This is the kind of crap authors have to put up with

Warning. I’m going to rant, and there will be bad words. This post has a trigger warning for stupid people who put up stupid reviews on Amazon and the easily butt hurt.

So I was poking around Amazon reading my reviews. What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. I wanted to see what the reviews were like for the fiction I’d done for Privateer Press. (normally I have really good reviews, and then a handful of haters who whine about my politics and try to punish me with bad reviews). I checked Instuments of War  35 five stars, 7 four stars, 2 three stars, and this little gem: of 1 people found the following review helpful

2.0 out of 5 stars i have not bought nor read this book, March 9, 2014
This review is from: Instruments of War (Warlock Sagas) (Kindle Edition)
come on people; you’re paying 5 bucks for a short story. So long as people continue to pay, then publishers, authors, and amazon will continue to gouge. The costs for an e-book are negligible; pennies per copy. On an $8.00 paperback the author, publisher, and seller split about $4.00, sometimes less, sometimes a lot less. On an e-book it except a flat fee (about $200.00) to convert it to the format there are no costs. Anytime you spend $8 to $10 to $16 for an e-book; you are being gouged and when I saw a short story being sold for $5.00 I had to speak up. I am a fan of larry correia and buy a lot of his books; but come on people don’t be chumps.
I know authors aren’t supposed to respond to reviews. That is supposed to lower us or something. Us artistic types are supposed to be all sorts of aloof, but this is so freaking stupid that I’ve got to comment on it. Here is my reply.
Damn this pisses me off. Where the hell does anybody named fucking Bork get off calling my readers chumps?
Holy shit. Are you kidding me? You left a 2 star review on a book you did not read so that you could get all preachy about the supposed costs of publication. Shut up, you cheap ass bastard.
First off, it isn’t a “short story”. It is a novella. It is 30,000 words. That is 1/2 to 1/3 of a novel in most genres. That is actually anywhere from 3 to 30 “short stories”.  Do you bitch about all YA books because they only average 80K but cost the same as my 150k-200k fantasy novels? No? Then shut up, hypocrite.
Is it more expensive than most of my books by the word? Yep. Since those ebooks are usually $8. Whoop de friggin’ do. I don’t set the prices on those either.
Second, the size doesn’t actually matter, because you admited that you DIDN’T ACTUALLY READ THE BOOK. You know, the thing that you are supposed to be rating the quality there of. For all you could know it could be the most mind blowing 80 pages ever written and in really tiny print to boot, but you couldn’t get off your cheap, self righteous ass long enough to find out.
(for the record, it isn’t the best thing ever, but it was fun enough that most people who aren’t whiny little bitches didn’t mind spending $5 for it!)
Next, the MASSIVE cost is $5. That’s FIVE WHOLE DOLLARS. That is the cost of a mediocre hamburger. Most of us who aren’t cheap ass bastards leave bigger tips than that for our mediocre hamburgers. I can’t even imagine what a shitty tipper Bork is.
And this isn’t a bash on poor people who struggle to come up with $5. Been there, done that, ate a whole lot of Ramen noodle. I’ve been dirt poor and a reader. That’s what libraries are for. Only if you get your books from a library you can’t really bitch about the cost in your pointless preachy reviews now, can you?
But that’s not the important thing about why this is such a shitty, pointless, obnoxious, annoying review. Oh no… The best part is how you are daring to lecture people about how they are enjoying themselves wrong. 
The majority of the people who bought this gave it good reviews. They seemed to think it was worth the $5 they threw at it. They felt they got their $5 worth…. In fact some of the 4 stars were because they liked the book but thought it was a bit expensive. Groovy. At least they read it! Most people will read this book over a couple of hours. Speed readers will read through it faster, so they are paying between $2 and $5 an hour to be entertained. Do you leave shitty reviews about every single movie shown in a movie theater because those work out to $7 an hour or more? Way more if you buy popcorn, but we know you’re too damned cheap to buy popcorn and you’d rather pick strays out of the other seats.
Heaven help us if Bork ever discovers golf…
Bork is like the annoying little shits who write complaint letters to Top Gear because they review awesome cars that most of us will never be able to afford. Shut up. Nobody likes you or your hand wringing. We want to see the Stig spin doughnuts in a car that cost more than our house.
Oh, but all the good reviews are wrong, because you spat out some gibberish about how much YOU THINK books should cost. Fanfuckingtastic. You should go write a bunch of books and make a successfull living at it pricing them however you want. Oh, but you don’t. Then here is a nice warm cup of shut the hell up. You should go Occupy Some Street while you tell people how much is FAIR for their labor.
Newsflash, dipshit. I’m not the one who set the cost. The publisher set the cost. In that whole little screed you put up you are comparing the costs of hack self publishing (which believe me, I’m not bashing, because that’s how I got started) to the publishing costs of an IP, with actual staff, and actual artists, and the fact that they had to pay me up front. I don’t know what you get paid per hour to ejaculate pigs or WTF ever it is you do for a living, but us NYT bestsellers like to GET PAID.
There’s a $200 fee to translate a book into ebook format, you say? Why, I didn’t know that was all there was to it! Never mind the fact that somebody with my resume doesn’t even show up for somebody else’s IP unless they throw a large pile of money at us, or in this case, bribe me with minis. :)  Only Bork is missing the point even harder on the econ side of things that he’s calling you all chumps for not understanding, since he’s talking about the costs of converting a book from hard to e publish… Only this was e publish only from the beginning so there wasn’t a hard cover or mass market to recoup any of the advance costs… But what do I know? I just do this writing thing for a living
I hate, hate, HATE reviews like this on Amazon, where it is some dipshit commenting on their woes as opposed to reviewing the actual product. “I didn’t like the color of the box the book was shipped in. ONE STAR!” “I bought this book that is clearly not in the genre I like, so it gets ONE STAR for not being in the genre I wanted because I’m too fucking stupid to read the back cover blurb!” On and on. Holy shit, there should be an IQ test before people are allowed to use the internet, because you are really pissing off the rest of us who don’t sleep in helmets.
Authors simply love having our average ranking pulled down for bullshit that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual book. “I do/don’t like sci-fi. This book has/doesn’t have sci-fi in it. ONE STAR!” “I don’t like whales. Whales are stupid and fat and so is Herman Melville! Moby Dick gets ONE STAR!”
But hey, he gave me TWO WHOLE STARS because he is a fan. (I bet he won’t be after he reads this). Well thank goodness, it wasn’t one star! That was mighty white of him to be so merciful. Also, he doesn’t read a lot of my books like he claims, because I’d be surprised if he could figure out how to operate one without injuring himself.
You know what would have been a fair one or two star review? Somebody who actually READ THE STORY but thought it wasn’t worth the price. That would at least make sense.
Us retired accountants love to have ignorant types lecture us on pricing and basic economics. Do I think $5 is the right price? Hell if I know. It isn’t my place to cost it. I’m not the publishing house. I don’t know their fixed costs, their projections, their marketing plan, and neither does some jackass on the internet. My job is to write the most entertaining story possible and let the market decide if the entertainment value is worth the money. Since they’ve not lowered the price, I’m assuming the market can bear it.
You know what else is too expensive? Everything that I’m too cheap to purchase, that’s what! ONE STAR!
The eARC for Monster Hunter Nemesis came out today. It is FIFTEEN DOLLARS! And it isn’t even proof read! But hundreds of people are super happy to download it three months early. Shit, Bork, you better hurry over to Baen’s Webscriptions and dazzle those people with your brilliance and let them all know that they are chumps. If you don’t they might enjoy themselves wrong or something.

The eARC for Monster Hunter Nemesis is available now!

Here you go, direct from Baen:

The book will actually release in July. For those of you not familiar with how eARCs work, they are Electronic Advanced Reader Copies. Meaning that they are the things that go out to reviewers and buyers. They aren’t fully edited yet. This is the book as it stands when I turn my draft in to the publisher before there is any copy editing.

So if you are truly hard core, you can get the book several months early, and as an added bonus see all my typos. :)

The Drowning Empire, Episode 49: The Hunt is On

The Drowning Empire is a weekly serial based on the events which occured during the Writer Nerd Game Night monthly Legend of the Five Rings game. It is a tale of samurai adventure set in the magical world of Rokugan.

If you would like to read all of these in one convenient place, along with a bunch of additional game related stuff, behind the scenes info, and detailed session recaps, I’ve been posting everything to one thread on the L5R forum,

This week’s episode is a recap from Paul Genesse.

Continued from:

Journal of Akodo Toranaka, Nineteenth Entry
First Year of the Reign of Empress Hantei Yumi
Twenty-first Day of the Month of the Boar
Teika Pass, Crab Lands in the Ivory Kingdoms

I followed Utaku Yanai into battle yesterday, and we killed our enemies side by side. She led her cohort of one hundred Unicorn cavalry, and our group of six samurai against the Sons of the Tiger, savage men who worship the dead goddess, Kali-ma. These men must be allied with our enemy, the tiger demon known as Doji Chonitsu. I suspect they knew we were coming, and had decided to slay us before we could oppose their masters. They may have succeeded if Yanai and her warriors had not been escorting us, as six samurai could not have survived against so many.
The Battle of Teika Pass began when several terrified peasants were seen fleeing down the road, coming straight for us. The peasants spoke of Ivendi men, brutal savages with whips and curved knives, who had just descended upon their village, and killed the handful of Crab samurai stationed there to protect them.
The Sons of the Tiger had then rounded up the peasants who had not escaped and began a blood magic ritual, using the poor villagers for a Maho spell fed by innocent blood.
Dozens of Ivendi horsemen pursued the fleeing peasants, trying to capture them all, as they needed more victims for the dark ritual.
The Sons of the Tiger did not expect Utaku Yanai, her Battle Maidens, and Master Byung-Chul with his Vindicators to arrive in such force. Yanai led her cavalry boldly, decisively, and we charged into the enemy, riding uphill as fast as our mounts would run. My horse is small, but he knew my heart, and somehow he kept up with Yanai’s giant mare. I was determined to fight at Yanai’s side, and I slaughtered half a dozen of the enemy while guarding her right flank. I guided my horse with my knees as Subotai had taught me, keeping the reigns in my teeth as I wielded my sword with a firm grip, all the while wishing I was a whole man, with two arms instead of an ugly stump covered with burn scars.
It all happened to quickly, as most skirmishes do, and fortunately, I was able to save the life of an unhorsed Unicorn bushi, Shinjo Khodai. I struck down a pair of Ivendi who were about to cut Khodai’s throat. He has since thanked me, and I will count him as an ally in the times ahead.
The enemy horsemen were routed quickly, and we rode hard toward the village at the Teika Pass. What we found will haunt all who saw it for years to come. Eerie storm clouds had gathered above the village, called by dark magic, and rain fell hard from clouds that glowed with an unnatural green light. Peasants were being slaughtered by the Sons of the Tiger, and giant oni, similar to ogres, were being summoned. The demons crossed into our world through spheres of water, which floated in the air at the center of circles of the Ivendi warlocks.
Yanai and her Battle Maidens, aided by Master Byung-Chul and his Vindicators engaged the demons guarding the perimeter. After seeing what was happening, Byung-Chul ordered me to lead my companions through the line and stop the Maho rituals. The Sons of the Tiger were summoning more of the giant demons by killing the peasants, and they had to be stopped.
We crossed the river at the edge of the village where the enemy lines were weakest. Subotai was the only one able to leap the river on horseback. The rest of us had to use the small stones poking out of the current to reach the far bank.
I led my friends and we immediately took the high ground, a mound of earth in the center of the village where we slew a large ogre and the Ivendi warlocks who had summoned it. With Tamori Isao’s powerful earth magic, and the rest of us using our steel, we pressed our attack as time was against us. Subotai-san used his horse to dominate the entire length of the battlefield, and Oki-san’s deadly aim stopped several of the rituals, while the rest of us attacked the Sons of the Tiger without mercy.
We all did our part, and much glory was gained during the battle by all of us. Peasants died at the hands of the barbarians, but we saved many of them, and stopped our enemy from summoning more of the deadly ogres, who melted into water when they died.
I found Yanai after the battle, sword in hand, as she rode her black and chestnut mare toward me, passing over the bodies of the fallen. The rain had washed some of the mud and blood from her skin, but she was resplendent, a Goddess of War sent by Hachiman, the Fortune of Battle.
I forgot myself for a moment and smiled, as Yanai is most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She is not like the perfect flowers in the courts of the Empire, so delicate you must not touch them for fear of smearing their rouge or wrinkling their clothes. She is a naked blade, a razor sharp edge wet with blood. Someday, if my life is not required to defeat the Dark Oracle of Water and his vile allies, Yanai will be my wife.
We spent the rest of the day, and the evening together, but it was not enough time. We had ridden side by side for five days after leaving Journey’s End Keep, arguing tactics and battle for endless hours, but last night we spoke of lighter things: where to camp an army, ways to improve the morale of soldiers, how a commander should speak to those of equal rank, and how often it was appropriate to write letters to loved ones.
Yanai-san and I enjoyed a simple meal together with her entourage later that night. We were quieter than we had been in the camps on the road to Teika Pass. We all knew something was ending.
At the end of the evening, we agreed that soldiers who fought only for duty or their daimyo, were not as strong as those who fought for something more. Of course, all true samurai fight for glory and honor, but those who fight also for the promise of the future, the promise of love, and for their friends and family, they are the most dangerous opponents.
I did not want the night to end. Before we parted, long after midnight, I gave gifts to Yanai’s two stalwart yojimbo, and her body attendant. The three of them never left our presence in all the days we had been together, and for good reason, though I would never seek to have improper relations with Yanai. It is not common knowledge, but a Battle Maiden must protect her virtue at all times, as it is a great source of strength, and only maidens are permitted to ride the Utaku Battle Steeds.
Yanai is well taken care of and I wished to honor her three best companions. To the tall and imposing Utaku Yidisai, and the strong legged-Utaku Agtani, who some nights appears quite close to Utaku Chuoko, Yanai’s body attendant, I gave a slender tento knife of the highest quality. Small enough to hide under a pillow, but long and sharp enough to cut a man’s throat.
Her companions were quite touched by my thoughtfulness, and though it is hard to tell, I believe all three of them have come to appreciate my presence, and may even approve of my interest in their mistress.
To Yanai, I also gave a tento blade, and I have kept its twin. I had the knives made in the days before we left for Teiko Pass. The handles have the purple of the Unicorn Clan, interlaid with the gold of the Lion. Gold and purple truly are majestic colors.
On my knees, I presented Yanai with her gift. She accepted it, a very satisfied expression on her face, and ran her fingers over the handle before examining the blade. I knew I had chosen an appropriate gift.
“Yanai-san,” I said, “I have no doubt your companions will keep you safe, but please have this tento close at hand, as your protection is very important to me.”
She nodded and bowed to me.
“I then respectfully showed her the twin of her blade, which I had kept hidden.” Her bodyguards did not even flinch, as they were so comfortable with me in the presence of their mistress.
Emboldened by Yanai’s reaction, I looked her in the eyes, “These blades are an exact match, and I shall always keep this tento close. I will think of you when I put it under my pillow each night.”
Her eyes misted over as she knelt in front of me, eye to eye. For the first time in the mere two weeks I had known her, we touched. Her bodyguards did nothing to stop me as I pressed my lips pressed against Yanai’s.

Journal of Akodo Toranaka, Twentieth Entry
First Year of the Reign of Empress Hantei Yumi
Twenty-second Day of the Month of the Boar
Shiro Makoto, Crab Fortress in the Ivory Kingdoms

Today I bid farewell to Utaku Yanai and watched her ride away from me. I did not show my sadness, but there is a great emptiness within me. My duty is far from her side, but she will not be absent from my thoughts in the times ahead. She has other responsibilities, and led her cohort back toward Journey’s End Keep at the head of the Battle Maidens, with her hand on the tento she now keeps on her waist.
Once she was gone, my companions and I made the short ride from our camp at Teiko Pass to Shiro Makoto. The Crab Clan fortress is not much to look at, but it is worth noting that the Crab are building up their military strength, and a large store of supplies. War seems imminent, and as the Unicorn are their allies, I can only surmise the Spider Clan are their target. Daigotsu’s bastards are the only opponents close to Shiro Makoto, and though I hate to see war between any of the Great Clans, I believe the Spider must renounce their ties to the Lord of Jigoku who is their patron.
The ramshackle and stinking village outside this remote Crab fortress was the foulest place I ever set foot in. Sewage pools in the muddy streets, and I have already spoken with the engineer in charge construction. If something is not done, disease is likely to run rampant among the villagers and then spread to the warriors of the castle. I only set foot in this place because we took the boy, Sumaji to find his family, who we thought might live in the Ivendi section.
Shintaro has a way with peasants and was able to locate Sumaji’s family with relative ease. We found their tiny shack, and it was a poignant reunion as Sumaji’s mother hugged him close. She had apparently believed he was dead, and the little boy would have been killed for thievery had Subotai not taken him in. Ikoma Uso refrained from shedding a tear, as it is inappropriate, even for an Ikoma bard, to weep in the presence of such low born folk, but we all felt the relief and joy of these destitute and starving people. Shintaro’s servant, Yuki, did weep loudly, as she had become a foster mother to the little boy for the past two weeks and had grown fond of him.
Little Sumaji embraced his grandfather, Gopti, who apparently lay dying of old age and what I assume was starvation. His time in this world was coming to an end, but he was eternally grateful that we had brought his beloved grandson to see him before he passed. He was more than willing to tell us what he knew about our enemy, Doji Chonitsu. Gopti is considered a teacher and a wise man among the Ivendi, and they called him a Guru, a title of great respect.
Sumaji translated his grandfather’s words, with some help from Subotai, who is becoming proficient in the Ivendi language. We learned that Guru Gopti has the ability to see demons for what they truly are, even if they masquerade in the form of men. When he first saw “the man in blue” Doji Chonitsu, he saw him for what he really was, “a tiger who walks on two legs.” Gopti could not help himself and called out Chonitsu, rather than let him pretend to be a man. I believe Gopti, as his words echo those of Yogo Tanaka, who also believed Chonitsu might not be a man.
Guru Gopti said that the being who calls himself, Doji Chonitsu is an extremely powerful, shape-shifting demon, called a Rakhasha in the Ivendi language. The people of the Ivory Kingdoms believe the Rakhasha race were imprisoned thousands of years ago by Vishnu the Protector, but a few escaped his gaze and have been causing trouble in the world ever since. It is said that Vishnu and the rest of the Ivindi gods were destroyed by Kali-Ma the Destroyer, and the Rakhasha are trying to free themselves from their prison.
We also learned that the priests of Vishnu left behind artifacts of power, like the small ivory statue of the elephant-headed got we recovered in the Teika village, and Guru Gopti believes these could be destroyed to weaken the Rakhshasa prison. I believe that Chonitsu has been acquiring the artifacts to weaken the prison and free his demonic brethren. The gate to this otherworldly prison is supposed to be inside a secret temple, which is hidden beneath a huge waterfall, deep within the jungle. We have heard of this temple before, as it was the place where a certain dagger was found long ago. A dagger used to attack a person of much importance.
Gopti does not know where the temple is located, as it is only a whispered legend among his people. Other Gurus may know, but Kali-Ma nearly eradicated them in the past and few remain. The Destroyer Wars were an apocalypse to the people of the Ivory Kingdoms, and only a fraction of the people who once lived here yet survive. Our Rokugani peasants and our samurai are filling the empty lands of this place, but what evil are we awakening here?
Gopti’s words have made so many things clear to us now. The Dark Oracle of Water has been allying with different foreign powers to sow unrest and destroy the Emerald Empire. He is also in league with a gaijin tiger demon, a Rakhshasa who wants to free its demonic race from a dead god’s prison.
The warning of the old woman, the Ra’Shari soothsayer called Drinka seem clearer now, and I do not doubt the veracity of her words.
“I see the great tiger arise from the jungle, awoken by the man who would drown the world. Upon the tiger’s face is the visage of your folk, the folk of the yellow skin and slanted eyes. The tiger dreams of its kin, locked away at the dawning of time, locked away by one now dead. It dreams of the day when they shall spring forth to hunt once more, ravaging the world and drinking the blood of all men. Close, now, close is the day when the tigers will be free and the world shall become their hunting ground. The shadow of the tiger lies upon your spirits. Perhaps you are destined to stand against it, to hunt it in turn, or perhaps you are destined to be its prey. The signs are unclear. The signs are unclear.”
Her words are perfectly clear now. The man who wishes to drown the world is working to release the tiger demons. He met us when we rode into the village of Tsuma for the Topaz Championship. He gave us a warning and told us to “Fear the water.”
Why would a man of such power warn us then when we were not yet men? I believe he knew our fates and his were linked, and he wished to see us, and take our measure. I assume he did not kill us then because he believes we will advance his cause someday. Does he think we will help bring about the destruction of the Empire we have sworn to protect? Does he think we will accidentally help release the Rakhshasa demons? I can only guess, but our path ahead will be difficult to survive.
We shall need many friends, and though Guru Gopti will soon be dead, his family will not starve. My companions and I have given them many koku, which will feed them and many others for the months ahead. They will recruit other Ivendi, and we will have eyes across this vast land, searching for the hidden temple deep in the jungle, and watching for our enemies.
Much is uncertain, but I have no doubt that someday, these men: Moto Subotai, Yoritomo Oki, Tamori Isao, Ikoma Uso, Suzume Shintaro, and myself, Akodo Toranaka will find this temple. I fear we will go there as fools, and will risk opening the gate to the place where the Rakhshasa have been imprisoned. Or perhaps we will close it forever.
We will not wait for our enemies to strike again. The demon who wears the face of Doji Chonitsu has been marked, his evil nature revealed. Let there be no doubt, we are hunting him.

To be continued next week:

Ask Correia 16: Outlining vs. Pantsing

The Ask Correia posts are when I’ve gotten a writing related question. I haven’t done one for a while, but for any aspiring authors who’ve joined us on MHN, there are a bunch of these now under the Best Of tab. I got this on Facebook a couple of days ago.


Are you still doing any of the Ask Correia posts? If so, I’ve got to ask you about outlining a novel. I’ve been a pantser, but frankly, my 57,000 words of my novel so far completely suck. Way too much of it is a series of events rather than part of an overall plot.

How do you plot and outline a book?

And, if you don’t do the Ask Correia posts, that’s cool too

I still do these, and I try to answer the ones I can when I’m feeling inspired by my muse… Okay, not really, I answer them as I have time in between paying projects, or there is something I need to do, but I really don’t want to do it right now, but by blogging I can trick my brain into thinking that I’m actually working. :)

First off let’s talk about the two basic methods of novel writing. Outlining, which is what I mostly do, and discovery writing or “pantsing”, which is done by many really successful authors. Outlining is self-explanatory. You outline what is going to happen in the book before you actually write it. Pantsing means you fly by the seat of your pants and make it up as you go along.

There isn’t really a correct method. Either one method works for you, or it doesn’t, or you use a combination of the two. Whatever. The important thing is you write a good, sellable book. Here is my usual disclaimer about anything related to writing, despite what your English teacher told you, there aren’t really any rules to this stuff. The only rules are 1. If your readers like it, you can do it. 2. If your readers think it sucks, take it out. For every rule you find, there’s a bunch of writers who violate the hell out of it and sell a lot of books. So the following is just my opinion about what has worked for me.

Both methods have their pros and cons.

Discovery writing is cool because you can be super creative, and sometimes your brain will surprise you with the awesome things it can come up with on the fly. You “discover” stuff along with your characters. This is where you can have real unbridled creativity. The danger is that you run into what our original poster has, and you’ve got a series of cool events that don’t really mesh. Or worse, you write yourself into a corner. And the absolute worst of the worst, because of what you’ve already done, you can’t come up with a satisfying ending.

When Stephen King isn’t pontificating about political topics he’s fucking clueless about like gun control or government healthcare or anything vaguely related to the military, he’s one of the most successful authors ever. If I recall correctly he’s a pantser. He’s also one of the best damned wordsmiths who has ever lived. Nobody else strings evocative language together like he does, but personally I think his endings tend to fall flat. This is all a personal opinion so I’m sure I’m going to get jumped on by his fans, but when I read a King book it is like he gives us 700 pages of brilliance and then… eh… I’m bored. Guess I better wrap this thing up… Uh… Everybody dies. Aliens did it. The end.

The positive things I can say about discovery writing come from other people, because frankly my brain just isn’t wired to write that way. If I don’t at least know what I’m working toward, then I end up futzing around without a clue. I need a goal.

I know other writers who love discovery writing. They love the freedom and the creativity, and because they are having fun, that fun is contagious and comes through to their readers.

Personally, I have to outline. The nice thing about outlining is that you know where you want to end up. You know what needs to happen in order for you to get there. Now you just need to fill in all that pesky story. The story is the meat that goes on the skeletal outline. The major downside with outlining is that you can stifle your natural creativity. You can be too devoted to your outline.

This is how I do it, and it is what works for me. Aspiring authors will just have to experiment until they find what clicks for them. I’m what I consider a loose outliner. When I start a book I create an outline that is usually only a few pages long. Tops. The more complicated the book’s plot, the more outline it requires.

My outlines usually consist of a sort of timeline. I’ve already got scenes in mind. I know what needs to happen to who, when.  I put these scenes in order, knowing that the order may need to change on the fly. Most of my main characters are fairly fleshed out at this point, and I know basically what their arc is supposed to be. I’ll usually mentally divide the book into sections, and I know where I want everybody to be at the end of each section. Then I know basically how I want it to end. I might not know the nature of the climax, but I usually know what I want the outcome to be.

Once I start writing the outline is just a tool. It isn’t sacred. It isn’t scripture. If I’m at twenty thousand words in and the character has developed or changed and I’ve thought of something cooler to do, I change my outline. If I’ve written something that I planned, and it turns out that it doesn’t actually work like I imagined, then I can scrap that part of the outline, tweak it accordingly, cut the bad parts, and then get back to work. This part is difficult because sometimes that means tossing days of what felt like productive work, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by keeping it.

But no matter what I tweak or change, I always have that basic outline to work toward the planned ending. It helps me stay focused. For example, say that the next scene I need to write is difficult for some reason. I’m stuck. At this point many writers declare “Writer’s Block” and expect people on Twitter to feel sorry for their muse of whatever artsy fartsy BS creative types make up to feel better about themselves, but we’ve talked about Writers Block and how it is bullshit on here before. So, if I run into one of these hard but necessary scenes, and I really don’t want to write it right now, I simply skip it, and because I’ve got an outline of future scenes I go ahead and write the next bit that I’m interested in.

Doing that, there have been several times where I’ve skipped a scene earlier in the book, then gone back once I’ve written the finale, and then wrote that hard scene, and the hard scene turned out better for it because now I know exactly what needs to transpire. That’s the beauty of word processors. I can’t imagine what it was like back in the typewriter or pen and paper days, except that I probably wouldn’t have made a very good living at this stuff.

Outlines are awesome, as long as you keep in mind they are just another tool in the tool box. The goal is to make an awesome book that people will purchase because it makes them happy, so whatever you need to do to make that happen is what needs to happen. If the outline gets in the way, break it, change it, do whatever you need to do.


No seriously, if you haven’t read Spellbound, skip this paragraph. SPOILERS. For example, when I was writing Spellbound my original outline had the finale be the fight on Mason Island, culminating in Crow getting tossed in the black hole and everybody thinking Faye was dead. . Then I wrote it and eh… It wasn’t BIG enough. Especially after the way Hard Magic ended with the biggest action scene ever. A friend read that super early draft also and felt the same way. (actually it was Steve Diamond from Elitist Book Reviews and the reason he got to read it that early was because he was a character who originally died in that scene) :)  So the Mason Island sequence was shrunk a bit and that whole giant kaiju fight across Washington DC was added afterwards. Way better.


So in that particular case my outline, which had seemed fine in my imagination before, wasn’t correct for the book. So I tossed the outline and came up with a new climax. I really thought that would have worked, but I was wrong. Remember, the important thing is to make your readers happy, not to prove how clever you are as an author.

So how much outlining should you do? As much as you personally need. I know some epic fantasy authors that write a whole extra book worth of stuff to go along with the book you actually see. Other author’s outlines would fit on a napkin.

I only outline for longer projects. Short stories usually aren’t worth it. Normally for a short I’ll have a basic idea of what is going to happen and I just write it. It is a lot easier to write yourself into a corner over the long course of a book than in a few thousand words. The longer the project, the more outline. I’m currently working on something that would be considered novella size. It has half a page of notes and I’m not really sure how it ends. But since I can write it in less than a week, I’m not going to stress out about it.

How much outlining is too much? This gets the same answer as how much research is too much. If you’ve gotten to the point where it is keeping you from writing the actual book, it is too much. If you’re putting off the business of writing so that you can futz around on the internet looking stuff up for more than a few days, you’re screwing around. Quit screwing around and start writing. There’s no reason you can’t write the parts you know and then fill in the rest of the outline later. The important thing is to get words on the screen.

The most outlining I’ve ever done has been for my upcoming epic fantasy project. I’m at like 40 pages, an Excel timeline for 1200 years, and a bunch of hand drawn maps, but I’d say most of that is world building rather than a pure outline of the plot. Because I’ve fabricated the whole world, that has required more forethought than my other worlds, because at least those worlds were starting from a real world baseline.  Even when I tweaked those worlds to make them different, there was at least a starting point.

Outlining has one other business perk. If you ever do any writing for somebody else’s IP, then they are going to want an outline first. For example, the stuff that I’ve written for Privateer Press for the Warmachine universe they wanted very detailed outlines before I started. The outline for Into the Storm—the final novel is less than 100k words—was more detailed than my outlines for the first three MHI books put together, and those clock in at over half a million words. I’ve got another project that I pitched to them, which is bigger and more complex, and it has the most detailed scene by scene outline of anything I’ve ever created in my life. If you are writing for somebody else’s established world, they are going to want to make darned sure that you aren’t going to screw up their existing continuum before you both waste time and money creating something that doesn’t fit.

I heard super author Chuck Dixon say that once he was experienced enough, he could write the beginning and the end of a story, and then go back later and fill in the entire middle. This was for comic books, but the principle remains the same. If you know what has to happen, writing it becomes easier.

A lot of that whining you get from inexperienced authors being frustrated while staring at a blinking cursor is usually because they don’t know what is going to happen, so they’re stuck. If that is happening to you, then I hate to break it to you, you’re probably not a discovery writer. Step away from the computer, take a walk, and plan your story first.

If you try to outline a story and you just can’t, fine, but if you can sit in front of the keyboard and your brain vomits out brilliance, awesome. You are a discovery writer. Have fun. Now go be brilliant.

Do whatever you need to do to create the story. Just because there are stupid memes and cartoons about how hard it is to be an author on Facebook doesn’t make it true. There is no pride in being a “struggling artist” or any of that angsty crap. This is your job. Treat it like one. If your methods aren’t working, change your methods until they do.

Why you should watch Justified, explained in one picture

Searcy MHI

That’s Nick Searcy reading MHI. There you go.

My next Czech novel cover


This is the first time I’ve seen it Lovci Monster 4 – Legie.

EDIT: Apparently the Czechs didn’t get the memo from the panty twisted SFWA Social Justice Warrior whiner crowd that this cover is sexist and might hurt somebody’s feelings. :)

Sad Puppies Update: Time is almost up to nominate

So everybody who registered to vote has probably received this note with your voting info:

There are just two weeks left in the nomination period for the 2014 Hugo Awards and the 1939 Retro Hugo Awards.  Nominations will be accepted through March 31, 2014 at 11:59 pm PDT.   Details for the process can be found on the Loncon 3 website at

Even if you have already submitted nominations, you may update your selections (either electronically or by mail) as long as the nomination period continues.  If you’re submitting your nominations electronically, we recommend you do so in advance of the deadline to avoid any problems in the final hours when the system will be very busy.

I’ve not put together my final slate yet (been writing too much!) so don’t wait around for me. You can also go back and tweak your nominations up until the deadline.

This thread had a bunch of good ideas:

The ones that I’m sure on right now:

Best Novel: Warbound (the Grimnoir Chronicles trilogy) by Larry Correia

Best Novella: The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells

Seriously, go read it if you haven’t, because it is awesome. And I bet a random stranger on the internet $5 I could get a piece of game tie in fiction nominated for a Hugo. :)

The Butcher of Khardov (The Warcaster Chronicles)

Best Editor long form: Toni Weisskopf

Best Fanzine: Elitist Book Reviews

Working on the others.


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