I stumbled upon the Storytelling Collective out of luck more than anything. The day before the workshop started I opened an email from Chaosium. “What an excellent idea!” I thought, while both wanting to give it a try and also not daring to.
I’ve DMd/GMd/Marshalled-whatever-you-like-to-go-by for years, and I have always, always wanted to give publishing an adventure a try. Yet until I came across this workshop, I never had. To be honest, I had no idea where to start.
The tag-line “your writing journey begins here” caught my eye. They had a D&D path, a Cthulhu path, and a General path, with the course lessons tuned to reflect the system you were writing for. It was, quite simply, to good an opportunity to pass on if I was ever actually going to try and publish anything.
I stopped making excuses for myself and I signed up. I joined their Discord server, as nervous as walking into a room full of strangers can make you be, and said my hellos. I was met with friendly waves and hi’s back. The anticipation started to build – after all, I’d passed that first hurdle of actually signing up to do this. I was so excited! I told friends and family so I couldn’t just secretly bail and pretend it never happened. This was going to be the time.
So what actually happened?
The workshop began
The workshop has been a blur, and my excitement persisted throughout the whole month of working through it. Week one’s lessons really helped me to hone down the adventure I was going to write. I committed to writing 3’500 words of a one-shot adventure, and acknowledged all the things that could crop up and get in my way (they did, every single one of them!). I gathered my tools, made moodboards, sketched out ideas, and felt like I had structure and a shot at completing the task in a way I hadn’t felt before.
In week two, I struggled. I wasn’t alone, though, there was a Discord server full of people, some of whom were who were also struggling, as well as people who have struggled before. I had my idea, it was evolving as I was writing, but I couldn’t quite figure out how all the pieces clicked together into something that would be publishable. In essence, I had made myself an overkill of notes that I might run and improvise a game from and was tying myself in knots about how any of this would make sense to anyone else.
Community to the rescue
Things changed for me when Ashley Warren replied to another participant’s queries. Writing an adventure isn’t a paint-by-numbers deal. There isn’t a secret formula that works for everyone, but hopefully by the end of the workshop I’d know what works for me. Figuring out what creative tools work, and what tools don’t, and learning what tools are available was more important than an adventure that may or may not appear in a month. After another comment by a more experienced participant to write the adventure I want to write first and foremost, I began to relax. And then it all began to click together.
I stopped writing “DM prep notes” for me, and instead tried to write something that another DM, with an entirely different DMing style to me, could make their own brand of notes from. My secret formula, it turns out, comes from drawing maps. Once I drew my maps, all the ideas formed a neat line to slot into place. I stopped prepping for me, and started writing what others would need to be able to do their own prep. Or so I hope.
Scope, scope, scope
Remember the 3’500 words I promised myself I’d write? The adventure I wanted to write didn’t want to fit in that 3’500 word box. It grew and I was excited about the adventure it grew into. However, that did mean that I completely blew the (soft!) deadline of finishing it in a month. It meant I felt that looming end-of-month date getting closer and closer, and still having lots of writing and playtesting to do, and of course I wanted to meet it. Anyone would, right? Then I got a nasty stomach bug and eurgh, no deadlines were going to be met no matter how much expectation I’d put on myself.
An emotional rollercoaster with a positive ending
The good thing was that the expectation was all just me. The community built up around this workshop is truly fantastic, and rather than give up because I couldn’t meet my own (unrealistic) expectations I was able to keep on writing the adventure I wanted to write.
I finished drafting it.
I found people to playtest it, even watching on the sidelines as someone else ran it (which was an experience!).
I edited, re-jigged, added too, and subtracted from it.
And then, when it was ready enough (knowing perfect is the enemy of good enough) I hit publish while nervously wondering the whole time how it was going to be received.
Now it’s out there, I’ve found peace with the process. I hope my adventure will bring a bit of fun to someone’s table, but if not, well, I still wrote the adventure I wanted to write. I found out more about the creative tools that work for me. And I have many ideas to carry on writing with. Publishing an adventure no longer seems like an impossible dream.
My writing journey has begun here
The tagline comes back to me, because it was true. Somewhere, amongst those workshop lessons and activities, I found a process that worked for me. It might not always work, but when it doesn’t I’m aware of other tools I could use instead. Not every lesson held new information (some were practices I already ascribe to when DMing), but every lesson was informative.
I am certain that if I’d clicked away from the email advertising the workshop, and put it off to another day, I wouldn’t have completed a 20’000 word, 44 page, adventure that I am quite proud of. It didn’t fit in my original scope, I missed the deadline for it to be included in the workshop adventure bundle, but I completed it all the same.
If you’re willing to keep an open mind and give it a try you might surprise yourself with an adventure to hold at the end. I’m certainly telling everyone I know who has expressed a wish to “write something” about it.
The next course begins in November 2021, with registrations opening in October. If you’re even slightly on the fence, give it a go. The community is welcoming, the course is well structured and full of ideas, and I cannot recommend it enough.
You can see my adventure on DMs Guild, and download the entire first chapter for free. Nearly everything the workshop taught me is visible there. Now I’m excited to write my next adventure.