Tag Archives: writing tips

Before The Fan

Flash Fiction
J.A. Waters
995 Words

“There’s too much trash in this city.”

Jacob leaned over the roof’s edge, peering down into the alley below, “You’re right, Desconci is considered fifth in the world for street refuse.” He grabbed his helmet and twisted the seal tight for the thousandth time that evening.

Gina counted her steps backward, five from the edge. She glanced at Jake with a scowl, “Why are you even working in this field?” Her body raced forward on its three cybernetic legs. The mid-foot seated on the building’s seam, snapping the woman into space.

Watching a bum burrowing in foil wrapping and trash, Jake glanced up in time to see his partner tiptoe into a perfect landing a roof over, “What do you mean?” He jogged backwards, boots whirring as they picked up a preset. Sprinting for the gap, there was a whirl of air and the thud of miniature impact motors striking the rooftop.

Cybernetic hips cocked to one side, Gi watched the unaltered human’s rolling landing. One tumble and the man was up onto his feet and ready. Gina wasn’t sure Jacob had to roll; she thought he just enjoyed flair, “You’re smart: a fucking genius. Why are you up here following me around rooftops as a copper?”

“Well, I’m not sure why I follow you around rooftops.” Jake walked to the next edge, peering into a street crowded with traffic and people. Road-windows to the subway flashed as trains sped beneath the world. The corporal grinned, “But I like being a cop. I like doing something good; catching shit before it hits the fan. Having a superior that walks on buildings makes it more interesting.” His suit started beeping.

The Sergeant smirked, humorless and bitter, “Are you coming on to me? I know some of you guys like women with nice legs…” Her suit’s arm-display blinked on, message playing across empty air, “All units on alert. Great. Two blocks over, someone’s making a land dispute.” The display closed with a wave of her hand.

Jacob tapped at the air for further queries, arm-display beeping as searches filled the queue, “Land dispute? The guy’s about to blow up a building!” His gaze snapped after his leader’s retreating form zipping down onto the street. A quick gesture saved his queries, and he did a quick double stomp that set his boots into a ticking frenzy of preparation. A curse slipped under his breath as he dashed headlong over the roof’s end. He aimed for the top of a car.

The boots sounded like screeching tires as they gripped the vehicle. Jake spread his arms wide in the landing, then disengaged his shoes with a wiggling big toe. With the driver’s help (they’d slammed the brakes) he arced in a leap over several cars and hit the sidewalk sprinting. A man careened on a tricked-out electroBMX and decided for a quick wall-ride up a building to avoid panicking pedestrians.

Those same pedestrians barreled away from the swathe-cutting knife that was a running Desconci P.E. Policy Enforcers wore practical suits of armor weighing as much as a small motorcycle with several times the power. Diving out of the way was a sensible reaction. Jacob’s helmet blared with shoulders flashing as he trailed behind his superior’s nimble form. Ahead, she sprang off light poles and landed on window ledges. Her feet never touched the ground. Jake muttered into his mic, “You’d be pretty fucking great at Don’t Touch the Lava.”

With one final snap of cybernetic muscle, Gina twisted through the air and barreled into a man wielding a PulseHammer. The advanced jackhammer went flying and the man’s left arm snapped at the elbow. Bone ripped through skin and cloth on his upper arm. Gi’s three legs pinned the offender down by the other three limbs, “You must remain silent and still. You have the privilege of being an offender of Policy 55E.10-Golf and hereby have given up any rights; those paid for or due by your citizenship grade and/or grades.”

The man growled, too stimmed to feel pain, “Fuck you! I got papers from generations ago that I own this land! Screw your damned Policy and the whole book under it!” A tiny spider-bot crawled out of the man’s chest pocket. He was wearing a one-piece flight-suit in a dark gray-blue cloth. The spider skittered down the man’s body and seated itself into a small output terminal at the stomach of the suit.

Gina’s eyes went wide and her third leg kicked at the spider-bot with precise urgency. It missed, the spider ducking into the suit’s connection port too quickly. The P.E. blinked to snap a photo before she turned to run.

Over their comms Gina was calmly reciting a procedural tactic number and sub-note. Jake took a moment to think back to training, “Tactical Response Alpha, Condition B… Ah yeah.”

Landing next to his boss, the two enforcers crouched and readied for crowd control. A long-handled weapon with a smooth spherical end, it was often used to pacify people if they wouldn’t come along quietly. It was nonlethal but gave a headache.

Both officers set theirs to max, jerking the trigger to spread its effects on the nearest pedestrians. Behind them, the spider-bot glowed red and began burrowing through skin. The man began to convulse, beating his chest and screaming.

The explosion was mostly gore, yet the burst had a purpose outside of immediate concussive damage. At the core of the man’s now-pulped body, the spider-bot’s brain sent rapid burst transmissions on a temporary array-antenna of metallic particles formed by and riding the blast. Shrapnel embedded itself in the walls of buildings or on the exteriors of cars and busses.

Gina stood and helped Jake up in one motion, growling at the situation, “So much for stopping the shit from hitting the fan. That manifesto is gonna be on the net for weeks.”

Jake twisted his helmet’s seal tight yet again, shrugging, “Well at least we stopped him.”

Writer Tools: Accents in the Written Form

Accents: How and Where and Why?

Also: What’d they just say?

He growled, “Whar be th’ rules ‘n regulatin’ bawtey ‘at dah-sighds ‘oo wrahts like wut?”

“I’m, sorry. Eh, excuse me even, but what did you just say? You see, your accent is very thick.”

His voice rumbled, “Where be the rules and regulating body that decides who writes like what?” The words tumbled out and melted together, every sound soft and smooth like softened butter. He had an accent like a pirate mixed with a bucket of gravel.

“Oh yes! I see, er, hear what you mean now. Much better.”

So, when writing dialogue there seem to be a couple of schools of thought. There are those that want the words written visually as they sound, and there are those that would rather have things written for clarity. Both schools of thought seem eager to yell at the other that there’s is the One True Way.

Preferences aside, there can be reasons to partake in both of the practices. If you’re writing for a wider readership then it’s best to leave out the weird spellings. The stranger you write a word, the more effort it will take to read. Reading is a process of identifying words as symbols, not individual letters. Mixing up the order of a word will interrupt that natural process. However, sometimes you’re writing for a specific audience or have a very particular speech mannerism that is key to the story or character. That would be the primary case for adding complexity.

Overall you should consider the message you’re trying to convey. Is it really important to emphasize that character’s vocal patterns? If not, it’s probably best to keep away from non-standard spelling. One possible mix I’ve seen is the following:

“Hello my beauty, what ails you?” His words were a high-pitched lilt touched with a lisp. The words came out sounding much more like, “‘Ello mah byooteh, hut aisleth ya’?”

Much like a physical description, an occasional description of the vocal patterns may be enough to set the character. Providing an example of how you imagine the words to sound may help as well.

That said, a larger consensus seems to be that general audiences would prefer clear, well-written sentences over a phonetically spelled verbal mannerism. Write for yourself first, but keep your readers in mind. Understanding your audience preferences is a key part to any decision for creative work.

-J.A.

Writer Tools: Publishing Platforms

Platforms

Note: Updated 20171025 to reflect JukePop’s closing

A platform can mean two things. Either it’s the big social stage you build to advertise your wares or its the more specific architecture built by someone else where you place your content. Everyone needs the social platform, that’s your interconnected network of people that will listen to you or at least nod and smile. Even if you go a traditional publishing route having that platform will help sell books.

As writers, authors, and creative individuals seek to share their work, they find themselves but a drop in a deluge of content. The internet is full of Stuff that isn’t sorted or arranged in any logical fashion. Sorting through the madness is not a feat any normal person could take on and is hardly possible for even great big companies. So far there isn’t an algorithm that can detect the special je ne sais quoi that makes a hit.

What has arisen in the place of such an algorithm are websites and listing services that allow you, the author, to place your work up in specific categories and sorted forms. Here are a couple of those sites with my take on their strengths and weaknesses:

Publishing Sites

– Amazon: They sell physical books and the digital, and allow an author to upload their work straight onto their site through the KDP platform. This is the direct route and your book will almost be instantly available through an Amazon Search. They do have a minimum price requirement and also provide a system called KDP Select that allows readers to browse your book for free if a Prime member. Keep note that KDP Select requires you to make your book exclusively available through Amazon. Getting multiple reviews is your best bet for getting noticed on Amazon, so asking friends and family can help. Amazon briefly dipped their feet into a serial format of publishing, but that program seems to have been scrapped.

– BookRix: The first of several content distributors in this list, BookRix is a place where you can upload your book in a .DOC / .DOCX / .RTF / .EPUB format and then the site will distribute it to other places. Once uploaded your document text may need some additional editing through their chapter / copy editor. Which sites you can distribute to will depend on the formatting of your book, the quality of your cover, and other small details that can be modified without too much effort. BookRix will attempt to push your book to BookRix, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play, and other smaller content distributors. You’ll get 70% of the proceeds for any book sales you make. One important note is that BookRix will give you an ISBN for free, but they become the publisher of that book. This differs from other sites that either don’t give you an ISBN or give one and don’t become the publisher.

– Channillo: Concentrating solely on digital serial publishing, Channillo is unique in that it is a closed subscription model that requires users to pay to read. Writers must request to publish their works onto the site, and then they must update in a regular fashion to maintain their listing. Writers cannot read other writer content without subscribing themselves, so the community can feel a little closed as a result. However, authors get an incredible 80% of the subscription profits to those that follow their serials. Payouts don’t occur until you reach a payment threshold of $50.00, and authors can choose to donate their proceeds to a charity. This is still a relatively new site, and it has made steady progress since it’s initial debut in 2016.

– CreateSpace: Much the same as BookRix, except that CreateSpace is largely Amazon specific and will help you create a physical book along with eBook distribution. As an opt in, you can additionally provide your book to be displayed in libraries and academic institutions. Be prepared to submit everything in the .PDF format, including your cover image. They will also provide you with an ISBN, becoming the publisher. There is also a minimum price required to distribute through their system.

– Draft2Digital: Another large-scale distributor, Draft2Digital includes CreateSpace as one of the platforms you can select. Otherwise be prepared to format your book with proper headings and titles between chapters to allow it’s auto-generation to work. This generally requires that you use a document editor’s Heading auto-formatting to ensure appropriate breaks are made. D2D also publishes to ScribD, Tolino, and Page Foundry and will auto-assign an ISBN.

– FictionPress: Online only, and a well-established site for online fiction, Fiction Press was based around a community of fan fiction but it has long since expanded to include original works as well. The interface is very basic, but it’s functional and secure. The community is large, but somehow it seems far more close-knit than other large sites like WattPad. Some plusses of this particular site is that it provides some bulk upload capabilities for existing stories, but learning the process can take some trial and error for new users. As a plus to writers, FictionPress also includes the ability to ask around for BetaReaders and for that reason can foster a strong community of authorial improvement.

– JukePop: JukePop headed to a planned closing by November 15th, 2017. It concentrated solely on digital publishing through a serial format online or through an App. Authors could began publishing as soon as first chapters were ready and then started interacting with potential readers on a continual basis. Some authors used a weekly update schedule while others posted their work as soon as they completed a new chapter. JukePop provided publishing help and bonuses for those authors that maintained a place in their Top 30 listings that could help with costs and distribution. Additionally, the site had systems in place to allow readers to donate and authors to track statistics per chapter. JukePop was a good place to start social networking with authors and readers on top of providing near-instant feedback on a story. A key point here was that JukePop provided vetting for the stories to prevent just anything from getting through which provided decent quality control.

– Lulu: Also a large-scale distributor, Lulu allows you to upload your book in .DOC / .DOCX / .EPUB formatting and requires similar formatting to D2D with headings delineating chapters. After stepping through their creation process it will require that you choose whether to publish to Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Nook, Kindle, and whatever random publishing platforms it uses at that moment (not all are listed.) Included in its process is a basic cover editor. Also providing an ISBN, Lulu seems to specialize in connecting Authors with outside help for those that want help marketing, making covers, and other requirements to make the publishing process less self-intensive.

– Personal Website: Everyone seems to say a personal website is great for an author. It allows people to get examples of your work, allows them to see what kind of person you are, and may be a great place to host a blog or other information. This is all true and if you have the capability and time a website can be another nice extension of self. However, designing and maintaining such a website can be time intensive and there’s no guarantee that it will be seen. Most of the other platforms here have automatic audiences built in which almost negates the need for a personal site. That said, your own web space can fit your every requirement for customization if there’s a willingness. Plus, these days sites like WordPress or Tumblr can provide basic customization and free hosting for an easy method of putting your work online.

– Serial Teller: This is a site that is on the smaller scale, but that’s because it is run by a private individual with heavy-vetting. Potential authors can apply to have their stories hosted on the site, and then they can begin posting through a blog-like interface. The audience is potentially smaller for such a site, but authors can benefit from a more-focused audience with a similar feel to the serials already being hosted.

– SmashWords: There’s not much to say about SmashWords that hasn’t already been said about the other multiple-distribution points. SmashWords is extremely easy to use and has it’s own digital content sorting but is probably the ugliest site in terms of formatting and content exploration. Upload your document in one of its formats, upload the cover, and then you are free to distribute to all of the following sites: Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, Apple, Page Foundry, Baker & Taylor, txtr, Library Direct, Axis 360, OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, ScribD. SmashWords will provide an ISBN but does not list itself as the publisher, you maintain that title yourself.

– Tablo: An interesting platform that is something of a mix between JukePop and other distribution platforms. You can publish online to Tablo immediately, though here there is no vetting process or quality control. What you post is then available to be commented on by chapter or section and it’s easy to track how many views the work is getting whether through its site or App. Additionally you can publish online to Amazon and Apple if the book is ready in its current form. Tablo uses its online editor to do most of the writing, so pasting from an external document is required. Content can be separated into chapters and you can upload a custom book cover.

– TextNovel: With a focus on hyper-short content, TextNovel is a niche market that nevertheless can allow for direct online publishing of larger works as well. Whether on its site or App you can browse through stories based on genres and length, or just look at those that are recently updated. It has a very basic system for uploading and content management, and people can comment and vote on your work to rank it in listings. There are no external publishing capabilities so far, but it could be a useful place for alternate stories of a flashfiction fashion that add in to larger works.

– WattPad: Very similar to JukePop with a seemingly larger userbase, but there is no content vetting and the large userbase can make it harder to stand out. That potential userbase can be useful for garnering more views, and the chapters can be voted on and tracked per viewcount. The App for WattPad provides editing capabilities as well which can be useful for mobile fixes and on-the-go interaction with readers. WattPad also comes with an extensive forum / community capability and hosts site-wide contests to promote users.

– Others: Many of the above sites will distribute to other places like ScribD or FlipKart. These sites offer similar services and capabilities, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. I will add more as I use and research them more. Additionally, smaller publishing companies sometimes have websites that are specific to certain subjects are geographical locations. Those can be ways to break into publishing from a more unique or localized angle.

Overview

Site ISBN Downloads Stores Libraries Comments App Royalty
Amazon KDP No Yes 1 No Yes Yes 35-70%
BookRix Yes Yes 7 No Yes No 70%
Channillo No No 0 No Yes No 80%
CreateSpace Yes Yes ~5 Yes No No 30-80%
Draft2Digital Yes Yes 6 No No No 75-80%
FictionPress No Yes 0 No Yes Yes N/A
JukePop No No 0 Yes Yes Yes N/A
Lulu Yes Yes ~6 No No No 80%
Personal Website No Yes 0 No Yes No 100%
Serial Teller No No 0 No Yes No N/A
SmashWords Yes Yes 13 Yes Yes No 85%
Tablo Yes Yes 3 No Yes Yes 40-70%
TextNovel No No 0 No Yes Yes N/A
WattPad No No 0 No Yes Yes N/A
*Note: Royalties may be after distribution or site-specific fees

Listing Services

Though not publishers themselves, there are also serial and fiction listing services available around the web. The following sites provide a sort of web-fiction directory that can include any combination of the above publishing platforms:

– EpiGuide: A forum-based listing of web-based fiction, primarily serials, where users update listings or just talk about writing.

– Goodreads Web Fiction: A Goodreads-based community of people that have web serials, web fiction, or follow stories that are updated online.

– Muse’s Success: A wiki-based listing of web fiction and serials that is privately operated and maintained by the users.

– Reddit Web Fiction: A sub-Reddit that is dedicated to the discussion and sharing of web fiction and serials.

– Tuesday Serial: A weekly listing of active web fiction and serials. Users must submit their story updates weekly to be listed when the next update is published.

– Web Fiction Guide: One of the largest listings of web fiction and serials with a core community group and a voting-based and rating-based advertisement method of showcasing serials.

Bottom Line

All of these sites don’t guarantee any kind of success or that anyone will notice the work you provide. Many are flooded daily with more and more work from thousands of writers. Benefits between sites is largely based on what the creator needs or personal preference. Each of the sites lets the author keep their rights and allows you to remove the work at a later date if needed. The main potential negative to any of these is that it may limit your ability to publish traditionally; most traditional companies want to be sole source and don’t want work that’s previously or self-published.

That said, building a following and audience can certainly be attractive. Additionally, though not all of these sites have a direct commission or funding system, modern creators can use sites like Patreon to make any platform profitable. The key consideration must always be what the creator wants from their own creative process.

-J.A.