Two Steps Forward, One Step Back…

Last post I put on my rose coloured glasses and gazed back into the mists of the year just gone. With the quiet determination of someone desperate to prove to themselves that their time was not wholly spent on Netflix, Twitter, or picking LOL Dolls up off the floor after my daughters, I busied myself with looking at the achievements of the year. That done the next task is at hand, looking forward, setting goals, gazing at the metaphoric mountain peak that lies somewhere in the cloudy distance of 2019 and plotting the climb. Of course, I’ll probably stay at the base camp for a while… It’s warm, has good WiFi, and watching the social media rage of a bunch of people upset that Gillette dared to suggest that being a decent human being is worth the effort is both depressing and amusing, though mostly, I fear, the former.

Where was I? Ah, Goals! A capital ‘G’. Not capitalised for any of the normal grammatical reasons of course, but for it’s significance. Goals are those things we too often tell ourselves we would like to achieve while quietly recognising that, yes, it would be nice to achieve that, but the scones are warm, the beer is cold, and the cricket is on. Tomorrow will be the day I leave the metaphoric base camp…

The beautiful thing about tomorrow, of course, is that it’s tomorrow, and tomorrow, tomorrow will be tomorrow, and so on. Last year I managed to tick off a bunch of things, and I’m glad about that, but did it get me any closer toward my overall goal? What even is my overall goal? My five year plan? Well ultimately I’d like to Write. Write with a capital ‘W’, as in Write for a living rather than a hobby. So this year, my goal is to take some steps in that direction.

Now, I wrote a lot last year, and the year before, and the year before that. Somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 words a year for the last three to four years at least. That’s good. Plus it’s nice to be paid for that work, but it’s not my own fiction, it’s not my own produce, it’s produce for other companies. It has helped me to build muscles I wasn’t sure I had, like the ability to sit down and write every night, to plot and plan and execute, and to hit deadlines. It has taught me to save, save, save, then back up those documents I saved, and make sure they’re backed up, and then just to make sure, save again. It’s taught me that sometimes I feel like writing and sometimes I don’t, and that the words that were dragged from my fingers, a month later, are impossible to differentiate from those that positively flew. Those are all good lessons. But now I need to make sure that 2019 moves me a couple more steps in the direction of my ultimate Goal (note the ‘G’). I need to write more fiction. I need to write more things that are mine.

So onto the goals!

I want to maintain my freelance work. It doesn’t pay brilliantly, especially in the Role Playing Game industry, but I enjoy it, and it has helped me get better. I have made some good contacts, and worked with great people. I’d like to keep all those things up.

I want to write at least one short story a month. Just one isn’t a lot, but there are other goals here, and other writing to do, so one is enough for now. I’d like to edit them, rewrite them, and submit them.

I want to finish plotting out one of the many novel ideas I have. I’d like to select one of those many and write it. I mean actually write it this year. Like hit 80,000 words by the end of the year. They don’t have to be brilliant words, they don’t have to be the best words, but they have to be written words. As the saying goes: you cannot edit a blank page.

For some reason or other I started writing a role playing game last year, rules, setting, the lot. I’d like to finish that this year. I’d like to finish it, and then decide what I’m going to do with it next, maybe not in that order. If it feels good I may look for a publisher, I may look to Kickstarter, I may just publish it as an indie game online, but I want to do something with it. It feels good right now, and I want to explore it further. I like the foundation, I like the setting concepts and themes, I like this beginning I have, and now I need to add flesh to that skeleton and see if I can bring it to life.


I want to keep up with the writers group thing I started doing with a friend of mine. It’s been good, and encouraged me to write more, even if just to keep up. Meet up every fortnight, and maybe connect to other writers in our area, who knows.

I want to read, I know it seems silly, but it’s easy to relegate the things you assume you’ll do at some point to some other point that isn’t now. I read more last year than I have for many years, and I want that to continue. I used to read voraciously, and while I have other ways to spend my evenings now, the curse of being an adult, I need to read.

I want to role play on a regular basis. I managed it for most of last year, so it shouldn’t be too hard to replicate that goal. Testing the adventures I am writing for other companies, testing the system I am developing for my own RPG, playing another published game, whatever, just playing.

I want to make sure I game with my family, that’s board games, of which I have too many by any reasonable standard. But a game every night or every couple of nights as a family is the goal. Oh, and gaming with my wife, just the two of us. We used to game a lot together, and then we had kids and that became less, so making sure we spend the time to reconnect over that shared passion, a board game and the occasional movie of course.

Well, I think that’s enough for now. Some goals laid down for the coming year, hopefully achievable. We shall see!

Goodbye and Hello

2018 has come and gone, and as the dust of the year passing settles, it is time to look back and examine what I set out to achieve, and how I fared against that target. It is also time to take pause, and think about the things to come, the things I would like to accomplish by the end of the year ahead.

At the start of the year I set out a number of goals I wished to achieve on my other blog, Castle by Moonlight. There I wrote down a number of somewhat lofty goals – to keep up the freelance work, to blog twice a month, at least, and to draft a novel. Hmm… Let’s start with the negatives, and hopefully end on a better note.

I completely failed at my goal of writing a novel. I have outlines for two novels, wrote a novella, and a couple of short stories, but I did not make tangible progress on a novel. Why? It is partly due to vacillation. Not picking a story idea and running with it. It is partly due to prioritising freelance work, and not making time for my own fiction. It is partly due to procrastination, not using the time I did have effectively. All of these are things I need to change for the coming year, because yes, writing a novel is going to feature in my goals for the coming year. I’m like a moth to a flame… as they say.

My blogging goal was to write at least two blog posts a month, and then I went and starting this blog, splitting my attention between Castle by Moonlight and here. It did not go well. Sure I wrote 18 posts on Castle by Moonlight (petering out in July), and 19 posts here. Sure, combined that is well more than two posts a month. But I haven’t felt settled. I’m not sure still whether to maintain both blogs, abandon this one, or that one, and focus on the one remaining. I get more readers on Castle by Moonlight, but I also wanted to start a blog that was less gaming orientated and more the beginnings of a vaunted ‘Writer’s Website’ (capitals required). I’m not sure what to do on this front, perhaps me posting this here is a subconscious clue I should pay heed to, but I’ve never been much good at introspection.

Freelancing. This fared better in 2018, and I submitted somewhere around 135,000 words all told, pretty much all for the Infinity RPG from Modiphius. This included a campaign of five adventures, and various contributions to about seven books. How it will fare in 2019 is anyone’s guess, the list of books to be written for the Infinity RPG is nearing completion. I have work (I hope), for Red Scar that I am looking forward to immensely, but as for more, who can say.

Unforeseen projects… Somewhere around November last year I was wanting to role play some more, I was between projects, nothing to playtest for Infinity, and the prospect of work for other companies upcoming, but unsecured. I didn’t want to start a new campaign (though I have plenty of unplayed games on my shelf), in case work did pop up that required testing… what to do? Ahh, the obvious answer: write your own setting and role playing game!

Well, I didn’t see it coming, but around mid-November last year, in whatever fit of madness took me, I started to write my own RPG. I have a number of complete and semi-complete games sitting on the shelf, but this is a project that draws on the experiences of the last five to ten years working in and around the games industry, and particularly the last three to four in the role playing sphere.

Within a short space of time I hammered out about seven or eight dice systems (I have finally settled on one, though further testing may change this), and developed a setting I rather like. I wrote the system, some setting notes, and the character creation system, and have managed a test session with my local group. I am thrilled with how it is coming together, and there are some aspects of character creation that tie to world building that I am particularly proud of. How this will develop, or where it will go, is something I haven’t decided as yet, but it is in development, and I look forward to developing it further.

Well, that is the introspective stuff done, the goodbye to 2018. I think I’ll save my look forward, the probing prognostication regarding the coming year, till the next post. I hope you don’t mind, gentle reader, but you will have to wait with baited breath…

Writing Group

A friend and I have been talking about our respective writing journeys for some time. Tonight we had our first writer’s group. Perhaps it is better to refer to it as a meet up, since there was just the two of us, but calling it a writing group make it feel like more of a commitment, more official.

Photo 18-12-18, 12 25 41 am

He is currently plugging away at a webnovel (which you can find here), while I have been motoring along with my freelance work in the Role Playing Game world (which is mostly listed in my bibliography here). Both of us are wanting to write a novel manuscript.

We had previously talked about getting together and comparing notes, offering ideas and criticisms, sharing resources, and tonight was our first step in that direction. We spent the first portion of the night discussing our goals and what we wanted from our meetings, and then both read a little of each other’s work and made some comments. It was good, and while my work was woefully underdone, I walked away with a real drive to ensure that I’ll have something closer to ready for the next meeting. It was nice to be able to sit down and talk about our goals, about our writing habits, and about the things we needed to change in order to achieve our goals. The act of meeting up in order to compare notes places an onus on action, and this added incentive is something I am looking forward to especially!

 

Some links I found useful while we were planning out what our meetings could and should look like:

Writing Group Starter Kit

Jeff Goins, on Writing Groups

Inked Voices, Writing Groups 101

Joseph Massucci, 15 Tips on Writing Groups

A Map…

I posted previously about how nice it is to see your writing all laid out, surrounded by nice graphics and looking good. One thing that I have enjoyed a lot, once the draft has been approved, everything laid out and the book shipped off to print, is seeing the maps and artwork that accompany and give life to the book. I have written or worked on a number of adventures for the Infinity Role Playing game, and for each of these I have submitted the word document, and a number of relevant hand drawn maps – scribbles on paper really. The adventure in the Infinity GMs Guide, E Pluribus Unem, is one I wrote, and I thought it might be interesting to post a picture of the map I drew compared to the finished product from a professional.

Infinity has a distinctive visual style that matches its futuristic setting, and the maps the cartographers, N. R. Bharathae and Richard Gale, have made for this book are really nice. They reflect the setting well, and it’s fun to think back to my playtest sessions and remember how they started as rough drawings on a white board for my players to knock about in, to sketches in my note pad to go to Modiphius, through to the final product.

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Sybaris Church
The cartography in the GM Screen Booklet was done by N. R. Bharathae and Richard Gale.

E Pluribus Unem was a fun adventure to write, it tackles some interesting ideas about a society where death isn’t always the end and the concepts of post-humanism, and it also has plenty of action. I hope the gamers out there who play through this adventure have as much playing it as I did when writing and testing it!

If you’re interested, the Infinity GMs Guide can be found on the Modiphius store here.

 

Edit: The Adventure booklet comes with the GM Screen, and this is not available on the Modiphius store yet. The other available books in the Infinity line are available here though.

 

 

 

I Hit Send…

Finally. I hit send. The short story I wrote all the way back in January has been through about seven rounds of editing, and I finally, finally, sent it off. No doubt I’ll get a rejection soon, but hey, at least I finally hit send!

Submit

I had planned to write a whole bunch more fiction this year, but I have been consumed by my freelance writing, so that hasn’t happened. I can’t beat myself up too much, it’s not like I haven’t been writing at all. I have written almost every day so far this year, for one thing or another, so that’s been good. I am still itching to write fiction though, one short story/novelette for the year so far and half a dozen other concept sketches isn’t enough. I really need to hove off a few days a week for writing fiction, but when deadlines start crowding it’s easy to put the fiction off and focus on the freelance. It pays.

How to divide up a week of evenings… One evening for a blog post, one for a game; that leaves five. Three to four for freelance work, and one to two for fiction? Can I make something like that work? Inevidibly there are other things that crowd those evenings; I need to spend time with my family of course, then there are events and special occassions and so on. I also have a little trouble, sometimes, switching from one project to another. I tend to like to start and finish something rather than have multiple plates spinning at the same time. So maybe it would work, maybe it’s something I need to work on.

For anyone interested I also updated my Resources page, it contains some links I have found useful, podcasts I have found inspiring, and other bits and pieces. It’s something I will keep adding to as time goes on. If there’s anything: a podcast, blog, link, or site you think I should add, by all means suggest it as a comment and I’ll check it out!

A kick…

I’ve contributed to a number of games and game books at this stage, in the last five years these have been for Spartan Games and Modiphius Entertainment, but it still gives me a little kick to see the final product. These are two books I wrote for, both for the Infinity RPG, and both now available from Modiphius.

GM
Cover art by Ho Seng Hui

Haqq
Cover art by Ho Seng Hui

As much of a kick as it is to see my name listed in the writing credits, I think seeing the final piece, a product owed to many hands, is what is particularly pleasing. The covers for both these books look fantastic. I particularly love the cover of the Haqqislam sourcebook, because as much as I love a good action scene, I am a sucker for space ships, and the one on the Haqq cover looks great.

Scrolling through the PDF I love seeing how it has all come together, the interior design and layout, the art, the work of all the other designers, writers and people involved in bringing the book to fruition. I wrote some 20,000 words or so for the Haqqislam book, but reading through it is only one small part of the larger whole. Sitting at the keyboard into the wee hours can feel like an act in isolation, but seeing something come together, from a team spread all over the world, for a company based in the UK, and the licence from a company based in Spain, is a pretty neat thing to ponder.

 

 

 

Setting a path…

I finished a novelette at the start of the year, the first piece of fiction I have started and finished for a while. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, as a freelancer in the games industry I have spent most of my evenings writing, but I haven’t written a piece of fiction that wasn’t directly related to a table top miniatures or role playing game for a number of years. Then things got busy. I intended to write more fiction, had plans in notebooks, word docs, on scraps. I intended to write on this blog on a weekly basis, but my freelance work kicked back into gear in early February, and I have been occupied. It may not seem much by the standards of many writers out there, but I have written and submitted around 100,000 words over the course of the year so far, for seven or eight different books that will see publication over the next year or two. At the start of the year I had the goal of drafting a novel, and now, in September, I am worried that I won’t be able to hit that goal.

I went back recently and started to edit through the story I wrote at the beginning of the year. Aside from a general tightening, there are still things I am thinking of changing, aspects of characters, aspects of the setting, and as a science fiction story, I am concerned the descriptions of spaceflight are scientifically inaccurate despite my research. I am still mulling over whether to cut it down to 6000 words and make it a short story, or whether to continue the story (I have plenty of ideas), and make it part of a larger plot. I also have a bunch of story ideas that have been kicking around and variously demanding attention. In short, I am getting the itch to write fiction again.

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This is a repeated refrain: I want to write fiction. I need to make sure I am disciplined enough to make it happen, to dedicate time to it. I also have freelance work I need to get done. I should also make a point of writing here more regularly than one lone update every few months. What is that stops me writing fiction? I have freelance work to get done, a family to spend time with, a day-job to do. I procrastinate over which idea I should write. I worry about slowing down on the freelance work. I am concerned my fiction just isn’t very good.

I know what I need to do, but doing it is difficult. Stop worrying. Easier written than done. Stop worrying and move at my own pace. Don’t do too much, at least so much that I am dragging myself from bed in the morning or have a hard time engaging with my family after work. I need to permit myself to slow down on the freelance work and give myself time to write the fiction I want to write. I need to understand that my fiction probably isn’t very good, but it won’t get better if I don’t do it. I need to be better disciplined in using the time I do have. I need to pick something and just write it, knowing that it might go no-where, be no good, or need to be changed substantially. But as I wrote above, knowing some of the steps is not the same as walking the path. We shall see…

It’s been a while…

Wow, I had originally intended to maintain this blog by adding something here weekly. I really let that goal slip in a big way this last two months. I haven’t posted anything since the beginning of April, but I haven’t been idle.

Infinity Banner

Over the last two months I have finished off three pieces for the Infinity RPG totaling around 27,000 words. It’s also been awesome seeing some of the pieces I submitted a while ago making it into layout, getting artwork, maps, and all the other things that make an RPG product look great. It’s a good reminder that while you toil away plugging at the keys in front of you, pulling a project together requires a whole team of people working away to produce something great. I have been very lucky to work with a fantastic group of people at Modiphius.

Due somewhere around the start of July I have a piece of about 24,000 words due. It’s been a little mind-bending, trying to wrap my head around the early stages of the first adventure, tweaking details here and there. This is because this adventure ties neatly to an existing story within the Infinity setting, but I am excited to get rolling. Writing background material is great fun, writing an adventure is more involved. Getting all the mechanical things tuned correctly is one thing, making sure we also have all the maps and resources a GM needs to run the thing is another. Both of these aspects makes writing an adventure more work than developing and writing out pure background. In some senses, once the details are hammered out an adventure seems to get written more quickly, and background material feels a little slower to get onto paper. This might be due to the fact that setting material needs to be checked and rechecked, and often requires significant research, as well as creative ideas that fit within the established oeuvre, while adventures less so, but it could also be perception bias, and not be the case at all!

One of the things I have rather enjoyed is seeing the adventures I have worked on as a finished product. Every aspect ties back to the story you have developed and written (or helped with), from the art, to the maps, and so on.  Adventures in the Human Sphere contains two adventures I worked on, and scrolling through the finished PDF, with all the pieces in place, from words to art, is rather pleasing. Fingers crossed that GMs and players out there have as much fun with the adventures as I did!

I feel good, I feel nervous…

I blogged last time that I had three projects lined up as a part of my freelance work on the Infinity RPG. The first has been drafted and submitted. Yay. It feels good.

Infinity RPG Core-Book

Writing every night can sometimes be a chore. The sense that you just want to do something else, anything else, can creep in and cause you to procrastinate. I’ve had my share of that feeling, the desire to scroll through Facebook or Twitter, to read something, clean up, paint some miniatures, get some games played, watch Netflix or a thousand other things. Sometimes it feels like drudgery, to force yourself to write.

With every night finished though, and that 1000-2500 words written (my current nightly goal), I do feel good. Glad that I made myself do it on those nights when I wasn’t feeling inspired or was feeling particularly distracted. Getting to the end of a draft feels good. It feels really good. Attaching the document and sending it off to my editor, hitting send, it feels great.

Then the waiting begins. The nervous part of the process. I know that some of what I’ve written will need to go, need to be cut or rewritten because of the quality of the words or the lucidity of the text or the relevance to the overall document. This is especially true when working on the intellectual property of someone else. Infinity is owned by Corvus Belli, and Modiphius are producing the role playing game. I freelance for Modiphius.

What I write goes to the line manager at Modiphius, who will comment and edit. It goes to the person responsible for checking the setting at Modiphius, who will comment and edit. I may rewrite at this stage, depending on the number of edits or rewrites required. Or it may go directly to Corvus Belli, the IP holder. Gutier at Corvus Belli will run through the document with a fine toothed comb, and make sure the background and information I have laid out fits the world he has created. He will comment and edit.

The nervous wait comes after the good feeling you have when submitting. I’m not concerned about comments on my writing, those help me get better and can be fixed, but I am hopeful above all else that what I have written serves the purpose of the book well. I am concerned that what I’ve written services the background as envisaged by Gutier well. Those are the things that are the benchmarks for success as far as I am concerned. Making the book good and useful. Making sure it services the gamers who will eventually buy it and read it and play games based on the information it contains. Making sure the words and colour I have added to the setting does justice to Corvus Belli and Gutier.

Fingers crossed they do. Until I get the email back though, it’s pointless to worry overmuch. On to the next thing…

Infinity and one…

Freelance writing for the role playing industry is a funny thing in my limited experience. Flurries of activity, followed by periods of waiting. I have loved it though, and have loved being a small part of the Modiphius Entertainment team; supportive, geeky, gamerly beasts that they are.

The quiet of the Christmas period has in turn given way to the busy season again. I managed to get a novelette written in the downtime (and begin a short story), as well as blog a bit, but now the clarion call to action has me looking carefully at my schedule and blocking out time to get my freelance obligations completed.

Infinity RPG Core-Book

The next two months are going to be busy, I have three projects queued up, with the prospect of more at the end. I will be receiving sections already drafted back from Corvus Belli and my editors with notes on what needs changing, fixing or removing, and I have also had to turn down a project or two for lack of time.

Last year, around September, I tested myself by writing as much as I felt I could manage over the period of around a month. I wrote somewhere close to 50,000 words that I was happy to submit. It’s not a huge amount for those who are experienced, but it pushed me, and pushed me hard. I wanted to test myself, to see what I could put out, what I was comfortable with, what sort of word rate I could manage in a day, a night, an hour. All told I worked out I can typically manage between 1000 and 2000 words a night. Not a huge amount for many, but comfortable for me. I have a job to go to during the day, and a family I’d like to see, so I need to be careful not to burn too much time, or put myself under too much pressure.

The deadlines, though, are closing, and over the next month and a half I will need to get somewhere close to 50,000 words written to meet them. It could have been more, it could have been much more. But thanks to the month I spent pushing myself I have a better grasp of what I am capable to achieving. There was a time when I would have said ‘yes’ to every opportunity, and even now responding with the occasional ‘no’ hurts. But it’s something I need to do, I recognise that. The one thing I do not want to do is to put myself in a position where I can’t hit a deadline.

Now the challenge is to get my routine up and running again. Last year it was writing at least 1000 words a night, every night. After my schedule throttled back over the Christmas period, and has been slowly ramping since, I need to get that back. Getting my routine going again means only one thing: putting my backside into the seat and typing…