Being a Better Writer: A Long-Term Relationship – Part Two

Welcome back writers. We’re back with another Being a Better Writer post on exactly that topic, and aside from a small news blurb to stick in front of it, we’re going to get right down to things!

So, what’s the news? Two smaller items. First: I have a sore throat and a bit of a head cold. So this post might have a few more typos that slip by than normal, and for that I apologize. A chance of small typos is better than no post, I think.

Second, those of you who have replied or posted regarding the Starforge Beta Call may have noticed that there have not been e-mails sent out in response with the Beta Chapter List. This is because polishing of the last few chapters took a little more time than I anticipated. That said, everything I saw over the weekend says that the additional smoothing has been well worth the effort, and I can do the final checks and start putting out the Beta chapters now. Apologies for the delay, but with a finale like this, getting everything to land just right is important.

Which, in a way, does feed into today’s Being a Better Writer post. I said last week that most probably would be surprised by the topic, and expect something a bit more in the vein of today’s post, and noted that we would indeed get to that. Well, here we are. We have arrived at that point. Where last week we talked about writing a long-term relationship and showing it to the reader, this week we’re going to be discussing your long-term relationship with writing, as a hobby or as a career, and what that means for, well, everything.

So hit that jump, and let’s talk writing.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: A Villain Protagonist Ending

Welcome back writers! Monday is here, I’ve recovered from my cold, and that means it’s time to drop another installment of writing goodness on its scheduled day, rather than later in the week. This week, we’re going to be addressing a follow-up to a post from earlier this year in which we talked about giving our story a villain protagonist. In that post we talked about a number of things that change for your story if you’re writing from the prospective of a villain (not just an antagonist) but there was one thing that didn’t come up during that discussion: An ending. And yes, it won’t quite be like your typical story ending.

So today, we’re going to talk about that. But first, some quick news reminders from the weekend (which did have their own post, so if you want more detail, go here). The biggest of these is the reminder that the cover for Starforge will be revealed September 1st, 2022, which is this week. So far you’ve had a teaser of what the cover for this juggernaut of a Sci-Fi novel will look like, but starting September 1st, you’ll all get to see it. And hey, there’s a 4K background version too, ready to grace your desktop. So be here September first for your first look at the cover that’ll be in your hands come November!

Second quick reminder: 10,000 in ten years. If you missed last Friday’s news post, in the nine-and-a-half years since I published my first book (One Drink) back in 2013, I have sold almost 9,000 copies across my lexicon. With my ten year anniversary of writing coming up in February 2023, the goal is to clear the last 1,000 sales before that date, meaning “10,000 copies sold in ten years!” There’s more about the specifics in last Friday’s post, so go check that out if you’re curious, but the goal stands as the most important part. 10,000 in ten years, baby! That’s the goal!

Anyway, that’s all the news I want to tackle at this particular moment, so let’s get down to business and talk shop. Or rather, villain protagonists, and how you might handle leading their story to an end. Because as we discussed with our prior post on villains, you can’t handle a story in exactly the same manner as you would with a heroic protagonist. A villain is a villain, and that means convention goes right out the window. A villain doesn’t bring peace to the land (well, not the way a hero would), or “save the day,” at least conventionally. See, a villain protagonist ending is usually the ending most stories we tell do their best to avoid.

So hit that jump, and let’s talk about writing and ending where good doesn’t win … or at least reaches a compromise.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Improving Your Writing Output

Hello writers! So, full confession time: I’m not quite at 100% yet. In fact, I might even try for a nap after this post is over. We’ll see how I feel.

But I’ve got to be good enough to deliver today’s Being a Better Writer post! After all, I promised it!

Now, a quick bit of news prior to jumping into writing stuff: We are now just as day before one week away from the Starforge cover reveal! Though I’ve lost a few days to this blasted cold, Rest assured that Starforge is coming, and you’ll see the cover soon enough! If you missed the initial announcement, September 1st is the date you’re looking for!

Okay, with that news out of the way, let’s dive into writing. Today’s topic isn’t actually from the list, because in light of my current status as less-than-100%, I didn’t want to tackle one of the remaining items on the list because they’re fairly complicated concepts that both readily lend themselves to large posts and will likely require more brainpower than I was confident I could deliver for a sustained time.

But this writing topic, plucked from a run through the various feeds I check each morning? This one is straightforward, relatively simple, and easy to cover. If you’re a bit let down by this week’s BaBW covering something so basic, I would remind that remembering the basics is the best way to keep our writing output consistent in its quality and production.

So today we’re discussing a fairly simple but also common question often heard from new writers: How do I improve my writing output?

Hit the jump, and let’s get started.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: How Do We Get Our Readers to Care?

Hello and welcome back readers! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! Mine was jam-packed with events, but pretty solid as a result (though packed). And there were some real booms on the Starforge Alpha 2 as well, with one reader clearing nearly a quarter of the book in a single sitting! Related to that, it’s a good thing I’m almost done with the final chapters for this Alpha, or I’d have people catching up to me!

Ultimately what this means for most of you is that Starforge continues to inch closer with each mighty step of its heavy tread. And yes, it’s still pretty heavy despite the trimming and the cuts. This will definitely be the biggest book I’ve released once it’s published. And it’ll probably stay the biggest for a long time. I don’t see myself outdoing this one anytime soon.

But enough about Starforge, let’s talk about today’s writing topic. This is going to be a familiar one to some, as it is a bit of a recurring theme across writing. In fact, I’m pretty sure (but not going to do a search for it) that we’ve devoted a post to this very topic at least once or twice, and definitely spoken about it dozens of times in other topics.

But it still remains a hot topic among authors and writers of all ages. And with good reason, as getting readers and audiences to care about characters can be quite difficult. Empathy is an acquired skill, and asking a reader to exercise that empathy with a character bound between a few pages? Well, that’s an art. A carefully developed, practiced art, and one that many would-be writers dive headfirst into without any understanding of perspective, leading to a creation that doesn’t hit the way they’d hoped it would.

So, let’s spend today talking about getting our readers to care when we present our characters, their setting, and the events that they will go through. Let’s talk about how we can avoid melodrama (and maybe what that is) and instead give our readers real, actual empathy for the characters we’ve built.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Leaving Unanswered Questions

Hello readers! We’re back with another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! And we’ve got an interesting topic to cover today. One that can be a little contentious depending on your audience.

But first, a little bit of news. Or rather, a bit making sure you didn’t miss the news. Last week had a decent amount of it. A summation on Wednesday, and then a post of its own on Friday concerning book pricing that’s definitely worth a look.

But I do have two more newsworthy items for all of you readers before we dive into today’s topic. One a question which I hope to receive responses to. A two-parter. How happy are you with Patreon being available, and would any of you relish having a Ko-Fi available to donate to instead?

I ask because it has been brought to my attention that some people prefer Ko-Fi donations rather than Patreon’s monthly service, and it’s been one of those things that occasionally I’ve been asked to think about. So now I am. What I’m asking in turn is do any of you wish to use it? There’s little point in me having a Ko-Fi to donate to if no one wishes to donate to it.

Last, but not least, the Starforge Alpha 2 Call will go up Wednesday. That’s right, the time has come! It is expected that this draft will be shorter than the Alpha 1, so under 500,000 words rather than over. If you’ve been excitedly waiting for the Alpha 2, then hit up the post on Wednesday, because it’s about to arrive!

And that’s it. Please leave responses about Ko-Fi (or any comments on the Patreon) in the comments below. With that, let’s talk about today’s topic.

As I said above, this topic can be a bit of a contentious one, and that’s something that in my time I’ve noticed seems largely dependent on audience. Some audiences do not like having lingering, unanswered questions left in any narrative. Some readers are fine not getting every puzzle or every single thing answered concretely, or are willing to extrapolate (in the positive).

So let’s talk about this topic for a bit and how it might change what you decide to write. Hit the jump.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: You Want Content? Write It!

Welcome back readers! It’s another Monday, and that means as always another Being a Better Writer post for you to dig into!

Me? I’m currently out of the office, up in Alaska if all went according to plan. Completely off-grid most of the time and hopefully not soaking wet just as often (fingers crossed, but it’s Southeast Alaska, so I’m not holding my breath, save to come up for air when the rain gets really bad).

Today’s post is a one that’s been on my mind for some time now, owing to a wind band of articles, comments, and general sentiment I’ve run into around the internet over the last few years that has, in recent times, only increased in frequency. Unfortunately, I think this increase is to the detriment of writing everywhere, as the increase means this phenomenon is only becoming more accepted over time.

Why? Well … let’s take a quick look at what this phenomenon is. The first time I truly realized how widespread it had become was when I encountered a whole article dedicated to the practice on a book site. And I don’t mean in “raise the flag of warning” kind of way. This post was the problem.

What was it? An editorial piece from one of the site’s members about how much they “loved” The Lord of the Rings … save for one “tiny” problem. I won’t go into detail on what the “problem” was, because it ultimately doesn’t matter. It was all in their head. The real problem was that their post straight out demanded that the Tolkien Estate rewrite and “update” the books to bring them in line with what this reader demanded. To “fix” them, as this reader explained it, so that it would fill their content desires better.

Again, I’m not going to specify what the demanded change was. You can make your own guesses, but I found the entire thing ridiculous. This article demanded that those in charge of The Lord of the Rings change and rewrite the classic to suit their demands, as they were a ‘paying customer’ and therefore was, it would see, ‘owed’ the product they demanded.

Unfortunately, as the years have gone by, I’ve seen this attitude appearing more and more across the web, from posts to reviews to even comments on forums and places like Discord. More and more often I see people posting comments like “Well, I want to read this story about this so this creator needs to stop creating what they like and create what I like. Art is for the public, and I’m the public!”

Some go further. The OP-ED I had recently about “banning things just because you don’t like them?” That sort of “let’s force censorship on anything we don’t like” mentality often overlaps with this sense of entitled demand that a creator owes these individuals what they want simply by existing, and if they don’t deliver it? Well … then they need to be punished. Whether that’s attacking them with a twitter mob, smearing their work with negative reviews or ratings, or some other form of attack.

And this kind of behavior is wrong. Full stop.

Which brings us to today’s Being a Better Writer post, which is in a way a rebuttal to all these very self-aggrandizing, entitled folks. Which starts, and basically ends, with this:

You want content? You write it.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Good Ideas and Avoiding the Bad Execution

Welcome back readers, to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! How were your weekends? Relaxed and enjoyable, I hope? Mine turned out pretty good, despite an illness dominating the days leading into it. Work continued, even during parts of said illness, on Starforge. This book is going to be a blast, folks!

Aside from that, there isn’t much news to discuss, so I think I’m just going to dive right into today’s topic, which is … a bit of an interesting one.

Let’s start with some background information, shall we? Before on the site—many times, actually—we’ve talked about the writing concept that there are no bad ideas, just bad executions. That any set of two ideas, no matter how odd-sounding, can be made into a pretty awesome story if one puts in the work. A common example of this being true that has been trotted out time and time again is the excellent Fantasy series The Codex Alera by Jim Butcher, which was written on a dare/challenge over exactly such a topic to combine The Lost Roman Legion with Pokémon and create from it a good story. A challenge that Butcher delivered on, as The Codex Alera is a thrilling series that stretched for five books and was a fantastic read (in my opinion, still his best).

There are other works that have come from similar challenges, of course. The point is, this is a common saying had among writing circles: There are no bad ideas, only bad executions, and even an idea that sounds really dumb could be a really good story.

Could be. Once again this topic came up last week when I published my critique post of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order‘s lackluster combat system, noting that it felt like a disparate element that had been shoved into a setting and scenario where it didn’t fit. On the site Discord, where discussion had been bouncing back and forth for days on the topic, someone asked if this was an example of maybe not every idea working with every other idea, since in my post I’d noted that sometimes two things went together like orange juice and toothpaste.

That question, then, prompted this post. Was Fallen Order a bad idea, or merely a bad execution, and what separates the two? Intrigued, I immediately wrote today’s topic down on the topic list and resolved to immediately tackle it as a BaBW post. Well, once I’d sat and thought about it.

Because in answer to that query, I’d argue that Fallen Order is an example of bad execution (something I did note in the post). Good concept, but too committed to two ideas that didn’t exactly work well together (and then the actual execution widened that rift).

But this started a little cascade in my brain. We’ve talked here again and again about how there are no bad ideas, just bad executions. But have we ever talked about how to keep those ideas from becoming a “bad execution?” Or have we been throwing the advice out there and then just sort of letting readers (and young writers) bumble their way through without any additional guidance?

Today’s post then, is to rectifty that omission. Today, we’re going to talk about what happens when you bring two ideas together, and what will need to be done in order to assure that any two ideas, no matter how disparate, can come together with a “good execution.”

So hit the jump, and let’s talk writing.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: The Importance of Taking the Occasional Break

Morning readers! Well, actually, afternoon. Today’s post is later and a bit shorter. Because … I’ve had a frog in my throat since Friday evening, and while I’m doing pretty well to kick it out, that also means doing what I can to kick it out, and so today after arising and doing my usual morning … I was tired enough that I said “forget it, naptime” and crashed in my living room for another couple of hours.

The good news is that alone left me feeling a lot better. Sleep is powerful when you’re ill. And a frog in the throat isn’t anything deeply worrisome, but it is annoying, and left on its own it can get a lot worse, so I’m doing what I can to kick it out. I can hit midrange notes now (I was restricted to nothing but low tones Saturday evening and Sunday) so bit by bit I’m getting better.

I almost made today a sick day, but let’s be honest, if I was aware enough to read a book while Factorio finished my rocket yesterday, I’m aware enough to do a quick short post for Monday. That, and once I had looked down the list, there was a topic that was definitely worth posting about for today.

But really quickly, before we get into that, I do have some good news from the weekend: Colony picked up a fairly lengthy review on Goodreads! They loved the book, referring to it as an “underdog” that people had clearly slept on, and hoped more people would give it a chance.

Especially nice as the last “review” someone posted to goodreads admitted that they actually hadn’t read it, and just rated it based on what appeared to be some skimming of the first half and the synopsis. Yeah, real professional there.

Anyway, if you want to check out the newest review Colony has picked up, you can check it out here. And yes, the discord channel was amused that the reviewer did get a few early-story details wrong (like the team being hired by SoulComp, not the UN) but it is a huge book with a lot to keep track of, and they still liked it so … whatever!

Speaking of which, if you’d like to join the official Unusual Things Discord Server, The Makalay Camp, you can! Just hit that link there and say hello!

With that all said, let’s talk about today’s topic. Let’s talk about the importance of the occasional break.

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Live Q&A Today! – Now Concluded

Hello readers! If you’re looking for the usual in-depth post, today it shall not appear. Because today Being a Better Writer is going to be live! That’s right, we’re doing another Live Q&A session at 5 PM MST.

What is a BaBW Live Q&A, you might ask? Well, you’re already close with the “asking” bit. Rather than a traditional post, this evening, at 5 PM, the site’s official Discord Channel will be host to a live question and answer session concerning writing.

So yeah, it’s pretty much exactly what most of you were guessing. Using a channel built for specifically this purpose on Discord, readers and followers of the site will be able to ask writing and writing-related questions (it always starts out hyper specific but by the end of the hour usually turns to questions about upcoming books and whatnot) which I will then answer in real time using my actual and very human voice.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Well, save two things.

The first is that it will be held at 5 PM Mountain Standard Time. This means that if you’re in another time zone, you should use a quick internet search to figure out what time 5 PM MST is where you are, because very literally the last two or three times I’ve held one of these, between two to three people showed up just as it was ending, having gotten the time wrong. This is a natural byproduct of having a global audience with differentiated time zones, so it’s not something I can really fix, but if you’re wondering what time 5 PM MST is for you … just take the guesswork out and Google it so you reduce the chances of missing it.

Second: Where is the site’s official Discord? There’s no link on the sidebar (and that’s because it keeps the discord from being overrun by spambot crawlers). There’s not even a link for Patreon Supporters (though that will change soon) For that matter, a few of you might be wondering what Discord is.

The answer to that is that it is a message/chat board. Each “channel” can be further divided into rooms for discussion of topics, and you can run it right in your browser without need for downloading any apps, which is very convenient, especially as it allows for streaming and video chat as well. But you don’t need to know that. All you need to know is that the LINK to the Makalay Camp, Unusual Things‘ official Discord channel, is after the jump, and will be available for the next 24 hours.

So show up there today for the Live Q&A at whatever time is 5 PM MST for you, and let’s talk writing!

Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: The Oxford Comma and Commas in General

Hello readers, and welcome back to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! Though today just isn’t any old Monday. Today is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so named in the honor of the individual whose name it bears.

Don’t know who that is? You should! If his name is unfamiliar to you past the holiday bearing it, I’d suggest a quick Google. Maybe read a speech of his. Or two. See why so much of what he said is still held in such high regard all these years later.

Now, before we dive into today’s post, I do have one little bit of news that went up as I was writing this: LTUE has announced their COVID-19 requirements. You can find the full thing on the Facebook post here, but I don’t doubt it will be up on their site shortly if it isn’t already. To whit, these are the requirements given:

  • You must have either proof of vaccination or a current, negative Covid test (within 72 hours) at check-in to attend.
  • Mask wearing, mouth and nose, enforced. Exceptions for eating and drinking, but neither will be allowed in certain areas. Panelists will be able to remove masks while paneling for accessibility purposes.
  • Seating will be spaced wider to aid with distancing.

As of right now, there is no plan to cancel and be online only. I hope it stays that way!

So then with that news out of the way, and with the day growing late already, let’s dive into today’s topic: The Oxford comma! Plus some general comma useage and advice.

Continue reading