Archive for April, 2009

Apr 30 2009

Should You Write Under a Pseudonym?

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Moira Allen provides useful information about pseudonyms here.  Here’s a summary of the best reasons to use a pseudonym.

1.  Your writing could interfere with your day job. If you’re interested in working in a political science or government position and every Google search for your name points to your book about how to write superhero stories, that could be problematic.

2.  You’ve published in a different genre or field and want to distinguish your new work. Your readership might get confused if you’ve always written romance and suddenly you write a sci-fi thriller.  Using a pen-name will help keep those parts of your audience separate.

3.  You suspect that your name will make it harder for readers to relate to you. For example, if you’re a guy writing for women (or vice versa), you might find it helpful to use a gender-neutral name or your initial.  In particular, military action readers are more receptive to male authors and romance readers are more receptive to women.

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38 responses so far

Apr 30 2009

I love summer and so does Cthulhu

Summer Fun Cthulhu
Summer Fun Cthulhu! Speaking of summer, it looks like that guy in the back of the photo could use some extra sunlight.

8 responses so far

Apr 29 2009

Becca’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Who am I? Hey. I’m Becca. I’m eighteen, Creative Writing Major, Canadian (I live in that city where the Olympics will be). I’ve been writing since I was six, but only got super-serious about it about four years ago.

What am I writing? More like what aren’t I writing?! But what I’ll be posting here for review is a novel called The Superhero Effect, written in NaNo 09 and beyond. Basically I got thinking… what if a superhero didn’t have a secret identity, or a day job? What if being a superhero was his job? And that lead me to write The Superhero Effect, which takes place in a somewhat near future in a city taken over by gangs, and where superheroes are employed by the police in an elite task force, and called SCFs – Specialized Crime Fighters.

Target Audience? It’s YA. I’m thinking it would have much the same audience as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, as its level of violence is much the same, as is its slight romantic subplot.

Notes for Reviewers: Be honest, but polite and sympathetic. It’s a NaNo novel, not revised yet, and I know there are some rough patches. Hopefully posting it here will help smooth the rewrites and edits I know I have to do. Thanks guys!

80 responses so far

Apr 29 2009

Ham’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Please see the comments below.  Thanks.

14 responses so far

Apr 28 2009

Lurkers, I need your help!

According to Google Analytics, we have about 10,000 serial lurkers: readers that have come here 25 or more times without leaving any comments.  Our population of serial lurkers doubles about every two months.

Before publishing me, a prospective publisher will want to know more about you.  Are you interested in my book about how to write superhero stories?  Would you prefer information tailored to novelists, comic book writers or both?

I would really appreciate 5 minutes of your help.  Thanks!

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8 responses so far

Apr 27 2009

Unoriginal thought of the day: Selling e-books for $10 is inane

Shaun Hill covered $10 e-books yesterday. Harper-Collins tried to justify this outlandishly high price by saying that the paper, binding and other physical costs of a single hardcover copy usually run out to about $2.

Shaun points out a few good reasons why $10 is well above an optimal price point. I’ll expand on these a bit.

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16 responses so far

Apr 27 2009

Nobody’s Asian in the Movies

Published by under Comedy,Superhero Comedy

From Dr. Horrible.

35 responses so far

Apr 27 2009

We’re now accepting entries to our mailing list

I have a few misgivings about mailing lists, so let’s get those out of the way.

  1. I will only send you release information for my book about how to write superhero stories.
  2. I will send you at most three e-mails.
  3. I will not give or sell your e-mail address to anyone else.

Thanks for your time!  Publishers will probably be more receptive if I have hundreds of readers waiting for release information.  I appreciate your help and interest.

One response so far

Apr 27 2009

I hate the phrase “given the opportunity.”

Published by under Uncategorized

Don’t wait to be given an opportunity. Make your own.

22 responses so far

Apr 27 2009

Have you taken our survey?

Hello again! If you haven’t taken our survey yet, I would really appreciate if you gave us 5-10 minutes of your time. You can take it by clicking here or by clicking beneath the fold.
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18 responses so far

Apr 27 2009

List of Superhero Novels and Their Publishers

When you write a novel query, publishers may ask you to describe some similar, competing titles. Ideally you can come up with a few similar titles that were successful; that suggests that your title will be successful as well. If you’re pitching a superhero novel, here are a few titles that might be comparable to yours.  NOTE: If you’re looking to get a short story with superheroes published, check out this list of publishers instead.

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15 responses so far

Apr 26 2009

Several problems with persecuted heroes

Published by under Writing Articles

When a hero runs into an obstacle, there is usually one of two reasons: 1) what he has done and 2) who he is.  Persecuted heroes, like the X-Men, face major obstacles because of who they are.  Here are a few problems with persecuted heroes.

1.  Persecution usually makes stories more grim and less fun.  This could be problematic.  People usually read fiction because they want to have fun.  Is there some other reason people will want to read your work?

2.  Being persecuted may compromise the hero’s likability.  Even though the persecution is probably beyond his control, being persecuted will probably cast a cloud of angst over him.  In particular, the hero will become very unlikable if he comes off whiny or starts moping.

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7 responses so far

Apr 25 2009

How to Use Backstory Effectively

It’s hard to handle backstory (what has happened in the past of the story). Most authors just use dull exposition. “Twelve years ago, John McGruesome was a mob hitman…” Here are a few common problems with backstory.

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25 responses so far

Apr 24 2009

How to Beat Writer’s Block, Part 1

Here are a few tricks to help you keep writing after you get stuck.


1.  Switch problems. Writer’s block often sets after a hero has resolved a problem and it’s not clear where the story is headed.  Are there any problems left?  Could you introduce a new problem?


2.  Add a complication. Last chapter, it may have looked like the hero’s solution worked perfectly.  Well, that was last chapter.  What went wrong? For example, perhaps the hero inadvertently made a new enemy or the villain is quickly working to undo the hero’s action.  Maybe two protagonists disagree about something in a major way (e.g. Lucius resigning in Dark Knight).


3. Switch solutions. Have your hero try to look at his problems in a new way.  Maybe he has to use ingenuity instead of brute force, or diplomacy instead of coercion, or careful planning rather than impulsiveness.  (Or vice versa).  For example, Heroes took away the characters’ powers from from time to time.


4.  Switch scenes. “Meanwhile, thousands of miles away…”  Moving the story very far will probably feel disjointed at first, but you can add a smoother transition after you determine where the story is going.


5.  Look at an important character in a new way. Perhaps there’s some aspect to your hero that could be developed more.  (Motivations? Personality? Key traits/flaws?  Where the character’s key traits/flaws came from? Background?)


6.  Give up on perfectionism. If you’re worried about being perfect, it will be very hard for you to start writing.  Don’t set ridiculously high standards for yourself on the first draft.  Think of the first draft as a scaffolding that you can build on rather than anything approaching the standards of the final product. (No one writes rough drafts that are good enough to publish).  It is much easier to write a few pages a day–even if they aren’t any good–and later rewrite them into something publishable.   One highly effective technique is to set aside 30-60 minutes each day to write a page or two.  You can use a free writing website like Write or Die to time you and give helpful reminders if you temporarily stop writing.  (If you averaged 400 words a day, you’d have a first draft of a novel manuscript ready within six months).


7.  Remove anything that distracts you from writing.  For example, if you’re typing away at your computer but find that you’re getting distracted, just turn off the Internet (or use a program like Write or Die that helps keep your focus).  If you’re spending too much time looking through notes or research, put them aside while you’re writing the first draft.


8.  If you’re truly desperate, consider throwing in a new antagonist or obstacle. This may reduce plot coherence, but the most important thing is to keep writing.  You can smooth out the connections later.


9.  If the plot has totally stalled, consider switching your angle. Sometimes, writers pick an angle because it’s conventional.  “I want to write about a magical university, so my story will be about a young wizard who studies there and eventually saves the world from great evil.”  Well, okay, but Harry Potter’s approach isn’t the only possibility.  What if you told a story about the teachers?  Or campus security? Or the admissions office?  Or the Ministry of Magic?  Or the bad guys?  Or the broom-flying instructors?  Or the headmaster?  Your story almost certainly has many such possibilities.  At the very least, any of these perspectives could add another chapter or character to help you develop your main character in a different direction.


Did you find this article helpful? If so, please check out How to Beat Writer’s Block, Part 2. Thanks!

64 responses so far

Apr 22 2009

How to build an audience for your blog

Published by under Blogging

I’ve written before that blogging is a really useful marketing tool and is one of the only ways for a first-time author to establish an audience before he gets published.  When you pitch your book to publishers, they will be really encouraged if you already have an audience.  But how can you attract an audience to your website?

1.  Pick a niche.  If do a general writing blog, you’re competing against hundreds  of thousands of similar sites.  Try blogging about something more specific instead, like a blog about how to write a romance or a superhero story or a young adult fantasy, etc.  If you’re planning on using this blog to market a book, the niche should be related to the book.

2.  Pick a title that identifies your niche. For example, if you Google something like “writing a superhero comic book,” the first result will be a site that calls itself “Superhero Nation: how to write superhero novels and comic books.”  Our name makes it really clear why you should click on us.  We offer superhero writing advice.  In contrast, if our name were something like “B. Mac’s Superhero Site,” that wouldn’t work at all.  If readers aren’t sure what kind of information you provide, they will skip past you.  Also, please do not use your name in the title unless you are a celebrity.

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21 responses so far

Apr 21 2009

Blogging tip: Link to related sites, particularly small and medium ones

Published by under Blogging

If you find quality content that will interest your readers, link to it.

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3 responses so far

Apr 21 2009

Survey Planning

Hi.  I’m about to pitch a book about how to write a superhero story to publishers.  In the near-future, I’d like to do an audience survey to help describe my readers to prospective publishers.  These are some of the questions I’m considering.  I’d appreciate any suggestions.

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6 responses so far

Apr 19 2009

Five signs that your comic book needs work

1.  Your protagonist is Rick Blurry, a cigar-smoking, eyepatch-wearing superspy.  When Marvel’s lawyers call, perhaps you should have a better defense ready than “but he wears his eyepatch on his right eye!”

2. Your pitch includes the line:  “This is just like your other series, but good.”

3.  You are aroused by any of the characters.  (Yes, we can tell).

4.  It involves time-travel.

5.  You’re not sure whether you want a protagonist to live or not, so you put it to a vote.

31 responses so far

Apr 19 2009

Making the Rounds on StumbleUpon

  • Cliche Finder is an interesting resource that will help writers that rely on puns.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation has valuable information about fair use and copyright law here.
  • How Readers Read on the Web.  This article will help you format online content more effectively.  I agree with its conclusion that “promotional language imposes a cognitive burden on users who have to… filter out the hyperbole to get at the facts.”  However, it handles the issue of bolded text poorly.  Bolding should be used very sparingly.

5 responses so far

Apr 18 2009

Susan Boyle and First-Time Authors

Published by under Getting Published

Susan Boyle is a 47 year-old, unemployed singer that is on the latest season of Britain’s Got Talent.  She is astonishingly talented.  Watching her compete in this contest will probably be like seeing Michael Phelps– or an alligator– participate in a high school swimming meet.

I bring up Doyle because I think that first-time novelists and comic book writers, especially young ones, face similar challenges.  Doyle doesn’t look like a singing sensation; teens don’t look like they’re worth publishing.  Doyle doesn’t have singing credentials; young authors are unpublished and often lack a college degree. When a publisher’s assistant reads through a young author’s query, there are twenty different sirens going off in his head, all screaming “this guy has no talent.”

Your window of opportunity to demonstrate your talent is exceedingly brief.  If your query is forgettable, the publisher will reject you without even looking at the sample.  If your first page is forgettable, you are done.  Etc.  If you have any reservoir of freakish talent, tap it sooner rather than later.  If your first paragraph is poor, it doesn’t matter how awesome your ending is because no publisher will read that far.

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to something Simon asked Susan.  “Why hasn’t your singing career worked out so far?”  That’s similar to the question on every publisher’s mind: “do you have an audience already?” If not, why not? If you were good enough to have an audience, wouldn’t you have one already? Publishers would much rather work with an author that has already established he is good enough to draw readers.  Who would want to spend (at least) ten thousand dollars publishing a book by a completely unproven author?

The two easiest ways to build an audience are to either start a blog and/or write for some professional outlet (like a magazine or newspaper).  That will help you prove that you are worth reading and that you are already producing at a professional level.

18 responses so far

Apr 18 2009

Michael Bay’s stab at a Dark Knight script

Published by under Comedy,Michael Bay,Parody did a mock script showing how Michael Bay (the guy who did Pearl Harbor and Transformers) might have tried The Dark Knight.

I recommend that you read all of it, but this is my favorite part.

BRUCE WAYNE is standing in front of a mirror, flexing his sculpted, shirtless torso.

BRUCE: Let’s do this.

Cue AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”  A series of quick shots show BRUCE gearing up: putting on the boots, slapping on the gloves, a brief glance across those beautiful pecs.  Finally, there is no longer BRUCE WAYNE, but BATMAN standing before us.

BATMAN: Back in black.

Pyrotechnics erupt in the distance.  Wailing guitar solo.

6 responses so far

Apr 18 2009

How would you fix this book?

Today, I came across a self-published book called Superhumans.

Here’s what it says on the back-cover:

Seth, a college student, is accidentally exposed to an experiment that gives him incredible powers. When he and his friend, Chip, try to unravel its secrets, they discover a threat to the world unlike any other. And soon, Seth will find himself faced with one obstacle after another as he tries to live a normal life with the woman he lives and their daughter.

I’ve posted the first page below the jump.  If you’d like a writing exercise today, please rewrite the first two paragraphs of the chapter so that they’re interesting.

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20 responses so far

Apr 18 2009

A hilarious summary of the Shawshank Redemption

Published by under Comedy

(PG-13 for minor nudity)

One response so far

Apr 17 2009

Advice to Novelists: No Prequels

When you’re querying your book, please do not mention that you’re thinking about a prequel.  Mentioning a prequel suggests that you don’t really know when the story starts.  It also suggests that you might leave out crucial information so that you can use it for the prequel.  Finally, I’d regard it as a warning flag that the chronology of the series will be confusing and hard to follow.  Ick.  If you’d like to discuss a prequel with your publisher, please do so after the first book has sold well.

14 responses so far

Apr 15 2009

Five signs that you should rethink your novel

Published by under Comedy

1.  Mentioning Dragonball Z eight times would be questionable for any query, but maybe there’s a better analogue for your historical romance.

2. You think the only thing between you and getting published is that publishers misunderstand your spelling and grammatical choices.  If only they appreciated your style!

3. Your writing teacher told you to “write what you know,” so you write the story of a tragically unappreciated author who finally snaps and starts murdering editors.

4. Your writing teacher told you to make your characters sound realistic, so you write your teen romance as a series of text-messages.  You receive a cryptic message from the publisher: “nothnxbai.”

5. Your main inspiration is Eragon.

18 responses so far

Apr 15 2009

Dinhilion’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

What I’m writing: I want to start this as a very classic fantasy novel and build it into something else. It is about a main character that is brought down an evil path by untrustworthy mentors. The main character is not the protagonist.

Target audience: My target audience are people who have read multiple “high fantasy” fantasy novels.

What I’m looking for: Tough advice. I have thick skin– let me have it.

14 responses so far

Apr 13 2009

A blast from the horrid, horrid past

Published by under Blaxploitation,Comedy

I’d like you to watch 3:50-4:05 of this clip. There appears to be a noticeable plot hole here. Can you spot it? (Answer below).

Got it?

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4 responses so far

Apr 13 2009

Collision’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Please check the comments below.  Thanks.

2 responses so far

Apr 12 2009

Are you better-suited to write a superhero novel or a comic book?

Many authors here aren’t really sure whether they want to write a superhero novel or a comic book.  Here are a list of factors you should consider when deciding which one will work better for you.

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48 responses so far

Apr 12 2009

Goodbye to Praxis Comics? Not yet, thankfully.

Earlier this month, Praxis Comics’ site had gone down for a few days and I assumed that the publisher had folded. After all, it’s a cutthroat business and their website had previously mentioned some trouble with investors.  However, I am pleased to report that the website has returned with a new design.  (I’m generally fond of Praxis’ art, but I think the design probably uses sex-appeal a bit too blatantly.  Ah well.  That’s pretty standard for this industry).

I also came across Radical Comics.  They don’t accept unsolicited submissions, so I won’t add them to our index of comic book publishers.  But I think they’re worth looking into because they have book trailers for all of their series.

So, if you’re interested in doing a trailer for your comic book (or perhaps even a novel), I think you can learn something from their approach.  Their trailers are striking because they have no narration and hardly any words; they only use wordless images and an instrumental sound-track.  That’s a surprisingly interesting way to present a simpler story like Calibre, an Arthurian legend retold in the Wild West.  It did not work for series with a more complicated setup.  For example, the premise of City of Dust is that fictional stories have been outlawed 100 years in the future.  I don’t feel like the images gave me a good idea of what was going on or why I should care.

2 responses so far

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