How To Plan A Gamebook If You Have A Short Creative Attention Span

2016 Artwork Making Gamebooks if you only do short projects

As regular readers of this site probably know, I have a fairly short attention span when it comes to creating things.

This currently means that I currently can’t spend more than 3-5 days working on a single comic project, more than 2-3 hours working on a single painting and it also means that I consider novella-length pieces of fiction to be “long” writing projects. I also hardly ever pre-plan comics, paintings and writing projects to any large extent too.

Yet, last October, I was able to make a 51-page interactive online gamebook called “Acolyte!” in the space of about five days or so. Yes, this gamebook is only between one sixth and one eighth the length of traditional print gamebooks, but given the level of complexity and planning involved in making a gamebook, I’m surprised that I was actually able to complete it.

After all, back in 2013, I’d tried to write a sci-fi gamebook and I’d given up fairly quickly because of the sheer level of planning and amount of writing involved.

So, how was this gamebook different to the one I tried to make in 2013? Well, knowing more about myself now than I did then, I was able to plan it in a way that made it easier for me to handle

If you’re making a gamebook, then the plan for it will usually look a bit like a flow chart of some kind. For a 300-400 page gamebook, these flowcharts can get fairly large and complex. Hell, even for a 51-page gamebook, the flowcharts can get pretty large. Here’s a mock-up of what the flow-chart for “Acolyte!” would look like if I’d planned out the whole story in one chart:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] Dots signify pages, "X" signifies a death/failure scene and "E" signifies an ending.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] Dots signify pages, “X” signifies a death/failure scene and “E” signifies an ending.

As you can see, this looks fairly complex. However, you might also note that it’s a little bit on the linear side – it branches slightly, but it still pretty much travels in a single direction. This was an unfortunate side-effect of a technique that I used in order to actually finish the plan, given my short creative attentions span

Instead of planning out one large and unwieldily chart, I split it up into five smaller segments. Most of these segments only end on one point (to make starting the next segment a lot easier). In other words, instead of planning one large gamebook, I planned out five shorter and more manageable self-contained gamebooks which happened to be linked together.

This mock-up is a lot closer to what my plans for the gamebook actually looked like:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] As you can see, the map has been split into five easier and more manageable parts, albeit at the cost of making the story slightly more linear.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] As you can see, the map has been split into five easier and more manageable parts, albeit at the cost of making the story slightly more linear.

As I said earlier, this technique comes at the cost of making your gamebook slightly more linear, but it can be an excellent way to actually plan out a gamebook if you’ve got a short creative attention span.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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