Friday, October 31, 2014

Believe it or not, NaNoWriMo is still on my mind...

If I know my fellow NaNo nerds (and I'm sure I do), then I know what you're all doing right now. You're going to Sam's Club to stock up on snacks for the month, you're saying goodbye to your loved ones, you're constructing contraptions that'll take care of your day-to-day for you (including eating bathing and sleeping). You're just now realizing that you don't want to write about zombies, you want to bunnies, so you're throwing out all of the prep work you've done up to this point and crunch-time outlining your bunny novel. All-in-all, you're putting the finishing touches on your NaNo preparations, and by the end of this sentence you've already scrapped your bunny idea and are now drafting the outline for your awesome new werewolf 5SOS fanfic.

If you'll allow me, I'd like to give you some advice. If we're both lucky, you'll come out of this experience with your novel front work in hand, your pets adequately fed, and no bloody corpses littering the ground you tread. (No promises on that last one.)

1) Outlining
Have I mentioned them before? No? Well, shame on me. To put it simply, OUTLINES ARE MY LIFE. I have extensively outlined every big project I've taken on and never ever regretted doing so. Have I strayed from my outlines? Heck. Yes. But they've always kept me focused. You'd be surprised how easy writing is when you know what your next step is. "But NikMac," I hear you say, "I write better when I'm spontaneous." I respect that, I really do. (No I don't.) But we're not taking just any old writing day. We're talking freaking NaNoWriMo. Let me be the first to tell you that if you don't know what it is you're writing, if you don't know how it ends, NANOWRIMO WILL EAT YOU. ALL FEAR THE GREAT AND POWERFUL NANOWRIMO.
Get that outline straightened out friend, lest you become a Scooby Snack.

2) Music
This one's not as necessary but it'll help in the long run. Plus, it's a much better way to pass the time waiting for midnight to hit then throwing things at you siblings/spouse/elderly parents. And it's fun. Start a soundtrack for that masterpiece of yours, try to find the vein of every scene you make. Who knows, you might know more about your piece because of it.
My personal preference, when it comes to writing, is lyricless playlists. And for that I recommend Lindsey Stirling, Sam Cushion, High Five Spaceship, and anything on (ocremix offers all their music for free, by the way.)

3) Take One Word At A Time
Get this in your head before you start, or else you might find yourself paralyzed at the keyboard. You are not writing a novel in a month. You are writing a novel like you anything else you would write, word by word. You're just trying to do so a little faster. It's okay if you don't hit your word count everyday, it's okay if at the end of it all you're short by a hundred words (give or take). It's even okay if you give up in the middle and don't end up finishing. What counts is what you take away from the try, not whether or not you succeed. So don't worry about things. Just sit down and write. Remember to have fun. ;)

What are some tips to share with your fellow NaNo-er's? Any sure-fire ways to come out of the Dreaded November alive?
'Til next time nerds.

Friday, October 24, 2014

If you have not already guessed it, I am participating in what is known as NaNoWriMo! (National Novel Writing Month). If you don't know what it is, I'm sick of explaining it so go to their freaking website.  Freaking go there now or else you're going to be really lost during this post. 

Everyone all good? On the same page? Great, let's move on. 

So, for some reason this year there's a lot of writing people saying they don't see the point in NaNoWriMo. They say that they like spending more time with their characters, don't see the point in writing something that'll clearly be a disaster of a first draft, so on and so forth. And while I can see the point they're trying to make, I think they're overlooking all the ways that writers can benefit from taking this challenge, regardless of whether they win or lose. 

Benefits of NaNoWriMo

Connecting to a Community of Writers
NaNoWriMo brings together writers far and wide, both hobbyists and professionals, so it's a great way to meet your fellow wordsmiths. During High School when I was just starting to get passionate about writing this was the first exposure to other writers. And, in the experience I've had, this is a very friendly environment to get started in writing. You can ask questions, get feedback, or simply reach out to other writers without judgment or condensation. Granted every corner of the internet has it's trolls but for the most part people will sincerely want to help. And that is because everyone, newbie to veteran is in the same boat when it comes to NaNoWriMo. And that boat is....MAJOR CRUNCH TIME. Which leads into my second benefit. 

Writing on Deadline

Now see, this doesn't feel like a benefit but bare with me. No matter what profession you shall go into someday, be it jamming on a Saskatoon or CEO of I'm Freaking Awesome Corp., chances are you're going to come up against a deadline or two along the way. And that's good, it's natural, it's a part of the circle of life. But deadlines are never met with much cheer or joy. In fact, many people don't know what to do with deadlines. Sometimes just the thought of something dangling above you like that is enough to paralyze. Well, here's an environment where you can practice you're deadline meeting with no consequences. Because who doesn't love perpetual crunch time in the middle of holiday season?

Extended Free Write
If we can all be honest with ourselves for a moment here, NaNoWriMo will produce one of the crappiest first drafts you've ever written. Again, this is okay because you write every word as if the whole dang thing was due tomorrow morning six am sharp. And sometimes the crappiest of first drafts produce the best final products, just because they give you so much to work with. There are many great, really terrific books that came out of NaNoWriMo. (Ex: My second most favorite book of all time The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and the brilliantly crafted Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.) But this I think for most people, this is just a great way to build up your writing stamina. It's a 30-day extreme free write! You're going to come out of this with writing abs of steel.

Feels Good
It's going to feel pretty freaking great when you finish your word count. No matter the quality of the dribble you've slaved over for the past thirty days you're going to feel dang great that you hung on as long as you did, that you finished it. Because I don't care if you're a rookie or if your name's on a best seller list, writing a novel in a month is freaking hard for anyone. While you're trying to do it, it feels impossible. But you did it, hang your head high man! Fifty-k in a month, J. K. Rowling can't touch this! 

50% Off of Scrivener
So this perk seems minor in the face of all the other benefits I've listed, but guys, I bought Scrivener for my NaNo this year and it's delicious. (*Side Note: Scrivener is a word processor made for creatives developed by software company Literature and Latte. It has templates for movie scripts, comic scripts, novels, etc. Its normal price is about forty dollars.) It's awesome when it comes to keeping all your notes in one place so you don't have to pop back and forth between windows and shift through endless documents just to find that one detail you needed for that one thing. And Scrivener loves NaNoWriMo. They offer an extended free trial during NaNoWriMo that begins in October and ends in December, you get twenty percent off for just signing up for NaNo and if you win you get fifty percent off!

Guys, do it for Scrivener.

That's all I've got for you for now. As you can tell, I'm gearing up for NaNo so that means that'll either I'll post the most I ever had in this month then I ever had in an attempt to escape from my monstrous NaNo, or I'll fall off the face of the earth for a month. Until then, what do you think? Is NaNo a challenge worthy of the best and the worst of us or is it a colossal waste of a month? 
'Til next time nerds.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hello Lovlies and welcome to the Looky Here!, the first in a series of posts where I explain why I think a medium that's perhaps underrated should recognized as a legitimized form of art or academia, and help to identify and correct the perceived stigma that hangs around it. In this post, I'll be discussing Video Games.

I know I'm at risk for sounding pretentious or hipster-ish when I talk about this, and maybe I'm fighting a war that's already been won, but from what I still experience with everyday interactions with people who don't play video games, and even some who do (or at least did), I think this is still something that needs to be said. And that's actually a good place to start.

My Experience
Already this is tilting more toward editorial then persuasion but I find it important to first define myself and where I stand in this topic before I move to why. I am, at best, a video game enthusiast. I play and I play often, I form complex opinions and inquires about the narrative and mechanics when I play, I use the experience I had playing to inspire and fuel my own creative output. I actively seek out opinions other then my own to better understand all the angles to approach a video game from, however lightly I participate in the discussion. And while I try to venture outside of my own preferences in terms of genre, there are still places I refuse to go simply because it counteracts my purpose of seeking entertainment (chief among them, FPS's and Sports Games). And when I finish a game that has a lot of depth and plenty to dissect, such as The Stanley Parable developed by Galactic Cafe and released late last 2013, I put down my controller and venture out into the world, eager to find someone to discuss this experience with. These people are few and far in between. When I go to my contemporaries, I find they judge the game against whatever standard template they perceive games should be rather then giving it the freedom to be what it tries to be. When I try to find books to read on the subject that truly explore the implications of video games and what can be done with them, I find it difficult. There not found on shelves at bookstores or libraries. I find there's a fundamental difference in when I ask my parents or friends (for any given holiday) for a video game rather then a book. To them, one is toy and one is a tool.

What Video Games Are-Introduction
Video games are a relatively new medium, not even a century old yet. They are something to appreciate and interact with. At the beginning they present a goal to fulfill and end when that goal is reached, in the simplest terms. In this medium, the emphasis is put on the journey rather then the reward. And, more often then not, they are made for entertainment. These are things everyone can agree on.

The Stigma
By and by the wall I usually find myself up against when it comes to video games is that they are childish and don't require much thought. They are seen as what they were originally intended for at their inception, a way to pass the time for people with the time to spend. Not inherently anything to be looked down upon (depending on who your talking too) but not anything to necessarily be respected either. You score the touch down, dance the dance, save the princess, not much more to it. At large the definition of video games is simple. And that's where the problem lies.

Yes, there are more video games then not that are intended for the use of children; and yes, at face value video games do not demand much thought outside of a given goal. But to ignore the potential of what the game offers is like to read the bible and only see it as a story. There is so much more to it then that! Just looking at what I specifically look for in a game, a seamless and unique combination of game play mechanics and narrative, you get the chance to explore into the mind of the developer, much like you would in a book or movie. Only the developer, in taking you into this world, surrenders a great amount of control over it in letting you explore on your own, make your own choices; giving you a chance to fail, succeed, or even deviate from your given task, gifting you with a certain amount of ownership over the game yourself. And recently great things have come from this relationship between developer and gamer. Now there are titles on the rise that are more aware that you, the gamer, are seeking to know more through the game and as such try to weave a message into the game play for you to decode. Off of the top of my head, I can think of two titles that do this and do this well. One, which I mentioned earlier The Stanley Parable (available on Steam), and two, Journey (available on PSN). Both of these games are meant to tease you with exactly what the developers are trying to get at and leave you to figure out the rest. Taking it at face value is not experiencing it as a whole. Other games that are much less "artsy-fartsy", such as The Last of Us (available for PS3) or Bioshock Infinite (available for PS3, PC, and Xbox 360) have engrossing narratives that invoke emotions and empathy just as a movie or TV show would, only to a much greater extent because in the game, you aren't just watching the character go through it, you are the character going through it.

What Video Games Are-The Conclusion
Video games are a platform of entertainment, but much like any other platform (art, literature, film) they do not stop there. Video games dare to make you think, let you explore, encourage you to make your own decisions. They pull you into someone else's shoes and let you act according to their situation rather then just speculate on how you would act. In video games we find a relationship between artist and viewer that can't be found in any other medium. And through this relationship there is endless potential. Yes, there are still games that are easily fit the definition that the populace shares, but there are also games that do so much more. There are games that can help your growth, whether it be academically, morally, or otherwise. And even with all I've discussed in this post I know I've only touched the surface of what games can do.

Stats of the Week
Song: Sunken Secrets (Dire, Dire Docks) by Fishy
Book: How To Do Things With Video Games by Ian Bogost
Word: Perspicacity
Quote: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree, it will live it's whole life thinking it is stupid."
~Albert Einstien