(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr. Find out more at my newsletter.)
Way With Worlds, both the core books and the minibooks, have their origins in the murky early days of the internet.
We’re going back to fanfiction.net and sffworld.com and the rest. Strap into the Wayback machine.
So way, way early in the internet days, I think maybe 2000 or something, I became aware of the sheer talent in fandom. The internet jacked everything up to 11 and you just saw so much power, especially for writers. Fanfiction, original fiction, AUs, all of it was exploding across the internet (as well as freaking out some company’s legal offices).
Now I’d always been big on Worldbuilding from my ‘zine and RPG days. I love making a good setting and was developing original works myself. I’d also been on one major shared-universe project as an editor, and that taught me a lot about setting creation. Seeing so many people creating made me think I should share some advice.
So Way With Worlds started on Fanfiction.net. Then it spread to sffworld.com. And I wrote.
And kept writing.
And kept writing.
Even when I stopped, I posted the old works up at www.SeventhSanctum.com, my generator website. I would get emails about it now and then, over the years.
I can’t say they were the best written thing. Some were great. Some were just rants in organized forms. But they did reach a lot of people, and that was important; my goal was to empower people.
But if they weren’t the best written, they obviously reached people. Still, one learns over time, and if people still wrote me about Way With Worlds why not improve it . . .
Thus I set forth a project to rewrite Way With Worlds, I think around 2014. I would improve and expand upon them, and update them for modern times where more and more people were self-publishing. As I recall, it took at least a year to do – and it gave me even more feedback from my readers.
That feedback also included memories and thanks from previous readers. That’s when I realized there was one more step – people should be able to get my columns in an even more refined form – books.
I was literally thinking about rewriting and rewrite to put it in another form. That seemed weird to me, but then I realized this made a lot of sense. A book is easy for some people to read as opposed to a bunch of blog posts. A book is a way to present select columns and expand on them. A book also let me update all the stuff I learned in an update.
Thus I rewrote the rewrite and turned it into two books. This was educational.
Remember how I said a book presented data differently and gave you options? Yeah, its a totally different mindset. I had to ask how columns were associated with each other. I had to ask how they did and didn’t work together. A book is curated and I had to curate my own work into a more formal format.
I gained a lot more respect for people who blog-then-book. I could see how it helped, but also required transforming works in different ways.
Thus in 2016 the first book came out, where I expounded on my basic philosophy. Book 1 is a fun, tight, interesting read that helps people adapt a mindset appropriate to worldbuilding. In retrospective, it was a bit like the way Agile discusses both Philosophy and Method.
But there were also tons of columns left over! Good ones! So I created Book 2 to round up deep dives on certain subjects (not as specific as others, hang in there). They paired nicely – core philosophy, then deep dives on important subjects. It was a great two-book series.
On top of that, I had killer book covers, great editors, and they were quality product. They really were a different animal than the columns, and I felt like I’d evolved my work to a final state. I guess it was sort of Pokemon of writing.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Some years before I did Fan To Pro I’d kicked around ideas about writing career guides that coached people with friendly questions – kind of like sitting in a coffee shop with me. I came up with the idea to do this for Worldbuilding subjects, especially ones that were important to me. I would use them as fun tie-ins to the core books.
They took off like crazy. People loved the idea of personal, coaching, deep looks at specific subjects. I also enjoyed writing them, so . . . now I write one every few months. People keep reading them.
So that’s how it began. Early internet posts re-evolved to modern times. Modern rewrites evolved into books. These books inspired simple tie-ins that became their own thing.
Everything evolved, often surprisingly. It was also totally worth it.
So what lessons are there for you:
- Feedback matters. Give it to inspire and direct people. Take it to remember your work matters to people – and it can be better.
- It’s worth updating old posts if they help people. You evolve and change, people do, so update your best advice to be better.
- Blog-to-book or columns-to-book is very legitimate (and has been done for decades). It also gives you options and direction that blog-style writing doesn’t. Converting something to a book makes you think.
- Experiment with your writing, including things you publish. It gives you feedback, and you may find paths you never expected.
- You never know 100% what’s going to happen. So be open to new ideas.
So that’s the story. Will I ever re-re-rewrite them? Probably not. I might update the core books with some tweaks, or polish or correct some things in the minibooks, but they’re pretty stable. Of course they’re stable because I learned so much from rewriting . . .