Dice & Deadlines: Rewrites

Previously on Dice & Deadlines I talked about meeting deadlines and asking for extensions (Oct). After you turn in your manuscript, the work is done, right? Most likely wrong. Every RPG project has an editor. Ditto with every fiction project. An editor’s job is to make the product and the author(s) look as good as possible. Every author needs an editor. I mean it. From your favorite blockbuster on the NYT Bestsellers List right down to the smallest Indie RPG author out there. Every single one. Me included.

After your manuscript is turned in, the editor of the product looks at it and edits it. An editor does three types of edits: line edits, copy edits and proofing. Line editing is editing for tone, style and consistency with the core product. Copyediting is editing to improve the formatting, grammar, and accuracy of the text. Proofing is editing to find and correct production mistakes in the final copy of the product. (And to fix any typos that bred in the process.)

The freelancer’s job continues after line edits when the editor returns the marked up manuscript for rewrites—which are manuscript change requests from the editor to the author to fix continuity mistakes, smooth over rough prose and shift the tone to fit the product line’s core.

Handling Rewrites for Short Gigs

Short writing gigs of 10,000 words or less usually don’t have significant rewrite requests—if you get any at all.  Most likely, you will only need to fix continuity errors that have cropped up due to information in another part of the book you don’t have access to or you will be asked to trim your word count. New freelancers to an RPG company may get a copy of their edited manuscript with tracked-changes enabled as a visual teaching method to show how the editor likes things in the future. This is not an attack on you as an author. This is a much-needed device between the editor and the author. Editors are our friends. Believe me on this one.

Most of the time, you won’t get any rewrite requests for short gigs. You will turn in your work, have it accepted and the editor will massage the text to fit their vision of the overall product. Remember, the freelancer is doing commission work. It is not “original fiction” because you are playing in someone else’s sandbox and whatever you write must fit into that mold.  (Personally, I count it as a win when I don’t get back a rewrite request.)

Handling Rewrites for Long Gigs

When it comes to longer writing gigs for the RPG industry, turning in pieces of the manuscript early is a good thing. It is not always required but is sometimes necessary. When I wrote Proverbial Monsters for White Wolf, I turned in the completed manuscript at 33,000 words and received a decent amount of rewrites to do. Almost 100% of these rewrites were to massage the manuscript into a true World of Darkness product with the appropriate feel.

Several of the monster powers were modified to fit White Wolf rules. Some of the background had to be truncated because I wrote too much and I remember that more than half my monsters were renamed. I was originally miffed by this. However, they were renamed by a linguistics specialist on the White Wolf staff. Thus, not only did they fit better into the product line universe, they had a linguist’s backing—making the product that much better. Obviously, I got over my pique. And that’s what you need to do as well.

I was very lucky with Proverbial Monsters. When I wrote Covert Ops for Savage Mojo, I turned in a 77,000 word manuscript and wound up having to completely rewrite a 22,000 word section—lock, stock, and barrel—because I completely missed a significant point in the way Savage Mojo wrote that part of the book. To be fair, I wrote that book very quickly and turned in sections of the book while the editor was both sick and traveling.  It was the perfect storm of missing each other so that he never had the chance to halt me before I had gone too far in the wrong direction.

These things do happen and as such you just have to roll with them. While you can discuss change requests with the editor, at the end of the day, you are paid to make the editor happy and the editor’s word is law.

Got any questions about editing or rewrites or anything else I’ve talked about on Dice & Deadlines? Comment and I’ll do my best to answer.

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