Tag Archive for Magical Burst

NaNoWriMo 2012 Postmortem

Yesterday I missed work because of a migraine, but got a net gain on writing time as I spent the afternoon and evening well-rested and at the computer. Then this morning I had one of those bouts of insomnia that I get sometimes, and woke up at around 3:30 a.m. with little hope of getting back to sleep. [1] I pushed past 50,000 words and finished up my first draft of Magical Girl Radiant Yuna just before I left for work at 6:30 a.m. I don’t regret doing it, but I am very glad that it’s over. I feel an extra layer of exhaustion that goes beyond what the sleep deprivation can explain, and among other things I think if I do NaNoWriMo in the future I’ll do it with something more lighthearted.

What I have is most definitely a first draft. It has several parts that I really, really like, but also some glaring weaknesses that I’ll have to try to address once I get into the revision process. There are some plot elements that I need to just plain do more with, including some of the major characters. While I like the ending I came up with, the last quarter or so of the story seems very rushed, the kind of thing you get when the anime studio suddenly finds out they have to wrap things up in a couple episodes before the show gets canceled. I have a natural rhythm of stepping away from a project to digest things and come up with solutions for those kinds of weaknesses, and NaNoWriMo forces me to just write more regardless. It forces me to complete a narrative rather than neglecting a project indefinitely as I too often do, but it also seems to inherently mean there are going to be some flaws in the story that will take time to untangle. Of course, when I look at the stories that I really admire ( Wreck-It Ralph being one that was on my mind a lot lately), it’s obvious that they didn’t get that way on the first draft.

Although compared to previous NaNoWriMos I had a better idea of what I wanted to do with the overall story, there was still a tremendous amount to discover along the way. Some of the characters surprised me in odd ways, and new twists were emerging in the story right up until the very end. More than once I came up with something just to toss in to fill word count, and found I couldn’t imagine not having it in the story. There were also some things I thought were just plain neat, like an American magical girl in a wedding dress with a shotgun with intricate carvings of roses, or Ami Watanabe, the magical girl who now heads up the Japanese government’s underfunded supernatural intelligence agency. When I was gearing up to do this project a friend of mine asked me how it was going to be different from a Madoka Magica fanfic, and I didn’t have much of an answer because it was so obvious to me that apart from some superficial details, the differences massively dwarf the similarities, and that only became more true as I kept writing. To pick just one example, Pyonkichi, Yuna’s mascot/tsukaima, started off as a low-rent version of Kyuubey I came up with for the Magical Burst book, but he wound up having a character arc that I personally found much more interesting. Where Kyuubey knows exactly what he’s doing and simply reveals more of it over the course of the series, Pyonkichi, who takes a certain twisted pride in his magical girls, experiences profound conflict when he learns what’s actually going on. (I got a WordPress plugin that allows for spoiler tags BTW.)

Another thing that I realized is that at some point I would really like to put together an anthology of Magical Burst short stories. Evil Hat did such an anthology for their game Don’t Rest Your Head (which was an influence on Magical Burst coincidentally) called Don’t Read This Book . While I like where I’m going with Radiant Yuna, I deliberately made Magical Burst a game where the group playing it has a lot of power over the setting, and I want to make stories that explore not only other possible settings, but different tones besides the Serious Business one I struck for the novel. I especially want something zany that feels like a Studio 4°C short. But, that’s way in the future, probably well after I finally publish Magical Burst in the first place.

Focusing on one project for an entire month was an interesting exercise, but it really made me appreciate how I normally allow myself the freedom to jump from one project to the next at random like I usually do. I’ve got this big backlog of other projects that I want to mess with, and in fact a couple of times I couldn’t help but poke at some things. I do need to be better about making a habit of writing a bit every day, especially where writing prose is concerned, but forcing it to be on one project does violence to my normal creative process. Now than NaNoWriMo is behind me, I think my output of blogging and podcasting is going to go through the roof for a bit, because I have a massive number of things I want to work on on those fronts.

[1] Dehydration seems to be a big factor in this, and I’m planning to go buy a humidifier after work today.

NaNoWriMo 2012

This year will be the third time I’ve done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). (You can see my profile here , if you must.) I’ve done it a couple times before, though both of those times were while I was working as a security guard and could get in as much as 4,000 words in one day by bringing my laptop and typing while watching an empty building. Now that I have a full-time office job as a localization editor it’s a lot harder to make time to keep up the word count. I want to make the effort though, because in the past few months I’ve kind of fallen off the wagon when it comes to writing stories. I’ve been putting a ton of energy into designing card games, and while that’s included stuff like Channel A that involves words and creativity, they’re pretty far removed from writing stories.

I had originally intended to try to execute the “Tiny Aliens” story idea I’ve been kicking around for the past year or so, but in the weeks leading up to November I got heavily inspired to work on Magical Burst , my dark magical girl RPG, which in turn has led me to start working on the tie-in novel I’ve been wanting to write to go with it, tentatively titled Magical Girl Radiant Yuna . I’m writing this blog post on Day 2 of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve already broken 6,000 words. That’s partly because I’m writing both a foreword and an appendix of game stats for elements that appear in the book, and those things are generally a lot easier to do than story prose. On the other hand the pure prose part of the book is up to around 3,000 words. I don’t at all expect to be able to keep up this pace (if I did I’d hit 50,000 words in less than two weeks), but I’m glad to be off to a good start nonetheless.

A big part of what’s different this year versus the two times in the past when I did NaNoWriMo is that I’ve done more and better outlining for the story. There’s still a lot I’ll need to figure out and discover, but especially in this initial sprint I have a clearer idea of what I’m trying to do. For UFO Girl and Slime Story: The Legend of Doug I produced first draft novels in one month, but I still have a ton of revision to do on both of them. That’s partly because I’ve matured a bit as a writer since then, and partly because there are issues with plot structure and such that arose from the mad rush to finish by the end of November. (Seriously, some parts of the Slime Story novel are just embarrassing.) Sometimes I need to let stuff simmer until the right solution for how to handle something comes along, and I think that’s even more true of stories than games. In the days leading up to NaNoWriMo I did some fairly critical outlining work. I removed some of the more contrived elements of my earlier plans for the story (like there being a clone of one of the major characters), and I think strengthened the planned core plot immensely. I’m already doing some really weird stuff with the story anyway.

One of the interesting things about writing a story based on Magical Burst in particular is that the game has an awful lot of elements intended to help jog creativity. A lot of such tools exist, like Rory’s Story Cubes , Daniel Solis’ Writer’s Dice , and the Seventh Sanctum random generators site. I picked up the habit of using that kind of randomness in a big way from Maid: The Role-Playing game , which makes extensive use of random tables for character creation, random events, random items, and more. (If you’re not familiar with Maid RPG, here’s a fan-made character generator .) Magical Burst includes tables for most every element of magical girl creation, plus tables for creating monsters and mascots, for generating the mutations magical girls can sometimes suffer, and more. It both provides something I can fall back on, and gives me a decent checklist of things to be sure to cover, making the magical girl characters for the novel that much richer as a result. I didn’t go so far as to randomly generate an entire character (though there is a fan-made generator for that ), but the tables in the game have enough ideas that it’s never hard to figure stuff out.

The biggest lesson that I’m taking from this is that I can make time to be creative if I really try. I think it’s a lesson that needs to be reinforced from time to time, since apparently I forget just how much I can get done if I’m feeling obsessed enough. The turnaround time from the spark of an idea for Channel A to the “OAV Edition” I have up for sale on The Game Crafter was ludicrously short all considered. All of this makes me realized that NaNoWriMo and similar events like NaGaDeMon and Script Frenzy are just a really good idea. It’s easy to let life become a bland paste of random stuff happening, and it takes a certain amount of effort to turn a day into an occasion or a holiday. NaNoWriMo does that with novel writing, turns it into a celebration and lets you do it alongside countless other people.