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So You Want to Write for a CYOA Platform + NarraScope + More! (Narrative News June 2023)
This month: events, opportunities, and a special knowledge drop on visual novel platforms that solicit user-generated content.
June is here! Happy Pride to all the countries celebrating it this month!
My roundup of narrative-focused events and opps is a little slim this month, so I’m going to add in a section of info on a topic I’ve been asked about quite a lot: how to get into writing for the CYOA/visual novel platforms! Find that at the bottom of the newsletter.
Shameless plug: the first chapter of my own new horror novel, The Pale Ones, is out on StoryLoom today! Look at the cool cover!
As always, if you have further questions about writing branching visual novels or if I’ve missed any important events this month, please @ me on Twitter (@rosebehar)!
Now… without further ado: the June newsletter!
Conferences + Talks
Branching Stories: Unraveling Narrative Design (IGDA Panel + Meet & Mingle) is occurring on June 6th as part of Toronto Games Week. Also potentially interesting for narrative folks: Walking on the Web: An Introduction to Unity through Personal Walking Sims (same link as above).
Narrascope 2023 is running from June 9th to 11th! Keynote speaker: Brianna Lei of Butterfly Soup 1 and 2.
There are a lot of events for gamers to watch out for this month, including everything Summer Game Fest-related (lots of narrative games to get excited for, I’m sure).
The SF Bay Area Interactive Fiction Group is meeting June 10th (hybrid).
There are also Seattle and Boston IF meetups happening… no Meetup pages but you can find more info here.
Jams + Competitions
Submissions are now open for ParserComp 2023 and close June 30th.
Adventure Jam ends on June 9th — still time to make something!
You can now play Text Adventure Literacy Jam games and rate them until June 30th!
As always, this is not an exhaustive list of postings, just a few that stood out! My tip of the month: don’t limit yourself to just applying to listings — reach out to studios you love even if they are not actively looking. You may form a relationship that could serve you well in the future!
Your monthly must-watch… Inkle is the studio behind brilliant works of art like 80 Days, Heaven’s Vault, and Sorcery! — if you haven’t played any of those, I’d highly recommend it because the way they make text-based games genuinely interactive and challenging is something to behold. This masterclass on sparkling dialogue is a total diamond.
Also, very crucially, Johnnemann Nordhagen, a 19-year vet of the game industry, is posting his Narrative Design 101 class for Futuregames for free through Medium. A veritable treasure trove of knowledge!
Special Report: So You Want To Write For A CYOA Platform… Now What?
There are many, many storytelling apps and platforms out there that operate mainly on UGC, or User-Generated Content. Below, I’ll rattle off all the ones I can think of, and how one might get involved and, hopefully, get cash.
Note: This kind of writing is largely romance, so I highly recommend doing some research on writing this genre if you haven’t before — it’s not as easy as it may seem, but it’s fascinating and fun!
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Episode: A big name in the world of CYOA romance. Episodes allows anyone to submit stories but you’ll only get paid if you hit some pretty impressive milestones. That means you’ll be writing for free to begin (and potentially for a while), but if you’re not pressed for money, it could be a great way to gain a published story for your portfolio and gain experience in front of a pretty large audience. Just know that Episode’s back-end is a bit more code-y and less visual than some of its competitors. Still, there are plenty of tutorials online to help you out!
Dorian: Newer on the scene than Episode but with a payment system that is slightly more friendly to writers. With Dorian, you can technically start making money immediately, no need to hit any particular milestones, but you do have to be popular (and the audience for Dorian is smaller than Episode). At the lower levels of readership we’re not talking big bucks (their calculator shows $2 for 20 views) but you can measure your analytics easily and there are built-in tools for building readership, like hosting livestreams on the app.
Kiss: A platform by Crazy Maple Studios, the makers of Chapters, which is another big name in CYOA romance. This one takes us away from the pay-per-read model. I haven’t written for this platform, so I’m not sure of the pay rates and whether they’re fair, but I do know that you can submit a story idea and five-page sample and the team will consider it, noting that if you don’t hear back in three months it’s a ‘no’.
Chapters itself offers an email address where you can send pitches on its website, but I have no idea whether they’re very responsive.
Choice of Games: An eminently fair and transparent platform that spells out the terms quite clearly on its website. If you’re an experienced writer, you have a shot at their Choice of Games label. You’ll need to submit a sample and write a (paid) outline that goes through revisions before you are contracted to actually write a book. If you are contracted, it’ll be either 25 percent royalties against $7,500 advance or 10 percent royalties against $10,000 advance.
If you’re an experienced romance writer, you can try Heart’s Choice, which offers $5,000 against 25 percent royalties, if accepted.
If you don’t have experience, you can try Hosted Games which, while it won’t offer an advance still provides 25 percent royalties and also copyediting from professionals.
StoryLoom: This is the new kid on the block, from Pixelberry Studios, maker of Choices (disclaimer: I write for StoryLoom and used to work for Pixelberry on Choices). In my biased opinion, Choices has always been a high mark of quality in this realm. Currently, there is a circle of paid writers who were selected, but that is not open at the moment. So, if you want to try it out and write, it’ll mainly be a for-experience type of thing. They’re only in beta at the moment, though, so I’d expect to see change on this front.
Tales: Heard a lot about this one at launch but not entirely clear how it’s faring/what the readership is like. From its Notion for writers, it shows that if your pitch is accepted you could expect $425 per chapter if you scripted in addition to writing the content.
EarReality: I haven’t had any luck with this, but this is an audio platform for branching stories that you can apply to… not sure on the rates.
So, that’s a brief overview of some of the major players — if you’re interested in more information on the actual process of pitching and writing a visual novel like this, reach out in the comments or on Twitter and I’ll consider expanding this into a full guide!
And that’s it for now folks! Have a wonderfully productive June!