Word Count Based Writing with SpurtWriter

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Creative writing exercises are great for writing and as a general imagination workout. I’ve long been a fan of working with some kind of constraint, which can often help guide creative projects.

Recently, I saw someone on Twitter, talking about how they like to do their writing in 1000-word spurts. The idea is, that you set the goal to what you can realistically do in the allotted time. If you have 15 minutes, maybe aim for 300 words! I wanted to build something around this idea, and SpurtWriter is what I ended up with. It’s a small app specifically for word count based writing. Simply set your word count goal and go!

Presenting SpurtWriter!

To use this app, you must be running Windows. The app itself is free to download and use, and please tell your friends, etc. Install the app from the embedded link. Once it’s up and running, here’s what you do.

  1. Choose a target word count from the dropdown menu.
  2. Start writing. You will notice the word count go down as you get closer to your goal.
  3. When the goal is hit, you can choose to save the result as is, or keep editing.
  4. If you decide to scrap what you have, hit Esc during writing. You can still save what you have.
  5. You can only save your work when the word count is reached, or if you abort the session.

On a sidenote, I have recently breathed new life into the WriMuse twitter account, which features randomly generated writing prompts.

Additional info

  • Depending on your settings, Windows may ask you to confirm the installation due to security. Allow the app to run, if this happens.
  • SpurtWriter saves are RTF files (Rich Text Format), compatible with all major word processors.
  • SpurtWriter is very much a prototype/work-in-progress. Feedback is welcomed. Please send your thoughts and ideas to info@tagunda.com.

Inspiration and Game Prototyping

TL;DR: Get feedback on your projects, right from the prototype stage, and listen to inspiration when it presents itself.

I was watching The Walking Dead, when I had the idea for a game, where you are surrounded by increasingly large mobs of zombies, and you have to move around them, and take them out as they come at you. I imagined it as a top down game with a square level, kind of like Pac Manm, but in an industrial lot, or something along those lines. The idea flashed as a brief image in my mind, so not exactly a fully fleshed out game.

Sudden inspiration like this is something that should not be ignored. Even if the idea is simple. It might grow, after you plant it. So, the next day I made a prototype.

It’s simple enough. You use a mouse. Left click to move, right click to fire your gun (hold it down for continuous firing). You will die in the end, so it’s really just a matter of how big of a score you can get before you do. Explosive barrels can be used for extra points. There are occasional power-ups that spawn in, that may also help.

I call it “Don’t Touch”, because even a single bit of damage will immediately end the game. So stay alert!

The game made the rounds at the day job office, where a few coworkers “tested it” and gave me the best feedback ever: they went back for more, all on their own.

When people like something you make to the point where they want to keep playing it, and voluntarily offer up ideas of their own, that will feed even more inspiration.

When an inspirational feedback loop is created, and as a creative person, your job is to listen and take away all you can. Because most of the time, creative work is not done based on inspiration alone. In fact, the inspiration part has very little to do with writing a novel, recording an album, or creating a video game. It’s hard work, and if you want to finish your project, you can’t just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike.

So when it does strike, pay attention. I am sure you are busy, I certainly am, and I really don’t have time to work on another game. Unless I carve a little extra time, I’d otherwise spend on playing Fallout 4.

Yesterday, fueled by the reactions I’d gotten, I added a new power-up mode that gives you a temporary boost in rate of fire. Like equipping a machine gun with limited ammo. Shred those zombies hard, 10 seconds at a time! I also added something I’d not yet tried implementing in a game – a killing spree bonus based on a timer. If you kill 3+ zombies in a row, you get bonus points. If you take too long, it resets.

I like adding things and tweaking other things, based on the feedback I get, plus throwing in a challenge for myself, like adding the killing spree.

I am not sure where this particular prototype will go. I’m fine with it entertaining myself and a few friends for a few minutes here and there. You can play it too, of course. Maybe when Torgar’s Quest is done and launced, I will turn it into something more.

Procrastinating a Milestone

IMG_1403.JPGDo you ever put off finishing something, because finishing means that it’s over? That’s kind of where I am right now. It is an exciting place to be, because it feels like I am accomplishing something.

It is also frustrating as hell.

In this case, the project is my game Torgar’s Quest. I’ve been working on it for several months, slowly developing and implementing all the features I thought it should have. Even many that I didn’t think I could figure out how to code or design, because it was new and scary.

Now, it’s nearly all there, maybe not fully polished or balanced – but at least it’s in there – yet I find myself procrastinating the last few details as if to prolong the process in some act of self sabotage. I have seen this symptom before, and it can be a killer if you let it take root. Like the writer I know, who has several unfinished novels on his hard drive, or the musician I know, who has hundreds of unfinished songs stored away.

There is still a LOT of work to do, don’t get me wrong. Making a video game is a lot like writing a book. You start with an idea and turn it into a rough outline (alpha), which then forms the basis for your first draft (beta). That’s me, now, with Torgar. What follows next is editing and making it nice, before I can finally unleash it on the world in its full, pixelicious glory.

Still to do: more balancing and testing and tweaking and, did I mention balancing? Polishing an endless list of detail, localization and somehow finding time to also promote the game.

So I have to kick myself into gear and add those last few features on my list, so I can start testing and balancing for real. Even if part of me is enjoying that feeling of almost being done with the first draft.

First up, no more writing blog posts about procrastination, as an act of procrastination! Instead, I should start getting ready for beta testing. If you want to be part of the beta testing, let me know.