Saturday, October 19, 2013

Carpe Blogiem: My Writing Process



On the forums, Kalzazz asked about a comment I made on another thread:



Recently, I did an interview with a bunch of other authors about Steve Jackson Games' Pyramid Magazine. Although one was late to the party (Matt Riggsby). I had a fantastic time. Even though one of the questions that Doug sent my way before the interview was one I was never able to answer. So this entry is for all of you out there who are curious. First, I need to preface this with a few personal details:
  • I have night terrors. I’ve had them since I was a little kid (about age 4) – they used to terrify me so bad that I would not sleep for days on end. I’ve mostly mastered that fear – I know when I’m asleep, and even though I still wake up soaked in sweat or screaming – that fear does not rule me. When my mother finally found a doctor who could help me, the doctor asked me to write or draw everything I dreamed about. That was the start of a habit that has stayed with me well into adulthood (I have over 25 years of dreams and nightmares bound into ink and paper).  Writing became cathartic for me. A way to exercise the demons that tormented me throughout the night. A lot of my ideas about writing come from these dreams (I even dream about GURPS rules, though mostly in the context of a third-person view dream).
  • My personal grammar is not up to par with either the standards I set myself, or what one would expect from a typical writer. While I learn mostly everything I do by teaching myself (I am an autodidact in every sense of that word) or watching others, there are some things that escape me. Improving my grammar is one of them. I don’t know why, and it's a truly frustrating issue to me. I picked up how to create a circuit board from start to finished product by watching someone do it once, and then reading a couple books. But I’ll be damned if I can learn the 21 bloody rules of comma placement with such ease. Though I am getting better, it is just not fast enough for me.
That said my process usually starts out with an idea I’ve gleaned from a dream, something someone has said to me, a movie I’ve watched, a book I've read, from one of my personal GURPS campaigns, or something suggested to me by muse. She exists, her name is L.A. and she’s my other half. You should follow her on Twitter. She pretty much came up with my Worldsinging article during a conversation we had one night. On a related note, everyone should have a muse. Anyways, once I have the idea the first thing I do is go through my GURPS library and pick out which books I’ll think I need. I either skim the book (if I know the material well) or reread it. After that I stare at the wall for an hour or two or do something physically involving, but distracting. A personal favorite is to cook or bake. I let the idea take form and once it’s at a mostly formed state I write it all down. This first part usually takes less than a day, but I’ve had ideas sit in the back of my mind for longer than that. Writing the actual idea down takes between 2 and 5 days depending on word count and if I write at an even pace (a 7-hour day is typical for me). If I stay up late, drink lots of coffee, and write write write, I can quarter this rate. Keep in mind that GURPS writing (or any role-playing game really) is technical writing. You don’t usually just give word to page and go from there. You have to reference other books, create power builds, or make characters, etc. – all that takes time. Even if you know the material backward and forward, you don’t want to make any sort of mistakes so you’re going to go back at look to make sure. I do that at least. I find that on a good day I can do about 500 words an hour of technical writing and about 2,000 for fiction. Once I have the first draft I send it to my alpha testers (Antoni “Kuroshima” Ten Monr√≥s and members of my gaming group). I then make revisions on their comments and do at least one playtest with the material to see if I can shake loose any bugs during game play. This takes between 1 and 3 days and then I’m on to my beta draft. I’ve got a wonderful group of beta-testers who are just awesome, fun, and knowledgeable people. Among them are Douglas Cole and Emily “Bruno” Smirle, along with a few others who’ve helped me in the past with various issues (I always call out the names of those who really help me with a particular article in my About The Author blurb).

I make more revisions as necessary, until I have something that jives with the GURPS rules and then I edit it. I edit the hell out it. I usually do two grammar/spelling edits, a rules edit, and a format edit. Even after all that, I send it off to my final checker (ElizabethArchangelMcCoy – my mentor in the ways of Sith-Editing). She then proceeds to bash into my brain all the things I missed with my own edit. And she does it in a truly brilliant way: she termed it “edit snark.” For example, as the King of Comma Splices, she has almost broken that habit with her “Comma, Comma, Comma Chameleonnnnnn. Highlighted with red, gold, and green. RED, GOLD, and GREEENNN.”  I then fix the draft of whatever egregious sins I’ve committed against the English language, which takes about 1 to 3 days. After that I go through a final playtest. From there I poke at it a bit more if I have time otherwise I send it in to Steven Marsh and hope for the best. So an average article (about 5,000 words) takes between 4 and 11 days. The longest I’ve ever taken with an article has been a full month (lots of revisions) and the shortest was a mere two days.

So I hope I’ve enlightened some of you on how my process works and thanks for stopping by and reading.

If you have any further questions you'd like me to answer - leave a comment or question either here or in the forums on my blog thread and I'll get to them when I've the time.

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