Archive for April, 2012
I’m not as far along on Mythender as I’d like — a function of Doing Free Work and the issues around that. Part of that is because of the form factor that I thought was genius turned into a liability. I have a booklet for the rules outside of a battle (which is getting rather large), the rules for in a battle (which is also getting rather large, enough to where I took an optional rule out), the GM stuff, character creation, even a “booklet of contents” that really just serves to point out that the other booklets exist and some basic tone-setting stuff.
It doesn’t work, so I’m going to ditch the idea. I’m running out of room, so I can’t fit in examples. And I have a hard cap at 32 pages for a given booklet, because that’s eight sheets of paper, and stapling more than that in the middle is asking for even more trouble.
I’m dead sure it would work for other games, but isn’t working here. The idea is of making the game easy to print & have at the table, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible with this setup, which means I shouldn’t sacrifice clarity for this goal that I can’t achieve. The better product then is the one that’s clear rather than the one that’s printable.
That means one PDF that contains everything, and shifting it from having natively printable dimensions to having tablet screen dimensions. (Which isn’t a huge shift, from 8.5″x5.5″ to having a 3×2 setup, but changing the paging elements to be uniform rather than left/right will take a bit of work, and that changes the atomic unit of information from the two-page spread to the screen — what a reader sees at one given moment of time.)
Mythender will still have booklet-sized stuff; after all, I have to still make twelve Mythic Worlds thanks to the Random Kindness Bundle $250 backers. And instead of making larger booklets that contain everything, I can make smaller booklets that are quick-references & other handy stuff.
(There’s a larger point here about how in the process of open design, you’re going to backpedal because some ideas don’t work, and what that means to the work and the process. But, as I’m fond of saying, that’s another post.)
 I didn’t get paid for Mythender, even though people paid for it, so it’s free work. Incidentally, this is why when I do charity stuff, I know not to take offers of work to support that charity unless the work’s already done. Why did I do that this time? Because I knew I wouldn’t totally flake on myself. :)
In my experience, there are two major forms of developmental editing: high-level with just comments, and high-level with comments and adjustments.
It’s important to know the difference between them, and which one you should be doing on a given pass & project.
High-level with just comments
You do these sort of passes when the writing is rough, often intentionally so–experimental work, early passes on a long project, that sort of thing.
When you’re doing these, it’s important to explain what problems exist and what needs to be done. Light copy edits when they catch your eye, but your efforts need to focus on communicating issues, because other work you put in will likely be rendered moot in revision. (That said, sometimes even when the work itself is rendered moot, a writer seeing those small copy edits is useful for future guidance.)
What’s really important is to not get caught up in rewrite work. If you start in on a part of the manuscript that would take much more effort to rewrite than the communicate the issue, don’t rewrite it. That’s not your job at the moment.
High-level with comments and adjustments
On the other hand, some passes come with the expectation that the editor will do a significant portion of rewriting. it’s akin to the above, except those comments you’re making about rewriting are comments you’re making to yourself.
I’ve found I like to do the just comments pass first, with thoughts on rewriting, and then go and tackle those rewrites. That avoids the perilous issue of doing rewrites as you encounter text, only to discover that later text handles what you’re doing or you’re accidentally contracting elements in your rewrites.
Of course, not everything can be easily rewritten by the editor. Some points are discussion or flags for future passes. And comments about why something was rewritten is helpful if the draft is going back to a writer or other member of the team.
A word of warning
If the developmental editing pass like this, with heavy rewrites, goes right to layout, expect the book to be fucked. The pressures of doing dev work and rewrites on top of copy work on what otherwise passes through means that you’re likely to have issues that require a copy editor to sort through. In essence, your dev editor became a writer, and that makes going right to layout akin to having a writer skip editing and go to layout.
So, you know, avoid that.
That said, if the process is writer->dev editor->writer->same dev editor, but doing copy, then you’re probably sorted out.
Doing the wrong one
The trick to this is to know what should be done, because doing the wrong one can derail a project once it gets out of the editor’s hands and people discover the miscommunication of role. Doing just comments when rewrites are expected means the schedule’s thrown off, as work that was expected to be done wasn’t. On the other hand, doing rewrites when just comments are expected means pressure on the schedule to complete a more intensive job than anticipated, with the possibility of friction when a writer was expecting comments and to do the adjusting herself.
Either way, as an editor, it sucks to find out I was doing the wrong one on a particular pass. Most of the time, I’ve done the “rewrite” when “just comments” were wanted, and I’ve stressed myself out pushing a draft forward that didn’t need as much push from me as I thought. It makes the end of that work sloppy, and when the schedule is anticipating only comments, it means pushing the schedule back.
How to do the right one
Now, it might not make sense right away to ask. After all, sometimes the answer is “I don’t know, editor. You tell me?” In those cases, read the manuscript some first. If you routinely come up to places that need extensive rewriting, that’s a good time to bring up some issues and ask what’s expected, then compare what’s expected with what you can do in the time frame that you’re given.
(And places where the rules need reworking, well, that’s a different beast entirely.)
Yesterday, I mentioned on Twitter that I was violating my 90-minute rule, and the draft I’m working on was suffering for it. The 90-minute rule is “stop working on whatever I’m doing after 90 minutes and take a break.”
The reason I have this rule is partly psychochemical — I have anxiety issues that are linked to the sort of stuff I work on, and the form that takes is that I get tired quickly due to my brain running overtime–especially when I’m editing, as I’m keeping in mind multiple reader viewpoints at once. When I hit around two hours non-stop, I poop out, and the work suffers.
Now, you might ask why not make it a two-hour rule? Because it takes far less time to take a break after 90 minutes to reset myself than it does after two hours. If I can get my brain to relax when it’s not exhausted, it’ll start again faster than if I try that once I am.
This becomes a problem when I’m on deadline, but since the reason I’m working on a project is because of my expertise and skill, I have to choose between getting something done now and have it suffer, or take the pace I need to and risk running the deadline. And since having work suffer is something that’ll haunt me & the work after publication, I end to take the second route.
But because I am, I feel guilty, which then causes me to unconsciously push myself anyway. And then I crash, which can cause me to run the deadline anyway. So it’s sort of a catch-22, but in the moment I’m not thinking about that.
This is something I’ve spent years coming to terms with. I am not as fast as many of my peers, which frustrates me. And I suspect I never will be, because of how my brain is wired. (And this is with taking anti-anxiety medication, which is necessary for me to work at all now.)
Thus, much like eating lunch, this is one of those rules that exists for the purpose of making me a more production & healthier creative. But it’s something that’s easy to space on, which is why it’s an explicit rule I try to follow.
 As crippling headaches come are a constant when I’m not on medication.