Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Stuck? Just Kill a Character!

Welcome back readers, to another entry in Being a Better Writer! Where we are still locked in the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! That’s right, it isn’t over yet!

Though it almost is. In fact, this is the second to last week. Next week’s entry will be the last entry into this summer’s special feature. That’s right, summer will be over (technically it ran a little long) and fall firmly upon us, so it’ll be time for the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice to end at last.

But honestly? This was a lot of fun. It was kind of refreshing to pick a single topic like this and focus on it for a while. In fact, I’ve already got another idea for a future feature later this year.

I’m also curious what you readers have made of this sort of thing. A larger, longer feature on a topic rather than each week covering a different topic as it comes. Would more feature like this be something you’d be interested in or not? Or do you prefer a new topic every week? Leave a comment and let me know!

So, with that said, let’s dive into today’s bit of cliche advice! In case you’re new here and this is the first post in the series you’ve encountered, the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is all about looking at those bits of easily repeated, quickly remembered bites of advice that every author is deluged with constantly by the general public. But as with a lot of commonly repeated and retold sayings, often we have to ask if they’re really that useful, or just something that sounds nice and is quick and easy to say.

See, in the process of being stripped down into something that’s easy for anyone to remember, words have to be trimmed out. Cut for length. Or brevity. Sometimes words get changed for others that flow better in a short sentence. However, with all of this happening, you lose context and can even lose or completely change meaning.

So this series takes a look at these short, easily-(and oft)-repeated phrases and examines whether or not they’re really worth it. Do they teach anything useful? Are they helpful at all, or are they missing pieces that were lost for that brevity? Should we be saying them at all?

And our saying for this week? Stuck? Just kill a character!

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The Shifting Tide of Employment – Follow Up

Hey there readers! Sorry for the lateness of this post. I just wanted to get a bit more work done on Axtara: Banking and Finance before I had a work shift tonight. But speaking of work, remember that post I made about two weeks ago about how employment as we know it is soon going to shift completely as increasing automation quickly overtakes everything? The one where I pointed out it’s already happening and only accelerating, and we need to figure out how we’re going to adapt to it?

If you don’t, or haven’t read it, than you really should. Not just because it’ll give some needed context to this post, but because it may bring to light some things you didn’t know or realize and should probably be thinking about. It was called The Shifting Tide of Employment – The Sci-Fi Future is Already Here. It produced a lot of talk in comments here and on other sites where it was linked, because most people don’t realize how swiftly this change is moving. It’s not “when will it come” because it’s already here. Which is kind of the point of the post, along with a note that in my personal opinion, as a culture and a society we are not prepared in the slightest for the magnitude of change this will bring.

And then yesterday, things shifted again. In my first post, or at least in one of the comments, I compared the coming of automation to be an avalanche that’s already started. We can’t stop it, but we need to figure out how we’re going to weather it. It can be a good thing, or a bad thing, but we need to make those decision now, not later. A video someone mentioned in the comments (and I’ll link it again in this post for good measure) compares us to horses looking at the car and wondering if it’ll ever replace us.

Yes. The answer is yes. And this week, we moved a step closer. Take a look at this video from Boston Dynamics:

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Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Show the Monster Last

Welcome back readers, to another installment of Being a Better Writer‘s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice. This time, flu-free.

Okay, that may not make much sense if you missed last weeks post. Last week’s was a bit light because I was battling the flu, and it was all I could do to get a basic, simple post up and then go take a nap. Ah well. But it got done! And so, this week, we continue with the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice but now with cognitive abilities back at full strength!

Okay, so if you’ve just stumbled across Unusual Things, you might be wondering what this post is. So, a bit of quick background. Being a Better Writer is a weekly feature that’s fairly self-explanatory: Each week it takes a look at some facet of writing and talks about it, from character development to pacing to genre, with the goal of doing exactly what its title claims and helping those who read it improve their writing skill.

The Summer of Cliche Writing Advice, then, is a special summer feature this year talking about all those bits of easily repeated, cliche advice that seem to follow authors like moths around a light. Little bits of advice like “Show don’t tell” or “Nothing new under the sun,” those phrases that authors new and old hear constantly spouted by a well-meaning public.

But … here’s the thing. A lot of short, easy to recall phrases tend to be oversimplified versions of the originals, to the degree that quite often they’re not as nuanced as the originals, or in some cases have taken on entirely different meanings altogether in the process of being stripped down. Which means a lot of this advice directed at authors? Well, it’s befallen the same fate. Some of it is useful … and some of it can be useful or even flat out harmful, the original phrase so far removed from the short, easy to remember version that its meaning has gone a very wrong direction.

Hence, this series, where we take a look that these phrases and short bits of advice and see what really makes them tick. Are they useful? Good? Bad? What do the really mean?

So, with that in mind, let’s get to it and take a look at this week’s bit of cliche advice:

Show the monster last.

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Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Let Your Readers Breathe

Hello readers! Today’s post is going to be short and sweet because … well, to put it bluntly, I am majorly under the weather. Fever last night and through the night, stomach doing more flips than a circus acrobat, and other, less savory stuff.

Anyway, I’m pretty wiped, but I’ve got a drive to deliver to you readers what I’ve promised. So we’re going to go with a shorter post today (I hope) because I do want to curl into a ball somewhere for a little while and just close my eyes.

But first, before I get to that, there were two posts I made this weekend that drew a large number of traffic, and if you’re not a weekend frequenter (it’s not my usual time to post) you may have missed them. There was on titled What Can You Do For Your Favorite Authors about, well, what readers can do for authors they enjoy. Then there was a second post behind it called Invisible Censorship and Books which definitely got some attention, and if you haven’t read it, you should.

Okay, enough of that. I’m going to write about writing now. Or rather, writing advice. That is what the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is all about. One thing life as an author brings is cliche bits of writing advice from every relative or well-meaning stranger out there.

The thing is, this advice usually comes in the form of quick, easy-to-recall statements that are simple to repeat, and sure, based on actual advice from somewhere. However, as we’ve discovered this summer, the act of truncating these sayings down to something that’s so quick and easy to remember, well … Sometimes it makes it less than useful advice.

Sands, sometimes it wasn’t very good advice to begin with, or has been taken painfully out of context. But either way, we take a look at it, dive into what makes it tick, and whether or not it’s worth following or repeating.

So this week? We’re going to look at a slightly less-common bit of advice, but one many young authors have still likely heard.

Let your readers breathe.

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Invisible Censorship and Books

I made an interesting and alarming discovery a few weeks ago.

Like most authors, I happen to love reading books as well. Between my local library, the occasional purchase, and my Kindle, I go through a good number of them every year. I have my entire life. Sands, in my small-town library, if I happened to be around the librarians would sometimes ask me if I knew a book a patron was asking about. I read a lot.

So, naturally, I gravitate to places online that talk about books. Forums that offer book reviews, or book chats, etc etc.

It was on one of these forums that I discovered an extremely disturbing trend.

Let me catch you up. One of the book places I hung out at quite regularly—or did, before this discovery, which all but killed my interest in it—was a place for book recommendations. It was pretty simple and straightforward: One person posts what they’re looking for, be it a historical romance with specific traits, or just something like what they’d already read and enjoyed, like Dune. Then, participants could post replies listing, detailing, or talking about other books that the poster might be interested in.

Good idea, right? I sure thought so. And so I went to it. It was fun dredging my brain sometimes for lesser-known authors or books that someone might have missed, or thinking “Oh, what was the name of that book!” and digging back several years through my Goodreads list to find it.

It was pretty good … Or so I thought.

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What Can You Do For Your Favorite Authors?

Apologies for this post being a little late today, but I wanted to get some other writing stuff done first. This week has been … chaotic.

But now it’s here. So then, what’s that title all about?

Well, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of self-serving logic behind this. Because, after all, I am an author, and yes, I do like to see support!

But it’s a question I’ve not just heard from my own readers, or mused on my own about. I’ve heard folks in person talking about their favorite book saying “Well, I read it, I bought it, so I don’t know what else to do.”

It’s a legitimate question! After all, unlike musicians, authors don’t go “on tour” in the same way, doing “writing concerts” and mosh-pitting. And when they do go on book tours, they’re something that is free to attend. At most, people buy a new book to get it signed, but many of the people that show up already have a book they want signed.

Same with panels or conventions. The authors that come to those do so out of their own pocket. They may sell items in a vendor hall, but no one pays them for paneling or putting in appearances. It’s all voluntary.

The point I’m making here is that authors aren’t like a lot of other celebrities or purveyors of the arts. They don’t get paid for public appearances, they don’t get paid for gigs … They make money from their books, and their books alone. Maybe some movie rights if they get lucky. Or merchandising. But you’ve got to be big for those to happen. Big enough that the money is just extra on top of a very stable income.

They’re not like musicians where you can buy an album, then a t-shirt, then go to a concert … Authors, basically, just don’t have the same avenues of support other artists have.

Sands, we’ve almost come to expect that too. It’s just become  the culture of our society. Who would pay money to see an author in person? For that matter, just look at this site. No ads, each Monday a new article on writing going up, all for free. Because that’s just how authors are in society.

Okay, I don’t honestly want to delve into that too far. The point I wanted to drive home was, as I said, that authors are kind of in a tricky space, insofar as fans “funding” them. There’s not much to it but book sales and merchandising.

This is why, I think, you have so many people who read a good book, enjoy said book, and then think to themselves (or say aloud, as I’ve heard it before) “I really liked this author, but what else can I do besides enjoy them?

Again, this makes sense. If you read something you enjoy, chances are you’d like to read more of it. Which means you want there to be more created, so you want to support the creator and let them know “Hey, this is good, make more of it!”

But with authors, those avenues are slim. So, how then, do you support an author you enjoy?

Well, there are ways. Let’s look at a few.

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Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Outline Everything!

Welcome back to another Monday installment of our summer special! That’s right, it’s Being a Better Writer‘s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! It’s not over yet! We’ve still got a few weeks (and cliche topics) left.

But first … We’ve got some news to talk about. I’ll keep it brief. First, Jungle is now in Beta. If you have been a prior Beta Reader, please check your e-mail inbox for an invitation and reply, as the sooner the Beta is complete, the sooner Jungle can at last come out!

Next, Patreon supporters can look forward to another chapter of Stranded this week. In addition, I’m going to be looking at some more normal content for Patreon as well, drafts and the like. And some previews for Jungle, with as close as we are.

In other news, my total of Goodreads reviews and ratings now equals 111. Yup, one hundred and eleven. Mostly significant because numbers like those only come once. But more ratings and reviews, on Goodreads or elsewhere (like Amazon) does help new readers find my works, which is always great!

Lastly, on the news front, after 3 weeks of silence, I heard from my old part-time job out of nowhere. With … shifts. A couple of them. Just out of the blue, show up for these will you? And … ehh. Apparently we’ve gone even wilder now, and it sounds like my boss has to get individual shifts and hours approved by the folks slicing everything to the bone? Frankly I’m surprised he hasn’t quit yet, but then he may be taking the same strategy I am with these hours: Use ’em while you get your new job. I’m going to keep up the part-time hunt so I can dump this place, because a few hours in just three weeks, with no knowledge of whether or not that will continue, is just abysmal (and shifts showing up a day before because “gotta approve!”) is just an abysmal and frankly telling work situation. Ultimately, it’s not going to pull me out of the ditch, but it’s a small bit of help.

Getting Jungle out will ease this issue quite a bit.

All right, that’s it for the news. Now, onto Being a Better Writer‘s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! We’ve been doing this all summer, but in case you’re new here and unfamiliar with the feature, the SoCWA (hey, that’s an interesting acronym) is a look into all the different kinds of cliche writing advice writers young and old encounter.

See, it doesn’t take long for any writer to find themselves being presented with “advice” from the world at large. At this point in my life, I’m firmly convinced if JRR Tolkien were to walk into a dinner or social event held today and introduce himself in conversation while happening to mention “… and I’ve written a few books” someone at that social event would immediately look at him and go “Well, don’t forget that there’s nothing new under the sun!”

You can’t get away from it. Young or old, new or experienced, if you’re a writer, you’re going to find these bits of cliche, easily repeated advice thrown at you constantly. Because it seems most people have heard them somewhere, and with as easy to remember as they are, they end up bouncing around inside their brain to get spat out later any time they encounter an author.

So this summer, BaBW has dedicated itself to an examination of these oft-repeated bits of “advice.” Each week, we look at a different common phrase and see if they really are useful, or if not, what we should be learning instead. So this week?

Outline Everything.

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