Happy July! Are you ready to get started on crafting your one-shot?
Whether you’re brand new to writing tabletop RPGs or just looking to get a head start on your next project, I recommend taking this month one day at a time. This is why I’m not sharing every single idea or resource all at once; writing is a process. Your process may change over time, and that’s OK! The more you make writing a part of your life, the better you are able to learn what works best for you.
Even when you WANT to write, writing can still be daunting and overwhelming. For fans of RPGs, like us, even just asking for advice often results in dozens of people sending you to a bunch of blogs and YouTube videos. Where do you even start?!
Since it’s the first of the month and July lies open before us, waiting for us to adorn its empty pages, it’s the perfect time to get your head in the game. Today is all about assembling your tools, getting mentally prepared for your project, and setting goals.
Objective: Preparing for the month ahead.
Deadline: You have until July 3rd to select the tools that you want to use throughout the month, designate a workspace, and set your goals.
(Note: Every email I send will come with a deadline. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss one. I’m just providing deadlines because deadlines can be a writer’s best friend. I promise!) On July 3rd, you’ll get another email from me all about mood-boarding and writing inspiration.
Assembling your writer toolkit
(or treasure chest, if that’s more your style)
Using tools that excite you makes writing much more fun! Plus, many writing tools offer useful features that can improve your process. Here are some recommended tools, free and paid. (There are of course, hundreds of writing services that exist in the world, but these are ones that I think are best suited for writing RPGs.)
Ulysses is an Apple-only premium writing service with a desktop and mobile app that syncs your work across devices. (Fellow Android users, I feel your pain.) Ulysses uses markdown, which can come with a learning curve if you’ve never used it before. But what’s awesome about Ulysses is it’s beautiful, minimal interface. It also provides simple tools to add and track deadlines, upload images, tag and organize chapters, and more.
Evernote is a free note-taking service, also for desktop and mobile, which I think is great for when you want to document your ideas on the go! Evernote’s multimedia capabilities are also great, and there is virtually no learning curve necessary to get started with it.
For big projects that have many chapters or research documents, Scrivener is for you. This paid program is incredibly robust, and provides writers with some great tools to create storyboards, outlines, and character profiles. It’s built with novelists/screenwriters in mind, but you can use it for any project, and I think it’s great for writing RPGs. (Especially for those of you who plan on writing longer campaigns.)
If you don’t want to shell out $$ for a good writing tool, Google Docs is a very good cloud-based word processor. It’s easy to outline, add images, and just write! Plus, it saves your work as you go, so that’s one less thing to worry about. The collaboration tools, for when you’re tag-teaming a project with others, make it even better.
If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, your standard word processing programs that come with most devices are certainly good enough to do the job!
Sometimes quill and parchment — uh, I mean, pen and paper! — is the way to go. There’s a lot of research about how writing things down by hand helps you better retain information and can prompt new ideas. My favorite notebook brands are Moleskine, Word. and Field Notes. I also recommend checking out the Bullet Journal system for planning and brainstorming.
Preparing mentally for your month of writing
Any creative endeavor requires a lot of brainpower. When you already have other things in your life, like jobs or families or in-progress campaigns with your buddies, it’s important to keep your mental health a priority. (Even more so if you already deal with things like anxiety and depression. Solidarity!) Here are some steps you can take to prepare for the month ahead.
Designate a workspace
Having some consistency in your routine can work wonders! Select a place where you would like to work for the duration of the month. If it’s somewhere in your home, clean up the space and get your tech/writing gear in order. If you work in public, find a place conducive to productivity. Do what you need to do to make it a place that will foster your creativity.
Let your friends and family know
Give your loved ones a simple heads-up about your plans; they'll know that you’re working on something important to you, and that their support is appreciated.
Setting your goal(s)
Set a specific goal
It’s important to set a goal for the month to keep you accountable and to start planning for the days ahead. I recommend setting a short-term goal that can be realistically accomplished by the end of July, and a long-term goal that will keep you motivated in the future. (That might mean publishing, running a campaign for your friends, etc.)
I’ve been asked many, many times: “How many words does my RPG need to be?” As you’ll find out soon, there are lots of ways to write an RPG, so this is very dependent on your style and your project. (When we talk about outlining, I’ll be sharing some examples of popular RPGs with you so you can see what your options are and why it’s hard to set a word count.)
I’m setting a short-term goal that you can choose to claim: writing a 5,000 words one-shot by the end of July.
For some of you, this might be plenty for your whole story. For others, this might be a solid start but not enough to complete your module. Regardless, by the end of July, you’ll have written 5,000 more words that you didn’t have at the start of the month. 5,000 words for your first RPG is a reasonable, achievable goal. Writing a module is very different than writing a novel; I find that game design requires much more planning and outlining than crafting prose, so the time allocation varies.
Studying your ruleset
During this time, I highly recommend spending a few days reading through your chosen ruleset. Really study it and annotate it. Even if you've read the Player's Handbook 100 times, there's always something new to discover in it. It's absolutely worth reading through your ruleset again, and make notes of the mechanics, items/characters, lore, or features that you can weave into your story.
The RPG Writer Workshop Vault!
Every email I send is also available to read on the RPG Writer Workshop Vault.
The password for the vault is: July2018RPG
(It’s not that the information is sensitive, but I just need to monitor traffic/usage on my site.)
There’s also some other info there for you to peruse. The Vault will evolve over time, so I recommend bookmarking it for easy access.
Keep an eye out on July 3 for Lesson #2. In the meantime, hop in the Discord channel and share your favorite writing tools and workspaces with others!