Delayed! Or Flying Standby Has Its Drawbacks

You may have noticed there’s no Being a Better Writer post this morning.  And that there was nothing said about Thanksgiving on here.

Neither of these things was planned. It’s just a cautionary tale about the dangers of traveling for Thanksgiving.

Now before you get the wrong idea, my Thanksgiving was wonderful. I managed to make it to a family reunion (for my grandparent’s 60th anniversary) and had an absolutely wonderful time catching up with cousins and aunts and uncles I hadn’t seen in decades. It was a great time, and truly something to be thankful for.

But not owning a laptop and staying in a beach house with internet of questionable access (I got it working after a few days, but not well), I wasn’t able to get much done or even log onto my site. Which initially wasn’t a problem, as the plan was to be home this morning.

That didn’t work out, though. Flying standby has its drawbacks, and while I’d hoped to be back and writing today, it looks like Wednesday will mark my return.

So this week’s post is delayed but not skipped. And coming with it some post-Thanksgiving thoughts, the lead-in to Christmas (hooray!) and more book news. Unusual Events is going into Beta! Cover coming soon!

Best wishes to all my readers, and I hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine.

Being a Better Writer: Names

Bit of a shorter post today, as it’s Thanksgiving week here in the US and I’m trying to set myself up for a trip to visit the relatives. With that in mind, no time to socialize: let’s dive right into it!

So, naming things. This is, as you might guess, a requested topic. And to be honest, I think it’s one worth talking about.

See, naming things can actually be pretty tricky. When creating a world from scratch, or even just a redesigned/repurposed version of our own world, often one of the first things a lot of young writers do is assign their characters, places, and things very interesting names. It’s kind of a trope by this point, but if I had to guess my prediction would be that to the new writer, the goal is to excitedlyshow you how fantastical their world is. So they don’t have people with names like Joe or Samantha. They have people with names like Krul’Qa’pin or something like that.  And they live in the city of Byulnqualalaltipo! Aren’t those fantastic?

Well, in sense, sure. They’re also completely unpronounceable, for a start. And that is just the start.

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Random Thoughts: Think You Know English?

Don’t worry, neither do I. At least, not in the way I thought I did.

That’s my initial reaction after having just made it through the first hundred and fifty pages of Bill Bryson’s Made in America, a fascinating look at the history, growth, and development of the American English language. I’m not nearly as familiar with the roots and etymologies of certain words as I thought. For instance, I wasn’t aware at all at how modern the term “Hobo” was (1891). Nor was I familiar with the origins of the word “Yankee” (the jury is out on whether it was an accented, slang form of the name “Johnny” or an insult-name that began with calling someone a “John Cheese). Crud, I wasn’t even aware that the oft-contested word “ain’t” has been in the English lexicon for almost three hundred years, having been steadily rejected from American dictionaries for centuries.

Actually, it can go one step further. Did you know that dictionaries disagree on the spellings of over 1200 (and in some volumes as high as 1700) different words? Kind of puts an old sting on all those days when your teacher would tell you to go look up a word in the dictionary, doesn’t it?

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Almost Into Beta!

Phew! After moving, fishing, being in Alaska, and dealing with a whole host of other events that kept pushing themselves into the way, life is finally back at its almost (for me) semi-normal pace of work. Which means getting up, getting ready for my day, and walking ten feet to my computer, where I attack my keyboard with fierce determination.

So, updates. First of all, for you Patreon people. I apologize for not getting a reward out last month (October), but the whole “Being in Alaska with no solid internet connection and no access to most of my work” thing really drug that down. So this month, probably today or tomorrow, the reward is going to be a little something extra. No excerpts this time. Instead, I’ll be letting you guys get an early look at an entire chapter from Colony (which, just so you know, is just over a third of the way into its second Alpha edit). I still haven’t quite picked what chapter—after all, it’s a 1300 or so page book (about 326,000 words worth of manuscript at the moment), so I’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Plus, I don’t want to drop spoilers into the mix, so it has to be a chapter early enough that I don’t give away some of the starting mysteries. Also, not something I’d teased before (I’ve already made a public teaser of one of the early firefights).

Anyway, and again, thank you to those of you who have been supporting me on Patreon.

Now, onto the primary topic of this post. A lot of you have been wondering when my next book would be out. And unfortunately, I don’t have a release date on that yet (I’m waiting until I’m both in beta and have a cover). However, this doesn’t mean it’s a long ways away, because right now Unusual Events is partway through its second Alpha Reading … almost ready for Beta! After the Beta comes the copy-edit, and after that … publication!

So yeah, it’s close. Look forward to a cover reveal and a release date in the coming weeks, And then mark your calendars—if the Alpha feedback is anything to go off of, Unusual Events is going to be quite a blast for many of you.

Normalcy is slowly asserting itself, people! Good things are coming!

Being a Better Writer: Should I Build a Plot Structure?

Today I’m going to be tackling a topic by request. Now, it’s not a topic I’ve not heard discussed before. Or, to put that in a clearer context, this is a question that crops up with fair regularity in writing groups, classes, and cons … But it’s also not one of the more common questions because it implies a bit more forethought. Not that those who aren’t asking it aren’t thinking, but rather that those who tend to ask this question, at least as I see it, are probing for a bit more detail, making a bit of a “I should look before I leap” observation.

The question is: Should I build a plot structure?

Okay, there’s a bit more to it than that. Most of the time the writer asking this question isn’t really asking whether or not they should. What they’re asking is why they should or shouldn’t.

Shouldn’t? Oh yes. There are definitely cases where a plot structure might not be in your best interest, or even harmful to the overall story. Perhaps a better way to interpret this question then, is when should I build a plot structure?

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Op-Ed: Dealing with Detractors

I’m not filing this one under Being a Better Writer for the simple reason that it isn’t as much about improving your own writing as it is a tip for dealing with what may come when you do write. It’s definitely a writing tip, but a guide to make you a better writer? Well, it’ll touch on that, but this article isn’t entirely concerned with it.

So, detractors. For those of you scratching your heads right about now, what am I talking about.

Well, let’s make one thing clear. I’m not talking about critics. At least, not genuine, honest ones. Critics—good ones—are not detractors. Critics are critical, yes, but a good critic is also an individual who balances the good with the bad. They draw the creator’s attention to both the strong and the weak, giving those who view their criticism a balanced, aware presentation of the good and the bad.

A detractor, thusly, is not a real critic. A detractor is an individual who, for whatever reason, will never be satisfied nor happy with anything you create.

And once you put your writing out there, you can rest assured that the detractors will come. You will find them in writing groups. You will find them in comment threads. You’ll find them leaving “reviews” that serve only to savage. You can even find them in conversation about whatever medium their chosen target happens to fall in, bringing it up only to spread venom about it. No matter what your creation is, the detractors will come, and they will despise whatever you work, no matter the cause.

Why? Well, who can say? Some are simply trolls, the kind of individual who enjoys tearing others down for their own enjoyment. It doesn’t matter who, or what, if they sense a target, they’ll be there to tear into something or someone smug in the knowledge that even if the person on the other end of their words is going to have a day less sunny than it was before they spoke. They just enjoy making someone feel lousy.

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Being a Better Writer: Is It Original or Copying?

So, you’ve just finished your first manuscript. You’re excited, maybe even a little ecstatic, because at long last, you’ve finished the darn thing! You pass it off to someone to read, probably a friend or family member, and then they say a phrase that strikes terror down on your heart.

“Oh,” they say, staring at your work. “I get it. This is like The Lord of the Rings, isn’t it?”

It doesn’t have to be The Lord of the Rings. Nor do the words they speak need to be “Oh, it’s like this.” They might say “This reminds me of the stuff from Star Wars.” Or start talking about the similarities between your work and another author they read recently.

Regardless, you’re probably hearing and thinking only one thing: That this person is saying your work isn’t your own at all, but someone else’s. And now the panic is starting to set in. Maybe they’re right. Maybe your work is nothing more than a cheap rewrite of someone else’s. How could you not see it before? After all, your main character is an orphan boy who is taken to a strange place to learn magic, and that’s totally the plot of Harry Potter! You’re a fraud! All your work has been for nothing!

Or has it? Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath, let it out, and cool those racing thoughts. After all, your story does star a young orphan who lives with his aunt and uncle who’s about to be taken away to a strange place to learn magic. That was Harry Potter, right? Wait, no … That was Star Wars … Hang on a moment; who are you copying again?

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