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Doctor GURPS Author, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The WYSIWYG Template

Something I see over at the forum from time to time is people saying that they're interested in writing for Pyramid or GURPS but are instantly driven off by the size and complexity of the style guide and the WYSIWYG template. And they can be intimidating documents. They're long and there are some really specific guidelines for certain kinds of material.

And that's necessary. Despite working almost entirely in the realm of the imagination, Steve Jackson Games is a technical publisher. They need to organize information in regular, predictable formats. It's like Safety Data Sheets, just of their own design.

But the thing I've noticed in several years of writing GURPS material is that you won't need most of it.

So if you want to write an article for Pyramid, here's what you do: Once you've gotten a thumb-up from Steven on your proposal, get the template, create a new document based on it (Don't use Microsoft Word? Me neither. I use LibreOffice. The template works fine there, and it should work in OpenOffice as well.), and start writing. Use what you need, ignore the rest. And how do you know what you need? Here's how it breaks down:

  • 90% of what you write will be in TEXT. If you're writing a paragraph, put it in TEXT. There are exceptions, but we'll come to those.
  • A-HEAD through D-HEAD are section headings. You do need to think hierarchically when writing your text, but if you can do that, the headings will follow naturally. Start your article or chapter with an A-HEAD. Subsections under that A-HEAD are B-HEADs. Subsections of the Bs are Cs and subsections of the Cs are Ds. This is just an implementation of the outlines you did when writing essays in high school.
  • Text boxes have a sort of subset of that, with special box-related styles (C-BOXHEAD for long boxes, two paragraphs or more, D-BOXHEAD for short boxes, and TEXT-BOX for the main text. And, yeah, you need to throw in the START-END markers to signal the boundaries of the box.
  • Tables are a pain, yes, but you don't have to compose using the table styles. I construct my tables using actual tables in the document. When it comes time to submit the manuscript, I convert the table to text, mark the body with TABLE and header row with TABLEHD. Done. 
  • Specific kinds of material can have very elaborate formatting: spells, monsters, NPCs, etc. This is why the good lord gave us copy and paste. I don't think I've ever tried to write up anything in those complicated categories from scratch. I always copy over the template example and fill in my own text.  
  • And if you want something that doesn't fit or you don't quite get, the good lord has given us Steven Marsh. If you've successfully run a proposal past him, he's there to help. For example, the template and style guide may be missing something. When I last checked the style guide didn't have the format for organization stat blocks from Boardroom and Cura. Want to write an article with organization stats? Don't try to figure it out on your own; ask Steven. Need a format for something new? Try something, or just ask. The table format for Treasure Tables didn't exist until it needed to be worked out, nor did the Boardroom and Cura stat block. Certainly, you'll make a good-faith effort to figure out things on your own, but the answer to some of your questions may be "this isn't in the template/style guide."
  • And put a halfline between style changes that don't have a HEAD or START-END style on one side or another.

So, TEXT under hierarchically arranged HEADs, with occasional use of other styles for special purposes, most of which you can copy-and-paste in. That's not so bad, is it?

Comments

Using OO or LO wipes the styleguide options when opening said document in Word. The formatting remains sometimes, but not always. Most of the rest of this is pretty accurate.

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