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Category Archives: paragraph

Pieces to the puzzle


I have had in mind a slightly different time keeping system based off the sun for my largest project. For some reason I couldn’t see the solution, so I reached out for help from a facebook group I’m in, and the help I got was exactly the piece of the puzzle I had been looking for. Although after I began to play around with using it, something seemed off to me, though I couldn’t place it. My brother in law came over one day to pick up my nieces which were visiting, and I talked to him about it, as I do due to him being interested in this type of stuff and the genre as a whole. He came up with an idea for writing the system I already had, and that’s when the last piece I needed clicked for me.

What that last piece did, was amazing to me. Suddenly things I had been struggling over for months clicked into place, old and new ideas began flowing like crazy, my drive was instantly back. All because of one little idea about a time keeping system. What i realized then, was as my story grew, I had built ideas onto ideas. The time keeping system was one of the first, and my own mental organization set priorities for things to figure out based off chronological fabrication.

I haven’t known this long enough to figure out if I can bypass this priority system that’s been automatically established, but if I figure something out, I’ll make another post about it. Although, it may just possibly be my way of working through such things and I have to adapt my system to it. Time will tell.

 

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Pricing your work


I have been listening to a lot of podcasts about the detriment of pricing your books too low. While that makes a huge amount of sense, and I can’t argue with any of it, in fact I agree with all the reasons they give, I have one that trumps it. At least it does for me. The reason is, I grew up poor, with a ravenous appetite for books. So basically I starved my mind. In fact, I got so used to starving it, when I grew up and made plenty of money, I still didn’t buy books because I had already trained myself to not want them. When you want to read as badly as I did, yet can’t, it creates a “keep away from me” attitude. Much like I have now for cigarettes. That’s right, I felt the same way for books as a child as I do for cigarettes now. Doesn’t that sound right to anyone? If it does…you have issues.

Now, the way I feel about books is a mixture of joy and resentment. I will find a great book, and realize the rest of the series is $9.99 per book. Or I will read a great story and realize the rest of the series is $5.99 for the entire series. Writers can now make a good living off of cheaper priced books. I for one will never price my books $9.99 for an e-book. I want the cash strapped people to be able to enjoy my work too. But most importantly, I want young readers to be able to read as much as they want, to not be limited to a book every birthday or christmas.

The E-book market is a change, something that will uproot the known practices and alter the thought processes of consumers. But that will never happen if prices stay the same. E-books are a wonderful new tool, why not use it? Instead what I’m seeing quite often is the publishers from before e-books are trying to maintain the status quo. They are trying to price the e-books the same as the print books even though an e-book is much much cheaper.

I have seen Baen books putting up free e-books from some of their high selling authors, so they are learning and good for them. But the subsequent books are still the same as the print books. Many self publishers have free sales, or even perma-free books to get people reading their stuff. It’s called a funnel.

So for all you new authors out there, let’s change something for the better. Take a lesson from those high selling self publishers and price your books between the status quo and cheap. Remember those what-if kids out there who want nothing more than to get lost in your stories.

 

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The sequel shout-out


Over the years I’ve read quite a few sequels. Mostly in series but sometimes just in the same “universe”. One thing that bugs be and has gotten bad enough that I had to put the book aside and take a break so I wouldn’t tear it in half, is the “shout-out” to events that happened in a previous book. 99% of the time I have seen this done, is the “explaining to a third-party” type. Everyone has done this, you will be telling someone a story and realize that they weren’t privy to certain information that may make what you are saying cogent. So you stop your description or story, and back fill. When should this be done and when shouldn’t it?

I’ve talked with many people about this and most don’t have the problem I have, but then they weren’t closet writers either ūüėČ The ones it did bother, basically considered it “the way it is” like the sun being the center of the system, and let it go. I can’t do that. Something being “the way it is, and wrong, I try to find a way to change it. Now my major issue in advocating change in this case, is many people don’t have a problem with it, they never noticed it until I said something. Some people will later call me everything but human for pointing it out cause now it annoys them too. Another convert MWAhahahaha!

Anyhoo. My idea, and feel free to use this, is to use prologues and epilogues as a catch-up and sneak peek. Basically, I want the books I will be writing in my “Mongers Universe” to be semi stand-alones. There will be character arcs over multiple books, main character back stories, side stories that eventually tie into the main thread. Secondary characters that will have spinoffs, and that’s just the ideas I have now. No telling what else I’ll get when I write all those stories, or what stories others will want to write in the universe.

I’ll let your brain stew on that for a bit. Look for the sequel to this post titled, “Prologues & Epilogues”, see what I did there?

 

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Separating dialog with narration


I understand the need to set a scene and describe actions well enough for the dialog written to have the proper context. What I do not understand, or agree with, is separating a sentence with narration. Let me give you an example. “I do not think,” He began considering the proper weight he wanted his words to have. “that would be a good idea.”

These separations throw speed bumps into the flow of the words. Not only that, if you throw a long narration in between a sentence, then the end of the sentence can not make sense at all, resulting in the reader going back to the beginning of the paragraph in order to get caught up, then needing to find their place again in order to continue reading.

This narration can be added before or after the dialog, or in between topics in a larger conversation. If a writer is trying to “catch up” their reader, then they have made a mistake previously in their story. If you are writing and suddenly your story goes in a place you hadn’t intended, but is perfect for the story itself, and that creates a vacuum where you need to catch your readers up, go back and add something into what you have already written that will keep the flow of your story steady and well paced. If you can’t add this new bit in, or it’s too long, write a short story and send it out to your mailing list as free bonus content, or publish it on its own.

A writer often times wants to draw their reader into the head space of a character, for good or ill. They want to make sure the reader knows what’s going on in the characters mind as the dialog unfolds. This can be superfluous or essential to a story. A writer might not know which until the editing happens as they’d re in their “creative mind” while writing and will just throw words on the page to get them out of their heads.

This is also why I “let it age”, in regards to my story, before I edit it. This allows my mind to forget about that story and get distracted by another. I’ll blog about that later.

In closing, always think about flow when you are editing. If needs be, read aloud to the extent that you are attempting an audiobook. Does your speech catch? Then so does the readers mind. The smoother flowing a story is the easier a reader slips into the world and the stronger it grips it’s readers. It can be the difference between a “That was a good book” and “Where’s the next book?!”.

 

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Creating tension, not just drama, or action


Tension exists in everyday things, it varies in degrees from tiny brushes we barely notice, or not at all, to life altering almost soul crushing tension that tests the health of our hearts and bowels.

Since beginning to write, my critics eye pops out far more often, though it did a lot before. But what my critics eye notices now are good and bad aspects to how the story is put together. When before it just judged the story based on my likes or dislikes.

What I have noticed is the trend to add ridiculous drama elements into a story in an attempt to ratchet the tension. The result is drawing in drama audiences that could care less about the characters and only want to see the suffering or explosions. We have action and drama genres, and subcategories for genres for this very reason. When I read a story I tend to stay away from the drama tags, but I might read a story with an action tag. But that story cannot be senseless action, I need gripping story.

So what is gripping story? For me gripping story is depth of character. Two great examples of this are Fledgling, by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, and Wool by Hugh Howey. Both are free on amazon. Neither are overloaded with action, but both will keep you reading. They are very different books, evoking vastly different emotions and thoughts, but they are both two of my favorites. Neither have what I would consider drama, but both have great tension.

Who the characters are, makes you empathize with them. What they go through makes you want them to succeed. The pacing and description are such that you are hardly ever kicked out of the story. The tension of the story is the gravity well you are caught in. Constantly falling so you¬†must finish the book.¬†Drama and action are, to me, popcorn stories. Quick things you can throw away after you are done, that don’t really stick with you. But good tension holds you in orbit of the characters and their world such that when you leave the story, they stay with you. You think about them long after you have finished reading their story, you tell your friends about them hoping they will be drawn into the orbit of this wondrous world you have discovered. As you can imagine, this type of thing sells a lot of books. Want to know how big of an impact it has? Type wool into google, for me it was the top three results. That could be googles algorithms, but I also know its mainly the book’s success. When your story surpasses it’s namesake, you are successful.

So, how do you replicate this in your books? In short and simple terms, explore the everyday. What do you worry about? What creates tension in your life? Paying the bills is boring? What about if you were paying the bills on a space station…to a pirate king? You can take the mundane and make it interesting by simply changing the setting. Case in point, in Fledgling, The main character is clumsy, now that might only appeal to a certain group of people normally, but what about when the government considers clumsiness a public health hazard? Then the tension raises from embarrassing and slightly dangerous, to possibly being locked away for your entire life.

Or what if going outside was so dangerous, that anyone who says they want to go outside is considered insane? That exploration of the everyday turned on its head is an aspect of wool. But these can’t be all a story is about. In fledgling and wool both, there are secrets of their worlds that we are allowed to know, so our imaginations grab ahold of these and want to explore, causing us to read more of the story. Wool and Fledgling both have sequels which reveal some of those secrets, but with Fledgling, some of those secrets are in other books set in the overarching universe. But in both there are also secrets that we never know, they aren’t essential to the story, they are just curiosities, but it leaves a mystery hanging in the back of your mind somewhere, and that makes the story feel more real. Now you don’t want to leave a big mystery hanging, that would be akin to a mystery writer never telling whodunit. The reader will revolt against that and hate the story.

So, in closing, think in terms of tension, instead of drama or suffering for your characters. Tension comes in many shapes and sizes, find the one that fits into your story.

 

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Paragraph length


I’m currently reading a book, I don’t want to share the name as I don’t want to seem to be talking bad about it. First off I am really enjoying the story itself, I think the writing is well done, but I’m having trouble creating a flow in my mind.

I’ve been analyzing everything I could think of to try and find something wrong with the writing itself. I honestly couldn’t, which perplexed me, the only thing I found that didn’t resonate well with me was the book beginning with an action sequence. Unknown characters, facing possible death, just had a hard time getting into the action, because I didn’t know the characters. The writer made up for that though, as the story so far is evolving really well, and I’m getting really interested in it. But I’m still having trouble staying hooked.

Then it hit me. The paragraphs are too long for me, I’m losing my place in the middle of the block of words. Seems like around 6-8 lines is my max, 4-6 is a good pace generally. Which got me thinking, are others this way? What’s feels like a good paragraph length to you?

 

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