Being a Better Writer: Voice VS Grammar

Welcome back readers! It’s Monday, and that means Being a Better Writer! So, our topic for today? We’re going to start off with a little quiz. Nothing complicated, just pick answer A or answer B.

The setup? Picture a man sitting alone in a train car. He’s alone in his berth, the other three seats unoccupied. He keeps glancing out the window. His leg is bouncing up and down in a rapid rhythm. His clothes are wrinkled, unkempt. He looks as though he may have missed his last shower. His fingers keep beating a nervous, staccato beat against the arm of his seat.

The door is open, and he jerks his eyes to it as a trolley stops in front of it. The man behind the trolley politely asks if the occupant would like anything.

The man in the berth opens his mouth and says—

Option A) “No, thanks.”

Option B) “No thanks.”

So, which option is correct?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue Reading …

Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #7 – The Anti-Story, Sleep, Knowledge, Capitalism

Welcome back readers! And welcome to the new readers! Life, The Universe, and Everything is over, but I can already see from the stats page that we have some newcomers! Welcome! Whether you’re here to look at my books, or here for some weekly Being a Better Writer, welcome all the same!

So then, let’s get down to business with this week’s post, which is … a Micro-blast. Number seven, to be exact. What’s a Micro-blast? Well, it’s what happens when I near the end of a list of writing topics I’ve made for BaBW, and some of them just aren’t quite worth a full post, but are still worth discussing. Micro-blasts are a good way to bridge the gap, combining several shorter topics into one post so that there’s still a decent amount of material covered. Readers get a variety of subjects, and I get to clear some shorter topics and concepts off of my list.

Sound pretty straightforward? Good! Then let’s go!

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Subverting Tropes

Something you’ll often hear when picking up reviews or word-of-mouth for new books that happen to be particularly praiseworthy is that something is “fresh” or “clever.” Maybe that it “does something new with the genre” or that it’s managed to put a “new twist on old ideas.”

Of course, if you’ve hung around authors, particularly a group of young ones, you may have also heard this phrase repeated: Nothing new under the sun. A common enough colloquial, especially if someone new enters a well-established writing group and claims to have written something “new.” Older members will often toss this phrase back at them, sometimes as a dismissal, sometimes as a warning of “Be ready, it may not be as new as you think.”

Notice a disparity here? If there’s “nothing new under the sun” then how do new books get praise such as “new to the genre,” “fresh,” etc, etc? Well, let’s make something clear: Those reviews aren’t lying (well, not outside sometimes well-intentioned misinformation). They’re not misrepresenting something.

Don’t worry, this all ties in to the topic at hand.

See, the crux of it really comes in that last bit I gave from common reviews up in that first paragraph. This idea of a “new twist on old ideas.” Which is why I (and, in my experience, many other authors) don’t quite fully agree with the “nothing new under the sun” sentiment. Because sure, if you strip an idea down to the bare-core, suddenly it sounds like almost any other idea. Boy without parents learns he possesses a rare power and with the aid of a mentor must do battle against evil. Is that Harry Potter? Or is that Star Wars? Or is it any other of hundreds of very different stories out there starring a boy who has a rare power and fights evil. Crud, open up the floodgates there and replace “boy” with “protagonist” and now we have every story under that umbrella as well that has a female protagonist. And suddenly such a blanket statement applies to, well, a good portion of all stories ever written.

Which is why when experienced authors utter the phrase “nothing new under the sun*” there’s always that little asterisk at the end. Because these authors know that it’s a generalist statement used with a large caveat attached. Taking it literally is much like saying that both Boeing and General Dynamics make jet aircraft, therefor both make the same product … when one makes passenger and cargo jet airliners, while the other makes the deadly F-16. Yes, both are jet aircraft … but both are so different from one another you could only that they are the same by boiling the debate down to the most basic of points (such as “This is an aircraft, yes/no,” at which point you’ve lost almost all understanding of the two in the first place).

Okay, I promised this had to do with writing (and the topic at hand), so … how?

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: When Do You Publish?

We’re going to do a shorter one today, folks, so that I can get back to editing (post-edit: It was not that short). Or rather, I’m going to keep it short. So that I can get back to, well, my bit in the topic at hand. Because this is the process I’ve been going through for a few weeks now.

Okay, so let’s just say it outright: How do you know when to publish something? What’s the point where you sit back and say “this is ready?” How do you know when you’ve reached that point?

Well … I’ll be honest, this is one of those answers that’s probably a little different for everyone, where each author is going to have their own “stance” on what being ready to publish actually means, or what “being published actually entails.” For example, for some authors, being “ready to publish” may mean “This story is ready to send to my editors and start the process.” while for others, like myself, it can mean “This story is ready to sell to the public.”

In addition to that, the “when” has a bit of a broad meaning in addition to what can be meant by “publish,” based on the context of that publish. The first one, the “send to the editors” one, is going to have a whole different set of criteria from the second, because, well, after all, what you send to your editors is going to be far different from what you send to the buying public. So in that context “knowing” that a story is ready is going to be different.

So let’s break these down and talk about them separately. Starting with the earlier one: How do you know your story is ready for editors?

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Less is More? The Art of Cutting in Editing

Welcome, readers, to something new!

Have you noticed what it is yet? I’ll give you a clue. Check the sidebar. Even if you had adblock, it’ll be a little different. Still not sure? Check the address at the top of the page.

Yes, that’s right. Unusual Things is no longer tied to another domain. Welcome, readers, to maxonwriting.com! Clicking the link, by the way, will bring you right back to the front page, so it might be utterly pointless to do so at this time. But Unusual Things now is its own site!

Which is why the ads are gone. I never saw them unless I tricked the site into thinking I wasn’t the administrator, but I do recall being quite annoyed with their placement (especially as they shoved my “Latest Release” box out of sight). But they’re gone now, because the site is mine, at its own domain!

Okay, they might be back, butat that point they’ll be ads choose, and in locations of my choice. And I’d be making the revenue off them, which isn’t a bad thing. As someone who hates obtrusive ads, though, you can bet I’ll be placing them where they will cause the least annoyance. Top billing here at Unusual Things is forever going to be the content I offer, like Being a Better Writer and my latest books.

Okay, some of you might be wondering what this means for you, aside from maybe some annoying ads vanishing. Simple: Unusual Things is now much easier to share.

Remember what the address was before? When it was at the wordpress domain? maxviking.wordpress.com. Not exactly the best (or easiest) address to give via word of mouth.

Maxonwriting.com, though, is. Max on writing, dot-com. Boom. Takes people right to the front page. Know someone looking for writing advice? Max on writing dot-com. Okay, it’s not as easy as Max viking dot-com, but I made the mistake of searching to see if that domain was open, and immediately someone snapped it up. So Max on writing dot-com it is.

Okay, I’m spending a large amount of today’s BaBW post’s lead-in on this, but there’s one more change that this opens up: Unusual Things is no longer limited to simple, straightforward web design.

First, immediate, caveat: I am not a web designer. I’ve done some graphic design stuff … but extremely tangentially, and I would not claim to be a graphic designer. Unusual Things‘ design is simple and plain, which is good … but it could look smoother.

Don’t expect any changes immediately. I have a few small ideas in mind, but right now, the site is going to stay looking pretty much the same as I experiment with the new tools at my disposal to see what I can and can’t do. I would like the site to look a bit cleaner and more professional, but I’m not about to dive all over giving it wild fonts and appearances. Unusual Things needs to be kept simple and clean above all else, easy and unobtrusive.

Right, that’s the news. At least, all the news for today. Check back tomorrow for even more news. Yes, I have been busy lately, why do you ask?

Bah, moving along! It’s time to talk about writing! Well, sort of. Editing, actually. Today’s topic is an interesting one from the list. I can’t recall when it got on there, only that it had to do with a discussion somewhere about the challenges of editing, but it was one of those topics that came up that instantly made me think: Oh, that’d be a good one to talk about.

Now, you’ve probably guessed what it is if you’ve even glanced at the title. Today we’re talking about editing, and we’re talking about one of the more difficult parts of it: cutting stuff.

I’m going to start right away by throwing down a gauntlet: You will cut stuff when you edit your story. If you don’t, you’ve probably done something horribly wrong.

Continue reading