Monday, August 23, 2010

Timeline of a Writing Contest Entry

As I tweeted out to the Twitter group (I'm HanaMoonfire if you want to find me there!) I submitted my entry into the Blizzard Global Writing Contest for 2010. It has been a long an arduous process, which either says that I'm insane or I'm very dedicated to my fiction.

In retrospect, I thought it would be fun to see how the timeline of my writing process looked. Hint: It's not pretty.

June 23rd (60 days remain) - Blizzard announces the 2010 Global Creative Writing Contest. That afternoon I begin brainstorming and when I come home in the evening I write several possibilities for the plot.

June 24th (59 days remain) - The setting of the story changes from within Icecrown Citadel to a little earlier in the Argent Crusade's march on ICC. I begin writing. It's only two paragraphs though.

June 29th (54 days remain) - I finish the first scene, but I'm not terribly happy with it. That's okay though, because I've learned that the start of a story is generally crap until I have time to revise it.

July 5th (48 days remain) - It's a holiday and I write an entire second scene and half of a third. I realize pretty quickly that the third scene is going to have to go. It's fun and shows a lighter side of life in the Argent Crusade encampment, but doesn't serve the rest of the story.

June 17th (36 days remain) - The first major action scene (and fourth scene overall) is completed while I get my oil changed at a Jiffy Lube. I'm rather pleased I pulled it off without making paladins look silly, but I'm getting nervous because the contest is almost half over and I haven't gotten to the meat of the story.

August 3rd (19 days remain) - For one reason or another I barely write for two weeks and it's another 17 days before I complete the fifth scene. It has a dubious opening that I was not entirely able to rectify even in the final draft since there is not really any lore precedence for what happens.

August 5th (17 days remain) - Despite the impending deadline I have a burning urge to go write a particular scene that does not even belong to one of my existing writing projects. It's not even a germ of new story. It's just a scene that will have to, one day, belong to a large work that I haven't a clue about. I write the scene anyway and the characters and scene bother me for the next few days as I try to figure out what to do with them.

August 10th (12 days remain) - I return to my contest entry. I am now approaching the moment of truth. The sixth scene will be my longest and most important. It will contain the climax of the story. I know what must be done in broad strokes. This must happen, and that must happen, and then there's gotta be a big explosion. The problem is, how is the protagonist going to pull it off? I realize I don't have a clue how my finale is going to occur.

August 11th (11 days remain) - I continue working on the sixth scene. At this point I am terrified of the impending deadline. I wanted to be finished with the first draft at the beginning of August and obviously that hadn't happened. I spend almost every lunch hour at work from here out working on my draft.

August 15th (8 days remain) - The climax finally comes to me. I know what I'm going to do, how the explosion's going to happen, how the protagonist is going to escape. Looking at the day, Sunday, I realize that my overtime at work has cost me so much time. I have been working six days a week at my day job since mid-July. I am very tired and plan to ask for time off in advance of the 23rd. Not only is the 23rd the contest deadline, but the first day of a writing workshop I agreed to attend months ago.

August 16th (7 days remain) - My boss kindly agrees to let me take Thursday and Friday off in advance of my planned vacation. It's not really because of the contest, but because he realizes I need to decompress after all those six day weeks before heading to my workshop. Actual decompression might not actually happen. I run a partial raid with my guild, helping people get their Been Waiting A Long Time For This achievement before bowing out to work on my story.

August 17th (6 days remain) - As soon as I get home from work I sit down at the kitchen table and bang out the rest of the story (I always write in longhand first). The paper draft is complete. I begin typing it in and get as far as typing the first two scenes in before I go to bed. It's 2am and I still have work the next day.

August 18th (5 days remain) - I allow myself to decompress and relax for just one day. I do some revision work during lunch and make good progress. The mess hall scene in the Argent Crusade is definitely gone, but I'm not sure what to do with the opening yet. The evening I spend playing with my usual Wednesday night D&D group. The current story arc is very critical to my character so if I didn't show they might not have played.

August 19th (4 days remain) - The second draft is complete and I mail it out to five volunteers. I end up sending the story out later than I want to, but still at a respectable hour. It really helps that I had the whole day off.

August 20th (3 days remain) - Four of the readers get feedback to me before end of day. I already have plans for the third draft so I don't expect that incorporating their comments will take me as long as they do. As the hour gets late I consider throwing in the towel, but realize that if I do I won't get the story out to the Friday night group in time (different set of readers). When I finally mail out the third draft it is 3:20am.

August 21st (2 days remain) - The last Thursday reader gets back to me, and all but one of the Friday readers. I try not to stay up too late, and bow out of the raid with my guild's blessing, but then the MT disappears from the raid in the middle of the fight with only an extremely panicked "I gotta go!" in vent. I'm called in to fill the last raid spot. I finish the fourth draft and mail it out at 2am.

August 22nd (1 day remains) - I wake up earlier than I expect and I'm in a sunny mood. I read through the morning's comments from the final Friday reader and the only Saturday reader. The remaining issues are largely technical, though I clear up a few story points. I'm quite happy with the way the story has progressed. I have a final copy-editing read which involves me reading the story aloud and "performing" the dialogue to make sure everything sounds right. (It's a very good technique for finding typographical errors.) I spend a little more time polishing up the formatting and then submit the story to the contest.

I really want to thank Cursedhoof, Klepsacovic, Colarna, Puffyier, Sting, Peter, and Denis for critiquing this story for me. It was a crazy-ass ride. Now I just need to pack for my workshop.

Damn. It's almost 1am over here. I'm never getting to bed am I...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anyone Want to Critique My Writing?

Sometime around 1am last night I finished the first draft of my currently untitled submission for the Blizzard Global Writing Contest. This is a far better finish time than my first completed draft for the last contest (I finished about 3am the night before the deadline--it was horrible). This year's contest deadline is the 23rd.

Because of this, I have a little more leisure time to do multiple drafts and patch up the story. Sooooo I'm looking for a few volunteers with some free time who are able to critique an approximately 6000 word story (subject to change a few hundred words in either direction after the next revision) on short notice. 6000 words is roughly 12 pages single-spaced in Times New Roman font, depending on your display.

My personal plan is to be producing new drafts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (with a touch-up on Sunday). They will all be mailed out, but not necessarily to every volunteer, unless they really want to read 3-4 versions of the same story. I did that to one of my guildies last year, even giving him two drafts in the same day.

The first round of drafts will be mailed out Thursday afternoon/evening Pacific time, and I would need responses back by Friday night (it can be really late on Friday night) so I can use the results in my Saturday draft. Sooner would be better of course, so I can make use of comments for the Friday draft, but I know this will already be a bit of an insane turn-around time. Later than first thing Saturday morning will be no good because by then the comments will be two drafts behind.

Deadlines would look like this:

Thursday Draft - need comments back Friday night (or before I wake on Saturday morning)
Friday Draft - need comments back by Saturday night (or before I wake on Sunday)
Saturday Draft - need comments back by Sunday morning

If you would be interested in reading any of those drafts, please contact me at . I will be pestering assorted guildies and writing friends and hope to have 2-3 people reading each draft. We'll see who's crazy enough to read for me. :)

Want a synopsis of the story? Well, if blood elves and paladins make you want to throw up this story probably isn't for you, but it involves my paladin Gillien and unresolved personal business he has in Northread.

I will likely send a list of questions to be read after finishing my story that highlight my current concerns and what I'm working on.

Needless to say, this is work in progress and if you volunteer to read, please do not post or forward this story anywhere. It's really creepy when someone e-mails me about my story and I never gave it to them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

[Druid] Forum Comments about Druid Healing Come Cataclysm

I was reading my morning dose of blue posts, when I came across a long discussion between Ghostcrawler and forum posters regarding druid healing. I am not an expert on druid healing by any means, but I was struck by a particular poster that Ghsotcrawler had quoted.

The hot topic of the discussion was what buttons a druid presses to heal in current content, which largely consists of Rejuvenation and Wild Growth, and how Blizzard wants to change this for Cataclysm. Apparently there was the notion that only baddie druids would stick to those two spells.

The difference between good and bad healers is really obvious right now. A resto druid who does nothing but casually Rejuv the entire raid is a bad healer on the vast majority of fights (i.e. non-damage aura fights).

Ghostcrawler begs to differ, saying that druids pushing the toughest hard mode content are still rolling majority Rejuvs + Wild Growth and performing adequately, which sounds appropriate for me given what I've read on the matter.

But then the comment that really got me was this:

Nah c'mon. You can at best be a mediocre druid if all you use is rejuv and WG, and it is unlikely that any such druid would find success doing 10 man hards.

As I said, I don't consider myself an expert on druid healing, but I have healed 10-man hard modes, and the vast majority of my healing comes from Rejuv, followed by Wild Growth, with a sprinkling of Lifebloom, Swiftmend, and the occasional Nourish thrown in depending on the situation.

Personally I feel like a baddie no matter the content I heal, just because I don't feel very comfortable as a tree. It's probably the HoT thing. Back in vanilla and TBC I was very happy being able to choose the right heal for the job and managing my mana pool. But when I can't be sure of whether my HoTs will fully tick out I feel like I'm just blowing heals for no reason. If I had to ration my mana pool in WotLK I'd probably be a nervous wreck of a tree.

But if the content I heal is any measure, I'm pulling my weight and doing just fine, relying primarily on Rejuv and Wild Growth. I can find uses for my other spells, but they're limited. For instance:

Regrowth - If I want to pre-HoT a tank before we start I'll toss this on because it lasts a long time while the tanks get into position. I'll also Regrowth Valithria before taking a portal.

Lifebloom - I throw this on the tanks for extra healing depending on the fight or phase of the fight as extra padding. Whether or not I roll it or even stack it depends on circumstances. Usually it just goes up when I have a free GCD and there's little need to HoT someone else, but if that tank's going to take a lot of damage in the near future I try to keep it stacked and rolled.

Swiftmend - While I like this while running 5-mans, I've found it surprisingly underused in a raid environment. I still use it, but many times I find I can count on my fellow healers to get to the severely wounded first. Unless I'm positive I saved a dps with this, its healing feels superfluous.

Healing Touch - Only in emergency in combination with Nature's Swiftness. Does anyone even use it otherwise? A shame since it used to be the old standby for a leveling druid.

So, yeah, I use my other spells. Would my healing be horribly crippled if I didn't? Not really. Not in a raid. And not unless something happened to our holy paladin and he wasn't there for the night and the disc priest or resto shaman got ice-blocked, prematurely faceplanted, or some other horrible thing.

When that happens I toss on the HoTs and Nourish spam the tank, but 90% of the time a resto druid is fine with just Rejuv and Wild Growth.

Honestly, I think it'll be fun to use more spells again. I feel silly casting HoTs all the time whether the raid really needs it or not. I'm sure I overheal like a maniac and it's considered a good practice, because if I don't, someone might die. They might not, but I can't take the chance.

Paladins often get shafted as the two button healer, but I actually feel much more dynamic in my decision-making and actually press far more buttons healing ICC on my paladin than I do on my druid. On a typical raid fight as a tree I will Rejuv, WG, and possibly two other spells (maybe Innervate or a couple other heal abilities). On a typical raid fight as a paladin I will Beacon of Light, Sacred Shield, Holy Light, Flash of Light, Divine Plea, Avenging Wrath, and Judgement of Wisdom, guaranteed. And then maybe Holy Shock and Divine Illumination if needed.

Maybe my paladin won't be constantly juggling all those spells, but they are cast at some point in the fight. Whereas the druid does almost the same thing the entire time.

I'll try to get some Cata moonkin comments in sometime. Seems harder for me to get a coherent post going on that one instead of just dropping one off the cuff.