I enjoy Kickstarter because supporting entrepreneurship is fun. A recent project I helped to back was for a novel called These Days; clicking the image below will link you to the trailer for the book. One of the benefits of backing the project is the ability to receive updates from the entrepreneur as the project progresses through multiple phases. As we are on the topic of editing and refining the product, this particular update from author/entrepreneur Jack Cheng struck me as particularly relevant, so I contacted him to ask him to reprint it here. He was gracious enough to let me reproduce the update. Of course we hope that Jack will consider digital distribution with Kbuuk, but we wish him the best of luck with everything anyway. Although funding for the project is closed, if you are interested in receiving updates about the book, please subscribe to his mailing list.
Update #6 Truth Team
I’m expecting top-level feedback from the last editor candidate in the coming week, and not much has changed this past week in terms of my routine. I’ve been continuing my pass through the entire manuscript, working through some of the feedback I’ve received so far.
Book or app or website, I find that one challenge is making sure enough time is spent on interpreting feedback. Even if someone gives you honest thoughts about what you’re working on, it often takes a bit of work to uncover the real problems. When getting feedback on digital products, I commonly hear things like “You should add x here” or “I wish I could do y.” On the manuscript, it’s been “I wish there was more detail about x” or “y is moving a little slow for me.”
A lot of times the feedback includes suggestions on how to solve these problems, and sometimes the suggested solution is what I’ll end up doing. But other times the suggestion turns out to be the exact opposite of what I need to do.
Here’s a story I think about a lot. When working on the game Borderlands, the game development studio Gearbox created something they called a Truth Team. The Truth Team’s job was to not only collect and manage feedback, but also interpret feedback from play-testers. For instance:
[There were] complaints that Skag Gully, one of the game’s earliest areas, had too many eponymous Skags. Players reported that they were running into too many clusters of enemies while moving through the Gully, offering feedback like, “this isn’t fun, this is boring.”
If you were to take that feedback at face value, the solution might be to reduce the number of enemies, or shorten the Gully.
Here’s what Gearbox did instead: they tripled the number of enemies in the area.
By tripling the number of enemies, they turned the Gully from a travel area into a combat zone. They eliminated the real problem (boredom) by doing the opposite of what the play testers suggested.
As a writer you generally don’t have the luxury of an entire team like this. And although a good editor can help you drill down to the real problems, I think most of the onus is still on you, because ultimately you’re the one who has to come up with the appropriate solution. In the end, you have to be your own truth team. A Truth Team of One.