It is hard to describe exactly how uncomfortable editing is for me. I know its making my work better in the long run, but I am continually brought face-to-face with some awfully silly mistakes that I’ve made! My ADHD brain typically does not catch those mistakes, especially because I tend to do most of my writing in the evening after my medication has worn off. With that being said though, I also believe its an important skill to have both for my writing and for my software development career.
You’d be amazed at how much a developer cringes looking at their past work that they did even 3-4 months ago. You hear Alex Augunas & Vanessa Hoskins both talk about how they wish they knew what they know now when they wrote a variety of their works. But they also almost always turn around and say that waiting for more experience doesn’t just happen, you’ve got to just go and do it!
Where the Plan Happens
When I first started this, I thought I’d show you all handwritten work on the editing. As much as I enjoy the physicality of writing out my outlines, I found that much harder to do with my editing and development process. Instead what I did, is that I suggested edits on my Google Doc and took some screenshots of the some of the edits that I was planning on making. It can be tough removing some bit of information that as a GM, I know I would love to have, but it isn’t necessary to run the adventure and there is enough supporting information around that it could be inferred by insightful GMs. For those wondering, here is the Google Doc with the original quest. I couldn’t figure out a way to make a copy with the Suggestions as well, at the end of this little discussion, I’ll also share the link to the quest after this first pass.
One of the first things that I did was remove the Raktarvna Rakshasa’s statblock from Appendix 2, simply referring to the Rakshasa’s statblock in Appendix 1 for both sub-tiers. While feeling a little bit like cheating, this did let me cut off a bit over 350 words! That is a pretty large chunk, nearly a quarter of my initial goal! For the rest of the quest, I went through, making small editorial changes where I found them. I also removed some bits that just weren’t necessary. They weren’t easy cuts for me, but there ya go.
After my first pass, I was able to get it down a few more words to 3140 words, still pretty long, especially for a Tier 1-4 quest. However, when I take a look at SFS 2-03: The Withering World [arguably my biggest influence on quest lines when I started this project], there are 518 words spent setting up Enereth-7 and the events there before Quest 1 even starts. I’m doing that inside of Quest 1 with my current setup. If I go into actual layout, there is a good chance a chunk of that initial Thurinag setup would move to a pre-scenario setup. With stat blocks included, it looks like the first quest in that series, “Contact”, clocks in at just about 3600 words when you include the pre-quest setup information and stat blocks! What that tells me is that me getting the first quest down to around 3100 words is actually doing “okay”, considering about 300 of those words could easily be moved to a pre-quest situational setup. With that all being said, here is the link to the First Pass version of Quest #1!
While my initial goal going into this development and editing pass was to remove nearly 1100 words, I might be to attached to those words to remove many more of them. Showing Jason Tondro, and Paizo’s policy of “never develop your own work” is the right answer. (Jason brings this policy up in his Fly Free or Die Developer Diaries) As an author of this, I can make some high level cuts and admit to myself that here or there are places things can be condensed, but there is a specific story in my head and removing many more words feels pretty tough. I think I can feel alright more or less coming in at around the same word count as “Contact” for this first quest. It might be on the long side for Starfinder Society quests, especially when compared to SFS 3-11: Into the Veskarium‘s first quest “Sunken Survey” comes in at around 1450 words. Obviously there is some variability in quest length that might depend on a number of different factors including the purpose of the first quest (I’d argue SFS 2-03 the first Quest must be played before the others, where as SFS 3-11 can be run in any order) and the developer that is working the particular project.
I haven’t quite landed on my next topic yet for February 24th, but if you have anything you’d like to see created, let me know here or our Discord! (Harrowed Wizard (he/him)#7364 is my Discord handle)