On scoping, indecisiveness, making headway instead of beating yourself up

This was going to be a question on whether you project total/playthrough word counts at some point during the writing of your games, but the subtext, really, was on how do you scope your projects to be both excited about them and able to finish them? My limp, sad history with attempting to write IF is one of scoping issues always breaking my momentum.
It doesn’t help that I’m enamored of the more narratively focused Infinity Engine-likes, so there are always epic storylines somewhere , waiting to waylay my juvenile enthusiasm to do something like that, but in text. (In some ways, I will never outgrow my 16-year-old self, which I’m okay with.)

A related question has come up as well – do any of you get pushback from your writerly imagination as soon as you have to instrumentalize your writing, think of it in terms of categories like locations, quests, NPCs, etc.? Or does it act like support wheels, until you get the prose off the ground (and possibly after)? Does having to write placeholder text make you grind your teeth, and does the “But what interaction do I put here? Ugh, this is useless…” thought intrude often when you should really be writing and making progress on actual sentences?


Scoping gets better with experience. You need to finish a couple of projects before you start to wrap your mind around your own ability and the difficulty and stamina required to write the thing.

My very first conceived project has never been fully realized. Don’t worry about putting your epic aside and doing other shorter projects. Don’t let the epic clog your bandwidth because finishing stuff will give you new inspiration and provide insight to your future works.

I think of my brain as a stove. I may have two major projects in front, but the stove has other unformed ideas simmering away in the back. Some of them are ideas that just need more thinking, but I might use a fragment to inspire and flesh out another. Robotsexpartymurder was just an idea about solving a murder based on robot memories. It didn’t go anywhere until I mined an old screenplay that was all setting and no idea and the whole thing took off in my brain. Cannery Vale is similarly a Frankenstein trunk piece of several ideas that somehow seemed to improve each other by their fusion. The trick is to have enough juggling-balls in the air to grab another one if one is fumbled. And continue on without beating yourself up. If the story and the structure and the programming doesn’t happen it’s not ready yet.

The idea I put on hold is still valid and still worth simmering, it might just need the right ingredient to come along and unblock it. Happy accidents and discoveries occur, it just takes trust to know they happen often subconsciously when you don’t try to force them.


I don’t know if the main thing I feel like saying applies as much to Twine, because Twine doesn’t have that world model that always needs to be programmed up a la parser games. But re: Is instrumentalising a hindrance?.. in the end, it’s the thing that always gets me going.

I’ve been working on one thing for over a year now. It’s involving a lot of planning, which coincidentally I do in in your namesake software, Scrivener. But the main thing with me is, the nitty gritty of standing in location A and having to build something there forces me to think of all the props and the atmosphere and situation and what needs to be there, which gets the wheels turning and everything coming to life. Sure, I wrote ‘wet cave’ on a map, but now I’m standing there pretending to be the character. I’m basically the director on set and I’ve gotta be inspired by what’s there and what’s in me in this moment to get life going there.

If something mechanical is going to be hard to program, I’m slower to move 'til I’ve planned it to a certain extent, but in the end, starting to program the room and thinking about being in it snowballs for me.

The longer a project is, the more I realise I’m always drawing on what’s in me on the day. Because I might have written something ‘to do’ a year ago. Do I feel the same as a year ago? The story’s guiding me overall, but today I feel how I feel today, at the risk of stating the obvious. In this capacity, taking notes on good ideas is super important exactly because the great vision I had a year ago might be perfect, but I won’t remember I even had it if I don’t note it down in sufficient detail. Au contraire, maybe how I’d see it today would be better for the way the project’s gone since then.