A Writer's Introduction to Life Rolls - Ryan M. Williams

A Writer’s Introduction to Life Rolls

The view out my window shows gently falling snow and frosted fir trees. Pretty, so long as I'm sitting here looking out the window. Less so when I head out later to pick up my sick dog from the vet. What does this have to do with life rolls? What are life rolls?

Life Rolls Defined by Writing Simulation

The words life rolls entered my vocabulary back in October 2009 when I attended the (two-week intensive) Masterclass taught by Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and a bunch of other great folks. My confidence shattered the first day and my feeling of imposter syndrome knotted my guts. It was great!

Among the many things we did was play a simulation of a writer's life, referred to simply as “The Game.” You can check out a newly updated version in “The Indie Game” over on Teachable. I haven't done that version. The 2009 session may have been the last time they ran the old game, I don't know. Even in that workshop, we were talking about the new indie landscape developing and it took off after that, rendering the old game obsolete.

The basic concept is a simulation of ten years of a writer's life. In the version I played, that meant writing novel proposals (like several each day), submit them to editors (real editors, like Dean, at the workshop), who would reject or offer a book deal. You'd get offers, track cash flow (literally, with spreadsheets), all with the goal of going full time with your writing career.

One gameplay feature was rolling dice. This might show you've increased your productivity, giving you another novel to write, or it might be something like a divorce. Such events were called life rolls because they captured the inherent unpredictability of life events, positive or negative, and the impact those have on producing novels. The term moved beyond the game to conversation and emails among writers.

Handling Life Rolls, Shifting Goals

Situations change in our lives and our goals need to shift as we adapt to the change. The game illustrated that very well. For example, someone might become the President of a writer's association and find that they don't have time to write as much as they'd planned. That can have impacts on their income. With traditional publishing contracts, it might also make it harder to meet a deadline. Recognizing that our situation has changed, we can reassess our goals.

Make reassessing goals a regular part of your process. I've done that with the Full Focus Planner from Michael Hyatt. It builds in a weekly review. This is an excellent exercise. I go back and review my overall goals, the specific goals for this previous week, lessons learned, and think about the week coming up. I wrap up with deciding on the next big three goals for the upcoming week. Each day also has its own three goals as well, steps toward meeting the weekly goals.

I've hit a number of life rolls over the past couple weeks. Nothing on the life-changing scale, but disruptive. One of our dogs has been sick, resulting in multiple vet trips. He's doing better now but it was one of those things that makes it difficult to meet those goals I'd set. I have a couple workshops coming up this year which will also impact my immediate goals (and potentially help me reach longer term goals). Knowing that I can plan accordingly. It's the unexpected that can catch us unprepared.

One of my goals for this year is simply to get my estate and other information organized. I have a few Nolo titles to start with on getting it all together.

It's a place to start on planning for inevitable life rolls.

What About You?

What have you done, or what do you plan to do to handle unexpected challenges?

About the Author Ryan

Ryan M. Williams lives a double life as a full-time career librarian and a multi-genre writer with over twenty books. He writes across a range of genres including science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, mystery, horror, and romance. He earned a Master of Arts degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University and a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose University. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Pocket Books, WMG Publishing, and in On Spec Magazine.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: