The Project Diaries – Shifting Gears

So, that novel? Yeah. Turns out that’s not happening.

Yet.

As I mentioned before, my friend Shawn and I have been working on something I’ve taken to calling “the Project.” And while I’ve hesitated to write about it before–and still can’t give you a lot of details–there are some things I can safely mention.

More importantly, I think there might be some value in doing so, too.

For the most part, production diaries for large, multi-year projects are either written after the fact (as a kind of postmortem for other industry types), or only started once everyone’s sure of what’s happening, and know that they can pull it off.

Given that, why not put on display some of what’s been going on “behind the scenes” with this thing? If you’re struggling with your own flailing and far-too-massive creative undertaking, perhaps this and future posts like it will make you feel better about yourself.

The Project?

Essentially, the Project is a setting, a “science-fiction universe,” that we intend to use in variety of different media–with fiction, and a paper-and-pencil role-playing game being the Big Two we’re most interested in. And, minus a few breaks here and there, we’ve been steadily developing it for the better part of the last three years.

This includes writing the history of our universe, creating the major characters, and detailing the major locations–each requiring all sorts of brainstorming, long phone calls, and writing.

Lots, and lots of writing.

At a guess, I’d say we’ve got over 100,000 words of notes, in various states of well-thought-out-ness, and even more still in our heads to get down.

Which Comes First?

The novel I’ve been working on is part of the “fiction side” of Project (and about 30,000 words of its own so far), but a few weeks ago we made the decision to hold off on doing any more work on it until after we’ve released the RPG, which is a lot closer to being complete, and probably makes more sense as a first product.

Here’s where I have to get a little vague.

See, the nature of our setting is such that any single novel or short story won’t really capture the essence of what we’re trying to do. It’d be showcasing just one facet or side of a much larger, much more complex polyhedron. And even though novels and short stories are absolutely things we want to put out there, it’s much more important for our opening salvo to show what we’re really offering.

The whole, as opposed to the parts.

The Upshot?

I’m disappointed.

Well, a little disappointed.

I was really digging the novel. And one of the reasons I shifted my own work over to the fiction side–and away from the RPG–was because I got kinda sick of writing about the setting, as opposed to writing within the setting. I wanted to take some time to actually tell stories in this universe we’ve built, instead of laying the foundations for others to build upon.

Of course, the reason I could make that shift in the first place was because the RPG seemed pretty far off. Shawn’s been handling the rules or “system” development, and it looked like we were still several months away from having something he thought worthy of play-testing.

As it turns out, he’s gotten through a ton of the system since the first of the year, so we can start beating on the thing next week.

That means my part of the RPG–writing and editing the text–needs attention again.

lot of attention.

And once we’re confident that the basic rules and text hold up, it’ll be time to start the long slog toward publication–typesetting, art design/production, printing.

And that’s, like, a lot of work, too. I’d say about a year’s worth, if I had to guess.

Going Forward

I’m going to try to write a post about the Project once a week–explain what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and what’s coming up in the near future. Hopefully, it’ll be interesting for you. Mostly, I’m hoping it will be cathartic and cut down on my therapy sessions.

Ultimately, though, you should probably think of it as a cautionary tale.

Tabletop Madness

Last Saturday was Tabletop Day—a fact I totally missed at the time. Still, I’m not terribly upset about that, considering I ended up spending the day playing tabletop games anyway.

Specifically, I ran my usual (and mostly-weekly) Call of the Cthulhu game for my daughter and a couple of friends. I love that system. Even with it’s totally insane and hysterically-lethal combat system, not to mention the randomly-rolled attributes and other old-school artifacts.

It was my first paper-and-pencil RPG that wasn’t Dungeons & Dragons, and I don’t think anything will ever truly replace it in my heart.

Anyway, as much as I lament the fact that I don’t seem to play video games as much as I used to, I realized on Saturday that I actually do a fair bit of tabletop gaming these days. I play the usual suspects with my daughter, like Battleship and Scrabble, and there’s the aforementioned RPG (and, yes, I’ve run a D&D game or two for her as well), but there are also other isolated dollops of dice-rolling or deck-building goodness.

Like the several boxes of Magic: The Gathering cards we dig out every so often.

And the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

And that modern classic of frustration and friendship-ending, Pandemic.

I love them all, and I especially love sharing them with her—doing my part to pass along the hobby to the next generation.

Or maybe I just like pretending I’m back in high school, spending my study halls rolling twenty-siders and trying to convince my long-suffering GM that the Grease spell can totally be used as an accelerant.

I’m Terrible at Fun

I should really play a video game one of these days. I’ve got, like, several dozen, but I never touch them.

Almost never, anyway. Shawn and I have a kind of sporadic, Europa Universalis IV campaign we’ve been doing for a few months, but we haven’t gotten back to it in a couple of weeks, and don’t know if we’ll be picking it up again.

Grand Theft Auto 5? Great game! Played about two hours of it a year ago.

Cities: Skylines? Played a lot of that, but the last time was months ago.

FarCry 3? Told it still holds up really well. I wouldn’t know, though, since I think I bailed ten minutes into the thing and that was that.

I tell myself that it’s my machine—that some of these games (GTAV most notably) are just a bit too clunky on my two-year-old rig, and that I’ll get back into them once I’ve replaced it.

“One day! One day, I’ll have a computer capable of running Cities: Sklines without choking to death trying to simulate a traffic system more complicated than two intersections and a bike path, and then I’ll be a gamer again!”

That’s what I tell myself. But in truth? I don’t believe it.

I think I’m just bad at having fun.

Bad at relaxing.

Bad at just chilling out and not worrying about what I have to do next. Even last week, when Alex had her vacation, and the two of us spent most of the time walking or just hanging out together—I couldn’t go more than a few hours without thinking about all the work I wanted to get done, but wasn’t.

Ultimately, I think I’m just bad at being healthy.

Some days, I feel like such shit that when I wake up I wonder how the hell I’m going to get anything done. So on the good days, when I can actually do things, I work. I get my ass in gear and take care of business, checking off tasks as fast as I can, because who knows how I’ll feel the next day.

I need to fix that.

Once in a while, I need to take a good day, and claim it as mine.

A day to just chill.

A day to play games, watch movies, or read something with a sleazy detective and a femme fatale who’ll probably wind up dead by the detective’s own hand.

A day to just be healthy.