Being a Better Writer: Finding a Good Writing Group

Thanks, ocalhoun!Welcome back readers! Ready for more Being a Better Writer? I am! And with one of the more requested topics of the last few months. But first …

That’s right, it’s time for the news. Two things to discuss, snap-quick, and then we’ll be on to the post.

The first is that whoa, did Friday’s Op-Ed on The Indie Hypocrisy blow up. Not with views, though it did do really well there, but with thoughts. I’ve had posts hit 5,000 views that got less commentary than this piece. At the moment, split between here and another discussion forum the piece was linked, I’m clocking twenty-five comments (up to thirty as of the posting of this article, discussing the concept with both other posters, offering their own thoughts on the matter, and just in general making their voices heard on the topic. And as much as I’d like to reply here … this is a Being a Better Writer post. That said, the sheer volume of long, thought-out responses is more than enough to warrant a follow-up post to get everyone’s ideas and suggestions out into the open. So that’s scheduled for later this week.

Second bit of news: Patreon Supporters, expect your December reward this week. Apologies for the delay, but I was really determined to finish that draft of Jungle.

Okay, that’s the updates out of the way, let’s talk about writing groups.

We’re going to start with a giant disclaimer. The kind that comes with a flashing neon sign, and would be said by someone speaking 128 words-per-minute in a radio ad: Only once have I ever been in a writing group. It was for a period of several months, during one of my college creative writing courses. That said, it was still a writing group, and I gave my participation my all. But with only the one writing group under my belt, realize that my perspective on things may be a bit skewed. Most of what else I know about writing groups comes from second-hand advice and stories collected from other authors.

Crud, I’m not even in a writing group now. And honestly, I’m not really interested in joining one. But does that mean you shouldn’t be?

Absolutely not.

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Being a Better Writer: Finding Your Strengths—and Weaknesses

Welcome back readers! It’s a new year! 2018!

Granted, I’m still running a bit behind on 2017. Patreon Supporters, you’ll have your December post as soon as Jungle is done, by the way. I’m just … so close to having Jungle done it’s a miracle I’m even doing this post. No joke. Jungle is sitting at over halfway through the second-to-last chapter, which means I’ll likely finish it today, tomorrow, or Wednesday.

Am I excited? Yes I am. This book has been the labor of a year now, and is sitting at about 450,000 words. For the record, that’s a third again as long as Colony, which was only 345,000 words. There will be much editing to be had here.

But that’s in the future. See, once Jungle‘s first draft is done, I can sit back, relax, and get started on the publication process for Shadow of an Empire. Which means the new year will begin with some buckled-down editing and lots of happy Alpha and Beta readers (which also means Alpha and Beta readers take note; the time is come!), and then after that, work will begin on Hunter/Hunted!

There’s more to come past that, but for now that bit of news will do. After all, it’s a new year, and most you have been starving for a new Being a Better Writer post for some time now. So let’s get going with the first official topic of 2018!

Finding your strengths, and your weaknesses, and using them.

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Being a Better Writer: Forward!

Today’s post is going to be a little different. Aside from being late (I was asleep for a good chunk of the day). It’s also going to be a bit less about the act of writing and the gritty details of writing and character development (we’ve got plenty of posts on those already, and plenty more to come) and more on the mentality of it.

Naturally, of course, it also involves this New Year. 2018 here at last. And I have good hopes for it. As should you.

Which is really what this short post is all about: 2018, high hopes, and looking forward.

You know, it’s funny. As often as we may write characters that “have hope,” or write stories where hope is a foundation of what keeps the main characters going, sometimes it’s truly easy to slip a little away from that hope ourselves. When we’re working on a story with a truly staggering narrative weight, it sometimes feel like every bit of that weight is bearing down around our shoulders.

Which is fair. From one perspective, it really is. The whole story is on us. At least, until the editors get it. And the readers.

Which—and again, this is short and sweet—is something we shouldn’t forget. Yes, that story we’re working on now may seem like it is an all-consuming beast in our lives.

But sometimes, rather than looking at the path under our feet and thinking about the weight on our back bearing us down toward it, we need to turn our eyes to the peak we want to reach and keep our gaze there. Away from each plodding step our feet make. Away from the dust and grime. We need to focus on the destination and the scenery around us … not the steady, relentless tread of our feet on the dusty path.

As metaphors go, I don’t think that was too bad. We need to keep our eyes forward. When a book flounders (in sales or in writing), don’t forget the end-goal. Whatever that goal is. Just keep your eyes on it, work your way forward.

After all, it’s a new year. Whatever goal you had in mind? As long as you keep working towards it, it’ll be that much closer tomorrow. Keep your eyes on the goal. Keep stepping forward.

It’s a new year. Let’s all leave a lot of footprints behind us.

Happy New Year!

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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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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Being a Better Writer: Languages

Welcome back to another edition of Being a Better Writer, readers! I hope those of you who celebrated the US holiday of Thanksgiving had a good one, while those of you who didn’t at least were obliging of our season of gluttony. Yeah, it’s all about giving thanks … but in my practical experience that’s usually thanks for how many different kinds of pie one can stuff into them after devouring several pounds of turkey.

We’re coming up on the Christmas holiday season (during which I’ll be taking a short break to recharge), but in the meantime, I figured I’d continue in the same theme we’ve been following for the last two weeks (during which we’ve talked about accents and then dialects) and talk about Languages.

No, I’m not talking about foul language. Just languages. As in, languages other than the one that you’re writing in that your audience speaks and reads. From something as simple as Spanish or Italian to writing in something a bit more fantastical, like Tolkien’s Elvish or Star Trek‘s Klingon.

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Being a Better Writer: Dialects

When you go to the grocery store, what do you call the wheeled apparatus that you collect your groceries in? Is it a shopping cart? Or is it a carriage? Or a trolley?

I’m willing to bet that a good number, if not most of you said “shopping cart.” But if you were from the American northeast—say, Connecticut or Rhode Island—there’s a high chance that you said “Carriage” instead. Or that you might say “bubbler” instead of “water fountain.” Or “soda pop” instead of “soda.” Or crud, maybe you’re even one of those individuals who calls all sodas “coke.” You know, as in “Get me a coke,” followed by “What do you want?” and “Oh, a Pepsi.”

All of these differences (and many, many more, from snow machine to snowmobile) are examples of what are know as “regional dialects.” Which makes today’s post a bit of a companion piece to last week’s on accents. And, I must admit, this topic wasn’t on the list, but after a comment about the concept by reader ocalhoun (no, I don’t know how you pronounce that either, but I’ve always read it as “o-cull-hoon”) brought up the subject, I realized that it was worth posting about, rather than just giving it an offhand mention as I had previously done.

So, dialects! What are they, how do they come about, and—this part is a bit key—what separates a dialect from an accent? Because yes, they are two different things. You can have two individuals with the same accent but a different dialect.

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