Have you ever wondered how authors go about writing their books? You might think: at their desk with a laptop in front of them, maybe a notebook and pen on the side. But one author has a non-traditional approach unlike anything you might have imagined.
Edward Savio doesn’t actually sit down to write his books. Most of the time, he’s neither sitting, nor writing. Instead, he’s speaking out loud in his basement, with his microphone’s voice recognition picking up his words and bringing them to life on the two giant screens that surround his desk. That’s how he “writes” his early drafts.
Edward’s unconventional, tech-oriented setup for writing is a reflection of his time in Hollywood, where he spent over a decade as a screenwriter. It comes as no surprise, then, that his writing corner has all the gadgets and equipment you would expect to find in a production studio. We had a chance to see the full setup and here’s what it’s like.
The Writing Room: Making it to the Big Screen
From the big screen in Hollywood, Edward transitioned to a big screen in his basement. Quite a few big screens, actually. He has one big screen, one medium-sized screen, one small screen, and one extra-small screen, but that’s just his Macbook.
The biggest screen (65 inches) is what he uses when he’s in “prep mode,” which is when he does a lot of design work in terms of how he’s telling the story.
Sometimes he’ll write down ideas on Post-it notes and stick them to the wall when he’s walking around, then take a photo with the Post-it app and transfer them to the big screen. He prefers to digitize his Post-it notes to avoid clutter at his desk.
The 65-inch screen is also where he mapped out his whole timeline for the Battle for Forever series using Aeon Timeline. He can scroll through hundreds of years worth of history and see where each of his characters are.
“Visualizing a story is one thing, but seeing a story built out in a timeline helps writers to see story progression and character arcs, similar to how a standard floor plan turned into 3D models of a floor plan completely changes the perspective.”Edward Savio
While the 65-inch screen is paneled to the right side of his desk, the 50-inch screen is directly behind the desk. This is what he uses for the main chunk of his writing and where his story outlines are displayed. It’s big enough to see from a distance, which is helpful for when he’s walking around and thinking.
The small screen is a 27” iMac, used primarily for showing the relationships between characters. He creates a sort of mindmap to help with this, color coding relationships between characters to keep track. For example, a red line between characters is indicative of love, pink for desire or wishful thinking. He also adds photos to characters to envision who they are, although that isn’t necessarily what his characters look like.
Sectioned off by thick fabric hanging from ceiling to floor, the “studio” sits in the corner of his basement. A giant greenscreen will catch your eye as soon as you walk in, with dozens of sound absorption panels attached to the ceiling above. Overhead is a snazzy Sennheiser MK 4 Cardioid mic just above where he stands and speaks, capturing the brilliant storyline he speaks out loud.
This is the “big mic,” he told me, emphasizing the richness in sound you get from a piece of equipment like this.
“If ever you’re trying to flirt with somebody, this is the mic to use,” Edward advised.
And if the Cardioid mic isn’t what he wants, he swaps it out in a jiffy for another Sennheiser Shotgun mic, one he calls “obnoxious looking” but an excellent directional mic nonetheless.
If you’re unfamiliar with technical terms, allow me to explain: a Cardioid mic picks up sound mostly from the front, not so well from the sides, whereas a Shotgun mic is highly directional and picks up sound from whatever is directly in front of it.
In case you’re wondering, the setup so far is relatively expensive for someone starting out with a tight budget for technical equipment. Edward emphasized that he didn’t always have all this equipment. When he started out, he owned the most basic, inexpensive equipment that came within his budget. As his success as a writer grew, so did his setup.
Fast forward to today, you can get high quality mics like his for a fraction of the price, he told me animatedly, excited that superior technology was now affordable for more people. You can find inexpensive microphones for around $50 or less at several stores.
I watched as Edward swapped out one mic for another, explaining why he uses each of them. As he geared up to show me more of his setup, he switched to his “Beyoncé mic,” a small pocket mic that he uses when he’s walking around a lot.
It’s functional for two main reasons; one, that he has it on him and doesn’t have to be close to the overhead mic, and two, that he looks as powerful and fearless as Beyoncé when he uses the “Beyoncé mic.”
While the various microphones make him sound good, the lighting in his studio is what makes him look good. Just like the mics, he started out with a couple of standing lights and eventually added more as his budget permitted, and what used to cost hundreds of dollars is now much cheaper for the same quality.
What’s the point of all this?
You might be thinking, ‘What’s the point of all this technology as a writer?’
Edward isn’t your typical writer who hurriedly pens down his thoughts to put together his story. He acts out the scenes he’s writing, and it’s helpful for him to create his initial notes by speaking out loud instead of typing. Here’s where the “Beyoncé mic” is the star of the show, because it’s great for voice recognition and capturing his vocalized storyline.
“When you’re writing a screenplay you’re writing what you see, but when you’re writing a book you’re writing what you feel,” Edward explained. “So when you’re writing what you feel, it’s harder to do that by just writing about it. You have to be feeling it.”
For example, if he’s acting out a ‘fight scene,’ he’ll hit himself to see what the reaction would be, verbally describing it first and later editing it on his computer. While there’s more stuff being edited out than being used, he prefers that than not having enough to work with.
Right next to the greenscreen in a narrow space is the “booth,” partitioned by thick fabric in between. Here, it’s much quieter and the sound quality is profoundly better, and he uses it exclusively for when he’s recording audio books and doing voiceovers.
His forthcoming book The Velvet Sledgehammer, set to be released this summer, was recorded in this booth. Unlike his previous books — the Battle For Forever series — Edward himself recorded the audiobook for The Velvet Sledgehammer, a journey he describes as an “amazing learning curve.”
How long does he take to record an audiobook?
A professional narrator gets five hours’ worth of finished recording done in about 10 hours. It takes Edward “a lot longer,” he admits.
But the more he recorded, the better he got at it, learning how to compose himself and be comfortable before recording.
“I have a lot of respect for my narrators, way more than I did before.”Edward Savio
For Edward, recording audiobooks is more than just speaking out loud. He doesn’t want to force the reader to feel something; he wants you to come to your own conclusion about the emotions in that scene.
The tech is cool, but when does the actual writing come in?
Ah, the million dollar question we’ve all been waiting for. Is there any writing or typing in all of this?
Yes, yes there is. The fancy tech setup helps Edward in his initial phase when he’s brainstorming and making initial notes, focusing on character development and trying to stay focused. Once the voice recognition from his mics picks up his words, it converts it to text on screen, which he uses as his basis to start editing. He does this on his Macbook, which he admits is his favorite piece of technology.
Edward uses a few different apps to help him with the writing and planning process.
He uses Scrivener to make some notes, building character development from there. Ulysses is another great app that allows him to keep the formatting untouched as he moves things around between screens. It’s convenient for him to use Ulysses when he’s out and about, accessing it from his phone, iPad or Macbook at any time. Additionally, Ulysses can be synced with Aeon Timeline, giving him the ability to choose what goes from his timeline into the outline he’s creating.
But a recent favorite he’s been using for his upcoming books is Freeform, a new app by Apple that allows you to have everything on display all at once. Edward calls this a game changer because you can throw in photographs, texts, sticky notes and pdfs all at once, helping you see all your planning in the same space.
Honest thoughts on using technology as a writer?
Full disclaimer, Edward’s been a tech junkie from the start.
“I’ve always been on the cutting edge of technology,” he told me, a fact he’s both proud and humble about. Proud in the sense that he took a leap of faith into the digital world way back in the 1980s, humble in the sense that he wrote his first script on an Atari 800.
One of the biggest drawbacks of tech, in his opinion, particularly AI, is that it’s “allowed more people to write more crappy stuff.” As a reader, one can discern what’s good quality work and what isn’t, but having poor quality, AI-generated work dilutes the market and makes it more difficult for people to find genuinely good, human-generated writing.
With the influx of AI-generated books flooding the market, does he feel threatened by AI in any way?
“The AI is only as good as the input,” he said.
And that’s how Savio “writes” his books. Where some authors might shy away from technology and newer software, Savio is comfortable in his tech-oriented setup which is optimal for him as an author.
If this fascinates you, click here to learn more about his audiobooks!