Lesson #7: Consider it This Way (Part 2)

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The trick to effective revision is starting with the big stuff, refining it, and then getting to the granular changes. If you start with “line editing,” you’re essentially “polishing a turd.” (Not that your stories are turds, but you catch my drift!)

Once you’ve gotten feedback on the ideas in your one-shot (and given someone else feedback on theirs), you can start editing. You don't have to be an expert on writing and grammar to be a helpful editor! 

Even if you are an expert on writing, it's important to always have someone else edit your work. As writers, we're just too close to our own work to see the mistakes. Every writer needs an editor. This is your chance to get new eyes on your work! 

LESSON #7

Objective: Improving the prose of your one-shot.

Deadline: July 27th

If you found a partner for part 1 of this chapter, you can continue working with them for part 2. Editing is its own skill that can take many years to master, so if you're daunted by all of this, it's OK! It helps to think of it as a goal: What can be improved/changed to make this module as clear and readable as possible? This can mean rewording sentences, correcting typos/misspellings, and updating word usage to better convey information.  

Best practices for editing

  • Read work aloud, and have it read back to you.

Hearing prose read aloud is a great way to catch some simple mistakes and awkward verbiage. Plus, RPGs are interactive stories, so your work will likely be read aloud by the GM at some point!

  • Edit in phases.

You don't need to edit everything in one go! Read through once looking only for typos and misspellings. Then, on your second read-through, look closely at sentence structure. On your third read-through, read sections aloud and edit for clarity. Everything about writing is a process, including editing!

  • Write in active voice.

Active voice is effective in game design; it eliminates unnecessary words and streamlines your prose, making it easier for GMs to read and understand. To better illustrate this, here's a really helpful guide.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center:

In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject of sentence performs the action.
In a sentence written in the passive voice the subject receives the action.

For example:

Active: The candidate believes that Congress must place a ceiling on the budget.
Passive: It is believed by the candidate that a ceiling must be placed on the budget by Congress.
Active: Researchers earlier showed that high stress can cause heart attacks.
Passive: It was earlier demonstrated that heart attacks can be caused by high stress.
Active: The dog bit the man.
Passive: The man was bitten by the dog.
Converting sentences to active voice
Here are some tips and strategies for converting sentences from the passive to the active voice.
Look for a "by" phrase (e.g., "by the dog" in the last example above). If you find one, the sentence may be in the passive voice. Rewrite the sentence so that the subject buried in the "by" clause is closer to the beginning of the sentence.
If the subject of the sentence is somewhat anonymous, see if you can use a general term, such as "researchers," or "the study," or "experts in this field."
There are sometimes good reasons to use the passive voice [including the following scenarios]:
To emphasize the action rather than the actor
After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by the long-range planning committee.
To keep the subject and focus consistent throughout a passage
The data processing department recently presented what proved to be a controversial proposal to expand its staff. After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by . . . .
To be tactful by not naming the actor
The procedures were somehow misinterpreted.
To describe a condition in which the actor is unknown or unimportant
Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed as having cancer.
To create an authoritative tone
Visitors are not allowed after 9:00 p.m.
  • Remember that the person reading your module is likely a GM, not a player.

Your prose needs to be clear and functional. Remove words/phrases like “will,” "in order to," and “seems to be.” Something either happens or it doesn’t! The rolls/rules are what determine the events in the game. Share information as clearly as possible. For example, "There appears to be a wererat in the secret laboratory" becomes "There is a wererat in the secret laboratory." 

  • Bonus tip: Print out the text you want to edit.

Listen, I'm all about using great digital tools, but I find I do my best editing on hard-copy materials. All of the professional editors I know prefer this, too. Our eyes are so used to reading on screens that we're able to more easily spot mistakes while reading printed material. This isn't a necessary practice, but might be something to try!

FINAL NOTES

We're getting close to the end of the month! Can you believe it?! Next lesson is about playtesting, which I think ties nicely into editing and revision. 

Talk soon!
Ashley