31 Jul

Off-Topic Tuesday: Pearls of Wisdom

I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes await the publication of finished articles with some trepidation. (Don’t worry, that hasn’t changed.) But there’s an accompanying excitement that builds, especially when I don’t know the exact date of publication. Part of it is the thrill of success, of completing something. And part of it is the desire to see the accompanying artwork and cartography. After all, I have a vision of something in my head but, lacking all talent for the visual arts, when someone turns my villain into an actual image, it’s like magic to me. And there is a special place in the Seven Heavens (or Arcadia, or the Twin Paradises, or wherever their alignment has decreed) for the cartographers who turn my insane maps into something people can get excited about!

As a writer, though, I’m also eager to see what final edits were made to a piece. I read the published article side-by-side with my final manuscript to see what’s different. Now I know this is not always the way of things. Obviously, a short story’s final look does not surprise the author. But, for gaming material (particularly adventures, the majority of what I do when it comes to gaming material), there are mechanical issues, balance issues, and the results of playtesting that all come to bear in one place. And there are people who are far better at those things than I am. Although no amount of staring at a Ben Wootten or Jason Juta cover painting is going to make me a better artist, making note of the changes made to a creature, an encounter, or even a passage of text can make me a better author.

Like me, Ray enjoys saying “Blibdoolpoolp.” Artwork by Ben Wootten, for Wizards of the Coast.

A project is usually long behind me when it finally sees publication. And although I’m done with it (or, in some frustrating cases, I’m DONE! with it), there are still a few more desks to cross before it reaches completion. At the tail end of Pearl of the Sea Mother, I was contacted by one of the editors, Ray Vallese, who thought he might have some questions for me if he didn’t hear back from someone else on the project. The questions ended up being answered in-house, but it spurred a short email exchange wherein I confessed that I’m secretly a fan of all of the people listed on the last page of my articles. Sure, I get to see the word “By” in front of my name, up near the title on the first page, but all those names at the end have a lot to do (a lot to do) with why the article kicks ass.

When I pay attention to what they did after the work left my hands, it’s like getting one additional marked-up manuscript. It represents one more opportunity to look at mistakes that I can correct before I make them in my next offering. And if doing that makes their life easier on the next piece, it seems like the least I can do.

For example, after such a long time away from studying the finer points of grammar, I’ve come back around. The blog-ese I speak around here is a whole lot different than what needs to hit the paper, and I cut my self a bit of slack as I crank out these entries. But now the The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition is my constant companion once again. I make it a point to read up on anything that I doubt now, and I read the entry before and after what I looked up, just to refresh the things that have slipped away along with my hazy memories of school. I want Ray to have an easy job, to be excited when he sees my name at the start of an article… but not excited because he wants to put me on his website.

2 thoughts on “Off-Topic Tuesday: Pearls of Wisdom

  1. I can relate to all this. It’s also an interesting thing to wonder sometimes, What errors were added to the manuscript after it left my hands? 🙂

    1. Fair enough, although I’ve yet to encounter any kind of added error, I do sometimes wonder if something I was attached to was slated for removal. But I try not to get too attached to anything in that way. I pay close attention to what was trimmed away and what words were altered. More than 9 times out of 10, I can see why the change was made, even if it’s just something that brings the article in line with the style of the publication.

Leave a Reply