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Thread: Endurance writing: how to stay motivated and stick to a long-form project?

  1. #1
    Massive_attack's Avatar Campidoctor
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    Icon5 Endurance writing: how to stay motivated and stick to a long-form project?

    Hello! As you can see from my sig, I was the proud owner of an AAR, a fairly up-and-coming one at the time of its release. I had an initial burst of popular support and continued interest. However, I found that sticking to writing was too difficult: a combination of personal life and fugue prevented me from continuing. My last entry actually broke the conventions of the genre by jettisoning ingame actions entirely and just trying to give an ending of some sort to the characters at play as best as I could.

    I am considering taking another swing at an AAR, but this has shaken my confidence in myself. I need to know how to be able to consistently deliver content for a long period of time. I am willing to sacrifice most if not all of my frills and fancy assets in order to be able to stay productive for a longer AAR.

    My style obviously needs work too, especially regarding descriptive qualities. I'm unsure how to improve that while also providing suitably 'short and sweet' AAR bytes in such a way that I can still play and enjoy the game and other real life activities. I am already considering cutting out all image assets from my next attempt to make things simpler.

    What should I do, TWC?

  2. #2
    Dude with the Food's Avatar Campidoctor
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    Default Re: Endurance writing: how to stay motivated and stick to a long-form project?

    If you're worried about letting down readers then you can try getting well into the AAR before you release any of it. However, sometimes, wanting to keep people reading can provide extra motivation to write so that's completely up to you which perspective you take. I can't give you much more advice because I also struggle to stay motivated on long pieces.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I am me. You are not me. You are you. If I was you, I wouldn't be me.
    If you were me, I'd be sad.But I wouldn't then be me because you'd be me so you wouldn't be me because I wasn't me because you were me but you couldn't be because I'd be a different me. I'd rather be any kind of bird (apart from a goose) than be you because to be you I'd have to not be me which I couldn't do unless someone else was me but then they would be you aswell so there would still be no me. They would be you because I was you so to restore balance you would have to be me and them meaning all three of us would become one continously the same. That would be very bad.


  3. #3
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Endurance writing: how to stay motivated and stick to a long-form project?

    Yes, ignoring in-game events and just telling the reader what happened can work well, if it helps your story. If you want pictures for chapters that do that, then custom battles can sometimes provide them.

    I agree with Dude with the Food about getting well into an AAR before releasing any of it. With my current Haiti AAR, that enabled me to develop news ideas. If you suddenly have a great idea for making chapter 5 better - and, to make this idea work, you need to add a new chapter in between chapters 1 and 2, then this is a lot easier to do if you haven't posted chapter 2 yet.

    Making each chapter shorter could help. AAR writers often play a campaign and use whatever happen to provide the basis for a story (I noticed at one point in your AAR you mentioned that you were watching Poland move troops and hoping that they would attack, to provide drama). That's one way of writing an AAR, a 'campaign-led narrative AAR'. Another way is to work out what story you want to write and play the campaign that will cause that story to happen - a 'narrative-led AAR of a campaign'. Events which happen in-game which don't fit your story can be ignored, up to a point. If you want Poland to attack the HRE in your story, you can declare war on Poland in-game while, in your story, Poland could have declared war on the HRE. Custom battles can create events which happen in your story but not in the game - perhaps Poland didn't declare war until after they had treacherously sent an army to raid an HRE city which was the centre of HRE's commerce and which was lightly defended, causing many civilian casualties, taking away valuable property and enraging the people of the HRE. It might also help to form an idea of one or more 'story arcs' - what story/stories are you telling? Are you more interested in the story of your faction or the stories of individual characters (of course, your AAR can do both if you want to)?

    Your AAR shows that you are interested in real history and in developing an alternative time-line. Would it help you to sustain your long-term project if you work out what your alternative time-line will focus on? You could focus on a particular event which could have turned history in a different direction - what if a king who survived a battle actually died (I used that as the starting point for my Ireland AAR for Empire Total War), what if a younger brother/sister rather than an older one inherited the throne of your faction or another faction, causing a different policy than was followed historically, or what if a vital message didn't get through in time. For example, if the 300 Spartans didn't reach the narrow valley where they were able to fight so effectively against the vast Persian army at Thermopylae because the messenger summoning them was late, then history could have turned out differently - perhaps school-children (when studying ancient European history) would have studied the history of Ancient Persia and Ancient Rome rather than Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.
    Last edited by Alwyn; November 22, 2015 at 10:10 AM.


    Andraste's Children (Iceni AAR) | Under the Patronage of PikeStance








  4. #4
    Massive_attack's Avatar Campidoctor
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    Default Re: Endurance writing: how to stay motivated and stick to a long-form project?

    Very good points everyone, thank you for replying to me!

    I am trying to figure out an ideal mix of presentation, style, and focus that could optimize my limited energies in a productive way. I'll use an ERE AAR concept I have brewing for Invasio Barbarorum first:

    1. Identify a defining theme for the entire work, and identify the broad strokes of what kind of story I want to create in that theme- then new chapters should feel simpler, and I hopefully wont need to fight with the game to remain true to my vision.

    2. 4tpy minimum, possibly even 6tpy, to ensure that my characters don't age as fast (my old campaign was, I think, 1tpy)

    3. A consistent and lasting perspective (or narrator) from which the story will be told. I've seen some amazing stuff done with creatively swapping narrators (At the Limes comes to mind) but to keep things simple, I should probably try for a simple first person perspective of my protagonist.

    4. Keep the AAR setting firmly rooted at my characters present location at all times. It was hard enough writing a compelling work about Otto, it was harder still doing the same for Elisabeth and the other side characters that were countries apart. If that means that my protagonist's wife/lover will be a side-character at best then so be it. (This one will be hard on me, I loved Elisabeth, but she took a lot of energy, being a protagonist in her own right by the end)

    5. Consider taking Total War up on what its best at and break my story off timeline wise, as you suggested. That way I might remain interested to see how events play out, and I wont be chained to following actual historical events. In my case, this will probably be an imperial decree to several key generals ordering them to draw up plans for an invasion of the Sassanid Empire, naturally only to be intercepted by a Sassanian agent and somehow involve my protagonist. (The mod that I will be using will always have the Sassanids charge into a war with the ERE immediately)

    6. Do what a few of my favorite content creators do and hold content hostage, releasing based on a loose schedule long after the work was actually done. I might consider breaking my story up into acts (although that is very hard to plan for an actual AAR) and release the first chapter only after Act I wrapped up.

    7. Choose between a campaign or narrative led AAR. That is a tough call; I can't exactly say which one I prefer. I can do great things with a narrative led work, especially with the freedoms it offers, but a campaign led AAR will always be able to justify any sudden changes (etc) with 'that's what happened in game.' For instance, it wont make any sense for The Western Roman Empire to declare war on me in any way imaginable, and my character will physically be in no position to react to it (or realistically, even hear about it happening) - in a campaign led AAR this would be excusable, whereas in a narrative AAR I need to somehow solve the narrative problem of something incredibly unlikely happening, possibly including an entire irrelevant subplot (Poland, in my AAR, never actually DID anything, but they sure did love to line our borders with full stacks, meaning my narrative had to be prepared for a war with them on short notice). At present, I am leaning toward a narrative focus, using my protagonists likely lack of connections and far flung military deployment an excuse to omit whatever nonsense happens in the west.

    As far as pictures go, I'm not sure. I think I will use them to express with an image when words fail. I might impose a limit of 2 pictures per chapter or something, to maintain sanity and restrain myself when battles happen. I'm betting I'll probably mostly use them to show campaign map activity.

    How does that sound? Anything else I should consider?

    Edit: +rep to both of you.
    Last edited by Massive_attack; November 23, 2015 at 02:00 AM.

  5. #5
    waveman's Avatar Calix meus inebrians
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    Default Re: Endurance writing: how to stay motivated and stick to a long-form project?

    I myself prefer multiple turns per year. The characters do last a lot longer, and I find this makes me much more attatched to them, and makes losing them so much worse. With more time/turns I feel I can characterize them better and play them as they would have behaved - within the game's limitations of course, but then after that creativity comes in. Just a warning: 6tpy ofr 12 tpy can drag on a little and its easy to get caught up in small events - you need to chose what's important. But it's nice in that it allows for a great deal of freedom in what you write about and I don't feel rushed when playing or writing with such a scale.


    As for goals, I usually start with a vague goal that refines itself as I go. That's just my style.


    Focus: I tend to focus on my main character's family and household, with sidestories about others. See the Tin Isles. My main character is Dunawt and I follow him around northern Britain with his companions and generals, his relationship with his wife and children and such things. Many of these people get the occasional side story. So does the King, and the occasiona agent, including his brother who is a Diplomat


    I have a super-ridiculously-inconsistant update schedule. Sometimes multiple times per week, and at least one unfortunate span of about a month of silence. That being said sometimes its nice to work on a small side project - I'm doing one right now.


    You can nearly always find a way to justify in-game events in your story, but I find it helps to play at least afew turns in advance of where you've written, or at least posted, to allow yourself some leeway if something unexpected does happen. If, say, the WRE does attack you out of the blue, you could write it off as a rogue general, foederati gone wild or goaded into an attack or something of that nature, or with the time cushion you've given yourself you could hint at relations declining with that faction, add in an assassination attmept or grave insult. There are, I think, many opportunities.


    I don't feel like i need pictures. But I do like them! I also know that many people do like them

    Hope some of this helps

    My AARs/writing: Link
    Letters for writing: ,

  6. #6
    Hitai de Bodemloze's Avatar 宮體詩人
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    Default Re: Endurance writing: how to stay motivated and stick to a long-form project?

    Write in advance - write really far in advance before you think about posting/publishing; the size of the buffer depending on the target length of the story. Writing a 50,000 word story? Write 10-25k in advance. 100k story? Write 50k first. Then you at least know that it's a story you're invested in and want to tell. If you're writing on the edge of your seat, as well as to a deadline, then getting chapters out in time can be really stressful and writing becomes a chore instead of a hobby. I wrote my AARs here without much written in advance, but I'm writing a novel now I intend to serialize online, with the target of around 400,000 words, and I'm not even thinking of publishing it anywhere until it's at 300,000+, maybe not even until it's finished completely.

    Know when to take breaks - you're writing a long project, don't expect to be able to write every day consistently. Real life gets in the way, writers block gets in the way. Know when to step back, take a break and leave your story for a few days/weeks. Come back with a fresh perspective and do your mental health a favour, instead of slamming your head against a brick wall or beating yourself up.

    Keep motivation around you - writing about samurai? Watch samurai films. Writing about Joan of Arc? Read a history book about her. Writing about African tribes? Listen to African music. When you hit a wall and struggle to keep going, similar stuff to your own story can give you that inspiration to get back on the horse.

    And a little friendly rivalry or competition never hurts~
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  7. #7
    Massive_attack's Avatar Campidoctor
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    Default Re: Endurance writing: how to stay motivated and stick to a long-form project?

    +rep to both of you, thank you!

    I think delaying the release might be the key. That way if I fizzle out I wont have dissapointed anyone, and I can always return to get back on track.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Endurance writing: how to stay motivated and stick to a long-form project?

    In my opinion, as far as writing over a long time and keeping yourself motivated goes, the key lies in focusing more on yourself than what the readers think or want. The readers have absolutely no impact on whether you continue your story or not. It is you who will have to sit down for hours to devise your story, on your computer, with your imagination.

    The secret to anyone achieving anything is that it made themselves feel good.

    Writing in advance or writing as you go is different for every artist, but what anyone with success at what they do will tell you is they do what they do because they want to. Take the readers out of the equation. What makes you happy and what will help you never leave your story unfinished?

    |Under the proud patronage of Robin de Bodemloze and the Bodemloze family|



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