Being a Better Writer: The Post Labor Day Grab Bag

Welcome back readers! To both of us, actually! I am back at my desk again this Monday, returned from Alaska (which you might have noticed if you saw this post).

So then, what’s today’s Being a Better Writer about? Well … It’s a collection, actually. Long story short, this is my first Monday back, and last Monday, which had a post, shouldn’t have. Yeah, it was Labor Day, one of the few holidays I’ve regularly taken on the site. Except that this time I didn’t, as I was absent, and I hadn’t checked ahead with my scheduler to note that it was a holiday.

Now, normally I’d take today completely off to compensate, but I’m not doing that either, because while I was gone and had a bunch of BaBW posts going up via scheduling, they didn’t get nearly as many eyeballs as they normally would have.

Why? Well because I couldn’t schedule the promotions that take place on a lot of other sites for these posts. So those of you that relied on the site feed to see each new post saw it. Those of you that relied on other site feeds to see each new one, well … You didn’t. I can see the numbers, so I know that.

Thing is, all those posts are still there. And now that I’m back, I can put each of them out in those other places for you to peruse.

Which is what we’re going to do today. While I catch up with a few things and get stuff on my end running smoothly once more for next week, this week I’m going to be delivering a summary of everything that went up on remote last week, so that those using other feeds finally get their due.

So enjoy, and hit the jump to see what posts you might have missed!

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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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Being a Better Writer: Making (and Keeping) Dialogue Unique

Hello again, readers! Welcome back to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! I hope you all had an enjoyably decent or better weekend. I did. Saturday saw me spending several hours at work on the paperback edition for Shaodow of an Empire, which, as I reported in Saturday’s post, is now in the cover stage! Excitement!

That and I went to a Scottish festival and watched some caber-tossing, which is always fun to see.

Then this morning I heard of “BookTok” for the first time, which is apparently this (for now) grassroots part of TikTok where people review books, often (at least from the article I read) titles that aren’t immediately new or known (which was how one publisher found out about it: they saw massive sales for a book they were no longer promoting and discovered #BookTok had promoted it). Of course, it’s probably about to stop being grassroots, since according to the article I read now that the major publishers are aware they’re looking into how to “use” BookTok to their advantage, but it’s still neat. In the meantime, here’s hoping one of those BookTok reviewers decides to give a copy of Axtara – Banking and Finance a shot!

Anyway, let’s get down to business, shall we? Today, I want to talk about dialogue. That’s right, the stuff characters say and speak.

Specifically, I want to talk about—as the title of today’s post indicates—keeping it unique. Something that, if I’m honest, a lot of writers struggle with. Even published ones.

But … it’s not just the fault of the writers. Comically enough, this weekend I saw a post on a subreddit asking people what they wanted from their books, and the number-one result at the time I looked was “Good dialogue.”

Hmm … Some of you might be thinking close to what I did when I saw that post, which was “So I guess a lot of books fail at this?” And yes, that was certainly part of my thought process. But there was a second part to it as well, something that I’ve only learning in writing and releasing books on my own. But for it to make sense, we’re going to need a little background first.

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Being a Better Writer: Diversifying Your Writing

Welcome back readers! Yes, I decided to bump Monday’s usual Being a Better Writer post to Tuesday on account of Monday being the federal holiday in a number of places, including where I was. That, and it was a bit nice to have a break day.

And you know what? We’re going to dive right in. There’s not much to note news-wise save the sale being over (and a successful sale it was too!) so instead we’re just going to get right to the meat of things today, and as well it’s Tuesday, which is a day that already allows me a bit less time than normal to write with (and what I have today I really want to dive into Starforge with).

So, today’s topic is from Topic List #18, and it’s a reader-requested topic! Today, we’re going to talk about diversifying your writing.

And right away, I need to clarify something. In the context of the original question, and what we’ll be talking about today, this post will be about widening your writing range through genres and experimentation. Not on widening the range of characters, culture, or ethnicities on display in your writing. That’s another topic (which is, it should be noted, also on Topic List #18 and therefore coming).

That said, if you were expecting the latter and are unhappy that the former is the immediate topic, I would encourage you to read on anyway. Today’s topic is useful for all levels of writers, and there may yet be something you glean from it.

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

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Being a Better Writer: Live Q&A Event!

UPDATE: The event is now over, but you can still join the official discord for the next few hours!

Hello readers! And welcome back to something different! Not completely different, since A) we’re not doing that bit and B) we’ve done this before … But this will be only the second time.

To commemorate the end of yet another Being a Better Writer topic list (number 17), today at 3 PM mountain time I will be hosting a live BaBW question and answer session via the Unusual Things official discord channel The Makalay Camp. Which means that all of you can ask questions in real time and hear my melodious (?) voice give the answers!

Now, we’ve done one of these before and it’s generally a pretty relaxed and chill experience. As of right now, The Makalay Camp has two channels, Fireside Chat, and the Being a Better Writer Q&A voice channel. Participating in the Q&A will be pretty simple. You show up (we’ll talk about that in a moment if you’ve never used Discord before), join the Fireside Chat channel, and then join the Being a Better Writer Q&A voice channel by clicking on it. You may notice that you will not be able to speak in the voice channel. That’s by design. Otherwise there’d be a million voices competing. No, you join the voice channel to listen. That’s what I’ll be using to answer questions. Questions which will be typed in the Fireside Chat channel.

Now, if you’re familiar with Discord or already a member of the server, you know what’s up. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Discord or aren’t members of the server, hit the jump, and let’s get you set up with the link.

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Being a Better Writer: The Rubber Duck

Now Harry, you must know all about Muggles. Tell me, what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Film

Hello readers, and welcome back! It’s the start of another week, and that means we’ve got more Being a Better Writer to discuss as well as another week full of writing to look forward to! And coming off of a pretty good weekend as well! Good for me because I picked up several new 5-star reviews on both Colony and Axtara … and on a note unrelated to writing because E3 was this weekend and I finally got to see one game that I’m excited for the release of this year: Halo Infinite. I’m not going to geek about the game here, other than to say I’m excited, but I’m also a little relieved that there’s nothing else coming out anytime soon I’m interested. My backlog needs clearing (or I could always play another game of Stellaris … No wonder that backlog doesn’t empty quickly).

Anyway, hopefully those of you who followed E3 found something to be excited about, but for now let’s switch gears and talk writing. You know, that thing a lot of you are here for! So then, let’s begin, and begin by restating the question at the top of this post: what is the function of the rubber duck?

The answer is … well, surprisingly mundane, but it’s one of those mundane answers that can be incredibly useful. In fact, some authors swear by the rubber duck as a writing tool, finding it almost impossible to write well without one.

Which I realize to those of you who are not familiar with this usage, sounds amusing. Some of you may be picturing an author staring at their keyboard, writing away while watched by a well-worn yellow waterfowl, muttering under their breath “I can’t do it without you, Mr. Squeakers.

And well, here’s the fun part. Those of you who may be thinking that aren’t entirely wrong. So, hit the jump, and let’s seek the answer to the question that haunted Arthur Weasley for much of his life. What is the function of a rubber duck?

And what does it have to with writing?

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Being a Better Writer: Setting a Tone for Your Work

Welcome back readers, to another Monday! You know, I try to make these openings as chipper and cheerful as I can when writing because hey, it’s Monday, and most people need that at the start of another workweek. So hey, I hope this chipper opening tone works for some of you!

Newswise, it was a pretty quiet weekend. quiet to the degree that I’m reasonably certain there’s not much to post here that wasn’t already covered with last Friday’s news summary. Save that it was a scorcher of a weekend here. I don’t know what the weather was like for most of you, but it was in the low-nineties here. It gets hotter than that in the summers here, but it climbing to that temperature so quickly in the summer was both refreshing and scorching.

On the plus side, there was a summer thunderstorm on Friday evening that I got to watch with my sister while eating dinner post a nice bike ride, so that was nice. Always down for watching some summer thunder! Plus, my area needs the rain they bring.

Okay, so enough yapping about my weekend. We’ve got writing to talk about! This week we’re tackling yet another reader question, this time concerning tone. To be specific, how you set a tone for your story, if you even should, and how changing that tone partway through can affect your story/audience.

So, if any of that sounded intriguing to you as a writer, then buckle up and 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: Making Info-Dumping Natural (And Not a Dump)

Welcome back readers to another installment of Being a Better Writer! Today’s installment is somewhat unusual in that it was written days before the actual posting. Why? Because if all has gone as planned, today I am off on my way to Alaska to visit family, taking my first travel vacation (and my first trip to where I grew up) in about half a decade.

Yikes. When I say it like that, it does sound like I need a break. Here’s hoping it is a relaxing one and I get some peace of mind from it.

Anyway, that means no news with this post, because it was written a while ago (and it would all be out of date). So sit back, relax (like I’m supposed to be doing) and get ready to talk about writing. While I, if all has again gone to plan, will be traveling through the air or spending my night at an airport. Or something like that.

So let’s talk about infodumping for a moment. Infodumping is one of those things that worries a lot of writers both young and old—and with good reason! Anyone that’s picked up more than a few books in the last year can probably recall a moment where the story might have slowed down and turning into a page or two of just … information. About the world, about the setting, about the characters … but it was just information that hit the audience with the force and subtlety of a firehose.

This is the infamous infodump. A moment when the author sits back and says “Well, the readers need to know about this” and just dumps it all on them in solid paragraphs of informational text. Or worse, does this for information that the audience doesn’t need to know, but the author really wants to talk about (you’ll see this more with “author fillibusters” or “soapboxing“).

But the result is roughly the same in the end: Solid paragraphs of pure information, something usually akin more to a work of non-fiction than fiction, and a wall for the audience (barring the few who would naturally read this sort of thing anyway). Infodumping remains a cardinal sin in the writing world as a result, a giant speed bump to any reader that comes across it. It messes with pacing, such as one book I can recall where the author interrupted a plot-critical meeting to give a page-and-a-half long aside on the origins of a phrase one of the people in the meeting had used … and then cut right back to the meeting, in the middle of the previous sentence they’d cut off in, and somehow thought this wouldn’t be an issue.

Their editor also apparently thought so, which was why this title did this multiple times, and each time the information that was actually presented was superfluous to what was actually going on and purely unneeded. Like I said above, some authors just really want to talk about things they came up with for the setting, and well … yeah. Imagine watching a movie where every time things really got moving, the director would pause the film and talk about some behind the scenes stuff. Not as a bonus feature, but as the film you went to see in theaters.

Annoying? Yes. This, and other forms of infodumping are like kryptonite to readers. They sap the reader’s will to, well, read. But this introduces a conundrum for a lot of young writers because well … How can you get a reader invested in a world and knowing what’s going on if you don’t inform them of what the world is like? Or the characters’ backgrounds? Or anything else that’s relevant to the plot?

So hit the jump, folks, because today we’re going to talk about the right and wrong ways to infodump. Or rather, how to avoid the wrong of infodumping while still informing our readers of what they need to know.

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Being a Better Writer: Knowing What to Research … and How

Hello readers, and welcome back after another weekend (and week)! How are things going on your side of the keyboard? Well, I hope?

Things here have been a mix of quiet and busy, the kind that kept me from making any extra posts last week, mostly because they would have been small, short affairs barely worth a post, but also because I was happily consumed with working on the final part of Starforge. It’s coming along, readers, and will be done, I would expect, in another month or so! So yeah, that kind of excitement kept me from doing much on the site last week.

Speaking of the site, there will be a live Q&A Being a Better Writer in the coming weeks. I got a few responses back concerning timing and the like, and the time that seemed most functional for everyone was 6 PM Mountain time, weekend or weekday (excepting a few days on the weekday part). I’ll have more on this soon, but due to the next item of news, it’ll be a bit.

Next item of news is: I’m taking a vacation! Well, what I hope is a vacation. I’ll be visiting my parents and sibling (the ones with a nephew and niece) back where I grew up for about a week. The idea is to have some fun with my nephew and niece while relaxing for a bit. Which quite a few people have told me I desperately need. The relaxing bit, I mean.

Posts will continue as normal. I’ll be doing a couple of Being a Better Writer posts in advance and putting them on a schedule. So keep checking back for more each Monday! It won’t stop!

Two other bits of news before I take off. The first is that Axtara – Banking and Finance continues to be my best seller right now, and has eclipsed Jungle in its total review count. Different audiences in part, but still, that’s pretty good!

And if you loved Axtara and wanted more from that setting, the fourth and final part of A Trial for a Dragon will be live on Patreon for supporters this Saturday. If you’re not a supporter, you can be for as little as a dollar a month!

All right, that’s the news! Like I said, lots of little stuff, stuff that I probably could have made a small post for, but … Starforge people. Starforge!

So with that, let’s get talking about today’s Being a Better Writer topic, which comes to us from a reader request in response to a common statement of mine. If you’ve been a reader of Being a Better Writer for any amount of time, you’ll know that one aspect of writing I constantly circle back to is always do the research. Because, unfortunately, this is a step that a shockingly large amount of writers (and editors) skip. Yes, even among the trad pubs (in fact, they’re actually worse at in these days in my reading experience).

So, this reader acknowledged that. Doing the research was important. But what they wanted to know was how did they do the research, or even how could they know where to start? And, as I thought about it, I realized that this was just as important a topic to cover at some point and added it to the list. Because this reader was right: it doesn’t matter how willing you are to do the research if you have no idea how to do it, what to look for, or even that you need to look!

So hit that jump, and let’s talk about not just the importance of research, but how to research, how to know what to research, and even how to know that you need to research something.

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