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Tim Schafer

Writing Update #2: Freewriting Technique

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If anyone's interested in hearing the results of these two processes, here's a recent piece I made that came out of a keyboard bash session: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20534082/candq4.mp3

And here's one that came to me while walking: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20534082/ffbbinspace.mp3

I like the first one! A couple small segments here and there I might tweak, but for the most part, it's got an awesome Banjo-Kazooie/Gruntilda's Lair thing going on!

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If anyone's interested in hearing the results of these two processes, here's a recent piece I made that came out of a keyboard bash session: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20534082/candq4.mp3

And here's one that came to me while walking: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20534082/ffbbinspace.mp3

I like the first one! A couple small segments here and there I might tweak, but for the most part, it's got an awesome Banjo-Kazooie/Gruntilda's Lair thing going on!

Thanks! It's still something of a draft (4th draft judging by how I've numbered it) so there's still a few mixing things to be done and arrangement tweaks. Interestingly, you're the second person who has heard it that has made that comparison - the first time I had to go and look it up because I'm not familiar with that soundtrack. :)

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I write a lot of book, game and movie reviews for a friend's website (www.ferretbrain.com) and I do agree that a lot of the time in writing getting yourself to think verbally is key. I don't quite do freewriting but I do think having a writing process which minimises pauses and delays is a good thing. When I do a first draft of a review I usually just blast ideas onto the page without taking any time to go back and look things up in the whateveritis I'm reviewing. Can't remember what a character was called? Call them X. Want to stick a particular quote somewhere? Jot down QUOTE GOES HERE and move on. The point of the first draft is to get my gut response to whatever it is I've just seen, read or played down; once that's done I can concentrate on putting things into a logical order; it's when I'm tidying bits up for publication that I get the names in and make sure I've got my fact-checking straight.

(It also helps that with reviewing you can be a bit more formulaic about things - in any review you're going to want to introduce the premise of the thing you're reviewing, note your response to it and say what worked and didn't work for you, and then wrap things up with some sort of conclusion based on how successful the whateveritwas is at being whatever it was.)

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I write a lot of book, game and movie reviews for a friend's website (www.ferretbrain.com) and I do agree that a lot of the time in writing getting yourself to think verbally is key. I don't quite do freewriting but I do think having a writing process which minimises pauses and delays is a good thing. When I do a first draft of a review I usually just blast ideas onto the page without taking any time to go back and look things up in the whateveritis I'm reviewing. Can't remember what a character was called? Call them X. Want to stick a particular quote somewhere? Jot down QUOTE GOES HERE and move on. The point of the first draft is to get my gut response to whatever it is I've just seen, read or played down; once that's done I can concentrate on putting things into a logical order; it's when I'm tidying bits up for publication that I get the names in and make sure I've got my fact-checking straight.

(It also helps that with reviewing you can be a bit more formulaic about things - in any review you're going to want to introduce the premise of the thing you're reviewing, note your response to it and say what worked and didn't work for you, and then wrap things up with some sort of conclusion based on how successful the whateveritwas is at being whatever it was.)

There is a great value in just getting something down and being very non-judgemental about it, just getting it out. It's the hardest bit. Well, it's the other hardest bit. The other other hardest bit is perfecting. The first 1% is hard, the middle 89% is much easier and the last 10% is hard again, I tend to find, when creating something.

It's also why I take part in a lot of game jams. The main game we have on our website called The Wager started out as a game jam, that is an event where we were tasked with making a game in (in this case) 72 hours based on a theme. It really helps to get over that hurdle of just starting something and committing to it.

We built the fundamentals of that game in 72 hours which have changed relatively little, then over the course of the next month worked on-and-off on expanding the concept, but then it took 2 further months after that to release our first 'post-jam' version. Then it took another 6 months (again, on and off) after that to turn the feedback from that into the next, more refined version of the game. Man, that last 10% is quite something. It'll be interesting to watch it for DFA.

But yeah, part of what's great about freewriting and similar techniques is that it just gets stuff onto a page in a way that you don't have to worry.

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Great post, thanks for sharing your technique with us! It reminds me a lot of the idea behind NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which tasks participants with writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. For anyone who has ever wanted to write a novel, it's a great way to get past that initial overwhelming fear of "I COULD NEVER DO THAT!"

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Thank you for sharing the details about freewriting. I think I may of heard the term in passing but never knew what it was. I like you technique and I'm hoping it will help me... I'm an engineering graduate student and writing is a nasty beast wrapped around a heart of fear and cloaked with self doubt. I hate writing and writing hates me.

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Very insightful. I think I´ll give it a try. Oh man, "Penelope" and "Julio Iglesias" xD ... that just made my day.

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If anyone's interested in hearing the results of these two processes, here's a recent piece I made that came out of a keyboard bash session: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20534082/candq4.mp3

And here's one that came to me while walking: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20534082/ffbbinspace.mp3

I like the first one! A couple small segments here and there I might tweak, but for the most part, it's got an awesome Banjo-Kazooie/Gruntilda's Lair thing going on!

Thanks! It's still something of a draft (4th draft judging by how I've numbered it) so there's still a few mixing things to be done and arrangement tweaks. Interestingly, you're the second person who has heard it that has made that comparison - the first time I had to go and look it up because I'm not familiar with that soundtrack. :)

I actually keep listening to it over and over again and I know it reminds me of SOMETHING, but I can't think of exactly what it is. I think even more than it resembles Gruntilda's Lair from BK, it resembles a more energetic version of the sunken ship theme from Super Mario RPG:

The thing about yours (and the reason I said it might need ironing out in a couple spots) is that it's mostly a minorish sort of song and gives off a sort of "something here is amiss" or "this character is up to no good" sort of vibe. But it has these little spikes of majory/happy spots that work with the music but seem at odds with the general trend of the song. I feel like it's trying to be something a little more like that Sunken Ship theme (though yours is obviously a little faster/upbeat than that one). Like it needs to iron out and become committed to its spookiness/mischievousness. But that's just how I'm hearing it. It's all in the ear of the beholder!

But I should stop talking about it now before I derail Tim's thread and he gets mad at me. xD

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But I should stop talking about it now before I derail Tim's thread and he gets mad at me. xD

Yeah, good point, this is the last I'll say about it here but I like your observations and I will send you a PM about it ;)

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Spot on... I really only do it if I can't fall asleep. Clears my mind.

You know what? That's a brilliant idea. I think I might just start that. Morning thingies just don't work for me.

And thanks Mr. Schafer for sharing the awesome-filled writing-powers of godliness.

I won't sahre anything I come up with, because I write in French. HAH!

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Okay, pencils down.

Did everybody do your freewriting homework this morning?

You did? Already?

Really?

Man, what a bunch of teachers-pet over achievers! I haven't even started!

Okay, I'm about to. Hang on...

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If we're not supposed to show anyone our free writing how will Tim know if we did our homework?

Is this like one of those weird college ethics classes? Or maybe it's like a mob boss asking about if you killed that dude who stole the fishes from O'Gradys? I think it might be like when the dog steals your slippers and then Old Mister Punches comes out of the house and hits his yard with a shovel trying to kill his wives roses because he actually wants to kill her and the cops ignore it even though they know one day they might arrest him for killing the next door neighboor's best friend's ex-girlfriend. I once helped kill a mob boss whoses exgirlfirend was a fish, but it wasn't a real mob boss, it was an action figure of Obi-Won Kenobi. We burned him and then buried him a ditch, then a week later we dug him back up and cut his head off, then we shot at his body with a nuclear missle made of styrofoam and alumnim foil. One week later he came back carrying his head and he'd grown 67 feet and he shot us all down.

(You didn't see this... )

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Designing a game is no easy task! Never thought developers worked this hard for finding good ideas.

Well maybe it's because a lot of them don't, that's why a lot of games suck!

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Okay, pencils down.

Did everybody do your freewriting homework this morning?

You did? Already?

Really?

Man, what a bunch of teachers-pet over achievers! I haven't even started!

Okay, I'm about to. Hang on...

Tim, you can still turn in your homework, but you get an F for class participation for today, and I'll be contacting your parents.

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Thanks for the info Tim. I'm not a writer of any sort but I think this will actually help me greatly with my design projects.

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Okay, pencils down.

Did everybody do your freewriting homework this morning?

You did? Already?

Really?

Man, what a bunch of teachers-pet over achievers! I haven't even started!

Okay, I'm about to. Hang on...

TIM FOR SHAME!

May I quote " For me, it has to be first thing in the morning, when the brain is empty. You’re not allowed to check email, Twitter, Facebook—nothing. Talk to as few people as possible beforehand. Every input you allow into your brain is just distracting junk that will grow and swell and muck things up. You are allowed to use the bathroom, but no reading in there. No verbal input!"

You went against your own rules and went on the internet before your free writing! GASP! HORROR! SELF BETRAYAL! PHOTOSYNTHESIS!

I suggest you write an hour extra for this grave mistake ;D

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Okay, pencils down.

Did everybody do your freewriting homework this morning?

You did? Already?

Really?

Man, what a bunch of teachers-pet over achievers! I haven't even started!

Okay, I'm about to. Hang on...

You’re not allowed to check email, Twitter, Facebook—nothing.

Renegade

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Very interesting stuff, Tim! Do go on. ^^

I tried this a few times with a timer (five minutes is nothing when you're writing without pause, btw). Regardless of the topics I chose, I couldn't avoid focusing more on questions regarding the process itself as they came up -- there was just never any time to course correct!

At first, I thought that was kind of detrimental, as I figured time was better spend creating and I'd have time to ponder the gorramn rules later. As I went back to read it after finishing, though, I found that I had actually come to several useful conclusions that I think will help me in future attempts. So, as a surprisingly solid proof of concept for a first try, I couldn't help but use the freewriting technique to improve my freewriting technique.

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Oh crap, what am I doing on here? I'm supposed to be free writing! Need a sticky note or something to remind me for the first week!

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Thanks for the info Tim. I'm not a writer of any sort but I think this will actually help me greatly with my design projects.

Ah! Thanks for that :)

I am not a writer either and I was just wondering if I was the only one how recognises his own creative/design proces in Tim's posts and his description of the start of the whole proces as a bunch of floating coloured blobs waiting to land (or not) on the final product.

Apparantly not!

Best part for me is that this proces also describes what I enjoy about playing adventure games. From the first 'draft' where you're just roaming around discovering stuff and putting everything you find in your inventory, through the second and third 'drafts' where you can get stuck and a friend can unstick you and things are becoming clearer as to what you have to do, to actually solving the puzzles and finishing the game in the last 'draft'. At which point it becomes clear why you stuck that useless thing in your inventory in the first place, sometimes for no reason :)

So... reversely... is creating an adventure game like an adventure game itself? Hope I don't get you freewriting guys into an infinite loop with this comment! ;)

Double fine adventure indeed! :)

Grtz

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When I saw the original free writing topic, you really got me inspired and I tried it out myself. Lots of ideas came out of it and took shape and I enjoyed it. Probably won't do it every day until I actually get paid for having ideas about games (*hint hint*), and it takes time, but if I run out of creativity, this is certainly a great tool to rely on for those times. Thank you for sharing and the more detailed insight on how you do it!

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One question. Do you collect the pens you have actually emptied while writing? I do, and I tell you it's an amazing feeling. Though my empty pen collection is quite small.

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Iiiiiiii....ammmmmm....goooooiiiiinnnnng....toooooooo....freeee....wriiiiiiiittte....fooooooorrrr.....tweeeeennnntty.....miiiiiinnnnuuutteesssssss. OKDONE.

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This post is the sort of thing you should print out and put on your wall so you're reminded every day! For extra inspiration, I'm going to eat cheese before going to bed tonight. :)

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My first two days of freewriting yielded the rough draft for a promising-ish short story after several months of solid writer's block. Thanks for the advice! As somebody once told me, the only way to beat a creative block is to 'knock on the door 'til it opens...' I think I've finally found the secret knock to get occasional access to the Clever Inner Sanctum of Clever Words And Expensive Scotch And Some Kittens. (Occasional does not include right now, obviously...)

Anywho, I picked up a new five-subject, and my church has accidentally provided me with a drawerful of pens, so... back to it!

Thanks again for the advice!

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What does everyone do when you're on a roll but the session is "over"? Do you continue just far enough to complete your thought? Go into set overtime minutes? Stop no matter what? I was on a small streak this morning and then hit the limit and didn't know what to do with myself! It was an odd feeling mostly because I was not prepared for this eventuality. You make your own rules here but I felt like it'd be cheating to keep going. I'll probably just get over it, big baby, and finish my thought next time, but I'm curious how other people deal with hitting The End.

Even though I said you should stop when you hit your time/pages goal, if you have some ideas in your head but have not written them down, then by all means get them down on paper. Write down every idea you have always. (Or call yourself and leave it on your voice mail.) Never assume you will remember it later if it's a great idea, because even if it is great, you'll forget.

So write past your deadline if you have more ideas.

BUT I wouldn't just sit there past the deadline just waiting for new ideas to come.

Writing Wrules!

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I like the idea of free writing, but I always feel like my best ideas are when I'm half asleep. It's because I can never fall asleep unless I'm thinking about something fanciful. Most of the time I have to pull myself back from the brink of oblivion just to open a notepad an jot down what seems to be the best idea in the world. Granted half the time when I wake up in the morning it's nothing but trash, but it's the other 50% that is just pure gold in need of extrapolation.

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Next step is Limited Freewriting.

What is this nonsense you say?

Pick out a number (X), then a number of hours (Y).

Finished? Great! Now you have Y hours to finish writing about X different things.

This method is highly adaptable, and your goal is to complete the task in the given amount of hours.

If failure occurs, bad things can or will happen (randomly). Therefore it is recommended that all padawans start out easy, and gradually increase the level before becoming a Master.

After a successful accomplishment you will not only feel great, but you can also allow yourself something nice, like a cookie perhaps, or a brand new car (all depending on your financial situation and local laws).

I'll give a demonstration right now:

- X : 0

- Y : 00:01

Damn it feels good to accomplish something.

That's right, you are allowed to set X to zero. If doing this, you are in no way allowed to write anything at all in the given amount of time Y.

Use and abuse this as you please, but be warned, this is not like the safe "I-never-fail" method mentioned by OP.

I've attached a photo, demonstrating what can be perceived as a bad thing from Tim's point of view. The more observant readers here may have noticed the cats on the wall. There was no need for reddit back then.

soyoureadfilenamesyousneakybastard.jpg

soyoureadfilenamesyousneakybastard.jpg.c

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