Musing on muses.

draft title

I get asked about our writing/production process sometimes at conventions or online. I never have a good answer so I usually make one up; preferably a funny one. However, a friend of mine wrote a post last  night that got me thinking about it enough to give a better answer.

Lloyd Metcalf, the friend in question and artist of huge talent, posted about conceptualizing and outlining adventures on Facebook. Many real designers commented with the methods they used to form the heart of their projects. These ranged from starting with a piece of art, a map or even project management software outlines. I don’t do that. In fact I was almost embarrassed to comment on how I start after reading everyone’s techniques in the comments under his post but I will say it anyway.

I always start with a title.

I keep a list of them and occasionally cross off or add a few. After awhile one will click when I visualize a place or event tangentially related to the title in question. In both Whisper & Venom and Death & Taxes that place/scene/character did not make it into the published story, but it was the start.


Once I have a scene in my mind I will spend time settling on a premise- a long time. I find it difficult to pick an interesting one that either  A) has not been done to death or B) foes not make me look like a pretentious douchebag. I worry about B more than A.
Once satisfied I am neither of the above I do an outline in OneNote.

It is here where I finally make a rough map; I use a chessex erasable mondo mat. It helps me with get a scale useful in game and its less tedious to completely tework than PhotoShop. It is also harder to lose (at 5′ x 9′ or whatever obscene dimension it is) than graph paper scraps.

From there I write in marathon sessions about a week apart; usually typing about 4k words per session. In between I am constantly thinking about words I like, consistency, and believability; each thought I write, again, in OneNote.

Then I cut over half of it and solicit an opinion from (usually) Edwin. I would guess of an original 20k word draft about 10% wind up in the final. The rest are changed, expanded or discarded. These are all collaborative changes.

During the process a running checklist/agenda is kept on SharePoint. This proved to be incredibly valuable on Death & Taxes. In fact I don’t think I could collaborate now without it. Especially the check box tool that marks a task done. For me it both streamlines the work (avoiding wasted effort on completed or discarded tasks) and gives manageable goals. That is very important to me early on.

I suspect Edwin likes it because it makes me accountable and far more accurate further down the process. But he is welcome to write his impressions. If the impressions say nice things about me I might post them here.


Overall this process of mine takes me too long. Especially given most of the details I obsess about get removed for clarity and game function. I am getting better at visualizing what I want than when I start, now I want to be faster.

With better grammar.

I might do a similar post about page and PDF layout; which is a whole different process for us. The only similarity is it also takes me too long.



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