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  • victoriaannehancox

Choose Your Own Writing Strategy - Tip #1

Are your numbers giving you nightmares?

When you write gamebooks, one of the first hurdles to jump is how to deal with your paragraph numbers. After all, your opening scene-setter won’t last forever, so at some point, you’re going to have to write the immortal words: “Turn to….”

As with most things in life, there’s probably a million different ways of approaching this and no single way is right; it’s just a question of: Is it right for you?

I know that many of you write in a logical, liner way and then randomise afterwards but others may want to mix it up from the start. That's me, and if you’d prefer a simple but effective way of doing this, I thought I’d share my strategy of navigating the perilous paragraph problem!

I have this saved as a separate doc and recycle it for each book. This is how it currently looks with my latest one.

Yep, just started it, so of course #1 is highlighted and the other six are options following on from that.

Let’s be honest, it’s not rocket science - you can see how it works – and there is nothing more to it but I wanted to highlight (no pun intended!) how I use it.

1. You usually have your current paragraph fresh in your head, so I just randomly pick a number far, far away from that. As long as it isn’t filled in with yellow, it’s good to go. Nothing mathematical, just any ol’ free number.

2. If you’re using tactics like: “Add 50 to the current paragraph…” or “If you turn to a paragraph with an asterisk, subtract 100 and go to…”, this complete overview of available numbers helps. For example, if I knew that “Add 50…” was going to happen in the next part, I wouldn’t pick 40 as my latest paragraph because I can easily see that 90 has already been taken.

3. This doc has also got my A-Z converter, which I’ve often used well in advance of reaching the actual writing of the segment. Knowing what your codeword will be, means you can save that number for future use, although I usually fill those with a different colour to remind myself of its role in the story.

4. As I’m writing, the draft just has these paragraphs written in and when you come to a new paragraph, you simply slot it in between, in the appropriate place. So, let’s say you’re writing the new paragraph # 112; that would be the third paragraph in the doc ( in front of 1 and 90). It’s quite satisfying to watch as all the gaps gets filled in. Or maybe that’s just me…..

Problems? The first time I used this, I had the ambitious plan to use 450 paragraphs. When I realised (about 2/3 through the writing) that I really wasn’t going to write that much, I had to reassign the paragraphs that were numbered 401-450. A bit of a pain but using ‘Find’ in Word made it fairly straightforward to locate all the places where I’d sent the reader to a now-defunct paragraph and change the number. So if it has to happen, altering isn’t a massive pain, just a slight irritation.

So, if you want to muddle paragraphs from the start, I would definitely recommend this and if anyone wants a copy, just ask and I’ll happily share!

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