Steve’s Update 11/15/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Hello all. Last time I was trying to catch up – so how are we doing?

So what have I done since last time?

  • Way With Worlds: The Gods and Deities Book is going OK, though I’m trying to pace writing it differently. As opposed to doing a bit each day the idea is to bingewrite once a week – and it’s been a busy week. I’ll know more in a few weeks.
  • Chance’s Muse: Editing done and the print book is formatted!
  • A School Of Many Futures: I’ve written out to Chapter 4 (as well as other stuff like some scenes and all of the last chapter) and done some “Deplotting” to loosen the plot up so it can evolve.
  • Seventh Sanctum: Not much, just ideas. Man I miss this . .
  • General: The new time management is actually helping. This was a brutal week and I’m still going to get most everything done if not more.

What’s next?

  • Way With Worlds: Keep writing – and see how things go.
  • Chance’s Muse: Do the cover and get a beta print copy out.
  • A School Of Many Futures: Review the plot outline, polish chapters 1-4, and then tear into writing more!
  • Seventh Sanctum: Do something so I can stop complaining ūüėõ

Steven Savage

Stop Being The Writer You Are

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

Let me ask you a question – imagine someone is basing a character on you as a writer. How would they portray it, what “writer archetype” would you easily map to?

My guess is that answer came a bit too easily, or that once you examined it, you found the choice was not quite right.

Our culture provides us many ways to think about being a writer – roles and tropes and ideas of who we should be. Lately I’ve been aware of just how often writers (and indeed creatives) slot themselves into various cultural tropes. I think it’s actually holding us back.

How often have you met people describe themselves as “X kind of writer?” How many people have said “I’m trying to be like X?” Have you ever met someone who seemed to be playing a “role” as an author like Unappreciated Creator or Self-Depreciating Writer or Calculating Opportunist? Culture provides us many ways to think about ourselves.

How do you think about yourself? And is it healthy? I’ve come to wonder if the roles society gives us aren’t that healthy.

There’s so many negative ideas of authors and all creatives. There’s the inevitable Sad Failed Author, or the Unappreciated Auteur. There’s the Has-Been, and the Never Will be. If we’re not thinking of ourselves in bad ways, we worry others may fit us into the tropes.

There’s also so many limited ideas of author. How many people “Just Write X?” How many people “Want To Be Like Y” – the way so many movies are “like A plus B.” How many roles, even positive, are constraining?

So here’s my challenge to you. I want you to rethink yourself as a writer. Come up with a way to describe yourself that’s your own. Define yourself.

Perhaps you do it like a Fantasy Class. Are you a Fantasybender? Are you a Priestess of Promotional Advice?

Maybe you do this in a simple evocative way. You’re the Hard-Bitten Humorist. You’re The Worldbuilding Guru.

Another way to do this is put it as a role. Supporter of Cosplayers. Crafter of Sarcasm.

Try any of those, but I challenge you now to come up with a way to describe you, as a writer, that’s yours.

Steven Savage

Musings On Ideal Media Culture

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

Last time I posted on how it was hard to deal with there being so much “stuff” out there, which Serdar has commented on. In turn, he also provides this link on how books are still dominated by a few megablockbusters. So yes, there’s problems with “so much stuff” as well as “big stuff over all of us.”

Think of it this way. We also have a lot of new stuff on Netflix and giant blockbusters dominating everything else. We can publish anything but there’s also huge books firmly lodged in popular culture It’s easy to get lost in obscurity or be overshadowed.

This doesn’t change my take on writing or creating your thing – do what you want and what works for you. But it does lead to another question.

What do I think a healthy media-culture ecosystem is? Admittedly not this one, but what is my ideal that I think is, you know, good for people (and thus creators).

Before answering that, let me turn to my ideas on a healthy society.

Steve’s Ideas on a Healthy Society (Duh)

So first, what do I think a Healthy society is like? I view it in a very organic sense – a healthy society maintains itself, grows, and evolves.

Thus I think of a healthy society as one that contains “interlinked independence” across all levels. People and organizations, states and government offices, are highly connected in ways that support each other. Think of it this way – an individual supported/supporting a strong union, working at a local business, voting at all levels, and working with an NGO dealign with climate change is closely tied with the world and closely supported. Everyone’s got your back with connection – but also you have the ability to “firewall” away from negative influences.

Or in short, a society needs people to have each other’s backs on all levels, while having the ability to survive the conflict among various factions and elements that will doubtlessly occur.

So that’s my ideal of a society in an abstract form. Now how does that apply to media?

A Healthy Media Ecosystem

In a healthy culture, I see media interest and creation as “scaled” much as I see a healthy society, a series of linked interests and enthusiasms on various levels. People would not just indulge, however, they would advocate.

  • You may do your own creative work, and and advocate for it. Your friends and connections would assist you, and perhaps you get wider views.
  • You enjoy local authors or niche authors. You advocate for them, promote them. Perhaps they get wider views.
  • You enjoy your various media tastes. Obviously you advocate for them, small or large.

Thus you’re independent and evaluating your own tastes – while also promoting them and taking feedback. You connect with media on various levels, from local to extended. You advocate and promote work.

New things get found, people evaluate, work gets elevated – and you never get dependent on one media strain or theme. Plus, of course, its hard for any one media company or source to dominate.

Needless to say this works best in a world of strong monopolgy laws.

So Is This Actionable?

So in our current world, is this actionable? Beyond a dream of mine based on my ideals can we do anything?

Well, yess.

First, KEEP CREATING. As I noted, do it for your own reasons.

Secondly, PROMOTE YOURSELF and tell people what you do.

Third, CONNECT with writer groups as well as other social institutions.

Fourth, PROMOTE other people you meet, help them out, help them get noticed.

Fifth, SELECT your media consumption to keep your life diverse and interesting.

Sixth, POLITICALLY be aware of the way our politics affects media.

This is an obnoxiously short list. Maybe it can be a point of discussion.

So, everyone . . .

. . . start talking.

Steven Savage

Write Every Day? Maybe . . .

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

You’ve probably heard of the advice that a writer should write every day. I disagree with that – I feel writers have to find their own pace – but it works for me and seems to work for a majority of authors I know. But, let me clarify that though it works for me, how it works for me wasn’t what I expected . . .

In trying to write every day, I found myself under strain to keep up on my various projects. Much of what I do involves writing, and thus writing every day was hard, as I tried to keep up on the many things I wrote.

You probably see where this is going, but to clarify – I tried to write on everything each day if possible.

Eventually I asked myself, why try to keep up on every project every day? It was tiresome, reduced focus, and the context switching was exhausting. Why, I asked, did I try to cover so much at one time.

Yeah, again, you see where this is going. I took the idea of writing every day and used it to touch every project each day.

What I’ve been trying recently is to focus on writing each day, but to deep dive on one of my projects. This could, in some cases, be three or four hours of writing if I’m in the mood. But, the goal each day is to write on something – but not necessarily the same thing each day.

This has been a revelation to me – though for you it may seem obvious. I was diluting my focus each day, getting less done with more stress. So far, I’ve gotten a lot more done and had a lot less stress.

There are a few insights I wanted to share:

  • This deep dive applies to just about anything from writing – writing, editing, formatting.
  • I find a “focus per day” works well, but the same things each day might get boring. You may need a break or have to focus on something else. At least you’ll do so after you’ve accomplished something.
  • This write-each-day-on-different-things works very well with goal setting as you can create much more solid goals per day – perhaps set goals for both days and weeks.
  • This approach develops discipline of focus as opposed to discipline for juggling.
  • It’s a good way to find if you’ve got too much to do. I already learned I was juggling too much.

I hope this insight helps you. It certainly has helped me – and you may just see more out of me now (or if less, be assured I’m productive in other areas).

Steven Savage

There’s So Much Stuff Out There

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

We live in a time of soul-crushing opportunity.

In this age, we can create so many works. We can publish books physical and electronic. We can make podcasts that fly across the internet. As I’ve heard it put, so many ways, “there’s just so much stuff out there.”

This then begs the question, “why create?” From giant conglomerates to people like ourselves, there’s so many people making things to read, watch, and so on. The chance of our works finding purchase in the world seems slim indeed, even if we pour heart and soul into marketing.

If we do work mightily to market, it takes time and luck and money and effort that could be used for writing. Even if success seems likely, how much of a drain is it on the time of a writer or artist?

It’s easy to get tired and discouraged. Worse, the idea of the “angry and discouraged artist” in our culture is an archetype, an image of despair we may too easily latch on to. There’s a blueprint for self-loathing and defeat readily provided when we get frustrated with all this stuff.

I get this too. I can do things beyond my wildest dreams with my writing and my works, and it takes me into a dizzying world of potential and despair. I’ve thought about it, and at times wonder, despite some twenty-plus books, “why?”

Then the answers come to me – and it’s always the same.

I write because I like to write, its what I do. If I wasn’t doing books I’d be writing something else. So it might as well be books, and I like writing books. If you like to create, then create.

I write because I do have thinks to say. I do believe in worldbuilding. I believe in improving creativity. I like to make fiction. If you have something to say then find a way to say it with your creativity.

I write because in this age I enjoy the challenge. I’m tired of the overload of things, of the onslaught of a thousand titles. I might as well try to stand out. Maybe if nothing else promote your works out of sheer bloody-minded determination.

I write because I want to find ways to crack the marketing of books. Because my works are worth seeing. Because if I learn something I can share it. So learn to market – your way – so you can beat the system and help others.

I don’t know what the future brings. Technology changes are driven by algorithmic takes on our own biases. The climate cracks under ill-conceived policies. Politics is a dumpster fire. But I am a writer, a creator, and this is what I do.

It’s what you do too. So do it, take your place among the legions of stuff coming out there, make your stand. It’s better than giving in. Better to make our place in this changing world and the overwhlemingness of the times.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 10/28/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Hey all, busy getting back on top of my projects – and almost there. Let’s catch up!

So what have I done since last time?

  • Way With Worlds: Writing away on the Gods and Deities Worldbook! It’s going great and is a lot of fun – got a lot to make you think!
  • Chance’s Muse: Still on the first edit after a few delays. There’s some loose language I need to tighten up.
  • A School Of Many Futures: The book is now blazing away. Chapters 1 and 2 are in good shape, but 3 has some weakness. Still, looking good, much richer, more diverse, and a real interesting plot that merges the human with the setting.
  • Seventh Sanctum: I’ve got my future plans in place now that life is back to normal.
  • General: Still working on my improved time management, so I hope I can post more on it!

What’s next?

  • Way With Worlds: Keep writing of course! I expect it to be out in later December.
  • Chance’s Muse: Finish up the first edit run and start the final run.
  • A School Of Many Futures: Get through Chapter 3 and then re-edit it of course! I will also probably look for pre-readers.
  • Seventh Sanctum: Working on getting back to coding.

Steven Savage

Well That Was Easy: The Ivy Lee Method

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

Looks like my blogging this week is about productivity. I wanted to share something that set off a chain reaction in my own personal organization, the Ivy Lee method. It’s led to me rethinking a lot, which I will doubtlessly share in more, excruciating detail.

So I love all sorts of productivity methods, study them, integrate them, and so on. This is one I hadn’t heard of, probably as it’s A) Old, B) Common Sense, and C) Not insanely elaborate so you have to buy a ton of books from someone (not that guys like David Allen aren’t worth it).

Business Insider sums it up here.

Basically? Each night write down the five or six things you want to do the next day in order of importance. Never go above six.

You’ll recognize a lot here that I and others talk about. Focus. Force-ranking work. Limited scope.

I started using it to focus “in the small” as I already had plenty of Sprints, long-term plans, etc. It proved quite helpful, and made me rethink and expand a few of my other processes – which, again, you will probably hear about.

This is a good reminder of why you always want to study new ways to be productive, experiment, and revise how you work. There’s always something to find, and even the smallest things can open up enormous vistas.

Steven Savage

Productivity: When Does Your Week Start?

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

I want to ask a seemingly obvious question – when does your week start? I mean for a lot of my readers the answer is “Sunday” since it’s the first day of the week we all sort of use. But that may not be the real answer – for many of us the week ends on Sunday and starts on Monday if we’re part of a normal US work week. For many of us even that doesn’t apply.

So when does your week really start and end? Why ask this? Because it’s a key to getting things done, and it’s best illustrated with two stories.

  • I use Scrum-style personal time management. Part of that is having Sprints, similarly-sized periods of work you plan and have reguarly. I used to use a month-long Sprint, moved to two weeks, then moved to a week as my life had gotten more variable. Originally my “sprint weeks” started on Sunday and ended on Saturday – which ruined my weekend. Now my “real” week is Monday to Sunday.
  • I’ve worked with development teams who use Scrum, and their Sprints are two weeks long. Despite having the usual workweek, their Sprints start on a Wednesday and end on a Tuesday. Why? Because Wednesday worked better, since no one wants to do elaborate planning Monday or Friday, and Tuesday and Thursday were basically Monday and Friday Junior. Wednesday was perfect (and worked really well).

So look at the way you plan your work for the week. What day is really the best day to end your week and make sure things are done? What day is really the best day to start your week and make sure you know what to accomplish. Your answer isn’t necessary going to be mine or anyone else you know’s – it’ll be yours.

The best day to end your week is one where you can catch up, round up, and plan for the next week. That could be a quiet Friday each week, or a raucous Monday when you figure out where you are after the previous week.

The best day to start your week is one where you can dive in and get going, knowing where you are and what is ahead of you. Maybe that’s a Wednesday, a hump-day where everything is clear and you can get energized. Maybe it’s a Saturday, and your “real” week starts with the weekend to relax.

But there’s more. Consider the other ways you can apply this “best time”:

Daily. What times of day do you work best? Are you a morning person? Evening person?

Monthly. What’s the best day of a week or a month to look at long-term plans?

Yearly. What month in a year is good to assess your big picture goals? Or to take a break from your elaborate plans.

Either way, start by looking at your week, your own personal week, and asking when it really ends and begins – in a way that’s best for you. With that knowledge, you can rethink your whole plans – and like me, you might be surprised.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 10/19/2019

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Whew! Life is a bit calmer here so let’s get to the update on my projects! Less than I’d like, more than I expected!

So what have I done since last time?

  • Way With Worlds: The new book has been outlined – I’m covering Gods and Deities as that’s a popular subject – and one that deserves more coverage if only because its too easy to resort to tropes.
  • Chance’s Muse: Is in the first run edit! If all goes well, I can still drop it late November/early December!
  • A School Of Many Futures: I’m back to writing, doing a mix of writing and editing to get my mojo going. September 2020 looks likely, but maybe I can catch up! It’s definitely a hell of a lot better than the first draft, and bluntly, better than my first book – by chapter two our cast is dealing with a troubled teenager from a magical bloodline, and by chapter three or four we get our first mysterious death . . .
  • Seventh Sanctum: Still not a lot of progress on Python. I feel bad I’ve ignored this, but as the site is doing its job, being a few months behind or not dropping a generator for awhile is OK. I have plotted a few possible generators beyond the idea stage

What’s next?

  • Way With Worlds: I plan to start working on the new book next week!
  • Chance’s Muse: Finish up two runs of editing. At that point it’s ready to format (and hopefully that goes well)
  • A School Of Many Futures: Continue to work on Chapters 1 and 2 until my creativity is working again, then dive into writing like crazy.
  • Seventh Sanctum: Keep pushing to get back on track! Finishing Chance’s Muse may help.
  • General: I’m trying an evolved version of my current planning technique, which I call “Nested Scrum.” This should reduce context-shifting and stress!

Steven Savage

We Have To Go Smaller

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

If you’ve followed my updates or my newsletter, or just heard me ranting, you know that I’ve been very busy lately. Because I was so busy, I kept trying to power through the draft of my next novel, a School of Many Futures. Sadly, the powered through version felt off, emotionally disconnected. When it’s a sequel to your first novel, and a skewering of the “special school” genre, you want proper emotional connection, if only so the jokes land point-first.

So I began looking over what had happened to the writing, because this bloody well didn’t feel like my last book.

I had a good outline, using a mix of my own techniques and the snowflake method. That had helped me write.

My writing was fast. I can easily put out 2K words or more an hour. The outline helped.

But everything felt off. That’s when I figured out what had happened – I had written to the outline, but not engaged emotionally with the contents. I had missed the fine details, the feelings, the subtle connections. Being tired from so much going on, I had written, but I hadn’t written well.

With that revelation, I asked – how do I get back into the swing of things?

Well, the problem wasn’t with the outline, it was with the scenes. So with that in mind, and with a few ideas from Randy Ingermanson, I decided to rewrite each scene. I set out specific goals:

  1. Each scene would be a “Crucible” as Randy put it – there had to be a reason to be there.
  2. Each scene should be a relateable scene, and give us a character viewpoint.
  3. I would rework the chapters slowly so I really recovered my connection with the story and characters.

In short, I went smaller.

The result? The result is the rewritten work already feels much better – literally like a different story. Characters are more alive, stakes clearer, and even some of my outline has changed as I’ve made discoveries about my creations. Getting smaller made things bigger.

(By the way, I don’t think this negates my earlier advice of “power through when writing.” I had to do this to find my flaws.)

But there was an additional lesson here. Sometimes while redoing scenes I found a sequence didn’t work. Or a paragraph didn’t. Or a sentence didn’t. Sometimes I had to go even smaller in my focus.

We often get caught up in the big picture, not realizing it’s made of many smaller pictures, a network of them. Sometimes we have to ignore a story to work on a scene.

But maybe, there are times we ignore a scene to get a sequence of events right.

Or we ignore a sequence of events to get a paragraph right.

Or we ignore a paragraph to get a sentence right.

There are times we have to think smaller or we just don’t connect with our works. We get lost in the big picture with no idea what it’s made of. We become ungrounded trying to follow an outline. We get lost while knowing where we’re going.

So next time you’re writing and it’s not working, stop thinking bigger. Think smaller. It may just make your work the next big thing

Steven Savage