All posts by Steven Savage

Those Important Days In Our Stories

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

I was discussing Serdar’s upcoming worldbuilding-intense novel Unmortal.  It’s a setting with many stories, but his philosophy is one novel a setting, so he told the most important story to tell.  I commented offhandedly, “In a 1000 years find the most important day.”

What story do you tell in a world is a powerful question.

We usually build worlds for a reason because we have some idea of what story to tell.  But if you’re a heavy worldbuilder (like myself), questions arise as you write the first story or plot the next.  You have to ask “what is the story worth telling?”

Without spoiling my plans, my Avenoth novels originally focused on college students and faculty in a techno-mystical world.  Without spoiling my plans, my initial plot was not as interesting as asking how did we get here.  In a way, I ended up writing prequels to a novel that may never be – exploring what kind of people teach in a world of internet-using gods and mystic technology.

The second novel, “A School of Many Futures,” was a similar experience.  Originally the story was a mix of murder mystery and parody of conventions and trade shows.  It would see my collection of hyper-competent but oddball heroes try to shepherd a group of students through rolling chaos at a giant convention.  It was amusing, but the story was just “an idea,” and it didn’t have reason to exist.

As two of the characters are freelance teachers, the notes that became “A School of Many Futures” fit far better.  It fit my themes, fit the characters, and let me further explore the themes mentioned above.  It also fit my greater goals of deconstruction, and it was a pleasure to take on the “magical school adventure” trope.

What about my unused ideas?  My extensive notes have been used in a world guide for readers and may be used in an RPG.  Avenoth is a large setting that plays with tropes – perfect for a game.  Your unused ideas may find similar life in other places.

As writers, we must remember our audience only has so much time, and we have so much time to write.  Asking “what is the story worth telling?” is a question we can’t avoid.

Steven Savage

Dishonor Your Idols Respectfully

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

Serdar wrote on how one gets outside of copying influences to find your own way.  He shares his own experiences, and it’s a journey you’ll appreciate.  In turn, I want to share some of my most formative experiences because they’re about learning what doesn’t fit you.

When I returned to fiction with A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, Sir Terry Pratchett’s was the obvious influence.  Whereas he took on fantasy and cultural tropes, I evolved a fantasy setting into the information age, exploring what that said about both the genre and people.  Combined with my love of worldbuilding, it was a romp through a techno-fantasy world, more serious than Pratchett but also reveling in deconstructing tropes.

When my editor got back to me, I realized I also came off wordy as hell.

Now, Sir Pratchett can be pretty wordy, so the influence is evident.  The thing is, what worked for him didn’t work for me – I worked better with a tighter style.  Sometimes you grow out of an influence by finding what parts fit you and what doesn’t – if one doesn’t fit, throw it out.  Sir Pratchett had to decide to do his own thing as well, and it worked for him.

(As a note, I have revisited Robert Aspirin, my early “funny fantasy” influence, and his tight prose may help me out in future writing).

My second formative experiences as a writer started with Agile Creativity.  I was getting tired of Agile being so bog-standard IT stuff, or seeing applied half-baked to writing or art.  I decided I’d write a book applying the core of the Agile Manifesto to creativity in general.  I was going to explore hardcore Agile and hardcore creativity and do both right.

It got several sales, including one bulk order, and for a time was my most-requested presentation at conventions.  I’ve had very good reception on it, and take great amusement that it uses Agile standards, while being for cosplayers, artists, and so on.

This only led to ideas for other books on Agile, which I’ll be working on in 2022 and possibly 2023.  These will get into the psychology of writing and Agile, and another that let us say will have an attitude.  I stepped away from multiple, stale (to me) influences now I’ve got more places to go – and take my audience with me.

What can I say?  I’m an explorer, I’m the guy that gets weird as a way of doing things better.

Don’t fear giving up on your influences, or winnowing them down, or saying “screw it, I’m doing the opposite.”  Those moments are a critical part of growth as a writer.  I can assure you every influence you have probably had many similar moments, and that’s how they became good enough to influence you.

Honor your influences by deciding when to stop listening.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 1/9/2022

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

Just a reminder, I’m using Q1 to catch up on things.

The Way With Worlds series: I’m not doing any work on this until later in Q1, since I’m doing a lot of “cleanup” of various projects, etc.  But the year is planned out to finish the disaster series.  I’ll be planning the cover conversion in February. Expect the Misinformation book end of Q1

“The Agile Writer’s Mindset”: This is still scheduled to start the beginning of Q2.  I’ve streamlined the theme more – the idea is to avoid hardcore Agile and applied systems.  Instead, it’s how to re-evaluate your writing work and how you approach it – because all the various “systems” out there are more rote, less “learning to think.”

Other Books: The compiled book on creativity is being evaluated by a pre-reader right now, and that’ll set the direction for that book.  The compiled columns I’m just going to poke at here and there until it’s ready.  I am also auditioning ideas for my next novel in a few months.  No real schedules yet, sorry.

The Seventh Sanctum rewrite: I’m converting over the generators one at a time, and using it to test the system.  There’s still bugs to deal with (mostly in misconfiguration) but it is working!  Plus I have a list of new generators to make.

Steven Savage