Professionally, I’m a game developer. I focus on developing adventures. That means outlining adventures and assigning writing to freelancers, checking freelancers’ milestones, and developing the freelancer’s text before sending it to the editors. Let’s break those three things down! Finally, the development.

This is the bulk of my job. I’m taking turnover text that you, the freelancer, give to me, and I’m giving it a thorough edit, called a development edit (to distinguish it from the close editing for grammar, clarity, etc. that our stellar Edit team does once I’m done with it). There is no section of your turnover I’m not looking at. Frankly, there’s probably no section of your turnover I’m not changing, if only a little bit. What do I do? Lots of things!

I Paginate. Before I even gave you your assignment, I made some assumptions about how many pages I need your work to fill and I gave you a word count based on that. You should treat it as exact, but (dirty secret time!) it’s not completely exact from my end. I have to make it exact when I paginate, or prepare the full and complete listing of everything on every page of the entire book. That’s usually done after all the turnovers are in, so I can account for last minute changes (such as if two of my monster authors have flaked out on me or if one of the chapters is best served by being 2 pages longer). I must know how exactly how many pages to allot for the adventure, each backmatter article, those neat full-page images, each monster, and the ads that show up in the back of our products. This includes stuff for the covers (including the inner front cover and inner back cover). At this point, I’m thinking not in terms of “number of words” or “number of pages,” but by “spreads.” A spread is two facing pages of the book, and it’s what we plan around. (Did you ever notice that our adventure chapters don’t ever start on an odd-numbered page, or that our side-of-the-page contents ribbon is only on the left side of a spread? We all think in spreads here.)

I Read What You Wrote. I’ll start by printing out your turnover and reading through the whole thing. Sometimes I’ll do so with a pen in hand, but not often; my goal here isn’t to make comments or edits, but to get a sense of the entire work in one reading. This part is lots of fun, and it’s where I get to enjoy the craft of writing you’ve done. But it’s only the start.

I Edit Your Text. Here’s the real work! I’ll open a blank document open on one of my monitors, and I’ll open your turnover file open in the other. Then I go through your entire turnover, a section at a time, and copying it over from your document to my document. I edit it in my document. I’m making sure (i) you used the right styles, (ii) you use the same “voice” that Paizo uses in its products (that it's not too jokey, for example), (iii) your prose is of good quality, neither to choppy nor too rambling, (iv) your communication is clear, (v) your work is internally consistent with itself, and (vi) your work is internally consistent with other products that tie to this one (like adventures before and after). I do lots of other tweaks and revisions as well, and this is the most time-consuming part of the job. I use the highlight function liberally; if I see you mention squires of the goblin king, for example, and I remember there’s some king later on but I don’t recall if he’s a goblin, I might highlight it so I remember to check that. I also include XXs liberally, mostly to refer to page numbers I don’t know yet (like where you first used the Goblin Squire stat block).

The greatest challenge I have, personally, is that I need to not rewrite everything. Your voice is important, and I need to let that come through—I don’t have time to rewrite much, anyway, so I need to be judicious about any words of yours I need to jettison and rewrite. My tendency is to try to make everything exactly how I would say it, and I have to push back hard against this inclination, because I’m not the writer, you are. Very skilled developers let the author’s voice shine through, and it’s important to me that I work hard on this part of my job and get really good at it.

I’ve said this a lot: A developer makes your turnover one step better than you turned it in. If you gave me an okay turnover, I’ll make it good (because I’ll have to correct lots of things, so that will be my focus). If you gave me a good turnover, I’ll make it great (if there’s not a lot to correct, I can tune your prose to be better and make the whole thing more enjoyable to read and more fun to play). If you gave me a great turnover, I’ll make it really shine (because I can spend all my time with it making it something really special and unique, amping everything up).

Here’s an interesting bit: most of the time, I do this development backwards. I usually start my development edit with the last chapter of an adventure, and work toward the front. I do the introduction last, since by then I have a full picture of what’s most important to communicate to a reader first opening the book. I might skip around in sections in smaller articles, too; maybe your article on goblin squires has a “Goblin Squires in Golarion” section in the middle, but I might start development with that because I know it underpins a lot of the rest of the article.

I Redraw Your Maps. We’ve talked a lot internally about how good authors aren’t necessarily good map-makers, and might not communicate visually to cartographers. We want our adventure authors to get better at this. But sometimes they’re not. I will usually redraw about 75 percent of the maps I get in, to make sure they communicate clearly to an outside cartographer. Of course, I’ll use your map as a base, unless you’ve done something wrong, like giving me a map that’s square when it should be half-page, or omitted key rooms or halls or something. The better you can give me maps, the less time I have to spend on this step (or, bless you, none at all sometimes!). This is also where I make sure your rooms all fit the monsters you placed in them (or, if I changed the monsters in a room, that it fits the new monsters), that your secret doors all line up and are mentioned in the text, and so on.

I Rebuild Your Stat Blocks. I will probably rebuild most of your statblocks using an internal stat block generator/checker file we have. It’s not that your stat blocks are bad, but they’re so mechanically detailed that it’s best to get another close look at each one. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care with your stat blocks! The better your stat blocks are, the faster this is for me; if I can just input the stats you used, and see output that’s just like the skill bonuses and saving throws and whatnot that you gave, this goes really fast. For rare freelancers that give me completely correct stat blocks—like, if the first 5 stat blocks are completely correct as turned over in every respect—I might just assume they’re all correct and only spot-check them rather than rebuild them. That’s really rare.

My Pace. I actually don’t know how fast other developers get through projects, but my pace is about a spread (or two pages) every day. If you’ve given me an article with about 3,500 words, that’s six pages, so I’ll take 3 working days to go through that (around other things, like meetings and brief breaks for other tasks). If you’ve given me a full adventure of about 38,000 words, that fills about 58 pages, or 29 spreads, and it’ll take me about 30 working days. Of course, this can vary a lot based on the quality of the turnover, the changes I might have to make that you have no control over (having to rebuild your introduction because the previous adventure ended in a different way or with different assumed knowledge on the part of the reader, for example).

But the short answer is this: if you write an adventure for me, I will live and breathe that adventure for about a solid month and a half. No one will know that project better than me, other than you. When I’m planning out a six-adventure path, I’m deciding who I’ll spend the better part of my next year with. (And since those products come out in the space of 6 months, not 12, you’ll see why we have two full-time adventure path developers rather than one!) If you’ve written for me before and I ask you to do it again, it’s because you made my time fun.

I Decide on Art. Once I’ve gone through the text, and I know what encounters and such are going to land on each page of my pagination, and the maps are all done, I’ll prepare what’s called an art brief. I open a separate file and prepare a few-sentence (up to a few-paragraph) description for each piece of art, and I find references to support these (like, “this goblin squire looks like the goblin on page XX of product YY, and it’s wearing a pot like a helmet and the pot looks like LongHandlePot.jpg, an image I found online). I also have to include a room-by-room description of each map for the cartographer as part of this step (as in, “Room A1 is a simple bedroom; Room A2 is an evil chapel and the half-circle shape is a floor-level fountain filled with blood, ...”). A full adventure can have up to 30 pieces of art (it varies a lot, actually).

This whole art brief can take me a couple of days to do, because getting art right is important and our artists don’t necessarily know our game (I might have to describe what a “velstrac” looks like, for example). When done, I put each individual art brief element into a file system we have, and our Art team uses these entries to order art from our artists. They’re also really good about capturing strange things we’ve asked for, like “you wanted this velstrac to be green, most velstrac evangelists are blue, is this correct?” Our Art team is really good.

I try to decide on art after I’ve done my development edit but before I send things over to the Edit team, because I want to catch changes. Perhaps I want two head-shots of NPCs, but they show up in the same encounter, and we don’t put two head-shots on the same page, so I have to shuffle the text a bit. Or maybe I really think something should be in a sidebar, but a sidebar can’t usually appear on the same spread as a full-body art piece, so I have to adjust that sidebar to make it flow with the text. The point is, I can do the art super early in the process or even after I’ve sent everything over to Edit, but it prevents mistakes that will need to be fixed later if I can do it now.

Off to Edit! I take my completed Word file and put it into the Edit file folders, and let them know it’s there. Hopefully, I have done so before the due date our project management systems have told me I need to have it done by!

A Few Later Things. There are a few follow-ups I have in the process, like answering questions from Edit, approving art sketches, and copyfitting the text once it’s been edited and laid out on the page, but these aren’t the bulk of what I do. I’ll be working those things in around the deep development of my next project. (I happen to like these follow-ups, so it’s not a chore, but it does take time that I need to budget.) I prepare product summaries and that kind of stuff, too, and work with marketing on that, and fit in time to give you thorough feedback. The VERY last of these “later things” is a review of the final product before it goes to the printer to make sure everything looks right. Other people higher up than me also give this final review at this time, so it’s not my eyes alone, but anything we don’t catch here goes into print!

By then, though, I’m several more projects down the road. It’s fun to be a little bit nostalgic for a project that already left my hands (“oh! I remember how clever that goblin squire encounter was, wasn’t that neat”). But I’m aware I’m already feeling nostalgic for something that hasn’t even been to the printer yet—and is still a few months away from getting into the gamers’ hands—and that’s one of the weirdest parts of my job.