Being a Better Writer: Building a World From Scratch – Part 1

Welcome back readers! It’s another glorious Monday, and I’m back with another installment of Being a Better Writer!

What makes it glorious? Outside of there being a new installment for BaBW, well, today marked the delivery of two new five-star reviews for Axtara – Banking and Finance, plus a contact from a new fan who loved it and is hoping for more!

In addition, it is finally spring where I live. Shorts weather! Biking weather! Said bike is at the shop, already getting worked on. I’m ready for sun and sweat!

But all in all, that’s a good start to any week.

So, my week is already off to a good start, so now let us switch the focus over to you, reader, and to what you’re here for to help your week have a strong start. That’s right, we’re just going to dive into today’s Being a Better Writer.

But first, really quick, I’m going to thank the support of all the Patreons who make posts like this possible. Thanks to these supporters, Being a Better Writer exists. Without them, it wouldn’t. Be grateful for the support of the following folks:

Frenetic, Pajo, Anonymous Potato, Taylor, Jack of a Few Trades, Alamis, Seirsan, Grand General Luna, Miller, Hoopy McGee, Brown, Lightwind, Thomas, 22ndTemplar, and Piiec!

Without them, BaBW couldn’t continue to exist! You have them to thank for topics like today’s being possible.

Speaking of which, what are we talking about today? Well, today’s topic is a big one. A really big one, by reader request. Today, we’re going to talk about building a world from scratch.

Or rather, we’re going to talk about step one in that process, because worldbuilding is a complicated, deep endeavor (and one that can run away with you if you’re not careful, but more on that another time). So today, we’re starting at the beginning—literally.

It’s time to try our hand at being a merciful (or not) creator. Hit the jump, and let’s talk about building worlds.

Wait. Not yet. There’s one thing I want to say first: Today’s advice is, wholly, more for planners. That doesn’t mean pantsers (those who write as they go) won’t find useful insight here, but let’s be honest: they’re a lot less likely to sit down and sketch out a world beforehand.

Okay, now we can go. Hit that jump!

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Being a Better Writer: Rules – When, How, and Why You Break Them

Hello readers! Welcome back!

I’ve got news! A couple bits of news actually! First and foremost: I have just received my Covid-19 immunization shot. I got the Johnson & Johnson one, and yes, my arm is sore! Already! Which is par for the course as I understand it, and next comes fatigue, and maybe nausea and a headache.

Still, beats dying of Covid. And as a bonus, my cell-phone reception has improved! Now if I could just get rid of the flashing message in the corner of my vision …

I kid. Just in case you’re one of the few people that’s actually been believing that microchip thing. Though if you do believe it, be sure to post about it from your iPhone! No chance at all of anyone tracking you through that always connected device that reports your every move!

Stepping away from sarcasm, for those that haven’t looked, late late Saturday (I had a busy day) there was an update for Patreon supporters over on said site. It was, in fact, a supporter reward, a chunk of a story called A Trial for a Dragon!

This story, as some Alpha and Beta Readers already know, is set in the same setting as Axtara – Banking and Finance and A Game of Stakes. In fact, it follows a character already mentioned in one of those stories: Ryax, Axtara’s older brother!

This story is as of yet unpublished, so if you’re one of the Patreon Supporters that keeps the lights on, head on over to the Patreon Page and meet Axtara’s older sibling! Who has challenges of his own he’s about to tackle! And if you’re not a supporter yet, well then there’s always a time to start! Supporting helps keep Being a Better Writer coming free of charge and without ads for all to enjoy.

Plus you do get access to some bonus stuff, like early views of stories long before anyone else! You support the site, and get to see early stuff no one else has! It’s a win-win!

Now, before getting into the post, I’m sure there was something else … Oh yes! This weekend saw more reviews rolling in for Axtara, Colony, and Jungle! Worked out pretty well, but I do have this to add: If Axtara keeps sailing off of shelves the way she’s been doing, she’s going to eclipse Colony before long!

All right, that’s all the news. So, let’s dive into today’s topic, fresh off of the request list of Topic List #17 asking about writing rules and when, how, or why to break them. Which is a tricky topic, but also an important one and well worth covering. So hit that jump, and let’s get started.

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Being a Better Writer: The Non-Gender of “They”

Welcome back, readers! Were your weekends interesting for you? In a good way? I hope so. Mine went pretty well, myself. Got a little more done on Stranded, and then watched as a truly amazing amount of book sales (by my standard) rolled in for Axtara! I’m not sure if it was the acknowledgement that you can find it on store shelves in Germany or what, but this weekend Axtara shipped quite a few copies.

Which was good to go with the bad. For a minor life update, the place I’ve been renting for the last few years is being sold. This is … less than desirable. The state I live in has a reputation when it comes to realtors that’s even above and beyond that of a normal state for being unscrupulous and dirty. So for example, the last time a landlord tried to sell a place I was renting, their relator tried to get everyone in the house evicted because they wouldn’t show it for her. That’s right: She wanted those living there to do her job for her. She got extremely upset when they wouldn’t.

Side note: This tangent got a little long. I do recommend reading through it (as it concerns not just me), but if you’re here for Being a Better Writer, jump down to the next break, then come back and finish this.

This relator also didn’t care at all for things like state laws requiring 24-hour advance notice of showings. I woke up to people in my rented house … and not just in there, but going through my stuff. The agent actually encouraged the kids of the people she’d been showing the house to start playing with my Wii console.

So yes, I have a distrust of realtors already, and today our landlord called us out of the blue and said ‘Hey, someone’s coming over today, and I’ve been told that by contract they don’t have to honor the 24-hour state notice. My hands are tied. I’m trying to get them to postpone it, but I signed that contract.’

Yeah … My distrust grows. Worse, if they’re willing to violate that part of the contract, the chance of the common practice in this state of bullying residents out to sell the unit “clean” goes way up. Our contracts are year to year, and this year extend through July. But I have a worrying suspicion that like so many other happenings in this state, our realtor will attempt to bully us out ASAP regardless of contract, either by looking for any sort of loophole that can get us evicted, or just simply by claiming that the new owner isn’t bound by any pre-existing contracts (imagine how life would be if that worked).

Worst of all, even if we manage to hold that off, such activity does not tend to enthuse new owners for the current tenants, even if the tenants aren’t the ones violating all the laws.

Sands, that’s a lot of text. Sorry to dump that on you guys. Just … bleh. If things get “dicey” in the upcoming months, this would be your forewarning as to why.

But tenant protections in the United States are awful. Well, not awful, just … not enforced very well.

Oh, and before I get a million comments saying “document everything” I learned that the last time. You can bet that if this showing happens today, I will not only be on hand but with a phone to record everything.

Also, I understand that while my current situation might suck, I’ve got it a lot better than most people in the US right now. Evictions are a historical high, housing and rental corporations are consolidating at a terrifying rate, using their new monopoly powers over whole cities and even states to send rental rates through the roof or even just hold empty buildings for the property value. I read an interview near end-2020 with a real skag-licker of a housing CEO who was giddy with how many people he was kicking out around Christmas because it was making him several hundred million dollars. This same skag also bragged that he (his company) now owned over a third of all American rental units. Meanwhile, homelessness, already climbing every year since 2016 (prior to which it had been trending downward … huh) is set to pass already historic highs. As much as nearly nine percent of the entire United States is at high risk becoming homeless in the coming year thanks to the effects of Covid-19 and the actions (read: greed) of rental companies.

So yes, I know my situation, while not great, is far from the grimness shared by almost ten percent of the United States. My rent hasn’t doubled in the last year. I still have a unit to pay rent on. My utilities weren’t cut off as a “cost saving measure.” Or any of the other horrible questionably legal junk that plagued the lives of many people in the US last year who were merely trying to have the bare basics to survive.

My point being with all of this: My situation isn’t as grim as a lot of other people’s in this country, but that’s … really setting a low bar. Would that my situation was the worst of it, with a realtor ignoring state laws to try and push a sale. But unfortunately, for a lot of people in the US, especially some of those nine percent barely hanging on, their situation is far worse.

We as a nation really need to clean up our act. Because I’m certain that when the founding fathers (yeah, invoking that) set out to found a nation, objectives like “At least ten percent of them should be homeless” and “the majority of all housing should be controlled by one or two individuals,” if found at all in their goals, were only there as “never let this sort of tyranny happen again.”

Because, you know, numbers-wise it really does look a lot like serfdom, which they wanted to get away from.


Okay, we’re done talking about that for the moment (though please, do go back and read through it later if you didn’t now, as it’s something that needs to change for the better). Now it’s time to dive into Being a Better Writer and the first posted topic from list #17!

Which … actually isn’t one requested by a reader, because I populate these lists on my own too, and this one is one of those. It’ll also be a shorter one … but no less interesting. And it actually was inspired by a few personal encounters with it.

So to begin, I’ll start with a question: If a friend and I are discussing the sex of an unborn baby, and I use “they” to refer to said baby, and my friend uses “it,” is one of us using the wrong word?

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Being a Better Writer: Worldbuilding from Maslow’s Hierarchy

Hello readers and welcome back! I hope you all had a spectacular weekend full of fun things. If you were a Patreon Supporter of the site, I did do a bit to help with that (Chapter 10 of Sunset: Stranded went up for supporters, so check that out if you’ve been following that story). If not, well, I hope you had a pretty good weekend anyway.

Now, before I dive into today’s Being a Better Writer post, there is a bit of news I want to point out. This post is the last topic from Topic List #16. That’s right, once this post is done, the final item on the checklist can be crossed off, and the list itself crumpled up and moved to the cylindrical tube of removal beside my desk.

Now, this is a decently big occasion. I only go through a few of these lists a year (each one has about twenty or so topics on it). Each one is a milestone of how many Being a Better Writer posts have passed since I started keeping track of the lists (which was a few years ago).

But they are also significant for another reason: Because you get to contribute to them. If you swung by the site over the weekend, you might have noticed the Topic Call for Being a Better Writer post. Well, if there’s ever been a writing topic you’d like to see covered on this site that hasn’t sprung up yet (or it’s been so long we’re due to strike again) now is the time to make your request heard!

There have already been some awesome topic requests from readers to add to Topic List #17. This next list we’re going to see posts on “rule breaking,” geography, and executing slow tension among others. But there’s still plenty of room on the list to see your area of interest appear! So go ahead and jump on over to the comments section of the topic call and leave your request!

All right, that’s all I want to talk about news-wise, so with that said (and you left a topic request, right?) let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of today’s post.

This one is not a request. In fact, it’s actually fully inspired by a panel I was on during this year’s Life, The Universe, and Everything convention. Before the panel, actually, while doing some background reading for it in preparation, I jotted this topic down as one to talk about with Being a Better Writer. And since the panel didn’t actually spend too much time on what I’m going to talk about today, it should still be fresh for those of you who attended LTUE. Double win, in that case.

Anyway, enough background. Let’s dive into today’s post. Hit the jump!

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Being a Better Writer: Nailing the Last Third

Hello readers, and welcome back to another installment of Being a Better Writer! A little late today, as my morning ended up running a little long. But still here on Monday, so that’s what counts.

Not much in the way of news to talk about today that won’t be showing up in the Bi-weekly Update post later, so I’ll just settle for a singular note that there were some great reviews that rolled in this last week! Colony and Jungle each picked up a nice array of Five-Star reviews, and Axtara – Banking and Finance got some Five-Star love as well! If there’s anyone that doesn’t love that dragon yet, they haven’t shown themselves!

But we’re not here to talk about the news. We’re here to talk about writing! And today’s topic is one that may be a bit familiar to long-time readers of the site. We’ve discussed it before in a few ways, but it’s because it’s a topic that keeps coming back around, and never hurts for new explanation. Before, I’ve called it a keystone to making a story work—an assertion that isn’t wrong—but today, I think I’ll refer to it in a different fashion: sticking the landing.

Because no matter how the rest of the sky dive goes, if you don’t stick the landing … Well, let’s just say you’re going to leave an impression and let your imagination do the rest of the work as to what kind of impression that is.

Let’s talk sticking that landing and getting the last third of your novel right.

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Being a Better Writer: Working with Trad-Pub

Hello readers! Welcome to another Monday, to Being a Better Writer, and one of the last reader-requested topics of Topic List #16!

Yeah, we’ve come that far once again. There are only a few topics left, and before long—definitely before the month is out—we’ll be putting out a call for new BaBW topic suggestions once again! So, you know, be thinking about what you’d like to hear about!

In the meantime, though, we’ve still got a few posts to go, so it isn’t quite that time yet. But keep it in mind!

So, before we dive into today’s topic, as usual, let’s talk some quick news! Work on Starforge continues, but things have moved into a mad dash now. Literally or on my end, I won’t say, but the story and work on it is moving at a good clip. Might have the draft finished in another few months.

How about Axtara? How’s it been performing? Well, it did have a bit of a boost this weekend when the cover and a little blurb ended up on a Facebook group. The power of word-of-mouth! Those of you that have read it and loved it and want to see more, be sure to tell people you know about it! Or sands, if you’re the kind of person that hangs out on Booktube or frequents some book review sites, let them know about it! That’s how they find out about stuff!

Oh, and the invitation is still open for pictures of Axtara copies spotted in the wild! I’ve started seeing listings for it pop up in various bookstores (a number of them in … Germany?), so I know she’s out there!

And that’s it for the news! There isn’t much to talk about during the slump between books, I know. So, without further ado, let’s talk about the subject of today’s Being a Better Writer post! Let’s talk about working with Traditional Publishing.

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Being a Better Writer: Editing on the In-progress

Hello readers! I hope you’re all having a good Monday so far, and are looking forward to another installment of Being a Better Writer!

However, I do have some news for you: Today’s post is going to be a little short. Why? Well, I’m still sick. Not 100% out from under the thumb of this cold yet. So today’s post, as a hedge against my likely somewhat compromised mental state (and fatigue) is going to be a bit shorter.

But that’s okay because I have the perfect request topic that I’ve held onto for a while because I wasn’t positive that the answer would be that long. Short, to the point answer, compromised brain … like I said, perfect. So let’s just dive right in!

So, what question prompted this? As I said above, it was a reader request, and in this case the reader was inquiring after whether or not it was a good idea to go back and do major rewrite edits while still in progress on a story. As in, before the story has reached its end. And well, this one’s short but kind of tricky. The best answer I can give is “Yes and no.” And for that to make sense, you’ll need to hit the jump.

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Being a Better Writer: Getting Religion Right

Hello readers! Welcome back to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! I hope that all of you had an enjoyable weekend!

Mine was a bit of a mixed bag. Loved the new episode of Wandavision, but also spent more time determining some of my PC issues (the power supply is looking more and more like one culprit). I’ve got some replacement hand-me-down parts coming so we’ll see if that introduces some stability.

Oh, and here’s a real mystery for all of you out there. Axtara (fantastic book if you haven’t read it yet), a book about and starring a dragon, does not come up on Amazon’s selection of fantasy books involving dragons. At all. For reasons I’ve yet to find an explanation for.

No joke. I spent some time today looking at Axtara‘s keywords. Yup, dragon is in there. Genre? It’s in the right slot. But for some reason, if you go to Amazon’s selection of fantasy books (kindle and otherwise) involving dragons … Axtara is curiously absent.

The amused author part of me wants to joke that it’s some form of speciesism, that clearly Axtara is “not a dragon book” because the “dragon” in question isn’t being ridden (in either sense of the word, judging by some of those covers) or mauling people to death as a mindless beast, and therefore isn’t eligible.

The less-amused author in me is both annoyed and alarmed, because this means that people looking for books specifically about dragons on Amazon won’t find Axtara in their search or genre results, and that’s definitely negatively impactful to me. I’ve messed with some genre indicators and I hope that this fixes it. Next step will be an e-mail to Amazon directly, because what the what, if there ever was a book that was more suited for the “dragon” category, I haven’t found it.

While I’m on this tangent (and before we get to today’s post), is anyone else overly tired of dragon-rider books? Especially the ones where the mount is sapient and intelligence, but is basically treated like a horse that can talk? That’s one rut I’d rather see fantasy climb out of. Or, for all the talk of avoiding “problem issues” in fantasy, I’m surprised “keeping sapients in stables as mounts” hasn’t drawn more ire from readers. I guess the idea of equal rights only matters if they’re humanoid? At least Temeraire wasn’t afraid to tackle this, but most other generic dragon-rider fiction just kind of ignores it … and I’m getting too off-topic. That’s my mystery from the weekend.

So, let’s talk about today’s hammer of a topic: Getting Religion Right. And I’m pretty certain that already some people are going to have issues simply based on that title alone, because some folks get ready for a fight anytime the words “religion” and “right” are in a sentence together without the word “not” or something similar.

But whatever. We can’t shy away from this topic, and it’s an important one. Which is going to come with a hefty lead-in. So we may as well hit the jump and get started. Get to it.

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Being a Better Writer: The Importance of a Support Group

Hello readers, new and old! Welcome back to another (or perhaps your first) Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! For those of you that are new (and quite possibly discovered the site from your attendance of Life, The Universe, and Everything this weekend), BaBW is a regularly-occurring Monday article discussing all things writing, one topic at a time. Over the years, it has discussed hundreds of different topics, such Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic, The Five-Man Band, Subverting Tropes, and even The Art of Misdirection, to name a few. Such has been the series’ popularity that if you’ve just discovered Unusual Things for the first time, it’s highly likely that you’ve still seen a snippet of it somewhere, from Wikipedia to Google search summaries on various topics.

Basically, if you’ve just arrived and are looking for writing advice, rejoice. There’s hundreds upon hundreds of articles here, all searchable, categorized, and even tagged. If you want writing articles on everything from brainstorming to formatting, you’re in the right place.

So welcome! To those of you returning readers, I hope you had a chance to attend the aforementioned LTUE convention this weekend. As usual, my daily write-ups are up and on the site, so if you missed the con (sadness, especially as this year it was online due to Covid-19, and easier to attend than ever), you can still catch a summary of just some of the panels that occurred.

And with that, there’s no other news to discuss today. So let’s dive right into our topic. Which is going to be a bit less of a common one. In fact, I was actually planning on writing about another topic until more than a few of those LTUE panels mentioned this one, and I decided it deserved its own place on BaBW.

Which makes today’s topic a slightly rarer one. Usually for BaBW the topics are the nuts, bolts, and washers of fiction. How to sell emotion, or how to make sure that your conflict is gripping readers. The stuff people think about when they think about writing.

But every so often BaBW takes a step back and tackles another aspect of writing that sometimes isn’t given nearly enough credit in the writing process: The health of the writer. The importance of keeping the primary and secondary writing machine—your brain and your body, not your keyboard and your word processor—in good shape so that you can continue to produce those stories that you love so much.

So today, readers, we’re going to talk about the importance of a support group.

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Today’s Being a Better Writer Will Be Tonight … and a Live Q&A! TEST CLOSED!

EDIT: Thank you to everyone who showed up, asked questions, and helped me test the stream! We went for an hour and a half, and it worked great!

All right people, pay attention to this post! We’ve got a special event happening tonight!

So, as most of you should know, this week LTUE 2021 is happening, or Life, The Universe, and Everything. It is the writing convention for Science-Fiction and Fantasy writers, and in a unique twist that makes sense as long as you haven’t been living under a rock, is online!

Yes, that’s right. Due to the coronavirus there will be no physical meet-up this year. Instead the entire conference will be held in digital space, with streams of the panelists up to watch for those that have registered for the conference.

So what does this have to do with today’s lack of a Being a Better Writer post? Simple. I’m one of the panelists. Which means I’ll be streaming my panel thoughts, comments, and knowledge out over the internet this Thursday-Saturday. However, I don’t want to do so without testing my system first.

To be more accurate, without stress-testing my system. I want to make certain that the camera, mic, headset, and everything else I’ll be using will be functioning properly when this Thursday arrives, both in the short term and over the course of an hour or so. I want to make sure that the tone is clear, that there’s no disruption or distortion from overlying cables … You know, the works!

How am I going to do this, you might ask? Simple! Tonight, at 6 PM, this post will gain a discord link after the jump. It will take those who click it to a discord server set up just for this occasion, where I’ll be using Discord’s streaming capabilities to stream myself and answer any questions people have about writing, my books, whatever! It’s going to be a bit of a free-for-all, and I’ll try to keep things running smoothly (bearing in mind that my goal is to test my mic and camera setup, as LTUE’s staff are handling their own server and streaming for LTUE.

So yeah, that 6 PM Mountain time. I know it’s short notice, and an odd time, but I just want to see how well my rig runs things and if there are problems. Note that if there are problems (like say, a BSOD), I’ve got multiple backups that should enable me to keep streaming. Same with LTUE. But the point of this stress-test is to make certain my system is up for this long term in advance. So we’ll go for an hour. 6-7.

So, come back at a little before 6 PM Mountain time tonight and look after the jump for a link to the temporary server. The rest of this post (also after the jump) will be some news for all of you to enjoy. But mark your calendars (or leave a note on your phone or whatever) so you don’t forget!

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