NBI: A Behind-the-Scenes Example of My Writing Process

Ok, the truth is that I write a lot of these posts off-the-cuff and in the browser form because I usually have something I’m dying to say.

I’ve also been using a very similar tone of voice and writing style for a long time now, and used to do a great deal of freewriting before.

So I know I can backtrack and edit a word here and there to make things read more smoothly, and then get back to where I was without missing too many beats.

I don’t do a lot of revision on this blog because I enjoy the rawness that seeps out from something fairly -close- to freewriting, with just minor edits for readability. It’s a stylistic choice.

Other blogs are more formal and you can expect that they did quite a bit of clean up and formatting to get to that point. Write how you like.

But when I struggle, that’s when I pop open the word processor and start typing up a document’s worth of junk that will probably never see the light of day, but serve as a crucial link in the writing process.

Today, I want to share with you all the behind-the-scenes stuff that people sometimes don’t tell you they go through before that perfect-looking piece on the page:

As an example, we’ll be taking the sonnet challenge that Syl gave me for the poetry slam.

1) Research. Google. See what others have had to say.

Petrarchan sonnet? What the hell is a Petrarchan sonnet?

My old high school literature teacher would probably be very sad that everything had returned to her, but in truth, I had no idea. Google to the rescue. Some research later, I figured, okay, I can do that, and accepted the challenge.


2) Take screenshots. Formulate preliminary ideas.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I had anything more to say about Tequatl.

I joined TTS. I have him on farm. (For now, till I or critical mass gets bored.) The waiting sucks. All themes I’ve covered before.

I did know that I wanted some better quality screenshots than the low-res ones I get in a hundred man zerg. Maybe that might spark some ideas.

So I camped out at odd hours on the main Sparkfly instance, when as predicted, barely a soul shows up any longer, even on the Tarnished Coast and got some nice ones.

(You can skip this if you don’t need screenshots in your blog post, but I personally find it fun and part of my creative expression.)

Unfortunately, after looking at the screenshots (of which I take a bunch and pick the nicest, just like freewriting and revising), I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to say about Teq.

In a bloody poem too.


3) Preliminary poem phrases, structure and format.

Fortunately, poetry has restrictions, and Petrarchan sonnets have quite a bunch. So in my Word document, I wrote out the rhyme scheme.



The sonnet is also separated into two parts, an octave (first 8 lines) and a sestet (last 6 lines.) A change from the first rhyme group to the next is supposed to signify a change in the subject matter or the tone of the poem in some way.

Then I scribbled my first ideas, completely ignoring rhyme schemes or iambic pentameter, just trying to solidify some sense of theme.

First verse, herald his majesty (stuff we love about Teq)
his animations – his rock jumping, the clarity of his attacks
the awesome splendor of multiple embers popping
the incredible surge of a hundred names all commited on the same task
beating on a shatterer that ignores you just isn't the same

Second verse, do a heel turn about him (stuff we hate about Teq)
alarm clock camping and all that waiting is boring
can only see in low pixels or I'll crash
where's mah LOOT, dammit
still no mini
the home server sparkflies are emptied

As you can see, ridiculously messy. But we are comfortable with messes when creating.

I started a list of phrases and images I liked. Maybe they could be fitted in later. (Once your brain starts working on a problem, have notepaper handy, some of these turned up while half-asleep or in the shower.)

the spectacle draws crowds from servers all / far

Surely better rewards so endless the wait
As time wears by, that love doth turns to hate
the longer the wait
hark, the dragon, it is swiftly brought low
the players eagerly race to the chest
mass dis appoint ment reigns, still not hing good
with/in time, the more that love doth turn to hate
Shall I compare thee to a starless night?
'Gainst the Shattered dragon, crystalline blight
there is no wait but no risk
just punching bag the foot
be still, my heart
and how one charr can turn the tides
the more that love abides

the loot dismays
low pixel
poisonous caress of thy fingers
thousand embers burning
the roar of a hundred embers
lava fonts blossoming
champion of Zhaitan

4) Freewrite

I was still having problems figuring out what I wanted to say. Peter Elbow to the rescue. Skimmed the chapter “Poetry as no big deal.” Decided to do a verbose dump instead.

Today I'm trying to freewrite and figure out what I want to say about Tequatl. I've gotten a number of somewhat satisfactory screenshots, though I am still unable to get a single good quality picture in a big zerg. So Teq is still gonna look shitty in combat pictures. Now what I want is some power, rather than fakeness in my writing.
I like Teq's design – their model, the fight mechanics are nifty, the animations are clear and well signposted as to what to do and when. There's a lot of small things that people can get better at. Dodging, killing hypnoss, maintaining repair focus, etc.

The camping around for hours is fucking annoying though. For a good hour, I'm busy looking for things to do in the other screen. I've web browsed till I'm sick of it. I've been trying to play games on my mobile phone.

And we do all this for what? The hope of a good lottery reward. Ok, the consolation prize is not bad. A bunch of blues and greens for magic find and some paltry amount of gold for your time.

The experience of it was nice the first few times. But now it's just an obsessive habit. Eventually I suppose I will have to stop. But it's just hard to stop because you're scared of losing out, and since there's such a huge demand and overflows filling, you just kinda feel like you have to get in on it or lose out to everyone else.

The fight itself is pretty fun and exciting.
The wait is NOT. It is anything but.

I like the fight. I like being in the zerg and supporting and being supported. To see the might stacks going. The trickle of healing keeping everyone upright. The ability to plunk a warbanner down and see a bunch of people rezzed. I like being able to watch Tequatl's animations, his foot slam down and dodge a second after, and the satisfaction of seeing evaded pop up at the right time to avoid his shockwave. I like seeing his hands plunge into the ground, knowing the fingers will be poping up and dropping a wall of reflection in a square or triangle to protect the zerg. I like that all this just gels and synergizes without having to state exactly how.

I love turret defence. I love being on guard for the finger and getting ready to hack it down. The satisfaction of knowing that you're the one interposing themselves between a turret operator that is relying on you and a risen ready to bite their face off. I love the pleasure of being able to go all assassin and precision strike down a hypnoss, and watching all his summons fall apart and explode, removing targets from others flailing away wildly, not knowing who to properly kill. I love moving the mouse to scan all three of the turrets' health – they are my babies, and I will grab a hammer and repair them if they're the slightest bit dented or scratched. A job well done means turrets firing in uninterrupted unison, scales kept down, cleanses going, the zerg functions because things went right here.

I hate the wait. It is a bunch of standing around doing nothing. Of listening to obnoxious dribbles of what passes for small talk over mapchat or teamspeak. Words cannot describe how boring it is. Of being chained to your computer, afraid to afk for too long. The compulsion to check the screen every so often. It is a major turn-off. It is something to be endured. A marathon of dead soul boredom.

Creativity tries to arise by looking for a million and one other things to do. Maybe I can watch a video in the other screen. Read a book. Play a browser game. Pick up my phone and play a mobile game of tower defence. Side procrastination. Doing anything but playing the actual game. Enforced period of non-gameplayingness. I'm getting ridiculously good at Bloons TD5.ss

You see? Freewriting is messy. But this could be cleaned up very easily into a proper blog post.

I -did- have more to say about Tequatl, after all.

One of the more important revelations for myself was that I actually reveled in the fight. The combat was a thrill. I liked dodging at the right time based on his well-signaled animations and NPC chatter. The simultaneous charge of zerg and embers to and fro from the megalaser has to be experienced to be believed. And I could do turret defence a thousand times and not get bored, it just checks all the protective tank aspects of my soul.

I tried another love/hate verse to get the theme down.

I like the Teq fight
The experience in the moment is unmatched
The charge of the foot zerg back and forth
The blossoming of embers during the burn phase
Turret defence sings to my tank soul

I hate the waiting for hours to get to it
I'm getting so good at not playing GW2
The loot sucks
It has become an obessive habit to camp Teq
I want to stop but I'm scared of losing out

Wasn’t quite it either.

The last two lines are also pretty significant to me, but they just didn’t fit into the structure of the poem, and so were cut. (For now.)

But from the false starts, I determined that I liked the ‘sunless day’ and ‘starless night’ lines, that I had Shatterer screenshots that I wanted to include, and that I liked the repeated wordplay of ‘love turning to hate’ and ‘love abiding.’

So suddenly I knew there had to be TWO sonnets. (Dammit.)

The first verse of the first sonnet would be relatively eager, turning to disappointment and ‘hate’ by the second verse. The first verse of the second sonnet would continue from that mood of dismay, then twist back to love (which for me, would be love of the fight.)

5) Edit. Prune. Revise. Fill in the Blanks. Repeat. Iterate.

I had enough to get started on an actual draft of the poem. (If not, I would have freewritten some more. Maybe put on some music for more ideas and tap into one’s emotions.)

I placed the lines I knew I wanted into position. Began counting syllables and making sure they (somewhat) fit iambic pentameter. Ten syllables. Unstressed, then stressed. da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM. (As much as possible, though I got lazy in parts.)

I very knowingly chose words with LOTS of rhymes for my a b b a lines. Then decided to get all fancy and do an echoing b a a b twist for the second sonnet.

And tried to fit in as much of my prior generated imagery as possible while going line by line and trying to tell some kind of story with the whole thing.


6) Format. Add pictures. Ruthlessly cut pictures that were nice but couldn’t fit.

The final round of revision is via the blog post preview.

After all my trouble with the verses, I didn’t want them separated line by line with screenshots. So I only had room in between the verses to fit them in.

I had too many screenshots.

I DIED to take some of those screenshots.

I tried to fit two screenshots in between the verses.

Looked terrible.

I cried a little inside (and my asura who gave his body is surely not happy about it) but ruthlessly cut them anyway. (Note to self: write new blog post so that I can show them off.)

You can see them here instead. Because they’re still pretty. (Oh hey!)



Writing can be messy. And that’s okay.

Whatever gets you to the final product in the end.

NBI: Writing With Power – Freewrite First, Then Revise

Alright! You’ve started a blog.

You’ve figured out what your goals are. (More or less.)

Now you need to keep producing content.

Say what?

Yes, you need to write.

And write.

And write some more.

And I have to do this daily, or every few days or weekly?


But… but…


A casual perusal of the web will give you a lot of Nike ideas. “Just do it.” “Sit your butt in the chair and don’t get up till something is written.” “Make it a habit.”

Easily said, not so easily done.

I”m going to try and share with you a little more than that.

First off, a book. This man wrote one of my writing bibles.

Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process by Peter Elbow

I picked it up a long time ago in college, where I found it invaluable for squeezing out assigned essays that didn’t want to be written since I didn’t have the faintest clue where to begin or what I wanted to say regarding a topic that was uninteresting to me.

One of the things I learned from Peter Elbow was that if you scribble down enough rubbish about why something bores you to death, you may very well eventually reach an angle that -is- interesting to you, and -that- is where you can make the first inroad and attempt what I call “a zeroth draft” (because a “first draft” was still too intimidating to consider. I have crippling perfectionism sometimes.)

Today, it is browned and well-thumbed through.

Anytime I feel stuck and need some writing inspiration, I get out of my chair and reach up to my shelf of “important life books,” open it at random and flip to any section that makes the most sense for my problem.

The crux of his book is that the writing process is actually two stages.

  • Getting words onto the page, in whatever form.
  • Then revising and editing.

Too often we try to do both at the same time and this gets in the way of each other like two cooks in a cramped kitchen.

Practicing them separately stands you in better stead if you decide to take a shortcut and combine the two with “the dangerous method” later. (And if it doesn’t work, you can go back to basics and break it down into the two processes again.)

To get words on paper, Peter Elbow is a huge proponent of freewriting.

The goal is to trust that you have something to say and get to your raw content without worries about grammar, spelling, other people criticizing or whatever else is holding you back getting in your way. He also breaks this down into a number of stylistic techniques to try out – open-ended writing, loop writing and so on, and pump-priming ideas for getting started.

Then he shares a number of methods for revising, which can be worth playing around with, to see what works for you.

Critics sometimes lambast Peter Elbow for not practising what he preaches, that his writing style is too verbose and redundant and could use some applications of his revising exercises.

For me, I find that his wordy conversational style is rather a comfort. This man is someone who has had difficulty in writing, but had something very important to say and share. He pushed through, got himself published and made himself understandable all the same.

If he can do it, we can too. (Thus destroying the critic that can often hold you back.)

It’s okay to get comfortable with messiness.

Create first, then clean up and cut later.