Archive for June 15th, 2011
There’s something deceptive about co-author projects with folks who are new to producing works. There’s a sense that because they can do one form of editing with each other–namely copy-editing (grammar, typos, etc.)–that co-authors don’t need an editor. I can usually tell which co-authored books didn’t see an one, because they’re disorganized, full of assumptions, and all around poorly communicative.
Why? Because there’s no mental separation of context. There’s no one in the process to call out the sharedthink.
This is, in some ways, worse than a single author not getting an editor. Two or more people working on a project for a significant length of time create shorthand terms and learn to read the other’s implicit thoughts. In reviewing the work, sometimes they’re able to call out “hey, we should probably explain this,” but just as often an idea is skipped over–it’s grammatically correct, so it doesn’t warrant further attention, yet it’s missing explanation and other material.
Co-authors gain institutional knowledge–context–so all the ideas are in their heads. Again, you get copy-editing, but not a realization that these ideas are presented in a very poor order from the perspective of someone trying to learn, understand, and play a game. Between frontloading and organization, the book needs to build context for learning & playing. Already have that context in your head? Then you’re likely to miss these problems and frustrate readers.
Where it gets really frustrating is when someone from outside of this hivemind points problems out, and said authors either actually get defensive or just plain feel confused, because they’re able to make sense to each other. An understandable situation to be in, and it’s unfortunate when these games go to publication with all the signs that they didn’t pass a “can someone outside of our sharedthink understand this” test.
So if you can, get an editor outside your immediate play culture. Those editors will find loads of issues high-level organization and sharedthink assumptions that getting a friend to edit will miss.
(This also applies to people who get their friends who have playtested the game with them to “edit”–and again, you pretty much just get copy-editing from them. But then, it’s unfortunate that amateurs equate “editing” to mean copy-editing.)
And now, this post makes me realize I have a second high-level point to developmental editors (alongside an author’s intent), which is to reduce the gap between what an author is saying and what he or she means. That’s so hard to do internally if you’re untrained in separating yourself from that sharedthink. I’ve met few people who are good at doing that.
This is something we were constantly on the lookout for in working on the Dresden Files RPG. That we were all aware of it helped the editorial staff (namely Amanda Valentine) suss out issues. Wasn’t easy, but we did the work.
 Or would that be “groupthink” in this case? Anyway.
 I call this the “where the fuck did that come from” problem. As in, “Where the fuck did this term come from?” or “Wait, why am I suddenly seeing a section about something completely different.”