Being a Better Writer: Keeping a Short Story Short

Hello readers! Welcome back after a spectacular Life, The Universe, and Everything writing convention! I hope you were able to attend, or if not, that you’ll be checking their youtube channel to see what’s posted as they upload panel recordings! The experience was incredible!

It was not without risks, however. Such as the dreaded “con crud” (aka you’ve just been exposed to around a dozen different colds and you’re low on sleep), so today’s post is going to be a little shorter than normal. No news, possibly some flat-brained typos, but I’m getting it done! So then, let’s talk about keeping your short story short.

This was a topic that actually came up in one of the LTUE panels I was on, in a roundabout way. An audience member asked about keeping short stories short stories, and said that they’d been told the best way to do it was to think of a short story as either the first or final chapter of a story. In other words, they explained, it either set up a beginning, or tied off an ending.

That’s actually a pretty good way to think of it, provided you’re thinking of a story where everything that can come before is capable of getting squeezed into that one chapter (though yes, that’s more important for a story that’s the “end” of something than the beginning, as one sets up and the other ties together).

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LTUE Day Three Report!

Hello readers! If you’ve been following the two days before this, well … you can probably guess how tired I am, stacking onto the two days prior. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one in the green room this morning waiting to wake up. Cons are a marathon, and LTUE is no exception!

So, as I am currently only a few bare steps away from pure exhaustion (and my voice is almost gone from talking so much), let’s simply get down to business with the report!


The first panel I attended, at 9 AM, was “Paying the Reaper: Financing a War.” This is a panel I’ve attended before, but that’s because it’s a classic. And a golden panel for anyone who wishes to write about a military. Because it asks a very important question: Who is paying for all these soldiers, and with what?

That’s the whole point of this thread. To consider camp followers, the cost of a military, the cost of the logistics. This time around, the focus shifted toward modern militaries, and how the cost of maintaining them has increased tremendously alongside their force multiplication—something the panel wanted the audience to remember. Armies today are smaller than they were before, but far deadlier, while costing a lot more per person or bit of hardware compared to older times.


I then missed the next set of panels. I ended up caught in a conversation about 18th century sailing ships and the differences/similarities to modern vessels. One shocker that came out of this conversation, with the woman who had given the presentation I mentioned yesterday, was that the full operating crew compliment for a 112-foot sailing ship was … 12 people.

That dumbfounded me at first, but made sense. Today there are engines and mechanics to keep tabs on them, electrical equipment, etc, and they run 24-7 on some ships so you have crew rotations. A coast guard cutter twice as long, for example, has a standard crew compliment nine times as large.

Interesting, no?

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LTUE Day Two Report!

For all the typos yesterday, today may see even more. I am absolutely wrung out. Ever seen a taffy pull? That taffy is how my brain feels. And if I’ve lost my voice tomorrow morning due to speaking so much today, well …

Worth. It.

So, let’s recap, shall we?


9 AM I went to How to Ursurp a Kingdom. Yes, it was as awesome as it sounds. The panel talked about how to take over, assassinate, play political games, the works. I enjoyed it immensely.

Two works were suggested as primers during this panels. Machiavelli’s The Prince and a two-part CCPGrey video I’ll embed below.


10 AM was a panel on Oaths and Honor in societies. This panel covered a variety of topics, from how a character’s honor (or a challenge against it) can make them much more intriguing, or how characters from societies that honor different things can play off of one another (or even coexist).

More about characters with honor and how that’s a character tool than cultures steeped in honor, but nonetheless interesting.

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LTUE Day One Report!

Hey readers! This will be a short one, as I am bushed, but the first day of LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) was today! So, naturally, I’m here to give you the session reports. Though it may be a little tricky as I was on a number of panels this time, rather than listening from the audience. Plus there was this book launch …

Yeah, if there’s typos here I apologize, but I am exhausted. This day was awesome, but it did wear me out by the end. 10+ hours of con will do that to someone.


So, let’s start with 9 AM and the first panel I attended, or rather, gave! That’s right, I was one of the panelists for it! The topic was on using weather properly in fiction, not just as a backdrop, but as something that could influence the plot and characters! And it was a lot of fun, though early lol. We discussed how different forms of weather can completely change a scene (such as an escape from a prison camp in sunlight, hazy rain, or fog), how to set up weather in advance so that it doesn’t come out of nowhere, and even ways you can learn about weather or help establish the mood for your writing. A fun panel that definitely got a lot of audience members thinking.


At 10 AM, I attended a panel on lost technology. You know, stuff like Damascus Steel or Greek Fire. However, I was pleased when the panelists subverted what I (and I expect many others) predicted would be the focus, instead focusing on lost modern technologies that we still have record of, but no longer have the ability to create, such as Saturn V rockets, or mechanical calculators. Both of which, the panel pointed out, we don’t have a need for (which is why they’re gone), but they’ve gone so hard that we have the blueprints to create them (mostly), but not the expertise or machinery.

An interesting approach, and one that left me thinking on progress.


At 11 AM was the keynote for the day, a presentation of Fantasy in art through the ages. Interesting, and with some fun art.

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Life, The Universe, and Everything Starts Tomorrow at Nine AM! Plus LTUE Sale and Fireteam Freelance News!

It’s here, folks! Starting tomorrow at nine AM, Life, The Universe, and Everything begins!

I don’t know how much more there is I can say on this (but clearly a lot, judging from the size of this post). I mean, I’ve just about covered it backwards to forwards pretty clearly. Life, The Universe, and Everything is the Fantasy/Sci-Fi writing convention all about creating Fantasy and Science-Fiction. With hundreds of panels staffed by authors from all across the industry, LTUE is absolutely the best place to be if you want to learn about the art of writing a well-crafted story.

Seriously, take a look at the schedule (PDF warning for those on mobile) and all the different topics that’ll be on display as soon as LTUE opens its doors tomorrow, and marvel at the awesome contained therein. There are panels on various scientific methods for building cities on and under the ocean (surprisingly, I didn’t end up on this one). There’s a panel on building a brand. There’s a panel on using weather in fiction (I’m on that one!).

All of these are in the first hour. LTUE is awesome. Every year I inevitably find two or three panels I wish to attend that are all at the same time, and lacking the ability as of yet to be in multiple places at once, must choose which panel to attend.

Some are laugh-out-loud funny. Others are fascinating explorations of technology or writing techniques I’ve not explored. Some are just (for myself) a nice refresher.

But there are so many to chose from! Even just glancing at the schedule, I can see panels I’d love to attend. The Cold War and Science-Fiction? Or Folk, City, and Farm Magic?

Well, I’m on the latter, so I think my choice has been made for me. This is another “two places at once” situation. Anyone got a time-turner or a delorean I can borrow?

70081760_568294170598543_7425837595373862912_oOh, and let’s not forget that the launch of A Dragon and Her Girl also happens tomorrow at LTUE. Those of you that have pre-ordered your copies, start checking your accounts then! I’m excited to get my hands on it as well, since while I’ve read my story in it, there are still nineteen other stories about dragons and heroines in there I want to pore over!

If you’re not going to make it to the launch party but will still be at LTUE, you can also track me down during the con or during the signing event on Friday night and get your copy signed by yours truly! Yes, I will be at the book signing/sale fair. Curious how that’s going to work out as my books are all digital? Well, they are … but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a presence, sign copies of A Dragon and Her Girl, and a few surprises in store for those that swing by my table.

Semi-Pro Kinda LifeSeriously, LTUE is going to be awesome. Those of you attending, if you spot me walking the halls (see my mug there to the left) feel free to say hello! If I’m running to a panel I’ll let you know, but if not, you’ve got a very good chance of snaring me in a conversation! Many a time at LTUE an entire hour has vanished in conversations between folks in the halls, sometimes digging deeper into the topics of a panel, other times books, and even sometimes obscure but fascinating topics like the restoration of Santa Fe 2926 (a conversation which I look forward to engaging in once again this year and hearing how the last year’s progress has gone).

Also, before we hit the jump, which will head to my LTUE schedule so those of you attending can know where I’ll be, some other bits of news you’ll want to be notified of.

Jungle CoverFirst, everything is on sale for LTUE. Colony is 50% off, Jungle is 25% off, Shadow of an Empire is 50% off, Dead Silver is 67% off, and Unusual Events is 50% off. The only one that’s not discounted is One Drink, because it’s already as low as it can go under the current store rules. It’s 99 cents, folks.

Anyway, the big LTUE sale will run through Monday, February 17th, so if you’re looking to complete your collection, or looking to expand it as a newcomer who just picked up a copy of A Dragon and Her Girl, you’re in luck! You can literally grab everything I’ve published to date for $15. That’s over a million words of adventure, mystery, magic, mayhem, and more.

But only until the 17th. Click the cover to the right to go to the Amazon page and start browsing!

Now, onto the final bit of news before the jump and the schedule: Fireteam Freelance. Episode 0 dropped last week and, within a single day, became the most-read feature on the site that week. Off to a good start, I’d say. Well, for those of you that are fans, I’ve got good news. This weekend you’ll be getting an interlude. Not a whole new episode, but a smaller piece that slots in between “0” and “Kamchatka” while work continues on that next episode.

Patreon supporters, meanwhile, will get that interlude today. Rewards for supporting Being a Better Writer and all that. So if you’re a Patreon supporter, look for that interlude today, if you’re not, then come back this Saturday for a small glimpse leading into Episode 1!

All right, that’s all the news. Hit the jump for my schedule, and I hope to see you at LTUE!

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Being a Better Writer: Learning From Other Authors’ Books

Readers! The time has come! The magnificence is upon us! It. Is. Here!

What am I talking about? Why LTUE of course! Life, The Universe, and Everything! The convention for writing Science-Fiction and Fantasy! It’s this week! February 13th-15th!

Yes, most of you have probably already heard of it since I have been mentioning it fairly frequently for the last month. But as it is this week, this is the last time for reminders. Come to LTUE and feast (metaphorically, we need those brains, plus at this con a zombie outbreak would be met with a shrug) on the knowledge of hundreds of professional authors!

Myself included! Yes, I will be there, speaking on several panels as well as attending the launch of A Dragon and Her Girl! And doing a reading from my short in said collection the next day! In addition, I’ll also be at the general signing, so if you’re grabbing a copy to sell, well …

I’ll also be around the con the whole time I’m not on a panel, having fun or even attending other panels. If you’re on the lookout for me, I’ll be sporting a tan shirt that says “Ask me about my book” (perfect, right). Feel free to speak up, catch my attention and say hello! As long as I’m not running to one of the panels I’m on, I’m always willing to chat for a bit and say hello!

By the way, if you’re attending LTUE and looking over the panels in joyful glee of figuring out where you want to be and when, check out my schedule here if you want to make sure you can make it to the panels I’m on. I hope to see you there!

Now, in the spirit of the week, I thought I’d cover a less common but no less useful topic this time for Being a Better Writer: learning from works written by other authors.

This is something that I’ve written about before, or at least touched on, in various BaBW posts, this concept that reading other authors’ works can be a bit like picking up a textbook on how to write. But since this week is all about learning right from those authors, I figured it was about time to do a post on it. After all, if you can’t make it to LTUE, and can’t watch any of the videos that will go online on their YouTube page, that doesn’t mean you still can’t learn from the massive amount of authors that will be there, albeit indirectly.

So then, how does one learn about writing by reading someone else’s book?

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