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PCM.daily Tips & Tricks Section
Mre's Checklist For a Successful Story
By: Mresuperstar | Average Rating: 5.00 | Game version: PCM14
Hello there, are you planning to start a story on PCM.Daily?
Well, look no further, you've come to the right place. This is my lengthy article to those thinking about adventuring into the realm of story writing of the forum. This checklist is meant for the newbies who have never wrote a story before, but perhaps some of these tips and tricks can even enlighten some of the more experienced writers as well.
Before I get begin, you may be asking why you should you take my advice and read this horrible long article? Well, to keep it short and sweet, I've been around the block a few times. For those that don't know me I'm a former Admin, Story Writer of the Year (2013) and proud author of the One-Rider Story of the Year (2013).
Obviously I can't include everything. This is already way too long enough as it is, plus I don't want to give away all of my secrets. However, I think this is quite an extensive starting point.
So, without further ado, here is my 4 stage beginner's checklist you should go over as you decide to start your own story with some tips to make it successful.
Stage 1 - The Preparation
The hardest stage. Can you reach the top of the climb?
Know What You're Getting Yourself Into
This checklist isn't for the faint of heart and neither is story writing. There are no shortcuts. A successful story just doesn't appear out of nowhere. It's a process.
Let me make one thing clear, I'm not try to discourage you. I'm just telling you how it is. Many members have taken up the challenge of writing a story and have failed. Heck, even I have failed with numerous story attempts.
To me, this is the best method I have so you too can get started on the right path to producing a successful story. However, I can't write your story for you, so be honest with yourself. Know your limits and truly evaluate if this is something you want to do.
"In all seriousness, you’ve got to be pretty special (I avoid the use of the word weird, strange, demented etc.) to want to write a story that lasts for a long time." - Crommy's Guide to Story Writing (Week 1)
So why do it? Why should you write a story? Why does anyone write stories?
It's all about having that platform to be able to express that moment of triumph, sadness or anything at all to people that willingly take time out of their day to hear what you have to say. That's what makes it all worth it.
Done right, you have an opportunity to have an impact of someone's real-life.
Whether it provides them with 10 seconds of entertainment or makes them change the way they think about something. That's the power of successful writing.
The Golden Rule: Popularity vs. Successfulness
This is going to seem counter-intuitive to what I just said, but many story writers follow a variation of the Golden Rule - "Only write a story if you enjoy it" (Crommy) or "Always write because it is fun, and because you want to!" (TMM).
Here's my variation of the Golden Rule:
Just write. If you like it then maybe someone else will like it too.
Not every story can be popular. That's why the Golden Rule is followed by so many writers. With that said, don't get confused. There is a big difference between being popular and being successful.
By default popular stories are always deemed to be successful. However, a story with fewer followers but continues to progress and gives the community an opportunity to see your thoughts on a screen is still successful.
So, please I beg, keep that in mind. This checklist isn't "How to Produce a Popular Story." It's to help you build your own blueprint to create a successful story.
Developing an Idea
This is the heart of your story. It needs to be original, creative and doable. But, most importantly, it has to be something you connect with otherwise you will quickly lose interest.
There are many different ways to write a story. Traditionally the first decision was always between having a team stories or a one-rider story. But nowadays that distinction is getting blended and blurry with rise of community team stories, two-rider stories, or some stories that have morphed into more of a forum game style.
Find a genre that suits you best. Can't find one? Be daring and create something new. There are thousands of ways to express your thoughts and experiences in the world of PCM. Just make sure to pick a way that makes it fun and enjoyable for you.
If you are struggling to think of something. Don't rush things. One of the worst things you can do in story writing is start a story and lose motivation for it right away. Be patient, the idea will come to you.
Don't be afraid to bounce your ideas off
other people to get their opinion.
Warning: Don't Repeat the Past
This mistake doesn't happen very often but just be aware. It's okay and frankly encouraged to take the time to read other stories and use them as inspiration to help develop your own ideas. That's perfectly normal.
But under no circumstances should you copy original ideas!
If you want to do something similar to something that has already been done then at the very least contact the story writer first through PM and ask for their permission. Odds are they will say it's not a problem if it's not a straight up copy cat story. It's just giving them a head's up so they don't feel abused if a similar idea, layout, etc. surfaces on the forum without their consent.
Go Back to the Drawing Board
So, you got your brilliant idea? Not so fast.
Go over it in your head one more time. Or better yet, write it down on a piece of paper. That way you can see everything out in front of you. Now, think of 3 ways you can improve that idea.
The best place to start is writing out: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Try to write the purpose of your story answering all 6 of those questions. If you can do that in great detail and have improved your original idea then you are finally ready for Stage 2.
Stage 2 - The Fundamentals
The most demanding stage. Can you stay consistent?
Find the Right Tools
A painter needs a paint brush. What type of paint brush varies from painter to painter. Story writers are the exact same way. Find the equipment you need to turn your idea into reality.
For starters that usually means having a copy of PCM. But, even now using the game has been proven to be an "optionable" tool. Although as a beginner I recommend you don't venture too far down that road.
It's up to you to decide everything. From the edition of the game, the database you use to the software for editing if need be. So, find everything you need or think you'll need even before you start writing. Google and forum search are your friends.
If it helps any, some of the tools I use on regular basis are Paint.NET, GreenShot and the abundance of download content that can be found right here on PCM.Daily.
Don't have the right tools to do the job? Well, you're going to have go back to Stage 1 and adapt your idea to the equipment you do have to work with.
Using PCM to it's Fullest Potential
Arguably, the biggest component of writing a story on PCM.Daily. Therefore know your way around the game. You don't have to be an expert or anything, but you should at least be confident in your abilities that you can execute the story.
There are a lot of things you can do with PCM. So use it to it's fullest potential. The only way to do that is to practice so you can get a good feel for the game before jumping head first into making a story.
Not sure how something works? Look it up on the forum, I'm sure you'll find your answer. I can't tell you how much time I've spent on the forum looking things up.
Here are a few in-game shortcuts that
every story writers should know and use regularly.
Hold Alt = Move Camera Around
CTRL+U = Remove Interface
CTRL+T = Take .png Screenshot (Although I prefer GreenShot to get .jpeg)
' (Apostrophe) = Remove Circles and Names of Cyclists
Your First Keystrokes
Time to get down to business. Find yourself a reply box and start making your opening post for the story. If you know exactly what you what to say then dive right in. If you don't know where to start then go back to the Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Also try to finish an update leaving the audience wanting more
so they will feel inclined to come back and want to read more.
It's your first draft, it's not supposed to be perfect. Once your done, hit Preview Reply. NOT POST REPLY!
Read outloud what you just wrote. Cringe at all your stupid mistakes. Now fix them. Read it again, fix it again. Check for both spelling and grammar.
Mistakes happen. However, the end goal is to have no mistakes when it's time for the public to read it.
At the end of they day, chances are that mistakes will slip through the cracks. I can almost guarantee that there are even a few mistakes here in this article.
Strive for perfection, if you can at least get close to that then nobody is going to even notice or saying anything about a few errors. If they do it's just because they want to help you get better. No one is paying you to be perfect, but the readers should at least be able to understand what you're trying to say.
Also, don't be afraid to delete things or even start again if you don't like it. There is no shame in starting over. Like I said in my variation of the Golden Rule: "If you like it then maybe someone else will like it too." You have to like it first.
Layout Does Matter
No one wants to read a big block of text!
Even if your writing is really, I mean really good.
People on the internet have a very short attention span. You have roughly 5 seconds to make a good first impression if someone decides to click on your story. Don't give them a reason to click away.
Formatting can be done in a variant of different ways including pictures, tables, colors, flags, text size, spoilers, embeds, etc.
The forum provides a lot of tools to help break up walls of text. Take this article for example, if this had no formatting I guarantee 99% of those still reading this right now would have clicked away upon first glance.
You have to experiment and find a format that fits with your writing style. It's a balance. Not enough is a click away and too much is click away.
Once you have something you like, stay consistent and stick with it for a while. It will help give your story an identity. If you later find that it's not working for you anymore then change it to make it better.
Do it Again and Again
If what you just wrote and formatted reads well and looks appealing then high five! Now it's your responsibility to repeat these same steps every time you want to update your story. That's why this stage is called the fundamentals.
Before moving on to Stage 3, I'd like to encourage you to write a few more posts for your story and save them up. Test yourself to see if your ready to commit to the story. Do this over a course of a week and see how many posts you have stored up that you think are ready to be published.
If you are happy with what you got then it's time to move on. If not, keep practicing. Start the process over again until you're happy with it.
Always save everything you do because you never know
what is going to stick and maybe you'll revisit something later.
Stage 3 - The Execution
Race against the clock. Can you execute at the right moment?
Publish Now... No Wait... Okay, Now.
This is the most painless yet nerve wrecking stage. The time you finally get to showcase your work to the public. You're going to want to do it right away as that's the natural instinct. But take a moment to consider the logistics.
It's your first post. You want as many people as possible to see it because you've worked extremely hard on it. So, check and see how many members are online.
The forum is usually busiest during the afternoon European time when people get out of work/school on weekdays.
This is just something to consider. Being an American I have posted updates in the middle of the night EST and still got feedback (Aussie love me I guess...). So, don't live and die by this. If you write great reports, people will read it regardless.
But for your first post, this is something to at least think about.
MAKE AN INTERESTING AND EYE POPPING TITLE
The only way to get someone to your story is by having them click on the title to direct them over there. Just think about that for a moment. Just a handful of characters can prevent someone from even taking the time to look at your story.
For example, what title is better? Which one would you click on?
A - Team Sky
B - The Demise of Team Sky
So, don't just ignore the title and tack it on at the end. Give it some thought. An overview of an entire story in just a few words is hard, but if you get it right it equals more clicks.
It's possible to edit the title later by editing the first post.
Very helpful to keep the readers informed on story progression.
Roughly 2,500 words into this article and we have finally got to the point where you get to publish your work. But, before you do, (I know feel free to groan, you're almost there) just read your post over again one last time.
Then double check that you have created a new thread and it's in the right location on the forum in the correct story section.
Okay. You're ready. NOW DO IT! Hit Post Reply.
Yes, you read right. Walk away. Remove yourself from PCM.Daily. Come back in a few hour. Go outside, talk to your friends and family, have a beer (only if you're old enough...) Whatever you do just don't wait around for people to comment or, even worse, sit and watch your view count go up. It's seriously not good for your health. Like I have said before, I've been here and done this. I'm guilty. Avoid my mistake.
Step away and re-evaluate the situation in a few hours.
Stage 4 - The Aftermath
Time to recover. You ready to do it all again?
"I'm Popular!" or "No One Likes Me..."
After publishing your first post it's easy to jump to conclusions.
It's hard not to be discouraged if no one is commenting or giving you feedback on your work. It's also hard not to get a big ego if a handful people flock to your story every time you post an update.
I've been on both sides of the spectrum. To be a successful story writer, you have to be even-keeled. Popularity comes and goes, but a successful story will last forever.
For beginners, it's extremely hard to build up a following because you have no credibility. How to build up credibility? Be consistent and continue to follow the Golden Rule.
Do that long enough and you'll start to make a name for yourself.
Support Isn't Free
On the other side of the spectrum. Popularity is a privilege. Appreciate those that do take the time out of their day to read what you have to say. Even with the integrated forum rating system, the best way to do that is to comment back on their comments. Not the 'Like' and 'Thank You' buttons.
Also, always keep your audience in the loop. Let them know what's going on.
Tell them you plan to post so many times a week or month. Tell them if you're going on vacation and aren't going be able to post. Tell them what you think they deserve to hear. Keep your followers informed, so you can build up trust with them.
Advertising your story across the forum is often frowned apon.
The best advertising possible is a link/banner in your signature.
Appreciate The Journey
The end. Something many PCM.Daily stories don't have.
I'd say less than 5% stories actually have an ending before they are considered "dead." So, my last piece of advice. You have to enjoy making every report.
Odds are what you're writing won't come to conclusion. Therefore, make every update like a mini-story on its own. Make sure it has a beginning, middle and an end. A legendary story would then connect all these mini-stories together into something tremendous and magical.
To me, that's the ultimate goal. That's what I strive for as a writer.
Well, Congratulations! You made it all the way to the end. Perhaps you do have what it takes to be PCM.Daily's next legendary story writer. I'm very much looking forward to reading your work.