First Way With Worlds Minibook Is Out!

Yes I’ve got my first Way With Worlds Minibook out! This one is on sex and worldbuilding, where we explore the biology and sociology vital to a believable setting – and so often forgotten!

I’m going to be doing a series of these, each 99 cents, over the next few months.  The idea is to do something parallel to my larger books, and focus on intense coaching on specific subjects – but without giving you something overwhelming.  Each book can be read in a few hours and you can get back to writing!

  • Steve

My Agile Life: Fix A Few Things

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

(My continuing “Agile Life” column, where I use Scrum for a more balanced and productive life continues).

Many Agile methods use some kind of retrospective to review and improve. I adore them but find they can drag for two reasons: sometimes people hate them and sometimes people go overboard.  It can become a venting session or it can become a case of people shutting down.

Personal retrospectives can be a drag as well for the same reasons, though I find it tends towards the “overboard.”

I find that the “overboard” and the “underboard” are part of the same problem – that retrospectives can be overwhelming.  If you want to discuss what went wrong on a sprint or on a project, you can probably easily find tend or even hundreds of things.  This can lead to people endlessly listing off problems – and people trying to ignore then because there’s so many (and their egos feel threatened).

A retrospective needs you to both focus and not be afraid.

What I’ve learned both as an Agilist and in my own life (where I can’t escape any of this) is that you need to limit what you try to improve. When you focus on one or two or a few things to get right, you can get them done – focus on every problem and you’ll never start, or you just won’t try and review your work.

Besides, as you focus on a limited amount of improvements you can also reinforce the issue that many of the problems that came up were already taken care of.  All those hundreds of problems got taken care of by reasonably mature people or a reasonably mature person and it’s probably not worth going over.  Focus on what needs to be improved.

On top of that, the focus on a limited number of issues can take your ego out of it.  You ignore the vast amount of things you can complain about to focus on things you can and want to fix.  It tones down the fear you may feel of going over the many things that did go wrong, dealt with or not.

I’ve found the “power of Few” to be very helpful in that I can focus on getting better in specific ways – ways that have real value.  Plus it doesn’t’ trigger any insecurities

As an addendum, you should always seek to improve outside of reviews and goals. Good opportunities to get better abound all the time, and seizing on them is a big part of an Agile Mindset. It also helps you get used to facing and fixing problems on the fly – so they don’t gum up your retrospectives (and your self-esteem).

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve

Steve’s Update 6/26/2017

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

It’s my weekly Scrum style standup for my audience.  I also am going to try to focus a bit more on what it delivers to you.

So what have I done the last week?

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: This is now queued for publication!  So you’ll be getting it ready very shortly!  I also need reviewers.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6: Writing but frankly – not enjoying it.  I’ve got more on that below.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” I kid you not, Chapter #1 is in draft form and I’m editing it now.  I’ll be looking for prereaders in a few days!  So hit me up!
  • Blogging: Queued up a new blog post for tomorrow on Agile methods.
  • Other: Not much else to be blunt, lots of chores and catchup and a few other things.

What am I going to do this week:

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: I’m going to get that out this week.  I’ll post alerts of course and will be letting people know via my newsletter and usual posts.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6:  See below.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” Get Chapter #1 to being editable.  Then I’ll make it available!
  • Writing: I have one or two more posts to do on writing.  I am in a regular cadence here.
  • Sprint Planning: Time to plan the sprint for July!

Challenges:

  • Some friends are moving, and though I now don’t think it’ll take any time, I don’t know.
  • As of Way With Worlds Minibook #6 I am actually kind of tired of writing these.  I may take a break this month to regroup as it doesn’t have to be finished for awhile.  I’ve written five of these over the years already!  I may poke at it now and then but it’s not scheduled – it’s a stretch goal.

– Steve

Civic Geek: Whew, here we are!

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Man I haven’t done one of these in awhile!  I’ve scheduled myself to do one a month though.  If you fell off this series, this is where I blog on civic geekery.

Let’s make this more of a catch up.

What am I doing?

  1. I am helping with a country political group.  I’ve been doing this for awhile, running social media.  Most of it is posting links and events, but it does keep people informed – and when elections are around they promise I’ll get busy.  A bit boring, but it keeps me in the midst of events and hard politics.
  2. I print a list weekly of what I want to call my reps on (boy are they gonna get an earful on the California Health Care bill).  Then I kinda do it.  That’s federal, state, AND local.  Bug them all people.
  3. As part of #1 and #2 I also keep on the news, having alerts for all my representatives.
  4. As part of #1 and #2 I follow the news through various forms – Twitter and a newsfeed – as well.
  5. I go to a regular monthly activism meetup that also has regular advice what to do.

I’ve not done as well as I wanted in late May and June, bluntly, as I’ve gotten real busy.  But the regular reminders I set up help and help me stay active.

The only thing I don’t feel is as connected as I’d like.  It’s probably as I’m comparing political involvement to, say, daily work or my professional associations.  So I’m always on the lookout for what more I can do.

A very, very important thing to do here is have that regular weekly plan.  I print it out and check it off every week.

Also don’t knock the power of the various sites that tell you what activism you can do like 5calls.  As you get active you learn ways to be a more engaged citizen.

And now a few findings

  1. When you call representatives, politeness goes a long way.  If they’ve disappointed you, feel free to be civil but with an edge.  I find representatives that are “gone rogue” respond to that.
  2. It really, really helps to meet with people.  I find the less I meet with people the less involved I feel.
  3. You have to keep trying out other groups and organizations to really know what’s going on.
  4. A lot of people do NOT know how government works – probably including you.
  5. I know a lot of people who were in military service, and as I talk to reps I see how many people just keep the country running.  When you see how many people are in the serivce, the government, security, etc. it can kind of make you feel inadequate.

(Oh and if you need some other creative boosts, check out my book on Creative Paths!)

– Steve

A Writer’s View: Plotting, Pantsing, And Agile

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

So this week I finished the plot outline of my book. I’ve been expanding it iteratively, from one-sentence summaries to full character profiles, based on the Snowflake method. The method itself works great with Agile – and brings up a very important point about writing.

Writing, it is said, is often divided into “pantsers” (seat-of-my-pants writers) and “plotters (organized writers like yours truly). As a plotter, I’d like to note that you do end up “pantsing” anyway, just on a finer-grained level. At some point in writing you can only plan so much before you have to write – it’s a matter of degree.

This truth can frustrate some plotters, because you can only define so much before there’s nothing left to do. Your ideas may be totally wrong, your plan may be horrible, your plot awful – but you won’t know until you start writing.

This is the same thing one faces in software, where Agile methods continue to hold more and more sway – you can only design so much before you have to write code to see if it works. It’s the same with writing.

So now that I have a plot, how will I confront my inevitable discovery of all my horrible mistakes?

First, I won’t be afraid. As I like to note, Eat Your Failure.

Secondly, I plan to do reviews:

  1. I will write a chapter at a time and share it with people for feedback.
  2. I will review my full plot outline every chapter completed to make notes and see what changed or what I want to modify or what I want to add.

I know my plot outline (all 8 pages in a spreadsheet) is only so good. But it’s good enough to get moving with an idea of where I’m going, and good enough to improve when I find mistakes or get new ideas. It also is stable enough that it probably won’t fall apart and deep enough it’s not shallow.

Two notes:

  1. I have trouble seeing how “pantsing” can work for complex stories, but perhaps I have something to learn there, no? Maybe I should “pants” a short story sometime.
  2. Based on my own experiences and what I’ve seen in the market you can in theory plot a novel pretty finely, and its very easy if you’re using tropes or taking a “light” approach. Not sure how good it’d be, but it seems doable.So what have you found?

(Oh and if you need some other creative boosts, check out my book on Creative Paths!)

– Steve

My Agile Life: Eat Failure, Not Your Peace Of Mind

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

(My continuing “Agile Life” column, where I use Scrum for a more balanced and productive life continues).

Doing Agile in my personal life taught me how to fail. You’d think at my age I’d have plenty of practice failing, but there’s always something to learn.

Ever obsess over a problem or mistake? Of course you have. We make mistakes then play with them in our heads over and over even while we fix them, berating ourselves as we do so. Even when the mistake is fixed, the self-flagellation may continue afterwards.

This is terrible for our peace of mind. Every minute spent in worry is a minute not spent doing something else. Worry can eat up so much time that we get less done – which only makes us worry more.

In business, we’re familiar with the equivalent of this worry; blame game and paralysis through analysis. A department or group becomes so locked up by blame-flinging and over-analyzing nothing gets done. Such a department is as trapped just like person locked in an endless cycle of self-loathing. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty much the same thing

In doing Agile for my personal life as well as work, I came up with the term “Eat Your Failure.” Agile methods use failure to fuel improvement. Failure’s not just part of the process – failure powers it. Failure is actually not bad (well, not entirely).

This has helped change my attitude towards failure in a very short time, and am finding it fear of it starts to diminish. I’m far more aware of when fear of failure or annoyance with it drains my time. I’m less upset with it because I take an “eat your failure approach.” By treating failure differently, I have much more peace of mind and get more done.

(Trust me, on the novel I’m working on, that’s such a change of pace I get lots of fear of failure.)

In large organizations, this “eat your failure” mindset is as important if not moreso. If I get obsessed with failure and don’t think in Agile methods, I can slam a beer or go to therapy. In an organization, bad attitudes towards failure can become part of culture and outlast the people there (and their supplies of beer and therapy). Worry can become institutionalized.

Taking a positive or at least progressive view of Failure doesn’t just bring efficiency. It brings peace of mind.

Of course in our lives or in our jobs, we have to make sure that’s part of our culture, be it just us or an entire company. It’s up to us to make that change and encourage the change in others.

But honestly, how many people or businesses would be much happier if they just said “Let’s live with failure and improve” over obsession and guilt and denial?

Yeah, we know the answer.

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve

Steve’s Update 6/19/2017

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

It’s my weekly Scrum style standup for the audience.  Here’s what’s up – but first a note.

The last two months have been pretty intense, its all been books and writing for the most part.  I may be changing some of my plans around so it’s a bit more diverse.

So what have I done the last week?

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: All formatted and ready to go!  Pretty much I can launch it any time.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6: Writing away.  I’m going to try and block out time to just finish it, but not making any plans.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” The plot is outlined!  In fact the “draft” was better than I thought!
  • Social: I spoke at Hydra-Con, made lots of new contacts, and had a great time.  Promising new con!

What am I going to do this week:

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: Setting up marketing and getting publishing queued up!  You should see it later next week.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6:  Writing more of it.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” Working on Chapter #1.  I might try to blitz it this weekend, but the goal is a readable draft end of month.
  • Writing: The usual blogging, plus a few other things I want to write.

Challenges:

  • Some friends are moving, which might require some of my time.

– Steve

A Writer’s View: Timey-Wimey

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

Plotting stories, and indeed writing them, is a process of discovery.  A discovery at the end of your tale changes what you think of the beginning.  Closing a scene helps you find a theme that alters the scene.  A character you thought you new surprises you.

Writing, in the words of a certain madman with a blue box is Timey-Wimey.  You finds things out about your world out of order.

We’re frustrated with this because our work feels unreliable, unpredictable, almost as if it’ll betray us.  Ever encounter someone who treated their stories and characters with suspicion?  Yeah, you probably have – it may have been you.

I’ve found that we have to accept this.  Simply put, writing encompasses such breadth of possibilities there’s always a bit of unpredictability, of discovery.  If it’s too predictable, it’s not a creative act.

What we can do is embrace this timey-wimey, acknowledge it, minimize the negative effects, and maximize the positive.

First, be open to the timey-wimey.  Accept that things change, that you’ll have these amazing insights, and that the act of plotting and writing reveals new depths.  This back-and-forth  of do-find-redo makes your work alive.

Secondly, learn to use these insights.  Figure the best way to find them, embrace them, and apply them.  Maybe you keep timelines, maybe you iteratively improve things.  Maybe you have to accept some rewriting.  Maybe you keep extensive notes.  Find a way to make the timey-wimey issues a tool.

Third, don’t fight it.  This is just part of the creative process.  You may have great onslaughts of ideas, or have to accept you can’t tweak a story anymore.  Run with it and make good work first, don’t get lost in frustration or fiddly bits.

Fourth, accept imperfection.  At some point it’ll be good enough to be as good as it needs to be.  Don’t run with the timey-wimey aspects of work so long you’re revising forever.

I’ve found a huge key to using the timey-wimey creativity, and writing in particular is:

  • To improve iteratively.  Engage in gradual review of your work.
  • Gradually deepen your work.  Start with simple ideas and improve them over time, going deeper, adding detail.
  • Every time you go a bit deeper into your work, review the big picture a bit more.
  • Work out a system to do these reviews and do them regularly.
  • Practice!

A lot of this is like Agile practices – which I’ve also been working with.  Agile is about iterative improvements, and is a good mindset for a writer.

– Steve

My Agile Life: Only Me

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

(My continuing “Agile Life” column, where I use Scrum for a more balanced and productive life continues).

The Blame Game is the bane of good organization, good companies, good productivity, and happiness. Yet, how many times do we blame others for problems automatically? How many times have we been blamed for problems automatically?  How many great projects have failed because people fling blame at each other?

OK we know the answer; a lot.

When I began doing my Agile Life, I had a most interesting experience; I had only myself to blame for anything.  I was the only responsible one when most anything went wrong.

Something was late? My fault. Something not done well? My fault. Very, very few cases of things that wreren’t due to me. To blame anyone else would have required a Herculean effort of self-delusion that I just don’t have the energy or lack of morals for.

This was awesome.

Because I am the major or only cause of failure, I am aware of why things go wrong.

Because I am the major or only cause of failure, I know what to improve.

Because I am the major or only cause of failure, I must acknowledge my flaws.

Because I am the major or only cause of failure, I am the major source of success.

Agile is about a mixture of heavy personal responsibility and team responsibility teaches you a lot about dealing with failure.  This personal Agile experience is an excellent compliment to group Agile because it teaches you that responsibility very, very fast.

I’ve also become much, much more aware of my own flaws and mistakes – what I do wrong, what I do write, and how I screw up. I’m a much better person for doing personal Agile.

Of course it’s also painful. I have work habits that are a bit bizarre seen from the outside (mixing casual, obsessive, distractable, and focused). My Scrum Master abilities focus a bit too much on the rituals with the idea they’ll help fix things “eventually.” My “Product Owner” side can forget my “Scrum Master side’s” recommendations on unfamiliar work and forge ahead on spewing ideas to my “Team Member” side.

But at least I have all these insights. I can’t blame anyone else.

Which is great.  Are you ready to try Agile in your life and learn your flaws?

– Steve

Steve’s Update 6/12/2017

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

It’s my weekly Scrum style standup for the audience – and as noted it’s now Monday, which helps a lot.  So where are we?

So what have I done the last week?

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: Editing is done and the cover is done!  So now its just time to format it and get ready to publish!
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #2: That’s been sent to the editor, who is paid, so not sure when I’ll get it back.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #5: This is done.  It’s a book on “Worldbuilding Checkup” and is basically designed as a general coaching guide.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6: I’ve started this one, and need to flesh it out a bit more besides the general writing.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” The first draft of the plot is done – in fact, I’m rather pleased with it.  I plan to review it a few more times, but it’s more or less ready to go, so I can tackle Chapter #1 soon!
  • Writing: I’ve queued up my Agile and Writing posts for the week.

What am I going to do this week:

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #1: I’ll be formatting it for publication.  In theory it won’t take too long.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #6:  Writing more of it, of course!
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” I’ll review the plot and maybe start Chapter one.
  • Writing: Obviously queuing up more blog posts.  I’ve got a surprising amount ready.
  • Social: I’ll be speaking at Hydra Comic Con.

Challenges and blockers:

  • My allergies are back, so we’ll see how bad that hits me.
  • I realized I’ve not done any new generators – I might shift some priorities to do a fun one.

– Steve