A Future Of Nows

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

Being a writer, on the side or professionally, requires a lot of skills. A self-publisher wears many hats, but even authors with agents and support have to take on tasks other than writing. Of those many skills, one stands out as very important and easy to miss – Math.

People have widely differing reactions to hearing “we’re going to talk about math.” Trust me, it’s worth it whatever your response is – because math is used everywhere in an author’s work.

A writer’s growth requires math to be measured – and improved. Comparing word counts lets you determine if your typing speed is improving. Time taken to edit a document helps you determine if your grammar is improving. Becoming a better writer may mean being better at math.

But once you’re writing, math comes in again as you plot a schedule. How long will it take you to write this chapter for your pre-readers? How long until you need to get a cover from your artist? Scheduling is all math – often made more challenging with timezones, calculating dates, and the like.

As a book progresses, math once again comes to the fore. How fast are you working? What’s the percentage of a book done? Do you have to change your schedule or speed up your pace? Scheduling is math – but so is seeing how you’re doing.

When a book is done, there comes more math. How many pages is a book, and how does that affect cover size? What’s the ideal formatting with font sizes and margins? If you do self-publishing and don’t outsource formatting and the like, get out your calculator.

Finally, a book launches. It’s out and . . . here comes more math. You have to calculate if your ad spends are paying off. Evaluating book sales requires math, often with complex date-time calculations. Your newsletter opens and clicks need to be compared to past events – which means math.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? When I first realized I had to write this column, I was overwhelmed with the realization of just how much math my own publishing involved. I was so used to it I didn’t see it – until I wrote this.

If you like math like me, or don’t, this should be a helpful realization. Math is a skill you need to use in writing, and if your math skills are lacking you have a new motivation to improve them. Math makes a better author.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 5/10/2021

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

Here’s a quick roundup of where I am.

Giveaways! I’m part of a Self-Help giveaway and you can score a copy of my Brainstorm Book and other great stuff.

Speaking! I’ll be at the  Prolific Writer’s conference on May 22nd and Fanime May 29-30th!

For the Way With Worlds series, I’ll start working on the next book next week! I’ve got it all outlined, so I’m going to buckle down and do it in one go!

A School of Many Futures is off to pre-readers today!

The Seventh Sanctum rewrite is now going through cases like the Superhero Names (which are really HARD to do). But I now have almost 80% of the generator code written, so we’re looking good!

Steven Savage

Numbers Are For More Than Pages

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

Being a writer, on the side or professionally, requires a lot of skills. A self-publisher wears many hats, but even authors with agents and support have to take on tasks other than writing. Of those many skills, one stands out as very important and easy to miss – Math.

People have widely differing reactions to hearing “we’re going to talk about math.” Trust me, it’s worth it whatever your response is – because math is used everywhere in an author’s work.

A writer’s growth requires math to be measured – and improved. Comparing word counts lets you determine if your typing speed is improving. Time taken to edit a document helps you determine if your grammar is improving. Becoming a better writer may mean being better at math.

But once you’re writing, math comes in again as you plot a schedule. How long will it take you to write this chapter for your pre-readers? How long until you need to get a cover from your artist? Scheduling is all math – often made more challenging with timezones, calculating dates, and the like.

As a book progresses, math once again comes to the fore. How fast are you working? What’s the percentage of a book done? Do you have to change your schedule or speed up your pace? Scheduling is math – but so is seeing how you’re doing.

When a book is done, there comes more math. How many pages is a book, and how does that affect cover size? What’s the ideal formatting with font sizes and margins? If you do self-publishing and don’t outsource formatting and the like, get out your calculator.

Finally, a book launches. It’s out and . . . here comes more math. You have to calculate if your ad spends are paying off. Evaluating book sales requires math, often with complex date-time calculations. Your newsletter opens and clicks need to be compared to past events – which means math.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? When I first realized I had to write this column, I was overwhelmed with the realization of just how much math my own publishing involved. I was so used to it I didn’t see it – until I wrote this.

If you like math like me, or don’t, this should be a helpful realization. Math is a skill you need to use in writing, and if your math skills are lacking you have a new motivation to improve them. Math makes a better author.

Steven Savage

A Spoonfull of Action Makes The Mythology Go Down

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

Serdar recently wrote an excellent re-look at the seminal film The Matrix. I have nothing to say about his essay except to go read this fine piece of work. However, I do have something to say about The Matrix and how pieces of media work together.

In some ways, The Matrix seems to be two films.

One film is an exceptional action movie with a near-perfect cast. As of this writing in 2021, it still influences the styling of movies, television, and games. The film showcases the talents of various actors and actresses, each well-fit to their role. Were it just an SF action film, it would be an accomplished one.

However, the film’s heart is that another movie: the story of a not-quite Chosen one on a journey about reality and physicality, machines and humanity. One can – and many have – spilled ink and moves electrons to going over the mix of Gnosticism, Buddhism, bodily identity, and more in the film. Later revelations about the transgender experience and the film only illustrate how much is in it.

Some films may be riddles wrapped in enigmas. This is a film of a philosophy wrapped in a stylish hail of bullets and punches to the face.

Both sides of the film are enhanced by the other. The stylish action catches our attention, grabbing us by the visceral parts of our brain. The deep thoughts and many sides of it reach our hearts and mind. The Matrix creates deep engagement by having these two facets.

There are many lessons to derive from The Matrix, and certainly more to be found. One lesson that I see as I look back on the film is that seemingly unrelated concepts can enhance each other. You can have your philosophy and gun-fu at the same time and be better for it.

A creative work can have “unrelated” ideas that come together for richer results. Let no one say to you “your ideas don’t work together.”

Genres are not limited by what they are “supposed” to be but can deliver any kind of payload in the right person’s hands. There is no “wrong” genre, and sometimes the “wrong” genre may be the most right one.

A “tightly focused” work may become too limiting, whereas other ideas, even conflicting ones, may enrich it. Sometimes focus is another name for “narrowness.”

If the Matrix taught us to break free from many forms of conditioning, let it also be a reminder to break free from simple ideas of what “genre” and “themes” are for.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 5/2/2021

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

Here’s what’s going on with me! Remember if you want more detail go to my roadmap and my newsletter! The newsletter has more detailed updates, extra commentary, and bonus content!

Speaking! I’ll be at the  Prolific Writer’s conference on May 22nd and Fanime May 29-30th!

For the Way With Worlds series, I’m taking a break second week of May, then back to it, with the Natural Disasters Book out in June. I gave myself an extra week to relax. The second book will be out in November.

A School of Many Futures will be ready for Pre-readers around May 9th. The eBook is slated for August, but going to delay the print book if needed until September – Print is a pain.

The Seventh Sanctum rewrite is done for normal generators, now it’s just edge cases. Still aiming for a fall release

Steven Savage

Steve’s Book List for 5/2/2021

I write a lot and have quite a few books.  So now and then I post a roundup of them for interested parties!

The Way With Worlds Series

This is what I do a lot of – writing on worldbuilding!.  You can find all of my books at www.WayWithWorlds.com

The core books of the series will help you get going:

  • Way With Worlds Book 1 – Discusses my philosophy of worldbuilding and world creation essentials.
  • Way With Worlds Book 2 – Looks at common subjects of worldbuilding like conflicts in your setting, skills for being a good worldbuilder, and more!

When you need to focus on specifics of worldbuilding, I have an ever-growing series of deep dive minibooks.  Each provides fifty questions with additional exercises and ideas to help you focus on one subject important to you!

The current subjects are:

Fiction

Take a typical fantasy world – and then let it evolve into the information age.  Welcome to the solar system of Avenoth, where gods use email, demons were banished to a distant planet, and science and sorcery fling people across worlds . . .

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet – Two future teachers of Techno-Magical safety find trying to earn their credentials hunting odd artifacts backfires when you’re hired to put some back . . . on a planet where gods go to die!

Creativity

I’m the kind of person that studies how creativity works, and I’ve distilled my findings and advice into some helpful books!

  • The Power Of Creative Paths – Explores my theories of the Five Types of Creativity, how you can find yours, and how to expand your creative skills to use more Types of Creativity.
  • Agile Creativity – I take the Agile Manifesto, a guide to adaptable project development, and show how it can help creatives improve their work – and stay organized without being overwhelmed.
  • The Art of The Brainstorm Book – A quick guide to using a simple notebook to improve brainstorming, reduce the stress around having new ideas, and prioritize your latest inspirations.
  • Chance’s Muse – I take everything I learned at Seventh Sanctum and my love of random tables and charts and detail how randomness can produce inspiration!

Careers

Being a “Professional Geek” is what I do – I turned my interests into a career and have been doing my best to turn that into advice.  The following books are my ways of helping out!

  • Fan To Pro – My “flagship” book on using hobbies and interests in your career – and not always in ways you’d think!
  • Skill Portability – A quick guide to how to move skills from one job to another, or even from hobbies into your job.  Try out my “DARE” system and asses your abilities!
  • Resume Plus – A guide to jazzing up a resume, sometimes to extreme measures.
  • Epic Resume Go! – Make a resume a creative act so it’s both better and more enjoyable to make!
  • Quest For Employment – Where I distill down my job search experiences and ways to take the search further.
  • Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers – An interview-driven book about ways to leverage cosplay interests to help your career!
  • Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers – My second interview-driven book about ways to leverage fanart to help your career!
  • Convention Career Connection – A system for coming up with good career panels for conventions!

Culture

  • Her Eternal Moonlight – My co-author Bonnie and I analyze the impact Sailor Moon had on women’s lives when it first came to North America.  Based on a series of interviews, there’s a lot to analyze here, and surprisingly consistent themes . . .

My Sites

Equilibrium and The Realism of Foolishness

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

I recently got to see Equilibrium (2002), a movie best described as “a dystopian art film with gun-fu.” We follow the story of John Preston (Christian Bale), an enforcer in a future of emotion-suppressing drugs and underground smugglers of art. The film got limited marketing in the United States, and more’s the pity – it’s a beautifully done film made for only $20 million.

On the surface, the premise seems silly – to prevent war, people must take emotion-deadening drugs and avoid sensory experiences like art. Specialized enforcers known as Grammaton Clerics use gun-fu and their calculating minds to hunt down “sense offenders.” It’s a concept you’d expect on a second-tier episode of The Orville or a Star Trek series, if well done.

As I analyzed this well-done film, something haunted me. I kept analyzing the seemingly half-baked premise of “we must stop emotion and be rational. That’s when I realized – I’d seen people express similar views in real life.

Those online enough (such as myself) are painfully aware of people who declare how rational they are. Such self-congratulating would-be rationalists are quick to say how other people are irrational and emotional. These people – almost inevitably white men – obviously think they should be in charge of “the other.”

I have no problem imagining these pseudo-rationalists trying to medicate their emotions to unleash their supposed great mental powers. It takes me little effort to imagine some guru or internet personality selling them drugs or supplements to do so. The internet has produced enough would-be gurus claiming to lead people to a paradise of rational thought (again, almost always white men).

Equilibrium seems to be built on a simplistic premise, but many people base their own lives on shallow ideas. That is what haunted me about Equilibrium – the idea people would hate their own emotions and claim to build a rational world is too real.

I take this as a reminder to be careful when judging fictional settings. They may seem too simple – but forget that some people hold very simplistic views. They may seem overly complex, but life can be complicated. The question is neither simplicity nor complexity, sophistication or crudity – but do they help us think and feel.

In the case of Equilibrium, beyond the considerable artistry, it shows a “rationalist” society as a horrible place. The washed-out dark gray of the existence, the emotionally-numbed sadism, were awful. In short, Equilibrium says of its seemingly simplistic world, “yes, this would be awful, yes it would fall apart.”

Then I cast my gaze on the internet and see men declaring their rationalism, their freedom of emotion. I see them dead inside or burning in a rage they call “critical thinking,” insulting people on the internet. They would try to build a world like Equilibrium while saying it was something else.

Let us be careful judging fiction. We may find it is judging us and judging others more than we realized.

Steven Savage

Steve’s Update 4/25/2021

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

Here’s what’s up with me!

The last week of this great giveaway for Writer’s books is here (and snag a rare FREE copy of Way With Worlds #1) – https://books.bookfunnel.com/saygoodbyetowritersblock/suwa6uuxdg

A School of Many Futures is now to chapter 8 of 13. Hold on to your backsides, the story is much more of an emotional rollercoaster, the themes are stronger, AND an invisible guy gets hit in the groin with a quarterstaff. Because I deliver quality.

On the Way With Worlds series no real updates. I start the first book in May and should have it out EOM more or less. The new covers are coming, but I need to plot that easy.

The Seventh Sanctum rewrite hit a milestone – I sorted out the “multiple option” generators for things like the Pizza generators. Now it’s on to the incredibly complicated ones like the superhero and anime generators. That’s gonna be painful.

Steven Savage

Writing: Rehab, Prehab, Strength

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

When I wrote about writing exercises having a “therapeutic” value for creativity, I shared it with several friends. My core idea was simple enough – that writing exercises helped me recover creatively, and that metaphor was useful. However, my friends provided insights I want to revisit.

My friend Kate Tremaine, a roller derby enthusiast, pointed out that there was not just “rehab” in sports. There’s also what she called “prehab” – pre-emptively strengthening one’s body to prevent damage. Thanks to her, I want to “roll out” a new concept of writing exercises.

I’m old enough to be allowed dad jokes, thank you.

I realized from Kate’s input that we can think of writing exercises as serving purposes similar to physical exercises. Consider this model:

Development: Development exercises are those writing exercises that improve your work beyond your baseline. Examples would be improving one’s vocabulary, learning to write faster, or create better plot outlines.

Protective: “Pre-hab” exercises designed to protect your writing from the damages of things like stress, bad habits, or disruption. Examples include methods for developing focus, learning to break down work into smaller pieces, and self-esteem building.

Therapeutic: These are exercises to help you get “back on track” after a disruption. Examples may include setting aside writing time each day, word count goals when your count is now zero, or “freeform” writing for fun.

I realize my examples for each category may be argued. That’s good because these categories are helpful for the classification of writing exercises. Using these categories requires you to ask additional questions:

You have to ask what your “baseline” writing is in areas like quality or word count. That helps you understand when you need Therapeutic exercises versus Development exercises.

You have to ask what your areas of vulnerability are in writing. That may mean a chance to find Protective exercises – or you may already need Therapeutic ones.

Finally, you have to ask what exercises fit these categories for me. Though I’m sure you and your fellow writer may agree on how to categorize practices 70% of the time, that 30% is significant. You’ll need to ask the right questions for you – and maybe ask when you should stop evangelizing a method to another writer.

I will be analyzing these ideas further in my own work and would like to hear if you have any thoughts. This model has promise.

In closing, I also think this model is helpful to challenge the idea that “A writer must do X or you’re not a writer.” We’ve all heard the “you must write X words a day” kind of pronouncements, and we know they’re wrong. This model suggests that such goals don’t always fit an individual writer’s needs or their baseline.

Therapy is individualized. So is health – in body, mind, and writing.

Steven Savage

Physical Therapy For The Soul

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

My creative side has felt, for lack of a better word, arthritic throughout the Pandemic. It was there, I created, but neither as fast nor as joyfully as I had before. Sometimes I was scared, as it felt part of me was ossifying – creativity is part of me.

My remedy was to do what I do – organize. I kept to a regular plan for things like writing my blog posts. I planned – and re-planned my various works. I made time to read and to write. Even when I didn’t feel it, I did my best to move forward.

It wasn’t always joyful – sometimes I had that bone-on-bone sensation of grinding grimly forward. There were days my only pleasure was checking off a task or noting I’d written for an hour. If I kept knowing, I knew I’d get back to being myself.

While I persevered, I would feel that creative spark, that joy of making. It might be for a day or a week, but it was there. As long as I kept moving forward, the drudgery gave way to bright shining moments of creation.

In time, especially as of late, I began to feel like my old self. That spark, that flexibility, that urge would come more and more. I’m sure some of it was hope as the Pandemic promised an end, but some of it felt like another experience.

A few times, I’ve had to have physical therapy for an injury. I realized what I experienced here with my creativity was similar. I’ve had pulled, damaged, or stiff muscles addressed with regular and specific exercises. My creative returns felt the same as those days I realized that the pain or stiffness of a damaged muscle was going or gone.

What I did with my planning and scheduling and at-times repetitive drudgery was doing “physical therapy for the soul.” With enough exercise, my old mental flexibility and ability returned. I had given myself creative therapy without knowing it.

A lesson to take from this is that perhaps we can treat creative damage like a physical injury. We may need a rest or a break, but we may also need regular stretching and work to restore ourselves. The key is to see it as treatment – we should not treat the creative loss as a reason to punish ourselves. Some injuries you can’t “walk off.”

Instead, we should treat ourselves. We should find what will help us return and heal. I could have been more gentle with myself, and if I face this situation again, I can be more prescriptive.

Steven Savage