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Writing Series #8: How do you stay invested?

What I hear most often from writers switching from short fiction to novels is: how do you stay invested for the long haul? How do you care about the same story for the time it takes to finish an entire book?

As someone who began with novel writing and never really mastered the art of the short story, I’ve always had the opposite question (how do you keep it to a minimum? how do you condense your ideas into just a few pages). But this doesn’t mean I’ve never had that age old book commitment problem. Even the best stories can drift away from us, and even the most dedicated writers will experience the occasional hiccup in their writing schedule. Too much time away–whether it be a busy schedule, a new child, an illness, or just general lack of inspiration–it can make coming back to the book after a writing drought seem impossible. You sit down in front of your story, see these words so old you hardly remember writing them in the first place, and think, how can I possibly keep going? 

Coming back to an old story can feel a lot like a high school reunion: bumping into people you once knew so well but who have now become strangers, and now you hardly know to strike up a conversation. But just like a reunion, you have two choices: runaway and give up on the relationship for good, or force the smalltalk until you break into something real. If you’re lucky, by the end of the night, you can be laughing and having a great time, saying it’s like things “never changed at all” before you’re through. A book is the same way. 

Just as we bring up “the good ‘ol times” in conversations, it’s important to revisit what made you write the book in the first place. Some things that have helped me have included: 

  • Taking notes of my character’s planned emotional and physical arcs over the course of the book. This way if I lose investment or take too much time away and begin to lose that connection to their emotional state, I can return to my notes and see where I wanted them to be and start to understand their state of mind again and their purpose in my story. 
  • Take notes of your planned plot or, if you’re not a structured planner, some things you hope to happen in the story or directions you might like it to go. This will be your road map later if you get lost along the way. 
  • Make a playlist (or other art form, if you’re a painter, poet, etc.) that reminds you of your story. Listening to these songs later can help you to revisit the mindset you were in while writing and spark that creativity. 
  • Go back and reread some of your older, already written chapters. This can help you to remember what the tone of the story was and how the dialogue was sounding. If you don’t and take a long break in the story, there’s a large chance that your story will end up disjointed with two separate narrative styles and tones that will be jarring for the readers (and yourself as you read it back later). This can also trigger the memory of how it felt to write this story last time and to hopefully help you to continue writing it again. 
  • Practice writing a scene with your character(s) that won’t make it into the book. Jumping right back into the novel can seem daunting at times, so it may help to open a new document and write a random event just for practice on regaining and writing your character. Other useful exercises might include an interview, biography, or sample social media account for your character if applicable. 
  • Just keep writing. Sometimes you have to write something terrible to break through to something good. But don’t worry. The delete button exists for a reason, and the editing process will be a lifesaver down the line. 

To all the writers out there: how do you keep yourself focused and interested during the course of writing a novel? Do you have any tips for maintaining writing momentum?

Feel free to add to this post or submit your own advice to share with your fellow writers at ancwritingresources.tumblr.com

You are Not Your Characters

Anonymous asked: “I find myself creating main characters that are similar to each other. The problem is I put them in a situation and write about how they deal with it based on how I would react, because I don’t really know another way. Do you have any tips on diversifying my characters?”

I think writers have a lot more in common with actors than you might think. Really, writers are more like their shy, introverted, and awkward cousin - I say that affectionately of course, I’m a writer, not an actress. 

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This is what I am: watching the spider
rebuild–“patiently,” they say,

but I recognize in her
impatience–my own–

the passion to make and make again
where such unmaking reigns

the refusal to be a victim
we have lived with violence so long

Am I to go on saying
for myself, for her

This is my body,
take and destroy it
?

—  Adrienne Rich, from Natural Resources featured in The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977
Don’t Doubt Your Writing

Anonymous asked: “Any advice for the crippling self-doubt with writing? I do short stories and I never think they’re good enough.”

Get ready for probably one of the worst pep-talks ever written. The first time I heard someone say (and not to me actually), “No one asked you to be a writer,” was probably the first time I realized I didn’t actually have to write. 

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Writing Series #7: Am I Copying?

We all know that plagiarism is wrong. If you’ve written at all, you’ll have it engrained in your head that copying is theft and stealing creative works is one of the worst things you could do in the writing world (no matter how much we wish we could have written that one book, you know, the really really good one). But what about accidental copying?

Every writer I’ve ever met has at some point said to me, “I really like this story, but I think it’s already been done” or “I just finished my book and found out there was one published last year that’s the exact same thing” or “I started reading this book, and I think I accidentally stole its plot.” I know I’ve been there, staring at my favorite books and wondering if I was just a bit too influenced by them, if our plots are a bit too similar, if our writing styles mesh too well. 

But then we have the well-repeated Mark Twain quote: “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” And this just might be the most important quote a writer–or any artist–can ever see. 

Plagiarism is stealing fully formed concepts (or words, or sentences, or pages). Plagiarism is taking the full design. Plagiarism is writing a story about an orphan boy in glasses with a lightning bolt on his head who goes to a wizarding school and defeats the evil wizard who killed his parents with the aid of his redheaded best friend. Plagiarism is not writing a story about a wizard. It’s not even writing about a wizaring school. Harry Potter doesn’t own wizarding schools anymore than it owns orphans. Yes, it has been done before. Yes, it can be done again. 

General concepts are not owned. Magic, teenagers with terminal illness, vampires, werewolves, “quirky love stories”–all these things can be done again. Just make sure there’s a reason for it, make sure that your version is different than the last one, that you’ve “turned the kaleidoscope” so to speak, and are giving to the world a story that only you could write: a brand new take on what’s been done again and again and again. 

And this is a question we should  be asking ourselves no matter what: is what I’m writing important? Is it a story that needs to be told, and one that only I can tell? It doesn’t have to be earth shattering, doesn’t have to be an instant classic. Important can just mean “it will make the right people smile at the right time” or it can mean giving representation to a lifestyle that isn’t often seen. It can mean different things to different people, but it should mean something to you. When you’re off trying to sell this story, agents are going to ask just that: why are you the author to make this story a reality? Why could you and only you write this story? 

But by all means, be inspired by what you read and watch. Media is meant to be absorbed and used, to be a springboard into new media. 

To all the writers out there: how do you determine the uniqueness of your story? How are you influenced by the stories you read and how do the play into what you write? 

Feel free to add to this post or submit your own advice to share with your fellow writers at ancwritingresources.tumblr.com

anonymous asked:

I watched a video named "TF2 2007 and now" & my question what are the reasons why certain games gets downgraded during time?

For those curious, here is the video in question:

First, this is all speculation on my part. I don’t currently work for Valve, and definitely wasn’t around for the early TF2 years, so I really only have my guesses to go on. That said, think back to 2011, 4 years after TF2 launched. TF2 becomes a free to play game supported by microtransactions. Suddenly, certain elements of the game suddenly gain a lot of importance.

When you buy a game, you usually get a physical disc or a download code and have to download the entire game before playing it. The amount of time it takes to download that data isn’t very important - the publisher already has your money. However, with a F2P game that download time suddenly does matter - the longer the download goes on, the more likely person waiting for the game gives up and quits. The longer it takes to get to the fun part, the more likely the person waiting gives up and quits. Most F2P games today have broken their downloads up over time - there’s some kind of small initial download, and then some supplemental download that you get after running the first download and installing. Typically, you get a little gameplay with that first download and the rest of the data is streamed in the background while you play the tutorial.

In addition to this consideration, F2P games absolutely try to target as many players as possible. They purposely try to make sure the game can run on as broad a set of computers as possible in order to maximize their potential player and customer base. As such, this means that really high quality assets like animation and textures are downgraded by default in order to improve performance on midspec and minspec machines - because you don’t want people spending time downloading assets they mostly won’t be using. Instead, you can set aside high quality textures and such as a separate (free) download for the dedicated players who really want them and have already bought into the game. 

Clearly, some of TF2′s assets are less detailed. These were changes that was done deliberately - at some point in time, artists actually crafted new asset data for this. There’s a lot less animation data needed because there’s fewer moving parts. The specular maps on a lot of materials were turned down or simplified for higher compression. There were textures that were simplified and downgraded for more space. I suspect that it’s because of the game’s shift to F2P, both to reduce the download size and to help improve overall performance for mid and min spec players at the expense of the top end.


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On Describing Characters

Anonymous asked: “I’ve been writing in first person for my novel, but I’ve found I’m not sure how to describe the main character’s appearance.”

First person in particular can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to describing appearances. I think all the way around the trick of describing the way they look while looking into a mirror is a little tired and often hard to make it feel believable. The method I find most helpful is describing by comparison. 

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anonymous asked:

A lot of high profile kickstarter games seem to have been suffocated by "feature creep." The developers had some small core idea when they pitched their kickstarter to the public, got way more money then they expected, thought they could make a much bigger game, then ran out money before they finished even making the proper foundations of their expanded idea. I have to ask, does feature creep kill AAA games as well, and if so how common is it?

So it turns out that making video games is actually really, really hard, and that’s primarily because estimating how long it takes to complete big tasks is not very accurate. The biggest reason for this is because no single part of a game is really on its own. If we want to add or update a big feature like the animation system, it doesn’t just mean we’re affecting the animations in the game. It also means that we are affecting the AI, the riggers, the modelers, the visual effects, the level design, combat design, and all sorts of other things. Also, by taking up a lot of engineering time, it means that other lower-priority engineering tasks would have to be cut. 

I think part of it is that game development scope just isn’t as scalable as people think, and it’s really easy to make a mistake when doing so. It’s a huge pitfall that a lot of experienced developers fall into. Feature creep happens in the AAA space all the time and has killed many projects. One of the most dangerous phrases in game development is “Wouldn’t it be cool if… ?” because it can easily start with something that seems totally innocuous, but balloons to a black hole of resources that is both mission critical and requires an inordinate amount of work to bring to a shippable state. Feature creep accounts for many of the games that were delayed or cancelled, but also just as many games you’ve never heard of that were killed before announcement. Another big sign of feature creep is when a game has had a really long development time, but the finished product still feels rough or unpolished. In such cases, it’s often because the team poured resources into features and content that were cut during development, which left the core experience feeling rough, especially around the spots where the cut content was excised.

One of the biggest flaws with crowdfunding titles specifically is that the feature list and stretch goals are inviolate - in traditional game publishing, almost all features can be cut if they prove to be too expensive or just not working. The publisher understands that this sort of thing can happen and is focused on the big picture - they did not fund the game for its specific features, and will work with the developer to come up with a better solution for the project. Crowdfunding isn’t done this way - the people who put their money up in these games are often doing so for the express purpose of delivering these features, which makes them sacrosanct. If those features end up becoming too expensive, it’s not possible to cut them because they were promised to the backers. This makes feature creep much more dangerous to the crowd funded title, because a bad feature can end up dragging down the entire project.


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On Filler Words

Anonymous asked: “I have a terrible attachment with just. I use it way too much in my writing, and I know it’s one of those words you should avoid, along with very and really. The problem is I don’t know what words to replace it with.”

Just, very, and really are what I’d call filler words. They don’t actually serve much of a purpose in writing unless they’re part of the voice and they don’t make much of an impact on the sentence. 

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alchemylab  asked:

A lot of Mass Effect Andromeda's problems arose from issues with Frostbite (inexperience, inflexible engine), and I don't understand why EA didn't see this as a problem and just let them use something the team was already comfortable with. The original Mass Effect trilogy used Unreal, why would EA force their team to use an engine that's really only good for crafting FPS games and not big open world RPGs? The only reason I can see is licensing, but that didn't stop EA before.

It wasn’t just a problem with Frostbite. Bioware had already gone through most of the Frostbite growing pains with Dragon Age Inquisition and still managed to get a great critical reception and sales that exceeded expectations. Sure, there were going to be engine limitations in place. There always are - even with Unreal (or any other out-of-the-box engine), there were engine issues that they had to deal with - it’s one of the reasons the leadership decided to switch engines in the first place. The biggest reason that sunk Mass Effect Andromeda was that they poured a huge amount of development resources and time into building an extremely expensive procedural planet generation system that wasn’t fun enough and was eventually cut. 

Procedural environment generation is an enormous feature that is extremely engineering-heavy. Environments are already one of the most expensive kinds of content to build. Normally you need designers to handle layout, environment artists to make the world look believable, prop artists to create objects to populate the world, lighting artists to make sure it looks right. It can take months to build out a single environment. When you make environments procedural, you also need all sorts of engineering to make it work as well - engine programmers, tools programmers, gameplay programmers, graphics programmers, and so on. Because it requires such a heavy engineering workload in addition to the usual environment art requirements, it means that such a feature would naturally siphon resources away from other features.

The original plan was to have a bunch of hand-crafted critical path worlds (the ones that made it into the final game), but also a near-infinite number of non-critical procedurally generated planets where players could fight bad guys, hunt for resources, find items, and so on. One of the technical goals was even to have a seamless transition from planet to spaceship (and vice versa) without needing a loading screen. Frostbite deals with large open world maps pretty well (as shown in Inquisition), but procedurally generated environments are a different beast altogether. The procedural content generation turned out to be an iceberg feature and just kept growing in size until it had consumed far more resources than it should have. 

The team leads eventually made the tough decision to cut it because the writing was on the wall - even after months of crunch to make it work, they could see that the feature still needed far more resources to get it into a shippable state than they could feasibly fit in the schedule. There was just no way for them to build both it and the rest of the game with the available resources in the time remaining. So… they salvaged what they could from it, but much of it (especially engineering time) was a lost cause. That’s one major reason why ME Andromeda felt incomplete at launch… because it had a huge chunk carved out of it in the last year or so of development. 

As an engine, Frostbite can do a lot of things. It worked for Battlefront, it worked for Madden and FIFA, it worked for Need for Speed, and it worked for Dragon Age Inquisition. There are always growing pains when making an out-of-the-box engine work for a game’s development, but the real issues with Andromeda were primarily scope-related. They misjudged the resource cost of the features they wanted to build within the engine and it bit them hard.


Got a burning question you want answered?

live-and-breathe-fantasy  asked:

Do you have any tips on creating a new world with new races and cultures?

Here is a post I made about world building and here are 30 World Building Questions. Moving from there, it’s always a good idea to take a look first at the real world and then decide what sort of world you want. Will it be a utopia or will there be racial tensions? If there are, why? What does this stem from? In our own world, we can see that racial and cultural tensions stem from a history of slavery in some places, of economic resource distribution in others, from physical characteristics and an idea of genetic superiority, or from a clash of gods and religious practices, etc. Any of these true real-world dilemmas can play into your fictional world, but whether or not they cause tension, it will still be necessary for you to understand each. For example, you should know:

  • What is the most common physical look of the race or culture? Does this differ often? How does their physicality affect their place in the world?
  • What religious customs does this culture have? Do they have holidays associated with this religion? Do they pray? Does a higher being dictate their actions? 
  • Are any foods important to this culture? Are recipes passed down? Are any religious?
  • How does gender affect this culture? What about sexuality? Age?
  • Do they historically come from a certain climate or natural location that would affect how they interact with the world or other people? (For example, a beach-side culture might have more water gods or fish-based foods, etc.)

Take a look at the 30 questions above, and make sure you can understand as many as possible. As soon as you fully and completely understand each cultural individually, you can then begin to play with how they interact with one another: whose beliefs could cause them to clash? Who would get along best? Is there a history between them: wars, religious persecution, etc.? 

Here are some other resources I hope will help:

You’re Not Too Lazy to Write

Anonymous asked: “Any advice on not to procrastinate and not become lazy to write? I end up taking longer days to write out my story when I don’t feel the mood.”

I know it sounds ridiculous, but in my experience, writing every day is the best way to combat that. Don’t force yourself to write a ton. Just write a little. A page maybe if you can - a few hundred words.

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On Writing Dark Fiction

Anonymous asked: “I was looking through writing tips and saw something about writing dark stories. It says how “dark” does not mean twisted, brutal, or gory. Then I wondered, what is it exactly?”

Hmmm… That was probably not one of my writing tips, but whoever said it is kind of right. Dark when applied to fiction kind of has its own connotations and it’s not really synonymous with horror at all. 

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Writing Series #11: How Does a Writing Group Help?

It’s often lumped into the question do you need an MFA? And while that answer is, obviously, no–though there are many perks to it, and I am a future MFA student myself–because people have been publishing for years without one, the question of whether or not to share your writing is a bit more complicated. I suppose the answer, technically, is also no: just like you don’t need an MFA, you don’t need anyone to proof read or approve your story for you. But that doesn’t mean it won’t help. 

While there are always going to be the reclusive writers that don’t speak to anyone–the Emily Dickinson’s of the 21st century and beyond–there is no denying that writer’s groups assist writers. That’s what they’re built for. They help you to gauge how your story will be received by the public, help you to point out holes in your plot, help you to fine tune your sentences and catch typos and mistakes. Basically, they help to polish your work, to make you ready for a publisher. And with publishing become more and more competitive every year, this is no small thing, as most agents and publishers won’t even consider a piece unless it’s perfect (and then they will still change it to their own liking after it’s accepted). 

But how do writing groups work?

In my experience, most writers’ groups go a bit like this:

  • On a specified day, you turn in a sample–maybe a chapter, 10-25 pages–of your work to the group at large, printing out enough copies for everyone. 
  • The next time you meet, the group discusses your work while you sit in silence. Yes, I repeat: you do not get to speak
  • Someone–maybe the professor if it is a class–may ask prompting questions. For example: What was your favorite line in the excerpt? (Always start with the positives) Or where were you confused? What did you think the story was about? 
  • The writer then has a chance to respond. If what the group thought the story was about isn’t what the writer had intended, this is a great chance for them to point this out and to ask the group to pinpoint what made them think what they did. 
  • The group will turn in their copies of the work, written upon and annotated, and the writer takes them home. 
  • The writer does not look at the feedback for a few days–because too much criticism all at once is hard to take.
  • Finally, the writer gathers the papers along with the notes from the discussion and starts editing. 

If a writing group goes as planned, the writer will learn exactly how their story is being received by readers, and this is crucial: you’ll know before it’s too late if you’re conveying the story you hoped to. Because the writer isn’t allowed to speak until the end, the readers have no pre-conceived notions and answer honestly, having no idea what the author truly intended. They can’t tell you what you want to hear, only what they truly think. 

Does this mean everyone in the group has a valid opinion? Of course not. Not every story works for every reader. Even best sellers have been hated by some readers, and that’s okay; you can’t please everyone. What you’re looking for is a general consensus. If everyone in the group says they loved a particular line but one person hated it, chances are, you can keep that line. But if 8/10 people were confused by it, maybe it’s time to figure out why and get to editing. 

In short, a writer’s group can save you a whole lot of heartbreak later. All too often, authors spend years of their lives writing a story only to find out later that the story they love makes no sense to their readers, that the plot is illogical, the characters stale, or the book simply doesn’t work. Having a good group of educated readers and fellow writers helps to keep you on the right track and give you direction. 

So to all the writers out there: have you ever participated in a writer’s group, and if so, how has it helped you? What have you noticed are the benefits of discussing you work while it’s still in progress?

Feel free to add to this post or submit your own advice to share with your fellow writers at ancwritingresources.tumblr.com

Struggling to Start a Novel

Anonymous asked: “I really want to start writing a book that I’ve had ideas for rolling around in my mind for a while now. The only problem is I can’t find the motivation to start writing and I’m struggling with getting started. It feels like my imagination is dying!”

Starting a novel can sometimes be intimidating. It’s not physically difficult, but mentally you might face some unexpected roadblocks. I can’t say this is something I’ve ever particularly worried about, but it happens. You get in your head and psych yourself out. You love the idea you’ve been working on and feel there’s a lot riding on it when it comes to putting it on the page. 

The secret to getting over this feeling: take a deep breath and remind yourself that this isn’t the first chapter, this is the first draft. No one will know what you’re writing or if you’re writing anything great. In fact, you can even tell yourself, your idea’s not perfect. It needs work still. Even say, this is just for fun. We’ll see where this goes

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On Writing Believable Romance

Anonymous asked: “Do you know how to make a fictional relationship realistic?”

I don’t know that there is one perfect answer to this. You can follow all the “rules” and still not pull it off. What I think is most important is that you believe that these characters are real people and you believe the bond they share is real.

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scorpio · october 23 - november 21

Scorpio-born are passionate and assertive people. They are determined and decisive, and will research until they find out the truth. Scorpio is a great leader, always aware of the situation and also features prominently in resourcefulness. You can be sure that the Scorpio will keep your secrets, whatever they may be.

The Three Dimensional Villian

@positively-pan asked: “How do you write a good villain? I don’t want her to be two dimensional but I’m not sure how to prevent it.”

So, we’ve talked about redeeming your villains or whether a villain can be just 100% evil or whatever, but really, that’s not what I’m interested in today. Today is about dimension. How can you make a character feel like a living, breathing person?

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