July 2020 Camp NaNo Recap | Writer’s Life

This past July I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, a more lowkey version of the annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge that takes place every November.

For those unfamiliar, the November NaNo challenges writers to write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in 30 days. For a lot of writers, the deadline provides the right kind of motivation they need to finish a project. In fact, there are several published books that began as NaNoWriMo projects!

Camp NaNoWriMo follows the same format, but it’s more flexible. It takes place twice each year, in April and July. Participants are able to choose their own goals, and they’re encouraged to try some “non-traditional” NaNo projects. For example, some writers use this time to edit an existing project, write poetry, or even work on things like a graduate thesis or non-fiction.

So as I was saying, I participated in the July 2020 Camp NaNoWriMo. If you remember my Writer’s Life post from a few months ago, I spent May and June of this year re-working my outline for Project Quest in hopes that I could start working on my third (!) draft in July.

I was able to reach my goal of completing the outline – with the understanding that it could change, of course. For July, I set a goal of writing 25,000 words with the hope that doing so would get me through the first act of the novel.

So how did I do?

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I Won’t Become A Number in the System | Exploring the Ending in Supergiant’s Transistor

I don’t usually write two deep analysis posts in a row, but I’m making an exception. Last week, as I was preparing for my blog post about Bastion and how it creates weighty, impactful choices for its players, I realized something similar about another game from Supergiant, Transistor.

Transistor was the first Supergiant Games title that I played, and I had no idea what I was getting into. I fell in love with its art, music, and mechanics that were unlike anything else I had ever played before. It was what opened the door for me to try Bastion and, later on, Hades.

Like Bastion, Transistor is also about decisions. However, it is not about how or why we choose one thing over another, but instead one’s right to make decisions at all.

As with my previous post, there are big spoilers for the end of Transistor up ahead. I’ll also be referencing some of the endgame elements from Bastion that I used last time, so beware of that as well. As usual, I highly recommend these games and encourage you to play them before coming back, but I’ll explain enough background that you can read this without playing too.

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I’ll See You In The Next One | How Supergiant’s Bastion Creates Choices With Narrative Impact

Video games are driven by decisions. The primary thing that sets video games apart from film or literature is the level of interaction involved, and that interaction comes through making decisions.

These days, there are entire genres of video games dedicated to decision-making, like visual novels. Apart from that, making choices is still a core part of narrative-driven games in other genres.

Bastion

Bastion, the first game developed by Supergiant Games in 2011, is a typical action RPG on the surface. Beneath that, however, is a well-written story that culminates in two very charged decisions at the end of the game. The final scenes of Bastion have stuck with me since I finished the game a few months ago, and today, I’m going to take a closer look at what makes the game’s conclusion work so well.

Since I’m discussing the end of the game, spoilers for Bastion are below! I highly recommend playing the game for yourself first, but if you already have or just aren’t really a gamer, click to read on.

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Never Have I Ever Tag | Writer’s Life

You might’ve played a game called “Never Have I Ever” at some point in your life. Usually, the goal is to make other people admit embarrassing things about themselves. I’m told it’s fun, though I’ve never played.

…Until today, that is. Today, I’m participating in the “Never Have I Ever” writer’s tag so I can finally come clean about all of the ways in which I’m a Bad Writer. Okay, maybe not bad, but I definitely realized I fall into fewer author stereotypes than I thought.

I got this tag from Paper Fury, so be sure to visit her post as well!

And without further ado, on to the questions!

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June 2020 – Month In Review

I am decidedly at the point in my life where I’m just like “you know what, I’m too tired to do anything other than rearrange the furniture in my Animal Crossing house right now.” And that’s okay. I’m pacing myself.

Anyways, I know everyone else has been saying it already, but I cannot believe that it’s July already. It took me three days to remember to change my wall calendar to the next month. But hey, look at us! We’ve made it so far already! That’s definitely something to be proud of and thankful for.

When I wasn’t losing track of time this month, I was blogging about:

Once you’ve checked out those blog posts, read on to hear about the rest of my month!

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Taking It From The Top | Writer’s Life

A mental image for your consideration: It is 11:36 at night. The room is dim, with the only light coming from out-of-season Christmas lights strung around the perimeter of the ceiling. On the desk is a half-empty bowl of Goldfish crackers and a bottle of strawberry-kiwi flavored water. Someone is sitting at the desk, shoulders hunched over the keyboard in front of her. She types for a few minutes, then snatches a handful of Goldfish crackers absently and stuffs them into her mouth. The typing resumes.

If you could picture that, you probably have a pretty good idea of how I’ve spent several of my nights over the past few weeks. But before I go into the details of what I’ve been working on lately, let’s do a quick recap of everything that’s led up to this point.

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Unexpected Writing Teachers

I don’t remember there ever being a point in my life where someone sat me down and told me, “This is how you write a story.” Sure, I learned about basic plot structure in my middle school literature class, but that wasn’t really meant to teach us how to be better writers. Besides, by that time I had already written stories of my own. They weren’t any good, but they were still something.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you take writing seriously, you probably should study the craft of it. That doesn’t mean you need to go earn your MFA in Creative Writing, but it’s worth your time to pick up a book on writing or read a few articles here and there. I know it’s hard to take advice from others (especially – gasp – when their writing methods differ from yours), but you’ll be thankful for it.

But aside from reading about writing (and reading good writing – all writers should be readers, after all), there are other, less obvious “writing teachers” out there. I’m sure you could come up with some if you thought about it. Today, I wanted to share some of the more surprising ways I’ve learned about writing and storytelling.

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February 2020 – Month in Review

Boy it has been a minute, hasn’t it?

My life, like those of many others, has been rather chaotic this March, so blogging has taken a backseat to things like passing my classes and staying mentally coherent.

But hey, I’m back, at least for right now! And while it’s not on schedule by any means, I still want to share my February in review (thank goodness I took notes for it earlier this month). In some ways, it might be rather nice to look back on when things were sort of normal.

But first, blog posts! In February, I wrote about:

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Why Bother Trying? (or, Another Bout of Writer’s Block | Writer’s Life

If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve experienced a creative block from time to time. This phenomenon is not uncommon. I talked a little bit about this before, when I was feeling creatively drained and I just couldn’t get myself to write. Back then, I decided I needed a break to refresh myself.

And it worked! I took a month off from blogging and just focused on doing things that refilled my creative well, so to speak. After a few weeks, I felt ready to take on the writing world again.

But there’s more than one kind of writer’s block, and sadly, just taking a break doesn’t always solve the problem. Sometimes, writer’s block gets a little more personal.

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Dreaming Big & Saving Cats | Writer’s Life

Alright, I know last week I skimmed over my goals for 2020, and that included a handful of writing goals, but I promise this is different! I want to take a closer look at my “Quest” fantasy project and where I want to take it this year. I’ve spent a lot of time planning and plotting over the past month, and I feel like I’m ready to approach this project once again.

I briefly mentioned it a few posts ago, but I recently read the book Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, at the recommendation of my friend and fellow blogger Charmaine Lim. The book takes the original “Save the Cat” theory by screenwriter Blake Snyder and adapts it to prose writing, particularly novels.

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