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I want to start writing CYOAs

2 years ago

I'm new to the site and a rather inexperienced author, but I love story games and would very much like to write many of my own. There is one problem, however. It's that I, first, don't usually know where to start writing or what to write about, and second, I am not at all confident in my work. This results in me rarely getting started writing, then when I actually do, I usually just ditch it because I think it is awful. Any suggestions or tips?

I want to start writing CYOAs

2 years ago
Yes, bang your finger on your keyboard to create symbols that convey a story. Literetly, that's about it. Find some story you'd find interesting to write. I suggest you do a small one first. CYOAs have a tendency to be much larger than what you'd expect. Then, just go for it. Write it out. It doesn't have to be pretty. That's what the editing stage is for. (And do edit it to ensure grammar, a sensical plot, and to just tidy things up a bit before publishing.)

If you can't find anything interesting enough to write, then your audience would probably not find it interesting to read. Daydreaming works pretty well for me with getting story ideas. Maybe watch a show or movie, read a book, or even listen to a song that you find captivating. Stuff like that can get the creative juices flowing.

I want to start writing CYOAs

2 years ago

   I am brand new as well, and also an inexperienced writer. My suggestion, for what it is worth, it to read all of the help documentation on the editor features. Reading through that gave me ideas for stories. I would say I am more into the game mechanics than story telling, so that's why reading the "How to's" first worked for giving me inspiration. But also, before starting your own, you could read a few highly rated stories on here. There are some good ones. This will also give you ideas about your own story. You get "points" when u review others stories and leave a comment afterwards. You will also get 3 points for creating your own story. Now you dont even have to "publish" this story to get the points, you just create it so only you can see, play around with the mechanics and some ideas, and have fun. There is a checkbox when you create a new game for "Allow Sneak Preview".  Keep this unchecked so that no one can see your Frankenstein Monster. It really is a lot of fun. 

I want to start writing CYOAs

2 years ago
Commended by mizal on 10/20/2018 2:08:23 PM
There's no requirement that you write a story here and so first of all, just bluntly, if you really can't think of anything you want to write about than you probably shouldn't write anything just now. There's absolutely nothing wrong with hanging out as a pure reader and reviewer, and there's nothing that will make you sick of writing faster than starting a story you're just not that invested in and getting burned out half way through. (Or worse, shoving it out the door in an unreadable or unfinished state because you're sick of looking at it...the only excuse there ever is for that is to meet a contest deadline or something.)

Another issue is that you look to be attempting some fantasy epic, when WIBN is right in that the smartest thing for a new author is starting small. Not every story has to be LOTR. (Maybe what you have in you is just Bilbo's birthday party...nothing wrong with that.) For some people it can be intimidating enough just writing a regular story, and a CYOA is like a regular story on crack with alternate universes spinning off in every direction. It will start growing exponentially and quickly get away from you. Something like a smaller scale story with a single major obstacle for the main character to deal with, with the branching coming in in how they approach the problem might be easier to keep a handle on while you familiarize yourself with things.

Reading and reviewing other stories to get a better grasp on what works or doesn't work is another helpful idea, and I've always seen writing short stories for practice to familiarize yourself with a character or setting (and just in telling a complete story to begin with) as an excellent way to practice. You always inevitably comes to those '...but wouldn't it be cool if THIS happened instead' moments, and you can't include them all, and that's what CYOAs are birthed from. And however you decide to approach things, you're always going to want to work out at least the basics of a plot in advance so you know what you're getting into before you spend days or weeks writing on something that turns out to be going nowhere.

As for the plot description I'm looking at, if it helps explain the reason for the whole 'starting small' thing...

The land of Alshasa has known peace for longer than any can remember. War is a concept almost forgotten except by historians.

However, things are changing. Scouts return constantly from the frontier bringing news of strange activity in orc and undead cities. Unrest has fallen upon the kingdoms of men, dwarves, and elves as riders spread the news.

Something is rising. Nothing good can last forever.


Okay, so just so far just for the intro, let's look at what needs to be established within the story. Background info for Alshasa, background info for the character. A believable reason your character, who so far seems to be a normal scrub with a nameless sister and little house on a dirt road would go to the frontier and get involved in whatever epic conflict is planned. What the epic conflict is to begin with and what's driving it. What the personal stakes are for the character, what's going on with other characters they may be traveling with, and some kind of climatic twist or revelation to keep the plot from being just about going and punching some dudes until you punch them hard enough to win.

Then after that you have to figure out how to break it all down into a workable plot. People who like fantasy and world building and wide scoped plots are usually good at summarizing it all in the broad sense but then once they have to sort of 'zoom the camera in' and deal with things page by page they get lost. All of this has to not only be revealed to the reader naturally as the events unfold, but since it's a CYOA you have to be continually providing choices...aesthetic ones at the very least (small choices that effect only minor things and don't change the overall plot) but at some point people are going to expect some real branching and you're going to have saddled yourself with several novel-length fantasy epics instead of just the one.

Not trying to intimidate you or anything but you need to be aware of what you've committed yourself to write, and since the OP makes it sound like motivation is an issue my major concern here would be that you wind up going the way of countless other noobs who got in way way waaaay over their heads immediately because they jumped in without much experience in writing a story at all, let alone a CYOA, and then got burned out fifteen pages in and never came back.

I want to start writing CYOAs

2 years ago

lol. this is me. Im on page 13, Lots of damn work. 2 more pages before my burn out. :)   

I want to start writing CYOAs

2 years ago
For ideas, I'd simply suggest just reading a lot of the stories here. You might get inspired by a theme, process, or general idea. You might read a story and think, "I could write a better ending than that." Have fun with it!

I want to start writing CYOAs

2 years ago
I'll just add a little to what others have said...

I had exactly the same problem you are having until someone gave me the greatest piece of advice that anyone could so I'll pass the little gem onto you: "Just write garbage!" I know, I know it's hard to do, but you won't get over that feeling until you actually put yourself out there. I did and look! it ended up winning a contest and being featured. Well, not the very first one...I still have a lot to do on that other one before I republish it (if I don't do a complete rewrite), but you get the gist of what I'm saying, hopefully.

And what's the worst that could happen? Do you think that someone is going to track you down and throw eggs at your house or paint graffiti on your car because you published something on the Internet? Well, they might, but it's more likely that you'll learn from your mistakes and improve over time which is why we're all here. No one here started out as some master writer. We learn what works and what doesn't and grow better over time. We've all got our bumps and bruises, and strive to do our very best. It's all you can do, really.

I want to start writing CYOAs

2 years ago

This encourages me more than anything i have heard yet. "Any garbage can win a contest". Sweet!....  Now back to my bourbon and garbage...   

I want to start writing CYOAs

2 years ago
This is great advice too, looking at the OP again I see I fixated a little on the 'I don't know what to write/how to stick to it' part when self confidence was also a problem they were struggling with.

To that I can just say, as a newbie you have no idea just how bad some of the stories we've seen are. Just from your OP alone it's clear you're not capable of emulating that level of failure and cringe even if you tried. At the very worst you might post something bland and forgettable, and that's fine, you'll get some learning experience and advice out of it and do better next time.

I'd still recommend figuring out your plot and major branches before you do any serious writing, but after that the most important thing is just to get the story on the screen. Going back to edit and add polish is always faster and easier than writing out the first draft.