This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is How/Where You Write/Prep chosen by V.A. over at Leicester’s Ramble. So it’s all about where and how people like me and all the other creators and GMs out there write for tabletop RPGs. Whether you write homebrew adventures, a blog, novels, short stories, supplements, articles, or rule books, this information is for you.
Like most of you I have an insane schedule. I’ve got a full-time job, three regular podcasts, and freelance assignments. I’m in a committed relationship with an amazing woman that I enjoy putting time and energy into. I run two D&D games. I’ve got family relationships and friendships to maintain. I also have the human requirements of food, clean clothes, showers, exercise, and sleep. I don’t even have kids or school to attend like many of you and I’ve already got a full schedule. So when am I supposed to write for this blog and my campaigns?
My Happy Place – The Commute
I have a 20-minute to 30-minute (one way) commute to work that uses public transportation. While I’m waiting for and on the train, I write. That’s what I’m doing as I write this sentence. Even if if have to stand on the train and hang onto the bar over my head with one hand because all the seats are taken, I write. Even if my commute is as fast as can be each day of the work week (and that never happens with the Washington, DC metro), that’s 3 hours and 20 minutes of solid writing I can get done each week.
I do this writing on my iPhone using the Notes app. I can email, text, and copy/paste my words with a few quick finger motions. Notes is linked to my Google account so all the work I do is automatically backed up. Combine this with the WordPress app I also have on my phone and posting a blog update is a breeze.
Of course, using a smartphone is not ideal for editing. That’s why the man (in his corporate anti-rock-and-roll visage) created the lunch break.
Edit During Lunch
I’ll be honest. I hate editing. I’m sure Greg Blair can attest to this fact as he has found many a typo in my blog over the past year and emailed me about them. (Thanks, Greg!)
Still, editing is one of the most important parts of the writing process. Editing is shaping your lump-of-clay words into a beautiful statue. It never takes as long as you think and if you can find time to write, you can find time to edit.
I like to edit my work during my lunch hour. This works out well for me since I don’t need to edit every single day. I usually need only two hours of edit time a week, depending on how many projects I have going and how many PDFs I’m trying to put up on the Free Game Resources section of this site. That gives me three hours for whatever I need to do, like grab lunch with a friend, catch up on work for my day job, run errands, write podcast notes, etc. Giving myself two guaranteed hours of edit time is great and I try to use them at the beginning of the week. That way if I need some extra edit time I can try to use my lunch hours later in the week to help me out.
The Editing Exception
I must admit that there is one thing I never edit and that’s my home campaign notes. Good lord are they riddled with typos and mistakes, but it doesn’t matter! Those notes are just for me and I know what I meant. Unless you’re planning on sharing your home campaign notes, don’t worry about editing. Save yourself some time (and also use helpful organizational tools and improv techniques to cut down on your prep time).
Best Laid Plans
Sometimes all the lunch hours and commute time in the world aren’t enough to get a project done. Sometimes life gets busy and all your time free time is spent doing stuff that isn’t writing. In these cases I still have my favorite time to write, which is the early morning.
Starting the day off writing is like starting the day off with a great workout. You feel accomplished and ready to face the rest of the day once the task is complete. If you can wake up and get going before anyone else in your household, that’s even better. Your distractions are limited because the rest of the world is sleeping or just waking up. Email, Facebook, Twitter, texts, and more are just as sleepy as the rest of the world. The quiet and the good night’s sleep you just had put you at the top of your writing game. The anxiety you felt the day before as stress built up over work, family, etc. is gone or at least lessened at the start of a new day.
There’s another great reason I like to write at the start of the day. The work gets done sooner. That writing is no longer hanging over my head. Even if you enjoy writing, waiting until the last moment to complete something makes it feel like a chore. It can conjure up bad memories of pulling all-nighters to finish a school assignment. Write in the morning and you’ll be less stressed the rest of the day.
When I’m writing I tend to like music without lyrics or music with lyrics I know by heart. For me lyrics I don’t know very well become distracting. (Did she just say she wants to see my peacock?!?) Depending on what I’m writing I usually opt for something thematic for fantasy, like a John Williams and Hans Zimmer station on Pandora, or I go with something upbeat to help the words flow and keep me in a good mood. That’s where my favorite bands The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Action Slacks help out. I’ve been listening to them forever so the lyrics don’t trip me up and their fast-paced songs help the words flow like ambrosia.
Listening to music can help you get inspired and write faster, so if you’re on a schedule grab a favorite album or appropriately theme soundtrack and get rocking.
What About You?
How do you like to write and what helps you be super quick? I’m always looking for more tips so sound off in the comments below!
If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!