15 – Progress and Happiness

I believe that progress and happiness are intrinsically linked. People like to feel as though they’re making progress, and that sense of achievement makes you feel happy. This may not be the case for everyone, but I’m willing to bet you know exactly the feeling I’m talking about. Ever wonder why almost every video game and mobile app has a scoring or achievement system? It’s because the sense of progress you get from these keeps you hooked, and that’s why it’s so easy to sink hours into phone games that amount to little more than clicking a button on a screen again and again (I’m looking at you, Egg Inc). I’ve recognised this in myself, and now I try to get my milestone-reaching kicks in other ways.

When I was a kid, the fantastical notion that “I could do anything if I set my mind to it” became thoroughly ingrained within me, and that’s why I try my hand at everything from music making and novel writing, to board and video game designing. That sense of achievement that I crave is most attainable at the beginning of a new project, where milestones come thick and fast. Once you get past that stage, though, you’ll need to put in some work to progress. Often, you’ll need to study and learn, other times, you might just need to put the hours in, but the juice will be worth the squeeze.

Never has this been more obvious to me than when I started a new job in June last year. I went from being a planner working on Excel for eight hours a day, to being a marketing executive for a company which, so far, has had me setting up events in Germany and Russia, producing all manner of marketing materials, working with the press, and lots more. The learning curve was steep! The experience I had marketing my music helped, but this new job needed a LOT more. So, in order to help myself survive in the deep end, I dove even deeper and enrolled in a level 6 CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) course. The company I work for was kind enough to sponsor it too, for which I’m very grateful.

It was a lot to take in at first, but I felt that sense of achievement every time I finished a section of each assignment, and again when I handed those assignments in for feedback. I just handed in my final assignment, and the sense of achievement (and relief – I get my Monday nights back!) was palpable. Yes, it was hard work, and some of it was frustrating, but it’s already proven worth it. Not only has handing the assignment in made me feel happier, but I’m now feeling a lot more confident about all of my other projects. Now that I’ve got a solid marketing foundation, I feel better prepared to take my music, writing, and game designing to the next level. It’s given me a new confidence, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else this helps me achieve.

Do you feel the same? Where do you get your sense of achievement?

Have a productive day.

Will

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14 – Secret Project: The Story

This is the third in a series about a board game I developed for my girlfriend.
Read Part 1
Read Part 2

I described what I wanted the game to include in a previous post. One of those things was references to things Sophie and I liked to talk about, and at the time I was developing the game, there was a certain political figure looming large. What better inspiration for my game’s antagonist?

14 - The Story

I decided that my villain was a usurper who had gained control of Queen’s Landing and made lives hell for those in the regions around it. Players take control of a character (read about them here) and head for the centre of the board, where the once-proud city stands. The characters have an uneasy alliance though, and can’t resist screwing each other over as they make their way to the capital to dethrone the mad man at its middle. The characters were each given their own back stories and motivations for taking down the tyrant.

A few other political figures and events also made an appearance, but the setting is whimsical enough that it doesn’t feel burdened by it (as we often are in life!). The mood is further lightened by a few pop-culture references and the weird kind of glee you get out of messing up your friends’ plans to win.

Once I’d concocted that story, the rules and gameplay fell into place very quickly and tied the whole thing together. I’ll go into that in more detail in the next blog post, so please follow my page to ensure you don’t miss it.

Have a productive day.

Points Earned:

Blog post +2
Editing with Sophie +5

Previous Total: 77
Current Total: 84

13 – The Feel of a Book

You know what helps people test read a book? Giving them a book.

Now, that might sound weird, but one comment I kept getting from my test readers was that In The Black Blood would be a lot easier to read if it was in book form, rather than reams of loose A4 sheets. When you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Some of my test readers won’t have proof-read a book before, they aren’t professional editors, and a stack of paper looks a lot more like work than it does a fun romp through post-apocalyptic England. Plus, it’s going to end up in book form so why not give them something as close to the end product as you can get. Odds are the cover will end up looking different, but I thought I’d give it a go.

08 - Self Editing

I set about trying to find out how to make a short print-run of books. I only wanted five for my next batch of readers, which left me with two potential providers: Blurb.com and Book Printing UK. I started with Blurb, but their pricing wasn’t quite as good and their book making app seemed to be more trouble than it was worth, so I went with Book Printing UK. It turned out to be an excellent choice!

Customer service was great and I’m super happy with the end result. Even my hastily thrown together cover design has come out looking excellent. Not only that, but its worked well with my test readers too. Previous readers had taken quite a while to go through the book, but three of my readers got it back to me within three weeks after I gave them a physical copy and liked it.

13 - The Feel of a Book 3

Not only that, but it’s bloody awesome to hold your novel in your hands in book-form; something that many of us aspiring novelists might never get to do.

Points Earned:

Blog Post +2
Gig + 15
Recording +10
CIM Assignment Finished (!!!) +30 (seriously, it’s taken ages)

Previous Total: 20
Total Points: 77

12 – Secret Project: The Characters

This is the second in a series about a board game I developed for my girlfriend.
Read Part 1
Read Part 3

Up near Nottingham, situated close to a spooky church and this entirely reassuring danger sign, is the Wargames Foundry. This is where I went to find characters for the board game I made for my girlfriend (read part one here). They’ve got oodles (that’s British for “thousands”) of miniatures there; so many that I spent a good few hours looking for the perfect ones.

 

I’d settled on having one character for each of the four regions on the game board, excluding Queen’s Landing. A late-night brainstorming session the day before resulted in:

Drek – Related to a certain ogre you might have heard of (Quinzel Cemetery)
Dread Pirate Robins – Loves a frilly dress (Plunder Bay)
Condescending the Dwarf  – Don’t you dare talk down to him (Immortal Mountains)
Little Red – Wolf-pelt wearing badass (Wild Woods)

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Ordinarily, they recommend painting their figurines (as you can tell from the respectfully dressed vampires above), but I quite liked the bare metal look. I grabbed a few wooden discs from Hobbycraft, and secured the figurines to them with my trusty superglue. I’m very happy with them, and reckon they fit with the game board quite nicely indeed!

 

What do you think?

Have a productive day.

WAIT! Just before you go on your merry way, please take a moment to check out the sale running until the end of February on my website. Half of each CD sale (£2.50) goes to Brain Tumour Research.

 

Points Earned:

Blog Post (x2) +10
Gig (x2) + 30
Bought Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2 -25

Total Points: 20

11 – Secret Project: The Board

This is the first in a series about a board game I developed for my girlfriend.
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

Those of you that have been reading my blog for a while might have noticed that I’ve mentioned a “secret project” on a few occasions. Well, it’s time for the big reveal!

I MADE A BOARD GAME!

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The completed game board

It was my girlfriend’s birthday back in November. We’re both fans of board games and visit cafés like Thirsty Meeples in Oxford every so often to try out new things (Read Sophie’s post about it here), so it seemed like a good idea to MAKE a board game especially for her. I had no idea where to start, but I wagered that beginning with the board itself couldn’t be a bad idea.

11-the-board-3
The first sketch

I came up with the idea of creating five distinct “regions”. At this stage, I had a rough idea of what shape I wanted the game to take: I knew that it had to involve rolling a die to move, that it would involve drawing cards that would affect other players, that it would have references to things that Sophie and I liked or talked about, and that it would have a fantasy theme. With that in mind, I went out to Sainsbury’s and bought some crayons and coloured pencils, then took up drawing for an hour at a time on my lunch breaks.

The five regions developed quickly, and I soon had:

  • Plunder Bay (Pirate Themed)
  • Quinzel Cemetery (Swamp/Cemetery Themed)
  • Immortal Mountain (Mountain/Mine Themed)
  • Wild Woods (Enchanted Woods Themed)
  • Queen’s Landing (Medieval City Themed – No prizes for guessing the reference here!)

Once all five had been drawn, I scanned them into my computer and stitched them together in Photoshop, leaving me with an almost-finished game board. All of the gameplay elements were missing, but I had a base to work from; a base that I was incredibly happy with! Next I had to develop a story, but more on that next time. Follow The Points Project for more!

Are any of you prolific board game players? What do you like to play?

Have a productive day.

09 – An Unexpected Absence

Oops!

I’m saying that for two reasons. The first is that I’ve not posted for a month despite having lots to write about, and the second is that I bought a laptop and have become thoroughly indebted to my own points system. It’s a creativity aid, so it’s not cost me as many points as it did pounds, but it’s still quite a deficit!

The good news is that, although I haven’t posted over the last month, I have been making a lot of progress with various projects. The difficulty is that one of those projects is TOP SECRET. I can reveal what it is in November, once my girlfriend’s birthday has been and gone, but my lips must remain sealed for the time being.

09-an-unexpected-absence2
Not the most exciting picture… but it’s all I can show for now!

Anyway, excuses done, I’m back and will be posting regularly again from now on. You can expect posts covering everything from music, writing, marketing (I’ve just enrolled in a CIM course), and various other topics. Speak soon, and until then…

Have a productive day.

Points Earned:

Recording with Tom +20
Super Secret Project +75
Adding ITBB Compendium Entries +75
Gig at Althorp House +15
Blog Post +2

Total Points – 68

08 – ITBB : Self-Editing

In The Black Blood has been in the works for a number of years now. The book is written from the points of view of seven different characters and I began writing as most would, chronologically, but I soon realised that this wasn’t the best way to go about it. Each time I came back around to a character, I had to re-familiarise myself with exactly what had happened in their previous chapter(s), as well as the nuances of the voice I was writing in. I instead started to write by character, finishing the story for one before going back and finishing it with the next. Once all was written, I just had to slot it together. Then I put down the black pen and picked up the red one. Editing has been fun, for the most part; even more so now that I’m nearing the end!

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The first page of the first edit

My first edit was done immediately after finishing the book, looking for inconsistencies while it was all fresh in my mind.
My second was done after leaving the book alone for a few months, giving me some much needed distance.
The third was after feedback from a few people, giving me the benefit of outside perspectives.

And I’ve just completed my fourth round of editing, during which I made notes about everything I was unsure of or unhappy with, or anything I felt needed revisiting once I’d finished reading. I now need to go back through those notes, before having a read through each character’s chapters in turn to ensure their voices and styles remain consistent throughout.

A little while ago, I stumbled upon Blurb.com, a website that lets you create small runs of books. Once my edits are done, I plan on getting a few copies made (actual books that I can hold in my ACTUAL hands!) and giving them to a few friends for a final read through before I start the potentially mammoth task of finding a literary agent. It’s super exciting! Having a physical copy of my own will be so gratifying after having put so much work into this. Have any of you used a service like Blurb to make physical copies of your novels before seeking out an agent, or even used them in your self-publishing endeavours?

Have a productive day.

 

Points earned:

Recording at Get Loud Studios +5
Gig in Nottingham +15
Super Secret Project work +20
Blog post +2
Bought a laptop -425

Total points -255