Big, Sexy Dinosaurs

Boy, are they beautiful!

Churning and Burning

Wow! Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post. I desperately hope I can live up to expectations and that the book is cool and awesome in the end.

I greatly appreciate the vote of confidence but the first manuscript submission was definitely not the end and I can’t afford to view it as such. I’m actually sweating a bit at the moment; The notion that stuff I’m sending off now is final, set in stone…it’s a yinyang of terror and elation. Elation because, well, the end is finally in sight. Terror because I was in such a ludicrous hurry to finish up each section that I managed to crank out some truly abysmal writing. As I’m discovering now that I ‘m churning through doing final edits and tying up loose ends, I’ve committed just about every conceivable Cardinal Sin of the First Time Author. If you find some day find that you’ve woken up, Memento-style, from a bout of crippling amnesia and have for some inexplicable reason agreed to write a book…condolences :D. I recommend the following, in no particular order:

1. Create diagrams as you go. They are always more time consuming than you think they’re going to be and if you come back to them later you often end up rewriting sections of text to match.

2. Write a detailed, comprehensive outline ahead of time. I thought I understood what an outline was, but I was painfully mistaken. An outline means you’ve traveled the thought paths of the book from beginning to end. If you can’t talk your way through the entire book via the outline, explaining each point in detail, the outline is not complete.

3. There’s no such thing as the perfect word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, section. I’ve wasted so much time trying to be clever with my writing it’s nearly beyond calculation. At this point, I’d say I’ve written at a ratio of two to one. That is, I’ve written two words of nonsense that I threw away to every one that stayed. That’s a lot of words :/. The lesson is that you should make your point first, make it clear and concise, and then make it fun to read. I’ve found that once I have clearly stated what I’m trying to say the writing part takes care of itself.

4. Permissions are a bitch. Secure them as quickly as possible. Cold calling does not work.

5. Write as if every draft were final. I really wish I’d done this. It would have taken just a little bit more time, but re-engaging with a piece of writing later is so much harder than pushing it that extra step when you’re really ‘in it.’

6. You’ll never have that day. This is a tip Ian Bogost imparted as we trudged through the cold Montreal evening: you will never have a day when you write for 18 hours straight and complete 10,000 amazing words. Better to write 500 words that stay in the final manuscript on the back of a movie ticket than to beat your head against a monitor for a whole day.

7. Avoid contingency webs. Keep a stable of other interesting things that help the book get closer to completion but which don’t require brilliant flashes of insight. I got really wrapped up in the idea that to start A I needed B complete and C complete and so on. This is probably the single biggest failure of my writing process. If you think this way, paralysis is waiting just around the corner. Writing, like game design, never feels “done.” The solution is to attack thought problems at the highest, most abstract level first. If I had to do it over, I wouldn’t have written a single coherent sentence until I could dance my way through the entire thoughtflow of the book, start to finish. That way, you can “finish” the whole thing at one level and simple refine and expand from there.

I’m actually writing this as a warm up; I’ve been a naughty boy and haven’t finshed what i wanted to get done today. After this, I’m off to complete an example chapter about Super Mario 64.

Huzzah!

Finally…

It’s 3:30am and I’m just about to head to bed. Tomorrow, I will turn in the first draft of the entire manuscript of my book. About 40 minutes ago, I finally solved the central and most important thought problem of the book. Cutting it close, I realize, but now I feel like I can finally rest peacefully. It’s been awhile.

In other news: I can’t wait to share the book with everybody! Still another month and a half of editing, fixing, filling holes and so on, but the end is finally in sight. Writing this book has been the most difficult undertaking of my life, bar none.