How I Write Leveling Guides (Part II)

27 Feb

Part I of this little mini-series talked mostly about when I write my guides. I consider when to be a big part of how because getting that feeling of being qualified to write a guide is really the foundation of the whole thing.

Once I feel that I’m qualified to write the post it’s time to start the research phase.

Research and Verify
After I feel that I know the class well enough to write a post about it, I get online and do some research to see if anything has changed that I didn’t know about. Sometimes I might miss a patch note that changes a stat priority or that makes a talent suddenly worthless, so I like to make sure I’m on top of everything.

I’ll also see what the flavor of the month versions of my spec are to see if there’s anything crazy going on that I should try out. That’s how I found out about the spec that I’m currently using on my level 40 Sage, which is a hybrid of Balance and Telekinetics that has some amazing AoE potential which I love more than these words can describe. I had been so used to WoW’s current talent trees that force you to use the whole tree before branching out that I didn’t even consider hybrid builds before I saw a post on that, which has led to some interesting builds I have in mind for other classes.

Once I know that I have a good grasp on everything for sure it’s time to move on to the next step.

Many Links, Handle It!
Now it’s time to actually start writing, starting with all the links that I need for what I’m going to be talking about. I get links for the spec, the spells, any items I’m going to link, individual talent options, and so on.

I’ve had posts that I’ve written in the past where I saved the links for the end and went back to put them all in and I had missed about five of the links in the post and it really sucked that I could fail so hard at something so easy. To avoid that, I now try to get all of my links in from the start, and if any other links become needed as I write then I try to get them right then so that I don’t end up forgetting anything.

To MS Paint, Or Not to MS Paint?
Since pictures are a part of the linking process, this is where I decide whether or not I’m going to use my own “art” in the post or not. I like doing my craptacular drawings and some of my readers get a kick out of them sometimes too, so I like to always at least consider including them.

The first question is whether or not I want to use MS Paint drawings in the post, and the second is whether or not I think I can actually draw something related to the post. Some things are just beyond my extremely limited skill with horrid mouse drawings, and I won’t even bother attempting it. The last time I attempted to draw something beyond me I ended up with a Draenie whose tail looked more like a blue, pierced penis than a tail. Yeah, I learned from that mistake. (I tried to find the picture again so that I could link it for lols, but I couldn’t find it in my photobucket account so I think I may have deleted it.)

I also consider screen shots from the game at this point, because sometimes I’d just rather show off the real thing than attempt to draw something like it. I’m not real big on taking screen shots, so I’ll often not bother using them as well.

Whatever pictures I decide to use, if any, get their links added in and set up with a title for mouse-over fun. I usually try to put something fun in the mouse-overs or else they just don’t feel complete.

Create Lists, Tables, Headers
With the foundation in place it’s time to add in the remainder of the primary HTML tags. I know that every post is going to have anywhere from three to ten different headers in it so I’ll write the code for one and copy/paste six or so into the post. I’m not as big on tables as I used to be, so I might drop one table’s code in or I may leave it out. Lists are a big deal in my guides, so I’ll usually set up at least three lists for a guide post and have them ready to go.

Then it’s time to combine this step with the previous one by putting all of the links into their respective lists and tables as necessary. I then fill in any other missing information related to them, like what the headers themselves actually are rather than just the code to get them to be the size and color that I want them to be.

This is where I also get all of the information about spells and talents written up. I type all of them up myself because typing them rather than a simple copy/paste makes the details stick in my mind better. It also reminds me sometimes that there’s an aspect of a talent or spell that I had forgotten, like those that have a secondary effect that only matters in certain situations. It gives me another chance to better understand what the class in question can do and to remind me of things I’ve forgotten, so I don’t mind spending the time to type it out.

Tags and Categories
This one isn’t necessarily in chronological order as sometimes I’ll do this before anything else, and sometimes it’s saved for the very end.

I like to use a lot of different tags to help searching. I don’t get too detailed because I don’t want a million tags on the post, but a guide might have anywhere from two tags up to a dozen or so depending on how wide the topic is and what level of detail I’m going into them.

Categories are an area that I’m trying to work on. In the past I’ve used a lot of categories which has really kind of screwed up the search functionality within the blog itself. I was categorizing things a bit too unfocused, so searching for Druids here can give all kinds of results because any post that I talked about Druids in might come up when they’re actually not related to the class much at all. The thought of going back through to clean up 260+ posts worth of categories does not thrill me, though.

Hopefully the plan I have now for handling categories will make these much more effective for future posts, and I’d like to go back to re-categorize things in the somewhat near future just to make finding topics you want more reasonable. Sure, my heirloom guides are written to include every single class, but that doesn’t mean I should have categorized them as being a post for each of those classes. Especially not when the majority of my traffic comes from people specifically searching for heirloom information.

Write the Post
Once all of that is done, it’s time to go for the guts of the post and start the actual writing. I start at the top and work my way down, discussing what the class feels like, giving details about spells, talking about special features that you need to know about the class, going over rotations that I like to use in combat, talking about specs, and giving any advice I feel is necessary or helpful in regards to gear and professions.

I use everything else that I’ve done up to this point as an outline and a guide for what I want to include in the guide and what details should be mentioned under which headers. That helps to keep me in line and stay focused on the individual topics within the guide so that you don’t end up with 5,000 words on just the opening header.

I’m one of those odd people in real life who hardly ever talks and when I do it’s usually short and to the point. Then when you put me behind a keyboard and tell me to start typing it’s hard to get me to shut up. I like to make sure that I have a lot of detail in my posts and that I’m taking the time to describe everything so that a person who has no experience with a class at all can read the guide and then perform well with the class, so I don’t mind having large posts at all.

I know that I’m considered a wall of text writer, and I’m okay with that.

I know it turns a lot of readers off, but I’m not here to write for the casual reader, I’m here to write for those that want information.

Guest Posts Always Welcome
I’m always open to guest posts here from people who want to share their leveling experiences. Whether that’s writing a guide of your own (and no, it doesn’t have to be 10k words or follow any of my formatting or anything), talking about how much fun you had leveling in Southern Barrens, talking about how much you still hate leveling in Northrend, how much fun you’re having with your Smuggler, how much you love the design of the Inquisitor’s ship, how much you hate C2-N2, or whatever.

Anything you feel like blogging about in relation to WoW or SWTOR, I’m willing to host it here. You don’t have to have a blog of your own to post here – you can email me, stick it in a GDoc, record your voice on tape, or whatever else makes you comfortable.

If you ever get the desire to try it out, just drop me a line here, on twitter, or send me an email.

1 Comment

Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Blog


One response to “How I Write Leveling Guides (Part II)

  1. Cynwise

    February 27, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    One thing which I’ve taken from you and your guides is to throw my knowledge of the class out of a window before leveling. Make assumptions and then challenge them, just to see how it works.

    I’m leveling a Destruction Warlock, and it’s interesting trying to kill things as quickly as possible. Not because I can’t kill them slowly, but because I’m playing Destro, for crying out loud! So while Immolate+Corr+Conflag will usually do the trick on any mob, I’ve been playing around with different talent builds, different spells, seeing what works and what doesn’t.

    You’d think you’d want to use the main spell of the spec to level. I found it didn’t work that well. Up through level 20, Shadowbolt spam killed mobs in half the time. Weaving Searing Pain as the kill shot on low health mobs worked sometimes, but because of SB’s travel time it was usually better to just spam SB.

    At 20+, Soul Fire is competing for dominance as the primary nuke. Usually I start off with a Shadow Bolt to get the crit bonus up and then SF away. It’s very unwarlock-like, but with the Succubus as the pet I can usually just fire two nukes and let her finish them off.

    I am pretty sure the scaling is starting to change on that, though.

    Experimentation is key!


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