Your Year in Books

Okay guys, this is cool. Yesterday I was alerted via Reddit to a feature of Goodreads I was not aware of: The “Your Year in Books” feature.

What is it? Well, the name is pretty self explanatory, but basically it’s a shareable page that summarizes all your reported reading so far that year. The number of pages you’ve read across however many books, the most popular book you read, the least popular book you read, your average review rating, the highest-rated book you read, and so on and so forth. Basically, it summarizes whatever you’ve put into their site into a really neat little infographic you can look over and see. It’s your year of books at a glance.

So, that’s pretty cool. If you’re a Goodreads user, at least. And while I’m not a heavy user by any means, I have been using it to simply leave a rating for each book I read, and even that’s enough for it to make a neat little page on it.

But they also made these pages shareable. That’s right, each one’s got a link you can share so you can swap pages on books read with people you know. And well … yeah, why not? After all, it’s kind of fun to see what people read.

Anyway, here’s mine. Everything’s there save the book I’m reading right now, which in all honesty isn’t getting a great rating anyway. Take a look, and while you’re at it, if you feel like it, share yours in the comments. I’ll keep a close eye on the filter so that they don’t get filed under spam.

Is there something deep behind this? Not really. It’s just fun. I like looking at stats for things, and this is a neat one. Plus, it’s cool to see all my readings in one place and kind of laid out with some additional info. I definitely can see a few series I binged on here, as well as some random pickups from my library, some of which were good, and others which were … not so good.

Just fun, end of the year, holiday stuff. So, what’d you read?

Classic Post: Six Things Non-Writers Should Know About Authors

Classic Post today folks! I’m finish up my taxes and then continuing editing work on Shadow of an Empire.

This Classic Post isn’t as old as some of the others kicking around this site, being from under a year ago, rather than four or five like some of the classics I put up once again on here. But since I’ve never established a set “age” for such posts, and these two posts (one with five points, the other with one) are both pretty worthwhile, I don’t feel that sharing them again is a bad idea.

As usual, there are excerpts below, along with links to the original posts.


Five Things Non-Writers Should Know About Writers and Writing
So then, what am I putting forth today? Well, it’s basically my shot at doing away with a lot of the misconceptions about writing, being a writer, and being an author. Because one thing I’ve found as I’ve embarked on this crazy, busy journey is that not a lot of people know a lot about it. And, even worse, what they don’t know is usually filled in with a lot of completely untrue misconceptions.

So, this little editorial is meant to set some of this misconceptions about writing and being an author straight. Because, being an author myself, I’ve heard a lot of them. It’s meant to be shareable (there are actually buttons at the bottom of the page for that), so if you’ve ever heard some sentiments to the opposite of the topics discussed here from someone, go ahead and fire this at ’em.


The Sixth Thing
It figures. Barely a day after the original Five Things Non-Writers Should Know About Writers and Writing went up, I was hit with the epiphany that I’d left something out. And I had. I’d left out a very important bit that, for whatever reason, didn’t occur to me while I was putting together the original post.

Oh well. We all know that “Five Things” feels a bit snappier than six. Humanity is odd like that, but it’s true.

Still, this realization left me with a conundrum. The first post was already up and being read; had been for over a day. So I really didn’t want to go back and awkwardly shoehorn in a sixth entry. But I still wanted the issue I’d thought of to be addressed. Hence, we come to this: a follow-up post.


See you all Monday! Or perhaps sooner …

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Being a Better Writer: The Value of Fiction

First of all, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I had a shift at work Monday(I’m still playing catch-up on a small pile of debt incurred during my knee injury and trying to be able to make rent this month, so I’m working more shifts than normal) which, as expected, put this post behind the clock. Thankfully, looking at my daily views, it seems that many of you don’t mind—a large number of you have just been checking on Tuesday rather than on Monday, which is sad as far as my ability to get these posts up on Monday is concerned, but otherwise isn’t a bother.

So … today’s topic … This is one that I’ve wanted to do for quite a while. Years, actually. But I wasn’t positive if I wanted it to be a Being a Better Writer post or just a random post until recently. I can’t recall quite what the context of it was, but there was a forum post on a site I was browsing that made me immediately turn to my topic list and write down “Learning by Example – Value of Fiction.”

Now, for some, this post is going to seem somewhat … Well, perhaps obvious is the best way to put it. But the odd thing is, for some it won’t.

See, I once had a fellow student in one of my creative writing classes who could not understand why we were bothering to read stories that ‘hadn’t happened.’ They were incredibly incensed by it (for the record, none of us, including the professor, could determine what they had expected otherwise from a course in creative writing), constantly complained about the books we read, and even, if memory serves, flat-out refused to do the writing assignments because ‘it wasn’t real, therefore it was of no worth.’

The thing is, as I’ve gotten older, wiser, and seen more of the world, I’ve come to find that this student was not alone in sharing this opinion. There are a lot of people out there that do not see the value of reading anything that is a work of fiction and hold it to be of no merit. Why? The answer is, when boiled and distilled down, because a work of fiction isn’t something “real.” Therefore, not being “real,” it has no place in the real world.

Now, obviously I disagree. But, naturally, this disagreement doesn’t start or end with “Well, you’re wrong.” Crud, there’s a reason I put “real” in the last paragraph in quotes. Because fiction isn’t simply something that’s “not real.” In fact, simply thinking of it as such shows a lack of understanding of what fiction is.

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Price and Profit

So I learned something rather embarrassing a week ago.

Since the release of Colony, one of the more common questions I’ve received from fans about it has been “How should I purchase your book in order to make sure you get the largest cut of money?” Which is actually a pretty valid—and thoughtfully appreciated—question. This question comes from a reader who isn’t just concerned that they read a book, but that the author of said book is able to support themselves to the next one. Some of you may be scratching your heads even so, though, thinking to yourselves “Wait, I thought it was just an ebook?” Well it is, but there are two ways you can acquire it.

The first is to simply impart money to Amazon.com ($7.99 in this case, unless there’s a sale going) for a digital, DRM-Free copy of Colony. And for many readers, that’s what they do. However, I’m also a fan of putting my books up on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Program, which is kind of like a Netflix for books, and that means that it’s also available to those paying for the KU program to read whenever they want. Now, KU pays authors, but the question from these readers is “Which way pays you more?”

And it turns out, in giving my answer, I screwed up.

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Being a Better Reader: Leaving a Good Review

I’m going to file this one under Being a Better Writer, but as most of you can tell from the title, I consider it more in line with the act of being a good reader than a writer. Though I suppose as a reviewer, you’re going to leave a written review … but by the terminology of what I usually refer to when I say “writing” it is a little different.

Nevertheless, this topic has been one that’s been requested of me not just before, but on multiple occasions, so it’s about time that I got to it on the list of future topics (which, yes, is an actual list that sits on my desk, I’m up to note-paper #8 now). Plus, this topic has the added bonus of coming at a fortunes time: Right on the heels of the release of Colony! Which, having been out for exactly ten days starting today, is just moving into the realm where many of you who acquired it first thing have recently finished it and are now wondering what to do with yourselves now that it’s done. Well, let this post be your not-so-subtle guide.

So, leaving a review. Scratch that, leaving a good review.

We’ll tackle the basics first: What’s the point of leaving a review? Why do so many authors (myself included) stress them as often as possible? Why do so many institutions? Crud, turn to the back of any Kindle ebook, and the last “page” of every book, no matter where it came from, is a reminder page that invites the reader to, now that they’ve finished said book, tweet about it, share it, or leave a review for it on Amazon.com.

Now, the cynical among you might think “Well of course they want you to leave a review on Amazon. After all, they own the site.”

Sure. That’s entirely true. But at the same time, by admitting such, you’re also admitting that there must be a reason to it. Amazon wouldn’t bother doing it if there wasn’t a net gain for them in the process, would they?

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Being a Better Writer: Playing Out Your Puzzle Pieces

Welcome back, readers, to a Monday post that’s actually on a Monday! BaBW is back to its proper day once more! So, to commemorate the occasion, what’s today’s writing topic?

Puzzle pieces.

I can see the curious, questioning looks even from here in the past, so let me explain a little further.

One of the questions I get asked from readers—especially those who are about to make the transition to new writers—is how I’m able to fill my books with such complicated plots and keep everything moving at a steady pace at the same time.

This is a legitimate question. I want to stress that up front. As a new writer, nothing is more daunting than looking at someone else’s book with all it’s intersecting plot threads and carefully doled out clues and thinking “How on earth do I do that?” To a new writer, it seems like an almost insurmountable task: There are all these different parts of the story, and all of it seems to be fitting together just so the guide to reader to figure things out or move along with the story at the same pace as the characters … And once you stand back and look at it, that’s quite a bit of work!

And, to be fair, the average English class that many are going to have gone through in their high-school years has very low odds of touching on this, which only compounds the problem. For new writers, it just seems like something that writers do, but no one is explaining how. Again, this is why I encourage taking creative writing classes if they’re available to you—they’ll teach this kind of stuff and more.

But, that aside, point is, most young writers see a full, complex story and wonder how on earth an author was ever able to keep everything straight. Crud, some don’t. Read through a Sci-Fi book the other day (giving an author I’d read before another shot because the premise of the book was very unique, even if I’d been disappointed in an earlier work of theirs) where the author didn’t dole out their complex story well—at all. Here’s how it ending up playing out: You got the opening chapters, introducing the characters, and giving you roughly 80% of the information you needed to know for the conclusion of the story. Then, following that was most of the book, roughly two dozen chapters of the characters just making their way to the conclusion while talking but never really doing much for the story other than “We go from here to the their, this ending is stressful.” Near the end of that bit, which was most of the book and pretty dull, we got another 10%, and then the conclusion happened almost immediately, bringing with it the last 10%.

Do you see the problem? The book had a great premise and an interesting idea, but the author didn’t know how to dole the information out. The result was a massive dump of exposition at the beginning, and a small one at the end with the final bits the reader needed … and then everything in-between was just sort of  … there. It could have been summed up in two or three chapters rather than twenty.

Or the story could have doled out its puzzle pieces better, distributed them evenly across those intervening  chapters, and given them some purpose to the overall plot (as opposed to the “And we’re traveling … and we’re traveling … and we’re traveling …” that the story became). Something that would have given them impact on the story, rather than just being happenstance.

Right, so that’s the second time (not counting the title) that I’ve used that term, so it’s high time I explained what I mean when I write it.

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Discussion: What’s the Book You Enjoyed the Most in 2015?

Thought I’d try something new as we come to the end of the year, something special to replace the usual repost of an older Being a Better Writer.Today I want to see if I can get a discussion going in the comments. A discussion circling around one simple question: what is the book you’ve enjoyed the most in 2015?

Now, I don’t mean by this that you need to confine yourself to just books. Short stories count too, as does fanfiction, and well, anything really, as long as it’s a written text, long-form that you received some enjoyment of that you read in the year of 2015 (preferably one that was written with the express purpose of being read by a number of other people, rather than a personal letter).

It’s all subjective here, I just want to see what everyone comes up with. What were we reading this year, and looking back, what did we think of it? Let us know what you loved about it, why it mattered so much, and what you took away from it! Let’s see what we were reading!

For myself, the best book I’ve read this year is easily Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam.

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