Revision & Editing… Part 3

Now that I have all my synopsis copied into timelines… and I made each a different color by POV because, well, because I could.

5. Conquer the world.  Going back to Stackpole’s “21 Days to a Novel,” at least what I remember of it, I started to add back in my fourth character: The World.  I put arrows from the scene to a world event that the action in the scene caused, then connected with arrows the world event to the other scenes that would have been affected by the world event.  Heavy paraphrasing here.  If you want to know more I would recommend “The Secrets” podcast and the “21 Days to a Novel.”  Better yet, go see him at a con.  Then I just worked on making all of the arrows flow in the right direction.  There, at least one set of dependencies taken care of.

6. Who did what to whom?  For all of the other dependencies that don’t involve some world event, I went through and put in more connecting arrows from causes to effects.  For the more geeky crowd: use layers to turn on and off the arrows to keep down the confusion.  If layers are beyond your capabilities, not surprising because it took me forever to figure them out, just use different colors or styles. The exercise here is much the same, make all of the arrows go the right way.

Being the visually oriented type, all these pretty pictures make me feel like I have brought order to chaos.  But have I?  Yep, more to come….

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Boardgame Design and Novel Writing

I ran into a number of my gaming colleagues at Gen Con (designers, publishers, industry pundits, etc.) with whom I had become acquainted when SDRGames put out Bootleggers– see Other Publish Credits page.  I also attended another Stackpole seminar where he stressed the importance of character development – a common thread through his 21 Days to a Novel and Secrets Podcast.

It got me thinking that game design and writing share a common thread.

Gaming has two acknowledged major schools of design – European and American.  I don’t want to start a debate or go into a dissertation on the details of both, but suffice it to say that the major differences are in their views of conflict and luck.  European eschews direct conflict and mechanics involving a lot of luck.  Their focus is primarily on strategy and indirect conflict.  The American school of design, by contrast, prefers direct conflict and has greater amounts of luck.  A hybrid, which is what we intended to create with Bootleggers, has elements of both.  To drive the point home, think of Risk: I am attacking your country and rolling dice to win.  I “attack” another country in a Euro game by outbidding them for cheaper resources thus making it more expense for them to improve their armies– that’s indirect and no luck.

Its that indirect conflict that I find similar to the Stackpole character development process.  In Euro game design, there is usually some objective that is required to win, e.g. the most victory points, the most money, longest road, etc.  Each player develops a strategy and plays that strategy to achieve the objective.  It is in the process of playing that strategy that the player’s actions will disrupt other players’ attempts to achieve the objective.  The disruption, or “player interaction” in a game is really important in the design – the preference being greater interaction.  No interaction between players and the game earns the negative “multi-player solitaire” reputation.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Consider each character a unique player in the game and, unlike a vast majority of the games, each has a very unique goal they wish to achieve.  It is in the attempt to achieve these goals they will be faced with obstacles that they must overcome.  Just like game design, it is best if these obstacles are put in place by the other players.  The more one character’s actions to reach their goal disrupt the other character’s ability to achieve their goal, the more engaging the story should be.  The conflict arises between the characters going about achieving their goals.  Sometime this conflict is direct – Sally is going to stab Drake because he has been cheating on her in an attempt to find happiness, or more of the indirect kind – Sally has locked the house and gone looking for her cheating husband Drake.  Drake returns to find the house locked and is forced to spend the night in a cheap flea infested hotel where he is forced to confront his definition of happiness.

Some random musings there for the folks that have an interest in board game design and writing.  Probably a bigger group than the intersection of NASCAR fans who are also opera season ticket holders… but that is another story.

Kilts are like Bacon? (and other #gencon highlights)

Gen Con never fails to deliver – and I did ultimately find the Stormtroopers (see previous post), though one was wearing a kilt.  I nice tartan if I do say so but a kilt on a Stormtrooper?  Indeed.  Scottish Stormtrooper or the kilts have become like bacon – they make everything better.

Another great trip to Gen Con this year.  I would have posted more but wifi continues to be a purchased commodity at the Indy convention center.  $14.99/day for internet access.  The opposite was true of the hotel.  Free, but connections maxed out.  I am betting the $14.99 pay internet was not maxed out.  So what is the right price for free internet?

So on to the highlights:

Elizabeth Vaughan was a treat.  She sat on a number of the panels I attended and though she writes a genre that I have never been interested in (romance) I found her engaging and interesting.  I met her afterward and thanked her for the enthusiasm and encouragement.  Just a real fun, nice, and energetic person.  The comment that she made that stuck with me (paraphrased): while writing you need to hear the things your pre-readers like as encouragement, when done with the draft, you need to hear all the things they don’t like.

I also enjoyed Maurice Broaddus.  He was on the Steampunk panel somewhat by accident from the sounds of it.  As it turned out, I think he had some of the most interesting commentary on the evolution of the Steampunk genre.  The overall opinion was that of an evolution of the genre to something of a Steampunk v2.0 that is more focused on the gadgets and less on the “punk” portion that emphasizes counter-cultural resistance and class warfare.  In that regard, I think my work on The West Wind holds more true to the original Steampunk genre definitions despite being a western mashup.  Overall, expansion of steampunk into other areas (aliens, magic, etc.) being the major trend.  His best story – an offhanded tweet on the needing to correct the racial bias of traditional steampunk by proposing to write “pimp my airship” followed by being forced to write it after hearing back from five editors that they wanted to buy it.

Rigormortis: A Zombie Love Story.  A romantic comedy musical about zombies.  It works and was a lot of fun.  Follow the link and watch for yourself.  I snuck in about half way through and found, after the movie, that I was sitting next to the director and his mom.  I love indie movie fests.

Unicorn City was the hit of the movies for me.  About a slacker gamer that organizes a LARP to prove he has leadership skills in order to get a management position at a game company.  It was superb.  Writing, acting, directing, camera and effects were all perfect for this level of a movie.  Hit al the right buttons for me with some extremely hilarious parts usually involving the centaur.  Check it out if you can at a local movie fest if you can while they are touring.  Their FB page is saying early 2012 for DVD/Blueray.  I’m in.

Aside from the traditional sleep deprivation, sore feet and legs, and too much junk food, it was a great trip as usual.

Gen Con Indy 2011 Goes Steampunk

I know when I am interested in something, I start to see it everywhere. I also know that I pick up on trends, some quicker than others.

In short, maybe it is just me. Then again, maybe not.

My point (I was getting to it…), I am amazed by the amount of steampunk I am seeing at Gen Con this year. Some truly amazing outfits and much more variety

Past years it seemed like you couldn’t swing a vorpal sword without hitting someone in D&D, Star Trek, or Star Wars costume. This year, I don’t think you could unholster a raygun without having several lords and ladies pointing theirs back at you. Next to the cosplay folks over at the Westin, it seems as if steampunk fashion is truly enjoying it’s turn in the spotlight.

Many more clothing booths featuring steampunk clothing. Many more booths adding accessories. Lots of people sporting goggles. Abney Park has a RPG (sold out of course. Gah. Limited shipment for con. I get it.)

Of course I couldn’t be more excited.

But I do somehow sort of miss the stormtrooper checking badges at the exhibit hall entrance…

Gushing fanboy

Ok, committed one of the sins of convention going… Met someone that I am a fan of and going all gushing fanboy. I was worse than a 13yr old schoolgirl, quite literally, she held it together a lot better than I.

I got to meet Howard Taylor of the often referenced here Writing Excuses podcast. I have learned a lot from him and his friends about writing. The encouragement and humor of the show also got me through the tough parts. Having been paying closer attention to his web comic Schlock Mercenary, I picked up the first volume and had Howard deface it.

A great first day at Gen Con.

More on the 21 Days and other helpful podcasts

I started sifting through iTunes and the interweb for podcasts about writing. I was driving an hour each way to work and figured it would be a good way to work on my writing while I really couldn’t work on my writing.

I found the audio version of Stackpole’s “21 Days to a Novel” among other advice he offers here on his website (also available on iTunes):

Secrets Podcast

The other source of writing instruction, probably the best most comprehensive that I have found, is Writing Excuses (also available on iTunes):

Writing Excuses

Writing Excuses is the singular best source of writing instruction that I have found in podcast form. On top of being a great source of information, the hosts are interesting and personable. I cannot recommend this podcast enough. Start at the beginning and listen to them all – you will not be disappointed.

2010 Gen Con and 2011 Gen Con

Aw I am daft bugger.  I should have hit the post button before heading off to work this morning.  Sorry steamers, that means you a double tap of postings tonight.

Getting ready to head off to Gen Con this year (again) got me thinking about how I made it this far with my writing.   (queue the flashback effects)

Almost… a year a go I decided to get more serious about this whole writing thing.  I had always wanted to write a book but just didn’t know how to go about doing it.

I had been attending Gen Con for several years and had noticed an increase in the number of seminars for writers.  Either they were increasing or I was just paying closer attention, not sure which.  Most of the writing seminars were focused on writing for game supplements, but there were a few for writing longer works.

For $8 I took Michael Stackpole’s “21 Days to a Novel.”  This was going to be the seminar that would teach me how to do it!  I attended, took copious notes, and walked away with a kernel of knowledge that I needed to get going.  But still absolutely no idea what I was going to write about…

For those of you heading to Gen Con Indy this year, here is a link to the writer’s events:

Gen Con Indy 2011 Writing Events