How did your nine days of writing go? Whether you have 500 words or 5,000 words at this point, you’re likely further than you were at the start of the month — and for that you deserve a big pat on the back!
But we’re not quite out of the woods just yet. (That’s a reference to my last lesson/pep talk, The German Forest.) We're starting our chapter on revision. The time between writing and revising is a transition, just like the period between outlining and writing. You’ll likely continue writing for the next week or so, but this is where you can take a brief break from putting pen to paper and look at your work from a different perspective.
Let me start by clarifying something important: there is a difference between “editing” and “revising.”
Via UC Berkeley:
• is on a sentence level, addressing problems with spelling, grammar, punctuation, or word choice.
• is one-sided. The editor writes comments and corrections on the paper and returns the paper to the writer.
• is hierarchical. An editor looks for "mistakes" and "fixes" them. An editor places value on writing (such as a grade).
• focuses on the [project] as a product.
• deals with the [project] as a whole, considering strengths and weaknesses, arguments, focus and organization, support, and voice, as well as mechanical issues.
• is dialogue-based. The purpose or revision is to ask questions, expanding ideas and challenging arguments which require discussion between the writer and the reader.
• is non-hierarchical. Offering questions and making observations allow the writer and reader to hold separate and valid opinions. The purpose of discussion is to expand and clarify ideas rather than "correct" them.
• focuses on the writer in the process of writing and increasing the writer's understanding of the paper's strengths and weaknesses.
• clarifies and focuses the writer's arguments by defining terms, making concessions and counter-arguments, and using evidence. This may involve moving or removing entire paragraphs, extending or narrowing ideas, rewriting vague or confusing text, and adding to existing paragraphs.
(There are also differences between “editing,” “copyediting,” and “proofing” — I don’t want to get too bogged down in semantics, but as you continue your writing journey, it’s helpful to know that there are differences.) Note that at this point, we’re still working on writing and refining your ideas.
For this segment of our workshop, we’re going to have two “mini-workshops” over the next few days. The first one is focused on “developmental editing”: refining the ideas and flow of your narrative. The next one is more granular "line editing," making sure your one-shot is clear, well-written, and readable.
Objective: Improving the ideas and narrative of your one-shot
Deadline: July 24th
To start, locate a fellow writer and swap work with them. (I know not everyone is in the Discord channel, but you may consider hopping in just for this part of the workshop. You can also connect with people in your real life.) The #sharing-work channel in the Discord chat was created for this purpose!
If you don't have a whole draft written, I still encourage you to share what you have. Getting feedback might be what you need to continue with your idea.
The goal of this is for someone else to read your work and for you to read someone else's work. I truly believe that we grow as writers the more we read.
Once you've found your partner(s), create a private chat or email exchange. This will help you exchange feedback without getting lost in the chat.
Then, conduct a peer-review session. To help guide you, here are some questions to consider as you're reading and evaluating your partner's work. You can even use this as a worksheet.
- Is the narrative "goal" for the players clearly stated? If not, how can the writer improve this?
- Is the setting/location easy to "visualize" and understand? (Consider this from the prospective of both the GM and the players: can GMs easily describe the setting? Is there enough information to convey this to players?)
- Does the narrative "path" make sense? Evaluate how one event leads to others. (Note that not all potential threads can be covered in a one-shot, but the outline should account for at least a few options.)
- Does the one-shot create a compelling build-up (rising action) to keep GMs and players motivated and invested in the story? (Note that this can be very subjective. Think beyond your own personal preferences and evaluate this from a more technical perspective.)
- Is there any information/story that you feel is missing from the module? Information that would enrich the experience for players and aid GMs?
Tips on giving feedback
Flank your suggestions with positive statements. For example: “I really like what you did in X! However, I got stuck at Y. Can you clarify what you’re trying to accomplish there? I'm curious to know how X works with Y."
Provide actionable suggestions. It's fine to point out if something doesn't make sense, and even more helpful when you can offer a suggestion to help the writer navigate around the problem.
Stick to ideas for now. You might be tempted to pull out the red pen and copyedit your partner's entire piece, but unless a typo/mistake is really infringing on your understanding, keep your comments focused on ideas for this exercise. For new writers, getting feedback in small doses is much easier to address, and much less discouraging, than getting everything at once. (You and your partner might feel otherwise, and that's fine!)
Tips on receiving feedback:
Don’t argue. It’s easy to want to get defensive when people criticize your work. But most people in the RPG community are hungry for awesome games and want yours to be as great as possible! Don’t deride those who give you fair, useful feedback. It helps to step away from your computer and respond later with a clear head. (For those who give you rude, unhelpful feedback, it’s not even worth responding.) Also, learning how to be a good critic requires its own learning process, so be patient with your peers.
Take deep breaths and don’t get discouraged. Getting less-than-favorable feedback can be discouraging. But don’t give up on your project. This is a workshop and that means improving and revising. Remember that all of your favorite creators have to go through the same process. It doesn’t mean your work sucks and isn’t important. The more you write (and the more you read!), the better you’ll become.
Prioritize your feedback. Compile all the feedback you've received and make a to-do list. I personally like to tackle little things first, and then work through some of the more time-intensive, structural changes. You might like to work the opposite way! Creating a list ensures that nothing falls through the cracks, and makes this process much more manageable.
We will delve into "line editing" in part 2 of this chapter. We'll talk about active vs. passive voice and I'll give you some tips for editing!