Monday, November 12, 2012

Writing a NaNoWriMo Novel From Inside a Video Game


It's National Novel Writing Month and as you can see from our sidebar, the W3 are in full NaNoWriMo mode. With the rise of e-books changing the publishing industry and the rise of gamification changing the workplace, I thought it might be fun to gamify the writing of my Nano Novel this year.

Gamification involves taking elements from video games and using them in non-game applications. In my pre-Nano search for a way to gamify novel writing I stumbled across the 750words site-- think Girl Scout merit badges meets The Artist's Way morning pages. The first few badges I earned at 750Words were pretty easy to win. But there were specific ones, the rooster badge (write three pages before 9:30 am for ten days in a row) or the turquoise pony (write 750 words for an entire month without missing a day) were challenging, but not unobtainable. I'm currently in pursuit of the hamster badge (write 750 words ten days in a row without being distracted once during the writing). That one is proving difficult. And while it's fun to mix writing of a novel with getting badges, I want something more.

Being an explorer of how to gamify novels, I wanted a bigger challenge. I wanted to write my 50,000 words inside a video game. Yep. You read that right. I wanted to write my novel from inside a video game and I wanted to earn badges while I did it. That meant I had to build a writing environment inside a game. So far, I have written 12,278 words from inside my game world. Check out my cool NaNoWriMo War Room.


Now, I want to make it clear that I'm not looking at my avatar locked in a typing animation and calling that writing a novel. I scripted a pixel computer from, to link up to Then I type the novel there on the computer made of pixels and save my drafts to the website. I create something real in a world that's not real.


That's a closeup of my inworld computer screen. Below is another essential for keeping me on track, a focus timer. I click the button and it counts down 25 minutes and I don't stop for a break until it rings. Well, that's more a goal than a reality at this point.


You can see in the war room picture that I've got a nice big whiteboard to keep track of plot points or tasks. Isn't it amazing the things you can do with technology?

It's not just a gimmicky, geeky stunt I'm trying to pull off here. Outside that virtual window I can see lightning bugs flickering in the grass and a sun set casting a rainbow of color across the pond below my house. The branches of a huge willow tree sway gently in the breeze and I hear the soft ping of wind chimes out on the front porch. When I am at my writing desk inside my game world, tension drains away, my imagination takes over, and words start to flow. If I get stuck, I can create a replica of scene from the novel and work out the details.

If you like experimenting, you can find everything I used to create your own virtual writing space:

The platform for building the world-- Sim-On-A-Stick
The Timer (you can get one of those to work on a real computer desktop too)-- Focus Booster
The White Board (another Tool You can use on an ordinary computer)-- Scrumblr
And of course you can get a free account at and motivate the writing of your novel without being inside a video game while you do it.

Happy writing everyone. I need to get back to my novel. My avatar needs to learn to type a little faster if we're going to finish on time.

Nara Malone is an author, virtual world explorer, game writer, poet, environmentalist, and lover of all that is creative or geeky. You can learn more about Nara or the books and games she's written at


  1. Wow, Nara, you continually amaze me, not just with your technical wizardry, but with your ability to weave all that techo-speak with beautiful imagery. I don't think I'll ever have the energy to try to replicate what you've done, but I've so enjoyed reading about your process, and success.

  2. I second Leah's Wow, Nara! You earn the Techie Diva Badge in my opinion. This is really thinking outside the box to the nth. I love all the things you did to incent yourself to get 'er done! All I can say is Well Done!

  3. Wow Nara! That sounds like a lot of fun, and like Leah said, I am completely in awe of you! :) You amaze me with not only knowledge, but also how you can take your passion and revitalize it, creating a new experience. Bravo!!!!