Being a Better Writer: Character Development, Worldbuilding, or Empty Fluff?

Hey readers! Welcome back to Being a Better Writer, the regular Monday feature where we talk about writing ins and outs!

Most of you knew that, but I have to assume there are some new folks popping in for each post. Because there are, according to the stats I see. So, welcome newcomers, and welcome returning readers. Since I wrote up a good-sized news post last week, there’s nothing that keeps me from diving right into this, so let’s do that.

So … Character Development, Worldbuilding, or Empty Fluff? Where am I going with that? Well, this post topic comes from a few sources, but there’s a core cause of it that spawned this topic on the list. There’s a book out there that I read, along with many others that … well, let’s just say that its “character development” is left a little lacking. This post actually was conceived when I stumbled across someone talking about the book online who posted an entire topic about the book’s “character development” asking how it was character development because it just felt like a bunch of constant, rambling scenes that really didn’t contribute anything except maybe some worldbuilding, but after that just endlessly repeated.

And, since this is the internet, a huge debate ensued, with some attempting to defend the book, while others agreed that yes, it was just empty fluff that the author seemed to think was character development. Those who defended it assured folks that the author had done it and it involved the protagonist, so anything involving the protagonist meant that automatically, it was character development. Also, being the internet, a consensus was not reached.

In turn, that made me pick up my pen and jot down another topic on the list, because if you’re going to write a book, you definitely don’t want to get character development and worldbuilding mixed up. Worse, you don’t want either of them replaced with empty fluff.

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The Good News!

Four items of news today, folks! All of it good!

You know that old saying “No news is good news?” Well, I have been a little quiet over the last few weeks.

In fact, the area where I’ve been the most quiet is my Current Projects page, simply because a few months ago I forgot to update it for a few days and lost count of where I was on Hunter/Hunted. As in, I lost track of my word-count, which was my process for updating everyone.

Well, I haven’t gone through and added up a word count of each chapter. I mean, I could … but it was the holidays, etc etc. So I just went with “No news is good news” and kept writing.

And now? I can give you the good news. The Dusk Guard Saga: Hunter/Hunted has only four chapters left, counting the one I’m working on right now. Five, maybe, if something unexpected catches me by surprise.

Yeah, we’re talking next week.

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LTUE Video Archive

Quick post here, once again extolling and reminding everyone of the awesomeness that is LTUE! The advance sign-up ends soon, so if you’re going to go, get your ticket now!

But maybe you’re a little hesitant. You’ve not heard of Life, The Universe, and Everything before and you’re wondering if it’s worth taking the plunge for. Well, maybe what I’ve got to share with you right now can help make that decision.

See, turns out LTUE has a recording department, and one of their heads pinged me on another site to plug their YouTube Archive Channel! It’s pretty much what you’d expect: A whole slew of videos of various panels from several years worth of conventions. Sadly, the 2017 Fantasy-Romance panel I didn’t find in their (the funniest panel I’ve attended hands down) but there are a lot of other interesting panels on topics from guns—

—to magic systems—

—all from a variety of skilled authors.

So, if you’re missing this weeks Being a Better Writer post and looking for some brain food, or if you’re unsure that LTUE will be worth your time and money, again, hit the link! See what you’d be in for, what you can learn, and what the place is like! There’s a huge amount of video at that link, and it barely scratches the surface of what LTUE delivers each year.

Hope to see you there this year!

Life, The Universe, and Everything 2019!

That’s right. No Being a Better Writer post this week due to Martin Luther King day. Which means I’m spending the day working on Hunter/Hunted, actually. Why take a break? Besides, that one’s almost done. Which then means Halo novel, and then Jungle!

Anyway, instead of BaBW, today I’m giving you a heads up and a reminder: Life, The Universe, and Everything 2019 is almost here! February 14-16 in Provo Utah Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.

Will I be there? Of course I will be there. It’s the writing convention to go to. And there will be a lot of other authors there besides! Dan Wells, David Farland, Larry Correia … it’s a big list.

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The Most-Read BaBW Post to Date

So, I got curious the other day and started digging through site history on here. Why? Well, I can look at stats here on a yearly basis (but not lifetime, for some odd reason) and started wondering about each year’s most popular Being a Better Writer posts. What, I wondered, was the most popular (read: one with the most views) to date?

Now, granted, this is a little unfair. Posts that have been around longer have much more time to rack up views, so older posts automatically have an advantage. Case in point, the most highly-viewed BaBW post comes from 2015, so it’s had four years to gather its viewcount. The post right behind it has had two. The post that I believe to be in third place has only boomed recently, since it became a wikipedia reference.

Anyway, not much point in beating around the bush. The (current) most read BaBW article of all time?

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Being a Better Writer: The Five-Man Band

Welcome back, readers, to another Monday! Which of course means another Being a Better Writer post. I do want to keep these to Monday if at all possible. Work shifts permitting.

But first, some news. I’ve picked up a few more reviews, moving my total ever closer to my year-end goal. Who says you can’t get started early? If I do the math, I’m currently sitting at, between Goodreads and Amazon, a grand total of 190 reviews and ratings. Pretty much an even split, numbers-wise, between the two.

By the end of the year, I’d like to double that. 400. That’s the goal, and I’ll be keeping a tally going, mentioning it on here from time to time.

The next milestone? 200. I’m only 10 away. Then 300, and then the goal. As for what will happen when I hit these? Well, outside of celebration, I’m not really sure yet. Probably something cool.

Aside from that, there isn’t too much news to wax on. Progress on Hunter/Hunted moves toward its conclusion. I’m somewhere in the final act, and finally getting a handle on some of the story’s more difficult concepts and elements. Since it’s a freebie fan-project and not something for sale, as usual I’ve experimented with some new things and choices. We’ll see what readers make of them, but I’ve definitely already come away with a few lessons of “that worked, that didn’t” to keep in mind for future projects.

And crud, I may as well mention that I missed a project for this year when I spoke about upcoming work in a recent post. I didn’t forget Fireteam Freelance. Or Starforge. Or the yet-unnamed-Halo-novel pitch. But I did forget a big one:

Axtara: Banking and Finance.

You might not remember this one; it was the first “short” story I wrote for the LTUE Dragons anthology, only for the story to quickly balloon out of the realm of “short” (always a stretch for me, even by the collections broad definitions) and into “Novella or Novel.” So it got set aside in favor of A Game of Stakes, which has already been submitted (so now we play the waiting game).

definitely have to devote some time to Axtara this year, as the idea is far to fun to leave untouched. A dragon going into investment banking? Yes, there’s a fun story there. It just wasn’t a short one.

Okay, and with that, enough news! Let’s talk about writing! Specifically, about the Five-Man Band.

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The Mountains

Writing a book is like climbing a mountain. A long, arduous trek, with ups and downs, flat easy bits, and hard nearly vertical portions that require all of your skills and tools. And there are moments when it feels like you’re never going to reach the top, like the book will never be done and you’re just endlessly ascending a slope for some purpose you’re not even sure of.

Now, once you get to the top? You bask in the view, take it in … and look at the next mountain in your path, because if there’s another book, there’s another mountain. A career in writing? Well, it’s kind of like making a commitment to hike each individual mountain in the Rockies.

And some of them will be great hikes, and some of them … are going to try their best to break you.

One of the hardest bits then, I think I’d add to this, is that these hikes are done, for the most part, completely solo and without much in the way of external input until the very end. Only in that final sprint to the top, when the editors and Alpha Readers begin looking over your work, do you interact with others. And then after the book comes out, when there’s a flurry of recognition that flashes by for a week or two … and then it’s gone. Just like the news stories of the first conquest of a mountain, it’s announced, but very quickly the world moves on, and it’s on to the next mountain for that author.

So, why am I talking about this? Well, a number of reasons. I’m in the last third of another mountain right now, and so far it’s been a far more arduous experience than was planned. Longer, too. I’m working to get it done, but the snow is deep and thick (this is actually a more accurate analogy than you might think) and it’s made things a bit of a slog most days.

I’m not stopping, mind. I’m going to finish this mountain and start the next. That’s how the job goes. But it can be (and right now, is) a slog.

Which makes the number of people who’ve gathered around just to tell me to give up, call it quits, or lambaste me about how it really isn’t all that hard all the more grating.

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