Tips for plotting and development? Asking as a newbie

Hi all, I’m new to writing CoG script, but fell in love with IF last year. Since I’ve only been in the CoG/Hosted Games community for a year, I wonder if anyone has some general advice for the following potholes:

  1. Plotting-- okay, this is different from the advice one may get when writing linear fiction. IF plotting is a whole lot of branches, customizations options, and all that. How long does it take authors to usually feel like they have a solid plot in line and characters?

  2. Beta readers-- are they a thing? I’d love to have a beta reader to help me go through everything and make sure it looks good before releasing new material to the public.

  3. Burnout-- how do authors typically cope with burnout or feeling discouraged?

  4. Is it common to have a few WIP going at once? I don’t want to write something that no one takes any interest in, but I also don’t want to spread myself thin, especially given that I have a job and everything outside of IF.

I am really passionate about IF! That being said, it gets a little disorienting at times.

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Plotting isn’t that hard; you need to set a goal and work/write towards it gradually; the biggest issue is checking for inconsistencies; you can’t have parts of your story contradicting other parts.

Plotting is the hardest part, mostly because if I give a definition that differentiates it from “story”, it will instantly derail everything into a heated discussion on plot vs. story that nobody agrees with even though everyone is confident that they’ve got the best way of defining them.

Anyway –

Beta Readers: yes

Burnout: don’t lie to yourself about what you enjoy about the writing process

Multiple WIPs ongoing: extremely common.

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Oof, I don’t know how much help I can be since I just joined this year as an active member, but I’ll try!

  1. There’s a broad answer to this, I think. Plotting comes down to the size of the game, how much lore it includes, and how much branching you actually want to have. It also depends if you’re more of a plotter or a pantser type of writer. Plotters have the outline ready to go, while pantsers go with the flow, or the vibes. I’ve worked on a game (both before and after starting my CoG journey) for three years, and the plot is still developing in new directions.

Keep in mind though, that more branching =/= better game. Too much sidetracking can pull people out of the core idea of the game. Eg. There’s an alien invasion going on, why are we suddenly having tea with a RO’s estranged grandmother? (Not from a CoG game, but my own. Ouch the self-burns.)

  1. They sure are a thing! Either you can have the entire forum as a beta when posting you WIP publicly, or you can do a beta tester call-out. I don’t know much about the subject, so I’ll let someone else explain that one.

  2. Oh lawd the burnout. When staring at the code feels like a jab in the heart, I know that sensation well. When that happens, I personally take some time to get to know my story again. It’s easy for it to stagnate at some point if there’s no clear direction to go. If you’re able, take some time to write another blurb that takes place at another time in the game, or write a snippet of a character you subconsciously favor over the rest - I mean, uh, that you feel most inspiration for.

It’s always good to explore your own world as well. Make a Pinterest board, find some music that fits the setting, and try to find that sensation you had when first conjuring the idea for your game. What got you excited then? Try refocusing on that. Writing should be fun, not a chore.

  1. That’s pretty much a personal preference. I have 3 WIPs that get almost equal amount of love, while I have my business and job outside writing. Sometimes it’s better to just work on one project as long as you’re passionate about it so that if real life gets too hectic, you don’t feel guilty for working on only one project while the others just sit on the sidelines. It’s all about how much you can handle.

This took way long to write, yikes. But welcome to the community! I’ll be looking out for any WIPs under your name :clap:t3:

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I’ll try to be as blunt as possible given advice (and note that I struggle to follow my own advice! but, I think the clearer the message the better).

  1. Just start writing… get a first game out and learn what worked and what didn’t. Assume your first game will be mediocre at best, probably worse than that… and improve in your second game! (don’t wait). However, make sure NOT to branch out. Write the first draft of your game from start to finish, NO branching until you have the final scene written!!! (I’ll come back to this on point 3).

  2. Get the first draft of the game, 20,000-30,000 words in total, finished. Then advertise in the forum for testers. People here are so friendly… but LISTEN to them! Each piece of advice you are given is worth gold! (my games wouldn’t be what they are without beta testers telling me “I want to do xyz”, or “xyz” makes no bloody sense)

  3. Branching leads to burnout. Avoid branching until you have a first draft of the game. Don’t release a first draft of the game until it is very advanced. Otherwise all the advice you will get, and the chaos of branching, will get to you. If you have a game “finished”, then anytime you reach burnout you can always release (that is what I do… my games are released when I can no longer work on them… and then I gradually improve them after).

  4. Avoid having several WIPs! This is the wrong thing to do… go for one game, and finish it! (says the person with 5 WIPs… though one is in the release phase, and another is a collaboration game… still, 3 WIPs is not good!). Basically, your brain will always want to start a new WIP, you have to control it and force it to continue working on what is almost finished…

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If I wanted to find some beta testers before the release of the material to the public, how would I go about doing so?

I have one WIP and am thinking about doing another one. I have to say, the second one seems to be a bit easier to plot because I have more of an idea of MC’s role in it. But I also find that I have too many self-doubts when writing that might also trip me up, about worldbuilding and potential problems.

Advice from experience:

  1. Find out what kind of writer you are. There’s generally three types: Planners, Pantsers and Plantsers: Planners plan everything through before they get to writing. Their final and first drafts are usually not very different from each other. Pantsers fly by by the seat of their pants. They have a vague idea and just get writing. First and final drafts can be very different. and plantsers are an in-between. They have a general idea for the overall plot and smaller stuff, but usually are prone to implementing ideas while they write stuff up.
    1a: Find how you write best: Are you more comfortable writing longhand first or type things up directly. Are you more comfortable with finishing a piece first (completely or parts) and then go back and change stuff, or are you better when you make changes as they come to mind.
  2. As others said: A WiP thread with a public link is the best solution here. And when the game goes into final beta, make a new, private thing and give the link to trusted people.
  3. relax. it happens. don’t beat yourself up over it.
  4. There’s several approaches: 1. write what you have the most muse for first. Note down ideas for other things when an idea manifests. And maybe you can also find how to combine ideas into one.

Good luck :3

As for releasing things:

During the WiP state you can upload things to dashingdon.

And as for general self-doubt: There’s an interest check thread on here. post your idea in there and see what people say 'bout it :slight_smile:

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Sounds like what you want are people to reassure you that your work is ready. Don’t worry about that. Just put it up. You’re fine.

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I do have it up, but I’m encountering a lot feelings of doubt. I’ve heard on this thread that there is a specific place to recruit beta testers… but I couldn’t find it when I searched. :confused:

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Well normally the authors make a wip thread and get their beta readers that way.

But what you search seems to be more an Alphareader, someone that reads your Script before anyone Else?

You might want to post about your game in the interest thread Interest Check Thread - #3940 by snail and ask the people that seem most interested, If they want to help you.

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It seems they got their game WiP up here: Invicto

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Then it might be a good idea to Link to the WIP in their Profile, creates interest from new testers and helps the others find the thread easier. :hugs:

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You could post in the interest thread as has been suggested asking for testers. That may be a hard sell though without a demo. My recommendation would be just to make a short demo and post that in the interest thread or make a post for it. You can ask readers for specific feedback on areas you’re unsure on if you like. It’s hard putting stuff out there in the beginning, but you just need to go for it and understand that any critisicm isn’t personal and is just to help make the writing better if you get it, so can be viewed as a good thing in a way. What you put up doesn’t have to be perfect, that’s why games have to have a beta before being allowed to be published. Just make sure it’s bug free as much as possible by running the testers and a spell check through it and go from there :slight_smile:

Unfortunately you can’t post separate game interest threads without demos any more. The forum was getting flooded with posts about ideas people had but never actioned.

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