Being a Better Writer: Why Writers Should Play Games

I’m back!

Yup, got my replacement ethernet port installed and I’m back in business. I actually did get a pretty good amount of writing done too. Two weeks without internet notwithstanding, as Jungle isn’t in any position at the moment where it requires internet. Okay, well, it required some worldbuilding documents on Google Docs, but those I could skim on my phone.

Jungle, by the way, is still in the finale. Everything’s blowing up, similar to Colony, and that’s not really that much of a surprise as this is a sequel. Hopefully I can be done by the end of this week. There are only a few chapters more to go, and everything’s coming together pretty well. Editing is going to be a chore, but … that’s the writing life!

Okay, enough yammering about current events in my writing queue. Now to yammer about something else. Just a quick reminder, if you’re a Patreon Supporter, check the reward posts! I checked the stats on Patreon yesterday and some of those posts have only ever seen two views despite the number of supporters! I’m not sure if I’m not making them visible enough, or what, but I was genuinely surprised (especially as a few supporters have hinted that they didn’t feel there were enough Patreon rewards for being supporters … and yet a large majority of those rewards have barely been looked at). There’s retrospectives, worldbuilding extras and notes for various books, and even previews and short stories I’ve not posted anywhere else!

If you’re a supporter, don’t miss out! Those posts are for you! You can check out the entire backlog here, or just head on over to my Patreon page if you’re not a supporter yet, but would like to become one.

Okay, that’s all out of the way. Now how about I get down to today’s topic. Which is a bit of an odd one, sure, but one that’s worth bringing up. Today, we’re going to talk about why writers should play games. And no, I’m not talking about the kind of games where you find a maybe significant other and lead them on. Not those games.

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You Just Keep Pushing Me Away …

Just a little note today. Not really tied into work—though that keeps progressing as normal—but more just a thought that’s been on my mind over the last few days.

There’s a lot of back-and-forth out there over the debate between “literary” fiction and “genre” fiction. Go find a writing or reading forum online, hang out there long enough, and you’ll see the topic come up. And there will be lots of back and forth on it, with one side usually gaining the upper-hand simply by virtue of the make-up of the board you’re on.

Point is, this is a debate that’s gone on for a long time, and one that is still at the forefront of reading and writing both. Sands, it’s part of the whole debate over the Hugos, since the sides are divided over what makes “good” fiction. One holds that it has to be “literary” and that the “genre fiction” the other suggests can’t possibly be good because it’s “genre” (and that is, for some, the end of the “discussion”).

Now, if you ask people what “literary” or “genre fiction” means, you’re going to get a plethora of responses, again based on what camp you approach, so with that in mind let’s set a little bit of context for my commentary today: I am specifically talking in response to the concept that “literary” fiction is the “intelligent and thought-provoking” fiction. The fiction that asks the tough questions or inspires moral philosophy … and on the other hand, genre fiction is just straight-entertainment fiction with no extra redeemable value, especially compared to literary work.

This might seem harsh, but this is actually pretty much exactly how you’ll see some people explain it. So, where am I taking issue?

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Being a Better Writer: Fanfiction – School or Crutch?

Don’t forget, Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection is out now!

This post was originally written and posted January 19th, 2015, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

Welcome back, everyone! It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s the beginning of another week, and I’ve got news. Some good news. Good news I won’t give you the details of yet, (as I’m still waiting on a few specific ones) but still pretty good news. Okay, really good news. I’ll give you more later this week, but for now, let’s just say those of you who like going to conventions may want to keep February 12th-14th clear on your calenders.

Alright, that’s that. Now, without any further ado, let’s get to this week’s topic of choice! Fanfiction!

So, this topic might seem a little odd to a few of you, but it’s actually based on a question I’ve been asked several times over the last few weeks, both by those that write fanfiction and those who don’t. A lot of prospective writers—even those who have been writing fanfiction for some time—seem to have a question that goes something like this: Is fanfiction really the best place for me to be practicing and building my talents? Or am I wasting my time, or perhaps being less productive than I would normally otherwise be?

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Being a Better Writer: Said and Other Repetitive Words

Today’s post is going to be a shorter one,  as I still have more near-final proofreading to get done by tomorrow on Unusual Events, and I need to get to work on that to make sure I reach the January 19th upload date (after which you’ll be able to pre-order it, huzzah!).

Now, this post was inspired by something I read over the weekend, a blog by another author that crystallized and reacted with a lot of what I’ve noticed both here and on other writing sites among novice writers. Basically, that there’s a trend going around right now among younger English students (particularly those freshly from or in high school, where this idea has taken root with the teaching administration) that use of certain words, especially those that suffer repeated use in the same paragraph, should be avoided.

Right, some of you are probably thinking “Well, yes. You should avoid repeating yourself, right?” Well, yes and no, and I think some confusion between the two may be where part this problem is arising. So let’s take a look at that.

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Being a Better Writer: Always Keep Learning

Shorter post today guys, one in line with some thoughts I’ve had over the last few days. Let me start by telling you a story.

There’s a writing convention near where I live called Life, the Universe, and Everything, or LTUE for short. It’s a bit of a Science-Fiction and Fantasy convention, which isn’t exactly unexpected when you consider who’s attending, but part of its core—a large part of it—is the pursuit of the arts of writing. Lots of authors attend (including ones like Brandon Sanderson), panels are held (you might remember I was on a few last year) and in general lots of talk about writing is had.

It’s definitely worth going to if you can swing it (and their website is here, just in case you’re curious about looking into it). Lots of authors, editors, and publishers talking about writing stuff in dozens of panels.

Right, so my story. Each time I’ve gone to LTUE, I’ve attended panels. As many as possible. And last year, that got a question from someone I was talking with. Upon hearing the subject of the rather basic panel I was attending, they looked at me in surprise and said “But you’re published and you’ve written great stuff, why are you going to that panel?”

I think my answer surprised them, to say the least. Maybe it diminished my stance as an author in their eyes, or maybe they reflected on it and walked away impressed. I don’t know. But I looked at them and said something along the lines of “Everyone does things differently. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to keep brushing up on the basics in case I missed something.”

As I said, I have no idea what that fan thought of my response. I don’t remember how the rest of it panned out. I just remember that shocked look on their face when I told them I was going to be attending a panel that covered a very basic writing topic.

But I went anyway. And I sat through a panel given by a bunch of other authors that I could have just as easily volunteered for and given. Instead, I sat in the audience, listened to them as they presented their topic, listened as younger writers asked questions, and did my best to learn something.

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Being a Better Writer: Ideas and Education

Welcome back, everyone! I hope you had a productive weekend. I know I did. I did some more editing on Beyond the Borderlands (who’s excited for chapter 18?) and, at long last, finished up reading Ancillary Justice and put together my thoughts on it.

So, quick news bit. July is almost over, so we’re coming up on another Patreon reward for supporters. This coming August will be an excerpt from one of the “short” stories in Unusual Events (which is almost ready for alpha). Anyway, if you’re a Patreon supporter, you’re going to get another sneak look at one of those stories! Once the last story in Unusual Events is done, I’ll be going full-time editing on it and Colony, getting both of those ready for a release at last.

And that’s the news. Now … to your regularly scheduled posting!

So, you get a lot of questions as an author. It seems that once you mention you write and sell books that many people have questions to ask of you, and a lot of these questions start to blend together—or at least you start to see the inherent similarity in all of them.

Anyway, one of the more common questions that I find myself being asked on a regular basis is “Where do you get your ideas?” And today, I kind of wanted to talk about that. Because in truth, ideas just don’t come from nowhere. I don’t sit and do nothing while waiting for inspiration to strike. I have to be actively hunting for new ideas and concepts. And if you’re going to be a writer, you’ll need to do so as well. Today, I want to talk about education.

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Being a Better Writer: Taking Writing Classes

A few weeks ago, I had the occasion to go out to a meal with a group of people. Sort of as a “get to know you” thing. I’m still not sure how I got an invite, but hey, free lunch.

In any case, during the course of the meal, with its introductions and discussion between everyone present, the topic of what I did all day was brought up. At which point someone else at the lunch, a student from a nearby college, quickly piped up that he was a writer too. Or at least, he wanted to be one.

Most authors can probably guess what happened from then on out. I was peppered with questions, everything from “How do you do X?” to the more common (and disparaging) “Could you read my work for me and give me all kinds of feedback?” This work that they were referring to was a work of some time, and they were quite proud of it.

To which I had to give the polite answer of “I’m sorry, but no.” Along with a subsequent explanation (not that I’m sure they believed it) that I’m a writer, which means I spend my day writing, and I simply can’t just offer help to everyone who asks (believe me, if I did, I’d never have time to write anything anymore). I explained this as politely and nicely as I could, while pointing him towards my website since many of the questions he’d asked could have been answered by my guides, but then I went a step further.

“Well,” I said, looking at him. “You’re attending a college, and you seem really interested in writing. I happen to know that college has a pretty good block of creative writing classes, and many of them would answer the basic questions you’re asking me. Why not take a creative writing class or two?”

The student’s reaction was immediate. His head snapped back, his eyes opening wide with shock as he spoke. “Oh no,” he said. “I could never do that. They’d compromise my creative vision.”

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