Being a Better Writer: Tension and Slow Pacing

Hello readers! Welcome back!

So updates! I did manage to hit my quota last Friday despite being a little sick. And while I wouldn’t put it past that segment to need a little editing, overall it was a pretty kick-butt segment of [REDACTED] battling [REDACTED].

Am I one-hundred percent yet? Well … no. This sickness wasn’t much though. Just a sore throat and headache, both of which have mostly faded into a phenomenally active nose (thank you for boxed tissues, world) as my system kicks everything out. And I am still kind of tired … But I blame that on being overly rested from the weekend and not being able to fall asleep last night until around 5 AM (either way, please excuse any typos that made it through on this post, I’m working despite a funk).

Regardless of feeling a little ill-rested, this bout of whatever I caught is mostly over. Huzzah!

To further that plus side of things, this weekend saw some good sales. If they stay constant, I just might be on that good side of the knife-edge after all!

Now, some other quick news updates before I get to this week’s Being a Better Writer post. As of right now, next week’s Being a Better Writer is planned to be a Live Q&A over on the Unusual Things Discord (The Makalay Camp). That’s right, I’ll be donning the headset (sans camera this time) and answering questions about writing live from the audience.

As to what time this event will be on Monday, January 28th, leave comments below if you’re hoping for a specific time and I’ll see what I can do. Last time holding it at 6-7 PM Mountain Time worked pretty well, but I know for some people who follow the sight that’s something like 2 AM. Does having it at 12 noon Mountain Time work better?

Also related is that today is the last topic on Topic List #17. Which means there will be a topic call as soon as the Live Q&A is over! So start thinking both about questions you want to ask live, and writing topics you want to see a whole BaBW post devoted to!

As a side note before we get started, it’s staggering to me that I’ve made it through #17 of these lists since I started keeping track of the number, and that Being a Better Writer has been going now for over six years. In fact, it’s closer to something like eight. Being a Better Writer existed before Unusual Things, which is six years old. Every Monday, save holidays, for almost eight years.

Sands and storms, that’s a lot of content.

Anyway, just thinking on it and a little stunned. How about we talk writing and clean the last topic off of Topic List #17 so #18 can start coming together? Hit the jump!

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Being a Better Writer: Restating and Rewriting What the Audience Already Knows

Welcome back readers! To both you and to me! I have returned from my near two-week vacation feeling quite a bit better and ready to dive back into the world of writing once more, so let’s both get to it! Most of the recently relevant news was covered yesterday, so for now let’s just dive right into today’s topic!

This one’s another reader request, and it’s quite a good one because a lot of books, especially those that have mystery elements or storylines where characters are trying to piece things together, run headlong into it. Here, let me give you a quick example: Let’s consider a story with three primary characters, A, B, and C. A and B are in things from the beginning attempting to solve a murder, but C is a character that comes from a different approach/angle, and so doesn’t enter the mystery until about a third or halfway through the book.

At which point, character C asks A and B to catch them up on their side of the mystery. C has their own information to share, of course, but they need to know what A and B know and are working with first.

The question being … how do you present this? If the audience has been with A and B since the start of the book, then they should know all of the information C is asking to be presented. But now there’s a reason for them to summarize it once more … Does the author go for it? Do they gloss it over?

What are they supposed to do here?

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You’re asking “Surely this can’t be that difficult, right?” And well … most people think that. But truth be told, I’ve read a lot of books where the creator reached this point and … Let’s just say that the following pages were yet another slog of stuff that was already known and obvious.

I actually stopped reading one author who became really bad at this, so bad that every time their protagonist made a decision, the narration would recount everything in the book that had led to that decision thus far. Even if that decision came just pages after the last decision that did the same. By about halfway through the book, this constant “recap” of the story so far was totaling around a page or two each time.

The result was something that became frustratingly tedious to read, and made my eyes gloss over repeatedly. Not something any author wants to hear about their book, for sure.

But as we’ve outlined above, sometimes our narrative places us in a position where we need to in some way convey what came before. And in fairness, it’s not actually a bad idea to do this in a lot of story types. Sometimes the audience needs reminders of what has come before, refreshers to remind of the stakes or clues or what-have-you.

But where is the line? How can you retread information you’ve already given the audience without boring them, that they already know?

Buckle up, because there’s a lot to this one.

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Being a Better Writer: Nailing the Last Third

Hello readers, and welcome back to another installment of Being a Better Writer! A little late today, as my morning ended up running a little long. But still here on Monday, so that’s what counts.

Not much in the way of news to talk about today that won’t be showing up in the Bi-weekly Update post later, so I’ll just settle for a singular note that there were some great reviews that rolled in this last week! Colony and Jungle each picked up a nice array of Five-Star reviews, and Axtara – Banking and Finance got some Five-Star love as well! If there’s anyone that doesn’t love that dragon yet, they haven’t shown themselves!

But we’re not here to talk about the news. We’re here to talk about writing! And today’s topic is one that may be a bit familiar to long-time readers of the site. We’ve discussed it before in a few ways, but it’s because it’s a topic that keeps coming back around, and never hurts for new explanation. Before, I’ve called it a keystone to making a story work—an assertion that isn’t wrong—but today, I think I’ll refer to it in a different fashion: sticking the landing.

Because no matter how the rest of the sky dive goes, if you don’t stick the landing … Well, let’s just say you’re going to leave an impression and let your imagination do the rest of the work as to what kind of impression that is.

Let’s talk sticking that landing and getting the last third of your novel right.

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Being a Better Writer: Selling Emotion in a Written Medium

Hello readers! Welcome back after the (for many) Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend! A bit of an odd one given the pandemic issues sweeping the country at the moment, but a Holiday Weekend all the same. Like many, I stayed home, making a Thanksgiving meal for one—by which I mean I’ll be eating leftovers for a while now—and then got all my Christmas shopping done in a single, several hour stint of buying on Friday. It’s a bit easier when you’ve had some gifts in mind for a while.

Anyway, it was a pretty nice weekend past that. Got a bit further in The Pinch, which I’ll be talking a little bit about when I’m done, and also tore through Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which I can absolutely recommend as a worthy successor to the first title, Ori and the Blind Forest. Very evocative story-telling, to the point that yes, just like with the first game I teared up a little. Moon Studios is really good at getting that Pixar-like empathy with the audience going, all without dialogue.

Which actually ties in to what I wanted to talk about today, actually! Because yes, both Ori titles do a fantastic job of selling emotion, in a way that’s very reminiscent of the opening to Pixar’s Up (yes, that opening), and selling emotion like that is what we’re talking about today. So hit that jump, and let’s get started!

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Being a Better Writer: The Art of Scene Transitions

Or: Yet Another Way to Manage Pacing.

Welcome back readers! How are things going with you? Well and healthy I hope? Washing your hands? Using a mask? Doing your part?

I hope so. Globally, it’s still a pandemic, and we shouldn’t forget that.

Anyway, I’ve got no other news, so let’s just jump into today’s topic, which is another reader request, and talk about scene transitions.

Now, I’m going to kind of do a two-fer here, because I might as well. I’m going to talk about both in-chapter transitions, the kind of thing where you get that little asterisk or line divider like so—

* * *


—and then jump into the new action elsewhere, as well as ending chapter transitions today. Because, well, both are kind of similar.

But we’ll start with in-chapter transitions, just as soon as we hit a transition of our own …

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Being a Better Writer: Concluding a Subplot

Hey people! First off, apologies for being a bit late today. I stayed up late making sure the ad campaign for the Big 300 Sale had properly launched, slept late as a result, and then got sidetracked by a lot media news (Bethesda, if you’re curious).

So yes, this post is late. But for a good cause: The Big 300 Sale! Which I’ve mentioned twice now, so some of you are probably wondering “All right, what is that, and is it a sale like the name implies?”

The latter first then: Yes! It is a sale. The biggest one I’ve ever done. And that name?

Last week I hit a major milestone. I now have, across my books, more than 300 reviews and ratings in total. It’s a milestone I’ve been working towards for some time now and have finally achieved. Oh, and the other good part of that news?

My average review score is still 4.6 Stars out of 5. That’s right. Over 300 reviews on my work from readers and fans, and I’m still sitting at a 4.6-Star Average. On a 10-point scale that’s a score of 9.2.

That is a reputation I feel quite proud of.

Anyway, you can check out the sale on my Amazon page here. Everything is 50% off or more. To lay it out, this means—

One Drink is free. Dead Silver is $0.99. Shadow of an Empire is $2.99. Colony is $1.99, while the sequel Jungle is $3.99. And Unusual Events: A “Short” Story Collection is also $1.99.

So yeah, whole lot of value there. The sale runs through this Friday, so grab them while it’s hot!

All right, now that you’ve heard the news … Let’s talk writing. This week, we tackle the penultimate topic on Topic List #15 (so again, get those suggestions ready). Today, we’re going to talk about concluding subplots.

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Being a Better Writer: Escalation

Welcome back readers! I trust you had an enjoyable weekend? For many of you given current conditions I imagine it wasn’t too different from the actual week.

So, a quick bit of news: A Trail for a Dragon is now in Alpha! That’s right, readers have been poring over it and offering feedback, suggestions, and more of the usual Alpha stuff. Plus enjoying it. From some of the comments, quite a bit! If you are an Alpha Reader but haven’t gotten to it yet, please do ASAP, as there’s a deadline on this story and it’s always better to beat those as cleanly as possible!

Second bit of news: Expect more Fireteam Freelance this weekend! We’ve got episode three almost ready for its big appearance, so if you’re a fan of Adah, Ursa, Anvil, and Owl, be sure to come back this weekend for their latest op!

Okay, that’s the news. Anything else that wasn’t brought up will get it’s own post later this week. So now let’s get to the nuts and bolts of this post so many of you came for, and let’s talk about escalation.

I’d wager that a few of you came this far simply on the curiosity of what I mean by the term escalation. So without much further ado, let’s get into that.

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Being a Better Writer: Tension

Welcome back readers! I hope you had a good Thanksgiving weekend! Or, if you’re from a place that doesn’t celebrate that fairly American holiday, a good weekend all the same.

Now, due to the holiday, there isn’t much news to speak of. The only thing I really want to bring up? That later this week (possibly tomorrow) you’re all going to get a post on the success of Jungle so far. And yes, it is a success. How much of one, I’ll leave to the later news post, but I will point out that it’s sitting at five stars on both Amazon and Goodreads so far, which is quite respectable. Given the size of the book, it’s not at all unlikely that more ratings and reviews will trickle in as more people finish it.

Oh, also, apparently you can leave ratings on Amazon now rather than a review? I don’t know what their criteria is for it, but apparently that’s a thing you can do now!

Anyway, Jungle is doing really well, and you’ll all find out how well later this week. For now, I want to talk about tension for this week’s Being a Better Writer, so let’s get right to it!

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Being a Better Writer: Checklisting

Hey readers! Welcome back to another installment of Being a Better Writer. Not only that, but it’s a normal installment! That’s right, the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is over and done!

It was a huge hit too, especially with some of the more common sayings. However, just because it’s over doesn’t mean that if you missed it all is lost. Just check out the tag ‘Summer of writing advice” to locate the whole set once more if you’re looking for them.

So, we’re back to regular Being a Better Writer posts, which means we’re back to discussing the topic of writing and all the various aspects of it we can improve at. So, for today? I’ve got an interesting topic for all you readers and writers out there. Readers, I’m sure, have noticed it, as I myself have found it on display in more than one book. And writers? Well, let’s just say this is a common error that anyone can slip into. Even with Jungle I’ve found this issue cropping up more than once and had to make some edits. Today’s trap is something all writers, novice and experienced, can fall into.

Today, I’m talking about checklisting.

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Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Show the Monster Last

Welcome back readers, to another installment of Being a Better Writer‘s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice. This time, flu-free.

Okay, that may not make much sense if you missed last weeks post. Last week’s was a bit light because I was battling the flu, and it was all I could do to get a basic, simple post up and then go take a nap. Ah well. But it got done! And so, this week, we continue with the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice but now with cognitive abilities back at full strength!

Okay, so if you’ve just stumbled across Unusual Things, you might be wondering what this post is. So, a bit of quick background. Being a Better Writer is a weekly feature that’s fairly self-explanatory: Each week it takes a look at some facet of writing and talks about it, from character development to pacing to genre, with the goal of doing exactly what its title claims and helping those who read it improve their writing skill.

The Summer of Cliche Writing Advice, then, is a special summer feature this year talking about all those bits of easily repeated, cliche advice that seem to follow authors like moths around a light. Little bits of advice like “Show don’t tell” or “Nothing new under the sun,” those phrases that authors new and old hear constantly spouted by a well-meaning public.

But … here’s the thing. A lot of short, easy to recall phrases tend to be oversimplified versions of the originals, to the degree that quite often they’re not as nuanced as the originals, or in some cases have taken on entirely different meanings altogether in the process of being stripped down. Which means a lot of this advice directed at authors? Well, it’s befallen the same fate. Some of it is useful … and some of it can be useful or even flat out harmful, the original phrase so far removed from the short, easy to remember version that its meaning has gone a very wrong direction.

Hence, this series, where we take a look that these phrases and short bits of advice and see what really makes them tick. Are they useful? Good? Bad? What do the really mean?

So, with that in mind, let’s get to it and take a look at this week’s bit of cliche advice:

Show the monster last.

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