In Praise Of Your Crappy Book

(With NaNoWriMo coming up, let me give you a bit of a boost)

So you wrote a book. You self-published it or may self-publish it. It’s just that, down deep, you think it’s kind of crappy. Guess what, I don’t care if it’s crappy – it may indeed be crappy. I want you to know why this is great.

First, let me note that it’s probably not as bad as you think. The ability to see our work as awful is a blessing and a curse to writers, but I oft find writers suffer from low self-esteem over egomania. We just notice the egomaniacs who think their crap is brilliant as they stand out.

So, now that you have this manuscript you’re vaguely disappointed in, perhaps even published, let’s talk about what’s great about it.

What’s Generally Awesome:

  • It’s done. You can move on to your next project.
  • You managed to actually write a book – kudos. That alone shows a level of strength, talent, commitment, obsession, or lack of self-control that’s commendable. Many people couldn’t do this – you could.
  • You learned you care enough to get a book done. If you have that passion that puts you ahead of people who never try.
  • You can always publish under a pseudonym. In some cases this is the best idea depending on subject matter.
  • At least the book is committed to history. You are a historical snapshot and people may learn from your experiences.
  • You learned more about self-publishing in general, and perhaps the publishing industry from your research. You can use that later or in other projects.

Technical Skills:

  • You learned how to better use writing tools like word processors to get this far. That can help you in your next book or other projects.
  • You learned how to use formatting options and/or self-publishing tools to get the book ready for publishing. You can use that for other projects or in everyday life.
  • You learned how to use publishing services like CreateSpace or Lulu. You can use it again or teach others.
  • You learned how to make a cover for your book, or buy one.  Sure the cover may be bad, but it’s something.

Writing Skills

  • You learned a lot about writing. Yes, the book may not be good, but it is at least coherent enough for people to understand. You managed to figure out how to make that happen.
  • You developed some kind of writing system and tested it – even if it was randomly flailing. You can build on that (or if your method was bad, discard it).
  • You (hopefully) get some feedback. Be it from pre-readers or editors or readers, you’ve got feedback or have the chance to get some. It may not be good, but it’s a chance to grow.
  • You learned just how publishing works, from issues of ISBNs to royalty-free photos. That’s knowledge you can use in future books and elsewhere.
  • You learned about genres from writing within one, from comparing yourself to others, from researching. This can inform your next book, your sequel, your rewrite, or just provide helpful tips for others.

Personality And Habits

  • You developed enough courage to finish and perhaps publish it. It might not be under your name, it may be flawed, but it takes a certain level of character to complete a work. You have it or developed it.
  • You learned a lot about your hopes, fears, abilities, and personality doing this. It might not have been pleasant, but you learned it
  • You learned how you write as you completed the book; do you write well alone, at a coffee shop, etc. You can use this for your next project.

People:

  • You meet people along the way. It may be an editor, a cover artist, a fellow author, someone thank thinks your work is awful. Some of these folks are people you can grow with, who can help you grow – and whom you can help grow.
  • You (hopefully) discovered writer communities along the way, or at least hard more about them. Those are people who can help you next time, be supportive, be friends, or point you at interesting work to read.
  • It may not be good, but how many of us were inspired by not-good things that had some good stuff? Your work might be a stepping stone for others.

The Future:

  • You can at some point rewrite the book and do it right. What if it’s really a glorified rough draft you can revisit when you’re more talented.
  • At some point you can take your book off of your website or out of bookstores or whatever (if self-published). If you’re truly worried, there are options there (and you still enjoy many benefits)
  • You can do a sequel to address the flaws of your work and improve as an author. I’m sure we all know series where the first (or second) book was not the best of all of them.
  • You could always decide the book should be free and let others build on it.
  • Maybe the book would be better as something else – a game, a comic, etc. Now that it’s done perhaps it can be reborn in a better form.

So your book sucks.  But you have a book, and that’s awesome!

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

– Steve

 

Civic Diary: Everyday Stuff

First up, my monthly civic geek roundup. Where am I?

  • First, still doing the local political group. Trying to do more, frankly, but we’ve had trouble coordinating. I do have my posting down to a system.
  • My usual calling and annoying my elected officials of course. Been a bit off on that, but overall keeping at it.
  • I’ve vaguely scheduled a plan to get more into doing Op-Eds and writing newspapers/news sites. There’s a class I can take and a book I found.

Now this month’s thought is on the fact that one big contribution you can make beyond your activism is keeping Shit Running.

This is a massive, MASSIVE, missed part of politics and society in general. Society requires the actions of so many of us, every day, to keep going. It requires driving your kid to school, helping a friend with a resume, cleaning up at your apartment complex, giving a friend a ride. A huge amount of a functional society is Everyday Stuff.

Do not shit on everyday stuff. Everyday stuff keeps things running. Everyday stuff creates ties between people. Everyday stuff is the foundation of so much that we can forget it. Doing it can remind us as well as keeping the whole shebang of society running.

One of the greatest failures in America, of our current crazy, conspiracy-theory-soaked, hating-our-fellow-Americans politics is people forget everday stuff. People are disconnected from action and reaction, from their neighbors, from real human concerns – and their politics are often a mixture of paranoia and abstraction and unawareness. There’s no visceral element except, perhaps, anger.

Ever have one of those friends or family members that seems spun off into their own world? You get the idea. They’re not only lost, they’re often not Getting Stuff Done (or as a much Stuff). They’re abstracted, disconnected – and easily manipulated.

One of my recent experiences – among many – has been having a friend in Puerto Rico. Trying to figure how to help them. Trying to keep in touch. You want hard reality, it’s right there.

So it’s up to all of us to Get Shit Done and keep society going. On top of all our other involvements.

  • Steve

 

Career Thoughts Late 2017

I haven’t done a career post in awhile. I’ve been focused on my worldbuidling books and expanding my repetoire, but I’m still the Geek Job Guru, and it’s time I do a bit more of that.

So with 2017 stumbling along, from political chicanery to security issues to media scandals, let’s talk the career landscape so far. It’s . . . weird.

Economy:

  • The stock market is humming along, but in the midst of political chaos, assorted scandals, and growing social and economic issues. In short, I don’t trust it, and expect a soft landing at best, or a steep (but not radical) decline in the next year or two.
  • Political uncertainty with our current administration can balloon out of control very quickly, especially in cases of military action or impeachment. It’s pretty hard to prepare for this, but you’ll want to. For instance, I have a few “economic emergency plans” in place just in case.
  • With all of the above, I think some economic downturn is simply unavoidable. The question is how severe it will be and how long it will last.

Speaking of Economic Emergency Plans:

  • As much as I like making Plan A work, it’s good to think ahead on your plan for an economic downturn both local, national, and global. This is because we might get one. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but it’s good to have a basic one so you don’t have to worry about it.

Where To Work

  • As much as I love the Bay Area, our housing issues are starting to impact recruiting. I consider this place a good area to move, but urge caution and careful research. I think we’ve got another 2 or so years of this so if you move here – keep this in mind.
  • Amazon’s big plan to make a new HQ is probably going to create a rush, but based on what they said, I wouldn’t expect it to be in a truly major area (Boston, Chicago, etc.). It’d be more a secondary or tertiary city. I also don’t consider it a guarantee of stimulating the economy.
  • My usual recruiting pings seem to be coming from all over lately, I haven’t noticed any trends except “all over.”
  • One big warning is that if you do move, treat it as permanent. You never know and I don’t trust current stability – make sure you’re in a place that can take economic downturns.
  • The bloom is very much off the Tech Company rose after the endless waves of scandals. This doesn’t mean these aren’t good places to work or good options, and people are still investing in some strange ideas. I take it more that we’re seeing things come back to oft-painful reality.
  • Side note on tech companies – considering the scandals we’ve seen from harassment to promoting propaganda, consider that there’s probably more to come by the odds. Adjust expectations appropriately.

Staying Mobile

  • I’ve seen a increase in recruiters looking for people willing to move around for temporary assignments. I’m mixed on this idea since it can lead you all over the place, affect your lifestyle and social life, and perhaps even health. But it might be good as filler.

 

Career Options

  • After the issues with Equifax, you can believe security is going to be an issue in jobs. I’d suggest playing that up if you have the experience and keeping an eye out for opportunities. This is a place to build a permanent career – that hasn’t changed, it’s just more urgent.
  • I’ve recently been introduced to a less-seen world of change control and training and business analysis. This is a fascinating area you may want to check out – because it’s omnipresent and it’s evolving. I’ve also noticed Analyst work is big for both starting careers and bringing them to a conclusion.
  • I’m seeing more and more people doing side projects quite openly, like my books or Seventh Sanctum. If you have one and can make it public, go for it.
  • As for what jobs people should do or train for – that’s something I’m honestly not sure of now. All I can say is do your research.

Job Searches

  • There seems to be a lot of talent mismatch out there with people, companies, etc. This is actually a warning as desperate people may hire wrong.  I think it may be getting worse.
  • On top of the above, I’m seeing more specific recruitment attempts – at times incredibly specific in ridiculous ways. These jobs then stay open forever. Applying for them if you don’t fit enough is probably a waste of time.
  • Recruiters are getting a lot more aggressive the last few months based on what I’ve seen. That may be good, but can be annoying, can lead to a bad mismatch. Also a few companies are outsourcing recruiting and these recruiters are kinda clueless.
  • Pay rates seem very stagnant as of late, possibly regressing, at least based on personal experience. You may need to be aggressive – and I suspect this is part of further problems (above). People want to deal with mismatches cheap and fast.

 

The entire economy and job market seems to somehow be moving forward erratically while also being in a holding pattern. So if you have any input, I’d appreciate it.

– Steve

Steve’s Update 10/22/2017

(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?  Besides having missed last week? Yeah it was nuts.

So what have I done the last weeks?

  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet”: Chapter 8 is published.  Chapter 9 is written.  Chapter 10 is almost done.  I finished my plot editing and revisioned.
  • Way With Worlds Minibook #5: Queuing up this week.  It’s all ready to go!
  • Columns: I’ve got a lot of columns written up!
  • Other Stuff: I’ve been busy with all sorts of life things – job, visits, studying, cons and more.  I probably lost track of it all.

What am I going to do this week:

  • Way With Worlds Minibook #5: Getting marketing ready and launching it.
  • “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet:” Finishing Chapter 10 (probably) and editing 9 and 10 for deployment.
  • Other: Posting columns, a Halloween party, and of course making plans for next month.

I am probably doing Book 6.  It’s just going to take time.  Still aiming for December.  But that will then mean a break from these for awhile.

I do have some sales planned and I need to get to those.  So stay tuned there!

– Steve

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