Creating A New Type Of Word Puzzle
Firstly, you need the idea. This is obviously the most important element. The best way to go about this is often to look at an existing puzzle type, and consider changing just one of the rules. If you can do this in a novel way that no-one else has done before, then you could be onto a winner.
Remember, that if you do change the rules, you need to make the new rule easy to understand. If you can't explain every rule in a single sentence, then you have probably make the puzzle too difficult. Many puzzles are really good but have a large number of rules, which puts people off and stops them having mass market appeal. Publishers don't want to be listing a page of rules for every game. Games that work best tend to have very simple instructions: for instance the crossword: answer the clues and write the answers in the grid.
In the number and logic puzzle market, the sudoku is the puzzle with the greatest appeal that is solved the most, and the rules are very simple: place 1 - 9 in each region of the grid. Puzzles that are perhaps better and deeper, but have more complicated rules, generally don't have the cut-through to achieve mass-market success.
So, the tips so far are: Change a rule from an existing puzzle type, or add a new rule. Make sure the rule change is simple and easy to understand. And, of course, try to make it so the rule change adds something novel to the game.
The rule change can be simple: as with sudoku X, which just adds two extra regions to the grid, or they can be quite major: like with a codeword, changing clues outside the grid for numbers inside the grid that represent each letter.
Once you have created the puzzle type, try to create several examples. Try it at a range of grid sizes, and see what works best. Some puzzle types are very flexible and can scale up and down, whilst others only really work at a particular size. Work out what works best for the particular puzzle you have created.
The next element is to get as much feedback as you can on the puzzle, and ideally from people outside of family and friends - unless they promise to be completely honest with their feedback. The most common shock that people who come up with anything new is being told it is great by people around them, then getting shot down by independent opinion who are perhaps more open about the shortcomings it has, so try to avoid this as much as possible. Also try to be objective yourself about your creation and do criticise and work on any weak points that you come across.
Once you have honed and tightened the concept, then you have a decision to make: do you want to try and market the puzzle and get it published, or did you only create it for fun and for your own satisfaction and amusement. If you do want to try and make a go of it, then read out article in this series on how to market a new word puzzle and gauge interest in it. If not, then just enjoy your new creation!
Date written: 17 May 2015
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