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The Joys of Editing

This past weekend the Encoded Designs team finished the manuscript for our Fate version of the Third Eye Games RPG Part-Time Gods. (The Kickstarter for Part-Time Gods of Fate continues apace.) The final push included a fairly intense round of editing and proofreading by the entire staff, with a particular weight of that falling on Encoded’s own Bob “THE EYES” Everson.

The proofing round just completed got me thinking about editing in general. One of the best ways to think about editing is in terms of writing. Writing is an unnatural, uncomfortable act—even for established professional writers. The act of writing does not come easily for most. People who write for a living often have to turn it into a ritual in order to more easily get into a “writing place” as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Once within that writing place, however, there is nothing quite like writing. Practitioners often talk of “writer’s high” or “getting in the creation zone.” I have found this to be true. When the words are flowing in conjunction with the correct synapses firing, a writer can push out words in a way that turns creation into a real pleasure.

And here’s the thing: there is no “editor’s high.” If writing is like the high that marathon runners feel when the endorphins are released, then editing is like running that same marathon on glass shards in bare feet. I’m not saying all editors are masochistic. Some are sadistic as well.

If editors are doing their jobs right, they are so intimately familiar with the text they are editing that not even the writer is as close. When you first start editing, the relationship is new and fun. Then it becomes work. By the end you want to punch the text in its ugly face. If you are lucky, a sort of Stockholm syndrome effect kicks in at the end and you actually come to love and respect the text that has been holding you hostage for so long.

Hearing this, you must think that by the end of a project all editors are twitching messes. They generally don’t have time to be, because a new project is on their desks right away. No scientific studies have been done to gauge the effects of long-term editing on the human brain. And that is probably a good thing. The results are likely too horrifying to consider. And some poor editor will have to look at the final draft of the report anyway.

Shawn Merwin

Shawn's professional design and editing work in the roleplaying game industry has spanned 20 years and over 4 million words of content. His Dungeons & Dragons work has ranged from 3rd to 5th edition, showing up in sourcebooks, adventures, articles, and Organized Play administration. He has been a driving force in several Organized Play programs, and has written material for Wizards of the Coast (Dungeon Delve, Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress, Halls of Undermountain), Pelgrane Press (Dracula Dossier), Modiphius Entertainment (Star Trek Adventures), Baldman Games (as Content Manager), Kobold Press (Creature Codex, Book of Lairs), and countless others. Find his adventures here:


  • ImaginaryfriendJune 15, 2015

    Being weird would not come as a shock to me, but I have always enjoyed editing. Of course I have never made the mistake of doing it anywhere near professionally , which might make a difference 🙂

    • Shawn MerwinJune 15, 2015

      I think you are talking about the difference between going over something once and reading through a 400-page manuscript for the 4th time.

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