It’s been some time since I wrote an update. A lot has changed in the world, and that has naturally affected my work, as well. After a difficult winter, during which I was sick more often than seems entirely necessary, March brought the Covid-19 crisis to my doorstep. Since March 13th my part of the world has been under the onus of social distancing, which has gradually affected more and more parts of my life. Although it may superficially seem that my normal routine is not much different than what I’m doing now, the constant barrage of news and the worry for myself and those around me take an emotional toll, which can make productivity quite difficult.
Since last May I’ve been working intensively on a new interactive fiction written in ChoiceScript language, titled Turncoat Chronicle. My previous attempt at writing a ChoiceScript game did not go well, but with a year’s worth of writing experience I decided to revisit the draft of the old game and re-spin it into a new story, told from a different point of view. Restructuring the narrative gave it a new lease of life, and my strict adherence to limiting the scope of the story means I have great hopes of completing it in a reasonable time frame.
Like the game it spun out of, and like several of my other writing projects in progress, Turncoat Chronicle occupies a complicated fantasy world, alien to our own, but without magic and religiously agnostic. Its setting, the kingdom of Koth, is known within its own world as a militant and battle-ready nation. Despite this, combat does not form the bulk of the story’s plot, nor the game mechanics. It lives in an uncomfortable subgenre, where talking typically solves more problems than stabbing: political fantasy.
The year-end mood has been upon me for weeks. 2017 feels like it’s been fleeing from under me, while at the same time, in retrospect, it’s been one of the longest years of my life. It’s hard to think of the passing year without remembering all that I didn’t accomplish. I had big ideas for this year, ideas that didn’t pan out quite as I’d hoped.
My plans to complete a playable game, top to bottom, met with repeated setbacks. I had hoped to have the final version of Girlfriend Material complete for release before the end of the year. Now I’m uncertain of when I’ll be able to set a hard release date for the game at all.
Work stress and real-life circumstances prevented me from dedicating myself to NaNoWriMo as I’d planned, though I participated in the latter half and managed to rehabilitate my daily writing habits. I ended November with ten thousand written words that I hadn’t had before, setting the course for a story sun out of 2016’s wordier — but still unsuccessful — NaNovel.
Apart from NaNoWriMo and my daily pages, I hadn’t tracked my word count at all in 2017. I think 2018 is as good a time as any to resume that habit. I hate to find myself at the end of the year, or even the week, looking back and unable to effectively assess how much progress I’ve made. 2018 is already looking to be a year of big changes for me, and the first one of those is going to be reviving my meticulously color-coded spreadsheets.
I plan to keep writing games and short stories in the year to come. January will bring my very first professionally published work, and hopefully also a review for the last book I read in 2017, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Behind the curve, I’m afraid, but better late than never. I’m also looking forward to the second iteration of Finally Finish Something Jam as an incentive to step up my work on Girlfriend Material.
There’s a great deal to (remind myself to) look forward to.
Happy New Year.
The first Girlfriend Material demo is now out on itch.io. The demo introduces our protagonist, Lavinia von Adeline, and her ambition to design and build a robotic girlfriend AI for herself. Other characters appearing in the demo include: Jenny Jones, Lavinia’s mythological ex-girlfriend; Professor Eugenia, her mother; Ms. Margaret, her gossipy yet well-meaning neighbor; and Kasper, the helpful clerk at the hardware store.
Girlfriend Material is a hybrid visual novel dating game where you the player get to build a robot girlfriend and determine her personality from three predefined archetypes. The game is written in the Ren’py engine. Our team includes myself as writer and programmer, TellerFarsight as co-writer, and blankd as character artist. We hope to release the full free-to-play game in early November 2017.
It’s Yuri Game Jam season! A season to be especially queer in.
I know I mentioned before that I adore game jams. Deadlines tend to bring out my best work and I love the opportunity to potentially work with new people, not to mention I will jump at any opportunity to stretch my creative muscles. Yuri Jam is dedicated to stories centering queer female characters, which is familiar territory for me. The project I elected to develop, though, is something of a romantic comedy, which dips just slightly into camp territory.
Our protagonist is a self-styled mad scientist, a brilliant scientist who abandoned the world of academic research to recklessly pursue her own projects with no oversight. While she makes her living from the patents she takes out on her gadgeteering, she now faces her most ambitious invention yet. After years of romantic strikeouts, a phone-call from a concerned ex-girlfriend prompts her to take an entirely new approach to matters romantic, and she decides to build herself a robot girlfriend.
Yuri Game Jam is a two-month jam which takes place over the course of September-October 2017. I hope to complete the game, with three full romance routes, by the end of the jam. Accounting for last-minute complications, the estimated date of release is early-to-mid November. I will be posting progress updates on the Zinc Alloy Tumblr blog, and updating more regularly on the ZA Discord channel.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
Lately a lot of writers whose blogs or social media I follow have gotten messages from readers saying that they should “stay out of politics” and stick to writing. Every time see a message like that I think back to all the reviews I’ve read that have described a book as political or politically-themed. I wonder where all these authors are whose work isn’t political. How do you write without writing about politics? It is the thing that structures the very reality around us. Perhaps this seems obvious to me because opting out of political thought hasn’t ever been an option for me.
One of the best things I’ve done as a novice game dev is get involved in game jams. Itch.io’s Finally Finish Something Jam motivated me to finish the alpha of my largest Twine project to date, Wreath of Roses, and submit it for feedback. After that was done I took a short break to focus on short stories, and just as I was wondering what my next project should be, I remembered that March is NaNoRenO.
I’ve blogged about NaNoWriMo before. It’s a month-long challenge to complete a novel draft, which has been running for years and engaged thousands of writers. NaNoRenO takes its inspiration from there, but is a rather more modest affair. The challenge is to create a visual novel or story-driven game, in one month. While some people can work alone to create all the writing, code and art for their game, most people prefer to work in teams and focus on their strengths.
I promised an update after NaNoWriMo, didn’t I? And now it’s been nearly a month since I wrote my fifty thousand words, and I still haven’t written anything. A lot of things got put on the back-burner for November, and so December has been pretty busy. I didn’t find a lot of time to set aside for contemplating the nature of my chaotic little manuscript, and how to move forward with it. Although I’d been meaning to break my habit of adopting overly ambitious story ideas, and then getting stalled trying to solve them…
Tomorrow November begins, and with it NaNoWriMo, the yearly celebration of writers getting together and vowing to hold each other accountable to one promise: write fifty thousand words in a month. I tried participating in NaNoWriMo once or twice in the past, about ten years ago. Although I had free time aplenty and I pushed hard on my novel idea, of which I was very fond, I didn’t win either time. Neither did I get a complete manuscript from it. In fact, I’ve never successfully completed a novel.
For a while, this was a source of great stress to me. When I envisioned my writerly future as a kid, it involved a shelf lined with books with my name on them, and the books were invariably fantasy novels. Novels were are are most of what I read. I didn’t adjust to regularly reading short fiction until quite recently, and I learned pretty quickly that it’s no use trying to write something that you don’t read. Every fiction magazine will quite rightly expect you to read a few of its issues before you even consider submitting.
Last year during NaNoWriMo I was unemployed and dedicating myself to writing more or less full-time. Ostensibly, that would have been the perfect time in which to make my next attempt. But I had determined that my mind was shaped for short fiction, and I was making my stand on a fictional universe built out of interconnected short stories. It was a fairly bold project in its scope, and ended up being less of a success than I’d hoped, creatively or otherwise. It did force me to stretch my muscles, though, and I learned a great deal about what was missing from my writing toolbox.
Now I have determined that it’s time to make a similar attempt, but more consciously. Going into November, I hope to put down fifty thousand words of continuous narrative, but I don’t fully expect to get a novel out of it. In fact, since I’m entering the race with almost no preparation, I expect the result to be rather an inelegant mess. My challenge right now is nothing more complicated than to start at the beginning and make it all the way to the end. It just so happens that this is one of my major vulnerabilities as a writer, and I’m beginning next month’s challenge partly in order to address this unacceptable gap in my toolbox.
Another challenge I’ve set myself is to write unselfconsciously, to turn off the inner editor, which is exactly what NaNoWriMo is designed to do. I like to produce polished material, of course, but as the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of done. Turning off the inner editor means you relegate her job to an outer editor, which is the person most qualified for the job to begin with. I hope this drive for unselfconsciousness will help me touch on some more sensitive issues, that I have been avoiding writing about for a long time.
Meet me back here in a month or so to see what sort of results this experiment produced.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.