Here’s my editing process: What happens when and why.
In fact, this is not ‘my’ process, it’s ‘ours’. Editing is a thing one does with, around and sometimes at someone else.
You can read this as a guideline of how editors will probably perceive your gaming project (whatever it is; although the specifics change between types of products). More importantly, it’ll hopefully help you see why you need an editor. You need someone to ask all of these questions – and many more – about your game.
People who consider hiring me can also read this as my “hello”, as starting a conversation, managing expectations, before we get into a working relationship.
Phase 1: Structure
What’s the gaming experience you’re trying to evoke? What are the resources and limitations you have? Do you have an audience in mind? Let’s sit down and discuss this for an hour or two in a video chat.
Let’s see what kind of structure you’ve already planned out – what kind of product, how big it is, what comes after what. Let me give you a few suggestions and thoughts about how best to achieve your goals.
If you don’t have a plan yet, let’s create one. Tell me what’s cool about the game, and let’s find out how to describe it. Tell me what needs to be said, and I’ll probably then have several things to add, and lots and lots to remove.
Throughout this, and going forward, I’ll be very straightforward. If I think something should be done, I will say exactly what, and explain why. If I think something is crucial, I’ll also be insistent about it. However, at no point am I claiming ownership – you have the final word on everything, it’s your product. You’re paying me to have opinions about it, maybe you even let me make semi-final decisions on some stuff (this usually happens after we worked for a while, and you’ve come to trust my judgment), but the final product must always have your approval, and your word is final. Knowing this, I allow myself to be very open and throw at you any remark that I deem necessary for the improvement of the product.
Phase 1.5: Additional Game Design
Some attention will now be given to the mechanics of your game. Ideally, I’ll get to playtest them myself once or twice. I’ll have something to say about polishing and streamlining, and probably a lot to say about contradictions and edge-cases. I’ll try to break your rules and see if they respond well to abuse. I’ll also start to think about phrasing clearer and clearer instructions (it comes in iterations) and there’s going to be some art and graphic design involved. I’ll have a lot to say about the names you’ve chosen for everything.
Phase 1.9: Style Guide
Maintaining consistency throughout the text is super important, that it’s one of the main reasons you hired me. What are the mechanical terms we decided on? What’s the default phrasing used with the various application of these terms? What’s capitalised, and why? Do you maintain a gender-neutral language? How do you present examples? Have you read Writing With Style? We’ll put everything in a Style Guide, so that you and your writers (and later, me) will be able to keep the text consistent throughout. This document will be evolving going forward.
Phase 1 is kinda vague and might take about two months. I am only sporadically involved here, but I’d like to be a part of every major meeting or get a summary of – and hopefully a saying on – most major decisions.
Phase 2: First Draft
You’ve written most of what needs to be written. Now I go through it and change it, so that it’ll say what you want it to say. We’ll be doing this in Google Docs or equivalent, so I’ll be able to change phrasing directly (tracking changes), and add comments. Oh, so many comments. I’ll go through the book, chapter by chapter, leaving lots of questions in my wake. We’ll be able to work in an overlapping manner: You write the next chapter while I’m working on the current one, and as I continue to the next chapter you can go back and fix, expand and change the previous one, based on my questions.
My questions are usually asked in order to clarify meaning. For each paragraph, I go through this process: What are you trying to say here? Was it said? Can it be said in a clearer way? Does this paragraph even needs to be here, or exist at all?
Phase 2 takes between two to four weeks. For a book of 180 pages, I estimate it’ll take me about 40 hours.
Phase 3: (Sort of) Final Draft
We have something that seems to work. Now I read again through all of it, to catch what we missed or re-read any last changes you made. If we worked well together during Phase 2, or if we’re pressed for time, I’ll instead only give it 50%; But then, I’ll be extra careful on Phase 4.
Phase 3 takes, surprisingly, between two to three weeks.
Phase 4: Proofreading
The text now goes through layout, turning into a beautiful PDF. Then I go through it, semi-skimming, (unless we didn’t have a full Phase 3, in which case I’ll be re-reading the whole thing), making sure everything’s there. I’ll probably have a lot to say about the layout, the shape of tables, the placement of art, the titles; everything that has to do with readability.
You better also have a reliable proofreader (or three) go through the text. My main weak point as an editor is that I tend to miss some grammar rules; I’ll take clear over correct every day. Yes, I’m an editor who can use some English lessons, but if you’ve read this far, I assume you realise that the intricacies of grammar aren’t, in fact, a big part of being an editor.
Phase 4 takes about two weeks but can be even four, if Phase 3 was short. Both of them together take me about 15 hours.
Phase 5: Extra Material and Marketing
The product is now done! Woohoo! But there’s probably still quite a lot to do.
I’ve done lots of extra work surrounding the main product, including writing (and occasionally graphic-designing) press releases, marketing material, extra content for Kickstarters, and the like. Tell me what you need, and I’ll be happy to help or point you at someone useful or at some group in which you’ll be able to find help.
How to Use Me
While I can be inserted into the project in Phase 3 – which is the point during which most people start to think “I should get an editor” – you probably noticed there are several phases before it, meaning I should be inserted right at the beginning if possible. While most of my work indeed takes place during Phase 3, the work done before that is crucial to ensure a high-quality product.
Remember: An editor’s job is to make sure that the product evokes the effect you want it to create, and that means I should be part of the process of creating that product right from the get-go, even if during most of it I’m just hovering somewhere in the background.
That’s basically it. Tell me when you want me, let me have a look at the current state of the project, and I’ll be able to estimate how many hours I’ll need and what are my possible deadlines. Contact me! And let’s chat.