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Old 09-17-2020, 02:48 PM   #11
Anaraxes
 
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Originally Posted by DouglasCole View Post
Well, mostly timeless advice. I don't know that I'd recommend trying to find an Iomega Zip drive these days :)
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Old 09-17-2020, 03:16 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post
Well, mostly timeless advice. I don't know that I'd recommend trying to find an Iomega Zip drive these days :)
Fair. Iomega stock did put my sister through college, though: I recommended the ZIP drive to my dad casually my first year in grad school. "Wow, these things are amazing." Buy low, sell high, and second child goes through college. Woo hoo. ;-)
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Old 09-17-2020, 03:43 PM   #13
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What GURPS calls a playtest is really more of a peer review. It's rare that your material actually gets tried out in game play; even with people who play once a week it's hard to fit a significant playtest into the time allowed. But playtesters are expected to ask all sorts of difficult questions.
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Old 09-17-2020, 07:43 PM   #14
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Default Re: GURPS books / authors

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
What GURPS calls a playtest is really more of a peer review. It's rare that your material actually gets tried out in game play; even with people who play once a week it's hard to fit a significant playtest into the time allowed. But playtesters are expected to ask all sorts of difficult questions.
I had no idea that this was the case! I'm now much more likely to throw my name into the hat for future playtests. I've always held back because I didn't think I could log enough campaign hours to do it justice. (Or I didn't want to derail an ongoing campaign in a different genre.)
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Old 09-18-2020, 03:27 AM   #15
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I had no idea that this was the case! I'm now much more likely to throw my name into the hat for future playtests. I've always held back because I didn't think I could log enough campaign hours to do it justice. (Or I didn't want to derail an ongoing campaign in a different genre.)
I encourage you. I try to have people new to playtesting take part in as many of my playtests as possible; it keeps up the pool and it's a good step on the way to writing for SJ Games for people who want to do so.
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Old 09-18-2020, 06:33 AM   #16
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Default Re: GURPS books / authors

Late to the party because I've been struggling to catch up after having a computer die and then configuring a new one, but here's my $0.02 as the GURPS Line Editor. I'm splitting my reply in two because it's long. :)

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Originally Posted by Wicked Lurker View Post

How long does it take (hands on time) on average to finish a first draft of a GURPS book?
As others have said, this varies widely. It depends on what you're writing (pure description, research, stats generated with existing rules, entirely new rules, etc.) and how you're writing (typical cases being "in spare moments," "part time, around a day job," "freelancing as a second job," and "freelancing as a primary job" – and then there's my case, "on the clock"). It also depends on the fire lit under you both internally ("I have this idea I just have to get out of my head!") and externally (e.g., "The license expires in six months, so we need the first draft in two weeks.").

I've seen authors take two years to finish the first draft of a 21-page supplement . . . and I've written a 48-page supplement during a single night of insomnia and the day that followed (although I needed two more workdays to clean up the babbling).

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And, follow-up, how long does it take until it's fully edited and ready to be produced as a PDF?
Also as others have said, this varies greatly as well. We've turned around things I've written internally inside of a month – that's edited, laid out, illustrated, proofed, and set up with a store page in a month. I don't recall anything ever moving faster than that!

On the slow end, final drafts have sat in queues for editing, then layout, and then art for a year or more at each step, and then been held back for sale until a specific event (e.g., a horror item at Halloween) or opening (e.g., the surprising success of a hot new film in the same genre). A four- or five-year wait isn't unknown; a longer wait isn't inconceivable.

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Given the output mostly shifting to digital (understandably)
That makes surprisingly little difference until you get to the "print and ship" stage. Printing a book and getting it into distribution adds a few months. Otherwise, everything's the same. If something takes a writer a couple of years to create, sits in playtest for months, goes back to the writer for more months, and then takes SJ Games a couple of years to edit and lay out, a few extra months at the very end will be lost in the noise.

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given the crunchy-ness of GURPS in general, it'd be great to compare across different systems.
This isn't a special obstacle to creating GURPS materials. The system isn't really more or less crunchy than average from a creator's perspective. That is, if you're a writer, working on GURPS isn't inherently more or less difficult than working on another game.

GURPS' reputation for being crunchy is on the gamers' side of the fence, not the creators' side. It's a 35-year-old system with a vast library spanning four editions. That means it has a supplement for almost every big thing and an optional rule for almost every small thing. Staying ahead of that when running or playing in a campaign can be challenging. But writers are usually focused on narrow topics, and so don't interact with most of the library most of the time.

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(like books of templates can be nitpicky, and complicated power builds can be a nightmare)
When haste is of the essence, those are two great things to avoid. They involve a lot of small parts, and so lots of things to go wrong, both individually and collectively. Then it all needs checking, because no matter how good you are . . . well, gamers will be paying money to have that work done for them, and done right.

Speaking as an editor, I'll be honest and say that templates and ability builds are two of my least-favorite things.

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The editing can be long or short. Depends on the quality and interconnectedness of the writing.
And most important, the internal consistency of the writing!

New (and sometimes, experienced!) writers grossly underestimate how many times they'll have to go through their entire manuscript to propagate a change resulting from a rethink, an editorial comment, or a playtest comment. Then how many times they'll have to read the whole thing from start to finish to make sure they caught and fixed all the inconsistencies. Even if you're just changing "+4" to "+5," or deleting one word in a section title, you have to go through all that.

Some writers get fatigued and decide to leave this stuff to the editor . . . and that's another of my least-favorite things. I can't overemphasize how this can turn what should be a quick, easy edit into a multi-month slog that ends up putting your project on the dreaded "indefinite hold."

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The delay for Silk Road was the DFRPG.
Yeah, if your project gets stuck behind something like Ogre or the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game . . . well, it'll be waiting forever to get reviewed, into playtesting, edited, laid out, and on the market. SJ Games is a small, independent publisher with few staff, despite its age and reputation (and certain fatheads online who claim otherwise).

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As for Treasure Tables, the early stages of that overlapped with the last work on the Low Tech series.
This is the main way in which working on GURPS can go slower than working on other games: It is a true system, it does have a large library, and we do insist on internal consistency. So if you choose a project that we know will interact with concurrent projects, we're going to insist that you hold your horses and get with the authors of those other projects to make sure that your collective work is consistent.
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Old 09-18-2020, 06:33 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Alden Loveshade View Post

I can tell you that the first draft is far from the first step. I first wrote and sent in a query. When that was accepted, I wrote and sent in a formal proposal. When that was accepted, I wrote and sent in an outline (with writing samples for the proposed book, as it is my first for SJGames), which I then revised based on suggestions. Then the outline was incorporated into the contract--then I began the first draft.
This is an important point.

An outline can make or break a project. Writing well without an outline is absolutely possible, and can be a fast way to create a breezy supplement, but it's something that very few writers can do . . . and the ability to do it is unrelated to general skill as a writer. We're comparing symphony orchestra members working from sheet music to jazz men jamming at 3 a.m.: Both can be amazing artists, and each is engaging in a valid form of expression, but there's a reason why cities and large institutions fund symphony orchestras, not jazz clubs, even though the former are a lot more costly.

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Doing the mathematical modeling and analysis takes extra time; for example, in GURPS Furries, I spent some time on working out suitable scaling rules based on the way anthropomorphic characters are usually portrayed, and then revising them after playtester discussion.
This offers a fine example of my "It depends on what you're writing (pure description, research, stats generated with existing rules, entirely new rules, etc.)." SJ Games will never, ever insist that a GURPS writer research a ton of science and engineering, and then do a bunch of mathematical modeling. That isn't something inherent to GURPS at all, despite claims to the contrary found on the Internet. But if you, the author, choose that approach . . . well, yes, you had better plan for some extra time!

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GURPS publishing has a "pinch point" issue in that Sean Punch is, no matter how amazing he is as an editor, a person, and a mixologist, only one person. So your role as a prospective author is to make it easy on him and any others who come into contact with your proposal.
This is something I wish more people understood:

In the sense that more than one staff member works on GURPS – mainly, Steven Marsh handling contracts and scheduling; Nikki Vrtis laying out manuscripts, indexing, and sometimes editing; and me reviewing outlines and drafts, coaching writers, checking rules, editing, and proofing – there is a "GURPS team."

But in the sense of staff members who have read and understood every GURPS rule for decades, can spot rules or stats problems when reading at full speed, and can recall all the places where there are related ideas to be consistent with, refer to, or quote . . . well, there is no "GURPS team." There's me. That's it. Nobody else at SJ Games can do that even a little. So there's a serious "key person problem" that writers just have to live with.

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They really, really don't want new folks to show up with an already-written manuscript and a query of "do you want it or not?" Their answer is "no we don't" at that point, because willingness to take and act on editorial feedback is a key performance indicator of a successful working relationship between publisher and author(s).
We really dislike already-written manuscripts mostly because they exist outside of the processes discussed down to this point.

I've talked about "consistency" several times. We absolutely insist that GURPS materials fit into the line, the library. That's an issue of voice and presentation as much as of rules. Working alongside me and the rest of the "GURPS team" is the only way to get that right, so we insist on inserting ourselves into the process at the query, outline, and first-draft level. Something that arrives already written won't fit in the way we need it to.

Writers working on GURPS need to accept that they are hacks doing work for hire for somebody else. They aren't working on vanity projects. They have a line to toe.

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Originally Posted by DouglasCole View Post

USE THESE STYLES.
Yes!!!

I hate to be a Microsoft shill, but: Buy a legal copy of Word. Ideally, buy the most recent version. Learn to use it. Specifically, learn to use what it calls "styles" – learn how to view them, how to keep Word from automatically applying or altering them, and how to use SJ Games' styles in that context.

Many writers over the years have assumed they could submit a .txt file and expect SJ Games to format it. Many have tried submitting .rtf files or other funky file formats. A few have tried to cheat their way around Word by using various free emulators, or by writing in other word processors and exporting as .doc or .docx.

Do not do this.

Buy Word. Master Word. Then master using Word our way. Anything else is shooting yourself in the foot . . . with a Minigun.

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post

I'd recommend taking part in a playtest before taking up writing for GURPS.
This is excellent advice.

A little-discussed step in our process is that after a writer submits their first draft, I review it in exhausting detail and send back comments with the expectation that the writer will submit a second (not final!) draft for use in the playtest. Thus, all "playtest drafts" have in a sense been cleaned up, meaning that playtesters get a rare glimpse at something close(r) to what SJ Games is expecting. If you write your first draft to this standard, you'll be ahead of the curve.

Of course, learning what playtesters expect is learning what gamers expect. That's important. But I consider what I said in the previous paragraph to be even more important.

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Originally Posted by Refplace View Post

Speaking of editing... Remember SJG is basically your customer and boss. All authors have their own vision and writing style. You can see different styles in the GURPS books but SJG is successful in part because of an overarching stance on the house style and that consistency helps reduce their costs and makes reading and referencing the material easier.
Yep. As I said earlier, freelancers working for us are hacks. It's great that writers have their own visions and voices, but they need to accept that they're part of that symphony orchestra I mentioned: they aren't jazz men jamming.

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Originally Posted by Anaraxes View Post

Well, mostly timeless advice. I don't know that I'd recommend trying to find an Iomega Zip drive these days :)
I'm all about the Samsung T7 these days. It has impressed the heck out of me. When my new computer goes boom someday, I know that I'll have a bulletproof way to get my work and settings back.

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I had no idea that this was the case! I'm now much more likely to throw my name into the hat for future playtests. I've always held back because I didn't think I could log enough campaign hours to do it justice.
In case any of our playtesters are reading: We never expect you to integrate our stuff into a game and literally test it in play. That said, though, we love it when people do. Both peer review and actual play are important to making a project great.
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Old 09-18-2020, 06:45 AM   #18
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Default Re: GURPS books / authors

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
In case any of our playtesters are reading: We never expect you to integrate our stuff into a game and literally test it in play. That said, though, we love it when people do so. Both peer review and actual play are important to making a project great.
And I do think there's a sliding scale here. A big book of rules likely has more than any group of players can reasonably get through in actual play over the playtest period, but when I've written adventures, the playtesters have largely actually played them, in whole or in part.
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Old 09-18-2020, 06:52 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Turhan's Bey Company View Post

And I do think there's a sliding scale here. A big book of rules likely has more than any group of players can reasonably get through in actual play over the playtest period, but when I've written adventures, the playtesters have largely actually played them, in whole or in part.
I tend to agree. I generally feel that the best way to playtest encounters, adventures, campaigns, and settings is to actually play through the encounter, adventure, or campaign, or to run at least a mini-campaign in the setting. Whereas I think rules require more of a Parliamentary debate/Talmudic scholar approach. As a rough guideline, I'd say, "Play through fluff, review crunch."
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Old 09-18-2020, 08:17 AM   #20
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As I said earlier, freelancers working for us are hacks. It's great that writers have their own visions and voices, but they need to accept that they're part of that symphony orchestra I mentioned: they aren't jazz men jamming.
Looking at this from the writer's side, on one hand, relatively few of the comments I get back from my editors (which usually means Kromm) are about stylistic issues, which I like to think means I've gained some sense of house style. But on the other, I've had more than one person say that I have a distinctive prose style in my GURPS writing (for good or bad!). So I think you can have your own voice even within the constraints of house style.
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