Editing passes - what's your process?

I found similar threads but none with the kind of detail I was hoping for. I’d like to know what everyone’s draft process is like. For a linear story, I tend to follow a loose system:

  1. Flexible outline that will 100% change
  2. Trash first draft (basically an extended brain dump)
  3. Trash second draft that at least makes coherent sense
  4. A series of drafts that focus on different aspects (e.g., structure, dialogue, chapter breaks)

But IF is of course a bit different, and I imagine the differences only grow because you’re often putting your WIP out in instalments. You have to make sure that first chapter is functional but if you spend too much time on it, you’ll waste a lot of that time if you finish writing the whole story and realize that a key element in ch. 1 just no longer works (as one example).

So, how do you all approach drafts? Do you edit each chapter thoroughly before moving on to the next? Do you ignore stats until later drafts? Or provide a skeleton of a stat system for your WIP and flesh it out later? Do you ignore entire subplots or choice paths until the very end?

Thanks in advance for your takes! I know I’ve been asking a lot of questions the last few days, it’s because your responses are so helpful :slight_smile:


Let me start by saying, some of us (including myself here) will only release a public link once the narrative copy is complete. Others run private betas, only releasing a partial demo to the public.

Just for clarification, I do have multiple alpha drafts that take place before I ever complete a beta draft and there is reader testing of all drafts, alpha, or beta before the final beta copy is complete.

The most important lesson that I feel every beginning IF writer (no matter their actual writing experience) needs to internalize and realize is to complete the first draft of their narrative before all others.

This changes a bit with HC and CoG contracted authors because there is more back-end support in place for a piecemeal approach to work, but even so, an alpha-copy completion allows you to really hone in on your project’s needs,

I’m leaving my in-depth editing passes for after I release the completed beta copy of my game.

I flesh out stat systems and fixtures prior to writing. Building an actual stat pages skeleton was/is being done after my narrative copy is completed and fine tuning the stats will be done as the public beta is running, and will be the central focus of that public beta, I plan on treating it as most game developers treat stress testing and initial systems tests.

I complete the main story arcs and plot points and then go back, building on side arcs and plot devices. I view it like how the US government builds highways… complete the main arteries and then attach the local connections and off-ramps later.

Please keep in mind that there are many alternative solutions, so what works for one person may not work for another.


Normally I would focus on capturing ideas and building a solid foundation in the first draft, letting minor inconsistencies slide for now. While writing new chapters, I’d edit previous ones for consistency and quality, though it depends and well things changes

First I make an outline for the whole game, and then one for the chapter I’m working on that’s broadly scene-by-scene with branches based on choices, successes, or failures.

For short games I’m more likely to write and code at the same time, but for longer games like CoG ones, I almost always code first with placeholder text to make a playable structure whose functionality and difficulty balance can be tested using the automated testing tools. That includes stats and any variable changes, because for me the story and the mechanics are interwoven so closely that it wouldn’t make sense for me to do them separately. It makes it easier for me to shuffle things around, which often happens once I’m writing. The coding stage is where I do a lot of the figuring-out, though.

Then I write the first draft, filling in the gaps and changing things around as needed. I play through a chapter at least once, and also generate a playthrough or two using RandomTest to check wording and flow, so each of those playtests gets an editing pass. If I have a sense that I might want to change something big at that point, I may edit or I may make a note of it to look at later.

Then I submit the draft to my editor, and do revisions as needed once they come back.

My current playtesting process is putting up a chapter every couple of months and going through feedback. I’ll always edit to include fixes and will almost always edit small changes, but again if large changes are being brought up, I’ll usually sit on it to see if it comes up from other testers too.

Once I’ve got a full draft, I’ll playtest it myself from beginning to end before the beta testing begins. The CoG and HC process involves editing from at least two staff editors, plus continuity edits (where readers read through RandomTest-generated playthroughs) and copyedits. I’d recommend that authors not publishing with CoG or HC generate at least 5 playthroughs to read through, because you can spot a lot that way.

That’s where the bulk of the larger-scale edits happen. I wrote about how I organised myself during full draft testing for my game Royal Affairs here.

I don’t ignore plots or storylines in a first draft, but the first draft is quite a non-linear process where I will hop back to a previous chapter to make sure something is clarified or foreshadowed ahead of something I’m currently writing.