Being a Better Writer: Can a Dumb Idea Work?

Welcome back readers! How were your weekends? Engaging, I hope? I see a number of you came by to read the latest Fireteam Freelance interview. Not many episodes left now. In fact, I spent some time on Saturday working on Fireteam Freelance‘s wrap-up episode, which … Well, if I say anything about it some of you may infer spoilers, so for now I’ll just say yes, I spent part of my Saturday on it, and it was quite enjoyable.

I guess this is my way of saying there isn’t much news to be had from me at the moment. Just keeping at things and tying up Fireteam Freelance. So with little else to talk about, let’s talk about today’s Being a Better Writer topic. It’s kind of a mixed one.

In fact, I’d imagine that a number of you more experienced writers out there have, upon seeing this title, already deduced the answer. That’s fine. Being a Better Writer covers a lot of writing topics, from the early to the experienced (and if said readers would like a specific experienced question or look at something, they are encouraged to submit it when a BaBW topic call post goes out). Today the topic happens to be a bit more on the “early writer” side, but I’ll see if I can’t throw some tidbits in there for the more advanced writers frequenting the site.

So then, let’s get down to business and dive right in: can a dumb idea work?

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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: Keeping it Simple

Alternative title: Don’t Bite Off More than You Can Chew.

Hello readers! Welcome back! How was your weekend? I trust it was enjoyable?

I hope I was able to help with that. Episode two of Fireteam Freelance dropped Saturday morning with a bang! More adventures with Adah, Ursa, Anvil, and Owl!

And … that’s all the time I’ve got for news today. And all the news, so it works out. So, let’s talk writing.

With a title like this some of you are probably wondering what the inspiration is. Well, as many of you know, I do a lot of reading. Not just books, but webcomics and even some fanfiction here and there as well. I’m also highly selective, especially with the last two, but I do notice a lot of trends. Trends that tie back into a lot of stuff I hear from novice writers (who frequently turn around and write fanfiction or webcomics).

In fact, I was actually tempted to share a synopsis I found for one new webcomic in this very post to illustrate my point today, but decided against it. It would have illustrated today’s point, or rather today’s issue we’re discussing pretty well … but I’d hate to have that creator find this post and feel personally put under a spotlight they didn’t ask for.

So let me give you a common hypothetical. An occurrence that happens to authors, or to teachers in creative writing courses, or even to random people who know someone bitten by the writing bug. They get cornered, and they’re given a synopsis of this new writer’s planned plot and story. And it’ll be something like this:

So the main character is an undead werewolf, right? And she’s trying to hide and survive this organization that’s hunting her, while trying to figure out what happened to her mother. Her mother was a powerful sorceress who might have discovered the cure for this deadly disease that’s wiping out the world, which she got from aliens. But the good aliens, not the bad ones. See, she was part of a secret organization that fought the bad aliens during World War I, who were using voodoo to try and manipulate the world and take over. They’re not related to the people hunting the main character—or maybe they are, I haven’t decided yet. Anyway, one of the people hunting her is secretly in love with her, but there’s a problem because they’re actually a vampire, part of a secret organization that’s working against everyone else to try and make the world eternally night by using the bad and good aliens. So we start out in this high school …

So, what do you think of my short story idea?

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Being a Better Writer: You Don’t Have to Teach, But You Can

Hello readers! Welcome back after another weekend! I hope yours went well and gave you plenty of time to relax and engage in some fun activity. Like reading! Few things beat a Sunday afternoon with a book.

70081760_568294170598543_7425837595373862912_oNow, before we hop into today’s post, the usual quick news. First, a reminder that A Dragon and Her Girl is now out! Twenty stories of heroines and dragons, including one by yours truly! The early reviews have started to roll in for this one, and they’re pretty positive. If dragons or heroines are the kind of thing you’re interested in, then you should give this one a look!

Additionally—and there will be a full post on this Wednesday, but I’m mentioning it today—submissions are now open for the fourth LTUE benefit anthology (the series of which A Dragon and Her Girl is the second entry). The prompt this time? A parliment of wizards. Sci-Fi or fantasy. 17,500 words or less.

I’ll do a full post on this one later this week, but if you wanted to get your brain buzzing in advance and start thinking of your submissions, there’s the prompt.

And yes, I do have a story for it I’ll be starting as soon as episode two of Fireteam Freelance is finished. No name yet, but the plot is (mostly) figured out! It’s gonna be fun!

Second, the plan is to have Blackout, episode two of Fireteam Freelance, drop this Saturday morning. If you’ve been keeping up with Freelance thus far, then, be ready for this weekend!

All right, that’s all the news. Let’s get down to business. Let’s talk about today’s topic, starting with that title: You Don’t Have to Teach, But You Can. What on earth does that mean?

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Being a Better Writer: The Path to Publication

Welcome back readers! In lieu of news, let’s just dive right into things! Over the weekend I ran into quite a few people who had writing questions for me, but one that kept coming up from a wide range of people (after the usual “What have you written”) was “What’s the process of publication like?”

In a nutshell. The questions were pretty varied from “How do you get a book ready for publication?” to “What’s the best avenue for publishing right now?”

Later, as I was thinking ahead to this week’s topic for Being a Better Writer, it occurred to me that I’ve not really talked too much about the process of making that happen after we’ve written our draft. I’ve talked about it with my own work, but usually in the context of “Here’s the part of the process I’m at now.” And not with regards to other options for getting one’s book published. After all, I’m indie, but that’s hardly the only venue available out there to up-and-coming authors (though it is an extremely attractive one … if difficult).

So, you’ve reached the end of your draft. The story is done. Let’s talk getting that book ready for the public.

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Being a Better Writer: Detail Versus Audience

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday again, and you know what that means! And if you didn’t, well … Check that title above!

That’s right, it’s time for another installment of Being a Better Writer! Now that the Jungle launch is past us—an event I’m sure some of you are tired of hearing about, but only because you haven’t read it yet—life can settle back down to normal. Until the next launch at least.

But seriously, guys, Jungle is out. There’s no good reason not to have picked up a copy yet! Unless you haven’t read Colony, in which case you’re really behind and what are you waiting for?

Also, don’t forget that the call is open currently for additional Being a Better Writer topics! If there’s something you’ve wanted to hear about that BaBW hasn’t covered, go leave a comment and you might see it covered in the future!

Okay, that’s the news out of the way. Let’s talk writing.

Today’s topic comes from a forum post I saw online. Specifically, from a forum dedicated to talking about Sci-Fi books. A new, would be writer hopped into the forum and asked what seemed like a pretty simple question, which I’ll paraphrase here:

When writing about technology in my Sci-Fi novel, like spaceships, is it important that readers get all the details of how it works and why? Or should I just offer a little bit of info, or almost none, and move on?

You readers want to take a stab at what answers this poor individual got? I’d almost bet that answers here would, statistically, line up with with those given on the forum.

See, this forum was Reddit. So anyone could either upvote or downvote answers that they felt were right or wrong (I mean, in theory it’s “upvote posts that contribute, and downvote ones that don’t” but everyone turns it into a vote anyway). Would you like to guess what the top two answers were?

They were “Yes, give us the details about the ship and tech so we know about it” and “No, we don’t need that detail! Just tell us there’s a ship and move on, we don’t need anything else.”

Uh-oh.

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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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