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

A Writer’s View: Audience Interest

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

One of the things I always worry about my return to writing is “will people want to read my work?”  My friend Serdar has analyzed this in one of his blog posts (with the winning title “If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Novel“).  He focused on novel length in many cases, and asked himself why some large works are worth the time and others are not.

What’s interesting is his next book is 230k words.  “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet” is probably clocking in around 110K.  But we both ask ourselves “Why do people care.”

We have to make it worth their time (and money), it must engage them.  I can think of two ways we may do this off the top of my head:

Something To Care About

Serdar hits on one by noting:

. . . the trick, I guess, is to package them up and offer them in a way that other people can pick up on, in their own way, what the interesting things are. Anime and manga have whole subgenres that revolve around the mastery of a skill (a sport, a game) or the deep investigation of a mundane everyday occupation. They take something that to an outsider would be meaningless and they invest it with the urgency of The Great Work Of Life And Death. It makes a striking contrast to stories that involve casts of thousands and the fate of nations but evoke little more than a gurgling snore.

You have to write about stuff people care about or make them care by getting them invested in the characters, the setting, etc.  If you can connect people to the work (often through characters) then they will buy into it.  They will give a damn.

For my own example, let’s take Yuri On Ice, the gay romance men’s figure skating drama you didn’t know you wanted, and that is a runaway hit.  I have watched it twice because I like the characters, I like humor, and I like all the substories.  I felt like things were happening to people, and thus was engaged on a subject that I frankly didn’t care about – skating.

OK I didn’t like Chris, he’s a creep, but anyway.

Something To Learn

I am a very detail driven person – which makes sense as I write books on Worldbuilding.  I love bits of revelation and backstory as the world comes into focus, as we learn more about the characters.  Even if the details aren’t relevant to the story, they help you understand things.

You can also get interest if you’ve got plenty of things revealing and being found out and pace yourself.  If people keep learning, keep finding out new things – plot-related or not – they’ll be interested.  The best things of course are revelations that tie to the plot, but having fun little details also just makes the story and characters real.

An example I’ll give from this is the under-appreciated military-sf-horror film Spectral, which I strongly recommend (warning, link has spoilers).  You get slow revelations over time, and only truly get the full story in the last five minutes.  Each little bit, each finding about the horrors the characters face, each choice to fight back, each revelation as they try to out-think the forces against them, kept me hooked.

Keep People Engaged

You can make a 10 page short story a slog and make a 500 page novel that people loose track of time reading.  It’s all how you can get them engaged.  And it determines if it was worth their time.

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

– Steve

A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: What It’s About

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

I’ve been posting about my writing here a lot.  So, with intermittent updates, I’m going to talk about my fiction writing project, “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.”

First of all, yes, fiction.  I’ve not done public fiction in awhile – but I did side projects, edited, coached, and did stuff for the Sanctum.  I figure it was time – and it’s fun.  If this works, I plan to split my time between fiction and non-fiction.

And what’s it all about?  To sum it up in one sentence:

A sorceress, an engineer, and a priest on a planet-hopping road trip with the owner of a mysterious collection of holy books.

The idea came together when I got inspired to write, contemplated a few past projects and some recent anime, and came up with a simple idea – what happens when you take a world of magic and monsters, gods and spirits, and technology evolves as well?  Welcome to the world of Telvaren and it’s planetary colonies, a nation of science and sorcery, where the gods use the internet and interplanetary travel is done via techno-wizardry.  Politics is driven by a mixture of gigantic cities, assorted guilds and unions, and divine interests – but don’t let the present distract you, because there’s a past of mysterious artifacts, demons, dragons, and more waiting to be discovered . . .

Into this comes Marigold and Scintilla, a sorceress and a “technic” who act as a freelance techno-magical hazmat and research team for the wizardly guild Phoenix Ascendant.  They have “A Plan” for their careers, which requires them to get into a lot of weird situations to gain influence with the guild.  They’re good at getting into and out of trouble – until someone wants to hire them not to find something mysterious, but to help him carry a set of holy books to Godsgrave, the world where deities go to die.

Also, it’s a lot of money.

Soon they’re outrunning a special branch of the Military consisting only of people who’ve lost loved ones, what may or may not be a demon escaped from the prison-world of Pandemonium, and some mysterious individuals spreading stories on the Network that connects people.  No one is what they seem, no one is quiet telling the truth, and the dumbest things can be done by people who are very smart . . .

So it’s up to Marigold and Scintilla to punch, talk, shoot, conjure, run, lie, and plan their way out of trouble.  They’re going to get their client to Godsgrave by hook or by crook, because as crazy as things get, the two people they are sure they can trust is each other.

I hope you’ll all enjoy it, and I plan to post more on my blog – I think what I’ll do is alternate posts on the story with posts on my writing findings, give or take.

– Steve