Saturday, 28 January 2017

Writing Goals...

In my previous post I reflected a little on the goals I had set out for myself in 2016. For the most part these goals revolved around various forms of playing games because, well, I like playing games, and my blog is dominated by posts about them.

Over the last few years I been working somewhat as a freelance writer (well, it's a hobby really, I work as a teacher during day-light hours). This work has all been in the games industry, with both Spartan Games and Modiphius Entertainment (those interested can see what exactly I have worked on, on my bibliography page).

I have always had a passion for game design and writing, I have tended to spend vast chunks of my time developing my own role-playing systems and settings, board games, writing fiction, and writing for various places online. After high school I studied professional writing and editing for a couple of years before going on to teaching, and my hard drive and many note books are full of jottings, from simple plot, scene or setting concepts, to game ideas, to variously 'finished' and (predominantly) unfinished short story, novella and novel manuscripts.

The last few years it has been a pleasure, therefore, to be able to do this work in a more professional sense. To see things I helped work on, design or write make it to print. It is not a side-job that has earned me a lot of money, I might add, but I enjoy it, and it keeps me off the streets.

This post, as the title might suggest, is about my writing goals for 2017...

Spartan Games:

2016 ended with an explosion of activity for Spartan Games, and Dystopian Wars specifically. There is a new version of the rules underway, which I am not involved with at this stage, but there are also many models to stat up, 7 faction books to produce, as well as the Ice Maiden and Bronze Typhoon campaign books and the Decameron - a book of novellas and short stories.

Needless to say, everyone involved is full steam ahead. I am working currently on the faction books, the campaign books and the Decameron. While I will be doing some of the writing for all of those, my main role at the moment is to help project manage these 9 books from conception to production. Neil, myself and some of the core writers who work with Spartan (Franco Sammarco and Sam Bevan), have worked through a plan for how these stories will develop, and Neil and myself have worked through the outline and structure of the books so everyone knows how they will be stitched together and what pieces are required. I am excited. I'm hoping everyone will thoroughly enjoy the playing through the campaign books; and the faction guides and Decameron will help develop the background of Dystopian Wars, including some fun things which reveal a little more about the how and why of this alternate 1800s setting...

Modiphius Entertainment:

Over the last year and a bit I have been doing some free lance work for Modiphius Entertainment. I worked as an editor on the Achtung! Cthulhu Miniatures Game, but my main projects have been for the upcoming Infinity Role Playing Game. More recently I have also finished a little writing for the upcoming Star Trek Adventures Role Playing Game. I have absolutely loved working on these games, the opportunity to delve in and write background and setting material is something I enjoy immensely.

Infinity: The Role Playing Game is based on the setting of the very successful miniatures game from Corvus Belli. Those who have followed my blog may recall this is a game I have played and enjoyed, and therefore writing some of the setting chapters for the core rule book has been a real pleasure. I am currently working on an adventure, and will have more to do as Wave 2 develops. It should be a busy year for Infinity!

I have only recently completed my first assignment for Star Trek Adventures, and again, this has been something I have thoroughly loved. Just the potential to tell my wife that staying up and watching Star Trek is 'research' is enough, but the game system is looking really good and of course the setting is classic science fiction, so writing for it is something I have had a lot of fun with. I am looking forward to the opportunity to do more in the coming year.

Castle by Moonlight:

My blogging goal for 2017 is roughly the same as what I had for 2016. If I can keep up around two posts a month, I'll be happy. Last year I managed an average of three posts a month, but I'll keep the goal at two. I know some months when everything else is busy, I may not hit that target, and other months when things are more quiet (or the mood takes me), I'll manage more. Two a month gives me a goal to work toward without feeling like I'm placing too much pressure on myself. As per usual my blog will remain predominantly about games and gaming, with the occasional book review or other piece of miscellany thrown in.

Writing for pleasure...

[insert picture of a majestic landscape or an inspirational quote here]

Much of the work I have completed, in regards to writing, over the last couple of years has been a form of report (as on this blog), a form of technical writing (rules, scenarios), or has been copy editing. It has been a nice break away from the norm to be writing background material for the Infinity role playing game and the occasional piece of fiction for Spartan Games. One of the things I want to make sure I set aside time for in 2017 is to write more fiction of my own. I have a broad collection of narratives, from short stories through to novels, in various stages of completion; and the beginnings of plans or the seeds of ideas for many more.

I want make the time to get back to writing my own stories in my own settings. I think the way to do this is to try and set aside at least one night a week (I'll start with one and see how it goes), where my sole focus is to work on something of my own. Of course, it really should be more than this, but with work to complete for Spartan and Modiphius, one night will suffice for now.

I expect this goal will be quite hard to maintain, not only am I a world class procrastinator, never doing today what I can put off for tomorrow, but when my other freelance projects get busy, they can be quite consuming. Writing is a creative act, and distraction, emotional state, weariness and many other factors can all impact a person's ability to 'get it done'. The act of writing itself can feel like it is just flowing, the words tumbling onto the page, but sometimes they just don't. Additionally, one must often stop for a period to research things like common Sicilian surnames, or how the ionosphere can interfere with radio signals, or the structure of the United Nations Military Council... because anyone who writes will admit to having an insanely random set of browser searches in their history. Research can and usually does eat hours, and, of course, there is a limit to a person's available work time, especially when they have a day job as well. When high levels of research are required, whether for a freelance project or a personal one, it can feel like a lot of time has been spent for very little progress. But this is just a part of the process, of course.

Regardless, whatever the excuses, whatever the distractions, I really want to push myself to spend a night a week working on my own projects. It will be interesting to see how I go.

So that about sums up my writing goals for 2017. The other key factor in all of this is making sure I don't take on so much that I burn myself out, or that it then impacts negatively on the time I have with my family, or my day job. It will be interesting to see how things develop. I think 2017 will be a bumper year, with much to do for Dystopian Wars, the Infinity RPG and hopefully the Star Trek RPG. Add in the time I want to spend on my own projects, and I think I will be kept reasonably busy throughout 2017. Writing is something I love, so I find the process a curious mix of stressful (especially around deadlines) and cathartic. I'm hoping 2017 is a year in which I find a solid rhythm to work to: where I can manage my freelance work as well as make progress on my own projects. We shall see!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Looking Back at 2016...

My last post was a little past the  middle of November, and given the gap I must apologise, gentle reader (note that 'reader' is singular), but it has been a busy time.

Aside from the general business of the festive season, with family to visit, drinks to imbibe and food to relish, we have also been busy moving castles. Moving castles is not the most streamlined of processes, it is messy, tiring, and a lot of wandering around wondering which box contains the thing you want in any particular moment. Even having been in the new castle now for around a month, much of our lives are still hidden in some box or tub, probably under some other box or tub.

So the first post of 2017, in the true spirit of the Roman goddess Janus after whom this month is named, I shall be looking back at 2016. 'How quaint' I hear you murmur, 'nobody does reflections on the previous year in January' I hear you stutter, almost spilling your muscat down the front of your velvet monogrammed pajamas.

While you may think it true, careful examination of the interwebs will clearly show that this time of year typically sees bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, geeklist makers and people of all stripes create lists of those things that were best about 2016, and what they are looking forward to in 2017. Who am I to buck a trend?

In all honesty 2016 was an ugly, drawn out, painful and generally turgid affair. If it was a Beast, even Belle would have been urging Gaston to put the bastard down. But it is done, and while 2017 promises (on a global level at least) to be worse, it is here, and so has to be faced with whatever sense of optimism you can muster or whatever banal aphorisms will help you through.

But, I am not here to moan relentlessly from the comfort of my first world life about how tough it all is, I'm here for the gaming! Well, mostly.

At the start of 2016 I wrote a post covering some of my hobby goals for coming year... well, the end times have come and it is time for a reckoning.

The first of my goals was to play at least 100 different games over the course of 2016, which, surprisingly, is something I managed quite comfortably. I ended 2016 having played 115 different games. For those interested the geeklist I used to to keep track of them is here.

Some of my favourites from the year include Battlelore, which was nice to get back to the table again, and Shadows over Camelot, which is also an older game, but a thoroughly excellent one. The best 'new-to-me- game I played in 2016 was probably Codenames, which was a lot of fun, and something I am looking to playing more of in 2017.

In terms of miniature games, and aside from Spartan games such as Dystopian Wars (which I have worked on), I would have to say I was most excited to play Heavy Gear Blitz and Mordheim. Both games were new to me, and while Mordheim is an old game, it is truly a wonderful game. Heavy Gear is something I am hoping to get to the table more this coming year. The minis are great, and I am really enjoying it.

The Scions of Erasmus... my Mordheim warband...

A Hunter Squad for Heavy Gear Blitz...

My next goal was to reduce the number of unplayed games in my collection. This is a goal at which I failed, I'm afraid. I ended 2016 with several more games unplayed than I began it. Hopefully I will have better luck in this department in 2017!

I'm looking at you Sekigahara!

My next goal was to spend more time playing games with my family. I would say this goal has been achieved, I still want to make sure I take the time to play more with my wife and kids in 2017, but the grounding in 2016 was a starting place.

Song of Blades and Heroes with my son...

I had the goal of playing more RPGs in 2016, something I did not manage to do I'm afraid. I really hope that 2017 picks up in this regard... we have a maiden voyage planned for the coming week with the upcoming Star Trek game by Modiphius, so hopefully this is something we can build up!

I had a painting goal of getting a Squadron a month painted, and surprisingly I think I came close. Between my Covenant models, my Mordheim Warband and some Heavy Gears, I am pleased with how much I managed to get done...

Lots done by my own low standard... fingers crossed that I manage more in 2017!
My blogging goal was to write at least two blog posts a month. I think (if I've added correctly) that I managed some 36 posts over 2016, some months I was quiet, some silent, but overall I am happy with my blogging output. My posting is too haphazard in both regularity and subject matter to ever accrue many views, but writing is my goal, not building up my views stat!

My podcasting goal, of recording and posting something at least once a month, turned out to be impossible. With the Element 270 podcast winding up due to scheduling difficulties, and On Minis Games struggling this last month or so due to the move, I just haven't had the time and opportunity. Here's hoping that 2017 sees On Minis Games get going properly!

Lastly, I had a goal to read at least a book a month. Without a doubt the stand out book I read in 2016 was The Martian, by Andy Weir. It is an absolutely wonderful, totally engaging and brilliantly executed book, and I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone. If I was to include the books I had read to my class, this goal would be a shoe in, but considering only books I read for my own pleasure, I fall short of the mark. Again, I hope to make amends in 2017!

And that about sums up the obligatory reflection on 2016. at some point I'll get around to formulating goals for 2017, so until then...