Archive for October, 2009

Oct 31 2009

November 1 Links

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.

3 responses so far

Oct 31 2009

Overheard in Washington

Published by under Comedy,Eccentric Tangent

“I hate reality television. If I wanted to see conmen humiliate themselves, I’d watch C-SPAN.”

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Oct 31 2009

Beat your writer’s block, NaNoWriMo authors!

If you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month, here are some tips you might find helpful.

1.  Don’t ever tell yourself “that isn’t good enough.” You’re only writing a draft.  It doesn’t need to be perfect, or even readable– it’s just a draft!  Forget “that isn’t good enough.”  Let “save it for rewrite” be your mantra.

2.  Don’t get hung up on research.  In fact, I’d recommend against doing any research during the first draft of most fiction.  (If you’re writing historical fiction for publication, that’s definitely an exception).

3.  Remove any distractions from your writing space.  If you find that the computer itself is a distraction, try writing by hand.

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24 responses so far

Oct 31 2009

Novel-Writing Tips of the Day: How to Deal With Supernatural Elements

1.  Foreshadow the supernatural.  Introducing magic or vampires or over-the-top superpowers into a story that previously had seemed constrained to reality will probably disorient readers unless you have taken steps to prepare them.  In some cases, your title, backcover blurb and/or cover will do so.  Otherwise, you should probably suggest that something is not quite normal in this world you are showing us.  For example, before the protagonist discovers that there’s a dragon or a vampire in the basement, perhaps he could find  strange claw marks or woodsland animals that have been de-blooded. 

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One response so far

Oct 30 2009

THE POLAR BEAR INVASION HAS BEGUN

Published by under News

Have you punched a polar bear in the face recently?  You may soon get your chance.

UPDATE:  THE POLAR BEAR INVASION HAS ENDED

10punisher

 

13 responses so far

Oct 28 2009

Writing an Engaging First-Person Narrator

One recurring problem I’ve noticed with first-person narrators written by first-timers is that they tend to narrate their life as though it were a movie script with perhaps a few corny thought lines thrown in. 

I did X.  I was angry.  I punched Y.  Adrenaline pumped through my veins.  Man, that was rough. 

That’s awful.  Switching to third-person wouldn’t address all of the problems with this passage, but I feel it’s generally better at accommodating a movie-like novel with a relatively subdued narrator.   The only thing the first-person perspective does in this case is accentuate how totally bland and unstylish the character sounds.

First-person narration hinges on three critical factors.

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4 responses so far

Oct 28 2009

A quick bit of academic wisdom!

Published by under Comedy,Eccentric Tangent

Overheard at a college tutoring center…   

No, the Underground Railroad was not the world’s first subway system…   I don’t care what Wikipedia told you. 

2 responses so far

Oct 27 2009

Sketch your pages to make sure you’re not screwing your artist

After you’ve written the script for a comic book page, I would recommend doing a rough sketch of the page before you give the script to your artist for pencils.  That will help you identify staging problems early.  Here are a few examples.

1.  Will the panels have enough space to comfortably fit the content? As a rule of thumb, I think it’s especially important to check this if if the page has 7+ low-action panels or 4+ action panels.  (Low-action panels, like most dialogue, usually require less space because they don’t need to show as many things happening.  For example, a dialogue panel might just have a person’s head, whereas an action shot of two boxers going at it will probably include at least the upper bodies of two men).

2.  Will the panel’s perspective portray everything you want to show? For example, if two characters are facing each other, it can be quite tricky to show their expressions, particularly if you’re trying to focus on one.  90 degree side-shots get boring fast and have trouble emphasizing either subject.

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Oct 26 2009

A few notes for SN’s prospective colorers

If you’re here because you’d like to color the comic book I’m working on, please keep reading. If not, you’ll probably find this pretty boring.

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2 responses so far

Oct 26 2009

UPDATED: Please Help Me Pick a Colorer! (New Candidates!)

Published by under Art,Comic Book Art

Page 20, panel 1 inked and colored/shaded by Rebecca

I’m a few days away from completing my first issue’s script and I’m gearing up to complete the art sample for publishers.  This is the sort of style I’m going for– realistic with mild stylization.  Phoenix Wright is another example of that. 

Unfortunately, the artist that did the coloring here (Rebecca) isn’t actually available to color the comic because it would take too much time and she’s already doing the comic’s inks.  So, barring some significant advancements in the field of cloning, I need to take on a colorer.  I posted on a few boards have gotten about 60 responses. 

In particular, I’m looking for…

  • Quality– is the portfolio consistently clean and competent?
  • Stylistic compatibility
  • Non-creepiness–the publisher may invite my colorer to promotional events, so I need someone that will reflect well on us.  Relatedly, here’s a professional tip to the two artists that included Sonic fan-art in their portfolios: Don’t. 

I narrowed it down to seven applicants so far.  Here’s a sample work from each.  What do you think?

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11 responses so far

Oct 24 2009

How to Give Your Writing Urgency

1. Use a ticking clock. That helps remind us what’s at stake for the characters.  Perhaps a bad event is timed to go off at a particular moment, like a bomb set to blow up in eight minutes or fairy magic that ends at midnight.  However, a specific time is not required; for example, the protagonist in DOA has been poisoned and has only about two days to solve his own murder.  Ticking clocks are also interesting because they often force characters to move more quickly, cut corners, etc.  Desperation is dramatic.

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3 responses so far

Oct 23 2009

EA’s Best Advice

I find Editorial Ass to be very informative. She’s a “recovering publishing assistant.”  Heh. 

2 responses so far

Oct 23 2009

How to Beat Writer’s Block, Part 2

For Part 1, please go here.

1. Don’t stop to rewrite chapters until you’ve finished a rough draft of every chapter. Your first draft won’t be great—it definitely won’t be publishable—and that’s okay. At the time you’re first writing a particular chapter, it’s virtually impossible to make it publishably good because you won’t know the endpoint you’re building towards until you’ve gotten there. While an outline can help solve this problem by providing a map, outlines generally change quite a bit as the author actually writes the chapters—characters develop in unforeseen directions, plots are added or removed, characters may be added or removed, etc. It’s much easier to go back and make chapter 5 excellent after you’ve finished the first draft of the entire manuscript.

2. The most important thing is to keep writing. It’s okay if it’s not coherent or stylish—you can always fix that by rewriting later. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or publishable. Before you’ve finished the first draft, it almost assuredly won’t be.

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2 responses so far

Oct 20 2009

How to Deal With Conflicting Advice About Your Story

Published by under Writing Articles

1. Only three sets of people have opinions that matter—publishers, large groups of readers and you. If a reviewer brings up issues that matter only to him rather than large groups of readers, feel free to disregard those issues.

2. In particular, I’d recommend discounting any review based on scientific accuracy or a highly specialized knowledge-set. If you need a college degree in the field to see the mistake, it probably doesn’t matter to most readers.

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2 responses so far

Oct 18 2009

Linkbacks

Published by under Writing Articles

8 responses so far

Oct 18 2009

What happens when you get published?

Redlines and Deadlines describes what happens when an unpublished novelist sign the dotted line.  The work is just beginning… but, then again, so is the pay!

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Oct 18 2009

Why I Don’t Grade With Numbers

“On a scale of 1-10, could you tell me how good…”  Sorry, no.

 

1.  The results would probably depress you.  Fewer than 1% of scripts and manuscripts get published.  Maybe 5% of submissions are even in the running.  So most authors asking for a numerical grade would sink pretty deep into “not yet publishable” territory.

 

2. In most cases, a grade would make the review sound a lot more obnoxious and accusatory. Getting published is usually a long-term process that takes a lot of practice and revision, and I think something like “this is a 3!” is likely to make a prospective author feel bad for trying.  On the other hand, dishonestly saying it’s a 6 or a 7 when it actually strikes me as a 2 or 3 would mislead the author into thinking that there’s less work ahead than there actually will be.

 

3.  If I like a work, I will readily volunteer that. Asking me to grade your work is basically asking me how much I didn’t like it, which could be terribly depressing. “This is a 2 out of 10″ is almost assuredly less helpful and encouraging than “Have you thought about tweaking [a list of things]?”

 

4.  Every time I have graded manuscripts with numbers, I have gotten complaints. For example, “But my friends/family/neighbors/teachers liked it more!” People that know you in real life tend to be unreliable reviewers. (They usually don’t know the industry, they’re unwilling to risk hurting your feelings, etc).

 

5. Instead of grading with numbers, I would be amenable to ranking problems in order of priority. I think that might help authors focus their efforts on the most serious problems. For example, “I think that the characterization could use the most work right now, followed by dialogue” would give you some ideas of what to work on without making you feel bad.  In contrast, “I would rate your characterization a 2 and your dialogue a 4″ is almost assuredly a kick in the teeth.

 

6.  If you’re really looking for a number… I would venture to say that most of my fiction ranks around a 5 on a scale of 1-10: good enough that the editor will read a few pages, but not good enough to earn a personalized rejection letter.  So, if you think my work is better than yours, both of us probably have quite a ways to go before getting published.

 

7.  If you knew what my scale looked like, you probably wouldn’t want to be judged by it. Here’s my personal scale of publishability:

  • 10: Destined for a publishers’ auction and good enough that I would want to offer the author a publishing contract right now, or at least refer the author to a publisher that works with this material.  Extraordinarily rare.
  • 9: Good enough to get published somewhere.  Most major publishers reject more than 99.9% of their submissions, so this is still extremely rare.
  • 7-8: Not good enough to publish yet, but promising enough to earn personalized rejection letters.  Publishers get so many unsolicited submissions that assistant editors have the time to personally reject perhaps 1-2% of submissions.
  • 1-6: “Thank you for your submission but it’s not what we’re looking for right now.”

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Oct 17 2009

Comment-search now available to registered users…

Published by under Superhero Nation

If you have registered, you can now access our comment search-engine by going down to the link that says Site Admin at the bottom.  This will also let you scroll through comments beyond just the 15 most recent ones.  (As before, registered users also get to use HTML coding in comments).  If you haven’t registered, why not?  It’s free

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Oct 17 2009

A useful guide to plotting

Published by under Research and Resources

The writing website LegendFire has a plotting guide that I found very useful.

3 responses so far

Oct 16 2009

Index Update!

Published by under Navel-Gazing

I’ve been updating the index of writing articles like a fiend.  Give it a look!  Yesterday it had 80 articles, and 120 today.  Unfortunately, I have about 150 more to go.

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Oct 16 2009

The Best of #Queryfail on Twitter

Published by under Eccentric Tangent

The query is a letter written to an agent or publisher explaining what you’re writing and why they should want to represent/publish you. #Queryfail collects amusing anecdotes about authors that need to work a bit more on their pitch.

  • “The only thing worse than ignoring guidelines because you think you’re special is actually telling me that in the query.” — AgentGame
  • “Querying for a book you admit isn’t great, but saying you thought you’d take a shot at getting an agent anyway? Obnoxious.” — AgentGame
  • “REMEMBER 50k words is not enough to get your novel published – most pubs want 75 – 120k novels!” –EelKat [B. Mac adds-- most of the advice I've seen in this field suggests that first-timers should stay south of 100,000 words, but some genres are more forgiving than others.]
  • Before you query, read your first few pages aloud and tape-record yourself. I bet you’ll identify problems.
  • All agents who received “Book Query 51″ today, raise your hand.

No responses yet

Oct 15 2009

Hah, I liked this…

Published by under Comedy,Eccentric Tangent

alert1

The author behind My Writer’s Block got off lucky with this one– it definitely wasn’t that easy for me to get rid of Vista. 

This reminds me of my freshman year, when Dell computers suddenly started melting (and at least once bursting into flames) across campus.  I signed on as a marketer for a team of computer guys who were selling homemade computers that were suddenly desirable.  Our motto was “one melted computer is a tragedy; a hundred melted computers are an opportunity.” 

13 responses so far

Oct 15 2009

Party like it’s 1999! SN now offers HTML formatting in comments

Published by under Superhero Nation

Just register here (it’s free) and you’re good to go.  Here’s an HTML crash course.

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22 responses so far

Oct 15 2009

Colorists Needed

Published by under Art,Comic Book Art

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2 responses so far

Oct 14 2009

Criminal Mindsets

Published by under Research and Resources

This CNN interview with two Colombian hitmen is pretty illuminating. If you’re writing about any hardened criminals (or supervillains), I’d recommend checking it out.

5 responses so far

Oct 13 2009

Can You Describe Your Protagonist’s Superpowers in 1-2 Sentences?

When you’re pitching your story to publishers, please don’t waste paragraphs describing each character’s powers.  That’s space you could be using to develop personalities, character traits, the plot, relationships, etc.  As a rule of thumb, I would recommend keeping it simple–generally, if you need more than 20 words to describe a character’s powers, there’s probably too much going on.  (Main exception: if that extra space is crucial to understanding the plot).*

 

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91 responses so far

Oct 11 2009

Think Like an Editor

Published by under Writing Articles

Hello, this is Marissa with today’s lesson in practicality.

Today, you’ll be looking at a work like an editor would. This will help you get inside their head, which will in turn help you shape your story into something a publisher just might consider.

1. Take your favorite book off the shelf. If you don’t have your favorite book, it’d probably be easiest to pick the favorite one you own. That way, you’ll have it on hand. If you have your heart set on a different book, though, go ahead and use that one.

2. Reply to this entry with the title and author of the favorite book, then one (or a few) things you–the editor, remember–would have changed. This can be in the form of plot points you disliked (using Soon I Will Be Invincible as an example: I would have told the story that ended before the book begins, rather than spending the entire book backtracking on the past), characters that were flat and needed dimension (cough, Bella?), or even a page-long edit like B. Mac did for Twilight. This last option will only really be effective if you can scan the page in question, or link to where they might be read. Please, for the sake of length, don’t paste the whole page in the comment.

This lesson in practicality very much relies on the old adage, ‘Kill your darlings.’  If you can learn to criticize elements of your favorite books, you’re one step closer to looking realistically at your own.

22 responses so far

Oct 11 2009

Website Review: Mike Angley

Today I came across Mike Angley’s website– Mike Angley is an OSI veteran (hu-ah!) that writes paranormal military fiction.  This review will help you design and write an effective website to market your writing.    

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Oct 10 2009

Weekend Writing Exercise

Published by under Writing Exercises

Randomly generate three pairs of verbs and adverbs at Creativity For You. Write a story about a character who embodies the three sets of ideas. There’s no word goal or page target, but if I assigned this in class, I’d be happy if each student finished two pages in an hour.

7 responses so far

Oct 10 2009

Feedback!

Published by under Superhero Nation

I set up a new page for Feedback. If you’d like to give me suggestions, insults or compliments, that would be the best place to do so.  Alternately, please feel free to e-mail me at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com as always, but I can’t respond as quickly to e-mail.

8 responses so far

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