FANGIRL FRIDAY: Planning by the Seat of Your Pants

With Camp¬†NaNoWriMo¬†coming up fast, I thought I’d try to go into the event with eyes a little more open than last time. If there’s anything I learned from this last week in writing, it’s that any and everything can and will happen to throw you off course. That’s life. It doesn’t mean you have to pack it up and call it a day.

Make the most of your off-road experience. After all, side quests are arguably more satisfying than the main storyline in games. Why shouldn’t it be the same in your writing journey?

It’s true. It’s about the journey, not the destination. What’s the point if we can’t enjoy the ride?

Take, for instance, a short story competition I learned about in the wake of my missed deadline faux pas. With the deadline being what would be 4pm my time today, it wasn’t feasible for me to rush a 1000 word short story with everything I had going on with my darling X-23, Izzybear.

Add to the fact that I had two ideas I wanted to run with and only one entry was allowed, I decided to flesh the story out further and give it the TLC it deserves and over the course of the week, I developed a plot more rich in texture. It goes to show that not all plans laid are best.

If I had stuck to the original plan, I would’ve had a piece that I wasn’t fully satisfied with and only submitted for the sake of meeting the deadline. However, isn’t it preferred to put your best foot forward the first time? It’s hard to get past a wrong first impression. The fact that I like the way the story is now versus what I had come up with on the fly a few days ago further supports the advice of taking a step back to really see what you’ve got. It doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring my main goals. It doesn’t mean that my detour is a distraction or is less important. It’s a matter of perspective and looking at the bigger picture.

I read about an author sharing something she called an editorial calendar. The premise is simple and straightforward but you then realize how the simple things are so profoundly helpful in organizing your writing life. Take a calendar and map out all deadlines and writing tasks. Simple, right? The fact that you can then strategize your day around everything else you need to get done, you facepalm at how the methodology makes perfect sense.

As you might have gathered by now, I’m not saying to stick to plans hardcore. In my life, it’s been virtually impossible. Heck, I’m perfectly content doing a crossword puzzle in pencil. Nobody can be that certain of everything all the time. Also, if you tell me not to do something, the six year-old me perks up and says, in the words of Barney Stinson, “Challenge accepted.” The result? Such wonderful and potentially life-altering changes. And this can happen when plotting a story differently from your original idea. Or, you can decide to write poetry instead of prose. Maybe, you make the choice to scrap the idea and go in a completely different direction. Graphic novel? Limerick? Screenplay? There are no wrong answers here. Who wants a boring journey, anyway?

I guess what I’m saying is make a plan. Sure. But as I’ve said before, nothing needs to be set in stone because the universe will just laugh at you while tossing the odd molotov cocktail in your general direction. So, while I’m still a work in progress, I’ve transformed myself into FlexiGal, a person of ordinary means with an extraordinary passion to do some good in the world. I roll with the punches–and dodge the ones I know will land hard.

Easy peasy.

How do I know? As I write this, I’ve had to step away from the laptop at least a dozen or so times. I’m currently typing with a stuffed toy–a golden retriever pup, for those curious–sitting atop my noggin like a fascinator at a pet-themed Royal Ascot. X-23 has me chasing her again while intermittently sneaking in some cheese and crackers. The cheese to cracker ratio is obscene. I have only myself to blame. My favorite cheese is the Kerrygold Dubliner. I had her try some one day and I’ve never quite had any cheesy snacks to myself since. Anyway, I think she might be attempting a reenactment of a Doc McStuffins version of the Wolverine v. Sabertooth battle scene from X-Men and these were all we had to work with. Given the theme of today’s post, I fully appreciate her effort and 100% approve.

So, make a plan. Or not. Stick to it. Or don’t. Either way, take those twists and turns, but keep going. Every moment you experience becomes a part of you and when you reach your destination, you’re so much better for it. A better person, a better writer. And that’s a huge LEVEL UP, in my book.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

The Games We Play

a.k.a “Tag, You’re It!”

A couple months ago, I received an email about Yahoo Groups shutting down after 20 years. Boy, does that take me back. I don’t even have my Yahoo or Hotmail email addresses anymore. I had rejoined some writing groups via Yahoo Groups within the last eight years, or so, using my Gmail account, but seeing that email was like hopping in the Delorean and punching it to 88.

I heard once more the melodic bleep blorps of dial up connections. Desktop computers weighed as heavy as the buyer’s remorse from Black Friday impulse purchases.

It was a time when you were filled with excitement at the “uh oh” notification in ICQ. All the cool kids hung out on Friendster before MySpace came in to dominate. The moments of reprieve came when the dial up connection was lost–or someone had to use the landline. Ahem… for those who don’t know, read the definition of ‘landline’ here. (Also known as the “I got it. I said I. Got. It. You can hang up now… I can still hear you breathing Carl! Hang up! Mom/Dad, he won’t hang up! Just a second, Becky, I gotta go maim my brother first.” device). Anyhoo, it gave you the chance to rest your eyes from the visual assault of electric blue text against pink background GeoCities websites.

A bygone era, indeed.

iPhone who? This was the bee’s knees for any tween back in the day.

You may be wondering why an email has caused me to wax nostalgic for online life many, many moons ago? I’ll tell ya. Online roleplaying games.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever participated in this collaborative affair. I’m not talking about the Massively multiplayer online role-playing games that are dominating the interwebs today. MMORPGs are to the more basic online RPGs as the Borg are to Humanoids. The online RPGs I’m referring to used little to no graphics (reserved mostly to the group web page, or Yahoo Group) and we, the faithful participants, used our words to drive the story forward.

Today, I’m taking a stroll down memory lane to recount my experience with these online RPGs and how it helped transform and evolve my writing and online presence.

My first foray into the online RPGing world involved storyline mashups within the Yahoo Groups. You had to audition for the role by writing a scene. Some crossover RPGs had everything from from Buffy the Vampire Slayer notables interacting with the characters from CSI: NY. You could play someone from Smallville playing opposite people from Charmed or The Office. It was glorious.

My regularly “played” characters were: Buffy, Spike, Angel, Xander, Clem, Lorne, Chloe Sullivan, CSI Flack, Dwight, Jim, Wyatt, and Piper among others. I was commended for the scenes reading like they were watching an actual episode. I was told that I nailed the dialogue and I even included song lyrics to add to the ambience of the scene. This was fans’ way of expressing how they wanted a series to continue when the show was cut short before its time.

In this type of game, you’d write your part and then end it with <tag>. Depending on the character(s) you were interacting with, you’d tag them and have intriguing subject lines to create a thread at that location. Some RPGs were very simple in nature while others had elaborate rules and infrastructure. It was technically how I got my feet wet with online critiques of my writing, let alone the fact I was putting my creative writing out there for the world to see.

After a spell, I began to venture further out from shore and joined Star Trek RPGs. This was more complex than the yahoo group iterations due to the more regimented vetting system, the necessity to respect the canon more strictly, and the overall Trek universe, in general. They had a separate server where the game was hosted and you could rise in the ranks, or face a tribunal, if the scenario and your character’s actions called for it. This was certainly more involved as it meant I needed to create my own characters. I still use my Star Trek character handle to this day. Other RPGs were completely made up so original character creation was even more of a necessity.

This was where more of the writing prep overlap came into play. Character bios, descriptions, quirks, etc., were steps that some people didn’t enjoy as much as I did. You had to come up with the character’s back story and do a deep dive into their traits so you knew how to portray them within the parameters of the game. This process is similar to tabletop RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons.

I learned quickly what people liked and liked less about my writing because I got instant feedback with each tag. It also kept me on my toes because my next post was dependent on the other player’s response. There were other opportunities where I could collaborate with one or more players on a joint post so that it read more fluidly, much like a chapter of a novel.

We’re in such a visual era, we now have streaming platforms where people just watch a person play a video game. Everything’s changing so quickly. With VR gaining even more traction, there’ll be a whole new way of gaming immersion that will thrill our senses faster than you can type “a/s/l” in a chatroom text box.

I miss the games of yore. Be it online RPGs or tabletop games with friends. The collaboration and creativity was pure enjoyment and inspired what was to become this website and the future projects I’ll be sharing here hopefully in the new year.

Oh, and for those who enjoyed ICQ, it’s still alive and kickin’ online. A newer platform was released this year. You can “uh oh” to your heart’s content. And when we can safely travel using public transit again, you can be sure to annoy your neighbors on the train with the various chirps the app has to offer.

As always, stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time… Game on!

T out.