NaNoWriMo 2013 Retrospective

I met my NaNoWriMo word count goal last night: 50,149 words in thirty days (actually twenty-nine days since I finished a little early). Hooray!

2013
The stats for the Snake Detective.

I only started entering my daily word counts a few years ago but it’s one of my favorite things about doing NaNo. I like seeing the daily goal, the words per day, and the various other statistics it provides.

One thing that I’m proud of is that I didn’t miss a single day of writing, although I did have a few lean days here and there. Compare that to last year or the year before and you’ll see the difference. This year was much smoother than previous attempts.

2012
The stats for Bleed (NaNo 2012)

In 2011, it was even more spotty. The first big gap was caused by a local convention that I was working, but I honestly don’t know what happened on the other days.

2011
Stats from Angel’s Descent (NaNo 2011)

Another statistical quirk I noticed is how things always accelerate in the last few days. I think this is because the momentum starts to swing in my favor; I’m moving towards the most exciting part of the story (hopefully) and I also have the weight of all those words behind me spurring me on to finish. It’s a good thing, too, because it’s nice to have things move so smoothly after the slog that is the 20,000 to 40,000 push. I think the only reason I was able to tough it out this year was because I’ve seen the pattern a few times now.

So I’ve finished another NaNoWriMo; my fifth, to be exact, and yes, I am bragging a little. For one thing, I’m proud of the accomplishment and it’s the kind of thing one does just to do it.

With the conclusion of NaNoWriMo for another year, it’s safe to say that December will be a much better month for blogging than November was. My original intention was to keep up a blog schedule of 3 times/week, but by day three of NaNo, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Although I’d love to spend all of my spare time writing things and posting them and then writing other things, I did have a graduate school course that needed attention. And my friends like to “socialize” and “see me” now and then. And I need to finish the quest for my legendary cloak on my druid. So, you know, I was busy.

I titled this post “a retrospective” because I spent a lot of time thinking this pat month thinking about what NaNo meant to me and why I was doing it. I’d like to share a few of those observations.

I can honestly say at this point keeping up the streak is a pretty big motivation, as petty as that sounds. Alcoholics and anybody who has tried to quit smoking (or other drugs, I imagine) can attest to the power of the streak; if you break it, all that hard work is undone. You go back to day one. Is doing that thing (or not doing it, in my case) really worth going from five years back to day one?

With five NaNos under my belt, where do I go from here? I know there are other challenges out there. Some folks do a “double NaNo” and aim for 100,000 words or they try to do 50,000 in half the time or whatever. That’s not really for me. Honestly, I feel like I manage to make the 50,000 writing goal by the skin of my teeth every year and trying to increase the difficulty of the goal seems a recipe for failure. Life itself seems to be a great way to add difficulty to one’s writing time; every single time I was asked to go out for a beer with a friend or to see a movie or anything . . . that was a challenge on the writing time.

Not that I’m complaining about those other things, of course. I enjoy those things very much.

There was something else I realized during this past month. Before I explain, a caveat; I love NaNoWriMo. I will advocate for it for the rest of my life. I love that for a month, being a writer is cool. Everybody wants to talk about writing! Do you know how often people want to talk about “that novel you’re working on?” Other than NaNo, the answer is never.

Not to mention, NaNoWriMo was a great catalyst that got me through my own writing doldrums. My first win in 2009 was the first time I’d managed to achieve something in writing since I wrote my first (terrible) novel at 16 and then I languished for several years, starting dozens of projects but never developing any of them.

NaNoWriMo gave me my confidence back. It gave me a seed that grew into the novel I’m proud of today, the one I feel really does deserve to be published. Sure, it took years and years of work and rewriting, but the important thing is that it exists and it exists because of NaNoWriMo.

That all being said, it pains me to admit that I think this past month was something of a distraction. Yes, I wrote another story. Yes, I wrote a story in a genre I’ve never even tried before (although it did slip into something else quite bizarre halfway through). Yes, I challenged myself and proved once again that writing time can be carved from even the busiest schedule.

But NaNoWriMo also meant that for an entire month, I completely ignored all my other projects. Actually, it’s been more like two months since I worked on anything else, since around October, the gravity of NaNo’s impending arrival started to pull my thoughts away from anything else. I didn’t do any editing. I haven’t attempted to do any more query letters.

I now have another half-finished story sitting on my hard drive. With the exception of Unrepentant, which I wrote in 2009, all of the NaNo novels I wrote since then have gone untouched since reaching the 50,000 goal. Some of them may remain buried forever. The Snake Detective might end up being one of those stories; I’m not particularly pleased with large parts of it and I don’t know that I have the motivation to polish it up. I did have one idea that appealed to me that I may still pursue, depending on relevant enthusiasm. Since I have no real intentions of trying to publish the Snake Detective, I might edit it and post it for free on my blog. At the very least, it’d be a chance to show something of my writing beyond just talking about it all the time.

Regardless, what I learned this month is that sometimes, even writing can be a distraction from writing. I allowed this month’s NaNo to be an excuse to not work on other things. Yes, it was fun (mostly). Yes, it means I cranked out another story that would have otherwise just languished in my brain as a weird idea (it’s like Castle, but he’s a herpetologist and then things get really weird. Seriously, that was the extent of my outline before I started).

So what do I do moving forward? Although it might seem premature to start thinking about next year’s NaNo before this one is officially over, I want to write down what I learned so I have it to look back on come October 2014. And what I realized from this past month is I need to make NaNo be about something else other than hitting the word count. I need to change things up.

The rules state that you shouldn’t work on a novel you already started and that you should always start from scratch. From nanowrimo.org:

This sounds like a dumb, arbitrary rule, we know. But bringing a half-finished manuscript into NaNoWriMo all but guarantees a miserable month. You’ll care about the characters and story too much to write with the gleeful, anything-goes approach that makes NaNoWriMo such a creative rush. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you’ll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts.

Honestly, this is a very good rule. Most writers have a novel, whether it’s their first or just their favorite, that they’ve been working on for years and years. I did that for almost six years myself and I can honestly admit that I would not have been able to write recklessly with the characters and plot I’d begun in 2002.

This rule served me well for five runs, but I think next year, it’s a rule that I need to break. I have four stories sitting on my hard drive that are half-finished and need some attention. They are stories that deserve to have a shot at being completed.

Patrick Rothfuss has a great post on his blog from a few years ago where he arrives at a similar conclusion. I encourage you to take a look.

NaNoWriMo gave me the push to start and develop stories. Now I need it to help me finish what I’ve started rather than continually starting one project after another whenever my attention wanders.

This could change, of course. Maybe I’ll finish Bleed (fropm NaNo 2012) or even the Snake Detective and be ready to start a new story. I still have a few ideas that I really want to develop at some point; Dreamshift seems like it could be awesome and I had a pretty amusing idea after watching the trailer for Divergent for a parody version involving the MBTI. Perhaps the appeal of one of those ideas will provide the impetus for me to finish one of my other projects to clear some space for a new story. Otherwise, for NaNo 2014, I’m going to continue a story I already started, even though it’s against the rules. I’d really like to finish writing Bleed and I know I have at least one person who is absolutely appalled by the fact that I haven’t touched Angel’s Descent since 2011.

There’s a lot to do. I’m grateful that something like NaNo exists. It gave me the boost I needed to get where I am today. I think next year, it might again be a source for growth. Regardless, it’s a wonderful thing. I’m glad that it exists and I’m proud to have completed it for five years running.

 

The Psychology Of WoW Classes

I’ve been promising to write about this for a while, but I needed time to let the idea percolate in my head and even more time to write out this monster of a post (over 2,000 words). I’ve learned quite a bit reading the comments from my MBTI/RPG class post that caused me to revise my opinion quite a bit.

It was a mistake to try and correlate MBTI type and class preference with such specificity. While it was a fun exercise, it had no actual application to reality. Players are too diverse and tastes vary widely. It’s impossible to separate the reasons people play a particular class into purely aesthetic or mechanical considerations, not to mention the number of players for whom novelty and trying something different are the standards rather than the exceptions.

With that said, I’d like to take another look at MBTI and RPG correlation, but from a different perspective: that of the various kinds of classes in an MMO setting. The other major difference is I’m not going to try and pigeonhole one type or even one Keirsey temperament. Instead, I’m going to look at how the three primary roles of the different World of WarCraft classes and how each appeals to each temperament in different ways.

A Brief Overview of the Four Temperaments

SJ Guardians: ISFJ, ESFJ, ISTJ, ESTJ

Keirsey defines Guardians as having the following characteristics:

  • Guardians pride themselves on being dependable, helpful, and hard-working.
  • Guardians make loyal mates, responsible parents, and stabilizing leaders.
  • Guardians tend to be dutiful, cautious, humble, and focused on credentials and traditions.
  • Guardians are concerned citizens who trust authority, join groups, seek security, prize gratitude, and dream of meting out justice.

SP Artisans: ISFP, ESFP, ISTP, ESTP

Keirsey defines Artisans as having the following characteristics:

  • Artisans tend to be fun-loving, optimistic, realistic, and focused on the here and now.
  • Artisans pride themselves on being unconventional, bold, and spontaneous.
  • Artisans make playful mates, creative parents, and troubleshooting leaders.
  • Artisans are excitable, trust their impulses, want to make a splash, seek stimulation, prize freedom, and dream of mastering action skills.

NF Idealists: INFJ, ENFJ, INFP, ENFP

Keirsey defines Idealists as having the following characteristics:

  • Idealists are enthusiastic, they trust their intuition, yearn for romance, seek their true self, prize meaningful relationships, and dream of attaining wisdom.
  • Idealists pride themselves on being loving, kindhearted, and authentic.
  • Idealists tend to be giving, trusting, spiritual, and they are focused on personal journeys and human potentials.
  • Idealists make intense mates, nurturing parents, and inspirational leaders.

NT Rationals: INTJ, ENTJ, INTP, ENTP

Keirsey defines Rationals as having the following characteristics:

  • Rationals tend to be pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem-solving and systems analysis.
  • Rationals pride themselves on being ingenious, independent, and strong willed.
  • Rationals make reasonable mates, individualizing parents, and strategic leaders.
  • Rationals are even-tempered, they trust logic, yearn for achievement, seek knowledge, prize technology, and dream of understanding how the world works.

Now that we’ve identified the main characteristics that are core to each temperament, let’s see how these translate into the different class roles in WoW.

Tanking

Classes: Blood Death Knight, Guardian Druid, Protection Paladin, Protection Warrior, Brewmaster Monk

It’s easy to see why the tanking role appeals to Guardians; it’s even in their temperament name! In WoW, the Tank is responsible for guiding his or her teammates safely through the dungeon. The Tank stands on the front line and takes the hits from the monsters that would drop a more fragile character. The well-being of the group depends on the Tank to perform his or her job well. Without a strong Tank, the group will fall apart. The Guardian thrives in a social environment where their natural dependability is a strong asset and the Tank role demands exactly that.

For an Artisan, I believe that tanking will appeal for a very different reason. Artisans will focus on the fact that tanking is one of the most exciting and dynamic roles. A Tank is right in the monster’s face and often has to react quickly to changing situations, lending itself to a high-adrenaline and exciting playing style. A good Tank needs to be quick on his or her feet and troubleshoot problems, which fits well with an Artisan’s preference for an intense, high-energy playing style.

Idealists are Tanks for reasons similar, at first glance, to those that motivate Guardians. Idealists are naturally cooperative and value the well-being of those they hold in their regard. The Guardian, however, will approach the Tanking role with the mindset of, well, a guardian. “The safety of the group is my responsibility.” An Idealist, on the other hand, will be more concerned with the well being of the group in an abstract sense. “If I do my job well, everybody is having more fun” is what guides an Idealist who has chosen to Tank.

Rationals, like their name suggests, are drawn to complexity and anything that stimulates their problem solving abilities. Although it might seem like the role of Tank requires nothing more than standing in front of a monster while it hits you over and over, in truth, Tanks often have the most complex job of any role. They must understand a particular encounter better than any other class and need to be able to know when to move, when to use special abilities, when to react, and many other intricacies. Although all roles are expected to know the details of an encounter in order to succeed, for tanks, understanding the encounter is essential. This natural complexity and the required understanding to succeed make tanking very appealing for the Rational.

Healing

Classes: Holy Priest, Holy Paladin, Restoration Shaman, Restoration Druid, Mistweaver Monk

Guardians who prefer a less intense, less in-your-face playing style (particularly those who are Introverts rather than Extroverts) may favor Healing instead of Tanking. Guardians prize gratitude and playing a Healer is often a rewarding experience for exactly that reason. Healers are always in demand and a good Healer will be valued and appreciated by the group. Healers provide stability and cohesion to a group, which are also valued traits to a Guardian. Again, the primary difference between the Guardian’s motivation and the Idealist’s is that for the Guardian, the task takes on the aspect of duty and responsibility. “I am the Healer. I’m responsible for keeping everybody alive.”

Although Healing is usually a more reactive than proactive role, there are moments of heart-stopping intensity that provide the thrill Artisans crave. Certain encounter will tax the Healer’s abilities or the Tank will take a beating and come within an inch of dropping and these scenarios provide adrenaline rushes as the Healer reacts quickly to resolve. There’s a visceral thrill in snapping off a large healing spell at just the right moment and Artisans can certainly appreciate that.

For Idealists, the Healing role is a natural fit (one of the Idealist types, INFP, is even called the Healer). The act of restoring and supporting one’s party fits well with the Idealist’s motivating desire for harmony. Healers watch over their parties much like Tanks do, but they don’t take the center stage or have all the focus directly on them, which is appealing to the Introverted side of the Idealist Temperament. More than any other role, however, Healers represent the ability to increase the enjoyment of other party members. Finally, from an aesthetic perspective, Healing fits well with the Idealist’s tendency towards kindness more so than hitting something in the face with a hammer (like the Tank) or setting it on fire (like the DPS).

The Rational again finds complexity in the Healer role that stimulates his or her intellect. Healers cannot be measured by raw statistics the way a DPS can, but there are other considerations a Healer must juggle that creature interesting scenarios for the Rational. Triage is an important skill of a healer; knowing when and how to use one’s best resources can often be the difference between success and failure. Healers must also be wary of overhealing, which represents a loss of strategic resources and so must employ their abilities carefully.

The DPS (Damage Per Second)

Class: Hunter, Mage, Rogue, Warlock, Arms Warrior, Fury Warrior, Retribution Paladin, Feral Druid, Balance Druid, Frost Death Knight, Unholy Death Knight, Elemental Shaman, Enhancement Shaman, Shadow Priest, Windwalker Monk

A dead monster is one that can’t hurt anyone. The Guardian might favor DPS as an extension of the maxim, “the best defense is a good offense.” Whether it’s dropping monsters with a fireball or stopping them dead with an arrow shot, the Guardian DPS player can maintain his or her party by unleashing the greatest firepower possible. Alternatively, the Guardian might play DPS because of all the roles, as evidenced by the list of potential classes, it’s the largest. The Guardian DPS might enjoy staying out of the spotlight that Tanks and Healers experience and instead be able to focus on doing his or her job dutifully and reliably. Good DPS is the backbone of the team and the Guardian, who enjoys being exactly that, can find his or her niche in this role.

Artisans approach the DPS role with a completely different attitude. For an Artisan, the DPS represents the chance to engage in intense, exciting, action packed gameplay. Instead of getting bashed on by a monster or watching health bars, the DPS Artisan is flinging huge fireballs or spinning blades at foes. DPS Artisans appreciate the big numbers; there’s nothing more thrilling than a huge critical strike or seeing one’s performance at the top of the DPS meter. Even though the group is working together, among DPS there is often competition to do the most damage. A DPS who tops the charts with his or her performance is going to feel like a rock star. It’s easy to imagine the Artisan’s attraction.

The Idealist’s reason for choosing DPS may be more nebulous than other temperaments. An Idealist DPS player might choose the role because of the different class archetypes spark the Idealist’s imagination and allows him or her to step into the fantasy of being a powerful wizard or knight. Alternatively, the Idealist might enjoy the DPS role for reasons shared by the Guardian and dropping foes efficiently helps the party have more fun. Finally, the Idealist might enjoy the DPS because it represents a change of pace from how the Idealist might normally be in a group context.

The Rational’s desire for mastery can be satisfied by the DPS role, especially in a class that requires a high level of skill to play effectively. DPS classes are dependent on using skills and resources effectively to produce more damage; this is often referred to as the “rotation” and mastery of it is critical to be successful. A Rational will enjoy figuring out the optimal rotation and mastering its execution. Alternatively, a Rational might enjoy the optimization aspect of a DPS role and balance different stats and equipment to create a superior character build.

This brings us to the end of the psychology of MMO classes. Some of my comments have been based on my own experiences, although most are derived more from observation of other players. There are likely many things that I missed for each class, but I hope that this broader approach to the subject of type and class will succeed where the previous attempt failed.

Finally, in writing this post, while my thesis is that any type can enjoy and do well at any role, I found that some types were much easier to place than others. It is my assertion that some types lend themselves better to some roles than others; call it a better fit, if you will, though it is not a pigeon-holing. Some players will always defy the norm and choose something explicitly because it’s strange or unique.

Here are my suggestions for the “best fit” for each role:

Tank: Guardian, Artisan, Idealist, Rational

DPS: Artisan and Rational

Healer: Guardian, Idealist

You’ll notice that this distribution is not necessarily balanced; all four temperaments are “best fit” with the Tank, for example. There’s also an inverse in the number of temperaments vs. the number of classes. Although DPS is the largest percentage of any group and has the largest number of classes dedicated to it, it has fewer temperaments than the more rare Tanking role.

I based this arrangement purely on my own opinion based on how easy or difficult it was to determine why a particular type might favor one role over another. It was easy for me to articulate why each temperament would have a best fit with the Tank role, but I had a difficult time determining the motivation for an Idealist to choose DPS.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this completely non-scientific look at this topic. Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings in the comments and let me know where you believe I got it right . . . or wrong. Thanks for reading.

Meanwhile, On the Surface

The blog has been quiet for a few weeks. Only my Twitter feed has provided an indication that I haven’t shuffled off this mortal coil and even that’s been pretty sparse. This is typical behavior during a NaNoWriMo; the only way for me to focus is to completely submerge myself in the project. Time spent blogging is time spent not getting to that glimmering 50,000 word count.

My attention was drawn out of my NaNoWriMo-induced haze and back to my blog when my phone pinged me this morning to let me know that I’d had an explosion of new page views; several hundred in the few days. Considering how my usual average is about thirty unique hits a day, this was very noteworthy!

It was also head-scratchingly confusing, since I haven’t written anything new for almost two weeks.

My first thought was that I was getting increased traffic flow from folks searching for reactions and opinions on the news that acclaimed psychic and bestselling author liar and fraud Sylvia Browne had passed away. My condolences go out to her family; the death of a family member is a tragic thing regardless of how that person made her living.

That being said, I’ve made my feelings on Ms. Browne well known in the past and that hasn’t changed. I hate how she preyed on the desperation of many, many grieving people. I’m already kind of a tree-hugger, so I try to adopt a live and let live approach to others, but I have an important distinction when it comes to paranormal and New Age things: is it harmful?

Lighting candles, doing affirmations, meditating, or whatever doesn’t hurt anybody, so if that’s your thing, cool, go for it. Likewise, if you want to try to contact the spirit world with a Ouija board, it’s something that’s usually done for fun at sleepovers and such. Most people aren’t looking for solace. At worst, the person that bought the board is out twenty bucks.

That’s not what Sylvia Browne did. A psychic reading over the phone would cost upwards of $450 dollars, which people desperate for answers are willing to pay. She wrongly told the mother of Amanda Berry, Louwana Miller, that her daughter was dead. Miller died before Berry’s rescue and never learned the truth.

Enough about that.

Interestingly, however, a look at my stats has shown that it isn’t anything to do with the news about Sylvia Browne. Instead, the increased traffic flow has been due to my recent posts about the MBTI. WordPress hasn’t identified where the traffic is coming from exactly, which would be interesting if my post was picked up by a larger site. Regardless, hello to all the new people!

Regular blogging will resume at the end of November. This has been the most grueling NaNoWriMo I’ve ever done (although I think I say that every year). Even though this is my sixth year doing it, it’s still a challenge. More thoughts on that soon(ish).

MBTI in Fiction

I came across this Tumblr page while looking up an (unrelated) book title and when I had a spare moment, I read through a few of the posts. Needless to say, I was hooked and have since read all of the author’s posts. In a continuation of my interest in using the MBTI as a tool to discuss fantasy and character archetypes and as a stopgap since I haven’t had time to write my MMO class psychology post yet, I invite you to take a look at the author’s analysis.

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

I like Loki’s analysis because, aside from the fact that I just flat out love Loki (especially after watching Thor: the Dark World last night), I like how it disproves a trend I’ve noticed is distressingly common among typing discussions. Many typing discussions seem to equate all villainous and/or clever, intelligent characters with T, while heroes and other “good guys” end up as F. I think this description of Loki shows a different side of what F can be. Despite the warm, feel-good description offered by Keirsey when he called the NFs the Idealists, a villain can be NF and can be very, very dangerous as a result.

I like Snape and Luna’s typing for a similar reason. Almost every chart I’ve seen places Snape as a T and Luna as an F. Snape is cold, distant and calculating, while Luna is dreamy and a little scattered. But we actually see that it’s Snape who is acting for emotional reasons (seriously, the dude does everything he does because of his feelings) and Luna is very focused on her own ideas, pursuing them regardless of how it makes others feel about her. Luna makes an excellent comparison to Loki and Snape too as a counter-example to “nice people are F and mean people are T.”

Type isn’t meant to be an indicator of what you do, but why you do it. You can be a hero or a villain with any of the types. You can be brilliant or naive with any type. With Loki, we see a very villainous “this makes me feel this way and so I shall act” personality that goes counter to the common perception of what F is supposed to be. The fact that he’s clever doesn’t make him a T, because T doesn’t equal cleverness. T equals objectivity. A T says “regardless of how I feel, this is what is best.” If Loki was T, he’d be more likely to recognize Thor’s personal growth and be able to accept him as a good king. “I may hate my brother, but logically, he’s a good choice.” Instead, Loki feels that he should be king, regardless of the fact that his track record isn’t very good at any of his attempts at ruling thus far. Thus, he’s F and his cleverness and intelligence having nothing to do with it.

Finally, I also like the author’s usage of each of the Hogwarts houses are a further distinction. In this usage, the Hogwarts houses represent your aspirations and desires rather than your type. Again, you can be heroic or villainous with any goal. Rowling may not have created many heroic Slytherins (even Snape and Slughorn are right on the border) but Sam Winchester and Tony Stark certainly qualify. Tony in particular is a great example of how House represents what he desires; he might have the clever  wit and brilliant genius that would make him Ravenclaw but satisfying his curiosity isn’t his true desire. The things that drive Tony Stark are ambition and the desire for achievements and legacy, which are very Slytherin goals.

This is also why I like the Joker’s analysis. It might seem like he’d be a Slytherin, but when you think about his stated goal, it really seems to have more to do with satisfying his morbid curiosity (watch the world burn, can I push this city into insanity) which makes him Ravenclaw. Thus, we see that not all ambition is malevolent and not all curiosity is benign.

Blogging In A Time Of NaNo

Just a quick status update to keep the blog from atrophying. I’m currently considering what to do with this blog while I triumphantly plow through my NaNoWriMo project, the future bestselling novel The Snake Detective. I currently don’t really have the time or energy to meet both my NaNoWriMo daily goal of 1667 words and do a 1000 word blog post.

If you’d like to track my progress, you can follow my novel’s update page here. I really enjoy looking at the stats throughout the month as the novel progresses. It’s very personally rewarding to see the bar graph fill up day by day.

I’ve been idly considering posting a few chapters here as I write them, but the idea of showing this rough draft gives me hives. It might completely destroy the ability to move forward if I know I’m going to show it to somebody.

I’ll keep trying to think of something to do with this space so it doesn’t go stagnate for the entire month of November. To those of you who are trying NaNo yourselves this year, I hope it’s going well and you’re meeting your word requirements. If you’re not doing it, I invite you to try. Even if you don’t succeed (and most people don’t, especially your first time), it’s a very rewarding experience that I highly recommend everyone tries at least once.