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: Cathartic Characters and Wish Fulfillment

All right, readers! Welcome back after another weekend! It’s time for Being a Better Writer once more, and this week we’ve got an interesting topic that I’ve been muddling over in my mind for a while. So it’s a bit of an interesting one.

There will be a call at the end, too, so make sure you read down to there if you’re curious what that means, or know what that means and are brimming with ideas!

Jungle CoverBut really quick, before we get into today’s post, just a reminder: We’re only a day and a week out from Jungle! That’s right, folks, it drops next Tuesday! We’re eight days away! Eight days from finding out what comes next after Colony! Eight days from … well, that’d be spoiling things. But hey, we’re eight days out, and you can still pre-order your copy today so that when the moment arrives, you’re reading ASAP! You can just click that cover over there to go right to Amazon and reserve your copy, or you can click this link instead!

Seriously guys, you don’t want to miss this one. Colony scraped the surface of things. Jungle? It’s … Well, you don’t want to miss it. Take it from the Alpha and Beta readers who worked on it, or the lucky few who got advance copies to look at: Jungle is wild.

Look for at least one more preview here on the site (or in advance on Patreon for supporters) before the book launches next week, but get ready! If you liked the first one, this one will be right up your alley.

Okay, enough plugging. Just go pre-order a copy, and let’s talk about today’s topic: cathartic characters and wish fulfillment.

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Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Stuck? Just Kill a Character!

Welcome back readers, to another entry in Being a Better Writer! Where we are still locked in the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! That’s right, it isn’t over yet!

Though it almost is. In fact, this is the second to last week. Next week’s entry will be the last entry into this summer’s special feature. That’s right, summer will be over (technically it ran a little long) and fall firmly upon us, so it’ll be time for the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice to end at last.

But honestly? This was a lot of fun. It was kind of refreshing to pick a single topic like this and focus on it for a while. In fact, I’ve already got another idea for a future feature later this year.

I’m also curious what you readers have made of this sort of thing. A larger, longer feature on a topic rather than each week covering a different topic as it comes. Would more feature like this be something you’d be interested in or not? Or do you prefer a new topic every week? Leave a comment and let me know!

So, with that said, let’s dive into today’s bit of cliche advice! In case you’re new here and this is the first post in the series you’ve encountered, the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is all about looking at those bits of easily repeated, quickly remembered bites of advice that every author is deluged with constantly by the general public. But as with a lot of commonly repeated and retold sayings, often we have to ask if they’re really that useful, or just something that sounds nice and is quick and easy to say.

See, in the process of being stripped down into something that’s easy for anyone to remember, words have to be trimmed out. Cut for length. Or brevity. Sometimes words get changed for others that flow better in a short sentence. However, with all of this happening, you lose context and can even lose or completely change meaning.

So this series takes a look at these short, easily-(and oft)-repeated phrases and examines whether or not they’re really worth it. Do they teach anything useful? Are they helpful at all, or are they missing pieces that were lost for that brevity? Should we be saying them at all?

And our saying for this week? Stuck? Just kill a character!

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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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Being a Better Writer Follow-up: Em-dash Addendum

Hello readers! Bit of a mid-week surprise here with a follow-up to Monday’s post, The Ellipses and the Em-Dash, Odd Forms of Punctuation. An interesting follow-up with a bit of history for you that may clear up a question some readers apparently were left with. I got a few comments on the post, split between here on the site and a reblog elsewhere, expressing questions about the en-dash. Nope, not the em-dash, but endash. Which I’ll admit I’d forgotten all about, as for me it was hardly ever used.

Turns out there’s a reason for that. With a few comments on the topic, I went digging, and found out why. And now, I pass it on to you, readers, as it will likely clear up some confusion experienced by some of you after reading Monday’s article.

See, there were a few people who contacted me to point out that they’d never heard of the em-dash being used the way I’d spoken of it, but rather the en-dash. Which, if you’ve not seen it, is just a slightly shorter em-dash. Think halfway between an em-dash and a hyphen. In the US, the only time we use the en-dash is for the dash between dates, like say 1947–1951.

In the US.

Yeah. I did some digging, and found something out I didn’t know before Tuesday morning. See, the em-dash and the en-dash? Both are dashes named for the size of the dash when they were a piece of movable type. One is the size of the letter N, the other the letter M.

Then there’s another bit. Both were dashes, just of different lengths, and so the places doing the printing (likely driven by space and cost factors, as a lot of conventions that became grammar rules came from that) had to choose which was appropriate.

In the United States, the em-dash was chosen to be the common piece, and the en-dash relegated to dates and a few case-specific uses.

In Britain, however, it was the other way around. That’s right, in Britain the en-dash was made the common piece, and the em-dash relegated to dates and specific uses.

Oh. Suddenly some confusion at my post makes a lot of sense. It’s another case where internationally, countries differ in their usage of grammar. Like grey or gray, color or colour.

Thankfully, in the modern era, readers are a little bit more jaded when it comes to such differences thanks to the internet. Pick the one you’re most comfortable with, and again, as stated Monday, be consistent.

Now, back to writing!

Being a Better Writer: The Ellipses and the Em-dash, Odd Forms of Punctuation

Welcome back readers! I hope you had, if from the US, a successful and interesting 4th of July, and if not from the US, a solid weekend! I did. For starters, my friends and I gathered and watched all of Season 3 of Netflix’s Stranger Things. I won’t spoil anything (obviously, I mean, come on) but I will say that I think it’s better than the second season. Mostly because they fixed the largest flaw with the second season, which was some weak pacing in the last few episodes. Here everything is much more tightly bound together, and there’s never really a single moment where even if you feel like you can stop that you want to.

So yeah, it’s really good. I do recommend. Next, there are only a few hours left in the Independence Day Sale! By tomorrow, it’ll no longer be available, so if you were planning on grabbing Shadow of an EmpireColonyDead Silver, or another book of mine while they were on the cheap, now’s your last chance! You’ve only got until the end of the day!

Finally, just a quick heads-up that we’re about to start the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice here with Being a Better Writer, and we’ve put out requests to you, readers, for every bit of cliche writing advice you’ve ever been told. If you missed the announcement, there’s a lot of cliche writing advice out there that can do more harm than good, especially when it’s taken literally and without the context it once had. So BaBW is going to spend the summer breaking down that advice, stepping back to look at what it really means and what you should be learning from it.

That starts next week and runs through either the summer or until we run out of cliche advice! If you’ve got one that you’ve always heard, go ahead and post it in the comments so it can go on the list!

Right, so with all that said (you read it, right? Sale, Stranger Things, and Summer of Cliche Writing Advice!), let’s talk writing! Specifically, let’s talk about some of the lesser-taught methods of punctuation out there: the ellipses and the em-dash.

You’ve seen them before … Right? In fact, there was one right there! Those three periods right in a row, the “…” That’s an ellipses, and you’ve likely seen one from time to time when reading a book. Or a lot if you read comics, or fairly regularly if you’re reading technical or research papers that use a lot of quotations. Though the use is a bit different in that last one.

Point being, you’ve likely seen it used somewhere. But, even though used on occasion, you don’t see it used as often as, say, the comma, or the period, or the question mark, all of which are regular features of punctuation you’re taught about in a basic school education.

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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!

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