Tips for aspiring authors?


#1

Hey, I was wondering if the more experienced authors here could give out advices to budding authors (like me) on how to proceed with their very first game? I could use some advice, too.
Anything that you’ve learnt from experience with choice of games is welcome, be it advices related to coding in ChoiceScript, what to include or what not to include in your story, what to avoid, anything at all. I’m (and surely other upcoming authors) all ears. I’d love to see what all advices you’ve to offer for a new author :slight_smile:


#2

For a first time venture keep it simple. I can’t stress that enough. Interactive fiction has the tendency to grow out of control of not managed. So start simple and it will grow as you write.

Goodluck.


#3

Number One Tip: Finish it! :slight_smile: The WIP graveyard is depressing. Make it simple, have a feel for the scope of the project ahead of time and then keep going until its done.


#4

Well, you’ve already mastered the art of asking for help if you think you need it! :grin:

So, definitely be adaptable and open to feedback, but also remember to write the story you want or need to tell. Don’t try to anticipate trends or what you think will be popular, just try to find your authentic, unique author’s voice. If your time period/location/culture/etc. calls for it, then do any and all necessary research, but don’t throw a bunch of extra fluff into your story just because some other author or game did. Figure out what sings for you and an audience will connect with it.

I look forward to seeing what you bring to the forums! Welcome and good luck!


#5

Thank you for the advice!

While what you say is definitely useful, I’d be really ecstatic if you could elaborate on what I should do or avoid to keep my story simple. I believe it will be a great help to all the budding authors.


#6

Of course, of course! Thank you!
Actually, I’m a complete newbie (even with the forums), so could you tell me what is the purpose of WIP and what all goes there? Are there things like beta testing or feedback? I’d really appreciate it.


#7

Thank you for the excellent advice!
I’d definitely be open to suggestions and advice. But how do I exactly ask for them? How do I display my work? I’m completely unfamiliar with it all. Any help would be appreciated.


#8

If you’re new to the forums I’d strongly suggest reading through the threads. Use the search function if you like. Get a fel for how things are. Make sure you check out the rules too, and the choice of games guidelines as well.


#9

It’s interesting to hear about how others work on their games. The replies to the topic I’m linking below were extremely insightful and helped me develop a methodology for tackling my own WiP. It’s definitely worth a look.


The game design outline document is also quite handy:


#10

I checked out the forums, I haven’t just explored WIP and those game specific sections. I have read the guidelines and rules, so yeah thank you.


#11

Set a goal for yourself and see it to the end >www< keep the momentum as much as you can~ even if it’s just a few sentences a day c:

Start simple is the greatest advice xD


#12

Thank you! Both of them were really helpful. I can now get a better picture of writing the story. Thanks a lot!


#13

Actually, I don’t do WIPs. :slight_smile:

I prefer to hide my work until it’s ready enough to be played through as a full beta test. In fact, it’s possible that a WIP could even slow you down or be detrimental in your finishing. But that’s not the case for everyone. Other people love the constant feedback and encouragement to keep going, so if that’s something you’d like, then post something.

I’ve seen people post as little as an idea, just to get started. But, like I said, that’s not for me. :slight_smile:

Knowing your scope is important. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but also, have an idea of what you will write about so you know where it starts and where it’s going. Once you have a good idea of what your story will be about and sort of how it will go. Then, start it!

Don’t feel bad if you have to do some big changes to make it the way you want. Again, everyone is different when it comes to how much work they do before they sit down at the keyboard. I think you need an outline and that you should have your stats figured out. But like I said, if you see that a stat isn’t working or that another should be in there, add it and change it as soon as you can. But at the same time, keep going and finish it. :slight_smile:


#14

Whew! A lot to do, then. You ask for them like you did when you created this thread. Just make sure you don’t go making new threads willy-nilly, do a search of the CoG forums first to see if someone already had the same question.
You’ve already gotten some great links and advice before I had a chance to respond again, so I will just suggest a couple more you might want to check out. :relaxed:

Here are some useful writing tip resources:

A place to find other works in progress (WIPs) and upload your own when the time comes, if you’d like:


#15

I like the feedback that one gets from a WIP. It’s generally far more based around the part of the story you most recently worked on (and thus the freshest part in your mind). Also, early comments can help you catch things that could become far more problematic further down the road.

I would suggest writing a few thousand words (just to make sure you know you enjoy writing the story) before you upload anything. I know I gave up my first two attempts at writing one of these things long before I reached that stage, and so when I got one up to 10,000 words, I knew it was one I could probably actually finish.


#16

Keeping things simple is pretty straight forward but a few things one can look for are your variables and branches. Contain story branches to chapters. If you have three different paths at the very beginning that continue on vastly different tracks you’ll find yourself writing three whole books instead of one.

You can maintain freedom by letting your branches converge at various story points. A character ending up at the same place by the end of the chapter for very different reasons and by different means. How wide these chapter branches arc is up to you but they should converge back into the main story eventually.


#17

Let the reader breathe.

If you want your readers to stay invested in a storyline, give them moments to calm down and gather their thoughts. Throw in a pinch of humour or lighthearted character interaction after a big fight. Suspense only works if there is a curve - you can’t raise the bars higher and higher constantly. This is especially important when writing horror scenarios.

Give clear options.

The option of ‘glass him’ did not sound as mean as the outcome was in The Wolf Among Us. Give clear indications of what which choice will do so as to not frustrate readers.

Have a meaningful plot.

Whether you write a comedy, romance or thriller story - something needs to change from the beginning to the end. If that is the opinions of a character, the world they live in, the side they are on or something else. Something needs to develope throughout the story.

Know who your audience is.

If you write for a young audience, choose a simpler style of writing with less extravagant words. If you write for adults, do not baby them. If your focus is on survival in a post apocalyptic world which is gritty and dark, don’t suddenly turn it into a comedy after 2/3 of the story are over - unless you are going for a deconstruction of a genre, this will only leave your audience confused and/or angry. Deconstructions are handled via foreshadowing and ease the reader into it.

Write a scene out, even if it pains you.

The scene you wanted to write is horrible and you just want to move on? Write it out anyway. Even if it is bad, write it out and THEN move on. You can always come back to it and change it. But write it out when you need to write it out. Otherwise you will end up with holes in your story that will get bigger and bigger as time goes on.

Let your characters evolve organically.

If it feels wrong to make character X be involved in a car accident despite the fact that the idea has been set in stone for months now, then don’t do it. Characters will very often evolve on their own through the story that you want to tell. If you cling to your ideas that were there when the story first started, then that could hinder further character development. (I’ve had characters turn out gay who had a straight Love Interest set up for months. I’ve had characters give me a mental middle finger because they refused to be the bad guy when I wanted them to be. If you have your characters under control than you are luckier than I am haha.)

If you need to stay focused on writing, try this:

  • listen to ambiant background music, wonderful to set the mood for certain scenes
  • set a timer and write for 1 hour straight
  • make check lists for story ideas, so you have a handy grab bag of plot points for when you need them

#18

Start with a short story and not a novel… that way you can finish it, and it will feel good.

As for structure, for me it really helps to think of the game infour different steps since I can’t jump back and forth between different brainspaces.

1. Structure. Plot out the game/choices/chapters on paper so you can draw arrows between the scenes and figure out where everything goes. This is important if you want to finish, otherwise it might go off the rails somewhere down the line. If it looks bare, don’t worry. It will most likely get twice that size as you start writing and figure out more choices that makes sense. This is the fun step, and try really hard not to make your first game longer than a single comic issue or short story. It is easy to go big, but it will be harder in the next step.

2. Coding. Write the actual code of the games, with simple sentences what will go in the flavor text. This way it is easier to see the code, and you get to figure out what kind of stats you need to keep track of. It will be hard and annoying at first, but once you have understood choicescript it will be easy. You don’t need to know everything, just a few basic commands and you are set to go. There are many good tutorials on the site.

3. Writing. Now it is time to switch into writing mode. You don’t have to worry about how to code now, you just go through the game, replacing all those one sentence descriptions with proper scenes and dialog. It is at this stage where it is important to jump back and forth and see so that the end of a scene flows nicely into the next one, and to add page breaks in case things gets congested. It is here that more choices will probably pop up, but be sure not to expand too much.

4: Polish. This is where you go back once more and polish everything, fills out routes that looks bare, adds exposition and makes sure that everything flows nicely.

It is usually during step 3 that the game goes up as a WIP, to get some input as you progress. If you want to.

I can’t stress enough the importance of not thinking too big the first time around. If you have a cool idea for a big game, pick your favorite character in it and try to write a small scene just about them. Because that is the other important thing, you have to like what you are doing, and really want to write about these people/events. Otherwise nothing will work and be fun.


#19

Don’t jump straight into things, especially when coding is involved. I learnt that the hard way :expressionless:.

You should learn about the characters you are writing by doing full profiles like their age and stuff, then after you have them totally figured out it makes it easier to know how they would say certain things and what actions they would take in certain situations.


#20

I’d strongly suggest trying to make your work at least 200,000 words. I know it seems like a lot, but trust me, it will be worth it. Anything less than that and it’s likely you’ll receive a ton of complaints about your story being too short. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made as an author was getting too impatient and splitting up Trial of the Demon Hunter and Captive of Fortune into two books instead of one like I had originally planned.