A Writer’s Life: Method To Your Radness

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

My friend Serdar had opinions on my recent halfway-point review/light rewrite of “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.” Namely, he was surprised at the ambition, as he says:

Sometimes you can put your head down, bluster through the rest of a draft, and fix everything next time around. Sometimes you simply can’t, especially if the psychic pressure created by the need to make those changes in the first place becomes a distraction.

My main objection to stopping and turning around mid-draft is that it breaks momentum. Anything you can do to sustain momentum is helpful. But if it comes at the cost of the overall maintainability of the work, it’s not worth it.

Serdar’s preferred method is to power through a draft. Meanwhile, in fiction I tend to plot it out and when a revision is necessary work it in as opposed to waiting. For me, having that intimate feel is important, and a revision keeps me in touch and focused.

What’s ironic is the “power through” method is something I often use for my instructional writing. My friend writes fiction the way I write job guides.

We see these discussions of different methods all the time in writing. “Pantsers versus plotters.” Diamond methods and three part structures. Writers of all stripes are always talking methods; and writers often take different approaches to writing.

This can lead to confusion over what the “right” method is to writing. I can say with full confidence that the real question is “are you finding the method that works for yo?.” Remember despite these endless debates, books are still getting written.

First, whatever method lets you comfortably deliver quality work is a good method. I can’t tell you what’ll work for you. Nor can Serdar. Nor can a multi-million-book selling author. You have to find what works. If in your head and heart and gut you can see it’s working, fine.

And that’s the second point, and perhaps the more critical point, of writing. You have to actively look to understand what methods of writing work for you. I don’t care if it’s exactly like mine or something I think is ridiculous; if it works, for you and good works get made, fine. As long as it’s not unethical, go for it.

Being a writer means actively understanding what helps you write better. Take the time to review methods, study theories, and try stuff out. In time, you’ll get better – possibly in ways you never expected.

This is also why I keep notes on my writing methods. It helps me both understand what I’ve done, and intimately learn the lessons I need.

(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)

– Steve

A Writer’s Life: The Big Edit

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

I got to the halfway point on “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet” and realized I had lots of notes, things I wanted to improve and tweak, and so on.  In general I wanted to “tune up” what I had and improve my plot outline.  So I did something kind of ambitious: I decided to review the entire first half of the book scene by scene, both adding and rewriting, as well as fleshing out the plot outline.

Yeah.  Kinda stupidly ambitious?  Probably was a good 6-8 hours of work.

It was also totally worth it.

First, it let me get in touch with my story.  Over time I’ve been rereading parts of it, but seeing the whole sweep really helped.  I kind of wonder if I need to do this at the 3/4 mark.

Secondly, it let me tone up my writing.  Always good to apply lessons learned later to earlier writing.  It’s been especially good as I’ve been “shaking off the rust” of having not done fiction for awhile.

Third, it let me improve the plot and story in both the large and small.  A big review in a short time – not quite a revision or rewrite – did wonders for making things better and tighter.

Fourth, I got the characters down even better.  Seeing them in the big picture and small, in a short time, let me tighten them up.

Fifth, I got the “mood changes” much better.  I can see the big picture and how the mood shifts (more later).

Sixth, it got me the improved plot outline (at least for what I wrote, see below).  I now have every scene noting major goals and major character attitudes.  That’s something I should have done before, but I got it now.

What was also kind of amazing is how starting to write the second half felt.  The characters felt more solid, the shift in moods more real, the sense of plot tighter.  Diving into writing after this review has taken all I learned and applied it.

(It’s probably good to keep writing after such a review so those lessons get applied).

Of course as I go on and write the second half, I want to take an hour or two to review the plot notes I have and revise that as well, which should take all my lessons here and solidify them.

(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)

– Steve

Make It So: Cosplay And Health

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

(Here’s a series I haven’t touched in awhile.)

At Con-Volution I got into a fascinating discussion with a cosplayer on how complicated outfits were.  This led to the usual discussion of “how the hell do you go to the bathroom.”  That, fortunately led to a productive discussion, and one I want to cover.

Conventions should do a panel on Healthy Cosplay.

What do I mean?  Think about all the challenges that cosplay involves – eating food, tightness, maneuverability, going to the bathroom.  I’ve heard many horror stories from cosplayers about their experiences.  You know even experienced ones are surprising themselves.  So I think most any con with a cosplay presence should have a panel on Healthy Cosplay – and if your con is about Cosplay, this should already be there.

I’ve seen a few panels like this, but after our discussion I realized how many subjects there are to cover.  So I want to toss out this idea to encourage you to do this.

Imagine panels covering things like:

  • Well, how to go to the bathroom.  Please include gender differences.
  • Bindings, corsets, and tightness – breathing is important as is circulation.
  • Eating and drinking.  Can you get nutrition and more importantly fluid easily?
  • Visibility.  How do you make something you can see in?
  • Safe mobility.  It’s not easy to maneuver, and in some cases this can be dangerous.
  • Common allergies to materials.
  • Ventilation and temperature.  I’m in California, trust me.

There’s a lot of ways to do this but I would encourage any group that does this to make sure it has:

  • Handouts.
  • Online references.
  • Perhaps a free ebook.

if I can spend ten minutes in a discussion on cosplay and using the bathroom, you know there’s an audience for this.  Maybe we don’t talk about such things as much as we should, but . . . let’s Make It So.

 

– Steve

Steves Update 10/9/2017

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

It’s my weekly Scrum style standup for my audience, so where am I?

So what have I done the last week?

  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet”: Whew.  Finished a big edit-run through.  Posted Chapter 8.  I am back to writing but also need to do a bit more plot fleshing out – as now we’re sliding into the crazy.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #4: Launched
  • Con-Volution: Attended.  More on that perhaps later!

What am I going to do this week:

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #5: I’m behind on this and have a lot going on.  So this week I want to get the cover and some editing done.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” Writing and hopefully a plot review.
  • Other: I need to queue up some blog posts and prepare for NaNoWriMo sales, along with the RWBY premier, and more.  As noted, October is going to be messy.

As an upcoming note, I am probably going to be blogging more diversely – and more erratically.  My “Agile Life” series seems to be coming to a close as I’ve shared a ton of insights, so I may only do it intermediately.  I miss career stuff.  I also want to be a bit more spontaneous.  So let’s see what happens!

Still debating if I’ll do the sixth minibook.  Certainly it WONT drop in November with NaNo, but not sure I wanna have one drop at Christmas.  Plus it needs to be finished and it might combine better with other words.  Well, we’ll see!

– Steve

A Writer’s Life: Taking Notes And Improving Writing

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

As I write “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet,” I’ve started taking notes on my writing techniques.

Getting back into this was a bit tougher than I thought, so it took me awhile to get going.  Fortunately I kind of got a writing system going again – only, as I used it, I had other insights.

So I figured, why not write them down for later?

This is something I hadn’t thought of before, but as I do so I find the act of reviewing these findings, these new techniques, and recording them helps my writing even more.  I’m activley thinking about how to get better.

This is really classic Agile practice; you don’t just do things.  You review them in order to improve.  I strongly recommend every writer keep a list of “technique notes” and gradually review them.  If possible, actually write up your techniques, maybe review them every work, to help build a system in your head.

This may sound a bit excessive, but so far?  It’s helped me a lot.

Besides, it gives you something to share with other writers . . .

(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)

– Steve

My Agile Life: Review Lets You Get It Right; Review Lets You Let Go Of Perfection

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

More on my use of “Agile” and Scrum in my life!

Perfection is the nemesis of success. The Perfect isn’t just the enemy of the good – sometimes the good is the enemy of ever accomplishing anything. Trying to get everything right can kill you, and sometimes even trying to get it really good is a barrier.

Sometimes you just have to complete something, review it, and improve it or do it again. Reviews are what let you get things done right – not trying to be perfect (which is not the same as being competent).

I learned this in my Agile Life efforts in, of all things – cleaning.

Cleaning is a regular effort – Business As Usual if you want to use bizspeak. It’s also something that may not always go perfect, from a difficult stain to not having a box to throw junk in. It’s also hard to get right as there’s always something else to do if you want to get obsessive.

So I had to do some cleaning and encountered a difficult issue in, of all things, the shower – nasty little stain. I didn’t have the proper cleaner, it seemed ridiculous to run out and buy it for five minutes work, and . . . I let it go. I’d get the stain cleaner at my next grocery run and get it next week.

By accepting yes, this stain wasn’t going to be a disaster, I avoided a half hour of running around for five minutes work I did the next week. Plus I learned to keep certain cleaning supplies on hand.

An agile way to do things – learn and improve and don’t sweat every detail. Delivering, review, and processing what you learn means you get better and waste less time.

Now cleaning is kind of a ridiculous example, but consider other places this applies:

  • If you’re writing something there’s only so right it’s going to be. That’s what editors, pre-readers, and just regular improvement will bring.
  • If you’re decorating the apartment do not think you’ll get it right the first time. Do your best and review it.
  • If you’re working on a web page and a photographer is late maybe you can make due with current photos – or what they sent you.

Finally, I’d note that if you’re doing something regularly – updating a website, cooking, etc. this is a REALLY good place to learn to let it go. Things that might not be perfect can get a bit more perfected next run.

I’d refer to the 10th Agile principle here: “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.”

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

– Steve

A Writer’s View: Flowing Back And Forth

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

As I write “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet” I keep discovering more about it.  Perhaps I find a theme that I missed or that should be incorporated into the story.  Or I may realize I missed something and that I have rewriting to do. Or something just works better.

For awhile this was irritating, and sometimes I got jammed up around what I called “Big Rocks.” But the more I thought about it, this is normal and in fact, quite healthy.

Writing is really a method of discovery.  So you have to write in order to know what you’re writing.  In turn, you constantly find out more.

This is a lot like software – another insanely complex activity that involves people and information coming together.  As you code and develop you get more feedback and find more problems and get more insights.  This lets you improve the code – removing technical debt, adding new features, etc.

It took me awhile to get into this, but over time I began relaxing about it.  I saw it as a flow of information, the story constantly adjusting and adapting to my insights – again, just like software.

What I do is this:

  • First of all I keep a separate Brainstorm book on my story.  Every few days I review it and put the contents into my world guide, in a list on my story outline, or my other notes.
  • When writing I may get additional ideas and track them the same as my Brainstorm Book entries. or just go and revise some things right there.
  • I go through the list on my story outline every now and then and incorporate it into A) the existing story, B) the rest of the outline.  I make sure to go through each item and completely integrate it.

This gets easier and easier over time, and at about halfway through the book It’s gotten almost natural.  Almost – I still get a bit of annoyance when I revise things, but old habits, you know?

The quality is also much improved.  Each change seems to not only improve the book, but somehow make it more pure, more clear, more refined.  I expected it to become more complicated, but instead it’s more complex, richer, which somehow makes it more understandable.   The book, in its current state, is headed for something notably better than what I had when I started (in my opinion).

What’s really going to be interesting is how this applies to other stories.  If I’m able to edit better when writing, improving plot and characters, how much better will I be next book I outline?  I look forward to seeing what happens in the next book or other fiction pieces.

Of course I have to finish this one . . .

(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)

– Steve

My Agile Life: Multitasking. Sort Of.

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

More on my use of “Agile” and Scrum in my life!

Agile methods tend to discourage multitasking as well as having a lot on your plate.  The goal is to avoid distractions (with less multitasking) and avoid having a lot on your mind (by limiting work in progress).  Of course, as we always get interrupted, we tend to multitask a bit.  Sometime things almost have to be done together or require such long delays (like a chat) that multitasking is almost needed.

Let me note that I do think you should avoid multitasking.  I do believe in limiting work in progress.  But there are times multitasking is fine or even good.

What I’ve found that in my own life, what helps is to identify what you can do while doing other things.  Preemptive multitasking as it were.

You know what I mean:

  • You’d like to watch some tv, but friends want to chat online – you can do both.
  • You’d like to come up with a shopping list which you can do while watching tv as it’s not a rush.
  • You want to do some online research, so you do it while chatting or on the phone – heck, the other person may have ideas.
  • And so on . . .

You’ll note a lot of this is recreational/social.  This is where I often multitask when doing things that are “gruntwork-like.” Not something requiring intense effort, nor intense focus, but things that have a lot of “bite sized” tasks so I can watch TV or chat to take the edge off.  Sometimes it even helps to have others around.

This has helped me timeshift a lot lately, as well as get more done.  Yes, it’s multitasking, but only when appropriate.

As  a note I will be the first to say that you should avoid multitasking when it reduces your ability to focus, get things done, or do them your best.  I usually do it when the multitasking is something more fun, or social, and so on.  Be careful when you do this until you learn what works for you.

However, if you make multitasking conscious, you can do it right.  You can also choose when not to do it because you’re more aware.

(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 9/25/2017

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

It’s my weekly Scrum style standup for my audience, so where am I?

So what have I done the last week?

  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet”: Chapter 8 is done and edited.  This is a big one as it’s the halfway point in the book and transitions to the next arc.  It’s a bit of a tricky one as our cast is busy scheming and deceiving, while paying off a favor.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #4: Publicity is prepared and ready to go.
  • Blog: I’ve queued up a few more posts.
  • Seventh Sanctum: Enjoy the Junker generator in honor of Overwatch’s latest level.
  • General: Been trying to relax a bit more, and had a great time.

What am I going to do this week:

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #4: Launches this week!  Stay tuned!
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” I’m going to be doing a general edit this week to work all my notes and ideas into the current story and the plot outline.
  • Other: Gearing up for next month – which is gonna be a busy one.  I also think I need to diversify my blogging – I haven’t done a lot of career stuff lately too.

 

– Steve

A Writer’s View: System Thinking

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

This Tweet got me thinking:

Neat idea for a creative person, right?  Tracking their creative stages?  It’s a good example of a creative person finding a way to work with their inspiration and habits.  It’s a system.

Good creatives, successful creatives, have systems.  You can hear about the Snowflake Method, or the “X Habits of Whatever,” or endless ideas of how to write novels, or best ways to do art.  You doubtlessly have your own way of organizing your creativity – even if you’re not aware of it.  For all our raging imaginations, it seems we creative people often make ways to organize that fire that burns inside of us.

There are several reasons we do this – reasons we’re not always aware of, but by bringing it into awareness I hope it helps you make your own.

We organize our creativity to ensure things get done.  Being creative is nice, but if there’s no end result, there’s little point unless you’re doing something freeform.

We organize our creativity to provide focus.  So we make sure we don’t loose track, so we can bring projects to completion, so we don’t start anything new.

We organize our creativity to speed time to completion.  We get structure and organization, milestones and ways to track progress – so that creative dream sees the light of day.

We organize our creativity to embody our principles.  We take ideas of what matters, our mad methods, our special tricks and make them formal so we can use them that much easier.

Finally, an an oft missed benefit, is that by organizing our creativity we can find ways to improve.  When you build a system of ideas, of tracking, of documenting you can use that to find new ways to do better.  That organization of imagination can inspire you to think up new ways to get better.

So, go on, take a look at your creativity.  What systems and methods do you have?  What could you build?  How can you provide enough structure to your dreaming to make you dream better?

 

(Remember I do all sorts of books on creativity to help you out!)

– Steve