Anatomy of a post

26th September 2010 – 3.24 pm

Some people, mostly corporation chums, have asked how I remember so many details about events in w-space when writing my journal posts. Purely out of self-indulgence, as certainly no one has asked me to do this, I thought I would present the creation of a post, a deconstruction of my writing process. I will expose the raw notes I write, my first draft, and the edited post to be published, along with a 'writer's commentary' along the way. I hope it is of interest.

The short answer to how I remember what happens is that I keep notes. I jot down details in quiet times when spinning my viewpoint is all there is to do, keep my travels up-to-date when scanning, and scribble important points as soon as possible after hectic fights. There are currently several notebooks full of terrible handwriting that I have used to create my posts. The notes I keep serve two purposes. First, I try to ensure I get details correct, whether it's a class of ship or the type of system we're fighting in. Second, the notes are an aide-memoire, not only letting me get the chronology of events correct but also acting as an evocative reminder of what occurred. I will often remember more about what happened when reading the notes, which lets me flesh out a full story.

I have chosen a short extract and post to dissect, in an attempt to keep this post's size manageable. Here is one full page of my notes, with explanatory comments:

EVE – extensive scouting exploration done by scout, 15 BMs in can

The 'EVE' heading harks back to when I was playing other games, or making notes about books and music. Out of habit, or wistful thoughts about diversifying my attentions, I keep the heading on each notebook entry. Note that I am already editing my work, changing the repetition of 'scout' for a less awkward combination.

– Loki vs ceptor – pilot wants to be caught
– practice catching him on WH

I use dashes to delineate my notes. A wall of text will have me spending too much time working out later what I meant when writing the notes. Starting each new snippet of information with a dash lets me separate pertinent points quickly and easily, both in writing and reading.

Abbreviations and jargon appear heavily in my notes, the aim being to present information to myself that takes as little time to write as possible. I won't risk the safety or success of an operation by writing notes when I should be paying attention to events unfolding. I translate the jargon and add extra information as necessary when writing the post itself.

–>J102521 ?/no – twice before, 16 May, 3 months

I make a note of every system I visit, however briefly. A jump between systems is indicated in my notes with an arrow, although I also use an arrow to show causally linked actions. The question mark is perhaps unique to this page of notes, as I will note what I am initially doing in the system and whether the system is occupied, separating the two pieces of information with a slash. My activities are generally scan, travel, Sleepers, roam, and PvP. I don't have a classification for 'shooting a fleet member', hence the question mark.

The visited system is unoccupied. An occupied system would have the 'no' replaced with the location of any towers, marked by the planet and moon around which they are anchored. This information helps me explore more efficiently if I find myself in the system at a later date.

I also note that I've visited the system twice before. I make a note of the date and the relative time because my journal has a tendency to lag behind actual events, so although I like to know accurately when I last visited the system I also need to be able to refer to it obliquely for the sake of continuity with previous posts.

– easy, w/o even having to bump
– caught – too easy
– jump back home + try again
– oh, too easy
– so he destroys my shields +armour in one volley of 725 mm shells – bitterness is never attractive

If I have time to write a longer note I will, particularly if a thought occurs that I think is pithy and would either work in the final post or be evocative of what occurred to help me find a suitable phrasing later.

– collapse WH for better potential opportunities
– hostile Buzzard jumps during op – called to WH in ceptor
– lock + shoot, he jumps, I follow, but a second too late, it warps away

Actual combat! It's brief and over too quickly, my notes hastily scribbled with little attention to detail after the ship flees, as I keep alert for any other activity.

– WH collapse is completed

The evening in w-space continues but sometimes it is better to present two shorter posts than one that is over-long, and this seems like a good place to end part one. Now I use the notes to write a first draft, taking the distilled points and expanding a narrative around them.

When writing the first draft I will look over my notes for the session to find the focus of the post, the main interest of the story. If I have scanned through five systems and found nothing then scanning is the focus and I will chronicle my exploration. If I scan five systems and the last system holds targets that we hunt then the hunt will be the focus, with maybe a paragraph of scanning included so that I don't just magically appear in the right place.

My example page of notes is interesting, in that a fairly mundane experience is punctuated by a couple of uncommon incidents. Our practice at intercepting on wormholes is made interesting by the near-destruction of my ship, and the appearance of the Buzzard when I am in the right ship to catch it is a fortunate coincidence. Without both incidents the start of the evening would either have been wrapped up in one paragraph or ignored as uninteresting. But with them the events make for a nice narrative, which shows that making notes of everything as the evening progresses can have fortunate results.

In the following I present a first draft that is combined with the final edits that make the published version, to avoid too much repetition. I'll make use of the <del> and <ins> tags to show changes, which hopefully won't be confusing.

Marking a A different start to today, our scout wants to be caught on a wormhole. He has already explored the w-space constellation extensively but wants is curious to know how vulnerable his Loki strategic cruiser is when jumping between systems. I already have experience of trying to catch frigates, stealth bombers, and covert operations boats moving away from wormholes and it is not easy when they can cloak. Even with a sensor-boosted stealth bomber or interceptor the cloaking device baffles my ship's targeting systems can activate and be effective too quickly to get a positive lock, baffling my ship's targeting systems. My colleague is thus rightly confident that his cloaky Loki is safe, even from my Malediction interceptor.

In the first paragraph I set the scene of what has happened and what is going to happen. I provide some background so that readers unfamiliar with trying to target cloaking ships will understand why the request is made.

I remove the jargon and abbreviations to aid clarity, and always include at least one mention of each ship's classification in order to provide more context.

The cloaking device technically doesn't baffle my targeting systems 'too quickly', so I rearrange the sentence to be more accurate a representation of what's happening.

'Thus' seems a little too pretentious and I change it for a more appropriate word. I add 'cloaky' to link to the previous sentence, confirming that I am trying to catch a ship that cloaks; I use a non-standard form of the adjective so that it rhymes with 'Loki' purely for aesthetic purposes.

To add some verisimilitude to the exercise I jump through to our adjacent system and adjust my overview to show corporation and fleet pilots,. so that I can This will let me react naturally to the wormhole's flare as he jumps through behind me and I can will be able to select his ship on my overview, as I would any other target, instead of relying on seeing him in space. At least I don't need to wait won't be waiting for three hours before finding out only to learn my prey has returned to the his tower, my colleague jumping through the wormhole a minute after I do shortly after confirming I'm ready. I get my warp disruption systems hot when I see the flare, just as I would in a live operation,. As and as soon as the Loki sheds its session change cloak I click like a maniac on the overview. to send mMy Malediction is sent on an intercept course, adding a control depress as well a sneaky press of the control key also modifying one of the clicks to lock on to his ship. Without any fuss I lock and point the Loki, stopping it from cloaking or warping away. That was easy.

Lots of changes here. The first sentence is clunky in its first draft, trying to explain too much at once. By breaking it down in to two sentences I can impart the same information along with more reasoning behind my actions. The sentence where the action occurs is changed for similar reasons, where the lead-in sentence is too short to match the pacing of the narrative, and adjusting that causes the following sentence to need re-pacing too.

'Depress' seems too formal a tone for the swift action of the interceptor swooping on to the Loki and is changed for a more fitting phrase.

Maybe my first attempt was success is a fluke. We can easily check as we both need to jump home again anyway. I jump first and prime my systems again, ready for the Loki to try to evade my interceptor. He jumps, I manoeuvre and lock as before, and again snare his ship with what seems like no effort, particularly compared to trying to catch a frigate-sized hull. It looks like his the Loki is really easy to catch on a wormhole. My colleague shows his displeasure by playfully firing a volley of 725 mm shells at my tiny Malediction. The damage would normally be mitigated significantly by my interceptor's high transversal speed, as we both know from recent duelling, but this is a simple training exercise and I have not entered am not in a speedy orbit around my target. The shells evaporate my interceptor's shields and pulverise the armour, sending two warning alarms blaring at once. Bitterness is never attractive.

It wasn't an attempt, it was a success. I change the tense of the sentence too, keeping the sense of immediacy.

I add 'playfully' to counteract 'displeasure', as I know the shots weren't fired in spite. Despite this being known to the both of us involved, and the corporation, I must allow for the wider distribution that comes with posting to the internet and don't want to give anyone the wrong impression of the incident.

I made sure I noted the size of the ammunition used, checking the in-game log for a more descriptive attack.

I need to clarify why the damage would be mitigated, as it isn't clear from the start of the sentence, without making the second half of the sentence redundant. I previously tackled the Loki in free space for us both to see how much damage he could do when the interceptor is at full speed, but I don't want to go in to too much detail about that here as it would break the flow of events.

I change 'have not entered' to 'am not in' to place myself more vividly in the action.

The pithy phrase from my notes remains intact. Either I couldn't think of anything better or I was feeling particularly witty that evening.

I go back to the tower to lick my wounds as the others begin to collapse of our static wormhole, looking for better opportunities than our neighbouring system currently offers begins. Ships are passed through the connection to weaken the inter-system link, but one jump is unexpected, ship is a hostile as an unfamiliar Buzzard is spotted entering our system. The covert operations boat enters our system and holds the its session-change cloak, perhaps a little surprised to see a few battleships loitering on the wormhole, no doubt pondering its options and my interceptor is summoned. I warp to the wormhole in time to see the Buzzard decloak. I and am able to acquire a lock and fire one volley of missiles at the cov-ops boat before it jumps back to the class 4 system on the other side of the wormhole. I follow and try to snare it on the other side of the wormhole but am a second too slow. If only it had been a Loki. I sit in the C4 for a minute, watching my directional scanner for any signs of activity but seeing none. I return jump back and watch as the wormhole is killed by my colleagues.

The first sentence of this last paragraph is also clunky. I write freely from my notes, from start to end, and some awkward sentences or simplistic word choices are only to be expected. I aim primarily to get the post drafted from my notes knowing I can iron out the wrinkles later.

It looks like I was trying to use the repetition of 'ship' as a hook for the appearance of the Buzzard, but it doesn't quite work for me when reading it back. I rearrange the sentence to try to provoke a similar reaction at seeing the 'unfamiliar' ship, noting the distinction that it isn't yet 'hostile'. The Buzzard doesn't summon my interceptor, so I change the sentence to remove what could be a suggestive link. I rearrange the later sentence for pacing, aiming to keep the writing as fast-moving as the engagement.

I will use w-space system class designation abbreviations implicitly, but generally only after I have established them in full first. I tend to write 'class 4' before I use 'C4' and let the meaning of 'C3' be inferred.

The only creative effort left to do is to come up with a title for the post, which often has me scratching my head. I aim to be descriptive, to entice reading and for easy archival referencing, but without broadcasting the outcome of the adventure. 'The Buzzard that got away' would leave little room for suspense, for example. In this case, 'unexpected visitor' works well enough.

I schedule the post in its chronological position in my journal, always at least an hour in the future in case of necessary hasty corrections, and work on the next post. I generally draft several pages of notes at once and edit and schedule several posts sequentially, instead of working on each post individually from start to finish.

And that is an illustration of my writing process. Of course, this post has gone through the same process but without the initial notes to work from.

  1. 7 Responses to “Anatomy of a post”

  2. Wow. My stream of consciousness pales in comparison and I am left speechless. Again.
    Yeah - pretty speechless.

    By Kename Fin on Sep 26, 2010

  3. Excellent blog as always Penny. Will have to be careful if anyone asks me to help test there fit I think. :)

    By BobFenner on Sep 27, 2010

  4. Thank you both. It was interesting to write and I'm glad it was of interest to someone other than me.

    Oh, Bob, I need to check how long it takes our tower's guns to lock on to a pod. Can you help out?

    By pjharvey on Sep 29, 2010

  5. I read your blog and was astonished to the amount of details you were able to put in your posts. Now I understand more, but I am even more astonished.

    Hats off, I am looking forward to your next posts :).

    By ArhK on Oct 1, 2010

  6. Thanks, ArhK, that's very kind.

    By pjharvey on Oct 1, 2010

  7. You directed me to this post in one of my previous comments on another article and I must say... bravo! You do an amazing job of aiding your memory with notes as well as expressing a great understanding of the English language and it's grammar. I will have to take some lessons learned from this in getting back into the habit of making notes for myself as my memory has proved itself rather shoddy over the last few years. Thanks for writing and please keep it up!

    By Adrestos on Dec 7, 2010

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