Being a Better Writer: Forward, Pioneers

Today is Pioneer Day in the state I live in, a day when everyone celebrates the forward-looking, pioneer spirit of the old west that sent so many explorers forth. And I thought “You know, I can make a Being a Better Writer post out of that.”

Which brings us to the here and now, where I am. Writing this post. About pioneers. Man, that was a short recap. Like the thirty-second backstory of a cartoon. Anyway …

So, pioneers. Don’t worry, this is still a writing post. This is still about sitting down and putting hands to keyboard, pen, whatever, and creating a world of wonderful characters and adventure, tragedy, comedy, or what have you. But what does it have to do with pioneers?

Well, I’m going to take a step back further in history to look at an earlier explorer. Namely, a man who put his name on history for the ages by insisting that India could be reached not by traveling around Africa or over land, but by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean. Now, we know this man as Christopher Columbus, who stumbled across the entirely unexpected Americas and got a lot of credit for discovering them in the modern eras. And yes, I know the vikings and the people that lived there beat him there, but Columbus was the one that put the Americas on the center stage and kicked off … well, just about everything that lead to the shape of the modern world.

Anyway, why do I bring up this story? For one reason, and one reason only: Most everyone considered Columbus insane. They thought the voyage he was attempting was going to be too treacherous. Pop-culture claimed that his detractors thought he would sale off of the edge of the Earth (despite people knowing back then that the Earth wasn’t flat). A lot of people simply thought he would get caught up in a storm and he and all his men die at sea.

Basically, there were a lot of fearful reasons that no one had ever attempted the journey west before. And if they had, they hadn’t made it back, so there was more to those fears.

Of course, we know the result of this story. Columbus secured his funding at last for his trading expedition. And as it turned out, his calculations were wrong. There wasn’t a direct, westward path to India because someone had put a blasted continent in the way (not that they realized this for a while). But soon they did, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. All it took was someone willing to take a chance on sailing west, against the “common current” that ruled the minds of the current climate.

Why I am I telling you this and what does it have to do with writing? Well, let’s look at one other success story first. Have you seen Stranger Things?

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Classic Being a Better Writer: Getting Started

Welcome back to another Classic Being a Better Writer post! For those of you who are unfamiliar with these posts, they’re essentially recall posts that look back on old BaBW posts and link to them for those newcomers who may have never seen them when they originated. BaBW has a pretty big backlog of articles, and with me having a goal of adding 4000+ words daily to my current book project (Jungle at the moment), Classic throwback posts can be a good way to keep some content going on the site (thus reminding people it exists), while still keeping my daily goals moving.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at today’s Classic! The topic? Tips for the beginnings of books and getting started, from the archive of Unusual Things!

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Being a Better Writer: Fleshing Out Ideas – From Idea to Story

Welcome back, readers, to another Monday post of Being a Better Writer! Sorry for the delay. As many of you likely guessed, I was given a morning shift at work to deal with. Half-shift, but even then there’s the prep time around it, afterwards, travel time, etc … Hence why I’d rather sell more books. But that’s a case for another post. Being late, better I dive right into today’s topic!

Now, I don’t actually remember the circumstances by which this topic came to be on the list (could have been LTUE), but either way, the topic is a good one. Hang out in a writing-centric thread online or attend a writing workshop—sands, even look in the comments of a public page for an author or attend a panel—and eventually, probably fairly quickly, you’ll hear a question or  comment that’s a lot like the following:

I have this great idea/concept/story/character, but the moment I try to sit down and write them, I just run out of steam. I can’t get it/them written. How do I do this?

Now, the exact phrasing may vary, but trust me, you’ll here the sentiment, echoed from a number of beginning writers. And you won’t even have to wait long. It’s a question that comes up all the time.

And you know, to be fair, it’s not exactly a bad question. A poor one, maybe, but not a bad one. And it’s one that’s often reflected by the faces and situations of many more in whatever assorted audience is present than the one who asked. Crud, I’m certain that it’s a question that some of the authors who have been forced to scramble for an answer themselves once voiced, though perhaps internally.

But … it’s still a poor question. I certainly wouldn’t call it a good one. Not poor enough that it isn’t worth tackling in this post, but not the best question either.

Why? Well, let me answer that before I get into the deeper-roots behind the question. The question is a poor one because 90% of the time the individual asking it is asking for a silver bullet. A solution that doesn’t exist. I entirely suspect that if, when asked this question, whoever was asked responded with “Well, are you using X program?” or “Are you sitting in this kind of chair?” there would be a massive sale of said product in the audience that had asked.

Again, I shouldn’t batter these poor souls too badly. After all, they are beginners. But as beginners, when asking this question, the answer they get is hardly the answer they want (and sometimes, they’ll tell you). They’re inexperienced enough to think that all it takes is an idea, a pen or a keyboard, and a little bit of writing, and boom! Story! And the problem with that is that, as all writers know, there is no silver bullet. There’s no magic “thing” or element that anyone can just do to take a story from an idea to a finished product (or at least a halfway competent one). And in that regard, the question is poor.

Now, that said, it wouldn’t take much to “fix” it so that we can give it a real answer. If we rearrange it a little, tweak a few of the words a bit, we get something much more workable. Something like:

I have a good idea/story/concept/character, but the when I sit down to try and write it, I start having trouble. How do I take it from an idea to a finished work? What are the steps there?

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Being a Better Writer: Some Advice for Starting Your First Book

Don’t forget, Unusual Events is now out!

So, this is it. The time has come. You’ve finally decided. You’re going to sit down and start that new book you’ve been waiting to write. You’ve done other projects before, short stories and the like, but this time, you’re going for the novel. Long chapters. A compelling plot. You can see the final scenes in your head. You grin with glee, sit down at your keyboard, and …

Nothing. You wait for the words to spring forth, but they aren’t coming. You’re paralyzed by indecision. Suddenly you’re aware what a huge project this is. You’ve never attempted something of this size before! Your fingers seem frozen.

Relax. It’s understandable. Starting a book is a big project, one that brings a lot of pressures and requests to the table. And it’s differentfrom a short story, fundamentally so. It’s going to take some alternative approaches to how you’ve worked before.

Maybe this is you. Then again, maybe it isn’t. Maybe you’ve sat down without any prior writing experience whatsoever and tried to write out a book only to realize you weren’t quite sure what you were doing. Maybe you’re struggling through it anyway and want some tips. Or maybe you haven’t started one yet, but you’ve been watching this blog like a hawk, thinking “Soon, my time will come.”

Well, today might be that time, because today?

Today we’re talking about what goes into starting a book.

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One Million Strong

Normally I wouldn’t be putting up a Sunday post. But this post is different, different enough that I’m going to make an exception.

Last night, I was lying in bed and thinking about writing things (as usual). The release of Unusual Events, work still to do on Colony, plotting for Shadow of an Empire … even the upcoming LTUE convention near where I live (which I will, sadly, apparently not be paneling at this year, though I will likely still attend).

Anyway, as I was lying in bed trying to sleep (and failing utterly because my mind wouldn’t stop rolling along) I realized something. I’ve hit another milestone. A massive one.

One million published words of fiction.

I had to pause and think about it for a moment. The Dusk Guard: Rise? 275,000 words. The Dusk Guard: Beyond the Borderlands? 300,000. Side stories? 115,000 words. One Drink? 33,000 words. Dead Silver? 139,000. And now Unusual Events: 152,000.

Total? 1,014,000 words. As in one million, fourteen thousand words.

Even better? I’m going to almost double that this year. Colony, slated for a May release at the moment, is 325,000 words. Shadow of an Empire isn’t far enough along to have a dedicated length yet, but given that it’s another Epic and I haven’t written one under 250,000 words yet, it seems a safe bet that it’ll be at least 200,000 words edging on 300,000.

The point to all this, aside from me going “Holy smokes, look at what I wrote?” You can do it if you put your mind to it. A million published words in just a few years is feasible if you’ve got the drive. It’s not about the car you own, it’s not about how many workshops you attend or how much you talk about how hard you’ve been working.

It’s the doing. The sitting down and pushing forward. Not giving up or thinking after an hour “I’ll do that tomorrow.” And eventually, as we push forward, we reach the mountain peak.

And then we find the next one to climb.

Being a Better Writer: Beginning Anew

Hello everyone! Welcome to 2016!

Yes, that’s right, it’s a new year, and now that the festivities and parties are all over, that means it’s time to knuckle down and get back to work! Well, for me, at least. And I’d best do it fast. There’s a whole lot of work staring me in the face right now! I’ve got a book to release by the end of January (more on that tomorrow), a second book to release by May (more on that to come, but most of you regular readers know the title), and another book to start, finish, and publish! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! There’s at least one convention—LTUE—to go to, another book I need to rewrite, the next Dusk Guard entry to consider, and even, of course, the weeklyBeing a Better Writer posts to keep track of (along with everything else web-related).

And you know what I say? Bring it on! I’m refreshed, recharged, and I’ve got two books about to come out. How could I say no to that?

So then, with all that said, lets dive into today’s topic: Beginning Anew. I felt it was appropriate to discuss seeing as we’ve just kicked off the new year. All of you are out there setting goals (hopefully), examining your lives, and, if you’re a writer (or a prospective one) figuring out exactly what you want to accomplish this year with your craft.

That’s good. You totally should be doing that. See any of the number of prior posts I’ve made on goals or motivation for my opinions on that topic. And if you want more, there are plenty of writing blogs out there discussing this very topic as a consequence of the new year.

So I’m going to talk about something a little different when I say “Beginning Anew.” I’m not going to talk about the new goals for the year you’re setting, nor entirely the act of sitting down to start a new book (though I feel that might be a topic for another time). Instead when I say “Beginning Anew,” I’m speaking of another kind of new. The kind where you look at something that you’ve worked on again and again and realize “You know? Maybe it’s time to move on.”

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Being a Better Writer: Some Tips for Writing Mysteries

What a weekend. I don’t know about you guys, but I finally got my hands on a copy of Halo 5: Guardians and played through it. The short? It’s a good thing the multiplayer is so good (and I do mean good) because the campaign and story are flat-out awful. And I do mean awful. The shooting’s fun, and the environments are neat … but the story is a hackneyed, jumbled, poorly thrown-together mess, and the dialogue … oh the dialogue …

Look, Halo has never been pushing for awards for great writing, I get that. But the first three games at least put together a fun, grand story that had some great moments. Guardians, on the other hand … Well, lets just say that there are a few scenes that couldn’t bemore poorly written. No joke: if I ever teach a class on creative writing or fiction writing, I’m using one of the cutscenes from Halo 5 as an example of what not to do, because it’s just that bad.

So yes, great gunplay, dialogue and writing so bad it made me cringe. Everything you heard about Guardian‘s poor story is absolutely true. In fact, it might be truer than you expected. If they handed out razzies for poor writing in games (and maybe they do, I don’t know), I’d be nominating Halo 5 this year.

Right. To business. Mysterious tips!

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