Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Editing TR:3063

Technical Readout:3063 is an outstanding not-for-profit fanbook being put together by Steve Satak (Centurion13) and Bill Burt (Sounguru). Their goal was to create a set of vehicles which are not only compatible with the canonical universe (the book is meant to fill the seven year gap between TR:3060 and TR:3067) but also pull their weight better in-game than more "characterfully" flawed official designs do. 

The book doesn't skimp on art, either

In June of '09 I helped revise the chapter introductions, for which Steve was kind enough to give me a writing credit. Now, I don't edit for a living and I don't know how my work compares to (say) editors at Penguin or McGraw-Hill, but I did try to hold the book to a professional standard. Steve appreciated this and so, from August of 2010 to October of 2011, I gave each TRO entry a good once-over.

This meant shuffling content around to get it under the correct headers, cutting redundant or vacuous text, slimming "Notable Crews" down to size, replacing slang and colloquialisms, fact checking, massaging the text for rhythm and flow, and finally returning it to Steve and his co-writer, Geoff, to insert new material as needed.

EDIT: We were using the "compare" and "merge" features of MS Word (Steve) and Open Office (me) to integrate changes, and it now looks like a good portion of my work did not actually carry forward into the final "merged" documents. 

C'est la vie.

Since the book is nearing completion, I wanted to share some of my tools & resources:

How to Write Fluff
My old guide (I recall somebody, I believe Welshman or Paul, crediting Cray with supplying a similar outline to Catalyst's writers) and other notes from my 2007 review of TR:3025. That book averages 200 more words per entry than Steve's book does, so I'm pretty sure I reduced the following maximums (though not the minimums) by 25% before applying them to TR:3063.
59-227 overview
126-496 capabilities
109-571 battle history
 17-252 variants
 50-311 notable pilots (34-151 each pilot)
My new favorite website. Ever get that single, perfect word stuck on the tip of your tongue? Nine times out of ten, this site helped me track from wrong (though related) words to the one I actually wanted.
The Inner Sphere Atlas is probably the one site I used most (usually to check planetary history or to look for manufacturing leads).

The BattleTech Style Guide 
Doesn't have everything you need to know for a TRO, but it's a solid start.

The Sarna BattleTech Wiki
Though generally accurate, their editors & contributors tend to parse things weirdly, so you should corroborate their assumptions/facts/conclusions against another source whenever possible. Luckily for me, most of TR:3063's references went back to the Field Manuals (which I have) instead of the FCCW SB or related novels (which I don't).

Longwalker's BattleTech Archive
I knew the online community maintained stat summaries (I've got a printout from 1990!) but this (fall 2004) was the first time I'd seen TRO fiction online too. The entries looked strangely slice & diced to me, but I saved html copies anyways, which I've been using to check on word usage and brand-name equipment. Longwalker's archive is now defunct, but someone at OBT has discovered it and other interesting sites inside the Internet Wayback Machine.
In 2005 I found Mechground, which was more complete than Longwalker's site but displays each entry as an image instead of as searchable text. I have software (ACDsee) that allows a mouse wheel to page through image files, which I find more convenient than navigating inside a pdf, but my copies seem to be deteriorating (my Quickdraw is mostly unreadable now). I'll probably create my own replacements sooner or later.