Friday, March 9, 2012

Transformation: from Gamer to Game Writer

I'd been following Joe Bloch's blog for awhile when I caught the notice for his self-publishing company, BRW games: "Now Accepting Submissions."

I had been tooling around with some ideas (having come back to pen and paper gaming after a short hiatus) when it occurred to me that writing for a publisher was the key missing piece for me.  Having precious little time to actually game, the idea of adventure writing during my free time grew into a passion.  After a few emails back and forth with the very gracious Joe, I began writing, using his excellent Adventures Dark and Deep beta ruleset as the gaming framework.

Writing about games is, clearly, very different than gaming, though many of us in the blogosphere seem to enjoy musing on gaming as much as the act itself.  What I was not prepared for, however, was the rather gaping chasm between being a DM and being a writer for DMs.  Now, after over a month of going at it, I can confidently say: it's harder than it looks.  As a fairly competent writer, I had no worries about being able to put proverbial pen to paper; my concern quickly became how to best organize my ideas into a coherent whole, and how to best capture those elusive ideas before they slipped away into the mental ether.  Pages and pages of yellow tablet paper quickly filled up.  Everything has to be explained.  One simply cannot expect implications, transitions, or clues to be obvious.  As part of discovering the need for Clarity, I achieved crystallization of a trinity of masters that I was to serve.  The quest of writing thus became a trial to attain three sometimes-conflicting objectives, Clarity, Creativity, and Productivity.

Creativity is, itself a fascinating topic.  My good friend Brodie is an expert on the topic of creativity and the very notion of the genesis of ideas.  What quickly became apparent to me was that in adventure writing (as in painting, sculpture, movie-making, or any other creative endeavor), it has all been done before.  As I drew and populated a low-level dungeon, I kept kicking myself -- oh, great, another lowbie Kobold encounter.  But I trudged onward, trying to make that Kobold encounter as memorable as possible.  Eventually, I gave myself a break, for at a slightly deeper level lurked the thought, "people expect it to be that way."  There was more than one Hollywood western, after all.  In the end, like Hollywood producers, I determined that the end result, creatively, should be the same only different.  By infusing creative organizational elements, interesting locales, new monsters, memorable NPCs, a variety of situations, and unique treasures, I could hopefully deliver something familiar yet interesting -- something worthy of a ten-to-twenty dollar gamer investment, perhaps.

Productivity is ever-present.  The output must be generated.  This requires real time in front of the keyboard and at the graph paper tablet.  To write something for the gaming public -- something that would be entertaining, useful, and worth spending actual money upon -- it needed sufficient bulk.  If all you do is "ideate" and organize, you will never have an end result.  Someone has to do the heavy lifting of hammering out the necessary prose, and it can be a chore.  There have been days when writing up ten dungeon rooms has felt like a major accomplishment.

I have finally submitted the manuscript and have (mostly) resisted the urge to go back and compulsively edit it more, and have moved on to the next project.  But it's hard to move on when the echoes of the last project are still bouncing around ...

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