Thursday, January 27, 2011

Editing Gaming Products: Part 1

*I reserve the right to be a hypocrite by having typos, run on sentences and incomplete thoughts in this blog.  Thank you.*

This is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of gaming.  Writing in general.  Because if it's done correctly you'll never know it was there.How many times have you purchased a gaming product that the art is good, layout is great and the premise must have been interesting enough for you to buy, but then as you start reading you find distracting typos, inconsistencies, and redundancies?  This doesn't happen with just the small one man publishing operation.  Even the big boys have problems with this one.

Before I go on I'll give you my list of very short credentials, edited a fiction magazine for one year, started and edited a college magazine, edited a couple of anthologies and a handful of gaming products.  Not a huge list, but I do have experience with editing and working with editors.  I've been writing for over two decades and worked with several editors and took away something from each one of them. 

If you plan on writing and producing a gaming product remember to leave a portion of your budget to have someone take a look at your manuscript.  Or have a friend who can read it over.  If you spend all the time to write a gaming product, searching for the right pieces of art and then all the fiddly stuff with layout so you can tie all of it together why, oh why, by all the gods good and bad would you not want someone to look over your manuscript to help point out some mistakes and places where more description is need or in other words polish this gem until is shines?  A good editor can make an okay product into a good product and a good product to a very good one (to be a great product only a great writer can do that, but still need a great editor to recognize it).  If no editing is done then it's almost a guarantee your manuscript is going to go from good to not so good, from bad to outright crappy.

Some writers get testy about others touching their words.  As if the words they have written were sacred and those who near the pages of their manuscript should fall to their knees in awe.  These are some sorry diluted bastards.  An editor needs to be brutally constructive.  A writer during the editing process needs to be quiet and listen.  Not to defend.  Just listen.  A writer gets the last say and it is important that he or she takes the time to listen to the editor and decide whether they are edits they want to keep or return to the original.  But for now, the writer needs to shut up, take the ego place it on the table and put a pin in it and sit back and listen to someone who is trying to assist them.  I know this is very difficult, but mature, seasoned writers know the value of an editor.

Back to the editor being brutally constructive.  There is a saying in writing that you need to 'kill your darlings' I think Hemmingway said that.  I take to mean you need to detach emotional significance while editing.  First draft is full of emotion, second draft is all business.  An editor will cut out extraneous words so the core of the intent shines through clearer.  If you are a math person than here is an easy formula, no matter what your manuscript length is you should be able to get rid of 10% of your words without breaking a sweat.  A first edit at least 10%.  I've been to several writing conferences spoken to several writers, editors, and agents and all agree on this number.  If you learn nothing else from this blog (that I haven't edited) then learn to find that 10% that is cluttering your message.

I'll been back tomorrow with part 2.  


  1. Question:

    Do you take on freelance editing work? A good editor is one of those people I am currently trying to source.

  2. A good editor is worth his weight in gold. And Tim is very good.

  3. This is why I am producing my games in the way that I have, with a public beta lag. I have not worked on Synapse since it went public beta on August 26th. Since then, my brain has been cleared out and now I can go back and really edit it. It is nearly impossible to write a perfect manuscript the first time and I don't delude myself into thinking I have, hence my insistence on the word BETA.

  4. It's always a good idea to read back what you've written aloud. Advice I need to follow a little bit more often myself.

  5. "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
    -Leonard Nemoy in Civ4, on the Engineering tech advance, quoting some other dude.

  6. Forget 10%, my self-editing regularly cuts the word count of my scholarly writing by a full third. But maybe my first drafts just tend to be especially long winded.

  7. I had a mentor in J school tell me that an editor's first duty is to the reader, not the writer. Many writers, especially of the aspiring variety, forget that they are ostensibly writing for an audience. Kurt Vonnegut once remarked that a good editor will save your from obscurity.

    Btw "These are some sorry diluted bastards" Umm..."deluded" ; )

  8. ckutalik> Now you know why I has my disclaimer up front. Ha. Writing blogs before work tends to get frantic. There are different philosophies how to approach everything, including editing. What works for one may not work for another. I think the one I work under is it both writer and editor working together that make the reader the #1 priority.