Being a Better Writer: Finding a Real Publisher

Welcome back writers! It’s another Monday, and you know what that means. It’s time for more Being a Better Writer!

In more ways than one, actually. See, for those of you that are new, BaBW takes its topics from a variety of souces: Online conversations, writing chats, reader requests, books I’ve read recently, and more. But all of those topics share a commonality: they eventually end up on a physical list of paper that sits on my desk as I go through topics one by one.

That’s right. An actual, physical piece of paper. At some point I started numbering these little sheets, and currently the one sitting before me is #20. Given the size of the notepad, a fairly significant number of topics can fill each one, but there’s always an inevitability.

Eventually, the list runs out. Which is where we are now with Topic List #20. There are only two topics left on the list—including today’s topic—after which Topic List #20 will have nothing left to give us.

In other words it’s time for Topic List #21 to start being populated. Those who have been long-time readers of the site know exactly what this means, but for those who have discovered it in the last few months or only drop by occasionally, this means that I put up a “Topic Call” post asking if there are any topics that anyone wishes to see addressed that we’ve not covered recently or before.

That’s right: A topic call is coming! It’ll drop later this week, so if there’s a burning writing question or curiosity you’ve had blending your brain for a while, now’s the time to post it. Usually about a quarter of each topic list—about five or six out of twenty or so topics per list—ends up being from readers, so there’s usually a good ratio of reader questions to go around.

So, if you’ve got a writing topic/question you’d like to see Being a Better Writer address, get ready to post it. When the topic call shows up later this week, you can drop it in, and I can go ahead and find a spot for it on the list.

Now, speaking of reader request, today’s topic is actually a reader request, one that has a bit of a story attached to it. So lean back, grab your favorite beverage or snack of choice if you so desire, and hit that jump. Let’s talk about finding a real publisher.

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News and News

Well, this is a news post. Though there isn’t too much to say, really. And I’m going to try and keep it short anyway because I want to blast through at least the first half of Starforge‘s Beta today (I’m only a few chapters from the halfway mark, so it’s a good goal).

Speaking of the Beta Read, I will be sending out another email to those on the Beta Reader list today as many didn’t reply to the last one. I’m not sure if the email tripped up spam filters because of its content, or if a number of prior Beta Readers have since dumped those addresses, but usually they reply fairly quickly with a positive or negative. If you were a prior Beta Reader and wondering where your invitation went, I promise you it was sent, but I’ll be sending another one for good measure just in case.

Other than that, Beta Reading proceeds as normal, though I do have a small, fun factoid for you. One common error in many books is accidentally swapping a quote mark at the start or close of a sentence with an apostrophe, usually because the finger slipped off the shift key or was mistimed. This is also a booger to spot, but thankfully CTRL+F makes it a bit easier to track down these days.

Anyway, as part of the Beta edit, I was dutifully checking the entire 500,000+ word length of Starforge for this error, one apostrophe+a letter at the time. And I found an interesting statistic to share with all of you. Of the roughly 27 or so occurrences of a quote marker being accidentally replaced by an apostrophe, over half of them were at the front of a sentence and when the starting letter of the sentence was a W.

Well, I found it interesting. I suppose it’s something to do with the rhythm of my fingers when I need both that quote mark and a capital W combined with the shift key.

In any case, all instances of it across the story are fixed now. But it still amused me.

Again, the most positive thing I have to report is that Starforge is quite a bit cleaner in comparison to Jungle or even Axtara, though Axtara was pretty clean. I’ll chalk that one up to improving fingers.


In other news, this weekend is General Conference for my faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and so I’m going to forgo a Starforge teaser post for tomorrow. Never fear, they’ll be back next weekend, and we might even start getting glimpses of the text itself.

I hope all of you have a fantastic weekend, and now for me back to editing!

Being a Better Writer: The Problem With Proper Nouns in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Hello writers, and welcome back to another installment of Being a Better Writer, where today we’re going to discuss something that’s actually quite topical! So topical, in fact, that this discussion wasn’t even on Topic List #20. Instead, it was prompted over this last week by some real-life work and discussion.

It’s also a topic that is going to directly reference via-link someone else’s writings on the subject. But with that, I feel we need to move into an explanation directly.

See, the genesis of this post comes from my editing on Starforge. This titan of a book is now in the Beta phase, which means looking for typos, misspelled words, misplaced quotation marks, and all that jazz. However, it also means going through and ensuring proper capitalization of proper nouns. At which point, I ran into a bit of a conundrum. Said conundrum led me to Google, which in turn pointed me to this post from 2009 concerning a similar issue in Fantasy writing—though note that it does address Science Fiction as well.

Anyway, what is this conundrum? Well, before we dive into it directly, I have a sort of pop quiz for you. You can do it in your head, but if you’re really determined you can bring out a pen and pencil and do the classic grade-school exercise. It’ll only take a moment either way, but here we go. Correctly capitalize the following sentence:

The terran vehicle rolled up the hill, backed by dozens of terran marines.

That’s it. Got it? Placed those capital letters where they belong? Okay, check out the answers after the break.

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UNSEC Space Lore: All Alert – Hoppers

The Starforge beta is on, readers (and you can find out more about that here) which means we’re drawing closer to the finale’s release with each passing day. An end to the adventure six years in the making—and for some of you, reading—Starforge is the epic conclusion to the UNSEC Space trilogy and the journey that began in Colony and continued in Jungle.

But until Starforge is in your waiting hands, tide yourselves over with these little looks into the setting. Today we’re going to be talking about the harbinger of one of the most dangerous threats known in the setting and talk a little bit about the alien lifeform known as the hopper.

As before, these posts contain spoilers for both Colony and Jungle, so if you’d like the twists and reveals of those novels to stay exciting and fresh, we advice not hitting that jump, and instead clicking over to the books page of the site to get your own adventure with the UNSEC trilogy going.

Those of you that are ready to take the dive? Hit the jump.

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The Friday News and Such

Hey there everyone! It’s time for a news post, keeping you all up to date on what’s going on and all. But this week we’re going to start off with an odder bit of news that’s less to do with writing and more just to do with the personal goal of me getting healthier.

Back in the end of June I picked up a Fitbit. I did this with the goal of measuring my workouts and tuning them to be more effective. To that end, I will say I was shocked with some of the results. Some of the routes I was following that I assumed would have been decent workouts were, in fact, not that great, and some of the routes that “common sense” would have said weren’t that great were actually my best in terms of caloric burn and cardio.

The power of a little data, right?

Anyway, there was a little bump in the middle where I got sick and lost a week of workouts while eating … not so great food … but the result is that currently I am, since June, down about thirteen pounds, and still heading further down.

Now that’s nice to have lost, isn’t it. It’s not a shock diet, or a carb fast, or anything like that. It’s just having metrics and a willingness. Well, and the bike. The holiday pounds are on their way out!

I know it’s not super impactful when it comes to the site, unless that lost weight will somehow help me write faster (I doubt it, personally), but it is something that I’m very happy to be able to see progression on, day after day.

With that said, I’ve got more news for people, and more tangential to the focus of the site, so hit that jump!

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Being a Better Writer: A Long-Term Relationship – Part Two

Welcome back writers. We’re back with another Being a Better Writer post on exactly that topic, and aside from a small news blurb to stick in front of it, we’re going to get right down to things!

So, what’s the news? Two smaller items. First: I have a sore throat and a bit of a head cold. So this post might have a few more typos that slip by than normal, and for that I apologize. A chance of small typos is better than no post, I think.

Second, those of you who have replied or posted regarding the Starforge Beta Call may have noticed that there have not been e-mails sent out in response with the Beta Chapter List. This is because polishing of the last few chapters took a little more time than I anticipated. That said, everything I saw over the weekend says that the additional smoothing has been well worth the effort, and I can do the final checks and start putting out the Beta chapters now. Apologies for the delay, but with a finale like this, getting everything to land just right is important.

Which, in a way, does feed into today’s Being a Better Writer post. I said last week that most probably would be surprised by the topic, and expect something a bit more in the vein of today’s post, and noted that we would indeed get to that. Well, here we are. We have arrived at that point. Where last week we talked about writing a long-term relationship and showing it to the reader, this week we’re going to be discussing your long-term relationship with writing, as a hobby or as a career, and what that means for, well, everything.

So hit that jump, and let’s talk writing.

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UNSEC Space Lore: Earth in the 22nd Century

Starforge draws ever closer, readers, and with it the epic conclusion to the UNSEC Space Trilogy. But while it isn’t quite here yet, that doesn’t mean we can’t take a look back at the state of the universe and some of its characters, locations, technology, and lore. So, until Starforge is in your waiting hands, tide yourself over with these little looks into the setting. Today, we’re going to be looking at the homeworld of all mankind itself: Earth.

NOTE: This post does include spoilers for Colony and Jungle, books one and two of the UNSEC Space trilogy. Be warned if you want the exciting reveals of those books to stay exciting!

Otherwise, hit the jump.

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News and Updates

All right everyone, let’s discuss the big news item first: Where is Starforge currently?

Well, the good news is it’s coming along well. I have, however, delayed the move into Beta by a few days while I do some more polishing and tweaking on the Alpha 2. I know, there’s a schedule with a ticking deadline that’s drawing closer and closer, but I want this story to land for as many readers as possible, so I’m making some final tweaks that aren’t, for the most part, large, but are in evidence through the whole of the book, just to get some narrative beats to land just right.

So yes, today is the last of these tweaks, at which point I’ll start dropping chapters into the Beta Master List, send out invites to those respondents to the Beta Call Email (if you previously have been a Beta Reader, check your inbox for the call), and will start sending emails out to those of you that commented on the Beta Call post.

I believe that’s everything for today. I mean, that’s what I have to do today for Starforge. Outside of writing work … Well, you’re not here for that news. You’re here for writing news. So: Beta delayed slightly due to some Alpha polish. Those who have Beta Read before please check your email inbox if you haven’t seen the Beta Call email, and those who left comments, emails coming.


Now, onto other news: The site remodel. Yes, you may have noticed some stark changes around here. Pleasant green swapped for a harsher red. The lack of a smiling dragon banker in the top banner, replaced by an almost blood-red planet floating in space.

Yes, it’s the change of the site’s look for the newest book release. I guess we’re fortunate that red fits both Halloween and Christmas as a color, because we’re going to be with this one for a little while. Granted, it fits the spooky Halloween theme a bit better than Axtara’s cheer. But if you’re missing Axtara, I’m certain she’ll be back. After, a new Axtara title is slated as the second book I’ll be working to release after Starforge is done, and those are lot less work than a juggernaut like Starforge, which means they’ll be coming quicker and sooner.

But hey, for now, let’s just bask in the stark, dark void that is the dread of Starforge, shall we? Two last bits of news, but they’re going below the jump.

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Being a Better Writer: A Long-Term Relationship – Part One

Welcome back writers! Yes, we’re back after last week’s Labor Day holiday, and ready to talk about writing. With a rather curious topic that ended up on our list after an online discussion from a writing forum triggered an observation across a number of stories. Today’s topic might be a little odd, but it is one that’s worth investigating because it is one where often writers can go off the rails.

But first, prior Beta Readers watch your inboxes today! The call is going out! Those who have left comments, you will contacted directly shortly thereafter. Starforge is coming closer!

Oh, which does lead to one other bit of news: Previews! And not just chapter previews and excerpts, though there will be those. In the coming months, we’ll be doing some lore dives into the setting after the events of Jungle. For example, we might take a look at a few other colony worlds. Or have a short spot on HL1 skinsuit armor. So look for those in the coming weeks!

Now, with that taken care of, let’s talk about writing. Specifically, today we’re talking about writing characters. I know some of you might have taken the title today as your long-term relationship with writing (and maybe we’ll put that on the list for what’s ahead), but that isn’t what we’ll be covering today.

No, today I want to talk about writing characters in a long-term relationship. As stated above, this topic was inspired by a writing forum I was lurking on, and while I don’t recall the exact conversation that shuttled me in this direction, what resulted was a sitting back and a contemplation on the variety of stories I’ve read over the years that have either built-up or introduced characters in a long-term relationship.

Or rather, the number of stories that don’t sell it. Don’t get me wrong, there are stories I’ve read that do this quite well. But for every story I read that does know how to sell this, I’d have to say I’ve read a counterpart that does not know how to sell this. Where the only way any “long-term” relationship exists in any capacity is in the narration or the characters telling the audience that it does. There’s nothing to show it. The characters themselves don’t even act like it.

So, today we’re going to talk about showing long-term relationships with characters. We’re going to talk about where a lot of these stories go wrong, but also why, and what mistakes the author is making that cause these characters’ stories of love or companionship fall flat. And, naturally, we’re going to talk about how to turn that around, and deliver characters that don’t just say they’re together, but truly sell it. And we’ll even talk a little bit about how you can use this as a narrative tool.

So hit that jump, and let’s talk about long-term relationships.

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A Short and Quick News Post!

Hello all! My apologies for this post coming in the evening, and being only one of two posts this week, though the other was a pretty significant one. I’ve just been quite busy.

How busy? I have been up writing past 1 AM more than once this week, and hit 2 AM at the latest. So I’ve been burning the midnight oil.

But! The short that blossomed into another YA novel in the Axtara setting—which I really need to name—has found it’s first draft completed! Sadly, it’s rough enough I’ll likely do a total if not near-total rewrite, but it is a neat story that explores a different side of the world already seen with Axtara and other related shorts.

Also, don’t forget, that other post this week was about the Starforge Beta Read! I am blitzing through the Alpha 2 changes right now, and will very likely have Beta chapters up for readers (and e-mails going out) either tomorrow or Monday.

Speaking of which, if you’re interested in being a Beta Reader, keep an eye on your inbox if you’ve commentated or been a prior Beta Reader, and if you’ve not been or done either of those things, comment at the Beta Call! If you already have, I’ll be reaching out to you soon.

Now, there’s a little more news, but it’ll be past the jump. Hit it!

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