What to Expect From Development

I wrote up the Silver Ladder in a third-ish draft of Awakening 1e because developer Bill Bridges invented them after the first two drafts had already been submitted and there was still time for me to get a kick at the can. That’s how it goes.

When working on a mainstream RPG supplement, you should be prepared for radical changes to your text by the time it gets released, and even before it gets released.

I’m an intensive developer. That means I will change anything and everything to make it fit the vision I have for a book and showcase the best ideas contributors offer. But it’s my responsibility to help the people working on a book produce as suitable a draft as possible in the first place. This requires good outlining, redlining, and general guidance on my part, as well as the ability and will to find and emphasize innovations and creative material I didn’t ask for.

In the method I use, which I picked up from White Wolf, I produce an outline that presents the structure and subject of the book, including specific things to include and avoid. The outline veers between specific requests (describe these things with these game statistics) to rougher specifications (five monsters that fit the theme, or GM advice that draws from the writer’s experience).

As a writer, it is now your job to produce as refined a first draft as possible within the specifications of the outline, on time. If you have questions or concerns, you need to bring them up as soon as possible. You need to be open to regular communication, but you also shouldn’t need help day by day. If you do, it’s either on you, because of a skills or confidence issue, or on me, because of poor outlining and guidance.

Then you hand in your work and I redline it. I use the comments function to request changes and provide general guidance. You should read all redline comments before implementing them, as one comment might apply in several places. Don’t expect much praise. Redlines are about what needs to be done, not what was done well. The exception is when you don’t sufficiently explore a good idea you had, in which case it still won’t be praise, but I will talk about something you did well, so you can do more of it.

I have received and read some harsh redlines, but I don’t write them for other people. I think the era of kicking someone’s ass until they get better is over.

Once I send your redlines, your job is not only to make the requested changes, but to give your work another look, further improving your draft. Hand in that second draft—usually your final draft—on time.

After I get the final draft, the work is mine to do with as I please. This is because it’s my job to get a reasonably good book in a state where it can enter layout and eventually, release. I have completely rewritten some submissions, and left others almost entirely unchanged. In most cases, intensive edits on my end happen because of style, length, and other quality problems that prevented the writer from expressing their ideas well, but there are also times when I decide I need the section to include different stuff at the last minute, or I have decided everything needs to follow a certain format. I usually don’t have time to send second drafts back.

Contributors shouldn’t feel bad when their work gets intensively edited. Like I said, in most cases it’s about presenting their ideas well, within the bounds of what the book needs. However, writing a good first draft and following redlines reduces the chance I’m going to change things much.

If you don’t want to get developed or edited, except by yourself, self-publishing is easier than it ever was. It also gives you the freedom to choose your own topics, pace, everything.

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