Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Catching A Wave: #NBI 2015

When it comes to giving tips to each year's new NBI intake it's often a struggle to think of anything that hasn't already been covered, not least by yourself, last year and the year before that. Of course, since the target audience is supposedly people new to blogging you might feel safe in assuming they haven't read your words of wisdom from previous years and it certainly won't do any harm to dust them off, make a few corrections and additions and offer them up again.

Murf did that with his excellent and entertaining piece on grammar and sentence structure. In linking to Murf, like I just did, I was offering a practical demonstration of one of Aywren's Tips for Connecting to the Blogging Community, namely "if you read a blog post that inspires you to respond with your own post on the same topic, link to that original post or to other posts on a similar topic". That's great advice.

You can even go a stage further and do a whole post made up entirely of links. It's a public service other bloggers will appreciate, both as readers and when you link to them and send them traffic. At any given time there will always be someone performing this welcome and often under-appreciated role. Tipa used to do it, then Spinks. Currently J3w3l has taken it on and is doing sterling service despite Wordpress's best efforts to thwart her.

One thing most regular readers of blogs will come to notice after a while is that trends and topics move through the blogosphere like waves rolling onto a beach. Sometimes the wave begins far out to sea, on some blog you don't follow or in an interview with a dev for some game you never played, other times it surges up unexpectedly right in front of you in your rss feed. Wherever the wave begins, before long all your blogroll boats are bobbing.

It's an easy in to a day's posting to ride that wave and bob along with the rest. If you watch the waves closely, though, you may see the hidden rhythm of the tide as separate waves roll back, under and across one another, gaining or losing strength as they absorb each other or dissipate. Topics, trends and themes throughout the blogosphere tend to demonstrate both synchronicity and synergy, which isn't surprising when you consider we are all reacting to subsets of the same stimuli.

Right now, there's a clearly-defined boost to the effect, caused by the multiple NBI Talkback Challenges and Screenshot Safaris. Often, though, it can seem almost magical. There's little in blogging more satisfying, to me at least, than the sensation that you're making connections between ideas as they hum and spit across the zeitgeist, the feeling you get when the architectonics of a post that will weave them all together begin to coalesce.

On a good day it feels like bottling lightning. The words tumble from the keys almost faster than your fingers can follow. Other times it's plain hard work. Sometimes those ideas that seemed so lucid and  transcendental in the mind struggle against codification. They need to be wrestled down onto the page, where they lie inert; defeated and flat.

And sometimes what comes out seems to have no connection to what went in. You look at what you've written with confusion and surprise. This post is one of those.

I sat down to write about Exploration in MMOs, bringing in the "What Made You A Gamer?" NBI Talkback Challenge and the whole repeatable content furore instigated by the WoW Dev Shoots Self In Foot interview. I was going to weave such a tapestry out of threads suggested by Gaming SF, Kill Ten Rats, Tobold, In An Age, The Rykter Scale and more. I had screenshots ready from GW2 and Dragon Nest Oracle, where I was going to use the patina of lichen on the red roof tiles and the angle of the wooden shutters on the windows to illustrate the ineffable nature of both compulsion and delight.

And then I wrote this.

So here's my NBI Blogger Tip for 2015: when the post you write turns out to be different to the post you thought you were going to write - just go with it. You can always write that other post another day. Although the chances are you won't. The waves are never still.


  1. This is excellent advice for writing of all kinds! I often experience this when fiction writing, too. I sit down to write one sort of chapter and I'm surprised when I end up writing another. Usually that twist or turn made for a much better chapter than I expected. So, I agree. Don't fight the inspiration, roll with it!

    Oh, and thank you for the link to my post, btw! :)

  2. There's something Fablesque about those Dragon Nest images....I am currently sinking my teeth into Witcher 3, but your pictures have definitely made me curious. One for the todo list!

    1. I like DNO a lot, especially the visuals, which are very attractive and often amusing. The story is interesting too - or at least I suspect it might be if you could read it in the original. The translations vary from basic to barely comprehensible, unfortunately. I'm level 21 now and likely to go further.

  3. This is definitely useful for anyone who enjoys writing, I enjoyed reading this


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