Being a Better Writer: Time(line) Management

I bet a lot of you are going to be surprised by the actual gist of this post. Yes, I am talking about time management, but not in the way you think. Also, I’m fairly certain I’ve done posts on making good use of writing time before, so those still exist.

No, today I’m going to talk about a different kind of time management. And, before I start, I must stress that I don’t share all the credit for the idea of this topic. It actually came to me as I was listening to an old episode of the Writing Excuses podcast (I’m two seasons behind thanks to a massive backlog), and one of the hosts made an off-hand comment pertaining to the shuffling chapters around. With a start, I realized that there was an important bit of writing that I’d never considered writing about on this blog before, and put it on the list that night.

So, what sort of time management isn’t your own management, but something else? Simple: it’s the management of time in your story.

Some of you might be going “Huh?” after a pronouncement like that, and I don’t blame you. This almost feels like the kind of subject where you have to explain it to get everyone on the same page. Once you do, everyone nods and goes “Oooohhhh.” So let me see if I can get us all on that same page.

Every book has a timeline. That plot arc you’re following? It has a beginning, a middle, and an end (hopefully). Along, I would expect, with some nice ups and downs strung along the middle. With me so far?

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It’s That Special Time of Year Again …

Ah, what a wondrous time of year it is! Calculators are being dragged out, receipts are checked, and math skills are brushed up on. Everywhere you can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth  of … oh, wait a moment.

There’s nothing wondrous about this at all. It’s tax season. I got my wires crossed. My mistake.

Yes, it’s tax season again. Hooray.

Okay, so some of you are probably slightly puzzled. Maybe you’ve not done taxes before (I know I have some young readers), or maybe you’re thinking “Eh, you’ve got a few months, right?”

Nope. See, I’m self-employed. My taxes are due March 1st. Which is very soon in tax terms.

Also, being self-employed really means you don’t get to see a lot of the safety nets others do. Like standard deductions. They’re there, but they don’t take nearly as much effect. To put this another way … I’ve never gotten a tax return in my life. Well, save that one time I accidentally wrote the IRS a check for a dollar more than I was supposed to.

In other words, the dawning of another tax season means another nice hit to my bank account. Glad I’ve managed to save a little money this year, because it’s about to disappear.

I wouldn’t be so annoyed about it if I wasn’t well below the poverty line. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not begging for cash here. I’m living within my means, limited as they are. But dang, you’d think being so far below that line would matter … but no, it really doesn’t.

Is there a point to this post? Well, as of this moment, not really. I’m just griping. Darn tax season. There, that was the last one. But I probably should provide something other than a cautionary … Huh … You know, discussing finances and some of the differences of being a Self-Employed Author would probably make for a good Being a Better Writer post. I’m making a note of that now.

Right, anyway, other news and stuff. First of all, let’s hit the big elephant in the room. Well, at least, for me: Colony.

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Being a Better Writer: Gradual Character Development

Hello readers! I’m back!

I know it was only a week, but honestly, it felt much longer. Funny how time works like that. It feels like forever since I’ve worked on a Being a Better Writer post, but at the same time, it feels like just yesterday I finished editing Colony

Time does weird things. And moves in odd ways. Speaking of which, that’s probably a good topic for another BaBW post: Time. That one’s on the list now.

Anyway, let’s dive right into today’s topic: Gradual Character Development.

Character development is usually one of those tricky things for a new writer to nail. Usually. Some get it right off of the bat, others take a bit of time to get it right. But it’s something that any story needs.

Yes, I’m going to call a hard specific on this and say that character development is a need, not an optional bit of window dressing. Why?

Because stories are about a progression, a moving from Point A to Point B. Any story—any good one, mind—is made up of moving parts, each grinding, ticking, or in some cases waiting to snap, forward. And, just as a watch would look odd if all of the gears but one were moving, each part of the story should be moving in its own little way. In what direction the reader may not know, but everything should be part of the cohesive whole.

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If I’ve Been Quiet, It’s Because My Throat Hurts

Don’t worry, it’s not that bad. No, really, it isn’t. It’s just a bug I picked up from my roommate.

It’s also not entirely the reason I’ve been so quiet. I’ve also been juggling things (as I commentated on in my last post), but the primary of those has been Jungle. Which is now sitting at over 30,000 words!

Has that kept me a little quiet? Well, yes. That’s been the primary factor. That and, I know blogs are supposed to be something that you provide rapid, frequent content for, but I’ve always been more on the side of “If I’m going to post something, why not post something meaningful?”

Though a comment chain on another blog I’ve been posting to has been percolating in my brain, so something may come of that soon. We’ll see.

I any case, just a little heads up that no, I’m not dead, I’m just working. In that authorial way, where I’ve vanished inside my office for days and days, hunched over a keyboard, clattering away at keys and building massive plot-threads.

Speaking of which, Jungle has a lot of those. I’ll give away a bit more as things move along (thereby giving more people time to make it through Colony), but right now it’s feeling pretty sweet. In Colony we got to see Pisces, now with Jungle things are opening up a bit to the universe at large … but in ways I hope people won’t expect. It’s definitely going to be a ride when everything hits the fan.

In other news, I need to get my sleep schedule back on track. That will definitely help.

Anyway, time to work!

Surprises They Don’t Tell You + BaBW Topics + LTUE

Becoming an author exposes you to all sorts of unexpected challenges and surprises, many of which they don’t tell you about. Other authors will tell you that it will be hard, sure. They’ll tell you that you need dedication. They’ll tell you that it’ll be an uphill battle, and that you might go hungry quite a few times.

But one thing I never heard mentioned, not in any course I took, nor any panel I attended, was that when you’re an author, days really tend to blend together.

Case in point? I usually only realize that it’s a holiday when my friends contact me to ask what I’m doing. Such as today. I was all set to sit down and write a BaBW post and then do some work on Jungle (which is almost in its 4th chapter already) when my friends spoke up with “Hey, it’s a holiday, want to see a movie? What are you doing?”

Cue surprise.

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Biting Off More Than I Can Chew?


Yes, I’ve been fairly quiet over the last two or three weeks outside of the Being a Better Writer posts. And the reason for that is that I’ve been keeping very busy.

How busy? In the last week and a half, despite having family in town and pulling hours at my part time job, I’ve managed not only to get both BaBW posts done and up, but also 20,000+ words done on Jungle.

That’s right, the sequel to Colony. Am I going to spoil anything for you guys yet? No, not at all, except to say you’re all in for a lot of surprises. Yesterday I got partway through chapter three, so it appears that any worries that Jungle would be shorter than Colony are going to be fairly unfounded. I don’t know how long it will be, but at this point I’d expect it to be around a similar length.

I’d better get it done fast, too. The demand for more in the wake of Colony is strong. By the way, if you haven’t read Colony yet, you really should. It’s sitting at a 4.7 star rating on Goodreads and a 4.8 star rating on Amazon, with stellar reviews in both places.

So, that’s been eating into my time. As has my part-time job (which, naturally, really wants more time out of it than I can afford to give). And family visiting. I love to see them, but work grinds to a halt while they’re here.

But I’ve had other things digging into my time as well. Life, The Universe, and Everything (LTUE) is coming up as well, and I’m trying to determine which panels to apply for (new system this year, apparently). And tomorrow, being the weekend, I get to sit down and do beta editing for Tirek is Doomed, plus start setting up Alphas for Discord Day Care and Shadow of an Empire.

Plus other life obligations … Patreon supporter stuff, DnD campaign, etc, etc …

Basically, I’m making this post to say “Yes, I’ve been quiet, but it’s only because I’m really keeping busy! Really!”

And it’s true. And right now, I’m cutting this post short because I’ve got a bunch more things to do today in addition to putting at least another 3,000 words onto Jungle‘s first draft before my night-shift tonight.

So, what can you expect?

Patreon supporters are going to see a post soon, for January, December, and November. Likely it will be a chapter or two of Shadow of an Empire. A sort of teaser, if you will, of what’s coming.

Fanfic readers will be seeing Tirek is Doomed before long, and will start getting more info on Discord Day Care.

Colony will continue to sell well, continue to get glowing reviews, and continue to be an absolute blast of a Sci-Fi book. I’m getting reviews calling it ‘the best Sci-Fi [the reviewer] has read in years’ and comparing its originality and level of amazement to Ender’s Game.

Yes, that Ender’s Game.

Anyway,  for future reference, I’m probably going to scale back the number of projects I tackle at once, just to keep things a bit easier to handle and the pipeline a bit more streamlined.

And now? I have work to do, so away to my keyboard. Which is actually right here, I’m just going to swap windows and—

Being a Better Writer: Commissions and Writing to Be Popular

Today’s topic is a bit odd, and a bit different. In fact, while it’s been sitting untouched on my current topic list (number eight) pretty much from day one, I distinctly recall that it’s been on earlier versions of the list, and I’ve just kept putting it off despite it being a requested topic because … well … I don’t have much in the way of hands-on experience with it. Really all I can offer is my own reasons for why I don’t do either of the things today’s topic will discuss, which definitely puts a hard limit on exactly what facets I can talk about.

In other words? I have no personal experience with doing either of the things I’ll be talking about today, but rather experience in actively not doing them, which is what I’ll be working from. So I’ll basically just be discussing “here’s why I’m not doing any of these things, but here are the benefits/drawbacks that I’ve seen/heard about, and why I’ve not done them.”

Sound confusing? Yeah, well, imagine trying to explain it. And short of the title, I haven’t even gotten to what today’s topic (or rather, closely related topics) are yet, so here goes: Today I’m going to talk about two things—writing commissions and writing for the express purpose of being popular.

Now, the first one I can see some heads nodding at, but the second one I imagine is raising a few eyebrows among the audience out there. After all, isn’t being popular a good thing as a writer? We all want our work to be read, perused, and desired, right?

To which I reply, well, yes … but at the same time, that’s wanting our work to be popular, not writing our work to be popular. And yes, one is different from the other.

But for now, let’s just leave it at that, as I want to tackle the first half of our topic before I get too deeply into  wanting and writing popularity. Put that one on the back burner for the moment, and let’s talk about commissions.

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Being a Better Writer: The Death Spiral

Real cheery title for the first post of 2017, isn’t it?

Seriously though, welcome to 2017! I hope it feels like as much of a breath of fresh air for the rest of you as it does from me. Though in my case, it’s mostly because I took the last two weeks off.

I know. I took an actual vacation. Cleared games out of my backlog, read a bunch of books, and everything. And you know what’s funniest about it?

I actually had to convince myself to stick with it. There was a period about three or four days into it where my mind was like “What are you doing!? You should be working!”

I’m glad I stuck with the vacation. I was so dedicated to clearing my backlog that it almost was work, but it was a lot of fun all the same. Finally knocking a few games off of that list was satisfying. As was all the reading I got to do.

Anyway, none of that really has anything to do with today’s topic, mind. I suppose if I had to tie together my ramblings, they would come together as “It was a nice break, but I’m glad to be back at work!”

So, about that topic. As I mentioned, it may seem like an odd title for the first post of 2017. After all, “death spiral” doesn’t exactly imbue much confidence, does it?

No. It doesn’t. Which is exactly why I think it makes a good topic for the first post of 2017. Because for many young writers, a death spiral is something they get trapped in with no idea of how to get out. And for the new year? Nothing could be better for some of those writers than realizing it and breaking free.

Right, enough pontificating. Let’s dive right in and answer the question on so many minds right about now: what is a death spiral?

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