Monday, May 25, 2015

Nothing Certain

Been pretty quiet around here lately, hm?  At least for this blog.

I finished my dividing up of markets that I wrote about a week ago.  Took me eight months - or more precisely, I'd estimate about 175-200 hours.  Not kidding.  I worked on it for the last three weeks at least six hours a day, seven days a week, in this grinding way I have of just focusing.  During that time, incidentally, I also ran through the first six seasons of Voyager - a show I never watched, but which I always felt - being a trekkie from the 70s - I ought to see.  What a wretched show.

I often find that after very large tasks I experience a bit of elation at the chance to start a new project. This is usually followed, after a few days, with ennui.  For a little while, I don't feel like doing anything.

If I don't post, I know it gives the reader the opportunity to look at my backlog - and a lot of backlog there is.  A big surprise is the recent popularity of this post from 2010, talking about the way I started mapping my world.  At present, it is the most popular post on my blog for this past month - which is funny, as it was not a very popular post at the time I wrote it.

I take note of some silly comments made by one S'mon, who felt for reasons passing all understanding to use Scotland and France as examples for occupation of land, on a post largely describing the eastern side of European Russia.  Cognitive dissonance.  Must be the reason I did not feel the need to answer.

I am suspicious of the post's sudden popularity, however.  For months now I have been wavering back and forth on a possible book project, one that has gone up on the shelf and come back down again on three different occasions.  I've suspended talking about it directly on the blog, though I've mentioned it a few times obtusely.

For those readers who have purchased and seen my book, How to Run, I landed on the very rational project of writing a book that would do what the worldbuilding section suggests.  Progressively, I began to take notes and produce a design for a book that would describe the kingdom of Fallow, from end to end, side to side, pausing continuously through the description to explain why something was being included or designed in a particular way.  Specifically, I envisioned the entire book along the lines of a series of posts I began last September.  In fact, that post and the response to those that followed were so popular that I was inspired to write 'Fallow.'

As I dug into the project, however, I began to doubt.  It felt dry.  It felt deliberate and pedantic.  It felt like a book that was going to hit the ground with a dull thud.  So I shelved it.

Then I reasoned, why not try a test?  Write something else along the same lines, see what the response is and go with it.  So in March I began this series of posts.  Posts that seemed to land with a dull thud until I learned weeks later that people actually liked them.  There was certainly very little indication at the time.  I got a few comments on the first two posts, but the more I wrote, the less comments I received.  Prediction?  It was fine for a few paragraphs, but a book would have been deadly dry.

So . . . I shelved Fallow again.

Still, it gnawed at me.  I had this kingdom organized in my head now; it has an existence that doesn't fit into the world I run.  So I thought, give it more research, see how it goes.  So I wrote three posts beginning on this theme.

The response?  Little to practically none.  My online party thought it was interesting, it applied directly to them.  With everyone else, however (in numbers and response) . . . thud.

I was going to write a fourth post but I lost interest.  No point in talking to the walls.

Then I find after two weeks of paying very little attention to the blog, what is popular?  Another post about starting a setting and ways to go about fixing it up.

I don't know.  I just don't know.  Write this book?  Don't write this book?  Market research is failing me.

Just now I'm taking notes on setting an adventure tale (with a small amount of magic) in the Fallow setting I've created.  Maybe that is a better way to go.  I've got the tale mapped out and I'm 40 pages into the writing.  But these first weeks are always the most uncertain.  It is very easy to give up a project when so little is invested.

Remember, I spend 175 hours in hammering excel numbers apart.  10-15 hours starting a book is nothing.


Arduin said...

Every post linked is probably some of my favorite content you put up, especially since the string of "trading town" posts described exactly the kind of shenanigans I get up to whenever I'm a player.

Without deliberately seeking to get a rise out of people, your posts always seem to have a pretty low view/comment ratio, at least from this viewer's end.

Mostly because it gets really tiresome to constantly have nothing to add but "damn, that's pretty flippin' neato, when's the next one?".

kimbo said...


on your blog, lack of comment doesnt necessarily mean disinterest or dislike or any other dis-'s. For me its been "thats really interesting, I have to think about that, try it out, but nothing productive to say about it."
The kingdom building process as a book would be great. In addition the DM reactions upon contact between setting and PCs- what I mean is what you do with the setting based on PCs actions which are unexpected to you. How you arrange your information. How the world evolves/responds to play within it.

Do keep going.


Scarbrow said...

You know, Alexis, and I've said it many times, that your best posts, even when they are recognized as such (and they often are) are not the ones that attract the best, or even the most, comments.

I, for one, will surely buy the book to support you, but you know, we're too few to love you into a steady gig.

However, through the years I've seen time and again people arriving at one of your latest posts about mapping and saying "wow, how do you do this". Then you can point them to the first posts, or some of the middle ones, or the latest. But as you blog about it from time to time but work on it almost constantly, the oldest ones often are outdated (Meaning you have moved to better, more advanced techniques), and the middle ones are not always as joined as they could be. I think there is definitely a niche for an advanced book on mapmaking and worldbuilding. Remember for your forays into the conventions, the Internet is not everything. People out there are willing and able to buy your products based on quality. So? Go for it, man!

Alexis Smolensk said...

Be that as it may, guys - and thanks for the comments - the issue here is market research. I don't have any other measures and I sure as hell don't have any other examples for the kind of books I conceive of to write. There may be only a few of you but I want to put out the right material - stuff that will be interesting, useful and that you will give to others to impress.

The above post simply outlines the difficulty of exploring that problem.

Tim said...

I too would definitely enjoy any continued efforts in your recent series (the trade videos, the island, the building of a trading town). Much of the time I feel, like kimbo, that I have nothing of value to add to the discussion. I will still continue to read what does get posted, though of course it would be better if I continued to read and spread the word about this blog. I worry, however, that I am the only one in my social sphere with a strong enough interest in D&D to read and make use of your work. It makes me wonder: when do you notice spikes or increases in readership?

Looking back at past series you've done, like on 1-HD creatures and HP in general, it seems that controversy always sets the comments ablaze. I suppose it may be the case that people on the Internet only ever seem to talk when they feel outraged.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I see spikes when the page views jumps hundreds, when someone links me to another page (blog, bulletin board, reddit, etc) and when I get retweeted.

No one has to make a comment before retweeting me or link me elsewhere. No one has to get outraged. When it happens, I know I've written a good post.

Ozymandias said...

Honestly, I've been checking every day, twice a day, for the past two weeks at least since you've been... distracted by other things. I've been forced to find my fix elsewhere (which is not an entirely bad thing). My opinion, therefore, is "Please Sir, may I have some more?" I would definitely purchase a book that walks the reader through the design process with an example setting.

Vlad Malkav said...

Me. Want. More.

Ok, more words :

Those articles are a delicacy that I sincerely enjoy. Damn, I was waiting eagerly for the next "How to Start a Trading Town", I must refrain from reading your mapping posts too much lest i'm reminded by the woman that I don't have the time, and your post on "Limitations" gave me nifty ideas and food for thoughts on the nature and means of making "not-XP-reward" rewarding, so to speak.

So, yeah ... Me. Want. More.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Better get prepared, Vlad - it is going to be all maps and worldbuilding this week.

Vlad Malkav said...

I'll dig into that ^^ !

I really have to get back on track with worldbuilding ... I see the pre-made world I'm sending my players in, and I have fits about all that is wrong ... - And, thanks to you, I get many ideas for all the logistics and economics problems that should stem from a little more "realism" input.