Happy Halloween!

THE DAY OF TERROR HAS ARRIVED!  IN JUST A FEW SCANT HOURS, HORRORS UNKNOWN SHALL DESCEND UPON US ALL!

CHILDREN ARE COMING!

But they’re really only the prelude. To be honest, the true horror doesn’t arrive for another week (this joke works on multiple levels, actually).

Anyway, today is Halloween, annual day of free candy and terror, and … I’m taking the day as a holiday break. So no Being a Better Writer post today. Why? Well, I’m tired. Colony is done and available for pre-order … and I just want to bask in that for a day or two before I dive back into work again. So I had Sunday, and I’ll have today. Then I’ll get back to work, and we’ll have another Being a Better Writer post Monday—okay, wait, I have a several-hour dental appointment to get a crown fixed next Monday. Maybe Tuesday. I’ll try and get one up Monday, but it’s going to be a long one. Plus, I hate going to the dentist.

That’s the “this joke works on multiple levels” bit.

Anyway, there’s not going to be a BaBW post today. It’s Halloween, I’ve got trick or treaters to prepare for … and like I said, I’m pretty tired in the wake of Colony‘s launch. I’m proud of what I accomplished … but also tired, lol. So today I’m kicking back and relaxing.

In the mean time, however, Colony is still available for Pre-Order! And if you’re a Patreon Supporter, there’s a special surprise waiting for you in this month’s supporter post: A full seven chapters from Colony in ebook format! So if you’re a supporter, you can get a headstart on Colony before it hits!

Anyway, I’m off to relax! Look for a news update Wednesday detailing what’s coming next now that Colony is done!

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It’s Here! Colony Now Available for Pre-Order!

AT LONG LAST, IT’S HERE!

colony-final

A corporate investigator who doesn’t trust his employer.
A mercenary gun-for-hire with a talent for violence and a willingness to shoot first.
And a white-hat hacker who doesn’t know when to quit.

Three independent contractors brought together for one unusual job. Five years ago, master programmer Carlos Rodriguez retired. Now his old employer wants him back.

Quietly.

It’d be a lot easier if he hadn’t left Earth.

A Sci-Fi Epic Adventure of 333,000 words, or roughly 1100 pages.

You can order Colony today by clicking the cover, or just hit this link to get your copy the day it comes out! Which, in case you were wondering, is November 11th, 2016!

Colony’s Copy-Edit is DONE!

Yes, you read that right. Not an hour ago, I turned the last page of Colony‘s Copy-Edit.

It’s done. Finished. Right now I’m putting the final file together for upload. Tomorrow I get the cover and the description finished. And then … ?

Colony goes live for pre-order.

At long last, it’s almost here. Over one thousand pages of Epic Sci-Fi Adventure. Submarines, action, explosions, mystery … After so much time spent working on it and staying quiet … it’s finally going to be out!

Here’s a quick teaser for you all:

Five years ago, Carlos Rodriguez, one of the greatest computer programmers of the modern age, retired.

Now his old employer wants him back. Quietly. Which means enlisting the services of three unconnected individuals: A paranoid corporate investigator, a white-hat hacker, and a gun-for-hire with a penchant for violence.

There’s just one catch. Carlos didn’t just retire from work, he retired from Earth, vanishing out across the stars to one of mankind’s distant colony worlds.

It’s going to be a long trip.

Ehh, I’m working on it. Speaking of which … I’d best get back to it!

Being a Better Writer: Story Bibles and Other Forms of Story Organization

Well, after a wild weekend consisting of both roller coasters and more viewers in a day to the site than I normally see in six months, I’m back! To those of you who are regular readers, hello again, and to any of you who are new, I hope you like what you see and stick around!

Right, down to business, or brass tacks, or whatever other work-based colloquialism you might be able to think of. Today I’m tackling another reader request topic, but before I do, I’ve started to notice a trend with these. Lately, a lot of the requested topics have been—How to put this?—mostly on one side of the writing spectrum. Dealing with structural topics, such as organization, motivation, or the like, rather than close-in topics like characters, tropes, or plots.

I’m not complaining. It’s just that I’ve noticed the trend, hence I’m not going to be using requested topics all the time as I’d like to keep BaBW from focusing solely on one aspect of writing like that. As important as things like motivation, goals, and other bits “surrounding” the act of writing can be, I don’t want to write solely about them for a long period of time because there are readers out there who want to hear about characters, pacing, tropes, and other fun topics that you’ll run into in the act of writing. So in the future I’m going to try to make sure to balance that a little better, as I feel that lately a lot of the topics I’ve discussed have been that “infrastructure,” for lack of a better word, surrounding writing that doesn’t as commonly prove to be an issue with writers.

That said, this week’s topic probably rests somewhere in the middle between those two points. Story bibles, along with other forms of story organization, are a particularly common tool in the toolbox of most writers, even among those that are primarily the “write-as-you-go,” pantsing sort. No matter what someone is working on, there’s usually a point where it can’t hurt to have a little bit of a reminder sitting there to help them keep track of what they’re working towards. Or to have something to serve as reference material.

Now, this is actually trickier to write about than most would probably expect (and certainly moreso than I expect the reader who requested this topic guessed), and not because of how tired I am (pretty tired) but more because this is one of those topics where so much of it boils down to both individual preference between authors and the story itself, changing from project to project. For example, while I usually create a story bible for most of my works, there have been times when I have not. The forth-coming Colony, for instance, despite being a juggernaut of a book and universe, never had a story bible. No, the most I ever wrote up for it was a few lines about one of the main characters back when I was starting out, and a simple checklist timeline of “This needs to happen by the end of the book.” And Colony is one of my longer epics to date.

But it didn’t need a story bible. Though to be fair, it was also a book where I wanted to see how I did pantsing a story, so not having one was deliberate (Knowledge gained from this experiment? It took me twice as long to write Colony—six months—as it did the similar-length story Beyond the Borderlands I wrote right after it which had a full story bible).

My point is that there’s no “right” way for me or anyone else to follow here. There’s no set “proper method” for doing a story bible. There’s no right way to do an outline. At the end of the day, whatever assists you in getting your story written is what you want, and that can be anything from a large, complex story bible to a simple checklist of events you want your story to wind its way across.

No, in this case, the only thing that could be said to be “correct” is that the outline, checklist, bible, or whatever else you create does its job in helping you formulate and write your story. As long as it does that, its good. That’s all it needs to do!

Right, now, that all said, there are undoubtedly a few readers out there who are looking for a few pointers on where to start, so let’s go a bit past the name. Let’s look at story bibles, but also a few other other frameworks of organization and planning that various authors make use of.

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You Just Keep Pushing Me Away …

Just a little note today. Not really tied into work—though that keeps progressing as normal—but more just a thought that’s been on my mind over the last few days.

There’s a lot of back-and-forth out there over the debate between “literary” fiction and “genre” fiction. Go find a writing or reading forum online, hang out there long enough, and you’ll see the topic come up. And there will be lots of back and forth on it, with one side usually gaining the upper-hand simply by virtue of the make-up of the board you’re on.

Point is, this is a debate that’s gone on for a long time, and one that is still at the forefront of reading and writing both. Sands, it’s part of the whole debate over the Hugos, since the sides are divided over what makes “good” fiction. One holds that it has to be “literary” and that the “genre fiction” the other suggests can’t possibly be good because it’s “genre” (and that is, for some, the end of the “discussion”).

Now, if you ask people what “literary” or “genre fiction” means, you’re going to get a plethora of responses, again based on what camp you approach, so with that in mind let’s set a little bit of context for my commentary today: I am specifically talking in response to the concept that “literary” fiction is the “intelligent and thought-provoking” fiction. The fiction that asks the tough questions or inspires moral philosophy … and on the other hand, genre fiction is just straight-entertainment fiction with no extra redeemable value, especially compared to literary work.

This might seem harsh, but this is actually pretty much exactly how you’ll see some people explain it. So, where am I taking issue?

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Being a Better Writer: Connecting With Characters

I went out with my buddies to see a movie late last night.

I won’t tell you the title, as it isn’t important for our purposes right now, but I will tell you that it wasn’t that fantastic a film. It was … I suppose “adequate” is the best word I could use to describe it. But nothing more. The film wasn’t exactly grand. It was simply … a film. A sequence of events, with some action, some attempt at drama, etc.

So, of course, me being me, I immediately started asking myself why I felt that way as I watched the movie. And there were a lot of obvious answers. There were clear pacing problems, plot problems, character development issues … I mean, this wasn’t a gold star flick.

But the one issue that stood out to me more than any other was that I simply didn’t connect with any of the characters. None of them appealed to me strongly or even at all (and the one that could have come closest ended up being sidelined incredibly effectively, so that put that character out of the running).

Had there been that connection, I think the movie would have been a lot more tolerable. But without it, the movie was just  … there. I could nod as the special effects danced across the screen, or chuckle at the odd line of dialogue here. But without any connection to the characters, everything else was, by comparison, hollow. Had I been watching the movie on Netflix, I doubt I would have lasted long. At the very least I would have started doing something else at the same time, since the movie wasn’t enough to hold my full interest that often.

Right, so enough about the movie. What I wanted to talk about was that problem that I found with it, where I didn’t connect with the characters. Because this isn’t a possible problem that is limited to movies. Not at all. It’s something that can plague writing as well.

So let’s talk about it.

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