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I spent a few days away from home with a spotty internet connection this week. I have two bits of good news:

  1. I have made significant progress on Petals and Thorns, a D&D campaign in roll20 that I’m rather proud of and hope to have a stream of sometime in the near future.
  2. The Reaper’s advance upon my grandmother has been deterred – at least for now.

What Criticism Should You Ignore?

Alternative title: In Which I Criticize Criticism.

Starting authors – and in particular I’m thinking of people who are still muscling through their first million words – cannot typically afford to pay high quality editors to take a look at their work and give professional feedback. Due to the higher volume of submissions, in modern day it’s rare for editors or agents to provide specific feedback, and even rarer for them to provide detailed feedback, to authors they’re rejecting. This is a problem, because without feedback it’s difficult for a developing author to figure out what they should be improving upon. Fortunately, the internet is full of people willing to give feedback for free. Unfortunately, some of these people are idiots. When you ask a bunch of internet randos for criticism, some of it is going to be awful, but some of it is going to be good. This means that an important skill for budding authors is figuring out which advice to ignore.

Fortunately, the vast majority of bad criticism follows a few common trends. While not all bad criticism follows these trends, enough of it does that if you ignore things that fit these patterns and focus on whatever’s left over, you should hopefully be mostly paying attention to the good stuff. Once you’ve sunk some effort into sincerely trying to patch up your writing based on whatever makes it through this filter, you’ll probably be able to suss out what the few bits of bad advice that did get through the filter were. Trusting your instincts is a bad idea when first receiving criticism, because instinct is often to lash out at everyone who doesn’t recognize your genius, but if you’ve actually edited your current story or written at least a few thousand words of a new one sincerely trying to build on criticism and find it still grates badly against you, it’s probably because that bit of criticism simply doesn’t fit with your style or genre.

That’s getting a bit off track, though. What criticism should you just flat-out ignore, without even trying to take it to heart?

Continue reading “What Criticism Should You Ignore?”

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Writing

Writing communities are often flooded by the same questions asked over and over again. It’s not that these questions don’t receive answers, it’s that the people asking them would apparently rather post a new question and come back tomorrow for the answers than do a Google search and find the old answers in thirty-ish seconds. So answering this set I ripped from an internet rando without permission (I regret nothing) isn’t going to change anything, but it’s easy snark, so what the Hell, it’ll be fun.

Continue reading “Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Writing”

Don’t Write The 42nd LARPers Battalion

The title is flippant, of course. A story that was literally about a US Marine battalion comprised entirely (or at least mostly) of regular Renn Faire attendees being isekai’d into a Faerun knock-off would probably be awesome. If you’re doing the usual fantasy thing of having an alternate fantasy world with an alternate society, though, then actually make the society different. And for that matter, if you’re doing the LARPers battalion thing, only the actual displaced Marines should be behaving like they just came from modern Earth and threw a tunic on. The locals should be different. If there’s dukes and knights prancing around, the society should at minimum be recognizably similar to actual feudal Europe. If you really want to go the extra mile, design a wholly original way of structuring society around the existence of magical creatures and abilities, but even if you have no particularly original setting ideas (and it is not wise to try and force them if you don’t – there is no obligation to novelty), at least make sure to copy the substance of feudal Europe (or Han dynasty China or the Aztec Empire or wherever) rather than just taking the US military and swapping out the rank names for various knightly-sounding things and calling your chief executive a king even though he behaves exactly like a president. There’s more to worldbuilding than putting knights in Manhattan and replacing the cabs with carriages. Do some research.

Awaken Online Is Terrible, Fuck You, Fight Me

Awaken Online is repeatedly held up as a pinnacle of the American LitRPG scene’s potential, so I figure it’s only a matter of time before people from that scene realize I don’t actually like it very much and thus will need an easily navigable table of contents for my extensive review of how I came to that conclusion. This is that table of contents.


Part 1: That’s Not What Bemused Means
Part 2: Sue Territory
Part 3: Murder Lessons
Part 4: Being Conquered Is Profitable, Apparently
Part 5: Hope Spot
Part 6: You Fucked It Up
Part 7: Mary Sue Verdict
Part 8: Did Someone Else Ghostwrite This Part?
Part 9: Penultimate
Part 10: The Only Three Important People In The World

The tl;dr is that Awaken Online actually does fall smack into the trap that I’ve seen it held up as avoiding, that being the overpowered protagonist who is able to punch way above their level by taking obvious approaches that people should have discovered before him. Jason isn’t brilliant (with the exception of one genuinely clever trick that doesn’t come until well into his meteoric ascent), he’s just given a more powerful set of tools to work with by a game AI biased heavily in his favor and surrounded by morons who’ve never played a stealth game. The only stage at which the conflict is anything but one-sided is when he is pitted against Alex, his school bully who is also heavily favored by the Controller, which is weird as Hell considering that he turns out to be a sociopath.

The parts of the book focusing on direct conflict between Jason and Alex are better, but it’s still true that out of the twenty-five million people playing the game by the end of the book, exactly three of them have been given enough powers to actually play the game effectively (love interest Riley gets added to the group in the final chapters). Other players show up on-page by the dozens, but are merely cannon fodder for the only three important people in the world to mow through. The book occasionally stops to notice that the game’s AI is handing these characters all their success up until it pits them against one another, but only long enough to acknowledge that it’s happening, never long enough to give any good reason why. Maybe they’re saving that for the sequel, but the book I paid for should not ask me to buy another book to justify having read the first one. If the influence of the AI on the game was meant to be the main focus of the second book, it should not have been responsible for 90% of the events of the first.

Vestitas First Map Draft

Having finished up the newly scaled back Vestitas mini-hex adventures, I now have a map that looks like this:

Vestitas Draft 2

By rearranging some hexes on the far right and far left, I was able to squeeze this all into a 10×7. Technically an 11×7, but the newly added bottom row is just there to be full of empty ocean hexes to hopefully help communicate that the ocean hexes at the bottom are all empty – including 01.08, 01.09, 02.09, and 07.09. Also the columns start numbering from 01 but the rows from 00 because that’s the only way to keep the numbering of the map consistent with the numbering of the key after I hacked the leftmost column off.

The good news is that, as you will note, there are only two blank hexes that need landmarks attached. Three if you count Echo Lake, a landmark which occupies its entire hex, and which might plausibly be mistaken for the lair of a kraken or something until the characters actually go check it out and discover that no, it’s just a lake, krakens would interdict trade.

Of course, the bad news is that this hexcrawl has five major locations marked on its map and associated content for only one of them, plus its random encounter tables are only half-finished, and it lacks actual stats for any of the new creatures featured in the mini-adventures in each hex, so it’s still far from the point of actual usability. Still, this is a pretty major milestone for the project.