Merry Christmas, Readers

Merry Christmas!

I love this time of year. Even when it’s rough. Even when it’s difficult.

Why? Well, probably because it’s one of the few times each year where people feel a bit more—I don’t know, free?—about being nice to one another.

Reasons for this vary. For me, personally, it’s because it’s the time of year when Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and remember what He brought into the world. Which, personally, encompasses quite a bit, from family to the age old adage “Peace on Earth, good will toward men.” The ultimate gift.

Others have picked out bits and pieces of that feeling, and you know what? That’s fine too. For them, Christmas is hot chocolate and a kind word to a stranger. A smile to those they pass on the street.

I love this time of year. Lights, gifts, good will. Giving thanks.

Sure, I know that last one is usually thought of as a Thanksgiving thing, so how about I call it being grateful instead. Reflecting upon Christmas, the birth of Christ, and everything else that bundles up this season really does end up in my mind making me grateful for a great many things. Despite the trials and difficulties of my year, there are many things that I can still be grateful for. My warm apartment, for instance. Still head and shoulders above my old apartment, and warm during this cold season. The continuing sales of my books (that one’s a double, as I’m grateful they’re selling, and readers are grateful they’re awesome!). I’m grateful that my knee is healing, and that I can walk.

Point is, Christmas is a season where, as a whole, most of us feel encouraged to think about the things we’re grateful for, and then maybe go out of one’s way to perhaps bolster that feeling in others. We look to the ideal of Christmas, this meaning that’s collected from sources such as A Christmas Carol (a timeless classic, that one) and based on the birth of a tiny child roughly two-thousand years ago—a birth that sages and wise men had looked forward to for thousands of years, and that mankind now looks back to so much later—for goodwill, peace, and good feelings. We embrace them, hold them … and then if we’re wise, go out and share them with others.

Which … I guess is what I’m really getting at. I’m grateful for the many blessings that have hit my life this year (yes, even despite all the hardships). And I hope that wherever you are, readers, whatever your situation, your circumstances, or location, you’ve got a bit of good will in your life.

Merry Christmas, readers. Merry Christmas.

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2017 in Review—The State of Unusual Things

Before you start, there’s a Christmas Sale on! Colony and Dead Silver both are reduced prices through Christmas! Perfect for last minute gifts!

This year … was rough. I’m not going to lie.

To be fair, that wasn’t the writing’s fault. More it was other circumstances. Like the knee injury I acquired in June (which is still healing) and every thing that it brought with it. Okay, mostly it was the knee injury. Pretty much just that. With the knee injury came medical debts, which brought extra work shifts, and that then led to less writing time, and …

Well, let’s just say it’s not been the best year. Which is kind of a lousy lead-in to a year in review article, but it was bound to happen sometime, right? I mean, no matter what, one of the years writing had to be a rough one.

Anyway, 2017 marks the third year of Unusual Things being up and open. Which means that despite how rough this year was, it’s time for another look back at the year in review to see how I did compared to years prior, and make plans for what’s coming.

You ready? Let’s take a look.

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Being a Better Writer: Acknowledging Our Accomplishments

Welcome and Merry Christmas, readers, to this quite delayed Being a Better Writer post! First of all, it must be said, I’m sorry for the delays. I try to avoid letting these happen, but with the Christmas rush being what it has been … I’m fighting to get a lot of things done.

That said, this will also be the last BaBW piece until the new year. That’s right, I’ll be taking the next two weeks off for Christmas. A small Christmas vacation for myself (and a chance to finalize those last few chapters of Jungle when I’m not at my part-time).

Apology accepted? Good! Now, let’s talk about today’s topic. I’ll be up front with this one: It’s not from the Topic List. Nor was it something I’d thought of until I realized it was likely going to be the last post of the year, and maybe giving things a bit of a theme wouldn’t be a bad idea.

So rather than talking about how to invoke emotion with your characters, or how to pace a fight scene, or set up a armory of Chekov’s Guns, I want to talk about something else. I want to talk about acknowledging your own accomplishments.

Good time of the year for it, no? Like I said, year’s end …

There was a webcomic special I read once (I actually tried to find it for this post, but didn’t have much luck A reader found it for us!), about accomplishment. It showed the author climbing a mountain, fully laden in cartoonish hiking gear and working their way further and further up to the peak. Eventually, after much struggle, they reached the peak, planted their flag, and cheered.

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Slight Delay!

Okay, not so slight. I’ve got work shifts today and tomorrow, so this week’s Being a Better Writer post will be delivered Wednesday. Sorry about this.

Also, it’ll be the last BaBW post through the new year. Cause, you know, Christmas and all.

See you Wednesday!

Classic Being a Better Writer: Beginner’s Worldbuilding

Hello readers! Welcome back to another Classic Being a Better Writer Post!

For those of you unfamiliar with what these posts are, I’ll explain thusly: With over four years worth of Being a Better Writer posts going up nearly every week, there’s a lot of backlog to sort through for a new arrival. Hence, Classic posts! Once the vehicle from moving over and cleaning up posts from where I originally wrote them, now a method of collecting a nice trio of old posts on a topic you might be interested in!

This week? Worldbuilding for Beginners! Advice and ideas to help jump start your creative mind!

But first … It’s Christmas, guys! And that means it’s gift-giving season. And what’s a better gift for a reader in your life than a book?

Just as luck would have it, I have a whole selection of books that you can gift to that special reader in your life! You can check them out here, pick up a few, and have them delivered right to your recipients e-mail inbox! And it helps me out as well!

Right, plug over. On to the classics!


Worldbuilding Part 1—
Alright, so how can you play the same sort of cards in your work? How can you go from the generic #48,923 fantasy world of dwarves and elves you have now  to a world that stands out?

Well, first, you’re going to need to make a decision. Are you going to be a writer of complex worlds or minimalism worlds?

Now, most of you are probably thinking “Hey sweet, I have options,” at this point, but I’m afraid it’s not what you think. Now, in part 2 of this feature we’re going to go more in depth on the difference here as well as how to write them, but for now we’re just going to make do with the condensed summary: These are how you present the world you’ve built, not how detailed your own work actually is. Complex worldbuilding is works such as The Wheel of Time, in which you’re going to not only know that there is a city there, but you’re going to find out what the main trade is, why the city was built there, and who is in charge. And all of this will probably be relevant in some way later (even if it’s in a small way).


Worldbuilding Part 2—
By this point you’ve sat down and brainstormed up most of the details for your world. You know how the magic/science works. You know who the characters are. You know what the plot is and possibly have a decent idea of how to get from point A to point B. But now comes the real question: how much of this world that you’ve created do you want to share with your reader?

Now, your immediate reaction might be “all of it.” Which, if it is, means you’re definitely going to fall on the detailed end of things. I mentioned last week that when you sit down to write your story, all of your worldbuilding presentation is going to fall on a sliding scale that bounces between two points: minimalism and complex, You can probably infer what each of those entails, but let’s have a quick recap, just in case.


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?


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Being a Better Writer: Adding Meaning

Hey there readers!

Yes, once again this post is falling on a Tuesday. I’ve taken a larger than normal load of shifts during the Christmas rush to help keep myself afloat (and maybe afford a little advertising on the side), so my schedule has been in a bit more of a time crunch than usual.

Alctually, make that a lot more of a time crunch, since I’m still working on finishing Jungle. The bad news is that I’m still working on it despite all of last month. The good news, however, is that I’m on the last five chapters. No joke. The end is all plotted out, everything is wrapping itself up, characters are dying …

I mean … no one is dying. It’s all sunshine and happiness with micro-missile launching rifles! Oh, and yes, those are a thing. For when you absolutely know you’re going to be facing exosuits.

Right, enough beating around the bush, though. I’ve got a Being a Better Writer post to write! And you to read!

So, today’s topic is another request from Topic List X. It’s also a pretty good one. The question given was roughly ‘How does one go about adding meaning, such as theme or symbology, to their story?’

Like I said, that’s a good question. The thing is, I’ll bet my answer is going to shock them.

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The November Patreon Supporter Reward is Here …

… and it is a big one!

How big? Well, let’s just say that as thanks for their support this month, Patreon-goers are getting an early look at … drumroll please … The first chapter of Jungle.

Yup. Which, by the way, I’m in the last few chapters of. At last. This book has swollen far past what I expected. Editing it will be a nightmare. But at the same time … Well, I’m not going to say anymore.

Anyway, if you’re a Patreon supporter and read Colony, what are you hanging around here for? Don’t you want to know what happens next to Jake, Anna, and Sweets? Sure you do. And given what happens in this opening chapter, I— Well, I’m not going to get ahead of myself. But I expect you’ll have questions for me.

So quit hanging around here and hop on over to November’s Patreon Reward on Patreon! And if you’re not a Patreon Supporter yet, it’s pretty easy to do. In return for helping support Being a Better Writer, you’ll get access to monthly supporter rewards, which range from early looks at chapters and stories, to behind the scenes stuff … to even some exclusive stuff long before anyone else, such as a look at a short story for More Unusual Events!

Cool, right? All that’s yours to look at for supporting! So get on over there!