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Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 9:18 pm
by milo39
Hello!

For my next otome visual novel, I am planning to hire multiple writers and a lead writer for the game.
At the moment my plan is to find a lead writer first and flush out all of our ideas for the game (as it will be based off preexisting folklore) and to create the world, characters and a general plot. They would be in charge of the main route and look over everyone as a sort of mediator (but I would still be the director and producer of the whole game).
Then we would hire a writer for each route. This is so each route is unique and the main character in that route would feel unique and special.

As this would be my first time working with multiple writers I am wondering how I should tackle this. I am worried that the writing styles will change very dramatically over the visual novel and was wondering if there was any way to prevent that from happening too much. I was also wondering if this is the best way of going about it?
I would also like to know what would be the best way for the writers to talk about their routes, characters and ideas to each other.

I couldn't find another topic that discussed this but if there is it would be great if you could link me to it.

Re: Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:05 pm
by gamerbum
The simplest solution is just to hire an editor. Generally, you would want them to comb over the main writer's works first to pick up on the style you'd like maintained through the other routes. Keep in mind that hiring multiple editors, much like hiring multiple writers, will reintroduce the possibility of unwanted stylistic differences between routes.

Otherwise, to help keep things a little more consistent, you should create a style guide, including grammatical and spelling preferences. You should also make sure everyone understands what tense the script is to be written in and what level of detail should be used in descriptions and/or narration. I'm assuming creating character guides is a given.

As for communication, I personally use a combination of Google Docs for commenting directly on plot points and Discord for discussing ideas that haven't been introduced to the outline/informational documents yet.

Re: Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:21 pm
by milo39
gamerbum wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:05 pm
The simplest solution is just to hire an editor. Generally, you would want them to comb over the main writer's works first to pick up on the style you'd like maintained through the other routes. Keep in mind that hiring multiple editors, much like hiring multiple writers, will reintroduce the possibility of unwanted stylistic differences between routes.

Otherwise, to help keep things a little more consistent, you should create a style guide, including grammatical and spelling preferences. You should also make sure everyone understands what tense the script is to be written in and what level of detail should be used in descriptions and/or narration. I'm assuming creating character guides is a given.

As for communication, I personally use a combination of Google Docs for commenting directly on plot points and Discord for discussing ideas that haven't been introduced to the outline/informational documents yet.
Thank you! :D ^^

Re: Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:37 pm
by Mutive
I think it's going to be challenging to do inexpensively.

Writers, like artists, tend to have their own styles. Good writers, like good artists, can copy other artist's styles. But it tends to be less "fun" and more challenging, so you tend to get into the professional pay ranges. An editor might also be able to help, but again, for the extensive editing you'd need to keep the style the same, it's probably going to be less the few cents a word that you might be able to pay a proof reader to do.

Of course, this all depends on what you mean by "style". If you're okay using a basic style guide (i.e. choices are formatted the same), but are worried less about having everyone sound identical, you can probably do this more inexpensively. Or you can embrace not all routes being quite the same and let the writers do their own thing a bit more. (I deliberately have tried to make different characters sound different in the game I'm working on as I want them to...and this is a one writer project. :) )

Most big budget games also tend to have different writers sticking to a couple of characters for more or less this reason. Ideally you want a character to be consistent, but having two characters have wildly different "voices" is a good - not a bad - thing. So maybe dividing less by "route" and more by "character" would work better? (And then you can have the lead writer coordinate.)

Re: Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:09 pm
by Equil
a way you could do it is when you are ready to start looking for writers, post the genre or maybe a rough style you want them to try to follow. then if they apply ask for each to submit a short story so you can review how they write and see if its what you are looking for.

Re: Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 4:06 am
by Mammon
The best way would be to not do what you're saying. Half a million words of script is a rediculously vast amount, probably way past what you and the main writer can handle unless you've got prior experience. And unless you've got prior experience making and releasing a game yourself, you're not going to be able to do that and coordinate that many people. Add that you'd have to find an artist, actually probably several for sprites, CGs and BGs etc, a programmer, probably an editor for the stuff that the writers will do differently on a vastly different level, etc. and you are looking at a massive project. So unless you've got a four digit or more budget for this or happen to win the jackpot on finding cheap or free writers and other developers to do this for you (and I'm talking pretty much literally the odds of getting a jackpot with a single ticket here), you're not even going to get to 100.000 words with this overly ambitious plan.

Start much simpler. Start with a single writer, if possible a single artist, a single coder and you be the editor, proofreader, etc. etc. That way you've at least stand a chance of getting someone who won't bail halfway through the project and you'll see how hard it is to find such reliable people without professional pay rates even when it's just them. You'll find how hard it is to find and keep a good and dedicated writer if they are the sole writer who doesn't have to worry about matching writing styles and what the others will do and have done, so you can imagine how much more impossible things will get once you try to mix multiple writers together. They can be really protective and headstrong about their work and stories, demanding liberal freedom, will ignore each other or feel it's okay to do something despite it going completely against the other's style because they feel it makes for a better story. You'll find out how impossible a multi-writer script at your budget will be. And then, with that experience, you can start expanding your scope and get into better and bigger projects. But start a lot smaller if you want to have an inkling of a chance of success. It's harsh, but it's the truth.

Re: Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 7:07 am
by milo39
Mammon wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 4:06 am
The best way would be to not do what you're saying. Half a million words of script is a rediculously vast amount, probably way past what you and the main writer can handle unless you've got prior experience. And unless you've got prior experience making and releasing a game yourself, you're not going to be able to do that and coordinate that many people. Add that you'd have to find an artist, actually probably several for sprites, CGs and BGs etc, a programmer, probably an editor for the stuff that the writers will do differently on a vastly different level, etc. and you are looking at a massive project. So unless you've got a four digit or more budget for this or happen to win the jackpot on finding cheap or free writers and other developers to do this for you (and I'm talking pretty much literally the odds of getting a jackpot with a single ticket here), you're not even going to get to 100.000 words with this overly ambitious plan.

Start much simpler. Start with a single writer, if possible a single artist, a single coder and you be the editor, proofreader, etc. etc. That way you've at least stand a chance of getting someone who won't bail halfway through the project and you'll see how hard it is to find such reliable people without professional pay rates even when it's just them. You'll find how hard it is to find and keep a good and dedicated writer if they are the sole writer who doesn't have to worry about matching writing styles and what the others will do and have done, so you can imagine how much more impossible things will get once you try to mix multiple writers together. They can be really protective and headstrong about their work and stories, demanding liberal freedom, will ignore each other or feel it's okay to do something despite it going completely against the other's style because they feel it makes for a better story. You'll find out how impossible a multi-writer script at your budget will be. And then, with that experience, you can start expanding your scope and get into better and bigger projects. But start a lot smaller if you want to have an inkling of a chance of success. It's harsh, but it's the truth.
Hello!
Thank you for your input, but contrary to what you are saying, I do have quite a lot of experience already with creating big projects on multiple different platforms and handling large teams with big budgets.
I have never worked with more than one writer for a project and was just asking for some advice on how to handle more than one (This would also allow me to get the script written at a quicker pace than if I only had one writer).
I understand where you are coming from and if I were you I would also have the same thoughts.
But thank you for your concern! :D

Re: Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 8:33 am
by Mammon
milo39 wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 7:07 am
Hello!
Thank you for your input, but contrary to what you are saying, I do have quite a lot of experience already with creating big projects on multiple different platforms and handling large teams with big budgets.
I have never worked with more than one writer for a project and was just asking for some advice on how to handle more than one (This would also allow me to get the script written at a quicker pace than if I only had one writer).
I understand where you are coming from and if I were you I would also have the same thoughts.
But thank you for your concern! :D
Ah, not what I expected based upon your amount of comments and your chosen account name. And you definately wouldn't be the first first-timer with zero experience trying to take on a project of this size around here. But, if that's the case... *Still eyes you suspiciously.*

For multiple writers there's a few things I could add;
-Make sure to give the other writers some samples of the first writer's work so they can read it. At least have a sense of the pace and system.
-Be sure that you as the outline maker (or whomever will do this) discusses the planned story that will be written by all writers including the first one. This includes not only the story's outline but also the general tone, what's off limits and the character descriptions. May sound obvious, but easily overlooked and forgotten exactly because it's so obvious.
-While I usually consider them useless for a writer, for multiple writers it's greatly useful to get character descriptions including their hobbies etc. so that the others can tell what kind of character they're working with rather than having to get a sense from the outline. Having a sprite also works to give a more specific character to. And equally something that I usually advise against, make them more shallow and cliche. If they are strongly personalised, the differences when another writer gets to them become very apparent.

-Perhaps contrary to the whole reason you're doing this, don't let all the writers start at the same time. At the very least have the main writer finish the main route before anyone else starts, so that you prevent locking the main writer into certain decisions and plot events that turn out to be less than optimal or inducing writer's blocks. Make sure that what the rest will be working on starts with a pretty stable base.

When communicating with writers, be sure to leave them enough creative freedom while at the same time telling them what to do precisely enough. That may sound contradictory, and it is. You need to know despite having no way to know where to be precise and tell them what you want, while at other places having to leave them to their devices and creativity. If you're paying professional rates the creative part is very much to the minimal degree while you have to be telling them what to do in detail, but the closer you get to writers doing this for free the more they will not put up with being told to write something without having any creative freedom to it. Be sure to discuss these additions with them, and to ensure that they properly put what they've come up with on paper in an outline so that they and you can see what they've concocted and whether it works.

Make sure they know that, how and about what they have to communicate with you. Make sure you communicate with them too. And contrary to all of the above, if at all possible give up the plan to use multiple writers and only use the one if they're up for it and work fast enough. Oh, and don't wait with the art until the writing is finished.

Re: Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:08 pm
by Katy133
From my experience, the big obstacle with staying consistent is that you need to find writing partners who will come to your visual novel's story with the same mindset.

One of the reasons why Good Omens is described as one of the greatest collaborative novels in modern English literature. It was written by Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and according to accounts on their process, they just seemed to "click" together. They had a similar sense of humour (a kind of "classic British humour" that has been compared to Douglas Adams and PG Wodehouse) and were both passionate on the story (Gaiman wrote a short story that was the basis of Good Omens. Pratchett read it and called him to ask if he could continue the story, saying that he "knew what [happened] next").

There's a certain level of passion and understanding of the story's world that you need the writers to have. And that passion and motivation often can't be "given" or trained to them, even with money. They either want to write it or they don't. This is especially true to English visual novels, because we tend to make them on a very limited budget, so money as a motivation to write (a write well) is not the strongest motivator.

I've worked on television series, and I've seen that one way of getting around the challenge of multiple people working on the same project is to create a series bible. A series bible is basically a big document that explains the project so that everyone who reads it knows what's going on. It will include things like a summary of the plot, the character's personality and mannerisms (what they would and wouldn't do, etc), and the "rules" of the stories world. They'll also be sections specifically for the writers that explain the writing style and what's allowed (how much swearing is allowed, whether to write the scripts using Canadian, English, or American spelling, etc.) This document will help with keeping the entire project consistent.

Hope this helps!

Re: Having multiple writers: How to be consistent?

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:15 pm
by nerupuff
Having worked as an editor for a project that had multiple writers, consistency is the primary goal.

My best advice echoes what has already been said above, but I'll still try my best to have some good points listed here:

1. Communication is important. It will be very difficult to handle if all your writers have differing opinions on how they want a scene to play out. It will also prove to be confusing especially when you have different scenes written out by different writers that have some events that aren't congruent with one another. If you plan to direct them, allow yourself to be a mediator and step in when you need to. Being able to talk to your writers AND have them talk to one another may help to iron disputes + build up camaraderie (it will be great to have a responsive and good community in your VN team)

2. Outlines are fairly important. I know some people have differing ways in their methods of writing, but at least having a straightforward outline that has enough measure for creative freedom will allow your project to have a backbone to lean on. Modification can always happen but at least you will have this sort of scaffolding that will keep your project steady.

3. Having character sheets are great. It's one thing to have to explain how you envision your character to be all the time, but having to do that repetitively to each and every writer you have might become a jarring task. That's where character sheets come in. These handy documents will make sure all of the writers are on the same page whenever they're writing a scene that involves your characters. It'll also help streamline how a character behaves during a scene, and will help when you need to settle consistency from one scene to another because you can use this as a reference.

4. Style guides can serve as a big help for writers so that they can follow any specifics you would like them to. Capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and language, among others, are included here to keep everyone in check, especially in matters of formatting.

5. Have an editor look over the project. Prepare your references (character sheets and style guide), have them look over the main writer's work (if you have one, especially if you want all other writers to mimic the same writing style) so that they'll get an idea of what outcome you're looking for. Editors usually have keen eyes and will provide insight on consistency checks.

Best of luck!