NaNoWriMo 2013: Halfpoint Update

2013-Participant-Square-ButtonWe’re a couple days past the halfway point for NaNoWriMo, and it’s time for an update!

Sadly, I am NOT at my personal halfway point in terms of wordcount: at 9,209 words, I’m still pretty short for the month. For the day, I still have plenty of time to catch up, but I should have reached 12,500 on Friday – I’m pretty behind.

I would probably attribute my difficulties this year to two things. First off, my classwork this semester has been pretty mentally and creatively exhausting. Mental fatigue usually begets creative fatigue, and it’s really been sapping me out.

Second, this year I decided to try writing in an unfamiliar format. Maybe not the best of ideas. While I’m really familiar with screenplay and stageplay format, I don’t have a great concept of what needs to go into a graphic novel script, so it’s more difficult than it needs to be. Another problem on that front is that I’m visualizing the project more similarly to a movie or a TV show, which doesn’t help – it’s hard to figure out how to describe motions when the final product isn’t an in-motion sort of thing.

Overall, though, this first month has been a total learning experience for me, and I’m glad I decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year – even if I’m not doing as well as I’ve done in previous years.

I’ll try and keep updating a bit, though it may be difficult for this November. How are you all doing with your NaNoWriMo manuscripts so far?

Welcome to NaNoWriMo 2013!

2013-Participant-Facebook-ProfileAnother year means another NaNoWriMo project – and that’s always a ton of fun!  This year, I’ll do a little bit of explaining throughout the month to show precisely what I’ll be up to and different things I’m doing to encourage myself.  I hope it encourages you, too!

This year, I’m doing things differently than normal: instead of a 50,000-word novel, I plan to work on a graphic novel script with a personal word count goal of 25,000.  The project is actually a rewrite and adaptation of a project I did a few years ago for Script Frenzy – except this time, it’s not a movie script but one for a graphic novel.

This year’s NaNoWriMo theme seems to be retro video games, which makes my superhero-themed graphic novel script project even more appropriate than usual!  This month, I plan to have a few fun posts for everyone:

  • This year’s NaNoWriMo playlist
  • Halfpoint Progress
  • Influences and ideas for reworking and revamping
  • Final Update

This year’s manuscript is currently titled Project Ex: Welcome to the Academy and is the first volume in a four-part graphic novel series.  Welcome to the Academy follows six new students at an academy for supersoldiers as they are assigned to the same bottom-ranked team and strive for the top spot.  I’m not sure how long the graphic novel will actually be, and I’ve never tried a graphic novel script before – so we’ll see what happens!

What is your NaNoWriMo project for this year?  What do you think is the most exciting thing about NaNoWriMo?  More importantly, what music will you be listening to for NaNoWriMo this year?

[Guest Post] Survival of the Easiest

As a veteran Nano and first-time Screnzier, I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between National Novel Writing Month and Script Frenzy. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about which is easier.

As a seasoned Nanoer, you’d expect me to go with Nanowrimo. After all, I’ve never even written a script before (barring a few five-minute skits I wrote for high school theatre class), while I have roughly half a dozen half-finished novels floating around my bedroom and ideas for at least half a dozen more.  On the Script Frenzy site there’s a forum for Nano-turned-Screnziers, where novelists share the woes of trying to write a script.

Most of these woes have to do with formatting, but I think that’s just silly. Sure, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but that’s what the free version of Celtx is for. Admittedly I still sometimes have questions about how to imbed a flashback in a scene or how to cut away from one room to another room to show simultaneous events, but generally speaking, formatting is pretty easy if you don’t try to do it yourself.

(I did do it myself in class one day when I was handwriting more of my script rather than paying attention to “Death of a Salesman,” but by then I had been using Celtx for a few days and knew what the script should look like. Later that night I brought the paper to Biggby for our write-in, and it made Feliza’s diaphragm contort in hilarity.)

(For those of you who don’t know, that’s the pseudo-scientific way of saying it amused her.)

And then a lot of Nanoers say they have trouble keeping in their head that it’s page-count, not word-count, that matters in Screnzy. To me, that means these people just like doing things the hard way. I mean, come on: 50,000 words (roughly 175 double-spaced pages filled with writing) vs. 100 pages (with lots of space due to formatting). Being the lazy bastard I am, I’ve had no trouble at all thinking in terms of pages instead of words. Consider the difference, here. If you write five words during Nano, you look like this:

Whereas if you write five pages during Screnzy, you look more like this…

Remember: Pages > words.

The only real problem I’m having with Screnzy is the writing itself. The reason being that when I write a novel, I usually have at least most of the scenes and dialogue planned out. Not in a wrote-a-detailed-outline way, but in a daydreamed-about-it-in-my-head way. I visualize while doing the dishes at work or driving. But with this script, I have done very little visualizing, which is probably a bad thing since scripts are extremely visual. So I keep getting stuck because, although I know what’s happening, I don’t know how it’s happening – I don’t have a clear idea of what the setting looks like, how the characters are interacting, or what the characters are saying. But I think that’s a personal problem.

As of Day 10 I should be on page 33.3 (if my math is wrong I’ll use the excuse that all good English teachers use: I don’t teach math), but without any script-writing yet done today I’m on page 40. This is my deciding factor on whether Screnzy or Nano is easier: I am NEVER ahead on Nano. In fact, though I won Nano 2011, I spent most of November behind. I had days when I had to force myself to write at least 2500 words just so I could be almost caught up.

Whereas during Screnzy, most of my tweets are like this one:

I rest my case.

Elizabeth Anderson is an education major at the University of Toledo, specializing in language arts and sciences.  She is a two-time Nanowrimo participant, a first-year Screnzier.  In her spare time she likes to read, write, draw, sing, play piano, take walks, garden, and be generally weird and nerdy.  Check out her blog, Twitter, or Facebook page.

[Guest Post] Writing for Graphic Novels

I had the feeling that it would be easier to achieve the minimum of 100 pages for Script Frenzy than the 50.000 words for last year’s NaNoWriMo and till now that seems to be the case, even being my first time writing a script and not having written much on the second week.

It was a bit tough deciding what to do, the novelty of it and the many possibilities making me euphoric (a videogame? A comic? Oh, how about radio plays?) but I ended up choosing to script a story that I had on my mind for a while in graphic novel format.

Usually, before I draw the final comic or graphic novel pages I make thumbnails of them first with the dialogue for each panel and notes scribbled on the margins, so adding scripting before all that was a new approach to me.

I started piecing the outline together and developing the characters around a month before the event started. I was pretty excited to try something new and developing a (sort of) new story, especially after the fun I had last year with NaNo. Having a lot of free time then helped the want of doing something, of being productive and work on personal projects.

In the first couple of days, still struggling with the new writing format, I was a bit too focused on how the layout of the page would look in the end which made me slow (I was indecisive and second-guessing it a lot) but slowly I started to try to just keep the number of panels per page in check and not be so perfectionist about where exactly they would go. I realized it was more important for me to spare most of the effort for the flow of the story right now. Layout problems can be solved later (or so I hope), even if some tweaking is needed. Still, I have to constantly remind myself to write first and edit later.

Each panel description was either a pain or an enjoyment. I have a pretty strong visual for some of the panels so describing them exactly the way I want them makes my mind at ease. However when I don’t have a specific image my vague and/or short descriptions leave me feeling that my script is lacking. Then again, not all panels will be all action packed right? I don’t think it’s a bad thing, even if the feeling doesn’t quite leave me be.

On the first week the story I’ve been keeping only on my mind just ran with abandon, filling pages and pages of interactions and angles and expression, but then assignments sucked my time and energy and I felt inertia starting to creep. The second week was spent trying to keep up, finding a couple of minutes to write a page, seeing the goal of 100 pages by the 22nd to get a 100 euro donation to OLL start to circle the drain. I was afraid my descent from run to crawl would end on a full stop. And that’s why this weekend I’m metaphorically glued to my office chair unless the house is on fire.

Tomás is a Visual Arts student aiming for Concept Art. He draws, writes, plays games and turns junk into other stuff among other things. You can see some of his works at tomsp.tumblr.com.

[Script Frenzy] Press Select: A first-person tutorial about game writing

“Press Select”

MENU
“New Game”
“Continue” [Appears conditionally on previous save]
“Credits”
“Quit”

NEW GAME

The camera is behind the player-character’s closed eyes, slowly flickering open in a very cliche, minimalist white room. As soon as the player-character’s eyes are fully open, he can navigate the 3D environment with ease. The painfully shiny, circular room is empty, devoid of windows and doors.

CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE
(o.s.)
Welcome to your mind, player-character. As you can see, it is a bit of a blank slate right now. But you are here right now because you want to write a video game script. My name is Alex. My function is to get you started on the basics. First, let’s talk about formatting.

[SFX: PRINTING PAPER]
A black slot appears in the wall and promptly vomits a gray sheet of PAPER, light but contrasting significantly with the whiteness of the perfect room.

When the player picks up the PAPER:
[DIALOGUE BOX]
Resources” checklist added to inventory [viewable in Pause menu].

CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE
Take a look at your resources list to get started on any formatting questions you might have. As far as I am aware, there exists no “one” industry standard for game formatting–it all comes back to the game itself that you are writing. First, what kind of game would you like to make?

[DIALOGUE BOX]
[1.1] I will create the next Bejeweled.
[1.2] I will create the next Fallout.
[1.3] I will create… honestly, I have no idea.

[1.1]
CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE
(o.s.)
So you envy Rovio then. Try to focus on quality, however, over quantity. Your game may or may not have a storyline, but it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to write it. It certainly won’t occupy a hundred pages if you’re planning this project for Script Frenzy. Still, it needs words. It needs a script, or at least a storyboard. Every action has a consequence.

BRANCH CHAPTER
[SFX: CRACKING TILE]
The center of the floor in the room cracks, a sapling of a tree abruptly springing from it. Pink cherry blossoms float to the ground.
IF the player is standing directly over the crack, he will be thrust to the ground. [-10 HP]

CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE
(o.s.)
Branching will become your best friend or your worst enemy.

The player-character, examining the tree, sees that each of the branches bears a glowing label, “Touch Me,” upon approach.

IF the player-character touches the BRANCH, two more BRANCHES spring forth, each with the same label and exponential growing ability.

When the player has activated any six branches:
CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE
Accounting for every possible action the player could take is a hassle, admittedly. But it is worth it.
[Go to Conclusion]

[1.2]
CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE
(o.s.)
Did you know that the video game scripts for games like Bioshock and Mass Effect consist of thousands of pages, not including character bibles and world encyclopedias? Furthermore, consider that good games do not entirely rely on convenient cutscenes to make a complete story–even the classic JRPGs contain story elements in the fights and missions between movie-like, cinematic sequences, even if it just means interacting with a shopkeeper. Cutscenes are the solution of a screenwriter forced to work on a video game. The best way to write a game is as a gamer.

[Go to Branch Chapter]

[1.3]
CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE
(o.s.)
Do not concern yourself with details too much. Your mind is not empty–it is only clear. Do not worry at this time about what kind of mechanics you have, or what kind of graphics you want in the final product. Write plot, first. Write characters, first. Write your ideas like a chapter of a novel, or a short story.

[Go to Conclusion]

CONCLUSION
A section of paneling from the wall becomes a DOOR, moving out and sliding up. Outside, an exotic, barren, and beautiful landscape of rocks and trees appears. The sky is dark with night, but stars and some kind of planetary body cast a romantic glow on the landscape, illuminating it.

Another section of paneling slides out and up. CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE enters, carrying a Chromebook under his arm and making a beeline for the door. He stops at its entrance to face the player-character.

CHEERY AUTOMATED MALE
Let’s start imagining.

Alex J. Freemont is a self-nominated android fascinated by the humanizing appeal of good stories wherever they can be found, especially if they involve time-travelling British men. It muses about the geek life on Twitter, while on transcending pixels it picks apart the aesthetics of genius casual games.