Wednesday 2 January 2013

Pondering - Level Up Your Writing

Dark Pondering Image

Level Up Your Writing

A recent blog post by Chuck Wendig set my mind to work on this idea (25-writer-resolutions-for-2013), namely, item one: “Level up, Ding”. Chuck talks about levelling up the quality of your writing, and trying to "gain new weapons in our fight against Shitty Writing." Stripping this back to the raw basics, it could also be a useful way of goal setting and achievement logging.

I can also remember that some time ago, some overweight computer geek brought out a dieting book utilising his knowledge of video games and how he played them to get his weight under control.(teen-cuts-size-half-video-game-diet). It appears to be something that is continuing to seep into other non-gaming areas from time to time. 

I wondered what the same mode of thinking might achieve with writing. It would also be a chance to firmly get my nerd hat on and think about something in a way that I hadn't previously. What could possibly go wrong?

You would like to write a novel. You have an idea and a word count in mind, maybe 60,000 words. Maybe words could become the equivalent of XP (experience points for non-gamers), and levelling up could be a way to reward yourself for getting your work done. 

If we follow a typical game levelling system, we will be starting at level 1. The jump from level 1 to level 2 is always the quickest and so should be achievable in one sitting. For this example, writing 250 words of your story (whether at the start, middle or end, it doesn’t really matter). If you achieve this, enjoy your DING as you rank up to level 2! 

Most games don’t really give you much of a reward this early, so maybe you might just want to reward yourself with that chocolate bar you have fancied for a few days. If we continue to follow the usual gaming pattern, it will take twice as long to get to level two. You also might not like to give yourself rewards for absolutely every level, or you just might? Who knows, it's your choice. 

Thinking this through, below is an example rank list, or skill tree if you will.

Levels   -   Target   -   Unlock/Perk
Level 1-2 250 words - Tasty treat of your choice.
Level 2-3 500 words - Guilt free enjoyment of a non-productive hobby for 20 mins.
Level 3-4 1000 words - Treat yourself to a small gift like a cheap book or magazine.
Level 4-5 2000 words – Take half of a day off and spend it on a different project of your choice.
Level 5-6 4000 words – Treat yourself to something more costly, a film/game/book you wanted.
Level 6-7 8000 words – Flick through the writers and artists yearbook and dare to dream.
Level 7-8 16,000 words – Buy a nice new gadget like those headphone you’ve had your eye on.
Level 8-9 32,000 words – Take up to a week and do whatever the fuck you like with it, you earned it.
Level 9-10 Redraft – etc.

(Note – The word count from a previous level does not count towards your next level. It starts from 0 every time).

If you follow that route, by the time you are rank 9, you will have written 63,750 words and will at the least, have a very rough novel that you can then shape and tidy up. Whether this method of self-discipline appeals to you or not, I can see how it might be useful to some. Many people set goals and waypoints towards large projects, and if you are a gamer of any kind, taking ten minutes to create your own levelling system might just be the thing you need. You might even like to find a short sample of music that you can play as your ranking up tune, as so many games now do. If you are half way decent at coding, you could even write a simple app that will give you a more realistic "Ding" experience. 

I can see that there is a lot of scope in this and you could take it as far as you would like to. Of course, you shouldn’t spend too long on your preparations, as you may never get started on the actual important stuff, like writing.

I’m off now, as I just ranked up and have earned a cup of tea and the right to shout at passing cars for the next twenty minutes. I do not intend to waste that right. Good night.