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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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It’s Time for Another Being a Better Writer Topic Call!

Hello readers! The time has come! Please insert a long, echoing cry of “has come!” there if you so choose.

Those of you that are long time readers of the site? You know what this is, and you can probably safely skip down to the comments section to get typing. But those of you that are more recent wanderers of the information superhighway that have come to rest at this humble rest stop might be wondering what the deal is with a post titled “Topic Call.” In which case, read on! And prepare!

See, Being a Better Writer has long been a feature of this site. In fact, it predates it, going back to when I was answering writing questions that were being written in to me from across the web by readers of my work that enjoyed it and realized I might have something to say about their own writing questions based on what they were seeing.

Well, they were right. What began as private messages on internet boards quickly ballooned and blossomed (because once word gets around that you not only reply to PMs with writing questions but with solid advice born from years of experience, you will be flooded with messages) to a weekly guide to improving one’s writing that has now run for—let me check a time-stamp—eight years.

Sands and Storms, that’s a lot of articles.

Anyway, in all that time, Being a Better Writer has never stopped responding to reader requests.

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Being a Better Writer: Enough Is Enough, It’s Time to Release

Welcome back readers, to another Monday! Apologies for the lateness of today’s post; I was up late last night desperately trying to secure a Series X console before the hands of scalpers.

I was not successful. Though a bunch of people did get them, not all of them scalpers. The demand on this thing is through the roof … though given that Xbox “surprised” everyone by launching Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer today, it can hardly be that surprising. Have any of you given it a shot yet?

Yeah, I’m really tempted to make today a “half-day” with my quota and try it out myself. Halo was a formative game from my college years, and I’d still count myself as a fan. The campaign (what I’m really interested in) still doesn’t come out until December 8th, but the multiplayer being out today and being free? Well, there’s not much to lose from trying it save time, right?

Anyway, let me move away from the non-writing things and back towards what we’re all here for: Writing! Starting with another 5-star rating left on Axtara over the weekend. She’s got wings, that’s for sure. With luck, her holiday sales will be strong as well. She is an ideal stocking-stuffer though.

All right, all right, let’s get down to today’s topic. Which, I will note, is the last topic of Topic List #18. That’s right, this week will mark another topic call post for list #19. I’ve already got a few topics written down for the list, but as always, reader request topics are encouraged.

Which is a nice segue back to today’s topic, because it is indeed a reader request (sent through Discord, no less). A reader contacted me asking after today’s discussion. Which most of you have probably guessed from the title, but I’ll state it here all the same. Their question was ‘How do you know something’s ready for release? How do you know when it’s time?”

Hit the jump, and let’s talk about it.

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Being a Better Writer: Making Characters “Pop”

Hello readers! How are you all this Monday morning? Or I suppose afternoon, as it’s about to be? Spry? Alert?

Hopefully that last one, because you’re about to read another Being a Better Writer post! Furthermore, it’s not a scheduled one!

That’s right baby, I’m back! Back from a fantastic Alaska experience, which I have chronicled with pictures and video here. Yes, you should be clicking that link if you have even the faintest interest in seeing whales, fish, Alaskan scenery, or videos of rain.

But I’m back now, and after a day “off” last week ( somehow I still managed to write about 17,000 words in a week I was supposed to be relaxing for) I’ve returned to tackle the topic list once more and bring you readers writing topics.

So, what are we talking about this week as I return to my regular duties? Well, I took a look at the list and spotted this little topic that I had jotted down as one I wanted to hit, and well, it popped out to me as much then as it does now. So today, we’re going to talk about making characters “pop.”

Of course, before we get into the how we’re going to have to define exactly what it means to have a character that “pops.” So hit the jump, and let’s get started. What is a character that “pops?”

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Being a Better Writer: A Little Bit About Copyright

Welcome back readers to another installment of Being a Better Writer! The last edition that will go up live, and not on a schedule, for about four weeks! That’s right, if you missed the big news post on Friday (linked here for your expanded reading pleasure) one of the upcoming things going on with me is a trip to Alaska to do a commercial fishing trip, so for the next few weeks all the posts will be scheduled to go up on their own.

Oh, and if you missed last Friday’s news post, you may have also missed Saturday’s, which featured a fun little news clip from my hometown starring yours truly. Give it a listen!

Oh, and Patreon Supporters got another preview story on Saturday as well. Go check it out!

Anyway, I’ll be spending the next few days getting a nice backlog of posts ready, and then I head out this weekend. The goal is to have 3-4 weeks of content done in advance, even though the trip might only take two weeks. With commercial fishing, you go until you’ve got the quota, so if I am gone for three or four weeks, the content pipeline won’t dry up.

Anyway, that’s the plan. So, with so much other news covered, let’s get right down to business. Now, I warn you, this post is going to probably be a bit shorter than normal. It’s a reader-requested topic, but I gathered from the way the question was phrased that the reader who asked it expected the answer to be much more complicated than it actually is.

Which honestly is to each of our favor, because copyright law and legal matters like that? They’re messy. So this being easier than expected is kind of a boon. So let’s get down to it. You’ve started writing out your story, your world and characters have taken shape.

When do you need to copyright it?

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