No Being a Better Writer Article This Week

It’s Labor Day here in the US, and I’m taking the day off to relax for a little bit.

But while I do that, if you’re looking for writing advice this awesome day, have you looked into attending LTUE? Life, The Universe, and Everything, a writing-con unlike any other?

You should! Authors from all walks of life meet to talk about—what else—writing! Meet with editors, talk with famous authors, attend panels on everything from how to build a realistic medieval town to logistics through the ages, or women’s clothing in the victorian period, or …

Look, they cover a ton of stuff, and more besides! Art, gaming, even sculpture … but writing above all. The three day con is one of the best out there for old writers, young writers, and none-human writers alike. Come meet your favorite authors, get signatures, chat about all aspects of writing … It’s a blast!

And, best of all … it’s in February. Why is that good? Because you have plenty of time to get things squared away and come! Admission is cheap, the venue is awesome, and there’s always someone cool to go see or talk to!

Will I be attending this year? Of course. Panel calls haven’t been sent out yet, so I don’t know which ones I’ll be on yet, if any, but I’ll be there all the same.

Interested? Check it out!

News Post!

Afternoon folks! Max here with a news post! Just little odds and ends of news both local (ie, my news) and large (like say, Dragon Award voting). There’s no real order to this, just news as it comes.

So, first bit of news: Patreon Supporters! Tomorrow your ship comes in! This ties in with the second bit of news, but if you’re a Patreon Supporter, tomorrow around noon, I’d check Patreon for the August Monthly Reward. It’s going to be a good one.

Why? Well, yesterday I sat down and put my current project, Hunter/Hunted, on hold for a few days to tackle a second project. Got an e-mail a few weeks ago looking for short stories for an anthology set that comes out with a certain Writing Con each year, and the requests they had for what kind of stories they wanted got my brain ticking. I spent a few weeks coming up with a good plot, characters … You know, just letting it bubble in the back of my mind while I was at my part-time until I arrived at something I was really excited to work on, and well, since they do need it sooner rather than later and I’d just finished another chapter of Hunter/Hunted, I decided to take a quick break and write this story out.

It’s still unnamed, at the moment, though I’m bouncing some ideas around. And even if it does end up in this anthology, it’ll still be one of the first stories I’ve written for More Unusual Events: Another “Short” Story Collection. So don’t worry, it’ll show up at some point no matter what.

And for Patreon Supporters, part of it will tomorrow. I’m still writing it, of course, but part of the bonus of being a Patreon Supporter is getting an early look at things I’m working on, which tomorrow will be the first few thousand words (plus whatever I can get done today) of this story.

Right, so that’s two news things: Delays for Hunter/Hunted for a short story anthology, and the Patreon Reward for August. What other news do I have?

Well, here’s one. Tomorrow is the last day you can cast a vote for The Dragon Awards. Yup, August 31st is the final day! So if you want to cast your eye upon the nominations and vote for your favorite works, head over to that link and sign up for a ballot! The Dragon Awards is open to anyone who wishes to nominate, vote, or both. The more people do so, the better the award becomes! Plus, they don’t just do books; there’s board games, movies, and more in there! Take a look!

Okay, and final bit of news. Well, not really news, but more a recommendation for a place to hang out on the internet. Have you ever heard of suggestmeabook?

Your eyes don’t deceive you; it is just “suggest me a book” without spaces. Because web addresses don’t use spaces. Anyway, suggestmeabook is a Reddit subreddit that delivers exactly what its name suggest: Suggesting books. Folks show up and post that they’re looking for a book. It can be “I want something in this genre with these stipulations” or just “I really liked X book by this author, does anyone know of anything similar?” And posters on the sub can go in and recommend books that match up to what they’re looking for.

It’s actually a pretty sweet sub. I’ve found some good stuff being recommended that I’ve added to my library list just by browsing. If you’re looking for more books to read, or want something that’s like something else you’ve read but aren’t sure where to look, swing on over there and give them a try!  Fiction, non-fiction … they take it all!

Anyway, I’ve got writing to do. This has been the news!

Being a Better Writer: Knowing When to Borrow and How

Welcome back readers!

Yeah, I know. It’s Tuesday. I had a work shift on Monday. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But, as always, that doesn’t mean that the post won’t be made soon!

So, diving right into things: knowing when to borrow and how.

This is a tricky question. Well, or it isn’t. There are some people who worry about whether or not they’re borrowing or copying too much … and then there are those that just shamelessly go for it.

If you’re one of the latter, this post is not for you. If you’re one of the former, well, I have talked about topics before that have spoken somewhat about this. Worrying about copying, duplicating, etc, is a common fear for a lot of young writers, and sands, even longstanding ones. Remember Is It Original or Is it Copying? Well … yeah, that article was written for a good reason.

But today’s topic is different enough that when I saw the request, I felt it did warrant its own post. See, the request wasn’t about how to avoid copying something, it was how to borrow something that worked from another work and use it for yourself without crossing that line.

And the answer? Carefully.

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Being a Better Writer: Moving From Essays and Non-Fiction Forms to Fiction

Readers, in case you somehow missed it, Shadow of an Empire is now out! And you should definitely pick up a copy. No, seriously, you really should. Reviews are starting to trickle in, and you definitely do not want to miss this book. Just click that colorful cover to the right there, or if you’re reading this post on an archive binge, the books tab.

Now then, with that said and out of the way (buy the book!), let’s get down to business for today’s hotly requested topic: How to switch from writing non-fiction work like essays and reports to something that’s a work of fiction.

Well, for starters, if you’ve acknowledged that there’s a difference, you’ve made the first step. Believe me, this is not always the case. Not everyone realizes that the two are fundamentally different, or that the experience and knowledge that make one form of writing sing will serve only to drag the other down.

Because writing a piece of non-fiction, be it a textbook, an essay, or a news article (at least, in the days when news articles weren’t clickbait opinion pieces) is a process entirely different in execution than writing, say, a short story about a character who goes out to buy milk. So different, in fact, that we’re going to run headlong into one of the oldest battles of fiction.

Show Versus Tell.

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Being a Better Writer: Research and Ramifications

Welcome, readers! Before we begin with today’s post, an obligatory plug, if you will. If you somehow missed it, Shadow of an Empire‘s cover has been revealed in all its glory! You can check it out here! And yes, that does have to do with the slight redesign of the site and its colors. Shadow of an Empire is releasing June 1st, and will be available for pre-order later this week!

Excited? Good! I know I am.

So, that out of the way, let’s talk about today’s topic: Research and the ramifications that come with it. Because, as with most things in the writing world … it’s not quite so simple when you get down to it.

Now, I’ll be clear up front: This is a request topic. Actually, it’s a pretty common request topic. Which, as often as I hammer the point home of “always do the research” doesn’t exactly surprise me. I’ve made a point of it time and time again in my posts here on the site and elsewhere around the web—and even in person! If you want to be an author, and write a story about anything … Do. The. Research. Learn about that thing. And learn well.

Naturally, this second bit is the crux of the topic today. At least at the outset. Because while it’s one thing to say “do the research,” for some it’s a bit like telling someone to build a boat. I say “do the research” and there are a cluster of authors new and old who respond with the concerned question of “Okay, how?” And yes, I say old as well as new because there are plenty of authors out there I’ve read that clearly have no idea how to do even the most basic research.

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Being a Better Writer: Keeping Character Variety

Welcome back readers! If you’re seeing this early early early Monday morning, that means that I succeeded in getting it written on Saturday before my work shift … so that I wouldn’t have to worry about not having written it during my Monday and Tuesday work shifts.

One day I’ll move into that 20% of authors that don’t need a second job. Someday …

But for today, we’re back on track with Topic List 11 and chugging right along with a particularly interesting request topic: keeping characters fresh.

Now, granted, this request came with a bit of an explanation, which I’ll give to you now (and is reflected in the title). Our intrepid seeker of knowledge wasn’t asking about keeping a character constantly “fresh” over the course of the story (that’s another topic for another day) or how much tupperware they’d need to keep them from going stale. No, what they were asking after was another kind of freshness: how to keep their new characters from simply being photocopies of prior ones?

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Being a Better Writer: Subverting Tropes

Something you’ll often hear when picking up reviews or word-of-mouth for new books that happen to be particularly praiseworthy is that something is “fresh” or “clever.” Maybe that it “does something new with the genre” or that it’s managed to put a “new twist on old ideas.”

Of course, if you’ve hung around authors, particularly a group of young ones, you may have also heard this phrase repeated: Nothing new under the sun. A common enough colloquial, especially if someone new enters a well-established writing group and claims to have written something “new.” Older members will often toss this phrase back at them, sometimes as a dismissal, sometimes as a warning of “Be ready, it may not be as new as you think.”

Notice a disparity here? If there’s “nothing new under the sun” then how do new books get praise such as “new to the genre,” “fresh,” etc, etc? Well, let’s make something clear: Those reviews aren’t lying (well, not outside sometimes well-intentioned misinformation). They’re not misrepresenting something.

Don’t worry, this all ties in to the topic at hand.

See, the crux of it really comes in that last bit I gave from common reviews up in that first paragraph. This idea of a “new twist on old ideas.” Which is why I (and, in my experience, many other authors) don’t quite fully agree with the “nothing new under the sun” sentiment. Because sure, if you strip an idea down to the bare-core, suddenly it sounds like almost any other idea. Boy without parents learns he possesses a rare power and with the aid of a mentor must do battle against evil. Is that Harry Potter? Or is that Star Wars? Or is it any other of hundreds of very different stories out there starring a boy who has a rare power and fights evil. Crud, open up the floodgates there and replace “boy” with “protagonist” and now we have every story under that umbrella as well that has a female protagonist. And suddenly such a blanket statement applies to, well, a good portion of all stories ever written.

Which is why when experienced authors utter the phrase “nothing new under the sun*” there’s always that little asterisk at the end. Because these authors know that it’s a generalist statement used with a large caveat attached. Taking it literally is much like saying that both Boeing and General Dynamics make jet aircraft, therefor both make the same product … when one makes passenger and cargo jet airliners, while the other makes the deadly F-16. Yes, both are jet aircraft … but both are so different from one another you could only that they are the same by boiling the debate down to the most basic of points (such as “This is an aircraft, yes/no,” at which point you’ve lost almost all understanding of the two in the first place).

Okay, I promised this had to do with writing (and the topic at hand), so … how?

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