Welcome back readers! To both of us, actually! I am back at my desk again this Monday, returned from Alaska (which you might have noticed if you saw this post).
So then, what’s today’s Being a Better Writer about? Well … It’s a collection, actually. Long story short, this is my first Monday back, and last Monday, which had a post, shouldn’t have. Yeah, it was Labor Day, one of the few holidays I’ve regularly taken on the site. Except that this time I didn’t, as I was absent, and I hadn’t checked ahead with my scheduler to note that it was a holiday.
Now, normally I’d take today completely off to compensate, but I’m not doing that either, because while I was gone and had a bunch of BaBW posts going up via scheduling, they didn’t get nearly as many eyeballs as they normally would have.
Why? Well because I couldn’t schedule the promotions that take place on a lot of other sites for these posts. So those of you that relied on the site feed to see each new post saw it. Those of you that relied on other site feeds to see each new one, well … You didn’t. I can see the numbers, so I know that.
Thing is, all those posts are still there. And now that I’m back, I can put each of them out in those other places for you to peruse.
Which is what we’re going to do today. While I catch up with a few things and get stuff on my end running smoothly once more for next week, this week I’m going to be delivering a summary of everything that went up on remote last week, so that those using other feeds finally get their due.
So enjoy, and hit the jump to see what posts you might have missed!
… today’s post is another reader request. Understandably so, too, since the topic of Indie, or independent publishing, has been a hot one across the industry for the last few years. Last decade with some change, really. But the storm surrounding it has continued to swirl and continue to be hotly contested. Hence, why I often get questions about it, and even have talked about it before here on the site.
But this reader wanted it directly addressed as part of Being a Better Writer, not just in an opinion post or as a side piece on the site. So, today we’re going to talk all about independent publishing. More specifically, we’re going to talk about why it isn’t bad, which is what the reader specifically wanted to know.
So settle back, grab a snack, and hit the jump.
The prompt for this question came from a story I was reading a few weeks ago, in which two characters who were getting pretty close suddenly and out of nowhere had a massive moment of shared agonizing over holding one another’s hand. And I don’t mean “It became a big deal.” I mean “It became a big deal,” to the degree that everything else that had been going on in the story stopped dead while these two characters agonized over it.
Now, I’m not saying that someone agonizing over whether or not to reach for someone’s hand is a bad thing. Or an improbable one. Or even one that doesn’t bring the world to a halt for the duo involved. But as storytellers, we not only need to consider all of those things but as well everything around that moment or event. In this case, the story had not to this point had such a moment of drama. In fact, things had been quite the opposite, with the characters being very relaxed and at ease with one another. Again, not to say that there aren’t moments of transition from ease to panic in real-life relationships, but what happened here was less a transition and more a leap off a cliff. Or maybe up it, and the audience was left at the bottom. Not only was it quite sudden and out of the character we’d seen so far, but it also brought the rest of the story to a screeching halt, everything going on hold for a long segment of panic. Pacing? It was dead by the time that sequence was halfway over.
Which got me thinking, and led to me adding this topic to the list. How much drama is too much drama?
Today, I wanted to talk about including a range of culture in our works. Now, a quick aside here to start things off. I’m not just talking about contemporary books set in the here and now of the real world. I’m talking about all and any stories we happen to write. Are they second world? Are they future sci-fi? These count. And in a very important way.
However, with this I have to include a second aside and say why. This may disappoint some of you, but I’m not here to talk about “diversity for the sake of diversity and checking off a little box in our story so we can feel good about ourselves and post a feel-good message on twitter.” That’s not the point of this post.
No, the point of this post is for use to consider the range of cultures, groups, and traditions in the settings that we place our stories in, and give them life and vitality by presenting them as they are. And I say this because yes, I’ve seen fantasy and sci-fi stories alike that have done the “diversity checkbox” by writing a story with setting or cast that checks the box … but then never doing anything with it. Or odder still, building its own walled garden of a culture or a society that isn’t actually diverse, but is just written to the be the “opposite” of whatever the one-note audience is. In other words, one-note and no more diverse, just not the one-note of what it’s trying to step away from.
So no, with both those asides, this post isn’t about being able to check that little checkbox. And it’s not about fiction set in the here and now on Earth either. No, this is a post about looking at our setting and portraying what’s in it.
It’s a reader request! Yeah, we had a reader out there that wanted to know how they could go about being a good editor.
You know what? It’s a really good question. One more people should ask, personally. Because here’s the thing: There are a lot of ways to be a good editor. And an equal amount of ways to be a bad one.
Now, there is something I’m going to lead this post with: If you want to be a professional editor, and I mean have that on your door, working either freelance or for a publication somewhere, that is an entire college track. It’s a career. This post? If you want to be a professional, make your living at it editor, then this post’s advice is to go to an education course for that. Pick a school, use legal means to acquire enough wealth to purchase a house so that you can afford a semester or two without incurring crippling debt, and become an editor that way. I realize that’s perhaps not the advice you wanted, but the truth is that if you want to be a professional editor there’s a lot to learn, from various literature standards held across different forms of print to when and how certain rules get broken and why.
Being an editor is not something someone decides they are because they are really anal about grammar and got an A in their high-school English class that one time, or used to subscribe to a magazine about literature. Sorry internet trolls, but the actual requirements for being a professional editor are a bit stricter than “tell everyone else how wrong they are.” Most of us that spend a decent amount of time online inevitably run into these folks, and none of them make for good editors.
So, if you want to be a professional editor and work at a publisher somewhere, or a magazine, or a paper (though both of those last two are getting unfortunately rare as both papers and magazines make cost-cutting measures), there’s a whole degree you can acquire in that, and I would urge you to do so, because there’s a lot of knowledge to gain.
But what if you’re not looking to be a professional editor. What if (as I somewhat suspect this reader was asking) you’re looking to be a helpful volunteer “editor” for a friend’s work? Or on a fanfiction site? What about then? Not professional, but at as hobby element?
If this is you, even just tangentially, then yeah, there are some definite pointers to give out. Hit the jump.
And that’s it for this week, folks! As always, thank you for reading, and don’t forget that Being a Better Writer is provided free of charge, existing thanks to the aid of the following Patreon supporters:
Frenetic, Pajo, Anonymous Potato, Taylor, Jack of a Few Trades, Alamis, Seirsan, Miller, Hoopy McGee, Brown, Lightwind, Boomer, 22ndTemplar, Piiec, and Wisehart!
Special thanks to them for helping keep Unusual Things ad-free and the Being a Better Writer articles coming!
If you’d like to be a supporter as well, then check out the Patreon Page (and get access to some bonus exclusive content) or if you’re particular to a one-time donation, why not purchase a book? Or do both!
Thoughts? Comments? Post them below!