Not counting a one-shot LARP, I’ve run two games in my life: Memento and the Scion game currently in progress.
The year I ran Memento was the year I did not write a novel.
If there’s a causal relation there, it goes in the direction of “no novel, ergo free time for a game.” I was in negotiations with my editor for what I would write next, and reluctant to commit to a spec project just to fill time, when odds were good that I’d have to drop it halfway through in order to do something contracted instead. The causality was not that running a game ate the energy which would have otherwise gone into a novel.
(And the negotiations ended up settling on Midnight Never Come anyway, which grew directly out of Memento. So.)
But it is true that I did not write a novel while running that game. This year is the first time I’ve tried to do both at once, and the result is . . . interesting.
I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to find a way to build some downtime into my noveling process. The usual way of things is that I work virtually every day for three or four months straight, and at the end of it I have a book. But that’s exhausting, and after two months or so I start getting really bitter about not having weekends or days off.
One idea I’ve toyed with is giving myself a break on Thursdays. That’s the day I run the game, and it turns out to be singularly difficult to get anything done then — especially since I have physical therapy appointments Thursday afternoons, too. So I spend part of my afternoon at PT, and the rest of it prepping for game; since I am not a morning writer, that leaves me with only the time after the session ends to do any work. Which requires a rather massive change of gears in my head: game and book may be only about nine years apart temporally speaking — 1875 and 1884, respectively — but one’s in the Western frontier and the other’s in London, and their vibes are VERY different. Last week I managed 733 words after game because I knew where the scene was going, but last night I did jack, because the scene needed chewing and my brain already had its mouth full.
I’ve built in enough margin of safety that I could afford to take Thursdays off and still finish the book on time. But it does eat a large portion of that margin of safety: if the book runs long, or I miss days for reasons of backtracking or being sick or whatever, I’ll still end up with some crunch time — though hopefully not as bad as it was for Ashes and Star. On the other hand, once PT is done, odds go up substantially that I’ll be able to do at least some writing during the day, so I can then give my brain over to Scion with a clear conscience. So I think what I’ll do is this.
Until PT is done, I have permission not to write on Thursdays. I should, however, try to make up that lost ground in subsequent days, if I can do so without too much trouble. After PT is done, I’ll try to write something every Thursday before game, even if it’s not the full quota; if I manage that, I’m not required to play catch-up afterward. Put that together with the more complicated background math (involving certain things that add to the word total of the book, but don’t get counted toward quota, etc), and this should work out.
But yeah. Unsurprisingly, running a game eats many of the same processing cycles in my brain that book-writing does. (Moreso than if I’m just playing in a game, by quite a bit.) I do believe I can do both — I will certainly try — but this is going to require some awareness and planning on my part.