Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing Is Like (v. 2)

Writing a novel for the first time is like playing a new video game (uh, when you've never played one before). First, you waste a shit-load of time selecting hair colour, boots and a sword for your avatar, activities which make you feel like you're playing the game but which have absolutely no bearing on the outcome.

Level / draft one: you're in a green meadow with a castle off to on one side, and your avatar is running around, leaping over logs, banging on the walls, trying to jump into a window, tossing rocks at the door, basically trying anything to get into that damn castle. When the door finally opens, you aren't even really sure if it was the combination of leap-knock-with-rock that did it. But you're in.

Level / draft two: what worked at level one does not work at level two. You're stuck in a turret with a chest that does not open and three monkeys. You know there's a grammar to the game, but you don't know the rules and you don't have the cheats, and the monkeys are just annoying. You turn off the game. Then, in the middle of doing the laundry, you realize what will open the chest! (Note: between turning off the game and pouring in the detergent, four months have passed.)

Level / draft three: it seems that you've been following some game-within-a-game which, while terribly amusing, has nothing to do with the main quest. You really, really want to start playing some other game right now. In fact, every other game in the world seems better, easier, and more appealing than this one.

Level / draft four: you can see the end, the final steps, the logic of the last level. There are moments of exhilaration, usually just before your avatar falls off a cliff and you have to start the section over again. Also, the monkeys are back, but you know how to handle them now. You tell a game-playing friend how much you've learned completing this game. She says, "Yeah. But the next game will be a whole different story."

At least you'll be better at the controller.

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