Being a Better Writer: You Can’t Make Up Rules When the Reader Knows What They Are

Welcome back readers! It’s JUNE!

Right, I know. Hunter/Hunted isn’t out yet. But I’d plan on it this month. Editing is … well, it’s a process. Both it and Jungle are inching closer toward release … But that’s all that needs to be said there. Right now?

Right now, we’re going to talk about some small rules of writing. Small but vital, and which fall under that mouthful of a title up above.

Now some of you might have guessed, and correctly, that today’s title falls under a rule I’ve talked about more than once on this site: Always do the research. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, from hydraulics to genetics, you need to do the research.

But today just isn’t quite about that. It falls under the same umbrella, absolutely, but there’s a bit more to it. While “always do the research,” whenever I’ve said it, has almost always been about the big things … today is more about the small things, and less about the science of something works and more the methodology.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re going to write about a character studying genetics at a college somewhere in the US, you should work to get the genetic information right. But what about the order in which they study about genetics. What about their classes, or the way their teachers present information? The way their labs are set up?

See, while you may be able to make up material that can fill all those gaps, and get the science right, you can also run into a problem of someone else who’s been through that experience or adjacent to it might be able to look right at it and say ‘Wait a minute, those two things are correct, yes … but they’re also out of order.’

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How Marvel’s Movies (and Others’ Products) Have Changed Storytelling

Pop quiz for you. Don’t worry, it’ll be easy to answer. Have you ever read any licensed literature? Like Star Wars books, or Star Trek, or Warhammer, or … Sands, really any licensed property? Or maybe seen a tie-in TV show to a movie? Played a game of a movie or a book?

Basically, anything that could be considered “secondary canon?”

Right. I can already tell I’ve lost some of you. So let’s back up. Let’s say you are a movie producer. Better yet, you’re one of those producers like James Cameron who often writes, produces, and directs your own movies. And you’ve just made a hit.

Now, with this hit on your hands, someone has come to you and asked for a chance to expand on the universe! They want to write a trilogy of books that tie into the movie and extrapolate a bit after it! Awesome!

But … you don’t want to write a trilogy of books. You want to keep making movies.

“No problem!” says the publisher with the contract. “We’ve got an author lined up! They’ll write all three. We just need some notes on the movie, for you to answer some questions, and that’ll be all we need!”

So you sign the paper, and the trilogy comes out. You collect a small licensing fee, and a bunch of fans of your movie go on to read the book and form excited theories and ideas.

Except … a year or two later, when you sit down to write the sequel, you’ve got a bunch of ideas that don’t quite mesh with the world and liberties the author of the book trilogy took to flesh out their story. Not that you know this: You probably haven’t read them. Or, if you did read them, you’d know the score as being thus—

The movie came first, therefore the movie is the final word.

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Being a Better Writer: Knowledge and Inspiration

Welcome back readers! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

So, thanks to Friday’s gargantuan news post—which you should check up on if you haven’t, as it basically announces all my projects for the rest of the year—all the news that’s worth mentioning is already out in the open. So there’s no need to repeat it here. Which means … we’re diving right into today’s post.

Knowledge and inspiration then. Let’s get down to it. What, with a title like that, am I getting at?

Well, probably not what you expected. See, today’s post isn’t about the tiny details of everything, from character to voice, or specific writing techniques. No, today is about a different—but no less important—bit of writing: acquiring knowledge of subject.

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Penclash

Hey readers! I just wanted to give you a heads-up on a new writing site I learned about through the circles I’m in: Penclash!

Okay, so it’s not a site yet. And, legal disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with Penclash outside of having heard about it through the writing circles I hang out on. I’m not affiliated with the site’s owners or developers or anything like that. I just heard about it, and immediately realized this was something that could use some more publicity.

So, what is it? Well, Penclash is a writing competition site. That’s right: A whole website dedicated to short story competitions. If you’ve ever hung around online writing sites you may be familiar with these: Folks (sometimes even site hosts) will put up a challenge or a prompt, give a submission date, and on on occasion even offer a prize of some kind to the top stories, and away people go. There are judges, submissions … it’s a pretty common feature of online writing sites to have these contests.

So then what’s Penclash? It’s a site built for these. With integrated features for other fictions sites, easy-to-create contests, monthly site-wide contests … and more!

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Being a Better Writer: So You’ve Discovered Writing is Work, Now What?

Hello readers! Welcome back to another glorious Monday Being a Better Writer post! Yeah, I’m in a good mood this morning. The Halo novel pitch draft is coming along nicely, I’ve got a fairly relaxed topic for the day, and a bunch of new music to listen to while I work!

This work included. Which doesn’t include too much in the way of news before I dive into it. Just one or two things coming up worth discussing.

First, the long-promised wrist post, complete with pictures and a sequence of events, will go up this week. Look for that around Wednesday or Thursday. I have to keep the actual date a little fluid, because tomorrow I find out whether or not I’m going back to work Wednesday, and from what I understand my job has been extremely strapped for workers lately.

It’s amazing. It’s like locking wages for seven years and paying below average market value with really bad hours (9 PM to 4 AM is common, with no compensation like most jobs would have for such a late shift; in fact it’s the lowest-paid job in the place) makes it really hard to keep employees. Especially in a place where the cost of living is currently skyrocketing. It’s like people want money or something in exchange for their labors. Weird, right?

Anyway, long way of saying that they may, if I am cleared for work tomorrow, have me in ASAP because yeah, they don’t have nearly enough employees.

Second bit of news? My books are almost at the halfway point for the end-year goal of 400 reviews and ratings. Seriously, three reviews away. 197 out of 200. So … close!

And that’s it for the news! Like I said, just one or two things. Now, onto today’s post!

So, this post may sound a little familiar to many of you. And that’s because I’ve written a bit on the subject before. Today’s is just from another angle, because surprise surprise, this topic is one I hear requests for constantly.

And in part, it’s because there are a lot of young writers out there who, well, to put it bluntly, with no sugar, think that they are different, that their situation is unique and different from the other new writers when it’s really not. I’m sorry to have to pull the band-aid off, but let me make something clear: It’s not. You may feel that because of the story you’re writing, or your circumstances, or your characters, or your genre, or any number of other reasons, that your story is unique, that if you were working on any other story or if it were some other individual’s writing, the trials you’re facing in these early moments wouldn’t occur.

But you’re wrong. Sure, there might be a small detail here or there that can make your situation a bit different, but at the end of the day?

Writing is work. Even when you love it.

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The Mountains

Writing a book is like climbing a mountain. A long, arduous trek, with ups and downs, flat easy bits, and hard nearly vertical portions that require all of your skills and tools. And there are moments when it feels like you’re never going to reach the top, like the book will never be done and you’re just endlessly ascending a slope for some purpose you’re not even sure of.

Now, once you get to the top? You bask in the view, take it in … and look at the next mountain in your path, because if there’s another book, there’s another mountain. A career in writing? Well, it’s kind of like making a commitment to hike each individual mountain in the Rockies.

And some of them will be great hikes, and some of them … are going to try their best to break you.

One of the hardest bits then, I think I’d add to this, is that these hikes are done, for the most part, completely solo and without much in the way of external input until the very end. Only in that final sprint to the top, when the editors and Alpha Readers begin looking over your work, do you interact with others. And then after the book comes out, when there’s a flurry of recognition that flashes by for a week or two … and then it’s gone. Just like the news stories of the first conquest of a mountain, it’s announced, but very quickly the world moves on, and it’s on to the next mountain for that author.

So, why am I talking about this? Well, a number of reasons. I’m in the last third of another mountain right now, and so far it’s been a far more arduous experience than was planned. Longer, too. I’m working to get it done, but the snow is deep and thick (this is actually a more accurate analogy than you might think) and it’s made things a bit of a slog most days.

I’m not stopping, mind. I’m going to finish this mountain and start the next. That’s how the job goes. But it can be (and right now, is) a slog.

Which makes the number of people who’ve gathered around just to tell me to give up, call it quits, or lambaste me about how it really isn’t all that hard all the more grating.

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Being a Better Writer: Creating a Paragraph

Welcome back readers! And welcome to the year 2019! Which, as we all know, is either infested with replicants or about to become the battleground once again between that blue robot known as Megaman and his nemisis, Dr. Wily.

Huh, now that I think about it, a lot of fictional movies, games, and books with robots took place in the “20XX” date arrangement. Granted, Megaman at least has some leeway with a few of their titles because “20XX” is nebulous enough to be “2047” but Blade Runner on the other hand …

Then again, mad replicants could explain a lot of our politics and news commentators.

But enough about politics, it’s 2019, and my holiday break is over. Which means that it’s time to once again resume posting Being a Better Writer! A day late, but let’s face it, thanks to my constantly chaotic shift schedule, BaBW is practically a Monday-or-occasional-Tuesday feature rather than straight Monday anymore. But that aside, what’s today’s topic?

Paragraphs.

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