Being a Better Writer: The Art of Scene Transitions

Or: Yet Another Way to Manage Pacing.

Welcome back readers! How are things going with you? Well and healthy I hope? Washing your hands? Using a mask? Doing your part?

I hope so. Globally, it’s still a pandemic, and we shouldn’t forget that.

Anyway, I’ve got no other news, so let’s just jump into today’s topic, which is another reader request, and talk about scene transitions.

Now, I’m going to kind of do a two-fer here, because I might as well. I’m going to talk about both in-chapter transitions, the kind of thing where you get that little asterisk or line divider like so—

* * *


—and then jump into the new action elsewhere, as well as ending chapter transitions today. Because, well, both are kind of similar.

But we’ll start with in-chapter transitions, just as soon as we hit a transition of our own …

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Just a News Update. Nothing Spectacular.

So … the title says it all. This is an update on things. Nothing big. Mostly Starforge. And why I’ve been quiet this week.

Honestly? I’ve got a little list of non-writing topics I want to throw out some paragraphs on here on the site, but … This week had enough going on, I think.

How bad is it? Well, let me put it this way: Facebook refused to let me run boosts for this week’s Being a Better Writer, because it asked people to go vote.

That’s it. Didn’t say who to vote for. Just to study and vote. And Facebook tagged that as ‘attempting to influence the election’ and refused to let me boost the post.

Yeah … so I figure “Why risk it?” and just didn’t do any more articles this week. I spent my time on Starforge instead.

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Being a Better Writer: Why Stories Need Conflict

Hello readers! Before we dive into today’s (somewhat delayed) Being a Better Writer post, I have an urgent PSA for all of you residing in the United States.

Go VOTE. Election day is November 3rd, 2020—which should be a national holiday, and the fact that it isn’t tells us a lot about what the government thinks about our involvement in matters. Look up all your candidates. Study them. Learn about them. Don’t just watch their ads and a three second clip of the “News” and decide you’re good. Do some digging. Read about tbe results of their policies and approached. If you’re religious, pray for some guidance. Whatever means available to you, make use of them to learn about the candidates running for all the various positions you’ll be voting on, and then go out and vote.

Yes, I know this year has made it a mess. Voter suppression has been pretty flagrant and open, as has complete ignorance of the current pandemic sweeping the nation. Keep that in mind when you vote too, or rather when you’re looking at candidates. If you’re in one of those counties where for “safety reasons” five polling places were reduced to one, consider who made that decision, how safe it really is, and whether or not you want someone with the governmental mindset of UNSEC in office again.

All right. PSA over. But it was an important one. And it’s probably going to be scrutinized by the ad-checkers, or even demonized by a few people who take issue with it.

Whatever. Go. Vote. Don’t let anyone stop you. Unless, you know, you’re not registered, in which case you should regretfully acknowledge that you didn’t prep for this one. But on the bright side, you’ll most likely have four years to correct that mistake.

Now, with that PSA said, let’s move onto today’s BaBW post! Which is an interesting one! Today’s topic was posed by a reader after they encountered a post on a writing forum where the OP (original poster, for those of you not familiar with internet parlance) argued that stories did not need conflict to be stories, and in fact (IIRC) that whole genres such as ‘slice of life’ shouldn’t have them. The reader posted here asking if that was or wasn’t possible (suspecting, again if I recall correctly, that it wasn’t) and asking me to do a bit on it.

Well, reader, here you are! And let me clear this up immediately, and with a declarative statement:

A story without a conflict is not a story, but merely a series of words laying out a disconnected summary, lacking events.

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Straight Troping

Hello readers! I hope things are well with you in these turbulent times. Me? I’ve already voted. Now I’m just waiting for the madness of the election to be over so that book sales actually accomplish something once more. And, you know, actually exist.

I still don’t understand why elections and politics of all things hurt book sales the way they do … but they definitely do. I remember being skeptical of it myself when I was first told by a few other authors … but lo and behold, year after year whenever there’s a major political event going on … sales drop.

Weird. And slightly concerning, I think. Why is it that when two aged children shout “shut up” at one another on stage, book sales fall?

Though that said, if that money was instead going to bunkers and supporting the political party of “anyone but this” I’d understand.

Anyway … the imminent doom of the United States as an even faintly respectable country aside, let’s shift gears and talk about something else.

A black hole. Well, actually, TV Tropes. Same thing, really. If you’ve ever been sucked into the endless dissection of the tropes that make up your favorite show, game, book, or whatever, you know how much time you can lose reading up on these things (and if you’re unfamiliar with tropes, check this post for a primer).

But there’s another use for TV Tropes, and that’s to find material that you might enjoy. Got a trope or concept that you really enjoy? TV Tropes can be a handy reference for finding other entertainment or even non-fiction (and real-life) uses of a trope, concept, etc.

I’ve actually done this myself. Look up a trope for a concept I really enjoy, and then see what items are listed as showing those tropes off and add them to my “list of things to check out.”

So, where am I going with this (outside of giving some you ideas for where to find new material to enjoy)? Well, simply put the other day someone asked me about my books, and then when I mentioned Colony, asked: Does it have a TV Tropes page I could check out?”

To which I replied “I don’t actually know.” Which was truthful. It had been a long time since I’d looked, and there was a chance one had popped up. But after a quick look I had to tell them “No, not for Colony.” Dead Silver and One Drink yes, but Colony? No.

Worse, I can’t actually do anything about this. I have no idea if I made or lost a sale based off of that, but as I understand it, creators themselves are not supposed to submit TV Tropes pages or edits on things they themselves created. A rule which I understand and respect. But it does mean that a TV Tropes page will and can only exist if there are fans who are “tropers” (or people who do work on the TV Tropes pages).

So, the point of this post is to ask: Are any of you tropers? And if so, did you enjoy Colony, Jungle, or Shadow of an Empire enough to feel like putting them on TV Tropes for those looking for them?

That’s all. Just asking. Like I said, as far as I understand it, that’s about the limit of a creator’s involvement. But a TV Tropes page for Colony and Jungle would be really nice … hint hint.

Again, it’s just a thought. I hope you’re all getting ready for a fantastic Halloween weekend. Stay healthy and safe!

Being a Better Writer: Describing Your Character without Infodumps

Hello readers, and welcome back after an—at least here—unexpectedly chilly weekend! I hope you stayed warm and toasty! Here the temperature dropped down into the freezing range, which means my writing habits have officially shifted from shorts and t-shirts to hoodies and socks. Or some combination thereof.

News? Nope, I haven’t got any that I can think of not covered in that last news post I made. Other than the usual pre-election griping of “Why does heavy political activity get in the way of people reading and buying books?”

Seriously, I do not understand this one. Does an election have the same effect on the video game industry? Does Netflix see less streaming during an election cycle? Or is it just books that get hit by this strange oddity?

And furthermore, why? Stress overload? Do people associate reading with political activism? Or to the contrary, as a form of anti-politicking? Or does it stem from a general anti-intellectualism bent in the United States, where a common rebuttal in political disagreements is sometimes sadly “Yeah, well you read to much?”

I wish I were kidding about that last one.

Ah well, at this point we’ve moved into me musing on questions for which I have no answers. Let’s just leave it that I firmly believe that if you’re thinking about voting for someone, reading about them and their policies is a good start. And that I’m still perplexed as to why elections impact book sales so strongly in a negative manner.

Anyway … let’s move on, shall we? Today’s topic is … Well, I’d say it’s one of the hardest things for authors of all experience levels to get a handle on. The book I started last night, for example, quite literally runs into a problem with our topic in the opening chapters.

In fact, a lot of books do. And short stories. And everything in between. Because in some odd way, describing our characters—in a smooth, worked in way that seems natural—seems to be one of the hardest challenges many authors face.

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A Big Post – News and News

I know I’ve been pretty quiet this week. I’ve been focused.

But before I say anything else. Before I talk about book news or any of the other tidbits I want to touch on today, I want to say one thing.

Thank you to everyone who left a supportive comment last week. They may not have seemed like much to you, but they gave me some piece of mind. I still don’t know if the current opening chapters of Starforge will stay the way they are by the end, but I know a lot of you were just happy to hear that I’m working my best on it and wanted to remind me of that.

So thank you. Your words of support helped ease my mind quite a bit, and I appreciated them greatly.

Tying into that, many of you will be glad to hear that I continued to press foward, and Starforge‘s first draft now sits at 123,156 words! Part one is complete, the interlude is written, and today I get to start on part two! Where things will blow up, characters will die, and … Well, I’ve already said too much. But I’m glad for all your support, and I’m working hard to make this the biggest, baddest, most jaw-dropping finale you could ask for.

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Being a Better Writer: The Expectation of Instant Success

I’ll lead with a fun fact: This post was originally going to be an OP-ED last week, until I was barely into writing it and already switching into “and here’s how this comes up in writing,” at which point I realized that this was becoming a Being a Better Writer post despite what I had originally presumed about it. So it shifted over to the Topic List, and today … Well, you can clear see.

All right, so we’re diving in without a preamble: What on Earth—or whatever world you happen to be reading this on—is this all about? Most of you reading the title are probably going to guess that it’s going to be addressing the creator, and be about “tempering expectations.” And it’s not. We’ll address that briefly, but instead this post is going to be coming from a slightly different direction: that of the public.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Let’s start at the beginning. Or rather, what the public often sees as the beginning: The publishing of the first book.

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It’s Official: Starforge is the Most Stressful Thing I’ve Ever Written

All right, readers. It’s time to come clean. Last night, as I lay trying to sleep at around 4 AM, my mind whirling with questions and maybes and possibilities concerning Starforge, I realized something.

Starforge is officially the most stress-inducing project I’ve worked on in a long time.

Perhaps being kept up until hours like 5 AM thinking “Maybe I need to start over. Redo the entire opening like this?” should be taken as a massive clue.

For the record I’ve not restarted the entire opening. Though … yeah, even at 100,000 words in, I’ve considered completely redoing it from another angle. More than once. Technically I’ve already done it too; earlier in the project I cut 20,000 words and started the opening in a completely different way.

This project is stressing me out.

Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. Starforge is the finale of a trilogy. There are two books before it, both really well received and loved by a lot of people. Further still, those who have read the sequel have ranked it better than the first book, even as it drove things forward toward a finale. So the trend is now I have to deliver a finale that’s the apex of all three, tie everything up, keep everything from almost a million words of prior content straight, reference it, use it …

Yeah … starting to see how I might be a little stressed out? And of course, stress like that makes it harder to work (lack of sleep, etc) which has made me more concerned that the final product could be below the bar, which leads to more stress, which …

Yup. It’s self-enforcing at this point. The worst part is, I’m not quite sure what to do outside of trust my instincts (I had lighter versions of this for previous works and they turned out all right) and keep working forward.

Starforge has to be the best thing I’ve written to date. Full stop. If that means rewriting almost 100,000 words of it, then so be it. That’s only two months worth of work. This is the big finale. The end. Everything the prior two books led up to comes to a head here. This is it.

I can’t stop. One way or another Starforge is going to release. And it will be the next book I release after Axtara. But it has to be the best thing I’ve written. Every bit of character I’ve built up so far, every nuance, every bit of development. All of it needs to peak here.

I’m just praying I can pull this off.

Anyway, I’m about to dive back into it. Wish me luck, folks. This is the mountain of mountains thus far in my career, and that peak has got a lot of obstacles on it.

Now if I could just get some sleep …

Being a Better Writer: Keeping Character Voice Consistent

Welcome back readers! I hope you all had a decently uplifting weekend? I spent mine largely asleep, fighting off a bug that thankfully did not show a large amount of signs of being Covid (but kept me indoors anyways because I was asleep and hey, just in case). In any case, I hope your weekends were a bit more lively and/or successful.

Now, after a week’s break, I’m sure some of you were wondering what sort of topic we’d be covering upon returning once more. Well, today you find out that answer. Combing over the new list (which is, admittedly, still being built) for a topic today, the one I’ve chosen is … Well, you can see the title a bit.

I’m sure some of you are wondering why I picked this topic, and, well … It has to do with something I saw someone else speaking out over the last few weeks. It was a few weeks ago, but I ran into an online discussion where character voice consistency (and a lack of it) were being discussed at length. Then again just this last weekend during the LTUE Mini-con (Did you attend? How was it?) the topic came up again, this time in a small discussion about editing and this being something to watch for.

So yeah, when I looked down at the list again this morning, this seemed like a solid topic to choose for the first reappearance after such a lengthy, one-week break.

Enough background. Let’s get down to it. Let’s talk about keeping our characters’ voices consistent.

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