Sims Writing Challenge

Writer’s block is tough to break through. Sometimes you just have to ride it out, especially if it’s from being burned out. Other times, you can find a way around it. When I’m stuck and also lucky, I manage to find a way to do something else that triggers an idea or a surge of energy to do something. Lately, I’ve been super burnt out, so I’ve been doodling and designing sticker sets on my laptop. Another thing I do is people watch. When I was using my school’s transportation, I would watch people out the window of the bus. Now, I go to my favorite café, grab a window seat, and it’s like lunch/dinner and a movie. I was able to find a way to fill the gap between one event and the climax of one book this way. Then it hit me.

What if I watched people, but through the Sims? Sims is one of my fallbacks for when I’m burnt out. I can easily lose hours just making the sim themselves, not to mention their house, family, and life. I have Sims 3 and 4, but I’ve been playing around with 4 since I’m still actively buying game packs and expansions for it. The autonomous function is always interesting to watch, or at least, look back to after a small break while letting it run. With my love of Sims and writing, I decided to make a writing challenge.

At the end of this blog post I will have the rules and potential lists to use for your own use. The point is to randomize everything as much as possible, and have very little control. One of my downloaded items glitched out so I had to randomize an actually usable sim to do so, but it’d be interesting if I had used that character. However, I worried if it would crash the game. I’d say getting a job is optional, but it can give you more of an idea of their personality and some flair for the character too.

peytoncronin

The first character I generated was a girl by the name of Peyton Cronin. She had long pink hair like some sort of anime character and had an interesting set of outfits. Her main set was a pink shirt (that miraculously didn’t clash), some jeans, and some tan boots. Her aspiration in life was to be a city native and have the best turf to own. She was a painter, which could explain the artsy choice of pink hair. Her traits consisted of being a goofball, hating children, and being erratic. The erratic trait used to be the “insane” trait, so likewise the sim will talk to themselves, change outfits randomly, and be unstable. She was a great first character and would be an interesting main character for a book maybe. Noted.

tiaramasters

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have a second character or not, but I added one and I fell in love with her design immediately. Her name was Tiara Masters, and she had short black cropped hair and matching black cat ears. Alright, anime town it was. Tiara’s outfits made more sense than Peyton’s for the most part. She aspired to be a mansion baron, which goes almost hand-in-hand with Peyton’s. Tiara’s traits were that she was jealous, ambitious, and a bookworm, generally normal traits. She wound up being a detective, which I wonder if she’d be able to hide her ears with the hat.

Randomizing relations, they became a married couple, and they wound up living in Brindleton Bay, a nice little town that was from the pet expansion. For the main event, however, they wound up going to Skye Fitness in San Myshuno, a city which is inspired by modern cities like New York, San Francisco, and even Tokyo. The gym itself is connected to a patch of land outside of it, which provided some more leeway for interactions, albeit not too many.

As an observer, the first idea I got was from Peyton and Tiara watching a female street performer for hours. They never tipped her or anything, they just stood and watched. They didn’t even talk. The performer eventually left. It was odd how they didn’t interact, even though they were doing the action together. The oddness could provide a way to try to explain such a thing via storytelling. It wasn’t my speed, so let’s move on.

The second idea was from Peyton and Tiara playing basketball together, alone on the rooftop. They were talking together privately until this male gym trainer came up. Tiara left, and perhaps because of her jealousy trait, but otherwise I could apply that as the reasoning and use her trait in that way for inspiration. Tiara went downstairs to go use an exercise machine that I believe is just a weight machine. In this case, Tiara would be the main character of that story.

The third idea was from Tiara and Peyton having a conversation. They’re sleepy and hungry but were otherwise doing okay. Peyton is feeling flirty, and Tiara leaves to take a shower. Peyton goes to use a weight machine and Don Lothario waltzes over, having a flirty conversation with Peyton that goes well. He did this another time before this specific instance. This could be dramatic; is Peyton cheating on Tiara? Or was Don a past fling? Or was she just being polite since this guy is clearly a musclehead bro who could probably bench press her.

The fourth, and last idea was when Peyton was having an erratic moment and was arguing with herself in the corner while three other people in the area were exercising. Initially, I didn’t think much of this until I was reviewing my game footage. How weird would it be if someone was just having a dramatic conversation with only themselves in the middle of this rich area’s gym? That’d be wild! Two people were on the treadmill, and one guy was boxing right next to her.

Overall, the last two ideas intrigued me, but I’m almost leaning towards the fourth more. Now the hard part is writing it, or rather, finding time to focus and write it. It definitely helped me generate ideas, which was the ultimate goal of this challenge, besides producing something. I plan on writing one of the ideas, however, I’m not going to upload it because if it turns out well enough, I might try to shop it around the short story ring of submittable.

Let me know if this challenge helped you generate any ideas of your own! I’d love to hear how it turned out.

Rules

-Must Randomize at least one sim.
-Sims must be autonomous.
-Completely random choices, use https://www.random.org/lists/ and
 https://www.random.org/integers/ with the lists to determine details.
-If it comes down to a 1 or 2 option, or yes or no answer, 1 is yes, 2 is no. Modify the integer list as accordingly.
-Randomize relationships in this fashion, also depends on how many characters you’re using.
-You can choose where they live within a randomized town, but try to restrict yourself to their amount of money if you want to add anything to the house. (I say try because TV’s and computers are expensive, and realistically they would be in a house. Sims could wind up in the house as well and watching tv is a normal action, which is why I mention this.)
-EXTRA CHALLENGE: Number your ideas. Randomize which one you go with.

Here are the base lists I made below, and I added +’s to everything I had as an expansion pack or game pack.

Aspirations

Athletic
Creativity
Deviance
Family
Food
Fortune
Knowledge
Love
Nature
Popularity
+Animal
+Location

Traits

Active
Cheerful
Creative
Genius
Gloomy
Goofball
Hot-headed
Romantic
Self-assured
Unflirty
Art Lover
Bookworm
Foodie
Geek
Music Lover
Perfectionist
Ambitious
Childish
Clumsy
Erratic
Glutton
Kleptomaniac
Lazy
Loves Outdoors
Materialistic
Neat
Slob
Snob
Vegetarian
Bro
Evil
Family-Oriented
Good
Hates Children
Jealous
Loner
Mean
Noncommittal
Outgoing
+Cat Lover
+Dog Lover

Locations

1. Sim’s Home
Oasis Springs
2. Burners & Builders (Gym)
3. Desert Bloom (Park)
4. The Futures Past (Museum)
5. Rattlesnake Juice (Bar)
6. The Solar Flare (Lounge)
Willow Creek
7. The Blue Velvet (Nightclub)
8. Magnolia Blossom (Park)
9. Movers & Shakers (Gym)
10. Municipal Muses (Museum)
11. Willow Creek Archives (Library)
+San Myshuno
12. Mysuno Meadows (Park)
13. Waterside Warble (Karaoke Bar)
14. Casbah Gallery (Arts Center)
15. Planet Honey Pop! (Karaoke Bar)
16. Stargazer Lounge (Lounge)
17. Skye Fitness (Gym)
+Brindleton Bay
18. Brindleton Pawspital (Vet Clinic)
19. Club Calico (Lounge)
20. Deadgrass Discoveries (Museum)
21. Pupperstone Park (Park)
22. Salty Paws Saloon (Bar)
+Magnolia Promenade
23. Paddywhack’s Emporium
24. JF&S Clothiers
25. The Roadstead

Career

+Detective
+Doctor
+Scientist
Astronaut
Athlete
Business
Criminal
Critic
Culinary
Entertainer
Painter
Politician
Secret Agent
Social Media
Tech Guru

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 – Week 1

I don’t know how I’m doing it, but I’m managing to keep up to pace with my word goal. In my first week, I wrote 6,061 words, with a goal of 4,662 words if I went to my predetermined pace of 666 words a day. On average, I’ve been writing about 772 words per day. I generally spend around 30-45 minutes each day to focus on writing my novel, which is a lot considering I have a course load of 20 credit hours a week. My time between getting assignments done and packing to move is very sparse, and I expect to be tested in the upcoming week.

In November I was thrown off my groove from some things, but one of the more prominent being finals. Midterms are approaching. However, I only have one formal midterm test to take. I expect that I might slump a little this weekend with my moving situation, but thankfully I’m ahead right now to hopefully deal with that. I have a couple of other things that are popping up — because when else besides when I’m doing a monthly challenge— like applying for more scholarships and for a potential peer tutor job.

When it comes to writing the novel itself, I’ve discovered that I’ve been shifting different scenes back and forth. While they logically are in better order and my plans are rough touchstones, I worry about keeping track of everything that still needs to be paid off. I usually allow flexibility so certain things can arrive naturally while I’m writing, but it still worries me as I move forward. I think that’s my overhanging sense of general anxiety, however, so I will pursue 20,000 words nonetheless!

NaNoWriMo 2017: Ending Thoughts

I already knew the third week was going to be the toughest. I had my finals, birthday, and traveling arrangements that took up large chunks of my time. I thought I’d be able to write on my birthday, but I was very mistaken. I had devoted three hours to studying for my American Art History exam for my 8am class the following day, and while I wished I was writing, I got a 95 on it so it was well worth it. I was exhausted for the rest of the week between traveling and getting with the groove of things.

I didn’t write from November 15th until November 18th, cutting out the three days I had gone ahead by working hard in the first week that I had been saving for the end of the month. Uh-oh. I was able to write about four hundred words on the eighteenth, and promptly gave up. I couldn’t grab back the energy I had to continue writing the novel, and even though I was just about to get to one of the most exciting parts, I couldn’t pull through.

In other words, I burned out. When I challenged myself in July to finish my book I had been working on, I had written many other short stories and worked on other projects while working on my main one. I also didn’t have school. This time around, I only exclusively worked on the one book, and also my school projects. Once I stopped writing my NaNoWriMo book, I begun writing various other projects and short stories to declutter my brain. It was relaxing, and in hindsight, I could’ve potentially used a twenty minute warm-up before my writing session each day. I feel like that could’ve helped in some aspects.

I’m not sure if I will ever be able to finish NaNoWriMo in November. It’s such a loaded month mixed with exams, traveling, and also my birthday. Of course, I’ll try, try again, but I doubt it’ll be as easy as sitting in a cabin doing only writing for three weeks. This summer I’ll be taking a summer semester at my college (now that I’ve changed my major, I have a tiny bit of catch-up to do) so I’ll be interested to see if I can win with Camp NaNoWriMo.

As for the novel I started in this month, I have left off at 28,562 words. If I can, I’d be interested in finishing it in December or January. I feel like I need a bit of time away from it before I come back ready to finish it. The second act could use a bit more of events to lead to the climax. I doubt it would’ve been 50,000 words in the first place, but I guess we’ll just see when I do finish it!

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 2

Procrastination is dangerous. So is a Netflix account. I’ve continued my binge watch of Bojack Horseman (now on season 4, episode 3) but ALSO added Lost, where I’m on season 2, episode 14. Whenever I don’t feel committed for a 40 minute episode of Lost, I turn to a 20 minute episode of Bojack Horseman. It’s a terrible cycle of procrastination that has disturbed both my writing schedule and my sleep schedule. I now know when the sun comes up in the morning for the adjusted times from Daylight Savings. Yikes.

Despite those setbacks, in week two I’ve managed to write 13,147 words, for a total of 25,216 words. I wrote more than the first week, although that’s the hope considering it was only 5 days long compared to 7. Being halfway done is a miracle compared to the amount of things I’ve done instead of writing this week, not only via Netflix but from cleaning and the new Sims 4 expansion pack as well. And finals, which are an especially important thing I need to focus on.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue at being ahead this week considering my birthday is Wednesday and I have to pick my mom up from the airport, I have my finals due on Thursday, also we’re driving back home on Thursday for 6 hours, and then Friday I have a doctor’s appointment. My hope is that I can continue to keep strong and write in the night at the very least.

Without giving away any kind of spoilers or too many details, I’m excited to delve deeper into the mystery of the story I’m writing. I’m a bit worried I might’ve overestimated the big climax and the following events. I foresee this novel being around 180 pages, which is my general goal besides 50,000 words. Whenever I edit it, I can add as much as I want. I’m continually adding different parts as I’m going, which is a relief.

I’m already halfway through, so I hope I can finish out solid enough! To everyone else working (or procrastinating), good luck!

Writing Sprints Experience

This July, I challenged myself to finish a book I was writing and write 6 pages a day. I treated them as separate goals, considering I know I wouldn’t be able to write on one subject alone for a month straight. That’s just not how I work at all, and in order to encourage me to write every day and keep track of what I was writing, I found that there as an app for it called 5KWPH, created by a writer by the name of Chris Fox. (This is not any kind of sponsored post; it’s just what I learned by utilizing the app.)

The app was easily accessible, and efficient even in its free version. I was only able to keep track of one project at a time, and once discovering that, that’s where I got the idea to test out writing my book with it. I began with 20 minute sprints that I’d separate with about 5-10 minute breaks in between.

In my first couple of sprints, my average was around the rate of 1,860 words per hour (wph). As time went on, I could do more words per hour as I went on, naturally. My highest rate (and definitely an outlier) was 2,442 wph. I got more and more into the challenge of seeing if I could get close to 5,000 wph while I wrote my book. What can I say; I like pushing my limits and seeing what I can do.

I got a lot more done as I wrote, quite obviously. Numbers are encouraging to me. The science of keeping track of my own progress reinforces my confidence in my abilities and –at least for me—is encouraging to continue my passions. I could reach about six pages in an hour, and at the least that meant I could write one hour a day and reach my goal.

Something else I noticed while doing writing sprints was that the more I did them in shorter bouts, the more I didn’t want to write. It was the most unexpected and weirdest effect of this activity. I’d spend so much intense energy focusing on writing that it’d be exhausting on my breaks. I felt like I wanted to spend more time taking breaks than to continue writing.

However, there are a certain number of other factors that if I changed, I wonder if I’d still feel the same. If I switched between projects with this method, whether it be every other day or maybe even every other sprint, would I still feel exhausted? I’ve never had immense difficulty with focusing on certain tasks, but if anything I wind up hyper-focusing and then getting burnt out before I go to do something else.

In order to combat this feeling of intense exhaustion, I decided to see what would happen if I extended the sprints to 30 minute sprints. My rate of work was roughly the same, and at times, even higher than the average rate of 20 minute sprints. I produced about the same results and feel less significant pressure by just adding on ten more minutes, thus only needing one break between sprints instead of two. Additionally, I had gotten used to doing three sprints a day and wound up falling into the habit of doing an hour and a half of writing per day easily, contrary to just the one. I’d be able to get the third sprint in and only then would the exhaustion start to creep in.

The app was certainly helpful. The only two issues I had with the app itself was that it was occasionally buggy. If I paused the sprint sometimes the app would launch myself back a couple of minutes when I resumed it, and others it just stopped the sprint altogether. Usually that happened if I hopped to another app quickly or answered a phone call. The only other “issue” I had with the app (which isn’t really one at all) was the layout when receiving your sprint results. It’d list the project, wph, sprint duration, daily words, and then finally the sprint words. It’d be much more efficient to have the sprint words before the sprint duration, or even the words per hour. That’s the first thing I want to know when I finished a sprint; how many words I did and then the rate. Considering I’d wind up writing past midnight, when I’d try to calculate my own daily words it got confusing to find the right numbers. That’s just my own thoughts on the design, however. Functionality-wise, the app works near-perfectly.

Overall? I’ll definitely be doing writing sprints again, probably for NaNoWriMo. Considering on most days (except like, two) I was able to accomplish the minimum for NaNoWriMo, I am confident with this method I’ll be able to win my first attempt as well. For writing as long as I have, I’m surprised I haven’t discovered this sooner. I’m glad I have!

 

King Challenge 2017 – Results!

This July, I challenged myself to write 6 pages a day, every day for the month of July. (In a previous post, I talked about being inspired to do this from watching a video where George R.R. Martin and Stephen King had a chat.) Originally I had a mini-vacation planned that I was going to exempt from my challenge, but eventually my plans fell apart so I wound up not going anywhere. Therefore, I wrote during those days as well. My second goal of this challenge was to finish writing a book of mine that I started last year. Let’s see how I did.

 

I succeeded! In retrospect, I shouldn’t have had too many issues with succeeding due to my limited amount of plans; the majority of the days were free and I was alone in my cabin with my only distractions being the ones I created for myself. A couple of the weekends I traveled back to visit nearby family, and the travel time was usually around 3 hours, so that took significant chunks out of the day.

There were two days (July 6th, July 22nd) I almost couldn’t get to my goal. The sixth was the day before the vacation when I wound up being mentally overloaded so I called it off, and the twenty-second was my sister’s belated birthday party. Considering the house had over 100 people in it throughout the day, and the fact that for the better part of 3 weeks I had little face to face contact with other people, it was pretty draining.

Both of those days, along with one or two more, I didn’t work on my book. I didn’t want to write such an important first draft with little to no energy, and so I worked on some short stories or scenes for other stories/books. I’m always juggling projects, so it’s not like it’s not helping in any way.

In total, I wrote about 447.5 pages in that month, along with 122,424 words. When I picked up writing my book, I had been at around page 75. In total, my book wound up having 256 pages. So that means I wrote about 181 pages during the month towards it. Less than half of what I wrote that month went towards the book. I found that pretty ironic, considering that finishing the book was my entire goal for doing this self-imposed challenge. When I go through my files from the past month, a lot of them are from the warm-ups or other books I worked on. (I remember on Monday the 3rd I came up with a new book idea and worked almost exclusively on that. My brain seems to never stop, even when I want to sit down and focus on something.)

My writing habits usually are to write in the midday, but during the month I found myself writing fairly late into the night/early morning. There were many days where I’d be deliriously blasting 80’s horror movie music while bopping around and writing. It was great. My sleeping schedule wasn’t as great, but I had nothing too significant to do in a strict, timely manner so it all worked out. Every day I wrote for at least an hour, and near the end I started writing for about an hour and a half to two hours. Usually I can accomplish six pages in an hour.

I also decided to try a sub-challenge as I went on; I later learned Camp NaNoWriMo was occurring, and looked up the general suggestions and rules for it. Because I was aiming for adding around 40k to my book, I felt it would be wrong to put all of my book in the box that you copy in. Therefore, I decided to try to do their suggested ~1,666 words a day. There were two days I didn’t manage to hit that goal, but the others made up for it. For my book, I wound up adding 51,989 words to my book for it to total 72,786. If you’re curious how I kept track of all the numbers, I tried out the 5KWPH app throughout the month to keep track of my writing sprints. I’m going to make a post about my experience with that soon, because through that I learned a lot as well.

So overall, my findings for my experiment were about what I expected, but it’s really cool to see the numbers behind my productivity. I wish I kept track of how much I wrote during January and February when I finished two books I’d been working on for years; it would’ve been wild to see the amount of words I wrote per day then! This experiment also tells me that I can most likely complete NaNoWriMo. It’ll be harder to accomplish from school being in session, but I’m sure I’ll find my way to succeeding with that as well.

I encourage anyone to try this out and see what your results are. It’s an interesting labor of love for writing and experiment to be able to see what you can accomplish. In my case, it wound up being rather encouraging, and I hope it is for you too!

King Challenge 2017

Last year I did my own writing experiment. I didn’t know if I’d be able to accomplish my goal, but I knew I wanted to try. It stemmed from a writer’s event that had Steven King and George R. R. Martin talking about their craft. About 50 minutes into it, one of my favorite exchanges between writers was made. (Here’s a link right to the exchange, but I’ll summarize it here too.)

They were wrapping up their conversation, and Martin asked King, “How the fuck do you write so many books so fast?” with a chorus of laughter following behind. King explained that his writing process involved writing six fairly clean pages a day, 3-4 hours every day that he’s working on a book. Therefore, he could have a manuscript of about 360 pages in two months. Martin asked him if he regularly hit six pages a day, and King said he usually did. Martin then further asked, “You don’t ever have a day where you sit down there and it’s like constipation and you write a sentence and you hate the sentence and you check your email and you wonder if you ever had any talent after all?” And King answered with a no, explaining that spontaneous life events pop up but he still tries to get those six pages in.

That exchange made me reflect on my own writing habits. On a good day, I could get about 6 pages in. Then the thought occurred to me: If Stephen King could do that, then I could do it too. It’s possible, and I was going to do it. I already had a novel planned with its major and minor events, and I decided it’d allow me the perfect opportunity to try to follow that standard of writing.

I had a week to myself with no other distractions in my cabin home, and I had 10 days to see what I could do. Much to my own surprise, I committed to the six pages. In fact, my total page count was 75, and my total word count was 20,817 words. The only downside is that there are some parts that will need more revising before sending out to beta readers, but as far as progress goes, I’d say it worked out fairly well.

This year I’m going to see if I can do it again except instead of a week, I’ll be using the month of July. I have a small 4 day vacation one weekend, but otherwise I’ll be writing every day. I’ll be working on the same book, seeing as I haven’t finished it yet, so my goal first and foremost is to finish that book. With my other two books that I’ve written, it’s taken me years to finish them with agonizingly clear shifts in skill level ridden throughout that I’ll have to rewrite completely to maintain a consistent voice. I refuse to fall into that happenstance again, so therefore, my second goal is to write six pages a day. That way, I’ll be able to finish the book itself within the time frame I have set.

At the end of July, I’ll post an update where I explain my experiences with what I’m going to call the King challenge. See you then!