Category Archives: Advice

Media, Message, Mismach

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com 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

Tool as Discipline

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

I use several tools to help my writing, from simple spellcheck to ht power of Grammarly. I don’t consider them tools just for finding problems – I think of them as tools for learning. This might be an approach that works for you as well.

English is an odd language, and it’s easy to make mistakes when we’re spelling knife with “k,” and people argue about commas (Oxford always). There are also different ways to write about separate subjects, and lessons in one don’t always carry over to others. Even a writer with good editors is facing several challenges unless you write all the time.

Books can help and should be used, but writing is something best learned by doing. So that’s where tools come in – they’re my obstacle course.

Tools like Grammarly and spellcheck show what I’m doing wrong immediately. As I’m writing, mistakes come up, and I catch myself. Each revealed mistake is a pinprick reminder of my errors, and I get into the habit of looking for them.

I become aware conscious of my problems. Then I start seeking them before I make them. This effort develops new, better habits.

I also run checks on documents – I don’t write everything in Grammarly or with every single checker turned on for the sake of sanity. When the same error keeps appearing, I stop and start looking for it on my own. If I keep making recognizable mistakes, then I can learn to see them earlier.

A pattern makes itself apparent. I repair it on my own before counting on the tool. By fixing the same problem multiple times, I learn more about my flaws and address them.

By using tools as learning experiences, I’ve improved my writing over the last two years. It requires a conscious decision, but it may help you as well.

(Yes, I’m serious enough about my writing I pay for Grammarly. I recommend it if you’re serious about your writing.)

Steven Savage

My Audiobook Discovery

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

I had never really been into audiobooks like some people. Sure a few were fun to listen to on long trips, but they didn’t seem the same as reading. Besides on my commutes I’d rather write (if I’m not driving) or listen to podcasts. Also hey, it wasn’t the same as reading – or so I thought.

However, a friend kept suggesting the books Indistractable and Atomic Habits, which you’re probably going to be tired of me praising. He mentioned he listened to audiobooks while exercising.

Eventually that settled into my head. I’ve been keeping healthy during the pandemic with a 60 minute walk early each morning (90 minutes on weekends). I also do 10 minutes of intense cardio each day (a mix of weight lift and high step and chair climbs as FAST as possible). Needless to say I couldn’t listen to podcasts all the time, and as some were serious content, they weren’t all realxing.

But books on productivity and cool stuff? Helpful and very relaxing!

So I tried it. Which is how I listened to both books – and it worked! I retained the information and enjoyed the experience. Sure for some books I buy paper copies for reference, but that’s a different thing.

A few insights.

First, I think though audibooks are worth exploring, each of us may have different experiences. I’m not sure if I’d enjoy fiction, but I definitely retained a lot from these productivity books. We may each have different experiences.

Secondly, I think there’s some books just not fit for audiobooks, like say a programming language book. You gotta be hands on obviously.

Third, I think some of this is great for people like me who maintain certifications. We can process vital information and useful books as part of our continuing education.

Fourth, there are a lot of ways to get audibooks, including libraries. Well worth exploring them to save money. Check out things like Libby (which does audio and ebook) and others!

So I guess audiobooks are part of my life now. And you’re probably going to get a lot more reccomendations . . .

Steven Savage