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.

GW2: Waiting For Godot-equatl

There's NOTHING in the water...

For the past two weeks of Tequatl Rising, I have been faithfully setting my alarm clock to 1-3 hours before server reset to get in on Sparkfly main and a Teq kill at the most popular time of the day.

Today, I hit the snooze button and rolled over in bed.

I jerked up, one hour past reset, and went “Damn, I must have missed it,” but logged on anyway.

You see, I went and joined TTS, the sprawling three, now four, guild powerhouse set up by a phenomenally dedicated leadership, expressly for the purposes of gathering individuals obsessive enough for regular “hard” mob takedowns, shortly after my angry rant of a couple days ago.

It was mostly as a backup for myself, as I was getting tired of showing up at 3-4am in order to get into TC main Sparkfly.

I figured, if the main instance was still hard-capping, then TC would not be short of bodies and thus very theoretically, it’s not an abandonment of the server community to pop into an overflow to get my Teq business done elsewhere.

(Of course, it’s still a brain drain in the sense that experienced players may be drifting elsewhere, and being replaced by latecomers to the fight who haven’t learned the hard way what to do yet.)

But the experience of an organized guild attempt is a heady allure when you’ve tried it once.

First off, less camping time. A leader has already generously sacrificed his time for you to find an empty overflow, and everybody in the guild just pulls everybody else into the same overflow. The wait is mostly for Tequatl to show up, not to reserve your spot in the main instance.

Secondly, a lot less individuals making “I give up” decisions and backing off to save themselves, thus lowering the chances of a successful kill.

TTS runs a ranged DPS squad, as opposed to the melee-centric focus of TC which is more reliant on heavies being built tanky and stabbing Teq between his toes. It produces a slower start, but diminishes the possibility that 80% of the zerg flips over and dies to one or two shockwaves, having already been footstomped and poisoned by being in melee range while he’s unstunned.

There have been a kill or two that I was present for where Teq came early, surprising everyone and catching more than a few people AFK.

Turrets have been overrun, manic screaming has erupted over Teamspeak with a few choice reports on the numbers standing by that are AFK, but the big difference is that fewer people stand by the sidelines wasting good combat time typing long imprecations into mapchat. People act. Of their own accord, some respond to the turrets, some staunchly maintain dps on Teq.

And more importantly, people keep the faith. Teq WILL go down.

All we have to do is Maximum Burn during his stun phase. Go all out. Pop everything.

After the first megalaser phase is painfully struggled to and defended, what seems like the entire map with TTS tags surge right at Tequatl, with a cohort of fire elementals and other things besides. The DPS output is often insane, and once or twice has surged right into the next laser phase without Teq having a chance to recover. If not, it gets almost all the way there.

Lost time is caught up on. And everyone gets that Teq kill in the end.


Except… when he doesn’t choose to show up.

Imagine my surprise when I logged on one hour late, thinking to catch the second TTS kill of the evening for my random lottery ticket at a miniature, and hear on every channel that Tequatl is LATE.

People have been waiting for Teq for 2 hours already by the time I showed up.

Four overflows have been filled by the ever-expanding TTS.

I don’t even try to get into main TC Sparkfly, because it’s usually hard-capped by this time too, A glance down both my guild rosters suggests the regular Teq killers are already inside and waiting.

Some patient “Join in Sparkfly” spamming manages to wiggle me into a TTS overflow as other people give up and move on to other things, like getting dailies and monthlies done.

We wait for one more hour.

People are debating if the new monthly reset broke Tequatl. Or boss week expiring did. Or preparations for the next patch. Or if he went back to his three hour timer rather than the accelerated pace of the last Living Story.

Posts are made on the Guild Wars 2 forums and Reddit, wondering if any Anet employee can give an answer or at least some kind of response.

Everything echoes into an empty void.

This is a huge stressful test for the TTS leadership as they have over 400 people waiting in four overflows. Through certain backchannels, they receive unofficial “official word” that Teq not showing up is possibly a technical problem which is not likely to be solved within the next couple hours. They very professionally keep their source anonymous to respect that person’s privacy and minimize any corporate fallout on that person’s behalf, but use that to make the hard decision to call it for the night and cancel the raids.

I really feel for those on normal server instances who have been just waiting there forever, constantly refreshing the GW2 forums or twitter or facebook or reddit to see if there’s any word.

8 hours later, there is still dead silence from ArenaNet.

At least they have the courtesy not to delete or moderate any threads whatsoever in the meantime. I suppose everyone is keeping their heads down pretending to not be home.

You know what this is?


Apparently after all the sound and fury of the Super Adventure Box and the Josh Foreman saga, all Anet staff may have been given a stern warning to keep their mouth shut and heads down and let PR and community management deal with this sort of thing and let them vet all dev responses before posting online or some other corporate nonsense.


Where is our official response?

It’s not the first time stuff has broken before a patch. People can handle that. Just let us fucking know.

We also understand that this stuff happened -after- working hours, and that it’s not really an emergency of such proportions that you need to call back staff to work overtime to respond to.

Are you telling us that even your community management works 9 to 5 hours and that no one is in the office monitoring for problems?

What I find most incomprehensible is why somebody cannot send each other a few SMSes or emails after hours to check on things, and then drop a SHORT TWITTER note to acknowledge the issue and that “we are looking into it.”

Make some vague noises. Have your morning meeting discussing the whole issue later. JUST ACKNOWLEDGE that something is up.

Someone has dropped an epic communication ball here.

And they’ve dropped it on the hardest of the hardcore, those players stupid enough to wait for three or more hours to maybe get a kill on a big boss mob for very maybe a chance at something nifty.

Maybe they think these hardcore folks will suck it up and keep playing the game anyway.

We probably will. We’re goddamn stupid like that.

But if they think they can bury their heads in the sand without someone making -some- noise on the Internet and hope it washes over, well, here’s little old me blowing a whistle in my corner here.

It may just die down with nary a sound regardless, but let me officially state here that I much preferred the communication of old where ArenaNet was flexible and responsive and on the ball.

Please keep improving on this, because it’s not a good sign otherwise.

P.S. This is why fixed scheduled timings are a lot better than a random interval where people have no clue when something is happening and has to wait for. It’s the Lost Shores Part 2 all over again…