Being a Better Writer: When Readers like It … but It’s Bad

This is an interesting one, and one that I’ll freely admit I never would have thought of on my own—at least not in such context. Which means that, yes, today’s post is another reader-requested topic (which reminds me, we’re getting closer to needing more of these, so start thinking of questions you’d like me to address).

But first, some quick news. Those of you who read my LTUE recap might remember the uncertainty around the Barnes & Noble upset? Well, it’s still going. Though it didn’t seem to make the news most places, hundreds of former B&N employees have now spoken up an confirm that yes, almost most if-not-all full-time employees of the last remaining physical book retailer have been let go. At least a thousand people from one department alone confirmed as gone. B&N has since seen that yes, it has “saved” the 40 million it won’t be paying those employees … but it’s stock has also tanked (dropping by around 60% in a single day last I heard) and seen a massive bailing of investors and stock offloads.

So head to your nearest B&N store and pick out the furniture you’d like to take home, because they’ll be selling it soon!

Second, Alpha Editing on Shadow of an Empire continues to progress. The good news is that we’re not seeing any major changes, just tiny alpha tweaks. The bad news? Well, you can’t read it yet, I suppose. But soon! Still looking at a spring release!

Right, that’s the news! Onward to bad writing!

So, you’ve just put the finishing touches on your latest story. Maybe it’s a fanfic, maybe it’s something original you put together after a workshop or on the train ride to work. What matters is that it’s yours. You wrote it, and you’re proud of it.

Well … almost. Or crud, maybe you are in the moment. Point is, you’re excited and enthused, and with a few clicks you throw your story out there into the wild. It hits the net … and your readers love it. You go about your day, and come home to a barrage of comments, attention, and fanfare. Great!

Except there’s just one problem. The comments aren’t what you expected, and as you look over your own story you realize that in the excitement of getting this idea down on paper it kind of slid past you how bland the rest of the story really is outside of that concept. You start noticing all the errors that you should have fixed before posting, all the flaws, but at the same time …

All these readers love it. Is it really so bad?

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The LTUE 2018 Report

It’s time for another LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything) report! And this time, not in place of Monday’s Being a Better Writer post!

Why, you may ask? Okay, and you may be asking “What’s LTUE?” as well. So, in reverse order then.

LTUE is one of the best “secret” cons for writers out there, if not the best. It always has a massive, smashing guest list full of friendly authors, editors, and publishers, hundreds of awesome panels those same people participate in … and then just plenty of fun stuff too. Want to learn how to write romance, or common submission pitfalls? Want to catch the latest scuttlebutt and undercurrents from the industry, or hear embarrassing mistakes from now-famous authors?

Okay, you might not get all of that in one year, simply because you’d probably have to hit multiple panels at the same time, but all of that can be found at LTUE. It’s a convention for writers, about writers, by authors passing on their knowledge. If you like BaBW, LTUE is a con you should go to. February of every year in Provo Utah.

Now, the second question: Why is this report going up early? Oh, and shorter? Well, quite simply because I wasn’t paneling this year and was too broke to go to all three days (much sadness on that point). LTUE is a con, after all. Expect to pay (though students get in for $5 a day).

Anyway, with my knee dragging my finances down, I only was able to afford going to a single day. Naturally, I picked the day I most wanted to go to, which included a relaxed sit-down with Larry Correia (because the guy is fun to talk with), and went then.

So, what’d I pick up from this year’s LTUE? It was a mixed bag. Not at all because the con wasn’t as good this year or something, but because, personally, where I’m at.

Look, I’ll get two things out of the way right away. The first is that LTUE is fun. Like, ridiculously fun. Even if you’re there flying solo, it’s a good time. Everyone is there to talk about writing in some facet or another, from just starting out, to being stuck in a death spiral, to trying to submit their first manuscript. That’s awesome.

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Tabletop Report – Session 3

It’s time for Tabletop Report! For the uninitiated, Tabletop Report is a new series chronicling the adventures of my DnD group as I run them through a custom campaign and ruleset based off of Microsoft’s Gears of War universe.

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gears of War, and I’m totally not claiming otherwise. I just really love the universe, and have wanted to run a campaign set in it for the longest time. The system I built is entirely my own, and this game is a test-run of its viability as a full tabletop system.

This is the report summary for session 3. Prior sessions will be listed before the break if you need to catch up. Some knowledge of Gears of War‘s greater universe may be required. Now, let’s see what happened to our players after last week!


Session Three – Act 1, Chapter 2

So, when we last left the party, they’d arrived at Bedel, and reached the surviving stranded left behind during the evacuation of Tyare and Bedel holed up in the evacuation hub (which was the local school). They’d been welcomed inside and sent to meet with Keela, the one-time school principal, and now de-facto head of the stranded camp. Not by force, but more by inertia and the fact that she’s pretty darn capable at it. They found the members of the camp smelly and dirty, but friendly. Oh, and walking on lots of carpet. Getting the idea that maybe things that lived under the ground could track where you were by vibrations, they’d covered all the ground in the building with multiple layers of carpet. Whether or not it was working, well … they didn’t know, but better safe than sorry, right?

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Being a Better Writer: Overpowered and Beyond Characters

So, this topic is an interesting one. In a way, it’s sort of the inverse of a prior Being a Better Writer post on Overpowered and Underpowered characters. Or perhaps an extension of that same post. I’ll let you be the judge, though both probably work depending on what part of that post stood out to you.

In any case, today’s topic comes via a request from a reader, who was wondering how one could write characters that were bonafide reality warpers, like the imfamous Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation, without breaking their story. A valid question, considering that such characters are typically powerful enough to solve a story’s problems with a snap of their fingers … or at the very least usually a similarly light level of exertion. How can one have a story while still playing around with a character that’s capable of solving everything with a flick of their near-omnipotent wrist? How do you have any sort of tension with a character like that around?

Well, the answer is at once both simpler and more complex than you might expect. The first, because there are some pretty common workarounds to the “problem” a reality-warper character presents for your narrative. And complicated because, well, while the solution sounds simple, pulling it off poorly leaves the reader with a bad taste in their mouth. A case of “simple solution, tough execution” if you will.

We’ll start with the simple bit: Give them limits. Yes, reality-warpers and nigh-omnipotent beings. Limits. It may seem like a contradiction, but if you recall the post on overpowered and underpowered characters linked at the beginning of this blog, having characters with limits, and then exploring how that character overcomes them, create some of the best narrative experiences.

Now, I can already see some of you younger readers shaking your head and saying “Limits? But an all-powerful character can’t have limits. That’s the point!”

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More Alpha Readers Needed!

Hey readers! Just a quick post here but …

I need more Alpha Readers. A few of my old standbys are busy with life/college/etc and are unable to contribute at this time, and I’d really like to get a few more eyes on Shadow of an Empire before bumping it to Beta status. Right now, we’re sitting at one Alpha having already read through completely, and a few more working on it, but I’d like to get a wider net if possible.

If you’re interested, have the time, and up for an early look at an awesome Fantasy-Western, drop me a line. The sooner I get Shadow out, the quicker I’ll be able to start work on the next Dusk Guard book, since Hunter/Hunted is my next project …

Tabletop Report – Session 2

It’s time for Tabletop Report! For the uninitiated, Tabletop Report is a new series chronicling the adventures of my DnD group as I run them through a custom campaign and ruleset based off of Microsoft’s Gears of War universe.

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gears of War, and I’m totally not claiming otherwise. I just really love the universe, and have wanted to run a campaign set in it for the longest time. The system I built is entirely my own, and this game is a test-run of its viability as a full tabletop system.

This is the report summary for session 2. Prior sessions will be listed before the break if you need to catch up. Some knowledge of Gears of War‘s greater universe may be required. Now, let’s see what happened to our players after last week!


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Being a Better Writer: Westerns

Just in case you missed it, there was a quick news post that went up just before this post. Be sure to check it out! It’s got all the news you need to know!

Welcome back readers! Again, apologies for the lateness of this post. I had an all-day shift yesterday (my job is back in the trend of loving all-day Monday shifts) and have been struggling to fight off a throat and chest cold that’s been disrupting my sleep schedule something awful. Anyway, that’s why this post is a little late.

Moving past that however, let’s talk about Westerns. This is almost a bit of a topic shift, if I’m honest, as BaBW hasn’t usually talked about specific genres before. I’ve talked about bits and pieces of genres, sure, but a full genre itself? The only time I’ve actually sat down and talked about a genre, it was mystery. Not a mystery, but the genre of mysteries.

Granted, I didn’t talk about everything to do with a mystery. Nor, likewise, will I talk about everything to do with Westerns. For a start, that would fill books. Also, you could just as easily type “Westerns” into wikipedia and skim over a good summary of just about everything the genre has … which, since I’ve looked at the page myself, is a pretty long list.

So I’m not going to talk about everything. For example, you won’t see me discussing staple tropes like lariats and cowboy boots. And in fact, I’m going to expand on things a little. See, the wikipedia page for “Western” defines a Western as films (or in this case, stories) that are “set in the American West that [embody] the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier.”

Right away, there’s one bit of that I don’t see quite perfectly eye-to-eye with. In fact, I’ll state outright that I don’t agree with it. That bit is the “set in the American West” bit.

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