Slow Progress is better than No Progress by Matthew Marchitto

What? I’m not updating my blog to avoid working on my current WIP, you’re updating my blog to avoid working on my current WIP.

Um, er, anyway.

I’ve always valued the slow and steady approach. Doing a little bit here and there adds up over time, and I try to apply this to my writing. Sometimes hitting word counts can feel like grinding stones. During these lull periods, I tell myself that it’s okay to do a little. Even just 100 words, because by the end of the week I’ll be 700 words ahead than if I’d done nothing. This has worked for me, allowing me to make slow and steady progress even during those low periods.

But sometimes, sometimes, this turns into an excuse. It’s fine to be at a low point, and it’s fine for that low point to last as long as it needs to. But eventually we’ve got to start crawling our way out. This is different for everyone, there’s no universal answer and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. I can only tell you what works for me, and hope it helps.

Carving out a dedicated writing time helps me immensely. Every day at whatever-O’clock I’ll commit to sit down and write. Plus, I’ll give myself an increased word goal, nothing too far out, but something within reach. And over time I try to slowly increase it. Usually, these two things together help get me back on track. Whenever my word count suffers, it’s almost always accompanied by a frantic hyper-focused worry about This Month’s Negative Thing. And my writing schedule during these times fluctuates, chores and everything else seemingly rising in priority.

That’s when I get in the Writing Vault and shut the door. Carve out that time with an iron will. Setup turrets that will pelt any intruder with a fusillade of nerf darts. No one can withstand a nerf dart barrage. The routine gets me back on track, it becomes like brushing your teeth. Just another thing you’ve got to do, otherwise ick.

That’s what helps me. Maybe it’ll help you, or maybe it won’t. Everyone’s process is different, but I hope this can at least point you in the right direction.

The Novel, Slow but Steady Progress by Matthew Marchitto

I’ve been slowly chipping away at what I’ve only referred to as The Novel for a while now. I started writing it way back in 2017, but really it probably started in 2016 with The Book of Jewels. The Novel takes place in the same world, but the technology has been up-jumped to a steampunky version of the early 1900s. The core conceit started as a very self-indulgent “steampunk with orcs!” bellowed from the depths of Wouldn’t That Be Cool. But it’s evolved beyond that, having Hrusk—our half-orc half-gnome main character—butt heads with weapon manufacturers and corrupt authority figures. All while swinging swords and shooting bolters.

The book is tentatively titled A Tusk too Many.

I think it’s getting close to being done. I’m currently rewriting the final chapter, and then I’m going to go through the whole manuscript to make a bunch of little changes here and there. After that I think it’ll be done. Then the question is, what do I do with it?

I’d considered putting it out on submission and trying to get a literary agent, and maybe I still will. But something about the story feels off, I don’t know if it’s the plot or the characters or what. And the thing is that wherever this loose doohickey is that’s messing with the story’s guts, I can’t seem to find it. It might need a total rewrite. Like, start with a new blank page kind-of-rewrite. Ultimately, I think there’s a good chance I’m going to end up trunking it.

So why finish? Why keep writing it if I know it’s tittering on a knife’s edge, likely to end up in the digital equivalent of a dusty attic? Because I believe in the idea of finish your shit. It’s important to go through the whole process from beginning to end, there’s a lot to be learned by simply doing. And I think I’ve already learned a lot writing this book, hopefully that’ll make the next one better.

GOBLIN DESSERTERS, a micro-RPG about trying to not get eaten by ogres by Matthew Marchitto

I felt inspired by HONEY HEIST and CRASH PANDAS, and CriticalRole’s one-shots of the former and the latter, so I decided to go ahead and try to whip up my own micro-RPG. I had a lot of fun writing it, and hopefully it’s also fun to play. This is my first time doing something like this, so I’m sure there are plenty of flaws in it. But, I figure the only way to get better is to put it out there and see what people think. If you give it a try please do send me a message and let me know how it went!!


Welcome to GOBLIN DESSERTERS, a world where monsters rule and humans are at the bottom of the food chain. You are a goblin soldier on the frontlines of the century long goblin and ogre war. But you’ve had enough, what’s the point in dying for a war that never ends? You’re going to desert and find yourself a nice little haven where there’s all the human meat you can eat. But you’ve got to make it out of the frontlines first.

Creating Your Character

Name: Are you Grimgut Orgreslayer? Hexa Wolfsbane? Canker Cutthroat? Or maybe just Bob, there’s nothing wrong with Bob. Give your goblin a name!

Motive: Why are you deserting? Are you afraid of dying? A pacifist? Or a veteran who’s seen enough? Or maybe you’re just looking to settle down on a nice human farm. What’s your motive for deserting the war? And do you have an end goal?

Appearance: Goblins in GOBLIN DESSERTERS come in all shapes and sizes, whether it be scrawny, rotund, burly, sinewy or anything in-between. One thing they all have in common is green skin and big pointy ears.

Stats: You have three stats:

  • BRAWN: This is all things physical, like pushing, lifting, jumping, biting, punching, kicking, swimming, and climbing.

  • BRAINS: This is all things that require mental aptitude, that includes dexterous tinkering, discerning some clever bit of information, and being able to manipulate a conversation.

  • RESOLVE: This is your ability to resist fear. Each goblin has three fear points, when you fail a resolve check, you lose a fear point. Lose all three fear points and you become scared.

Assign one of the following numbers to each stat of your choice. 4 (this is what you’re good at), 2 (this is what you’re okay at), and 1 (this is what you’re bad at).

When you do anything in the game, you make either a BRAWN, BRAINS, or RESOLVE check. Roll a number of d6 equal to your stat. Dice that roll 1s, 2s, and 3s are failures. Dice that roll 4s, 5s, and 6s are successes.

Difficulty of Checks:

  • Normal - 1 success needed

  • Hard - 2 successes needed

  • Very Hard - 3 successes needed

Fear and being Scared

Goblins are prone to being chickenshits. You have 3 fear points. Whenever something really fucked up happens, the GM will call for a RESOLVE check, if you fail you lose 1 fear point. When you lose all your fear points you become scared, and start screaming and flailing and running, and generally having a very loud freakout.

Your goblin friends can attempt to restore a fear point to you. They can either slap the shit out of you (BRAWN check), or try to talk you out of it (BRAINS check). They make a BRAWN or BRAINS check versus your RESOLVE check, if they have more successes than you have failures, you regain a fear point, if not then you continue to have a meltdown.

Ogres want to EAT YOU

Goblins might be easy to kick around, but they’re damn tough to kill. The only way to kill a goblin is to get eaten by an ogre.

Ogres are giants that tower over goblins, and they’re also really hard to kill. Cut off a limb and it’ll still try and wobble toward you. The only way to kill an ogre and all its appendages is to crush its skull.

When an ogre grapples you, you and your goblin friends will have a series of chances (at your GM’s discretion) to break free. But if you pass the threshold of an ogre’s gaping maw, you enter last chance.

Last Chance: Once you’ve passed the toothy threshold you have one last chance to save yourself. Your friends can’t help you with this, you’re on your own. Describe what you want to do, roll whatever check the GM deems appropriate, and pray to your goblin gods. If you fail, that’s it, your goblin’s dead.

Optional Rule: If your goblin dies, then you take control of an ogre. Your ogre has 5 BRAWN, 1 BRAINS, and no RESOLVE because they cannot become scared.*

Bonus Dice

There are a few ways to gain additional bonus dice to your rolls.

  • Do something cool.

  • Use an item creatively.

  • Be especially savage.

  • Get weird.

  • Impress the GM.


Your body is littered with little pouches, sacks, and hidey holes. You can carry as many items as you want. Choose three items to start with, or roll a d20 three times.

  1. Broken sword hilt: It would be nice if it had a blade, but you could still use it to bludgeon someone to death.

  2. Wooden shield: It’s really just the top third of a tree stump with a bit of rope, but it’ll get the job done.

  3. Metal armour: You’ve tied old, dented pots and pans together to make...armour?

  4. Food rations: Dried manflesh is a great post-cry pick-me-up.

  5. Ogre heart: You’ve heard this can be used with old magic, but you’re not sure how.

  6. Werewolf skull: A trophy or heirloom? Either way, it’s dang cool.

  7. Black powder: Who thought it was a good idea to trust you with explosives?

  8. Chicken: An adorable live chicken. You’ve heard that humans used to eat them, barbaric.

  9. Gyrocopter certificate: You won it in a raffle, so you’re pretty sure that means you’re a qualified pilot.

  10. Vinno homme: Delicious wine made from the finest pulped human meat. You can even taste the bone fragments.

  11. Map: A map of the surrounding area. Handy.

  12. Tinker box: A little box filled with precision tools, good for fixing gizmos and picking locks.

  13. Hungry sac: A membranous sac filled with teeth, it’ll eat anything you put inside. It’s kind of scary.

  14. Orb of annihilation: Cool name, it’s a black marble.

  15. Executioner’s axe: It’s big, mean, and sharp.

  16. Crossbow: It’s string is made of unicorn hair, and anything shot from it catches fire.

  17. Lightning rod: It’s a long metal pole.

  18. Jewelry: A handful of rings, earrings, and necklaces. Pretty.

  19. Your baby teeth: Why would you keep these?

  20. Incubus snot: Snorting this stuff gives you a hell of a high.

Special Items

Special items are unique, often magical, and usually do something cool. These are hidden throughout the world, good luck finding them!

Magic wand: Six inches of hard oak laced with pixie dust and dipped in a phoenix’s earwax. Point in a direction and hope something good happens. Roll 1d6 and see what happens from the list below.

  1. A lightning bolt shoots down from the sky.

  2. Whatever you’re pointing at turns into a bunny.

  3. Whoever you’re pointing at develops really bad indigestion.

  4. Summon Cerberus, the three headed hellhound of Hades.

  5. Your pouches are filled to bursting with gold coins.

  6. Teleport the ogre king to your location.

Excalibur: A legendary magical sword, used back when humans thought they were tough shit. This blade can cut through anything, literally.

Warhorn: A hollowed out Minotaur’s horn covered in magical runes. When blown, every creature within earshot becomes horribly confused, as though they’re trapped in a labyrinth.

Sunspot lantern: An elegant brass lantern that never goes out. There’s a piece of the sun trapped inside, so don’t open it—ever. (When opened everything in the vicinity catches fire.)

Dragon scale armour: Not only is it protective, but it also lets its wearer breathe fire. And it’s cozy.

Alchemical concoction: A vial filled with peculiar rainbow coloured fluid, it’s unsettlingly viscous. Drink it and roll 1d6 to see what happens from the list below.

  1. You’re filled with adrenaline, too much of it. You go into a rabid rage.

  2. You see the entire universe, the end times, and the beginning of it all. You immediately learn the solution to one problem you are facing.

  3. Everything around you slows down, time has stopped. Wait, no, time hasn’t stopped, but you’re moving incredibly fast. You gain super speed for a short duration.

  4. You feel light, like you weigh nothing. And why’s the ground  receding beneath you? For a short duration you’re as light as a feather.

  5. You feel heavy, like you weigh a ton. And why are you sinking into the ground? For a short duration you weigh a metric fuck-ton.

  6. This potion thingy isn’t agreeing with you, and you feel sick. You vomit acrid sputum in a direction of your choice, slathering the area in acidic fluid.

*Edited on July 10, 2019: Changed this to be an optional rule. I realized that having players take on adversarial roles against each other isn’t fun for all groups.

Worldbuilding Part 6: Nothing Matters Until You Make it Matter by Matthew Marchitto

Pages upon pages of worldbuilding notes, noble lineages, shifting political landscapes, it doesn’t matter.

Until you make it matter.

I’m always reluctant to start worldbuilding before I’ve started to write the story. All the bloody tears that went into that world can be erased with one wayward line of dialogue. I could always rewrite that line, but is that the right decision?

Sometimes the worldbuilding is wrong. Being beholden to a document isn’t the way to write a story. Instead, the story should dictate the worldbuilding. There has to be malleability to my worlds, there has to be room to move the pieces, realign the axis, erase an ancient king from its history.

What I’m getting at is that all the history and trade routes and political systems don’t matter until you make them matter. If it’s not on the printed page, then it’s on the chopping block. It can be changed, erased, altered, or never even see the tail end of a blinking cursor.

In this case, I think there’s a detriment to being over prepared. The story and characters should always come first, and the worldbuilding second. Being beholden to a worldbuilding doc is setting up a series of hurdles in front of your story. 

I say chuck it all and dive into the story, let the worldbuilding come after.

Edit (February 25, 2019): This series is about the things that I've learned, or am learning, about worldbuilding. It's me trying to level up my craft, and documenting the process. These posts represent my personal approach to worldbuilding, and the way I do it might not be right for you. I'm not an authority on writing, and so everything in these posts should be taken with not only a grain of salt, but a heaping bucket of saline.

The Difficulty of Playing the Long Game by Matthew Marchitto

I was reluctant to post this. After rereading it, I realized it has a negative tone that I don't like. I think it's indicative of the headspace I was in when I wrote it. But, maybe sharing it will help a few folks realize that they're not the only ones struggling with insecurities while we wander down the long road that is Artist's Avenue.


It can be hard doing something for a long time and not getting much back in return. That’s what it’s felt like writing for the past few years. It’s also frustratingly expected. The first few years are trudging through mud, all the while you might be planting the seeds of what will become a beautiful grand oak. Or you’ll learn too late that your soil is trash and nothing will grow.

You’ve got to have an unwavering focus on a moving target. It can feel like running in place, watching that target drift away. Like you’re really not good enough after all.

I haven’t been self-publishing anything for the last few years because I didn’t have it in me to play the long game. It was too much money for books no one would read. So I tried a different approach, submitting to traditional publishers. But it feels like I’m not writing fast enough. I want to be writing 1,000 words a day, making the equivalent of one novella a month. It never quite works out like that though. And it feels inadequate, but maybe part of this whole process is learning to go slow.

The novella I’m working one right now is pretty dang cool. I’m not sure what I should do with it when it’s done. I’ve been thinking of self-publishing it, and I don’t know why. I’m not good at marketing, don’t think I want to be good at it. My self-pubbed work always does poorly, never breaks even.

Maybe that’s part of playing the long game too. Just keep trudging, keep digging, make it at a loss because it doesn’t matter as long as you’re creating. I dunno man.

Morbidus Joe by Matthew Marchitto

I can't quite remember how the idea for this story started. It might have been with the image of Morbidus Joe, and the question of why is he so morbid all the time. Or, it might have been with the idea of someone being so focused on one thing, like it could fix all their problems, when really they were looking for the wrong thing the whole time.


Every Thursday Morbidus Joe cried himself to sleep.

On Friday he’d trudge through his office in a stupor, blaming and hating himself for his melancholy mind.

On Saturday he’d stay indoors curled up in a blanket.

On Sunday he’d resolve to get over himself and stop making excuses.

On Monday he’d rev his Brimstone Squealer down Hellfire Highway, feeling like he could take over the whole underworld.

On Tuesday he’d finally do it, he’d ask Gluttonous Gal to go on a date.

Morbidus Joe had met Gluttonous Gal in an eatery, and every day since then they’d meet for lunch and spend an hour talking. Gal would order an eye of newt, and Joe would have a cup of lamentations. She told him about her job devouring the dammed, and he told her about his job tallying sins.

Morbidus learned that Gluttonous wanted to visit the Styx and maybe see Charon in person. If she was lucky she’d get to see him dump a penny pincher into the river. Morbidus Joe had never thought of travelling before, but it sounded like fun.

Tuesday came, but it didn’t feel right. “Tomorrow,” Morbidus Joe thought.

On Wednesday Morbidus Joe lost his nerve.

On Thursday he decided it was a bad idea and cried himself to sleep because nothing was ever going to change.

Morbidus Joe didn’t hate his life, but he didn’t like it either. Every day was the same, and it was the sameness that Joe hated. If he could ask Gal out, then maybe it would make things better.

The next three days passed Joe by. He trudged around in a stupor that lasted longer than normal. He felt wrong, like something inside was twisted.

On Monday Gluttonous Gal was telling him about a screamer she’d devoured, and when she was done Joe blurted out—

“Do you want to go on a date?”

Gal’s face contorted from shock, to flattery, to sadness.

Joe regretted asking.

“Morbidus, I like you, but not in that way.”

He wanted to walk out onto Hellfire Highway and let himself be crushed into dust. Why couldn’t he just keep his mouth shut?

Gal looked nervous. “But we can still be friends, right?”

Friends? Morbidus hadn’t even thought of it, but a friend was better than a date. And Morbidus needed a friend right now.

“Yes, I’d like that very much.”

On Tuesday Morbidus Joe tallied the vacation time he’d never used.

On Wednesday he bought two tickets to the Styx and told Gal they could go this very weekend.

On Thursday Morbidus Joe fell asleep thinking about everything he needed to pack for the trip.

A Pinprick in Time by Matthew Marchitto

This story started with the image of the Chronicler, though I wasn't sure what to do with it. I'd wanted to try and write extremely short fiction, so I decided to mix the two together and try to make a super short story mixed with the evocative image of the Chronicler. At 200 words, it might be the shortest story I've written, and maybe the hardest.


I’m a chronicler, and I’m dying. Before I go, I must find the impossible timeline.

I travel between realities, sailing past our possibilities, our mistakes. They echo in my periphery, an explosion blooming like a mushroom, the rat-a-tat of lead bullets, the arc of a bloodied sword, the crunch of a wooden club.

I sail to the center of eternity.

A pinprick of light pierces my vision like a sunspot. I hold it in my hands and extend my consciousness into it.

I see everything that is, will be, and has been. It fills me with heat. My flesh boils, my mind reels. But still I search.

And my eyes well with tears. A world of peace, without violence, without hate. Sobs wrack my chest. The truth I had known but hoped to be wrong is laid before me. It is a timeline without humans.

In my final moments I enter this world. Sit on the warm grass, feel the earth’s breeze on my cheek.

By the time you hear this I will be dead. I couldn’t find it, but I still believe that out there in the unfathomable infinities is the impossible timeline. Don’t give up.

Gary the Orc by Matthew Marchitto

This story started with the simplest of ideas, an orc named Gary. From there it grew into something a little silly and a lot bloody.


Garuk’tchuk’kai’ruk’ury, chieftain of the Red Hand orcs, slayer of the ogat’thu, and conqueror of the man-filth kingdoms, breathed deep of the crisp dawn air. The sharp ringing of hammers on steel and the roaring burn of churning furnaces greeted him. Today was going to be a good day.

Garuk’tchuk’kai’ruk’ury was renowned, feared, known for brutal swiftness and deft strategy. The man-filth called him Green Fury. The elves called him Soul’s Bane. The dwarves called him Stone Crusher. His friends called him Gary.

Gary strode through his chiefdom. Burly orcs nodded to him as he passed. Gary nodded back, taking note of who had earned themselves new tusk rings.

Oguthula, a scrawny orc with a gray beard to his knobby knees, shuffled after Gary.

“Oguthula, I don’t have time.”

“Sire, you must. The accounts are unbalanced, and the orb of quadrant calculation needs replenishing.” Ogulthula, the chiefdom’s accountant, said.

“Og, please. Just use the abacus.”

“And be lost to the innovations of the other chiefdoms? Never!”

“Fine, fine,” Gary acquiesced. “How do we replenish your quadrant orb?”

“I need the tongue of an ever living beast, the eye of a spectral nightmare, and the heart of a very smart man who might also be an asshole.”

“Og, I’m not killing Bill. How many times do we have to go over this?”

“But he stole my sheet of spreading and my cube of scrawling!”

“So go and ask for it back.”

“Not after he called me a bumblesnatch.”

Gary pinched the bridge of his nose. “Fine, a heart of a smart thing, possibly an asshole. I’ve got it.”

Ogulthula grumbled his thanks and shuffled away.

Gary sighed. A chief’s tasks were never over. He thought today would be simple, a few human raids, a few spoils of war, some relaxing grog. But, it seemed he’d have to go and get what Ogulthula needed.

Gary didn’t understand what it was accountants did. Og insisted they record every spoil, every ounce of gold, every bit of plunder they gathered. Including how much they tithed to the warchief, and for some reason at the end of each year they got some of it back.

It made no sense. Maybe that was why the man-filth called them savages.


It took all morning, but by brunch Gary had found Kragoa the Mutilated. Kragoa was an amorphous immortal writhing glob of undulating flesh. If Gary could answer three riddles, then Kragoa would bequeath one of his many tongues to Gary.

Gary got all three riddles wrong, said “fuck it” and wrestled the tongue out of Kragoa’s fifty-third mouth. With a swing of his axe and a spray of blood, Gary had the tongue of an ever living beast.


It was late afternoon when Gary reached the cultists altar at the bottom of the crypt. He was in luck, because an occult ritual was taking place at that very moment.

Gary didn’t have anything against cultists, he figured you can ooh and ohm as much as you like as long as it’s not in his backyard. Unfortunately, he needed the summoned specter’s eye, and the cultists wouldn’t let him have it.

Chop, chop.

Gary stuck meaty fingers into the ghost’s socket, plucking out an ice cold eyeball. He stepped over the cultists bodies, making sure not to slip on their innards.


It was late in the evening when he trudged into Ogulthula’s hut, battered and bloodied. He plopped the tongue and eye on the accountant’s desk with a sigh.

“I couldn’t find the heart. Can’t you make do with these?”

Ogulthula wrung his hands. “Well, actually, I, uh, I really only needed the heart. The rest was just for flavour.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

“Bill sleeps in every Friday!”

Gary white-knuckled his axe.


Gary placed the heart of an asshole beside the tongue and eye. He grabbed the goblin-phone and spoke into its ear. The goblin repeated each word, which was then screeched by a goblin sitting on the windowsill, which was then screeched by a goblin down the street, until the entire camp was filled with Gary’s goblin-screeched words.

“Bill, you’re the new accountant. Get down here and fix the orb of quadrant calculation. And have somebody clean up Ogulthula.”