“I find having a mortgage to be a great motivator to keep on working.”
Mo Willems

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

A sample postcard to a sample voter
Cover art incorporates photo
politics, postcards, and solid daily gottas
Tue 2017-09-05 23:04:16 (single post)
  • 1,090 words (if poetry, lines) long

So, today got unexpectedly political. I mean, the political component of the day was expected, but my participation was unexpectedly high and early in the day. There were multiple faxes to send, some through Resistbot and some from a physical fax machine, and also postcards to write. So between that and some more routine household chores, my writing got a little crowded out and whittled down to just the daily gottas.

They were good solid daily gottas, though. And good solid household chores, too. I'm not displeased with how my day went. But I do wish the political crises obliging good citizens to action could pace themselves a little rather than piling up all on the same day. Well. One does what one must, given the crises one has.

I did want to talk about those postcards a little. I've started volunteering with Postcards to Voters, which is exactly what it sounds like: get-out-the-vote postcard-writing campaigns for specific key elections. (The current campaign is in support of Annette Taddeo's bid for Florida State Senate District 40 on September 26.) You get started by sending an email to "join" at "tonythedemocrat.org." Then they send you an email telling you how it works and what's expected of you and your postcards. Then you reply with a photo of your first postcard so they can make sure you understand the rules of the road. If you do and your postcard shows it, they send you addresses and you start sending people your postcards.

So that's a thing I'm doing with postage stamps and fountain pens and markers and watercolors and stuff. Activism is fun!

Real quick: Last week's fictionette--which was out on time I'll have you know only I wasn't able to get to the blog to say so that evening--was a bit of a romp called "Love, Death, and Really Bad Movies" (ebook, audiobook). It's about a disastrous first date and also a frustrated serial killer.

And that's it!

YPP Weekend Blockades, September 2-3: Distilling, Bingo, and False Hopes for Meridian's Economy
Sat 2017-09-02 12:37:42 (single post)

It's a weekend for multi-drop blockades, when Trap House will attack Barely Dressed in five places at once on the Meridian Ocean, Knockout and Lit and Crayon Box will attack each other all over the Emerald Ocean, and, on Cerulean, Admiral Finius is pretty much moving in on everyone. Saturday is just packed.

(Then there's a BK attack tomorrow on Meridian's Napi Peak.)

With September comes a new Seal o' Piracy to strive for. This month's requires you to perform 4 different crafting sessions. No need for a subscription or a labor badge if you're patient; just wait for each of your four favorite labor puzzles to come around on the freeplay schedule. Saturday's free labor puzzle is Shipwrightery. Friday's was Distilling. (Friday's free game in real life was Bingo. Turns out, Bingo multitasks with Distilling quite well.)

While I was distilling around on all my pirates on all the oceans, I spotted a rare sight: Doubloons offered for sale at 5000 PoE on the Meridian Ocean. It went 16,000, then 15,000, then 5,050, 5,025, 5,000. Alas, the reasonably priced doubloons got crowded off the market again by the time I checked this morning. But at least the top offer was "only" 17,000 rather than 21,000. Maybe the market-jacking yahoos are getting bored, or, more likely, discovering their get-rich-quick scheme has limits. We can only hope.

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, September 2 ***

12:00 p.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: Crayon Box

12:00 p.m. - Kakraphoon Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Shadows of Sage
Attacker: Ice Wyrm's Brood (2)

12:38 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Crayon Box
Attacker: Lit
Attacker: Knockout

12:39 p.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Crayon Box
Attacker: Lit

12:40 p.m. - Albatross Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: Crayon Box

12:40 p.m. - Sayers Rock, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Crayon Box

12:41 p.m. - Ambush Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: Crayon Box

12:42 p.m. - Marlowe Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Crayon Box

12:43 p.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Lit
Attacker: Crayon Box

5:00 p.m. - Viridis Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Dragon Lords
Attacker: Vanguard

6:29 p.m. - Raven's Roost, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Barely Dressed
Attacker: Trap House

6:30 p.m. - Windward Vale, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Barely Dressed
Attacker: Trap House

6:30 p.m. - Duat Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Barely Dressed
Attacker: Trap House

6:30 p.m. - Hadrian Island, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Barely Dressed
Attacker: Trap House

6:30 p.m. - Stormy Fell, Meridian Ocean
Defender: Barely Dressed
Attacker: Trap House

9:30 p.m. - Ventress Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Crayon Box
Attacker: Lit

*** Sunday, September 3 ***

12:00 p.m. - Napi Peak, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Trap House
Attacker: The Enlightened (4)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, September 2 ***

12:00 p.m. - Iris Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: The Stumbling Solo
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)

12:00 p.m. - Dendrite Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Undertow
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)

12:00 p.m. - Emperor Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Tequila Sunrise
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (4)

12:00 p.m. - Harmattan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Undertow
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (4)

6:18 p.m. - Conglin Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: The Stumbling Solo
Attacker: Secrets of the Deep

in which a tedious writing exercise becomes inconveniently interesting
Thu 2017-08-31 22:48:21 (single post)
  • 1,136 words (if poetry, lines) long

The long blog silence is testimony to the truth of the adage "After derby is too late." Not a universal adage, admittedly, but a fairly reliable one in my little universe. So today I'm blogging before derby. Just before. Instantaneously before. I'm in fact sitting at the folding table in the Officials' Corner at our practice location, and I have until they arrive and need to actually use this table to get this blog post done. Go me!

(I think I will be able to manage posting it after derby. There is no wifi at our practice location unless I beg use of someone's smartphone uplink. And smartphones notoriously fail to get signal in our practice location.)

I found a little time earlier this week to play around with interactive fiction. In Melissa Ford's book Writing Interactive Fiction, I had just got to the Designing Agency section--it's pretty early on in the book, I'm not moving through it particularly quickly--and worked through the Beanstalk exercise. The exercise has, to my thinking, two purposes: It gives you more practice using Twine to give the reader/protagonist choices, and it focuses your attention on whether those choices are meaningful. If they aren't, the interactive fiction isn't.

The exercise was to write a sort of Jack and the Beanstalk... sequel? Alternate plot? Basically, the giant is threatening to come down the beanstalk and STEAL YOUR SISTER. Oh noes! The first scene must end with two options, and each of two ensuing scenes must end with two options, which means there will be four possible endings.

I was not enthusiastic about this.

(Oh, crap, it's 6:30 already. I have to go put my skates on. I will finish this after derby! I will!)

(And now it is 10:00 PM. I'm a little more bruised and a lot more tired than I was when I left off. Now... where did I leave off? Oh. Right.)

I was not enthusiastic about this. I had absolutely no desire to rewrite Jack and the Beanstalk, much less in four permutations. But that was my assignment, so, darn it, I was doing it.

Forty-five minutes and 1,500 words later, I had done it and it wasn't so bad. Having no love for damsel in distress storylines, I had worked every branch toward the revelation that Jack's little sister had become a soldier competent to lead an army. The reader's choices would determine where she and Jack stood as siblings. In one, they were teammates working together to defeat the giant. In another, they were enemies, traitor and betrayed, and Jack wound up exiled for his sins.

It was all very silly, but it still managed to capture my interest by the end of it. That night, on my way to sleep, I couldn't stop thinking about ways to expand the story into something actually worth reading. I could foreshadow the little sister's development into a warrior princess, for instance. I could tell how she'd practiced swordfighting and climbed every tree in sight so she could grow up as fierce and strong and brave as her adored big brother. I could note the foolishness of Jack treating the giant like a personal problem when in fact his little farm was part of a great big nation which the giant might rightfully be seen as invading. And what about the harp? Did she resent Jack for having stolen her during his earlier foray? Did she miss living up in the clouds? Was she the medium by which the giant delivered his threat?

And so on, and so forth. And what's ridiculous about it is, it's probably not going to be commercially viable no matter how well I revise and expand it. The entire premise is from an exercise in a well-known (I think?) book on the subject, which other aspiring interactive fiction authors have no doubt already worked through themselves, and there aren't that many markets for interactive fiction at this time. So I really shouldn't let myself obsess over it, at least not until I've got a bunch of other projects out of my hair. Like, say, the short-short I want to expand into an interactive piece that actually is commercially viable. Hey, brain, maybe we should obsess on that story, and not on this one, what do you say?

Darn it, Muse! You are so inconvenient!

*Sigh.*

Lastly, some quick fictionette news: The freebie for August 2017 has been released. It's "Tina, Destroyer of Worlds," and you can now read/download it as an ebook, an audiobook, or as a webpage via Patreon regardless of your patron status. Also I finally put the Fictionette Artifacts for April in the mail. I hope not to take so long with the ones for May. If I take a whole month to do each one, I'll always be three months behind, and that would be depressing.

YPP Weekend Blockades, August 26-27: Wherein some things are prompt and others are tardy
Sat 2017-08-26 13:03:22 (single post)

So I'm late with the Friday Fictionette again, but that's no reason this blockade schedule can't be right on time. And this weekend it actually matters because there's no fewer than four blockades kicking off right at noon today. All of them are on Emerald. (So, yeah, I may have to take a few hours to earn a little PoE before I jump into the overdue writing project. Sorry kinda sorta.) Aren't you glad I'm posting this now and not several hours later?

The Cerulean Ocean also has a healthy itinerary for the weekend. That'll kick off later this afternoon and will be continued Sunday around a quarter past eleven. The YPP Forum highlights Tequila Sunrise's defense of Lagniappe Island and Blackstar's defense of Olive. Both flags promise a raffle to help incentivize your joining up and sticking around.

That's it for now! I'll post again when I've finally gotten yesterday's fictionette offering up and available. Hopefully that will be later today, but realistically it may take until Monday again. Argh. Sorry (and not kinda sorta either).

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, August 26 ***

12:00 p.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: The Jade Empire (6)

12:00 p.m. - Alkaid Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: Crayon Box

12:00 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: Crayon Box

12:00 p.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)
Attacker: Lit

9:00 p.m. - Isle of Kent, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: Keeping The Peace

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, August 26 ***

5:46 p.m. - Dendrite Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: The Stumbling Solo
Attacker: Undertow

6:00 p.m. - Lagniappe Island, Cerulean Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Tequila Sunrise
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (2)

8:57 p.m. - Diastrophe Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Blackstar
Attacker: LeanBoys

*** Sunday, August 27 ***

11:18 a.m. - Cleopatra's Pearls, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Family Ties
Attacker: LeanBoys

11:19 a.m. - Olive Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Blackstar
Attacker: LeanBoys

11:28 a.m. - Jubilee Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Blackstar
Attacker: The Stumbling Solo

11:33 a.m. - Eta Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Blackstar
Attacker: The Stumbling Solo

YPP Weekend Blockades, August 19-20: Collect 'em all!
Sat 2017-08-19 12:54:32 (single post)

Saturday! Blockades! See below. Not a heck of a lot of them, to be sure, but on the Cerulean Ocean we appear to have a brand new flag making its first moves, so that's a thing.

And speaking of brand new, an event has been announced for this afternoon on the Obsidian Ocean. The flag Versus Terminus is offering everyone a leg up, regardless of their faction, in memorizing the ocean--or at least the island league points:

Never again will you have to look blank when someone mentions staring in to the Ember Eye or miss out on a skeleton fray merely because you have no way of whisking there. We will have a ship ported at every island for you to jump on and explore.

Between the hours of 2 and 3 PM Pirate Time, send Ush a /tell or apply on the Notice Board for a job with "The Midnight Society." Then you'll be free to whisk aboard their ships and visit the islands they're porting at. Soon "Yer Known World" will be complete, with every island open to you for the price of a whisking potion!

So I'm off to hop up and down on a few islands today. How 'bout you?

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Sunday, August 20 ***

10:04 a.m. - Acanthaster Spits, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Trap House
Defender: The All-Consuming Flame (1)

12:00 p.m. - Anegada Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (3)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, August 19 ***

8:22 p.m. - Harmattan Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Eggocentric Eggcentrics
Attacker: LeanBoys

8:36 p.m. - Olive Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Blackstar
Attacker: LeanBoys

but these words are also words
Tue 2017-08-15 01:23:31 (single post)

This is a blog post about self-accountability, self-appreciation, and word count. What words count? All words count. Because I wrote them, and I can count them.

Someone in one of my Habitica guilds created us a new guild Challenge--a set of Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos for us to add to our personal dashboards and compete with one another in completing. Or, more likely (knowing us), compete with ourselves and root each other on. These were, of course, writing challenges--hence my bothering telling you so. The hope was that as a result we'd also see more activity in Guild Chat, which had been mostly hitherto abandoned for Party Chat. This was unfortunate, because not everyone in our Guild is in the Party. Some of them are in other Parties, and you can't be in more than one Party at one time. So our friend created this Guild challenge.

The Challenge included some Habits which were daily word-count milestones: 100 words, 250, 750, and 1500. I wanted to participate, but up until then I hadn't really tracked word count per day--not outside of NaNoWriMo, anyway. I was only tracking hours per day spent on each day's writing tasks.

So I started tracking word count. I added a new column to my timesheet and started noting the amount of words written as well as the amount of time spent on each task.

Purely editing tasks weren't compatible with this, but it's amazing how few of my tasks are purely editing. I started noting how many words I'd added to that week's fictionette. I started noting how many words happened during freewriting. I even started jotting down the word-count of the daily blog post.

And I felt a little uneasy about this. Should I really "count" the words written in freewriting or blogging? Shouldn't I only count words written in new story drafts? Seriously, wasn't I just gaming the system?

Well, no. Not so much. What I was actually doing was giving myself an extra incentive to do my daily writings tasks. Furthermore, I was giving myself an excuse to celebrate having accomplished those tasks. And I needed that excuse, because the very fact of my questioning whether they "counted" revealed a nasty habit of self-sabotage.

I had convinced myself that some writing "didn't count." I'd convinced myself that I didn't deserve to feel proud of myself for accomplishing certain tasks. I could feel guilty for failing to accomplish them, but I wasn't allowed to celebrate succeeding. They didn't "count" as accomplishments.

Basically, it was the same ugly attitude I remember in my grandmother. I was very young and, in the way of the very young, acutely aware of parental injustice real and imagined. In this case, I maintain even now, it was real. I had noticed that she was swift to punish me for breaking her labyrinthine rules of etiquette and politeness, while my behaving well earned me merely neutral treatment. Basically, the best I could hope to earn with my very best behavior was not being punished. This seemed unfair. My very best behavior wasn't easy! I just wanted to know she appreciated the effort. But she said "Why should I reward you for doing what you ought to be doing already?"

(To be fair, this is the same argument we feminists use against men who demand gratitude and and a steady girlfriend as a reward for not having raped anyone. To be even more fair, these men are adults and theoretically no longer in the stage of childhood where they still need to be taught what good behavior is, or where they feel rewarded by any attention at all and so it behooves parents to reward good behavior with positive attention. Also, we aren't their parents.)

So, yeah. I'd come to define certain writing tasks as "what I ought to be doing already," so when I did them, I didn't think it much to brag on. Doing them wasn't enough to save me from the self-loathing of "Call yourself a writer? When did you last work on a salable story, huh? What have you done for your career lately?" ... it was only enough to reduce the self-loathing to "Well, at least you did something. You're not totally hopeless, I guess."

Which is no way to live.

At one point a while back, I had a big difficult email to write--lots of effort, difficult topic, project I had no enthusiasm for---and I resented the way it was going to crowd out my real writing hours. I decided that since it was writing, of a sort, I might as well count it toward my daily timesheet. If I had to do it, I might as well consider its hours as counting toward my 5-hour goal rather than bemoan its putting that goal out of reach.

Today I also had a difficult email to write. And I had a similar epiphany: Maybe I could break through the resistance by reclassifying it as one of this afternoon's writing tasks. I would put it on my timesheet, log the hours spent writing it, and also log the word count. Then I'd actually get something out of the ordeal besides the frustration of having lost the time I could have spent working on, say, my new story for Podcastle's Halloween-themed submission window.

So that's how an extra 3 hours 15 minutes and 1600 words got added to today's tally of writing done and words written. They weren't easy words or hours, so I'm damn well going to count them. (Also I spent about 20 minutes and 400-some words brainstorming on the Halloween submission, so win-win.)

I'm not going to get silly. I'm not going to start counting my hours spent and words written on reading blogs and writing comments thereon. But I'm not going to discount writing accomplishments anymore simply because they aren't the right shape. All the words count because I wrote them. I wrote them because they were worth writing. If they were worth writing, they damn well count. OK? OK.

This blog post is 1,051 words long and took 45 minutes to write. And that was worth writing, too.

Cover art incorporates pubilc domain photograph via Pixabay.com and clever use of opacity gradients if I do say so myself.
this fictionette is good practice and also not to blame
Fri 2017-08-11 23:53:55 (single post)
  • 1,013 words (if poetry, lines) long

Good evening! It is Friday; here is a Fictionette. "How Grief Transforms You" (ebook, audiobook) juxtaposes a bereft parent, obnoxious gossipy neighbors, and a mysterious phenomenon causing nightly havoc in the forest. It went more or less according to schedule, so it was not the reason I didn't go to the yoga class I was contemplating. That choice is better attributed to how very attractive the idea of a night spent at home was. Introvert, remember? Yeah. So, maybe next week with the yoga.

The Friday Fictionette project is having an unexpected beneficial effect. It's giving me a lot of practice at turning concept into outline into draft. I often have to start the week by writing an outline just because the base text--a freewriting exercise from the previous month--is such a rambling, incoherent mess. This is good. Because you know where else I need to be able to turn concept into outline and then outline into draft? Novel writing.

I have all these novel notes from last year that haven't get been turned into manuscript because, frankly, I'm kind of terrified of commitment. A scrivener document full of brainstorming, worldbuilding, and vague notes toward plot is a thing full of joyous potential. But writing the manuscript means making choices, committing to certain possibilities and rejecting others. It means closing doors and hemming myself in. (It also means writing a shitty first draft, which sucks because it means that the first time I read this novel it will be a shitty first draft. It's an unavoidable step in the process but I really wish it wasn't.)

So practicing this concept to outline to draft conversion in the short form every week will theoretically help make it No Big Deal when it's time to do it in the long form for a novel. Hooray for practice!

On the other hand, I hope to produce fewer rambling, incoherent messes going forward, as I'm trying to hold my freewriting sessions to the beginning-middle-end standard that I mentioned the other day. That way I can skip the outline phase entirely, or, at the very least, have already done the outline phase by the time I sit down to turn the piece into a Friday Fictionette.

This morning's freewriting, by the way, produced the first draft of the next story in what I'm calling the Posthuman Just So Stories series. (cf.) This one involves a faithful dog and a prankster rabbit. It possibly wears on its sleeve the influence of my frequently rereading Watership Down. On revision that factor will either become less noticeable or will look more like I did it on purpose all artful-like an' stuff.

projects proliferate perversely
Thu 2017-08-10 23:08:36 (single post)
  • 100 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 166 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 425 words (if poetry, lines) long

So I was scanning my list of favorite fiction markets, and it turns out Daily Science Fiction 1. only accepts pieces up to 1500 words long, disqualifying several pieces I'm looking to submit, but 2. does accept pieces as short as 100 words. Yay, drabble market! And it also turns out that they will consider flash-fiction series, which is to say, three or more short-shorts relating to a common theme. And I thought, "Perfect! I have this series of drabbles about talking animals in a post-human world. I'll send three of those!"

And I also thought, "They might need a little sprucing up before they go. But it shouldn't take long."

So. Turns out, wrong on two counts.

Count the first: I don't actually have three unpublished. I only have three, period, and SpeckLit took one of them. Not complaining about that, mind you. But it means I only have two unpublished, so I shall have to write another. Cool. Needn't be a drabble, either.

Count the second: In fact, probably best that it not be a drabble. Because the other two? Are not, currently, stories. They are not shaped like stories, not even as basic as the one in "Priesthood Has Its Privileges." They're more like... portraits. So I'm going to have to expand them.

That's what I spent this afternoon doing, when I really wanted to be diving into the whole Twine/Interactive Fiction thing.

And even then I'm not done. Because, even expanded, both of them have basically the same story: Animals muse upon the forgotten past, then the focus widens to reveal that, Lo! Humankind is extinct; humankind is the forgotten past. Look, variations on a theme require variation. More than just "This one's about pandas and that one's about a gull and a sea lion."

Why do things have to be so complicated?

*brb bemoaning the shortage of hours in the day*

kind of like the way pain just means you're alive
Thu 2017-08-10 00:12:13 (single post)
  • 1,200 words (if poetry, lines) long

I've been thinking about interactive fiction. Specifically, I've been thinking about a particular short-short of mine, "Keeping Time," and how I might expand it into an interactive piece. I've actually been thinking about this for a couple years now, but it can take me a while to find myself a chunk of time in which I can do more than think about it. You know how Violet "invents" extra time for herself and her siblings to solve a mystery in The Wide Window by Lemony Snickett? I had to invent extra time for myself. Mostly by getting up earlier and figuring out how better to adhere to a daily writing schedule. So far so good. Deliberate invocation of allergic reactions was not involved.

And but so anyway: Interactive fiction, Twine, and me. Twine! "Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories." I'm learning how to use it. I'm going about this the same way I went about learning PHP: By working my way, page by page, through a book about it. This book here: Writing Interactive Fiction with Twine, by Melissa Ford. Her book may or may not align with the kind of interactive story I want to tell, but it looks like it'll make me a competent Twine user, so.

"Keeping Time" is a very short story, originally under 700 words and later expanded to about 1200, about a character who flees Earth and travels via dimensional portal to other worlds, hanging on tight--despite radically changing environments and perspectives--to their identity and humanity for as long as they possibly can. In its current form, it has five scenes that act as a sort of montage portraying the journey and the changes the character undergoes along the way. As a piece of interactive fiction, I want it to have more scenes--that's a no-brainer--but not necessarily more endings. I want it to be a sort of many-roads-lead-up-the-mountain thing. The ending is sort of inevitable, to my mind, but how one gets there, and how many different worlds one experiences on the way there, and how those influence the remainder of the journey by changing the character either according to or against their will--that's where the choice and variety comes in.

So, less of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure and more of a roller coaster ride with decision points. You get on and off the ride at fixed places, but the shape of the ride from one to the other is up to you.

(Actually I have just thought of an alternate ending. But I'm not going to go into that just now because spoilers.)

You may or may not have seen my old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story Engine? One of my earliest HTML/PHP projects. It's over here, and you can play with it, but be warned it is probably overrun with spam and awfulness right now because I've been an absent moderator lately. (Note to self: get on that.) Anyway, it's an editor and repository of very simple interactive fiction. The first page ends in a choice. Each choice leads to a new page. Each new page ends in a choice or possibly THE END. Anyone can add onto what went before, so it's interactive and potentially collaborative.

That is not what I want to do with "Keeping Time." I want to do something more like what Michael Lutz does with "my father's long, long legs." And I don't just mean the difference in formatting--the difference between interspersing blocks of story with "What do you do next?" on the one hand, and, on the other, presenting choices as hyperlinks from within the story proper. I mean, the variety of ways the choices are used. What the choices are for. Sometimes, the hyperlinks simply advance the reader to the next part of the story--a way to turn the page. Sometimes they act as footnotes--an invitation to examine the hyperlinked concept in more detail. Sometimes they're decision points which will change the story, or your path through the story, irrevocably. Sometimes they're more like scenic bypasses, or branching, braided streams that take a detour around farms and fields before rejoining the main river. There's a lot of complexity there, many different ways of shaping reader experience. Or, rather, many different experiences to let the reader choose.

Also it never stops being a story. Interactive fiction straddles the line between "story" and "game," with some examples falling more to one side than the other. The exact placement of that line, and what falls on which side of it, is subjective. I want to create something that's still very much a story, not a game--at least according to my version of that line.

On another note: The more I think about this story, the more ideas I get, the more ambitious the whole project becomes... and the more terrified I get of taking it on.

This is worth noting: When I become afraid of a (writing) project, that's generally a sign that the project is worth doing.

Can I please progress to the point where fear turns into excitement and I stop eating my own stomach lining? Please? I would like to get to that point tomorrow. It would make my writing life a more comfortable place. And I would like it to be a comfortable place, seeing as how I intend to spend a lot of time there.

what you can never have too much of
Tue 2017-08-08 00:30:04 (single post)

Greetings from the tail end of a very satisfying Monday. It was a day made up of writing and household work and quality video game time. And this despite a kind of rough-start morning. If all days could be like to day, I could get a huge lot of stuff done indeed.

Speaking of getting a huge lot of stuff done, check out an online acquaintance of mine, Cora Buhlert. For the third year in a row, Cora wrote one short story a day every day for the entire month of July, plus a bonus story this year. I am in awe, inspired, and just a little jealous. If I could finish one short story a week I'd be well pleased. (One submittable short story. Friday Fictionettes don't count. Although finishing one of those a week isn't exactly nothing, credit where credit's due.)

Underlying the challenge of writing a short story every day is another challenge, that of coming up with a viable story idea every day. (That's something I've got at least a slight handle on, what with my daily freewriting-from-prompts session.) Cora addresses that hurdle here:

So let’s talk about inspiration: Where on Earth do you get inspiration for 32 stories, one for every single day? As in previous years, I used writing prompts (Chuck Wendig’s are always good), random generators (particularly name generators are a godsend, because you’ll have to come up with a lot of names for 32 stories) and images – mainly SFF concept art, but also vintage magazine covers – to spark story ideas. By now I have a whole folder on my harddrive which contains inspirational images – basically my own catalogue of concept art writing prompts. Other sources for inspiration were a call for submissions for a themed anthology, a Pet Shop Boys song I heard on the radio, 1980s cartoons that were basically glorified toy commercials, an article about dead and deserted shopping malls in the US, a news report about a new system to prevent the theft of cargo from truckbeds, a trailer for a (pretty crappy by the looks of it) horror film, the abominably bad Latin used during a satanic ritual in an episode of a TV crime drama, a short mystery where I found the killer (the least likely person, of course) a lot more interesting than the investigation.

Ideas are where you find them. Rather, ideas are where you recognize them.

My own writing prompt routine had been growing stale and needed shaking up, so I was happy Cora's blog post lingered a little over the question of inspiration. She mentions Chuck Wendig's blog--in specific, I believe she's referring to his weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. He challenges his readers to write a new short story each week (hey!) based on Monday's prompt and to share the results via a link posted to the blog comments by that Friday at noon.

While I won't be participating in the show-and-tell portion of the game, I have begun using his prompts for my Monday freewriting. Incidentally, what came out of last week's "slasher movie edition" will show up as the first Fictionette in September.

And I'm coming back to my old beginning-middle-end standard. That is, instead of just babbling around the prompt for 25 minutes, I want to wind up with a piece of writing that, however rough, has an identifiable story shape: a beginning, a middle, and an end. I used to do that in college every morning before my 8:00 class--I used to get up at 6:00 in those days--but instead of a timer I used the length of a printed page as my endpoint. This obliged me to a quick revision stage, on top of everything else, in order to get the word count just right. If I started doing that again--the beginning-middle-end thing, not so much the length-of-a-formatted-chapbook-page thing--I think it would naturally lead to my completing and submitting new stories more frequently.

Bonus: Via this week's Flash Fiction Challenge, here's the Magic Realism Bot! It is a Twitter bot. Several times a day, it tweets writing prompts with that special magic realism sensibility. The one I chose for this morning's freewriting session was this:

A 15-year-old pianist has an unusual ability: He can sense the presence of deserts.

— Magic Realism Bot (@MagicRealismBot) August 7, 2017

I wound up with a world in which climates and microclimates had begun to move around like sentient creatures, and our teenage piano prodigy was translating the movements of the desert that was coming to swallow his city whole into the movements of a sonata. At the end, his piano fills up with sand and begins to play a song that is truly strange.

It's got potential. In my head, where it sort of kind of already exists in a way that Schrodinger's cat would recognize, it has a bit of that melancholy "shimmery" feel. But first I have to write it.

So! Armed with all the inspiration, I go forth into the week. Huzzah.

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