s hard not to feel like a failure in those circumstances.

I think the most words that’ve moved around through FMTEE have been through me typing up bits and pieces of my handwritten stuff, and yet that whole idea of chapter seven still looms unwritten and unfinished. Technically I’ve got the plan worked out. I met up with a friend to help them workshop their ideas, and in the process, spent a few minutes sorting out my own thoughts.

This year’s not off to the greatest start on that front.

Neither is that other pursuit. Hello Games. If you read my stuff (or were reading it in last November), you may have seen me mention something about a game design document. Well yeah, that didn’t go far beyond the planning stages, and from that it’s easy to wonder if I finish anything ever (I’m not projecting – this is what I wonder and worry about) but I’m not yet in panic mode.

I’ve blogged about game stuff before, particular my own experiences with gamedev (very limited). Can’t say I’ve done a whole lot, and with the exception of a few periods in my life, have tended to jump between interests and not get very far beyond the basics. I wouldn’t say happily, but I’ll admit it. This week, with the Game Developer Conference 2015 going on (aka, GDC15), there’s been a few things happening in the world of game development. Firstly, Epic announced that Unreal Engine 4 would be available for lots of people, without that pesky subscription. Yeah, caveats apply, but that’s significantly dropped the barriers. Unity followed suit with the release of Unity 5, with a personal licence that’ll see it reach more hands again. Not to be left out, Valve announced Source 2 Engine will go the same way.

So, I started planning. This time (and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve found me saying the same before), I thought I’d start easy. Simple. That journey began last night, and by simple, I mean I downloaded a thing and installed it.

Concurrently with all this, I did a free online course on Game Design, so I’m not exactly raring to go, but trying to be a bit more realistic about it.

It’s now about three months since my first entry in this category. In that time, I’ve let the idea I had for the setting ferment. This is a little like the “shelve it and come back later” approach, but a big part of it was that while I was trying to write the story for it during NaNoWriMo, I wasn’t feeling it. On paper it sounded brilliant, but I hadn’t fallen in love with it – I was too focused on my previous novel. Back then, I couldn’t even appreciate the writing playlist I’d put together SPECIFICALLY to write in the new setting, but lately I’ve found bits and pieces of it pop into my head. While I’m still excited about the previous thing I was working on (but haven’t done because my shit is all over the place and needs to be more organised), the ideas for this are coming.

It’s not just the game engine news that’s prompted this. I started looking at it again over the past few weeks, in between new work stuff, courses (online and offline), and family. I set myself a few goals in terms of this gamey thing, first of all was to go through tutorials to get that familiarity with the process in.

From the point of view of those that see me tweet a few things now and then on games, or even the recent stuff about “hey, let’s make a game” which is tongue-in-cheek despondent over the unlikelihood of me getting that together… it’s easy to see this as dreamy fluffy bullshit.

Maybe it is.

I know in this type of thing, ideas are abundant and nobody’s begging for that, but when I look at the imagined worlds that perhaps haven’t seen a lot of exposure but that I’m able to recount without preparation, the bits and pieces of Shimmer, Trail, and FMTEE… the world of Ascension, TGW, and now this newer one, I think that side of it’s under control.

Should I focus solely on FMTEE right now? I don’t know. Could be. There’s also a hot iron over here that’s begging to be struck.

Cliques Are Stupid

March 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

I hate them. I hate dealing with them. I hate the stress of them.

There’s a propensity for the previously downtrodden to think their troubled past or exclusion from popularity is some kind of excuse, as though they’re the only ones that had it rough. Newsflash, you didn’t. Just because you were an outcast in High School doesn’t mean it’s your turn to cast out others when you’re out.

No, you are out. The rest of the world is not a stand-in for an acne-ridden bully who made your teens hell. It’s even less of a stand-in when they’re expressing love for that same thing that was a beacon of light for you. Art, games, writing, comics, movies, sports, whatever. You think you’re the only ones that hid from a scary world in the welcoming infinity of their passions?

Nope.

That’s the wonderful thing about the world now. The things we thought only WE did, we know are shared. Doesn’t that make it better? We’re not the offshoot of some non-human race secretly biding our time until Cylon Command sends a signal and we tear shit up. We’re human – perhaps different to those we grew up with – and even there you don’t really know – but human.

I was stupid once. Maybe more than once. Probably more than once. I was stupid a lot.

One of my go-to salves was music. Not the popular kind, but soundtracks. I can remember thinking (in my teens) that I was weird for that. I didn’t know anybody who did the same, and that was no different once I got to university. Whatever was on radio, I didn’t really care, but ooh, new orchestral soundtrack? All over that.

But here’s how I was stupid. Not only did I not know anybody that did what I did, it never occurred to me that the whole reason I was able to, was because shitloads of people ALL OVER THE WORLD must’ve done the same. I didn’t buy the only copy of the soundtrack – I was one of many, and never realised it.

It’s easy to think we’re alone when we’re lonely, but if your mind’s decided you’re gonna feel lonely, it doesn’t matter how alone you are or aren’t. Maybe that breeds resentment for some. Thing is, you’re still special. Someone else liking that thing you do, it unites us. Then we can make fun of all the sheeple that don’t like that vastly superior thing we d– wait, that’s not it.

Oh yeah, cliques are stupid.

Motivations

February 16, 2015 § 1 Comment

I don’t know if I’ve talked about it before (probably), but a big part of why I write is to provoke discussion. When it comes to advice, or my game journalism stuff for Save Game, I hope that I’m being informative and that people are getting benefits that way. When it comes to the other stuff, whether it be my fiction or those anecdotes that lie somewhere in between, naturally I want to be interesting – even entertaining – but more than that, I hope to trigger conversation. « Read the rest of this entry »

Lost in Ways

January 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

You can read that title over and over, stressing a different word each time, and find the glimmer of another meaning. Even within a single word, the intonation could be subtly altered, and so too would the meaning be altered. I suppose that’s the purpose of punctuation, but they’re never quite right in a title. Besides, I love a bit of ambiguity.

Wait, I meant METAPHORICALLY lost!!

Wait, I meant METAPHORICALLY lost!!

We all have our own processes when we write. I have mine, which I share, but recognise they’re not for everyone. I have my way, and you each have yours. The reason for sharing is I enjoy the possibility my process might help someone else, but it’s far from the only way to write. I won’t run over it in length, but the short version is brainstorm, make notes, think lots, write by hand, listen to music, repeat as necessary. It all varies and is flexible, but it’s enough of a regular thing to be mostly instinctual.

Well, that’s one of the processes – the one that happens when it comes to writing first drafts. When it comes to editing (well, a second draft), which for me tends to be reading what I wrote before and writing a new version, I’m not so agile. I would think about what I wanted to change, then start changing it. That was that. In doing it this way, I’d make notes (that would be constantly referred to), and that would be my baseline for what I had to alter. It was all quite rigid.

Years ago, while working on one of my ‘someday’ novels, I went through the process of editing a chapter, and had it perfect (as far as I was concerned at the time though in hindsight it probably wasn’t). I had it saved to the USB stick I’d always work on. If you don’t know where this is going, STOP READING RIGHT NOW AND MAKE A BACKUP OF YOUR WRITING!!!

Ahem. Well that killed that. I was so stuck in my process, lost in the mire of ways I’d told myself had to be followed to the letter, that I lost all momentum and believed I’d never be able to get it right again.

In working on my current novel, a funny thing happened. Through the course of the editing process, I’d think of new ideas or concepts. I was going through, planning the pacing of new stuff, revelations of older stuff, that kind of thing. I had notes and bits in my head, all about what was going to be changed and how it was going to avoid plot holes and build characters and things like that.

Yet unlike that first story, I know this one better. It’s not that I lived it for longer, but I wrote more for it and worked on it harder. It’s not quite second nature, but my knowledge of my own setting (that I can recall without notes) rivals what I know about Star Wars. Just quietly, that’s no mean feat.

I’ve had big plans for the setting in question, and worked on it on/off for longer than the current novel. Recently at the first writing-group meetup of the year, I rattled off all these different plots and ideas from the setting that I still remembered as though they were a memorised favourite from my childhood. In a way, they were. Returning to the first process I used for editing (the one I’d used to identify what needed changes – short version: read, read, think, notes), I found it easier to hold the reins again. I didn’t need the exact changes I had last time. Maybe I missed some, but I’d also identified new ones. There was no point in my editing/rewriting process that I couldn’t stop and start over with.

We can get lost in our processes. When things don’t go to plan, it’s easy to feel stuck, but they can be so alien to how we start that THIS otherness is not without meaning. They’re different to our process because they’re not the one that got us there.

It’s why the following is one of my most recurring pieces of advice for other writers that’ve found their momentum slow and their long-term projects grow stagnant:

Take your setting. Invent a new character. Put them in that world, give them an obstacle, and write a short story about it.

What’s the reason? You get the benefit of something fresh, the depth of a world you’re already invested in, and the satisfaction of it all happening in a setting that’s wholly yours.

Nobody Reads Anything

December 11, 2014 § 2 Comments

They like it or follow as the headline scrolls by

But the idea of reading it doesn’t take root.

Even clicking the title seems a price just too high,

and growing seeds of ideas? They just want the fruit.

And yet still they like it, though the page be unseen.

Is there a point to that? A reason? A why?

Maybe they skim, missing the words in-between,

but it’s a lot to take in from some random guy.

There’s too many words and the point isn’t clear,

seems more like discussion than a neat, easy list.

Might as well stop reading it here,

there’s a semblance of something and I might have the gist.

Nobody’s reading now, they’ve scrolled to the end

there’s too many words for one person to read.

The point should be there, the identified trend,

and then I can make up my mind with some speed.

Each day there’s a hit though there’s usually more,

and it matters not what’s gone up on the site.

Sometimes there’s lots but there’s no hard or fast law

that can predict if the views will be heavy or light.

Whether I publish, well, there it is.

Whether I comment or not, there’s a hit.

They look at About and see “oh, it’s his”

but that’s as far as they go with this shit.

There’s too many words now and yawn, where I am now?

Why did I open this – who linked me here?

I’m on this strange page and I don’t even know how,

and there’s not even pictures? Read, no no dear.

So I look at the chart as there’s a rise or a fall,

grouping the numbers by days, months or weeks,

hoping to comments notifications will call,

and glimpses of opinions delivered in peeks.

Yet nobody’s talking and everyone’s still,

Cause nobody’s reading a word of this crap.

And the sporadic views are no longer a thrill,

unless they’re from somewhere unique on the map.

Do you have an opinion, a solitary thought?

Why the hell isn’t it posted on here?

Write your bloody comments so I can retort,

and reduce all dissent to flashes, all mere.

Some Kind of Workshop

December 11, 2014 § 2 Comments

chef-gusteau

Or Write!

Ideas time. Kinda.

During the year, one of the things expressed by a few of the people in my wonderful writing group is that they think I should do workshops. How things are at the moment, I tend to spend time with each person that comes along and if they’re running into issues with the writing process, particular when it comes to where things go, ironing out plot-creases or filling plot-holes, I jump in. I’ve done this out of instinct from very early on, and while I know ideas-people are never in short supply, I do this.

The pic at the top is there for a reason. I love the message in the film Ratatouille, but tend to paraphrase it a bit for my own personal thoughts when it comes to writing. Anyone can write. What’s more, I tend to believe it’s a good thing that lots of people want to write and a huge, huge, HUGE part of my starting this blog was I want to help people write. If you look at The Plan Plan, both the paged version and the worksheets, I’m pretty upfront in that I’m doing this to encourage and aid people.

I mightn’t have the grounding to outwardly prove I know what I’m doing (though hope it comes through eventually or in the meantime, through the ideas I bring), but I hope I’m helpful.

Turns out there’s a lot of people out there to help writers. Beyond the blogs you’ll find books on writing, courses on writing, degrees on writing, people to give you ideas, people to develop your ideas, people to edit, sell, read, and it really goes on.

Now one of the first things you’ll hear (after the “You could be the next Stephen King/J.K. Rowling/etc”) is about how there’s no money in it, but they’re wrong. There’s a lot of money in writing, but it’s just not in the writing itself. It’s in the selling. Gone are the days where your buy-in was the pen and paper you wrote with. Maybe you start that way (ha, amateur) but without the backing of all that stuff you’re meant to do, how is anyone going to take you seriously as a writer? Next you’ll say you haven’t worked out your authorial wardrobe or favourite uncommon style of coffee. You haven’t? Ha ha ha ha. Amateur.

I don’t know if I have a point here.

I’m happy to give people my time. It’s not only the most valuable thing I have, but it’s also the one I don’t run out of every month.

Thing is though, I’d love to be doing all my word stuff on a more permanent basis. If I’m lucky I’ll get a half-hour in my lunch-break to write, an evening once a week, and that’s about all I can fit around all the other life-stuff right now.

So y’know, anything that’d allow me to take this side of things more seriously has to be a good thing. It’s only through the feedback of those I’ve directly shared advice with that I’ve even thought that maybe this is something I could do for real, rather than my writing being some self-indulgent mental jerk-off that distracts me from the realisation I should have explored this all back when I didn’t have people that depend on me to be a source of stability.

I think in the new year, I’ll explore something to this effect. I don’t know what it will look like yet, though I know it’s a better process in-person if that’s at all possible. I assume I’ll try and get some kind of structure worked out first, so yeah, this is a thing that might be happening. It also might not.

Oh and for the record, I appreciate people have to get paid. It’s why I can’t just throw in the day-time stuff and explore the stuff I’d love to be doing. It’s just… you know, having done NaNoWriMo and being involved on the organising side where lots of the people trying to get started in the writing circle are either teachers or students (both areas not REALLY synonymous with a wealth o’ wealth) who tend to be scraping by as-is and then often don’t come along because they can’t afford the extra travel, well I dunno. Couple in that so many writing groups turn into “hey other authors, here’s my book that you should buy because doesn’t everyone love pyramid schemes??”

Those $800 for two days of a basic writing course is so far beyond my own price range that I can’t imagine how anyone affords them.

I don’t mean this to come across as a case of “they got some, I want mine” but it gets old when people assume my time isn’t valuable just because I’m not charging for it. Just because I’m doing something for the love of it doesn’t make it worthless.

Entry Zero: A New Side-Project

December 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

In case you hadn’t heard, I started writing for Save Game back in August this year. I can’t remember when the site first popped onto my radar but can say it had become my first stop for any gaming-related news long before. It’s one of the reasons you won’t see much in the way of games writing on Fictioner’s Net anymore. If you’re a fan of my opinions as I am – or even better – if you like the way I express myself on such topics even when you don’t necessarily agree – this is a good thing. In fact, it’s a better thing. The biggest upside to me writing for Save Game is that I’m a tad more mindful of writing quality stuff, where I’ll be the first to admit here is usually a dump for whatever thoughts I’ll never look at again.

But well, games are still big for me. Narrative in games continues to be a super big thing for me. Maybe everything is freaking big for me but you know, I’d like this Gaming section here to still mean something.

Enter old aspirations!

While I’m still working on the rewrite of my novel, there’s a piece of me that’s always wanted to make games. Been in there since about ten years old, and it was always the Adventure style where you explore and discover and do interesting things that I wanted to make.

Recap time

This year was my second as a Municipal Liaison for my region during NaNoWriMo and I’m making no secret of the fact it was also my last, at least for a few years. In terms of the fifty-thousand words, I was signed up to do the thing but you couldn’t even call what I did an attempt. There wasn’t a since day where I got over 1500 words, and probably none with 1000 either. Life, uh, got in the way. I did write a little for the idea I was going to, and also wrote a bit more on my novel rewrite. Gradual process but it’s all a bit slow lately.

Now, I love my novel. It’s going to be great. It might already be but I can’t judge that accurately just yet.

I also am getting more serious about this idea of writing something gamey. While I have an idea for a short puzzle/minigame type thing to stretch my mind around, it still comes back to the idea I was going to write for nano. I think games WILL be a medium that’ll surpass film, possibly even books, for what they can do. The ability to explore, rush through, make character choices we think are better than the ones the static counterparts do, there’s so much possibility.

So back to that idea.

In true Nick-comes-up-with-a-new-idea fashion, I put together a list of rough ideas and tried to pull an overall thread out of it. Wanted it character focused. Wanted it somewhere cool. Wanted it to kick around with morality. I did this because I wanted something unattached to any of my other ideas. Didn’t want to load it with the preconceptions or expectations of other stories or settings I’ve been puttering around on, but something new, slick, cool. So lalalala focus group of one and I had my idea.

To start with I’m playing around with a few different ideas I’ve had, definitely for the story (and I think a great, ambitious story can be done and has been done in such a thing, and there’s no reason we can’t have good writing in games). Also though, in terms of the game elements. There’s a few ideas I’ve had around the role of the player and their effect on how the game plays that I’d love to explore. Branching narratives sure, but that’s something else. I’ve wanted to do that since the days of messing with AGI Studio and the blame for that lies squarely on the Quest for Glory series but beside the point.

To start with I’m working out some ideas on how the narrative might work and how I want it to play with regards to player role. Play style will be next and though that’s more open-ended, I definitely have a bunch of ideas there too. Doesn’t everyone?

Whether this ever results in a semblance of a game is currently unknown, but let’s see where we can go from here.

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