An Exercise in Self-Critique

A few weeks back, I was exposed to a Tumblr meme inviting writers to extract the first line from their ten latest works and see if some pattern will emerge. I accepted the challenge and indeed found some patterns — none of which are good. At about the same time, I started regularly listening to the marvelous writing podcast, Death Of 1000 Cuts (“making you an awesome writer one cut at a time!”) produced by the novelist, creative writing teacher and stand-up poet, Tim Clare. Among other things, this podcast features refreshingly honest and incredibly illuminating critiques of story beginnings submitted by courageous novice writers.

Thus inspired, I decided to make a series of posts in which I’ll take a critical look at the beginnings of some of my own stories. I’ll keep the excerpts under 250 words, and I’ll paste them whole before taking them apart one sentence at a time.

The first victim: Ghost in the Machine.

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Writer’s Intuition

In an attempt to get back to writing fanfiction for Mass Effect, I’ve been reading and hesitantly poking at some old unfinished pieces. Among them was this rather long short story (about the length of The Candidate), about Saren and Nihlus, of course, tackling some unusual and heavy issues. Like the others, it was unfinished, but unlike the others, it was really close to being finished. I don’t know when exactly I started to write it, but it must have been way back in 2013. When I picked it up a few days ago, it read almost like a fresh piece of (not very good) fiction that I’ve never seen before. Yet I had no trouble whatsoever understanding why it had gone unfinished. At the time when I started it, I simply didn’t know how it should end. The only way I could see it ending was in total disaster, whereas I wanted it to be a learning experience for the characters. Reading it five years and a lot of diverse experiences later, I realized that now I do know how to finish it. And I set out to do it.

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NaNo 2017

This time around, the decision to do NaNoWriMo again came out of the blue. Other than a rather vague idea for a story and the nagging feeling that I should get back to writing, I had nothing in the last week of October, when I remembered that November was a Novel Writing Month. It took me all of that week to come up with a slim outline which doesn’t cover even a half of the plot (read: I’ve no clue how the story will progress beyond that point) and imagery for a couple important scenes. You’re thinking that doesn’t bode well? So did I! But lo, 10 days and 15,000 words into it, I’m making steady progress, I’ve no trouble allocating the time or meeting the daily goals, and my writing, although very rusty indeed, isn’t half as crappy as I expected it to be after five years of break.

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Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer: Themed Solo Challenges

Part 3 of Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer Revisited

I explained the mechanics of Themed Challenges in the previous post. Solos are in principle no different from duos — only they’re much harder to do.

In a way, I started playing this game solo. With the SP campaign finished twice, once immediately upon release and once again when the Extended Cut appeared, I was naturally curious about the MP, but at the same time I was horribly afraid to go online and play with random people. (Have I mentioned this was the first online game I’ve ever played?) So for the longest time I struggled on my own, on Bronze, playing the vanilla Human Soldier on Firebase White vs Cerberus and Geth, as they could be held for entire waves from a single defensive position. Well, entire waves 1 and 2. I’d die as soon as the objective on wave 3 made me move around. It was extremely frustrating and didn’t get me anywhere, since not many credits can be earned in incomplete games. But still I kept trying!

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