Some Writing Experiments And Thoughts

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

Going into 2021, I’d like to quickly round up a few writing experiments I did and am planning to do. I hope it inspires everyone to try them, try their own, or tell me I’m full of it.

So let’s get to it:

The 20 Minute Prime

The “20 Minute Prime” is a habit I created to make sure I keep writing and don’t get distracted – while not pressuring myself. It works like this.

  • 20 Minutes a day I sit down and write – but it can be anything from a blog post to a book to a newsletter. As long as it wasn’t “everyday” writing like email, it was good.
  • During this 20 minutes I do nothing else. No chat, email, etc.
  • At the end of the period I can keep writing if I want to. I don’t have to avoid distractions if I don’t want.

When I do this, I rarely write only 20 minutes. Once I’m going I’m in the zone and I get a lot more done. It also seems to be faster.

So far this has been extremely successful. I make time for writing that’s not distractible, but I don’t pressure myself on what, so I don’t beat myself up over not writing the “right” thing. By doing this I get into the visceral rhythm of writing, making space for it, and often I write much more. Finally I develop a good awareness of distraction, avoiding it, and allowing it.

Deep Dives

I have tried writing books “over time” and it’s a mixed bag – it can be a grind, you can loose the big picture, etc. Also it involves timeshifting and changing focus and keeps you from being “in the flow.” Sometimes you need to dive deep for a few hours.

Inspired by someone in one of my writers group who once wrote for 20 hours on a weekend, I’m going to try marathon writing. I call these Deep Dives.

Now I don’t know if I’ll write for 20 hours over a weekend (I just may) but my goal is to set aside time to spend hours working on books. My theory is as follows:

  • I can get into the zone and write faster.
  • This leads to focus and avoids timeshifting, saving time.
  • Doing writing flushes problems out, so the more the better.
  • Whatever I don’t fix will come out in edits.
  • Sometimes finishing is the only way to fix stuff.

My first test will be my next Worldbook, which will probably write in less than a week (and possibly over a weekend). I’ll doubtlessly let people know how that goes.

That’s The Plan – So Far!

I’ll keep sharing other insights. Maybe folks would like a regular update on what I’m trying and if it worked?

Steven Savage

A Writer’s Life: Taking Notes And Improving Writing

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

As I write “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet,” I’ve started taking notes on my writing techniques.

Getting back into this was a bit tougher than I thought, so it took me awhile to get going.  Fortunately I kind of got a writing system going again – only, as I used it, I had other insights.

So I figured, why not write them down for later?

This is something I hadn’t thought of before, but as I do so I find the act of reviewing these findings, these new techniques, and recording them helps my writing even more.  I’m activley thinking about how to get better.

This is really classic Agile practice; you don’t just do things.  You review them in order to improve.  I strongly recommend every writer keep a list of “technique notes” and gradually review them.  If possible, actually write up your techniques, maybe review them every work, to help build a system in your head.

This may sound a bit excessive, but so far?  It’s helped me a lot.

Besides, it gives you something to share with other writers . . .

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

– Steve

A Writer’s Life: Big Rocks II: Electric Boogaloo

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

I recently ran into a case of getting blocked in my writing.  It was weird, things just felt “wrong.”  I wasn’t happy with a scene.  Some plot elements seemed off.  Editing earlier chapters felt odd.  I was writing, but it felt stuck.

So I took a lok at how I felt.  I didn’t even to need to use the “Five Whys” because I quickly realized what this sensation was.

It was the Big Rocks.

Big Rocks, which I wrote about, are those parts of the story we’re so stuck on they hold up the evolution of the story.  They literally weigh you down because if you changed, removed, or broke them down the story would be so much better.  It doesnt matter how great an idea or scene is, if it holds your story back it should be gone.

Way back when I became aware of them it was a case of plot idead and scenes acting as my big rocks, keeping me from getting going.  Now I had written scenes and chapters and . . .  you got it . . . was unwilling to change them.  *What I had written had become a bunch of Big Rocks holding me back.

Realizing that was a relief.

  • Suddenly two characters that seemed partial became one character, who changed the entire game yet made the plot MORE intact.
  • Thanks to the first item one character gets a hilariously annoying fangirl.
  • A few rearranged and blended scenes made everything flow better.
  • A throwaway Nasty Monster got changed to a different kind of Nasty that set the plot better.
  • Became aware of a lot of subtle themes as I write, and it seems there’s always more.  Now the story includes themes of PTSD, heroism after the fact, and the need for trust.
  • One character who faded away became a bridge to another plot element, furthering the theme of “smart people doing smart things with stupid results.”  I like him so much I may bring him back in a short story.

Writing is never solid.  It reminds me of a story I heard about a martial artist who challenged someone to bend his arm.  This martial artist adjusted his arm and stance ever so slightly, constnantly, and thus countered every attempt to force his arm to bend.  It was like an ever-adjusting flow of water, powerful yet subtle.

So, be that flow, get to your destination by bending whenever needed to get there – and you become both immovable yet adjusting.  You just go around the Big Rocks – and wear them down.

As a side piece of advice, I think cultivating this “flow” attitude early in any piece is needed.  You’ll constantly adapt and adjust, and it’ll become habit.  It’s rather Agile really.


– Steve