Being a Better Writer: Your Opening Tone

You know, this is the first time I think I’ve had a post fall on April 1st, also known as April Fools’ Day. And part of me really wondered if I should do an April Fools’ Day post with this week’s Being a Better Writer.

But I decided against it. For starters, while it’d be fun for the holiday, then there’s the catch of it being left up for the rest of the internet to stumble across, ignore the date, and quite possibly take very seriously. So that ruled out gag advice.

So I figured why not do a normal post and just roll with it. It’ll probably get no views until tomorrow, because you can’t really trust anything today, and well, oh well. It’ll be written and out there helping folks out, and that’s what really matters.

So then … why not jump into it. As you can see from the title, today I want to talk about your opening tone.

Confused? It’s fine. This is a high-end concept that doesn’t get brought up much, But it’s best illustrated, of all things, with a Pixar film. Ever seen Monster’s Inc.?

I really hope so, because it’s a fantastic film. Today I want to start by talking about the opening of the film. Or rather, the two openings and how they affect the film.

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Being a Better Writer: So You’ve Discovered Writing is Work, Now What?

Hello readers! Welcome back to another glorious Monday Being a Better Writer post! Yeah, I’m in a good mood this morning. The Halo novel pitch draft is coming along nicely, I’ve got a fairly relaxed topic for the day, and a bunch of new music to listen to while I work!

This work included. Which doesn’t include too much in the way of news before I dive into it. Just one or two things coming up worth discussing.

First, the long-promised wrist post, complete with pictures and a sequence of events, will go up this week. Look for that around Wednesday or Thursday. I have to keep the actual date a little fluid, because tomorrow I find out whether or not I’m going back to work Wednesday, and from what I understand my job has been extremely strapped for workers lately.

It’s amazing. It’s like locking wages for seven years and paying below average market value with really bad hours (9 PM to 4 AM is common, with no compensation like most jobs would have for such a late shift; in fact it’s the lowest-paid job in the place) makes it really hard to keep employees. Especially in a place where the cost of living is currently skyrocketing. It’s like people want money or something in exchange for their labors. Weird, right?

Anyway, long way of saying that they may, if I am cleared for work tomorrow, have me in ASAP because yeah, they don’t have nearly enough employees.

Second bit of news? My books are almost at the halfway point for the end-year goal of 400 reviews and ratings. Seriously, three reviews away. 197 out of 200. So … close!

And that’s it for the news! Like I said, just one or two things. Now, onto today’s post!

So, this post may sound a little familiar to many of you. And that’s because I’ve written a bit on the subject before. Today’s is just from another angle, because surprise surprise, this topic is one I hear requests for constantly.

And in part, it’s because there are a lot of young writers out there who, well, to put it bluntly, with no sugar, think that they are different, that their situation is unique and different from the other new writers when it’s really not. I’m sorry to have to pull the band-aid off, but let me make something clear: It’s not. You may feel that because of the story you’re writing, or your circumstances, or your characters, or your genre, or any number of other reasons, that your story is unique, that if you were working on any other story or if it were some other individual’s writing, the trials you’re facing in these early moments wouldn’t occur.

But you’re wrong. Sure, there might be a small detail here or there that can make your situation a bit different, but at the end of the day?

Writing is work. Even when you love it.

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Classic Being a Better Writer: Some Advice for Starting Your First Book

Afternoon readers!

My arm is still recovering. I’ve regained some finger movement but my wrist is still heavily restricted and even this little bit of typing hurts. So writing a new post is out of the question.

Good thing I’ve got several years of archives, right? So that’s what we’re looking at today. Today’s post will be a classic Being a Better Writer from time past. In this case, we’re jumping back to February 1st of 2016, with a post for those who’ve always said they’d like to write a book but just never quite gotten around to it. The leader will be in italics, but after the jump you’ll find yourself in the original post itself.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get some stitches taken out and some editing to (hopefully) manage!

So, this is it. The time has come. You’ve finally decided. You’re going to sit down and start that new book you’ve been waiting to write. You’ve done other projects before, short stories and the like, but this time, you’re going for the novel. Long chapters. A compelling plot. You can see the final scenes in your head. You grin with glee, sit down at your keyboard, and …

Nothing. You wait for the words to spring forth, but they aren’t coming. You’re paralyzed by indecision. Suddenly you’re aware what a huge project this is. You’ve never attempted something of this size before! Your fingers seem frozen.

Relax. It’s understandable. Starting a book is a big project, one that brings a lot of pressures and requests to the table. And it’s different from a short story, fundamentally so. It’s going to take some alternative approaches to how you’ve worked before.

Maybe this is you. Then again, maybe it isn’t. Maybe you’ve sat down without any prior writing experience whatsoever and tried to write out a book only to realize you weren’t quite sure what you were doing. Maybe you’re struggling through it anyway and want some tips. Or maybe you haven’t started one yet, but you’ve been watching this blog like a hawk, thinking “Soon, my time will come.”

Well, today might be that time, because today?

Today we’re talking about what goes into starting a book.

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Classic Being a Better Writer: Beginner’s Worldbuilding

Hello readers! Welcome back to another Classic Being a Better Writer Post!

For those of you unfamiliar with what these posts are, I’ll explain thusly: With over four years worth of Being a Better Writer posts going up nearly every week, there’s a lot of backlog to sort through for a new arrival. Hence, Classic posts! Once the vehicle from moving over and cleaning up posts from where I originally wrote them, now a method of collecting a nice trio of old posts on a topic you might be interested in!

This week? Worldbuilding for Beginners! Advice and ideas to help jump start your creative mind!

But first … It’s Christmas, guys! And that means it’s gift-giving season. And what’s a better gift for a reader in your life than a book?

Just as luck would have it, I have a whole selection of books that you can gift to that special reader in your life! You can check them out here, pick up a few, and have them delivered right to your recipients e-mail inbox! And it helps me out as well!

Right, plug over. On to the classics!


Worldbuilding Part 1—
Alright, so how can you play the same sort of cards in your work? How can you go from the generic #48,923 fantasy world of dwarves and elves you have now  to a world that stands out?

Well, first, you’re going to need to make a decision. Are you going to be a writer of complex worlds or minimalism worlds?

Now, most of you are probably thinking “Hey sweet, I have options,” at this point, but I’m afraid it’s not what you think. Now, in part 2 of this feature we’re going to go more in depth on the difference here as well as how to write them, but for now we’re just going to make do with the condensed summary: These are how you present the world you’ve built, not how detailed your own work actually is. Complex worldbuilding is works such as The Wheel of Time, in which you’re going to not only know that there is a city there, but you’re going to find out what the main trade is, why the city was built there, and who is in charge. And all of this will probably be relevant in some way later (even if it’s in a small way).


Worldbuilding Part 2—
By this point you’ve sat down and brainstormed up most of the details for your world. You know how the magic/science works. You know who the characters are. You know what the plot is and possibly have a decent idea of how to get from point A to point B. But now comes the real question: how much of this world that you’ve created do you want to share with your reader?

Now, your immediate reaction might be “all of it.” Which, if it is, means you’re definitely going to fall on the detailed end of things. I mentioned last week that when you sit down to write your story, all of your worldbuilding presentation is going to fall on a sliding scale that bounces between two points: minimalism and complex, You can probably infer what each of those entails, but let’s have a quick recap, just in case.


Is it Original, or Copying?—
So, you’ve just finished your first manuscript. You’re excited, maybe even a little ecstatic, because at long last, you’ve finished the darn thing! You pass it off to someone to read, probably a friend or family member, and then they say a phrase that strikes terror down on your heart.

“Oh,” they say, staring at your work. “I get it. This is like The Lord of the Rings, isn’t it?”

It doesn’t have to be The Lord of the Rings. Nor do the words they speak need to be “Oh, it’s like this.” They might say “This reminds me of the stuff from Star Wars.” Or start talking about the similarities between your work and another author they read recently.

Regardless, you’re probably hearing and thinking only one thing: That this person is saying your work isn’t your own at all, but someone else’s. And now the panic is starting to set in. Maybe they’re right. Maybe your work is nothing more than a cheap rewrite of someone else’s. How could you not see it before? After all, your main character is an orphan boy who is taken to a strange place to learn magic, and that’s totally the plot of Harry Potter! You’re a fraud! All your work has been for nothing!

Or has it?


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Being a Better Writer: Adding Meaning

Hey there readers!

Yes, once again this post is falling on a Tuesday. I’ve taken a larger than normal load of shifts during the Christmas rush to help keep myself afloat (and maybe afford a little advertising on the side), so my schedule has been in a bit more of a time crunch than usual.

Alctually, make that a lot more of a time crunch, since I’m still working on finishing Jungle. The bad news is that I’m still working on it despite all of last month. The good news, however, is that I’m on the last five chapters. No joke. The end is all plotted out, everything is wrapping itself up, characters are dying …

I mean … no one is dying. It’s all sunshine and happiness with micro-missile launching rifles! Oh, and yes, those are a thing. For when you absolutely know you’re going to be facing exosuits.

Right, enough beating around the bush, though. I’ve got a Being a Better Writer post to write! And you to read!

So, today’s topic is another request from Topic List X. It’s also a pretty good one. The question given was roughly ‘How does one go about adding meaning, such as theme or symbology, to their story?’

Like I said, that’s a good question. The thing is, I’ll bet my answer is going to shock them.

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Being a Better Writer: The Death Spiral

Real cheery title for the first post of 2017, isn’t it?

Seriously though, welcome to 2017! I hope it feels like as much of a breath of fresh air for the rest of you as it does from me. Though in my case, it’s mostly because I took the last two weeks off.

I know. I took an actual vacation. Cleared games out of my backlog, read a bunch of books, and everything. And you know what’s funniest about it?

I actually had to convince myself to stick with it. There was a period about three or four days into it where my mind was like “What are you doing!? You should be working!”

I’m glad I stuck with the vacation. I was so dedicated to clearing my backlog that it almost was work, but it was a lot of fun all the same. Finally knocking a few games off of that list was satisfying. As was all the reading I got to do.

Anyway, none of that really has anything to do with today’s topic, mind. I suppose if I had to tie together my ramblings, they would come together as “It was a nice break, but I’m glad to be back at work!”

So, about that topic. As I mentioned, it may seem like an odd title for the first post of 2017. After all, “death spiral” doesn’t exactly imbue much confidence, does it?

No. It doesn’t. Which is exactly why I think it makes a good topic for the first post of 2017. Because for many young writers, a death spiral is something they get trapped in with no idea of how to get out. And for the new year? Nothing could be better for some of those writers than realizing it and breaking free.

Right, enough pontificating. Let’s dive right in and answer the question on so many minds right about now: what is a death spiral?

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Being a Better Writer: Considering Theme and Message

Message. Message is an area of much controversy these days, especially in fiction. There are numerous groups with their own ideas of what “the message” of all fiction should be, all arguing and fighting with one another, not a few of them acting like spoiled, entitled children.

But we’re not going to talk about that today. Well, we will a little, because it’s kind of hard to escape in today’s topic. After all, I want to talk about message, and there’s a whole political battle going over “message” in fiction (note the quotation marks, they are significant). But I don’t want to focus on that. Instead, what I want to talk about is, well, what you see in the title: theme and message.

Let’s face it: Every decent story is going to have a theme behind it. Why? Because any good story, from the simplest to the most complex, is going to have a purpose. Something that it drives towards. It’s going to have an inciting incident, rising action, a climax, and a conclusion. And in order for it to have that conclusion, it must have something to conclude.

What does this mean? Well, in a roundabout way, no matter what story you write, what it’s about, or who you put in it, there’s going to be some sort of conclusion. If it doesn’t have one, then you don’t have a story, just a directionless event. And we don’t want that.

So, for our story to fit the requirements of a story, it needs to have a conclusion of some kind. And that means that, even if you’re not a fan of message fiction, your story will have a message of some kind, like it or not.

Right, some of you might be a little confused at the moment, so let me step back and clarify something. Message fiction versus theme and message: what’s the difference?

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