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Olivia Wood

Narrative editor, writer, developer (Failbetter Games)

in developer, editor, game, windows, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Olivia Wood. I'm a narrative editor, writer, content manager and game developer.

As narrative editor at Failbetter Games, I check continuity, ensure consistency with in-game lore, give feedback on whether the characters are convincing and the story is satisfying, and decide whether player choices feel meaningful. I act as line-editor and look at the phrasing. I kill darlings.

When writing - I get all this done to me, and it's painful but irritatingly useful. I work across all our games - so my fingerprints can be found on both Fallen London and Sunless Sea.

As content manager I loom over spreadsheets and Trello boards - hunting deadlines and haunting writers.

Outside my work at Failbetter Games, I write. I wrote and designed Lethophobia with Jess Mersky. I've also published a children's book - to throw my heartless exterior into sharp relief.

I also line-edit and proofread novels. I am a Science Fiction and Fantasy specialist, and have worked with authors ranging from Joe Abercrombie to Brandon Sanderson. I occasionally give talks on writing and the creative process, and give Masterclasses on 'being edited'.

I drink cocktails; caipirinha, please.

What hardware do you use?

My home computer is a custom build gaming rig/workstation. I have two 26" monitors - I can't work on fewer. The mouse is Logitech G502 - I care more about having a nice mouse than a good keyboard. My keyboard is some old one with a leg gaffer-taped on. I'm still on Windows 7 because I'm not having any of the Windows 10 nonsense. At work the setup is similar, but less high powered.

My laptop is an Acer Aspire S7 392; often mistaken for an Apple as it's gorgeous. It's almost perfect - the only problem is the battery, which insta-dies somewhere around 15%. I've tried all the fixes and now just save regularly and work with increased urgency as it fades. I only use it when working from cafes. I love cafe working - I can focus better with background noise and people to avoid talking to - but it gets expensive.

My iPad mini is invaluable for talks. I also store articles and blogs on it to read while travelling. I've occasionally tried writing on it, but I cannot type using the Apple keyboard.

Google Pixel - I can't exist without a smartphone.

I never go anywhere without a pen and notepad. I prefer to write on a computer - I type faster than I can write, but I can't brainstorm on a screen.

And what software?

Failbetter Games uses StoryNexus as our CMS. It's a powerful tool for interactive narrative, but it's not intuitive. We use Google Docs and Spreadsheets to store and share story pitches, lore and game design. We mostly avoid email by using Slack. The Narrative Director often works remotely, so - via FaceTime - he lives in an iPad on my desk. For tracking work, I use Trello and Google Spreadsheets.

I use Classic Shell and Start8 to undo the harm caused by Windows 8.

Pocket means I can save articles for later. For days when it's hard to concentrate, I've a Pomodoro timer pinned to my browser. It renders me terrifyingly efficient. A combination of Dropbox, Google Drive and 1Password means I can work from pretty much anywhere with internet.

When working on novels, I use Microsoft Word. It's not perfect, but it's ubiquitous, and has a good combination of comments and change tracking. I'm still using the 2007 version.

For fun game design stuff, I play with both Twine and ink (with the Inky Editor).

What would be your dream setup?

I'm pretty pleased with what I've got already. A gentle wish would be for a more powerful PC that I didn't have to dust. I'd like the same laptop, but with better gaming capabilities and a near-infinite battery. An actual dream setup? What I've already got, but ski-in ski-out - while still being based in London. Oh, and someone to yell at me to sit up straight. My posture's crap.