Being a Better Writer: Historical Fiction

Welcome back, readers! And sorry for the delay. Life … finds a way. That isn’t always to one’s benefit! This week is just looking crazy.

Which means it’s probably best if I dive right in, given my ticking clock today. So, historical fiction …

Okay, disclaimer. I give these every so often. I don’t write historical fiction. So I’m not the best authority on this subject. While I have written stuff that has taken place in other time periods, both future (Colony) and past (Shadow of an Empire), both of those also deviate quite a bit from what would be considered historical fiction because one’s the future, and the other isn’t Earth, but a fantasy world with magic thrown into the mix.

Which doesn’t mean you can’t throw a little magic into things with your historical fiction—it’s been done. What I’m saying is that my grasp of historical fiction is not as complete as someone who writes historical fiction full-time. I touch on it, they embrace it.

But … even with those who embrace it, there is plenty of historical fiction out there that is truly terrible. Just bad. And if you want to write historical fiction, you’re going to want to avoid stepping into those same mistakes, and into those same pitfalls. So, what are they? Well, let’s talk shop! Writing shop!

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Work Shift Today, Being a Better Writer Post Tomorrow

Pretty much the post title. Got a work shift today that’ll keep me from getting Being a Better Writer out on it’s usual day, so it’ll have to come out tomorrow.

Aside from that, there’s not much in the way of news. Shadow of an Empire and Colony both continue to sell pretty well and … Oh, hey, I do have something neat to share on that front.

I was in an online chat the other day where someone was asking for writing advice, dropped a bit, and someone else in the chat pointed out to the one asking for advice that mine was solid because I actually was an author. At which point the individual asking after writing advice asked what I’d written, and when I mentioned Colony, they were surprised, and quickly informed me (and the chat) that they had heard of it before, because their roommate was reading it and wouldn’t stop talking about it. Apparently they liked it, because they’d gotten this individual interested in it as well.

Nice.

Anyway, BaBW will be up tomorrow. Have a great day!

Watching the Hugo Awards Implode

Well, this is certainly interesting.

If you’ve been involved at all in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy world for the last few years, you’ve more than likely heard of the Hugo Awards, Worldcons infamous “Best Science-Fiction and Fantasy” award that’s been of more and more dubious quality over the last decade-plus. Which culminated in a social movement to try and wake it up that in turn saw the event show its true colors, with everything from mockery and public bullying (let us hand these “assterisk awards” to authors we don’t like) to witch hunts, statements about the ‘lower economic classes’ not being welcome, and even just plain reality distortion (‘A white male said this therefore—’ ‘That’s a woman, and they’re not white—’ ‘They’re male now, down with the patriarchy!’).

And faced with that and cries of “Go make your own Sci-Fi/Fantasy awards!” people did just that and left the Hugo Awards en mass. If, well, you can count what few numbers the Hugos managed to garner a “mass.” But they left. New awards rose up, and the insulars left running the Hugos and paying them any attention then, naturally, gnashed their teeth and threw little tantrums that how dare anyone try and compete with their legendary Hugos (crud, one such individual even has admitted publicly to trying to skew other awards, just because they can).

Anyway, point being, what I guessed would happen a few years ago (The Ent March) seems to have happened. The public was woken up by the Hugos antics. And guess what? They left. The Hugo Awards are down at low, low voting numbers once again while other awards that aren’t as staffed by the socially virulent are picking up the slack.

Which leads us to today, and what’s happened to Worldcon and the Hugos now that they got exactly what they wanted: Their own exclusive, tiny clique with no outside interference. Where they’re free of all the social injustices and “bigotries” of non-trufans. They got what they wanted.

Problem is … they can’t handle that.

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Being a Better Writer: The Convenient Romantic Subplot

Welcome back, readers! It’s Monday, and you know what that means! Time for Being a Better Writer!

But first, a slight aside. Dave Freer (you may have read something of his) wrote this little blurb that caught my eye from my morning feed on the Mad Genius Club (their name, not mine) about large books. More accurately, on books that dive past the “normal” length of 40,000 to 100,000 words. I found it interesting, both because well, the “normal” length for me is hovering around 325K per story, and because Freer is writing this as someone who doesn’t write such long books and is putting forth his thoughts on both why he doesn’t and where they may fit with readers and the industry.

I found it interesting, especially as it does point out how much of an outlier I am with the breadth and scope of what I do. Those of you who are fans of my work, take a look at his thoughts and see what you think. If you’re so inclined, if you think he nailed something or was way off, leave a comment!

Okay, news aside. Let’s talk writing stuff. Now, today’s topic isn’t a requested one. In fact, it’s not even on my Topic List. No, this is one that came to mind as I was sitting reading through another book last night (a short story collection, in this case, but I hit the library recently, so I’ve been mowing through a literal stack of books). I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately—more than the norm—and naturally, I was noticing a lot of trends as I read through. One of the most common, which I’m sure many of you readers, movie-watchers, and the like also notice, is the sometimes dreaded romantic subplot.

Naturally, I started thinking about it. Why we use it. Why it’s become so blasted common and cliche, and yet still sticks around despite that. Why so many feel the need to stick a romantic subplot into an otherwise good story (this, by the way, is often called a romantic plot tumor when it doesn’t belong). Why so many dislike it, and yet it constantly shows up, again and again. Personally, I felt it was worth talking about. Because I guarantee you, a number of readers of this site have sat down to write out their story, and almost immediately thrown a romance subplot in without even knowing why.

Now, I do want to make a caveat here: I am not talking about the romance genre. I’m talking about romantic subplots. You know, a side plot to the main story. Not a story where the romance is the story, but a story where the romance is something happening alongside the main story, but not the crux of the plot. The protagonist has a journey, a foe to face, a mountain to climb, an alien planet to explore .. whatever. And along the way they fall for someone.

All right, with that catch explained, let’s talk about romantic subplots.

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Last Chance to Nominate for the Dragon Awards!

Hey you! That’s right, you! Did you know that Nominations for the Dragon Awards close on the 20th of July? That’s right, and today is the 18th. So if you haven’t nominated for the awards yet, now you’re down to the wire.

Again, you don’t have to nominate something in every category. You can nominate in just the categories you’ve found some winners in.

Shadow of an Empire is eligible for nomination, by the way, because of its release date. If you’ve read it, and think it deserves the honor, then go ahead an nominate it! The Dragon Awards are open to indie nominations!

You can make your nominations here!

Being a Better Writer: Writing Exercises for Viewpoints

Welcome back, readers! And welcome to Tuesday! As you probably guessed, I had work shift yesterday, and as low as hours have been lately, there was no way I wasn’t taking it.

Just gotta make it to the end of August. The end of August.

Anyway, you guys aren’t here to hear about how close to the edge a writer’s life is. You’re here to hear about how it can be you at the edge!

I’m only sort of joking. Anyway, you’re here today for Being a Better Writer, and today we’ve got another request topic to tackle. Which, if you’ve glanced at the title above, you already know of: writing exercises.

Okay. I’ll give you all a minute to think on that one, and then I’m going to change the game. And again, if you saw the title, you’ve already guessed how that’s going to change.

I won’t be offering a comprehensive breakdown of dozens of writing exercises. Because, honestly, it’s easy to find writing exercises. Just type “good writing exercises” into Google and you’re bound to find hundreds. My offering, in that respect, of retreading the same ground? Not so useful.

However … that doesn’t mean I have nothing to offer. I’m not going to retread a bunch of exercises you’ll find elsewhere, but I will go over some of the exercises I did in college, as a young writer in creative writing classes, and discuss what made them stand out and why I still remember them today.

Sure, it’ll be a bit unconventional for a BaBW post, but I’m allowed to do that. It’s my site, and I answer to me. So, looking back, here are several challenges and exercises that helped me improve at my craft: what they were, what they each entailed, and how they helped me get better.

Let’s rock.

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Shadow of an Empire Brings the Praise

Well readers, Shadow of an Empire has been out now for just over a month, so I thought that, in light of yet another excellent review it picked up last night from Frigid Reviews, it would be timely to go ahead and look at some of the responses to the book thus far from readers! If you have not read Shadow of an Empire yet, this may be the post that hints that you should!

So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at some reader feedback for Shadow of an Empire. We’ll be looking at excerpts, but you’ll be able to click the title of each review to get a look at the full text yourself.

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