Difficulties writing a "standard" novel after focusing on interactive fiction!


#1

I think this is just a vent.

These days, most of my focus is on CCH but I’ve tried to start a “regular” novel as a side project. And man, it’s hard!

I’ve become so accustomed to writing different possible options and paths for the MC to take, that I now struggle to just decide on a path, i.e. “the best path,” i.e. the path I think is the most interesting, i.e. “the plot.” Of course, with IF, we’re taught not to write a “best path,” so you see the issue. I have to deprogram myself. :confused:

And I’ve also become accustomed to “offering something for everyone” and now as I’m developing a main character, I realize that no “regular” main character offers such breadth of appeal. Some folks will inevitably find the MC too violent or too wimpy or too meek or too rude. You get the idea.

I do find it much easier to just focus on the prose though, when I don’t have to worry about coding or choices or different branches, so I suppose it’s a tradeoff. I realize my prose in CCH (and my episodes of Starship Adventures) are very “workmanlike.” It gets the job done but in a very plain sort of way.

Anyone else working on a novel or encounter these issues?


#2

I myself am currently not working on anything. (But what about CScomp? Heh… Yeah…)
But I have been thinking about writing again lately, and not anything regarding CS or CYOA but, like what this topic is about, a novel. Or perhaps a short story, or a collection of short stories.

Anyhow. What I feel is that a novel gives the writer all the freedom he wants instead of the reader. No need to give it replayability. No need to code stuff. No need to make different paths, choices, a custom MC.
No, it’s just one pathway, one person and his/her choices, one story on which the author can focus all of his/her attention.

Perhaps it could be hard if you are used to writing an open story and letting the reader decide the story for you. And vice versa, it will he hard if you’re used to deciding everything yourself instead of letting someone else shape your story.

I myself notice that I struggle a lot with writing things in CS, with different routes, random reader created MC. And I feel more comfortable when I can just say that this is this wether you like it or not.
But this is my opinion on the case.

This is just something quick on my phone but if you want I can give a more elaborate opinion about everything, like MC personalities, etc etc etc.


#3

Ahh I’m so happy someone else pointed this out, happy in the sense that there are more out there not in the sense of we have an issue writing now.

I always was a novella and novel type person, it was easy for me and then I started writing the CoG style. Now whenever I write a story I end up writing in second person instead of first or third. I literally can’t stop now.


#4

I think the good news is that it’s not insurmountable. :mount_fuji:

CS writing does teach you to approach the story from different angles, which can help you get past writer’s block or rewrite scenes in a conventional novel draft.

I’ll just have to get past the nagging “But…but…it’s too linear!” in my head.


#5

I’ve written novels and short stories before. I’ve even been praised for them or sold them for money (it still feels like a back-alley deal, it’s so unexpected that I of all people should be praised for my efforts and considered an authority and sell fiction.) So, I know how to write a novel, more or less.

The major problem I’ve had is the one you brought up in your testing message - of people not realizing that writing is work. They assume I have all the time in the world, that I can be on call to fix their problems, because I don’t have a “real job.” And meanwhile, I have X lines of code to fill in before I can get the next update out, and they don’t seem to get it.

Both things boil down to the same problem - people don’t think that writing and making art is important. If they see us suffering and seething, they more accurately understand that we have a “real job.” Meanwhile, both of us have roofs over our heads and food to eat, ideas to expound upon, and nevertheless have this extra pressure to deal with.


#6

While I have not yet been published, novel or otherwise, I have written game manuals and helped get articles published in journals.

Each type of writing presents its unique challenges - but the commonality is to focus on the narrative you wish to tell. Everything else will be something you can fix. For example, in my own writing, I am very concise. So concise that it takes two or three rewrites to flesh the entire working copy out.

Another author on this site is just the opposite of me - so we help each other focus on what we need to improve on to get our current projects done.

And that is the key - if you have really qualified people to proofread, test, be a sounding board for, you will be able to overcome each hurdle just fine.

One day, we need to have a discussion on how we find those quality people that help us.

@Sashira - you are absolutely correct, writing is work. I’ll never forget the advise I read from one of the iconic SF writers of the 1950’s. (Ironically, I remember the advise but not his name all the time) He said: to be successful at writing, you must write every day, even if it is only a sentence. I’ve found this advise to be very true. The times I feel I succeed I write, and those times I feel like I am floundering I don’t write.


#7

I’ve written shorter stories a good while ago, when I started to write. After that, I’ve started a novel about 1 - 1.5 year ago. I’ve written a few chapters, and shelved the project. Then I’ve written Doomsday on Demand, and now I wanted to get back to the novel as well. But now I feel frustration inside for the same reasons mentioned here. I dwell on how could the best possible protagonist look/act like, what would be the best plot, best ending, since there can be only one this time.

But yes, no matter what you do, there will be people who will dislike your work. Different people, different opinions. The only thing that might matter is whether the vast majority likes or dislikes it. But even then, I think most importantly you have to be satisfied with your work. I still consider myself a rookie, this is just my opinion.


#8

Thank you @Eric_Moser for starting this thread . . . I’ve written longer fiction and poetry before, and short stories, and even sold a piece or two in the relatively distant past.

Switching to short form prose for a few small commissions wasn’t a problem for me, despite having worked heavily in ChoiceScript over the last year - about 200,000 words between the two games I’ve worked on prior to starting this year’s CS Comp.

When I’m writing linear fiction, I’ve never really struggled with direction - my characters and premises always seem like they want to, almost have to, go down a certain path. Given the circumstances, it’s inevitable that Hugh becomes a barber and Mary and Janet run off together and the little collie dog barks, so to speak. Or whatever.

I’ve struggled planning endings for ChoiceScript games, though. The beginning and the middle are fine. But reading through this thread, and through @Myst’s comments, it occurs to me that it’s because I have a premise and characters, and I try to let them run their course without knowing what the MC will do.

Without going too far off topic, I suppose I need to do the opposite to switch into the IF gear - imagine ten different fantastic protagonists and let them run their course instead.

I was really struggling writing today, too, so many thanks to you both for the inspiration.


#9

I wrote game modules in my youth for rpg table top games such ad D&D. Then I became intrested in ghost writing. While I had some success I really didn’t like writing for others so started writing my own novels.

Wrote two novels and was working on a third when I started looking at editing services, and possibly publishing. Hated the options when I came across CoG in its hay days and never looked back. Do not think I could ever go back to writing such a narrow path lol.

But I am a poor CoG writer as I never plan which still causes me a great deal of frustration.:stuck_out_tongue:


#10

Aren’t there some books that deal with this? Like The film Sliding Doors, which shows two different timelines and what might have been? And I think I saw something about a current book about a woman who lives two lives, in each of which she has a different set of children, or something? (Which I can’t remember the name of)

It’s something you get to play with when writing time travel stories too. Or characters who have precognition. Or who can skip to alternate worlds.

I might have the opposite problem. I start by writing interactive fiction, but I end up liking certain characters and paths too much, and not wanting to provide a wide variety of choices. So I just end up keeping my stories to myself.


#11

@FairyGodfeather Good point; there are genres that allow one to play with alternate versions of a story. The infamous “Clue” film comes to mind, too.

(And now I want to see those stories. Maybe we will? Someday?)


#12

As I started to write my first Zombie Exodus novel, I developed a protagonist and firmed her up in my mind. I fleshed out her motivations, personality, and background as best I could, so as I write, she becomes living outside my own desire to give people the “best” path.


#13

I remember reading a book for school a long time ago which was linear up to a point in the story and then branched into two different endings. (I thought it was Mandragora from memory but now I’m not 100% sure since I can’t find any references to it in the reviews). It’s interesting that so few books do alternative endings. (I guess it’s non-traditional and more work for the author).


#14

I remember reading one book in which the main character was basically split in four alternative versions of herself, but since it wasn’t explicitly stated anywhere I didn’t actually find out about it until three of them died and more or less re-merged with the main body. That was pretty confusing. I unfortunately don’t recall the title, but since it was probably a translation anyway I don’t think that would help a whole lot. But yes, those stories do exist. Somewhere. Don’t think they’ll make it to mainstream fiction any time soon though.


#15

@Cecilia_Rosewood OH! I read a book like that too. Sheri S Teper’s The Margarets was the one I read.


#16

I really don’t recall the title, but the book I was referring to was something with a school of magic of some sort.


#17

Aha! Different book definitely. The one I read was sci-fi, had a very similar plot though, in that there were all these women named Margaret, and they branched off at various points of her life when things could go either way. And they need to reintegrate. I’d forgotten about it.

I do wonder what the magic school one was. I’d love to read more books with magic schools.


#18

I’m a little late to the party here, but this is an interesting topic. I sort of have the same problem, but without the background in IF. Actually, I’ve found my way here because whenever I try to create standard fiction, I can’t help but come up with literally dozens to hundreds of different paths and struggle with choosing the right one. I’ve been a fan of IF since I was a kid, and I’ve tried a few IF creation tools, but none of them really grabbed me. ChoiceScript seems to have just the right amount of coding/game mechanics to allow for complex IF without being too complicated. I’m really looking forward to learning how to use it to its full potential so that I can write in a way that’s compatible with my brain.


#19

I’ve never been good at novels but I would guess write it as a interactive story in a lot of ways then have a group of random people go through it record their answers and expand upon the choices and end chose most. This might not work in practice but seems good on paper.