Friday, December 14, 2012

Revision Month

Nothing much in the way of new projects this month, but lots and lots of revision. I'm awaiting an editorial letter on Sullivan, always a fraught moment - especially with a new editor. Most of the editors I've worked with have been very good at their jobs, but one hears horror stories - editors who think they "get it" but don't, or who want you to rewrite it in a way that would make it theirs instead of yours, or who put you on improbably tight deadlines and then leave you hanging in the wind for weeks. But there's no point borrowing trouble, and while it stands to reason my luck'll run out sometime, it doesn't have to be this time and in any case worrying about it won't help. But I wish that e-mail'd get here!

Meanwhile, Andrew May sent me the story he wrote riffing off a couple of my garage sale ideas, and I got to read a novella with chapter headings like "Idol of the Apemen" during a period of severe Health Crap, which was a great help, because you always feel better when you laugh unless your ribs are broken. So I gave him some comments which I hope will be helpful.

Our gaming group is also taking a break from role-playing to assist in a playtest of a tradeable card version of a module set we recently played in its RPG incarnation. It's not the first playtest I've participated in, but it is the first one we've done as a group and the first one in which we made a major commitment. Playtesting is like playing, except instead of settling in to strategic thinking and focusing on the game experience, you're poking and testing the rules, uncovering ambiguities in the wording, and constantly responding to rules changes that get made during playtest. This is more fun for the game mechanics in the group than for me, but I don't think I'm cut out for tradeable card games anyway. My major contribution has been to be always slightly confused about the rules, highlighting shortcomings in the way they're written.

Widespot, the shareable Sims2 neighborhood I made as a project, reached the point where I felt I could ask interested parties to playtest for me. Most of the revisions I've done based on that feedback have related to the buildings - so far no one has a problem with how the characters play. Which is not too surprising, given that character and story are the elements I have lots of experience with, while as far as architecture goes I know it when I see it. However, I have noticed that people are tending to play the Hart and Mann families preferentially to the Weisses, Beeches, and Lands, which makes me wonder if I didn't give those families sufficient story interest. And I realize that the Hart family has a lot of internal conflict and intricate conflicting connections to every other household, and the Mann family has a strong conflict-creating connection to the Harts and Lands, but the connections among the Lands, Weisses, and Beeches are mostly harmonious. So I probably have some character and story revision to do there, after all.

Having a game property in playtest is unexpectedly different from having a manuscript in critique, because whereas critique partners are all business, playtesters are (if you've done your job at all) having fun, so you get a foretaste of the pleasure of publication. Otherwise, it uses the same mental muscles and requires the same degree of flexibility and willingness to set your ego aside, to learn new techniques and how to better use existing tools from the people who understand them better, and to alter your original vision when necessary. And, just like in revision, you have to be able to coolly assess conflicting opinions, like the scene/building that one person finds charming and the other person thinks looks "like you were tired when you did it."

Finally, we're in the final stage of the year, a time when lots of people assess their lives and think about how they want to change them. When we go into revision mode on our lives. I don't believe in New Year's resolutions, but I do believe in changing your life if you're not happy with it. Sure, you may have to back up a bit and unravel something that exists in order to do that, but - happiness is hard work. And happiness is worth it.

Too bad it's so hard to find playtesters, editors, and critique partners for that one!

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