Using Games to Finish Stories

Four soldiers in a desert landscape with a mountain backdrop.
Image Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/24/ghost-recon-wildlands-hands-on-with-the-future-of-military-shooters

So, this is one of those video game posts that do from time to time. Some times I do them while playing the game, some times I do them to point out the glitches, some times I do them to point out broader practices in the video game industry, and some times I do them just because they are fun or rewarding or have some sort of meaningful accomplishment for me.

For me, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands falls into this latter category.

A Year of Wildlands

The game is one that I’ve been playing for about a year–I got it for Christmas 2017. I’ve played it pretty much every weekend for a year. I wanted it for a while and I asked for it. It was a good story, but I didn’t think that I would finish it, but it turns out that after assidously playing it for a year, I finished it in late Oct./early November. I’ll do a Mini-Review for it soon, but today I just wanted to talk about the power of making an accomplishment.

Today, I finally “got back on the horse” and wrote part 1 (of 3) of a Revision to an older project entitled, “Rocket-Man.” I’ve submitted that story several times, but it has never been sold. I went back and reworked the character and the situation.

The Key to Writing (for me) is the Key to Gaming

So, today I just tried to do what I did when I played Wildlands. I found a day to try to write. Today I have class, but I have time after the class where I can simply sit down and draft. That’s what I’m doing. I have 3 projects currently on the hopper (4 if you count the graphic novel), but my goal is to completely finish one project by writing them in 3 stages (beginning, middle, and end) and then moving on to the next one. However, I’m going to do this on a weekly basis. I know I should probably be using this time to read (& I hope using it in this way doesn’t come back to bite me in March), but I really feel useless if I don’t write. A writer writes and by putting 2-3 hours on a project (with music) and without distractions (such as video game systems, tv, and the like), I’m able to be as productive on my stories as I am when I game. Hopefully, in a year’s time, my diligence will pay off (as it did with Wildlands and I’ll be able to share successes with you in this blog.

One More Thing . . .

I was going to close the blog out, but happened to click on an email that I receive monthly from Playstation that tracks my gaming time and number of gaming “trophies” (accomplishments in games) for the month and for December, I logged 43 hours of online gameplay and earned 19 trophies. Now this is well above my average of 4-5 hours on a Saturday afternoon/evening for about 20 hours a month, but just think of all the projects that I could write if I devoted the time that I do for gaming, or more importantly, what I could accomplish in my school related endeavors with the same amount of time. I used to do that for reading–now I just need to get there for school work and writing.

The only problem I see is that somewhere in there, I’ve got to find time for sleeping. ūüėČ

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story ‚Äď 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel ‚Äď Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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Writing: Sprints and Marathons

Images of Marathoners and Sprinters
Image Source: http://upandhumming.com/2014/05/marathoners-vs-sprinters/

So, in many writing manuals over the year, I’ve heard/read that writing short-stories is akin to sprinting while writing novels is akin to running a marathon. I never really paid much attention to it until I started really reading the feedback to some of my recent submissions. Now, to be honest, I love reading novels and have been since my earliest days. There is something about Tolkien’s formulation of the “secondary world,” an imaginary world where I can lose myself, that simply appeals to me as a reader, writer, and a human being.

Sprinting for the (Short-Story) Win

So, the feedback on my stories is that they usually start interesting, but veer off into, let’s face it, “boring-town.” Why? Because, after the initial hot start, I want to then engross myself into the world and the action and the description, but not necessarily the characters. In effect, I’m treating the short story form like a novel.

A short story is different. Poe, the creator of the form, argued that a short story is something that can be read in one sitting. It doesn’t have the time to be detailed, lush, and description heavy. It is a sprint from start to finish that should leave the reader (& writer) breathless with wonder, characterization, and emotion. This is what my goal will be this year–to work on getting my short-stories to resemble the best sprinters ever.

Marathoning the Long Way Round

I’ve long wanted to write a novel, but every time I’ve tried to do so, I’ve found one block after another. However, after completing a game that I’ve played pretty much every weekend for an entire year, I see how a novel can be written. I requires diligence and hard work, but I have those in spades (not being braggadocios), but I need to simply find something that I’m interested in and apply the necessary discipline to see it through even when it seems like I’m not making progress. There was a time in March/April/May of last year when I thought I’d never see the game through to completion as it seemed too long and too arduous to complete, but here I am, in January 2019, having completely finished the game and earned the maximum reward for it (a Platinum Trophy for those PS4 gamers out there), so I know it can be done–now I just have to do it and that’s my goal.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story ‚Äď 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel ‚Äď Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Image Source (includes printable goal tracker): https://www.happyorganizedlife.com/goal-tracker/

So, a quick note: yesterday’s blog post directly relates to my desire to simplify my life. It was a “quick hit” post, meaning that I didn’t have time to write a formal, longer post, but still wanted to get a post done for the day and out there, so when I’ve run out of time, I’ll use either the “quick hit” format, or the “potpourri” format to quickly write a entry if at all possible. That should both simplify my life and allow me more consistency with my entries. And now . . . back to the regularly scheduled posts.

Last year, especially in regards to school, I managed to complicate so many things about my life, from the courses that I took as well as the design philosophies of my own course. 2019 is all about simplification.

Weekly Goals

I’m okay at weekly goals. I generally have a sense of what I need to accomplish week-to-week and order my days accordingly. I’m not really awesome with Daily Goals, as sometimes I only achieve one or two, while making up for them earlier or later in the week. Generally speaking, I know what I have to do in a given week and I use the days of that week to get it done–again, how much gets done simply depends on my mood/time, but generally speaking, I accomplish weekly goals, even if I don’t always accomplish my daily goals. I’m using this to help generate rough drafts, character sketches, and pre-planning materials as well as submitting finished materials to markets.

Monthly Goals

This is (usually) where I shine. My mind is “pre-programmed” to think in “chunks” of months. From Pre-K until graduating High School, my uncle took me to the public library for books, every month. I say every month because the loan period at that time was 28 days, with one 28 day extension period (now it is only 3 weeks, with 100 renewal periods which doesn’t work for me and I don’t check out nearly as many books). My allowance was also monthly and I had to calculate my wants and desires to the monthly schedule my parents set forth. My brain is literally “hard-wired” to think in months as I have always had to decide what books I was going to read/buy in a monthly calendar, allocating enough time to finish them, or making them last depending on whether I was renting them from the library or buying them with my (limited) supply of money. I’m using these to finish stories (2nd and 3rd drafts), and draft longer works, like scenes in my Graphic Novel.

Yearly Goals

So, I’m only okay at yearly goals. Usually, these are too far out to plan for as I don’t know how much time I’m going to have available. It is easy to say in January that I will have a novel/screenplay finished in December, but there’s no way of knowing what will happen in the intervening months. So, rather than trying to focusing writing tasks around yearly goals which I’ve done is some fashion or form since the late 90s/early 2000s and been disappointed every time, I’m going to keep my writing goals nebulous. I hope to finish the Ship¬†of¬†Shadows Graphic¬†Novel this year, but if I don’t, I’m not going to be disappointed and I’m certainly not going to give a time-frame. The first 3 months of the year, I know I need to be a reading, reading, reading, to prepare for a major test in the middle of March, so I’m not going to stress if very little in the way of writing happens during Jan-March. Something has to give, so there’s no need putting additional stress on myself by saying I need to write 3 scenes a week for 52 weeks or else. It isn’t going to happen, not with that very important test looming in the near future. Same with the nebulous screenplay and novel that I’d like to write. If it happens great, if not, no pressure. I do have two school related things that need to happen this year (one of them the test that I mentioned), and I’m going to put all my efforts towards those and if I happen to accomplish any of the writing ones as well then hey, bully for me!

So, finishing up, I’m really working on simplifying my life (esp. my writing life, but in other areas as well) to see if I can become a more productive writer and human being in 2019. Wish me luck!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story ‚Äď 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel ‚Äď Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Back to the Grind

Image Source: https://medium.com/the-mission/the-daily-routine-of-20-famous-writers-and-how-you-can-use-them-to-succeed-1603f52fbb77

So, last night, I wrote for the first time in almost a week.  I don’t know why I haven’t wanted to write in the past couple of weeks, except that I felt like my writing just wasn’t going well.  While I finished the rough draft of Project Star, it isn’t like finishing an actual project.  There’s not that sustained natural high that there is when one finishes a full project.  However, for some unknown reason, I really wanted write, so I made myself write and I really enjoyed it.

Reading and Writing Taking up the Same Time

I love to read and I love to write and sometimes those two loves compete for my (limited) pool of time.  For some reason, this week, I’ve really wanted to read, but I used the time that I would normally write and just read.  I’m rereading The Mallorean by David Eddings and I feel that has helped me stay sane.  However, my writing time has taken a hit because I’m using that writing time to do my reading.  Last night, however, I was so invested in writing that I wrote very quickly and finished up pretty quickly as well.  I then, still had enough time to read a little bit of The Mallorean.

I Feel Sickness Coming On . . .

The problem is that I think I’m getting sick.  I had a student in class today who had a Sinus Infection and some bronchus going on as well.  Based on how I feel writing this blog post, I really don’ t want to get sick as I have waaaaaayyyyyy too much to do, but it looks like that is what’s happening. Not sure how this will affect my writing as I play it by ear; it just depends on how I feel.  Well, that’s all that I have for now.  See you next week!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†The Independent¬†(Sci-Fi Short-Story ‚Äď 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†Project Star¬†(Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†Ship of Shadows¬†(Sci-Fi Graphic Novel ‚Äď Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 31)

Finished Rough Draft for Project Star

Yay!¬† I finally finished something!¬† Last week I managed to finish the rough draft for Project Star, a Science Fiction project that has been in the back of my mind for quite a while.¬† Even though it isn’t ready for me to show anyone (the main character doesn’t even have a NAME yet), it still feels good to get all of the plot down on paper.

Character Over Plot

Now, I’m a HUGE plot guy, but as I reread¬†The Belgariad¬†and¬†The Mallorean¬†to keep myself sane with all the work that I have to do, I find that now that I know the story so well, I’m skipping over the plot elements and just focusing on the character elements and reliving (vicariously) through the characters the same type of fun serious-comedic dynamic that I used to have with my family before they passed away.¬† The point I’m trying to make is that even though I read it at first for the story (characters and plot), I keep coming back to it over and over again for the characters.¬† I knew this instinctively, but I figured my characters were strong enough to overcome my tendency to focus on plot over characters, but that’s not the case.

Balance in the Force

Today, I stumbled across this YouTube video that describes one writer’s preference for characters over plot (I’m adding it at the end of this entry).¬† While I think that he may push the needle too far in the characters camp, I still found his argument compelling.¬† I think I’d like to use his ideas to “balance” my writing.¬† By trying to get the Rough Draft done and focusing on plot, I think now it is time to stop, reflect on the character, and really dig in and give the character a history, some motivation, traits, and a real personality.

Oh, yes, and a name would be nice as well. ūüėČ

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†The Independent¬†(Sci-Fi Short-Story ‚Äď 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†Ship of Shadows¬†(Sci-Fi Graphic Novel ‚Äď Script, Issue #2, Currently on Script Page 30)

The UnPower of Three

Well, I tried an experiment, but it didn’t work.¬† For those who are regular readers of the blog, you will remember that late in September (or perhaps earlier) when I decided to try maximize my writing time.¬† I had bought a set of letter holders and they are designed to hold three letters at a time.¬† So, my thought was, let me try to select three projects that I’m really interested in and just rotate through these three projects and hopefully I will be able to maximize my writing time and complete 3 times as many projects during the same time.

False Trails

It seemed to work when I finished the 1st issue of my¬†Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel this way.¬† However, after finishing that issue, I’ve struggled with time and haven’t been able to really finish/work on anything on a consistent basis.¬† I’m even having problems writing blog entries, which should be easy as I’m basically holding myself now (during school) to 250 – 300 words for these posts (which equates to about 15-20 mins worth of writing).¬† Add in about 10 mins to find an image, note the image source, and do the tagging for the blog entry, and I’m sitting at about half an hour or 30 mins to do an entry and I feel that is doable, but the proof is in the pudding – the fact that I’ve been highly erratic for the past three¬† to four weeks is telling me something is wrong.

Going Back One Project At a Time

So, basically, I just want to let you know that I’m going back to working on one project at a time.¬† I really want to just finish projects and “build” my stories while making them as best as I can. I don’t want to belabor the point, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m going back to trying to finish one story at a time (either rough draft, 1st Draft, 2nd or 3rd draft, and submission draft).¬† Hopefully, this will help.

Gotta’ run!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†The Independent¬†(Sci-Fi Short-Story ‚Äď 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†Project Star¬†(Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†Ship of Shadows¬†(Sci-Fi Graphic Novel ‚Äď Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)

A Working Writer Writes

This is an extremely hard thing to figure out.¬† There is something about writing in which we give all the praise for writing that¬†has been written versus writing that is¬†being¬†written.¬† Grades, publications, and feedback all come from reading writing that that has been produced rather than writing that is in the process of being produced, but for me, I need the drafting process.¬† I can’t be a “pantser” or a “gardener” because I need the multiple drafts to essentially work on different elements of the story at different times.¬† For me, trying to do character, dialogue (which is a function of character), plot, setting and theme all in one go is simply too much for me as a writer.¬† I need to be able to separate these individual elements out rather than trying to focus on them all at once.

The Architect, Builder, and Craftsman

There is an image of the Eiffel tower is being built.¬† We see its base, and we see it being constructed and being erected slowly, piece-by-piece, but at the end we see the completed masterpiece.¬† This is basically the way I write.¬† I build up images and impressions.¬† They seem so clear in my mind, but as I write them, I find that they are really “fuzzy” and “blurry” (in terms of pure storytelling).¬† The more I work on them and revise them, the “clearer” they become (again, in terms of storytelling).¬† While my new stories might not work in terms of publication because they are not as “grimdark” as the current Sci-Fi/Fantasy works, they do seem to be a¬†lot closer to the vision that I had in my head for the original story genesis.¬† Now I just have to find a way to keep drafting (and perhaps speed up just a bit) so as to get more work done monthly, so that I can¬†finish projects and feel a sense of accomplishment that also drives my writing.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†The Independent¬†(Sci-Fi Short-Story ‚Äď 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†Project Star¬†(Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress:¬†Ship of Shadows¬†(Sci-Fi Graphic Novel ‚Äď Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)