More questions. More help. Introducing Mastering Table Topics Second Edition.

The latest on The Remainders (and the benefits of beta readers)

Front Cover - The RemaindersHere’s why you should use beta readers. I asked a friend to review my draft of The Remainders. She liked the book, especially the characters. She wanted to learn more about them and asked if I could add more of their stories.

As I looked at the draft again, I agreed with her. I also realized that the book was too short. At under 40,000 words and 110 paperback pages, it wasn’t long enough to be called a novel. The problem was that I told the story only from the point of view of Dylan, the main character. His narrative ended where it was supposed to end. Anything I could add to it would be filler.

The solution came from a book that my friend enjoyed. This book told stories from different characters’ perspectives until they all came together in the end.

This sounded like a great idea. So, I decided to add another character’s first-person narrative to counter Dylan’s. I chose his father, especially because he plays an important role in the ending. I can contrast the two stories, describe how their lives were similar, and show how and why they came to misunderstand each other. It also fits well with the theme — how we can feel like remainders even when we have the outward appearance of success. The change not only makes The Remainders a better book, it also makes for better therapy.

The lesson: Seek out beta readers and listen to their advice. They will help your story and make writing it a more rewarding experience.

What happened to superheroes?

Cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC 2014). Photo by Chris Favero through Wikimedia Commons.

As this cosplayer at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con shows, there are people who love Adam West’s Batman. Photo by Chris Favero through Wikimedia Commons.

I grew up with Adam West’s Batman, Christopher Reeve’s Superman, and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. That’s why I have no desire to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The 1960s and 1970s superheroes have something that their 21st century successors don’t, and today’s superhero stories have a troubling aspect that concerns me.

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The Little White Ball Revisited

El Toro High School baseball team
It has been six years since I was president of Saddleback Little League. My tenure there produced an opening day speech I never gave, but people seem to like. It also left me with some lingering doubts as the years passed.

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What cooking videos can teach you about user documentation

If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen a cooking video like this.

Not only does this video put you in the mood for beef stroganoff, it is also a great example of user documentation. Here’s why.

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How to waste time productively

Time is on your side...We all need downtime. The human mind and body can’t go at full speed full time. Usually, that downtime is imposed on us. The flight is delayed, the code hasn’t finished compiling, the customer at the front of line is arguing about a coupon, and the friend you are supposed to meet for dinner is stuck in a traffic jam.

Wasting time doesn’t have to turn into wasted time. We can use our downtime productively. Here are a few tips.

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