Monday, January 31, 2011

Editing Gaming Products, Part 3

I'm stranded at home with a crappy chest cold, restless and annoyed.  So I'll do something constructive.  Right now I am looking at a section of Rob's upcoming adventure, Scourge of the Demon Wolf.  I'm not in editing mode yet, just checking out format and making suggestions, but from what I can see it looks pretty good. 

On to editing gaming products part 3.  This is the most important part, developing a professional relationship with the writer.  I have experience of being on both ends of the table several times.  This first section will be from the writer's perspective and responsibilities. 

If you plan on producing your own gaming product without the assistance of a publisher it is a crucial to find an editor.  If you are one of those wunderkinds who can self-edit or gets it all right on the first try then you don't need to be reading my drivel, but if you are like me, and forget the r in shirt on a second grade spelling test and punished for a week without recess then an editor is your friend.  Hey, recess in second grade was gold time. 

Rob Conley wrote an absolutely valuable blog about a writer having to check his or her ego at the door.  This lesson seems to be the hardest for writers to learn because of their emotional investment.  Passion for what you write is the only way to write, but there is a time when you need to let it go and see how it does on its own.  I'm not saying to shut down and become a mindless zombie.  Just take a look at the changes.  Not all edits will be appropriate.  It is the writer's responsibility to consider and choose.  The editor suggests.

When writing for a larger company the writer has little to no say who edits their work.  So take the time to study who you wish to work for and see if their style suits your own.  Mostly, I've had positive experiences.  I try to learn something from the editors I worked with.  But on occasion you will find editors who are total wanks and I'll give you an example of mine.

A few years back I contracted with a gaming magazine to publish an adventure.  I should have known right away, my 'spidy sense' was going off.  The editor turned out to be an ass.  After producing a 15,000 word adventure (co written with my friend Dwayne) he then decided to send me the 'style guide' for the magazine.  It was 47 pages long.  It was laughable.  But I signed a contract and was determined to fulfill my end of the bargain.  Some of the edits were good, but some were a bit stupid to me.  The one villager was a woodsman who kept tabs on villagers.  He kept a rudimentary set of notes in his home.  The editor thought it was ridiculous that an illiterate woodsman would do this and took it out after I said I would prefer to keep it in.  I mean you got a world of spell casters, spirits rising from the grave, giants that are smashing in castle walls and this guy doesn't think the woodsman keeping tabs on his neighbors was realistic.  After two plus years, neither I nor Dwayne has received payment for what we did and as far as I know the magazine has not been published.  I wanted it to work out, but just didn't happen.  I tried to work through his demands and his petty arguments, but in the end the guy just had no respect for me or the work that was being done.

Both writer and reader need to be professional.  Writers, those deadlines are not suggestions.  Make sure you meet the deadline.  And if you cannot meet the deadline please let the company know as soon as possible.  They have editors, layout, artists and cartographers waiting for the manuscript.  It is a game, but people will be paying money for it so it's important to respect that and provide them with the best product you can deliver.

Back to the editor side of things.  Usually the first edit is when the blue pencil gets its workout.  Second edit is usually a polish.  When I go into the final edit with a piece it is read aloud with the writer (in best of circumstances).  When I did the editing for the college magazine we'd always have a night where we'd have contributors come, read aloud, eat pizza and drink beer.  By the end of night not much editing was done, but it sure made working for the magazine fun.  This is a rare situation, but I think reading a manuscript out loud is the best way to find hidden mistakes.  

I end this with saying there are no absolutes in writing or editing.  What may work for me may not be the best for you.  I claim not to be an expert just someone who has done it a handful times.  I'm still learning.  If nothing else, I won't forget the r in shirt unless I mean it next time. 

Part 4 will...there is no part four.  Go grab some dice and have fun. 


  1. Tim, thanks for this series, it has been very interesting. I've often wondered how things work on the writing side. Not too different than on the art side, but good to know. You have an excellent team with Rob! Looking forward to more.

  2. Thanks Johnathan. I know very little on the artist side. Maybe you could do one from that end. I know I am not the only one who would like to know what an artist has to go through. And yes, Rob is great to have on your team. We've been friends for tons of years and its good we can work on some gaming products together.

  3. I agree, it's been an interesting series. I don't know that I'd drive anything to publish, but even writing for a blog and proofing it - I love the 10% rule!

  4. Tim, how would a prospective customer contact you?
    --I've yet to find an email address on the blog or your profile. Have I missed it somewhere?

  5. Beedo, thanks I'm glad it was interesting. Publishing your own stuff is a lot of work, but very satisfying as long as you don't expect to pay the bills with the profits. And the 10% rule is one I have heard for many years.

    TS, sent you an email.

  6. Peter Elbow (yes, that's his name), author of Writing with Power, noted that a writer needs two skills: (1) Creative thinking and (2) Critical thinking. Writers get into trouble when they use one of the skills when the other is needed. Become too critical when creativy is needed and you kill off good ideas or, worse yet, become stymied by writer's block. And the inability to turn off the creative juices and take a few steps back into criticism mode leads to sloppy work. Thanks, Tim, for the great series of posts.