Thursday, April 14, 2016

Productively Writing Nothing

Ever had one of those weeks where you worked your butt off and still managed to accomplish nothing? Yup. That was me.

I told you last week how I was working fairly diligently on populating Ashitar for the Sunday D&D session, as well as building more of its history. Well, Friday I spent the better part of TEN. FLIPPIN'. HOURS. working on this project. I did some research before work. I did some more during my lunch break. Some more while waiting for Hubby to get out of work. And I kept going from the moment I got home until I nearly passed out on the couch. I didn't even realize I wasn't getting anywhere or missing out on more productive things, such as actual writing or at least cleaning the apartment.

I had stumbled upon the D&D Wiki page on town-building - which I would have gone to first if I had thought about it existing - and just set up camp. I went through all the charts and percentages and algorithms on this insanely-long page. I set up spreadsheet charts with their own algorithms built so all I have to do is input the population next time. And what did I accomplish with all of this?

I know how much of the population is male vs female. How many are able-bodied adults vs children, elderly, and infirm. I know how many are elderly, and how many of THEM are male vs female. I know how many are infirm, and again the sex-split within that category. I know how many children are boys, and how many are girls. I know how many are teens, which is only 13-15 in the D&D world since you reach adulthood at fifteen. I know how many children are 3-13, and how many are toddlers or infants. I know how many are any given race between human, elf, half-elf, halfling, dwarf, gnome, and half-orc. I also know the professions found in Ashitar, and the breakdown of how many of each profession there are.

Do I know anything of any significance? Like the names of the important players in the town? The layout of Ashitar? The names of the Assassin's Guild or Thieve's Den? The names of the pubs they hang out in? Any "quest givers" for the party? Nope. Not a clue. At least, not when I was done "working" on Friday.

A whole lot of studying, planning, and work focusing on entirely the wrong things. That's me!

I don't recall why, but Saturday was also a bust. So here it is, Sunday. Everyone was coming over to play, and I have nothing to work with. I got done with yet another overnight shift close to two hours before my husband would be done, and so I sat in the break room and just worked. I doodled out a VERY rough city map. I scribbled down every possible Quest Thread that I could think of. I came up with rumors that would be going throughout the place. I was on fire! I felt accomplished when Hubby showed up in the break room to let me know he was done.

I was even more amazed when I found out that he got his work done about an hour early, and I had accomplished all of that in around 45minutes! Whoo! I guess first thing in the morning IS my prime creativity time. I miss having my Sunday Insomnia writing sessions.

Unfortunately, it ended up being all for naught. My main quest giver felt her world crumbling around her and acted with emotion instead of thought. She meant no harm, but it put a couple player-characters on the defensive. Which lead them to irritate her since she interpreted their defensiveness as disrespect. So now Hubby and Quarthix's characters believe the human baroness racist against all non-humans - Hubby's an elf and Quarthix is a dwarf - and wish to have little to nothing to do with her. Meanwhile, she doesn't want to be in the same room with these disrespecting people. The likelihood that I can get the three of them together for her to offer a paid quest seems difficult, and so that has been my challenge this week: find a way to get them to all play nice.

Well, on top of that challenge already, Hubby's character convinced another to be a bit naughty, to say the least. See, our friend Goob has a bard for a character, which means he has a lot of Charisma that he can use for, say... bluffing someone. Hubby's character reminded Goob's character that the Baroness said that she wanted them out of her sight, and that she "didn't care where they went, as long as it wasn't in the same room as her." He used this wording to convince the bard that this would mean she wouldn't mind them checking out the mansion's coffer.

Goob's character used his bluff to convince the simple town guard sent to escort them that he should give them a tour of the mansion first; starting at the mansion's coffer.

In reality, I should have just said, "The guard knows better. You cannot bluff him about this." However, I'm new to DMing, I was tired from working the overnight and not napping before game started, and so I just rolled to see if the guard believed the bard. Alas, he not only believed him, he thought it was an order from the Baroness. He faithfully lead the party down to the coffer, where Hubby's character skillfully thieved two out of the three jewels resting in the safe. Again, I should have been like "NO!" but....

So, not only do I have to smooth things over between the Baroness and the party so they can get their main quest-line from her, but I have to make everyone too stupid to realize that the jewels magically disappeared from the coffer about the same time these strange people - who were already disrespectful, in the Baroness' eyes - were in the mansion. Oh yeah, and Hubby cleaved one of his stolen goods, a black pearl, in half in order to set them into the eye sockets of the black dragon skull he is turning into a helm for Quarthix's dwarf. So, naturally, either the dwarf never sets foot in Ashitar again - which sucks since I was planning on having it be the party's home-base for at least another six quests or so - or he can't wear his helm anywhere near town for fear of someone recognizing the black pearl. Hubby claims it will be fine because it will look like TWO black pearls, when only one was stolen. Still..... It's bad enough Quarthix kept some of the Baron's rings when they found him dead in a dungeon. He was smart enough to take those off before seeing the man's widow, but to hide those AND the black pearl dragon helm? I don't know how to convince Quarthix to have his character stay at Ashitar; aside from going "I'm the DM and I say you have to stay here!"
Hacker Girl Facebook sticker
by Birdman, Inc.
So, yeah, it's been a fun week trying to figure all of THAT out. So it didn't really leave me much extra time to, ya know, WRITE.

Which was interesting come this past Tuesday when I went to my writing group. Not really anyone had anything to read, which was even more awkward. When I joined the group back at the end of October, I met a woman who had managed to not only finish writing a 50,000 word book during NaNo, but she polished and published it as well. She and her husband both had medical issues that kept them from working, and so they were both "retired". Apparently, when I met her in October they were in the final stages of selling their house and moving into an RV instead. I then didn't see her again until this past Tuesday because she and her husband were spending the winter traveling the US; visiting family across the country and taking in historical sights.

Since she had made her triumphant return the previous Saturday, not many of us had seen her yet. We spent most of the evening asking her about her trip, and how she's coming along with her next story. Seems the "next story" that she was trying to get published back in October was now "three stories ago". Well then.

To be fair, she IS retired and had really nothing better to do while on the road for hours on end, so I guess I really shouldn't compare. Plus, if she was able to keep that NaNo pace of write for a month, and then spend the next month polishing, it's believable that she was able to crank out three more over the winter. Still. It's hard for me to not compare. To not be dumbfounded by her productivity. To not be proud of her, but still a bit envious that she's so successful while I can't even figure out what ONE story I want to make into a manuscript.

Anyway, we all gushed over her, which apparently was making her a bit uncomfortable, and so she kept trying to redirect us back to why we were there: writing. What were WE up to while she was gone? Well, DFL and Keaton confirmed that they were very slowly chugging along on their respective stories; the same ones that this woman already knew about. Red then informed the woman about the story she's been working on since our one writing prompt in November: the woman off her meds and planning a homicidal bender. She then read the latest section to us. It had a really nice twist. We talked about her story for a bit; her concerns versus what we thought was really good about it. Once we all seemed to have said what we wanted to, we moved on to a relatively new member.

She had made an appearance once before at the start of the year. Since she knew the new gentleman that had joined in March, I assumed she too had shown up at least once in those two meetings I missed. Making this her third or fourth group meeting.

When she first attended a few months back, she commented about how she wrote clinical papers for a living, and so writing anything creative was a challenge for her. Well, this week she talked about this great 6hr retreat she went on last Saturday, and how she was planning on doing the same thing every Saturday for the near-future. Whatever it was that went on in that zen-like retreat atmosphere must have worked its charms, because what this woman read was beautiful. She had such great imagery, and such a simple but powerful tale. We went on for a little bit about her work. How she was improving, what phrases really struck us, how the story made us feel, so on and so forth.

Then came my turn. I confessed that I was world-building this past month. I then explained to the woman who went before me what I meant by world-building. Once the mini-lesson was concluded, I brought up Welcome to Ashitar to read to them. While there were many discussions with the other works read, the only reactions I received when I was done were "Wow, that was very detailed" from the woman who wasn't sure what world-building was, and "Ashitar and Boar's Tusk Inn remind me of Bree and The Prancing Pony from Lord of the Rings, and that's a good thing." I took both as encouraging remarks, but not really much to build off of, and not the "keep going" energy that the other two writers got.

Not really sure what my take-away will be from this week's meeting.

Finally, it is April, which would normally mean:
Originally an event sponsored by the Office of Letters and Light
The people who run National Novel Writing Month
I've contacted ChibiSunnie. She's going through her notes, and I'm going through the script we have so far for our fan interpretation of the "Hey, Arnold! Jungle Movie". Boy, is it rough.

I've been lamenting lately that for me practice never seems to make perfect. The more I try to make a dish, the more often I seem to burn it. I play video games and strategy games more and more, and seem to get worse at them. As if "beginner's luck" is the only chance I have at winning, or at least not dying endlessly. I've been crocheting for over a decade, and yet my crafts seem to be looking worse instead of better. And then there's my writing. I never seem to see an improvement.

Then I look back at this script, and think that maybe everything in that last paragraph is just in my head!

Kind of makes me scared, though, to know that about four years ago I thought this was good writing. That I showed skills. That I could really go places with my writing. Only to look back on it now and go "Holy Hand Grenades! Did *I* write this!?" No wonder I never won contests, or get much of a fan-base.

It's encouraging to know that I AM improving, but at the same time, it's discouraging to realize that I really am not as good as I think I am. What about now? Am I still crap now, but just don't realize it yet? Is this why everyone else in our group gets a full discussion going about her work, but I just get a couple quick comments before moving on?

I'm in my head again, I know, but it would be nice to know if either I do have a future in writing, or if I still have a LOOOOOONG way to go before I'm good enough to get a decent reader fanbase.

I look at some writings my friends post. They fancy themselves fantastic writers, and I just sort of facepalm. Then I wonder if it's the same for me. Do I make others facepalm when they read my works? Do they silently go "Oh, honey, no. Just, no..." as well? Or am I being too hard on myself? Getting too far into my own head? Do I really have the potential I always thought I had?

I guess those are the things all authors ponder at some point. The real challenge, is either finding the answers, or not caring what those answers are.

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