3/10/2013

A Ramble on Writing

I enjoy writing, it serves as a stress relief for me and I like giving others something to read for their entertainment.  For a long time, it was hard for me to stay focused on a story to finish anything of any significant length, though, without it being a collaborative story.  Last year, I changed my strategy up a bit and finally found some success.

The inspiration for the change came from a few different sources.  First, I recalled my experience in college setting time-goals for my writing (I was on 10-week quarters and had to have, if I recall, 6 stories submitted in the class); that meant I needed to get my stories done in compact forms.  While most were 1 or 2 page vignettes, I did write out a few longer stories which were successful mostly because I couldn't leave them open-ended to write as much as I want.  Second, I got a few minutes to speak with Nate Kenyon (author of Starcraft Ghost: Spectres and Diablo III: The Order among other things) at Blizzcon; we didn't talk about my writing at all, but hearing him talk about his process and how he got support for his books and was excited about getting a chance to jump into Blizzard's worlds was inspiring.  Third, I heard (again at Blizzcon) about one of the past winners of the Blizzard Writing Contest being employed to write stories leading up to the release of Mists of Pandaria; I'll admit, I was jealous, and decided I was going to do that.

So putting all those things together, I sat down with the intention of writing an entry for the Blizzard Writing Contest.  That goal gave me an easy route to the structure I needed to finish; the contest generally took submissions between September and October, entries needed to be between 2500 and 7500 words, and entries needed to be original fiction set in a Blizzard world.  I chose Starcraft, because it was the world I was playing most in at the time and it has always been my favorite of all the Blizzard games I've played.  I reread the Starcraft books I own (and picked up those just releasing, such as Devil's Due), replayed StarCraft and Starcraft II (and another Blizzard game from WAY back in the day, but that's my secret at the moment).  And I set out to get writing.  I began by coming up with a general arc for the story, focusing on having a concrete beginning and end (which was a first, generally, I know major plot points and the beginning, but never the end) and set to work building a spinal outline between them.

I got lucky in that I found a few people who were willing to question my writing and provide feedback to what I was doing.  They got to see the story grow from just under long enough for a minimum entry to about 6000 words.  That was where I felt the story settling down, feeling like it was contained enough to be called complete.  There's no doubt I could add more and, amusingly, I feel like I left the ending semi-open, but at the same time, I think there's a sort of resolution, finality in the openness.

Unfortunately, the Blizzard Writing Contest didn't happen last year.  For a short while, that was almost enough to make me lose sight of the accomplishment I'd made.  My wife had asked me to write a second story, still set in the same world but with, in her words, "more romance."  I floundered on starting that.  But once the year changed, I could look back and be proud of meeting the goal even if I didn't get to show it to who I'd written it for.

With the return of Blizzcon this year, I've got renewed hope that the contest will return.  I got to ask the Warcraft twitter account if they thought it'd be back and got a "I hope so!" which I feel is positive.  So I'm back to the task of the second story.  It's sitting at just a hair under 3000 at the moment, in about 4 weeks of writing, which means I'm moving far faster than the first story.  I can see where my process is being refined so that I can do this more efficiently.  I'm beginning to feel that, even if I don't win the contest, this is excellent practice for me; if I can do it and keep working on it, eventually I'll get to my goals of being published.  I just have to keep writing.