Being a Better Writer: Descriptions and Character

Hello readers! Once again, we’re back with more Being a Better Writer! But first, how was your weekend?

Here on the site, things went pretty well. In fact, there was a surge of material posted here this weekend if you kept up with things. Friday saw the posting of a completely unexpected short story, Firstborn, which can now be found over at the writing sample page, while Saturday saw the once-again return of Fireteam Freelance with a new episode (number six), Mandatory Takeout. Meaning that the series is now halfway done!

And still completely free. Kind of like BaBW.

Anyway, if you missed either of those updates this weekend, you can still catch up at their respective pages (or you could just scroll down if you’re reading this post day of). With that said, let’s get into today’s post topic: Descriptions in writing.

Now, some of you may already be looking up at the title and wondering “what gives?” since the title had and extra bit in there, but don’t worry, we’ll get to that. For now, let’s just start with descriptions.

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Being a Better Writer: The Subplot Before the Main Plot

AKA, the lead-in.

Welcome back readers! I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and didn’t forget until too late that it was Mother’s Day! Quarantine or not, I hope that all of us had time in our day this weekend for our mothers!

I hope you also had time this weekend for the newest entry in Fireteam Freelance: The Anvil interview! Which may be all kinds of unreliable, and not because of the party carrying out the interview!

But here’s something I’ll bet a number of you didn’t know: That wasn’t the only interview of note to go up this weekend. No, this last Friday I was informed that an interview I gave post LTUE for Nicholas Adams had gone live at last!

You can read the whole thing here. Be warned, it’s a bit lengthy (shocking, I know). But I had fun, and there were some intriguing questions you guys may enjoy seeing my answers to.

Second-to-last bit of news before we get to the meat of things (but not least), Shadow of an Empire picked up several reviews this last week, all of them favorable. After languishing a bit in the “shadow” (pun intended) of Colony, it’s nice to see that Shadow of an Empire is finally getting the attention it’s worthy of!

This isn’t why it’s the image header for this post, actually. Though it does flow rather nicely into today’s topic as Shadow serves a good example of what we’ll be talking about. I’m certain more than a few of you saw the title and wondered “Well what’s this about?”

One last bit of news first. Well, a reminder, really. Requests for Being a Better Writer topics are still open! If there’s something you’ve always wanted to hear about, be sure to hop on over to this post and tell us what you’d like to hear about!

Okay! That’s all the news! It’s done and out of the way! So then, let’s talk about the subplot before the main plot.

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Being a Better Writer Topic Call!

Readers! The time is upon us! Being a Better Writer‘s Topic List #14 is complete!

By which I mean that I’ve exhausted it. Every topic on the list has been written about over the last few months of Being a Better Writer posts. The list is now empty. There is no content left to write upon.

Which means it’s time to open up Topic List #15 and start anew. Which means, of course, a Topic Call!

If you’re new to the site or don’t recall, a Topic Call is pretty simple. Being a Better Writer is about exactly what’s in the title: Discussion of writing topics so that all of us can improve. Over the years Being a Better Writer has become a titanic resource for writers old and new looking for advice on various topics. But there’s always more to cover. And so when a topic call comes up, we ask you, readers, to suggest writing topics you’d like to hear more about!

That’s right! If there’s a writing topic you’d like to hear about that hasn’t been covered by BaBW or you’d like to see covered again, we want you to post it below in the comments so we can add it to the list!

Not sure it’s a workable topic? Post it anyway, and we’ll see what we can do. If there’s a topic you’ve always wondered about, a topic you’ve been curious to see BaBW cover and just waiting with baited breath … Now is the time to speak up!

So get commenting! Topic List #15 is here!

Being a Better Writer: Pricing and Publishing Options for Ebooks

Hello readers! First, apologies for the lateness of this post, first of all. I got my day started a bit later than I expected to. Second, thank you new readers for all the new reviews I’ve picked up in recent weeks! They’ve been wonderful to see popping up, and with impressive regularity as well! As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts on my work, as there exists a whole spectrum of people out there who find new works to read based on reviews and ratings. The more there are, the easier it is for those people to make their decision.

Granted, my reviews being massively positive certainly doesn’t hurt. Colony is absolutely spreading as a must-read Sci-Fi in a lot of circles, from the sound of it!

So, a big thank you to everyone leaving reviews and telling their friends about Colony and my other works. Their popularity continues to grow!

All right, back-slapping part of this post ever. Let’s talk writing. Or in today’s case, publishing. Because today we’re talking about the final topic on Topic List #14, and it’s a contentious one.

Yes, you read that properly: Book Pricing can be contentious, and no, I just don’t mean with readers (thought that’s certainly true). It’s a dicey topic among authors as well. Just this last LTUE I ended up participating in a somewhat heated debate over book pricing and what would or “would not” work. It never moved past the stage of debate, but heated it was, with one author declaring to another that they had effectively destroyed their own career over their prices … even though the numbers didn’t support that.

What I’m getting at here is that no matter what I write, even trying to show the various
“styles” of publication pricing that are out there right now, someone is likely going to show up, read it, and think “Well that’s all wrong!” And perhaps even comment with their own opinions and thoughts on the matter about why one is right or wrong.

Why? Because publishing is basically a straight-up stormy sea right now, with everyone clinging to their own raft or boat to ride out the waves as the entire industry undergoes a lot of change. Sands, Simon and Schuster is up for sale, and could cease to exist, being the first of the big publishers to collapse (they’re up for sale as their parent company, Viacom, doesn’t see print as an area they wish to be involved in, and S&S has been delivering steady losses now for three decades).

So yes, there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there about book pricing and availability because the market right now has never been in such upheaval. So today, we’re going to talk about a couple of the different approaches there are to pricing your book and figuring out a cost.

Now, two words of caution before we begin: This is something you should could be considering even before your book is done. Why? Because some of these options will affect how your book is written. So you should at least have in the back of your mind a basic idea of “That’s what I’d like to go for” because deciding after the book is written, edited, etc, may make for a lot of changes. Changes to the level of “complete rewrite” in order to have a functioning product.

Second, this will not cover everything or every approach. Publishing right now is in such a flux that it’d be impossible for me to cover every approach, so don’t take what’s offered here as a the “only ways” to price and publish a book. For all I know there’s a young author out there who’s about to release a book in an entirely new way that’ll hit this list like a broadside wave out of the storm. But I can give you the methods of pricing and publication that I’m familiar with.

So, with that all in mind, let’s look at some various approaches to pricing and publishing your book.

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Being a Better Writer: Science-Fiction

Hello readers! Welcome back! I trust you had a good weekend?

I certainly did! Shadow of an Empire picked up another Five-Star review, which while not being a title that fits with the genre today’s post is about, is certainly something that I’m happy about regardless. The reviewer in question stated that they found Shadow of an Empire while looking for fantasy books that had deeply developed hard magic systems, and to that end they were incredibly impressed (and thoroughly enjoyed) just how deeply the magic was laced through the world, characters, society, and setting.

They also expressed sadness that there was only one title to date in the series (well, they probably don’t know about the short in Unusual Things, or weren’t counting it because it was, after all, a short). And to that I say “I have plans.” But I need to finish up Starforge and the UNSEC Space Saga first.

Okay, news done. Let’s get down to details with today’s (admittedly) broad topic of a post: Science-Fiction. First of all, what do I mean titling a post with such a broad, generic term?

Well, as long-time readers of the site may recall, I’ve done genre posts before. Such as the post on Westerns, or the one on Mysteries. And doing a genre post on Science-Fiction has been on my list for a while because, well … There’s a lot of disagreement out there about what Science-Fiction is.

Yeah. Again, what is the internet but a location for people to argue over whose lack of knowledge is greater? Even outside of the internet though, the subject of “What is Sci-Fi” in the last decade has become a topic of much debate. And I don’t mean “debate” in the terms of “Let’s sit down and have a calm discussion” either. More often than not the “debates” over what Science-Fiction “truly is” devolve into people speaking or shouting past one another … or threats and disparaging comments made about the parentage or life of anyone who disagrees.

In other words, if you’ve heard of how the internet, from Twitter to conventions, has become a “battleground for Science-Fiction and Fantasy” in the last decade, the argument over what Science-Fiction is most assuredly plays a part in that debate.

So why talk about it then? Well, because I happen to believe that one entire side of that argument is wrong. At which point I’ll forewarn that this means I’ve “entered the debate” and taken a side that could see all kinds of disparaging things thrown at me or said about me. But it’s not just that one side is wrong, but that the debate has become so fierce that there are a lot of people out there that legitimately don’t know what Science-Fiction is anymore. The term has become empty, or misused. The term has been diluted and at odds with itself through its various definitions.

Which in turn has led to no small amount of confusion among both readers and writers alike. It’s hard to go a few days anymore without seeing a discussion of Science-Fiction online where someone doesn’t bring up a book only to have someone else say “Well, that might be a nice book, but it’s not Science-Fiction and therefore not germane to this discussion.” Or bring up something that they’re working on writing, only to have someone post “I’m sorry, but that’s not Science-Fiction. If you want it to be Science-Fiction you’ll need to dump these elements and do this.

Of course, by hopping into this “debate” there is some risk, in a small way, that I’m simply contributing to what the webcomic XKCD as the “standards” problem. But I’ll try not to, as after all, Science-Fiction has been around for centuries, and a fixed definition for decades now (newcomers trying to change it notwithstanding). So with all this said, let’s dive in, starting with the answer to the following question: what is Science-Fiction?

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Being a Better Writer: Tools VS Actions

Welcome back readers? I trust you all had a pretty enjoyable weekend? Especially with the newest episode of Fireteam Freelance having released on Saturday?

No official word from me at this time whether or not we’ll see episode five this Saturday, but there will be something (either another interview or an interlude). But until then we’ve got a whole week of content to to think about, of which the most important is today’s Being a Better Writer post.

After all, it is on of the site’s primary features. So without further ado, let’s dive into today’s topic. Which is a bit of an interesting one.

See, today’s topic was inspired by someone in a writing chat room asking for thoughts and opinions on a character sheet they’d assembled for their story, and a trend I noticed with it. A trend that then combined with a more common complaint I’d seen online in the last few weeks and discussed on book sites.

We’ll start with the trend. There were several discussions I’d seen in the last few weeks across writing sites and discussions about so-called “gamification” of characters. Or, to put it another way, writing characters whose abilities felt like they were out of a video game.

I realize this is a bit vague and that’s because there’s not an official term for what these people were discussing (and ultimately complaining about). But what it boiled down to over paragraphs of discussion was … Well, I personally wouldn’t call it gamification, though I see why those complaining about it would. And it does fit. Me, I’d call it “animefication.”

If you’re familiar with anime at all, you’ll know why here in a moment. What readers were complaining of was written work where characters had “attacks” or “skills” that were both names and deployed often in solution of the protagonists/antagonists pursuits.

In other words, they’d be reading a story, and the protagonist would helpfully inform readers that he had a “magical ability named ‘Light Whip’ that would do X” and then any time X came up, they would proclaim “Light Whip!” and use it.

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Being a Better Writer: Now is the Time

Hello readers! Sorry for the lateness of this post. I didn’t sleep well last night, and that kind of lead me to sleep in this morning once I actually did fall into slumber.

But you aren’t here for that, you’re here for Being a Better Writer. And we’re diving right into it, as is fitting when you consider the title.

What, you thought I’d name a post Now is the Time and wouldn’t dive right in? Buckle up, because here’s a writing topic some of you need to hear.

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