Steve’s Update 9/23/2018

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Hello!  Feeling mostly better, if a bit behind, but definitely back on track.

That illness finally stopped kicking my butt.  I figured out that many people at work were sick, so it wasn’t that I wasn’t getting better, but my body kept fighting off new invaders.  So I worked from home a bit and it helped.

This is important – if you can work from home stay home if sick AND if everyone else is.

So what have I done the last week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:  Past the halfway point and on a tear.  My goal now is to finish the technical editing run in mid-October, then do a very serious read-through and integrate any prereader feedback.  November looks good (but I gotta get to the cover)
  • Way With Worlds: Not much I’m afraid.
  • Other: Nothing that stands out this week except I feel better!

What am I going to do this week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Keep editing!  I want to get through 1-2 chapters.
  • Way With Worlds: I am going to get back on track this week, with a target for, sadly, probably November as well.  The first book will be on Organizations in general, the second on specifics.
  • Other: An easier week hopefully!  Also I’d like to do more blogging.

-Steven Savage

Editing: The Fiction/Nonfiction Difference

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As everyone who even remotely checks my blogs knows, I’m editing A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, my techno-fantasy novel and return to fiction.  I’m learning a lot from the editing process and my editor (who I am glad to refer to anyone).

One of the things I’ve realized is how radically different editing fiction and nonfiction are.

This probably surprises few people, but it had never really crossed my mind.  This was because I’ve done both and I’ve written so much over the decades, I hadn’t thought about the shift.  It was all ‘writing’ to me, and I assumed I wouldn’t be that rusty.

Well, I was definitely a bit rusty.  But I also began to see the unique challenges of fiction writing after spending time away from it.

Fact checking is harder.  In fiction you’re basically making facts up.  You’ve got to check and be checked on things you pulled out of the air.

There’s more ways to do it.  Instructional and nonfiction works have certain structures and patterns you usually end up following – from the workflow of a process to breaking things down.  Fiction gives you room with metaphor, wordplay, flashbacks, etc. that give you so many ways to do fiction editing and planning is much harder.

You’re in the heads of unreal people . . . you have to get into the minds of fictional people as you write about them.  So you not only have to empathize with your audience, you have to empathize with people that don’t exist.

. . . and have to empathize with your audience in complex ways.  If I write a good instructional or nonfiction piece, I have very set goals and can pretty easily figure my audience out to deliver it.  For fiction I have to think of a variety of experiences the audience may have, their attitudes, backgrounds, and more – and wrap all that in connecting them to a fictional world.

There’s much more back and forth in fiction.  Because of the unique elements of fiction, I find that editing is a lot more of a back and forth thing.  You find a bit of inconsistent language here and have to go back all over your story.  You realize you need to tweak a “feel” here and there.  With nonfiction I usually can go through one or two edits and be done, with fiction there’s more.

You have more of an illusion to keep up.  Nonfiction is about reality and communicating.  Fiction needs you to keep up the illusion, which requires you to be careful with language, repeated words, being properly evocative, etc.

So that was informative.  I’m glad I took time to write it down.  Now let’s see what else I learn . . .

-Steven Savage

Steve’s Update: 9/16/2018

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Hello gang, here’s my latest update!  I got sick this week, so it was pretty awful.

Honestly, it’s like the crap of August got a spinoff series.

So what have I done the last week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:  Still just about at the halfway point of edits, but I’m plowing through the previous chapters using Grammarly as mentioned.  That tool is amazing and it’s given me another editing pass.
  • Way With Worlds: I did not catch up.  Sorry.
  • Other: Sitting around feeling miserable.

What am I going to do this week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Finish grammar edits, get beyond the halfway point, and keep at it.  I think I can get mostly through it this month.
  • Way With Worlds: I’m not gonna catch up at this rate, if I keep having interruptions.  My goal was to get the next book out next month, but I think I’ll have to settle for November.  However, if I work on it I think I can get to a regular pace as I want to keep these coming out – I have a lot planned.
  • Other: I’d like to feel better, so let’s aim for that.

-Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 9/9/2018

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Hello gang, here’s my latest update!

So what have I done the last week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:  I’m at the halfway point of my general edits, did my grammar edit on Chapter 1 and posted it for my  beta readers!  What I’m doing is using Grammarly for the final grammar edits before posting – it’s pricey, but worth it (some people I know use the cheaper program Hemingway).
  • Way With Worlds: Ended up not doing much so I gotta catch up.
  • Other: Did my library speaking – but also had more unexpected stuff to deal with.  Honestly, I need a vacation . . . to catch up.

What am I going to do this week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: I want to get beyond the halfway point and catch up on grammar edits so I can post for my readers.  I’ll probably split time so I can catch up.
  • Way With Worlds: Catching up of course!
  • Other: I’m going to be on the lookout for any interruptions here, needless to say.

-Steven Savage

Just Who Is Writing This?

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So I continue to edit A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, where internet using gods, ancient orders of monster hunters, and trains on spirit-possessed tracks collide.  After the collision they exchange insurance information and complain behind each other’s back.

I found the editing felt  strange, odd.  There were parts I hated or even dreaded – which is entirely unfair to my incredible editor.  Thanks to her work this book is literally twice as better as I had created at the start.

Now you know me, I have to analyze something when I don’t understand it and figure it out.  Oh, and share it with you, my fellow creatives.

Why did I have this dread of editing?

I began analyzing these feelings and realized my basic worry was to find the book was an unsalvagable mess, that it would be impossible or too much effort to fix it.  Now my editor is all about pushing people forward – if the book had been a mess she’d still have left me enough comments to demessify it.

That’s when it struck me – my worry was that I couldn’t write it and couldn’t edit it.  In short – I had Impostor Syndrome.

I began to realize this strikes a lot of writers I see.  We’re there, writing away and are still convinced we’re not writers.  We think:

  • “My work is flawed so it’s not any good” – all work is flawed, so you keep at it and get better.
  • “No one cares about my work” – Someone will always care.  If you do, someone else will.
  • “I don’t have a specialty” – Well, fine, good, you’re broad.
  • “I’m only good at one thing” – That’s fine you, you’re a specialist.

Why is this?  I find two reasons.

First, writing is not an exact science unless your subject is very exact and like a science.  Because of this there’s no exact way to know you’re doing it right and certainly no way to know you’re doing it perfectly.  This makes it easy to imagine all the things you could do differently and never think of “right enough” – or developing your own standards.

Secondly, writers are imaginative.  We can come up with all sorts of ways to decide how bad we are.  We turn imagination on ourselves.

But a writer is someone who writes and improves.  If you do this, you’re a writer.  You’re only not a writer if you quit or stagnate.

Realizing this, I felt better. I’m going to do what I always do – forge ahead and write and get better.


-Steven Savage

All My Good Bad Influences

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As I edit away on A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, my tale of a techno-magical world and an interplanetary road trip involving holy books, I am busy finding out how I mishandled my good influences.

This is not due to my own genius, this is due to my amazing editor, who I am willing to introduce to anyone who wants to pay her money to edit.  She is fantastic at pointing out flaws in my work, leaving comments, and using search-replace to highlight all my common errors.  Some pages of my book look like a vengeful highlighter achieved sentience and attacked common word combinations it had a grudge against.

Between her feedback and her markup, I began to realize that my major influences were also ones influencing my flaws.  Allow me to explain:

First, there’s a chance if you’re inspired by an author or a creator, you won’t do it quite right.

Second, you may make the same mistakes your inspiration makes – and likely being less polished than they, you’ll make them worse.

Third, your inspirations together may not sit quite right.  You need to find a way to fuse them into a whole.

So what happened with me?  Well my editor noticed passive voice (lots of was), strange asides, weird wordplay, and moments I was abstract from the characters.  Nothing unusual, but then I looked at my inspirations and realized where I’d stumbled.

My core influences are Sir Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Dave Barry.  If you read my fiction, the inspiration is obvious – I love playing with words, exploring settings, and deconstructing ideas.  Take these trends too far and you end up with infodumps and trying to be too witty.

I was also influenced by anime, with the fantastical elements, fusions of genres, and passion for characterization.  Again, you can take these things too far – it took watching My Hero Academia to realize that I too liked to do giant flashbacks that could be handled better when not animated.

Finally, I love oddball character stuff of all kinds – indeed one sub-theme of A Bridge To The Quiet planet is that it’s basically several parties of unusual personalities having an adventure and colliding with each other.  Its a tale of magic and super-science and demons, but is basically about the people in this world.  You can get distracted by the oddities and details and loose touch with the fact these are people.

So I did too much infodumping, wrong details, wrong approach, and got a bit too full of  myself.  But there’s one more thing I forgot.

I was following several styles – I was not combining them into one.  I was doing a story of intimate character portraits and giant weird worlds, of human eccentricity and complex societies.  There was a feeling of discord, of the two not blending – or of one dominating the other.

In short I took some of my inspirations too far or in the wrong direction – and forgot to find a style that fit to realize all my inspirations.

As you edit your work, look to your inspirations.  Then find out how you might be doing them wrong – or doing them right and not harmonizing them.

-Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 9/2/2018

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Here’s the latest.  And would you believe it’s still busy.  A lot of August was overloaded.

So what have I done the last week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:  Editing of course.  I have yet to get it up for pre-readers, but plan to this week.  It’s going quite well overall – but probably updates are gonna get a bit boring for awhile.
  • Way With Worlds: Keeping up on the Organization book.  Right now my guess is that one is out in October.  Again this is a side thing to the novel, but it is a good relaxer.
  • Seventh Sanctum: I’ve updated The Nexus with a change.  Instead of linking to other generators, I liked to assorted creative resources, including other generator sites.
  • Other: My car died so I had to get a new one.  Took a bit of time.

What am I going to do this week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: It’s gonna be editing and more editing.  And I’ll post chapters for pre-readers.  I also plan to use Grammarly to help me out – I hear its spectacular.
  • Way With Worlds: More writing (I’m seeing a trend here)
  • Other: I’m speaking on self-publishing this weekend – if you’re in the Bay Area let me know.  I also hope to do some Sanctum stuff.

-Steven Savage

No More Heroes – But A Legion Of Them

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Giant tentpole movies and famous book series everyone loves and knows about are a bad idea.

Yes, I’m thinking the Marvel Cinematic Universe might not be a good idea. I’m concerned that Megaseries like Harry Potter and Twilight may have been too widespread. I’m happy that My Hero Academia may be the new gateway anime, but I’m concerned it could become too big in an age where everyone wants to find the “right” thing to see or read.

Why do I think this? Well, you’re lucky because I have a reason for my ranting.

First, I think we’ve become conditioned to produce and look for The Big Hits. What’s the hip thing to get in on? What’s the thing I must make to corner the market? The drive to make The Big Thing becomes not about what it’s about but marketing and social positioning – it degrades the literary elements.

Secondly, I think it encourages repetition and unoriginality. Because we are trying to make What Works and What Sells and What Gets Big, everything ends up the same soup of warmed-over ideas. It’s probably easier to make the Big Thing in a mix of doing the same with a few twists or famous faces or advocates.

Third, because people are trying to make What’s Big and follow What’s Big, people burn out. Do you want to watch another by-the-beat film? Do you want to read another story like the last? I once left SF and fantasy for years because it seemed All Alike.

Four, it leads to pathetic fan wars and academic arguments. When everyone is advocating to be King of Mediocrity Mountain, no one asks if they actually want that.

So, what do we do?

I do believe that we should read historically important fiction and appreciate important movies and so on. We don’t have to make it required, we don’t have to force it, we should just advocate for understanding. Besides, some of this stuff may be important but it can be limited, bigoted, or honestly kind of be bad.

I do believe we should share literature and media, but no more preaching. Let’s encourage people to enjoy things but let’s stop pursuing the next big thing – it’s wearing us out and wearing us down. It’s tiring to have so many must haves. Let’s make offerings not demands.

I do believe in standards for literature and values, but none of those are embodied in one book or one show or one movie. Let the values and standards have multiple forms and manifestations and stop looking for the Holy Grail Of The Right Thing.

I do believe the ideal media future is not people pursuing imitating each other or What’s Big in the hope of being the Next Big Thing. Let’s actually push for more authors getting exposure, have more literature and film and shows for different people. Let’s stop trying to be J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin levels of fame, and just focus on being good and making a good living.

Let’s not enocurage the Big Thing or preach the Big Thing or dream of making the next big imitative Big Thing. Let’s work for diversity and high standards, history and new things, that make life interesting and dynamic.

Take down the tent poles. Let’s walk under the open sky.

-Steven Savage

Writing Fiction By Ignoring It

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Serdar and I are always discussing where our inspirations come from, and as we’re both Death Star-laser-focused on our current novels, that’s foremost in our minds. We’re fired up to know where our ideas come from, how to improve them, and of course understanding them so we can share them. Fortunately, we have a common conclusion.

The best way to write fiction is to read, watch, and listen to anything but fiction.

I’m aware you’ll probably want an explanation for this, so take my metaphorical hand and let’s wander into the weeds.

When you’re reading fiction you’re getting lessons in things like how to write. There are examples of portraying emotions, plotting a tight story, and so on. You may be inspired by some of the ideas, but inspiration from someone else’s fiction can only take you so far because those ideas come from that given author.

If you only take inspirations from fictional works that you are at best A) deconstructing them (worthy but at times limiting) or B) imitating them (which we have enough of, thanks).

So where are the best fictional inspirations? Simple.

Anything outside of the fiction you’re reading, and preferably radically different.

Seek ideas from other sources.  It can be music or video games, it could be the history of state parks or a cookbook.  Expand your horizons in any way but reading fiction.

Here’s where a lot of my ideas come from for fiction:

  • Richard Florida’s research into cities and megaregions. If you’ve ever noticed I like inventing big cities and complex social arrangements, this is where it comes from.
  • My work in psychology and psychobiology. Pay attention to my fiction and you’ll notice a major emphasis on social and political structures that may seem a wee bit organic if you will.
  • A fascination with maintenance of society and culture. How any human institution, culture, or nation survives and prospers is of great interest to me, and I have a “thing” for tales about “how some group of weirdos keeps it from going to hell.”
  • An interest in positive religious and philosophical experiences. This comes from my personal studies but also M.A.S.H. – Father Mulchahey was a huge inspiration, and he can be seen in my past and present work. There’s almost always one humane philosopher or cleric in my tales.
  • Buddhism and psychology. How people work interests me, of course, as does the impermanent nature of our minds and how we affect ourselves and others.
  • A love of culture and all the little things like where toys come from or the history of fonts.
  • Food. I love food and cooking, and you’ll always find it mentioned in my works because food tells you a lot about a setting, and exploring food in a setting helps you worldbuild.
  • A fascination with worldbuilding, of course. How you make a setting come to life has obsessed me for years.
  • Music. I often find songs that inspire me, in various styles, and those energize me. I know people who make whole playlists for their works.

So there’s a smattering of my (mostly) non-fictional and (sometimes) non-written inspirations. Now, a challenge for you.

What are your inspirations on written fiction that aren’t strictly fictional and/or aren’t always written? I want you to write them down, post them, and link back to me. Then go challenge your other friends to do the same.

Let’s learn from each other.

-Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 8/26/2018

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Here’s my update.  As this week got INSANELY busy there’s not a lot.

So what have I done the last week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:  Still editing, and the book is going to be seriously improved.  My editor’s advice let me see how to fuse my influences better into a much, much richer story.  Unfortunately because things are busy and there’s a lot of tweaking I want to do, it might go into November.  I don’t plan to have it go after that.  I’ll make the call end of September.
  • Way With Worlds: Doing the Organizations book on the side – and already planning a sequel.  This is real relaxing – which I can use.  I have a lot more planned.
  • Other: I did some speaking at the Toy Expo in the Bay Area and it was AWESOME.  I am also pleased to report that A) It was really diverse on subjects and merch, B) Had some great panels, C) Old-school figures like Gil Gerard and Eric Estrada got respect from people – there were CHiP’s cosplayers half my age.

What am I going to do this week?

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Still editing!  I want to get through at least 3 more chapters, and am considering putting them online for prereaders.
  • Way With Worlds: Writing!  More!
  • Other: I have no idea.  I’m still exhausted.

-Steven Savage