Being a Better Writer: The Meandering Story

Today we’re tackling a topic directly. Head on. We’ll be discussing a problem I often see throughout literature, especially work from new writers or in the area of fanfiction (and both are probably bolstered by the fact that most television deliberately commits this act in order to pad out run-time).

Today, I want to talk about the meandering story: What it is, and how we can fix it. Because not only is it a problem that I see many young writers having a problem with, it’s also one that many of them don’t seem to know how to escape. The story meanders, and it wanders, and the writer, even if they see the hole they’re writing themselves into, doesn’t know how to get out of it. More often than not, it turns into a sort of “sand trap” for them, like a golfer, in which they swing and they swing, but the story just isn’t going anywhere.

And that won’t do.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into things, and take a look at how you can keep your story from getting bogged down in this same trap.

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Anniversary MEGA-Sale!

WHOA! Unusual Things has been on the web for one year this Wednesday! Which means sweet things for this week’s collection of posts, like a Reddit AMA this Wednesday to mark the one-year date!

But you saw MEGA-Sale and clicked this right? So a MEGA-Sale (yes, I’m going to keep capitalizing this like it’s the 90s) you shall receive! On everything. For the entire week. Over 320,000 words (1100 pages) worth of fiction.

That’s right, all through this week, starting today (Monday) through Friday, every single thing I’ve published is on sale. Starting at 25% off, and jumping all the way down to free. Had your eye on Dead Silver? Been waiting to snatch up a copy of Unusual Events? Now’s the time.

Hop on over to my page to check them all out at once (note, however, that due to a strange, and in my opinion dumb, quirk, that page does not show sales, you have to click each book to see the sale). Or, if you’re so inclined, use the Books page here on Unusual Things!

The clock is ticking, so grab ’em fast!

One Year Online?

You guys should just be aware that next week marks the one-year anniversary of Unusual Things, which means—of course—that there’s some special stuff floating in the wings. After all, the first birthday is worth celebrating, is it not? Especially with some of the accomplishments that have happened in that time. I won’t give all the details away just yet, since I’ll save those for next week, but I can at least hint at one of them.

The sale.

That’s right. I italicized that one. What would a celebration be without a sale? As I said, no details yet, but if you’ve been waiting on picking up anything, well, get your wallet ready.

Get some questions ready too, while you’re at it.

Was that more than one hint? Dang. I’d better call this good and run. See you all Monday!

Patreon Supporter Update

All right guys, just a quick update on the Patreon Side of things.

First of all, February’s Patreon Supporter Award is now up. I’m still not quite 100% sure how Patreon’s reward system works, but if it works the way I think it works, then those of you who have pledged your support this month can take a look at the reward, which is … an early look at some of my work on Shadow of an Empire! So if you’ve supported me this month, head on over to Patreon and take a look!

Now, second of all, if you are one of those Patreon supporters, I’m looking for a little feedback. Not on Shadow, no, but on how the Patreon experience has been treating you. I’ve not heard much about it since I’ve launched it, and all I’ve really done with it is make sure I’ve got the monthly rewards up. So for those who have been feeding me a few dollars here and there (which I am grateful for), how’s the experience? Should the rewards be going up at a certain time? Is the current system working? Are the rewards capturing your attention?

Let me know in the comments!

What Does It Really Cost?

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a wonderful little post questing after an interesting question: What does it really cost to make a game? Now, I know that may not seem fascinating to most of you, but I link it because it shares a lot if similarities with the ebook market and some of the problems the ebook industry is currently facing.

Seriously, go give it a look, and then think about the book publishing industry and buyer’s habits. We’re facing a similar problem, and one without an answer at the current time.

No One Really Knows How Much Games Cost @ Rock, Paper, Shotgun

Being a Better Writer: Likable Unlikable Characters

Welcome back to another Being a Better Writer post! I’ve got a lot to do today (tax season) so I’m diving right into this one as quickly as possible. Today’s topic comes from the request post I made several months ago (which I’ve been slowly digging through ever since), but it’s a topic that I’ve heard brought up before in writing panels as well as in other places. And it’s a good question, one every author will either probably consider or run afoul of in the course of their writing career. The question is: how do I write an unlikable character that the reader likes?

Now, some of you might snicker a little bit at that, but it’s a legitimate question. And, to be clear, we’re not talking about a villain here. We’re talking about a protagonist (or similar character). A protagonist who, for one reason or another, isn’t really the sort of individual we’d like to know or meet. And yet, for some reason, we’re still following the story. How do we craft a character like that? And, on that note, why would we?

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Being a Better Writer: Fanfiction – School or Crutch?

Don’t forget, Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection is out now!

This post was originally written and posted January 19th, 2015, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

Welcome back, everyone! It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s the beginning of another week, and I’ve got news. Some good news. Good news I won’t give you the details of yet, (as I’m still waiting on a few specific ones) but still pretty good news. Okay, really good news. I’ll give you more later this week, but for now, let’s just say those of you who like going to conventions may want to keep February 12th-14th clear on your calenders.

Alright, that’s that. Now, without any further ado, let’s get to this week’s topic of choice! Fanfiction!

So, this topic might seem a little odd to a few of you, but it’s actually based on a question I’ve been asked several times over the last few weeks, both by those that write fanfiction and those who don’t. A lot of prospective writers—even those who have been writing fanfiction for some time—seem to have a question that goes something like this: Is fanfiction really the best place for me to be practicing and building my talents? Or am I wasting my time, or perhaps being less productive than I would normally otherwise be?

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The Writing Samples Page

Hey, there’s something new underneath the title bar up there. That’s right! If you look all the way to the right, you’ll notice that Unusual Things now has a page of collected writing samples! Here is where all excerpts, samples, and free stories will be collected for browsing ease. Currently, there are two samples from Unusual Events, as well as a short “flash-fiction” story that I posted last week. Now you’ll be able to find all of those without digging back through the archives.

There will be more to come, but for now, if you’re curious, give the “Writing Samples” tab a click and check it out!

The End of Gravity Falls (No Spoilers)


Tonight, television saw the airing of the last episode of one of its greats. Gravity Falls, after two seasons (over four years, which made it feel like four seasons) has finally ended.

And did it ever go out on a high note.

Gravity Falls, if you’ve not watched it (and if not, you should rectify that) is one of those amazing shows that is made for more than just an audience. Some have said that rather than making a show for kids or a show for adults, the creator just made a show that would tell a good story that anyone could enjoy, and you know what? He succeeded. In a masterful way.

I’m not going to spoil anything, but the ending of Gravity Falls was a wonderful moment. It was sweet, poignant, and funny. Over the course of its run the show tackled a number of number of stories and topics, some funny and some serious, all wrapped up in a grand, adventurous mystery plot and a lot of jokes, but the best part about it was that the things it tackled were real, important, and could be understood by children and adults alike. This was a show where a parent could sit down with their teen and their six-year old and all of them could walk away not only satisfied, but with some appreciation of the concepts behind the show that it was bound to explore. You watched it for the fun and the adventure, but at the end of it all Gravity Falls explored some deep and important idea like the importance of family and the strength of a family’s love for one another, concepts a lot of television either handles halfheartedly or avoids entirely. Gravity Falls dove in and handled it masterfully.

Then came the ending a few hours ago.

Endings are hard. Good endings are even harder. With Gravity Falls, we got the latter. It was an ending that left you feeling good, and reminded its audience that nothing was truly over, even if the show was.

It was one of those sad, happy, poignant moments only the best shows and stories can pull off, and Gravity Falls handled it with aplomb.

Hats off to you and your whole team, Alex Hirsch. I await your next adventure.

Even if a part of me will always stay in Gravity Falls.

Being a Better Writer: Some LTUE Tidbits

Hey everyone! Welcome back to this week’s Being a Better Writer post, which as you may have noticed, is a little late.

Yeah, I know. I blame LTUE. Somehow, no matter how much I try, I always end up getting a little less sleep during a con, and LTUE is no exception. And in that same context … it’s still totally worth it. It’s fun, it’s educational, and it’s a good way to get the mind working on all sorts of little details and things about writing.

Which brings me to today’s topic. Rather than do one of my usual write-ups, today I’m going to summarize a few things from LTUE that were writing peeves brought up by other authors and publishers, warnings they gave out on what writers should do … and what writers shouldn’t. Helpful, sometimes basic stuff, but the kind of stuff that’s basic enough it often gets overlooked or ignored and kills things for the reader.

Now, this is unfortunately not a complete list. There’s just no way for me to be in multiple panels at once. What’s collected here is just some of what I was able to pick up from the panels I attended and the conversations I had. It’s helpful, but it’s only what I managed to make it to.

Now, without further ado, let’s see what other authors, editors, and publishers are finding themselves discussing.

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