Crystallization and Distillation
Taking an Idea from Thought to Form is rarely easy.
For the creatives, ideas are seldom a problem. Inspiration is everywhere. The expression and execution of an idea is far more challenging. When you can do anything, how do you focus your attentions on simply one thing?
Drilling down to the issue for writers. You have to form these ideas into tangibles and taking fleeting thoughts without any edges and compressing them into the written word. You’re translating intangible concepts into word form and, depending upon what you’re trying to capture and how long you’ve given the subject thought, you are trying to encapsulate and translate at the same time. Give yourself some credit.
Get the words down on paper. Don’t worry about their form. Don’t worry about their tense. Don’t worry about rambling or terseness, focus on putting down all the necessary thoughts you need to enable you to whip them into shape.
Good writing is art, craft, and discipline.
Many people feel the first iteration needs to be golden. With experience and time, you’ll be able to write a clean, if not, perfect draft. And shiny drafts can be problematical on their own. When revisiting a work for a second pass, you can revisit and reconsider thoughts and concepts, not simply word choice and diction, and make certain you’re weaving the proper tone and narrative for your work, regardless of whether it’s an article, an essay, a novel, or a roleplaying game. Yes, each of them have their own idiosyncrasies, but it’s important to revisit and refine.
Speaking from experience, many initial concepts begin as thumbnails, things I want to cover, want to address. I generally use notecards (physical or in a program like Scrivener) to throw down high concepts and whatever initial things/beats I want to hit in my first pass. Some are thought provoking questions and challenges, such as how can I be both comprehensive and succinct about X? Others are reminders such as tighten this section up. And it’s always important to stretch yourself in some direction each time.
Choose your words wisely.
I frequently research elements to provide verisimilitude in my works and, while there is an overriding, academic urge to show off how much I learned, it’s important to show restraint and use such bits sparingly unless the whole focus of your work details a particular subject matter and you don’t expect your target audience to be familiar with it. For example, tremulus details out a snapshot of a small town, but I don’t go into detail about cars, the economy, or any of those things as it was beyond the project’s scope and has little to none impact upon the types of scary stories we want to tell with that game.
Have a crew or allies or recruit some volunteers to read your material and, if it’s a game, to play it. This might sound obvious, but some folks are afraid. Afraid of being judged. Afraid of having their ideas stolen. Afraid of not being good enough. If there is a time to find out if your stuff is up to snuff or not, then it is before it is strewn among the masses. If you can’t take critical feedback from a small circle of folks then you may wish to consider whether this is something you want to do (at any level, be it hobbyist or professional). It’s important to cultivate a healthy attitude and look at the critiques to your various drafts as judging a work in progress, not a finished work. It’s a far cry from finished anyway at this point, you still have work to do.
Trust Your Gut
Whether others like or dislike your stuff is cool and all that jazz, but it’s important for you to believe in it as well. I’m not getting artsy here, just spitting some truth. To do your best work, you have to trust your instinct to refine things you think need refinement, to scrap things that aren’t working, or to start the developmental cycle over if things are venturing in a direction you don’t want to take them. Don’t worry about following the new hotness. Don’t worry hitting a release window to coincide with X in an effort to boost sales. Find out the workflow that works best for you.