It’s Great. So What?

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Lately, I’ve been prereading/editing many works.  I’ve also finished several books and have more things being juggled for publishing.  I’m finding one of the worst forms of feedback is “it’s great!”

You’ve had that experience.  You tell some writer, “it’s great” and then the questions come – why, how come, are you sure?  Didn’t you give enough feedback?  You just said it’s fine!

Then it strikes you since you’re also a writer – “it’s great” means nothing.  It provides no details on what to do right, what to improve, etc.  “It’s great” is useless to writers because there’s no way to improve.  You may have written a novel that will stay in the public mind for centuries, and you don’t know why.

Even if you should change nothing, you want to know why you shouldn’t change.  If you don’t get feedback on what you did right, you might stop doing it by accident!

It’s almost easier to give negative feedback because we can probably go on in detail if we dislike something.  We forget the easy and pleasurable read, but the flaws prick our minds and the pain stands out.  Negative feedback comes easier.

I take this as a reminder that giving feedback on what’s right is a skillset all its own.  It takes work to notice why things are good, what impressed us, what even taught us.  A smooth ride of a read can become so smooth we don’t realize why it was smooth.

The best answer I have is to be self-aware.  When a story flows through your mind, what is it that worked for you?  What did you feel in your gut as your eyes took in the words?  Your reactions are the key to tell you what makes a thing great.

If we listen to ourselves, we help others do better – or keep doing the good things.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Upate 1/16/2022

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For anyone curious why this update is “no books yet” it’s because I’m focusing on my websites, the Sanctum, and general cleanup. Really needed a month or so to just catch up.

The Way With Worlds series: No new news – next book end of March or so, three books this year, want to do the new covers but no plan for another few weeks.

“The Agile Writer’s Mindset”: Still plan to start in Q2, and as noted it’s more about how to change your mindset with certain exercises.

Other Books: I hope to hear back from the “pre-editor” on the book on creativity and freedom soon (they’ve had a bad few weeks). Based on that I’ll make the call when to or what to do with it. The compendium book will be “whenever.”

The Seventh Sanctum rewrite: I’m on a roll now and have troubleshot multiple problems. It’s been very insightful as well – I’ve even flushed out some old errors that weren’t apparent. I hope to have a better timeline in a few more weeks.


Steven Savage

Media, Message, Mismach

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

When creating a piece of a media we need to ask “did I choose the right form for my Bright Idea?”  Should it really be a book, comic, movie, game, or is it better suited for another form?

Some readers may be nodding, others may be curious.  Let me explain by examples.

I’m no fan of the Twilight series, yet I found the lush-looking movies beautifully overdone.  When I saw the manga it impressed me as more interesting than the books.  At least to me, Twilight seemed better suited to a visual medium.  Yes, it was a commercial success, but I can’t shake the feeling that had it been an anime/manga there might have been more to it, and maybe some useful artistic lessons.

As a less personal example, consider an issue that I discuss with fellow authors – those series that seem to be Open World games or RPGS in novel forms.  As much as I love worldbuilding myself, I know 800 pages of “it really picks up by the second book” doesn’t interest people.  Some novels or series seem best – or became – things better suited to games or fictional guides.

If you’re a creative, especially a self-published one, you should ask if your story and setting fit the medium you chose.  Some people might be fortunate enough to get away with a “media mismatch” (see above), but ask if you can beat those odds.  A marketing machine can get someone to read a five-book series far easier than you may – even if people forget it afterward.

This doesn’t mean you should give up on an idea – you need to refine it for your chosen media.  If you have a book that is an RPG-in-disguise, you can refine it into a more bookable form.  If you want to make an RPG, but it comes from a story, maybe you can expand the worldbuilding.  It’s OK to rework your idea so the audience can enjoy it in the form you want.

Making a piece of media accessible requires many things – the right wording, rules, art style, etc.  However, we should ask as if we’re doing the right thing in the right form of media.  There may be a mismatch here.

To give an example in my Avenoth series – which is worldbuilding heavy – “A Bridge to the Quiet Planet” was a romp across worlds, and had overly “worldbuildy” moments.  I tightened up the focus in “A School of Many Futures” which made it more intimate, which made the setting more accessible.  A tweak of perspective improved the story.

Consider the right media for what you want to tell and how to make what you want to say optimized for the media you’ve chosen.  It’ll help you reach people, which we all want, especially in a crowded market.

Steven Savage