This summer has certainly had its ups and downs in regards to the game. On the one hand, the backlog is embarrassingly large, and we’re all still bummed about Kara stepping down. On the other hand, though, with a few weeks off between my summer classes and the beginning of the regular school year, I’m making a dent in the lag. Also on the positive end of things is another minor achievement I wanted to announce….
….As of episode 3/08/16, the Vampires of San Francisco has officially reached one million words. That’s one million words of gameplay transcription, cut-scenes, and main-storyline fanfiction written by myself.
To get a sense of what this means, I researched some numbers and came up with this handy comparison chart:
That’s…certainly nothing to sneeze at. However, basically my reaction to all of this has been the following:
So, part of the reason I dump so much time into this project is because I genuinely want to become a better writer myself. As is familiar to many of us, ever since I was a kid devouring every SF/F book on the shelf at the city library I’ve dreamt of sharing stories of my own with the world. And as Ray Bradbury famously said, every writer has a million bad words in them before they have any good ones. So it seems I’m in the clear, right?
As I’ve said repeatedly, the words in this project aren’t completely mine. It’s also the dialogue spoken by my friends and the bits of description and pacing cribbed from Jason’s verbal narrative. More to the point, the ideas within are barely even 25% mine, since we’re working in an established world and are all at the whims of Jason’s madness.
But one thing I do accept as an achievement is that I have edited one million words. Three years now of paring down our ramblings and reading about story structure has made me a lot better at parsing out the flow of a scene, to keep it feeling like a plot and not just a series of events that happened. So much writing advice I read implies that good stories aren’t written, they’re edited, so I feel pretty good at being ahead of the game on that.
On a similar topic, I also feel like—and please correct me if I’m wrong—I’ve gotten pretty good at writing action. I’ve been specifically practicing with ways of adding rhythm and details and wordspace to make it sit in the reader’s mind like the visuals of a movie. Many writers seem to shy away from writing action, so this development is something I’m both proud of and concerned about.
See, “visual” writing is fairly contentious in the writing world. Many writers I’ve talked to imply that it’s too base—vulgar even—and isn’t using the writing medium to its full potential. But as much as I try to add emotional depth and layers, it’s clear that it’s a style of voice I keep coming back to. Every single writing teacher I’ve ever had has commented on how “clear” my writing is, and for better or for worse, this project only seems to have brought it out more.
Speaking of my writing teachers, some might wonder why I included Infinite Jest in the comparison chart. For starters, at over 500,000 words, it’s definitely a tome of our times. But the more important reason is because David Foster Wallace was one of my writing teachers. I was accepted into advanced creative writing with him when I was at Pomona College, which was an excellent experience I won’t wax on at the moment. But I will share the best piece of writing advice DFW ever gave me:
Most writers say this (and have, to my face), but he took it further, saying it didn’t matter what you write so long as you are writing. I specifically remember him saying that if it meant writing copy for cereal boxes, so be it! The important point was practicing communicating through the written medium. That advice has actually had more impact on my life today than you might expect. When I graduated with a master’s degree in biology but a still-yearning kernel in my heart to be a writer, that advice is what lead me to take a job as an science writer at a small ed-tech start-up. That lead to a seven year career that has now shunted me into education-proper, where my skills in written communication prove invaluable in communicating scientific topics to errant high-schoolers. But most importantly, and most relevant here, this advice is what runs through my head whenever I drag myself back to the computer, back to the recordings, to keep slogging away at this herculean effort of words and story.
Some of you, and other friends, have asked how it is I do all this, and that’s basically the answer right there. I just write it, because it’s what needs to be done. I’m passionate about the story my friends and I are creating here, I am achingly-proud of the small pieces that are mine, and am beyond humbled that people are actually reading it all. Just like I’ve always dreamt about.
Although, in all honesty, if I went back in time and told my vampire-hating childhood self that I was finding moderate success writing what basically amounts to vampire fan-fiction, this would be her reaction: