Writing and Dorfs

Casual games, hardcore games, and Dwarf Fortress
The metaphor does not stop here.

A long time ago, I greatly enjoyed a game called, simply enough, Dwarf Fortress. The premise of the game was straightforward: you began with a band of small, hairy, alcoholic, manic-depressive people who are simultaneously ridiculously talented and drastically intellectually disabled—the titular dwarves (AKA “dorfs”). By utilizing your dorfs’ unique talents, you proceeded to oversee the creation of a thriving, hairy, alcoholic, manic-depressive settlement featuring a surreal combination of death traps, underground farms, bas reliefs of cheese, trash heaps, tombs, and smithies that, in total, could never be considered OSHA-compliant in a million years—the titular fortress.

This task is made more difficult not only by roving bands of undead, elephants, undead elephants, and your dorfs’ natural propensity for self-destruction, but by the singularly steep learning curve required to master not only the controls but the interface itself.

Dwarf Fortress screencap
Holy shit.

This combination of factors has led to a common (and fairly accurate) conception that one must fight, and fight hard, to wrench “fun” from the nightmare jaws of the “game” Dwarf Fortress.

This sentiment is best embodied in the full version of the comic from the top of this post. You can take a look. I’ll wait.

Now, I did promise that this post had to do with writing. And so it does. Because I realized that if I were to replace the “FUN” label on the box with “WRITING TIME,” the part of the comic depicting Dwarf Fortress would be a fairly accurate descriptor of how I feel when I try to find space—space anywhere—in my day to write. And it’s so odd that finding writing time feels that way, because I seem to find time for all sorts of other things. Things like dicking around on the Internet, or playing Dragon Age: Origins, or finding new ways to murder investigators in Call of Cthulhu, or feeding myself.

So I’ve decided to take steps.

Right before February mutated hideously into March, I completed the outline for a novel that I am writing with SJ Hartsfield, my frequent co-conspirator and longtime compatriot. It is into this novel that I leapt, safety netting be damned, on the first of the month, and I have resolved myself to producing 1000 words per day with an end goal of 31k words for the entirety of March.

Directly after that I will be entering directly into Camp NaNoWriMo, with a similar goal: 30k words by the end of April. If I’m still alive when I emerge from camp, I’d like to believe I’ll be good for another 31k words wrung like drops from the moist towelette of May. Which will place me perilously close to the amount of verbiage I produced for my most recent completed novel attempt, and in a significant fraction of the time.

That is in the distant future, though. If I’m going to meet this self-imposed challenge, I’ll have to take it one month at a time. First, I must defeat March. To do so, I have to ensure that I make enough writing time for myself that, on average, I’m producing 1000 words per day. That daily word count has a lot of advantages. It is not as steep as the typical NaNoWriMo endeavor, so, while it doesn’t look as productive on the outside, it’s considerably less likely to burn my punk ass out. Also, “1000” is an attractive number, and one that can be easily tracked. Is it March 20th? Then I damn well better have 20k words to show by the end of the day. Simple as that.

And once I have eaten March’s heart in the market-place, it will be on to April!

The other half of my writerly sloth—a profound lack of submissions for publication—will have to be dealt with later. I can only slay one dragon at a time.

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